February 3, 2021 | by: Tom Kruggel | 0 comments
Greetings and love to you in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Days, weeks and months, to now almost a year of estrangement from what once was has allowed for much contemplation. There’s been time for deep reflection. And none too much on the role of a church elder and the voluntary oversight to shepherd the flock of God among us. [I Peter 5:2]
When first appointed and ordained, the thought of eldership was both invigorating on the one hand and yet o’ so sobering on the other. The aspiration, gifted and driven by a God-given desire, was (and is, and always shall be) a fine work to embark upon. [I Timothy 3:1] Admittedly, entering into a bit of the unknown did have its mystery, clouded by some naivety and visions of idealism.
It is profoundly fulfilling to enter into the work God calls one to do, no matter what it is. That’s one side of the balance. But with eternal souls at stake and eternal accountability [Hebrews 13:17] at hand, the balance can quickly shift, if not sometimes tipping the scale heavily to the other side.
Couple that with the testimony of fellow elders and those who had gone before, that… “In the midst of much joy, it can get and will get difficult, sometimes really difficult.” All this put in check, with a chilling effect, the sobriety of placing a hand upon an eldership’s till. Even so, when following God’s lead there’s deep comfort in the more than sufficient strength and grace supplied for anything He directs. [II Corinthians 9:8] Now, years and years later, the testing of that commitment and the trying of that calling is being refined like never before. (More on that a bit later.)
Boiled down to its simplest elements, the work of an elder is quite straight forward: Devotion to “… prayer and to the ministry of the word.” [Acts 6:4b (ESV)] (Emphasis mine.) But simplicity rarely reveals the reality of what lies beneath. So, to add another layer of detail, these two eldership emphases practically break down into at least four primary tasks for all overseers of Christ’s church: To (i) feed the Word (I Timothy 5:17), (ii) care for lives (I Thessalonians 2:11-12), (iii) protect from intrusion (Acts 20:28-32), and (iv) lead with joy (Hebrews 13:17).
All of this always is, and must always be, subservient to the direction and instruction of the One to whom both elder and non will answer, “… the Shepherd and Guardian of y(our) souls.” [I Peter 2:25b (NASB)] Greater elucidation could be espoused, but these are the cornerstones of an elder’s opportunity and an elder’s responsibility. And thus it has been for all the elders of Grace Bible Church – to endeavor by God’s grace (alone) to faithfully fulfill these charges day-in and day-out, week-in and week-out, month-in and month-out, and year-in and year-out, all in much unity and all with much joy.
Little can any foresee what lie ahead for His church when laying hands upon a pastor, an elder, an overseer; far less where we’d now find ourselves entering into this second decade of the second millennium following Christ’s descension to earth. How could we? How could anyone? But God. And thus, this is where God has us and His church - some worshipping and being ministered to virtually, some outside, some inside and “socially distanced” (a noun now found in Webster’s Dictionary), and some with a variant of all and even more. And this is where God will also lead us through (not necessarily around), with love, with patience, with understanding, with prayer, with compassion, with respect and with deference.
None of us need tell of life’s difficulties these past months; all are suffering to one degree or another. Our pastoral hearts break and penetratingly weep for all, the church, and the devotion to prayer on your/our behalf has never been more fervent. The brokenness, the loneliness, the depravation, the isolation, and the restriction are numbing and oppressing. Layered with the remembrance of what once was only exacerbates what now is. This is real.
Even so, God brings miraculous growth to His church – communally and personally. Nothing shall stand in its way. [Matthew 16:18] Affirmations of commitment to membership continue, increased dependence upon God’s Word is testified, discipling remains, benevolence abounds, and gospel proclamation prospers. This is a taste of what Paul wrote: “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then I am strong.” [II Corinthians 12:10 (KJV)] Soli deo gloria.
And as this flock continues to find themselves in places unknown, so the under-shepherds, the elders, find themselves that much more in deep pursuit of the Chief Shepherd’s shepherding to tend to the souls of all under our care. None, including elders, know what “… life will be like tomorrow.” [James 4:14a (NASB)] Sometimes when at a loss, utter dependence upon Him is a good thing, a great thing. There’s ceaseless petition for “…wisdom from above”. [James 3:17a (ESV)] For where else are we to turn? Jesus alone has “… the words of eternal life.” [John 6:68b (ESV)] And to him who asks, wisdom will be given “… without reproach.” [James 1:5b (ESV)] There’s comfort and there’s assurance and there’s peace there. And in that humble place, where none of the elders would ever count themselves to be among the “best”, we are ever so reminded of the ole adage that, “The best of men are just men at best.” That we are.
The conclusion? While tired, perplexed and spent, we pastors “… give thanks in all circumstances”, [I Thessalonians 5:18a (ESV)] especially for you. Prayers, encouragements, patience, unity, forbearance and love allow us to shepherd “… with joy and not with groaning.” [Hebrews 13:17b (ESV)] Let us all continue in this good work, with deep supplications on everyone’s behalf, including ours. We need you, and together with Jesus our head [Ephesians 5:23], as The Shepherd, we shall persevere through. What a glorious life He’s given in Him and in one another, the church.
~ the Apostle Paul [II Thessalonians 3:5 (ESV)]
Warmly in Christ,
Thomas Kruggel is a non-vocational Elder at Grace Bible Church and works in the City of San Francisco.
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