Paul as church planter 11
“And when they had appointed elders for them in every church”, Acts 14:23.
In Derbe Paul finally finds a city where he is not persecuted. So what does he do? He walks the same way back and revisits all those places where he was stoned or almost stoned. First Lystra, than Iconium, and then Antioch.
In each of these churches Paul and Barnabas appoint elders. So the church is there already, and then elders emerge. It is not the offices that define a church. There is a church, and then offices are needed to take care of the church. A church without elders is a church, but an incomplete church.
In this beginning phase of the church the elders are appointed by Paul and Barnabas. In a later phase more involvement of the church is possible. This had already happened in Jerusalem, where the apostles had invited the church to mention candidates for the office of deacon.
The elders are only appointed on Paul’s way back. Paul wanted to see how the churches where doing in his absence. During a second visit he could see who had started to take spiritual responsibility within the church.
In his letters Paul gives a clear picture of what he is looking for in elders. It is not about education, and it is not even about spiritual gifts. First of all he wants to see a Christian character. That is what makes people fit to serve God’s church.
Do you display the characteristics of people who are fit to lead spiritually, as listed in 1 Timothy 3?