Local Elders: Tearing Down Or Building Up the Church Of God?
Elders and deacons are chosen to have a care for the prosperity of the church; yet these leaders, especially in young churches, should not feel at liberty, on their own judgment and responsibility, to cut off offending members from the church; they are not invested with such authority. Many indulge a zeal like that of Jehu, and rashly venture to make decisions in matters of grave importance, while they themselves have no connection with God. They should humbly and earnestly seek wisdom from the One who has placed them in their position, and should be very modest in assuming responsibilities. They should also lay the matter before the president of their conference; and counsel with him. —Manuscript 1, 1878. (To the church at Ligonier, Indiana, October, 1878.)
Are not the qualifications, which he says are essential in the deacon, equally essential in the elder of the church? The deacons were church officers. 2 Corinthians 6:4: "But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses." 1 Timothy 5:22: "Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partakers of other men's sins: keep thyself pure." Here is a matter that is worthy of consideration. In the twenty-first verse the solemn charge is given: "I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality." These verses, 21 and 22, need to be carefully and prayerfully considered. Sin should be rebuked. Whatever opposition and trial might come to the elder of the church because of his faithfulness, he should not swerve from true principles. —Manuscript 1a, 1890. ("A Consecrated Ministry," February 13, 1890.)
"Without me ye can do nothing." Keep this before every congregation, that it is entireness, wholeness of purpose that God will accept: but what is the matter that the church elders and officers do not arouse and seek with earnest prayer and determined effort to set the people in the church to work. Are elders in these churches carrying any burden? Do they feel any care for the souls of the sheep of God's pasture? Do they humble their heart before God and by faith lay hold on the grace of Christ and put away their sins and believe their repentance is accepted before God? Have they piety? Have they devotion to God? Will the elders of the church, the officers of the church, draw nigh to God, will they now in probationary time learn the lessons of Jesus Christ and practice them until they shall ascend the high places of faith and command a clearer, more spiritual view of the situation? —Manuscript 20, 1893. ("Missionary Work," May 9, 1893.)
In the name of Jesus, who with His own blood has paid the purchase money, that men may be co-workers with Him, I ask you not to offend or hurt any souls by your impatience at their ignorance. . There will come into this work men of varied temperaments, weak on some points. Men chosen as elders of the church or as deacons will be tempted on some points; but whatever the temptation may be, they may conquer it. Will they fight the enemy? Will they drive him from them, and stand as victor, or will they do the work Satan wishes them to do, by putting into another's mind the thoughts of evil they have been tempted to cherish? They do good service for Satan by communicating those evil thoughts to another mind, setting him to watch with keen scrutiny, to think and speak evil of his brethren, and to pass along the dish prepared by Satan to poison others. This is the root of bitterness springing up, whereby many are defiled. —Manuscript 40, 1896. ("The Workers Needed in Cooranbong," December 31, 1896.)
There is a decided work to be done in our churches. Those chosen as elders of the churches are to be men of experience, who have a knowledge of the truth and are sound in the faith. In his letter to Titus, Paul points out the qualifications which should be possessed by those placed in charge of the flock of God. —Manuscript 67, 1900. ("Words of Instruction to the Church," November 29, 1900.)
The qualifications of an elder are plainly stated by the apostle Paul: "If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God, not self-willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; but a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers."
If a man does not show wisdom in the management of the church in his own house, how can he show wisdom in the management of the larger church outside? How can he bear the responsibilities which mean so much, if he cannot govern his own children? Wise discrimination is not shown in this matter. God's blessing will not rest upon the minister who neglects the education and training of his children. He has a sacred trust, and he should in no case set before church members a defective example in the management of his home. —Manuscript 104, 1901. ("The Need of Reform," October 8, 1901.)
"The elders who are among you I exhort, who also am an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock."
In the charge to feed the flock of God there is a threefold duty. "Feed the flock of God"—by preaching to them His word, by giving them earnest, personal labor, by setting them a right example. "Feed the flock of God," "taking the oversight thereof," having a personal care for the blood-bought heritage committed to your charge, "being ensamples to the flock"—following Christ in self-denial and self-sacrifice, in the life revealing holiness to the Lord. All this is to be done of a ready, cheerful mind, "neither as being lords over God's heritage," tyrannizing over them the human tests. The truth of God's word is to be the test. —Letter 108, 1902. (To N. D. Faulkhead, July 14, 1902.)
"The elders which are among you," Peter continues, "I exhort, who also am an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory which shall be revealed." He who is chosen to fill the office of elder is not, because of this, to become self-exalted. Let him remember that the office does not make the man, but that before angels and before men he is to honor his office . . . .
To Aaron and Hur, assisted by the elders who had been granted a revelation of God's glory, was given the charge of the people in the absence of Moses. Aaron had long stood side by side with Moses, and Hur was a man who had been entrusted with weighty responsibilities. How carefully these men should have guarded the church in the wilderness while Moses was in the mount with God.…
Today as then men of determination are needed—men who will stand stiffly for the truth at all times and under all circumstances, men who, when they see that others are becoming untrue to principle, will lift their voice in warning against the danger of apostasy.—Letter 69, 1904. (To J. E. White, February 9, 1904.)
Those who occupy the position of under shepherds, as elders of the church, are to exercise a watchful diligence over the Lord's flock. This is not to be a lording, dictatorial vigilance. They are to encourage and strengthen.—Manuscript 43, 1907. ("Exhortation to Faithfulness to Church Members and Elders," March 12, 1907.)
If any man evidences that the love and fear of God is kept away from the center of his being, lest the truth should control the life-practice, while worldly things are made all and in all, he is not the man, even for local elder. Series A, No. 8, p. 6
God is not glorified by leaders in the church who seek to drive the sheep. No, no. "Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being examples to the flock." there is a wide field for the elders and the helpers in every church. They are to feed the flock of God with pure provender, thoroughly winnowed from the chaff, the poisonous mixture of error. You who have any part to act in the church of God, be sure that you act wisely in feeding the flock of God; for its prosperity much depends upon the quality of this food." Manuscript Releases, Vol. 19, 316
Taken from Manuscript Releases Volume 5, 448-451, Released October 31, 1973.