Submitting To Elders

Submitting To Elders

Neal Pollard

Elders are not infallible, and most of the men I’ve known who serve as elders do not think they are.  On the whole, the rank and file of elders I have known are humble, selfless, sacrificial, magnanimous, and spiritual men who embrace the often difficult work of herding and leading that often strong-willed species of us known in biblical terms as “sheep.”  They are so often second-guessed and may be the most commonly backbitten group of people among God’s people.  I have found that there are a few—sadly too often a “vocal minority”—who, in practice, are hesitant to submit to eldership’s decisions.  In my experience, here are some of the reasons why:

  • They do not agree with the judgment call(s) made by the eldership
  • They do not understand why the elders have decided as they have
  • They feel they would or could handle a situation better than the elders did
  • They feel that they would be immune from perceived pressures or weaknesses
  • They see some deficiency in them

Such attitudes are very frustrating to encounter.  I would go so far as say that these are bad attitudes.  They reflect more on the sheep than the shepherds. Here is what they often fail to understand:

  • The elders probably have privy to more information than they do
  • They are likely privy to sensitive information they cannot share
  • They are almost always involved in more than anyone else
  • Since they will give an account to God for their work, they face the reality of making choices for which they have to answer
  • They submitted to a congregational process and found qualified to lead
  • We are commanded to submit to them, and that necessarily implies in matters of judgment even when we do not agree with their judgment

The vast majority of elders are sensitive to the concerns and objections they hear from the sheep.  Should we not exercise an equal measure of humility, selflessness, sacrifice, magnanimity and spirituality in our words and attitudes regarding our shepherds?  Remember, “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you” (Heb. 13:17).


5 thoughts on “Submitting To Elders

  1. At present at West Main church of Christ we don’t have qualified men to have elders. I miss the elders leadership, not that the men of the congregation aren’t doing a very good job. When we had elders I felt bad for them at times having to deal with all the did. Some folks felt that elders had no business being involved in there lives. I say please help me stay on the narrow way, because it want to please God and live with Him throughout eternity . If I am straying apparently I don’t know it and need someone to help me on my way.

  2. Brother, I agree with all you have said. It is hard, however, when a group of Elders have said to you over and over that when it comes to hard issues (such as marriage, divorce, and remarriage, drinking, immodesty…) that they will not deal with them because that would just run people away. It is hard to serve under Elders who have decided that to best handle scriptural issues is to not deal with them at all.

    1. Jayly, what you bring up is another, but very legitimate, issue. This particular article did not have in view men who were not leading the flock to follow what the Chief Shepherd has said. 1 Timothy 5:20 would have to apply, though lovingly and respectfully done. Thanks for your thoughts and I pray for all men who find themselves in that difficult situation. I’m thankful to serve under elders who want and support preaching the whole counsel, but I know that there are preachers not in that circumstance.

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