The Blessings of Elders1
The Blessings of Elders
I recently read an article on the blessings of good elders for a church. It inspired me to write my own. Harvest has been blessed with very good elders. What’s the benefit for the body? What do we gain with good elders? Here’s a few things that come to mind, (I’m sure you can think of others).
Humble and godly men provide an example of authentic, repentant faith.
We would all agree that one of the greatest blessings a family can have is a humble, godly father who leads his family with gentleness and grace and truth all rooted in the gospel. One of the most spiritually devastating realities is a father who professes faith but who is arrogant, harsh, and self-serving. It is exactly the same for the church. Elders are spiritual fathers in the church for good or for ill. Humble elders are able to lead with authenticity because they freely acknowledge their own need for grace. They are able to comfort God's people with the comforts with which God has comforted them (2 Cor 1:4). They can be patient with God’s sheep because they understand how patience Christ has been with them (1 Thess 5:14). They are able to serve as examples to the sheep – not because they are without sin, but because they are eagerly following a great Savior!
Biblically informed men shepherd the body of Christ according to Christ’s desire and will.
God has always called leaders to shepherd his sheep and the spiritual welfare of the flock is always directly related to the faithfulness of the shepherds. The Old Testament prophets thundered against the wicked and worthless rulers of Israel for their failure to care for his flock. When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion on them for they were like sheep without a shepherd. The Pharisees and religious rules were ‘the blind leading the blind’ (Matt 5:14).
Jesus, however, is the faithful and true shepherd who gives his life for his sheep (John 10:11). And he, by His Holy Spirit, raises up men to serve as His under-shepherds. These Spirit-filled (Acts 11:24) and Spirit-called (Acts 20:28) men are a tremendous gift to the church as they lead the flock of Christ to the green pastures of gospel truth and the still, soul-restoring waters of grace.
One of the most critical needs of the church is for pure, gospel preaching and teaching. Biblically informed and theologically astute elders are an inestimable blessing to the body as they give pure spiritual milk to Christ’s sheep (1 Peter 2:2).
Courageous men fend off spiritual wolves and seek out wandering saints.
We all recognize the value of a medical doctor who goes the extra mile to diagnose a disease and labors to bring us back to physical health. How much more should we value those who care for our souls? Elders are called to warn us of teachings that are dangerous to our spiritual health. It takes courage to do such a thing in today’s postmodern climate. Elders are tasked with admonishing us when we have been taken captive by sin. It takes courage to do such a thing. I remember visiting a member with another elder and being rebuked because they could not believe we had the audacity to ask about their sexual life – though they did not deny that they were living in sexual sin. Elders often face anger, threats, and reprimands when they confront someone about their sin. But they still go and still plead for repentance and faith, sometimes with tears because they truly love the sheep and want to honor the Shepherd. The vast majority of this ministry happens privately – the congregation never hears about it. But you should know that it goes on continually.
Wise and honest men oversee the affairs of the church with integrity and transparency.
Elders are called to lead the church in the mundane matters of church organization, finances, and...well, COVID protocols. Someone has to set the direction and make the ‘family rules’. God has called elders to that task. They won’t do it perfectly, but they must do it diligently with their Bible in one hand and the current context of the church in the other. This past year has stretched our elders in ways we’ve never experienced. But, by God’s grace, they are leading, as best they know, for the benefit of the church and the honor of Christ Jesus.
Praying men who seek the Lord’s power and blessings on behalf of the body.
When the apostles decided to first ordain deacons (Acts 6) their motive was that this would free them to “prayer and the ministry of Word” (Acts 6:4). Since the work of the church is spiritual work the great necessity is spiritual power and that only comes by prayer (Mk 9:29). God’s sheep need the ministry of the Word – but the ministry of prayer is what makes that Word effective in the hearts and lives of the people. Elders, then, have this ministry of prayer – praying for wandering children, for struggling marriages, for those trapped in addictions. As they pray in faith, elders become instruments of God’s blessings for the body.
Someday soon (Rev 22:7) we will be the perfected church and won’t need elders (or deacons) anymore. Only then, as we walk the streets of heaven, will we truly understand what an incredible blessing our elders were for our eternal good. I hope it won’t be the first time we stop to thank them.
In His Service,
Pastor Dale Van Dyke