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22nd July 2012
The Bible talks about "elders" leading God's people – they're also called shepherds, overseers, pastors and bishops. But what is an elder? Firstly, he is a man called and gifted by God to lead the church (see Ephesians 4:11 and Acts 20:28); secondly, he is qualified – his character shows that he is ready for the role (1 Timothy 3:1-7); he's also a man of courage, knowing that the buck stops with him, which is why the apostle Paul says to Timothy that it's "a noble task" (1 Tim. 1:3).
So, an elder is a man picked by God (not by a vote) to lead the church into world mission. Jesus builds his church – he is the chief shepherd – but he chooses elders as his 'under-shepherds'. That's why the apostle Paul goes on to say that "elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honour" (1 Tim. 5:17).
Elders should lead humbly, casting vision and setting the course, praying for God's people under their care, caring for them, guarding, guiding, correcting – even confronting when necessary, preaching and teaching, being fair and eager to serve.
We live in a society that is almost allergic to authority! Our culture doesn't seem to value it. We see authority often abused, and so we stop valuing and trusting it. But that's not God's view of authority – he does value it: in fact he created it for our protection and good! God places elders in spiritual authority over us and then says that when they direct the affairs of the church well, we are to respond with "double honour" towards them.
What does this mean, practically? We see from 1 Timothy 5 that it means we support them financially – elders work really hard and "the worker deserves his wages", as well as in prayer, showing encouragement and support, honouring with our words, submitting to their authority (Hebrews 13:17), and not entertaining an unproven accusation. However, if an elder sins, Paul takes that seriously, saying he must be publicly rebuked.
It's never to our advantage to have burdened and stressed leaders; if we have healthy, happy elders, we will have healthy and happy churches. Good elders bring great security to their churches. As PJ Smyth says: "A church can operate without a building, without tea, without a manner of ministries, but it can't operate without elders… You can't have healthy, vibrant churches without healthy, vibrant leaders." (The World Needs More Elders)
Verses: 1 Timothy 5:17-25
Food for thought:
Posted by Santino Hamberis