We're looking for some additional elders and deacons; ideally 1-2 new elders and 2-3 new deacons. And the process for identifying, training, examining, and then finally deciding on them is a tandem effort between the session and congregation as a whole. Here's an overview of the process, and a little bit on how to think about the people who serve the church in these ways.
June 2015 - Nominations
We will be accepting nominations from the congregation starting Sunday, June 7, and ending Sunday, June 14. You will be able to submit nominations through this online NOMINATION FORM or by submitting one of the paper forms provided at church.
Summer - Discerning
Time allowed and spent discussing, praying, and discerning the nominees general readiness and sense of calling to serve.
Fall - Training
Training & Examination of candidates
Winter - Electing
Qualified candidates will be placed back in front of the congregation for election.
A Little Bit on Leaders
To lead in the church is to serve it, and for a bunch of followers of Jesus, it's a leading made up entirely of following. For this reason, leaders are not more important, they are not more loved. The good news and transformational redemption of Jesus means that our roles do not determine our nature, status, or value. In the good news of Jesus, our truest self is not chosen; it's created. Our status is not earned; it's given. Individually and communally our character is formed. Our relationships are both invited & built. Our wisdom is cultivated over time. And our various roles are callings. God calls, and we answer and discern as a community.
Jesus built his church out of people - messy, in-the-process people. And it's beautiful, but baffling that he chooses to lead and care for his church through these same members. So, what should we look for, and how will we go about getting additional leaders?
Elders serve the larger church body by caring for people and leading them in the overall mission of the church.
Deacons serve the larger church body by helping to meet needs within the congregation, and then lead people into pursuing the same kind of justice and mercy outside of the church.
For both of these, God has given us qualifications in Scripture. These qualifications aren't separated from the overall calling of the church or individual discipleship. Instead they give us representative pictures of maturity and evidence that the people entrusted with this kind of service are growing in Jesus' image in specific ways.
At the bottom of this post, you can read the specific qualifications taken from Scripture along with some explanation from The Book of Church Order, but I'll start with my own summary. I'll consider the Elder/Shepherds first, and then the deacons.
In the Old Testament & in the New Testament, God gave leaders to his church using titles and language that invoked at least two dominant metaphors: Elders for the city & Shepherds for the field.
Elders for the City. The metaphor of the elders is rooted in a particular place. It pictures the church like a city with a rich web of relationships and interactions, and at times complex issues for care. In ancient cities, the elders functioned like a council and a court, resolving disputes, and working to design structures that better served the health of the city. When the Apostle Paul wrote to Titus, he instructed him to appoint elders in each city, because they needed to be local. They needed to not only spend time with the particular people of the churches they served, but the towns and cultures in which they lived.
Shepherds for the Field. The metaphor of shepherding is much more directional. Elders are called to shepherd, and this is a call to follow Jesus, our Shepherd Messiah, who leads us into his redemption and out into his mission. Just as Jesus knows us by name, guards us, and leads us out (cf. John 10), shepherds are called to know the people of the church intimately, protect them from harm & attack (whether from inside or out of the church), and to lead us out to follow the voice of Jesus as he calls us along in his own ministry collectively.
Deacons are called to serve, and repeatedly in Scripture, they are called to make sure that no one is being neglected in the day to day needs and care.
Deacons for the Table. The language and metaphor of the deacon's work is actually waiting tables, not because their work isn't important - it's vitally important! But their work often addresses very practical needs, at times being the means by which God answers the prayer for daily bread...literally. And all of this, while different than the elder's work of shepherding is spiritual requiring maturity and the wise application of compassion.
Qualifications For Elders & Deacons
The following qualifications for Elders & Deacons are taken from Titus 1 & 1 Timothy 3, with additional explanatory notes taken from chapters 8 & 9 in the Book of Church Order.
5 This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— 6 if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. 7 For an overseer, as God's steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, 8 but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.
10 For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. 11 They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.
1 Timothy 3.1-13
1 The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.
8 Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. 9 They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. 11 Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. 12Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. 13 For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.
From The Book of Church Order; chapters 8 & 9
Those serving as elders "should possess a competency of human learning and be blameless in life, sound in the faith and apt to teach. He should exhibit a sobriety and holiness of life becoming the Gospel. He should rule his own house well and should have a good report of them that are outside the Church.
It belongs to those in the office of elder, both severally and jointly, to watch diligently over the flock committed to his charge, that no corruption of doctrine or of morals enter therein. They must exercise government and discipline, and take oversight not only of the spiritual interests of the particular church, but also the Church generally when called thereunto. They should visit the people at their homes, especially the sick. They should instruct the ignorant, comfort the mourner, nourish and guard the children of the church. They should set a worthy example to the flock entrusted to their care by their zeal to evangelize the unconverted and make disciples. All those duties which private Christians are bound to discharge by the law of love are especially incumbent upon them by divine vocation, and are to be discharged as official duties.”
Those serving as deacons bear the duty "to minister to those who are in need, to the sick, to the friendless, and to any who may be in distress. It is their duty also to develop the grace of liberality in the members of the church, to devise effective methods of collecting the gifts of the people, and to distribute these gifts among the objects to which they are contributed..."
Because the ministry of deacons is spiritual in nature, those chosen to serve should be of: "spiritual character, honest repute, exemplary lives, brotherly spirit, warm sympathies, and sound judgment."