Issue #221 -------
November 17, 2005
The art of choosing men is not nearly
so difficult as the art of enabling those
one has chosen to attain their full worth.
Without question, the ideal of the "Chief Shepherd" (1 Pet. 5:4) is for every gathering of disciples within any given geographical area to have godly men capable and willing to provide spiritual leadership, guidance and counsel to those sheep within the local fold. Although many congregations do not have men qualified to fill this vital role (see my article: Shepherdless Sheep Folds -- Issue #203), nevertheless this is a goal to which every congregation, and every Christian male, from his youth upward, should aspire. There is no higher calling in life, in my opinion, than to be called by the Master to shepherd His sheep. A calling of the Lord God very much equal to this would be the summons to share the gospel of His limitless love and matchless grace with a lost and dying world. I would not place one calling above the other, but truly regard both as twin peaks in service to mankind, both saved and lost. It is little wonder, then, that Paul the apostle should declare, "The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching" (1 Tim. 5:17, NIV). Although not every shepherd is an evangelist, nor is every evangelist a shepherd, there are some men who function as both, and do so quite effectively. Peter, for example, who was both an apostle and evangelist, exhorted a group of elders "as your fellow elder" (1 Pet. 5:1). The apostle John, a beloved pastor in Ephesus, also comes readily to mind.
Since the Lord clearly desires a congregation of believers to have shepherds in place, the obvious question that arises is: How are these men to be selected and ordained? And by whom? Is some democratic process to be utilized by disciples of Christ, with these disciples electing men to office? Are they to serve "term limits," much like our representatives to Congress? May the people whom they lead vote them in and out of office if they do not submit to the whims of the public? Should men actually "run for office" in the church of our Lord Jesus Christ, and then curry the favor of those they purport to lead so as to maintain that office? In other words, is the selection process political? ... or does our Lord have something entirely different in mind? Frankly, I cannot even begin to grasp how some could even imagine that the Lord ever had such a political process in mind for setting shepherds in place. The church of Jesus Christ is not a democracy, but a Theocracy! There is only one vote that counts -- His. Thus, it behooves us to listen when He speaks to us through His inspired Word.
Several readers, however, are not convinced that God has actually spoken to this question in Scripture. It is their view that the Lord is largely silent with regard to the particulars of elder selection, thereby leaving it entirely to the discretion of the local fold. A reader in Indiana, for example, suggested that "the Bible does not give specifics for most of the questions you brought up." A reader in Texas, who has been preaching for 48 years, wrote, "Scripture is strangely quiet about the process of selecting and installing these men. Qualities of their lives are given, but I have found no instruction on how to select them." A gospel minister in Tennessee concurs: "I don't know of any Scriptural basis for the selection process in today's church," as does a minister in my own home state of New Mexico: "There are no clear instructions as to how to carry this out." A minister in South Carolina modifies this somewhat, saying that "the only NT examples of elder selection are for the first-time appointment of elders within a congregation; there's no example of how an eldership perpetuates itself." I think this is a valid distinction, and we shall seek to address both scenarios in this study.
The Role of the Spirit
I personally do not believe the Scriptures are truly silent about this issue of how elders are selected. The selection of men to be elders in the church of Jesus Christ is made by the Holy Spirit. In other words, He selects them. It is then our task to recognize those chosen by Him. Paul told the Ephesian elders, "Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood" (Acts 20:28). Who made these men to be elders, choosing and calling them to this service? It wasn't the work of mere men, it was the work of the Spirit. This is a fact that I believe we too often overlook in our search for overseers.
No, I certainly do not think the precedent established here is that spiritual leaders are chosen by casting lots ... or ballots, for that matter. However, like the insightful precedent of the Spirit-led upper room disciples, certain men were "put forward" who fell within certain predetermined personal parameters. Those parameters are specified for us in Acts 1:21-22. Joseph and Matthias both qualified. Thus, both their names were put forward. However, the disciples recognized that the choice of who would fill this single vacancy within the Twelve must be left to the Lord, not to themselves. Therefore, they employed a "selection/appointment process" that took the decision out of their hands, and placed it in His. Notice also that this process was marked by prayer (vs. 24). Today, I think the process will be much the same, in that prayerful men, led by clearly stated guidelines as to the qualities sought, will prayerfully put forward men to be set in place within the church as elders by the Holy Spirit of God. Hardly anyone would differ with this assessment. "The devil is in the details," as the saying goes. It is here the difficulty begins. At this point in our study I merely take note of the vital role of the Holy Spirit in this process. That role must not be overlooked.
A reader in the state of Oklahoma wrote, "I see in Acts 20:28 where Paul mentions that the Holy Spirit had done the choosing. It irritates me that many people do not recognize the Spirit, His power, and His ability to work today." I'm sure this must grieve the Spirit, as well. As noted previously, I am personally convicted that the Spirit of God calls and equips certain men to serve as shepherds of the flock. Many of you concurred that our task is to recognize such men among us, and to facilitate, in some manner, their embarking upon this work of service for which they have been called by the Lord. A minister in Florida wrote, "Leadership is recognized, not appointed." A preacher of the gospel in Texas said, "I am of the opinion none of us truly select elders today, but all of us recognize elders in our congregation." His point is: shepherds of the flock are already visible to the flock as shepherds of the flock prior to their "official appointment." With this I agree. In other words, if a man is not already showing the qualities of a shepherd, and if the members do not already trust him as a spiritual leader, then don't expect him to suddenly begin displaying those qualities, and don't expect the members to suddenly choose to follow him, simply by virtue of an "appointment." It won't happen!
An elder in Missouri stated it this way -- "It is the Lord who makes men to be Elders. All we mortals can do is recognize His selection. True leaders of God's people will be leading by example and word long before any of us recognizes and 'ordains' them by putting them forward." In a congregation for which I preached several years ago, a man's name was put forward by several members of the congregation. The problem was, this man rarely attended the worship assemblies, and was very rarely involved with the congregation in any way at all. I asked one individual why she had suggested this man be considered to serve as an elder. She replied, "Well, I just thought if we made him an elder, he might get more involved with the church!" Wrong!! Shepherds are already evidencing the qualities of a shepherd; they don't become such by human appointment. The human side of the "selection process" is merely to recognize those whom the Lord has already called to this function, and this is made very easy for us by the fact that these men are already evidencing that calling!! A preacher in southern Texas wrote, "I think a man living the qualifications stated in the Bible is thereby recognized as selected by God."
The Recognition/Selection Process
The human end of the process of setting in place shepherds over the flock begins with recognition of those chosen by the Lord. How is this done? By whom is it done? When is it done? My response to the latter would be that it is ongoing. We must be continually alert to the fact that there may be among us some chosen by the Lord who have reached that point of spiritual maturity that they are now to be acknowledged as shepherds of the flock. If we are to operate on His time table, rather than ours, we must always be watchful for those He has called to this function in the One Body. To set an arbitrary time of "looking for elders every three years" is just as inappropriate, in my view, as setting "term limits" for those whom the Lord has called to this service. The timing is not up to us. We are simply to be open to His leading. When the Spirit presents to our perceptive view one called to be an elder, we should waste no time recognizing him as such, and, further, we should regard him as a shepherd as long as he is providing godly shepherding to the flock and evidencing a shepherd's heart.
How are such men recognized? By the parameters established in the inspired writings. Those qualities of heart and life may be found listed in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. Is this a "legal list" of qualifications for the "job" of elder? No! Indeed, the two lists are not even the same. Rather, they are guidelines as to the qualities that must be evidenced in a man's life. No one is perfect, not even elders, but these men should be "a bit farther down the road" than others. After all, part of their service to the flock is to lead the way. Thus, it is essential that they know the way, and be visibly out front walking in that way. Many good studies have been done on these two passages of Scripture, and I believe it profits a congregation to examine them frequently, keeping these qualities ever before them and fresh in their minds. It will help them in their recognition of true shepherds, and will also guide them in their own spiritual development.
Although there will obviously be differences in how disciples of Christ understand some of these qualities that characterize the life of a Spirit-called shepherd of the flock --- two good examples being: his relationship with his children (Issue #132) and his relationship with his wife (Issue #64) --- nevertheless, the more significant debate among disciples, at least as it relates to our present investigation, seems to come to the fore when it is time to actually "name names." With regard to the selection process, the question before us is: Who should put forward these names? Who has the responsibility of publicly identifying those who seem to meet the above qualities? Who is "authorized" to actually name those men who seem to have been called of the Spirit to be shepherds in the local fold of God's One Flock? This is where we begin to find significant diversity among brothers and sisters in Christ over what constitutes "proper procedure."
There are many congregations that feel the task of "putting forward" these persons perceived to be "candidates" for the role of shepherds in the church belongs to the members of the congregation. In other words, "sheep are to nominate those men they desire to serve as their shepherds." In smaller congregations, or in congregations without elders and/or evangelists, this almost becomes the rule by default. If they don't, who will? In such circumstances, a wide variety of methods have been employed. A reader in the state of Indiana says that the Men's Business Meeting is the group that is given the responsibility of choosing those individuals from among them to put before the congregation. In effect, then, this regular gathering of men is viewed as "the accepted source for governing in the absence of elders," says this reader. I'll reserve comment on "Men's Business Meetings" for a future Reflections, but suffice it to say we are all familiar with this arrangement. Frankly, I'm not overly fond of it. It has some inherent dangers. But, that's another article!
Other congregations employ an Elder Selection Committee. This is generally made up of several individuals appointed by the congregation; men, and even women, whom the members of the congregation respect and trust, who will most likely not be eligible to serve as elders themselves, and who will look out among the members of the congregation and select for nomination those men who, in their view, evidence the qualities enumerated in the Scriptures for the position of elder. A reader in Texas wrote that at her congregation, "members were asked to submit names. From there a committee did the rest." She pointed out that the "committee worked the names and made the final decision ... the committee appointed the elders." She also pointed out that this was not without some problems. "Not all the members have been happy about this. I think the committee should have submitted the names of all those qualified to the congregation for final approval." I would have to agree that there is a very real danger in seeking to govern and direct the affairs of the congregation by committee.
The process most widely accepted in such congregations is that the members will submit the names of those men they believe to be qualified to serve as elders to the "screening" group (whether that is a committee or a group of men who "govern" through a "business meeting"). These names are then evaluated by these persons in light of the above referenced Scriptures. Those men in the congregation who receive a significant number of nominations are approached and questioned, and those willing to serve are then "put forward" before the congregation. Typically, the congregation is given a couple of weeks to voice any Scriptural objections to these men, and, if none are forthcoming, then they are installed as elders of that congregation, usually on a Sunday morning before the entire assembled group. Since most congregations of the Churches of Christ do NOT have elders, and are generally rather small, this is the method with which most in our faith-heritage are familiar.
As a rule, Acts 6:1-6 is the passage used to validate this congregational nomination of names to a group of individuals who would then screen them and place them before the congregation for appointment to positions of service and responsibility. A minister in Georgia wrote, "This would pretty well follow the pattern given in Acts 6 where the congregation had a say in the selection of men to serve tables." An evangelist in Kenya, Africa declared, "We felt the apostles' method of having the church search among themselves (Acts 6) was a very good method." Other readers, however, wrote in to say they did not believe the example of Acts 6 was applicable to the selection of shepherds. They felt the congregation was involved in that circumstance only in the selection of ministry leaders (a particular work of service of the congregation), and NOT in the selection of Spirit-called spiritual leaders.
Another highly controversial method is where the preacher or evangelist of the congregation selects and appoints the elders. This is especially believed by some to be the methodology for initial installation of elders in congregations where elders do not currently exist, although a few congregations even carry this "authority" of the evangelist over to the ordination of additional elders. There is certainly some biblical evidence for such a view, although the relevance of that evidence to the church today is greatly debated among disciples of Christ. One reader wrote, "I find it ironic that the patternists can dismiss so lightly the role of evangelistic authority" in the selection of shepherds. The following reader's remarks are very to the point on this matter -- "For years I have taught men to fly complicated aircraft, both in the Air Force and the airlines. I have always found the best results come from the most simple and uncomplicated instructions. That's what I pass on to you now. Why let people make something so simple so hard?! This is where the pattern bunch fail. Okay, the pattern is: Go, appoint elders! Who does so? The preacher. I know, far too simple!!"
Another reader agrees: "The examples in the Bible show that Paul and his group selected elders in the churches (Acts 14:23 -- 'they appointed elders for them in every church'), and when he wrote Timothy and Titus, it appears he suggested they do it." Yet another reader says, "The only examples of 'appointment' are found in Acts 14:23 and Titus 1:5. Here we find elders being appointed by Holy Spirit inspired itinerant preachers." A minister in New Mexico writes, "If we were strict patternists, I guess we would let the evangelist handle the ordination process." In his experience with congregations where there were no elders, one reader said, "The preacher recruited and put the men forward for consideration by the congregation. Thus, if there is a 'pattern' it would be that evangelists would appoint the men" to serve as elders in the congregation. A reader in Georgia made this honest observation: "In congregations without elders, I would favor a committee doing the selection. I cannot say that preachers appointing elders is wrong in any sense; there are biblical examples of preachers appointing elders. My own bias, however, is to diminish the influence most preachers have on congregational views."
A preacher in Texas writes, "Acts 14:23 gives us the illustration that Paul and Barnabas appointed the elders in churches where no elders existed. It is the responsibility of the minister or evangelist to lead the selection process." There are certainly some valid concerns associated with this view, however. Some feel, especially in light of the way most congregations operate today, that preachers picking elders could easily devolve into these preachers selecting only those men who would be supportive of their views and activities. Such abuse does indeed occur, and we are probably all aware of examples. Many preachers in smaller congregations without elders are also quite often very young men, who may be in their first work. Frankly, some of these guys simply don't have the experience and wisdom to be making such significant selections, in my opinion. Others argue, and they may well have a point, that the NT examples of evangelistic oversight of the selection process may constitute a very unique situation, and not be intended as an eternal precedent. One reader noted that apostles, and evangelists commissioned by apostles, did indeed appoint elders. However, "with no apostles around today we cannot duplicate either of these examples in appointing elders."
In congregations where an eldership is already in place, it was the thinking of a great many who wrote to me that the existing elders should play a key role in the selecting of additional elders. In fact, in a good number of the examples you provided to me, the elders were the ones who actually chose the new elders from among the congregation. A preacher in South Carolina stated, "I've seen Acts 6 used to circumvent the role of existing elders in the selection, screening, and nomination of additional elders. By definition, when elders serve as overseers and shepherds they must be involved in the selection of new elders. In my experience, when names of men are 'put forth' from the congregation without pastoral review there is always turmoil and hurt." Others, however, strongly disagree; some even suggesting that "the elders' hands need to be kept out of the process as much as possible." Obviously, as with any methodology suggested, there will be differing convictions, and even some degree of debate.
The majority of you, however, felt that the oversight of elders in this process was essential, and I would personally agree with that view. A reader from Indiana wrote, "If there are existing elders, consideration of a new elder comes from them." A reader from Tennessee stated, "The selection process is prompted by the sitting elders. They alone select men whom they feel are appropriate" for this position of service. An elder in Florida wrote, "At two congregations, I was approached by the current elders and asked if I would consider serving as an elder." At another congregation, this same reader stated, "The current elders weighed the names submitted by the congregation, throwing out those that did not meet the qualifications." In other words, even though they asked the congregation to submit names, they still made the selection themselves. This gave the members a sense of involvement in the process, although they did not actually make the final choice. A minister/elder in the state of Texas wrote, "In some places, especially in the South, elders pick the elders. They may choose to open the nomination phase of the process to the church, but the elders preside over the process and, in the end, pick the ones they want."
In the nation of Brazil, the elders are the ones who are mandated by law to make this selection. An evangelist in Brazil, who is also one of the elders where he preaches, stated, "We, the elders, are legally (according to the constitution and bylaws of the Brazilian government) the ones who must decide who is eligible to serve, and the congregation recognizes, or accepts, by vote (a legal formality)" those who are declared by the existing elders to be the chosen ones. A former minister in Florida said, "If a congregation already has qualified elders, then why not permit the existing elders to do the appointing of additional elders?" A reader in Oklahoma says that the congregation "where I am currently attending lets the Elders select Elders." A preacher in Tennessee wrote, "In the last selection process, all nominations came from the sitting Elders, with no outside input except for the opportunity to object in writing to some 'Scriptural' reason why the nominee shouldn't be approved."
A minister in Oklahoma observed, "I believe that current elders 'should have' better insight as to who would make better candidates for any additional elders needed. ... Churches with 'fit' men serving as elders tend to reproduce themselves for posterity." Of course, one could argue that "unfit" elders tend to do the same -- that is: reproduce in kind. This leads us back to the previous Reflections article on how to deal with such "unfit" shepherds. A reader in North Carolina stated, "I no longer attend the Churches of Christ, but when I did, Elders were nominated by other Elders in the church." A reader in Georgia wrote, "My bias is that elders are appointed by other elders, rather than the preacher. To me, this process underscores their leadership of the congregation." A reader in Alabama says, "Once all the names have been submitted by the congregation, the existing elders 'take over' from there. Many times the elders know far more about a matter than the congregation as a whole knows, therefore they make the decisions based on their wisdom and experience, even if it goes against what the congregation 'voted for.'"
There were a few readers, however, who were NOT in favor of allowing elders to take leadership in the selection process; some did not want them involved at all. A reader in Oklahoma wrote (and several others made similar statements), "Frankly, I think this method stinks! It results in a self-perpetuating eldership." In a few congregations, when it was "time" to select more elders, the existing elders were all made to resign and "run for office" along with the others. Personally, I have no use for such a "democratic, political process." This running for office and casting of votes and electing men to a "Board of Directors" is totally foreign to what I believe the Bible teaches about the function of these spiritual guides. An elder in Missouri said, "To me, this process just feels wrong and uncomfortable. I would not promote it. We are not about popularity votes and trying to win an election." He told of an occasion where he actually witnessed a man stand before the congregation and inform them that he "desired the office" of elder, and believed he was qualified, and asked for them to support him with their votes. It's pathetic when pastors are reduced to being politicians! A reader in Illinois who has served over 51 years in the ministry summed up the above processes this way: "It shouldn't be a popularity contest, but neither should a church have someone forced upon them."
In the final analysis, it should be stressed that each congregation of believers is truly autonomous, and thus it is not the right of any of us, myself included, to dictate policy to these brethren, or to demand compliance with our own personal preferences in the matter of the selection of shepherds. I have my own convictions, and I don't mind sharing them and giving justification for my views, but I will draw the line at trying to bind them upon others as terms of fellowship or conditions of salvation. The most I will ever do is try to call my brethren with whom I differ to careful, prayerful, reflective analysis of a particular matter. If, after respectful dialogue over our differing views, they continue to differ with me, I will love them no less. They are still my brethren!
Within this article I have, very briefly and skeletally, sought to present some of the more common methodologies employed in Churches of Christ for recognizing and appointing elders within a local congregation. As one can see, there is great diversity, and even greater debate, as to which process is the most acceptable to the Lord. To be honest, I'm not sure we can be that limiting. If the Lord was really that concerned about one process over all others, it seems to me He would have been far more specific in the NT writings than He was. This leads me to believe that perhaps He hoped we would use our heads and hearts, finding a method that would glorify Him and benefit the Body, rather than simply seeking some law to blindly follow. My elder friend in Missouri stated it this way: "I think any method that does not violate any principle of Scripture, that is acceptable to the entire congregation, that accomplishes the task of putting men out front for the work, is acceptable." This brother probably has a point!
There are some principles, however, that must always be kept in mind. I believe God intended shepherds to shepherd; leaders to lead; overseers to oversee. Thus, any process of shepherd selection, in congregations where shepherds already exist, that circumvents these leaders is suspect, in my opinion. If the members of a congregation feel they have the "authority" to vote 'em in, vote 'em out, and exclude 'em from vital decisions impacting the direction of the congregation, then I have to wonder why they bother having elders at all. If certain men are entrusted with leadership in a congregation, and they are serving effectively, having the love and respect of the flock, then let them lead!! Good shepherds will always have the best interests of the flock uppermost in their hearts, and will find ways to involve the members in any vital decision-making process (as the apostles and elders did at the Jerusalem Conference -- Acts 15). Good shepherds value the input of those they lead. Thus, if a congregation has such men, let them do what they have been called by the Spirit to do. If a congregation is not blessed with such men as shepherds, then I would advise another reading of my previous Reflections article.
Some of you are undoubtedly wondering, "What is Al Maxey's preference with regard to this process?" Well, I can only give you my considered opinion, based on my reflective study of the Word, so please accept it as just that and nothing more. My view is that, in a congregation already blessed with elders, the shepherds (and we are assuming here that these are truly good shepherds) should take the lead in this process of seeking out and selecting others to serve with them as shepherds of the flock. One of the responsibilities of a shepherd is to know his flock intimately, and a good shepherd will. Thus, these men are in a much better position to recognize that man, or men, who are evidencing in their attitudes and actions the leading of the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit has brought a man to the point where he is ready to serve as a shepherd, good shepherds should spot this fact before anyone else! Indeed, they should be constantly observing the sheep of the fold, searching for those who are ready to serve as pastors.
The elder in the state of Missouri, with whom I correspond frequently, and whose spiritual insight I value highly, wrote, "My fellow elders and I have concluded that we want all who are qualified in the congregation to be serving as shepherds. Thus, we are constantly on the look out for those who we feel meet the qualities of leadership, and not just those who are 'best friends,' etc." In other words, good shepherds don't just pick their buddies, but truly seek to recognize the Spirit's choice among the sheep of the flock. Good shepherds don't wait until some predetermined date (every 3 years, for example) and then see who gets the most votes from the congregation to determine who should be considered to serve as a shepherd. This isn't leading, it's being led. When the elders perceive a man to be ready spiritually, he should be selected to serve. After all, it is not really their choice, it is the Spirit's; they merely recognize that setting in place before them of this Spirit-led individual.
In congregations without shepherds, I would tend to encourage the minister (if they have one), and a group of active, spiritual men and women (yes, I believe the women should be involved), to come together and formulate a process that is acceptable to the body of believers in that area, and which will best work for them in seeking out those persons (if such persons exist among them) who have been chosen by the Spirit, and equipped by Him, to serve as shepherds. If this is done with large amounts of prayer, study of the Word, fasting (if the group is comfortable with such), and open communication between all involved, then it should be a successful process, even if no one is chosen to serve. The process will certainly bring the members closer together in the Lord, and make them more aware of the Lord's expectations for spiritual leadership. It may even motivate some to begin being more open to the Holy Spirit's leading in bringing them to the point where they may one day serve as shepherds.
Do I believe existing elders should involve the members of their congregations in the selection process? Absolutely. Indeed, it is folly not to. The Lord never intended for elders to lock themselves away in some board room where they would formulate decrees to hand down to their "underlings." Shepherds are to be "among the flock," not only serving, but listening. It would be counterproductive, for example, for elders to bring a man into their midst as a fellow elder if the sheep would refuse to follow his counsel, or if the sheep didn't trust him. Thus, before any person is appointed to serve as a shepherd in a local congregation, the members of that congregation should be given an opportunity to be heard. Good shepherds will provide that opportunity, and they will be creative in seeking out the thoughts and feelings of their flock.
I am convinced that before a person is ever presented to the flock as a prospective elder, the existing elders should know how the flock will react to hearing this man's name put before them. And, yes, I do believe the congregation should have a period of time (usually just a couple of weeks) to voice any Scripturally based concerns to the shepherds, concerns that the latter may simply have overlooked, or of which they may have been completely unaware (and sometimes such things do come to light, no matter how careful these shepherds might be in trying to make sure that the person they have selected is truly Spirit-led to that position of service). One way for elders to generate feedback on a man they are evaluating is to increasingly place this person in leadership positions in the church, and observe the nature of that leadership and the response of those being led by him. This will speak volumes! After all, both elders and deacons are to be persons of proven character and ability, and that, of necessity, means they are already, in many ways, actively doing the work of a shepherd or deacon ... and doing it effectively. Thus, when they are put before the church, it will come as no surprise to anyone. Indeed, I heard a new member say once, about a person whose name was put before the congregation, "I thought he already was an elder here!!" Why? Because she witnessed him already evidencing those qualities!
Elders, if the Spirit has called a man to serve as a shepherd, and if he clearly evidences the qualities given in Scripture, and if he has the trust, love and respect of the congregation, then let him serve. To do otherwise is to place yourself squarely in the way of the working of God's Spirit in the congregation. Choosing shepherds is NOT the task of men; our task is to recognize those chosen by Him. May the Lord help us to be more effective and gracious in our service to Him and one another. May He raise up many good shepherds among His sheep, and may we together journey to that heavenly pasture where we will assemble at the table of the Chief Shepherd!!
From a New Reader in Texas:
Hi Al, I haven't written you in a long, long time. I'm glad to see you are still around on the Internet. I also see you have a book out on MDR. I have recently renewed my off and on interest in this subject. I may wish to pick up a copy of Down, But Not Out one day. I get very, very discouraged with this subject. About the time I've made up my mind one way, I swing back to the other. Why does this have to be so hard?
From a Reader in Florida:
Down, But Not Out, and the two Reflections CD's, arrived yesterday! Thanks very much for shipping them so quickly! I've read half of the book already, and am looking forward to finishing it as soon as possible. It is easy reading and your insights are very enlightening and helpful! It is great having the CD's on hand also, and it's wonderful that you will continue to provide CD's of each year's articles! Wishing Shelly and you God's greatest blessings!
From a Reader in Kansas:
Brother Al, I'm on lunch break and have just read your exchange with the Baptist pastor, Dr. Ray Meier. I must say that I was amazed. How could a man like that, who claims to be led by the Holy Spirit, respond to you in such a fashion? I guess Dr. Meier thinks that anyone who rejects his views is only worthy of Hell, and thus he has no time for them. He sounds like some of the brethren I know in the Churches of Christ -- long on condemning others, short on a willingness to study God's Word with them. He should be ashamed of himself. Well, lunch is over; I must return to work. Keep up the good work!!
From a Minister in Tennessee:
Al, I must admit I have leaned toward the 3-5 year term limit. However, you brought up some thoughts that had not entered my mind. Somehow you have a habit of doing that, for which I am grateful. I suppose there may be abuses in anything, even that which is Scriptural. For example, I have seen honest, concerned members go to the "other" elders about one of their number who they felt was not qualified. The "others" ignored their pleas. No backbone. This stated to those concerned brethren that none of the elders were qualified. It seems to me that when this happens, the good brethren vote with their feet. I know of one congregation in particular that continually has folks leaving there due to this problem. The eldership is viewed by the men in it as an office of prestige, not as the work of shepherding. It could have been a great church, but problems have plagued it for years and it remains mediocre in growth. I have also observed over the years that "they" are a majority of nameless faces used by the minority to supplant the elders as the overseers of the flock. Thanks for your scholarship, you "liberal," you!
From a Minister in Kentucky:
I appreciate the way you dealt with the subject of reaffirmation and term length. You brought some things to mind that I had not thought about.
From a Minister in New Mexico:
Al, Excellent! You did a great job of addressing the issues (as usual). Thank you!
From an Author in Texas:
Dear Bro. Al, I have just now had the opportunity to read your essay regarding the reaffirmation of elders. I just want to say I think you did an excellent job. I believe that the approach you set forth is eminently scriptural. We must get beyond seeing the church as a corporation and elders as a board of directors. They are shepherds/pastors! Well done!
From a Minister in Indiana:
I enjoyed reading your remarks about the reaffirmation of elders. I was also interested in reading the comments of my fellow Reflections readers. I agree with your conclusion that if an elder needs to "step down," he should be asked to do so by his fellow elders. But you and I both know that it is a rare occurrence when this actually happens, because it requires face-to-face confrontation (even when it is done in love), and many elderships would much rather have the problem solved for them by the "anonymous crowd" (the congregation). Besides, I really think a lot of guys are hesitant to confront a fellow elder because of the "I've got to get the plank out of my own eye first" syndrome. Plus, the "good ol' boy system" is still very much alive and well. The church too often resembles American democracy, rather than New Testament Christianity. Also, what preacher would keep his ministry/job for very long if he tried to publicly rebuke or remove an elder from "office"? Thanks so much for your Reflections. You are a blessing to me.
From an Elder in Missouri:
Brother Al, AMEN. Once again your efforts have been fair, even-handed and very much to the point. I missed my bed time when I saw your Reflections hit my inbox; I had to read the entire article right then. Great job, as usual. May the Lord grant you a long and fruitful life in His service.
From an Elder/Minister in Florida:
Al, I just read "Reaffirmation of Elders," and, as usual, you did a superb job dealing with this question. As an elder/minister, I am very interested in this subject. I look forward to each issue of your Reflections. Thanks!
From a Reader in (Unknown):
Bro. Al, You and I have had our differences in the past, and will probably disagree again in the future. Such it is when men independently strive for truth. With regard to your article dealing with the reaffirmation of elders, however, I will give you a well-deserved Amen. Good job!
From a Minister in Texas:
Greetings Bro. Al, I have just finished reading your study on the reaffirmation process, and I found it very interesting. While I don't agree totally with your conclusions, I believe it is a study that all elders and church members in general should read, and I will pass it along as opportunity permits. As you know from our previous correspondence, I have seen both the bad and the good sides of eldership affirmation/reaffirmation, and have personally felt the effects of the bad side of the process in my own family. However, I do not personally find anything unscriptural about a man who is serving as an elder wishing to know if the congregation is supportive of his service. I continue to appreciate the research and the study you put into reaching your views, many of which I strongly agree with, and I hope one day, Lord willing, our paths will cross and I can buy you a cup of coffee! Thanks again for that really good, and very thought-provoking, study. I intend to send it to some elders for them to read, and will recommend that they join your Reflections mailing list. I have passed along some of your thoughts before to several of the elders. Your work involved in these studies, even when we don't completely agree, is appreciated far more than you will ever realize. I look forward to each issue of Reflections as they present me with new challenges to my thoughts and new studies to undertake.
From a Reader in Georgia:
Al, I read Reflections #220 -- "Reaffirmation of Elders" -- with a good bit of interest. There were several points you made in that article that I liked. Among them was that elders ought to discipline elders based on Acts 20:28-31. That was excellent. Also, one problem with elders in general is that they have largely become a corporate board. They are more concerned with administrative tasks than spiritual matters. I know, too, that power corrupts. Of all the elderships I have been around, I believe I can count on one hand those who did not seem to be corrupted by the power of their position. Implicitly and empirically, that tells me something is wrong with the Church of Christ's eldership-membership relationship. Your article did not mention de facto elders. There was one man in a congregation I attended who was not regarded as an "elder" because he had no children. But, I respected him more than any elder that was ever in the "official" position in that congregation. To me, this man was a de facto elder. His views could sway me more than any "official" elder I knew at the time.
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