Sermon – Elder Installation
Hebrews 13:17 – A Charge to the Congregation and the Elder (mp3)
There are many passages to think through when elders are being considered. Of course, 1 Timothy 3 comes to mind, but others are just as important. 1 Peter 5; Titus 1; even OT passages relating to the failure of Israel’s shepherds and the calling of Peter to “feed my sheep” by Christ are worthy of our consideration. Yet, I have always been drawn to the brief yet wisdom filled Hebrews 13:17. This one verse does not tell us everything that we need to know about elders – but it does well to briefly sketch the beautiful relationship between an elder and his congregation. Tonight, as we consider this verse, I want to show how it answers three questions for the congregation and the pastor both: What, How, and Why.
What should the congregation do? Obey and Submit
We are in a unique situation – we are congregationally ruled. There is no elder board that makes all the decisions, or synod or council to address. But part of the faithful way in which that authority is used is to appoint elders, and in doing so, giving away authority to them. Therefore, you are in a position to submit to Josh in his leadership of the church in matters relating to the faith. This is best put as a disposition of trust in him, knowing that he is, by your own votes, seen as qualified for the task that is before him. Trust him!
How should the congregation do it? Willingly
But in trusting him, you must do so willingly. A meager obedience is no obedience. Don’t follow him reluctantly, groaning and moaning over every decision. This type of following is not only pushing the definition of “obedience” but, what’s worse, is bad for you!
Why should the congregation do it? Selfishness
That’s because the author of Hebrews tells you very clearly: the elder’s joy is for your advantage. It is for your own good that you work hard in willing obedience so that he can serve you better. But what of his role?
What should the elder do? Keep watch over souls
We are not here to build a brand, tell people how to drive, or care about their viewing habits. An elder’s job is to get people to maintain their faith through the ups and downs in life. We work either to get them to flourish or through the fire. But we watch over their souls, giving up of much of our lives for their sakes even as Jesus the Good Shepherd has done.
How should the elder do it? Faithfully
We will be judged more strictly, and made to account in the end for our time watching over Jesus’ sheep. There is no time to be in fear of men – for our great judge and jury is Jesus himself. Friend, the congregation as a whole will never outpace the pastor in faithfulness, godliness, or biblical acumen. So work hard in your faithfulness!
Why should the elder do it? Love
And do it because you love the work. Notice that serving with joy was something assumed of an elder. You do it because you love the Lord and wish to serve him; and to serve him you serve those he loves.
In all of this, we ought to feel the great benefit gained by all through this small verse. The congregation benefits; the elder serves with joy, Christ is magnified. So lead well, follow well, so that Christ might be glorified in us.