Those who are functioning as elders and deacons must realize despite what their age might be, that they are rapidly passing from the scene of action and one day will need to be replaced. We should all be motivated to instill in those younger than ourselves the desire to serve the Lord in whatever capacity in which they desire and are qualified to serve. We must be willing to teach them and help them to be all they can be in the service of God. Let’s try to accomplish this without envy and strife and not be desirous of vain glory (Gal. 5:26). The apostle Paul said, in Philippians 2:34, “Let nothing be done through strife or vain glory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” We should not feel threatened by the ability of others, we should rejoice because of it.
The church is more important than any of us and our love for it should be paramount in our lives. We have to look ahead to the time when we cannot carry on our work or we have passed from this life. God’s way is men helping one another to render acceptable service to him. Satan’s way is one of envy and strife and lack of love for one another. One ugly act can destroy a lifetime of our own labor and the labor of others.
When it should come to a time of transition and the duties we perform are given to another, let us help to make it as smooth as possible and assist in any way we can that God’s church will continue to be the glorious church he intended it to be, when it is presented to him not having spot, or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish (Eph. 5:27). Let us not be one of those spots, wrinkles or blemishes unless our vain pride prevents us from entering into heaven. The apostle Paul said it well in 1 Corinthians 9:27.
Serving as an elder in the Lord’s church is an awesome responsibility. The effects of what you do or do not do are very sobering when we think seriously about their service. The Lord has made them stewards over his heritage and one day they must give account of their stewardship. They must realize that what they are doing now will determine what the Lord’s church will be twenty years from now.
Shepherds are responsible for leading, feeding and even protecting God’s heritage from false teachers. Serving as an elder is to be the number one priority in their lives. If they do not have time to plan and carry out the work of the congregation because of the precedence of other interests, what they are doing or not doing is a disservice to the church and to the cause of Christ. They can become an impediment to the church and, as such, they should resign. A church without leadership and no plans for spiritual and numerical growth soon will find itself just “keeping house.” Where there is no vision, the people perish (Prov. 29:18).
An elder is expected to meet the qualifications of 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9 and continue them in his life. If he does not continue to possess these qualifications, he has disqualified himself from serving. He would no longer be an example to the flock he is leading (1 Pet. 5:3). The shepherds of olden time went before the flock to lead them to good pasture and good water; they were concerned for the safety of the sheepfold. To maintain the confidence of the flock of God we must take heed unto ourselves (Acts 20:28). If they say and do not, they become modern day Pharisees (Matt. 23:3). One who no longer meets the qualifications can be asked to resign. Hopefully the individual would resign voluntarily. Shepherds of God’s flock need to remember that they have a Chief Shepherd to whom they must give an accounting (1 Pet. 5:4).
An elder who has lost his wife by death is no longer the husband of one wife and no longer qualified. One elder cannot serve alone. There must be a plurality of elders in a congregation (Tit. 1:5).
An elder’s family can be a source of embarrassment both to him and to the church if they are walking disorderly. This being the case he should resign. The church following his leadership expects to see his teaching reflected in the lives of his family.
A loss of confidence in their leadership will hurt. In the Old Testament (Deut. 34:9) after the death of Moses, Joshua became Israel’s leader, the Scripture says he was “full of the Spirit of wisdom” and also that the children of Israel “hearkened unto him. ” May God give us such future leaders and we pray that the church will hearken unto them.
Their qualifications should suggest to the elders that here are the men you can count on to help with any problem or any work in which the church is to involve itself. The work of a deacon is not defined in the New Testament as explicitly as that of the elders. Without any assignment, many of them wonder what their role in the church is to be.
A deacon should cheerfully carry out the work given to him by the elders. Deacons generally are younger men than the elders, have younger families and perhaps are involved in more activities. If a deacon does not have the time to serve, he should resign.
The deacon’s work would be similar to that of the seven men appointed to be over the daily ministrations to the widows in Acts 6:1-5. A deacon should continually from his visits among the saints of the congregation know the physical needs of those he visits. He should report his findings to the elders that the needs will be met. I believe that the lack of food, medicine, clothing and shelter can affect our spirituality, especially if we think nobody cares. I would suggest that any deacon who is not making this a part of his work should do so.
Deacons need to maintain both the personal and the family qualifications found in 1 Timothy 3:8-13. If these change the deacon must resign.
Conclusion: Serve the Lord as long as you remain qualified and it’s in your capacity to do so, but when your time for serving the Lord has passed, allow a new generation to take your place. Such is God’s will. “For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, which you have showed toward his name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that every one of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: that you be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Heb. 6:10-12).