On the Plains of Moab Blog
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September 9, 2014, 10:42 AM

Big Sunday

We are getting ready for a big weekend here at New Life.  We will be officially welcomed into the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic on Sunday.  As a part of that service, our elders and deacons will be officially ordained for service.  They have been preparing for their examination by studying the Leadership Training Guide and the Westminster Standards.  I am so proud of our leaders for the way they have taken this so seriously.  And why not? This IS a serious endeavor -- the Church.  God's people.  Shepherding the flock.  The bar is purposefully and rightfully set very high in the EPC.  I know that they will do well this weekend.  Please do pray for them as they get ready to shine.  

I wanted to give you a taste of the expectations of a leader in the EPC.  This comes from the Leadership Training Guide that we have been working with for some time now.  Being an elder or deacon is not merely filling a position with a warm and/or willing body.  This is not merely a perfunctory role to be casually discharged.  It is a true honor and privilege.  Check this out:

The Evangelical Presbyterian Church Book of Government wisely advises that before nominating a person to church office, the congregation "should carefully study appropriate passages of Scripture... and be very prayerful in selecting persons to this office." This is necessary because God himself gives us the offices of minister, elder, and deacon; and it is he who describes the qualifications for those who are to be chosen. Our task is not to select "the best people we have," but rather to elect only those who fit God’s description given to us in the Scriptures.

Qualifications or Attributes of the Officer

A. From the Bible: I Tim. 3:1-13; II Tim. 2:24,25; I Peter 5:1-4; Titus 1:6-9; Ezra 7:9b-10:

* Attributes of an officer should be already present -- candidate must examine himself/herself.
* Focus should not be on personality but character -- the fruit of godliness.
* Candidate must commit to pursuit of Christ-like character and attributes required of an officer.
* Candidate must be an example.

Biblical Summary of Christ-like Character Required for an Officer:

1. Godliness -- In I Tim. 3:1-7 we find 12 adjectives to describe the character requirements for

leaders. The first character trait summarizes all of the others: elders must be "above reproach." This is not speaking of perfection, but rather the direction of one’s life. Elders must not be marked by any kind of disgrace, as this would limit their influence and authority among the flock.

a. Temperate, self-controlled, upright, holy, disciplined (Titus 1:7,8)
b. Sincere (I Tim. 3:8)
c. Not pursuing dishonest gain (I Tim. 3:8; Titus 1:7), not a lover of money (I Tim. 3:3)
d. An example to the flock (I Peter 5:3)
e. Full of the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:3,5)

2. Desire to serve -- (I Tim. 3:1; I Peter 5:2) in humility (Acts 6:2)

3. Love for others -- hospitable, gentle, patient, not quarrelsome (I Tim. 3:2,3; Titus 1:7,8)

4. Good reputation

a. Above reproach (I Tim. 3:2)
b. With good reputation among outsiders (I Tim. 3:7)

B. From our Book of Government

Elder -- 10-4; 10-5; 10-6
Deacon -- 10-7; 10-8; 16-7

Solid Commitments -- The ordination vows required by our constitution comprehend the expected commitments of the officer and his or her prayerful examination of each of the following commitments. The ordination vows and the examination each should elicit may be summarized as follows:

1. To Jesus Christ as Lord - Do you reaffirm your faith in Jesus Christ as your own personal Lord and Savior?

* Has no known sin in his life in which he/she is repetitively and unrepentantly engaged?
* Prepared to share his/her testimony of faith in Christ with others?

2. To the Bible as the Word of God -- Do you believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be uniquely and fully inspired by the Holy Spirit, and the supreme and final authority in all matters on which it speaks?

* Obviously submits to the Scriptures in belief and lifestyle?
* Regularly reads and studies the Bible?

3. To Reformed Theology -- Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Catechisms of this church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures? Do you promise that if at any time you find yourself out of accord with any of the essentials of the faith you will, on your own initiative, make known to your church Session the change that has taken place in your views since the assumption of this ordination vow?

* Thinks carefully and theologically?
* Committed to distinctives of Evangelical and Reformed faith?

4. To Presbyterian Polity -- Do you subscribe to the government and discipline of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church? Do you promise subjection to your fellow Presbyters in the Lord?

* Can work well with others under a common structure for a common goal?
* Thinks independently and also works well with others for a common solution?
* Known for brotherly/sisterly affection and mutual trust in working relationships?

5. To the Glory of God -- Have you been induced, as far as you know your own heart, to accept the office of (Ruling Elder, Deacon) from love of God and sincere desire to promote his glory in the Gospel of his Son? Do you promise to be zealous and faithful in promoting the truths of the gospel and the purity and peace of the church, whatever persecution or opposition may arise to you on that account?

* Obviously motivated by the love of God?
* Courageously stands for God regardless of cost to self?
* Seeks to lead unchurched people to Christ and to his church?

6. To the Office of Elder or Deacon -- Will you seek to be faithful and diligent in the exercise of all your duties as (Ruling Elder, Deacon) whether personal or relative, private or public; and to endeavor by the grace of God to adorn the profession of the gospel in your manner of life, and to walk with exemplary piety before this congregation of which God will make you an officer?

* Sets an example that others should follow?
* Will participate fully in leadership training?
* Will serve communion (Elders) unless providentially hindered?
* Regularly takes initiative to accomplish ministry assigned to him/her?

7. To the Church -- Are you now willing to take responsibility in the life of this congregation as a (Ruling Elder, Deacon), and will you seek to discharge your duties, relying upon the grace of God, in such a way that the entire church of Jesus Christ will be blessed?

* Has no known unreconciled relationship in local church body?
* Faithfully attends Sunday worship?
* Faithfully tithes?
* Regularly encourages others to grow in their faith?

C. Discerning Gifts and Competence for Officers

The Bible teaches that there are some gifts and abilities that officers should have in order to be properly equipped for service. We must place a priority of character over gifts, but the offices of elder and deacon are also based on gifts. A common problem is the fact that people in large local congregations do not know those nominated for office and an effort must be made to discern the giftedness and competence of those nominated.

1. The Bible -- A deacon should know his/her Bible well and should believe it deeply (I Tim. 3:9).  The elder should know his Bible, and be growing in his knowledge, but should also be able to teach it to other (Titus 1:9-11) and to pray for the flock in public and private (Acts 6:4).

2. The Family - An officer may be either single or married.  A good way to test a person’s ability to lead in the church is to observe his/her management in the home (I Tim. 3:11). The children of an officer must be believers in Christ who are (as minors) obedient to their parents. (I Tim. 3:4,5, 12; Titus 1:6). The spouse of an officer must be a believer who is godly, loving, and supportive of the officer’s ministry.

3. The Church -- The candidates must be well-tested (I Tim. 3:6,10). Many Sessions recommend that a person be a member of their local church for a minimum of 3 years before nomination as an officer in order for the local body to have time to get to know and observe him/her. The candidates must have gifts of leadership; that is, people in the congregation are already gladly following them and benefiting from their ministries.

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