Course Notes for the PCEA Eldership Course can be found here as blog entries. Please browse through them below, use the menu to the right to navigate the contents, or go to the downloads section and get the PDF booklet of the entire course. We hope that this will be a useful resource.

David Kerridge

Practical Polity

Subordinate Standards

The government of our church is determined by certain documents called "subordinate standards". These standards are subordinate to the ultimate authority of Scripture, the "supreme standard" of church polity. The other subordinate standards that we have, all in agreement with the Confession, are:
Regarding Church Government

Second Book of Discipline 1578
Westminster Form of Presbyterial Government 1645

Regarding Worship

Westminster Directory for Public Worship 1645
Westminster Directory for Family Worship 1647

Regarding Catechisms

Westminster Larger Catechism 1648
Westminster Shorter Catechism 1648

The Westminster Confession of Faith - The Principal Subordinate Standard

The principal subordinate standard of the PCEA is the Westminster Confession of Faith (1647), formulated by the Westminster Assembly of Divines. Now this document has stood the test of time in being “most agreeable to the Word of God”, “most orthodox” and “so excellent a Confession of Faith”[1]. And this orthodoxy has provided an important foundation for the Presbyterian and Reformed faith for over 300 years.
Still, just as there are various interpretations of Scripture, some orthodox and some heterodox, leading to schisms and splits, heresies and sects, so too this principal subordinate standard has been interpreted and applied in various ways. At its reception by the Church of Scotland, as it came fresh from the Westminster Assembly in London, an Act was passed by the Assembly in Scotland to declare to  its own church the way in which the Scottish Church should understand and use the Confession. The Westminster Assembly was made up of various groups with differing views on how the Church should be governed.[2] While all were convened with the understanding that Popery and Prelacy (I.e church government by Archbishops, etc.) was to be done away with, some members of the Assembly were Episcopalian, some Erastian (accepting that the Church is essentially a department of the State), some were congregationalist (or Independents,[3]), and some Presbyterian. So, while the general tendancy of the gathering was favourable to Presbyterianism over the course of the formulation of the Confession, it was never fully avowed by all as the accepted form of government and therefore does not appear in the Confession. The Confession is therefore understood by our church in the light of the Acts of The Church of Scotland Assembly and It remains as our primary subordinate standard of life and doctrine, but we have other standards which define our church government an



[1] Quotes from the Act Approving the Confession of Faith of the General Assembly at Edinburgh, August 27, 1647
[2] “Of the 121 who were invited to sit in the Assembly: 4 were from London, 2 from the channel islands, 2 from each English county, 1 from each Welsh county, 2 from each university, and 2 from the French Reformed church in London. Men of widely diverse views were selected: presbyterians (like Twisse and Reynolds), episcopalians (like Brownrigg and Ussher), erastians (like Lightfoot), and independents (like Goodwin and Nye). Following the signing of the Solemn League and Covenant, 8 commissioners from Scotland were assigned to sit with the Westminster Assembly (the best known being Henderson, Baillie, Rutherford, and Gillespie). They were especially astute in theology and exercised important leadership in the deliberations of the Assembly, even though they had no formal vote in its decisions.” {Bahnsen 1986}
[3] Independents exerted a strong influence on the Assembly especially from Parliament, particularly through the power of the Army under Cromwell in the Commonwealth and parliament. See {Spear 2013}

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David Kerridge

Old Testament Background

The term “elder” (Hebrew zaqen) first appears in Exodus 3:16 where the Lord tells Moses to go and gather together the elders of Israel to proclaim that God will deliver them from slavery.
16 Go and agather[1] the elders of Israel together, and say to them, ‘The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared to me, saying, b“[2]I have surely visited you and seen what is done to you in Egypt; 17 and I have said cI[3] will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, to a land flowing with milk and honey.”

The word translated means those who are “old men” but the following “of Israel” adds the sense that these are men who have both age and reputation, a standing within the broader community, even the whole nation. The fact that the Lord continues to instruct Moses to take these elders with him into the presence of Pharaoh as a delegation representing the Hebrews reinforces this idea (Ex. 3:18). Moses then goes with Aaron to Egypt and to the Elders first to establish contact with the people (Ex. 4:29).[4]

The role of these elders in the society of the Hebrews at this time is understood to be as leaders of clan groups, by which the whole nation was organised. This clan organisation may very well have been extant during the time of slavery. Certainly, elders are mentioned amongst the Egyptians in Genesis 50:7, and they first appear in Hebrew society 400 years alter in Moses time. But that is not to say that the Hebrews copied the Egyptian form of social organisation since most societies, (except perhaps our own in more recent years) has respected and revered the position, accumulated wisdom and dignity of the aged (Lev. 19:32).

So it was natural that all the directives and rules that God gave to Moses, he would then deliver to the people through the Elders. The best example of this is on the eve of the Passover, when having received instruction from the Lord on what to do, Moses then goes to the Elders and tells them in turn to instruct the families of their clans on how to observe the feast (Ex. 12:21). And the effect is that through their representative leaders, they observe the command of the Lord from Moses (Ex. 12:27-28).

The Elders are the ones whom God uses to support Moses authority before the people. The Lord gives Moses instructions to take with him some of the Elders

It was these Elders that then became judges with Moses when the people came out of Egypt. Moses found the task of administration and government, judging in civil and cases according to the Law of God, too difficult alone. Jethro the Midianite priest advised his hard-pressed son-in-law to make use of the Elders, their standing in the community and their knowledge of each clan group to assist him in government.  



[1] a Ex. 4:29
[2] b Gen. 50:24; Ex. 2:25; 4:31; Ps. 33:18; Luke 1:68
[3] c Gen. 15:13–21; 46:4; 50:24, 25
[4] The moment where he meets with them is depicted in the painting reproduced on the cover.

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David Kerridge

A Sketch of the Eldership in History

Introduction

The “Elder” has been defined in the past sections of this Manual as the leader whose office begins to be evident under Moses’ authority in the wilderness, with the elders acting as judges and clan leaders, as supports (and sometimes hinderances) to Moses’ leadership.

We have seen that Paul in the New Testament stipulated the presence of Elders in the church and defined the role for the church in ages to come, particularly in the instructions he gives Timothy and Titus in the Pastoral Epistles.

But we have to take notice that the office of Elder has not always been, and still is not, recognised in the majority of the Christian Church in the way that we hold to it within Presbyterianism.  How is it then, that the “Elder” as we have defined it from Biblical evidences is an accepted and revered office fundamental to the government of our Church? What happened to the Eldership in the years following New Testament times, and why do we claim it to be vital to the proper rule of government in the church?

The term “Bishop”,[1] which we equate with the term “Elder”, comes from Old English and Wycliffe’s translation (1382) of the Greek word episkepos (“overseer”, “watcher”) throughout his New Testament, particularly in Acts 20:28 where Paul addresses the Ephesian Elders. Whilst Wycliffe, as a proto-Reformer,[2] was ardently against the power and position of the papacy, opposed the abuses of the prelates (Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops, etc) and their meddling in secular affairs and neglect of their spiritual duties[3], he accepted the understanding of the time that Bishops were first among equals and were given oversight of other presbyters (priests).

It had been accepted, never disputed, since the time of the early church, that this term of episkepos (“overseer”) was a separate office entirely to that of the presbuteros (“presbyter”). The exact time in which a bishop went from being the equivalent of a local Elder to an overseer over a number of presbyters is not precisely known. It is the opinion of the prelatical party of Rome and England that the episcopal power of a Bishop derives from not only the tradition of the church but from Scripture,  and so for Episcopalian government they claim the Divine right

When the Reformation came, Luther demanded[4] and encouraged the dismantling of the monastic orders in Lutheran Germany and proclaimed the truth of the priesthood of all believers over against the tyranny of Pope and prelates, but at the same time the Lutheran Church retained the office of Bishop separate from that of the ordinary pastor.[5]     

 


[1] See OED bishop, n.
Cbifap)
Forms: 1 biscop, -sceop, -seep, 2-3 biscop, 3-6 bischop, 4-5 bisshop, 3- bishop. Also 1 biscob, 2 bish-, bisshup, 2-3 biscopp, bisscop, -kop, 2-4 (s.e.) bissop, 3 byssop, 3-7 bishoppe, 4 bisschop(e, -oppe, bi(s)shope, -opp, -up, busschop, 4-5 byschop, 4-6 bisch-, bisshopp, busshop, bysshop, bishope, -opp, 4-7 byshop, 5 bis-, byschope, -oppe, -upp, - yp, buschop(e, 5-6 bysch-, bysshopp, -ope, -oppe, 6 bischoipp, biszhop, -oppe, bushopp(e, byshe-, bys-, bysshopp(e, 6-7 bisshope, bushop, 7 biship, busschope.
[OE. biscop (also in North, biscob), bisceop, biscep, an early adopted word (cf. OS. biskop, MDu. bisscop, Du. bisschop), OHG. biscof, piscof (MHG., mod.G. bischof), ON. biskup (Sw. biscop, Da. bisp), a. Romanic *biscopo or vulgar L. {e)biscopus:—L. episcopus, a. Gr. ἐπισκόπος overlooker, overseer, f. ἐπι on + -σκόπος looking, σκοπός watcher; used in Greek, and to some extent also in Latin, both in the general sense, and as the title of various civil officers; with the rise of Christianity it gradually received a specific sense in the Church, with which it passed into Slavonic, Teutonic, and Celtic. With the form biscopo, biscobo, which passed into Teutonic, cf. also It. vescovo, OF. vesque, Pg. bispo, Pr. vesque, bisbe. Cf. BISP.]
1. A spiritual superintendent or overseer in the Christian Church, a. Used in the New Testament versions to render the Gr. word ÉmoKonoç, applied to certain officers in early Christian churches, either as a descriptive term, or as their actual title. In Wyclif, the Rhemish, and Revised Versions, the Gr. word is so rendered in every instance; but in the other versions from Tindale to 1611, it is in Acts xx. 28 (where applied to the npEoßuTEpoi or 'elders' of Ephesus) rendered 'overseers.' Also applied to Christ, as descriptive of his office. (Sometimes applied by those who do not recognize the episcopal order, to their pastor or chief elder, but only as a descriptive term, or as identifying his office with that of the New Testament 'bishop.')
1382 WYCLIF Acts xx. 28 Al the folk in which the Hooly Gost sette 30U bischopis. [TINDALE oversears, CRANMER ouersears, Geneva Ouersears, Rhem. bishops, 1 6 1 1 ouerseers, 1 8 8 1 bishops {marg. or overseers).] 1 Peter ii. 25 3e ben conuertid now to the sheperde and bischop of 30ure soulis [ 1881 the Shepherd and Bishop {marg. or Overseer) of your souls]. c l 3 8 3 Sel. Wks. III. 310 Crist veriest bischop of alle. 1535 COVERDALE Phil. i. 1 Paul & Timotheus..vnto all the sayntes..with the Biszhoppes & mynisters. 1647 JER. TAYLOR Lib. Proph. vii. 130 The Holy Ghost hath made them Bishops or Over- seers.
[2] The proto-Reformation includes the stands for the Gospel taken by the Waldensians before Wycliffe and the Lollards and Hussites after him. See
[3] See {Vaughan 1828}, p. 299. “[Wycliffe] writes ‘prelates, and great religious possessioners, are so occupied in heart about worldly lordships, and with pleas of business, that no habit of devotion, of praying, of thoughtfulness on heavenly things, on the sins of their own heart, or on those of other men, may be preserved ; neither may they be found studying and preaching of the gospel, nor visiting and comforting of poor men.’ The consequence accordingly, of tolerating churchmen, as ‘rich clerks of the chancery, of the commons' bench, and king's bench, and the exchequer, and as justices and sheriffs, and stewards, and bailiffs,’ is said to be, that they become themselves so worldly, as to be in no circumstances to re-prove the worldliness of others.”
[4] See Smalcald Articles Pt 3, Article 14, also Augsburg Confession, Article 6.
[5] See Augsburg Confession, Article 28, and Melancthon’s Defense of the Augsburg Confession, Article 14: “Concerning this subject we have frequently testified in this assembly that it is our greatest wish to maintain church-polity and the grades in the Church [old church-regulations and the government of bishops], even though they have been made by human authority [provided the bishops allow our doctrine and receive our priests]. For we know that church discipline was instituted by the Fathers, in the manner laid down in the ancient canons, with a good and useful intention.”

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David Kerridge

Introduction to Polity

Polity, as the Oxford Dictionary puts it, is “a form or process of civil government or constitution”. In relation to the Church, polity refers to the very same processes of organisation, laws and government which determine and regulate how a church functions.

But why is it necessary to establish any particular form or processes of government in the Church? All who belong to Christ’s church recognise that He is the head of the church and so can we not be lead by His Spirit, even as our direction is revealed in His Word? Can’t we all just “get along” without all sorts of rules and regulations?

The Necessity of Polity

Theodore Beza, the direct successor of John Calvin, stated that good government in the church was vital in repelling Satan’s attack:


Satan “hopes that it is easier to overthrow [church government] than to overthrow the foundation which is doctrine.”[1]

 

What Beza means is that, while the gates of Hell cannot prevail against Christ’s church and, though also assaulted, the true doctrines of the Church are self-evident in the Word, founded on that rock-like point of faith which says that Jesus is the Christ (Matthew 16: 16-18), Satan finds it easiest to attack the way the Church handles and holds to the truths of the Word and how and when (and if) it administers discipline.[2] Beza experienced first hand the trouble inherent in formulating and administering functioning church government in Geneva, where the Reformed desire of a return to New Testament norms of government clashed with the remnants of Roman tradition and secular interference.[3] The effect of this lack of church government is apparent in some examples of where it is not established, or ignored in the New Testament: In Acts 6 there were complaints over the distribution of assets, and so the Diaconate was established; lack of government was very evident in the situation of the Corinthian’s libertarianism and even boasting in wickedness the case of the incestuous member of 1 Cor. 5, so Paul calls the church to order and demands that they censure the unrepentant sinner;[4] again, reproof of the Corinthians’ scandalous and unchecked behaviour at the Lord’s table in 1 Cor. 11 and a right administration established; and of the need for Paul to establish church leaders and governors in the Cypriot and Ephesian churches as models for all the Church.

Although it may seem a dry and uninteresting part of being an Elder, we need to have polity and rightly understand why we have it, where it comes from, and who administers it. It is vital to running the Church in a way that honours Christ and serves His people.  Joseph and David Hall, in their book Paradigms in Polity,


“are convinced that polity rightly understood will enhance civility and politeness as fruits of Christian love. [Their] understanding is that these ‘common rules of process’ will be tools in the keeping of the first and greatest commandment, as well as the second, which is to love our neighbour as ourself. The best polity will lead to that consideration of others, fairness, and open standards of etiquette. [Their book on polity is] as concerned with doxology as it is with mundane matters which all too often are lost in the shuffles of political movements.”[5]


Such sentiments should be in view as we commence a study of our church’s polity.

The Source of Polity

Of course, the Word is our ultimate guide in all things that relate to how the church is to be organised and run however, as the existence of Episcopacy and Congregationalism (see Historical Background) alongside Presbyterianism shows, there are different understandings of what this looks like. Even those whose creed is “no creed but the Bible”, who reject any form of written statements or formulas, they too will have a form of polity that they believe is the right way of doing things, even if they refuse to write it down. So then, why do we have polity in the church, how do we determine the right form of polity, and how does it begin to be made into a system? Who is to govern and how do they govern?

One basic and beloved statement of church polity, fundamental to Presbyterianism especially, is the instruction of Paul that all things be done “decently and in order” in the church[6] (1 Cor. 14:40)[7]. But the ability to enforce other rules of what to do in the wider church outside of the local gathering is founded on the power that Christ gives to His church, not just to Simon Peter (contra the Roman Church), to administer His rule. The Second Book of Discipline, a subordinate standard with the PCEA, was adopted by the Church of Scotland in 1578 and at its beginning states the reason why the Church has a form of polity and who administers it:

CHAPTER 1.
SECOND BOOK OF DISCIPLINE
Of the Church and Polity thereof in general, and wherein it is different from the Civil Polity.
1. The Church of God is sometimes largely taken for all them that profess the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and so it is a company and fellowship not only of the godly, but also of hypocrites professing always outwardly a true religion. Other times it is taken for the godly and elect only; and sometimes for them that exercise spiritual functions among the congregation of them that profess the truth.
2. The Church in this last sense has a certain power granted by God, according to which it uses a proper jurisdiction and government, exercised to the comfort of the whole Church. This power ecclesiastical is an authority granted by God the Father, through the Mediator Jesus Christ, to His Church gathered, and having the ground in the Word of God: to be put in execution by them to whom the spiritual government of the Church by lawful calling is committed.
3. The Polity of the Church flowing from this power, is an order or form of spiritual government which is exercised by the members appointed thereto by the Word of God: and therefore is given immediately to the Office-bearers by whom it is exercised to the well-being (benefit) of the whole body. This power is diversely used: for, sometimes it is severally (individually) exercised, chiefly by the teachers, sometimes conjunctly by mutual consent of them that bear the office and charge, after the form of judgement. The former is commonly called potestas ordinis, and the other potestas jurisdictionis. These two kinds of power have both one authority, one ground, one final cause, but are different in the manner and form of execution, as is evident by the speaking of our Master in Mat. xvi. and xviii.[8]

Christ Jesus is the source of the power and authority of the Church and He delivers that to His Church through his written Word. So here we have the first principles of church government derived from the Word:
1. That Christ has given his church the authority to establish and administer rules, and
2. that there are office-bearers that are given authority to administer the rules that the church makes on Christ’s behalf.

Who administers Polity?

We have already seen in the Biblical Foundations and Historical Development section of the course that the Church has extraordinary and ordinary officers to administer the power of the keys given to it. The extra-ordinary officers of the Church are those who were put in place by the Lord for extraordinary times, especially in the establishment of the Church, the ordinary officers of the Church are those which we see ruling and governing under Christ today: The Pastor or Minister, the Elder, and the Deacon (the fourth office allowed but rarely used today is the Doctor).


[1] Quoted in {Hall 1994}, p. 3.
[2] “Beza is surely correct in his contention that laxity in applying biblical principles of church government leads eventually to the erosion of doctrine in the church.” {Hall 1994}, p.3:
[3] Calvin’s Ecclesiastical Ordinances began to establish a proper polity on the chaotic church in Geneva, and while there remained tests to its authority and disputes over the Ordinances for a number of years afterwards, by Beza’s time it had established a functioning system of church polity which became the prototype of effective Presbyterian and Reformed polity to this day. For further reading see {Rushdoony 1952}; also William G. Naphy, “Calvin’s Geneva” in {Mckim 2004}, p. 25; also another great book by {Manetsch 2012}; “Shortly before his death, Calvin looked back on the dismal condition of Geneva's church in the summer of 1536:  "When I first arrived in this church there was almost nothing.  They were preaching and that's all. They were good at seeking out idols and burning them, but there was no Reformation. Everything was in turmoil."[5] Accordingly, during the decade that followed, Calvin played a primary role in building a city church from the ground up:  he restructured Geneva's religious life to include three urban churches (St. Pierre's, the Madeleine, St. Gervais) and a dozen rural parishes; he recruited a pastoral team ranging from 15-20 ministers to serve these churches; he drafted a new church constitution to govern church ministry and daily Christian life; he wrote liturgies and catechisms to structure worship and enhance Christian instruction. In addition, Calvin established a number of church institutions to promote pastoral unity, accountability and collegiality, including the Company of Pastors, the Congrégation, the Quarterly Censure, and the Consistory. From an online article by Scott Manetsch “Pastoral Collegiality and Accountability in Calvin's Geneva” - See more at: http://www.reformation21.org/articles/pastoral-collegiality-and-accountability-in-calvins-geneva.php#sthash.JjgLUHym.dpuf
[4] Here is a great example of so-called “Spirit-filled” Christians needing proper guidance in the form of written polity.
[5] {Hall 1994}, p. xii
[6] In 1 Cor. 14, we have an example of polity at work: Paul actually lays out the order in which a service should proceed, who may speak, who is to keep silent, etc. At the very least, notwithstanding the charismatic gifts, even if this passage only refers to the church when gathered for worship this still provides the beginnings of universal principles of polity (cf. vs 33-34).
[7] 40 πάντα δὲ εὐσχημόνως καὶ κατὰ τάξιν γινέσθω. The greek words in verse 40 for “decently” and “in order” are εὐσχημόνως - euschemonos - being proper, or presentable, decorous, appropriate for display (BDAG); and τάξιν - taxin - arranging things in sequence, from which word we get our own word taxonomy - categorising and ordering items according to a scientific system.
[8] See {Kirk 1980} . This quote taken from PCA Victoria version found online at our website. In section 3 here, Matthew 16 refers to Matt. 16:18-19 particularly. 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, a“You are bthe Christ, cthe Son of dthe living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, e“Blessed are you, fSimon Bar-Jonah! For gflesh and blood has not revealed this to you, hbut my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, iyou are Peter, and jon this rock2 I will build my church, and kthe gates of lhell3 shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you mthe keys of the kingdom of heaven, and nwhatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed4 in heaven.”
a John 11:27
b See ch. 1:17
c See ch. 14:33
d Deut. 5:26; Josh. 3:10; Ps. 42:2; Jer. 10:10; Dan. 6:20; Hos. 1:10; Acts 14:15; 2 Cor. 3:3; 1 Tim. 4:10
e [ch. 13:16]
f [John 1:42; 21:15–17]
g 1 Cor. 15:50; Gal. 1:16 (Gk.); Eph. 6:12; Heb. 2:14
h 1 Cor. 2:10; 12:3; [ch. 11:25; John 6:45]
i [ch. 10:2; John 1:42]
j Eph. 2:20; Rev. 21:14; [ch. 7:24]
2 The Greek words for Peter and rock sound similar
k Job 38:17; Isa. 38:10
l See ch. 11:23
3 Greek the gates of Hades
m [Isa. 22:22; Rev. 1:18; 3:7]
n [ch. 18:18; John 20:23]
4 Or shall have been bound … shall have been loosed
Also, Matthew 18:18-20 -
18 Truly, I say to you, twhatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed6 in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you uagree on earth about anything they ask, vit will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are wgathered in my name, xthere am I among them.”
t [ch. 16:19; John 20:23]
6 Or shall have been bound … shall have been loosed
u [Acts 12:5, 12; Philem. 22]
v See ch. 7:7
w [Acts 4:30, 31; 1 Cor. 5:4]
x [ch. 28:20; John 12:26; 20:20, 26]

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Rev. Andres Miranda

Principles of Spiritual Development

The elder needs constant readjustment of his personal life with the purpose of God in the Bible. Part of that process is prayer. Without it there is always lacking that something that makes holiness holiness.

The Habit of Prayer  

Luther once said: “Prayer, meditation and temptation make a Minister”. The same is true for the elder. The need for prayer in the Christian ministry is underlined by the disciples’ request in Luke 11:1 “Lord, teach to pray”. That request is often misunderstood. Notice that the disciples did not say: “Lord, teach us how to pray”, but teach us “to pray”. They are not asking for techniques or a prayer manual. Their request is “teach us to pray”. Many elders, perhaps, know how to pray, but they do not actually pray. Shepherding God’s flock demands that elders carry out their pastoral commitments in a prayerful spirit.  The elder who is concerned for the welfare of the flock will make the church a subject of continual supplication.     

Study Questions

In Acts 6: 1-4 Luke records the following incident within the church in Jerusalem:

 

Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty.  But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

 

What do we learn about the organisation of the early church here?

 

 

Luke tells us that as the result of the preaching of the gospel, the church grew in numbers, and whenever the church grows in number new conditions of Christian service must be created. The apostles recognised the importance of caring for the disadvantaged in the community, but they said: “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables”... “We will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” What was the purpose of this?

 

 

The Habit of Bible-Reading

 One cannot read the words of Paul “devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching” (1 Timothy 4:13) without concluding that this is a general word to office-bearers in the congregation.  Elders, therefore, should cultivate the habit of Bible-reading. In fact, the elder should carry out his ministry from beginning to end without exception by “every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:5). This obviously involves reading. Bible-reading is hard work and requires delight in the revelation of God. For that reason, the elder does not simply read the Bible to meet the expectations of his role, but reads the Bible because the interaction with the sacred text is spiritually satisfying to his mind and heart. How do we do this? Bible-reading comprises four steps: reading the text, meditating the text, praying the text, and living the text. This way of reading produces delightful enjoyment of the Bible (Psalm 119:97) and provides passion for God and gladness for service (Psalm 39:3). If intimate acquaintance with the words of God is deficient, the elder will struggle to become a faithful man “who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2).

Study Questions

When we read the Scriptures we lose concentration easily. We get fidgety. Very often we have to drag our wondering thoughts back to the Bible. Why do you think we are losing the ability to read and take pleasure in reading the Bible? What might be the solution to the problem?

 

 

 

Read 2 Timothy 3:16. What is the emphasis of this passage?

 

 

 

 

What sort of things can Bible-reading do for leaders in the congregation?

 

 

The Habit of Being Relational

Part of the job of being an elder involves the development of personal skills. Being an elder does not mean keeping a distance. It requires a relational behaviour that gets right in among the flock of God (1 Pet. 5:2). Eldership is not indifferent oversight. In the act of indifference, other believers have no presence, and what happens to him or to her is really outside the sphere of our concerns. This attitude must be viewed as contradictory to Scripture. 

The elder then, should be able to talk to people, to understand them, in order to establish a relationship that encourages openness and trust in the church. The elder will discover that influence and leadership comes by the choice to relate, not from position of rank. This process of becoming more open, more understanding, and more relational is the key to effective communication in ministry.

 If the relationship between the elder and the members of the church does not grow stronger, it will get weaker; if they do not become closer, they will become more distant.  Of course, it is not easy to alter ineffective methods of relating to others. But if we are conscious of our calling, and we are willing to allow God to replace inadequate ways of relating, it will be impossible to remain the same. Change is inevitable. It is important to remember that in all domains of relationships, the idea of being near or distant has nothing to do with proximity or spatial distance, rather the experience is simply the result of the degree of emotional interest that one extends to people in our environment.

Study Questions

In Hebrews 13:7 the author tells the congregation to respect the leaders who spoke to them the word of God, and also to imitate their way of life and faith. It’s obvious that those who guided the flock had a powerful influence in the church. What does this teach us about their interpersonal skills?

 

 

It seems that the leaders whom the author of Hebrews recommends as examples of life and faith were very close to the people, and the people loved them deeply.  What are some of the barriers that hinder people in the church from wanting to imitate the life of an elder?

 

 

Take a moment to reflect on your style of relating to others. Ask yourself these questions: Do I wait for people to make me talk? Do I realise the importance of improving my relationships skills?  Remember that when you reflect, you are actually doing something to change. 

 

 

Notes on good Communication

 

Communication is the most important skill in life. But communication, and contrary to what is commonly thought, is much more than producing acoustic sounds. Communication involves physical gestures, body postures and movements that become a response to stimulus in the moment of communication. So, we need to abandon the idea that we can only communicate through words: all behaviour is communication. Ruesch and Bateson tell us that interpersonal interaction or communication is made up of three actions:

 

(1) The presence of expressive acts on the part of one or more persons.

(2) The conscious or unconscious perception of such expressive acts by others persons.

(3) The return observation that such expressive actions were perceived by others. The perception of having been perceived is a fact which deeply influences and changes human behaviour.

 

As you can see, it is impossible not to communicate. Whatever you do when you are with people, you will be communicating. Even when the person who perceives that is not being perceived (i.e., not acknowledged in communication) will know that we are saying something to him or her. Good communication in the church, therefore, rests on the basis of good interactions among Spirit-filled speakers. 

 

References:

Ruesch, J., and G. Bateson (2008) Communication: The social Matrix of Psychology. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

 

The Habit of Putting First Things First

 

Elder, can you take a moment to think about the following questions: What sort of motivation would I like people to see in me? How I can help my brothers and sisters to feel inspired and move forward with joy and confidence to the future of God? The apostle Paul would say to us: don’t worry about your business, your friends, or your dreams of worldly recognition, just worry about one thing:

 

 "Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:13-14 ESV).

 

Here we find Paul looking back, and looking forward, and then telling us about the overwhelming passion in his mind. He turned his back on the past, and re-centred his behaviour towards the future, and in three words he reveals the secret of this change, “but one thing! This became the frame of reference by which everything else was re-evaluated. This is what defined him.  This “one thing” was the vision that he had for his life, and the vision that inspired others to imitate his example.  

This “one thing” was not just one thing he did –but one thing he became –one thing that influenced others, one thing that he visualised and shaped his entire outlook on life. But, what “one thing”? The things before him, that is, the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. You see, by putting first things first, Paul was able to find passion for Christian service and passion for pressing towards the things of the future –the final perfection in Christ Jesus. So putting first things first means to start and continue our ministry as Elders with a clear understanding of our destination. It means that we know where we are going and we are taking steps to become the man of “one thing” in life. Paul says to us: Get that vision, set your life in the right direction and pursue glorious things by faith in Christ. Brothers, we may be very busy, we may be very efficient, we may be very moralistic, but we can only be the elders that our people need us to be, by doing the “one thing”. Put first things first.     

 

 

What did Paul mean when he wrote, “forgetting what lies behind” (v.13)?

 

 

Sometimes we live in the memory of a conversion experience that happened ten, twenty, forty years ago. Should we leave this blessing in the past? And why? 

 

 

What can you do (that you’re not doing now) that, if you did it on a regular basis, would make you more motivated to do the “one thing”?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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David Kerridge

Required Reading

Our Reformed Tradition is founded on the desire of the Reformers to educate and enlighten the congregation. Beginning with the Scriptures being made available in the language of the people and the concurrent new technology of the printing press putting the writings of the Reformers into the hands of the people, the word read soon became the primary means of teaching the Reformed faith to the people. We need to continue to be a reading people if we are to understand what we believe and why we believe it. 


Here is a reading list for you to use alongside the course notes to help with the study of the course, or to follow up a subject in more depth. This will be expanded from time to time so check in and find more valuable resources.


Biblical Foundations and Historical Introduction



Old Testament



Cole, R. Alan. Exodus: An Introduction and Commentary. Vol. 2. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1973.



New Testament



Guthrie, Donald. Pastoral Epistles: An Introduction and Commentary. Vol. 14. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1990.



Calvin, John, and William Pringle, Commentaries on the Epistles to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010.




Historical References



Bannerman, James. The Church of Christ: a Treatise on the Nature, Powers, Ordinances, Discipline, and Government of the Christian Church. Edinburgh ; Banner of Truth Trust, 1974.



Gillespie, George. Aaron's Rod Blossoming, Or, the Divine Ordinance of Church-government Vindicated.



Polity



Synod Law and Advisory Committee, PCEA Handbook of Practice and Procedure, 2016 Edition. Available here.



David W Hall and Joseph H Hall, (Eds), Paradigms in Polity. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1994.



R.S. Ward, The Westminster Confession of Faith: A Study Guide, Melbourne, New Melbourne Press, 2004.



Practice



Derek Prime, A Christian's Guide to Leadership for the Whole Church, Darlington, Evangelical Press, 2005



David Dickson, The Elder and His Work, Phillipsburg, New Jersey, P & R Publishing, 2004.

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