Question:

I have a brother in Christ who's been an elder for a short time. There are two older elders who been in the church for many years and he feel like a junior elder and they are senior elders. The church recognizes it at times because it's being mentioned. He is discouraged because, even though they come together to make decisions, his opinion is not recognized and whatever they say goes. He says they justify their actions and speak down toward him. He is thinking about stepping down before his spirit gets quenched and to avoid arguments because when he goes to them about something that is not right they make him feel he is not cooperative and they are offended. He's not a novice, very sound in the Scripture and just want to do the Lord's work. Any input or encouraging advice I can give him?


Answer:

It appears to me that the elders there, both new and older, don't understand their duties very well. Elders are selected to watch over people's souls. "Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you" (Hebrews 13:17). Far too often congregations think of elders as managers or a board of directors for the the congregation. Yet the concept of controlling a congregation is the opposite the one needed by an elder. "Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away" (I Peter 5:2-4). Take a look at "The Rule of Elders" and "Elders Who Rule Well" for more information.

An elder's job is to serve, but what is being complained about is an inability to control. "But Jesus called them to Himself and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave -- just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many"" (Matthew 20:25-29). The focus must be on the sheep, not the other shepherds. Is the flock growing? Are the weak and sickly healing?

I've been in a situation once where I was asked to serve as an elder and then every decision of the congregation was dumped on my fellow elder and me. We knew it wasn't right and at the same time we were drowning in demands to the point we couldn't get our real job done. It wasn't fun. The strange thing is that since the eldership was dissolved, we manage to get more things done for members as unofficial elders of the group than we did when we held the office.