What does being an elder look like?

1 Thessalonians 5:11 – Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

I am currently an elder at my home church. I’ve been attending the same church since 2002 and, in April 2013, became an elder. I remember the ordination exam. I was so nervous!

The room was filled with all the other elders as well as all the pastors, over 10 people! They went around the room asking me questions that dealt with my understanding of the Bible, my personal life, and some “how would you handle” situations.

Afterward, they asked me to leave the room and they provided their feedback to each other as to how I did and whether I was “above reproach” enough to become a leader in the church.

I squeaked by.

It was not a unanimous decision for me to become an elder. The Bible exam was ok. I passed. The situational questions were fine. It was the personal side that almost ended it for me.

If you have been following my blog you will know that in the not-too-distant past I got divorced. With all divorces comes baggage, but even more so if the person claimed Christ before the divorce. In retrospect, I don’t believe anymore that I was a Christian before my divorce. I believe I was a “cultural Christian.” My conversion truly didn’t happen until after the divorce.

My past is messy.

But, then again, so is almost everyone’s.

But what does the day to day life of an elder look like?

Most people have a vision of what it looks like.

  • Up at 4 AM
  • Spend 2 hours in prayer and petition
  • Read the Bible for an hour, focusing on what God just taught you in the 2 hours prior
  • Spend time reading devotionals with the family before they head off to work or school.
  • Have prayer time with the family.
  • Head to hospital and pray with anyone who will welcome it
  • Go to lunch and have it turn into a conversation. See a whole bunch of people get saved and baptize them in the mop sink at the restaurant
  • Head to a homeless shelter and start preparing food for the meal
  • Serve meals at the shelter and end with a small group that brings the homeless to know Christ
  • Head home in time to do a devotional with the wife and go to bed by 9 pm

All the children are missionaries, pastors, or training to become one. There are no arguments between the husband and wife. All the carnal, fleshly desires are gone and replaced only with Bible verses. They may have a “bad thought” come to mind, but it is immediately replaced with views of how God has changed their life and they immediately repent of the thought and do the right thing.

Now I am sure that there has to be someone out there that fits that.

I don’t.

As a matter of fact, my life is still pretty messy.

Luke 16:10-12 – “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?

Let me share with you my daily schedule:

  • Get up between 6:30 and 8 AM
  • Get the dog ready for a walk and read the Bible while on the walk, pray after Bible reading and re-read the Bible
  • Get home and immediately get ready to start my work day
  • Spend the day at work until about 4:30 each day, making decisions on how to write a person’s resume to make them sound like the perfect candidate while trying not to lie about their qualifications. It is a constant battle.
  • Make dinner for the family
  • After dinner I walk the dog again and go to prayer almost the whole time
  • Get home and unwind with a video game or catch up on blogging
  • Go to bed at somewhere between 11 pm – 1 am.
  • Once a week I pray over the prayer cards in our congregation. I am available for phone calls from the congregation or people I am a mentor to, but many times because of schedules those go to voicemail.
  • Once a week my wife and I get a chance to do a devotion together and pray together.

My wife and I argue. My kids don’t always look like saints. I don’t always look like a saint. I make poor decisions from time to time. I don’t have all the verses of the Bible memorized. I don’t even have some of the verses memorized that others do.

I’ve been known to have a swear word pop out of my mouth from time to time. It usually happens when I get frustrated and try to handle things on my own.

I am a guy, so it takes conscious decisions to prevent my eyes from wandering.

So being an elder doesn’t mean all the temptations go away.

As a matter of fact, those temptations tend to hit even harder once you make the decision to become a ministry leader.

But there is one thing that typically separates people who are taking their Christian walk seriously from those who are not. It isn’t even something that separates elders from the rest of Christians.

It is something that separates those who are mature in their faith versus those who are not.

Accountability and mentorship.

James 5:16 – Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

If someone is really serious about their faith they will allow someone to have access.

Now, yes, my wife is one of those people. But men need other men to have access in their lives and women need other women. While my wife has full access to my life, there are times that I need help understanding how to love her the way I should. And that requires a man who has been there.

So, yes, as an elder I have all of the same temptations as you do. I have moments of pride, moments of weakness, moments of anger, moments of impurity. And I have people in my life that can help me understand those moments and lead me in repentance and forgiveness. They show me grace and mercy and emulate Christ to me.

If you don’t have someone who can do that for you, you need to make sure that is a top priority. Go and ask your pastor. Talk to your church elder or deacon.

Find a person to hold you accountable.

It will lead to your maturity and growth as a Christian.

Proverbs 27:17 – Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.

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