Sunday, April 14, 2013

Pillars of the Church: Elders

Since the beginning, Jarrod and I have been concerned about church growth. We couldn't seem to figure out which came first: converts or elders? In "chicken and the egg" argument, this question goes unanswered. In house church, it's a question of balance and wisdom which is why all throughout the book of Acts we see the apostles fast and pray...and then send out those God told them to anoint as the pillars of a work in the area to which they would be planted.

While Jarrod and I don't consider ourselves baby Christians, my parents have been the only true elders; both because of age and maturity in the Scriptures. Since mostly our meetings only held three to four families, this didn't seem to be a problem.  The "ratio" however didn't seem ideal for growth and personally, I hoped for elders that I wasn't related to. I've seen "mom and pop" churches in error and scandal because they were literally "family" and basically built an impenetrable dynasty that was so sick, I shuddered and ran from it.

Back to the ratio of elders to babies. The more babies you nurse, the more elders you need. It would be like one daycare worker trying to watch over a passel of children by himself. That worker becomes exhausted, frustrated and eventually gets burnt out! Our vision has been to "go into all the world" like Jesus said and we were ready like a gunshot to hit the streets but we also knew if we were going to really grow, we would need some pillars upholding the work.

Quite unexpectedly, we got ourselves some elders! Two couples, both long time disciples of Christ, have joined our meetings. Both are deeply rooted in the Scriptures. One couple had enjoyed a  house church fellowship for ten years before moving to Oklahoma. The other has spent his life defending the faith regarding science and the scriptures all over the world.

Wow. I!

You can't imagine what it's like to have someone who's actually done church this way when you've only done this for two years. It's exciting and it just continues to reassure us that God is working in us for His purposes!

At our last meeting someone spoke up about something that was kind of hard to discuss authoritatively or definitely for the lack of scriptural information regarding the subject. One of the elders spoke up, gently and simply:

"That's something that needs to be shelved until we can discuss it."

He was referring to a commonly held rule in house church: don't teach a doctrine unless you've got solid Biblical basis for it and it's been discussed and examined by the elders. We all know the basics (creation, atonement, eternity) but the extras (what will we be like with a glorified body) have to be examined first. The reason for this is not control but order. It's relative to keeping the meetings, especially for the young followers of Christ, within the boundaries of simple-tried-and-true teachings that edify everyone. Speculating about things where the Bible falls silent makes for great conversation but not teaching unless it has been proven and accepted by the elders for teaching. Notice I didn't say by THE pastor. Not one man calling the shots here...elders provide checks and balances, an opportunity for God to confirm through each other, whether something is acceptable or refutable.

(Personally, where the Bible falls silent...I fall silent. Where the Bible shouts again and again...I direct the whole of my energy. Seems the most important things Scripture emphasizes should be emphasized.)

That moment when the elder spoke up brought order in a way that was gentle, humble, and loving. Rather than barking: "You're not going to teach that here until I say so," it was more of, "let's visit that sometime in private."

Huge difference.

That's the kind of experience an elder brings to a meeting that balances it out. So, we are looking forward to future meetings as we share "the inheritance that is in the saints in Christ Jesus."

Thanks for reading Thank you to Rusty and Sara Wimberly for your many prayers and gentle guidance!

God bless you all.
Jarrod and Mindy