If pastors let it, vocational ministry can be a very lonely world. You can probably imagine some of the burdens pastors carry and the ways they are often open to attack and criticism. Do not get me wrong, I love you and it is my joy to be your pastor, but I have learned over the years that if I don’t walk with some others and embrace the freedom of letting a few people into my heart and life I will quickly feel the constrictions of a weighty calling. This is one of the many reasons I am grateful to God for my fellow elders in our church. They are a band of brothers that God has given as a gift to the Our Saviour church family.
A plurality of elders, some financially supported for full-time ministry in the church and other men who maintain their vocations while working as elders is God’s intention and was the Apostles blueprint for the church (Philippians 4:15-18; Titus 1:5; also see The Church: The Gospel Made Visible by Mark Dever, pages 58-59). So, we too have called elders, some as staff members, some are laymen. Elders shepherd the people, guard the doctrine, and oversee the church as humble servant-leaders. They are men who must meet the qualifications outlined in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:6-9, and 1 Peter 5:1-3. Our elders have had their doctrine tested, their ministry evaluated, and been made available for public scrutiny. Through all of that, they prayed along with current and former elders, asking God for His will to be done, for each of us to have discernment, and for the fame of Jesus’ name in our community. Then, when they had been assessed, trained, and tested, our church family affirmed their call to eldership. But, that is only the beginning. Once those steps are completed, then the work begins. And, there is so much work to be done. Good work, but lots of it. That’s why I’m grateful that God has given our church elders, not just one elder.
I have a hard time deciding what I am most grateful for, the fact that our elders serve daily on their own or that they give up significant portions of several nights a month to serve together. Elders pray for our church daily. We pray for individuals and families by name. We pray for the spreading of the Gospel and the protection of our flock. Many days we talk with people from our church. We counsel, encourage, or teach them from the Word of God. I love that it happens every day. Then there are those nights, when we come in and joke for a few minutes about how it looks like we signed a sponsorship deal with Apple (7 guys had 9-10 products on the table a couple of weeks ago), but soon we are busy. We read the Bible and share what it proclaims about God. We bear one another’s burdens in prayer. We pray for you by name (everyone in our church family at least once per year). If there are difficult circumstances, we ask God to use us to minister in them. When decisions need to be made and there is disagreement we don’t vote, we step back, pray, and ask God to give us unity. These men put in the work for the glory of God (especially those who have other professions). Sometimes when we leave meetings, we are able to say they began yesterday (although, we’re trying to work on that).
Jesus is the good shepherd and we follow Him. As we do that, I am thankful for my fellow under-shepherds, men who love God, His Word, and His Church. This Sunday we will continue a crucial series of messages in the life of our church by talking about the role and importance of elders. The flow of these sermons is intentional. Last week, we talked about the nature of the Church, what it is and is not, and the importance of the local church. From that, we see that Jesus is the true head of the Church and its Chief Shepherd. As we are gathered into local fellowships we are given shepherds under Him to encourage and strengthen us to pursue Him. We will not understand the rest of what a local church should be, biblically, unless we have a firm grasp of the shape God gives it. This week, we will look at its leadership from elders and next week we will see God’s heart in gathering a church’s members. Please make it a priority to be in worship with our church during these next several weeks. I believe God has much He wants to show us and many ways He will shape us through His Gospel. I am excited for it to happen together with you!
For the sake of His name,