Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 5, 1964

In The Absence Of Elders

William E. Wallace

How does a congregation function when it is without men suitably qualified and duly appointed to serve as elders? Of course the problems of a flock without shepherds are many. Some of the things which elders would naturally do go untended. Problems best handled by mature bishops will often be mishandled by sincere but novice personnel; yet many other problems will be adequately solved by a balance of young zeal and senior wisdom.

Without elders to oversee and pastor the flock it is necessary for all faithful brethren to participate and cooperate in the management of the affairs of the congregation.

While we must not appoint men to the eldership who do not biblically qualify, we must be careful not to create unauthorized means of congregational government. In the absence of elders the most practical means of managing the affairs of the congregation is an orderly meeting of brethren where mutual agreements can be reached regarding expedient ways of functioning.

Once each month (oftener if needed) faithful brethren of an elderless congregation should meet to discuss and expedite the business of the congregation. All faithful brethren should attend these meetings, which must be conducted "decently and in order." Any emergency business between the regular meeting dates should be handled by special meetings.

While this system will work provisionally, it cannot and must not be allowed to supplant the eldership oversight which the Lord ordained for each congregation. A congregation loyal to Christ must constantly be aware of its incompleteness, and not be content until its organization meets the New Testament requirements. While awaiting the growth and development of qualified men, the congregation will work together in peace and harmony — even though some problems may go unattended and a lack of good judgment may appear in some decisions. At best, any congregation lacking qualified elders is handicapped; but this does not mean that the congregation cannot serve God faithfully and with his approval until such time as qualified men are developed and appointed. Unity in such a congregation must always be a paramount objective, for this enables the church to be more efficient in the work which the Lord expects of any congregation wearing his name.

1006 South Belmont Indianapolis, Indiana