Thursday, March 25, 2010

Two Articles Dealing with the Office of Elder

There are two articles at The Aquila Report right now, dealing with the office of elder. The first is entitled "Elders--We Are Servants First and Foremost" by Dr. D. Thomas Owsley. Its title gives away that it focuses on the servant role of elders in Christ's church, and although Dr. Owsley focuses his article on Pastors, the same can be applied to Ruling Elders. Of the use of the title "slave" or "servant," he has this to say:
Paul uses doulos-slave and diakonos-servant at least as often as the title apostle. This is because more than anything else he is called to serve God, the saints (Rom. 15:25; 2 Cor. 8:19), and even Gentile unbelievers. He is a doulos-slave (Rom. 1:1; Gal. 1:10, Phil. 1:1; Ti. 1:1) and a diakonos-servant (Eph. 3:7; Col. 1:23, 25).
Dr. Owsley ends with this thought:
Since “servant,” and not “pastor” is the most important and prominent, biblical term for a Christian believer in church leadership it would do all of us well to take that to heart. How should those of us who are ruling and teaching elders think about our roles? Like servants of Christ. How should those of us who are ruling and teaching elders function in our roles? Like servants of Christ.

The second article is by Ken Sande, president of Peacemaker Ministries (not to be confused with the Colt Peacemaker, I'm sure). His article is entitled "Training Left Offensive Tackles for the PCA". In it, he describes the role of "peacemakers"--elders and members of the local church specially trained to resolve conflicts, biblically--and how they can aid in the life of the church. This highlights two important aspects of the Ruling Elder's role: First, that of peacemaker. Christ said, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God" (Matt. 5:9) and Paul exhorts us, "If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men." (Romans 12:18). And when describing the qualification of elders to Timothy, Paul includes the characteristics of being "gentle, not quarrelsome." (1 Tim. 3:3). So, there is a lot to be said about being a peacemaking elder.

The second important aspect of the Ruling Elder's role that Sande highlights (though somewhat indirectly) is that of support for the Pastor of the congregation. Sande, relaying the account of a pastor writes:

Through her tears, she [a member of the Pastor's church] said, “Pastor, my husband’s been drinking and gambling again, and last night he didn’t come home.” What was I to do? In less than 20 hours, I was to board a plane for a week of meetings in Dallas. Should I cancel my trip? Where could I turn for support? At that moment, I remembered that this couple had connected well with one of our peacemaking-trained elders...Can you imagine my sense of relief?
Mark Ross has prepared a video for the training of Ruling Elders in ARP congregations and one thing I remember him saying is that if you want a good pastor who is not so over worked that he barely has time to prepare his Sunday morning sermon, then you need to have Ruling Elders that are taking care of other responsibilities in the congregation. Being a peacemaker is one way Ruling Elders can support their Teaching Elder.

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