"Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. And let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace.” Ex 18:21–23
‘Choose for your tribes wise, understanding, and experienced men, and I will appoint them as your heads.’ And you answered me, ‘The thing that you have spoken is good for us to do.’” Deut 1:13–14
Your session of elders asks that you prayerfully consider nominating men to serve with our current elders and deacons as church officers at Covenant. This involves asking them if they discern the Lord leading them to serve as an officer at this time and nominating them for either elder or deacon (or both, as far as the nominations go).
As the victory spoils at his ascension to the right hand of God the Father, Christ Jesus shares valuable gifts with his church (Eph 4:7-16). His Spirit is the one through whom all gifts are sovereignly distributed. Nominations for church office can be received any time church members discern the Lord’s gifting. Your duty is to charitably discern the Spirit’s work in the lives of our men at Covenant (yes, the Lord uses sinners to lead his church!). Do you esteem them to be good examples to the flock? Do they demonstrate the required Biblical character for church office? Nominees will undergo training lasting from three to six months. They will then be audited as to their understanding of the Standards of the Presbyterian Church in America, to which they must subscribe.
The qualifications for the two offices, elder and deacon, should be studied carefully (1 Tim 3:1-13; Tit 1:5-9). You will note that in the New Testament, the character and holiness required of the elder and deacon do not differ from that which should be the character of every Christian. This means that voting members must already be rehearsed in making such character distinctions of themselves (children are rarely capable of making such moral judgments).
The office of elder dates to the time of Moses and the Church in the Wilderness (Exo 18:21-23; Deut 1:13-15). From these texts, one can see that the elder’s authority in the church is held both severally (as individuals) and jointly (as with the elders of session). The office of deacon was appointed at the time of the Apostles to serve better the church’s temporal needs (Acts 6:1-6). The word translated as “deacon” means “servant” (Matt 23:11; John 12:26).2 Deacons are to be men distinguished for their sympathy and mercy to the needy.
James Montgomery Boice sees four foundational principles for effective church organization. These fundamentals became evident in the story of Moses, the servant of Jehovah God, as he led and organized the children of Israel in the Wilderness.
1. Division of Responsibility: (1) No one person in Israel at that time, and no one person in the church today, possesses every gift; and (2) even if one person did have all the gifts, that person would not have the time or strength to do what needs to be done.
2. Plurality of Leadership: This principle follows from the above. “When Christ appointed apostles, he appointed twelve; he did not appoint one in charge of the others…By contrast, cults almost always revolve around a single leader.” This is the advice that Jethro gave to Moses regarding the appointment of the seventy elders for Israel (Exo 18:21-23).
3. Spiritual Qualifications: “Jethro listed qualifications, some of which were spiritual, and some of which simply had to do with the various gifts required for the job.” Paul writes similarly to Timothy in the New Testament regarding the organization of the church utilizing both elders and deacons.
4. The Choice of the People: “In both the Old and the New Testaments, we see that the people chose their leaders. When Jethro spoke to Moses, he said, ‘Select capable men,’ (NIV), but in Deuteronomy Chapter 1, we find that Moses very wisely had the people select those who were qualified and were able to handle their cases. Moses appointed them once they were selected.”
Our Lord’s Day evening sermon series from Exodus contains a treasury of Biblical instruction and wisdom for organizing, leading, and living to God in his church. Exodus may be seen as Moses continuing to build on the material in the book of Genesis and continuing to chronicle God’s redemptive history; as such, this book is indispensable to a good understanding of God’s will and the Bible as a whole.
Please prayerfully consider attending both morning and evening worship at Covenant — especially as we look for the Lord to continue to graciously grant us godly and capable leadership in the near future.