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Elders:  Tough Men.  Tender Hearts.

The work of the church's elders is especially challenging these days. As shepherds of the Lord's sheep, they are often exposed to the danger and distress of unjust criticism along with an unfair amount of arm-chair (no, make that padded-pew) quarter-backing. As elders they seek to feed on-the-move sheep who live in a go-go world. They watch out for members who sometimes treat the church like a consumer commodity — that is, they shop around for the church that best meets their personal list of (sometimes selfish) demands and felt needs. The challenge facing elders is to keep the New Testament church faithful to the Lord and His word while at the same time equipping and moving it forward. Elders must see to it the church spreads the Gospel even as it meets the very real spiritual needs of busy people whose over-crowded schedules and over-committed lives tend to push church assemblies and ministries to the back burner. It's a tough job, but good elders are indispensable to the well-being of the church.
What kind of man is up to the tough task of being an elder in God's church? We don't have space to print it here, but you can read God's inspired description in the New Testament. The essential passages are found in Acts 20:17ff, 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9, and 1 Peter 5:1-4. 'Though other passages shed additional light on their character and responsibilities, these address the major concerns. If you want the best commentary and guidance on the kind of man God is looking for to serve as an elder, read and reread these passages and keep them handy as you consider a man's character and life. They reveal God is looking for a few good, godly men who have a proven track-record of faithful and godly living in both the public and private arenas of life — in the home, the church, and the community. They are not flawless but they must be faithful. They have long demonstrated a deep love for God and His Son, their families, the truth of God's word, and the church that word describes. They must watch for wolves as they guard and guide and even gently goad stubborn sheep on toward heaven. The ideal candidate to take care of God's church and watch for souls is a man like Jesus Himself— a tough man with a tender heart .

What qualities does an elder need? Somebody said he needs the strength of an ox, tenacity of a bull dog, daring of a lion, wisdom of an owl, versatility of a chameleon, vision of an eagle, harmlessness of a  dove, meekness of a lamb, industry of a beaver, gentleness of a lamb, hide of a rhinoceros, perspective of a giraffe, endurance of a camel, bounce of a kangaroo, stomach of a goat, loyalty of an apostle, faithful– ness of a prophet, tenderness of a shepherd, fervency of an evangelist, devotion of a mother, concern of a father, disposition of an angel, the love of Jesus Christ, and the heart of God Himself– and then he still would not be able to please everybody! But he would please God. May God help His church to esteem and encourage good, Christ-like men with tender hearts who are able and willing to do this tough job.

Rise up 0 men of God!
Have done with lesser things;
Give heart and mind and soul and strength
To serve the King of Kings"
(verse 1, Rise Up 0 Men of God by William P. Merill, 1911).

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ