Serving Without the Benefit of a Title
I am not talking about mutiny. I am talking about living one's life in a shepherdly way without being given the presbuteros or episkopos title--the part translated "elder," "overseer," and "bishop." I am talking about missing the board meetings, but not missing out on the simple, humble, Christlike service that God approves. Men and women can serve in shepherdly ways.
A wider audience than just a few men or men and women at our local congregation may read these words some day. I write these things to encourage them to serve as Jesus served--in a shepherdly way of servanthood. Do you realize that Jesus wasn't an elder? Nor Paul? Nor Timothy or Titus? Priscilla or Dorcas?
Some men may read this and ponder their situation at their local congregations. There have been instances where congregations have wanted men to be elders, but someone on the eldership didn't want them. Scripture gives no tenure to elders, no squatter's rights, no license to veto the will of the congregation, but there are selfish men who will do it anyway. When elders use squatter's rights to keep upcoming men off the eldership just because they think the new guys may do more for the Lord and may hence become more popular than they, they are in fact "lording it over the flock" (I Peter 5: 3) and "self-willed" (Titus 1: 7). Such men will answer for their conduct One Day. This is church politics at its absolute blackest.
Dr. Yeakley in his book correctly points out that no eldership has any right to establish itself as a dynasty or to dictate its successors. Men who do that have totally missed the shepherd concept that is part of being an elder. Read his book.
I have known men who have not gotten to vote in the "board meetings" (Heaven help the eldership who sees themselves this way). By the refusal of one or two or three men on the existing eldership, qualified men have been kept from using their talents, though the plain teaching of our Lord Himself in Matthew 25 says that we must use those. Men who should have had opportunities to do the good they saw needs for (James 4: 17) were denied those opportunities. Perhaps changing congregations is not a viable alternative for his family. How can such a man do good?
[Whoever inherits this lesson--here's where you begin applying the servanthood/shepherdhood concept. Also show ways that women can exhibit characteristics that resemble those of elders, except for being the husbands of one wife, being apt to teach in assemblies where believing men are present, and in exercising oversight over men--STW]
Books that have been useful in preparing these lessons include:
Anderson, L. (1993). They smell like sheep. West Monroe, Louisiana: Howard Publishing.
Gangel, K. O. (1984). So you want to be a leader! Camp Hill, Pennsylvania: Christian Publications.
Grimsley, R. W. (1964). The Church and its elders. Abilene, Texas: Quality Printing Company.
Lewis, J. P. (1985). Leadership questions confronting the church. Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate.
Lewis, J. P. (2008). The question of instrumental music in worship. Searcy, AR: Truth for Today World Mission School.
Sanders, J. O. (1989). Spiritual leadership. Chicago, Ill: Moody Press.
Strauch, A. (1991). A study guide to biblical eldership: An urgent call to restore Biblical church leadership. Littleton, CO: Lewis and Roth Publishers.
White, J., & Blue, K. (1985). Church discipline that heals: Putting costly love into action. Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press.
Yeakley, F. R. jr. (1980). Church leadership and organization. Arvada, CO: Christian Communications.
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