I often mention the great need for real church leaders and I would like to concentrate on that at the start of 2013. Scripture details the requirements for the two kinds of leaders that God requires, elders and deacons. The elders do the spiritual work, as detailed by the apostles in Acts 6 when deacon work was also initiated. They saw the need to concentrate on prayer, study and teaching, but in addition, we see the other vitally important aspect of pastoral care, John 21;15ff.
The two lists of requirements, [1Tim 3 & Titus 1] make an interesting point about the ‘respect’ that leaders should have, elders are respected by their family, from within the church and from outside the church, the community they live in, their work place, etc. If church elders do not have respect, they are wasting their time. Respect has to be earned! This raises the question of the choosing of elders and scripture gives no backing for votes, or elections, let alone some dictate from HQ. Each church is responsible for ‘recognising‘ its own elders, God raises them up from within; possibly, but not always, from the team of deacons; so it is in the very long process of ‘becoming an elder’ that this respect is earned. And, not all deacons become elders, as elders must be proficient to teach the Word; not so deacons.
An old problem in churches where this pattern has been more or less kept, is that elders were deemed to be elders for life; no, it is a work to do, not an office to hold, scripture is clear on that too! One of the major works of the Oversight [the team of elders], is to recognise the gift given to each member of the church and get it operating; especially potential elders.
Deacons are very important and notice that the spiritual requirements for them is very demanding too, but this is the administrational work, the organising of the day to day running of the church. Another old problem was that elders thought that the treasurer and the secretary should be elders, but no, that is deacon administration. There must be a good ‘interface’ between the elders and deacons, they must work together closely, and pray much too!
Prayer will characterise elders! They will spend much time, individually and collectively, as they seek God’s help to guard the church. Pastoral care will be the main means of guarding the church, they will know the church, almost intimately. In a large church, the pastoral care will have to be organised very carefully and a large team of pastors will have no more than about 50 members to care for. I like to think of it as – elders having their ‘finger on the pulse’ of the church! They will know the problems, the hurts, the hopes and aspirations of all those in their care.
Pastoral care will be a well organised, regular visitation program and each member will need to be be seen at least twice a year; some far more! It’s far more than sick visiting! Elders will have the gift of discernment to be able to identify failure in members; this is the quest for holiness and unity and the main reason for the need of so much prayer!
Elders will lead the way in regards to church fellowship, they are required to be hospitable, 1Tim 3;2, and their homes will be ‘open doors’ for all the church and youth in particular! When will we learn that ‘services’ are only a small part of church fellowship? Fellowship is a natural outcome of the love among the church, if you love people you want to be with them as much as possible; see Acts 1-5; elders foster this!
This fellowship will even extend to those pastoral visits, they will not be ‘kit inspections’ or ‘police interrogations’, they will be times of happy fellowship and members will look forward to them and be blessed by them. Pastors are shepherds who care and feed the sheep and the lambs, John 21. Elders will have an easy ability to open the word of God, ‘beside the fire’ and teach on a one to one basis, which will be a thrill to those who listen and participate.
That gift of discernment will also be vital in knowing who in the church are the Pretenders, the false seed of Matt 13:24ff. That is relatively easy when the true are bearing fruit, Pretenders don’t. In times as now when barrenness characterises most churches, this is a real problem, more so because consistent barrenness shows that the leadership has failed completely!
All elders will be examples of the Christian faith and walk, they will be characterised by humility; so new people coming to services will not immediately ‘see them’! They might not be public men at all, those pastors will not be obvious, until the visitation takes place! Elders might not be evangelists, that is a separate gift. Elders will be gentlemen, not greedy, not argumentative, not ostentatious, not bigamists, not a new convert and the great need will be for them to be able to say like Paul did three times, quietly, and more so by their ‘walk’ – imitate me as I imitate Christ! Elders, like eastern shepherds, lead the flock from the front and the sheep know their voice and follow them, John 10; yes they are under shepherds following the Great Shepherd of the sheep!
There will be unity in the Oversight team, there might be one or two who seem to be the ‘main men’ but they are – ‘one among equals’ – and they will not force their ideas and Biblical interpretation on the team, much prayer will provide the wonderful equilibrium.
Great blessings and fruitfulness will accompany a church with an effective and united Oversight and God will be be glorified among his people; this will also be evident in the community, 1Cor 14;24. That is what should be our goal – God, seen as God in the community and feared. When He is seen, then He is feared, quite naturally and that will happen in the church before it happens in the community! That’s leadership inspired revival!