Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Elders who are Brothers

One of the things I am most thankful for as a preacher are elders who are brothers...

I have served under elders in four different congregations since my earliest preaching days. I am thankful for every one of the men under whom I have worked. All of them made a great sacrifice to serve in such a capacity. All of them, in one way or another, caused me to grow as a man and minister.

Unfortunately, however, not every person who serves as an elder in the Lord's church wants to be a shepherd. Many churches have adopted the board of directors, corporation style of leadership. I have had an elder and an elder's wife where I was serving tell me more than once, "The church needs to be run like a business." In 15 years I have rarely directly and boldly disagreed with an elder face to face. But on that occasion, my reply was, "No it does not. The church should never been run like a business. The church needs to be run more like a hospital."

But, fortunately, and this is my true reason for writing, the majority of the elders under whom I have served have treated me like a brother. I feel sorry for every elder or preacher who has decided to have their relationship be merely that of business. When we are in the body of Christ, our relationships ought to have a capacity for growth that is greater than might exist in any other place in life except for marriage.

Over the years, some of the greatest spiritual blessings I have ever received have been because of my elders. I have been counseled. I have been prayed for. I have been befriended. I have been trusted. I have been loved. I have been told "take it to the grave" secrets. I have been in elders meetings and watched grown men cry for souls. I have been given second chances. I have been given the benefit of the doubt. I have been forgiven. I have been inspired. I have been encouraged. I have been supported and defended.

Over the years, some of the greatest physical blessings I have received have been because of my elders. I have been given raises. I have been given bonuses. I have been treated to dinner dozens of times. I have been given personal gifts. I have been given vacations. I have known without a doubt that my family was not going to be in need.

Before I came to my most recent work at Willow, I was asked by different elderships where I was interviewing, "What kind of relationship do you expect or want to have with the elders where you will serve?" On each occasion, this is what I told them:

"When I had my first cancer surgery in December of 2004, I woke up a day later surrounded by three men: Darrell Mathis, Bobby D. Osbron, and Bobby C. Stubblefield. When I saw them there I remembered how they felt about me. You see, these were not my current elders. They had driven two and half hours from New Providence, Kentucky to see me and to pray for me. I had left the congregation where they serve as elders for another work. I had been gone for nearly two years. But because we were brethren first, they came to me in my hour of need. We genuinely loved each other. We never had a business relationship. We had a mutual respect and admiration for each other because we were working side by side in the kingdom. The best interest of the universal church was always more important to all of us than our individual wants or needs. We preferred spending time together over spending time with almost anyone else. This is the kind of relationship I hope to have with my next eldership."

Looking back on that moment, to this day I believe that this was the greatest honor ever paid to me by any eldership. I will forever be indebted to them for what they did for me when I needed hope.

Brother William Woodson used to tell me that the greatest honor he had ever been given in life was the trust of elders who allowed him to stand behind the pulpit and preach the gospel. There is a great amount of responsibility elders are giving to us when souls are in our hands as preachers, and yet they know they are going to be held accountable for what is preached.

I am most thankful as a preacher for Biblical elders. Elders who shepherd. Elders who humbly serve. Elders who sacrifice their time. Elders who cry when people are hurting. Elders who treat preachers, not like employees, but like brothers.

"But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another." - 1 Thessalonians 4:9

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