Summary: A sermon on the congregation's responsibilities to their elders (Much material taken from BIBLICAL ELDERSHIP by Alexander Strauch, Chapter 9 Paul's Instruction to Timothy)
Lao Tzu said this of a leader: A leader is best when people barely know that he exists. He is not so good when people obey and acclaim him. He is worse when they despise him.
Do something that will make them uncomfortable but elders stand and recognize them.
Except for last week we have been talking about the church. Today I want to conclude this mini series on the church by talking about the elders this morning and tonight.
When Paul and Barnabas traveled through Galatia, they planted churches. Upon their return to Antioch, they appointed elders for those churches. Acts 14:23: Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust. These churches were less than 2 years old, so the elders would have been fairly recent Christians. For Paul, developing and appointing elders was an important task in establishing and developing new and healthy churches.
Background of 1 Timothy:
We don’t know all that happened after Paul was released from his first imprisonment. We do know that he and Timothy visited Ephesus. Their visit was not pleasant because what Paul had prophesied in Acts 20 had come true. False teachers were poisoning the church with deadly teachings. We see in 1 Timothy 1:20
Paul evidently moved on from Ephesus but left Timothy in Ephesus to help this troubled church and to stop the advancement of false teachings.
The opposition at Ephesus was fiercely argumentative as seen in 1 Timothy 6, so Paul wrote the letter of 1 Timothy to reinforce his instructions to Timothy and the church.
Although the church in Ephesus had been governed by elders for more than 5 years, problems existed within the eldership. Therefore, Paul felt the church needed fresh instruction on leadership, especially eldership.
Tonight we will talk about the elders responsibilities to God, to their families, and to church.
Thesis: This morning we are going to discuss this congregation’s responsibilities to our elders.
Honoring elders- 1 Timothy 5:17-18
We need to show care and concern for the elders, because they direct the affairs of the church and they give time and attention to the preaching and teaching.
Elders are willing and able to give a good deal of their time, skill and energy to the spiritual care of the local congregation.
Now all elders are to be “able to teach”- 1 Timothy 3:3. Good teachers “work hard” at long hours of study and preparation. Teaching is absorbing work. It is mentally strenuous, time consuming work that demands a great deal of strength and self discipline.
When several months without a preacher, George and Dean filled the pulpit. Realize how much it takes. It is not just working a few hours on Sunday and that’s it.
Ephesians 4:11-12: It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up
Shepherds and teachers are closely linked together but not identical. The shepherding gift combines teaching and governance. It is the kind of gift that would enable an elder to “rule well” and “work hard” at teaching.
Teachers may or may not be elders. Shepherds are more than teachers because they teach, govern, protect, and care for the flock in practical ways.
This might lead some to ask me, “Are you an elder or an evangelist?” In some churches of Christ, they have elders who do most of the preaching and teaching. This makes sense especially in light of vs. 18. In other churches of Christ like this one, they have evangelists like Timothy is mentioned as an evangelist in 2 Timothy 4:5. Usually for a limited amount of time. An evangelist does more than the narrow definition that we sometimes give him.
Dr. Cottrell says of this: The modern day preaching minister certainly “does the work of an evangelist” However, he also does much more than an evangelist. The best understanding seems to be that there is no biblical equivalent to the modern role of preaching minister; this role is usually a combination of several legitimate church functions. There is nothing wrong with creating a new role by combining several functions into one position. Nor does this mean that the role in unimportant. It has been designed to fill an important place in the overall functioning of a NT congregation. The only caution that needs to be voiced is that the preaching minister is not “the pastor” of the congregation.
The main thing that Paul is saying here is that elders ought to be viewed by the congregation and their fellow elders as a source of joy, blessing, and benefit, rather than as a threat.