To understand what this word means it is helpful to first understand what an “elder” is. The Scriptures use several terms interchangeably for an elder, specifically, “bishop” (1 Timothy 3:1), “overseer” (Acts 20:28), “pastor/shepherd” (Ephesians 4:11), and “presbytery” (1 Timothy 4:14).
Let us start by talking about the word elder. In Acts 14:23, Paul and Barnabas appointed “elders” in every church. The Greek word translated elders in this verse is “presbuteros”. This word signifies one who is of sufficient maturity to hold the office of an elder.
Now let us focus on the five terms identified above as interchangeable for an elder. The first two terms, “bishop” and “overseer”, are translated from “episkopos”. This Greek word refers to a man who watches out for the souls in a local congregation and oversees the work of that congregation to ensure all things are done decently and in order. The qualifications of a bishop/overseer are found in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-16. The next two terms, “pastor” and “shepherd”, are translated from “poimen”. This Greek word refers to one who tends a local flock, providing sound doctrine and guarding against false doctrine. The last term, “presbytery”, is transliterated from “presbuterion”. This Greek word refers to a plurality or body of elders, and can be translated “eldership”.
We see by putting this all together that an eldership is a plurality of mature men who meet the qualifications of 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-16 and are appointed to serve in a local church to: