We are an elder-led church. Whereas in some churches the responsibility of leadership might rest on one minister, or there may be no recognised leadership at all, being elder-led means that the leadership is shared among a team.
The New Testament gives us a picture of each local church having a group of elders (equivalent to pastors), some of whom may have been in full-time ministry, most of whom were not. For example, at the beginning of Paul’s letter to Titus, Paul tells Titus, ‘This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you…’ So far, it seems, there were small groups of believers forming little local churches all around the island of Crete after Paul’s missionary journey there. Titus needed to finish the job by appointing qualified men to the official position of eldership. That would mean the churches were properly established.
Last year myself and Jeremy were ordained into eldership by the laying on of hands. Our hope is to see this team expand as we feel three kinds of pressure: first, there’s the responsibility to take care of the people who are already part of our church family; second, there’s the need to raise up more elders to help as the family continues to grow; and third, we will need even more elders in order to plant more churches in the future. This means that the priority of helping mature the right guys into the role of elder is a high priority for us.
In practice, this means that the leadership team will always be bigger than the eldership because there will always be guys in the room who are journeying towards eldership. For the past few years, Luke Boardman has been on that journey, and we feel it’s the right time to pray for him and appoint him as an elder at Grace London.
What is an elder? An elder has a few functions, summarised as guard, guide, and govern. (1) As a team, they guard the doctrine of the church to maintain a pure gospel. Paul keeps telling Timothy to ‘guard the deposit entrusted to you’ (1 Timothy 6.20 and 2 Timothy 1.14) since the future of the church rises or falls on whether it continues to believe and preach the gospel. (2) The eldership is called to guide by providing shepherd-like pastoral care to the church in the form of discipleship, care of souls, spiritual food, and so on. Peter tells the elders to ‘shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you’ (1 Peter 5.2). (3) The elders also govern, by giving leadership to the church. Paul talks about elders who ‘rule well’ (1 Timothy 5.17), which means that the elders were overseers of all the activities and priorities of the church.
What makes an elder? In many ways, the qualifications Paul lists for elders are simply the marks of a mature disciple – the very things all of us should aspire towards. That said, there is also an element of proven ability, and of adequate gifting and knowledge of God’s word. Take a look at this passage:
‘The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.’
Why are elders always men in the Bible? It has to do with the fact that the church is a family. The Bible is really clear about the way biological families are supposed to be led by servant-leaders; fathers who serve, teach, protect, discipline, and love their families. The church is modelled on the family, and has the same kinds of family dynamics, which means that while there are many leaders in a church (men and women), the responsibility of eldership is always male.
I have known Luke for about 15 years now. During that time, I have watched him grow as a leader in amazing ways. He has always been front-footed – helping lead the Christian Union at LSE, leading home groups and community groups, being involved in Alpha and other evangelism, hosting people in his home, helping people come to know Jesus, and much more. When we planted the church I asked Luke to come and help. He said ‘no’ at first (saying I needed to do this thing on my own to begin with!), but he later moved back from Hong Kong and immediately got to work. He has been an incredible support to our leadership team, full of wisdom, abounding in energy and hard labour, caring of individuals in the church, and prayerful about the health and future of our community. Marrying Janice has only enlarged his impact, and it will be clear to all of you that together they are a potent force! Janice is wise, humble, servant-hearted, and massively supportive. She’s a brilliant leader in her own right, and together they are seeing lives changed for Jesus.
We would like to pray for Luke on 8th September at both services. I believe that his leadership will be warmly endorsed and supported by the church. If you have any concerns or questions about Luke that would cause you to hesitate, please get in touch with me by email.