Good, qualified spiritual leaders are hard to find. Perfect spiritual leaders are impossible to find. Except, of course, Jesus Christ, who was “without sin” (Hebrews 4:15) and who “committed no sin” (1 Peter 1:22). Save Jesus, God’s word declares every other accountable person to be guilty (Romans 3:10, 19, 23 * 1 John 1:8, 10). Even the most spiritual, faithful Christians among us are declared guilty of falling short. Take a blank sheet of paper. Draw a line down the middle. At the top on the left write the word “Sinless” and on the right write the word “Sinner.” Count up the people you know who are perfectly sinless and write the names in the left column. You will have a single name listed on the left – Jesus Christ who “knew no sin,” who died on the cross “that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Now on the right hand in the “Sinner” column, list every other accountable person you know – or to save time, just write “Everybody else.” That’s right. For, “There is none righteous, no, not one … for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:10a, 23). Let me repeat – qualified spiritual leaders – that is, elders, preachers, and deacons, are hard to find. Perfect, sinless, flawless spiritual leaders – that is, elders, preachers, and deacons, are impossible to find.
But wait – while there are no perfect, flawless spiritual leaders in the church, there are men among us who are qualified leaders! Let’s talk about elders. Preaching and discussions about the elders of the church very frequently focus on how sobering the responsibility is. And without argument, it truly is a fearful assignment. Guarding against wolves who would savage God’s flock, shepherding and overseeing Christ’s church, being examples other Christians can and should follow to heaven, and watching out and giving account for souls under their care – you can close both eyes and still see that serving as an elder is serious business (Acts 20:28-31 * 1 Peter 5:1-4 * Hebrews 13:7, 17). And yet, as great and demanding as the challenge is, eldering can be done well! I didn’t make that up. God’s word says that in 1 Timothy 5:17 where the apostle Paul told Timothy, “Let the elders who rule well be counted worth of double honor, especially those who labor in word in doctrine.” My purpose here is not to discuss all the implications of the word “honor” except to assert that the word includes the idea of valuing and esteeming and appreciating them. No elder is perfectly infallible in judgment. They can make mistakes. But most elders in the church I’ve ever known, and the ones under whose care I have been privileged to serve as a Christian and a preacher, and those I now serve with as a “fellow elder” (1 Peter 5:1), have been sincere men. They loved God and His word and His church. They are men who gained the trust and respect of the congregations where they served by living lives that qualified them to serve as elders (1 Timothy 3:1-7 * Titus 1:6-9). The Bible calls on us to “recognize” them as they “labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly for their work’s sake” (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13). You may not always agree with the elders. But unless their advice and judgments are unscriptural, you ought to respect and be submissive to them. You don’t have to give account for their decisions – they do, and not to you – to God (Hebrews 13:17). Their task is difficult and sometimes agonizing. If they serve well (not perfectly), count them worthy of double honor. The need your prayers and support. Are you listening?