Tag Archives: bishops

Making Elders Stronger — Anonymous

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.

 

“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.