J. Gordon Duncan

Culture, Business, Fitness, Etc.

Change and the Life of a Church Officer

Being an elder or officer of the church doesn’t really change the day to day life of a Christian. Growing in Christ is the constant call of the believer.  Depth in knowledge of Jesus, the Gospel, and the scriptures are the privilege of everyone who has faith in Jesus.  These things always remain whether or not a person leads the church.

When you look at those 3 categories of requirements in 1 Timothy 3 (Holiness in Personal Life vss 2-3, Godly management of one’s household vss 4-5, and Spiritual maturity vss 6-7), there are few things that need to be understood:  elders and overseers, pastors, and deacons are not held to higher standard than anyone else in Christianity.  They are held to the very same standard to which every believer is held.

There is no such thing as a higher or lower standard or higher or lesser righteousness Biblically. God has commanded us how to live in the scriptures in accord with His character.  So, there can be no higher obedience than what God has commanded.  If there was a higher standard, then that would be what God commanded.  In this way, the life of the officer and the life of the layperson is the same.

However, growing and affirming the call of an officer will cause a few changes.  For the officer, the description of the Christian life becomes their vocation. The job of an officer is to be a believer.  In this, as a person undertakes the training, affirming, and ordaining of a call, everything changes.

For example, when a person becomes a member of a church, they take a vow to belong to each believer in that fellowship.  Our vows look like this:

1.  Do you acknoweledge yourself to be a sinner in the sight of God, justly deserving His displeasure, and without hope save in His sovereign mercy?

2.  Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and Savior of sinners, and do you receive and rest upon Him alone for salvation as He is offered in the Gospel?

3.  Do you now resolve and promise, in humble reliance upon the grace of the Holy Spirit, that you will endeavor to live as becomes the followers of Christ?

4.  Do you promise to support the Church in its worship and work to the best of your ability?

5.  Do you submit yourself to the government and discipline of the Church, and promise to study its purity and peace?

The member of a church takes a vow that says they will live out their Christian life among other believers and will do it in such a way that they will pursue the peace and purity of each other member of that church.  In addition, they promise to support the work and the life of the church.  They also promise to submit themselves to the government of that church.  The congregation is vowing to follow their leadership.

Biblically this is expressed in Hebrews 13:7, 17

7 Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

Verse 17 gives insight into where the life of the officer/elder is distinct from the life of the members.  Whereas the members take vows to belong, the officer takes vows to express their being beholden to the congregation.  The congregation vows to submit to the officer and the officer vows to keep watch over the souls of the congregation.  As an officer …

  • You invite the congregation to examine your life as one worthy of imitation.
  • You then shepherd those congregants by watching over their souls.
  • Consequently, God holds you accountable for the congregation’s growth and life.

The members of the church have the right to expect much of you. They will expect you to live in Godliness and humility.  They will expect you to be available to them.  They will expect you to have their best interests at hand.  You are beholden to them.  You are available for them.

With such great responsibilities and privileges, it’s fair to ask, “How does one grow in preparation and affirmation of their call?”  I would say the best route is to simply pursue growing in Christ.  Don’t think, “What have I got to do to be an elder/officer?”  Just pursue knowing Christ deeper for the sake of knowing Christ. That is always the best and first place to start as Christ and His Gospel are paramount for leadership of the church.

Granted, training for ordination causes you to pursue knowledge (church government, counseling, confessionalism) in areas that others may not pursue with the same rigorism as Bible study and prayer, but the goal is always the same:  growing closer to Christ.

Walk humbly, ask God to guide you, and seek to know Jesus and His gospel in deeper ways than you have ever known them before.  Then, as your call is either affirmed or not, you will find yourself a Christian who knows His Savior intimately, and the church will benefit and be all the more beautiful as a result.

Your ultimate hope is of course found in Christ and His work for it was Jesus who declared, “18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18

This article also appears at the Raleigh Examiner.  Read it there and help  me earn a penny.


January 5, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , ,

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