“So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” – 1 Peter 5:1-4


Eldership is the biblically ordained office for the governance and leadership of the local church. Elders are qualified men who have been appointed to the position of overseeing and shepherding those within their local church context.

Alexander Strauch, in his book Biblical Eldership, summarizes the biblical role and function of an elder: “Elders lead the church [1 Tim 5:17; Titus 1:7; 1 Peter 5:1–2], teach and preach the Word [1 Timothy 3:2; 2 Timothy 4:2; Titus 1:9], protect the church from false teachers [Acts 20:17, 28–31], exhort and admonish the saints in sound doctrine [1 Timothy 4:13; 2 Timothy 3:13–17; Titus 1:9], visit the sick and pray [James 5:14; Acts 6:4], and judge doctrinal issues [Acts 15:6]. In biblical terminology, elders shepherd, oversee, lead, and care for the local church.  (Strauch, Alexander. Biblical Eldership: An Urgent Call to Restore Biblical Church Leadership. Littleton, CO: Lewis and Roth, 1995.

With these characteristics in mind, the elder board’s leadership at City Life Church includes, but is not limited to, teaching, protecting, leading, disciplining, equipping and caring for the corporate church body and its individual members, as well as the oversight of all ministry operations of the church, such as finances, properties, etc. The elders are also responsible for being obedient to the Scriptures in establishing the doctrine of the church and executing the overall vision and mission of the Church.

The church body, therefore, is to holds its elders in a position of honor (1 Timothy 5:17) as they selflessly give themselves to the labor intended for the flourishing of the local church. A local congregation serves, supports, and submits to its elders as those men carry out the biblical task of shepherding and guarding the flock they have been called to.


We describe the leaderships structure at City Life as being elder governed, staff led, and congregationally involved. In shepherding terms, our elders are the shepherds of the flock, our staff pastors are the shepherds guiding the individual sheep, and our partners (congregation) make up the flock who work together in moving toward the next pasture (towards the mission and vision).

Elders – Our elders are at the top of our org chart. Elder direct the vision and mission and elders make decisions for the church and vote as necessary. (See Frequently Asked Question at the end of this writing, “Elder governed, congregational governed, or both?”) Elders lead among a board (plurality) of elders. This ensures that decisions regarding the overall mission, vision, direction, and organization of the church are made among a board and not among one person. It is in the elder room where the church is both guarded and advanced.

Pastors/Staff – The outcome of the decisions made in the elder room are passed on to our pastors and staff who execute and move the mission, vision, and overall direction of the church forward. They do this by equipping and sending individuals and teams for the work of ministry (Eph. 4:12).

Partners – The partners of City Life are those committed to the mission, vision, and direction of the church. They are the ambassadors who make the work happen and who champion the mission amongst the church body and carry it to the surrounding community. If the church is to grow and multiply it will be from the missional lifestyle and conviction of our partners.

In summary, it is the elders of the church who put all of this into motion while seeing to it that the church is doctrinally sound, biblically governed, culturally guarded, and spiritually formed in healthy ministry environments.


Simply said, we are elder governed because the Bible teaches it as the means for which God designed a local church body to be carried. We see in Scripture that it was necessary for elders to be appointed for the oversight of every church (Acts 14:23). This oversight is not to be done pridefully, for selfish gain, or in a domineering manner (1 Peter. 5:2-3), but rather, in humility (1 Peter 5:6). Just about everywhere the Apostle Paul went we see him either appointing elders in the church or instructing church leaders to appoint elders for the church. This is the model of church governance we see for the health and building up of the church, the guarding and advancement of the gospel, and the development and multiplication of disciples.

It is not uncommon to hear the term “plurality” in the same place as eldership. The church is to be led by a plurality of elders, meaning, a board of multiple elders (rather than a single leader) who function in mutual submission and service to one another for the sake of overseeing the church. Dave Harvey, in Plurality Principle, points out, “The New Testament terms for pastor, overseer, or elder are never used to talk about a single leader ruling or governing the church alone. Instead, they are used to reference plural leadership.” (Harvey, Dave. The Plurality Principle: How to Build and Maintain a Thriving Church Leadership Team. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2021, p. 27). He gives examples (Harvey, p. 27.):

  • Elders (plural) are appointed to every church (Acts 14:23).
  • The elders (plural) and apostles work together to resolve a major dispute (Acts 15:6). Overseers (plural) shepherd the flock in Ephesus (Acts 20:28).
  • Paul writes to the overseers (plural) in Philippi (Phil1:1).
  • A council of elders (plural) laid their hands upon Timothy (1 Timothy 4:14).
  • Elders (plural) direct the affairs of the church (1 Timothy 5:17).
  • Paul instructs Titus to appoint elders (plural, Titus 1:5).
  • Peter instructs the elders (plural) as a fellow elder (1 Peter 5:1-2).
  • Peter tells younger men to submit to their elders (plural, 1 Peter 5:5).

If the New Testament model remains strong for the church today, it is clear that the local church is to be governed by a healthy plurality of elders. For this reason, City Life is to be governed by a plurality (board) of elders. Harvey concludes, “The quality of your elder plurality determines the health of your church.” (Harvey, p. 15.)


An elder is a qualified man in a local congregation. It’s necessary to define what is meant by the words qualified and man.

Qualified – The minimum qualifications for elders in any church should not be less than those listed in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9. The chart at the end of this writing is from the ESV Study Bible with notes added from John Piper. (“Several years ago, John Piper did a seminar on biblical eldership and worked through these qualifications. I thought it might be helpful to adapt the comparative chart from the ESV Study Bible collating the qualifications and then listing Piper’s corresponding definitions.” Justin Taylor, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justin-taylor/what-are-the-requirements-to-be-an-elder/) It details the qualifications of an elder. In addition to the minimum qualifications given in Scripture, elders must be Partners at City Life Church who fully subscribe to the Church’s Doctrine and Beliefs and are actively involved in the ministry of the Church.

Without detailing every biblical characteristic of an elder in this writing, there are three key identifiers (among the list of qualifications in Scripture) that we watch for in an elder who fits the leadership culture at City Life. We are looking for men who have:

  • Character – So much of what is being described of an elder in the New Testament is his character. An elder must be someone the church looks at and sees the character of someone who would oversee the local body of Christ. This assessment is not only true of those in the church, but his wife, co-workers, friends, kids, etc.
  • Courage – An elder possesses the courage to stand firm on the Word of God in the midst of an ever- changing culture; one that is increasingly diminishing the Church and God’s Word while increasing its tolerance for unbiblical liberties, preferences, and beliefs. An elder is courageous and bold to contend for God’s Truth from God’s Word to prevail in all things at all times.
  • Humility – The greatest example we have from Jesus of what it looks like to lead the church well is his example of humility. He humbled himself as a servant and emptied himself for his people (Phil. 2:5-11). An elder must follow this example of Christ’s humility. This means he is teachable, willing to be wrong, seeks counsel when needed, and submits himself to his fellow elders, in his personal life as well as in matters of the church. A humble, servant elder will lead the church well.

Man – We see in the Bible that the role of elder in the church is reserved for qualified men. Our conviction for this does not come from a preference, opinion, or a cultural persuasion, rather, it comes from our understanding and interpretation of biblical passages regarding eldership, and the distinct complementary roles between men and women in the church, as well as in the home.

It is important to distinguish between eldership and leadership. While the role of elder is reserved for a man, the role of leader is not reserved specifically for men. We believe the role of women to lead within the various ministries of the church must not only be recognized and permitted but must be empowered, equipped, and celebrated. (For more on the role of women in the church, see this great explanation by The Village Church in Dallas, TX.)


Elders are referred to in the New Testament as overseers and rulers. It is from terms like these that we have come to see an elder governing from a position of authority and honor. In the church today, the elder carries a weight and responsibility with him as he walks in and out of the elder room. But eldering isn’t about what happens in the elders room, it’s about what happens outside of the elders room, meaning, elders “eld” among the body, caring for and shepherding among the flock. Shepherds must smell like their sheep because they love them and are with them. So while it is upon the elder to oversee, rule, and govern, Peter, in 1 Peter 5, places on elders the responsibility of shepherding the flock of God.

The role of a shepherd is to both guide and guard the flock. The following is a five-part description of what we believe it looks like for an elder to shepherd (guide and guard) the flock at City Life.

1) Shepherd the flock – In 1 Peter 5:2, Peter says to the elders to the church, “shepherd the flock of God that is among you.” As guides who care for the health and development of the people in the church, elders are to make themselves available to counsel individuals and families with wisdom and the truth of the gospel. They are to give themselves to caring for those in any sort of need within the church. This care extends from the church to the home to the hospital. Above all, they are to be found praying in and over the church. An elder who guides is an elder who prays.

As guards who care for the protection and preservation of the church, elders are watchful for the people and policies that would distract, disrupt, or attempt to destroy the mission of the church or those who lead it. Not only is an elder watchful, but it is also the job of an elder to stand between the church and the enemy, working to protect the church, its leaders and its people from those who would intend to harm the church. These are the characteristics of an elder who shepherds as a guide and a guard.

2) Shepherd the teaching ministry and doctrine – An elder watches for heresy and guards the gospel- centered teaching and preaching ministry of the church. Because of this, it is imperative that an elder be a faithful student of God’s Word. And elder must be able to accurately and effectively divide Scripture within a necessary context while remaining humble and sensitive to the Spirit. This involves approving curriculum used in City Kids, City Groups, classes, Bible Studies, etc. It also includes approving the sermon series and preaching calendar, doctrinal statements, and any form of biblical exposition, publication, or presentation. This may involve interacting with church members who have questions regarding theological issues or challenges concerning the teaching ministry or the churches beliefs. Finally, an elder must be able to teach the Bible. This may take the form of preaching or teaching in various settings from the pulpit to the classroom. An elder must be able to rightly divide the Word of God.

3) Shepherd the mission, vision, and values – An elder is committed to who we are and what we are called to as a church. This means guarding the church against anything that would distract us or attempt to bring unhelpful or unbiblical change to the mission, vision, or values of the church. This means placing guardrails around what we will and will not do as a church. This may involve meeting with church members who believe we should champion a particular initiative that may or may not be in line with our mission, vision, or values. Elders remain committed to aligning our ministries around those values and ensuring they remain protected.

Elders are also committed to being good stewards of the churches finances and facilities as these provide the tools and environments for ministry to continue. In short, elders get to tell the church what we will and will not do so as to keep us moving in the direction God has given City Life to go.

4) Shepherd the health and wholeness of our pastors – While the elders govern the church, the staff pastors lead the church. This means elders lead the church by leading our pastors. This includes discussing and approving pastoral compensation, benefits, bonuses, schedule, time off, etc. This also means providing accountability and guidance for family balance, sabbath, sabbatical, and the general health of our pastors and their families. This may involve meeting individually with pastors on a regular basis, and even consulting their wives to evaluate family health. Elders may recommend counseling, coaching, or other forms of care or training for our pastors as needed. Elders have eyes on our pastors and watch to ensure them and their families are healthy and protected from any harmful components churches can sometimes project on their pastors and their families.

5) Shepherd the pastors in leading the staff – While the elders lead our pastors, our staff pastors lead the staff. This means our elders assist the pastors with finding, hiring, equipping, and leading the staff. This may mean engaging certain staff members who need additional guidance in their role that an elder may have the experience or resources to speak into, while also supporting our pastors in any conflict or challenges among staff. This also means encouraging the staff and helping to create a culture of honor among our pastors and elders. Most of all, an elder cares for the staff by guiding, equipping, and empowering the lead pastor to lead the staff team to be as healthy and whole as they can possibly be.

In all of these things, an elder is to be submitted to Jesus above all. Peter says, “And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory” (1 Peter 5:4). Jesus is the chief Shepherd. He is our model, and he is the one who can guide and guard those who are elders over his church.


By now it’s been made clear that eldership is the governing arm of the church. As such, elders are appointed by the elder board to serve a period of time joining in shepherding and overseeing the vision and mission of the church. The following outlines the procedures that surround this task…

Selection – A man is to be identified and selected by existing elders and invited into the elder onboarding process as detailed in the “City Life Church Pastor and Elder Process” document. This process involves a written assessment for both the candidate and his wife, multiple interviews, presentation to the church Partners for feedback and assessment, and a trial period of observation in the elder room. Upon full completion of the process, the elder candidate will be presented to the church as a fully installed and active elder. There must always be an odd number of elders and there must be more lay elders than staff elders. The lead pastor is to serve as one of the staff elders.

Terms – A lay elder is to serve a minimum of 4 years and a maximum of 7 years. Elders may be re-appointed after a one-year absence from the elder body. Staff elders will serve indefinitely so long as they remain on staff. If the elder body determines that an elder (lay or staff) needs an extended sabbath because of a legitimate need (e.g., illness or tragedy), then such elder may transition to being an active but non-voting elder for a set period determined by the elder body.

Meetings – Oversight conversations, prayers, and decisions will happen within regularly scheduled elder meetings. The frequency and scheduling of these meetings will be determined by the elder body, with a minimum of 2 and a maximum of 4 monthly meetings. In addition, elders will retreat together once a year for the purpose of connecting, praying, and visioneering for the church.

Voting –A proper quorum is defined as seventy-five percent (75%) of the elders present. A quorum is required for voting matters. A passing vote must be equal to or greater than seventy-five percent (75%) of elders present. Voting by proxy is prohibited. Our goal on voting matters would be consensus. Where that can’t happen, we should work to understand any differences, search Scriptures together, and pray. In cases where this can’t lead to reconciliation of differences, the vote of 75% shall become the decision. The goal in a healthy eldership is unity, not uniformity. This means that elders can disagree on matters while still being unified around the gospel and the overall vision and mission of the church.

CONCLUSION – City Life, its pastors, staff, partners, and ministries are honored to be governed by and submitted to a healthy, God-fearing, gospel-minded, courageous and humble board of elders. We believe God will give these men with their time, gifts, and love for the church to be a blessing to the church, its mission, and the people who call it home.



Elder governed, congregational governed, or both?
In elder governed models, the elder board oversees the direction of the church. This means that it is the elders who deliberate over the direction of the church regarding mission, vision, values, and more and it is the elders who vote on matters where there may be disagreement. In this model, the congregation supports, trusts, and encourages their elders in the responsibility entrusted to them. In congregationally governed churches, all the same is true but replace elders with partners. It is the members who vote on all matters, including who serves as an elder. While we see evidence of both models in the New Testament, we see the elder governed model more frequently as the form of church oversight. In this we see elders who are appointed by other elders rather than voted on by the congregation (see list of verses above under “Why are we elder governed at City Life?”).

However, this does not mean the partners do not play a significant role. As stated above, City Life is elder governed and partner involved. This means that while we submit to our elders for the oversight and direction of the church, our partners are involved in certain decision-making processes and are called on to vote on a variety significant church decisions. In addition, partners are needed to speak into decisions that are on the table for discussion in the elder room.

Who picks elders?
Elders appoint elders (see previous question). It is the elders who watch, identify, and invite qualified men into the elder process. When a man is invited into the process, he becomes a candidate and as a candidate he is presented to the partners at a partner meeting where they are asked to provide feedback, support, or disagreement in terms of his candidacy. Upon majority support from the partners, the candidate continues in the elder onboarding process. Once completed, he is presented to the church as a fully active elder. (See “City Life Church Pastor and Elder Process” for a detailed explanation of the 11 step process a pastoral or elder candidate is to complete before being installed.)

What is the Lead Pastors role among the elders?
The lead pastor serves as one elder. His role in the plurality is to speak into the mission and vision of the church while shepherding each of the other elders. The lead pastor may or may not serve as the chairman of the board of elders, this is dependent on the structure and decision of the board. The lead pastor does not have any powers on voting matters. He is one vote, and should he be out voted he is to humbly submit to the decision and direction of the board.



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