Because I'm getting a divorce, my dad thinks he now needs to resign as an elder, was the statement said to me over a recent Coke. I would really like to ask if you could write a blog article on how we can comfort our elders and other church leaders, writes a concerned minister from South Carolina. Elders deserve, need, and appreciate the deep love of the flock. And...we gladly give it.
Why do elders hurt so much? First, not all elders do. Some are in the control game and seem to stress only to acquire more power. I address these not. Let's look at the men who truly shepherd with diligence the flock assigned by our Lord. Why do they seem to suffer at so many turns? I give you one reason to be considered.
Elders hurt due to the natural processes of life to expand their capacity for compassion toward the lambs. Pain is an important factor in the kingdom scheme. The cross is not theory. We are to take it up every day. Elders must---and so must preachers---endure deep stress in order that their heartbeat for the flock be richly connected.
The flock needs shepherds who understand their pain. When an elder's child goes through a divorce, such does not scar his resume. It enhances it because he understands a pain the undivorced can't possibly fathom; hard as one may try. The elder struggling to keep his business going while trying to deal with aging parents and in-laws deteriorating health is not a candidate to resign. This one understands what, church? Pain. The shepherd who finds himself zapped with ill health (his and/or his wife's) is going to school by taking the class, Suffering 101. This is God's seminar on effective leadership.
We think a Steven Covey or a John Maxwell workshop on Leadership is what improves elders and other church leaders. Partly so. But the best school is the one our leaders face on Monday mornings and Thursday afternoons and Saturday nights----frustrating struggle within their own family circle.
God is always grooming his men. Let an elder find himself with a daughter as a missionary or a son as a church employee and suddenly that man has the richer understanding of the group. Why? Because, to the faithful man, when one hurts.....one learns the way of the world-impacting cross. Pain really is where the gain is.
The significance of pain is why elders and church leaders hurt. We learn not to run from ourselves or the flock. Our personal agony develops a personal relationship with God's precious lambs....with compassionate understanding.