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 life?

This is a follow on to my question about term eldership.

  • Good question. Theses questions are the reason why I love this site. It open your eyes to different way of doing things. Question we might not have in my context. Thanks for the question. May 16, 2012 at 10:45
  • I'm adding this as a comment because it's not really an answer to your question, but an opinion. In my experience (though it may be limited) no elder that truly serves God ever leaves the office. They might have another person take the office of an elder, but the prior elder always continues to council, pray for, and feed the flock. May 16, 2012 at 21:09
  • @SamuelWarren I agree. I believe that elders can be more or less active. Some even go emeritus whatever that is :-) but I believe that the calling of an elder is for life. Just want scriptural backing for it. May 17, 2012 at 0:59

2 Answers 2


I would believed that this issues falls under church polity. The conduct of the local body of Christ is not always clear in the Bible. There are no verses, that I know of, that state how long the mandate of an elder most be. Historically, an office was hold as long as you qualify to it. A carpenter would be exercising the same profession all his life. This is why I think the Bible does not tackle the question of a term.

In today's thinking, we have the idea that power corrupts, and therefore is almost a sin to hold a position of power, and the influence of our political model might be the reason why we are considering this question.

From a Bible perceptive, as long as an elder fulfills the requirements from Titus and Timothy, I do not see a biblical recommendation on the question of time or term. This question presents another aspect of our Christian liberty.

This being said, elders have a huge responsibility. If an elder does not qualify, not merely as a result of a sin, he should give his resignation (not wait the end of the term) to protect the glory of God in the local body. (The idea I have in mind in this case, could be a young father that cannot take an adequate time with is family. A husband that is always out of the home. These are not sin, but that they are unwise may be patent.)

http://www.9marks.org is a good resource on the question of church polity. I know that I am greatly influenced by them in my thinking on this question.


John 20:21-23

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

Here Jesus commissions his disciples as apostles, and that commission is repeated to those whom they ordain, in that time and now.

There is no intimation in what Christ said that the change wrought in the apostles was time-limited.

Now, this answer is given from a Catholic perspective. Once a person is ordained, he's ordained and the Spirit effects an ontological change — a change in his very nature — to conform him more closely to Christ. That change cannot be undone. Even if a priest [or deacon] resigns his orders and is released from vows and no longer permitted to act according to his orders, he cannot be re-ordained because it's already been done once.

  • +1 for the part about ontological change. It's similar to the ontological change brought about by baptism. May 28, 2012 at 4:07

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