Guest post by Karl Peterson
The coronavirus has given church leaders a rare opportunity to accelerate the way they train future elders and leaders. I lament that many will miss this chance.
If deacons must first be tested before they serve (1 Timothy 3:10), how much more so with elders? The spread of the coronavirus and the many consequences it has for church leadership provides a superb and possibly unrepeatable window of opportunity to examine and improve the character, gift, and theology of potential elders.
Consider the multitude and variety of issues that are converging these days, which a potential elder gets to wrestle with. Normally we must let a few years pass for this multitude and variety of concerns to come across a brother’s path to test and equip him. But within just a few weeks, it’s all here before us. What a gift from the Head of the church!
Theologically, there is a gold mine of hermeneutical and theological areas to explore. Current elders and pastors get to watch ‘pre-elders’ navigate this and teach them along the way. We get to see if a brother even thinks theologically and is balanced in his doctrine or if he follows every conspiracy theory.
In terms of character development, we get to see if a potential elder prefers to watch movies his entire waking hours or if he rolls up his sleeves to improve himself, his theology, and his service for others. We also get to see if he takes advantage of this enforced sabbath (employment permitting) to rest, develop his character, and breathe in our insanely busy society. We get to see his fears, hopes, economy, and so much more.
In terms of gift development, current elders have the chance to watch a potential shepherd in so many areas of ministry skill – counselling, teamwork, compassion, teaching, leading prayer groups, leading devotions, and administering funds.
We get to see if a brother even thinks theologically and is balanced in his doctrine
or if he follows every conspiracy theory . . . if a potential elder prefers to watch movies
his entire waking hours or if he rolls up his sleeves
to improve himself, his theology, and his service for others.
In church life, current elders watch and help these brothers wrestle with ecclesiological concerns (is virtual church “church”?) and pragmatic matters (how will we enact the return-to-congregational life?). We see him worrying about hidden pockets of potentially neglected sheep. We see him chasing down the stragglers and the lame. We see him mediating between opposing opinions about the severity of this issue.
It’s rare that potential elders get a two-month crash course in shepherd preparation. And it’s a unique opportunity that we current elders must not miss, even if it means neglecting other duties or opportunities as we shepherd the flock. I lament that so few existing churches even have a category for mentoring for the next generation, other than buying clergy fresh from seminary.
Brothers, let’s not miss this hidden opportunity. We might feel like horrible shepherds if we don’t bring groceries over to a dear widow in the church during lockdown. But we have failed if we don’t do our job of preparing people to replace us.
It’s rare that potential elders get a two-month crash course in shepherd preparation.
And it’s a unique opportunity that we current elders must not miss, even if it means
neglecting other duties or opportunities as we shepherd the flock.
So, let’s not address the coronavirus alone in our closed elder huddles! Let’s let others watch us think theologically and engage pastorally. I fear that if we miss this opportunity, it could take us years to wait for opportune scenarios to come our way.
In unleashing the coronavirus, Christ has given us a unique opportunity to examine and prepare future elders for His church.