By Mike Willis
Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the word and doctrine (1 Tim. 5:17).
The Lord placed in the hands of the elders the responsibility of oversight and pastoring. Younger men, regardless of how much mental discernment they might possess, were not chosen for oversight of the church. Preachers more than elders have been contributors to the publications circulating among us. Recognizing that we are allowing a vast fountain of spiritual resources to go untapped by the journals, I consulted with brother Fred Pollock, president of Guardian of Truth Foundation and elder in the Mill Road church in Cincinnati, to put together this special issue of Guardian of Truth. His advice, recommendation of names, articles, and other input were absolutely essential for this issue. To him goes the thanks for the planning and collecting of these articles.
Most of the men who have contributed to this special issue are not regular writers for a journal. Some were reluctant to participate in this issue, having a very modest opinion of their own abilities. Perhaps their humility is one reason their reputations as God-fearing men have spread outside the local churches of which they were members. We have gathered their articles together and are delighted to print them in this issue.
The elders who have written have tackled some difficult questions, such as whether or not to relocate when the community around the building is deteriorating and the members are leaving the area, the preacher/church relationship, appointing successful business men as elders, when to resign, developing men to lead the worship, keeping good communication between the elders and the rest of the congregation, developing a good teaching program, keeping out false doctrine, etc. Understandably, many of the comments which are given are judgmental decisions and your judgment may differ from that of those who have written. I simply remind you that these men are elders men who have the experience of years and are the God-appointed men to lead us in making judgmental decisions. That does not mean that they are infallible or that their judgment in their local situation is best in your situation, but it does give us reason to give them a respectful hearing. Though the following text is obviously applied to the local church, perhaps we have not done it an injustice to use it to encourage respect for the elders who write in this special issue.
And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake (1 Thess. 5:12-13).
We have moved through a period during which our culture manifested very little respect for the aged. Some of this lack of respect for the elderly among us has spilled over into the church. Young men sometimes speak as if wisdom was never learned by any before themselves. Some seem to know the answers to questions they have never heard. We desire to engender greater respect for all elderly people but especially those who, having met the qualifications of 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, were appointed to serve as elders over the local church.
The Lord’s church in some places has been troubled by those who have denied that elders have any authority, as taught by Charles Holt and several others. The Lord is the one who gave the elders the work of oversight (Acts 20:28) and commanded the rest of the church to submit to them (Heb. 13:17). Even as we hope to avoid the influence of the culture which shows little respect for aged people, we also hope to avoid the influence of the false teachers who deny that elders have authority to oversee a congregation.
As you read the articles which have been submitted, I think you will appreciate the insight provided by these men and desire more contributions from these and other elders on a more regular basis. Perhaps these articles will prime the pump for contributions from other elders. I think you will enjoy this special issue of Guardian of Truth.
Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 1, pp. 2, 4
January 5, 1989