02 Apr Elder Internship – What I’ve Learned So Far
Being an elder is both a joy and a great responsibility. The men who have faithfully led our church for years put in many hours behind the scenes in prayer, contemplation, and discussion. I have always highly esteemed the position of an elder, but did fully not understand the weight or blessing of what being an elder means until my internship began.
Let’s start with a little background from the Word to define what an elder should look like. In scripture, 1 Timothy 3:1-7 talks about the noble task of eldership, and the high standard of expectation for this position. Titus 1:9 also speaks about an elder being above reproach, hospitable, disciplined, and one that holds firmly to the Word (among many other attributes). It is safe to say that God creates a standard of expectation that, without the Holy Spirit, is unattainable. Relying on Christ and humbling oneself to the work of the Holy Spirit is the only crutch that the Christian leader can rely on.
Looking after God’s church is a big deal! It is not to be taken lightly. Acts 20:28 says to “pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock…to care for the church of God, which He obtained with His own blood”. The Lord obtained the church with His own blood, so its fair to say that caring for the church is a weighty task in the eyes of God, and therefore, should be weighty in our eyes too.
Let’s jump back to late summer of 2019 when I received an email from Tim (our elder chair) asking if I would prayerfully consider becoming an elder intern for a one-year term. “What is an elder intern position” you may ask? Well, that’s exactly what I wondered. In short, an elder internship provides a front row seat to the functioning of the elder team without being an elder. It comes with no strings attached after a one-year term, and is intended to allow the elders an opportunity to disciple and build into the lives of young men in our church. At the end of the year, the intern has a better understanding of eldering and a personal connection with the elder team, and another man can be rotated in for the following year.
Fast forward to the first elder meeting I joined in September of 2019. Up until this point, I didn’t have any personal relationship with any of the elders beyond an acquaintance. I was interested to see the “behind the scenes” of how the elders came to unanimous decisions (is that even possible?!), excited to get to know these men better, and curious how it looked to live out the life described in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. I was secretly worried that the reality behind the scenes might be men that said one thing in public, but acted somewhat differently in private.
I have been overjoyed to learn that “what you see is what you get”. I got home from my first elder meeting with a smile on my face, and a firm confidence in our leadership. Our elders pray with fervency, and total dependence on the Lord to fulfil His mission, rather than their own ideas. Our elders do not make decisions flippantly or without significant thought, discussion, and prayer. How could a group of men possibly make all their decisions unanimously? It turns out that the Holy Spirit is involved. I have learned that the Lord can (and has) knit together the hearts of men who seek His face. These men make decisions in humble submission to the Holy Spirit and one another. There is no power struggle, no arguing, no pushing of personal agendas. It is truly incredible. What I’ve learned so far in my elder internship is that God is the one who is building and sustaining His church, our elders are fully trustworthy and worthy of our respect, and I’ve learned that 1 Timothy 3:1 puts it best – “The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.”