Today, in our church, we will be appointing new elders for our next year.
The job description in my denomination is a steep one. Elders are responsible for the spiritual nurture of the congregation. They also serve on session, the governing body of the local church, providing leadership and vision. Each should be ready at any moment to teach, preach, serve, anoint and pray. Any one of these tasks is daunting, but to find those faithful and wise enough to serve in this role is truly a task of discernment.
Paul, writing to Titus, lengthens the job description with words like "blameless," "faithful," "not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain," "hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined," and able to stand firm in regards to the gospel and sound doctrine.
Is there anyone who can fulfill this role?
Even though I am ordained as a teaching/preaching elder, I know I fall short.
Later in the letter, Paul also gives a list of behaviors:
Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone. At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.If I made a checklist, I'd find myself failing the test of the "good elder."
What is a wonder to me, then, is the fact that the work of God happens through such dented and chipped vessels like myself. One of the reasons it does is because as elders, we work together. One makes up for another's weaknesses.
As we focus on the "kindness and love of God," as we remember God saved us by mercy not because of our acts of righteousness, as we rely on the washing and filling of the Holy Spirit, and as we trust in God, we have the opportunity to be careful to devote ourselves to doing what is good.
Some might see being appointed as an elder as an honor.
To me, it is very daunting and humbling, but also exciting. Imagine the work done by the saints of God when their hearts are focused upon God!