New City Church is led by a Council of Elders. The Elders are men who meet the qualifications listed by the apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. These men have made public vows of faithfulness to the Lord and to his church and have been affirmed by the people of New City Church as Elders.
The office of elder as described in the New Testament Scriptures is one of responsibility for serving the local church. In Acts 6:1-4, the apostles and elders in the church in Jerusalem emphasized their responsibility was to “prayer and the ministry of the word”. This did not mean other tasks were unimportant. In Acts 6 they recognized the importance of caring for widows but since their direct responsibility lay elsewhere, they ensured the widows were cared for by calling for the church to choose seven others to provide this valuable and necessary service.
The two primary words to describe this office in the New Testament are elder and overseer. The word “pastor” is not used specifically of elders/overseers, though it is the most common word used in our culture to refer to elders/overseers. The word “pastor” is used as a verb, however. In Acts 20:17 Paul calls for the elders from the church in Ephesus. He tells them in verse 28 that as overseers, they are to care for—or more literally—to pastor the church. This indicates they have a pastoral role in the church. When he calls them overseers, he implies an organizational responsibility and authority. The distinction between the words “elder” and “overseer” appear to be primarily cultural; Jews in the first century would have recognized the idea of elders and Greeks would have recognized the idea of overseers. In other words, these two terms appear to be largely interchangeable.
It is because of the great responsibility of elders that the requirements for the office are so high. Brand new followers of Jesus are not qualified, for example. This is because an elder must be a man who exhibits spiritual maturity by living a life that is above reproach. This does not mean he is sinless. It means that his life is not characterized by uncontrolled sin. As Paul says, he’s not a drunkard or violent and is a faithful man. His character exhibits self-control and maturity in his faith.
At New City an elder does not serve for a specified term. In many churches elders serve for a period of time and then must be selected again. At New City a man who is called as an elder serves for life, so long as he is able and remains qualified and continues to be willing to serve. Because our Council of Elders does not function as a “board” (though they certainly have administrative functions), they are free to love the church and spend time leading people well, without being burdened by “administrivia”.
To select elders, the Council of Elders seeks to find those God is identifying as candidates. We look for men who are already shepherding others, who care for and are highly committed to the church. We then seek to know if they are qualified according to Paul’s requirements. When it becomes clear God is identifying an individual to serve the church as an elder, he is presented as a candidate to the church. The church then has a month to vote “no” by communicating with the Council of Elders any concern(s) they may have as to his character and qualifications. After the required month, the candidate is presented in a church meeting for a “yes” vote. Should the church vote to affirm him as an elder, both the church and the new elder make vows to one another, vows focused on serving and loving one another.
The Council of Elders is currently comprised of five men: J-T Richards, Dan Lane, Joel Shaffer, Dave Vermilye, and Jim Wynalda.
In support of the Council of Elders and the church, New City Church is served by various deacons. Deacons are men or women who meet the qualifications of 1 Timothy 3:8-13. Some translations of this text renders the beginning of verse 11 as “Their wives.” The Greek word for woman is the same as that for wife; context must determine which is intended. The plural possessive “their” is not in the Greek text and is supplied by translators to help explain whose wives / women are meant. At New City we believe Paul meant this very literally: “The women likewise.” That is, the women who serve as deacons must also be qualified in the same manner as the men who serve as deacons. Paul then summarizes the qualifications he has already detailed. There are many reasons for believing he meant women deacons. One strong example of this is he referred to a woman deacon in his letter in Romans 16:1 (translated as “servant” in the ESV). Early church history agrees with this understanding as we have thousands of women named as deacons in the first several centuries of the church. In fact, the word “deaconess”—the feminine form of the word deacon—did not exist until centuries after Paul. Deacons were deacons, whether male or female.
Unlike elders, deacons are given no specific responsibilities in the church. Following the example of Acts 6 would suggest that deacons serve in whatever capacity they are needed. In the Jerusalem church it was caring for widows. Often deacons have been involved in preparations for worship in the gathered assembly on Sundays and in caring for the finances of a church and in benevolence. Simply put, deacons serve in whatever capacity is needed so that the Council of Elders can continue to focus on prayer and the ministry of the word. Therefore deacons assist the Council of Elders and the church by implementing the various ministries of the church. They work and function under the authority of the Council of Elders.
Deacons are chosen to fill specific needs in the church. We seek individuals who are gifted and competent to serve in the area of need and then we determine whether they are qualified. Qualified candidate(s) are then presented to the church in a similar manner as elder candidates.
The Deacons currently serving New City Church are Sherilyn Shaffer, Beth Vermilye, Rachael Passarelli, Ryan Misenhimer, Diana Tant-Barstow, and Dawnae Richards.