While there are doubtless men who wear the name “elder” that do not meet the biblical qualifications, many of the church’s greatest heroes and biggest assets are her shepherds. I have been privileged to serve under a total of 21 elders in 26 years of full-time preaching, and what I am about to say applies to each of them. Part of their work is public and visible, but I dare say so much more of it is conducted before the eyes of only a few or one sheep or even at times only before the eyes of God. My experience with elders is that they are humble men and they will never tell you what I am about to tell you. Here are a few things elders wish all members knew about them.
- See people at their messiest.
- Sometimes get the brunt of the lashing out people do when in pain.
- Always, always put people first.
- Give generously of their time.
- Hard things none of the rest of us can or will do.
- Have insight into sensitive situations that others may not.
- Have feet of clay.
- Pray fervently for the needs and problems of the flock.
- Desire to communicate to the church as much as they feel they can.
- Want to have a relationship with every member.
- Love God and seek to please Him above all else.
- Give up on sheep.
- Defend themselves.
- Do it for the glory.
- Seek the praise of men.
- Hold a grudge.
- Play favorites or have double standards.
- Read minds or judge motives.
- Want to lose a single sheep.
- Publicly share everything that’s on their plate or comes their way.
- Want to lead God’s people away from Him and His will.
In an elders meeting last night, one of our shepherds was asked to read Hebrews 13:17. The elder chairing the meeting said, “This passage encourages me.” The elder who read said, “This passage frightens me!” As each of them discussed the sober meaning of that passage, I thought back to things I’d seen each of them do recently. It made me so thankful to serve under an eldership that takes their work seriously. Are they perfect men? Impossible! Are they God’s men? Absolutely! Please pray for the eternal work elders do in congregations around the world every day!