Biblical Eldership - Lesson 3

Elders in the Local Church

Spiritual qualifications are more important than business qualifications. Terms of service should balance the need to have the most qualified leaders and the concern of burnout and stagnation. In the New Testament, other terms translated into English that also refer to the office of elder are bishop, overseer and pastor.

John Piper
Biblical Eldership
Lesson 3
Watching Now
Elders in the Local Church

Elders in the Local Church

Principle Nine

Spiritual qualifications should never be sacrificed to technical expertise. For example, deacons or trustees or financial and property administrators should be men or women with hearts for God even more importantly than they have heads for finance, and best of all, both. (Implied in the preceding principle.)

Principle Ten

The selection process should provide for the necessary assessment of possible leaders by a group able to discern the qualifications mentioned in #8; and that the process provide for the final approval by the congregation of all officers. (Implied in principles 6 and 7.)

Principle Eleven

Terms of active service should not be dictated by the desire to include as many different people as possible in leadership (see #3 above), but by the careful balance between the need, on the one hand, to have the most qualified leaders and, on the other hand, to guard against burn out and stagnation.

6. Other Names For Elders in the New Testament


The English term "bishop" means overseer and is sometimes used to translate the Greek word "episcopos" which means "one who over (epi) sees (scopos)".

There are at least four reasons to consider this term (bishop/overseer) as equivalent to "elder" in the New Testament church.

Reason One: Titus 1:5 compared to 1:7

Titus 1:5-7

For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you, namely, if any man is above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion. For the overseer must be above reproach as God's steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain.

Compare Titus 1:5 with 1:7, where "bishop/overseer" and "elder" are apparently interchangeable terms. Paul begins by saying that Titus should appoint elders (presbuterous) in every town (verse 5). Then he gives some qualifications that they must meet (verse 6), and continues without a break in verse 7 by saying, "For a bishop (episkopon), as God's steward must be blameless." Virtually all commentators agree that the same office is in view in these two terms: "elder" describing the man with reference to his dignity and standing (older); "bishop" describing the man with reference to his function and duty (oversight).

Reason Two: Acts 20:17 compared to 20:28

Acts 20:17, 28

From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders of the church. . . . Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.

In Acts 20:17, Paul calls the "elders" to come down from Ephesus. Then he says to them in verse 28 that God has made them "guardians" (="overseers/bishops"; episkopous) among the flock. So the "elders" are the "bishops/overseers" in Ephesus.

Reason Three: 1 Timothy 3:1ff compared to 5:17

1 Timothy 3:1

If anyone aspires to the office of bishop/overseer, he desires a noble task.

1 Timothy 5:17

The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.

In 1 Timothy 3:1, Paul says, "If anyone aspires to the office of bishop/overseer, he desires a noble task." Then he gives the qualifications for the overseer/bishop in verses 2-7. Unlike the deacons, the overseer must be "able to teach" (verse 2), and in verse 5, he is said to be one whose management of his own household fits him to care for God's church. These two functions are ascribed to elders in the fifth chapter of this same book (1 Timothy 5:17) -teaching and governing. So it is very likely that in Paul's mind the bishops/overseers of 1 Timothy 3:1-7 are the same as the elders of 5:17.

Reason Four: Philippians 1:1 compared to 1 Timothy 3:1ff and Acts 14:23

In Philippians 1:1 Paul writes, "To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons." These, then, seem to be the two offices of the church just as in 1 Timothy 3:1-13 the qualifications are given only for these two. But Paul appointed "elders" in all the churches (Acts 14:23), and so it is very likely that the elders of the church at Philippi were the bishops/overseers referred to in Philippians 1:1.

We conclude that the office of bishop/overseer is the same as the office of elder in the New Testament. It is listed beside the office of deacon (Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:1-13) in such a way as to show that these two were the main offices by which the ongoing life of the church was to be managed.


The term "pastor" (poimen) occurs in the New Testament only once (Ephesians 4:11 "He gave some . . . as pastors and teachers"). But there is a verb (poimainein "to shepherd, or feed") closely related to the noun "pastor" which helps us discover how the role of pastor was related to the role of elder and bishop.

Reason One

Ephesians 4:11 treats pastors and teachers as one group and thus suggests that the chief role of the pastor is feeding the flock through teaching, a role clearly assigned to bishops/overseers in 1 Timothy 3:2 ("An elder must be . . . apt to teach") and to elders in Titus 1:9 ("He will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict"). This suggests that "pastor" is another name for "elder" and "overseer."

Reason Two

In Acts 20:28, the "elders" of Ephesus are encouraged in their "pastoral" duties, thus showing that Paul saw the elders as the shepherds or pastors. (Acts 20:28 "Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.")

Reason Three

In 1 Peter 5:1-2, the "elders" are told to "tend the flock of God" that is in their charge. In other words, Peter saw the elders as, essentially, pastors or shepherds. (1 Peter 5:1-2, "I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you.")


The New Testament only refers to the office of pastor one time (Ephesians 4:11). It is a functional description of the role of elder stressing the care and feeding of the church as God's flock, just as "bishop/overseer" is a functional description of the role of elder stressing the governing or oversight of the church. We may conclude therefore that "pastor" and "elder" and "bishop/overseer" refer in the New Testament to the same office. This office stands alongside "deacon" in Philippians 1:1 and 1 Timothy 3:1-13 in such a way as to show that the two abiding officers instituted by the New Testament are elder and deacon.

  • The purpose of the local church is to function as the body of Christ to advance God's kingdom in the world by displaying God's glory, God's wisdom and the authority and power of Christ. All New Testament churches had elders. We can apply scriptural principles and practical considerations to train, choose and establish a framework for the ministry of elders so they can encourage and lead individuals and the church as whole to live out their faith in the community.

  • God has ordained the existence of officers in the church, some of whom are charged under Christ with the leadership of the church. The leaders of the church should be people who are spiritually mature and exemplary, gifted for the ministry given to them, have a sense of divine urging, and are in harmony with the duly established leadership of the church.

  • Spiritual qualifications are more important than business qualifications. Terms of service should balance the need to have the most qualified leaders and the concern of burnout and stagnation. In the New Testament, other terms translated into English that also refer to the office of elder are bishop, overseer and pastor.

  • Qualifcations for elders are listed in I Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9.

This class is an engagement with the relevant New Testament texts concerning biblical eldership and church governance, and a God-glorifying pursuit of their contextual, Biblical meaning. The outcome is not merely doctrinaire abstraction, not merely culture-confronting complementarianism, not merely a re-thinking of the inherited, historical norms and traditions, but a practical, non-cumbersome outworking of church governance which aligns with Scripture and aims at meeting the myriad needs of the local expression of the body of Christ.

We are thankful for John Piper's willingness to share these lectures with us. Copyright 2014 by Desiring God Ministries. Used with Permission. For more information, please visit www.DesiringGod.org.


Biblical Eldership

Dr. John Piper


Elders in the Local Church

Lesson Transcript


The following message is by Pastor John Piper. More information from Desiring God is available at W WW dot desiring God dot org. Okay. We're back now with our third hour of five. We have almost finished point number three on the outline called Biblical Principles of Local Church Governance. This is for any of you who are new this morning. This is a Bethlehem Institute seminar entitled Biblical Elder Ship. Part of a larger class called Issues and Spiritual Leadership. And different ones of the seminars are given throughout the year. Some on Wednesday night, some on weekends, some on Sunday morning. And you sure welcome at any of those. Though we certainly would not want to pull you away from your ministry or your involvement at your local church, but rather strengthen you for it. So those right there on the overhead, no. Are the last three of the 11 principles of local church governance. Keep in mind that these were all articulated back in the mid to late eighties as guidelines for how Bethlehem would rethink our governance structure, to move us little by little towards a more flexible, lean, ministry oriented biblical governance structure. These were not the result of that, but the guidelines for it. So let's take these last three and then we'll move on to another point. Feel free along the way, like you did last night to get my attention and ask your questions. If I feel like we're slowing down too much, I'll. I'll say so. But otherwise, I don't want you to misunderstand or I don't want to make a mistake that should be corrected. Number nine Spiritual qualification should never be sacrificed to technical expertise, for example, deacons or trustees or what we call now. And I added this yesterday financial and property administrators should be men or women.


And I do say that carefully, because while we don't install women as elders at Bethlehem, we will and do believe it would be biblical to have deacons or trustees or financial property administrators who include women should be women or men with hearts for God. Even more importantly than they have heads for finance. And best of all, both. But I stress this because as I contemplated our change in government, I saw in Bethlehem in those early days something that I hadn't seen in many churches, namely that both our trustees and our deacons in those days who were governing the church as remarkably godly spiritual people who put a premium on Christ likeness, being biblical people in the way they think, and saturating their meetings with prayer and walking in the power of the Holy Spirit, not even human wisdom. And I wanted to preserve that so bad. And so this principle made its way in. Whereas in many churches, I've even heard the phrase used that the elders or the deacons do the spiritual work, spiritual work. And then you have to have businessmen who know how to do budgets and finance and others. That's a horrible bifurcation, isn't it? As though how you handle your money? Could be an illustration here. We have a missionary in Uzbekistan, Oscar Huerta, and I've been on the inside of some of his emails back and forth with his supervisor in London in the last few days. I be careful here now that I don't say too much, but suffice it to say this He's being called to give an account with the energy he devotes to thinking through, talking about and organizing how money is handled and how business things are handled. When the supervisor wanted to see a little more energy effort put into the more spiritual or church planting things.


I sense the need to be careful here and to send out hitmakers who spend all their time on tents and never get around to planning. The church is not a good investment of human resources. Probably. But Oscar's answer, and I know Oscar well, have known him for 12 years, and Oscar wrote back an impassioned answer. To the effect that money is probably where most people are destroyed spiritually. Jesus, talk more about money than about the second coming and about marriage. Jesus was unbelievably concerned with how we handle our possessions because they kill. They really kill. It is hard for a rich man to get into the kingdom of heaven. So to put money into the hands of your least spiritual people is deadly in a local church. So however you lead in this matter, your standards of spiritual depth and biblical awareness and passionate commitment to radical Jesus like living, should be the kind of people who are handling your business affairs. That's principle number nine. Don't sacrifice spiritual qualifications for business expertise. Better to have bumblers, spiritual bumblers than cardinal experts. I don't know if you agree with that. I agree with that. I just said obviously, I agree with it, but you don't have to. I think God covers for much bumbling for people who love him with all their heart. And many experts who are not spiritual can get us into big trouble. Number ten. The selection process should provide for the necessary assessment of possible leaders by a group able to discern the qualifications mentioned in number eight, and that the process provide for the final approval of the congregation of all the officers. Now we have that in place. Now, we didn't have it then and we didn't know quite what it would look like.


And I just wanted to make sure that we avoided what was happening in those early days at Bethlehem, even though God was blessing while I was watching. It happened to keep us from going off the deep end. And the problem was if you have a nominating committee and the nominating committee is elected by the congregation, little interviewing for the nominating committee is going on. And so nominating committee who are usually chosen mainly because you ask, who knows the people? That's what you get. Who knows the people? You got 300 people. 200 people are people. 2000 people. Who knows the people? And you put those people on the nominee committee and those nominating committee may not have studied for years the list of qualifications and first to be three. They may not understand any of them. They may not know what the Greek word Safronov oh means sober, translated, sometimes dignified. They might read dignified in a version and say, We will have a man who wears a three piece suit be on the committee or something like that. You've got you can't just have popular people serving on a or people who know people. You have to have a group who is spiritual, who knows the Bible, who can take the time, give the effort to to interview candidates, get to the root, who are gutsy, who are gutsy, who will say, no, don't take offense at this. But tell me about your little nine year old who seems to be acting out in Sunday school in a in a way that seems really troublesome and we just need to try to get inside. What's going on here? Is that a, is there something wrong there And and that may not keep a man from serving as an elder because there may be things going on there that are physiological or whatever.


But very few people have the guts to ask questions in the interview process. So now our elders do this, and I'm hoping and trusting that they do it carefully when they interview candidates. So we have some of you asked last night what our actual process is and do we have documents that guide them in? And the answer to those is yes, we do have lists of questions and we we have lists of the the qualifications and how to get at those. Here's the process we follow. We're in it right now. And so I'll just tell you what's happening. Somebody anybody in the congregation or on the council can give us names. So we assemble names, possible elders. And we have a long list right now as a council, we pray over those names. We look at those names and we study those names. And then in conversation we just say, okay, who seems to be rising to the surface? Here is somebody we should pursue and we start sharing names at that moment. Anybody around the council can say, But did you know this or are you. Learned about this or what about this and that. If others share, it might be enough to put that on hold while somebody deals with that. Or if you don't get that and you you move ahead, once you've got a smaller list, then you we either go in person or we send a letter. Say, would you be open to a conversation about this? Do you be willing to talk about this or come to a seminar like this? And if so, then we send it to to two elders, go and meet with this person if they're willing to go to that next step. And that's that is the, I think, the key moment in assessment.


And we get volunteers for that. We just say, who knows this person best? If I know this person well and this is I know them well, and then one other person to go with them. And so they'll meet for however long it takes over lunch or before or after service or somewhere and try to get into their lives and see if they are ready to move ahead. Then the next stage, if it's thumbs up, they bring a report back, they share their thoughts. The we could stop it right there. We have or we could go to the next step, which would be invite the person in. Jeff Jacoby It's there. Is that that step Now, Jeff came in and we grilled Jeff as a whole council. He got about 15 guys there and Jeff is answering questions about that. When that's done, then the counsel comes to a mind and we really try to come to a mind. I resist running. I don't run it, but I resist. I try to say I'd rather not have. Quick call for the question type meetings, but rather let's talk about this. David, you haven't said anything. What do you say? And and Dan, you can say anything. What do you think? And let's get everybody not under the table. We want to hear what these men say. And we've been able to remarkably come to pretty, pretty large consensus over big things, though. We don't have to we don't have a rule that says you have to have a consensus. Some elders ships do. We they did. We said thumbs up to Jeff Jacobus and now Jeff will be put before the people, If he's willing if he's willing to go to that next step, then when the congregational meeting rolls around, he will be firmed.


Oh, here's another piece. We put a little biography of Jeff and whoever the candidates are in our church mailing list and say, this person is about to come. If you know anything that would make this person unfit, please get to the elders. So that's sort of the process. Any questions about that particular. Yeah, for the. The question for the tape is, if you're sitting on such a committee where a person is being assessed and somebody says, I know something about this person, that UN fits them for this work, but I don't think I should share the details. Should they share the details? I don't know. Probably there are situations in which you shouldn't, if there's a legal issue involved, maybe, or a a pledge or a promise that you would break at that moment and then. Yes, yes, we would have to trust. At least I would. I would with great hesitation. On the other hand, I would I would press the person and I would say, no. Why? Why are you holding back on this? Is is there a promise, a vow you'd be breaking, or is there a legal thing that you'd get the church into trouble with? And if they just said it's just too hard to talk about? I think what I'd probably suggest is, why don't we appoint a little subcommittee here since we don't want the dirty laundry maybe hung out wider than it should be? There's no point in doing that. Just would you share this with two or three others? If you can do that and let them say thumbs up. Yes. This should not be shared. We should not be here. That would be one possible compromise. Yeah, go ahead. Have you ever had a case where the church has not affirmed the recommended people? And if so, how? We've never had a case like that.


The question was, is there a case where the council has recommended a person and the church has said no? You know, Leith Anderson over at Wooddale takes this principle not just on nominations, but on virtually every church action. Least says if you ever get a no vote from the church, the leaders haven't done their job, meaning you do so much careful work in teaching and educating at the Sunday school level, the house group level, the congregational meeting level. You're getting feedback, you're discussing, you get all the negatives before the vote and then you adjust and tailor. You don't put half baked motions on the floor and you don't put people who are unprepared for a leader on the floor, but you don't put that leader on the floor. Now, whether that's a principle that can be carried through consistently, I see the wisdom in it. Just do a lot of careful homework, do your homework so that your people have this sense of trust. These men really work hard and they bring to us such good people or such good motions or such good plans. It's a thrill to say amen to this leadership. You know, I didn't say this last night, but I thought about it. I was going to sleep because I was reading some stuff. I know that if people don't like the elders or don't like me, say, as the preaching elder, they will call that rubber stamp. You can find negative terminology to describe positive things, like in this church, the congregation just rubber stamps the elders. Well, that's a negative way of describing what might be a very positive thing. There probably is such a thing as a rubber stamp, meaning a mindless, thoughtless concession to people who say good things and bad things and doesn't matter whether they're good or bad.


There are leaders and we're going to if that would be rubber stamp. But to so trust your leaders and to have such competent, rigorous, spiritual, careful leaders that it's a joy to affirm what they do, that that's not rubber stamping. And there are other ways to. Yeah, go ahead. I've got a question. Going back to point number nine that if you're making. And just just briefly, the question is, if we have women deacons, how do we distinguish in the list of qualifications where it says the elders shall be the husband of one wife and the deacon shall be the husband or wife? And clearly a woman can be the husband of one one. I don't want to go into detail here because I'm teaching on this on Wednesday night. I know you probably can't be here and most of you can't. But I separate it out. These issues. Manhood and womanhood issues. On Wednesday night, five whole weeks devoted to that question. And ones like it this I'm kind of assuming Wednesday nights here, but I'll try to give you a brief, routine answer and it may not be satisfactory and we can talk afterwards. I think there's a section where it says and the women and it can be translated either wives or women, let them be, and it gives them qualifications. They're under the deacons. But yeah, verse 11, that is missing under the list for elders. Now, if it's wives, why isn't it there for the elders wives? I ask if you're going to list and qualifications for the females, and they're the wives of the deacons in verse 11. Aren't the wives of the elders even more significant to have spiritually fit than the wives of the deacons? So if you got a list of qualifications for the the and the word in Greek is just women can mean wives or women.


So I conclude and here I don't have I can't prove this. I just say it looks to me like we're talking women deacons here. So he adds it precisely to answer your question, I've just said there to be the husband of one wife. I don't mean that only men. I mean the men who are chosen should be the husband of one wife. Husband of one wife, not husbands. The accent falls on one wife, not they have to be husbands and therefore women can't be that. But rather women, if they're going to be deacons, should have these qualifications and then they're listed. But here's my that's an exegetical answer. Contextual answer. My principal answer is the thing that distinguishes an elder from a deacon in the list of qualifications and in the duties our elders ought to be apt to teach. Verse two and Elders Governance Chapter five, verse 17. Deacons do not have to be apt to teach. They're not oriented mainly around the gift and authority of teaching, but rather serving in other ways. And deacons are not seen as governors, general overseers of the congregation, which is why I think in first Timothy 212, when Paul says to women or to the church, I do not allow a woman to teach or have authority over men. Those two things teach and have authority over men are the very two things that distinguish an elder from a deacon, which means that in principle, then a deacon who doesn't function as a teacher and doesn't function as a authority figure could be a woman. That's my brief answer. Now, when I say that, we'd be careful here because I know there are women in the room who are probably very gifted in teaching. I don't mean I don't think first Timothy 212 means women can't teach at all.


And the brother back here pointed out last night that you've got the textual that the older women teach. The younger women, for example. I think the teaching of children, the teaching of youth, the teaching of women is a wide open field for women, and they should therefore then be qualified spiritually to do that. I wouldn't say they're deacons because of that. That's just part of the giftedness. I don't have any problem with the gifts being given to men and women as long as they exercise them within the biblical parameters. Okay, one more and then I'm going to move on. You may want to come back to later. Are you going to reflect on singles as elders? Let me just say a word about it. What about singles and elders? There again it would come down, which is one woman man. Literal translation. The elder must be a one woman man with the accent on one. Not. You got to have one. But if you got one, it better be one. Now, that's my interpretation. The accent is falling on. Be a one woman man. Not. Sure you have one. Therefore, I would have a hard time saying Paul could not be the elder in a local church. Jesus could not be the elder in a local church. And John Stock cannot be the elder in a local church. That's my position. Number 11. Terms of active service should not be dictated by the desire to include as many different people as possible in leadership, senior or three above. But by the careful balance between the need on the one hand to have the most qualified leaders and on the other hand to guard against burnout and stagnation, the tension there that I'm pointing out is the balance is the most qualified leaders might might need to keep serving because there might not be as many as you would like to have in a smaller church, especially.


And yet you have to guard against burnout and overwork. And so you need to constantly be cultivating from the wider group of available candidates depth and giftedness by prayer and study and discipleship. So those are my 11 principles of local church government. Let's go now to No one to spend a lot of time on this illustration from Baptist Confessions. I think that's what's next year. Baptist Church government. Let's just just take the survey and I'll judge by what we've got here. How many are related to a Baptist church regimen? Okay. How many of those in those Baptist churches are part of churches where you do not have a group of people called elders? Called Elders. Okay. Just briefly then, I want to show you what's available. I mean, what you could do. There's a little green book called Baptist Confessions. Forget the name of the. But remember, we had it today. I don't remember either. It may not even be in print anymore, but I just got these out of there to show that from the earliest days, these the early days of the of Baptist history. 1609 there have been two offices in the church, elder and deacon. And when you follow these confessions of Faith through that begins to drop out in the early 1900s. It's very interesting. And Ian Murray in his book, his biography of Jonathan Edwards, has some interesting explanations for why that is, which I'm not going to go into. But if you're interested in tracking that down. Pages 344 to 46 in the new biography of Edwards by Bob Murray, let's just look at two or three of these. A short confession of faith in the 20 Articles by John Smith 1609. Article 16 The ministers of the church are not only bishops.


Episcopacy This word Bishop here is is the New Testament translation of this AP scope us over sea scope and AP scope sea overseer. So Bishop is is just a fancy word in English for overseer to whom the power is given of dispensing both the word and the sacraments, but also deacons, not only bishops, but also deacons, men and widows. So the earliest Baptist confession I know about talks in terms of bishops are overseers and deacons as the two offices. 1611 A declaration of faith of English people remaining in Amsterdam. Article 20 that the officers of every church or congregation are either elders who, by their office, do especially feed the flock concerning their souls or deacons men and women. Isn't that interesting? I didn't hear that. That's there in 1611 men and women who by the their office, relieve the necessities of the poor and impotent brethren concerning their bodies. In fact, in Germany, I served in Germany for three years. And I remember the Lutheran church. You get two big churches in Germany, Lutheran and Catholic, and both of them have huge ministries, I mean, all involved with the government because the state churches called the Diagonal Ministries. So the parts of the government are the diagonal ministries, and these are men and women who run hospitals and and do social things and so on. So those are the two offices. Again, they're in 16. When he hears 16, 12 and 1614 propositions and conclusions concerning the true Christian religion, Proposition 76 that Christ has set in his outward church two sorts of ministers, namely some who are called pastors, teachers or elders, treating those three as the same who administer in the word and sacraments and others who are called deacons, men and women whose ministry is to serve tables and wash the saints feet.


The London confession, 1644 is a little bit difficult to read here. Article 36 that being thus joined every church has power given them from Christ for their better well-being to choose to themselves meet persons into the office of Pastors, teachers, elders, deacons up digital asters here because pastors and teachers are admitted in later editions here because I believe to clarify that these three pastors, teachers, elders were considered the same person deacons being qualified according to the word as those which course is pointed, etc.. Second London Confession 1688 Article 26, Paragraph eight. A particular church gathered and completely organized, according to the mind of Christ, consists of officers and members and the officers appointed by Christ to be chosen and set apart by the church, so called and gathered for the peculiar administration of ordinances and execution of power or duty, which he entrust them with or calls them to, to be continued to the end of the world. Are bishops or elders and deacons those two offices? That's probably enough. Here in to 1923, we believe Articles of the Baptist Bible Union of America, 1923, Article 13. We believe that a Church of Christ is a congregation of baptized believers, that its officers of ordination are pastors, elders and deacons. Now, there it's not clear that these are the same pastors, elders and deacons. And now. 1963 Statement of Faith, the Southern Baptist Convention, 1925 and 63. The church is an autonomous body operating through democratic processes under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. In such congregation, members are equally responsible, is scriptural officers, are pastors and deacons, which is what then most of us inherit when we go to a Baptist church like I did. You bring up Elder and they say it's not Baptist.


That's not after 1925. It's gone. The word is gone. And so not easy to accuse. I mean, it's easy to understand the body of believers who grow up in a church. You have deacons and you have a pastor or maybe multiple staff, but you don't have this animal called elder. And so you hear that the cross, the town, all the churches and the USA churches and the reform churches, they have elders. And so this is not Baptist. And that is just historically naive, as I hope you now see. And I have come in on tradition just to say that doesn't prove anything. I mean, Confessions of Faith, do not prove that it's biblical. I just want you to know that wise and and godly leaders have concluded in Baptist traditions that the two officers of the church are elder and deacon. Questions about Baptist history or anything like that. I want to spend too much more time on that. Let's get back to the Bible here. Yeah, go ahead. What if you have a vocational elder that does not necessarily have it? Okay. What? A vocational elder. You mean an ordained person, but an ordained. He shouldn't be a pastor now. But let me clarify, because I think when when most people hear about to teach or able to teach, they think of what I do on Sunday morning or what a very popular Sunday school class teacher does, who attracts a lot of people and say, well, if only those people can be elders, they're few and far between kind of charismatic types who make a lot of noise and use their outside voice. You know, here's the way we we understand apt to teach. We bring in alongside that text in first Timothy three to Titus one nine.


It goes like this He must hold firm to the sure word as taught so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confuse those who contradict it. Elders have to be able to do that, but I don't think they have to be able to do it in public. In other words, to be a charismatic, upfront figure who is a dynamic leader and a winsome communicator. That's not necessarily what the apostles are looking for. What they're looking for are people who can recognize the sure word as taught. That is, as the apostles have taught it, they can get in the apostolic mind. They read their Bible carefully. They understand what it means. They can articulate it plainly, maybe in a one on one setting counseling, setting crisis setting they can spot, they can sniff out false teaching and spot it, and they can go to the Bible and find answers for the false teaching and present their answers. So there's a difference between, I think, apt to teach meaning competent in the word, able to correct false doctrine at different levels. But every elder should have that gift. Otherwise he's he's not going to be a contributing member to this council with the kind of biblical insight that he should. So there are there probably are pastors who don't have that gift, who shouldn't be pastors, but don't judge them on on some kind of style issue or upfront kind of charismatic, gifted issue. Let's go to our next unit, which is other names. We're on number five now, other names for elders in the New Testament. My aim here is to argue that for terms in the New Testament, bishop, overseer, elder and pastor are the same person. Not that the words are identical in meaning, but that they refer to the same person or office from different angles.


So start with number one. Bishop slash overseer. There are not two Greek words in New Testament, one for bishop and one for overseer. Episcopal is the word behind both of those translations. The English term bishop means overseer and is sometimes used to translate the Greek word episcopacy, which means one who over Eppi sees scope us. There are at least four reasons to consider this term bishop or overseer as equivalent to elder in the New Testament. Reason number one a comparison between Titus one five and Titus one seven. Use Titus 527. I'll read it for this reason. I left you in Crete. Titus that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you. Namely, if any man is above reproach, the husband of one wife having children who believe not accused of dissipation or rebellion for the overseer must be above reproach as God's steward, not self-willed, not quick tempered, etc.. Now, my understanding of that is that that switch. Is not a switch in meaning just a switch in the way you look at the same person. Because there's no indication here that I can see that a new group is being addressed here, but rather here. The group is called Elders, and here the group is called the Overseer. And this gets at his task and this gets his his maturity. So that's argument number one. You think anybody think I'm missing something here? That looked like the same person to you? I just happen to have offhand the Greek word for elder Presbyter on the Greek word for elders. Presbyterian, from which we get Presbyterian. Presby Trust's. Presbyterian. Reason number two, comparing ex 2017 and 2028. Here, here's the point x 2017 from my leaders.


Paul sent to emphasis and called to him the elders of the church, and then he gives this lone message to them. And in verse 28 he says, Now to these elders, Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, you elders, overseers, he's made you overseers to shepherd. That's going to be one of my arguments for seeking pastor to mean the same thing to Shepherd. So here you got all three. You got their maturity. Elder And they're overseeing and they're shepherding, pastoring the Church of God, which he purchased with his own blood. So that's argument number two, why bishops or overseers and elders are the same persons argument number three, first Timothy three one compared to first Timothy 517 and first Timothy three one. If anyone aspires to the office of Bishop or overseer Episcopacy, he desires a noble task. And then he describes the leadership qualifications for those. When he gets to Chapter five or 17, he says, the elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. And my observation is this in first Timothy three one, Paul says If anyone aspires, etc., then he gives the qualifications for the overseer Bishop Versed. Unlike the deacons, the overseer must be able to teach. And in verse five he is said to be one whose management of his own household fits him to care for God's church. These two functions are ascribed to elders in the fifth chapter of this book. First Timothy 517 Teaching and governing those who rule well, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. So it is very likely that in Paul's mind, the bishops and overseers of first Timothy 3127 are the same as the elders in 517.


That's reason number three. Reason number four is that in Philippians one one compared to first Timothy three one and Acts 1423, you have well, let's look at it first in Philippians one. One, Paul writes to all the saints in Christ Jesus, who are at Philippi with the bishops and deacons. So he says, I'm writing to you. And there are two officers among you, episcopacy and diaconate. There are overseers and there are deacons. I'm writing to the church. And I mean, to get the special attention of these two groups, which is a remarkable confirmation that the two lists in first Timothy three here of elders and deacons are, I think, parallel in these two. These then seem to be the two offices of the church, just as in first Timothy 312 13. The qualifications only for these two are given. But Paul appointed elders in all the churches, and so it is very likely that the elders of the church at Philippi were the bishops and overseers referred to in Philippians one in 1423. It says Paul appointed elders in all the churches. Then when he writes the church in Philip II, he writes to the bishops and deacons in first Timothy 312, 13, those two groups are called or treated as elders, as well as bishops and deacons. Those are my arguments for why I would take the term bishop slash overseer as the same person as elder. Speaking of the office from two different angles one the functional angle of overseeing and the other the maturity angle of of elder question about that. The next term to be concerned with is the term pastor. Then the term pastor as a noun occurs in the New Testament only once in reference to persons. The term shepherd occurs more than once.


You got Shepherd referring to shepherds in other places like John's gospel, but in in reference to an office in the church, the term point main or a person in the church poll main noun pastor It occurs only here Ephesians 411 he gave some as pastors and teachers, but there is a verb that corresponds to point main shepherd, namely point my name to Shepherd or to feed, which is closely related to the noun pastor, which helps us to discover how the role of pastor was related to the role of elder and bishop. So here my observations on this and the reason here I'm talking about reason number one is the reason that pastor an elder should be considered the same person. Ephesians 411 treats pastors and teachers as one group and thus suggests that the chief role of the pastor is feeding the flock through teaching a role clearly assigned to bishops and overseers. And first, Timothy three to an elder must be apt to teach and to elders in Titus one nine he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to confuse those who contradict this suggest that the pastor is another name for elder and overseer. That's argument number one. Number two, in Acts 2028, we've seen this already. Now the elders of emphasis are encouraged in their pastoral, their shepherding, thus showing that Paul saw the elders as the shepherds or pastors. Here's the verse x 2028 Beyond Guard for Yourselves and for all the flock long, which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers to shepherd. It could have switched Israel and said made you shepherds to oversee, but he said, made you overseers to shepherd the Church of God, which he purchased. So clearly, elders, overseers, bishops are to shepherd, that is, be pastors.


The word the English word pastor means shepherd, and it comes from this Greek word point name. And then my last reason, reason number three in first Peter, five, one and two. The elders are told to tend the flock of God that is in their charge. In other words, Peter saw the elders essentially as pastors or shepherds I exhort. Here's the actual text first, Peter five, one and two I exhort the elders among you as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ. So he considered himself an elder and a part taker also of the glory this be revealed Shepherd the flock of God among you. So Elders Shepherd, Elders, Shepherd that is Pastor aren't separate functions between Shepherd and pastor. Pastor means Shepherd. Here's my conclusion The New Testament only refers to the office of Pastor one time. It is a functional description of the role of Elder stressing the care and feeding of the church as God's flock. Just as overseer Bishop is a functional description of the role of elders stressing the governing or oversight of the church. We may conclude, therefore, that pastor and elder and bishop overseer refer in the New Testament to the same office or person. This office stands alongside Deacon in Philippians one one and four Timothy 312 13 in such a way as to show that the two abiding officers instituted by the New Testament are elder and Deacon. We will treat the function of these two officers in turn. That's not true. That was part of a document that I took this from. I'm not going to talk about deacons. Since about these this terminology. So this is this is major. The implications of this in my mind are very significant here. Here are a couple of them at Bethlehem.


And then I'll take your question. This means that John Piper, for example, is an elder and a part of the council or college or camaraderie of elders, and that the the pastor, which is still in the vocabulary of many of our people. Yeah, but who's the pastor? Is it. Well, you don't get it. You don't get it yet. We're all pastors and we're all elders and we're all overseers on this council. John has an assignment from this church to do certain things as an elder. He's not the pastor, which is probably why my title senior pastor is. That's a little bit the word senior. What does that mean? I think I am. In fact, after Irv, the oldest elder, Irv is our oldest elder. I'm next. So you're really you're the senior pastor. That's cool. I never thought of that. That's one implication. I'm am one. And I have one vote on this council. That's another implication. I don't legally or officially make choices that these other men have to follow. We make choices. This group governs the church. Okay, back to the question, Becky, is more of an imperial power religion. That's right. Your argument, the terminology is correct. That's right. I know, though, what this is communicating to the average church. I'm going to repeat the question. The question is, does my disaffection with that 1925, 1963 Southern Baptist article on officers that says there are two officers, namely pastor and deacon? Really, I don't have a problem with that. If I fill up the word pastor there with all this teaching I just gave you in the last 10 minutes. That's true. However, the average person doesn't fill it up with that teaching. And when they think pastor, they think preacher on Sunday morning and then there's a board and they are deacons and they run the church.


By and large, in the average Baptist church, they they are the governing board. They don't think of the in fact, in some of them, the pastor is a part of that board. He may sit ex-officio on all boards, which may or may not mean he votes. I mean, there's all kinds of different variations of it. I could tell you some stories here, but I think I'll get too far afield. So you're right. Literally, you're right. I shouldn't fault the terminology there. I should simply try to fill it up with a New Testament, meaning that it when it says there are two officers, pastor and deacon. What it means is there are pastors, elders, overseers. They are always a plurality in the New Testament and they are together. Not one of them is the overseer or governor guide of this church. And then there are these helpers and assistants who carry out the nitty gritty financial and practical things called deacons. Other question or comment? Yeah, Mike and a teacher has an Acts 13 one another synonym for. I don't. That's a good question. There were teachers and prophets and what are the three things? Just the prophets. Prophets and teachers gathered fasting and worshiping there and hung and thought about that. Probably the question is, does the noun teacher in a text like X one mean that's just another synonym of the same office? Probably in view of Ephesians 411. He appointed some pastors and teachers, pastors slash teachers. What's the report that says that there should be vocational. Overhears and play. Good question. What's the biblical support or warrant for saying that there should be such a thing as vocational pastors or elders if they all have the same task? Here's Ross Anderson. There's a medical doctor and here's Irv, who's retired teacher.


And here's Dan Elder, who is a flight attendant for Northwest. And I could just go right around here and say, no, Why? Why do you hire somebody like me and pay me full time when we're all really to be doing the same thing? And the answer, the easiest biblical answer to that is first Timothy 517, which is the elders worthy of double honor who rules well, especially those who labor in Largo Chi did that. Scalia That's the especially some among the elders rise to the surface of being called by God and affirmed by the church as devoting their whole life to this, whereas others are maker type elders, you might say. At least that's my understanding of why some come to do it full time, because it becomes a more full time job the larger the church gets. And and but I think I think that at any time any one of these lay elders, as we call them, could stop working and become full time here. If the church called them to do that, they wouldn't have to go back to seminary either. They would just prove over the years that there's a competency, there's a gift, there's a special thing that they're good at. And maybe I mean, Irv already kind of does it full term because he's retired now, at least a lot of time, and some put in more and more and God can do that. And I think we probably should structure the elders so that elders do grow up into that, that that's one of the reasons we have a TBI, the Bethlehem Institute. We just want to teach and disciple and lead in such a way that in Bethlehem and then for anybody who wants to come besides, there's this constant rising of the general tide of biblical understanding so that God can just touch different ones around the church and bring them up into effective ministry in different ways.


And who knows when that may become full time. At any given time, God just may burn into a man's heart. I'm tired of punching computers. I just burn to do evangelism full time or burn to do counseling or to do visitation or something. And I just can't stand spending my time at work anymore. That's a good sign of a call. Another question before we move on, are you saying that a person is a teacher that means that he is an overseer? Another question is, if a person is a teacher, does it mean he's an overseer, an elder? The answer is no. We must distinguish here between office and gift. There are a lot of gifted Sunday school teachers, for example, guys who teach little kids and youth and adults, and they're women who are gifted teachers, who teach women and children. Others that they fulfill that function does not automatically make them an elder, because there are a lot of other things that have to be in place as well. When you hire pastoral staff, are you intentional about bringing them on as elders? Question When we hire staff, vocational staff, are we intentional about bringing them on as elders? The answer is sometimes, and not other times. Here's the example We automatically treat ordained pastors as elders, because I think you'd have a built in contradiction because that's what it means to be ordained. It means to be a pastor slash elders, obviously. And if you hire somebody, then say, and you can't serve on our council, is it? What is your break in your own terminology here? And we do. So that's a given. However, we hired Sally Michael, along with her husband, to be a minister for parenting and Children's discipleship. Very consciously thinking through the terminology here.


Minister, Not pastor, not elder, not overseer. Because she's a woman, she's excited about this. And so she has this incredibly important job of nurturing, guiding, helping our children. She has a gift to teach big time, and that doesn't make her an elder automatically. So we don't call her with a view to the leadership. Chuck Stedman, our associate for worship and music is not ordained, may move towards ordination and move towards the council. He may or may not serve on the council. He would be like anybody else in the church then who they would call on to the council or not. So sometimes yes and sometimes no. You're assuming that the ordination process is evaluated. That's right. Though we. Yes. The question is we ask, do we assume the ordination process has evaluated people adequately? Yes and no. We we're more rigorous in calling staff than anybody. I mean, they get grilled more and longer than even our own elders because we've known them a while, whereas a marriage after a few weekends is a dangerous thing. So next unit, all the New Testament churches had elders. Let's verify this as much as we can with some texts. There were elders in the church at Jerusalem, Acts 15 two, when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them. The brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and some others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders concerning this issue. So already the Apostles had seen to it that not only according to Act six had deacons been appointed by the congregation, but somehow or other elders had come into existence. Didn't tell us how it said they did. So you've got elders, you've got some people functioning like deacons, at least even if they weren't called deacons who managed this feeding of the widows.


And you've got elders, they're going to help solve this theological dispute. So the church in Jerusalem has elders. Secondly, there were elders in all the churches that Paul founded, x 1423, when they had appointed elders for them in every church. Having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed. So Paul, on his return from the first missionary journey, I believe that's when this is happening. Appointed elders in all the churches. That's what we hit on last night in the missionary situation. How in the world when you're planning a church among a tribe who is totally pagan, never had any Christian background whatsoever. And you go in there, you preach the gospel, learn the language some years, and you begin to announce the gospel God moves. And ten people profess faith. They begin to gather for study the missionary kind of de facto functions for a little while as the teaching elder. Then what? Well, something has to happen to bring them about at the beginning. And then those processes we talked about earlier can can carry on after that. Perhaps there were elders in emphasis x 2017 from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders of the church. And what's so remarkable about some of these verses is that there's no great to do about observing that there are elders here. This is just assumed. You read a verse like this and you say this Paul's just assuming they're elders in all the churches. It's a given. Elders in all the churches of Crete is Island of Crete. Titus one five. For this reason, I left you in Crete that you would set in order what remains, and appoint elders in every city as I directed you.


So there's this broad sense that doesn't matter what culture you got to Crete culture. You got an Asian culture, you got a Roman culture, you got Antioch culture, you got a Jerusalem culture. Culture is not an issue here. There's got to be elders or something corresponding to that role. Finally, no two more elders in all the churches of the dispersion of the Roman Empire. James one. One. James A bond servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ to the 12 tribes who are dispersed abroad. Greetings. Now I'll just put one verse one one up there, and then I'm going to jump to chapter five to show to whom this letter is written. It's written like a shotgun approach to all the either Christians scattered like Jews or Jewish Christians. There's disagreement about how to interpret that verse, but it's very broad all over the dispersion. Now, chapter 14 Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders. Doesn't say. And if there happened to be elders in your church, make sure you use them. It's an it's an assumption. He writes this broad letter all over the world. And he says, Now, when you get sick, call the elders. And he didn't expect anybody to be reading this letter and say, what are they? Which is what would happen in many Baptist churches today is that people say, we don't have elders, so how are we going to obey this verse? And they don't obey this verse. Many don't. We do a lot of this. We keep oil in our prayer room. We keep oil in the offices. We meet with people. We just to show you practically in a big church like this, where the lot of sick people we do try to piggyback on services when elders are here already so they don't have to come here or go elsewhere if they don't have to.


So after a service, will somebody call and say, My child is going in for surgery? So-and-so is really serious. Would you please send my child with oil and pray over her? And we'll say, How about 1215 on Sunday and we'll just send out the word to the elders. Come to Canon two, three, four, five, six, seven. Elders show up in the prayer room down there. The oil is there. How do you anoint? What is anoint mean? Why do the anoint answers are very varied. I'm not sure why, but we do it. And when I do it, I basically pour a little bit on my hand and rub it on the forehead here or put it on the head. I haven't gotten the nerve to just pour the whole bottle on anybody's head yet, although I know that I had one. I had one person who was sacked. It was Glenn. That's Glenn Larson. He wouldn't mind me telling you this. I went to visit Patti. She died 38 years old of cancer. We anointed Patty with oil several times, prayed over 100 times, and it was God's time. For some reason, we understand, left her four kids behind. But when we went out there one time, she was in her living room, in her bed near death. He said, Just just just pull the bomb louder. We did. It was small, but just I mean, she hardly had any hair anyway, was she had no pretenses to keep up anymore, you know about. He said. Maybe it just means pour it all out. So there were elders in. Last one. Elders in all the churches in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia Asia and Bethania. I get that for first Peter one one Peter an apostle of Jesus Christ.


To those who reside as aliens scattered throughout Pontus Galatia Cappadocia Asia Bethania. In other words, all those people in what is now Turkey, the Near East there. And then it gets to chapter five and he says, Therefore, I exhort the elders among you shepherd the flock. No question if there are elders among you. The assumption is by James. By Peter. By Paul. From Jerusalem to Rome and everywhere in between that every church has elders. There's just it's a given. There's not a church in the New Testament without multiple elders. And so one of the brothers he was was pointing out to me that Believers Chapel down in Dallas, they don't think church structure is very ambiguous in the New Testament, but that is pretty clear. And they're pretty firm in what they teach about it. And you can see why on something like this, no question about it, anything like that, that the presence of elders in every church in the New Testament implying that probably if you're leading a church right now or if you're a layperson, you should patiently teach on these things until your people are are ready to put in place appropriate structures. Question. In fairness to it, it's kind of surprising you don't mention just the carryover from Judaism. I mean, growing out of the whole context of the elders. Good. The observation is. There were elders in the Old Testament. I'll just read about numbers of 70 elders, for example. There were groups of elders who helped Moses. There were elders in the. The concept of elders is not the creation of the early church. It was there already. What's interesting, though, isn't it, that quite apart from cultural differences, you might expect it then to be in Jerusalem where you got a Jewish church? But all these churches in Cappadocian, Asian, the city and all the churches in Rome, and then probably in Spain, it seems like this is something we're taking with us right across the cultures here.


I don't think I don't think you have to call them that, though. Why not, since the New Testament does. But any other observation or question? Yeah. When I talk about elders around Baptist circles. Frequently people respond with that means the old man in the congregation. What do you say? Distinguished office versus old man questions? What do we say to distinguish Office of Elder from old men? The word can mean both. In fact, there's one place and Timothy where it says, Tell the younger men how to treat the older men as fathers. Something like that. And the same word Presbyter, Ross or Future Roy. And how do you then distinguish? But I suspect that in Paul's mind there is a maturity factor that you just shouldn't overlook. They should be older. But then the question becomes, what does that mean? And what if your church is all young? And here's here's possible answer to the first one I just read also in numbers. I think it's the numbers. Maybe it was Leviticus that the priesthood serves from age 30 to 50, and then he must retire and become one who then teaches and equips the others. So the cut off is age 50 and starts at 30. So it may be that if you wanted a around number 30 might be when a person enters into the elder half of his life. Keep in mind also life expectancy in the first century. What would it be? Maybe upper forties? I don't know. Depends on the culture. Probably 50. So probably a person. And keep in mind this too. In America, we have institutionalized adolescence so that it lasts until you're about 22. Well, they're not in that culture. At 1213, you enter into manhood through some fairly significant processes of passage.


You begin to work as an apprentice with your father or something, and you get married when you're 16, 17, 18 years old, and you're having children by the time you're 22, 23, 24, and you are a seasoned man in your mid-twenties, probably. So to wait until 30 would mean stretching it. I mean, these are matters that I'm not going to live much below 30. I'm already feeling worn and old. And so and yet here in America, while we we drag out growing up horribly, I don't know what to do about it. It's just a mess. The way we bring children up into adulthood in this country, it seems to me that's another factor to take into consideration. However, it looks to me like in verse Timothy. Elders and deacons, the word is taking on an official, not just a age meaning, so that I'd want to be careful saying it has to be an old person. That's the best I can do. I don't have any lines to draw for you. We don't have any here in Bethlehem. We don't have anything written in our Constitution. Can't be under 30 or 25. I don't know who would be our youngest elder to make an idea. Are you the youngest Dad? How old are you? 37. Dan's probably our youngest, so I would not be opposed to calling somebody younger than you. But another one back there. Yeah. I told you like you were saying, that the people were coming to him and saying that basically Elder is anyone that's holding. Okay the. Yeah. If that's if that what these ultimate. Okay, people are coming. I'm sorry. I've wasted 10 minutes. People are coming and saying anybody who's older in the church is what the term is referring to when it says elder.


That just won't work in first Timothy three the let the elders be a be above reproach. Be this, this, this, because they're going to fulfill an office and they need to be tested to enter into this office. So I think I don't think that would be too hard to answer any other question. I have a question about missionary contract. Yeah. So it's kind of like. There's no literacy and can't read. You educate up to a point and then you just. Yeah, the question is, in a missionary context, polygamy is the norm, perhaps. And yet you're saying the elder has to be the husband, one man, one wife, and then also pre literate culture. So they can't even study the Bible yet how they're going to be able to teach and so on. Do you then um and here I'm just this is your question to part of the answer do you then put in place missionary structures temporary, maybe not ideal to bring them along? And do you compromise the principle on polygamy? I don't think I want to speak the last word on that. I would not stand in judgment on missionaries at this point who were either way on that issue, frankly, who said if you're willing not to take anymore, keep the two that you have, be a faithful and loving husband to them, Recognize it's not God's ideal. Teach your children not to do it this way and help us lead this church because there aren't any other kind but this. And then after a generation or two, polygamy falls away. If a missionary said, That's what we're going to do it, I wouldn't say, Oh, you're disobeying. Because, I mean, there are several reasons for that. One is it seemed like God did that in the Old Testament.


David, did you want to make a comment? David's been missionary in that kind of situation for one woman, and it is all. You can. Yes, I think he's the premier and you can't be more. You can't come in and repeat these. Even if you hear from the tape. Does Paul refer in one woman man to polygamy or to divorce and remarriage? And David doesn't think he can refer to both. And I'm wondering if can't we're going to get there. We're going to talk about qualifications. Thank you for listening to this lecture. Brought to you by biblical training, dawg. Your prayers and financial support enable us to provide a biblical and theological education that all people around the world can access. Blessings. As you continue to study and live out your faith and as you grow in your relationship with the Lord.