Three Things You Should Expect From Your Church Elders

At Fellowship we’re gearing up for another church membership class. This is a great opportunity for attenders of our church to take the next step on the Path of Discipleship. And move from church attender to committed member. Now often when pastors talk about church membership we talk about expectations for our church members. But today I want to flip the conversation, and talk about what members should expect of church Elders[1]. Here are at least three things which every church member should expect from their Elders:

Soul Care– Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.”

As a church member you should expect your church leaders to keep watch over your soul.  In fact, this job is so significant that each Elder will have to give an account to God about how they did.  What does soul care look like? At least three things. (1) Elders should help you grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. (2) Elders should encourage and offer counsel to you when you are burdened by the things of this world. (3) Elders should protect you from the lies, deceptions, and evils which keep you from having joy in Jesus.  In short, Elders should care for your soul by teaching, encouraging, counseling, and supporting you, in every area of your life.

Now as much as Elders (myself included) would like to give this kind of care to every person we meet, the truth is it is just not possible.  But as a church member, you have made a public statement saying “I want my soul to be cared for by the leaders of this church.” Therefore, you can and should expect to have the priority of such care.

Tangible Acts of Love- 1 Timothy 3:2 says, “Therefore an overseer must be… hospitable… “

Hospitality is a lost art in our culture. But the Bible is clear an overseer (that is a church Elder) must be hospitable. Why is hospitality an necessary quality of Eldership? Because hospitality is a tangible expression of love for one another. To be hospitable is to open not only our homes to others, but our lives as well. It is to no longer minster to someone at arm’s length, but instead to bring them in close and  show them love.

Again, this isn’t something Elders can do for everyone. But if you are a church member, then you have committed to be a part of our family, and so in turn we commit to you. And one way we commit to you is by loving you in real tangible ways, like being hospitable. So as a church member you should expect your Elders to invite you into their lives and into their homes, as a way of showing you love.

Equipping– Ephesians 4:11-12 says,  “ And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,…”

Elders fall under the categories of shepherds and teachers. But like the job of the apostles, prophets, and evangelists, our job is “to equip the saints for the work of the ministry”. What does this mean? First, it means our job is to help you grasp deeply the truth and power of the Gospel for your life. Then, help you understand how to rightly handle the Word of God. Next, we should help you discover your spiritual gifts. And finally, we should help you find a context for using those gifts to serve others.

Equipping the saints is something I’m passionate about. But it is a really big job, even in a not-so-big church.  Thus, it is not something that I or any other Elder can do for just anyone who comes to one of our ministry programs or who visits our church.  But if you’re a church member, then you are our target audience. And you can and should expect for us to equip you for the work of the ministry.

I’ll be honest as I look over the above three expectations I get a little nervous. Because as a pastor I’m reminded just how significant my job is, and at the same time just how often I fall short of meeting these expectations. And of course the above list isn’t even complete–there are still more expectations I could have added.  But despite my weaknesses, I still want to encourage every church member to expect these things from me and every other church Elder.

We might not complete our work with perfection (that’s why we too need soul care, love, and equipping as well). But even so, this is the job Christ has given us to do, and so you should expect us to do it.

[1] For Presbyterians, Pastors are also Elders.