Church_Elders_large9Marks has always provided rock solid resources for the local church – but what makes them so helpful is that they are so accessible.  They have a knack, that reminds me a lot of Bob Kauflin and Sovereign Grace, to be unassuming, and “entry level” and then be able to go deep quickly and not shy away from the meat.  For this I’m very thankful.

Church Elders by Jeramie Rinne is that kind of book.

I can relate to the title of the Intro – “I’m an elder.  Now what?”  – as I’m fairly certain I said those exact words when I became a lay elder almost 10 years ago.  Now on the “other side” as a “vocational” elder, I can see the look of bewilderment on the faces of men as they step into the office.  Again, this is where a book like this is very helpful.  It will become required reading for all new elders for sure.

I believe this is the first book I’ve read by Jeramie Rinne and I found his writing to be clear, informed, and mixed with just the right amount of light-heartedness.  He writes “this book is intended to provide a concise, biblical job description for elders.” [15] and he accomplishes that well, not only for elders, but for church members as well.  Pastorally, the more that we can highlight the biblical perspective of elders, the better our people will understand the purpose and calling of an elder.  He provides practical, yet grounded points that should serve the church well.

  1. Don’t Assume.  Just because someone “looks” like elder material, or [worse] says they ‘should be’ an elder, doesn’t mean they are Scripturally qualified. [See 1 Tim 3 and Titus 1] Do you have a true inner hunger to shepherd the local church?  Do you exemplify Godly character? Can you teach the Bible? Do you lead your family well? Are you male? Are you an established believer?
  2. Smell Like Sheep.  Rinne summarizes the elder’s job as “shepherd the flock…to be more precise, elders are under-shepherds who serve the Good Shepherd by leading his sheep.”[35] This means we have to know them…be in relationships with them.  One sentence I highlighted and underlined was this – “Eldering is more about people than programs.” Yes and AMEN.  We aren’t a board of directors…we are shepherds. Rinne, rightfully so, pushes on the mega-church = corporation model.  The pastor isn’t a CEO, he is a shepherd of people.
  3. Serve Up the Word. The words Pastor and Teacher go together. [46]. Elders need to be actually teaching the Word of God in some capacity.  Preaching, leading Bible studies, small group discussion, one on one discipleship.  We also need to be protecting all teaching from false doctrine.
  4. Track Down the Strays. We keep watch.  We count sheep.  Who is missing?  Where did they go? Did they fall thru the cracks? Specifically, we watch over the members of the church and encourage the attenders to commit to membership so they can be better cared for. There are different varieties of straying sheep:  sinning sheep, wandering sheep, limping sheep, fighting sheep, and biting sheep.  Elders take notice of the flock and get involved.
  5. Lead Without Lording. Elders have clear Biblical authority to direct the affairs of the local church [74], BUT that doesn’t mean we are dictators. No power trips allowed.  He gives some practical thoughts:  chose humble elders, delegate to deacons, remain accountable, honor the Word, replicate yourself, and trust the congregation.  The great paradox to keep in mind is that an elder is simultaneously a shepherd and a sheep, a leader of the flock and a follower of Jesus, an overseer of the body, yet a dependent part.  [83]
  6. Shepherd Together. Eldering is a “team sport.” We are called to a team of elders, it’s not a solo mission.  We share the load, have many gifts, we sharpen each other, and we love and enjoy each other.
  7. Model Maturity.  When a church appoints a man to be an overseer, it is formally saying “Here is an official church-recognized example of a mature follower of Jesus.” [101]  This makes me gulp in fear when I read it.  Rinne provides some more context “…he isn’t the only example, he isn’t the perfect example, not the best example for every virtue…but he is a duly designated model nonetheless.”   Thus, elders, we need to watch our lives closely and make gospel progress.
  8. Plead for the Flock. Straight up – elders are called to prayer. In a techy example that resonated with the nerd that I am, Rinne writes “Try not to think of prayer and an extra activity tossed into your already overloaded schedule. Rather, think of it as the operating system on which all the of the elders apps run.”  #GOALS. We are called to pray publicly, privately, as a team of elders, and personally with the sheep.

I found this to be an excellent resource for both aspiring and established elders alike.  Let us commit ourselves to the work of shepherding the flock of God that he purchased with the blood of His Son, Jesus.

“Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.”

(Acts 20:28 ESV)

 

 

 

 

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