Having “grown up” in the church for most of my life, I can honestly say that I hadn’t given much thought about what an Elder should look like or act like.
I mean, Elders were those old guys with sour looks on their faces, like they had been baptized in pickle juice, you know…they hung around in the shadows of the church building, coming forward to serve at the Communion Table and sit in those throne chairs left over from the Dark Ages. I never thought of them as “bad guys,” I just didn’t want to hang out with them.
You, too, may suffer from misconceptions about what the role of a biblical Elder is. Manmade traditions have clouded the clear call of God in this matter. To this end, allow me to summarize some thoughts from Dr. Lynn Anderson, president of Hope Network and author of the two volume work, “They Smell Like Sheep.“
Elders are shepherds.
Which, is a good thing in light or Isaiah’s assessment of us when he wrote: “we all, like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way.” We need a shepherd who lives with us, walks with us, feeds, waters, protects us in a hands-on, personal manner. A shepherd is simply there for the flock. A biblical Elder smells like sheep.
A shepherd is committed to the Lord, to the church, to the clear teaching of the Scriptures, and to the people entrusted to his care as an Elder.
A shepherd is trusted. They are followed because they have established that they can be trusted in the good times and the not-so-good times. Shepherds attract flocks through loving service and authentic relationships.
Elders are mentors.
While a shepherd tends the flock, a mentor pulls up along side individuals to model behavior, values, and faith through a shared life. Mentoring is pouring your life into someone else so they become more like Christ. Mentors are models, not moguls lording it over anyone. Elders as mentors are not cowboys driving the herd, or sheriffs “enforcing the law.” Mentors who pour themselves into others often see things in the person they are mentoring that the person being mentored may not see in themselves.
My spiritual mentor, Don Boswell, saw in me the potential to move out of that broadcast journalist mindset and into full-time ministry. 30 years later, I am still living out that vision Don cast before me, and loving every minute of being a minister of the Gospel of Christ.
Elders are equippers.
News flash: biblical Elders do not do all the work of ministry that needs to be done. They cannot do all of the work of ministry that needs to be done. As the flock grows, needs grow, and those needs outgrow the ability of a handful of Elders to handle. So, Elders need to follow the words of Paul in Ephesians 4:11-13, and equip others for works of service. This means that Elders must
Delegate meaningful tasks to others.
Search for the “right fit” for the tasks at hand.
Train them with the skills necessary to accomplish those tasks.
Knowing this is what God expects from Elders, what is our responsibility to our Elders? I am so glad you asked. I will offer some thoughts on that in my next post. Meanwhile, I would love to hear your thoughts on this post. Leave a comment below so we can continue the conversation.