Acts 14:23, “Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.”
After the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost they went everywhere and preached the gospel with signs following (Mark 16:20). As the people believed the message of truth, the first disciples made new disciples by teaching them all that Jesus had commanded. This disciple making process was a fulfillment of Jesus’ Great Commission found in Matthew 28:19.
Due to the disciple’s passion for power-evangelism the church exploded with growth and they had to appoint leaders from within the new disciples to govern the people in each location. The main leaders they appointed and gave the responsibility of the preaching and teaching to were called, “elders.” The Greek word for elders, “presbuteros,” means, “an experienced leader.” Another word for these leaders was “overseer,” which comes from the Greek word, “episkopos,” which means, “a leader with oversight.”
The words, “elders and overseers” were used interchangeably to describe the same position as seen in Titus 1:5,7. Paul said, “5 Appoint elders (presbuteros) in every town… [and] 7 Since an overseer (episkopos) manages God’s household…,” therefore, the disciples that were the most experienced and trustworthy were appointed as leaders in the church by the apostles to oversee the work of God.
Paul went into great detail giving the qualifications and responsibilities of elders in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. However, the elders needed help too. As a result, deacons were established as the second level of leadership (Acts 6:1-7 & 1 Timothy 3:8-13). The Greek word for deacon, “diakonos,” means, “servant leader.” The word is similar to our modern day word, “waiter,” in the sense that deacons serve and wait on the people like at a restaurant. In the church, the deacons are not just “water boys,” they have authority and can do great works for the Lord (read the stories of Stephen and Philip in Acts 6:8-8:40).
The Bible teaches that everyone can aspire to be a leader in the church (1 Timothy 3:1). God desires to anoint and appoint men and women for all the roles to serve in because the same Holy Spirit dwells within each person (Acts 2:17-18).
D.A. Carson wrote, “The most extraordinary things about the biblical prerequisites for elders is that they are not all that extraordinary.” I would like to challenge you to read Paul’s requirements for being a deacon and elder and believe God to make you a leader in the church that others can follow!
- Read Paul’s requirements for leadership in 1 Timothy 3:1-13.
- Talk to the leaders in your church and ask how they appoint elders and deacons.
- Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to make you an elder or deacon.