In my previous post, I discussed what a biblical Elder should look like (or smell like), citing work done by Dr. Lynn Anderson on this matter. Elders are shepherds, mentors, and equippers. Knowing that, how should I react, and how should I relate to my Elders. Let me suggest a few items for consideration and prayer.
First, we need to pray for our Elders daily. These men are under the call of God to lead the flock of which we are a part. The least we could do for them is to pray.
We need to be willing to be mentored and equipped for works of service. I would dare say that we should look for areas of service where there is a need, and where we have skills to help meet that need, and VOLUNTEER to take care of that area. We need to let our Elders know that we are with them.
Dr. Anderson asserts and I agree that we can help our Elders by shepherding flocks ourselves. At Vero Christian, we call those flocks “Life Groups.” Our Life Group leaders shepherd the people in their group. If there is that rare shepherding need that arises needing an Elder’s attention, this need is reported to the Elders. Otherwise, the Life Group leader and his group members handle the shepherding needs of the members of their group. This is a TREMENDOUS blessing not only for the people in the Life Group, but for the Elders as well.
We all play the role of shepherd to someone. Whether it is raising your children in the faith, teaching a Sunday School Class, discipling a fellow Christian, mentoring a younger man or woman, or leading someone to Christ. Realize that God has designed you for those roles. God expects each of us to mentor others. On purpose. As Paul told Timothy, we are to “teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.
Elders who have a servant’s heart can overextend themselves, taking on responsibilities that should be delegated to others. They see areas of need, and often dive in to handle that need themselves. What if we, members of the flock, looked around at areas of need (preparing and serving Communion, helping in the children’s ministry on Sunday mornings, etc.) and VOLUNTEERED to meet those needs? We would be serving the body and would be obedient to God’s call on our lives.
I wonder what would happen if we approached an Elder and asked them to mentor us? Yeah, you are right. They probably would faint. It would be fun, though, wouldn’t it? I mean to have an Elder pour themselves into us. Having an Elder looking at our lives, seeing what God can do through us, and casting a vision for us in that manner. You thought I was referring to making an Elder faint, didn’t you?
The body of Christ is healthier when we all function as we were designed. God has gifted each of us in different ways, and those gifts are to be used for the building up of the body of Christ. Biblical Elders will shepherd, mentor, and equip. Christians will respond by being willing to submit to the Elders; by being willing to be mentored by someone who is further along in their faith journey than us, or someone who has a skill set we need to learn; and by being willing to allow someone to equip us properly for works of service.
I declare this to be “freak your Elders out week.” Approach an Elder and ask how you may be of service. Better yet, tell them about how you have seen a need and how you are willing to meet that need.
I would love to continue the conversation in the comments section below.
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.