Steadfast Media Pick of the Week — The Role of Elders

The Role of Elders

I dug up this old interview with Dr. Al Collver on the role of lay elders in the church. He talks about distinguishing what we call elders today from the deacons, presbyters, and bishops in the Bible. Dr. Collver also talks about the LCMS rule of thumb where it is given that lay elders can do anything in the church except that which is reserved for the Office of the Ministry.

 

[podcast]http://wittenbergmedia.org/audio/Lay_Elders_-_Colver.mp3[/podcast]

 

 

Articles mentioned:
Dr. Normal Nagel’s article “The Twelve and the Seven in Acts 6 and the Needy” in the Concordia Journal.

Dr. Collver’s article “Lay Elders—A Brief Overview of Their Origin in the Missouri Synod” in the Concordia Journal.


Comments

Steadfast Media Pick of the Week — The Role of Elders — 10 Comments

  1. Where is the term “lay elders” in the Scriptures? I was educated at a Lutheran seminary and this was my biggest gripe about church polity from a group of people who otherwise took the Scriptures so seriously.

  2. Greg,
    As stated in the interview there is no such term and there are only pastors and laymen. The Scriptures don’t speak to all of church polity (no call committees). We are free to setup our polity in ways that help us serve. Lay elder is one such position that has been determined to be helpful.

  3. Surely it is significant that Walther speaks of “Laienaelteste oder Gemeindevorsteher.” The two terms are synonyms. I remember in my youth older people speaking of the Vorsteher of the congregation but never heard them speak of Laienaelteste! Surely the use of the term “elder” in our circles is yet another sad example of Reformed influence as our Church became English-speaking. It is an extremely misleading usage since, when in their English Bibles our people read of “elders,” they are very easily misled into thinking that here there is reference to (lay) “elders” and even led to suppose that the office of (lay) “elder” belongs to the divinely established order of the Church! The word reeks of Presbyterianism which teaches that the offices of “teaching elders”(clergymen) and “ruling elders”(laymen) are divinely established. The Augsburg Confession teaches that only the Predigtamt is established by God and precisely in this way: in Christ’s calling of the apostles (CA V, XXVIII 5,6).

  4. I agree that our terms (add deacon and deaconess to the mix) in this area lead to confusion. The the interview follows how the term and position evolve from Calvin. I’ve listened to lectures where Dr. Korby wanted to use the term diaconate, but I’m not sure that’s not fraught with at least as much danger. I just don’t see the term or the position going anywhere (unless it’s a new word regarding missions, vocabulary doesn’t seem to change too much ;-). Best bet is to keep teaching a proper understanding .

  5. Pastor Charles McClean :
    Surely it is significant that Walther speaks of “Laienaelteste oder Gemeindevorsteher.” The two terms are synonyms. I remember in my youth older people speaking of the Vorsteher of the congregation but never heard them speak of Laienaelteste!

    Pr. McClean, I think I understand what you are saying from the context, however, not being able to speak German I am not sure. I would respectfully ask you and others who use a language other than English to define for those of us who do not know those languages. It is my understanding that this “blog” is for laymen as well as those “elders” trained to teach and preach.
    Thank you!

  6. I’m sure the debates will never end about nomenclature and other such issues when it comes to elders, but….

    Here are some great, practical resources for helping pastors and elders work together:

    Pastors and Elders: Caring for the Church and One Another

    http://www.cph.org/p-19301-pastors-and-elders-caring-for-the-church-and-one-another.aspx?SearchTerm=elders

    http://www.cph.org/p-20023-pastors-and-elders-kit.aspx?SearchTerm=elders

    http://www.cph.org/p-20370-pastors-and-elders-resources-for-hospital-and-sick-calls-set.aspx?SearchTerm=elders

  7. This was informative, but I do have a few issues with it. First, I really do not think the 7 from Acts were pastors. They were specifically chosen for the doing of tasks that would free up the Apostles to be about the work of specifically pastoral tasks. These men were given chiefly administrative work, it seems (waiting on tables). I don’t think Pastors are ordained to do those tasks, though they can be involved with this work. It seems these men were taking on the work of servants, even organizational leaders. They seem more like deacons or non-ministerial church workers (though I think they served in volunteer capacity).

    The second is with Walther reserving public prayer for ministers only. For one, this is not anywhere commanded in scripture. His grounds for doing this seems to be equating prayer with preaching, but if we want to use that line of argumentation, it will take us straight back to the middle ages where the priest did everything, because everything in worship should be a proclamation of Christ. But even then, the deacon had speaking roles, many of which are given to the assistant in our current service book. The deaconate has historically always had a speaking and praying role in the worship of the church, showing that public prayer was never understood to be reserved strictly for the ordained clergy.

    Lastly, I do not believe the Presbyterian distinction between teaching elders and ruling elders is the same as our lay elders and pastors. To them, neither the teaching or ruling elders are laypersons, but both are ordained ministers of the church and of equal standing in the Presbytery. The difference is the teaching elders have gone to seminary and do their ministerial work vocationally, where as the ruling elders do not have a seminary education and do have day jobs. Therefore, the pulpit time is given to the teaching elders, but the ruling elders are expected to be pursuing rigorous study of scripture and theology so as to make themselves better teachers should they be called upon. The idea is that it creates two ways of having pastors so that the church has the support of local leaders other than the seminary educated. This is very similar to what we are doing with the SMP, only we are not making a distinction between those who are seminary educated and those who are not. I think this distinction can serve to protect the distinctive tasks of the ordained clergy by having other trusted an proven leaders who can do all the rest of the work to help keep the church going should a seminary graduate be unavailable. This way you don’t have just any presumptuous lay person trying to fill the void and having no idea where the boundaries are.

  8. Greg :Where is the term “lay elders” in the Scriptures? I was educated at a Lutheran seminary and this was my biggest gripe about church polity from a group of people who otherwise took the Scriptures so seriously.

    Lay elders replace the state now that our congregations are independent of the state, but then again I doubt Luther ever complained that the Elector of Saxony controlling the church wasn’t Scriptural. So, why complain that Lay Elders aren’t Scriptural?

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