The night I was elected elder in my church, I began serving. Within a week I was voting on decisions that I was totally unprepared to make. I was clueless about what elders did or how they did it, so I just watched some of the more experienced elders. For better or worse, I just did what they did and within a few months, I was catching on.
But what exactly, was I catching on to? Was I truly being a biblical elder or was I just doing what the elders have always done at my church?
It took me a few years to figure out that something was seriously wrong with this process. My church and Jesus as head of the church, deserved better than this on the job training of leaders. So a dozen years ago, the leadership of our church did three things that dramatically changed the way our leaders were trained and organized.
Nearly 20 years ago, I was elected an elder of my church. But, I had mixed feelings. On one hand, I was honored that I was both nominated by the elders and pastors and elected by the congregation. But something bothered me about the process.
It felt like a popularity contest.
I felt badly that there may have been men in the church more spiritually qualified than me. But because these other men weren’t as well known in the church or the community as I was, they were not elected. So, I voiced my concerns to the elders.
“That’s the way we’ve always done it,” “Almost ever church elects it’s leadership that way” or, “We believe God speaks through the people to vote for the leaders he wants,” were the reasons I most frequently heard. Still, the whole process felt more like a democracy, than biblical. There had to be a better way.
Voting by the Congregation
James M. Boice a respected pastor had this somewhat cynical comment on popular voting in general: “One of the things Presbyterians especially do is to outvote the dissenters. We call a meeting. We ask people to speak. We make a motion, being careful to follow Robert’s Rules of Order. Then when we have our motion and our second, we vote to cut off debate, vote, and the majority prevails. Our will is done, and everything has been accomplished democratically. I have heard people say, ‘The Holy Spirit speaks through the fifty-one percent vote.’ But that is usually not the case, to judge by outcomes.”
Last week, I got a call to meet for coffee with a small group of young pastors and leaders, working with college students at our church. “We’d like to hear how you handle these questions.”
“Why do Christians insist that faith in Jesus is the only way a person can get to heaven? Isn’t that arrogant and disrespectful of other religions?”
None of these young leaders had any doubt that Christ is the only way a person can be made right with God. But they were frustrated that the arguments they’d been using, just weren’t doing the trick. So they were looking for new material.
Perhaps you have an older child or grandchild who’ve voiced the same questions. You’ve tried giving them a Josh McDowell or Lee Strobel book, but you’re not even sure they’ve read it, or ever will. Perhaps what I said to this group will help you as you dialogue with them.
A few months ago, I was meeting with a Christian businessman I really admire. As we began talking about his childhood, I asked him if his father ever told him, he loved him. He thought for a moment and said with a look of nostalgia, “I don’t recall him saying those words, but I know he enjoyed being with me, and that was good enough!”
I immediately connected with what he said. I had a grandfather who made me feel that he enjoyed having me with him and I’ve never forgotten the feeling! A wise friend once passed on this observation;
“Twenty years from now, almost no one will remember the words you told them, but they’ll always remember how you made them feel.”
So, here’s the first important question, “Do your children or grandchildren know that you enjoy them?”