Two years ago I was incredibly frustrated at how church elders were selected, and who was selected. Nothing personal about the selection committee, nor of the candidates. It was not a personal issue. It was a matter of discernment, of obedience to God’s plan for his church, and for how he has deemed leaders are selected. It is a humbling thought that most of us are not leadership…. and more humbling is that the choice of who is prepared, seasoned, honed and ready to obey God in a leadership role often does not see it that way.
This frustration sent me back to deep study, to discern what God calls leaders, what they look like, how they are developed, and how they are recognized. Big surprise – the method and the process were nothing like earthly ways. In the Bible it was the known leaders gathering in prayer, asking for discernment, while reviewing the lives of possible candidates. I found a wonderful recap of the concept of elder published by John Piper.
While it seems that some sort of selection group gathered, and names were raised for elder, did they lay them before God and ask for clarity? Two years ago one of the elder candidates was on the surface wonderfully skilled at teaching and a holder of an undergrad degree from a christian college, but if you watched that life, how they handle their own self, their family, their work?.There were a lot of alarms raised. Perhaps i was closer to the situation, having known them for a decade, and having watched them struggle with their marriage, and life issues. My objections were met with response that I was wrong, or my thinking was flawed. (Yes, that is always possible, but on this one i know what i was watching for 10 plus years. ) And while my heart was heavy to see the end result, i was not surprised that within 6-8 months he crashed hard and burned to a crisp under the weight of the elder-ship.
I never wanted to say “I told you so” but i certainly could! And as a result we went 2 years without that office filled. The role of elder was shouldered by less people, and growing demands.
God has framework and ways of living documented to us for reasons. He is far more wise than any committee or group of humans will ever be. And it seems that the role of elder is one of great weight of responsibility – one must know God’s word, be qualified, and humble, willing to help people through difficult things with strength, wisdom and character.
This year the choices were interesting. There is a clear pattern of who influenced the decisions, which raises a great concern for the overall health of the church. I hope i am wrong, but alarms are raised again for one of the men chosen. It seems that was yet another choice of the “committee” to overlook or pay no attention to the documented qualifications of the office, ensuring they match with the character and history of the person. But I open my hands, throw them to the sky and say “Lord, this is your church. You are building it, not me. You choose to bless us with wise and strong leadership, or withhold this and give us weakened leaders… yet it is you that is in charge, not a committee, or a person. Have your way, take this burden from me, and show me how to pray for them.”
And that brings me to the article i wrote two years ago…. still valid, still practical, and still critical for body health:
The committee has met, the votes are tallied, and now a new leader (elder/deacon) has been decided upon. Were the decisions unanimous? Were there lingering wonder about their fit for the work? What are we required to do?
1. Pray – pray daily that the Lord will have his hand upon the man:
- Protection – from the attacks of the enemy
- Wisdom to make correct decisions
- Strength for the work
2. Encourage – when possible try to encourage them
3. Watch – watch as the leader steps up…. will they bring a humble heart, yielded to God, or will we see misuse of power? Watch and pray
In the crucible of position character will reflect the truth about the person… whether they a re established, rooted and grounded, and able to lead. Or not. We are obligated to pray for our leaders, asking God to reign over all, sovereign, holy and with all wisdom.
“Lord, we bring our leaders to you. May you always watch over and protect them. May you grant them your wisdom, your spirit of leading, and always a teachable spirit. May they lead well, with strength and power of your spirit, direction from your word. May you give deep insight into the building of your kingdom, and use these leaders for your glory. Amen”
To this i have a few things to add to my prayer:
“Lord, First I ask that you will grow up these men that our congregation call elders…. give them strength in your word, soundness of character, protection from the arrows of the enemy and yielded teachable spirits toward you. and Second, I pray for any intentions, engineering, personal gain, or other reasoning that may have come to mind in this decision- may you break down all that is not of you, and may you teach our church how to live by your word in powerful obedience. May your power rest in strength on our leaders…. make them strong, discerning, capable and wise. May you break down any weapon the enemy brings to try to weaken or destroy us. And for the future practice of selecting elders, may you begin raising up men who love you, know you, already have withstood seasons of trial, and remain focused on you. Only you can raise leaders, only you can build your church so that the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Have your way.” Amen