I thought we had a great budget presentation this morning, Harold did a good job. Just a nice balance of enough information about the numbers and focus on what we're doing. Prayers for the things that we'll be doing in the future and Bobby leading all those you reading all those those blue cards. People needing prayer for a variety of ailments. And so I appreciate that part I appreciate the blue card part of the of the service. And I also appreciate it when someone will hand in a card from time to time simply asking that we pray for our leaders, our elders, deacons and ministers. I personally as one of the ministers I'm always appreciative of someone thinking that perhaps we also need to be prayed for to do our work. And of course I'm aware of the fact that prayers that are offered not only in public here but prayers that are offered in private for those who serve in a leadership role in the church. Many people have said to me personally that they are praying for me and my family. So my lesson tonight is to explain why these prayers are appropriate and very necessary.
Leaders carry a heavy burden of responsibility.
With this lesson, I'd like to make you aware so that you can be motivated in your prayers especially for those leaders who hold the position of elders. And I'd like to describe some of the burdens that each of our leaders who serve as shepherds here, have to carry. For example is the burden of character. Leaders become leaders for two reasons. One they have the desire to serve in this way.
It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do.
- I Timothy 3:1
I believe that Paul is explaining that the desire to lead is part of the calling that a man has. To leadership in the assembly. I believe sincerely that God draws a man to this role. And puts a desire into his heart to lead God's people. It's not healthy for a man to take on leadership especially in the church if he doesn't have the desire to do good works on behalf of the Lord as a leader of God's people. Another reason men aspire to lead is because they feel qualified to lead. They feel that they have some resources that they can offer. In the service to the church. Paul the Apostle reviews these qualifications in I Timothy chapter three, but in these qualifications very interesting we note that some of them are conditional. For example a man must be married. That's a condition and he must have children that believe that also is a condition.
All these qualifications, they're easily determined simply through observation. We can tell Well Marty he's married there's his wife. These are his children and so on and so forth. There are however other qualifications which are more subjective. In nature. Paul says again in First Timothy 3 that an overseer must be temperate. And prudent. Respectable hospitable able to teach not addicted to wine or pugnacious gentle. And so on and so forth. These things that are just mentioned are qualities in a man that are not always easily detectable simply by looking. Because they're parts of his character. These are things that he needs to develop over time. The burden here is that he must maintain the conditional qualifications. In other words remain married. Continue to have a good home to rule his children well and all those things. And he must maintain these conditional qualifications and at the same time needs to develop the skills such as teaching and hospitality and continue to grow in the character of Christ. This is a burden. This is a personal burden that he carries in order to simply continue in the role of leader.
Of course all are weak and sinners in the eyes of God. However, to retain effectiveness and credibility God's leaders have to demonstrate that they can maintain their qualifications and they can improve their ability to teach and they can grow in Christian character even after they've reached a certain mature age. They never stop wanting to grow in the likeness of Christ. I believe this is a great burden of responsibility and it requires not only the effort of the individual but the prayers and the encouragement of the entire congregation. That's my point. Why should we continue to pray? We need to continue to pray for our leaders because they carry this burden of personal responsibility. And the thing is, if you're not in that role, nobody's watching you. But if you happen to be one of the elders. Everybody's watching you. You're working out your salvation, you're working on your character, you're developing your qualifications in front of everybody. Unlike the rest (who do not have that particular role) we're still responsible for that. But nobody's sitting there judging how well we're doing, than other than ourselves perhaps. Another great burdens that leaders carry and that is the burden of ministry. According to the Scriptures. Elders have a very specific ministry to carry out. First they must:
1. Guard the doctrine
28 Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. 29 I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.
- Acts 20:28-30
Yes, the church puts in names and yes of course we discuss these things and we print out qualifications and and we give them to everybody to examine this when we're searching for new elders. But notice the Bible says here the "Holy Spirit has made you overseers." It didn't say the congregation made you that. It's an office received from God. And he says made you overseers to shepherd the Church of God which he purchased with his own blood I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you not sparing the flock and from among your own selves men will arise speaking perverse things to draw away the disciples. After them. And so first of all they must guard the doctrine.
Elders are responsible for making sure that what is taught at every level in the church is accurate according to the Bible. This is one of their primary responsibilities as leaders in the church they must protect the purity of the doctrine not we don't have to protect the Bible, the Bible doesn't need us to protect it. But we have to protect the congregation from false teachings even if it isn't maliciously done. Sometimes people make mistakes in their classes. They're responsible to make sure that that doesn't happen. One of their primary responsibilities as leaders in the church. Another responsibility and the burden of ministry.
2. Encourage and appoint evangelists
Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery.
- I Timothy 4:14
It's interesting to note in the Bible that when there are no elders It is the responsibility of the evangelists to recruit and train and to raise up elders (Titus 1:5). And that cycle is complete. When elders are in place well when that happens it is their responsibility to recruit and encourage and provide training for young evangelists as they did for Timothy. It is their responsibility to make sure. That preachers are sustained and supported in their work and have the encouragement that they need to continue faithfully serving in this difficult role. See the cycle? How wise God is. Evangelists go in they establish the church. They plant the church through their preaching. They raise up elders for that particular congregation and then with time those elders seek out those that have the gift. For preaching and teaching. And what do they do they encourage that person into the ministry and at some point ordained, we used the word "ordained" but we commend that young evangelist into the service of the gospel to make that cycle complete.
3. Guard the flock
Paul encourages leaders to protect the church from false teachers. We said that in Acts 20:28 but also to protect the church from division (Romans 16:17). To protect the church from immoral conduct and the growth of improper moral influences in the congregation (I Corinthians 5:1-9). They put out a lot of fires in this area and this is a great task that they must continually be attentive to. They go to the meetings and all of a sudden someone says, "OK I need to report this is happening over here" or "sister so-and-so was over here or brother so-and-so was arrested." They're continually putting out fires, continually trying to make sure that perhaps a small dispute between two of the teachers, for example, doesn't blossom into an all out war. Very delicate work, time consuming.
4. Minister to the weak and those who are sick
Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord;
- James 5:14
It's interesting to note that James tells people who are ill and suffering in the church that they should call on the elders to pray for them, not the deacons, not the evangelists. Now this doesn't mean of course that the preacher or the deacon or any member cannot pray or minister to anyone who is sick. Of course not. What what James is saying is that the elders have the primary responsibility for ministering through prayer. Through the presence of comfort those who are sick and those who are weak in the church I can tell you after 38 years of ministry having visited a lot of people in the hospital it's one thing if I go. But it isn't complete unless the elder goes, in the mind of the individual who is ill. And I'm looking at Bud here and he's shaking his head. Absolutely. They expect the preacher to go well surely he gets paid to do that. Yes. What else has he got to do. Nothing to do. Yeah right. But the visit from the elder. To hold his hand or her hand. And to whisper a prayer to them. And to say to them be encouraged or don't be afraid. And that we're with you. There's something deeply comforting for that individual. Because I think every person in the church knows that particular passage and they await expectantly. The visit or the call from the elder. That is a burden. This is a great task and it's a time consuming task. And for this reason we need to support our leaders and encourage them for the effort that they make.
5. Resolve disputes
Another responsibility in the burden of ministry leaders and the church must also be the ones to resolve disputes. In Acts chapter 15 we see that the Apostles and the elders in the Jerusalem congregation gathered together to resolve an important doctrinal dispute that had taken place in Antioch. Note that it was the leaders in the congregation that had to listen to both sides of an argument and then make a decision as to the course that needed to be followed. And I'm always struck with the idea and Acts 15 that the Apostles were there and yet it says the Apostles and the elders. Together. Nobody was pulling rank here. The Bible recognizes the authority and the leadership role. Of elders. Sometimes we need a judgment call on the matter and we must allow our elders to make that call if we can't come to some resolution on our own. And this requires wisdom and patience. And for this reason we need to pray for our leaders so they will have the kind of wisdom and patience to make difficult decisions on matters where there is a dispute in the congregation because a wrong call sometimes to cause a lot of trouble.
These tasks that I have described are the God given tasks that elders need to carry out.
To guard the doctrine of the word. To encourage the evangelists to guard the flock to minister to the weak and the sick to resolve disputes. When they are appointed to their position as elders This is the work that they take on. This is the work that they agree to do. Here in Choctaw I think we are well organized. However it does take a lot of effort to oversee the teachers and the teaching program for so many classes. I think brother Harold mentioned that 80 people. 80 people involved in teaching. And to work with and encourage the ministers we have three full time ministers and the deacons as well of course with all of their separate tasks. To visit and pray with the sick to encourage young families to care for the aged shut ins. I hope you recognize that doing all of this requires hours of work away from home visiting on the phone sending cards having meetings. And four of our elders are retired but three of our men still have full time jobs. So we need to pray and cooperate with them because it takes time and effort. And sacrifice to be a true shepherd. In the future those who desire to become elders should understand the burden of ministry that comes with this role.
Don't take on the role if you're not ready to take on the burden of ministry. And don't criticize one of our elders if he happens to retire because of the burden that he's carried for so long and needs to rest.
We all benefit from elders who carry out their ministry. So we should all share in the prayers and the support and the encouragement of our elders and their families because they carry the burden of character. As well as the burden of ministry. Another burden that elders carry. Is the burden of responsibility. Harry Truman former president of the United States had that famous sign on his desk that said "the buck stops here." Of course you didn't mean the buck like the dollar. He meant the blame the responsibility as in passing the buck for you younger people here who are not familiar with this saying.
Of course in politics the good thing about having the final responsibility is that you also get to make the rules. In business, the boss is responsible, so the boss sets the rules. The boss is the one who hires, the boss is the one who fires, he cracks the whip (he or she) cracks the whip if necessary. But in the church. We already have the rules they're here. We don't make up our own rules. And we already have a boss so to speak. His name is Jesus Christ. What God gives us in Elders. Are people who are responsible for teaching us these rules and making sure that these rules are these teachings are done properly. He's given us man to protect us against those who would hurt us spiritually. He's given us these men to guarantee that the gospel will continue to be preached even after they are gone. And they are here by God's charge for loving and caring for us even when we are weak or sick. Or troubled. Or dying. For loving and caring for us even when we don't love ourselves even when we have become unlovable. God has put the charge to them. To love us. Nevertheless. This is the burden of responsibility of the elders the things that God will hold them accountable for. I don't know about you but this is a pretty tall order, isn't it? I mean, who can do this? I think most elders don't quite see all of this when they signed up to do the work. Yeah become an elder. Yeah I think. I think that's a good idea. Yeah I believe you know be with the men. I'll be able to give some direction. Yeah sounds pretty good till the first meeting. But if they persevere and allow God to humble them and remake them they will find that he can equip them through the grace of his love and the wisdom of his word to rise to the level of maturity in Christ. Not attained by many of us because along with the responsibility comes an opportunity an opportunity in Christ that not many receive in life. You see that's the secret.
The burden of responsibility is great. But the potential in Christ is so exquisite. So you may be asking yourself, 'why is he preaching this lesson?' It seems so narrow so focused on so few. After all we only have seven brothers who are elders and they're all staring at me. And here I thought there'd be a big crow, get lost in the crowd. No. The reason that I'm teaching this particular lesson for these particular people are the following.
1. It's part of my ministry as a preacher
Paul tells the young preacher Timothy I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus who is to judge the living in the dead and by his appearing and His Kingdom preach the word be ready in season and out of season reprove rebuke exhort with great patience and instruction. II Timothy 4:2. And so the preacher is supposed to provide this not just for the members but for everyone including the leadership. In Titus when Paul tells Titus to raise up elders. He doesn't just mean to appoint them on a given day. He means to find them and motivate them and train them and encourage them and also to raise their sights higher. The elders encourage and they teach they lead they comfort us. But here's my question. Who encourages them? Who rebukes them? Who teaches them? Who admonishes them? Well the Bible tells us that well that's the evangelists role to do this. This is God's perfect and balanced plan. I want personally, I want our elders to see and to strive for the highest vision of their role possible.
2. To inspire others
And that's the real reason that I am saddened that such bad weather that we had tonight we have such a smaller crowd. How will a man desire if he doesn't see. We are going to need more elders who wish to aspire to the high calling of eldership. I want to plant the seed in hearts. I want to strike the fire in someone's soul so that you will give more of yourself than you've ever dreamed that you could. So this lesson is also a call to ask God to raise up more man who will take on the important task of being God's shepherds. I also preach this lesson for the wives of our elders. No leader can lead without a help mate who loves the Lord as much as he does. I want to give to each elder's wife each future elder's wife the notion that her husband's calling and vocation is an enterprise worthy of her full devotion. I want her to know that as the spouse she shares in the success or the failure, in the reward as well as the repute. I call out to the elders wives to make this a priority in your lives knowing that if you don't. He won't either.
And I preach this lesson for the congregation. I want you to know the value in the context of the height and the depth of the sacrifice that ordinary people are making for you and for me. Elders and their families are like your family, except for one main difference. When you go to bed, you think about your life and your family. But when elders go to bed they think and pray not only for their own family but they carry the burden of your family with them into their sleep. Perhaps you have had a tragedy or a crisis in your life. And one of your first calls was to the office or to Marty because of course he serves in the dual capacity as the pulpit minister but else also as an elder or your first call goes to Johnny or one of our elders. Oh my sons had a terrible accident. All right on each at the hospital at and your crisis in he is there in your crisis until hopefully it passes and there's some sort of resolution. That the reality of the situation is that well that was your crisis. Your one crisis in your own life. But that may have been his fifth crisis this week. You and I we only have our own crisis but they must participate in everybody's crisis. Who are they that they should have to do this thing. They don't get paid for it. There's no great honor. I mean they don't they don't get a limo. There's no applause or anything like that. The reward is from the Lord in the future. Why do they have to do all of that? Remember that, when you pray. Remember that, when you see them. And let your words and actions support them in the burden of leadership. And of course the greatest burden of all that the elders carry is for unsaved souls especially those souls who are close by or even within these walls.
So as I close out this lesson this evening. I encourage anyone who needs to unburden their souls of sin certainly to coming confess Christ be baptized. To remove that burden from your heart and from your soul. And I also want to remind you. That we will need. Preachers and elders and deacons. Who are they in this congregation? Who's going to be the next elder? And join the ones that we have in service, who are the next deacons? That will take on important ministry responsibility who are going to be the preachers. Marty is getting so old. I got an amen. I didn't get anything for the sermon but I got amen on how old you look. You can still hear it. No seriously were it worse the young blood. I've been back seven, back, seven years. I haven't seen. I hadn't heard one single person say I want to go to a preacher school. I want to do this. I want to go and be a minister. Will you help me of anybody come to the elders asked for money to be a preacher? At this rate. Why should we have to put an ad. I mean we're 350 to 400 people. Why should we ever have to put an ad in the paper to look for a preacher who has to come from I don't know where New Mexico or California or Texas. You mean we can grow our own here. Where are those young man? Where are those mature men who are in the strength of their lives? In the in the meaty part of their lives. Are at the top of their game. They're at the top of their game and they're in their careers. And where are those men who are going to come and step up to to be deacons? And we're are the ones who who will say, "Here I am Lord, use me, use me, I'm ready to sacrifice my life to shepherd your people. Poor my life out as a sacrifice of service." Where are those men? Well we won't find them if we don't start praying. If we don't start calling out to God telling us show us who they are Lord. Better still put a burden on the hearts of some of these individuals. Lord put it in the heart of one of these young women or one of these mothers to to encourage their husband to seek more fervently your will. When taking on the responsibility of leadership in the church.