Ian Hamilton on elders

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Last week we had a Men's evening at IPC with Ian Hamilton from Cambridge Presbyterian Church. I'd asked Ian to speak on eldership and he was outstanding. It seems to me that we spend enormous amounts of effort and thinking on how do we raise up a new generation of ministers and workers without thinking practically how do we raise up a generation of elders.
Ian sent a brief paper beforehand for our men to read which I reproduce below with his permission. If you want to hear a recording of the talk fire our church administrator an email and she'll send it on to you, along with many emails soliciting help for our building project.




1.         God has not left us in the dark concerning whom he wants as elders in his Church.  Scripture clearly details for us the qualities and qualifications we should be looking for in men set apart to serve and lead as elders in Christ's Church:  Read Acts 20v17, 28-32; 1 Timothy 3v1-11; Titus 1v1-11; 1 Peter 5v1-4.  These are not "suggestions", they are commands!  However much we are aware of our own failings, our first concern is to be ruled and guided in our thinking and choosing by God's Word.  Failure here will lead to tragedy for the Church.


2.       The following points from these passages should guide us in our thinking:


a.     Elders must be examples to the Church (1 Peter 5v3).  Examples of what?  Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 4v12: "Set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity."  Elders will be men who show in every area of their lives (however poorly) that they love the Lord, love his gospel and his people.


b.     Elders must be credible leaders in their own homes before they can be credible leaders in Christ's Church: read 1 Timothy 3v4-5 "He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect.  (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?)"


c.      Elders "must have a good reputation with outsiders" (1 Timothy 3v7).  This means that even unbelievers should recognise that they are men of integrity, consistency; men "not given to much wine, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money."  (1 Timothy 3v3).


d.     Elders "must hold firmly to the trustworthy message ... so that (they) can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it."  (Titus 1v9).  This means that elders should be "men of the Word", men who have a sure grasp of God's truth and who are, in some measure, able to use it to build up the flock and defend it against its enemies.


e.      Elders must be spiritually mature:  "He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil" (1 Timothy 3v6).


3.        The spiritual health and well-being of a Church depends, humanly speaking, on the kind of men set apart as its leaders.  Elders are committed Christians, but more than that!  They are Christians who will give themselves to serving Christ and his Church and whose example will encourage, challenge and lead on God's people (consider the example of Timothy, Phil.2v20-21).


4.       Ultimately the Church is Jesus Christ's, not ours!  Read Matthew 16v18, "...my church...", and elders are appointed by the Holy Spirit, not us (read Acts 20v28).  Our responsibility is to be shepherds to sheep who are precious to our Saviour and Head: "Be shepherds of the Church of God, which he bought with his own blood." (Acts 20v28).  Elders are accountable to God for their work (Hebrews 13v17).




The Model of Leadership and Ministry (Isa.42:1-4)


"The preacher is more than the sermon... all the preacher says is tinctured, impregnated by what the preacher is...Preaching is not the performance of an hour - it is the overflow of a life...The sermon is forceful because the man is forceful. The sermon is holy because the man is holy. The sermon is full of divine unction because the man is full of divine unction....The sermon cannot rise in its life-giving forces above the man...Everything depends on the spiritual character of the preacher." (E.M.Bounds)

Leadership is a grace more than a gift. Leadership is a gift from God (Rom.12:6-8) - but it is a gift imbedded in a life!

1.      The Servant's complete dependence on God

2.     The Servant's unyielding faithfulness to God (cost!)

3.     The Servant's personal humility before God

4.     The Servant's unimaginable grace that magnified God


1.      What particular perils do church leaders face? (Think of scriptural examples).

2.     How are we to recognise those whom God has set apart and endowed for leadership?

3.     Why is the Church's supreme leader called "my Servant"?

He is the Lord's unique servant; but he is also the proto-typical servant. Our servant-hood is patterned after his. Union with God's servant initiates us into sharing his servant-hood. This is true for every Christian and especially true for every man called by God to serve his church.

Posted March 4, 2014 @ 6:16 PM by Paul Levy

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