October: Elder Appreciation Month

September 30, 2021 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement

I am taking a break this week from my ongoing review of Thaddeus Williams’ Confronting Injustice Without Compromising Truth, in order express appreciation and thanksgiving for the elders of Oak Hills. 

Let’s make October “Elder Appreciation Month.” We have a team of elders at Oak Hills who have faithfully and sacrificially served our congregation for years through many ups and downs, not to mention the difficult challenges of the last eighteen months. Paul says, “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor” (1 Tim. 5:17). The writer of Hebrews calls us to “Let them [keep watch over your souls] with joy and not with groaning” (Heb. 13:17). So, in the spirit of these apostolic exhortations, let’s honor our elders. 

In their training to serve on the session, our elders are required to read Timothy Witmer’s The Shepherd Leader: Achieving Effective Shepherding in Your Church. Witmer summarizes the responsibilities of the elders in four categories: feed the sheep, lead the sheep, know the sheep, and protect the sheep. We use these four categories to structure our session meetings. 

Our elders feed the sheep. Most of the qualifications for elder (1 Tim. 3:1-7) are character qualifications. There is one competency that sets apart a man for this role: the ability to teach. Our elders are knowledgeable of God’s Word, the gospel, and the implications for daily life. Not only do they oversee the preaching ministry of Oak Hills, they also personally teach in all sorts of settings: kids’ ministry, Bible studies, Sunday school, Life Groups, and personal interactions. I have learned much from my brothers and greatly appreciation their wisdom. They honor God by keeping the gospel of Jesus Christ the center the regular diet at Oak Hills through the ordinary means of grace. 

Our elders lead the sheep. They lead by example and by guiding our church to be faithful to our mission. They set an example of faith-filled prayer, humility, and sacrificial service. They evaluate the needs and opportunities of the congregation and allocate resources to meet those needs. During this pandemic, our elders have had to balance the personal sensitivities of our congregation, the latest information about the virus, and government directives, while seeking to remain faithful to God’s command to not neglect to meet together (Heb. 10:24). Our elders led the search for our new assistant pastor. On top of their normal responsibilities, they made themselves available to review applications, conduct Zoom interviews, follow up with references, and orchestrate the candidating weekend with John Lee. This has been a busy six months, on the heels of a crazy year. 

Our elders know the sheep. We spend time in every session meeting discussing the prayer needs of the congregation and we pray. Through their involvement in Life Groups and other personal interactions, our elders seek to know and care for you. This last year has been difficult with new barriers keeping people separated from one another. Our elders have worked overtime to try to keep connected with our people. And I know each of our elders make themselves available when you reach out; don’t hesitate to shoot an email or make a call to an elder if you desire pray or counsel (“Let him call for the elders…” James 5:14). 

Our elders protect the sheep. One of Paul’s main concerns in his Pastoral Letters and exhortation to the Ephesian elders is the protection of the church from false teaching and corruption. Our elders commit to this task in multiple ways. There are checks and balances to safeguard the use of money, to establish policies, and examine leaders and officers. Our involvement with Presbytery and the General Assembly of the PCA is a way to be held accountable to our brothers. Our elders give extra time to study current issues and how to best lead our church in faithful gospel ministry. Even church discipline is a healthy and necessary means to protect the sheep. 

I hope this gives you a picture of how much our elders do as Christ’s under-shepherds at Oak Hills. And they serve while navigating many other pressures of life: job changes, travel for work, raising young kids, burying their mothers and fathers, and caring for adult children. Are the elders perfect? No. Do the elders have room to grow as under-shepherds? Absolutely. They know it and are committed to growth. But their weaknesses do not discredit them from the honor due to them. Let me encourage you to express appreciation to the elders this month. I pray that it would bring them joy as they serve us faithfully.


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