Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) Holds Health Care Town Hall With Senior Citizens

When an elder dies

“When an elder dies, a library is lost” (African Proverb)

Have you ever said something like this: “I wish we had recorded grandpa when he talked about the old days. Now all those stories are lost!” The Africans revere an aged person; our society worships youth. I wonder which perspective is the wisest?

How much more true is this of spiritual memory, where a lifetime of Bible study, experience and reflection are bound up in one person’s life? Did you notice that when God sought to provide leaders for his people he placed the church under the guidance of elders, not “youngers.”

In this article I refer to elders in two senses, that of the official role in the church, the man who has been asked to lead the congregation, and that of an older person, male or female, who has grown wise over the years.

Elders are certainly not perfect. It is necessary for Christians to grow mature, not just old. Yet the church has been entrusted to the care of men the Lord calls elders for her health and protection. The Lord’s wisdom has frequently been demonstrated in this arrangement.

“You shall stand up before the gray head,” Moses proclaims, “and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear the Lord your God. I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:32, ESV).

“The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair” (Proverbs 20:29).

Elders have long memories. They remember things that occurred decades ago, trends that everyone “needed” to adopt in order to “save the church” but turned out to be mere fashion. They also remember events that tore the church apart, and have been able to recognize the same dangers in a current proposal.

Often church members complain: “Why don’t the elders decide any quicker?” Perhaps they need to decide more quickly, but it is still better than saying, “Our leaders were hasty and thoughtless when they made that decision.”

I wonder what it would be like to ask 200 elders what one piece of advice they would give newly installed elders? Now that would be a collection worth adding to a library! What if we asked them to tell members one thing that would make their job easier? That would make an excellent second volume!

You might say, “Where can I get such pearls of wisdom?

You might ask an elder before the library is gone.

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Stan Mitchell

Stan has preached since 1976, in Zimbabwe, California, Texas and Tennessee. He serves as preacher for the Red Walnut Church of Christ in Bath Springs, TN. He is currently Professor of Bible at Freed-Hardeman University. He is married to the former Marjorie McCarthy, and has one daughter, Tracy Watts. He is the author of four books: The Wise Get Wiser, the Foolish More Foolish: The Book of Proverbs, Give the Winds a Mighty Voice: Our Worship in Song, and Equipping the Saints for Ministry. He has recently published another book, "Will Our Faith Have Children: Developing Leadership in the Church for the Next Generation.

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One thought on “When an elder dies

  1. We were so blessed to have Jack Epson come to Lander, WY when we installed to first ever elders there. He was in his 80’s then. He met with the elders and their wives and gave sage and Godly advice to the men about sheparding the flock. He also told us wives how to be good helpers to our husbands and the church. Such a blessing!
    This article is so timely with your fathers situation. I believe he influenced more people than anyone will ever know. He certainly helped us become better Christians.
    Thank you for this article.

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