OK, I’ll admit my recent posts have been a bit heavy. Three weeks and four weeks ago, in the wake of a megachurch minister’s suicide, I wrote about the costs and burdens of ministry. Last week I lamented the lack of urgency for the gospel demonstrated by so much of the comfortable American church.

Hopefully there was a positive message in each of those posts, but today you won’t have to search for it. I want to tell you how grateful I am for godly leaders who surround me. I could share story after story about how our church staff and our dedicated volunteers make a difference at our church week after week. But in this post, I’ll focus on our elders whose goodness I see in so many ways. Let me mention three marks of these effective leaders.

 1. They Protect the Church

 They’re watching the spiritual health of the church, including me. They’re making sure my teaching lines up with Scripture. They protect us from bad theology. They protect the mission of the church, too. When dissension arises, they deal with it calmly and quickly. They quench small fires before the flames destroy the forest.

2. They Protect the Pastor

A minister counseling our elders told them, “You guys are the flak jackets for your staff.” Our elders have taken that advice to heart. More than once they’ve gone to a critic, allowing me freedom to concentrate instead on preaching, teaching, and reaching.

But they’re not a bunch of “yes” men. They keep me accountable. They challenge me to maintain a healthy family life. They offer gentle correction and rebuke, not with an iron rod, but with kindness and concern. In our circle of elders, we have the freedom to have hard conversations with each other without fear of doing damage.


3. They Are Servants First

Every elder in our church is serving somewhere: men’s ministry, online ministry, Starting Point, worship ministry, Rooted. Their voice is strong because they’re doing what they ask every church member to do.

I firmly believe a good church leader has a deep love for the bride of Christ. It’s a requirement, and our guys understand this. At our most recent elders meeting, one of them said, “Any one of us could be somewhere else doing something else tonight. But we have a deep love for the body of Christ, and that’s why we’re here.”

He realizes—everyone around that table realizes—that being an elder is not a power position; it’s a servitude position. Like John the Baptist, their goal is to make Christ greater while making themselves less (John 3:30). They’re learning and demonstrating how to take up their cross daily and follow Christ (Luke 9:23).

Maintaining such an attitude is a challenge for every leader.  Since 2006, Dave Stone has been pastor with one of the largest congregations in America, Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. When he announced his retirement plans to the congregation September 16, he spoke to the peril of leadership. “The longer you have the title, if you’re not careful—if I’m not careful—I can begin to love the title too much,” he said. “Over time, I can begin to love the notoriety more than the responsibility.”

But our elders care way more about the church than they do about their position in it. One of them told me, “Before I was an elder I prayed for the church, but not really. Once I took up this task, the burden and the urgency fell on me. I realized if I love the church like I say I do, I better be on my knees praying for it.”

Prayers from leaders like him are making a difference—in my life and in our church. And I couldn’t be more grateful.

Trevor DeVageComment