March 09, 2011

Christ's Stewards

Most of this post comes from the 9 Marks website.  Most of the comments are authored or moderated by either Mark Dever or Mark Schmucker. 

So what is Biblical Leadership?  The Bible designates and dictates the qualifications for two such offices the Bride of Christ is to implement.  They are 'deacons" and "elders".  Today, let's take a look at elders.  What is an elder and who should be one?
The Basics: An elder is a man who (i) meets the qualifications in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9, (ii) is recognized by his congregation as an elder, (iii) and leads the congregation by teaching the Word (1 Tim. 3:2), praying for the sheep (Jas. 5:14), and overseeing the affairs of the church (1 Pet. 5:2).
Oversight: An elder must watch over the flock. He must instruct all the sheep, strengthen the weak ones, guard the vulnerable ones, rebuke the obstinate ones, and bear with the difficult ones (2 Tim. 2:24-25; Acts 20:28; 1 Thess. 5:14). An elder watches over the members of his church as one who will give an account to God (Heb. 13:17)
Plurality: In the New Testament, local churches consistently have a plurality of elders (Acts 14:23, 20:17; Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 5:17; Jas. 5:14). Christ, the Chief Shepherd, means to care for his flock through a number of godly men who together teach, guard, guide, protect, and love the sheep. This means that every local church, following the leadership of their pastor, should look out for men who are already doing the work of an elder and appoint them to the office.

Cool.  So the first thing an elder should be is someone who is already bearing spiritual fruit and effectively teaching the Word of God in a way that is edifying the flock.  Second they should know the Biblical narrative well enough to be able to guard it and protect their sheep.  As Ted Bigelow points out in the synopsis of his new book, The Titus Mandate,
" Thousands of real churches have been infiltrated by dangerous men. Many Christians have been so hurt by these wolves that they have left church, vowing never to return. Other sheep, unaware of what they are witnessing week by week, pay the wolves to preach their error."
He goes on to say,
" A great church marks its own obsolescence when it makes leadership positions a matter of popular vote and not biblical qualification. Leaders are relegated to consultancy not shepherding, while their policies are up for public review and possible censure. The kind of men who succeed well at popularity are never those who confront sin and error, and yet this is exactly what God requires from a leader."
So what else should we look out for?  Mark Dever writes'

A biblical elder is not simply an older male. Life experience alone is no guarantee that a man meets the biblical qualifications for an elder (1 Tim. 3:1-7, Tit. 1:6-9).
A biblical elder is not simply a successful professional. In fact, the very traits that get some professionals to the top of the corporate, industry, or political ladder may actually put them on the bottom rung of the church leadership ladder. Leadership in the church is fundamentally different from leadership in the world (Mark 10:34-35; John 13:1-17). While successful professionals may also be gifted spiritual leaders, the two are by no means identical.
A biblical elder is not simply a “good ol’ boy.” Living in the same place and being a member of the same church for three decades doesn’t make a man an elder.
A biblical elder is not simply a nice guy. A man can be as sweet as sugar and not meet the biblical qualifications for an elder. Being an elder requires wisdom, integrity, discernment, and the ability to teach Scripture, not just friendliness. No man should be made an elder simply because he’s likeable.
A biblical elder is not a theological genius with no pastoral heart. An elder must love the sheep by caring for them personally. Theological brilliance is no guarantee that a man can shepherd the flock of God (Acts 20:28, 1 Pet. 5:2).
A biblical elder is not a politician. The biblical office of elder is an elected office. But the man who fills it should not be one who campaigns for it, or who is willing to divide the church in order to further himself.
A biblical elder is not a female. Elders lead the church by authoritatively teaching the Word, a role the apostle Paul restricts to men (1 Tim. 2:12).

There's that teaching thing again.  That must be pretty important.
So what should be a red flag that a candidate for elder or a current elder may be serving (for the right reasons perhaps) in the wrong capacity?  9 Marks asked their new Executive Director, Mark Schmucker that and this is what he said.

9M: Given the importance of unity and maturity among the elders, what are some traits or characteristics of potential elders that ought to raise yellow flags?
MS: I think there are a bunch of obvious ones: volatility, instability, bad reputation in the community, unruly children, and so on.
So let me point to several less obvious yellow flags. One less obvious one would be that of a contrarian spirit. You know the sort of guy I mean. If you say "black," he’ll say "white." No matter what you say, that’s what you get. The spirit that is perpetually looking for the "on the other hand" or waiting for "the other shoe to drop" is not helpful in building up the church. In Acts 6, for instance, Paul instructs the church to appoint deacons not only for their proficiencies, but because these men will bring unity between the Greek-speaking and the Hebrew-speaking widows. How much more should an elder be someone who builds unity and works to resolve rather than to merely offer up an opposing opinion?!
Another yellow flag that is commonly overlooked is the question of a man’s spiritual fruit in the lives of those around him. To put it positively, this is what drew our attention in 1998, for instance, to a church member named Andy Johnson. He had been quietly discipling other single men on a consistent basis, resulting in real spiritual progress in their lives. To put it negatively, then, no spiritual fruit is a yellow flag, even if the world would recognize the man as being "successful."
Finally, an unsupportive wife is a yellow flag. Eldering done right is a demanding task. It takes time to pray. It takes time to prepare to teach. It takes time to disciple. It takes time to give hospitality. All of these impact the home, and places certain demands on a wife. How does she feel about doing hospitality? How does she feel about losing her husband every other Thursday night to an elders meeting? Does she welcome the unexpected visitor at the door who’s in need?
9M: What positive qualities would you want to emphasize in looking for elders?
MS: Too often we look toward worldly success to measure a man. We must teach our churches to look for men of the Word—to measure men based on their knowledge of, their submission to, and their ability to proclaim God’s Word. I like what Mark Dever says: an elder’s "ability to teach" means that when wolves come near the flock, the sheep know that they can trust this shepherd to expose the wolf and, in turn, to protect them. That’s the elder’s great calling.
Matt Schmucker is the executive director of 9Marks and an elder at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC.
In general, a church should not affirm any man as an elder who does not meet the biblical
qualifications laid out in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9. Here are several warning flags which
a church should heed:
                  A contrarian spirit. If you say “black,” he’ll say “white.” An elder must build unity, not stir up division.
                  A lack of spiritual fruit. If a man is not already shepherding the flock he won’t beginning do so just because you give him a title. An elder should be a man who is already hard at work building up the body.
                  An unsupportive wife. Eldering done well is a demanding task. It takes time to teach and disciple and exercise hospitality. Is the man’s wife happy to further her husband’s ministry even when that requires a considerable sacrifice on her part? If not, it would be unwise to appoint this man as an elder.
                  A record of broken relationships behind him.
                  A “me” focus. Every time he opens his mouth, whether in a Sunday school classroom or at a restaurant table, he seems to have his own interest in mind and not everyone else’s. An elder must be a man who’s always looking out for the good of the body.
                  An inability to encourage others.
                  An inability to show compassion and tenderness. A man may be rigorously strong and biblical, but if he can’t be tender and compassionate he’ll make a poor shepherd.
                  A tendency to exaggerate and embellish. An elder should be a man whose word is utterly trustworthy.
                  A tendency to prize creativity and innovation over biblical faithfulness. This is not to say that creativity and innovation are bad things, but they must always be servants to faithfulness to God’s Word.
                  An inability to admit he’s wrong.
                  An inability to submit to other leaders.
                  A refusal to be inconvenienced or make sacrifices in order to serve others.
                  A feeling of entitlement to the office.
(Some of this material has been adapted from Matt Schmucker’s article “Disagreements and Differences Among Elders”)

I hope this has been a catalyst for some good thinking and discussion.  Please visit Ted Bigelows new book site at www.thetitusmandate.org.  God Bless.

With you for His glory