Want to see people’s eyes glass over - start talking about roles, responsibilities and qualities of elders and deacons. But please read past the third paragraph in this.
The church as God envisioned it is both universal (Matthew 16) and local (Philippians 1, et al). In the local church there are two “official” described “offices.” That of Elder (bishop, overseer, shepherd) and Deacon. Biblically there are preachers (ministers, evangelists) but while that is fine for a local church to have a minister that ministers with them - it is not a role necessitated by the text. Both roles are at their heart servant roles and no man who is not a servant should ever be politicked or brought up through or put into either of these roles if he is not a selfless servant.
I love and respect both of these groups and have been blessed by the good men I’ve known who fill these roles. Nothing that follows is reactionary or vindictive in any way.
Because of the nature of the qualifications for these roles the men in them will have opinions and therefore it is riff for tension and contention.
SO WHAT HAPPENS IN MANY CHURCHES? WHAT HARMS OR WORSE DESTROYS THE RELATIONSHIPS THAT ARE SO IMPORTANT TO KEEP THE CHURCH FROM HEALTH AND FROM MOVING FORWARD?
What follows is a list of some of the specific reasons for confrontation between the two groups (and often between members and preachers as well).
- Unrealistic expectations: We bring expectations into the role based most often on the past. Elders often give deacons jobs they do not want to or have not been able to handle or find someone who can handle. Deacons on the other hand expect elders to never make a mistake or unwise decision. Let one show a hint of emotion about an issue and he is accused of being a “striker” - and this often without the contextual knowledge needed to so accuse. I’ve seen elders take on a lot of pain because they refused to strike back.
- Unmet responsibilities: Sometimes we just don’t do our job well. Own it. I long for places where we will be honest about this. Repent, admit and then do it. If you can’t explain why but when we don’t do our jobs it becomes uncomfortable to be around each other.
- Unresolved conflict: This could be the biggest of the list. When we do not handle the conflict correctly or when we do not stay current in our relationships the distance and tension grows and grows.
- Unspoken rules or a general lack of communication: Communication is king on this one. We have to be clear on what the exceptions are and stay in continual communication.
- Unrepented of mistakes: When we do not show a willingness to repent to own our own faults people grow suspicious of us and our motives. Elders need to be able and allowed to say I did wrong, I dropped the ball, I failed, we made an unwise decision and then for ALL to go forward with it.
- Unholy alliances: It is very sad that often in the local church two (or a group) can begin to discuss in a healthy way what needs to improve in the local church but that can lead to gossip and groups that pull us further and further apart. Be cautious here. As a leader you will learn BAD stuff.
- Unhealthy suspicion: Let’s expect the very best of each other. Assume the best about each other. And believe the best about each other’s motives.
- Unestablished goals: Lack of evaluation. When there is an inattention to results (if you don’t care about result it’s a problem - “What happens if you don’t do your job?”). If your job is not important get a better job!
This work we do is God’s Work. It is not little work. It is big and important and essential. Let’s treat it that way.
We are brothers. Let's work together to do great things for The Family!