When Moses chose elders, he was counseled to find "men who fear God, trust worthy men who hate dishonest gain" (Ex. 18:21).* They were to be Spirit-filled individuals (see Num. 11:16,17).In New Testament times, Paul cautioned Timothy and Titus that church elders were to be "above reproach, . . . temperate, self-controlled, respect able, hospitable,... not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrel some, not a lover of money" (1 Tim. 3:2, 3). An elder "must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined" (Titus 1:7, 8). Elders, along with all church leaders, should re veal the fruit of God's Spirit in their lives: "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (Gal. 5:22, 23).
Peter offered similar advice in his Epistle: "To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder...: Be shepherds of God's flock ... not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. . . . Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another.... Humble yourselves. ... Be self-controlled and alert.... Resist [the devil], standing firm in the faith" (1 Peter 5:1-9).
In light of the above, Ellen White commented: "Those who are appointed to guard the spiritual interests of the church should be careful to set a right example, giving no occasion for envy, jealousy, or suspicion, ever manifesting that same spirit of love, respect, and courtesy which they desire to encourage in their brethren."1
In all aspects of leadership, elders must practice absolute truthfulness and honesty, showing a high standard of ethical behavior. They must be faithful and loyal to the teachings of Scripture and the standards of the church, refusing to compromise on any issue of truth or ethics. And always they need to look to Jesus to maintain their integrity.
Strong family relationships
Because one's own family is among life's greatest treasures, elders need to pray constantly for wisdom and love so that their homes will reflect all that is pure, honest, faithful, and true. "The great est evidence of the power of Christianity that can be presented to the world is a well-ordered, well-disciplined family. This will recommend the truth as nothing else can, for it is a living witness of its practical power upon the heart." 2
The Bible suggests that one way to tell whether candidates are truly qualified to be elders is to evaluate their family relationships: "He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?)" (1 Tim. 3:4,5). "An elder must be blame less, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient" (Titus 1:6).
Because elders are the lay leaders of the local church, they can be assured that the eyes of fellow members are upon them. They can expect scrutiny of their home relationships. Those who through their capable and loving leadership have received love and respect from the members of their own home can hope to win a similar response from members of the larger church family.
In the home as in the church, good relationships are based on love, faithfulness, loyalty, and respect. These are all attributes of Christ's character, and they develop in our lives from close association with Him. "Hearts that are filled with the love of Christ can never be very far apart. Religion is love, and a Christian home is one where love reigns and finds expression in words and acts of thoughtful kindness and gentle courtesy.... Only where Christ reigns can there be deep, true, unselfish love." 3 "And as your love for Him increases, your love for each other will grow deeper and stronger." 4
Commitment to Christ
Commitment, deep spirituality, and strong moral character are attributes of Christian leadership that do not come naturally. They are the fruit of our fellowship with Jesus. Thus elders need to find time every day for Bible study, meditation, and prayer. No Christian leader can hope to have the power to lead people in God's way unless he or she makes a commitment to put God first in every part of life.
Christ Himself felt this need for the Father's presence to renew His strength. The Scriptures record that "very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed" (Mark 1:35). This was not an isolated occasion for Jesus. It was His custom to spend the early hours of each day in communion with His Father (see Matt. 14:23; Luke 5:16; 6:12). The type of devotion shown by Jesus in His leadership is a model for all Christian leaders today.
* All Scripture quotations in this article are
from the New International Version.
1 E. G. White, Testimonies for the Church
(Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn.,
1948), vol. 5, p. 241.
2 ————, The Adventist Home (Nashville:
Southern Pub. Assn., 1952), p. 32.
3 Ibid., p. 94.
4 Ibid., p. 106.