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five functions of elders at harris creek


OUR APPROACH

The term "elder" in the New Testament is a word that is synonymous with being an overseer. An image generally associated with the role of being an overseer of a congregation is the image of a shepherd watching over a flock. This is why we say, "Harris Creek is an elder protected, staff led, and volunteer driven church." At Harris Creek, our elders oversee the congregation by setting the "goal lines," or guardrails, to protect the body while empowering the staff to implement the vision. Organizational and operational functions are delegated to the staff and directed by the lead pastor. An elder is first and foremost a spiritual leader, not an organizational leader or manager.

Another way elders function in the New Testament is by giving the church plurality in leadership. This is modeled, first and foremost, in the Triune God who is both three and one at the same time. Elders are meant to function in the same way through playing different roles in leading the body while also maintaining unity called for in Scripture. This is radically different from providing "checks and balances" or a democratic approach. It is maintaining unity and diversity all at the same time by the grace of God through the Holy Spirit. Practically, this means the authority of the elder body is corporate, not based on an individual's authority.

While we believe the New Testament provides fundamental guidelines every church is to follow when it comes to church leadership (such as the ones above), it does not provide an exact blueprint of how elders should function in every culture for all time. Gene Getz talks at length about why this is the case in his book called Elders and Leaders. Getz says, "Clearly, the Scriptures do not describe forms–only functions. Elders/overseers are free to develop approaches that will enable them to function effectively as managers/shepherds in their own cultures." So how do elders function practically at Harris Creek? Below are the five primary ways Harris Creek specifically applies the authoritative principles provided in the New Testament.

 

Modeling Christ-like Behavior

"You yourselves are our witnesses—and so is God—that we were devout and honest and faultless toward all of you believers." 1 Thessalonians 2:10

An elder must model Christ-likeness in how he lives his life. The biblical qualifications for elders in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 are examples in the New Testament of this being paramount for elders. Paul also describes the importance of modeling Christ-like behavior in 1 Thessalonians 2. At Harris Creek, elders are called to model Christ-like behavior through:

  • Meeting the biblical qualifications for elders found in the New Testament
  • Monitoring and protecting the unity of the body
  • Serving as a body of wise counsel for the staff and congregation, as needed
  • Serving faithfully and prayerfully in the elder role
  • Providing accountability to one another, as elders
  • Supporting, encouraging, and inspiring the staff and the congregation
  • Overseeing deacons and their selection process

 

Protecting the Mission & Vision

"I left you on Crete so you could sort out the chaos and the unfinished business and appoint elders over communities in each and every city according to my earlier orders." Titus 1:5

The New Testament is clear that Jesus Christ is the head of the Church. This means the elders are not "owners" of Harris Creek; they are simply stewards of the body. Therefore, it is the elders' role to protect the mission and vision God has given the church and to follow His voice. Elders at Harris Creek protect the mission and vision practically through:

  • Regularly praying for God to direct the church towards His objectives for carrying out His mission and vision for Harris Creek
  • Establishing the "wins" we seek from our mission statement through prayerful, long-range, strategic planning (in collaboration with staff)
  • Evaluating progress towards the goals that have been set
  • Overseeing big picture issues (including physical expansion and multi-site planning)
  • Providing continuity of mission and vision in the event of any changes in staff

 

Overseeing Financial Matters

"In anticipation of the famine, the disciples determined to give an amount proportionate to their financial ability and create a relief fund for all the believers in Judea. They sent Barnabas and Saul to carry this fund to the elders in Jerusalem." Acts 11:29-30

One of the first references to elders in the New Testament comes in Acts 11 and refers to the elders overseeing the church in Jerusalem's financial affairs. While this may not seem as spiritual as some of the other tasks assigned in the New Testament, it is certainly vital to the health of the congregation. The way the church handles money puts the integrity of the body at stake, which is why it's important to have elders oversee financial matters. Elders at Harris Creek oversee financial matters by:

  • Approving annual budget (total amount and high-level broad categorical approval)
  • Approving non-budgeted expenditures of greater than $5,000
  • Reviewing monthly financial statements prepared by staff
  • Determining the compensation and benefits of the Lead Pastor and executive team staff
  • Providing for periodic outside financial reviews (annually) and audits

 

Preserving Sound Doctrine

"He must have a strong belief in the trustworthy message he was taught; then he will be able to encourage others with wholesome teaching and show those who oppose it where they are wrong." Titus 1:9

There is a danger for every believer to drift from the Gospel as it has been given to us. Therefore, one role of the elders is to ensure that the body is teaching and training others based on the Gospel as it is stated in the New Testament. Elders at Harris Creek work to preserve sound doctrine by:

  • Ensuring the church's teachings and practices reflect accurate biblical theology
  • Providing accountability to the Lead Pastor as a means to ensure the vision and values determined by the elders are carried out
  • Reserving the responsibility of hiring, firing, and reviewing the Lead Pastor

 

Ministering Through Prayer

"Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord." James 5:14

One of the clearest and most practical examples of how elders functioned in the early Church is in James 5. The ministry of prayer is a vital aspect of the elders at Harris Creek, as well. There are many ways this is fleshed out, but the elders at Harris Creek specifically minister through prayer by:

  • Meeting at least once a month and praying together regularly
  • Praying over those who are sick and request prayer
  • Praying for requests communicated to the church staff
  • Praying with the church staff before worship times