My heart is full. This weekend my church ordained two more elders to join the servant-leadership team. While it might seem strange to rejoice over a seemingly trivial thing — after all, the officers of the church hold lowly positions — I think it good to rejoice in the blessedness of God's perfect plan for His church. We all confess that God designed His Church well, but do we ever consider how great a blessing comes from His perfect plan?
In light of this joyful weekend, I came up with seven blessings that biblical elders bring to their church:
1. The flock has godly men to love the Church.
Biblical elders are servant-leaders whose very heartbeat is to love the church of God. They love the church the most, and lay down their lives for the flock, even as Christ laid down His life for the Church (Jn 10:15). They understand Christ's love for His Church, and as the mirror reflects the sun, they reflect His love by loving those for whom Christ died. Bearing the daily pressure of concern for all the church, they are like Paul, who said, "Who is weak without me being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern?" (2 Cor 11:29) Every sheep in the flock is a recipient of their Christ-like love.
2. The flock has concrete examples of what it looks like to be godly.
Biblical elders exhibit all of the characteristics of mature men (c.f. 1 Tim 3:1-7, Titus 1: 5-9). But you will notice that these characteristics aren't unique to elders; they are commands for all Christians to emulate. When I have biblical elders, I know what hospitality looks like. When I have biblical elders, I know what leading a family for Christ looks like. When I have biblical elders, I know what growing in the knowledge and skill of the Word looks like. When I have biblical elders, I know what gentleness, kindness, self-control, diligence, and faithfulness look like. They are not perfect examples, (nor do they claim to be!) but they can say, as Paul said, "Be imitators of me just as I also am of Christ" (1 Cor 11:1).
3. The flock has godly men, God's instruments, to teach and train the Church.
Biblical elders are men of the Word. They study the Word to share its riches with God's people, that the Spirit would do His work of sanctification. They know that without the Word of God, the Church dies. So they teach other men how to teach other men (2 Tim 2:2) the things of the faith, that the work of the gospel ministry would continue and increase. By their teaching ministry, biblical elders equip the saints for the work of service (Eph 4:13) that we all would be more faithful evangelists, workers, servants, and Christians. They are the instruments God uses to answer Jesus' prayer, "Sanctify them in the truth. Thy Word is truth" (Jn 17:17).
4. The flock has shepherds to defend them from the wolves.
Satan hates the Church of God, and will do everything and anything to steal, kill, and destroy God's people (Jn 10:10). Throughout the centuries, he has loved to subvert the truth by lacing it with lies, often through false teachers, men who are slaves of their lusts and who, if given even an inch, will drive many to shipwreck their faith. Shepherds stand with sling and stone, ready to drive out factious, contentious, licentious, heretical, and arrogant men who would be servants of the father of lies. How blessed is a safe flock! It's hard work fighting wolves; may God give my elders strength and wisdom!
5. The flock has under-shepherds to correct, rebuke, and counsel the Church.
Of course, the dangers to a church come not only from without, but from within. We, being sheep, stray — and stray often. Knowing this, we can confidently say, "What's a sheep without a shepherd? Dead." Christ is our Chief Shepherd, but under Christ are His under-shepherds (1 Peter 5:1-4) that He gives to help the sheep stay on the straight and narrow path. I daresay millions of acts of folly, sin, wickedness, and destruction have been averted by the wise counsel of loving elders. Millions of wandering sheep have been warned and rubuked and saved from self-destruction by loving shepherds. How blessed are those who have (and listen to!) the wisdom of godly men!
6. The flock has elders to learn to submit to.
Although the culture of the world is opposed to all types of authority, I am convinced from the Scriptures that authority used rightly is good — good for those in authority and good for those who submit to that authority. This is true especially among Christians. When I have elders, I can practice humility by submitting to their lead as they follow the Lord. When I have elders, I can grow in the environment of order, stability, and peace that the Lord grants through them. When I have elders, I can let them make the decisions that I don't have the wisdom for, and trust the Lord to work through them. A humble man is a submitted man, but without elders, to whom shall a man submit?
7. The flock has elders to encourage.
When elders rule, their primary calling is the same as all Christians — to be like Christ. They must be above reproach and blameless in all their ways. They must rule willingly and zealously, not under compulsion or in drudgery. They must rejoice in all things, even in difficulty and amidst thankless people. They must be servants not lords, humble not arrogant, hopeful not jaded, reasonable not belligerent, persevering not faltering. It is a difficult task, an impossible task. As fellow-sheep, they are but sinners before their Savior, not heroes nor celebrities. They are godly men, but they are but men.
That's where the church of God has great opportunity. Whenever I ask my elders what we as a church can do to serve them, they invariable say the same thing, "Be a faithful Christian." Why? "Because there is nothing more encouraging, more invigorating, more helpful than for you to be faithfully serving Christ. When we see you serve, we're compelled to serve . When we see you love, we're compelled to love."
True leaders want only one thing from those they lead — for them to follow. Biblical elders want one thing: to see their church following Christ.
So as I said, we, the church, have great opportunity to encourage our elders. How? By babysitting their kids? By praying for them? By cooking them meals, giving them gifts, picking them up from the airport, helping them move, writing them cards of thanks, etc.? Of course. But in all these things, there is but one thing necessary: serve Christ. He is our love. And He is theirs, too.And when we serve Him together, we are blessed, they are encouraged, and we all are a fragrant aroma unto Him (Eph 5:2).
Amen. Soli Deo Gloria.