Churches Of Christ/Qualifications of elders
QUESTION: Hello Joe,
I worship in church of christ in India.
We are in the process of appointing elders in our church.
We have short listed four brothers for the elder position.
Out of the four one lost his wife as she was ill and could not recover around five years back.
But she was in faith when she died and now his children are also in faith.
Now we have a doubt since his wife is not alive he is not qualified for the position.
ANSWER: Hello Praywin,
I deeply appreciate you asking me your question and as I always seek to do, I will do my best to give you a solid Bible answer. The appointment of Elders and of Deacons is very important and we must always be sure that the men we appoint in these positions are very well qualified as well as being ready, willing, and able to serve in these roles.
The positions are leadership roles but they are also servant roles. I do understand your situation. You have four men you are considering for the position of Elder. One man you are considering just lost his wife due to illness about 5 years ago. I am thankful his wife was a faithful Christian and wife up until she died. I am thankful this man's children are all faithful Christians still. These are wonderful things but the fact that one requirement to become an elder is that he is the husband of one wife has not changed. It is my position that everything listed as a requirement to become an Elder is important and there for a reason. I do not believe a widower can be an Elder any more than someone who has never married can become an Elder.
1 The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.
5 This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you 6 if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. 7 For an overseer, as God's steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, 8 but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.
These are the two passages speaking of qualifications of Elders. I believe everything listed is mandatory. There is a purpose behind them all. We know that death ends a marriage (Rom.7:1,2). Also, we should not ever consider appointing someone when even just one member believes this person is not qualified to be an Elder. This would cause undo turmoil within the body of Christ. Only appoint men who definitely meet ALL qualifications listed in the two above passages. Do not appoint anyone that some might not believe meets all qualifications.
My hope is that this helps you to make the right decision. If you have more questions or need more explanation, please let me know and I will be happy to assist you in any way that I can.
In Christian Love, Joe Norman
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Hello Joe,
Thanks for your answer.
I am still doubtful about the following points.
The verse says he should be a husband of one wife.
Death ends a marriage but the fact that he was a husband of one wife remains.
According to I Tim 3:4 He also has managed his own household well.
Here is where the confusion arises.
Hello again brother Praywin,
The verse is clear that the requirement of "husband of one wife" is present tense. You are correct that Death ends a marriage (Rom.7:1,2). Yes, the fact remains this man WAS a husband of one wife. This is past tense. His wife is no longer alive and so he no longer IS (present tense) husband of one wife. I understand that he was and it lasted many happy years until she died. I understand he also has managed his own household well. Yet, he no longer meets the requirements because he is not currently husband of one wife. He is a widower. I believe all the requirements are there for solid reasons. I am sure that even if most of you feel this man whose wife died can serve as an Elder, there may be some who believe he is not qualified because his wife died. If ANYONE within that local church has reasons they feel a man is not qualified to serve as Elder, he must not be appointed to that position. It would cause internal problems within that local church. It is best to only appoint men that you can clearly see are qualified.
In Christian Love, Joe Norman