A few years ago, our little church in Nebraska went through the process of installing elders. The word install is interesting in this context because to me, it infers that you put them in like a light switch, and if they don’t work as promised, you just loosen the screws, unhook the wire, and replace with a new one. Sometimes churches just leave the switch alone, and sometimes, the new elder works too well and there are those who want an elder with a dimmer switch.
During the process, we spent a few weeks studying the qualifications for elders. The hot topic of major discussion was, “the elder of but one wife”. You know the verse in 1 Timothy 3:2 that says, “Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,” … Here in this verse it begins the standards as to which an overseer of the church must contain in their life. The one that really came to life here as we started our selection process was the husband of but one wife.
I am no greek scholar. Maybe you who read this may fully understand the context of this verse, but pretend you are just simple folk like us and look at this verse as to what it actually says. But, before we do that, shimmy on down a few verses to 1 Tim. 3:11In the same way, their wives[b] are to be women worthy of respect,... “Their wives”????? Did this mean that they had many wives? mmm, very interesting. So, deacons could have many wives, but elders could have just one wife. And, basically, I can derive from this that even I could have more wives being neither an elder nor a deacon presently. (I can’t figure out one wife, let alone many) But, if I did, I couldn’t become an elder! Do you see the debate the Christian male must struggle with?
Many would say that “husband of one wife” means, the elder could not have been divorced. Others would contend, they must have one wife and that wife be alive and presently be his wife now. That also would mean if his wife were to die, his eldership is now null and void. Others would contend that he could only have one wife, not many as I may have inferred in verse 11.
It has left us with great room for debate. I know that when you consider all the qualities of an elder that are listed here, it is very hard to find men who fit the bill on all areas. The body just has to select men who are great leaders by the way in which they SERVE. I would like to think that God also has something to do with the process. When our four elders at the time were selected, I asked the congregation that if you agreed to the selection of these men to become the elders of this congregation would you please stand. I waited and watched to see who remained seated, and was shocked when everyone was standing. God works! One has since moved away, but the three that remain continue to amaze me! They are growing everyday!