It is often said that in order to be an elder of a church you need to have a thick skin. The reasoning is that you get so much criticism and opposition that you must be able to withstand it without it affecting you too much. So the thick skin is like an armour that prevents you from being hurt, harmed and even destroyed by the “bullets” that come against you.
Now, no doubt, when you take on church leadership you have to accept that you will be in the firing line. Satan loves to destroy churches and the fastest way to destroy them, generally, is to take out the leaders. If the leaders are destroyed then it is likely that the whole church will follow suit. Thus, leaders do need to have “thick skins”.
However, I would also want to say that those skins should not be too thick. This is because the role of the elder is to be a shepherd of the flock over which he is called to be an overseer. A thick skinned shepherd can be a disaster. This is because he is not sensitive to the feelings and life issues of the sheep. If the struggles of the sheep do not get to the heart of the shepherd because he has a “thick skin” then that is not good.
As elders we are to be those who have a heart like our Saviour. Don’t forget what he is like in His present High priestly ministry for us.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to feel sympathy for our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need (Heb. 4:15-16).
We, as elders, need to be people of sympathy.
As an elder then you need a thick skin, but not too thick, or to put it another way you need a thick skin, but most of the time you need to make sure that a few layers have been removed.