The word in Scripture translated into English that means ‘elder’ is found a few dozen times in Acts and the New Testament epistles. It points to the critical role this unique group of leaders plays in the health and direction of each local church. The elders serve prayerfully under the Lordship of Jesus Christ as servant-leaders of the flock entrusted to them. Elders (presbuteros) along with the office of pastor (poimen) and overseer (episkopos) are all the same office and must be qualified for the position according to the standards set forth in Scripture, 1 Timothy and Titus 1, in particular.
Consider 1 Timothy 3:1-7:
“It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.” (NASB)
and Titus 1:5-9:
“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, but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.” (NASB)
In short summary, it is clear that the local church is to be led by a plurality of men who are above reproach. It is often said that a church body will become what the elders are. While Christ can affect a person unlike any human agent, it is clear that each elder must be in line with the descriptions listed above. Certainly an elder is still a sinner, but his repentant heart should be so evident that there is no accusation of the practice of sin against him. And he must have an unstained reputation for being blameless and loving righteousness. He ought to be characterized by being sensible, faithful, self-controlled, a leader at home, just, hospitable, and harmonious as well as a man of the Word of God–able to teach it to others. An elder like that, then, fits the example worthy of following as described in Philippians 3:17.
Please make a priority of praying for our elders, for they are only as fit for this important role as the Lord enables. Thus all glory for faithful church leadership belongs to the Lord.