A church has a good eldership, except one elder really doesn’t belong. He should never have been ordained. Experience shows that he really doesn’t have the qualities of a shepherd/overseer/elder and the giftedness from the Spirit for the task.
Most elderships naturally prefer to act by consensus. This man’s worldliness constantly hinders the process. Time is wasted and energy consumed because he has a strong personality and is a master of argumentation.
The other elders will ultimately outvote him, but they feel that he’s entitled to be heard — and so his presence makes meetings miserable. Worse yet, he often acts unilaterally, announcing positions as though coming from the “elders” when he really only speaks for himself. This causes no end of embarrassment.
The other elders consider laying a charge against him, following the text cited in the last post, with two or three witnesses, but would prefer a less formal, kinder way to deal with the problem. After all, this isn’t so much a sin issue as a not-qualified-to-be-an-elder issue.
What do they do?
Here are some thoughts –
* Ask him to resign. Frankly, if I were the bad elder, I’d far rather my brother elders look me in the eye and ask me to resign. If they would man up and do this, I’d resign.
* Of course, some bad elders are just arrogant and stubborn enough to refuse to resign. I find that attitude incomprehensible, but I’ve seen it happen (not at my home church).
In one case, the other elders responded by resigning — leaving the church with just one elder, who lost his office because a church can’t have just one elder! I thought it was pretty smart — and a great example of the power of humility. If you’re willing to give up your office to protect the office, humility defeats arrogance.
* Some elders have brought in outside conflict resolution experts to help them work through the problem. The universities affiliated with the Churches of Christ often have conflict resolution experts who will gladly help a church work through these kinds of issues. I know that Pepperdine, Abilene, and Lipscomb offer this service. Maybe others do as well.
It’s surprising how the presence of an out-of-town expert can sometimes bring a man to see reason even though he’s unwilling to listen to his own fellow elders. After all, he may have built up a defense mechanism assuming the other elders were biased. An outsider can sometimes take the local politics out of the equation.
Of course, the problem is much more difficult if most or all of the elders need to be removed. This is, quite frankly, a very tough case.
I have the advantage of having first learned about church
politicspractical ecclesiology in a church where the only two elders both needed to be removed.
This was many years ago, and so the issue was dealt with in a “men’s business meeting.” The leadership scrupulously refused to hear any charge that had only one witness or that was solely rumor — regardless of how credible.
They narrowed the accusations to serious sins against the church with two or three witnesses. They then met with the elders and began the Matthew 18 process.
Very quickly, the elders saw that the congregation would surely vote to remove them. Matthew 18 triggers not only a public rebuke but disfellowship! (Which is why Matthew 18 doesn’t really apply to a non-qualification issue — it’s not grounds for disfellowship.) The result was a series of discussions that led to a much healthier eldership and the resignation of the minister, who’d used his influence to put these unqualified men into office.
Two of the ablest men in the church refused to participate in the Matthew 18 process. They knew that they would be candidates to become new elders, and so for the sake of appearance, stayed entirely out of the process. I think this was uncommonly wise.
It worked, and it was not easy. It took rare courage for a couple of younger men to organize the business meetings (there were several) and confront the elders despite the support the elders enjoyed from the minister. But the actions of these men dramatically changed the church, and transformed a very unhealthy congregation into, eventually, a great congregation.
The talent and potential was there. All that was missing was the leadership. And godly leadership could not step in until inadequate leadership was removed.