Ephesians 4:11, 1 Peter 5:1-4, Acts 11:30, Acts 14:23, Acts 15:2, Acts 20:17, Acts 20:27, Philippians 1:1, 1 Timothy 1:5, and, the longest and most well know scripture regarding Elders outside of Titus being 1 Timothy chapter 3. I would also like to add to this list Matthew 20:25-27 as Jesus' example of how Elder's should approach their position.
These verses all share the following things (I encourage you to look yourself):
Elders are a necessary part of Church life. They are to provide leadership, encouragement, direction, exemplify the Christian walk, be attentive, available, cool headed, and wise. They are not pushy or domineering or quarrelsome- they do not lead with an iron fist, but with servant's heart. They are to take up their yoke of eldership with passion and by choice - not compelled and offered no financial gain in return. They are to be ever mindful that they too were once 'unsaved' like everyone they ever come in contact with and that now they are recipients of God's grace and mercy (while still being sinners... like everyone they come in contact with).
Review the following 3 sections of scripture:
1 Timothy 3:1-7
If anyone wants to provide leadership in the church, good! But there are preconditions: A leader must be well-thought-of, committed to his wife, cool and collected, accessible, and hospitable. He must know what he's talking about, not be overfond of wine, not pushy but gentle, not thin-skinned, not money-hungry. He must handle his own affairs well, attentive to his own children and having their respect. For if someone is unable to handle his own affairs, how can he take care of God's church? He must not be a new believer, lest the position go to his head and the Devil trip him up. Outsiders must think well of him, or else the Devil will figure out a way to lure him into his trap.
Compare it to Titus 1:5-9
Appoint leaders in every town according to my instructions. As you select them, ask, "Is this man well-thought-of? Is he committed to his wife? Are his children believers? Do they respect him and stay out of trouble?" It's important that a church leader, responsible for the affairs in God's house, be looked up to—not pushy, not short-tempered, not a drunk, not a bully, not money-hungry. He must welcome people, be helpful, wise, fair, reverent, have a good grip on himself, and have a good grip on the Message, knowing how to use the truth to either spur people on in knowledge or stop them in their tracks if they oppose it.
And now look at how Jesus portrayed leadership:
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Now, some of you may wonder why I am writing a blog about Elders.
Let me make this very clear: because I believe we have Elders who embody and embrace exactly what they are called for. Let me share a little of what's been on my heart for sometime now:
As you know,
(those who attend Highland View Church of Christ in Oak Ridge, TN - those who follow this blog who do not, thank you and I encourage you to view these writings as notes on your own Elders and promote your deep thinking towards your thoughts and relationships towards your own Elders)
Erin has been working at the church for some time now. Prior to that, my knowledge of our elders was ignorance. I just didn't know, and for the most part, I didn't really feel that it concerned me much either. During Erin's tenure I came to find that many of my perceptions that I had of the Elder's were dead wrong. Again, let me reiterate, my stance was one of ignorance (as well as hearsay and assumptions which can be clearly summed up as: ignorance), and in my head I had the model of the "Iron Fist". All decisions must pass through the Elders who would then sit quietly in dark meeting rooms, locked away in secrecy to weigh out their thoughts on the matter before passing judgement. Then I got to see Erin's dealings with these men. Erin would mount the courage to to go to them about some idea she had, she would draw up a plan, dot all her i's cross all her T's, suit up in her bullet proof vest and march into the hallowed halls (ie... the Library). When she got there, at first coming in with many of the same ignorant pre-conceptions as I, she would make her pitch, sink back into her chair to await the gavel only to hear these men, with joy and pride in their voices give only one reply: "go for it!".
Our hearts and attitudes began to change and we began to judge those preconceived notions against the reality that we were now seeing and... came up wanting. And to clarify, they weren't passing the buck with "go for it" they were giving an endorsement of "God has laid it on your heart, we can see your passion for it, we can feel the spirit at work - don't let us get in the way!"
Since I have come on staff and been privy to those dark, secret meetings I have found out first hand they are anything but (there's not even a gavel!). I see these men before me saying "go for it" from their hearts. I see men with a deep desire to see this church and it's members flourish, be filled with life, and reach this community and our world at large with the love of Jesus Christ. They are supportive. They welcome any idea from any member that is thought out, considerate, and Love and Grace focused. Is their a budget? yes, and there are hard truths to those numbers (and one hard truth is that on paper we take in less then ever and support more programs then ever and do desperately need the help of all of us in this body), but it is never a stopping point to God's plans! What has brought huge respect from me is the fact that once the Elders see God at work in something, they do not hesitate - regardless of how their plant management brains think ;)
they Lead with their hearts.
Consider that the elders are burdened (yoked with Christ) to make every decision they are faced with while considering every member of this church body. A church body that includes rich and poor, 20 somethings and 90 somethings, married and unmarried, those who grew up in the church, those who are new to the faith, those who have always attended the Church of Christ and those who grew up baptist, methodist, or otherwise, people with babies, with teenagers, with grandkids, and who have never had kids, people with education varying from middle school to multiple Ph.Ds, people involved with everything everytime the doors are open, and those who come on Sunday morning and those are just a few of the millions of variables that face every decision -
consider that if "unity" was your primary focus and you were responsible for making decisions for that group! With that said, wisdom is of paramount importance. Cool heads, calm thoughts, and rational thinking must prevail and our elders have great strength in those regards. Many times considering things on decisions that haven't even crossed my mind - and thereby teaching me, by example, exactly as they are purposed.
On this note, remember how I mentioned that in the beginning I really didn't see how the elders (what they did, who they were,) even concerned me? How the elders should concern all of us, whether we are involved with decisions or programs or not, is prayer. Our elders need our daily prayers for what God has appointed them to steward.
Erin and I have had nothing but support and encouragement and that is what has allowed God to do such wonderful amazing things in this body. Ask anyone in ministry and they will tell you that the strength of faith and love of the Eldership dictates their ability to succeed. I couldn't agree more - and in our case, it allows for following God - where ever He chooses to lead us.