By Don Givens
There is much said regarding a “preacher shortage” in our time, and I certainly agree that we need more and more qualified and dedicated gospel preachers. Satan has far too many ministers. Yet there is another shortage of which we hear and discuss too rarely; that is the shortage of qualified, working shepherds over the local flocks.
There is an urgent need, all over America and in other lands where there are congregations of the Lord’s people, for men to become scriptural bishops, pastors, overseers. It is my judgment that many congregations should have elders, but do not have them.
How many young men are busy working, studying, and praying so that in future years they may serve as elders? (Are you encouraging, or discouraging your sons to become elders in their maturity?) We know that to become a good gospel preacher takes time, study, and effort (1 Tim. 4:11-16; 2 Tim. 2:1-7; 4:1-7): have we forgotten that the same is true regarding elders? The best advice I could give to any young man starting out in his spiritual life is: live so that someday you might be an elder in the Lord’s church. That young man will then nurture his spiritual training, enlarge his Bible knowledge, and keep his reputation pure!
The reason many local churches do not have elders even after several years is because the individual men have not been working for several years to qualify themselves. Elders do not “grow on trees” overnight.
Men, as they mature, should desire the work of shepherding the flock, with a proper and godly motive. What can we do to encourage more men to desire this good work (1 Tim. 3:1)? One thing we can do is love, honor, and obey the good elders we do have in scripturally organized congregations (Heb. 13:17). But if you are a member of a congregation which does not have shepherds, then do what you can to arrive at that goal!
If you are a young man, start right now to study, pray, and work hard to fulfill the qualifications later in your lifetime. Keep yourself pure! Remember that your “personal decisions” in dating, marriage, and business ethics will affect thousands of other people during the course of your lifetime!
If you are an older, more mature man, and you have the biblical qualifications, then desire the good work. Why hide your talents? Why rob the church of your leadership? Why bury your talent in the ground?
If you are a female Christian, then become such a temperate and faithful woman that you would be an asset as an elder’s wife (1 Tim. 3:11).
There is a crying need for shepherds in various local flocks all over this land and on foreign fields. I have preached the gospel from Florida to Ontario, Canada to California to Texas, back to Canada, in Washington and now in Hawaii, and the same urgent need stares one in the face in all places: the crying need for shepherds over the local flocks. No wonder the sheep go astray when there are no shepherds to lead them (Acts 20:28)! No wonder the sheep starve when no shepherds are there to feed them (1 Pet. 5:1-5)! No wonder wolves destroy the flock when there are no shepherds there to protect (Acts 20:29-31)!
Brethren, God has a reason for appointing “elders in every church” (Acts 14:23). Do you have a better reason for not having them?
Guardian of Truth XXX: 6, p. 173
March 20, 1986