Although sexual predators are likely the most common type of church predator, there are other predators that the elders/shepherds should be diligent to protect the flock from.
The obligation of elders to protect the flock from false teachers is the best attested duty in the NT. For example,
(Tit. 1:9-11 ESV) 9 [An elder] must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. 10 For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. 11 They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.
(1 Tim. 3:2 ESV) 2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, …
A man is not qualified to be an elder unless he can teach. This doesn’t mean that he can stand up and ask questions from the Gospel Advocate Quarterly. He has to be able to refute error — especially the works salvation taught by the circumcision party. In other words, legalists aren’t qualified to be elders. Men who consider legalism acceptable are not qualified either. Continue reading
Christopher J. H. Wright includes in the church’s mission “justice (transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and pursue peace and reconciliation).”
This requires some unpacking as well as some boundary setting.
First, I don’t want to wander off into yet another long discussion on pacifism, which we’ve covered here many times. I’m not sure it’s a fair reading of scripture to be against “violence of every kind.” But today is not the day to try to draw that boundary precisely.
The USA is not the Kingdom
Second, applying biblical principles to modern society is far harder than many imagine. For example, the modern analog to Israel is not the United States of America. It’s the church. The countless warnings and condemnations leveled by the prophets at corrupt government in Israel are targeted toward a kingdom ruled by God — not a secular state. But since the Kingdom of Heaven is not an earthly kingdom, the analogy doesn’t always hold. Not every command or warning can be applied to the Kingdom in its present state. Continue reading
The scriptures refer to elders as shepherds and as overseers. The idea of a “shepherd” carries certain connotations that we often overlook.
I think the foremost idea behind “shepherd” is not that the elder must take on pastoral duties (although I agree that he should), but that an elder’s foremost responsibility is to protect the flock. After all, in the ancient world, the role of the shepherd was, among many other things, protection of the sheep against predators. Continue reading
Repeat after me:
I will not use people in an effort to save them.
I will not use people in an effort to save them.
Got it? Jesus never used people. He never objectivized or instrumentalized them. He loved them even when he knew they wouldn’t be converted or even say “Thank you.” But neither was he an enabler. The people he helped really needed help. Continue reading
Don’t overlook the ministers. Some elders (not at my church) look at the preacher and think, “I’m an elder and you’re not!” Bad idea. Yes, the church is supposed to be overseen by the elders and not the ministers, and no, we’re not supposed to turn it all over to the “pastor.” But if the elders don’t delegate, the church will never grow beyond an institution manageable by part-time volunteers. And that’s not very big. Delegate, but don’t abdicate.
The ministers have extensive training in ministry, which most elders don’t enjoy. They are full-time employees. And the reason they’re in ministry is they’re passionate for God and his mission. Continue reading
Christopher Wright next lists “compassion (respond to human need by loving service)” as an essential element of the church’s mission.
Now, this is easily shown true from the Torah, the prophets, and the NT. Jesus certainly demonstrated it in his ministry, and he taught it in his parables.
In modern church life, we tend to reduce this to the benevolence program, and figure that the key question is whether the church does benevolence at some minimally acceptable level. That is, while we see evangelism as what converted people should be all about, we see benevolence as merely a means to an end, that is, evangelism. We measure the effectiveness of our benevolence, not in terms of people helped, but baptisms. Continue reading
Pray. We all sometimes get too busy to pray as we should, and this is always a mistake. Make the time.
There’s always one elder who just loves to stop the conversation and insist that everyone stop to pray. He’s right.
Keep your priorities straight. The family counselors make a point of telling husbands and wives that keeping their marriage healthy is more important than worrying with the kids. That is, you can’t be good parents unless you’re first good husbands and wives.
Just so, you can’t be a good elder without first being a good husband and father. It’s okay to miss an elders meeting to take care of family needs. Don’t let your family come to resent the time you spend on church matters. Continue reading
In a later post, Mark Love adds to his thoughts on evangelism —
So, one of the points I’ve tried to make in this series is that if you think the driving question of Scripture is, “how can an individuals be forgiven for their sins?”, then relationships with individuals tend to be instrumentalized. That is, others become prospects defined around an abstract identity, “sinner.” We become salespeople, who at some point, to be effective, must isolate the other in their status as sinner. … So, all we have then is the heaven/hell card.
It’s true, and I confess that I’ve long felt uncomfortable with our traditional approaches to evangelism for this reason — going back to high school. This is not a Church of Christ problem. It’s a problem shared by all American Protestants, especially evangelicals but also Fundamentalists. We are Americans, and so we see the gospel as something to sell — and the lost as potential buyers. And the result is to dehumanize our relationships with non-Christians. And the Sermon on the Mount is all about not objectifying people. Continue reading
I’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. Continue reading