One of the primary tasks of being an elder is to protect the
church from false teaching (1 Tim 4:12-16; Acts 20:25-32). Without men who can
protect a church, false teachers will come from within and without and destroy
a church. It is one of Satan’s primary attacks. So how do you know whether a
man can handle issues of doctrine and therefore partially qualified (saying
nothing of character here) to be an elder?
One way to think about it is in terms of learning comprehension.
There are two primary ways of testing for understanding. The first is a
multiple choice exam. These tests are primarily about content. Generally
speaking, they don’t test comprehension as much as whether there is a
foundation of knowledge. Bible tests could include questions on where Paul got
his haircut, the definition of justification from a certain perspective, where
a particular passage is in scripture, etc. You get the idea. The point of the
test is to see whether the student knows the data, which often is memorized
information. Elders should be able to pass these
type of tests, but it is not enough.
Essay exams test comprehension. They ask you to interact with ideas
and defend your own. A multiple choice exam asks: “What is John Piper’s
definition of justification?” The essay question asks: “Interacting with John
Piper and NT Wright, discuss their understanding of justification and argue for
the position you believe is correct.” See the difference?
As an elder, your job is not to information dump. There may be
some instances where you are teaching someone a basic understanding of the
BIble, maybe helping them with historical facts. But error is not that simple.
Being familiar with the Bible might not help you in dealing with false
teaching. You can’t just memorize the talking points, because they don’t show
you have owned what they are saying for yourself. There must be more than just
information in the elder’s head and heart. There must be comprehension.
Can your elders pass an essay exam on your statement of faith? It
would be a good place to start.