Introductory texts that mention elders and/or overseers in Acts
- Acts 13.15 (elders or synagogue rulers)
- Acts 14.23 - mentions elders of churches
- Acts 15.2, 22 - mentions Apostles and elders of the church in Jerusalem
- Acts 20.28 - mentions overseers whose job it is to shepherd their flocks
- 1 Tim. 3.1-7 - interesting thing here, only two responsibilities mentioned: being able to teach and being a good manager of one's house (important when you realize that a church was probably meeting in an overseer's home)
- 1 Tim 5.17-21 - elders are worthy of double honor, especially those who preach and teach (implying to me, that not all elders/overseers were to have teaching ministries, just able to teach)
- Titus 1.5-9 - very similar to the list in 1 Timothy 3
- 1 Thes. 5.12-13 - "...those who are over you..." work hard among you, acknowledge those who are working hard and managing the affairs of the church.
- 1 Cor. 16.15-16 - once again, someone had stepped up and served the church (probably a wealthy member, Stephanas) and this person should be acknowledge as a leader.
Some key terms
- Overseer - this is the term that Paul uses most often to discuss leadership roles in the church. Implies a managers, guardian, caretaker.
- Elder - comes more from Paul's Jewish background, should probably be looked at almost synonymously as overseer.
- Pastor - this is our default term of leadership, but it is not the default term for Paul. I believe it refers more to a function (caregiving) than to an office or position.
- the one who leads - Rom. 12.8
- helpers - 1 Cor. 12.28
- guidance - 1 Cor. 12.28
I was also asked about women. I discussed Rom. 16.1-2. Phoebe is mentioned as a patron in verse two. That means to me that she exercised some type of oversight in her church (she was probably a sponsor of a church that met in her home). Does that mean she was a lead teacher (or teaching elder), I can't say, but she probably displayed some of the qualities that fit an overseer. That is basically what the word for patron (or benefactor in some translations, which is a better translation than helper) meant in that context. It comes from the same root as "the one who leads) in Rom. 12.8.
Like I said, great time. I hope I have more opportunities to do this kind of thing with churches. Great questions from them. Could have gone longer (but we spent 2.5 hours on it as we did). They said they'd have us back when we get to look at some of this. Looking forward to it.