Vol.II No.XI Pg.7
December 1965

Queries And Answers

Robert F. Turner

Bro. Turner:

Is it scriptural for elders to delegate their authority (in optional matters) to others without reserving their final approval?

Is it scriptural for a member to challenge a decision made by the elders (in optional matters) and to actively seek to change it?


God recognizes the need for overseers in a local church, hence their place and their work is divinely appointed. They are authorized to function, but this does not mean that their word is a divine mandate. Legislative authority remains in Christ. These "optional matters" would become matters of faith if -- as some seem to think -- to question the elder's judgement is to sin against God.

Elders are authorized to "shepherd" the flock -- to "guide, tend, guard," the course of Christians in this life to enhance their hope for salvation (HEB.13:17). It is to this end that we are "subject" unto them.

An "overseer" and "shepherd" must "make decisions" -- it is absurd to deny this, and at the same time hold to the scriptural designations for these men. "In which direction shall we lead the flock today, that they may graze profitably?" "How may we direct their energies for greatest gain?" Concerted action is clearly implied in "shepherd the flock"; not-withstanding the individual responsibility of each sheep (Note; each is responsible to "be subject" to the shepherds, within the realm of oversight which God has given them.). Now, may elders "side-step" their responsibilities? This is the question -- avoiding the ambiguity of "authority" and attendant problems too involved for discussion here. The answer is, no! Elders have responsibilities inherent with "oversight" and "shepherding" which they must meet.

"Challenging" a decision is perhaps a prejudicial choice of words. I believe one may question the elder's judgement, and if so, should go to the elders and "actively seek to change" their decision. In fact, one is less that honest with himself if he ceases to think for himself; and one is unfair to the elders and the progress of the Lord's work if he fails to speak up on any matter vital to the work of the church. Further, I believe elders who can not receive respectful criticism and will not weigh all evidences so that objective decisions may be reached are unqualified for this position (Sober, just, not selfwilled, not soon angry -- TIT.1:7-8.).

But "actively seek to change" may imply divisive tactics which would be wrong in themselves -- such as political "maneuvers" in influence, lobby against, or otherwise disregard and show a lack of respect for the function of shepherds. We must not "war after the flesh" -- use "carnal weapons" -- even to obtain worthy goals.

No God-loving sheep will allow his dissenting judgment (and we are discussing matters of human judgement) to invalidate the rightful place of shepherds; and God-loving shepherds are justified by care shown the sheep.