Thursday, December 01, 2022

Who’s Running This Place Anyway?

Churches today need leaders — badly. And biblically speaking, that means they need elders.

“Elder” doesn’t necessarily mean old but it does mean spiritually mature, so some age and experience are required, of course.

Unfortunately, spiritually mature people are in short supply these days. I fear that the majority of my generation, the currently middle-aged, didn’t spend much of their youth reading the Bible or seeking spiritual growth opportunities. Consequently, those now in the best age group to be selected as elders to lead the churches are not quite up to the task.

But churches still need leadership.

And so this situation has led to two damaging alternatives: (1) the appointing of a single professional person to do all the things the elders of the church ought to have been doing but now don’t, and (2) the appointing as “elders” of those people who are not actually qualified to do it.

Today’s Elders

How are today’s elders being chosen? Often because of some secular skill or experience they may have. If, for example, one man is good at accounting, he is appointed as “finance elder”, or if, perhaps, he has run a private business successfully or done time as a CEO, in he goes, perhaps as chairman. Maybe it’s someone with a degree from a university or Bible school, and for that reason he’s appointed to the group. Then maybe it’s just that pushy guy with the big personality who really, really wants to lead and will likely be upset if he isn’t included … well, okay.

Disaster. What you end up with is a committee of unspiritual, confused, directionless people, often fractured by control issues, who can make no decisions and take the church nowhere.

Solution by Dissolution

Faced with the failure of the elders to lead, the church turns to the solo professional. He arrives with all the hoopla of a savior. At last we will have someone in charge … someone accountable … someone skilled … someone responsible … someone who can do the job … someone we can look to. Finally the future of the church is secured.

Well, not so much. The first action of the new professional may be to sweep away the remnants of the failed elders’ committee, or he may keep it going to serve as the executive for his wishes. But either way, the future of the congregation now rests of the success of one man.

A nice big target for the Enemy.

He will be lonely.

He will be in demand.

He will be stressed.

He will be flattered.

He will be tempted.

And like all humans, he will be vulnerable to fall … and when he does, there will be no one to pick him up and plenty to point the finger.


Meanwhile, the congregation heaves a collective sigh and settles back firmly into their seats. Now that the new man is here, things are going to go ahead. Some will never volunteer again. Others will, but in most cases under the spiritual vision and leadership of the pastor, not so much under their own conviction.

So What’s to Be Done?

Well, we need elders. And we need a few of them, not just one or two. The word of God has no other plan for the running of the church. But given the present circumstances, where are we going to get them?

How about you? Have you ever thought of it?

“Not me!” you say, “I could never live up to being a spiritual leader: have you seen what they have to be like?

Yes, I have. Have you? We find the qualifications of an elder primarily in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. Did you ever really read the list? It’s not very difficult. Let me show you some of the criteria in common language. You’ll see it’s not some super-spiritual litany of unreachable ideals:

  • Don’t be a rookie.
  • Be humble.
  • Be fair.
  • Be sensible.
  • Love truth.
  • Have spiritual priorities.
  • Have some discernment.
  • Don’t be a drunk.
  • Don’t be greedy.
  • Don’t pick fights.
  • Don’t insist on getting your own way all the time.
  • Don’t do stuff that gets you a bad reputation in the community.
  • Have only one wife.
  • Have a good home, and open it to others.
  • Raise your children well enough that we can see you can do the job.
  • Be able to teach someone, somewhere, in some kind of situation, so you can pass along basic truth to others.

Now, which one is really too much for an ordinary Christian? In fact, aren’t they all pretty much a minimum for every Christian? When you look at it this way, doesn’t it make you wonder how low things have gotten that we’re finding difficulty getting today’s Christians to fit the bill?

Not Up to It?

Still, okay — you may not think you’re fit for leadership now, and maybe you’re even right — but couldn’t you be? With a bit of time and effort, couldn’t you come up to such a minimal standard?

Meanwhile, the church still needs leadership. At least for the present, that means that some of us will be leading while feeling not quite up to the task. Okay. Here’s what you need to do to start:

  1. Admit your weakness and insufficiency.
  2. Bow to the Lord, the Head of the Church, and beg for the strength to do what you cannot do on your own.
  3. Continue in humble dependence upon his provision, submission to his word, and realization of your own inadequacy.


We can have elders again. It’s not hard for the church to get them, if Christians start to live like Christians again.

For those willing to step up, there is the following encouragement:

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