by Martin Schlomer
Last week, a person asked me, “While we were discussing your sermon in our Community Group, the question was asked, ‘What do elders do?’” This is a huge question! It is complicated by the fact that most of the time when the Bible references elders, it speaks about their need to be men of character and it says very little about their job description. When the does Bible speak about what they do, it mentions three things.
First, they are commanded to shepherd the sheep (Acts 20.28; 1 Peter 5:1-4). At Elim, this involves overseeing the general spiritual health of the Body. Practically, while this role certainly involves prayer, it is more than that. Shepherding people requires elders to ask tougher questions, which can be a challenge. Most people aren’t receptive to an elder poking around in their lives and asking questions like: “Are you growing spiritually”? “Are you spending time in the Word and in prayer”? “Are you involved in community”?
If it is any consolation, it isn’t easy for the elder to ask these questions! Regardless, this is a part of the elder’s role. Paul made it clear: “Be shepherds of God’s flock, which he bought with his own blood.”
Are elders the only shepherds at Elim? Absolutely not! Most of you are in small groups of one kind or another. These groups are the main place where shepherding should happen. The elders’ role is supplemental to these small groups. Therefore, the next time your elder gives you a call or sends you an email to check in, please take some time and respond in a thoughtful way. All of these men try to fulfill this important role so they can honor our Lord even though most of them work full time, lead their families, and serve in other ministries.
Second, elders are responsible to guard the doctrine. This involves overseeing the teaching to make sure that it is consistent with Scripture but that is not all! Elders have the responsibility to make sure that the teaching is insightful, timely, meeting the needs of the Body, and challenging you to grow in your faith. Now you can see why it is important to make time to answer those questions I mentioned earlier! It is essential for elders to have an adequate understanding of where people are so they can give me strategic input regarding what needs to be taught on Sunday mornings as well as in small groups and other venues.
Third, elders are responsible to oversee the vision. In other words, they make sure that we stay on the mission that Jesus gave to His church so we don’t become just another social club. This involves evaluating our ministries to make sure they are accomplishing their desired results. It also involves making sure the ministry directors are spiritually healthy and that they have the support and resources they need to accomplish their ministry goals.
There is one more responsibility that Elim’s elders have that is not mentioned in Scripture. They are responsible to hold the pastoral staff accountable to fulfilling their responsibilities and making sure they remain spiritually healthy.
As you can see Elim’s elders have important responsibilities. They need your prayers and cooperation. As the elders continue to take steps to engage you and lead this church, please have a responsive heart and share your heart with them. God has put them in your life because He is passionately committed to your spiritual growth and health. They are there to help all of us finish the race well.
God’s blessings to you as we pursue Christ together…