“Paul-Style Elder Appreciation”

Categories: Bulletin Articles, M. W. Bassford

As obnoxious as the pandemic has been, one of the silver linings to the cloud has been the way that it has brought recognition to the elders at Jackson Heights.  Normally, much of the work that the elders do remains in the background, but the crisis brought it to the foreground.  They were faced with a complex problem involving danger, uncertainty, and deeply divergent beliefs among brethren, but they navigated the challenge with wisdom and skill.  We continued to assemble nearly without interruption, nobody caught COVID in any of those assemblies, and nobody got mad and left because of the elders’ handling of the situation.  Can’t ask for better than that!

Many of the members here (myself included) have expressed their appreciation to the elders for their work.  However, if we pay attention to Paul’s admonitions in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13, we see that in context, there are other ways we ought to be recognizing our leaders for their work.

Regard them very highly in love.  Christians are notorious for feasting on roast preacher on the way home from services.  Sad to say, it’s too often true that elders also find a place on the menu.  It’s very difficult to serve as an elder, but it’s very easy to criticize and second-guess the decisions that the elders make. 

However, this kind of Monday-morning quarterbacking fails to show respect either for the office or those holding it.  Elders are generally wise, compassionate men, but they always end up dealing with the hard cases and difficult choices that nobody else in the congregation can handle.  Are their conclusions always going to please every member of the church, or even necessarily going to be the best option available?  Of course not! 

Nonetheless, we still owe them deference and grace.  When the elders are down in the trenches fighting for people’s souls, the last thing they need is to start taking casualties from friendly fire!  When we disagree with the elders, rather than offering criticism, let’s start offering prayers for them instead.  Every one of them will tell you that they need it!

Be at peace.  As many difficulties as COVID created for the church, one of the elders confided to me that it was far from the most difficult problem that he had faced during his leadership tenure.  You know what gives elders more headaches and heartaches than a global pandemic?  Christians who can’t get along with each other and dump their garbage in the elders’ laps, each expecting to be vindicated.  That’s when the elders start buying Tums in bulk.

For all of us, the solution is simple, though difficult:  start acting like real Christians instead of nominal ones.  Don’t turn your marriage into a museum of every wrong your spouse has ever done you.  Don’t take every thoughtless comment that a brother makes in the worst way possible.  Don’t assume that the sister who passed you without speaking to you did it on purpose.  In short, view others in the best light possible while harshly examining your own soul for the self-righteousness, self-deception, and selfishness that all of us love to harbor.  Don’t make your spiritual problems the elders’ problems too!