One complex, demanding task God created among His people is the work of an elder. By design, an elder shepherds a community of God's sons and daughters. He serves in that role by the choice and desire of the Christians in that community.

A congregation is a complex community. If it is functioning by God's design, it attracts all types of people to Christ. Backgrounds, family situations, education levels, Bible knowledge, maturity levels, and levels of spiritual development will differ widely within any healthy congregation.

It is also an all "volunteer" community. Each person worships, serves, and is involved only to the degree that he or she chooses to be. The only meaningful "power" conferred on an elder by a congregation exists as a result of their respect and his influential example. He leads. They follow. However, following is their choice, not his.

My adult life has been spent working with and for elders. I have watched good men enter that role with great expectations. They hungered to "move good things in better directions." They were certain that would be simple. They quickly discovered the complexity of being an effective leader in a congregation. The level of insight, understanding, and wisdom required awed them.

When things go well because of good leadership, commonly we say nothing. Five Christians can be unhappy about five different personal concerns, and one hundred can be delighted with the congregation's work and direction. The elders will hear from the five (as they should), but the one hundred will be silent.

Two things kill the hearts of capable elders. The first is "one-issue" Christians who never "see" nor "understand" the needs of a congregation as a whole. The second is the burden of being taken for granted.

Appreciation is spiritual adrenaline! Remember to write cards or notes to our elders individually. Do not mail them. Bring them Sunday. We will present them to each elder Sunday evening.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 2 August 1998

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