Once an elder, always an elder! Is that right as regards to occupying a position of church leadership. I suggest that it is not.
The qualifications for an elder are found by looking at the passages in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9. These lists describe what an elder should look like. If someone has ceases to exhibit these characteristics then they have ceased to be qualified to be an elder.
If we look, for example, at the issue of being able to teach (1 Tim. 3:2c). If a man through mental deterioration no longer is able to teach, then he does not display the attributes of an elder. He, therefore, should not continue to be an elder.
A similar conclusion is reached if he no longer displays the moral character which originally proved him to be of eldership material.
Some practical implications of these observations:
- Particularly when elders are over sixty it is appropriate that they have fixed periods of appointment to eldership so as due consideration can be given to the issues above. This also allows them not to feel that with the weakening of age they have to commit for too long.
- Those who no longer have the capacities for leadership should not just be thrown on the scrap-heap. Full and due regard should be given for all the labour that they have engaged in in shepherding the flock of God.
- When someone takes on eldership, they should be appropriately informed of the ongoing responsibility to be “fit for purpose” as regards to the qualifications in Scripture.
- Eldership is a calling from God. We should pray for those who take on such responsibility.
- Satan hates having good leaders and good leadership among God’s people and we should not be ignorant of his devices to seek to “take out” leaders.