What Part Does Age Play In Considering a Man for Eldership?

As you consider a man for eldership, what part does his age play?

"Elder" technically means older. But how much older is older? Clearly Timothy was younger, because Paul says, "Don't let anybody despise your youth," and he said, "Treat older men as fathers."

So here you have the leader in the church at Ephesus, Timothy, being younger than some of those to whom he is ministering. And, in fact, his youth is causing a little bit of trouble in the church, evidently, because he is having to give an account for it and be careful that he doesn't bring reproach upon himself. Which opens the door to me that I better not be too specific about saying that only gray-haired people or only people who have been Christians for 30 years can be elders.

And then there is the warning that a new convert shouldn't be an elder, because he's going to, perhaps, get puffed up with pride before he's been a Christian very long. But that very warning seems to indicate that eldership could be for the younger, because who knows how much time has elapsed there. You want some time to elapse since their conversion so that a person is not a brand new believer.

But even there you have Paul doing his first missionary journey and then returning, what, 3 or 4 months later and appointing elders in all the churches? So missiological realities have to set in if you're going to have a church that you're not immediately there to care for as the missionary because you're traveling around. Somehow or another you're going to have to put some people in place.

So these are all guidelines in the New Testament.

Bottom line: How do we think about age? We want some maturity. We want spiritual maturity, which you discern in how a man relates to people. And we want some life experience under his belt, because he is going to go—like I did last night—to stand over the bed of a man who will probably see Jesus in a few hours. That is awesome!

You don't want a person with no sense of weightiness about them, about life. It takes some life dealing to even be able to feel that moment, to have stood there enough and to feel that moment. You don't want a baby believer or a person who is immature walking into certain kinds of situations.

So maturity: personally, maritally, and in his faith.

And I don't mean a single person can't be an elder. So at that point you're having a trade-off. It's great to have married elders, because you're dealing with a lot of married people. But it's not bad to have single elders like Paul and Jesus either.