(this is kinda an “in-house” post for folks that are a part of our church community, but I don’t have another good place to publish it at the moment)
Hebrews 13:17 (ESV) Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
The church is a strict monarchy. Christ is King. Jesus rules through what we call “office bearers” – leaders who have been chosen to lead God’s people. Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck puts it this way.
“These office-bearers are… the best, not in money and possessions but in spiritual gifts, whom he himself equips and allows the church to set apart for his service. By them he takes care of the spiritual and material interests of his church. By the teaching office he instructs, by the office of elder he leads, and by the diaconal office he takes care of his flock. And by all three of them in conjunction he proves himself to be our chief prophet, our eternal king, and our merciful high priest.”
In our system, our Elders (aka the Consistory) and Deacons (together called the “Council”) are men nominated and elected by you, the membership. They serve faithfully for three years and then are given a much-needed rest – optimally two years off.
One of the most important things we will do this month is install new leaders. Last month you as a congregation selected men who were willing and able to serve. This month we both say “thank you and rest up” to some our leaders going off council and “welcome, we’ll be praying for you” to some leaders who are starting their terms of service.
This is important. Our church will rise or fall on leadership. There has been no good time in church history where leading has been easy. It’s always hard because they represent Jesus on earth – and Jesus didn’t have it easy. Our leaders have heavy decisions to make, many voices to listen to, and a lot of ministry and meetings to conduct.
This month I have a simple request – honor our leaders. (I love the way Hebrews puts it – ) “Let them do [their term] with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” Hebrews has it right. I think too often leading sounds like groaning. – Leaders everywhere get discouraged, weighed down, unfairly-criticized, tired. That hurts churches. But it shouldn’t be that way. Can you imagine the advantage it’d be if you would help our leaders serve with JOY? What if we as a church would encourage, hold up in prayer, support, and submit to leaders so that leading became desirable source of joy instead of a burdensome duty and they were able to accomplish something for the kingdom instead of hitting frustrating walls?
This is the job description that our church order gives elders and deacons.
b. The elders, with the minister(s), shall oversee the doctrine and life of the members of the congregation and fellow officebearers, shall exercise admonition and discipline along with pastoral care in the congregation, shall participate in and promote evangelism, and shall defend the faith. The elders also shall nurture in the congregation grateful and obedient participation in the Lord’s Supper through encouragement, instruction, and accountability. c. The deacons shall represent and administer the mercy of Christ to all people, especially to those who belong to the community of believers, and shall stimulate the members of Christ’s church to faithful, obedient stewardship of their resources on behalf of the needy—all with words of biblical encouragement and testimony which assure the unity of word and deed.
This year, let’s make a deal. You give honor and joy, I’ll work hard at giving focus. I’ll keep reminding leaders of what we’re supposed to be doing. Working toward the tasks listed above while listening to you as a church and the Spirit and the Word. And you – members, attenders, church as a whole – pray for, encourage, support, listen to your elected leaders. Help them accomplish what Jesus is asking them to do. I’m convinced that if we can do both things – 1) focus on our mission and 2) support and encourage our leaders – we will see Jesus work though our officebearers as we accomplish much for the Kingdome and we’ll see them serve with JOY, which will be a great advantage to you.