One of the key monikers of a church leader is “overseer”. The person called to lead among God’s peoples is to be a person with an in-built inclination to oversee the church. Crucial in this is to have an awareness of what is going on in the church.
One of the striking things about the account of the slaying of Goliath by David is the complete lack of awareness that Saul had of what was going on. In particularly I note in 1 Samuel 15:55-58
As soon as Saul saw David go out against the Philistine, he said to Abner, the commander of the army, “Abner, whose son is this youth?” And Abner said, “As your soul lives, O king, I do not know.” And the king said, “Enquire whose son the boy is.” And as soon as David returned from the striking down of the Philistine, Abner took him, and brought him before Saul with the head of the Philistine in his hand. And Saul said to him, “Whose son are you, young man?” And David answered, “I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.”
The lack of awareness displayed by Saul is breathtaking given that in the previous chapter we see recorded how Saul had gotten David brought from his father Jesse to play soothing music to him (see 1 Samuel 16:14-23.) And then he had actually spoken to the same David before David went to defeat Goliath (see 1 Samuel 17: 31-40).
All this shows us a man who was not fit for leadership. And in saying that we are reflecting what had happened. He had been deprived of leadership capacities because of his prior unfaithfulness the Lord.
I have come across able end even good men in church, but they do not have this characteristic of awareness. People and happenings just seem to pass them by. They may be great assets to the church, but they would be great liabilities if considered as elders.
To have this inclination to watch over the fellowship of God’s people is one indication that a a younger brother is being raised up to leadership. Existing elders there by should be looking out for this as they pray for the raising up of elders in the fellowship.
Upon coming to a church, the newly arrived christian asked; who are the elders in this church? The response given was, that the believer who was coming into the fellowship should come back in a month ( I believe that was the time period) and say who they thought the elders of the church were!
Now, the degree of reliability of the feedback from this suggestion will depend upon the wisdom and spiritual maturity of the person concerned. However, it does raise certain issues:
- It is the church who have to own the recognition of people to eldership. Imposition, whether it be from an outside body or the present elders, is not acceptable. In the same way that the church at Jerusalem selected and trusted those selected into deacon service (see Acts 6:2-7) so it is with elders.
- The appointment of someone to eldership does not make them an elder. The church, under the guiding of the present elders, has a responsibility to recognize those whom the LORD has already made elders. So Paul says to the Ephesian elders Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood (Acts 20:28). It is the Holy Spirit who makes overseers not the church.
- The concomitant truth to this, is that the church cannot prevent someone operating as an elder. If they fail to formally recognize him, he will still operate as an elder.
- In seeking out elders the present elders should keep a keen ear open to what the church is saying about certain men in the church. A groundswell of conviction in the church, about a brother may be the Holy Spirit leading the church to recognize that brother as an elder.
- As shepherds tend to the sheep in their flock so spiritual shepherds tend to the sheep in their flock. Eldership is a calling to and within a local church. So Paul writes to the Thessalonians and says Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you (1 Thess. 5:12). Those who are doing the shepherding are among the Thessalonians.
We have a great need for true elders in the church of God. May the LORD be gracious to raise them up among us. And may we be given wisdom to recognize whom the LORD has raised up.
(Originally published at Venabling on July 31st 2013)
We had a leadership seminar at Feltham on June 15th. One of the exercises which we were given was to score ourselves out of ten for the various characteristics which should be being displayed by an elder. The list was taken from those revealed in scripture. We were then instructed to go away and ask others who know us well, whether that be in family or in whatever realm, to similarly mark us out of ten. We could then compare our self-awareness with how others perceive us. The list is this:
- Above reproach
- Faithful to his wife
- Not overbearing
- Loves what is good
- Self controlled
- Able to teach
- He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught
- Not given to drunkenness
- Not violent but gentle
- Not quick tempered
- Not quarrelsome
- Not a lover of money
- He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect
- He must not be a recent convert
- He must also have a good reputation with outsiders
If you are an elder it will provide a good exercise, if not perhaps a little painful. So why not try doing it? And when you have got a spread of responses make a point of working on the characteristic which you scored worst on.
Is your church praying for the raising up and recognising of further elders? It would be my contention that a church that has decided it has enough elders is in a very dangerous position. Churches should always be aware that the death of the church is being hastened if there are no elders in place or being raised up to bear the load, under God, to carry the work of God in the church forward.
So every church should be praying for the coming forward of the next generation of leaders. And the present leaders should be taking the lead in this. If your present leaders are wanting to protect their position and not welcome new younger elders then they are not fit for the role of elder. Being an elder is a releasing ministry not a constraining ministry. Ephesians 4:12 tells us how elders are one of the groups with the responsibility to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.
It is a great concern when you observe churches where the present elders are moving into their seventies and eighties and there is no initiative or energy to look for younger elders. Such churches are effectively sealing their death-knell.
……………………..frustration. I want to address this matter specifically in the context of church leadership. However, the principles also play-out in other realms of life whether that be business, family or community.
For any group of people to function well there has to be good communication. Particular responsibility for providing this communication, and exemplifying it, is with the leadership. When communication is bad by a church leadership then the church starts to malfunction; bad communication leads to frustration. When people are not been told what is going on then they start to get frustrated. Some of the evidences that the communication is bad are:
- People having to approach the elders to find out about what is going on regarding a specific situation. Now there will be times when such an inquiry is just busy-bodying. Also there will be times when information is confidential and cannot be shared. Generally though, elders should be regularly be keeping all the people who need to know about a matter informed.
- People say “nobody told me”. This is when certain church members believe that they are not a party to information that others have been given.
- People start murmuring among themselves about what is going on in a situation.
When these things starts to occur you end up with a frustrated church and the consequences will be:
- People are deflated. They don’t know what is going on. They feel things are not being dealt with.
- People are distracted. The duty of church leaders is to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up (Eph. 4:12). Rather than people being released to works of service, they are being distracted by having to spend energy figuring out what is going on with other stuff in the Church. And this is all because they have not been communicated with.
So church leaders need to:
- Always veer towards over-communication rather than under-communication.
- Be sending out information at the same time to those who need to know. A bit here and there to different people can cause upset.
- Make sure all communications are sufficient so all know enough. Long-winded documents put people off.
- Communicate with warmth and encouragement. Being too business-like and curt can offend some people.
As a general rule church elders should not make comment about the dress of ladies and particular attention should be given to this as regards to those sisters in the church. This is because:
- They should only have eyes for their wife and should give no indication having eyes for any other woman. Mentioning about a woman’s dress at least gives a hint in that direction. It needs to be remembered that to be an elder is to be “faithful to his wife” (1 Tim. 3:2b) which can be legitimately rendered a “one-woman man”
- It can stir up the interest of a woman towards the offending elder. This may be completely inadvertent, but can happen. The woman thinks “he’s interested in me”. This can lead to the destabilising of marriages whether that be of teh elder of the woman or possibly both.
So we need, as elders, to be very disciplined in this matter. The one time when I would suggest it is appropriate for elders to draw attention to the dress of other ladies is when their dress is not modest as per 1 Timothy 2:9a.
And in all this the elder should be relentlessly encouraging his wife as regards to her attire. It is part of cherishing her and loving her to encourage her in her dress. And to make it clear that he only has eyes for her.
One of the wisest things we have done as a group of elders in the church here in Feltham appertains to prayer. At the beginning of our elders meetings we pray for approximately 45 minutes for everything in the life of the church.
It is such a beautiful thing to pray together as brothers who are like-minded and like-hearted on wanting the best welfare of the church. This is all very much in harmony with the joy described in this post about prayer with others
It gives a great atmosphere to our times together. Discussion, which takes place after the prayer-time, is always different when prayer has been made.
I do feel it shortens our meetings as well. This is just an intuitive response and hard to measure. However, my perception is that through prayer so many issues are processed in (and by) the Lord. This is far better than processing them through our discussing.