Sunday, April 29, 2007
9. ELDERS AND DEACONS
In the New Testament, bishops or elders (both words describe the same people) were the 'overseers' of the churches. These leaders 'work hard', perform pastoral duties and help make important decisions. Only those with the appropriate 'gifts' should be appointed elders - not just to 'fill the number'. It's better to have no elders than the wrong ones. Each elder ought to have a list of those they are shepherding, and these people know they can turn to their elder at any time. (A ratio of one elder to no more than 12 persons or family groups is recommended.)
Deacons are 'servants'. Both Jesus and Paul used this word of themselves. Their tasks: administrative leadership, policy-making, and planning.
Both elders and deacons have 'spiritual' ministries. They are accountable to the church members. The personal and spiritual qualities of these leaders are spelt out in 1 Timothy 3: 1-13. Note that such appointments have nothing to do with age, sex, or status. Spiritual leadership is not for people who like to be 'bossy'; the badge of office for all followers of Christ is a towel! Both groups (if your church has both) ought to be commissioned by the congregation, who will pray for them earnestly. These 'servants' will lead by encouragement and example, rather than by coercion. They will generally plan openly rather than covertly. They will continually inform their people of their doings, and will invite feed-back from the members. Occasionally they will 'retreat' ('advance'?) for times of prayer, study and discussion.