When you are called to be an elder you are called to a certain church to exercise that responsibility. An “elder” who is not an elder of a church is not an elder. I make this assertion because eldership only functions in the context of an individual church. But when an elder is considered as an elder in a church how much of that church are they responsible for? Part of Paul’s exhortation to the Ephesians elders was for them to Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers (Acts 20:28a). They were all overseers to all the flock.
This reminds me of the importance of realising that when I was recognised as an elder of Feltham Evangelical Church I took on overseership of all the flock. I have a responsibility for all the flock. By implication it means as well that, under God I have responsibility for all of the church. When I become an elder of a church I cannot say that I only have responsibility for this part or that part. I have to answer to God for the whole church.
There are two important caveats here:-
- For practical management of a church situation it is reasonable to allocate responsibility of shepherding different ones among the leaders. Different elders have responsibility to particularly shepherd certain sheep. However, this does not take away from the ultimate responsibility of all the elders all the sheep. Day to day engagement is with one or some of the elders. Overall responsibility is with all of the elders.
- In a similar way responsibility for the activities and ministries in the church may be delegated to different elders of the church. But overall there is collective engagement with every ministry.
This all means that we stand together as elders. Ultimately nothing is carried individually by one of the elders; all is shared and carried by everyone.