Picking Your Elders and Deacons
October is a big month for Jordan Valley Church because we are opening up officer nominations. You get to nominate the people to serve as elders at deacons for our church.
The character of our leadership is more important than any gifts or charisma. 1 Timothy 3:1-13 paints a picture of the character of the elder and deacons. What strikes me about it is how ordinary it is. It’s not looking for people who pray for two hours without getting distracted, but people who are well thought of by outsiders. It’s not requiring people who can deliver theology lectures, but people who treat their wives well. In other words elders, and deacons should exemplify the qualities we are looking for in every Christian. To be an elder or deacon doesn’t put you on a different spiritual path, but means you are doing a pretty good job of walking on the same path as all other Christians. When it comes to nominating people I think one of the most helpful questions is ask is, “Who seems to be living the Christian life well?”
One challenge with nomination people is that about half of our people have been at JVC for less than two years. You might not know some people as well as you would like before nominating them. I would encourage you to err on the side of nominating more people instead of less. Your nominations simply says, “I see potential in this person.” We’ve remade our officer training from the ground up. The training will be intensive and last 5-6 months. If nominees are married, their spouses will assess their husbands’ character. Each nominee will provide a peer reference where someone like a co-worker or neighbor will attest to their character and answer questions like, “Would learning this candidate is a leader in his church make you think better or worse of his church?” For the elder candidates the training will involve a good amount of reading and writing. Elder candidates will also preach on a Sunday and help lead worship services. The deacon candidates will organize a church work day and recruit volunteers. At the end of the training the candidates will be examined and assessed by the temporary session. Those who pass will be presented to you for a vote. This is the vote where you should be more discerning as you are picking the people you want to lead this church in the coming years. But by the time you vote you’ll have gotten to know the candidates pretty well and seen them in ministry.
The training is intensive and will require a lot from the nominees. This is intentional because we want to ensure that those who lead our church are up to the challenge. I’ve discovered that when faced with challenges, leaders are those who rise to it instead of shrinking away. After an initial vetting process we will present the nominees to you. I want you to rally around our nominees, pray for them, encourage. I don’t expect everyone to make it through the training; that’s fine. Some will realize they don’t have the time needed to serve; others might realize they aren’t ready yet. This training process is really about helping people grow in godliness and developing their gifts, and that is something that will benefit anyone. In the end, I believe those who complete the training will have a great sense of God calling them to the job, a confidence for doing the job, and that they will be equipped to serve this church well.
One of my favorite things when preaching is when people lift their eyes up to the cross that stands behind our pulpit. This is one of the best pictures of Christian leadership, where the leader has disappeared, and people are encountering Jesus. Church leadership is paradoxical in that sense; you are putting yourself in a role where you will ultimately disappear and perhaps be forgotten. Your job is to decrease so that Jesus can increase in the hearts of the people. That’s why we are taking this training process so seriously–we want men who will pour out their lives so that Jesus will have a bigger place in the hearts of the people at Jordan Valley Church.