What Good Is an Elder?
As you would expect in a country founded on the rejection of its government, a country whose charter is literally a Declaration of Independence, we have a natural inclination towards autonomy. Along with that comes a general suspicion of leaders. Whether it is a 5-year-old child insisting "You're not the boss of me," or Pink Floyd chanting, "We don't need no education," our hearts lean towards self-rule. It is a temptation as old as Genesis 3:4-5, where the serpent suggested to Eve that she should decide for herself if God's rules were worth following.
So whenever we speak of leadership in the church (which is the topic of our sermon text this Sunday, Titus 1:5-9, as well as our Adult Sunday School class after worship), we probably need to begin by examining our heart's instinctive reaction to the idea of leadership. Whether it is because of abuse we've experienced or witnessed in the past, or simply a fruit of our pride, many of us are slow to accept that anyone should have authority over us. Or if we accept it, we do so like a child forced to take her medicine. We'll do it, but we aren't happy about it!
What is the Bible's vision of leadership in the church? Is it an unfortunate necessity, meant to keep order? Is it an optional and out-dated idea that we can now do without? I would suggest instead that the role of elder is given to the church in order to bless the body of Christ by practically expressing the loving leadership of Christ.
Elders are also called "shepherds" in scripture, and just as Jesus describes the way that he, as our Good Shepherd, strives to protect and lead his flock (John 10:1-18), so also the elders of a church exist to give leadership and protection to God's people. Whatever authority they have, it is intended to bless, not oppress, the church.
Take time today to pray for the elders of your church, that they would be strengthened and encouraged in order to be faithful to the task to which God has called them.