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.
Should there be a diaconate in a church? First of all we need to know what a diaconate is. It is a group of church members who have been appointed as deacons in a church who meet together to discuss and decide corporately, on issues related to church business. Let us consider this issue.
It is clear from scripture that there should be deacons in a church. At Philippi for example. Paul and Timothy writes To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons: (Phil 1:1). In Acts 6 with those appointed to resolve the issues of the dispute of allocation of resources among the widows we appear to have the prototype deacons established. These are men who take on a responsibility for practical church matters so as to allow the elders to function in their shepherding role.
The Acts 6 passage is most helpful in guiding us to the conclusion that deacons are appointed to serve in certain responsibilities. So deacons should not just be generically appointed to be deacons. Rather they should be appointed to certain tasks. So you have a deacon responsible for the buildings or responsible for the finances or responsible for stewarding or responsible for music etc.. The key thing is that they are taking on the supervising of tasks so as to release the elders for their leading ministry.
It is the elders who are to meet together to discuss and decide corporately on issues related to church business. Which all means that there should not be a diaconate in a church. Deacons serve certain ministries (generally of a practical nature), they are not a collective decision making body in a church.
In Hebrews 13:17 we read: Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.
It is easy for elders to concentrate on how the church should be submitting to their authority. However, the key injunction to the elders of the church in this verse is for them to be watching over the flock. This is a relentless work for a shepherd to be involved in. Sheep are prone to wander and stray. Sheep easily head off in harmful directions. Elders should be always lovingly watching for those in the congregation; the sheep in their care.
There should be no favoritism; all should be equally cared for. There are some sheep we warm to more than others, but all should have our loving attention. Some cause us more trouble than others, but still all should be loved. The quieter ones, who can so easily be ignored, should know they are cared for too.
Also we should be remembering what our goal is. It is not to produce a bunch of compliant individuals whom we control. Rather it is to see their spiritual progress. We long to present everyone perfect in Christ. In Colossians 1: 28-29 we see Paul’s heart which should be our heart He (Christ Jesus) is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me. We, like Paul, should long and labour so that no spiritual harm comes to the sheep in our care.
The godly sheep will warm to this care because they know we are demonstrating their Lord to them. Others who do not have a heart for God will resist it. But whatever the response we must continue to labour for our Master among those sheep He has given us as a stewardship.
I have written here previously about the pastor’s wife. What I want to write about here specifically is the situation of considering a man for eldership. The scenario runs like this; there is a man in the church and he is giving evidence of displaying eldership characteristics. However, his wife is awkward and a generally unhelpful influence in the church. Should such a man be considered for eldership? Does the character of the elder’s wife matter? Here are some thoughts:-
- The choice that a man makes of who is to be his wife reveals something about him. A godly man will want to marry someone who is displaying godly desires. If he has an awkward busy-body as a wife it may well reveal a lack of godliness in him. And you must have godly elders.
- If the man has got a disruptive wife it indicates something about how he is managing his home. In 1 Timothy 3:4-5, regarding the qualifications for an elder, we read: He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of fullrespect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?). A disruptive wife probably indicates he is not really managing his home well. This would prompt us to think taht he is disqualified from being an elder.
- On the practical side, for an elder to have an awkward wife is just going to make it difficult to work with such a man. His wife is unlikely to be supporting him in the ministry to which you have appointed him to. This will inevitably lead to all kinds of struggles in him seeking to fulfill his commitment to the church.
So if a man has a difficult and awkward wife it would be an indication that such a man should not be an elder.
(This blog-post based on statements in Q and A session at “Healthy Churches Event” at Duke Street, Richmond on 3rd September 2018)
One of my concerns concerning the presidency of Donald Trump is that of devaluing the office of President of the United States of America. His continual stream of tweets seems emblematic of general conduct which is not fitting of someone who holds such an august position. It seems as though he concluded he got himself into office through his tweets so he will go on in office in the same manner. Yet I am left feeling that dealing with the matters of state deserves more decorum than is inculcated by the tweet culture.
Moreover, the way he refers to people at times just does not seem to have the appropriate courtesy. You can disagree with people vehemently, but that does not mean that you use terms of disdain. Here is one former adviser written-off in a derisory fashion.
It seems that he is just treating the office of President like he would that of a CEO in his organisation. Recruit and hire those who will build the organisation, and if they no longer work for the benefit of the organisation then fire them and besmirch their reputation. It just seems so tacky.
And how can you reasonably conduct the issues of possible nuclear conflict by just referring to the leader of the other nation, namely Kin Jung Un, as “rocket man” and proudly declare that “my nuclear button is bigger than yours?”
This all reminds me of how we are called to be careful of upholding the honour of any office we hold. If you are an elder of a church, for example, your conduct should be becoming of that office. Otherwise it is demeaning of the calling.
The ongoing news-storm ensuing from the Harvey Weinstein antics about the harassment of women in workplaces continues. Here is a further article from today. This leads me into considering how church Elders should interact with women. If we look at the qualifications for eldership 1 Timothy 3:1-7 we see the headlining requirement to be that of being above reproach (v2b). it seems that all the other requirements explain and developed what it is for an elder to be above reproach. An elder therefore is to be of such a character that there is nothing in his life which in any way would cause unease among those who observe his life. One of the critical areas in which this is seen is in his relationship with women. In his conduct towards all women he should be above reproach.
One of the qualifications for an elder is that he is a one-woman man (see 1 Tim. 3:2b). I have written about this term here. An elder is to have focus on the one woman who is in his life. in no way should be give any amorous indications to any other woman. There is a zero-tolerance in this realm. He will readily speak of his affection for his wife in a sensitive and thoughtful way. But by his actions and words he will make no-advances to any other woman. His hands will be “firmly in his pockets”, his eyes will not linger on another woman and his mind will not ponder on what might be if he only could.
One particular area to be thoughtful of here is that of how he speaks about the dress of other ladies. He can and should speak well of the appearance of his wife, but nver never say anything about the dress of another lady; absolutely nothing. Speaking of her dress can cause all sorts of problems: Your wife thinks; “Is he interested in her?”; the woman thinks “Oooh he thinks I’m attractive” and she starts to ponder. And if the woman has a husband; he is potentially incensed by your perceived advances. You cannot be too careful in this realm.
If I could give an exception here though and that is in cases when you may have to approach a lady in church about her dress if she is being too provocative in here attire.
The giving of hugs and kisses needs to be carefully considered as well. Certain cultures see this as more than acceptable. In fact it is part of the norm to act in such a way in many societies. But the elder must be very careful. There may be times in mourning for example when this is not just acceptable, but actually helpful. But caution must be exercised.
It is also good to be careful of being alone with another woman. Age differences and teh expectations of the meeting need to be considered here. So if a lady is coming to see you about her husband’s funeral that is very different to a sister in the church just asking for a meeting without indicating why. Age difference is important as well. But visiting a lady of similar age to you on her own at home when her husband and children are out, to me seems very dangerous. In all thsi it is best to err on the side of caution.
Finally never trust yourself in all these matters. Paul after indicating how teh Israelites failed, addresses the Corinthians and says if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! (1 Cor. 10:12). Many an elder is now wrecked in life and ministry and some have had even their very lives cut short because they did not heed that.
And a finally, finally, make sure you build such a satisfying relationship with your wife that you would never have any thought of “looking elsewhere.”