A “word of his grace” for a church seeking God’s leaders
At Pentecost we focus on the gift of the indwelling and empowering Holy Spirit. But, like my Aunt Marilyn, a church can never receive too many presents. So after the gift of the Spirit, we get another gift, the gift of being governed by the office of elder. The Christian Reformed Church’s liturgy for the installation of elders calls the church to “receive these office-bearers as Christ’s gift to the church.”
A strange gift it is. The matter of elders in the church has been divisive. Many Christian Reformed churches left the denomination in the 80’s and 90’s, dividing over the hermeneutic of office.
Elder rule can be confusing. Other churches are led by bishops, strong pastors operating as CEOs or congregational rule, a democratic form of church government. For us, we have no bishop, but the elders of Classis Pacific Northwest corporately hold our churches accountable and direct our shared ministries. Our pastor has no more authority in the church than any of the elders.
And a difficult gift. This “noble task” (see 1Timothy 3:1) takes a toll on those who serve. The disciplines of spiritual warfare, the spiritual requirements of leadership and the responsibility of the Form of Subscription are heavy burdens.
Divisive, confusing and difficult? Yes, but all the more indispensable and blessed. For eldership is God’s plan for those for whom his Son gave himself. So I bring this “word of his grace” to congregation and elders as we approach a Congregational Meeting. There is no more important starting place in governing the church than selecting well eldering well. On June 21, we’ll be about the Holy Spirit’s business, receiving his other gift to our church.
So Paul, writing to the Ephesian elders, encourages our ACRC family and elders:
28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood . . . . 32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.
Indispensable to God’s plan for his church and blessed by God’s word of grace. Praise God for the gift of elders! As we select elders, let’s “obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden.” (Hebrews 13:17)
With you in on the mission, Pastor Doug Fakkema, Anacortes CRC