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Preach The Word 2 Tim. 4. 1-5

’Preach the Word’ was the subject of brother Burnett’s ministry at the Ontario Worker’s and Elder’s Conference 2014. This message has been transcribed, and edited for publication in Counsel as follows.

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Editorial: Young Men Arise!

In designing the local church the Lord provided for the care and protection of the flock through elders. These men are also referred to as overseers (poorly translated in the KJV and NKJV as bishops) or shepherds. Overseers, elders and shepherds refer to the same person but each word emphasizes a different aspect of his work.

Elders are part of a mature fellowship of believers and was an important part of the establishing of local churches in apostolic times.1 We take this New Testament example to be our binding authority in the present day and make every effort to copy this.

It is important to notice that elders were always in a plurality in the New Testament. Wm. Hoste writes: ‘In apostolic times one church had several bishops. In Christendom one bishop has several Churches.’2 This can be substantiated by noticing the plural reference every time elders are mentioned in the New Testament.

The plurality of overseers has proven to be a blessing to the local church. The variety of age, temperament, personality, maturity and experience combine to give the flock a rich resource in the function of shepherding.  The shared responsibility enables men to continue to function year after year and avoid the mental, emotional and spiritual exhaustion that may overtake one man responsible for everything.

The flock is not at risk when one elder is no longer able to carry out his work as others are already in place. There is safety and security in a ‘multitude of counsellors’ (Pro. 11:14). “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.” (Pro. 15:22). “Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established.” (Pro. 24:6). “For by wise counsel thou shalt make thy war: and in multitude of counsellors there is safety.”

Today however we notice that in many assemblies few seem willing to rise to challenge of oversight work.  The reasons for this are not easy to identify but some of these might be the explanation.

It could be that some, particularly younger men, feel inadequate or unqualified for the task at hand. The qualifications of oversight are not light. A review of those qualifications given in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 are enough to set any man back.  No serious minded candidate for shepherd work would easily rate himself as meeting the qualifications. But those qualifications, while a necessity, were not given to potential elders to assess themselves, but to others who would identify elders. No man doing oversight work that I ever met boldly claims himself to be qualified, he leaves that for others to assess.

Perhaps another reason some are not willing to rise to the occasion of elder work is a feeling of not having sufficient time to do the work. It is a good sign when a young man thinking of oversight work has a sober assessment of the fact that it will take time and work. In the present time in Western economies the working world places big demands on working men. The technology that promises saving of time and labour seems to be running us more and more. The work day seems to be operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with constant work contact. A young man considering oversight work has to make some hard decisions in perhaps foregoing big opportunities in business or career. This is not an easy decision to make and limiting one’s time in earning income is not as simple as working less hours. But accepting big responsibilities, promotions and advancements may have to be curtailed if God’s people are going to be cared for. To gain in this world and to lose out on God’s calling is the height of folly.

It is possible that in some cases assemblies have suffered with a dysfunctional group of elders. This may prevent a young man from joining such a group. In such cases the potential shepherd must be in prayer and seek the counsel of wiser believers. It may be the assembly needs some additional shepherds to correct the dysfunctional nature of the present oversight.  It will not be easy, but it may be necessary to endure some difficulties until things can be put right.

I have always tried to point out to candidates for oversight work that elders are made by the Holy Spirit. (Acts 20:28) “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.”  In other words, if God has made a man an elder, he really has no choice in the matter. It is not a question of deciding whether I want to be an elder, it is a question of am I going to be obedient to the call of God upon my life. This making of shepherds by the Holy Spirit is as significant as God calling a man or women to full time missionary or other service.

Young men, arise!

Endnotes

1 Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5

2 Wm. Hoste, Bishops, Priests and Deacons, John Ritchie Limited, pg. 29

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God’s House

When one enters a home he discovers there is a certain order maintained. If it is a Christian home, it is the man who is the authority and he will set the pattern. In God’s house He has the right to establish the rules of conduct.

…but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15 NKJ).

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