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Elders Who Are Bleeders

I read the following excerpt from an actual performance review of British Navy and Marine officers: "His men would follow him anywhere, but only out of curiosity." Not exactly an ideal leader. . .or followers. Hebrews 13:17 brings a word from God to the church's leaders and followers — "Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you." This inspired directive sends a terse reminder that elders in the church have an exceedingly sobering responsibility. The President and Congress may be responsible to look out after our "Social Security," but elders in the church are to "watch out for our souls." As Charles Hodge noted, the primary task of the elders is not to give an account for every penny in the church's bank account, but to give an account for every soul under their oversight. The task is more challenging than many Christians will ever understand. The verse cited reminds us that church members play a direct role in whether or not the elders' task is a blessing or a burden, one that brings grief or joy. Their job is to lead, and so long as their teaching and decisions and direction is scriptural, the job of the church's members is to follow, that is "'obey. .and be submissive."

Let us further consider elders as leaders. A major general was asked why he risked his own life by going on missions into enemy territory instead of letting his soldiers take all the risk. His answer was simple but eloquent —"You lead from the front." The church needs elders who lead by that philosophy. Joaquin Setanti said, "Be wary of the man who urges an action in which he himself incurs no risk." Jesus urges us to selfless and sacrificial action in Luke 9:23 — 'If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me." Jesus leads from the front! When He urges us to take up the cross of self-denial, He is only asking us to follow in steps He already took, to incur the risk that comes with such selfless action. It was not just sweat and tears Jesus shed at the cross — He shed

His blood. As the Good Shepherd, He laid down His life for the sheep (John 10:11). Somewhere I read that leaders have to be bleeders. At the cross Jesus proved that to be true. The church of our Lord needs good elders. Not those who wear a title and urge others to serve, but men who get involved in the action and incur risk themselves. Jesus spoke of such servant-leaders in Matthew 26:26b-28 — "but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." Jesus did not lead from a couch or a conference room. He led from a cross. His example reminds us the church should ask no man to lead who is not willing to bleed. And that we should esteem and encourage and pray for and follow those who do. The church's Lord had to bleed in order to lead, and her elders sometimes have to do the same. Thank God for Christ-like elders of the church who, for the sake of our souls, are willing to bleed and lead. God will not forget (Hebrews 6:10).

Dan Gulley,
Smithville church of Christ