Thursday, December 04, 2008

How Should A Member Respond to a Divisive Elder?

I thought this post over at Pure Church was very helpful...

Not that the issue they are discussing over there has any bearing on anything happening at our church, but I thought it was helpful in shaping how to think about divisions in leadership at the local church level.

See, every session/board is going to have differences. Even though we all hold to the same confession of faith, there will still be differences among the leadership - differences in Eschatology, in Apologetic approaches, worship preferences, music styles, etc... the list could go on and on - some issues, of course, will be more or less important and serious than others.

But the important thing that Paul stresses through his letters and that is brought out in the aforementioned post, is the united front that the leadership needs to have before the members of the congregation. Now, I always knew this to be the case, but it never really struck me as to how important and how serious it is for the Elders not to promote those differences among the congregation.

Now, I am sure that does not mean that if someone asks you, that you should not be allowed to speak what you believe. But we must be careful how we do so - so that it does not undermine the unity of the leadership or, as Thabiti puts it "draw disciples after you". It takes real discernment to speak about these issues to those outside of leadership, and great care and wisdom when you do.

In case you are too lazy to click over, here are the important parts of the post:

Basically, a person commented asking what they should do about an Elder who was promoting a view of preaching that was divergent from the churches commitment to Expository preaching. I'm sure you can use your imagination and plug in any other serious concern. Here is part of the response:

1. Insist that he raise these issues with the elders directly (Matt. 5:22-25; 18:15) and immediately cease talking with others outside the elders about this(Rom. 16:17; Titus 3:10). If the eldership is advancing one view of teaching and preaching, and he another, that should be addressed inside the eldership so that unity may be maintained (Eph. 4) and the sheep led in a consistent and healthy direction.

If he has integrity, he should resign from the eldership if he finds himself out of keeping with the ministry commitments of that church and its leaders. If this is beyond the bounds of acceptable divergence, he should step down cheerfully and voluntarily, if he loves the church and has godly integrity.

2. If he refuses to address things with the eldership, let him know that you will go directly to the other elders along with two or three witnesses, others who can testify to his spreading his basic disagreement with the rest of the leadership (1 Tim. 5:19). Demonstrate your support of the entire leadership by helping them to keep short accounts with one another and pointing out difficulties of this nature that they may not be aware of.

Essentially, you want to close the court of public opinion and limit the potential for this man to "draw disciples after himself" by bringing this to light in the court of the eldership. As a member, you shouldn't have to try and address these things alone with someone charged to watch over you. Insist that he speak with the other elders. If he will not, yet holds to his contrary convictions, involve the other elders immediately. Let them judge the matter and keep the unity of the church.

3. Pray for and support your elders if they must rebuke this man publicly and sharply. That will be to the benefit of the entire body (1 Tim. 5:20) and help to make this man sound in the faith (Titus 1:13). Your elders may find this a difficult thing to do, so your prayers for wisdom and courage are needed. Hold them up before the Lord so that they would be able to teach, care, and lead their fellow elder well, and shepherd the congregation through the process as well. Since this man has been quietly spreading his views with others, at the least the elders may need to address this publicly for concern stemming from not knowing how far the comments have gone.

5. In all of your interactions and reactions, seek to love deeply from the heart (Col. 2:14), watch and continue in prayer (Col. 4:2), and joyfully submit to those in authority (Heb. 13:17). Be a model of joyful membership in the church. Do everything to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4).
Again, my perspective here is the big picture. How do the members of the congregation respond to an elder who they feel has overstepped their authority or is undermining the rest of the leadership? I'm not sure I have taken these questions as seriously as I should have in the past. As I think on it, perhaps I myself have spoken ill-advisedly in matters where I disagree with the session I am a part of and need to repent? These are matters to be taken seriously, and I am not sure I have done that to the extent that I ought as I execute the office I have been called to. Let's all be more mindful of these things in our churches and encourage our leadership to be the best leaders they can be under the light of the gospel.


Aron said...

Good stuff, G.

FellowElder said...

Thanks for the link and the comments here.

We've not met, but apparently we're already in conflict. You're a UNC basketball fan?!?! Being a Wolfpack alum, I think this clearly means you don't have a good reputation with outsiders! :-)

Seriously thought, it looks like the Heels are headed to another stellar year. Grace and peace,