It is evident from New Testament Scriptures that the office of elder was not one of the set ministries of the Church, nor included in the ministry gifts as recorded in 1 Corinthians 12:28 or Ephesians 4:11. The office of elder in the early Christian Church had apparently originated from the Jewish synagogue system and the pagan guilds (see Matthews 27:1, 3, 12, 20).
One of the problems that confronted the apostles when preaching the Gospel was that it brought about the establishment of many new churches in widely separated areas and particularly among the Gentiles and that there were not sufficient called, trained and capable ministers. The practice consequently arose of appointing elders or overseers in each of these churches, and always more than one in every church (Acts 14:23).
In the absence of higher church officials, a certain degree of authority and ministerial responsibility was delegated to them. This was necessary owing to circumstances, but it is clear that the Holy Spirit honoured such appointments by, in certain instances, confirming the initial appointment of such elders and divinely appointing some to become pastors or shepherds of the Church. Compare Acts 20:17 to 20:28 and Titus 1:5 to 1:7.
Consequently the Church today recognizes elders in the body of Christ as being spiritual men of administrative and instructive ability, being appointed in their office by the higher Church officers, as and when the need arises dictated by local circumstances.