bits from bob....
by Robert J. Young
©, 2001, Robert J. Young
[permission is given to reprint with credit noted]
Elders wear many hats in most of our churches. Elders ought to wear some hats they do not wear; elders ought not to wear some hats they do wear. There is a work elders (bishops- shepherds) are to do. No one can do it for them.
Sometimes elders are so busy doing the work that is not theirs to do that they cannot find time to do the work that is theirs to do. We must heed God's Word and learn and do what God wants us to do. Church organization is more than having the right names; it is doing the work in the way God directs.
One difficulty is focused by the fact that we almost exclusively use the term elders. Elders is only one of at least three different ways the Bible refers to these men who serve as leaders in God's church. The previous article demonstrated that elders is reflected in our practice, for many elders are almost exclusively decision makers. Unfortunately, these men seldom get involved in the other tasks God has given them to do.
I wonder if more elders would oversee if we called them bishops. I wonder if more elders would pastor if we called them shepherds. (Incidentally, we might also find more understanding among those religious neighbors who cannot understand why we don't have ‘pastors.' We do, but we seldom call them that!)
Let's help elders do the work God has given them to do.
- 1. Elders are to be servants. They have a work to do. Eldering is not an office. The use of the word office in 1 Timothy 3 (KJV) may be unfortunate. The church may end up resembling a corporation with officers sitting on a board more than a flock with shepherds giving guidance and strength. Elders are workers; they are guides; they are examples. Elders are involved in a struggle. Elders will give account.
- 2. Elders are sober. As with deacons, elders are qualified. They have certain characteristics. They are blameless, they are of good reputation, they are spotless.
- 3. Elders are sentinels. In Acts 20, Paul urged elders to "take heed unto themselves and the flock." Elders are to convict gainsayers. They are to be on guard. They are to watch themselves, and to watch those in their charge. They are to be careful, recognizing that dangers can come from within the leadership as readily as from within the flock.
- 4. Elders set the standard. They are examples. They show the way. Whatever the church needs to be doing requires that elders be trailblazers. People follow example better than command. "Do like I done, not like I said." Not good English, but good living. Elders set the standard.
- 5. Elders are supervisors. Elders are to oversee. Elders are to be spiritual. A spiritual work is done by spiritual people. Spiritual people help others be spiritual. That is why elders are to have steadfast, spiritual families. A man who cannot encourage his physical family to be steadfast will not effectively function in helping a spiritual family to be steadfast. Such a man may be able to make decisions and oversee, but he will fail in shepherding and leading spiritually. We must study and know God's wisdom. We must second guess him.
Certainly this is not everything the Bible says about elders. It is part of it; it is an important segment of Scripture. Let's appoint Scriptural elders. Let's encourage men to qualify themselves as elders. Let's return to our elders the job God has given them to do. Let's insist that they leave the deacons' jobs to the deacons. Let's insist that the preacher do what God has given him to do. The church will be stronger; the church will grow.
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Last updated November 23, 2001.