An Elder Is A Man

Spending time each week with our elders is a treasured blessing for me. As I reflected on this today I recalled an article written by the late Burton Coffman entitled An Elder is a Man. I am glad I had a copy of this in my files. I wanted to share it. Below that is an article I wrote for our church bulletin abut elders being Shepherds. JED

An Elder is A Man by Burton Coffman

An elder is a man, subject to errors of judgment. Yet he must go ahead with courage to make decisions, knowing he could be wrong. It is not possible to know 100% of all things before reaching a decision.

An elder is a man, enjoying the approval of those he leads. Yet, he must have the courage to made decisions based upon his spiritual and intellectual judgment, knowing it may cost him the favor of the church.

An elder is a husband, aware of the frailty of the human family. Yet, he must proceed with courage in leadership knowing his family will, by association, fall heir to some criticisms directed at him.

An elder is a man, a student of mankind and time. Yet, he cannot remain simply a student; he must be a teacher, knowing that the ultimate direction of the church and its growth in the future depends upon his reactions today.

An elder is a man conscious of his responsibility. Yet, he must have the courage to trust others with responsibility – knowing they may fumble, they may quit, or they may ignore the assignment.

An elder is a man, awed by the power of God. Yet, his love for the souls of men causes him to accept the office of bishop, knowing that one day he will stand in Gods presence and give account of his own dealins with those he was to lead.

It is likely that no man on earth would accept the above challenge of leading as an elder, if God had not promised wisdom from above and inner strength of character that come from his eternal presence.


I BELIEVE IN AN ELDER-LED CHURCH because this is the leadership plan we read about in the Bible. While every person in a church has opinions about the best practices and paths forward, we have entrusted a group of men to serve as our Shepherds. We selected these men based upon qualities we admired in their character. God has given the elders direction in shepherding the flock, and also He has given the flock direction in being led. When there is harmony in this relationship of shepherd / flock, then the church has the best opportunity to fulfill it’s mission. 

ELDERS ARE SHEPHERDS. As shepherds of God’s flock (Acts 20:28) elders have been given the charge to oversee the church in a godly manner. Four duties of shepherding include the duty to feed (teach) the church, protect the church from false teachers, leading the church (as opposed to just being caretakers), and caring for practical needs. 

AN ELDER IS A MAN. Since all humans are imperfect, we know that our elders are not perfect. When they ask for input and our thoughts, we share what we think so that they can make the best decisions possible for our church. Elders are to be appreciated, loved, honored, protected from slander, and obeyed (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13; 1 Timothy 5:17-19; Hebrews 13:17). Also, godly elders are to view their position of leadership with humility and with an eye to God’s will and not personal gain nor personal preferences (1 Peter 5:1-2). It’s quite a challenge.

ELDERS ARE A PLURALITY. In the Bible, elders are always presented as a plurality. The church belongs to no individual human, it belongs to Christ. Elders are pastors in the New Testament. Although today that term is often used for the preacher, that is a misuse of the biblical term. 

ELDERS ARE A BLESSING. Our church is blessed to have godly men serving as our shepherds. We trust them. We love them. We follow them. We dialogue with them and clarify thoughts and feelings. Even in times when we question them, we consider how to faithfully honor God’s plan for church leadership, unity, and humility. 

RESOURCE: Alexander Strauch has an excellent book called BIBLICAL ELDERSHIP. His thoughts helped me with today’s article, as well as his article HERE.