The church is designed by God to have spiritual resources for people wanting to grow in their faith. Every church I know uses some of those resources. They gather for worship, most teach Bible classes, some encourage friendships and provide opportunities for service. Those are great opportunities for fellowship, learning, encouragement, and putting your faith into practice. But there are also so many other resources that the church can provide. One that is often overlooked has been a tremendous benefit to my life and ministry: talking to your elders.
Who are elders? One thing I find interesting about the lists given in 1 Timothy and Titus about the type of men elders ought to be is that every godly Christian person that I know is trying to be those things. With the exception of the responsibilities as fathers and husbands (because some great Christian men are unmarried, and some great Christians are not men), everything on those lists is something every Christian should strive for. What Christian doesn’t desire to be respectable and above reproach? What Christian wants to be a quarrelsome lover of money or a violent drunk? These are things all Christians should aim for because they are part of the Christian life.
Elders are simply men who have been doing these things well for a long time. They have proven to be trustworthy in their Christian walk. They do the things Christians are to do in their homes, personal and public lives, and in the church. That’s why they are so great to talk to.
They have faithfully done what we are striving to do. They take God and His Word seriously. They love the church. They are committed to the Lordship of Jesus. The church has trusted them to gently lead God’s people as shepherds. They are trying to emulate the Good Shepherd. What a tragedy for a sheep not to know its shepherd. Imagine a sheep trying to feed itself, defend itself, and lead itself without the guidance of a shepherd. It probably won’t make it very long.
When you are having struggles in your walk with God, talk to your elders. When you have questions about the Bible, talk to your elders. When you have important life decisions, talk to your elders. When you are having battles in your home, talk to your elders. When personal sin is ravaging your soul, talk to your elders. They are there as a resource for you. Every eldership I have ever worshipped with has been a blessing in my life. It’s because I have gotten to know them. I’ve talked to them about important issues. I’ve seen the struggles they face when trying to do what is best for the church. I’ve seen how much they care.
I hope you don’t respond by thinking, “psh, not my elders.” I know not all elders are what God wants them to be. I know not all churches have elders. And that is truly tragic. But in my experience, most elders in the church, while imperfect, love God, have faithfully served him for many years, and have valuable experience and spiritual insight. They deserve the benefit of the doubt. Don’t be afraid of them. Don’t expect the worst. They may surprise you with how shepherd-like they can be. They may become a great spiritual resource throughout your life.