Titus 1:5-7—For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;
This is the beginning of the list of the qualifications of an elder. Another list can be found in 1 Timothy 3. The first century church did not have a single man that led the local congregation, but a group of elders. Notice that in the above passage elders is plural, but town is singular. The Christians in each city, even though they may have met in several different homes, were considered the church of that city. Paul, Timothy, Titus, or one of the other church planters appointed the men who met the qualifications and were called of God as elders. We have an example of how they functioned in the first verses of Acts 13. Instead of having “board meetings”, they met together in prayer and fasting. As they worshipped, they sought God’s heart. Though some individuals may have led out, the head of the meeting was the Lord Jesus through the Holy Spirit. They were following the pattern of the synagogue worship that they came out of. Those who had an understanding of God’s word were given opportunity to speak. It wasn’t always assigned to one man. The word elder, overseer, and shepherd/pastor were interchangeable in the first century. (Acts 20) Together they oversaw the flock of God under the Great Shepherd. They may not have all had the gift of preaching and teaching, but they were all pastors who were ready to share God’s word. This is why the qualifications of an elder are important enough for us to have twice in Scripture. Though the interpretation varies among groups, we can see that the standard of an elder is very high for a reason. They should not be elected in a popularity contest but appointed because of their reputation as men that live and teach God’s word while looking out for God’s sheep.