Editor’s Note: When thinking of who best to write an article about making elders stronger, I went to one of the most sound and stable elderships I know in the body of Christ. They graciously agreed to write this article collectively, but requested to remain anonymous. I thank them for their thoughts expressed here and for the great work they do as shepherds of the flock.
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Ro. 5:1-2, NKJV).
Christians, elders and even an entire eldership can sometimes lose perspective during our Christian walk. The struggle to remain balanced is tested for every person, but sometimes has heightened challenges for elders who are called to stand for truth, enforce God’s discipline, help individuals on a variety of other fronts often unknown to others and plan budgets, annual calendars, and Bible classes…sometimes within the same month.
Elderships therefore need reminders to ground themselves while calling to remembrance the fundamentals of the blessings of God. We can do this by regularly examining ourselves with what God desires for us first as Christians, and then as the best elderships we can be. Let us consider together some basic building blocks and apply them to the role we have as elderships.
If Paul was chief among sinners (1 Ti. 1:15), where does that leave each of us? Haven’t we all been justified by faith? We can thank the Lord’s wisdom in prescribing the Lord’s Supper for the opportunity to reflect on just this (1 Co. 11:28). The result is the humility which lays the foundation for all who seek God. If we don’t think more highly of ourselves than we ought (Ro. 12:3), we will find it much less difficult to esteem others more highly than ourselves.
Consider how this will impact our view of the flock which serves with us. Certainly we will be more skilled at noticing all the parts of the body which contribute to the flock’s successes. Skills and talents of deacons, teachers, encouragers, preachers, song leaders, hard workers and the kindhearted are precious. Just as Elijah discovered as he withdrew into a cave (1 Ki. 19), we may need to “rediscover” the faithful brothers and sisters surrounding us. We can avoid the caves of loneliness, bitterness, and pessimism by not only recognizing our faithful family, but by rightfully esteeming them.
As an eldership, we must never lose the humility we found when facing the cross. In nature we can see things which are callused over time by circumstances endured. We too can become callused from hard work and hard stances. How easy is it for us to now move with compassion? Do we earnestly love the brethren as well as the lost? Do we feel for them as Christ felt for the lost, the sick, the challenged or those that had no direction? We must be careful not to allow the things we must do as elders to abridge our compassion for the saints, nor dull our focus on seeking and saving the lost.
Christ had no place to sleep and was just as hungry as those whom He fed (Mt. 8:20). He was God in the flesh but was still rejected by those whom he came to serve and save (Jn. 1:9-14). Yet those circumstances never thwarted the compassion our Lord had for others. Through the life Jesus lived He claims the role of the perfect mediator because He has felt our trials (He. 4:15-16). We too can seek to use our circumstances to soften rather than harden us. Likewise, we must share the joy, peace and justification we have found in the grace of God. Just like Christ, this requires us to see the condition of others as they are rather than through eyes which are dimly lit.
An eldership, like any Christian, must remember to ground itself in the role of a suffering servant. Paul reminded his Philippian brethren that it had been granted to them to not only be believers, but also sufferers for Christ (Ph. 1:29). Expect ridicule, unthankful attitudes, contempt from friends and even from those upon whom you rely. Bear all things and bear one another. Know that valuable time will be spent away from family while you handle the Lord’s work. Endure by recalling that we willingly crucified ourselves so Christ will live in us and be glorified by the lives we now live. Remember that God’s grace is more than sufficient for our needs. Oh, how blessed we are to suffer for the name of Christ!
Think on spiritual things, elders. From time to time we must think about how large to make the building, choose between new songs books or new carpet, consider nursery items to procure, figure out how to array security equipment or even organize the meeting notes and record keepings. All these things may have to be done, but keep them in perspective. Remember that Martha was anxious and troubled about many things, but it was Mary that chose the good portion (Lk. 10:38-42). We might have to do this kind of work, but we must not allow it to distract from our more important duties. When urgent worldy matters demand our attention, ensure that we set a firm time to address the good portion. Utilize God’s organizational skills and delegate to fellow servants (cf. Ac. 6:1-6). At the end of the day, we are all sojourners in a strange land trying to get home while delivering unto the Lord those whom He has entrusted to our care.
There are times to gird up our loins and quit ourselves like men (1 Co. 16:13). In other words, get ready for what’s coming and be courageous. Strife within the church, helping couples work through marriage and divorce issues or even what to do in light of recent government activities can sometimes make us weak-kneed. That is exactly the time for courageous leadership. Who knows if God has put us here for such a time as this? (Est. 4:14) Trust in Him. Stay true to His Word and we will never go wrong because His foolishness is far greater than any man-made wisdom (1 Co. 1:25). As David did in the face of the giant, we must rely on His strength and not ours. We can look back within our own past and recall the lions and bears we have overcome, reminding us of the Lord’s presence, strength and wisdom. Even when we feel powerless or out of control, we must remember the Lord’s strength is shown through our weaknesses.
In all things, whether they be like those listed above or in other considerations, we must remain positive. Without question, that can be hard to do. Like Elijah or John the Baptizer, we too can find ourselves in doubt and fear. When we fall to negativity, that is just our lack of faith. The Lord has provided numerous reminders that He is victorious. That is why we “stand” in His grace (Ro. 5:2).
Keep in mind the words of Paul as he looked forward to the prize (Ph. 3:14). We too can remain faithful unto death by understanding the battle is not that daunting compared with the spoils which belong to the victors (Re. 2:10). Keep heaven and our presence with Christ in the forefront of longings and optimism will abound.
Optimism and a positive outlook are contagious. We all want to be positive, but sometimes life has a way to beat us down. Stand in God’s grace by putting our trust in God and finding comfort in the knowledge that Christ is preparing a place for us.
Finally, Christians — and even more so, elderships — must be thankful for God’s blessings. How can we rejoice in the hope of His glory and not in turn be thankful? Be thankful for the world the Lord has made. Enjoy the beauty of it and the joys it can bring. Be thankful for His church, which from the beginning was the manifestation of His infinite wisdom, and has been purchased by the priceless Savior’s blood. Be thankful for His Word which enlightens our very steps and guides us in a blessed life. Be thankful for Christ, our Creator and Sustainer. Be thankful for those around us who support us and provide strengths we may not possess, including our fellow elders, those in the church, and those at home. Be thankful to serve in the role in which the Lord has blessed us to serve. All roles come with challenges, but these challenges only help us better serve God. It is through this fire that our gold can be purified. “O give thanks to the Lord; for He is good: for His mercy endureth forever” (Ps. 118:29, KJV).
Individually and as an eldership, we can focus on maintaining balance while pursuing our responsibilities. Christian building blocks will help elders and elderships weather the storms they face. Reminding ourselves of the graces in which we stand, and how we cam to now stand in them, can benefit us greatly.