This month, we have been looking at eldership in the church, and in recent weeks have discussed the history, meaning, character and function of elders. This week’s topic focuses on an elder’s calling.
Paul makes it clear that it is the Holy Spirit who issues the call to eldership (Acts 20:28) and with it the grace and anointing to skillfully and sacrificially shepherd the people of God. Peter echoes this when he states that elders should “shepherd the flock… willingly, as God would have you” (1 Peter 5:2).
Because of increased demands on time, resources, energy, emotions and family, elders need to be sure of such a call to this life of service. With God’s call comes God’s grace to joyfully and willingly lay down their lives for others. This said though, an elder must also have the solid foundation of godly character so that he and his family can rise to the added stresses which come with the work of oversight.
The scriptures indicate God will provide these kind of men for every church (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5) and the responsibility of the local congregation and trans-local apostolic authority is to recognize and appoint God’s sovereign choice through fasting, prayer, and the laying on of hands (Acts 14:23; I Timothy 5:22). This only underscores the sober responsibility of appointing elders (Acts 14:23) and explains why Paul urges Timothy not to do it hastily (I Timothy 5:22).
In summary, the elder must have a solid and stable foundation of character and an orderly family life. To this foundation of character can be added a beautiful structure of gifting and ministry. The ‘house’ can then be roofed by the call and anointing of God so when the storms of life come, as they inevitably do, the house will, by the grace of God, stand firm and be an example and shelter to others.