When people think of the role of the elder, certain tasks come to mind: preaching, planning, supporting the pastor, and attending meetings. And yet, the role of an elder can be much more. Each elder should embrace his or her spiritual gifts and find ways to use them in the service of the Lord. Paul states that the diversity of spiritual gifts is for the benefit of the church (1 Cor. 12:12-31). Are you the elder who reaches out to missing members? Maybe you are the elder who coordinates training and equipping. The Holy Spirit gives gifts to be used—find out how yours can best benefit your church and community.
We collected inspiring stories gleaned from interviews with
numerous elders who saw ministry as a part of their daily lives.
We will be sharing their stories in three articles and hope you
will be inspired and encouraged as you continue to grow in your
role as an elder.
GROWING IN THE LOVE AND KNOWLEDGE OF JESUS
All the elders we spoke to felt that this “is truly a position
of great spiritual responsibility.” Elders genuinely want to see
a revival in their churches. They want to see an impact for the
kingdom. I recently received an email from Tom, an elder who
attended a prayer conference I conducted. After the first day of
prayer and fasting, he had a life-changing experience; his stony
heart was replaced with a heart that was open. He repaired
and strengthened his relationships at work and at home, and he
knows that he will never be the same again. A tangible sense of
an indwelling of the Spirit of God now governs his life. Tom later
called me and shared his desire for his whole church to have
the same experience. He understands that in order for such a
revival to take place, the leaders of the church must model what
it looks like to walk with Jesus daily.
CARRYING THE PEOPLE OVER YOUR HEART
One of the most impactful things you can do is pray for
your people. Pray for individuals as well as the membership
as a whole. We talked to Stan, an elder at a church that holds
morning prayer meetings from 5:30-7:00 a.m. every weekday.
This elder-led small group, usually 2-8 people, takes time every
day to pray for each name on the church membership list.
Every time they finish with all the names, they start over. Stan
mentioned that he has noticed a “remarkable” unity present in
the church where there was once dissention because of a large
building project. He credits this prayer time as one of the factors
contributing to this change.
One church was without a pastor for nine months. During that time, the elders met to pray and discuss church needs.
They put the needs and desires of the church before God, claiming
the promise of Proverbs 3:5, 6: “Trust in the Lord with all
your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your
ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths” (NKJV).
This became their pastoral search model. Three calls were extended
but rejected. Their trust in God’s leading sustained them
during this trying time. They ended up with a pastor who was
not on their original list. He was humble yet confident, and he
was intentional about spending time listening to and getting to
know his church. Now, more than a year later, the congregation
can see that God provided them with the pastor they needed.
Troubled by the state of their declining church, one elder felt
a burden to pray with his pastor. They met weekly for two hours
to pray and seek the Lord. Soon, more elders joined them. In
time, their struggling church of about 125 people grew to one
with over 500 in attendance. Time spent in prayer is powerful.
Elizabeth, a head elder, shared the example of the High Priest
in the Old Testament. God had specially designed a breastplate
with the names of the tribes inscribed in stones that were over
the heart of the High Priest (Ex. 28:29). Therefore, he would
always carry the people over his heart and before God in prayer.
In Acts 14:23, the elders of the church regularly prayed and
fasted for the people and “committed them to the Lord.”
An elder must first be firm in his or her own spiritual walk.
Paul encourages leaders to “keep watch over yourselves and all
the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be
shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own
blood” (Acts 20:28, NIV). The role of the elder is to exhort others,
but how can you do that if you are not grounded in the Word
and open to the Holy Spirit? An elder is a living example for the
congregation. Daily quiet time with God, regular church attendance,
family worship, and Bible study are all ways in which to
continue your journey of spiritual growth. These will help you to
become a tangible representation of what it looks like to have
Christ living in you.
S. Joseph Kidder is a professor of church growth and leadership
at the Andrews University Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary
in Berrien Springs, Michigan, USA.
Kristy L. Hodson is a student at Andrews University.
To avoid confusion, we will refer to S. Joseph Kidder with the pronoun
“I” and refer to Kristy by name.