Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Elders By Any Other Name

What does it take to be an acceptable elder before the Lord? The Scriptures give us an idea of what God is wanting. And it isn't to create job descriptions within the church. Although there are different roles that God has assigned, the main goal is always for the strengthening and growth of the church.

Before looking at qualifications and what elders are to do it first takes an understanding of why we need elders in the first place. After all, leadership seems to be a matter of appointment in our world. However, in God's church, it is not about performing a duty or office. It is about being the example of spiritual maturity, and using that influence to help other believers become mature. A potential elder can't help the church mature and grow if he doesn't know what that looks like. But the one who is spiritually mature has understanding, and is an example for those looking to grow in their faith.

Their character should reflect their maturity, and competence. The Scripture details some of the character traits a potential elder is to have, and the type of lifestyle they should exhibit. Sometimes people make the mistake of seeing these as a list of qualifications that need to be checked off. However, even though this isn't true, these guidelines are important. The issue is maturity exhibited in a serious relationship with God. This is beyond just being good guys. It is a person who has shaped his life around God's principles and lives his life that way. It requires a genuine faith expressed in love for God and His people. This person knows where he is going, and why he is here. And Jesus is his life, not his hobby.

When I read the Scriptures I see that God's elder:

  • wants to serve as an elder (1 Peter 5:2)
  • desires continued personal growth and the growth of those he leads (Ephesians 4:11-16)
  • accepts accountability from other elders and members of his church community (1 Timothy 3:1-7; 1 Timothy 5:17-20)
  • is an example of spiritual maturity to the flock in his lifestyle, demeanor, and passion (Titus 1:5-8; 1 Peter 5:2-3)
  • able to distinguish right from wrong, wheat from chaff, and heat from light, and can help others do the same (Ephesians 4:11-16 ; Titus 1:9; Hebrews 5:13-14)
  • prays as a matter of necessity, not special occasions
  • understands that leading means being a faithful follower (1 Peter 5:4)
  • will give his life protecting the flock
  • is concerned with the approval of Christ more than of men
These items should be easy to spot. And the fruit of which will be evident among the congregation they serve within. Their influence (plus their congregation's willingness) will produce growth that is measurable by these same criteria.

To evaluate this, we need to start with ourselves. We must ask ourselves, what deeds or attitudes demonstrate our maturity level? Can I concretely delineate them for myself? As a church, how are we doing? Are we growing in these traits as a body? In what ways are our elders and other leaders concretely demonstrating these traits, or at all, and in what measure? Do we have the courage to make a concrete assessment?

It is easy to agree with the concepts, but another thing to examine the genuine fruit. Let's get serious and grow up.

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