Elder (Christianity)

Elder (Christianity)

An elder (in Greek, πρεσβυτερος ["presbyteros"] ; see Presbyter) in Christianity is a person valued for his wisdom who accordingly holds a particular position of responsibility in a Christian group. However, elders exist throughout world cultures.

This article looks at how it is treated both in the Bible and as it is held in various Christian denominations.

Elder in the Bible


The term elders is used in various ways in the Bible. In many instances, particularly in the Old Testament, it has reference to the older men in a tribe, usually entrusted with the governmental affairs. Their age and experience made their counsel sought often. This was not necessarily a priesthood calling. , and .

There are three different words used synonymously in the New Testament to refer to the office of elder. In 1 Timothy and Titus, Paul drafts nearly identical lists of qualifications for elder and overseer, while Peter draws all three concepts together in one passage: "Therefore, I exhort the elders among you... shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight..." ()

This is a common word for in the Greek culture for any official who acted as a superintendent, manager, controller, curator, guardian or ruler. It occurs only five times in the New Testament, once referring to Christ (; and and warned them in and ; and , . These men are the spiritual leadership of the church.

Exclusive Brethren

Exclusive Brethren are so named for their practice of serving the Lord's Supper exclusively to those who are part of their own particular group, agreeing with them on various doctrinal positions.

Most Exclusive Brethren groups believe the church to have been in ruins between the death of the apostles and their own time. Since no truly apostolic authority exists to appoint elders the church has none. Instead they recognize "leading brothers" who demonstrate maturity and leadership ability.

Church of Christ

Most congregations referring to themselves as a church of Christ (see Churches of Christ) believe that local congregations should be led by a plurality of biblically-qualified elders. They base this on a conviction that congregations (and Christians in general) should attempt to follow the teachings of the New Testament wherever humanly possible. This belief is shared with other religious organizations with roots in the Restoration Movement, such as the Independent Christian Church.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

"Elders" are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who have the Melchizedek Priesthood and have been ordained to the office of elder. Additionally, male missionaries of the Church, General Authorities and Area Authority Seventies are honorarily titled "Elder" unless they are instead referred to by the title of "President."

The detailed duties of the ordained elders in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today have been defined by revelation (D&C 20: 42-45; D&C 42: 44-52; D&C 46: 2; D&C 107: 12).Elder is the proper title given to all holders of the Melchizedek Priesthood. Thus an apostle is an elder in this sense, and it is proper to speak of members of the Quorum of the Twelve or the First Quorum of the Seventy by this title (D&C 20: 38; cf. 1 Pet. 5: 1; 2 Jn. 1: 1; 3 Jn. 1: 1).


In some Protestant churches, an elder is a senior member of an individual church who is a lay and non-salaried minister. This is a defining characteristic of a Presbyterian church, which draws its name from the Greek language for 'elder'. The elders provide either an advisory or a ruling role in the decision process of local issues; though most modern churches now emphasize the participation of all confirmed members.

Eastern Orthodox

Among the Eastern Orthodox Churches the charism of Eldership (itself an extenuation of Prophesy) continues to this day in monasticism. An experienced monastic Elder (Greek: "Geronta"; Slavonic: "Starets") will provide guidance not only for their fellow monks, but for the laity as well.

Jehovah's Witnesses

Among Jehovah's Witnesses, an elder is a spiritually mature man appointed to teach the congregation, according to Biblical requirements.

An elder works within a group known as a "body of elders", each assigned to specific congregational tasks entailing oversight of the congregation. Each body of elders has a Coordinator (previously known as the "Presiding Overseer"), a Secretary, and a Service Overseer. Elders are not "clergy" in the common sense of the term; they are not paid and "elder" is not a title.

Elders in a congregation receive no monetary compensation for their work. Members must be appointed elders before they may serve as travelling overseers or on the boards of the offices of Jehovah's Witnesses. Travelling overseers are not forbidden from doing secular work but do receive a modest stipend.


An "Elder" -- sometimes called a "Presbyter" -- is someone who has been ordained by a bishop to the ministry of Word, Sacrament, Order, and Service. Their responsibilities are to preach and teach, preside at the celebration of the sacraments, administer the church through pastoral guidance, and lead the congregations under their care in service ministry to the world. The office of "Elder", then, is what most people tend to think of as the pastoral, priestly, clergy office within the church. Indeed, even a Methodist Bishop is still an Elder who has been elected and consecrated by the laying on of hands to the office of Bishop (Bishop being understood as an "office" within the Presbyterate, not an "order" or separate level of ordination). In most of the denominations within Methodism, ordination to the office of "Elder" is open to both women and men.

Presbyterian Church (USA)

In the Presbyterian Church (USA), elders are "ordained lay" people (Ministers of Word and Sacrament are also elders, though they have a different function). They form the session, which is a ruling council for their congregation.

Governmental responsibilities

Elders are chosen by the people. Together with ministers of the Word and Sacrament, they exercise leadership, government, and discipline and have responsibilities for the life of a particular church as well as the church at large, including ecumenical relationships. They shall serve faithfully as members of the session. (G-10.0102) When elected commissioners to higher governing bodies, elders participate and vote with the same authority as ministers of the Word and Sacrament, and they are eligible for any office.

Gifts and requirements

Elders should be persons of faith, dedication, and good judgment. Their manner of life should be a demonstration of the Christian gospel, both within the church and in the world. (G-6.0106)

pecific responsibilities

It is the duty of elders, individually and jointly, to strengthen and nurture the faith and life of the congregation committed to their charge. Together with the pastor, they should encourage the people in the worship and service of God, equip and renew them for their tasks within the church and for their mission in the world, visit and comfort and care for the people, with special attention to the poor, the sick, the lonely, and those who are oppressed. They should inform the pastor and session of those persons and structures which may need special attention. They should assist in worship. (See W-1.4003, W-2.3011-.3012, W-3.1003, W-3.3616, and W-4.4003.) They should cultivate their ability to teach the Bible and may be authorized to supply places which are without the regular ministry of the Word and Sacrament. In specific circumstances and with proper instruction, specific elders may be authorized by the presbytery to administer the Lord's Supper in accord with G-11.0103z. Those duties which all Christians are bound to perform by the law of love are especially incumbent upon elders because of their calling to office and are to be fulfilled by them as official responsibilities.


Among the Shakers, Elders and Eldresses were leaders in specific areas. Two Elders and Eldresses headed the central Shaker ministry at Mount Lebanon, New York and dealt with both spiritual and temporal matters. Other pairs of elders and eldresses headed groups of Shaker communities, while others were spiritual leaders of smaller groups within the communities.


See also

* Ordination of women
* political elder
* Ministers and elders in the Church of Scotland
* Minister
* Pastor
* Presbyterian polity

External links

* [http://www.biblicalelders.com BiblicalElders.com - a website dedicated to the teaching of NT Church Government]
* [http://audio.gracechurch.org/sc/2006notes/The%20Biblical%20Case%20for%20Elder%20Rule,%20Dumas.pdf The Biblical Case for Elder Rule] by Dan Dumas, executive pastor Grace Community Church
* [http://www.morethancake.org/2008/07/elders-lead-healthy-family-my-story.html Elders Lead a Healthy Family] An extensive look at Elders and their role as the catalyst in the modern church.

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Нужно решить контрольную?

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Elder — is a surname. It may also refer to older people or to:In religion: * Elder (administrative title), position of authority * Elder (Christianity), person valued for his wisdom who accordingly holds a particular position of responsibility in a… …   Wikipedia

  • Christianity in the 2nd century — Ignatius of Antioch, one of the Apostolic Fathers and the third Bishop of Antioch, was considered a student of John the Apostle. En route to his martyrdom in Rome (c. 108), Ignatius wrote a series of preserved letters which are examples of late… …   Wikipedia

  • CHRISTIANITY — CHRISTIANITY, a general term denoting the historic community deriving from the original followers of Jesus of Nazareth; the institutions, social and cultural patterns, and the beliefs and doctrines evolved by this community; and – in the   widest …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Christianity in Indonesia — Christianity by Country Africa …   Wikipedia

  • Elder Futhark — Type alphabet Languages Proto Germanic, Proto Norse, Gothic, Alamannic Time period 2 …   Wikipedia

  • Christianity in the 16th century — Main articles: Protestant Reformation and Counter Reformation See also: Christianity in the 15th century and Christianity in the 17th century Contents 1 Age of Discovery (1492–1769) 2 Protestant Reformation (1521–1579) …   Wikipedia

  • Christianity — /kris chee an i tee/, n., pl. Christianities. 1. the Christian religion, including the Catholic, Protestant, and Eastern Orthodox churches. 2. Christian beliefs or practices; Christian quality or character: Christianity mixed with pagan elements; …   Universalium

  • elder — elder1 /el deuhr/, adj. a compar. of old with eldest as superl. 1. of greater age; older. 2. of higher rank; senior: an elder officer. 3. of or pertaining to former times; earlier: Much that was forbidden by elder custom is accepted today. n. 4.… …   Universalium

  • Christianity in the 1st century — Christians believe that Jesus is the mediator of the New Covenant.[1] Depicted by 19th century Danish painter Carl Heinrich Bloch is his Sermon on the Mount (c. 30) in which he Expounds on the Law. Some scholars consider this to be …   Wikipedia

  • Christianity and domestic violence — This article is about Christianity and domestic violence. For other related topics, see Outline of domestic violence. Part of a series on …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”