In the Bible we read of elders being appointed in every congregation (Titus 1:5). However, these individuals were not chosen arbitrarily or by popularity. In 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9, the apostle Paul provided a list of qualities that each elder should possess. These qualifications reveal that an elder will be an older man that is a mature Christian and has demonstrated and distinguished himself as a faithful servant of God.
There are many other scriptural terms used to describe an elder: "bishop", "overseer", "shepherd". These descriptive names help to illustrate the work of elders; it is their responsibility to protect and nurture the Christians under their protective care (Acts 20:28). Hebrews 13:17 does a beautiful job in describing the work and responsibilities of elders: “Obey your leaders, and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.”
New Testament examples also stipulate that there must always be more than one elder in each congregation. The wisdom in this example is obvious in that it protects a congregation from a possible one-man dictatorship. The Bible also limits the oversight of the elders to the congregation they were appointed; Scriptures preclude an eldership from assuming authority of other congregations.
In the Bible we also read of deacons being appointed in each congregation. As with elders, these men were to possess certain qualities that would make them ideally suited for their specific work (1 Timothy 3:8-13). These men had proven themselves to be reliable and responsible in serving the Lord’s church.
The word deacon refers to a servant or attendant; a form of this word is used throughout the Bible describing any person who serves. But Paul also used this word to describe a special office in the church. As with everyone else in the congregation, the deacons' work is under the oversight of the elders. They work closely with the elders and assist them in making sure the needs of the congregation are met. They help the elders to carry out their plans and goals for the congregation, and their specialized abilities will be a vital resource the elders can use.