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