Friday, May 18, 2012

Should Elders Teach in a Different Manner than Other Men in the Church?

In a previous post, I asked whether or not elders should teach.

Now I'll ask a related question: Should elders teach in a different manner than other men in the church?

In looking at the church in general today, we see that in most instances the elders/overseers/pastors do in fact teach in ways that are different from everyone else. The sermon is the primary example of this. But is this how it should be?

Should elders teach in a different manner than the other men? In a word: No.

When we look in scripture, we see relatively few instances of elders teaching. When we read about teaching in the bible, we get the sense that all of the church was doing it. Col. 3:16, for example, exhorts everyone to teach.

In light of passages such as I Tim. 2 and I Cor. 14, it is fair to say that women should not teach men. Despite this, women should certainly be teaching other women. Teaching like this ought to occur every day of the week. It could be in the form of bible studies, but more frequently it ought to be in the everyday happenings of life.

What about during larger gatherings of the church? Elders will likely do some of the teaching. However, non-elder males will also teach. While elders will defend and shepherd the flock, non-elders will do the same. There is no scriptural warrant for elders teaching in a different manner than others.

That said, it does make sense that elders will be heavily involved in the teaching. The reason for this is that elders have been recognized as godly men. Also, elders have a decent amount of life experience (thus the term "elder"). When a passage of scripture is being discussed, it seems logical that elders would have much life experience to share with the group as it relates to the situation.

As far as teaching with authority is concerned, this role belongs to the Holy Spirit. Elders do not have an authoritative role; rather, their role is one of being godly examples to the people. Their teaching does not tell people what to do, but rather encourages them to do what God has said. They guide through their own obedience and service.

The topic being discussed at any particular time will likely have an impact on who speaks. There are times for elders to teach and there are times for them to learn (as with all of us).

One great benefit to elders teaching just like the other men is that it helps the body see them as part of the body. When elders teach in a different manner from others, it causes them to stand out and stand apart. This makes it tough for them to be a real part of the body.

One great benefit elders can give is in encouraging the younger men to teach. They may be able to instruct them in this. Younger folks have many excellent things to say, but may feel uncomfortable or unprepared to speak. Elders can help with this.

Paul makes it abundantly clear in I Cor. 12-14 that the church is one body that benefits from mutual interaction and upbuilding. When everyone is involved, the body is healthier than if there is an imbalance in any facet of church life. This includes teaching.

In the end, the scriptural model must be our guide. The bible never sets elders apart as men who teach differently from the rest of the flock. They should be able to teach. This teaching looks like the teaching of the rest of the body.


Aussie John said...


"This teaching looks like the teaching of the rest of the body."


Eric said...


It seems so simple and obvious to me now, but it took years to come to this conclusion. Tradition is so powerful!

Al Shaw said...


How would you integrate into the framework you have outlined here the statement Paul makes in Romans 12:7 which implies the existence of a specific gift of teaching?

I understand that while the passage on spiritual gifts in 1 Cor 12-14 could be viewed as a dynamic description of what happens in any given meeting, the Romans passage does not seem to have this immediate context in view but seems to be describing gifts that are used on a more regular basis; indeed, the point of Paul's exhortation seems to be on the diversity of gifts within the one body and the corresponding need to soberly asses ourselves in light of the grace/gifting given to us as individuals within the body.

If we conclude that some individuals do indeed operate what may be called a "gift of teaching", is it only that we might expect such a person to exercise that gift more frequently than one without that gift, or might we also expect to see the gift exercised in other distinctive ways as well - such as the length of time taken in its use and the level of insight that accompanies its use?

I ask these questions not to deny the reality of every-member-teaching, but to explore whether that model is the total picture?

Eric said...


Great questions. I've thought about similar things.

It makes sense to me that we should all use our giftings, whatever they may be, to honor Christ through body edification. Since teaching is listed as a gift, this could certainly apply.

On the flip side, we don't see scripture ever limiting the doing of a certain activity to those gifted in it. For example, Romans 12:7 also lists service. We'd never say that serving is limited to those gifted in it.

Maybe, as you have mentioned, it is an issue of more/less as opposed to yes/no.

I know that when I hear someone who is a gifted teacher, I usually want to hear more of them. The same applies to anyone gifted in any area.

Interestingly, the Romans 12 passage does not make a connection between teaching and elders. We know that elders should be able to teach (I Tim. 3), but we're not told that they are gifted in teaching.

Thanks for the question/comment.