If I asked you about where the elders are in the Bible, you might not first say they are to be found directly in the presence of God. The Elders appear in Exodus 18 when Jethro tells Moses he is doing too much work, and needs other leaders to do the work with him. They also show up in the New Testament as Luke reports the eldership model as a way to form leadership teams in the new Church. (Acts 11:30, 15:6, 20:17, 21:18) The elders are given authority to decide the way forward for difficult seasons and issues. Acts 15 finds the elders and the apostles together finding a way for Jewish and Gentile converts to Christ to live together in their newly found faith. In verses 19-21 of that chapter, James spoke, but it was “the apostles and elders, with the whole church” that agreed the two issues to be made essential were: appropriate diet and sexual morality. These mightn’t have been the first two areas we would have thought were essential, but this is what the Church decided back then. This summary decision is interesting not only for the content of the decision, but the leadership model used to come to the decision. It was a practical decision. It kept the new church together. We are still making these decisions today in our denomination. We are not sure where it is going yet. We think we know, but we are waiting for the whole church, or at least the commissioners who will decide our future at the upcoming online Assembly, to decide our future together. And of course, each congregation still makes its own decision.
But it’s the elders who are key. So the fact that we have invited six new elders into the Session is critical and important for our future. That body is now changed, with 14 or 15 persons rather than 8 or 9. I give two numbers, because we currently have an elder on sabbatical.
The passage I was referring to in the beginning of this article was that of the end of times, in the book of Revelation, that has 24 elders in the very presence of God, alongside other interesting beings who hang out with God, that is, found in God’s presence continually. Perhaps you know this passage in Revelation 4:
4 After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” 2 At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. 3 And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne. 4 Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads.
Why are they there? There is something of the representation of the body of Christ with twelve apostles, Jesus’ closest followers during his earthly ministry, plus one each of the tribes of Israel, somehow representing all the world who follows Jesus, and being in the very throne room of God. The eldership is a highly respected body, and shown to be the leadership team God chooses in the New Testament.
We who are elders are not perfect. Those who have recently said “yes” to the call to be elders at Grace Church have the courage to do so, knowing they will give an account to the One who calls them to the position of leadership. We are pleased to tell you that John Head, Jean Bosco Baranyizigiye, Shirley Blank, Dounia Keda, Tomm Kupierij, and Yohana Ntienjem have agreed to serve. We will soon be holding an Elder Orientation, and in a few weeks we hope to ordain these in person, as God gives the public health permission and the ability to meet. We have taken several months of teaching and nomination/voting, as well as prayer, to discern the Lord’s way forward. Please continue to pray for these, now by name, as you are led.
I want to support Donna as Clerk of Session, who also has given her perspective on receiving the new elders. We give thanks to God as we look to Him for our meaning, satisfaction, freedom, identity and hope in these days.