Category Archives: 2013 – Nov/Dec

“For Men Shall Be…Blasphemers…” – Jon Mitchell

The apostle Paul warned Timothy, “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.  For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers…” (2 Tim. 3:1-2, ESV, emp. added).

“Blasphemers” comes from the Greek term blasphemos, which literally means, “speaking evil, slanderous, reproachful, railing, abusive.”  So Paul was warning of those who would speak evil, who would be slanderous and reproachful, who would be railing, people who would be abusive.

The enemies of Stephen used this same word to falsely accuse him of blasphemy against the law of Moses, God, and the temple…and in doing so they were ironically guilty of the very thing they accused him of doing (Acts 6:11, 13).  We therefore see how it is possible to blaspheme men, to slander or speak evil of others, to be reproachful of brethren or to rail against them, and to be verbally abusive towards them.

Paul also used this same word to describe himself before he was converted, when he was a blasphemer and persecutor of Christ and the church.  By doing so, he shows us how it is possible to blaspheme God as well.  Normally that’s what we think of when we think of blasphemy.  I would like to challenge the reader to consider how we can blaspheme our fellow man as well, especially in the context of discussing church leadership in keeping with the theme of this issue of the Carolina Messenger.

Our Lord commanded us to put away “slander,” along with anger, wrath, malice, obscene talk from our mouths, and lying (Col. 3:8-9).  Slander (blasphemia) literally means, “slander, detraction, injurious speech, to another’s good name; impious and reproachful speech injurious to divine majesty.”  It is no coincidence that it is listed right alongside of anger, wrath, malice, obscene talk, and lying.  Why would we slander someone, speak reproachfully and detractingly about them, or try to injure them with our words?  Why gossip about them, or unrighteously criticize them and spout off at them?  Why insult them?  Because of anger, wrath and malice.  We’re mad at them.  We hate them.

Brethren, we’re Christians.  And as Christians we are called upon to be different from the world.  We are commanded to let no “corrupting talk” come out of our mouths.  Instead, we are to allow only such as is good for building up…that it may give grace to those who hear (Eph. 4:29).  Do we really want to be the type of Christians condemned by James, people whose tongues are proven to be “a restless evil, full of deadly poison,” who use our tongues to bless God one minute and curse each other the next?  (James 3:8-10)  Because if we ARE that type of Christian, we need to know that our religion is “worthless” in the sight of God (James 1:26).

This brings me to Titus 3:1-2:  “Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.”  “To speak evil” (blasphemeo) literally means, “to blaspheme, revile.  To hurt the reputation or smite with reports or words, speak evil of, slander, rail.”  Notice how God lists the command to avoid this sin right alongside the command to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient and ready for every good work, to avoid arguing, and to be gentle and show perfect courtesy to everyone.

You know, it is very easy to speak evil of rulers and authorities rather than be submissive and obedient to them when we disagree with them.  We currently have many leaders in our government who act in very ungodly ways and promote many ungodly things.  As Christians, we are obligated to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29) and oppose all ungodliness while exposing it for what it is (Eph. 5:11).  If the President, Congress, or the Supreme Court command us to do something that violates God’s Word, we are not obligated to obey them.  That said, many Christians seem to think that having a blatantly ungodly man in office gives them a free license to not only speak out against what he’s promoting that is ungodly, but also to blaspheme the man personally by insulting him as a person.  Yet, God inspired Paul to tell Christians who were living under the rule of Nero, a man for more ungodly than any American president, governor, or congressman, to be submissive while speaking evil/blaspheming no one (Tit. 3:1-2), and to be subject to the governing authorities while giving respect and honor to them (Rom. 13:1, 7).  Not only is it possible, it is also commanded for Christians to still show respect and honor to a governing authority while at the same time actively standing against whatever policies he promotes which are ungodly and/or with which we disagree.

This not only applies to the government.  Take the leadership in the church and in the home.  Wives are commanded to submit to their husbands AND respect them (Eph. 5:22-24, 33).  Children are commanded to obey AND honor their parents (Eph. 6:1-3).  Christians are commanded to obey the bishops of the church and submit to them (Heb. 13:17) AND respect them and esteem them very highly in love (1 Thess. 5:12-13).

In these cases, the principle of Acts 5:29 also applies.  Wives are not obligated to obey their husbands in something sinful.  Children are not obligated to obey their parents if their parents want them to disobey God.  Brethren are not obligated to obey elders if the elders are promoting false doctrine.

However, what about when husbands, parents, and elders ask of us something that is completely scriptural…but we just happen to disagree with it and have a different opinion about it?  Over the years, I’ve observed more and more Christians blaspheme these authoritative figures in their lives and not even know it.

In more and more homes wives are either refusing outright to submit to their husbands or they’re doing so with a complete lack of respect…and in either case they blaspheme – speak evil against – their husbands while doing so.  Wives, that’s not respecting your husbands (Eph. 5:33).  That’s blaspheming your spouse!

More and more children are either outright refusing to obey their parents while blaspheming them, or else they obey while refusing to honor their parents by slandering and grumbling against them.  Children, that’s not honoring your parents (Eph. 6:2).  That’s speaking evil against your parents who brought you into this world!

And in the church, friends…even in doctrinally sound churches which promote healthy teaching about the gospel, worship and morality…there is a growing problem of blaspheming the eldership, speaking evil and railing against them when brethren disagree with them over a matter of expediency, opinion, and personal judgment.  Christians, that’s not respecting those who are over you in the Lord and esteeming them very highly in love because of their work (1 Thess. 5:12-13).  That’s not letting the leadership of the church keep watch over your souls with joy and not with groaning (Heb. 13:17).  No, that’s blaspheming your fellow brothers in Christ who are trying to keep watch over your souls and help you grow spiritually!

American brethren, I know we value our freedom of speech and expression…but the Constitution doesn’t trump the New Testament!  It’s one thing to disagree with the government, one’s spouse, one’s parents, or an eldership with respect and love.  It’s quite another to do so while blaspheming them.  To disagree with respect and honor is a sign of maturity, love, self-control, and having the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).  To disagree blasphemously by speaking evil against them and railing against them shows nothing but worldliness, spiritual immaturity, and that you’re on a road you don’t want to be on…a road that leads to hell.

What’s especially terrifying about this is that we don’t realize that we blaspheme GOD when we blaspheme our brethren in the church, whether they be elders or not!  Look at Paul.  He referred to himself as a blasphemer before he became a Christians…but what was he doing during that time?  He was persecuting the church.  Yet, according to Jesus Paul was actually persecuting HIM (Acts 9:4).

Therefore, we are blaspheming and hurting GOD when we purposefully blaspheme and hurt our brethren.  Think about that for a minute.  We speak evil against the elders or that brother or sister we don’t like and in the process blaspheme our Lord and Redeemer…but that’s not all.  We are also causing division and contention in the church, something which God hates (Prov. 6:16-19) and causes the church to become weaker before breaking the congregation apart completely.  And because we spend our time doing that, guess what we’re NOT doing?  We’re NOT shining as lights in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation because we’re too busy grumbling and complaining (Phil. 2:14-15).  We’re NOT spreading the gospel in this lost world because we’re too focused either starting or putting out small fires of pettiness in the home and in the church, and we wonder why the church isn’t growing and our country and world is growing farther and farther away from God…

            And Satan is laughing and laughing and laughing…

What’s the solution?  How are we to react to blasphemy against us or our brethren?  How are we to repent of our own blasphemy should we be guilty of it?

We must keep our conduct excellent and let our light shine among everyone with whom we come in contact, both in the church, outside of the church, and in the home (1 Pet. 4:12; Matt. 5:16).  We must consciously choose to treat EVERYONE the way we would want to be treated (Matt. 7:12); if everyone in the church did that, no blasphemy, gossip, or backbiting would exist and the gospel would be proclaimed to every single person on earth.  We must hold fast to God’s Word in all aspects of our lives and in our relationships with everyone rather than grumble or complain (Phil. 2:14-16).  When we encounter a brother or sister who speaks evil against someone, we must gently correct them rather than joining in or keeping silent (Gal. 6:1-2; 2 Tim. 2:24-26), and if need be withdraw fellowship from them (1 Cor. 5:11-13; Matt. 18:15-17).  Do this, and we WILL shine as lights in the middle of this dark, blasphemous world!

jonandelizabethmitchell@hotmail.com

“Preach the Word…Do The Work of an Evangelist” – Michael Grooms

To stand before a group of people and proclaim the glorious gospel of Christ is at the same time the greatest honor and the most humbling experience.  It is the greatest of honors because the message proclaimed is that from the very words of God.  The preacher is a messenger of God, insofar as the message preached is indeed the word of God.  It is the most humbling of experiences because no man is worthy of the task.  The preacher must first examine himself before he proclaims the word of God to others.  Such an examination may reveal inadequacies in his life.  Having thus examined himself in the light of God’s word, having prayed for God’s mercy, and having applied the message to his life, he may then be ready to preach the message to others.  Even the great apostle Paul realized this truth.  He stated, “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:27).  He referred to himself as a chief of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15) who was placed into the ministry not because he was worthy, but because he was a recipient of the mercy of Christ, who enabled him and counted him worthy (1 Tim. 1:12).  Every minister of the gospel would do well to echo these sentiments.

The preacher is first and foremost just that, a preacher.  It is very easy for a preacher of the gospel to become inundated with many tasks and responsibilities as he feels the pressure to meet the demands and expectations of others.  This can lead to a life that is very busy, but sorely lacking in proper study and preparation to preach the word of God.  If one gives his life to the preaching of God’s word, then he should guard that charge from distractions that would diminish his ability to do so effectively.  The preacher is to “minister to the saints” (Rom. 15:25); that is, he is to serve them in their spiritual needs.  This is not the task of the preacher alone, but that of every Christian (Heb. 6:10; 1 Pet. 4:10). When the preacher capitulates to the expectations to do the work which God expects of every church member, he not only robs them of the fulfillment of having done their duty, but may find his duty as a minister of the gospel hindered.  Elders do well who protect the preacher from unnecessary burdens that hinder his ability to focus on the study and proclamation of the word of God.  The apostles had the wisdom to understand this.  When approached with the complaint that the Hellenist (Greek speaking) widows were being neglected in their care, the apostles stated that it was not fitting for them to “leave the word of God and serve tables” (Acts 6:2, NKJV).  They charged the church with the task of finding those who they would appoint to that task so that they could devote themselves “to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4).  While preachers are not apostles, they are to be ministers of the word.  The wisdom of the apostles should guide elders, deacons, preachers, and all members in being certain that each fulfills their own duties and responsibilities.

What makes a good minister?  In 1 Timothy 4, Paul warns the preacher Timothy of the impending departure from the faith and his duty to preach concerning the truth of God’s word.  He then states, “If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed” (1 Tim. 4:6, emp. added).  He continues to admonish Timothy to avoid “profane and old wives fables,” to exercise toward godliness, and to be an example to the believers.  He reminds Timothy to give attention to reading, exhortation, and doctrine.  Timothy is instructed to meditate on these things, to give himself entirely to them, and to “take heed to yourself and to the doctrine” (1 Tim. 4:13). This is how the Holy Spirit inspired the apostle Paul to define a “good minister.” A good minister will not fail to “preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Tim. 4:2).  He will not shun to proclaim the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27).  He will speak those things that are proper for sound doctrine (Tit. 2:1).  

Unfortunately, the “corporate” mindset of our society has affected the way people define roles in the church today.  While there are many elderships which view the role of the elder as a shepherd, too often elderships conduct themselves as a board of directors.  This mindset has also affected how elders and church members often view the role of a preacher.  The preacher is identified as an employee of the church.  He is hired to preach and visit.  Often, he is hired to do the work that others in the church should be doing.  The plea of the restoration movement is to “Speak where the Bible speaks, be silent where the Bible is silent. Do Bible things in Bible ways, and call Bible things by Bible names. In matters of faith, unity. In matters of opinion, liberty. In all matters, charity.”  If the church is to speak where the Bible speaks and call Bible things by Bible names, then should not this principle define the roles of those who serve in the church?  The employer/ employee relationship that so often defines the role of preachers in churches is nowhere to be found in the scriptures.  The two epistles of Paul to Timothy and his epistle to Titus define the role of the preacher.  In Ephesians 4:11, the scriptures teach that God gave the role of evangelist, just as he did that of apostles, prophets, and pastors (elders).  Each of these roles was intended by God to fulfill a purpose in the building up of the church, “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12).  The roles of apostles and prophets have been fulfilled and are no longer extant. The roles of evangelists (preachers) and pastors (elders) as well as that of deacons (1 Tim. 3:8-13) are all ordained by God and defined in scripture.  It is proper for churches to support one who preaches to them, not because he is an employee, but because God has thus ordained (1 Cor. 9:14; Mark 10:9-10; 1 Tim. 5:18; 2 Tim. 2:6; Gal. 6:6).  By so doing, the church enables the evangelist to devote himself to the ministry of the word (Acts 6:4).   In John 10:12, Jesus spoke of the hireling who flees because he does not care about the sheep.  The church needs fewer hirelings and more servants of God in its pulpits!

It is imperative that evangelists and elders foster good relationships!  The failure to nurture such relationships has hindered the work of many churches.  Those churches which are blessed by elders and preachers who love and respect each other are empowered by such.  Stephen Guy has served the Lord’s church as both a preacher and an elder, as well as helping to train many preachers as a college instructor.  The following are the words of brother Guy as spoken to this author:

“Young and older preachers alike look for a congregation to spend their life in ministry.  The relationship between a minister and congregation has been compared to a marriage.  At the center is the elder/ preacher relationship.  The elders do make the final decision on the hiring and firing of the minister, and the minister answers to his elders as every member.  The relationship between an eldership and minister should be one of mutual love and respect.  However, in a number of congregations a corporate mentality has crept into the elder/ minister relationship in which the elders act as CEOs and the ministers are treated or function as hirelings. The Bible says that elders are not to lord over the flock (1 Pet. 5:3).  This includes the sheep, known as the minister and his family. The shepherds are to treat every sheep in a godly manner. If the minister is not acting in a godly manner or being effective, they should be corrected in the same way as any other member, in love.  There are times when it is best for the minister and elders to part ways, however it should be done in love and be God honoring.  Elders and ministers who love the Lord, and one another, make for a great marriage.  Elders and ministers, if you are enjoying such a relationship, pray for and praise, publicly and privately, one another, and the congregation will follow your example.  One compliment from an elder can make a minister’s day, and one compliment from the minister will make an elder’s year.”

Michael serves as the pulpit minister for the Boiling Springs Church of Christ in Boiling Springs, SC.  He can be reached at gospelpreacher@charter.net.

“Those Who Have Served Well As Deacons” – Curtis Kimbrell

For the last three years, I have had the privilege of serving as a deacon at the church of Christ in Boiling Springs, SC.  I have the honor of working with the youth at our congregation.  Meeting the qualifications as stated in 1 Timothy 3 has helped me in many aspects of my life.

As I go to work daily, many of the qualifications are constantly in use.  When you are living up to these requirements and standards, they eventually become a natural part of your Christianity everywhere you go.  It’s not that you are never going to fail, because you ARE going to do that.  However, I do find myself going back frequently to the verses to remind me of who I am and what God requires of me.

The impact of a deacon on a church can help the church grow in different areas.  If the impact is good and “fruitful,” this means the deacon is active and doing his job.  My job of working with the youth has encouraged me to do more than plan events and service projects.  It has become a personal task to teach the ones with whom I come into contact on a one-on-one basis.  We are all told to go teach all nations (Matt. 28:19)…but it’s usually a job left to someone else.  I’ve seen from personal experience that great results can occur if you take the time to study with someone.  I have studied with several and ended up baptizing them afterwards.  It is an amazing event to see someone baptized into Christ’s death and then rise to start a new life (Rom. 6:3-5; Gal. 3:27)!

I write about the above not to boast, but rather to encourage all Christians to get active!  Your area may not be the same as mine, but anyone can pick up a phone, write a card, and send an email.  Matthew 25:14-30 teaches us to use our different talents!  If you are thinking about becoming a deacon, make sure you and your wife qualify for you to be one (1 Tim. 3:8-13).  In my case, I was already doing the work or volunteering for it before I was given the name.

There will be times when you want to leap for joy, but there are also times you want to just give up.  I look at everything Paul went through, and I know that I can overcome the obstacles that I face.  Some of your main problems could be just dealing with other Christians.  Acts 15:36-41 tells us even Paul and Barnabas had a strong disagreement, but they departed from each other.  We all need to remember who we are and that others are always watching as well.

There are many spiritual pitfalls that come with the territory also.  If you are an over achiever like I tend to be, your plate becomes overloaded!  Make sure your events and tasks don’t overlap. If you give your word on doing something, make sure you follow through with it.  It’s fine to have many things going at once, but one important thing to remember is this:  don’t neglect your family or close friends!  Every time you say “Yes” to something, you are saying “No” to other tasks, events, and things.

Another spiritual pitfall for not just deacons but also any male leader in the church is how friendly you appear to be with the women in the church.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love a hug from a close friend just as much as you may, but there are those times that people see things that aren’t really there.  There are also times where an innocent hug can turn into an affair over a period of time.  I have seen it with members, deacons, and even preachers.  Our intentions always need to be pure, and our minds need to be as well.  All in all, being cautious makes life so much easier than being accused of real or perceived wrongdoing.

One who has a positive attitude even when things are hectic can help overcome their spiritual pitfalls.  It’s easy to get your plate full, have issues with other members in the church, and also have your personal life overwhelm you to the point where you want to “throw in the towel.”  One thing I have definitely learned is to delegate.  Don’t try to do it all by yourself.  I’ve found that there are plenty of people willing to help, but aren’t the type to volunteer.  It’s okay to have several projects going on at once, and much can be accomplished…but you need to oversee some things while dedicating your time to the more important tasks.

As a teenager, I was the shy type.  I kept to myself and wasn’t very outgoing at all.  If I had to speak in front of an audience for just a few minutes, you could probably hear my legs shaking!  Now, my love and passion is to teach others.  I love to teach one-on-one classes as well.  I can’t stress enough to the teens to just invite their friends to church.  After a few times, I eventually begin to talk to the visitor, get to know them, and finally study with them.  I’ve been more successful in reaching and helping souls this way than I have compared to knocking on doors.

Constantly studying with people as well as teaching classes has kept me growing spiritually.  2 Timothy 2:15 tells us to study to show ourselves approved.  Our spiritual state should never become stagnate!  The area of interest in which a deacon is appointed  to work should be one that suits his character and be one that he should enjoy.  I thoroughly enjoy working with the youth and the many ways they have helped make me a better Christian.

The role of a deacon is again a privilege. It should never feel like an obligation or a “have to” job.  Even though there are many pitfalls and obstacles, the role is more than worth it if you can dedicate your time to this role.  If you can manage to juggle your job, family, church duties and this role, you will see the reward is more than words can express.  When times are difficult though, and you feel like giving up…talk with someone.  I have certain friends with whom I can talk when I have a problem, and they help me overcome my obstacles while keeping me from me giving up. The impact you can have on a church can be great…if your heart is dedicated to the work!  As a father, a husband, a Christian and also as a deacon, I try to keep 1 Corinthians 10:31 in mind. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

Curtis serves as a deacon for the Boiling Springs Church of Christ in Boiling Springs, SC.  You can reach him at mommaof2la@yahoo.com.

Church Leadership Causes Growth – Jon Mitchell (Editor’s Page, November/December 2013 Issue)

Church growth.  Growing the church.  Causing both spiritual growth in the brethren through edification and numerical growth of the congregation via evangelism.  I’ve yet to meet any Christian, especially any preacher, elder, or deacon, who honestly denied wanting their congregation to grow in these ways.

To my knowledge, there is only one passage in the entire Bible that very specifically spells out what causes church growth.  Sure, there are many passages to which one may go which give principles and examples of church growth…but only one which directly says, “Do this, and the church grows.”  That would be Ephesians 4:16:  “from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (ESV, emp. added).  Contextually, Paul defines the body as the church (1:22-23; 5:23).  Therefore, God is basically saying that the church grows “when each part is working properly.”  The church grows when each member is working.

That’s where godly leadership comes in.  There’s a reason God refers to the church as a whole as “the flock” (Acts 20:28) and to elders as shepherds or pastors (Acts 20:17, 28; 1 Pet. 5:1-4).  In his wisdom, God knew that Christians, no matter how sincere, do not grow properly without proper leadership, just as sheep never get where they need to go without a shepherd to guide them.  That’s why just a few verses earlier in Ephesians 4 he mentioned the very reason he gave the church the New Testament writings of the apostles and prophets and the teaching and guidance of evangelists, shepherds, and teachers:  “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-12).  Proper church leaders will equip each and every saint in the flock to serve the Master and spiritually build up each and every soul under their care.  When that happens, the church grows.

This issue is dedicated to church leadership.  You’ll read an article about elders written by an elder, an article about deacons written by a deacon, and an article about preachers written by a preacher.  You’ll also read about how God wants us as Christians to treat the leaders of the church, something which many in the church need to know if the church is to grow.  After all, the people perish without vision from their leaders (Prov. 29:18), and leaders can’t develop a proper vision for the church when they’re continually distracted by the fires of ungodly backbiting, petty criticism, and unrighteous judgment.

Elders, deacons, preachers, teachers…read these articles with an open heart and an open Bible.  Study 1-2 Timothy and Titus to see what kind of men God wants preachers, elders, and deacons…and all Christians…to be.  Elders and deacons, study the example of Acts 6:1-6 and apply it to your relationship with each other.  Preachers, deacons, and members, study the commands of 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 and Hebrews 13:17 and apply them to your relationship with your elders.   Shepherds, study John 10:1-5, Acts 20:17-32, 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15, and 1 Peter 5:1-4 to see what your job description is according to your Lord.

May we all strive to work harder to serve our Master in his kingdom!

jonandelizabethmitchell@hotmail.com

“The Elders Who Are Among You I Exhort” – Garland White

After Jesus told His apostles that He would build His church, He said to them, “Verily I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt. 18:18).   Christ commissioned the apostles and they were inspired to set in order those things to be taught and practiced by Christians.  “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,  for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,  till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-13).   In the early church members had various abilities, some were given spiritual gifts by which to promote its growth.  When the apostles had finished their work and the complete word of God had been revealed, spiritual gifts ceased (1 Cor. 13:10).   Mankind now has access to God’s word which contains “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3).  The inspired word converts the sinner and leads him or her in becoming a mature Christian.  Every Christian is to “grow in grace and knowledge” (2 Pet. 3:18) and practice those things set in order by the apostles.  The apostle Paul admonishes us to grow, “For when the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not strong meat” (Heb. 5:12).   It is our responsibility to become a mature Christian so that we may save our self and bring others to Christ.

The church found in the New Testament was organized according to God’s word and this spiritual order has been sealed by the blood of Jesus Christ.   Spiritual leadership as ordained by God involved the appointment of qualified men to guide the local church.   The same holds true today, qualified men are appointed as elders with the responsibility to function as shepherds and overseers in leading the local congregation in the way of truth.    With this in mind, let us consider some of the responsibilities of elders to the congregation and the members to the elders.

Hebrews 13: 17 describes the personal work of an elder:  “for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief.”  Elders, are you watching over the souls for which God holds you responsible?   In order to do so, it is imperative that you personally know each member of the flock you oversee, much like a good father knows his children.   An elder must have more than just a casual knowledge of the members he oversees – watching over souls is a fearful responsibility.  This duty is carried out by a man who is “a lover of hospitality” (Tit. 1: 8) and possesses “a sincere love of the brethren,” an elder who “loves one another fervently with a pure heart” (1 Pet. 1:22) and places the value of a soul above all else.  Joy awaits faithful elders who lead the flock to eternal bliss, while grief and sadness lie ahead when members perish by the way.

An elder must have a good knowledge of God’s word and practice it.  2 Timothy 2:15 commands all children of God to “study (be diligent) to show yourself approved unto God…”    Elders are ordained by God to teach and enforce His laws without compromise.  Everyone likes to be accepted, but on occasion an elder may become unpopular for taking a biblical stand for the truth.  Many times an elder has lonely and soul searching issues to contend with and may be tempted to make concessions for the sake of keeping the peace.   However, he must remain strong, keeping in mind that the truth of God’s word cannot be altered to satisfy man.

It is equally important that each member be a good student of the word and respect the qualifications required to be an elder. When considering someone to serve as an elder, it is important that the congregation know the individual well enough to compare his manner of life with God’s word.   Men, both young and old should make it a personal goal to live according to the qualifications found in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.  Elders must regularly compare themselves against these standards.  “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith, test yourselves…” (2 Cor. 13:5).   The apostle Paul warned the Ephesian elders to take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood.  For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.  Also, from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.  Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears” (Acts 20:28-31).  Elders must be diligent and ever watchful for the adversary, “taking the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17) “which is able to build them up and give them an inheritance among all them which are sanctified”  (Acts 20:32).

Having served as an elder, I know it is one of the most awesome responsibilities a man can have.  Elder, you have been asked to be keepers of the flock and will have to give account.  That’s awesome!  “The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away” (1 Pet. 5:1-4).  The impact an elder has on the local congregation affects the lives of each member, as well as his own…with eternal consequences.  Elders must serve as patterns to the church and set a good example in their service to the Lord.  A common pitfall facing an elder is “sleeping on the job” by placing emphasis on material things (housekeeping) rather than the spiritual welfare of the church.  It is a grave responsibility to serve as an elder, as he will give an account to God of how he discharged his duties.  This fact requires an elder to get on his knees often and ask the Lord to help him.

Just as elders have divine responsibilities, the Lord has also instructed individual members in their roles and obligations to the local church.  Each Christian is commanded to “obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves” (Heb. 13:17).  The inspired writer wrote these words to the early church and it applies to all Christians until the end of the age.  It is the duty of members to yield to the instruction and governing of faithful elders.  With this in mind, let us all reflect on the following questions:

  1. Have I considered my duty toward the elders?
  2. Am I in submission to the elders and willingly do what I am called on to do?
  3. What is my attitude when I need to make correction in my life and the elders call on me to do so?
  4. What is my relationship to Christ, to His church, to the elders, to my brethren, and to the world?

The lives each of us lead will have eternal consequences.  May God bless our efforts as we continue in prayer and earnestly contend for the faith.

Garland has served the Lord’s church in numerous positions, including as an elder.  His son, Michael, is also an elder at the Duncan Church of Christ in Duncan, SC.  Garland may be reached at gjwhite@tds.net.