Effective Elders by Google
Over the past fifteen years I have had the privilege to meet more than 1,000 elders scattered across the United States and abroad. I have worked with many of these men in planning Gospel meetings, Origins seminars, youth rally’s, etc. Yes, there are some elders serving who are not qualified, who are poor leaders, who do not know the Word, or simply enjoy the title. But most elders I have met serve because they love souls, they love the bride of Christ, and they love their church family. These are the ones who wear the deep wrinkles, gray hair, and other “scars” from truly worrying about the souls of their sheep.
I have watched on multiple occasions elders get so choked up, as they prayed for those who responded to the Lord’s invitation, that they had to stop and wipe away tears. I have listened to men share the ongoing heartache they feel having counseled broken families. I have seen firsthand visible bags under the eyes of men who stayed up late into the night praying for a specific member of their church family. I have counseled elders who desperately want to give the right counsel to members who find themselves in ethical dilemmas, such as new fertility practices.
I cannot count the number of meals I’ve eaten with elders who—with pain in their voices—discuss the apathy among their church family. I have been asked numerous times what resource is out there that can help get people more involved or help their members evangelize better. I have watched elders who have had to gently but firmly correct someone in a Bible class who was teaching error. And I can’t imagine the number of “fires” these men have had to put out between silly squabbles in their own congregations.
But the reality is these men are rapidly getting older.
Many are very close to their reward.
Some have already died out.
And while we often view the appointment of elders as a lifelong appointment, like the Supreme Court, the reality is there comes a time when men are no longer “able to teach,” “hospitable,” “desire the work,” or “the husband of one wife” (1 Timothy 3:1-7). In Titus one of the qualifications is that they are to “hold fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able to exhort and convict those who contradict” (Titus 2:9, emp. added).
In other words, an 85 year-old elder who can no longer hear well, has not taught a class in over a decade, misses most elders meetings because of poor health, does not actively feed the sheep, and only holds the title elder because he was appointed 25 years ago, is no longer qualified. (I realize that this is a sensitive topic in many congregations, but the reality is the qualifications still exist even after the person has been appointed.)
As a result, in the next ten years we are going to have a massive amount of seats become available in elderships all across this land. In many congregations we either don’t have enough elders to truly protect and feed the sheep, or we don’t have any because “we don’t have anyone qualified.” I know of many congregations that only have two elders, and one is already gravely ill.
So who is going to fill their shoes? Have we honestly been training the next generation of men to take care of the bride of Christ? In Titus 2 we read, “Likewise, exhort the young men to be sober-minded in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works, in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you” (Titus 2:6-8). What are we saying when a congregation goes 10-15 years without having men qualified to be an elder? Why are we not training men for this position?
Add to this, that many congregations are missing an entire generation (20-35 year-olds). What is going to happen when it becomes time for the millennial generation to step up and lead the church?
Have you ever watched a how a 20-30 year-old person solves dilemmas? Almost universally they will take out a smartphone and ask Google (or Siri or Alexa) for an answer.
“Hey Siri where is the closest gas station?”
“Hey Google, how do I get a ketchup stain out of a hemp shirt?”
“Hey Alexa, how do I make turtle cheesecake?”
Friends, you can’t use Google and be an effective elder. Oh sure, you can ask Google some questions about qualifications or duties of an elder. But being an effective elder is more than simply asking your phone for a solution.
There are many things your smartphone cannot teach you. Like for instance:
- Google can’t tell you how to properly console a mother who has just lost a child. Only time, experience, God’s Word, and loss can teach you that.
- Google can’t tell you how to give comfort and counsel a woman whose husband is addicted to pornography.
- Google can’t identify false doctrine or teach you when you should speak up and correct someone.
- Google can’t pray for your congregation.
- Google can’t figure out how to resolve squabbles among your members.
- Google can’t instruct you on when (and how) to use church discipline.
And while your smartphone may have a Bible on it, it can’t get that information into your head and heart. Only time and study does that.
I fear that the younger generation does not want to receive instruction from the older generation—after all, they can just Google it. But as I mentioned above, there are many things Google cannot teach you. Google cannot tell you how to most effectively feed the sheep in your congregation, because Google does not know all of the intricate details about your sheep.
If we are going to preserve the bride of Christ in America we must start teaching the younger generation how to be effective leaders. We need to start mentoring the 20-30 year olds. The younger generation must humble itself and be willing to learn. Find out what caused the wrinkles and the gray hair, and listened to what they did right and what they did wrong.
I believe there is a great future for many congregations in America—as I have met some incredible men who are exactly what I believe God expects in an elder. But if we are going to pass that on and improve, then we need to put down our phones, open up God’s Word, and learn from those who already walked down that path!