[Michael Lawrence 3:45pm Friday late afternoon 9/14/07]
Part II: How We Go About Choosing Elders
1 Timothy 3:1:
“The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.”
How they determine elders of CHBC: Wisdom and prudence is what they must follow in this process. This is their process to bring people into this position. There needs to be an internal sense of calling. They have to have the desire to be there. They serve there because they must, because they sense they have to do it. A sense is not necessarily correct though...that’s where the biblical qualifications come into play...also the local church’s external call.
An elder is a man who is living out the Christian life in a way that is exemplary and who is also able to teach others how to live that way. They look for these qualities in men who are not waiting around to be recognized. These men are already busy eldering the congregation. They are not waiting for the title of elder in order to do the work. They recognize that this is the best way forward because this is something that the church has to recognize. If a congregation can’t see a man’s giftedness in this way he probably isn’t an elder because the congregation has to be able to recognize him.
This is the process…namely, to look for men who are already eldering. The elders raise the potential elders’ names in elder meetings when guests are no longer around (the guests are usually potential pastors, visiting pastors, and non-elder staff members). This process can go on for a long time. The name of a potential elder may appear in an elder discussion and then be voted into the office of elder anywhere from 6 months to years later.
They look for complete unanimity on this point. Elders can disagree on points, but not on whether or not someone is eligible to be an elder. In order to maintain mutual respect on the elder board each person needs to be able to affirm their meeting the qualifications of an elder. Some elders test the candidates on doctrinal points, others on matters of the family. Then they come together to see if they agree on giftedness. They will then deliberate and determine whether or not to meet with the candidate again, or they will move forward with him to sit in on a meeting…given a voice, but no vote. This helps the elders see if the candidate can put his shoulder to the wheel with them, yet submit to other brothers around the table. Does the brother handle disagreement, or rebuke with defensiveness? This might show immaturity and that he may not be equipped to be an elder yet. They will then stop and work with him on that particular fruit of the Spirit (patience, slow to anger). There are many steps and at every step CHBC elders require unanimity.
When the elders are unanimous they put the candidate before the congregation for 2 months prior to a congregational vote. This gives the congregation the opportunity to think about the candidate and bring up concerns so that they can deal with the reasons why people would vote no against them prior to the congregational vote. Also, the congregation might know something the elders don’t know.
The term of elders at CHBC is for 3 yrs, then if they are voted again to a second consecutive term they can serve another 3 years. After that time they are then forced onto at least a 1 year sabbatical. Then they may start the process all over again.
There are a few grounds that they make sure a candidate is clear on.
(1) The authority and sufficiency of Scripture. They don’t just want their elders to be an inerrantist, but also that they believe the Bible is sufficient to order the life of the church from polity to relationships.
(2) God’s sovereignty, exclusivity of Christ, and penal substitutionary atonement.
(3) An agreement on baptism, congregationalism, and polity.
(4) They also look to see that the candidate displays certain cultural distinctives (this may be different in different churches); however, CHBC is in middle of liberal larger culture (of Washington DC). They look for men who are very clear on complimentarianism in home and church, and know how to think talk and minister to people struggling with homosexuality. Capitol Hill is home to the largest community of middle to upper class homosexual couples in the United States. There can be a few things in the wider culture in which a church exists that could require a church to look at different ways a potential elder thinks about a bunch of issues.
Mainly they are looking for men who love this congregation. Men who are here more than they have to be. Serving in obvious and not so obvious ways.