Thursday, April 27, 2017
When Paul wrote to Timothy he gave him the qualifications for a bishop or overseer. The first one was, “He desires a good work.” If you’ve ever served as a bishop, overseer, or elder you might think Paul should have said, “He desires a headache”! Frustration is often the results of that cranial illness.
Paul gave two lists of qualifications, one to Timothy and the other to Titus (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). They are not identical although Paul wrote them about the same time. Titus’ list does not include “desires a good work” nor “not a novice.” Timothy doesn’t include the expression “faithful children.” Timothy’s list has three more than the one received by Titus. Today we harmonized by putting both together. Yet, when Paul wrote, neither Timothy nor Titus received a “P. S.,” saying “put your two list together to get the complete qualifications.”
Once a man is ordained as an elder, he may find himself doing more work as a deacon rather than as an overseer (1 Timothy 3:8-13). Some become an elder because they have an agenda to put in place which either works or creates disappointment or a problem. In an eldership some are leaders and some are followers. Some learn that one elder does not make an eldership. Sometimes preachers go to work with a congregation intent on “improving” or dismissing the eldership. Some come and most go. Some preachers serve as elders. Some good, some not. Some members believe an eldership will always make decisions which they like. Some are ready to bolt when they don’t.
Since the Bible says “Whose faith follow . . .” (Hebrews 13:7) and “Obey them . . .” (Hebrews 13:17), some believe any rule given by the eldership comes straight from heaven. Refuse to follow it and you are refusing to follow God! If members rebel, an eldership is obligated to withdraw from them until they show repentance. This seldom happens. Disgruntled members simply leave to follow another eldership or create one of their own.
The “faith” an eldership follows, which all must “obey” is God’s word. The headaches begin when there is more than one interpretation being offered on a subject. There is also judgment involved in the best way to do something that is needed. Not everyone is on the same page or using the same time schedule. Some feel that “yesterday” wasn’t soon enough for a decision and action to take place. If an eldership is thinking “tomorrow,” a conflict arises. Sometimes a member may believe his judgment exceeds those of the men serving as elders. He wants to dethrone an eldership and rule in their place.
Some decisions are matters of expediency meaning human opinion. Elders are finite individuals and susceptible to mistakes like anyone else. Sometimes they choose door number 1 when 3 would have been better. Some decisions are based upon changing a tradition which some defend as a “thus saith the Lord.” Paul told Titus to ordain men who would stop the mouths of some and rebuke them sharply (1:11, 13). That’s not always easy and may produce unfavorable results. However, sometimes muddy paths lead to higher ground.
Elders spend long hours making difficult decisions which some will not appreciate. They spend hours in prayer for the membership and work of the congregation. They give up their time with family to counsel with others and shepherd the flock (Acts 20:28). This separates them from their spouse and family. Elders are criticized, unappreciated, “under paid,” misunderstood, maligned, treated unfairly, and even condemned. Yet, most serve with dignity, honesty, sincerity, lovingly, and devoutly. Their love for the Lord may be questioned by a few, but it is demonstrated to the rest by the service they give!
Thank you elders!