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Paul's Pattern for Elder Ministry, Part 1

Paul's Pattern for Elder Ministry, Part 1

March 30, 2008 | Andrew Davis
Acts 20:17-38

sermon transcript

Introduction

The Gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes, and by that Gospel, we are saved. By that truth, that Jesus is the Son of God, that He died on the cross for our sins, that His blood was shed in our place, that we would not have to suffer the wrath and curse of God that we deserve for breaking His law. That a great exchange occurred at the cross. He took on our wickedness and the wrath we deserve and the curse that we deserve, and He extinguished that wrath by His death, by the bloodshed on the cross. And that He is giving to us His perfect righteousness imputed to us, simply by faith. Apart from the works of the law, apart from our works, we are seen as perfect, as holy, and blameless, as righteous. This is the Gospel. 

The Gospel, which is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes goes forth, it continues to spread. But what is God's tool in His hand, by which He advances that Gospel? Is it not the local church? Is not the church the pillar and foundation of the truth? Is that not why we are here? Why we are drawn together, brothers and sisters in Christ, organized by the Gospel, by the New Testament to be a faithful, healthy church? That's what's in front of us this week and next week to talk about church government, to talk about elders.

A great hallmark, I think, of the Baptists' contribution to redemptive history has been careful thinking about the nature and the role of the local church. The local church, Baptists believe, should, as much as possible, be comprised only of regenerate people, of believers in Jesus Christ. They came to that conclusion by a clear meditation on baptism itself, administered only to those who can give a creditable profession of faith in Christ. They broke, with the centuries of bad tradition in Europe, which had state-run churches and infant baptism, and all kinds of people, a big mixture, and no one knew where anyone was at, spiritually, but everyone was a Christian, in Christendom, this kind of thing. Mass baptisms and so-called mass conversions under the power, frequently, of the sword, as one formally barbarian tribe would subjugate another one by the power of the sword, and then you suddenly had a thousand new Christians in the kingdom. What happened to the preaching of the Gospel? But that was the history. Baptists broke with that, and the reason they broke with infant baptism, they didn't find it in the New Testament. They didn't find it in Scripture, they couldn't defend it from Scripture. That was the testimony that the Baptists made, that we've got to get everything, for life and godliness, everything for the ordering of the church from the Scripture.

Is There a Biblical Pattern for Church Government?

Does that extend to church government as well? Does it extend to the human leaders that God raises up and sets in authority over local church? How best should a church be governed? Is there a biblical pattern for church government? By whose authority should church leaders lead, and should spiritual ministry be done? By whose authority... A good friend of mine, Mark Dever, wrote a pamphlet about elders and church life, "By Whose Authority," it's called. He began that booklet with the assertion that church government is one of the two most divisive issues facing Baptists today. Thinking they have nowhere else to tum, many Baptist churches and their pastors tum to secular government models and to successful corporate business models to organize the church for leadership.

I was reading about one Baptist pastor, Louie Newton, describe his own initial approach to church government. This is what he did when he came to the church that he began pastoring. This is a quote, "The first step I undertook, when I became pastor of Druid Hills Baptist Church, was to set up the Pastor's Cabinet, composed of the heads of all the departments of church life, Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Board of Deacons, Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Finance Committee, Chairman of the Board of Trustees.

Chairman of the Board of Ushers, clerk treasurer, Chairman of the Relief Committee, Superintendent of the Sunday school, Director of the Training Union, President to the Women's Missionary Society, President to the Brotherhood, Minister of Music, Chairman of the Music Committee, Chairman of the Guestbook Committee,Chairman of the Youth Council, librarian, and members of the church staff." That was the Pastor's Cabinet. I don't know who was left in the congregation. Must have been a big church, but that was the Pastor's Cabinet. Pastor Newton said that in this Pastor's Cabinet, all plans for church life, for evangelism, enlistment, stewardship, etcetera, are first discussed and resolved. Then the ideas are submitted to ever larger groups for their input and feedback, and eventually, to the church, every matter for a church vote. My goodness! Friends, can I speak to you plainly? I don't find any of that in the New Testament. I just don't. What do I find in the New Testament? I find a plurality of elders, of men of God that are defined spiritually in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, and who are entrusted with the responsibility to lead the church under congregational polities.

Since I began here at First Baptist Church almost 10 years ago, I believed these things. I believe, first and foremost, that the Bible is sufficient for every matter of local church life. I remember well my interview with the search committee. I was in the parlor through this room, and was asked questions about church life. It must have been an interview to be a senior pastor. It was a delightful time. We were talking about all elements and aspects of it, and I kept reaching for my pocket Bible, and opening up and answering from this text from Ephesians 4, from Galatians, or whatever.  I would open up and I would answer. I remember one member of the committee just started to laugh and said, "You really think all the answers are in that book, don't you?" And I said, "For the running of a local church, yes, I do," and I still believe that. Do you believe that? Do you believe that we can find church government, what's known as polity, in the words of the New Testament? I think we can.

There are many chapters that are tied to this issue. I would like to preach two expositional sermons through Acts 20. We're not going to hit all elements of elders in Baptist life. We're doing a further and deeper study on Wednesday evenings in our ACTS classes, Adult Christian Training Seminars. Those are every Wednesdays, 6:30-7:30 for the next nine weeks. We'll go into probably all the passages, at least at some level, they do touch on this issue of church government. I would invite you to come to those for a deeper study and broader. But I want to just look at Acts 20 here to try to understand Paul's view on what an elder should be, and what an elder should do, or I should say better, what elders, together, should be, and what elders, together, should do.

Now, just to set the context in Acts 20, on a second missionary journey, Paul had come to the famous Asian city of Ephesus. There, he preached the Gospel in the town in Asia Minor. It would end up being the center of all of his evangelistic outreach to the whole region. It was the cultural and economic center of that region or that part of the Roman Empire. It was best known, however, for its massive Temple of Artemis, the Goddess of the Hunt. It was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, an impressive structure.

Pagans would come from miles around to come to the temple of Artemis of the Ephesians. Paul preached boldly against idolatry in Ephesus. He stirred up a riot, he didn't mean to. He never meant to stir up a riot, but they kept happening in his ministry. There was a great riot there in which these people mindlessly chanted for three hours, "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!" What a religion that is! Reminds me of some things you can see on CNN, people chanting things and yet, there's this mindlessness, but there it was. "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians," and they chanted.

But through it all, what was really going on is a church was getting established. People were being converted, they were trusting in Jesus Christ. Leaders were emerging, and Paul, I believe, was pouring himself into them, and shaping and training and preparing them to lead the church in his absence after he would leave. He was called on to be an itinerant minister of the Gospel. The apostle of the Gentiles did not just stay in one place, as a local church pastor would. He knew he was going to leave, and he wanted to entrust that church to some men, and they were the elders of the church. He trained them. It says that he met every day in the lecture hall of Tyrannus for three years. I think it was his most intensive teaching ministry in the Book of Acts.

Now, on his third missionary journey, Paul had come near the church, but he was in a hurry to get on to Jerusalem, if possible, to celebrate the Feast of Passover, so he couldn't stay there in Ephesus. He ended up landing in Miletus, about 70 miles overland south from Ephesus, and from there, he sent for the elders of that local church in Ephesus. This is his farewell address to them. A more moving, a more poignant one, I don't think you can find anywhere. It's very, very powerful. He knew in his heart he was going to be arrested in Jerusalem. He didn't know for certain, but it could be that he would never be free again. He did sense through the Spirit that he would never be there in Ephesus again. He does say here, "You will never see my face again," so it's very, very poignant.

Now, throughout his farewell address, he points to his own ministry as an example or a pattern. He was an apostle, but he's speaking to elders, and therefore, I think it's reasonable for us to say that from the example he's setting here, from the words he's speaking, he's really teaching the elders how to be elders. None of them can be apostles, you have to be an eye witness of the resurrection for that. But he is training these elders on what it means to be an elder.

Number of Elders

I want to begin with the number of elders. Notice in verse 17, "From Miletus," it says, "Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders," [plural], "of the church," [singular.] I want you to notice that, alright? Paul spoke to a group of men coming from one local church. Now, opponents say that there were many little house churches in Ephesus. I don't doubt that there were house groups like cell groups, perhaps. If you want to call them churches, fine, but let's not do violence to the text. It says, "From the church at Ephesus," so there was one church there. It saw itself together as one church, and yet, there are these plural elders. The plurality of elders is always in view in the New Testament, there's never an exception. Never. Consistently, in the New Testament, the pattern of plural elders is set up. There are many biblical examples. Acts 14:23, for example, "Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church," that says it about it as plainly as you can get. "He appointed elders," plural, "In each church," singular. "With prayer and fasting, he committed them to the Lord in whom they had put their trust," [Acts 14:23]. Titus 1:5 says the same thing. Paul says to Titus, 11The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders," [plural,] "In every town," [singular,] as I directed you." We shouldn't imagine that there were many different Baptist churches in those little towns there in Crete, but it would be one local church, a plurality of elders there. Or again in James 5:14, some of you have come to this again and again in terms of praying for the sick. It says in James 5:14, "Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders," [plural], "of the church," [singular], "to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord." Again, this is an individual sick person, and the people who are concerned about him are coming from his church and they are elders together. They should be praying for this sick person; one local church, a group of elders responsible. Or again, 1 Timothy 5-17, "The elders," [plural], "Who direct the affairs of the church," [singular], "are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching." So there it is, it's established in many different patterns, but it's right here in Acts 20:17, "A group of elders that are called from this church."

There's great wisdom in this. Solitary church leadership is more open to an abuse of power than this wise pattern that God has set up. John MacArthur put it this way: ''The combined council of these elders and their wisdom assures that decisions are not self-willed or self-serving to a single individual." He also adds, "In fact, one-man leadership is characteristic of cults, not of the church." The key text on this is Proverbs 11:14. "Where there is no guidance a people Jails, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety." There's a multiplicity of councilors in this structure that the Lord has set up. Also, a plurality of elders can contribute different perspectives and bring different gifts to the leadership of the church. This is especially true, as I am advocating, that some of them are vocational elders and some of them are lay elders. Some give their full time to the ministry of the church, and others do not. I think just the different walks of life are going to bring a different perspective and a helpful one. It's also, by the way, a beautiful picture of the Body of Christ: different gifts now contributing to one mission, one work.

In Baptist history in America, where you have a frontier colonial scene 200-plus years ago, 250 years ago, let's say, after the preaching and the Great Awakening, George Whitefield and all that, there were little, tiny Baptist churches dotting all over the countryside, small groups. You might have itinerant preachers going from place to place, and they might be the pastor, singular, of many different little local churches. You might argue that that was a necessity, it had to be done. But if you do so, then you're really hindering our missions church planners from, I think, a biblical pattern that really should have been established right from the beginning, a plurality of elders in every church. And the work of the itinerant missionary, then, is to raise up elders who can do this kind of work.

In the old days, these early itinerating preachers would have to be voted in every year to keep serving as that church's preacher for another year. In the meantime, these small Baptist churches would have deacon "boards" that would run the church in the absence of a full-time pastor. From time to time, these deacon boards would treat the itinerating preacher as a hired helper. I don't believe any of this was Biblical. It gave undue power to deacons, who were not qualified elders. Plurality of elders was clearly established in the New Testament, so these small Baptist churches should have followed that pattern.

Title of Elders

 Second of all, I want you to notice the title of elders. There is, in this section. a variety of terms, and they all mean the same thing. The first term in verse 17 is "elders", and the Greek "presvyteras" from which we get the word "presbyterian". The word generally means an older man or older men. The word is focused on age or life experience, producing wisdom in Christ. Timothy was a young man, chronologically, but he was wise in spiritual maturity. So it says in 1 Timothy 4:12, "Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech and life and love and faith and impurity." So it's not really, ultimately, a matter of chronological age. Although I think we would acknowledge that if somebody's walking well with the Lord, the longer they do so, the more wisdom they'll have, and it's a good thing, in general. But this is the word, 11presvyteras11 or "elders". The real issue there is spiritual maturity, not just age. The second term in verse 28 talks there about overseers, "episkopos". He said, "Be shepherds of the church of God, which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers." The Greek word is "episkopos". The English word, "overseers" is just about a literalistic translation from the Greek at that point. The word "bishop" in the Old English was "biscop", "overseer", in the Old English. That's where the word "bishop" came from. So all of these terms refer to the same thing, so also the term "pastor". You get the verbal form here in Acts, "Be shepherds of the church of God," in verse 28, "Be shepherds of the church of God," related to the word for "pastor", the noun form only found in Ephesians 4:11, 11/t was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers." I think John MacArthur rightly hyphenates that, "pastor-teachers", he that teach the word of God is a shepherd, an undershepherd of the flock. I believe all of these terms are referring to the same office, they're interchangeable. They're interchangeable here in Acts 20, they're interchangeable in Titus, where Paul shifts from one to the other in almost the next phrase. These are interchangeable terms, and therefore, there's a simplicity to church government here.

We're not talking about ever-ascending hierarchies like Bishop, Archbishop, Cardinal, Pope, something like that. That structure is not found in the New Testament, but rather we have this office of elder or overseer or bishop or pastor. it's all the same thing. What it is. are godly men that are raised up to meet the criteria in 1 Timothy 3 an4 other places, who then do that kind of a shepherding ministry in the life of the church. A church can call them an elder, a pastor, etcetera, that's what they're called.

The Calling of Elders

Thirdly, the calling of elders. Look at Verse 28, "Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which He bought with His own blood." What I want to highlight here is, "keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers." It is the Holy Spirit who calls these men to this position, it's something that God does through the Spirit. Therefore, the church does not make somebody become an elder, that's not something a council does, it's not something any human agency does. It's something that the Holy Spirit does, it's something that's a gifting of the Holy Spirit. What the local church does is recognize that gift, see it for what it is, see it functioning. You can also pray for the development of future elders, the development of that gift, but it's something only the Holy Spirit can give. These are God-called men, called on by the Holy Spirit to carry on a vital ministry in the life of the church.

Characteristics of Elders: Visible Holiness

The rest of our time today, I want to spend on the character of these men, what kind of men are they to be? Next week I want to talk about their functions, what kind of ministry tasks are they to carry about? But let's look at the character of elders, and we want to start with this issue of visible holiness. Look at Verse 18, when these elders from Ephesus arrive, Paul said to them, "You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia." Paul clearly puts his life on display for all to see. He does that all the time. He did it from the first day he got there. He said, "Watch how I live." I'm going to talk next week more about role modeling, but the idea is that there is an essence of personal holiness there. It is vital for the ministry, and it has to be on full display for people to see. You have to let your light shine. It has to be there for all to see, because we need role models, we need leaders. Again, more about that next week. But both Titus I and I Timothy 3 have a series of character traits, and it begins with an elder must be blameless. Don't misunderstand that word "blameless," it does not mean sinless, for then the church would have no elders. 1 John Chapter 1 says, "If anyone claims he has no sin, he's a deceiver, a liar, he's self­ deceived, and the truth is not in him, or he makes God out to be a liar." l John I:10,   We all are sinners, that's not it, but rather that there's a clear principle of holiness. of conquest of temptation, a pattern of righteousness and holiness, maturity in the Christian life, the elder is blameless in that regard.

Characteristics of Elders: Humility

 Secondly, we see the matter of humility. I find this to be an interesting verse. There it is in Verse 1 , "/ serve the Lord with great humility," says the Apostle Paul. Do you see the_ irony a bit in that? I want o g1v Pa l a break here to some degree, he doesn't have time to waste, he's hurrying to Jerusalem, and so he's saying, I want to sum up a theme, a character trait that was never far from my mind, and that is the essence of humility in a church leader's life." It's vital. Paul was humble, he was constantly opposed, both ms1de the church and outside of the church, and he bore it with great patience. Listen to 1 Corinthians 4:12-13, "When we are cursed, we bless, when we are persecuted, we endure it, when we are slandered, we answer kindly." That's what he means by great humility. You're not flashing back, you're not keeping records of wrongs and wanting to get people back. Paul knew that he was not perfect. He was a sinner saved by grace, he knew that. He was constantly humbled. He always remembered that he was a persecutor, a violent man, a blasphemer.

He never forgot about that, it was in his mind constantly. He said, "I don't deserve to be called an Apostle," he knew that. There was tremendous humility, he was meek. During the Middle Ages, Popes were like secular emperors, wearing robes of State and sitting on lavish thrones, and heads of State would come and bow straight before them and kiss their rings. Jesus addresses this in Matthew 20,"The rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the high officials exercised authority over them, not so with you, instead, whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave, just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many." Leaders in the church must be humble men, and if they're not as humble as they should be, the elder ministry will do it to them, no doubt about it. Elder ministry is very humbling. It's very humbling because you see your own sin, you're dealing with people's sinfulness all the time, it's a humbling thing. More than anything, as I'll talk about in a moment, you see how totally dependent you are in the power of God to do anything in the Christian life, very humbling.

Characteristics of Elders: Courage

Thirdly, we see personal courage, the advance of the Gospel to the ends of the earth must be led by men who have courage and are not afraid what people think. They're willing to take a stand on truth. We do not face martyrdom here in America, as some of our brothers and sisters do in different parts of the world. As the Apostle Paul certainly did, as he preached the Gospel, martyrdom was dogging at his steps and would eventually have him. Paul sets himself up as an example of great courage. Look at Verse 19, he said, "/ was severely tested by the plots of the Jews." Verse 22 and 23, "Now compelled by the Spirit, I'm going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city, the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me." It takes courage to be an elder, elders must display personal courage. The focus of that courage more than anything must be in how they handle the Bible, how they teach the truth. Paul mentions, and we'll mention this more next week, but he says, "You know, I have not hesitated or drawn back from preaching anything that would be helpful to you." In Verse 27, again, he uses that same expression, "/ have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole Will of God." Now, what would cause a man to hesitate? Is it not fear of men? Is it not fear of what people will think? You've got to show personal courage in the teaching of the truth.

Characteristics of Elders: Single-Mindedness

Fourthly, we see single-minded focus in Verse 24, "However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me, the task of testifying to the Gospel of Gods grace." I said a moment ago these elders were called by the Holy Spirit, they were entrusted by the Holy Spirit with the ministry that produces a focus to their lives. They understand that they are elders in the church, and that produces a focus. It weeds out what Paul calls in 2 Timothy 2, "civilian affairs." A soldier doesn't get involved in civilian affairs, they're aside from his calling as a soldier. He wants to please his commanding officer, so there's a focus to a Godly elder's life. We see also freedom from covetousness. Verse 33 says, "I have not coveted anyone's silver or gold or clothing, I'm not living for material gain." 1 Peter 5:2, "Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers, not because you must, not according to compulsion, but because you're willing, as God wants you to be, not greedy for money, but eager to serve." Now, the cults, especially in America, stand as a constant reminder of the good money that can be made in bad religion. But an elder, a Godly elder, has no interest in that kind of ministry. He's not interested in covetousness, he's not interested in material gain, he is free from those things, he's serving instead for an eternal reward.

Characteristics of Elders: Vigilance & Responsibility

 We see also diligence and responsibility, or we might change the word slightly to vigilance and responsibility. There's a sense of constant watchfulness that elders must have. I believe that the church needs to be that way too. You need to listen to everything I say and discern whether it's true according to Scripture and watch the lives of elders and be sure that godliness is occurring, because the church ultimately is responsible for church discipline, even of elders, should it be necessary. There's a vigilance all around, we all need to be vigilant in the Christian life. But an overseer and elder needs to be especially so. Look at what he says in Verse 28, "Keep watch over yourselves, and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, be shepherds of the church of God, which He bought with His own blood." There's this image of a flock and vicious wolves that can tear the flock at any moment. At any moment, wolves can come up and they look like sheep initially, but they start to have a tearing effect on the church. You've got to have constant vigilance. You've got to watch over yourselves. One of the most efficient things Satan can do is pull down an elder. There's constant vigilance over your own life, what's happening in my heart? Where are my affections? What's going on with me? That kind of thing, so there's vigilance.

Characteristics of Elders: Passion & Compassion

We see also the issue of emotion here too, what I call passion and compassion. Elders are not supposed to be robots, you know, Bible answer-man, computer. You know, come and get the answer, type in the right question, you get the right answer. This kind of thing. There's not to be a gap between Godly elders and the people, but a deep affection, a love affection between the people of God and the elders that God raises up.

That affection, that passion, we see all over this text. Look what he says in Verse 19, "/ serve the Lord with great humility and with tears, although I was severely tested by the plots of the Jews." You have to know that Paul didn't for the most part, or perhaps even ever, cry for his own pain and his own suffering. But he says in Romans 9, "/ speak the truth in Christ, I'm not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit. I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish, for I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ/or the sake of my own people." He's weeping for the loss, concerned about their salvation, and I'm sure that he wept also over those that claimed to be Christians, may well be Christians, but were caught in sin. He's struggling over that, and how much it broke his heart. There's a lot of passion, emotion involved. It can wring you out Look at Verse 31 when Paul says, "Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears." There's a tremendous amount of emotion there. Notice also the compassion, the mutuality there, what did they feel for him? Remember he said in Verse 25, "Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the Kingdom will ever see me again." At the end of the account, this is how they responded in Verse 36, "When he had said this, he knelt down with all of them and prayed, they all wept as they embraced him and kissed him."  What grieved them the most was a statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship. Do you not feel the love, the passion there was between this Godly leader and the people? So must it also be with the elders, a deep love for them, and they, the church also loving the elders, passion and compassion.

Characteristics of Elders: Hard-working 

See also the issue of hard work. They have to be hard workers. You can't be a slacker and be a good elder. Paul was an incredibly hard worker. He accepted no financial support from a small struggling church plant like this was. He had the right to do it, he makes that very plain, but he didn't. Instead, he said he worked hard with his own hands. Look at Verses 34 and 35, "You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions, and everything I did, I showed you that bythis kind of hard work, we must help the weak."  My take on it was that he spent days in the marketplaces witnessing and evangelizing. He spent the evenings in the lecture hall of Tyrannus, preparing the church doctrinally, and he spent late nights making tents. That's how I put it all together. He was a hard worker, and even if he was relieved as he was in Acts 18, from needing to make tents, he worked just as hard in the work of the ministry. So in either case, whether you're working in a secular job and doing this kind of ministry or you're working full-time in church ministry, hard work is the call of an elder, to be a hard worker, diligent in that area. 

Characteristics of Elders: Generosity

 We see also generosity. Paul talks about how he took care of the needs of his companions.   By this kind of hard work, we must help the weak. He says in Verse 35, "Jesus said, 'It's more blessed to give than to receive.'"  He's lavishly generous. A Godly elder is like a pipeline, like a conduit, blessings are flowing in and they're going right throughout to the people of God. He's not accumulating for himself, and so he's generous. That's why it says that elders must show hospitality, they must practice hospitality, their home must be open for ministry so that they can be generous and give.

Characteristics of Elders: Faith in God

There must be faith in God for the results. Look at Verse 32, on which I'm going to spend a lot of time in this next week. "Now I commit you to God and to the Word of His grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among those who are sanctified." I commit you to God. One of the most important things that Godly elders can do is realize whose church this really is. Whose church is it? "Keep watch over yourselves and of the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which He bought with His own blood." Do you not see the Trinity there? Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, this is their church. Only Jesus shed His blood for the church. It does not matter how much suffering, it doesn't matter how much hard work or commitment any elder puts in, they will never invest as much as Jesus did. It is Jesus' church. He is the one dressed like a high priest in Revelation 1, moving through the golden lampstands ministering to the local churches. It's His church. Therefore, an elder needs to have a mentality of, "I am a steward of something entrusted me by God." We'll talk about accountability next week, but "I am a steward of something entrusted by God, and therefore I entrust it back to Him." He's not to be anxious, he's not to be looking for pragmatic techniques, church growth techniques, church growth out of a box. That's what I call it. For $19.95, you can get church growth. It doesn't happen, friends. I'm not saying there're not Christian products or books or other things that are helpful, that's not what I'm saying. I'm just saying church growth doesn't happen that way. Church growth comes when God gives the growth. I planted the seed, Apollos watered, but only God can make it grow. Therefore, these have to be men of faith that entrust everything the church does unto God in prayer.

Characteristics of Elders: Happiness

 Finally, they need to be happy people. They just need to be happy. They need to enjoy their ministry. It says in 1 Peter, I already quoted this, "not under compulsion," because you're willing, you want to be. Where do you get happiness? Jesus said, it's more blessed to give than receive. You're blessed to do this ministry, it's a blessing to do it. I'll tell you, Satan is constantly there saying, "it's not a blessing." He's whispering misery into the ears of elders. What good would that be for the church? A group of miserable elders, "Come and join us, we're the miserable church, and here are our elders, they lead the way in misery." It makes no sense at all, they need to be joyful in what they're doing. That's why they need to be holy, you can't be sinful and joyful. There has to be personal holiness, but there has to be joy. We have to know that God is going to reward us.

When the chief shepherd appears, we'll receive a crown of glory that will never fade away, it says. Every Christian's got a reward coming for all their faithful service, but you have got to set your hearts on what's coming. Yes, it's difficult now, but there needs to be an essential happiness, ultimately. You want to know what the reward is: we're going to see God face-to-face, we're going to see him. We're going to be in His presence forever, and what a great ministry it is to rescue people from the dominion of darkness and bring them into the kingdom of light.

So this morning, we've looked at certain aspects, we've looked at the number of elders, plurality as a group, we've talked about the name of elders, the name elder overseer, pastor, bishop, all the same. The calling of elder is done by the Holy Spirit and these 11 character traits. What I'd like to urge you to do is, first of all, just thank God for his wisdom in giving us this. The simplicity of it, the beauty of it. Thank God for the protection of the church from spiritual enemies.

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