Last Sunday was a momentous day for the Sunny Slope church of Christ. Five men- Travis Horton, North Witcher, Mark Grimes, Dwayne Kennedy and Gary Hutchens- were appointed as the first elders in the history of the congregation.
The apostle Paul instructed Titus, who was working with the congregations on the island of Crete, to “set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you-” (Tit. 1:5). Apparently, congregations had been established in a number of cities on that island, thus the reference to “every city.” While there might have been any number of things that were “lacking,” one specific need that Paul “commanded” Titus to address was appointing elders in each congregation.
Obviously, God’s design for the church is that each congregation appoint elders who will lead that congregation to remain true to God’s word and faithfully serve Him according to His teachings. A congregation is not fully complete in its God-designed structure without elders. The fact that Paul “commanded” Titus to appoint elders should impress us with the importance of working to develop men who can fill that role of spiritual leadership. This congregation has been fairly diligent for many years trying to come to this point. Thankfully, God has blessed us with the fulfillment of this goal.
How should we view elders in the Lord’s church? First, as brought out above, it is a command that we need to continually seek to obey. We need to respect that role and the men who fill that role. They have taken on an incredible responsibility- they must answer for the souls under their charge (Heb. 13:17). As members in a congregation of the Lord’s church, any congregation, we need to respect, support and encourage them in that work. As the writer admonishes in that verse, we need to help elders be able to fulfill their work “with joy and not with grief…”
Elders are not Super-Saints! Don’t expect them to be such. They’re men, human beings. They’re not perfect, they make mistakes. They need the prayers and the patience of every member of their congregation. Their desire is to serve God in this work well and faithfully. They should not be expected to make every member be faithful, nor should they be expected to do the work of the members. They are to lead, largely by example, but the members need to follow, doing their own work and working along with the elders, making their work easier, as long as the elders lead in a scriptural direction.
I truly believe that Sunny Slope has turned a monumental corner for good. I believe that having elders will help us be a better congregation and open up doors of opportunity to accomplish more for the Lord, some of which we don’t even realize as yet. Please, pray to God diligently and regularly for the elders. They need your prayers, support, encouragement and help…
Gary L. Hutchens