“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” (Acts 20:28).
“The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil” (1 Tim 3:1-7).
Elder (presbyter), pastor (shepherd), and bishop (overseer) all refer to the same office, the most important and thankless role among the people of God. Elders care for the spiritually sick, they pray for the physically sick, and they keep error away from the local congregation. I have been privileged to know some mighty fine elders in my time. Today, I wish to thank God for some marvelous elders with whom I have worked.
Tammy and I will both readily tell you that Harold Jones is one of the best men that we’ve ever known. Harold loves the Lord. Harold wants to do the right thing. Throughout our time with the Owingsville, Kentucky congregation, Tammy and I saw Jesus living in Harold. Knowing Harold richly blessed our lives.
When I began working with the Alum Creek, West Virginia congregation, Gerald took me under his wing and taught me the ins and outs of working in West Virginia. If someone was in the hospital, Gerald was there. If someone needed spiritual counsel, Gerald was there. If someone needed to be married, Gerald was there. If someone needed to be eulogized, Gerald was there. Gerald taught me much about compassion and love and servant leadership. I wept and wept the day Gerald died, for he blessed my life so richly.
After I accepted the position with the Dale Ridge church in Roanoke, Virginia, I needed to find a place to live. In a phone conversation with Joe, I expressed my felt need to find a place to live before we moved to Roanoke. Joe said I didn’t need to worry because my family would live with Jan and him while we looked for a house. What?!?! I was really going to live with an elder and his wife?! I was more nervous about living with Joe and Jan than I could ever say, but I rapidly learned how unfounded my concerns were. Joe and Jan welcomed us, loved us, and supported us during our transition. Had I known how loving and generous Joe and Jan are, I would never have been nervous about staying with them.
Joe loves the Lord. He studies Scripture and sought to keep error away from Dale Ridge. He loves souls and he was willing to exercise “tough love” to help people return to Jesus. Joe loves blessing people and is extremely generous. Tammy has recently said that Joe is one of the top five men she’s ever known. Without any doubt, Joe is one of the best men I’ve ever known.
Elders have a great and important role among the people of God. They lead, not only by their teaching and direction but by their example. I have been blessed to see some elders walk hand in hand with God and seek to honor Him with their entire being, and I’m all the better for it.