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Eldership Notes

  • Geoff Thomas 

    • says that almost all preachers are elders, but few elders are preachers??

      • He sees the distinction here: I Tim.5:17  “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honour, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching”

    • “Their own character and godliness is far more important to him than the various tasks they perform.”
    • “What struck you first about this deacon or this elder? Many of you would answer that you saw him in church and liked his appearance and manner, that there was something different about him – long before he ever spoke to you”
    • “The apostle tells us that it is important for a man to ‘set his heart’ of being an elder.”
    • “A man can want to be a leader for many wrong motives. God resists the proud. A man must have a great view of the glory of the Lord, loving Christ’s church and longing to see it strong, holy, caring and faithful to the word. A man with that vision must set his heart on being an overseer because appointed to it he could do more to bring about these graces in a congregation. It is a noble task to be in leadership in the kingdom of God.”
    • “What price taking care of the church? What cost managing the congregation? We are being searched as to totality of our own commitment. What am I prepared to endure, and deny myself for in order to fulfil this particular ministry? Will we suffer for the good of a church, to ensure that it is central in our lives? We organise our lives, consecrating our time and talent for the sake of the flock of God.”
    • “So very often it is appointment to the office, and involvement in the work, that matures a man beyond his years and our expectations.”

  • Geoff Thomas, again, on preaching
    • And concerning preaching there had developed a joy in the pulpit which transcended anything else which has never left me, and I could detect a bond of indescribable blessing that had formed between myself and those who heard me which came about because of sheer vertical sovereign grace. There was identification between pew and pulpit, and a mysterious solidarity. We were ‘family’. We had entered something divine together.
    • So I longed to return straight home from Philadelphia and go to a university town in Wales and influence students. It seemed to me to be a worthy ambition. God even gave that to me. But no verses jumped out of the Bible to confirm any of those longings, just the Scriptures’ big themes – “these words are true, do this with your life, marry this sort of spouse, to desire this work is a good desire, and preach this message.”
    • Sought fitness in five key areas:

      • vitality: was there an energy of God in the encounter of proclamation to a congregation and in never-ending pastoring? 
      • rationality: did I have common sense and a practical sagacity which, enlightened by grace, is the most important characteristic a preacher can have? I wasn’t sure of that. I am impulsive and can be silly and make ill-judgments, and all these years seem to have matured me little there. 
      • intellectual ability: if I were to spend my life teaching others was I myself apt to learn? 
      • moodthe ministry is no place for a man with mental problems, a melancholic, a depressive, an exhibitionist, an extrovert or an angry man. When the leader needs leading and the shepherd needs shepherding God help the flock. 
      • spirituality: it has become an abused word: I mean godliness, the life of God in the soul. When Duncan Campbell arrived off the ferry on the Isle of Lewis fifty years ago to take part in meetings which are still talked about today the elders of the church where he was to preach met him and first asked him this question, “Mr Campbell, are you walking with God?” That is what I mean by spirituality, and I will amplify it in a moment.

    • We have also to say this, that no one is called by the Head until the body calls him to be its pastor. That is, until a gospel congregation invites you to becomes its pastor-preacher you are not permitted to say that the Lord Jesus has called you. You may believe he has, and long for such a call, and prepare yourself for it, but until the call of the church comes to you you may have no assurance that you have a call from the church’s head. The assurance occurs when the church’s call is given, because ultimately God’s call is mediated to you through his people. Then you go on and on, hearing the Word together, pulpit and pew, and time will go by, and there will be growth by inches, and to your amazement you will find them still saying to you 35 years later, “You will come back from America won’t you? You will be preaching here this winter won’t you? You will be preaching to us next Sunday, won’t you?” And your love for them constrains you to say ‘Yes.’ And that artless call of theirs to you to teach them the Word is still the call of God.
    • His leadership is known in all the churches, and if there is one explanation to that success and to my dismal misjudgment of him it is found in these words, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
    • [On Westminster seminary candidates] Students gave themselves 6 or 7 out of 10 in most of those categories, but when it came to their assessment of their own preaching ability candidates for study at Westminster Seminary more often than not awarded themselves 9’s or even 10’s. How different those men were who met God in the glory of his being and perfections who called them to speak for him. Moses said, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh?” and he protested his ill-equipment, his lack of natural eloquence. Isaiah said, “I am undone. I am a man of unclean lips, and I have seen the King.” It was not until he was assured of God’s call that he said, “Here am I, send me.” Jeremiah said, “Ah, Lord, I am a child. I cannot speak.”
    • The Christian ministry is not a matter of building a library of books and parchments, using whatever other helps we might have at hand, with some confidence of our fluency of speech. It is not simply teaching people about the Bible. It is bringing God to bear upon the life of a church. It is bringing the power of God into the lives of a congregation. Its end is that people might experience the power of the Word. The Methodist, William Bramwell, confessed, “I die a death every time I preach. I wonder I have lived as long as I have.” He was a man who actually had an awakening ministry, and yet he felt he did not possess knowledge enough, prayer enough, holiness enough, experience enough, love enough, and sacrifice enough to carry on as a preacher.
    • That loving is absolutely indispensable for leaders in the church. This is not some option that you can pick up or discard like a change in the order of service. The apostle is saying that without love you are as much help as a gong. Imagine the congregation gathering on a Sunday morning and the climax is hearing a gong being beaten for thirty minutes, and then they go home. That is listening to the loveless preacher, “the Rev. Clanging Cymbal.” In fact, without love you are ‘nothing.’. Nothing means nothing. And I would plead with all those who teach Church Growth seminars to find a place in their theological universe for the centrality of love. To be a pastor, the preacher must be in love with his people, and he must like people and be interested in them. He must be approachable, and not defensive in his attitudes. He must welcome and not resent people who want to ask him questions about his preaching. My son-in-law is about to become the father of their fifth child, and he is a pastor in inner-city London. He was ruefully saying to me recently, “I am not a people person (I don’t believe that at all). I am a book person, but these four sons of mine have made me a people person.” He is thankful for that. His wife and children have made him a more humane man. So there must be the love of I Corinthians in a preacher.
    • So you see why, when Paul describes a church leader, that it is on this note he begins, “A bishop then must be blameless” (I Tim.3:2). What a man is will be far more important than what a man does. It is the difference between an apple tree and a Christmas tree. The fruit of an apple tree comes from within itself. The chocolate fruit of a Christmas tree is an adornment hung upon it, merely cosmetic. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart produces good things, such as love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control. They come from the life of God within the man. When the apostle describes the church leader divine graces are Paul’s priority, not his eloquence or man-management skills, or his orthodoxy – important as all such things can be – but that he is without blame.
    • If I read aright the biographies of the great men of God, I find that this is their unanimous testimony. All with one accord declare that if there was any secret to their ministries it was this: it was the man, cultivating his inner life in the presence of God” (Al Martin, “What’s Wrong with Preaching Today?” Banner of Truth).
    • Men are God’s great method. The church is looking for better methods, God is looking for better men. ‘There was a man sent from God whose name was John.’ … What the church needs today is not more machinery, or better, not new organisations or more and novel methods, but men whom the Holy Spirit can use – men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Spirit does not flow through methods, but through men, He does not come on machinery, but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men – men of prayer” (E.M.Bounds, “The Complete Works of E.M.Bounds on Prayer”, Baker, 1996, p.447).

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