The Need for Elders – Oversight

Posted: Tuesday, October 15, 2013 in Church, Pastoral, Sermons

This Sunday I have the privilege, Lord willing, to charge our congregation and an elder candidate concerning the necessity of elders in a local church. The charge is fairly simple – in God’s economy, sheep need shepherds. And just as God has chosen His sheep, He has also chosen His shepherds.

It is to these “undershepherds” that the Apostle Peter wrote in 1 Peter 5:2: Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight… Here we see the job description of the elder given in one imperative. He is called to be a shepherd of God’s flock given to him – and he fulfills this purpose or function as an overseer of the sheep. The words serve  as a reminder to these elders in Asia Minor, and to all elders ever since, that the “flock” is God’s flock, the church is God’s church.  Jesus promised to build His church on the gospel testimony proclaimed by the apostles.  And here Peter, considered the chief spokesman for the apostles, gives this exhortation with one participial phrase to positively describe the men who would carry the torch after the apostles were gone.  That single phrase attached to shepherding is “exercising oversight.”

Tom Schreiner, suggesting the likelihood that the offices of elder and overseer are the same in the New Testament, states, “As God’s shepherds and leaders, they are to oversee the church and superintend it.”[1]  And, as Alexander Strauch points out, “It should be observed that Paul and Peter assign the task of shepherding the local church to no other group or single person but the elders.”  So with this exhortation we see that the flock of God needs to be shepherded.  God has determined who would lead His church and how His church will be led.  What, then, does this shepherding entail?[2]  There are four things to consider as it relates to the practice of God’s undershepherds “exercising oversight” that we will consider in the next few days: (1) Lead, (2) Feed, (3) Protect, and (4) Care.

[1] Thomas R. Schreiner, NAC: 1,2 Peter, Jude, 233-234.

[2] I am indebted to Alexander Strauch’s excellent treatment of the shepherd in Biblical Eldership, 16-30.


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