Some churches who appoint elders do so for a term (3 years is typical from what I have seen). Other churches ordain elders for life. Is there a Biblical basis for ordaining elders for a term?

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    I doubt there's a specific Biblical basis for this--but I don't think there's any prohibition of it, either. The Bible, IMO, is quite permissive and forgiving of many of these sorts of "details." It tends to focus on more important things--like loving each other--than on things like internal organizational politics.
    – Flimzy
    Commented May 8, 2012 at 20:30
  • @Flimzy I kind of tend to think that there are some verses that apply directly here. Also could it be that there is a valid negative argument here. No terms are ever given for any Biblical offices. Commented May 25, 2012 at 1:10

2 Answers 2


Some people in the Bible who had leadership roles held those roles for life. For example, the Old Testament kings and the New Testament apostles apparently held leadership roles for life. Others held temporary posts, like the Judges. I don't recall any place in the Bible where someone held an office for a fixed amount of time, as is common today. But as Flimzy says, nothing in the Bible says that any office must be for life or for a specific term. (Well, except "husband" and "wife", if you think of those as offices.) At least, I can't think of any.


In my tradition, which is Swedish pentecostal, the traditional view is that you are an elder for life. This used to be said with reference to Romans 11:29 ...Gods [...] call are irrevocable (NIV). That is however not very good hermeneutic. That passage refers to the calling of the people of Israel. Maybe you could argue that this also refers to Gods call for every person that belong to him through the faith of Jesus Christ. But you can't say that this speaks about the calling for a certain service in the church.

I would'nt say that there are a good biblical basis to say that you are an elder for life time. But I would say, and that is an personal opinion, that the texts (specially in the pastoral letters) takes the service to be an elder very serious. And it wouldn't be true to the seriousness of this service to let it rotate for every three years or something.

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    I agree that the service of being an elder should be taken seriously, but I'm not sure that rotation is necessarily detrimental to that. In my tradition (Baptist) some churches have paid pastors as their only elders and others have unpaid lay elders in addition to their paid pastors. Asking a layman to commit to serving as an elder for the rest of their life while earning a living at a full time job is asking a lot (unless the responsibilities are light and then it not a very serious service). I'm in favor of rotation for lay elders to give them a break.
    – jimreed
    Commented May 9, 2012 at 20:52
  • You made a great point that I have to spend some time thinking about. Thanks! :-) Commented May 10, 2012 at 7:23

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