The Pastor's Pen

How to Vote for a Church Elder


On the 17 January, New Life Church will meet for our Annual General Meeting. During this meeting, among other business, we will be voting on an elder. This article will help explain why we vote on elders and how we are to vote for elders.

As a church we don’t want to fall into the trap of turning our church governance into a business model or a political model, so it is important we find out what the Bible says about this subject. After all is said and done, we need to remember that the church belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is His church; He bought it with His blood. The local church does not belong to the pastor, to the elders, or to the congregation. It belongs to Jesus Christ who alone is the Head (Eph. 1:20-23). No one dare proclaim, “This is my church!” It doesn’t belong to any of us. It belongs to Christ the Lord. Never in the New Testament are the leaders of the local church referred to as “head” of the church. Neither is the church viewed as a democratic organization, where the members are free to vote their own minds on issues. The key question in church government is not, “What is the mind of the members?” but, “What is the mind of Christ?”

The church is a living organism, with Jesus Christ as the living Head. The church is not to be organized as a corporation, with the pastor and elder board as the directors and the congregation as shareholders! Webster’s Dictionary defines an organization as “an administrative and functional structure.” He defines an organism as “an individual constituted to carry on the activities of life by means of organs separate in function but mutually dependent.” The church is the latter. While an organism is organized, it is more: it is living, responsive to the living Head. The church is a living organism in which every member is to be submissive and responsive to the Head and in mutual dependence and interaction with the other members so that the will of the Head may be carried out in a harmonious corporate manner.

So the main function of church government is to allow Christ to exercise His headship over His church. Having that view of church government results in an entirely different way of conducting church business. If you view the church as a democratic organization where every member has a right to vote, you’re falling into the trap of church politics. 

First Timothy 3 and Titus 1 are clear regarding the qualifications and duties of an elder. Acts 20:28 states how a man becomes an elder or overseer: “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.” How does this happen? Originally, it was by apostolic appointment (Acts 14:23). Paul didn’t hold elections; he appointed elders. Later he had his delegates, Timothy and Titus, appoint elders (Titus 1:5). In 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9, we have the Holy Spirit-inspired qualifications which we must look for in those who are to be elders. It is the responsibility of the church to seek the Lord (Paul fasted and prayed, Acts 14:23) to discern which men meet those qualifications and are willing to devote themselves to that ministry, and to recognize them as elders.

Therefore rather than “voting” for elders at our annual meeting, we should view it as confirming these men as meeting the biblical qualifications. The elders of New Life Church are very aware of the spiritual oversight entrusted to us to oversee the church and the responsibility to lead the church in selecting biblically qualified leaders. After many months of prayer, discipling, training and observing Robert Dorsett, we firmly believe that he meets the requirements for an elder as laid out in scripture. We therefore have recommended to the church Robert, as the next elder candidate. We want men in office who are examples of godliness and have welcomed any input or questions from the congregation regarding the recommendation of Robert.

There are no stipulations in the New Testament as to the number of elders per church. That should be determined by the number of qualified men and the need for shepherding in the church. We hope and pray that the Lord will raise up more men in New Life Church who will be biblically qualified elders.

Please earnestly pray with us for this AGM, that we as a church will seek the mind of Christ in this decision, and that our decision will be done corporately, in a harmonious manner that will bring all glory to the Head of the church, Jesus Christ.