The question is often asked, “What is the most critical problem facing the church today?” The answers are varied, and often given in keeping with that particular man’s interest and concern, and for all the answers, all of them play a part in today’s time of discontent, unrest, and turmoil. And, when we state that which to us is the MOST critical problem, we know that some may disagree. Still, the answer we would give is this: THE LACK OF QUALIFIED, SCRIPTURAL AND FUNCTIONING ELDERS! We know that this problem then aggravates some of the others; indeed, were it not for this problem, some of the others could not have been given birth or would have been “nipped in the bud.”
Where did we go wrong regarding the eldership? Certainly, the Scriptures furnish us unto every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17), and the point is clear that the Scriptures furnish us completely unto the organization of the church and the functioning of those within that organization. The list of qualifications, set forth in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, with other passages relating to the eldership, lets us know the spiritual qualities to be in the men thus to be appointed. And there is no shortage of material in the New Testament regarding the work that is given the elders, with such words as “oversee…feed…take care of…watch for souls…” making it very clear. In looking over all that is said in the New Testament regarding the eldership, we see no lack, nor would we expect to find such, since the Scriptures completely furnish us! Looking at all that God has provided, is it not clear that men have chosen to ignore what the Word says, and have proceeded by their own devices?
It has been disappointing through the years, in seeing how some brethren have approached the matter of appointing elders, with thoughts of spirituality set aside while men are selected by some other rule. It has also been disappointing that, while there must be the desire of the man to serve (1 Tim. 3:1) before he can be appointed, some who have the desire and are most anxious to be appointed have again given little thought to the work as being spiritual in nature. One other disappointment has been in seeing men appointed, and then they have little concept of what an elder is to be and do, and other than having meetings to see to the finances of the church, do little else. Perhaps a sum statement here would be that too often money is the prime consideration, and souls are forgotten!
It must be admitted that in some instances we have a problem when we really have not appointed the wrong men. There is a problem because the men appointed have not grown. And growth is expected…it must be! One newly appointed as an elder, for all spirituality and all wisdom, is still newly an elder, not having so served before. He will have to apply, to work, to study, to labor to continue to be what God expects him to be, and to function as an elder whom God can bless! It should be clear that one cannot so insulate himself with concern for a congregation of people, that he knows nothing of problems, errors, apostasies and threats to the faith that may be just beyond his doorstep. We live in a mobile time, and sin and Satan always have been. How could I be a guardian, shepherd and protector of the flock, and yet have no concern for the forest fires raging out of control all around me, and knowing that at any moment some of those sparks may land and ignite right where I am?
Ours is a most hurtful time. A perilous time, Paul would say (2 Tim. 3:1). Many things of spiritual import are hurting; many things are lacking; and many things are being perverted. Our need for QUALIFIED, SPIRITUAL AND FUNCTIONING elders, I think, heads the list of things we truly need, and which things we must have if we’re to be the people of God. We speak of “adhering to the pattern,” and we must, but shall we default in this aspect of the pattern?