By Michael J. Brooks
I thought it would be a snap to trim a few dead tree branches, but the ladder slipped and so did I. Fortunately, it was only a six-foot ladder and I didn’t fall far. I ended up with only a few scrapes. I remembered a warning an electrician in our church gave me a few years ago. I told him about replacing the outdoor bulbs with the 20-foot ladder and asked him about some issue with the fixture. He told me NEVER to get on a ladder by myself. I should’ve listened, but I promise I will from now on.
Someone compiled a humorous list of the advantages of getting older. I remember several of them. One is “You’re the first to be released in a hostage situation.” Another is “You don’t have to buy new books since you forgot what’s in the old ones.” And another is “There’s nothing left to learn the hard way.”
Ancient Israel revered the elders of the land. They often served as a civil court who met near the city gate. To fill this position was an honor. Pastors often quip when they preach about the godly woman of Proverbs 31 that all her husband did was “sit at the gate” (Proverbs 31: 23). But his service to the community was valuable, and it was made possible because his wife was so efficient at taking care of the home.
The book of Proverbs is filled with admonitions for the young to learn from the elders about the promises and pitfalls in life.
The New Testament also speaks about elders. The Apostle Paul ordained elders to guide new churches. Evangelicals disagree on the meaning of this office. Elders in the Presbyterian church are largely laymen who make major decisions for the congregation. Sometimes they’re called “ruling elders.” The pastor himself is a “teaching elder.” Baptists generally believe “elder” is a synonym for “pastor” since the latter word was uncommon in the first century, used only once in the New Testament (Ephesians 4: 11). However, some Baptist churches are instituting the office of elder now in the Presbyterian model.
One Baptist pastor wrote about how he met resistance when he wished to form a board of elders. He decided instead to call them pastors and nobody got upset!
The point of eldership in the New Testament is the same as in the Old Testament. These are men (and in some cases women) of wisdom who can help the church in her mission. The senior adults in our churches are a valued resource. They’ve learned some hard lessons in life. They’ve also witnessed the faithfulness of God from generation to generation. We need to listen to them.
Reflections is a weekly devotional column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church in Alabaster, Ala. The church’s website is siluriabaptist.com.