Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 16, 1970

The Elder Shortage

Donald R. Givens

We hear and read much regarding the "preacher shortage" in our time, and I agree that we need more and more qualified gospel preachers. Yet there is another shortage of which we hear and think about too rarely; and that is the shortage of qualified and working elders.

There is an urgent need all over this land, and in foreign lands where there are congregations of the Lord's people, for men to become scriptural bishops, pastors, overseers. Can you deny that many congregations should have elders, but do not have them?

How many young men are busy working, studying, and praying . . . so that in future years they may serve as elders? (Are you encouraging, or discouraging, your sons to become elders in their maturity?) We know that to become a good gospel preacher takes time, study, and effort; have we forgotten that the same is true regarding elders? The reason many local churches do not have elders even after several years is because the individual men have not been working to qualify themselves. Elders do not "grow on trees" overnight.

Consider the qualifications of elders (I Timothy 3 and Titus 1). Read them over carefully. Now notice: with the exception of the "husband of one wife; having children that believe, etc., ruling qualifications;" — every mature Christian ought to possess these qualities! If not, then which quality should not the mature Christian possess? How about temperate? Sober-minded? Gentle? No lover of money? No, these and all other qualities are ones which every Christian ought to strive to attain.

Men, as they mature, should desire the work of shepherding the flock. What can we do to get more men to desire this good work? (I Timothy 3:1) One thing we can do is love, honor, and obey the good elders we do have (Heb. 13:17). But if you are a member of a congregation which does not have elders; then do what you can to arrive at that goal!

If you are a young man, start right now to study, pray, and work hard to fulfill the qualifications later in your lifetime. If you are an older man, and you have or can attain the scriptural qualifications, then desire the good work, remembering that it is not simply an "honorary position," but indeed a hard but rewarding work. If you are a female Christian, then become such a temperate and faithful woman that you would be an asset as an elder's wife (compare I Timothy 3:11).

There is a crying need for overseers in various local flocks all over this land. I have preached from Florida to Canada to California to Texas, and the same great necessity stares one in the face in all places: the urgent need for shepherds over the local flocks. No wonder the sheep go astray when there are no shepherds to lead them. No wonder the sheep starve when no shepherds are there to feed them. No wonder wolves destroy the flock when there are no shepherds there to protect.

Brethren, God has a reason for appointing "elders in every church." (Acts 14:23).

Do you have a better reason for not having them?

— Port Arthur, Texas, 77640