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The Scripture quotations in this publication are generally from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyrighted 1946,1952, c 1971,1973
by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and used by permission.
Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 79-54143
~ ILDBIS HAIDIOOI
A PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR CHURCH LEADERS
By Gerard Berghoef Lester De Koster
Christian's Library Press Grand Rapids, Michigan
© Copyright, 1979 Christian's Library Press Post Office Box 2226 Grand Rapids, Michigan 49501
Mr. Gerard Berghoef is a native of the Netherlands, who emigrated to the United States early in the 1950s. He is presently a furniture manufacturing executive, and has served the Christian Reformed Church as an elder for twelve years.
Dr. Lester DeKoster is a native of Michigan, and has been professor of speech and director of the library for Calvin College and Seminary. Presently he is Editor of The Banner, official weekly publication of the Christian Reformed Church.
The authors are grateful for
the close cooperation and constant encouragement of our wives, Audrey Berghoef and Ruth DeKoster, and the assistance of Wayne DeJ onge
in layout and production.
THE ELDER'S PROFILE
This Handbook is structured by St. Paul's parting instructions to the Elders of the Church at Ephesus, as recorded in Acts 20:28-31:
Keep watch over yourselves, Keep watch over the flock
Of which the Holy Spirit has made you Guardians; To feed the Church of the Lord
Which He won for Himself by His own blood. Savage wolves will come in among you, Therefore be alert.
I I I I
The future of our strife-worn and violence-ridden world is dependent upon the Church. Progressive development of the full resources of the Church is dependent upon a vigorous lay membership, made functional and effective through the lay eldership, under stimulus of the Word of God preached by a forthright ministry.
Our secularized world is unaware of its dependence upon the Church. And the Church seems more than half-forgetful of its centrality to the health and welfare of mankind. This book comes, therefore, as a practical manifesto. It assumes the Church's fundamental role in civilized progress as ordained witness to revealed Truth - without which all men perish and our world falls into chaos.
Only the Church survives time and change. Only the Church transcends the rise and fall of states and popular trends. Tides of evangelical revival rise and crest, and then dissipate unless caught up into the Church for permanent impact upon man's world.
The free world owes its democratic institutions and scientific accomplishments to the liberating role taken by the Church through her pulpits and lay membership in and after the Reformation. Revealed Truth practically preached and courageously lived toppled autocracies and freed Western man. Out of this liberation emerged political democracy, universal education, diffusion of culture, respect for human rights, competitive enterprise, technological progress, and widespread prosperity.
Unhappily, the Christian roots of modern democratic culture have been permitted to wilt. Life has gone secular. The Church herself has frequently betrayed the Bible, source of her power, through scholars who have all but made of it an ordinary book. Education generally repudiates religion. Morality is divorced from divine law. Liberties once enjoyed under Church-inspired discipline threaten now to become
license, eroding the family, the school, business and politics, and society at large.
The times urgently require an authoritative witness to divinely inspired Truth. Such witness in word is the appointed task of the Church's pulpits. Such witness in deed is the calling of all believers. The guidance of both is required of the ruling elder, to whom this book is dedicated.
We look to a reinvigorated priesthood of all believers, prophetically taught by God's ordained ministry, under the leadership of God's appointed elders for the creative witness in word and deed upon which the future of civilization depends.
This book is an effort to supply the ruling elder, by whatever other name his office is known in various Protestant communions, with the tools he needs to do well the service God requires of him.
The crises of our culture multiply.
The challenge of the eldership grows greater every day.
May this manual help you meet that challenge creatively, and suggest, too, what all believers may expect from those appointed by God to rule over them.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Part I. Keep Watch Over Yourselves
1. The Challenge 1 7
2. The Elder in the Congregation 21
3. The Congregation in the Body of Christ 37
4. Principles of Public Speaking and Parliamentary Procedure 41
5. The Elder as Leader 67
Part II. Keep Watch Over The Flock
6. Public Worship 81
7. Visiting the Membership 91
8. Marriage and the Family 97
A. Challenge and Opportunity 97
B. Divorce and Remarriage 110
C. The Single Parent 114
D. The Unwed Mother 116
E. Difficult Meetings 118
9. Promoting Obedience 121
A. The Fruits of Obedience 121
B. The Elder as Counselor 124
10. Sin and Restoration 129
Part III. Chosen By The Spirit
11. By Divine Appointment 141
Part IV. Feeding The Church
12. Preaching and Preache~ 153
13. The Sacraments 165
14. Training the Youth 175
15. Caring and Comforting 183
A. Aged, Shutin, Retiree 183
B. The Sick 188
C. The Critically Ill 191
D. The Bereaved 194
E. The Mentally Handicapped 197
Part V. The Elder And The Church
16. The Church 207
17. The Priesthood of All Believers 215
18. The Eldership in Perspective 223
Part VI. An Eye On Tomorrow
19. The Great Commission 235
20. Savage Wolves 241
21. Sects and Cults 249
A Catalog of Useful Texts 259
Index of Scriptural References 287
General Index 293
KEEP WATCH OVER YOURSELVES
"KEEP WATCH OVER YOURSELVES"
How the elder can progressively qualify himself for keeping the better watch over God's household as he develops skills in keeping watch over himself - in the light of the inspired Word of God. The elders' watchfulness as both individual and collective, both in doctrine and in life. Practical suggestions for such watch-keeping are followed by hints for improving speaking in meetings and in public, with a concise guide to parliamentary procedures. This section concludes with specific recommendations for improving the foundations of successful leadership, namely the management of time and the coordination of efforts toward carefully planned goals.
The Church has no time for despair, no place to hide.
She is challenged to renewal of all her efforts by the confusion and aimlessness of our times.
We see the ruling eldership as especially called to leading such re-
We see the priesthood of all believers as calling upon the eldership to
take hold for such renewal.
We offer this handbook to assist the elder in performing this service. Power to lead renewal is not from within. Such power comes from God through the medium of His inspired Word. The Bible.is the basis for all we say here.
The Church is the Body of Christ, His agent in history, made by the Spirit through the Word. Christ rules in His Body through offices instituted in the New Testament for that purpose.
We know that offices in the Protestant churches bear many names, like: teaching elder or minister, ruling elder, trustee, presbyter, bishop, priest, pastor, deacon. While the names thus differ, the responsibilities of leadership in Christ's Body are essentially the same, namely that the inspired Word shall be plainly preached, that the sacraments shall be faithfully administered, and that self-sacrificial priesthood among believers shall be encouraged and, when necessary, disciplined. All this under the responsible leadership of the ruling office we designate as eldership. To strengthening this office we offer this manual.
We recognize that other names are also employed to designate the collective ruling office, not only eldership but council, session, board of trustees, consistory and the like. Again, though terminology may differ, function is essentially the same: plurality of leadership for the welfare of the Church.
By whatever the name, the Church's governing leadership is chal-
THE ELDERS HANDBOOK
lenged by opportunity to set the Church once more on the hilltop of witness to the world by the Word of God preached and the Word of God obeyed.
To this we challenge you.
FROM THE BEGINNING
Later chapters (especially Chapter 18) will develop the thoughts briefly sketched here, but it is clear that God willed from the origins of His Church that His people should be led by elders. It was thus in ancient Israel. It was so in New Testament times. It is recorded that, "they appointed elders for them in every Church" (Acts 14:23), with reference to Paul and Barnabas. St. James takes elders for granted:
"Is any among you sick? Let him call the elders of the Church" (Jas. 5:14).
We note that the elders are always spoken of as several. They were selected or elected from among the unordained believers, the laity. And the Reformation re-established lay rule of the Church through the eldership.
The Church is theocratic, not democratic. She is ruled by a King. His scepter is the inspired Word. His agents are appointed according to that Word: preaching or teaching elder, ruling elder, and deacon.
The New Testament uses two terms to designate the office of ruling elder, namely "presbyter" and "bishop". These terms are used interchangeably for the ruling (and also teaching) office, as in the account of St. Paul's last meeting with the elders of the Church at Ephesus: "He sent to Ephesus and called to him the presbyters of the Church" (Acts 20:17). Later, when these were come to him, Paul says, "Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you bishops" (Acts 20:28).
This manual is written in the light of Paul's parting instructions to these presbyter-bishops, whose official heir the ruling elder of today is.
And to this ruling elder still comes Paul's challenge in his own inspired words. Some of them form the divisional headings which follow.
Are you an elder or elder-elect?
Accept the challenge of the times as put by the inspired Apostle to your predecessors in Ephesus.
Are you one of that priesthood of all believers who together constitute the Church, the Body of Jesus Christ?
Challenge your leaders to assume all of the responsibilities laid upon
them by the Lord of the Church!
Are you among those early set aside in the Church as teaching el-
ders, known today as the ordained ministry?
Challenge your elders to rule the Church well, that together with yOU they may inspire, guide, and govern the Body to serve her Lord in
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