By J.F. Dancer, Jr.
I read a lot today about a great “preacher shortage” among churches. There may be such. But there is another “shortage” that in my mind brings more danger to men’s souls and that hinders the growth of the Lord’s people even more. This is a shortage of men qualified to do the work of elders!
Many congregations are existing (and have existed for upwards to 50 years) without men qualified to serve as elders. The Bible teaches there should be a plurality of elders in each congregation. Now, I know that a congregation can exist scripturally for a time without elders. I also know that when it does it is working under a handicap and is not as God wants it to be.
What is being done to alleviate this “shortage”? Some congregations are disregarding the Bible and installing men who do not even come close to the qualifications given in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. Men have been appointed without any children and with children who are not believers. Men are in the “eldership” who could not teach a person the first principles much less convince the gainsayer. Others are designated as elders who are not married and some who are barely 25 years of age and only a very short time as children of God. This is no way to properly solve this shortage.
Brethren, to disregard God’s qualifications and appoint the “best we have” or “those who do the work anyhow” is sinful. To appoint novices, adulterers, quarrelsome men, impatient men and/or men who cannot control their families and who failed to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord to oversee the church and to watch for the souls of saints does not solve the problem. It only creates another problem to add to those already present.
We need to concentrate on teaching and training more young men to develop the qualities Paul presented as necessary to do the work. We would not think of casting aside any part of the “plan of salvation,” yet we disregard (thus cast aside) this part of God’s instructions to his people. We need more men with faithful families who have learned self-control and who love God enough to accept the responsibility of becoming and then being set into the work of overseeing the flock of God (1 Pet. 5:14). This may take another generation to “grow up” in both years and spiritual maturity but it must be done! Let’s work to the end that there will be enough elders to oversee the flock and insist they are men who fit the pattern set forth by God.
This will relieve the “shortage” in a way pleasing to God. It will allow God’s people to function in a way pleasing to him as we follow the Bible. It provides proper oversight for God’s people.
(Men must not be appointed elders: (1) Who lack leadership ability; (2) Who are loose on such issues as institutionalism, divorce and remarriage, social drinking, mixed swimming, immodest apparel, fellowship halls built by the church, theistic evolution, verbal inspiration of the Scriptures, instrumental music in worship, fellowshipping false brethren, etc.; (3) Whose children are worldly minded, often seen at dances and every licentious movie that comes to town. Elders are to be examples to the flock (1 Pet. 5:3) in devotion faithfulness and purity. The church must not be satisfied with anything less. Brethren, know the men you select for elders. The future of the church depends on it! -Weldon E. Warnock)
Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 3, p. 65
February 1, 1990