Near the end of his first letter, Peter encouraged the elders in his audience to “shepherd the flock of God that is among you” (1 Peter 5:1-3). He followed his encouragement with a promise – if the elders faithfully fulfilled their duty, Jesus, “the chief Shepherd”, would give them an “unfading crown of glory” (1 Peter 5:4; cf. Hebrews 13:20; John 10:7-18). The connection Peter makes between elders who “shepherd the flock of God” and Jesus “the chief Shepherd” offers an insight into being an elder – elders follow the example of Jesus. Our elders have announced the beginning of a process to appoint additional elders for our church family. This lesson, which concludes a series about elders, reminds us of elders’ responsibility to follow the example of Jesus, “the good shepherd” (John 10:7-18), whose teachings and behavior outline the expectations God has for those to whom He entrusts the care of His church.
Luke, in Acts 20, narrates Paul’s journey to Jerusalem. Despite “hastening to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost” (Acts 20:16), Paul took time to stop in Miletus and meet with the elders of the church in Ephesus (Acts 20:17). Luke uses three different terms to refer to those elders in his record of Paul’s conversation – “elders” (Acts 20:17), “overseers” (Acts 20:28), and shepherds (Acts 20:28). Luke’s descriptions of elders map the role of the leaders to whom God entrusts the care of local congregations (cf. Acts 20:28) and offers insights into their place within our church family. We will therefore consider the terms “elders”, “overseers”, and “shepherds” in this lesson as we prepare to begin the process to appoint additional elders for our church family.
This lesson begins a series of three lessons on elders in preparation for the beginning of the process to appoint additional elders for our church family. This lesson will focus on the historical background of elders in the Bible and how that background emphasizes that elders are older men recognized by their community as individuals of proven character and wisdom to whom they entrust their care.