Your Church Needs Elders!

EldersThe church stands as a beacon of hope in this crazy fallen world. Believers are able to survive the trials and storms of life by depending upon the Holy Spirit who nurtures and sustains their souls through the faithful local church which preaches the gospel and administers the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

God cares very much about the leadership of his church. He does not entrust the local church to someone who may have a penchant for leadership, a lust for authority, or a heart for novelty.

He entrusts the church to elders. Elders are also called pastors or overseers and bishops in the Bible. Though Biblical writes use three terms to describe the office, all three terms refer to one office, the office of elder or pastor.

bible-2110439_1920.jpgIn 1 Peter 5:1, Peter addresses the elders in the church. He does not address the elder but the elders, plural. God designed his church to be ruled by a plurality of men. A quick survey of Acts and the Pauline letters supports Peter’s assumption. Acts 14:23 says, “And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.” Acts 20:17 states,  “Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him.” In 1,2 Timothy and in Titus, Paul tells his sons in the faith to, “put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you.” And in Philippians 1:1, Paul writes to, “To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons.” The local church should be led by elders and served by deacons (Acts 6).

The traditional Baptist model of one pastor leading a church surrounded by a group of deacons may be necessary because the church is new or in a state of ill health. But, the Bible calls for the local church to have multiple elders. The church should be led by multiple godly men who fulfill the requirements of Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3. The presence of multiple pastors protects the church from being destroyed by the sudden impulses of one man and from being dominated by one’s man ideas.

What Do Elders Do?

Peter commands elders to shepherd the flock of God that is among them, by exercising oversight. Peter’s idea of elders and pastors who shepherd is not unique to him.  In John 21:16, Jesus commands Peter to “Tend my sheep.” Peter is commissioned by Christ to shepherd or tend the sheep of God. The elder the pastor is to care for the spiritual needs of the people of God. The elder is called first and foremost to be a preacher. The words of Paul found in Colossians 1:28 should be true of all elders,

Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.

Elders have been appointed by Christ to care for the souls of their congregation by teaching them and warning them so that they may flee from sin, grow in their faith and find hope in Christ as the adversities of life crash into their lives like ocean waves pounding the beach. The elders tend the sheep through preaching. Yes, they also exercise oversight and provide direction for the sheep, translating the gospel into real actions that benefit the sheep. But the elders are under-shepherds who have been charged by God to tend the sheep through the ministry of the Word (1 Tim 4:16).

 How Do Elders Shepherd?

First, elders shepherd “not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you” (1 Peter 5:2). The elders do not have to be forced into the ministry like a Dad who took little league coaching because all the other parents twisted his arm. The elders are also not those who serve simply because no one else will serve. They do not serve because they seek to impress their wives, in-laws, or mentors. The pastors who have been called to pastor do not have to be pushed into the ministry.

No, the good elders are the elders who serve  willingly. The me who are qualified to pastor should already have a heart for people. They should not see counseling, evangelism, and teaching as burdens that have to be done, like some divine honey-do-list. No, the elders should be those who jump at the chance to counsel, share the gospel, and preach. They should be those who seeks to willing serve others.

Second, elders shepherd, “not for shameful gain, but eagerly” (1 Peter 5:2)!  The pastors should not shepherd for dishonest gain. Many men are attracted to the pastorate because they see some of the nominal perks of ministry. They see that the pastor is respected by some men and women. They see people care about the pastor’s opinion. They see that the pastor gets a nice gift for his tenth anniversary. And they say to themselves, “I like that.” I like being noticed and being well thought off. I like getting gifts. I would like having a nice office. I would like having nice things and the occasional conference trip. Brothers do not go into pastor ministry for what you can get.

Rather go into the pastorate because you can do nothing else. Go into it because you heart beats for one thing and that is to see the kingdom go forward by the preaching of the word. Romans 1:15. He says,

So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.

The pastors preach because they cannot help but preach. Title or no title, office or no office, pulpit or no pulpit, the elders will preach and teach. John Bunyan, the man who wrote Pilgrim’s Progress, was a shining example of this truth. When his judges offered to drop the charges against Bunyan if he would promise to stop preaching, Bunyan responded,

If I were out of prison to-day, I would preach the Gospel again to-morrow, by the help of God.

Pastors should tend the sheep because they can do nothing else.

Lastly, pastors are called to shepherd, “not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:3). Pastors are not called to domineer their flock. The word domineer is the same word used in Acts 19:16 when Luke describes the demon possessed man attacking the sons of the high priest Sceva. Luke writes, “16 And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered (domineered) all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.” Brothers, let’s not strip our people of their ideas. Lets not suppress their ingenuity and gospel gifts. Let’s not rule our church as a religious despot, manipulating the church structure to make sure our ideas always win out.  As Christ said in Matthew 20:25-28,

But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant. and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

The pastors are called not to domineer but to serve. They lead people to the truths of the gospel by serving them. advance the gospel by leading his family well, by visiting people in the hospital, by taking time to counsel with his congregation. The faithful elders lead by service.

And they serve willingly because they know their reward is secure. Their reward is not dependent upon the opinions of the old ladies, or of the choir members, or of the deacons. They are rewarded by God. Thus, the pastors willingly, eagerly, and sacrificially press on because God will give them, “the unfading crown of glory” (1 Peter 5:4).

How about your church? Do you have elders? If not, Why not? And if you do have elders, are they shepherding well?

Do Christian Sacrifices Payoff?

We are often tempted to wonder was it worth it? Was it worth it to give up family vacations, newer cars, and our kids’ sports’ careers for the faith? We see our neighbor drive up in her new Lexus, we hear a dad at school talk about his family’s latest vacation and we wonder: Does God notice? The self-centered families seem to be doing just fine while we scrape and pinch to get our kids new shoes. They seemingly have everything that we have given up. What gives?

In Mark 10:28, Peter brings up this very point with Jesus. He points out that he and the disciples have left everything. They have made the sacrifice that the rich young ruler would not make. They have left all for Jesus. They are following him. And now Peter like us wants to know: Does God care?

Thankfully, the answer is an amazing and full yes.  Jesus says,

Truly I say to you there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But the many who are first will be last, and the last first.

Jesus understand that following him carries real cost. People will hate us. We will lose friends because we refuse to get drunk, engage in sexual immorality, and look the other way while our brother defrauds an insurance company. Standing on truth and calling sin evil and calling people to embrace Christ will cost us everything we cling to in this life. The gospel cost John Bunyan, the author of Pilgrims Progress, years in jail. It cost Willaim Wilberforce, who outlawed slavery in England his reputation, health, and wealth. It cost the Atlanta  Fire Chief his job. The gospel has real cost. But it also has real benefits. When we embrace Christ we embrace the people of God.

In Soviet Russia, A pastor was thrown into prison for preaching the gospel. He left behind a wife and two children who were promptly sent to the harsh winter land of Siberia. Having little food and no friends, they cried out to God for help.

A little over 18 miles away, deacon was being divinely awoken from his sleep. He felt God telling him to take food in his church’s recently restocked pantry to first house he saw in the next town over. The deacon argued with God, running over all the dangers, The ranged from the bitter cold to wolves. But still, he felt the Holy Spirit telling him to go. He heard, “You don’t have to come back. You just have to go.” So on faith, he ventured forth. When he got to the cabin, he knocked loudly on the door. He greeted the surprised pastor’s wife and told her, “Our church collected this food for you. Be fed. When this runs out, I’ll bring more.” (The Insanity of God).

This is the beauty of the gospel. God is huge. Following him cost us everything. But God has not forgotten us. He sent his son to die for us. Jesus is the perfect and unbreakable promise from God. He will care for all of our needs not because we are great. He cares for our needs because he is great. He does not do things in accordace with our timing or approved methods. He does things better. He gives us new families and new homes bond together by his love. The family in Russia lost their father and gained all kinds of brothers and sisters in Christ. Following Christ is hard. We lose much in this world but we gain the church. We gain the people of God. That is a great exchange.

But even more than that, we gain eternal life. Sorrow ends. We will be with Christ in heaven. Life may seem hard. It may seem that we are losing. But do not lose heart, God saves. He does the impossible. He will care for us and bring us to heaven.

Consequently, many of the first people that we would place in the kingdom of God will not be there. And many of the drug addicts, wife beaters, porn addicts, greedy swindlers will be there because they have repented and trusted Jesus. They will be there because God saves. They will be there because they have found that true life comes from following Christ.

When we are tempted to despair, when we are tempted to think that we have a sacrificed too much, we must remember that God is good. God has and is and will continue to care for us. Everything we give up will be replaced with something better – the family of God and eternity with God. Our sacrifices our worth it. When we embrace Christ we get more than benefits, blessings, and joy than we could ever imagine. We get the people of God and God himself! 

So is the sacrifice worth it? 

3 Truths From Bunyan That Will Help Our Kids Survive Today’s Intolerant Culture:

religious-intoleration-blogGod never intended for our religion to be a personal, private thing. Yet, we are increasingly told by our society to make it so. Our kids are told to avoid prayer and religious conversation. What is good in the home is now deemed evil when it becomes public discourse. Talking of Christ is deemed to be divisive and hurtful by our culture.

How do we respond? Do we encourage our kids to obey their authorities? Or do we encourage them to rebel and protest?

The pastor and theologian, John Bunyan, faced a similar complaint several hundred years before us. He was encouraged by the legal system of his day to keep his religious beliefs within the confines of his “family.” When he refused to keep his religion to himself, Bunyan was thrown into jail. From his life and testimony, we can learn three things about how to respond to lack of religious toleration in the 21st Century.

1. What is good for the home is good for all:

The soul that clings to Christ will increasingly become more loving, kind, patient, and caring. And since talking about God and the Bible helps knit our souls and character ever closer to God’s Word, we must make it a point to talk of Jesus in our home. And since it is good for us to talk of Jesus in our home, we must be willing to talk about him in our school. Does this mean that everyone will like us? No. Does this mean some will be offended at our words? Yes. But if we truly believe God’s Word has life within it and that it possesses the power to change people for their and our society’s good, then we must share it with others even when teachers and lawmakers tell us not to speak. As Bunyan said,

If it was lawful to do good to some, it was lawful to do good to more. If it was good duty to exhort families, it was a good to exhort others.

2. Don’t hold anyone captive:

Bunyan spoke boldly for Christ. Some estimate that thousands of people would come to hear the tinker’s sermons, which were often delivered in a barn or field. But Bunyan was very clear. He did not force anyone to listen to him. He was gracious to all. As he told his judges,

I shall not force or compel any man to hear me; but yet if I come into any place where there is a people met together, I should according to the best of my skill and wisdom, exhort and counsel them to seek of the Lord Jesus Christ, for the salvation of their souls.

In short, Bunyan did not attack anyone with the Bible. If they would not hear him, he left them alone. But if they would hear him, he would boldly proclaim Christ. We too must respect the wishes of others. If they ask us to let them be, if they ask us to stop sharing Christ, and if they tell us no thank you, we must respect their wishes. But if they will hear us, we must preach Christ. We should always be ready to preach and counsel like Bunyan was. But we must never force anyone to hear us against their will.

3. We must remember our allegiance is to Christ:

If we stand on the gospel, we will not be popular with all people. They will ask us to stop even our respectful communication of truth. Our kids very well may be threatened with bad grades, expulsion from school, or banishment from the starting roster. But when the time comes, we must stand with Christ. This world and all its honors are passing away. If we conform our faith to the will of those around us, we will deny Christ and find only despair. But if we cling to Christ as Bunyan did and experience our own prison sentence, we can trust that God will take care of us. As Bunyan wrote,

Let the rage and malice of men be never so great, they can do no more, nor go any further, than God permits them; but when they have done their worst, We know all things shall work together for good to them that love God.

Our allegiance first and foremost must be to Christ. Are you and your kids ready to follow Him?