Advice to a New Elder: Introduction

shepherd3I’ve been on leave of absence from the elders at my church for about 2 years. For health reasons. I’m doing better, but I’m still a long way from being able to carry on a full shepherding role.

A friend of mine is about to be ordained elder. Which is a great thing for the church. And so I’m going to repost some old articles about how to be an elder. I might even write a new one or two.

Now, notice carefully that I’m not going to tell you how to become an elder. I get that question a lot. The answer is: if you can’t figure out how to become an elder on your own, you don’t understand people and your church well enough to be an elder. 

There’s a corollary to that rule based on this joke from Groucho Marx: “I’d never join a club with standards so low that they’d take me as a member!” The elder version is: “If you really want this job, you don’t know the job well enough to be qualified for the job.” The men who make for great elders take on the task reluctantly from a sense of calling. The guys who desperately want to add “elder” to their resume or CV are idiots. I mean, if God isn’t calling you to this task, well, you can’t do it on your own. Don’t even try.

One final introductory sort of point: I’m not exactly God’s gift to eldering. I can write. But I’m pretty lousy at visitations and in hospital rooms. Part of the problem is that my arthritis makes something as simple as a hospital visitation excruciatingly painful. Standing in line for a funeral visitation is agony. But I’m also just not real good at that kind of stuff.

And I’ve made quite a long list of terrible decisions. I mean, you learn from experience — from your mistakes — and I’ve learned a lot. I’ll admit some here in the blog. Others have to remain between me and God. But, trust me, I’m well aware of my limitations. Well, some of them.

On the other hand, I did learn a thing or two in about a decade of active shepherding duties, and I’m glad to share what I’ve learned from my mistakes — and maybe that will help someone else avoid the regrets I have to live with.

When you make a mistake, there are only three things you should ever do about it: admit it, learn from it, and don’t repeat it.

— Paul “Bear” Bryant, I Ain’t Never Been Nothing but a Winner

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About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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2 Responses to Advice to a New Elder: Introduction

  1. John says:

    In the movie, The Shoes Of The Fisherman, when Kiril Pavlovich Lakota (Anthony Quinn), the Metropolitan Archbishop of Lviv, is, out of the blue, nominated for Pope by the cardinal who was expected to be elected, Pavlovich stood up and pleaded, “I beg of you, do not do this”.

    Every time I watch this part, it makes me think of how much healthier the church would be if the only people in leadership and in the pulpit were those who, when they heard God’s whisper through whomever and whatever it came, responded, “I beg of you, do not do this”.

  2. John says:

    In the movie, The Shoes Of The Fisherman, when Kiril Pavlovich Lakota (Anthony Quinn), the Metropolitan Archbishop of Lviv is, out of the blue, nominated for Pope by the cardinal who had expected to become Pope, and given overwhelming support by the others, he pleads, “I beg of you; do not do this”.

    Every time I watch this scene it makes me think of how much healthier the church would be if the only people in leadership and in the pulpits were those, who, when they heard God’s whisper through whomever, responded, “I beg of you; do not do this”.

    Of course, even though we do have instances of those who obviously do not belong in leadership and teaching roles, we understand that, for the most part, only God knows the heart and motivation. However, I do wonder how many, after they have set out on their path, beg, “God, please, make me stop!”

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