Thursday, October 28, 2010
The Vision (10/28/10): Thoughts on Church Officers
This Sunday (October 31), we will be asking our members to nominate men for consideration for service in our body as church officers (Ruling Elder and Deacon). Members will be given a slip of paper and may nominate as many men as they wish for each office. The Pastor will review these nominations and hold interviews with those who receive a significant number of nominations to discuss calling, qualifications, and expectations. He will then nominate candidates for election by the congregation at our Annual Church Conference in January.
Here are some thoughts to consider for each office:
A good summary of the qualifications appears in Paul’s instructions to Titus in Titus 1:5-9:
5 For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you -- 6 if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination. 7 For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, 8 but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled, 9 holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.
Since the Ruling Elder will be serving in the government of the church, he must first be one who has an established and exemplary track record in ruling or governing his own household (see vv. 5-6). This includes his marriage relationship and his relationship with his children. This does not mean that his wife and children are merely outwardly submissive to him. Is it evident that he has led in his home with authority and love?
Next, he must have an established track record in personal and spiritual life management (see vv. 7-8). Does this man govern himself and make good stewardship of his gifts for the kingdom? Does he speak the truth in love? Will he work in harmony with the Minister, with his fellow Elders, and with the church body? Is he a lover of strangers (hospitable)? Is he “holy,” distinctly set apart for God’s service?
Finally, and most importantly, he must be one who has demonstrated a passion for the truth (v. 9). Does he hold fast the faithful word? Is he sound in doctrine and able to exhort and convict those who contradict it?
A good summary of the qualifications for Deacons appears in Paul’s words to Timothy in 1 Timothy 3:8-13:
8 Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money, 9 holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience. 10 But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless. 11 Likewise their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. 13 For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.
We see some parallels with the expectations for Ruling Elders:
He must be a man who has proven himself to be a good steward of his household (vv. 11-12). Will his wife complement his ministry? Has he managed his household well?
He must be a man who has shown good stewardship of his personal life (vv. 8, 10). Is he pious, reverent, and truthful? Note that Paul contends that a man first be “tested” before taking this office.
Finally, he must be doctrinally sound (v. 9). He must hold the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience. Notice that unlike the Elders there is no requirement that he be apt to teach. His primary role in the church is that of service (cf. the “seven men” in Acts 6:1-7).
Having reviewed these qualifications, we might well say with Paul, “And who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Corinthians 2:16). Indeed, in one sense, no one is worthy to serve in these exalted roles. Again, we learn from Paul who would say of this call to the apostleship, “For I am the least of the apostles, who am not even worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God” (1 Corinthians 15:9). Yet, Paul concluded, “I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain” (v. 10). Indeed, Paul records that Jesus said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
The standards are exalted, men are weak, but this only magnifies our utter dependence upon the Lord for all things, including the supply of officers to teach, lead, and serve his people.
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle