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One reason churches need elders is because there will be times when an elder needs elders.
Or, to say it another way, one reason churches need pastors is because there will be times when a pastor needs pastors.
For yours truly, one of those times was just this past week. And it was a humbly beautiful moment in which I undoubtedly needed the wisdom, love, and support of qualified men who would not leave me alone.
I’ll spare you all the details. Suffice it to say that both Julie and I were out of state helping her mother with what was inevitable: the death of her husband. We were going on two weeks, when on a Wednesday our elders reached out to me and asked if they could FaceTime later that evening and lovingly and virtually “pray over” me and Julie. After checking to make sure there were no schedule conflicts, I responded with a thankful yes.
This isn’t to say we had not received many texts and emails of comfort, encouragement, and assurances of prayer from our church family. We did! Reciprocal love from sheep to one of their under-shepherds, especially in a time of personal need, is always a marked memory in the life of a pastor.
Yet, when the guys you walk arm in arm with in shepherding the flock call and gather around you, even in a digital fashion, something stirs in your soul. When the men who normally link hands with you in praying over others are now praying over you, a lump forms in your throat. When the shepherds with whom you watch over the souls of the sheep are now leaning in quite intentionally to look over yours, tears fill your eyes and joy fills your heart. Why? Because in moments like this, pastors realize experientially what it’s like to be pastored.
Trust me, we know what it’s like to pastor. Not perfectly. But for sure willingly. Hopefully lovingly. Enduringly. Prayerfully.
But many of us don’t know what it’s like to be pastored. At least not regularly. Individually. Personally. We know what it looks like conceptually, but not actually. We understand it mentally, but we rarely experience it practically.
More than likely, this is not due to a lack of willingness among elders, but rather to a lack of availability of elders. It’s often a structural issue, not a spiritual one. Too many pastors/elders are still lone rangers without a team of other pastors/elders. That’s why, when it comes to church leadership, I am committed to plurality. There’s a reason Paul, after planting churches, went back to those churches to ensure there were qualified elders in every one. Yes, elders, not just an elder. Plurality is not only good for the church corporately, and its members individually, but it’s good for the elders personally. Really good.
Specifically, I have found being pastored—eldered, if you will—helps in accomplishing at least three things in my life in an ongoing manner:
- Being pastored reminds me I’m appropriately important, but not untouchably indispensable. Too often pastors discount the exhortation of Romans 12:3—to think with sober judgment about ourselves and how God has gifted us. We, instead, think too highly or too lowly of who we are and what we do, both a form of pride. Being pastored is a healthy and visible memo that yes, we have a role, but it isn’t the sole role.
- Being pastored reminds me I’m not just accountable for others, but also to others. Knowing that I am regularly asked by other elders about my own life, not because they want to corner me, but because they are concerned for me, shows me I have a safe place to seek counsel and share burdens beyond my job description.
- Being pastored reminds me the church is a body, not a business. Every time I go to my knees with the elders of our church, and we pray for our people by name—including our own—, I hear the hearts of men committed to leading and loving like spiritual dads, not professional brokers. I realize I’m connected to men who embrace the priorities of the Word and prayer first, not the bottom line of bucks in the plate or butts in the seat. This doesn’t mean the church abandons applicable business principles and practices supported by God’s Word. Rather, it focuses the band of brothers called elders to first and foremost undertake their Acts 6 responsibilities as fathers, not financiers.
By God’s grace, I have had the privilege of a team of elders since our church’s inception. We’ve had our good stretches and our rough patches; our ups and downs, highs and lows. Yet, for over 15 years men have walked with me, prayed for me, and spoke truth to me. And last week was no exception when five men made sure I knew I was not only pastoring with them, but was also being pastored by them.
Yes, every pastor needs pastored. Thank you Dale, Ed, Edgar, Scott, and Travis for being and doing exactly that in my life.
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