So where did elders come from?

elderLast month, I spoke at the annual Preachers Conference in Cuba. Our general topic was 1 Timothy; one of my assigned topics was “Elders.”

Two years ago, the whole conference looked at the theme of elders, so I wasn’t too excited about looking at the same material we’d seen then. I decided to start with the Old Testament and look at elders there. The New Testament church drew the concept of an eldership from somewhere. Given the Jewish nature of the early church, it’s almost a given that this idea of elders came from Judaism.

In the Old Testament, we see that the elders were the heads of the tribes and the chief members of each family (See 1 Kings 8:1, for example). That’s why we don’t see elders among God’s people until the book of Exodus; Genesis principally deals with a single family.

Then in Exodus, we see Moses dealing with the elders of Israel (3:16; 4:29; 12:21). From that group, he selected 70 “special” elders (Exodus 24:9; Numbers 11:16-30). These were the recognized leaders of Israel, leaders of each family that made up the nation.

As time progressed, each town came to have its elders (Deuteronomy 16:18; Ezra 10:14). They would typically meet at the gate of the city to discuss important matters (Deuteronomy 25:7; Ruth 4:1-2; Proverbs 31:23). After the exile, they came to form part of the Sanhedrin, along with the chief priests and teachers of the Law. (That description of the Sanhedrin is found numerous times in the gospels)

Now here’s where I start speculating (I didn’t share this in Cuba). The elders were the patriarchs of each family. I think they were the men who were physically unable to work or serve in the military. Because of this, they had the time to sit around and act as a governing body. They were respected because of their age and experience.

Either way, when the church began, the idea of older men discussing important matters and making decisions was a natural one. It took no special prompting for the church to follow this system of organization which they knew so well.

Links To Go (April 15, 2015)

Dangers of Consumer Church

We can tell people to practice self-denial, but when everything we do caters to their felt needs as consumers (from their placement in small groups, to their participation, or lack thereof, in worship), our practice contradicts the teaching. It’s no wonder so many well-meaning church goers find the call to a cruciform life utterly incoherent.


Christ Builds His Church, We Make Disciples

When Jesus builds His church, He does the building by using disciples just like you. He has the authority to send you, and He goes with you. Through very imperfect people God works to create His perfect and beautiful Bride, the Church.
Pray that God’s will be done, and that He would build His church. Then stand on your feet, roll up your sleeves and by the power of the Holy Spirit, go and make disciples.


Are You Weak Enough for God to Use You?

The Apostle Paul said it this way: “I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Cor 12:9). You see, if we brag on our strengths, people may look at us and think, “I wish I were more like that … but I can’t be.” But if we brag on our weaknesses, that makes people think, “Wow, I have access to the same power that guy does!” Christians aren’t people who boast about their superior morality; they are beggars telling a bunch of other beggars where to find bread.


Trade in the American Dream for a Better One

Dream a bigger dream than the American Dream. You didn’t think there was one? Let me challenge you to think again. Look at the problems debt has caused in our nation and in personal lives. What would your life be like if you could learn contentment? The Apostle Paul said that he had learned to be content in whatever situation he found himself. He wrote: “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”


10 Ways to Simplify Your Life

For Michelle and I, minimalism helps us have a margin of time and money to work on projects that we feel called to do. “Living simple” isn’t what we glorify and celebrate—minimalism is a tool and a means to an end. We can’t afford to live the traditional, idealistic “American Dream” and still pursuing God’s calling on our life. We can’t have both, nor would we want both.


7 Ways to Create Time to Think

  1. Make it part of your job.
  2. First things first.
  3. Reframe circumstances by asking “Why?” five times.
  4. Create a “thinking hour.”
  5. Hibernate.
  6. Get moving.
  7. Have loose and tight goals.

Seattle firm raising pay of all staffers to minimum $70,000

The idea began percolating, said Dan Price, the founder of Gravity Payments, after he read an article on happiness. It showed that for people who earn less than about $70,000, extra money makes a big difference in their lives.
His idea bubbled into reality Monday afternoon, when Price surprised his 120-person staff by announcing he planned over the next three years to raise the salary of even the lowest-paid clerk, customer-service representative and salesman to a minimum $70,000.


Male leadership a consequence of The Fall? Where’s the biblical evidence?

So yesterday’s question was: “Can you think of a New Testament writer who described the current (in their day) state of male-female relations as being a result of The Curse?” I’d still like to hear from anyone who can think of an example. Because I can’t.

There are some references, though largely symbolic, to God’s words to the serpent:

“Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring—those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” (Revelation 12:17)
“He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.” (Revelation 20:2)
“The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” (Romans 16:20)
“I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.” (Luke 10:18–19)

There are references to God’s words to Adam:

“For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” (Romans 8:20–22)
“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned— for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come.” (Romans 5:12–14)
“For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:21–22)

The New Testament argues that the curse on the ground will be lifted. The punishment of death, that came through Adam’s sin, will be undone. (Will there be a lifting of the curse on the serpent? Maybe, if you take Isaiah 11:6-9 as a description of the fulfilled Kingdom)

What I don’t see is any reference to the creation story followed by an indication that the relationship between men and women should be changed because of it. Sin is said to have come in through one man, as is death. There’s nothing saying that male leadership, male headship, women’s submission, or anything related came about because of the Garden. In fact, I can’t think of any Old Testament passages that make such an argument, either. (Again, with the possible exception of Genesis 3:16, though I find that interpretation to be forced on the text rather than read out of it)

I think anyone wanting to make that argument should do so with caution and humility. At most you have a possible interpretation of one less-than-clear text on your side.

Links To Go (April 14, 2015)

The Transgender Agenda

How will we teach and model sexuality in a way that strengthens and clarifies real marriage and family life, honours singleness, recognises brokenness, accepts those who ‘don’t fit the box’, and challenges sinfulness with truth and love?


Kids Aren’t the Priority. Marriage Is.

Strong marriages make for strong families, and it’s worth it to invest in our marriages so that we don’t lose intimacy with our spouse in the busy years of parenting. The kids, as treasured and valuable as they are, will leave. The spouse is the one who is meant to stay.


Why You Need to Sing Loudly in Church

As we head to church on Sunday — as overworked dads, stressed out mums, grandparents struggling with health, and young people looking for wealth — we can, with integrity and relief, go with repentance and thanksgiving to the One who has created us, forgiven us and who lives within us. How can we not sing?


Why Are We So Afraid of Silence?

Do you know those people who seem to carry with them an inner stillness? The ones who seem serene and quietly solid and peaceful? They’re getting harder and harder to find. Most people I know (myself included) are overstimulated and overwhelmed—like the whole mass of humanity is a six-pack of cola shaken and poised to explode.


The Makers of ‘Left Behind’ Are Crowdingfunding a Sequel. Prepare Yourselves

For $200 you can “Be one of the ‘raptured’ by having your image featured on the ‘Missing Persons’ wall in a special, limited edition Left Behind 2 movie poster!” For $500 you can have your name listed in the credits. For $750 you can “be included on a wall in the background of the film as one of the raptured missing persons.” For $2,500, you can be an extra. Sadly, yet totally unsurprisingly, the $7,500 level—which lets you get an actual speaking role in the film—is sold out.


Alaska 737 returns to Seattle after napping worker awakes in cargo hold

A sleepy Sea-Tac Airport worker who used the cargo hold of an Alaska Airlines 737 for a nap was awakened in a panic when the flight took off for Los Angeles, Alaska Airlines officials said.
Flight 448 departed at 2:39 p.m. but immediately after takeoff the pilot reported hearing banging from someone underneath the plane, the airline said in a statement.
The captain declared an emergency and returned to the airport, where a Menzies Aviation ramp agent was found inside the front cargo hold. The ramp agent was taken to Highline Hospital to be checked out and was later released.


Men, Women, and The Curse

Adam and Eve in the GardenWith the general feeling that I’m prying open a powder keg with a lit torch in my hand, I want to look at another aspect of the issue of gender relations in the church (And yes, I still lack a good way of referring to that topic). I want to talk about The Curse.

When discussing women’s roles in the church, one often hears a reference to male headship/leadership as merely being a result of what God described in Genesis 3:16. A friend of mine was discussing how churches limit the participation of women, and he said, “They don’t realize they’re just prolonging The Curse.”

A question came to mind. Can you think of any place in the New Testament where this argument is made? That is, can you think of a New Testament writer who described the current (in their day) state of male-female relations as being a result of The Curse? What scriptures would you offer to support such a view?

I’d just as soon we didn’t wander too far afield from this particular question. If you were going to prove the validity of this argument (male leadership began with The Fall and is a consequence of The Curse), what biblical texts would you use? Let’s leave out Genesis 3 for now. What does the rest of Scripture say about this?

Thanks for your input!