Are elders responsible to God for the affairs of the church?

OVERSIGHT
Is it scriptural for overseeing brethren to hold that, and to act as if, they and they alone are responsible to God for the carrying on of the affairs of a local assembly?

Does attendance at a monthly oversight meeting constitute one an overseer?


It is not attendance at an oversight meeting which makes a man an overseer, nor the appointment of anyone, even an apostle, but the call of the Holy Spirit to the work (Acts 20:28). There will also be a desire for the work not an “office” 1 Timothy 3:1 though there will be doubtless a consciousness of insufficiency. In addition, there must be also certain qualities in a man to enable his brethren to recognize his fitness and call.  He must be blameless, patient, not domineering; apt to teach (that is, not necessarily a teacher, but able to instruct in sound doctrine). He must be able to rule well his own house; he must not be a neophyte, that is, a newly converted person; and he must have a good report in the world (see 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1: ). These chapters are an integral part of God’s Word, and it is quite a gratuitous assumption to say that they are in abeyance, because we have no apostles or apostolic delegates. Why should all these directions be left, if not to guide us on this very point?

What is proposed to take the place of an elders’ meeting?—a mere human arrangement without, I believe, one line of Scripture to authorise it—a meeting of the male members of the assembly. Surely it is evident that some of the men in a gathering may correspond very slightly indeed, if at all, with the conditions laid down in the Scriptures. They may be new converts; they may lack the power to keep their own homes in order; they may be lacking in the qualities and grace needed for the work of oversight; they may, perchance, not have a good report in the world. If so, they are as clearly excluded from oversight as the sisters. I was once long ago in a meeting where the leading brother, having come from a circle where the arrangement in question had vogue, insisted on all the males being invited to the “business meeting.” I remember still the hindrance this was to a true oversight meeting. Only two meetings are known to the Word—

(i) That of the “apostles and elders” (Acts 15:6; 20:18), but because we have no elders of apostolic gifts, this principle is in no way affected. What excuse can there be for introducing mere “males,” whom the Scriptures exclude? (a) That of the assembly (Acts 14:27; Acts 15:4; Acts 20:7; Acts 21:22). What is known as the “oversight meeting” is a matter of convenient arrangement between brethren who have mutual confidence, but it ought not to be what is called “a closed oligarchy,” nor should it prevent anyone else, who believes himself called to the work of caring for the saints and of giving proof of his ministry, but such would naturally not force fellowship on others,but would wait to be assured of their welcome. Overseeing brethren ought to be on the lookout for Spirit-called helpers.

W.H.