In last week’s Family Page article I recounted some of the thoughts from my sermon on May 18th, focusing on the actions, attitudes and applications from the term elder. In this article we’ll remind ourselves of the some of the same qualities based on two other terms, overseer/bishop, and shepherd/pastor.
An elder is an OVERSEER. This is the term “bishop.” Bishops OVERSEE the life and ministry of the church. There is a difference between “overseeing” what is done and “doing” everything yourself. Overseers delegate, granting responsibility and authority to trusted servants who lead the various ministries of the church, and holding them accountable to perform these important tasks in ways that honor Christ and serve the church. Bishops should ask themselves, “Are we equipping and empowering and holding accountable our deacons and other ministry leaders in order that they might be able to accomplish their tasks?”
An elder is a SHEPHERD. This is the term “pastor.” Elders serve as EXAMPLES, and are overseers and shepherds of God’s flock, the church. Shepherds lead the flock in love. While elders do make decisions at times as they oversee church life and work, even this part of their role flows out of the more crucial responsibility of being involved in the lives of the sheep in genuine love and concern and service. As Lynn Anderson says in his book, shepherds “smell like sheep.” Shepherds should ask themselves, “Do we smell like sheep?”
As we prayerfully select elders, we must focus not just on qualifications, but on QUALITIES. We must select not simply men with certain characteristics, but men of CHARACTER. What elders do is a direct result of who and what they are. Elders are good men who have a close relationship with Christ, the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:1-4). Elders are men of prayer. They are trusted and respected leaders within the congregation that they faithfully and humbly serve. Elders are bishops who oversee the life and work and ministry of the church they serve. They do not lord it over others or do their work for them. Rather, in humility they equip and empower others to perform the ministries the church needs them to do (Eph. 4:1-16). Elders are shepherds who genuinely love and care for the church, for each family, for each individual member. Elders are shepherds that, well, shepherd. All of us as a part of the Church of Christ at South Fork, sheep within this flock of God’s people, should pray regularly for our leaders, and do everything we can to make their ministry a joy and not a burden (Heb. 13:17). Pray every day, throughout this selection process, for the Holy Spirit to guide our every move each step of the way.
This Sunday I will share some thoughts from the marathon I ran this week. Interestingly enough, church life, ministry, shepherding, high school, life—all have some connection here. The apostle Paul put it this way.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3)