Woodrow Wilson served as the United States President from 1913 to 1921. Some years after leaving office he was asked what the greatest honor he had received. His answer was that of serving as an elder in the Presbyterian Church. Even after the presidency, he would make that statement.
This Lord’s Day we have the privilege of ordaining and installing two new Ruling Elders at Houston Lake Presbyterian Church. This will be a great day for our church and for Michael Collins, Sean Waters, and their families.
What does it mean to “ordain” them? The PCA’s Book of Church Order (part of our constitution as a church) defines ordination as “the authoritative admission of one duly called to an office in the Church of God, accompanied with prayer and the laying on of hands, to which it is proper to add the giving of the right hand of fellowship.” It is a solemn and sobering thing to be so called and set apart for service.
As I thought about what we are doing this coming Sunday I thought just how counter-cultural this all is. We who are a part of Christ’s church are called to be shepherded and led. We are called to be in submission to God ordained leadership. In Hebrews 13:17 we read: 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. (ESV). Even Elders are in subjection to one another. As a Pastor I’m in subjection to fellow Elders and to the Presbytery (the regional body of PCA churches).
I can almost imagine the reactions to this kind of talk. “Really? Obey? Submit? What kind of group is that over there at that Presbyterian Church on Houston Lake Road?” Our culture wants little, if anything, to do with authority. One’s freedom of choice has become the ultimate value.
But notice what the Scriptures are saying. This is not sanctioned busybodiness. This is not some spiritual “big brother-ing” per se. This is shepherding. Leaders are to keep watch, to guard. They are there to protect and to nourish. This means encouragement as well as correction. Elders will be held accountable for their ministries. The manner in which they shepherd is always under God’s scrutiny.
In this day talk of Elders who serve as shepherds may seem archaic and paternalistic. So let’s be reminded that God wants Elders of character- that’s the qualification given in Scripture (see I Timothy 3, Titus 1)- who can shepherd in their homes and in the church. God loves the Church. He gave His Son to die for her. We can trust Him that His design is best for us and the health of the Church. We can always trust Someone who died for us.
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