Elders were intended to be a permanent feature in churches of Christ. However, some are determined on destroying the eldership in the churches in lieu of majority rule. Nevertheless, the scriptures prove without a shadow of a doubt that God intended all churches to be lead by qualified elders.
If you want to kill the body, chop off the head. Even so, if you want to kill the local church, remove its elders. In every group of men, whether they be nations or businesses, there must be leadership of some kind. Imagine the chaos if a nation was ruled by a small majority who were not qualified to rule. How long would a business exist with unqualified leaders? It is as true of the church as of any other group of men. Certainly elders are as much needed now as they were in the days of the apostles.
Elders were selected by their qualifications according to the scriptures and given direction. Luke wrote, “Take heed unto your selves, and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit hath made you bishops, to feed the church of the Lord which he purchased with his own blood. I know that after my departure grievous wolves shall enter in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Wherefore watch” (Acts 20:28-31). As a guardian, the elder is to see that the flock is fed and cared for. As a watcher, he is to see that no enemy comes in and destroys the flock. The overseer is an inspector. Not many people apostatize suddenly. A little watchfulness at the right time might save a soul. Division in a church can come suddenly. It takes strong elders to prevent the saints from being carried away by every wind of doctrine (Eph 4:14).
The responsibility of the watchman is set forth in Ezekiel 33:1-6. If the watchman does not sufficiently inform himself so as to be able to recognize an enemy, how is he to be of use as a watchman? The watchman on the walls must know the enemy when he sees him approaching. Any man who divides churches is an enemy. If we do not inform ourselves concerning such men, how can we obey Paul’s injunction? “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them that are causing the divisions and occasions of stumbling, contrary to the doctrine which you have learned; and turn away from them” (Rom. 16:17, 18). Because we have not informed ourselves concerning such men so as to avoid them, much harm has come to many good churches.
The Bible tells us to submit to those who have the rule over us, but gives no hint that we are to submit to majority rule. Generally, there is no such thing as real majority rule, even when it is claimed. Usually, a group rallies around one leader, and he dictates every move. Usually, he is the one who has the most money and dictates by his pocketbook. Quite often a preacher will dictate a church by his experience and ability to seduce a congregation by the will of his voice. Paul says of such men that their god is their belly, and they will work all the harder for their bread and butter. Their cry is that we have no need for elders because we can rule ourselves by the wit of our minds and by the strength of our money.
Elders have a heavy responsibility and a hard task at hand. They are not infallible men. They will make mistakes at times. At all times they seek the welfare of the whole church over the will of one person. Majority rulers seek only their best interest, and not the best interest of the whole church. This is why there are so many divisions among us. Qualified elders will not allow sinful men to enter into the church and pollute the membership. Majority rule believe that mere numbers and money given by sinful people supersede the spiritual health of fellow members. Thereby, adulterers and fornicators fill the pews of unguarded churches and destroyed the moral fabric of the membership. Therefore, qualified elders are not just a requirement for every church, they are a necessity if the church wants to be and remain sound in the faith!