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.
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.
This, about Jordan Peterson must be worth a read. He gives a commentary on the culture wars in which we are involved. It tells of a man who put his head above the parapet, and not only survived, but prospered. Perhaps more of us should follow his lead.
It tells of a generation, particularly, young men, crying out for foundations and meaning. Moreover, it draws us back into the Christian gospel about where meaning and stability is found.
Not mentioned, but, I suggest, a reasonable deduction from it is the reason many turn to Islam. They see a morally unstable West and a church which has no message and so they look to Islam as a place where morals are strongly defined.
The article stirs me as regards to the verity of the Christian message. It stirs me to stand firm in the great bulwark to our souls, namely the gospel of our Lord Jesus. But I am left warning myself that moralism which embraces decent standards as the way of salvation will never win the day. What we need is the life-transforming gospel of our Lord Jesus which will lead us into these solid foundations and to stability.
I wrote on Wednesday here about how church elders should act respectfully towards women. In this post, with all the ongoing revelations and debate about harassment at work, I want to look at a workplace which was a harassment-free space.
The story of Ruth is a beautiful account of how the grace of God works out in the reality of life. There is a poignant moment in the story when Naomi is made aware by Ruth that she, Ruth, has been working in Boaz’s fields. The dialogue between them contains the following:
Then Ruth the Moabite said, ‘He even said to me, “Stay with my workers until they finish harvesting all my grain.”’ Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, ‘It will be good for you, my daughter, to go with the women who work for him, because in someone else’s field you might be harmed.’ (Ruth 2:21-22).
The clear implication is that Ruth knew that Boaz’s field would be a harassment-free zone. It is interesting that Boaz’s fields were known to be a place where women would be safe. This is in contrast to other workplaces where they may well be in danger. Naomi says “in someone else’s fields you might be harmed (v22b). If you’re an employer Boaz provides an example to emulate; your workplace should be harassment-free. This should also be true of our churches. They should be harassment free spaces and the elder have a key responsibility to make them such.
But how was it that Boaz got to have such a reputation. It was not that he had obtained this through creating a male-free zone. Ruth 2:9 clearly indicates that there were men around in the fields during harvest time. So what were some of the things which fostered a harassment-free zone. Let us loo for them in Ruth 2.
- Boaz was a man of substance. In v1b we read that he was a a man of standing. He was a man of strength and courage; an upright man.
- He created a sense of God in his workplace. Let us observe this interaction: Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters, ‘The Lord be with you!’ ‘The Lord bless you!’ they answered (v4). God was openly and reverently acknowledged on his farm.
- There was an interest in people. Workers were not just numbers on Boaz’s farm. When Boaz enquires of the new girl on the block, the overseer knows immediately who she was (see v.6); he has obviously found out. Moreover, Boaz himself makes enquiries about the girl’s background (see v11).
- Boaz was also proactive in establishing practices which prevented any harassment. He tells Ruth I have told the men not to lay a hand on you (v9b). He did not assume no problems would arise; he took action to make sure no problems would arise.
- It was a caring environment as well. He says to Ruth whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled (v9c)’. Then we see in vv14-16 the detailed arrangements put in place to make sure Ruth was provided for.
Work-place harassment would soon be finished if the pattern of Boaz was followed. Oh what a place this was to work. Boaz had a well-earned reputation.
So if you are an employer or any form of manger are you Boaz-like? Are you creating a harrasmenst-free space for all to work in.
And by the way a lot of this applies to churches. I dealt with how Boaz provides a pattern for how we welcome people in our churches here.
Young believers can have a tendency to not seek out older ones for advice, counsel, wisdom and general assistance. But it should not be this way. In Proverbs we read words like this:-
- Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding. (Prov. 4:1)
- Listen, my son, accept what I say, and the years of your life will be many. (Prov. 4:10).
Implicit in both of these statements is the truth that older ones generally have experience of life and experience of God. Through this they have developed wisdom. This is particularly so for those with “grey hairs”. These sit there in our churches and are reservoirs of assistance for all and in particular to younger ones. So why do younger ones so often just ignore older believers?
- PRIDE. There is the pride of youth. Younger ones think that they have sufficient knowledge to handle life. Such pride is dangerous. Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall (Prov. 16:18) is what the Word of God says.
- NO RESPECT. Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the Lord is the command in Leviticus 19:32. Old people are not respected as they should be in our society and in our churches. As a result they are so often ignored.
- OUT-OF-DATE. Old people are seen as out-of-touch with the modern world and modern ways. The spirit of those youngsters who dismissed Elisha prevails. We read of them: From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some boys came out of the town and jeered at him. ‘Get out of here, baldy!’ they said. ‘Get out of here, baldy!’ (2 Kings 2:23).
However, we do have to say that the problem is not just one-sided. There are ways in which the older saints can deter the younger ones from coming to them.
- CARE. Older believers do not take an interest in younger ones. Scripture shows examples of older ones mentoring younger ones. Moses and Joshua and Paul with Timothy would be examples. When younger ones feel that the older ones are not interested in them they will not seek their counsel.
- DISMISSIVE. Older ones can be dismissive of younger ones, perceiving that they will not be able to contribute much to the kingdom of God. Eli, for example, seems to have been somewhat dismissive of what Samuel was experiencing. we read in 1 Samuel 3:4-5 Then the Lord called Samuel. Samuel answered, ‘Here I am.’And he ran to Eli and said, ‘Here I am; you called me.’ But Eli said, ‘I did not call; go back and lie down.’ So he went and lay down. If young believers are treated n a dismissive way by older believers they are not inclined to respect those older ones.
Finally, I observe that there is often not enough done in the church to cultivate oneness among the people of God. When old and young are regularly sharing their lives then there will be more of a tendency for the younger ones to seek help from older ones.
So both young and old need to work at making sure that we are drawing together for mutual benefit. This will mitigate against there being divisions among us.
There is a growing number of teenagers who are experiencing mental health problems. Here is one article on the matter. This may, to a degree, be because we are more aware of the issue now. It may also be because youngsters are more willing to talk about these things now. However, I want to present two key issues which are generating increased mental turmoil for youngsters:
1. Seeking Identity.
In previous times we used to have to work out our identity within quite fixed boundaries. Our sex was defined, our sexuality was defined and our virginity was maintained until marriage. So children could grow up with that framework and find their identity therein. There were cases where this caused distress, but this was quite limited. Now all three of these are up for grabs. You have to decide when and with whom you will lose you virginity and you have to pick and choose about your sexuality and sex. It is moral mayhem and it is leaving many casualties in its wake.
2. Social Media.
The whole matter of mental trauma is intensified by the fact that youngsters are living their lives in an online culture. They are not even allowed to explore their identity in their own private space. Everything is now out there on social media and the exploration of identity is done in front of others. So all know whether or not I am having sex, and all know about my struggles in gender defining and sexual orientation.
No wonder our youngsters feel confused. As parents we need to respond wisely to all this. Obviously we create and implement a biblical frame for these things. And we need to help them handle social media. I don’t begin to be able to give definitive advice on the social media issue. But I do know that it is a whole lot easier when a biblical frame for sexuality and identity is in place.
The young and old need each other. They need each other whether that be in society, in the family, or in the church. As a general principle the older have the wisdom and the younger have the vigour. However, one big problem is that both young and old are often distant from each other. In the church this should not be so.
One way in which the younger can bridge this gap and bring great joy to the older is through taking an interest in them. I believe that younger people just don’t realise how much blessing they can bring to older people through very simple things. A visit for example can be so special for older ones. This is particularly the case for those who rarely get out and therefore can be very lonely. Sometimes it is a phone call that can bring much encouragement to someone. Just a little thoughtfulness can bring much blessing to an older person.
So younger people think about how you can bless others. A little time and effort from you can achieve much good. Of course a key to bringing this good into the lives of others, is to make sure that you are praying. Pray about what you do so that you can effectively use your time to bless others.