Jump Starts Daily

Jump Start #3552

Jump Start # 3552

Acts 14:23 “When they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.

  In our Jump Start yesterday we began to look at the idea of how does one prepare to become an elder. This is something that on the personal and congregational level ought to be given much thought. By the time a man is in his 50s, and begins to think about this, he may not have developed the qualities that make it necessary to lead the people of God safely to Heaven. The door may have already closed on that being a possibility.

  This type of study ought to begin with teenage young men. It needs to be repeated to the 20s and 30 year olds. Classes, discussions and sermons on this ought to be a regular part of the vision that a church has. Much too often, nothing is ever said about shepherds until one moves away, dies or steps down. Then there is a panic racing through the congregation. The preacher presents a quick series of lessons from 1 Timothy 3, spending most of his time on “husband of one wife,” and “believing children.” Names are submitted. A process takes place and those that survive are appointed. The congregation breathes a sigh of relief and nothing is ever said again about elders until the next crisis. Does this sound familiar? Does it sound healthy and right?

 Imagine ten, twenty years before a person’s name is submitted, that he has studied, talked, sat in classes and fully grasps the understanding of what leading the people of God means. How ready, natural and right that would be. As you think about your congregation, who will be the next leaders? Has anyone given that some thought? Are steps being taken now to work on that?

  We might take a young man who is interested in preaching and allow him to spend a couple of years with a preacher to learn the ins and outs of preaching. By the end of that time, his knowledge and experience level has increased and he is ready to head out preaching. But with elders, we don’t do that. There is very little mentoring that takes place. A man is appointed and he sits like a deer in the headlights of his first elders meeting. He is clueless and unsure what to say or do. And, if the system is broken and micromanaging others, he will quickly learn that’s what he is supposed to do as well. The process of shepherding has not be explained, taught, nor understood.

  What can be done to prepare someone to be an elder?

First, grow spiritually. Peter gives a list of things that ought to be added to our faith (2 Pet 1:5-11). Learn Scriptures. Understand concepts of salvation and grace. Understand how a congregation functions. Be able to recognize error. Hours spent in the Bible, taking notes, reading, thinking, growing. The man who leads God’s people must be “apt to teach.” That means, apt to teach God’s word accurately. Some are apt to teach anything. Some are apt to teach their opinions and their agendas and not God’s word. One wanting to be an elder needs to understand the concepts of shepherding. Spending time in great passages such as Ezekiel 34, John 10, Psalms 23 are a must.

  Not only knowing God’s word is essential, but there is a need to understand people. Ezekiel 34:4 lists the broken, diseased, and scattered. In 1 Thes 5;14, Paul names the unruly, fainthearted and weak. People are not all at the same place. A broken finger is a lot different than the disease of cancer. Understanding people comes from listening to them. Watching them. As one grows, he considers, what can be done to prevent spiritual sickness? Why were the members of Laodicea lukewarm? What could have prevented that? Why did most of Sardis die spiritually? Growing, thinking, applying God’s word to His life is where shepherding begins.

  It is this type of thinking and growth that will help someone be able to help others.

  Second, get involved in the kingdom. When Paul came to Derbe, there was a young disciple who was well spoken of by the brethren in two other cities. His name was Timothy. You don’t have to have a title to encourage others. You get busy in the kingdom. The worst thing a church can do is appoint someone who does nothing with the hopes that he will now start doing things. That won’t happen. Get a busy person. Get someone who is busy in the kingdom. He’s teaching. He’s having people in his home. He’s visiting. He’s inviting. You want to be a shepherd in ten years, get busy today.

  Third, make wise choices now. This is the number one killer of most men ever serving as a shepherd. They put career before the kingdom. They neglected their family. They allowed our times to drain the joy out of their souls. As a young person, who you date is who you marry. If you date a frog, they don’t turn into a princess. You’ll be stuck with a frog the rest of your life. Who is someone that will help you get to Heaven? Who is someone that will work with you in the kingdom? If you marry someone who doesn’t like to have people in their home, that’s going to be tough. You marry someone and they don’t like to stick around after services, that’s going to be tough. Make wise choices today, looking down the road.

  Fourth, watch, learn and talk to other shepherds. What shepherd impresses you? Why? What’s in his life that is missing in yours? Take that person to lunch and talk with him. Find out if you could have a one on one study with him. Ask him what he would do differently? Ask him what helped him prepare to serve as a shepherd? Ask him what are the joys of being a shepherd? Talking to an actual person who is on the front lines of doing that work is a great help.

  Fifth, pray about it. Understand the role of an elder is not about power, control or running the church. If you have such thoughts, stop and rethink what you are doing. This is a work, not a title. This is about people. It’s not about budgets, picking out paint or paying the church bills. That’s not in the job description of a shepherd. It’s watching, leading guarding, feeding and helping the people of God. This is a people job. It is getting into the weeds with problems. It is helping those who are discouraged. It is correcting those who are wrong. It is showing Jesus is the only way. Far, far too many elders today like to run the church like a business. They see their roles as making decisions. It’s the deacons, the sublevel managers, who must carry out those decisions. That’s not the Biblical picture. And, that’s why the church in so many places is falling apart and not thriving. Get the right picture of what a N.T. shepherd is all about. Be that example to others.

  Finally, if you are never appointed as a shepherd, continue to be an asset to the kingdom of God. Some of the best workers are just that, workers in the kingdom. They invite. They encourage. They teach. Their names never come up when the church is thinking about new shepherds. Yet, they don’t sit on the sidelines of life and pout. There is much to be done and they are doing it.

  Preparing to be an elder. What a great topic. It needs to be taught and taught often.