One of the biggest challenges facing the Churches of Christ today is how to deal with lousy elders. Of course, many churches have excellent elderships, but there are far too many congregations being held back by weak, ineffective, or downright sinful elders and elderships.
This all-too-common problem has led to several very unfortunate tendencies —
* to interpret passages to weaken the influence of elders (or to overstate their authority)
* to operate outside the eldership, by asking for forgiveness rather than permission
* to turn a youth or campus ministry into a sub-congregation of which the minister is pastor
* for staff to try to push elders incrementally to an unstated goal, rather than work together toward a shared goal
* to operate outside the church, such as by founding a nonprofit organization that could have worked better under the elders, were they effective leaders
* to start new churches in the same town purely to escape the authority of the weak elders
Of course, when the elders really are awful, you do the best you can with the mess you have to deal with. I’m not saying all these responses are necessarily wrong in a given situation. On the other hand, the attitudes many have toward weak elders sometimes become a part of how we think of elders in general, meaning even excellent elderships often find themselves treated as though they were spiritual dead weight.
Moreover, poor eldering has —
* Driven countless good men and women from fulltime ministry
* Cost many their faith
* Split the Lord’s church in countless places and in countless ways
* Destroyed the reputation of the church in many communities
just to name a few of the many problems this problem is causing.
Now, the first step to getting better is to admit our problem, right? The Churches of Christ are long overdue for a frank discussion about how to deal with bad elders.
The solution is easily enough stated. There are three great needs —
* To do a much better job of training elders
* To do a much better job of selecting elders
* To come up with some mechanism for removing bad elders
There. That should pretty much do it. Aren’t you glad you asked? There’s the answer!
Ahh, but it’s not so easy to do as to say, is it? I mean, each one of these problems is very hard to solve. I mean, no one intentionally puts sorry elders in. But we do it every day. And then we have to live with the problem until the guy dies or does something so awful he can be forced to resign.
And so, the next few posts will deal with lousy elders — a problem that won’t go away by pretending it doesn’t exist.