Public Response to 2 Pertinent Comments

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Recent comment:

“If a young man is permitted to plant a church and can do so effectively; and he is given responsibility to appoint men into eldership… How is it that the young man himself is not qualified for office of elder/pastor?”

This is a question that we are often asked, so we thought it would be helpful if we made a public response in the form of a blog post. 

We believe church planting is a viable ministry for young “Timothys”. We also encourage “Timothys” to wait for a different season of life to take up the office of elder/pastor. Many think that these two positions are in opposition to each other.

First, we need to make some qualifying remarks concerning church planting. We strongly endorse a mentored ministry approach to church planting, being sent out and in intentional accountability to the elders of a church. This will look different in different church planting contexts. A young Timothy being involved in pioneer missions (church planting overseas) will look different than a young Timothy being sent out to be involved in a church plant across town. In either case, we hope that while the Timothy will often be making day to day judgment calls, ultimately he is carrying out the wishes of his elders, acting as an arm of the local church he was sent from.

In a Pioneer church plant scenario it is more difficult for the elders to be active in the church plant. However, in a local church plant, there is opportunity for more hands on mentorship. The best option for either of these scenarios would be if the Timothy was a part of team that was accountable to the same elders.

For us it’s an issue of authority. When a young Timothy is sent out, he is operating with a commission from the local elders. He is like a Marine who has been commissioned by a commanding officer. Here is an example: If I tell my daughter to go tell her sister to come to the table because dinner is ready, her sister has to obey. Not because the daughter who I commissioned has authority, or is now qualified to be a parent, but because she carries my authority with her.

While we are planting a local church we may be exercising authority that is reserved for an elder, but we are operating as an arm of our local elders. Just as Timothy was operating under Paul’s authority in all he was doing.

Another related comment that was made:

“I suppose my suggestion is that the very case of Timothy-and many other mature and gifted young men-demonstrates that Paul’s regulations regarding elders has more to do with maturity and character than with meeting a certain age requirement.”

We agree. Age doesn’t have much intrinsic value regarding the qualifications for elder. Rather, gaining the necessary qualities of an elder takes time. One interesting thing to note is that an elder is expected to have believing children. The biblical writers assume that men who would be considered for eldership would be of the age that, if they have children, they are old enough to be “believing”. Again, it is not our quest to pick an arbitrary age and say, “anyone younger than this should not be an elder!” We are more than happy to concede that there may be young men out there who meet the qualifications for eldership. We praise God for that! However, as we face the text and examine our own lives, we know that we are in a different season of life. We are calling out to other young men to examine themselves in the light of God’s Word along with us, obeying their sense of call to the ministry while refusing to compromise the requirements of eldership.

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4 Responses to “Public Response to 2 Pertinent Comments”

  1. Vince Olaer Says:

    I do agree that “age” doesn’t really matter… I think that we have to concentrate on the valuable requirements of becoming an Elder or a Deacon.

    Please note again that in the Bible:
    Elder=Pastors=Bishop

    I have here a post that may give you the requirements:
    http://lighthouseresource.blogspot.com/2008/06/roles-inside-church-part-2.html

    As what we can see here, God gave us different roles. The passage absolutely did not specified on what age should we become and Elder. What the Bible is only clear is that Timothy is “young”. We don’t know his age… But I do believe that when Paul sent him, Timothy became an Elder of the church, especially that he is to teach to reliable men what Paul taught of him.

    In addition to this, Paul’s emphasis is more like “passing the baton”. Passing the authority to Timothy where Paul is not sure whether or not he will be released or will be killed at stake.

    Whether Paul will survive in prison, Timothy should do his best to continue the work started by Paul.

    For more readings, I strongly suggest that you explore my blog: http://www.lighthouseresource.blogspot.com

  2. Matthew Cunningham Says:

    Vince,

    We are with you, these words are the same thing:
    Bishop-Elder-Pastor-Overseer

    Concerning your comment that ‘the passage absolutely did not specify what age we should become an Elder’… While the text doesn’t specify an exact age, it definitely points to a season of life. As we said in the post, “One interesting thing to note is that an elder is expected to have believing children. The biblical writer assumes that men who would be considered for eldership would be of the age that, if they have children, they are old enough to be “believing”.” So to assume that age was outside of Paul’s thinking isn’t accurate. Paul doesn’t expect 14 year old to become elders. He expects mature, godly, household ruling, men to become elders. They are not called “youngsters”, they are called “elders”, literally “older men”.

    The text doesn’t explicitly address whether Timothy was an elder. However the fact that Timothy was called to appoint elders, seems to tell us that he himself wasn’t an elder. My thinking is this: if Timothy was an elder, why didn’t Paul just tell Timothy to elder? Why didn’t he just tell him to rule?

    Thanks for posting, we appreciate the interaction!

    Matthew

  3. Jeff Lacine Says:

    Another interesting thing to note. In 1 Timothy 5:1, Timothy is instructed, “do not rebuke an elder, but encourage him as you would a father.” Most translations translate elder here as “older man”, but it is the same greek word as the one translated earlier in the book as “elder”. Timothy is told to relate to ‘elders’, not as peers, but as fathers. Why? Probably because he is not an elder himself.

  4. Steve Marquardt Says:

    Hey guys,

    This is a good discussion so far! There were a couple of things that I noticed that I wanted to comment on.

    Matt stated: “The text doesn’t explicitly address whether Timothy was an elder. However the fact that Timothy was called to appoint elders, seems to tell us that he himself wasn’t an elder. My thinking is this: if Timothy was an elder, why didn’t Paul just tell Timothy to elder? Why didn’t he just tell him to rule?”

    In my judgment, it is undeniable that Timothy was called on to appoint elders. At the same time, this doesn’t necessarily deny that Timothy was an elder or at least qualified to be an elder. The context of 1 Timothy (esp. 1 Tim. 1:3) specifies that Paul had left Timothy in Ephesus for the work of ministry, and it seems likely to me that there were many house churches in existence in Ephesus. If this was indeed the case, then there would be a need for many elders, since there would be much more work than Timothy could handle on his own. Thus, if Timothy was appointing elders to fill the many roles which he himself could not do, then it would not be strange for Paul to address him as he does.

    Beyond this, even though Paul never referred to Timothy as an elder, he clearly spoke of Timothy doing the same functions as an elder, particularly teaching and having authority (cf. 1 Tim. 4:11-16, 5:17). This same pattern-referring to an office by mentioning function rather than title-appears elsewhere in 1 Timothy. If this is true, then it would not be without precedent for Paul to address Timothy in this way (cf. 1 Tim. 2:12: Paul did not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; namely, he did not permit her to act as an elder).

    In addition, it seems difficult to me to use 1 Timothy 5:1 as evidence for the fact that Timothy was not elder-material (in the 1 Timothy 3 sense). In 1 Tim. 5:1-2, Paul refers to older men/elders, younger men, older women, and younger women, and then in the next verse he goes on to discuss widows. Because older men/elders are referenced in the same list as these other seasons/stages of life, it appears to be a less technical and more general reference to elders here than previously in the book. Even if I am wrong, however, and elder here does refer to the office, Paul cannot be meaning that Timothy is never to rebuke an elder, because in 1 Tim. 5:20 he went on to give Timothy circumstances in which he was to rebuke elders. Because of these observations, it appears to me that older men/elders could have more general and more specific applications at various times even within the book of 1 Timothy.

    I certainly don’t have this whole issue figured out, guys, and I really appreciate the opportunity to wrestle through the issue here. Keep up the good work!

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