Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity

Elders As Examples

Robert C. Welch, Louisville, Kentucky

In many churches there is a grave need of elders who are living examples to the flock. Often men are chosen for their successful qualities. If they can make a business grow it is also possible for them to make the church grow numerically and financially. These two items form the standard by which many determine the progress of the church. Hence, men are chosen to lead the congregation in these capacities without consideration given to the most important phase of development of the congregation in these capacities without consideration given to the most important phase of development of the congregation, its spiritual welfare. In some instances this process has resulted in all kinds of ungodliness among the eldership.

Not only do many congregations have elders who are inept as teachers; but they have men who are ignorant of the first principles of the Oracles. They refuse to take the time to study privately and they have no interest in the arrangements of the church for Bible study. Elders of churches, large and small, have been known who attended only on Lord's day mornings. Elders have been known who could not intelligently tell an unsaved man the plan of salvation from the Bible. It is impossible to see how such a man could oversee a flock of Christians. Such persons are almost completely lacking in righteous example to the church; yet that is their duty and responsibility as elders. "Neither as lording it over the charge allotted to you, but making yourselves ensamples to the flock." (1 Peter 5:3).

There are elders who have such positions of authority in the business world that they are not required to show any degree of gentleness or consideration for those who are under them. This same attitude and demeanor is carried over into the church. The church needs no such tycoons; it has no place for such executive function; it despises such austerity. The church is not to have such "lording over" but the Lord has appointed that it should have men living exemplary lives of righteous meekness and humility as its overseers. (see 1 Tim. 3:3; Tit. 1:7).

Then there are those whose daily associations in the business and political world are characterized by maneuvers, intrigues, and general political duplicity. These men are able to gain their objectives by patting this back now and then the other at the strategic moment, by playing this person against that one and reversing, by suggestive injurious remarks against others to first one and then the other, by played-up favors and bought friendships, by gaining and using planed indebtedness and unguarded promises and vows from others. When such men are placed in the office of bishop in a congregation there is inevitable hatreds, factions and general unrest in the congregation. The only person within the congregation who seems to enjoy his position is the man who is at the helm of such cheap politics; he considers himself a success. He is an example in everything but the right thing. And in righteous, simple, honorable, upright Christianity he is a complete failure as an example. (See Acts 20:30; Phil. 2:3; Tit. 1:8).

Sometimes men are found in the eldership who are so busy making money that they do not have time to spend in the oversight of the church. If they can sit at the desk and issue directives they are willing. But when a spiritually sick member needs attention they have no time for that. When a straying lamb needs to be found, admonished and returned to the fold, they are too busy making money. When perverse teaching and influence is wreaking injury to the flock they pay no special attention to it, because it would lose them money at their business. When there are young, untutored, but eager workers in the church who need to be personally shown how to work, they let them try it without such example, because they cannot take time away from their money making pursuits. They do not know the meaning of the statement; "seek ye first his kingdom and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." (Matt. 6:33). In no real sense are they righteous overseers of the flock, because they are not righteous examples. (See 1 Tim. 3:3; Tit. 1:7)

Churches need elders, and they are "worthy of double honor;" who are striving to lead exemplary lives of faithfulness to the word before the congregation; who are striving to lead the congregation in the way of truth and righteous service; who are placing the kingdom of God first in their lives as a guiding influence to all the members; who are trying to show the congregation how to live in every phase of Christian character and conduct. That is the RULE of the SHEPHERD; to go before the flock, leading the way, calling that they may follow; making himself "ENSAMPLES to the flock."