What is an Elder?
“To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who will also share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers – not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.” – 1 Peter 5:1-3.
Elders at URC:
In general terms, the elders are charged with directing the affairs of the church and preaching the word of God (1 Tim. 5:17). These two broad tasks are more particularly defined by five responsibilities.
Teach. Elders are to instruct the people of God (Acts 6:2; 20:28-31; Eph. 4:12-13; 1 Tim. 3:2; 5:17; Titus 1:9). They build up the church in right doctrine and sound teaching and make certain what is preached is in accord with the Scriptures (RCA Book of Church Order [BCO], 12-13).
Pray. Elders are to be devoted to the ministry of prayer (Acts 6:4). They are available to pray for the sick and anoint them with oil (James 5:14).
Shepherd. Elders are to shepherd the flock of God under their care (1 Peter 5:2). Shepherds are servants who care for the sheep, nurture their growth, and comfort them in their distress. Shepherds are also leaders “set apart for a ministry of watchful and responsible care for all matters relating to the welfare and good order of the church” (BCO, 12). They have “oversight over the conduct of the members of the congregation…over the conduct of one another, and of the deacons, and of the minister/s” (BCO, 12-13). As servant-leaders, the elders are to manage the membership of the church and reach out to those “in need of special care regarding their spiritual condition and/or [are] not making faithful use of the means of grace” (BCO, 21).
Discipline. Elders are to “exercise Christian discipline with respect to any who continue in sin without repentance” (BCO, 21; Matt. 18:15-20; 1 Cor. 5:1-13).
Administer the sacraments. Elders are to administer the sacraments and guard them from being profaned (BCO 13; 1 Cor. 11:17-32).