Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 25, 1957


George P. Estes, Maplewood, Missouri

Brethren who have been members of the Lord's church for twenty years or more and who have made the proper observation, must conclude that the office which has not functioned as it should in recent years is the eldership. And for this reason, more than any other, serious problems have arisen before the brotherhood. This should serve as a lesson and teach emphatically that without proper guidance, without qualified elders to give the true course and direction to the Lord's work, Christianity will suffer digression and many trials. The sheep will stray and wander because they have no shepherds.

The reasons for the lack of scriptural and qualified elders may he many, but we may observe a few: (1) It may be due in part to the neglect of the preachers. Some fail to teach the Scriptures relating to this office and as a result there is but little interest in it. Sometimes a preacher takes the advice of a friend who feels a congregation cannot exist without elders and they will solve all the problems. Thus, novices or men not ready or prepared are appointed to the eldership. (2) Men who have the potential are not interested in the work sufficiently to develop their talents, so they lie dormant and undeveloped. (3) A few of the men who reach eldership feel that the way there means either driving away or bringing into submission every member who stands in the way, so when opposition is quelled, they take over and most everyone is afraid to speak against it. (4) In our complex living, some brethren work so many hours at their livelihood they never find or take time to study the Bible or to become acquainted with the members of the congregation, their problems or the problems of the church. There are evidently many other reasons, but one thing is obvious — there are fewer men qualified to fill the office than any other work in the Lord's vineyard.

Concerning The "Duties Of Bishops"

Alexander Campbell wrote the following: "They are not to legislate. James says there is one lawgiver, who is able to save and destroy. They al e to be able to teach the whole counsel of God. This includes people of all ages and stations of life...They are to bring out the talents in the congregation; to give direction to all so far as public edification is concerned. But it is not to be presumed that they are the only teachers, readers, exhorters, intercessors or singers in the congregation. They may call upon others to do the above activities but none are to perform these duties without their consent. They will deliver didactic courses, admonitions, and exhortations as the exigencies of the community require. . .Presidency and ruling, though much akin, are not identically the same. To preside may sometimes imply no more than preserving order and decorum in the regular proceedings of a public worshipping assembly. But "to rule well" has respect more immediately to the disorders which are incident to every earthly community — from which the church of Jesus Christ never has yet been fully exempt.

"To rule well" is one of the most difficult attainments. It calls for meekness, candor, firmness, courage, patience and indefatigable attention to the first indications of remissness or delinquency. It is a more difficult achievement than preaching. One who rules his own family well is best suited to rule the church. To anticipate and prevent transgression, delinquency or actual apostasy, is much more profitable and desirable than to reprove and punish it when actually consummated; that more depends upon watching the disposition and frailties of his children and guarding them from error and disobedience, by removing temptation out of their way, than in correcting them for actual offences. Much the largest part of all the errors, follies and faults of children and of disciples might have been prevented under a discreet and attentive administration. Timely remonstrance, counsel, and the interposing oneself between temptation and the occasion of error in practice are the great secrets of a good administration, and requires degrees of wisdom and devotion seldom met with. More youths and more disciples have been saved from ruin by the judicious watching of those entrusted with their fortunes, than have ever been reclaimed by correction and rebukes."

— MILLENNIAL HARBINGER, Oct. 1835, pp 505-6