A Shrink Thinks


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Alan Thomas
Alan Thomas Professor and Consultant in Psychiatry. Elder at Newcastle Reformed Evangelical Church.
21 March, 2023 4 min read
Are our elders too timid? Too worried about upsetting people to make decisions and lead? Are people in our churches unwilling to trust them and to cede decision-making authority to them?

I am intrigued by the word used in Hebrews for elders. Here such men are called leaders (13:7, 17, 24). I’ve rarely if ever heard such men referred to as ‘leaders’. Why is this?

We should first establish that ‘leader’ in Hebrews does indeed refer to the same men we commonly call elders or pastors or overseers or teachers.

We read in Hebrews that these leaders are men who (like teachers) ‘spoke the word of God’ to those Hebrew believers – that is, who preached the gospel (13:17); who (like overseers) kept watch over them (13:17); and whose lifestyle was to be exemplary (13:17; a key qualification for overseer in 1 Timothy 3 and elder in Titus 1). Thus, the functions and office of these leaders in Hebrews are the same as that of elders/pastors/teachers/overseers.

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