Tallgrass Church desires to emphasize the ability and responsibility of each member to serve others. From those actively engaged within Tallgrass, God will raise up servant-leaders who demonstrate the spiritual maturity necessary to guide the church. These servant leaders — Elders — are charged with serving together to energize and enable all of Tallgrass’s people to accomplish God’s purposes, goals, and objectives for His church.
The heart of the Elder-church relationship is that elders serve the church by leading and the church appreciates and esteems their service. God holds Elders accountable for their service of leadership and the church accountable for their cooperation with their leaders. As described in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13, we seek to live in peace with one another through this relationship.
What are the responsibilities of the Elders?
- Elders are responsible to equip the saints for the work of ministry. (Ephesians 4:11-16)
- Elders will devote themselves to prayer and the ministry of the word of God. Elders teach and exhort the church, and correct those who teach error. They are trustees of the truth. (Acts 6:4; 1 Timothy 3:2; 1 Timothy 5:17; Titus 1:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:12)
- Elders are responsible to provide general oversight to the church. (Acts 20:28; Hebrews 13:17; Ephesians 4:11-16; 1 Thessalonians 5:12; 1 Timothy 3:2; 1 Timothy 5:17; 1 Peter 5:2-3)
- In matters concerning the heart of the church, such as vision, character, and values
- In matters of doctrine (Acts 15; 16:4)
- In matters of church discipline (Hebrews 13:17)
- In practical matters (Acts 6:1-6; 11:29-30; James 5:14)
- Decision making authority (see Tallgrass’s Bylaws, available upon request)
How are Tallgrass Elders selected?
- Anyone involved with Tallgrass, including members of the active Elder Team, can recommend an individual for consideration to serve as an Elder.
- The active Elder Team will decide when and how many people need to be set apart as an Elder for the next term.
- The active Elder Team will screen individuals who aspire to serve or who have been recommended to serve. They may interview individuals to determine whether they meet the Biblical qualifications and share a heart for Tallgrass’s mission and vision. Consideration will also be given to the skills and abilities needed on the Team at the time.
- Once the Elders have screened potential candidates, they will recommend to the church those they believe would best serve the interests of Tallgrass for the next term.
- These individuals must be affirmed by the church before they can begin their service. This constitutes a presentation of potential Elders to the church family along with a request for feedback to be provided over the following two weeks. Any questions or objections should be considered and addressed within that period (the time period could be extended if necessary) — and the Elder Team will make a final decision after all feedback is received/resolved.
- Tallgrass will be served by no fewer than four Elders.
- The Elders may be comprised of both staff and non-staff individuals with no more than half comprised of paid staff.
What kind of people are selected to be Elders?
Tallgrass’s Elders shall be comprised of people who are characterized by their spiritual maturity, humility, godly character, and the heart to shepherd the people of Tallgrass. Their lives will demonstrate the qualities described in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:6-9, and 1 Peter 5:1-3.
Paul emphasizes spiritual maturity and character over gifting. It is possible to be very gifted and knowledgeable, yet immature or even carnal. Immature people often get into leadership, where they do the church much harm (see Diotrophes in 3 John 9). There is nothing wrong with the desire to be a Christian leader (1 Timothy 3:1), but it must be for the right reason.
Since these qualities describe spiritual maturity, they are helpful in that they describe the character that the Holy Spirit is seeking to produce in everyone’s lives. Not surprisingly, most of these qualities are prescribed elsewhere in the New Testament for all Christians. If we allow the Holy Spirit to transform us into a man or woman of God, we can be sure that God will put us into the roles of leadership that he has prepared for us.
The qualifications for Elders generally fall into two categories:
1. Elders must be functionally effective in spiritual leadership.
- Already leading
Just as Jesus said sheep would know the voice of their shepherd, (see John 10:4), it seems likely that those considered for Eldership in the early church had already demonstrated the ability to lead. This is probably why Paul waited for a while after starting the churches in Ephesus and Crete before he had Timothy (ch. 3) and Titus (ch. 1) appoint elders.
- Incubated, not “overnight wonders”
It took time for the true leaders to naturally emerge. This suggests a serious commitment to front-loading preparation (training).
- Able to accommodate learning on part of young believers (and perhaps even unbelievers)
The ability to lead others in spiritual matters is also implied by the fact that the Elder must be "skilled at teaching" (1 Tim. 3:2), or, "able to exhort in sound doctrine and refute those who contradict" (Titus 1:9). A teacher is not skillful unless his students learn. Learning includes how to do God's will, not just how to know it. (James 1:22-25)
- Must have a good reputation both inside and outside the church community, and have a self-awareness that includes how they impact others and that there are no skeletons in the closet that are unmentioned
Elders and deacons had to "hold fast the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience" (1 Tim. 3:9) which would not be possible if they were guilty of sins of omission (see also "above reproach" 1 Tim. 3:2).
- Behavior is consistent with revealed truth
All of these references imply that elders had to be practitioners of the Word, not just theoreticians.
- Practically available
Serving as an Elder takes time and energy. Qualified members must also be practically available to serve in the capacity of Elder during their term of service.
2. Elders must be morally upright and consistent.
- Character counts
The emphasis in the Bible is on character even over and above function.
- See example list of biblical qualifications in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, 4:11-16, Titus 1:7-9, and Galatians 5:22-24.