The Encourager

The Encourager

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The Charge to Elders by C.G. "Colly" Caldwell

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers,
 not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly;
 nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. (1 Peter 5:2–3

If the owner of a flock loves his sheep, he naturally takes being a shepherd as an awesome responsibility. If one loves his brethren and has been chosen to oversee them in a congregation, he knows that much is riding on each decision he and his fellow shepherds (elders) make.

Franklin Roosevelt worked hard to persuade Harry Truman to be his running mate in the 1944 presidential election. Truman wanted to go to the Senate, but he loved his country and so accepted the job with extreme reluctance. On April 12, 1945 he was summoned to the White House. There he was shown into Eleanor Roosevelt’s sitting room, where she told him that the President was dead. After a moment of stunned silence Truman asked her, “Is there anything I can do for you?” She shook her head. “Is there anything we can do for you?” she asked. “You now have the responsibility for our nation.” I like that story because it expresses the personal concern of Mr. Truman for Mrs. Roosevelt while at the same time he was reminded of his important new obligation.

The work of a bishop carries responsibilities. It is not an “honorary office.” Some elders do not understand that. Some seem to think they have gained a position “at the top.” They need instruction like that given by the mamma whale to her young calf: “When you get to the surface and start spouting off, that’s the time you’re most apt to be harpooned.” What then must elders remember to meet their responsibility, their obligation, and their charge?

It’s Not About Me

By imposing certain standards, “Not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you,” he lays the basic attitudinal fence around the overseer’s mind and heart.

There is a primary thing for elders to remember: “the flock belongs to God, not me!” Elders would do well to look at those they are leading and ask, “Who benefits most from this relationship? It should not be me!” Country singer Leann Rimes’ father structured his agent fees to make more than his daughter did. Our generation’s slogan is, “What’s in it for me?” While many of us came to Christianity with that motive, we need to grow to the point of asking, “What’s in my being a Christian for Christ? And what’s in it for others?” If you want to be a good leader in any capacity, equip yourself to render service to those who need your love and care. Elders serve willingly, not for their own gain and not with a domineering, self-centered spirit. All Christians need these same qualities of character and spirit.

Take Care of the People

“Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving …” Like shepherds of literal sheep, elders have the obligation to keep the sheep from straying (Hebrews 13:17), to lead them to water and pasture (1 Peter 5:2), and to protect them from danger (Acts 20:29–30). The primary function of an elder is not to watch over money, property, or business affairs, but to “watch out for your souls as those who must give account” (Hebrews 13:17).

God’s lists of required characteristics for this work (1 Timothy 3:1–7; Titus 1:5–9) do not mention formal education, popularity, business acumen, or professional standing in the community. God is looking for care-giving shepherds. Serving others is the highest calling a person can receive. Elders who are only interested in the “bottom line” from a business perspective do not understand their primary duty. Take care of the church’s resources, but try a little human compassion and tenderness. And be sure to place binding up the wounds of the hurting alongside defending the flock against predators.

Lead by Example

“Being examples to the flock …” “Do as I say, not as I do” does not work for shepherds. Albert Schweitzer once said, “Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.” That may not be completely true, but no shepherd can lead in paths he is unwilling to walk. Unlike herdsmen who drive cattle, shepherds lead. They are to be out front, not barking orders from the rear. Tom Landry, former head coach of the Dallas Cowboys said, “Leadership is a matter of having people look at you and gain confidence, seeing how you react.” That being true, when it comes time for elders to make decisions, the church will follow as a matter of course.

The instruction to the church is, “Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct (Hebrews 13:7). Do you see how that presumes that the conduct and life of the elders will be such that brethren will gladly follow? If elders are examples of godly husbands, fathers, citizens, neighbors, and most of all Christians, the church will want to follow.

I am told that Mark Twain became embittered against Christian faith because of church leaders who owned and abused slaves, who used foul language, and who practiced dishonesty during the week after speaking piously in church on Sunday. Although he saw genuine love for the Lord and others in his mother and his wife, he was so disturbed by the poor example of church leaders that he could not respond well to the things of God. How many elders have wondered why the church would not respond well to their leadership? Perhaps, the example has not been such as to encourage that kind of loyalty.

Love It or Leave It be Ed Harrell

Sunday, May 17, 2015


It is difficult to keep one's thinking truly undenominational. Proud, carnal attitudes constantly make their way into spiritual affairs. The sources of jealousy and strife today are the same carnal attitudes that plagued the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 3:1-5).

I think few people have complained more about the mental and spiritual shortcomings of modern churches of Christ that I have. I intend to continue to do just that. We must guard against party factions, against denominational conceptualizations, against becoming simply another sect. The concept of undenominational Christianity must be treasured by us and taught to the world. But…

But I am troubled. Sometimes I am troubled when I hear others criticize (or admonish) because I wonder if our motives are the same and I wonder if our solutions are the same. I reprove my brethren because I love them, not because I find them unattractive. I am concerned about the inadequacies in churches of Christ because I consider them to be precisely that — churches of Christ, the hope of the world.

It seems to me that many of the young critics of the church today proceed on an entirely different set of assumption. Their criticisms do not reflect an intrinsic love and respect for simple faith but rather a personal revulsion against simplicity of faith and against simple people. Their call for a deeper individual commitment to godliness comes off sounding like a rejection of literal obedience and the acceptance of authority. I feel I am being faced again with the ancient liberal choice of being either right or righteous.

In short, I sometimes hear young men saying the same things that I think need saying — but our thoughts lead us to act in different ways. I like simple plain preaching done by a corn-fed Alabama preacher (even at the risk of a passage being taken out of context). They like the evangelical scholars (few having attained the elevated intellectual status of appreciating sophisticated liberal scholarship) and yearn for their fellowship. I like conservative churches, even though some in them are contentious, and some do not understand undenominational Christianity (by the way, I think that most do). They find the spirit much sweeter in liberal

churches, even in denominational churches, though they often are less than frank in saying so. (And is it possible to imagine that one would find an understanding of undenominational religion here). The differences between us are profound in act if not in word. I believe their actions reflect serious misunderstandings about the nature of the church of the Lord, about the quality of those who hold that faith today, and about the quality of religion in the sectarian world.

One final point — BE HONEST! I have no respect for a man who hides his convictions behind rhetoric. If one believes that the churches of Christ in this country are the Lord's people in our time, fighting his battles, being faithful to his patterns, then let's try to build up the cause and expand the borders of the kingdom. If one believes that the "conservative churches of Christ" are an unenlightened, often bigoted, partially correct, contentious wing of the "Christian world" that one happens to be trapped in because of family or traditional loyalties, then let's get that understanding up front. I can appreciate most any one's work in the kingdom (even if it seems unenlightened to me) if I can see that he loves it. When one's affections turn to other places, then it is time to leave.


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