Two nights ago was our first Elder meeting of the new year here at Gaylord E-Free. We meet on the first Monday of each month to conduct business and then again on the third Monday of each month for prayer. One of my goals this year is to take 30 minutes out of each of our first Monday of the month meetings throughout 2012 to take our Elder Board verse by verse through the book of Titus. I remember hearing Dr Falwell say many times that everything rises and falls on leadership. Elder Boards that understand and act on their Biblical role will be used by God to lead the church in reaching its redemptive potential.
In the first 5 verses of Paul's letter to Titus he exhorts him to 'set in order' that which was lacking in the church and to appoint Elders. The two commands seem to be linked together. The word translated "set in order" actually comes from a root word where we get our English word "orthodontist." Like with crooked teeth, churches can often have things about them related to false doctrine, lack of vision, or even sin issues that are "out of order." In the same way that an orthodontist works to straighten crooked teeth and put them in order, so Titus was to appoint Elders who would do the same in the church. That is why Elders are so very important to the church.
Yet, before Paul gives these instructions to Titus, he first gives two descriptions of himself in his opening greeting. He calls himself a "bond-servant" and an "Apostle." These two words are very different in scope. An apostle is a position of authority that carries a lot of weight. A servant, on the other hand, has no rights and really carries no weight. Paul said that he was both, a servant and an Apostle. And notice what he puts first in the chronological order. He is first a servant, then an Apostle.
How critical this order is for each church leader to understand. Yes, we who are pastors and elders have a position of spiritual authority in the church and that is very important. We need this kind of authority in the church when false doctrine is trying to seep in through the cracks. We need this kind of authority when there is no vision causing the church to simply drift with no purpose. We need this kind of authority when sin enters into the lives of its members. But without the realization that we as Elders are first and foremost servants of Christ and of His church, we can easily abuse our authority and ultimately cause damage to the very church that we are called to protect and lead.
Yes, Elders and pastors need to utilize our God-given authority to "set in order" that which is crooked in the church. But our first calling is to be servants. We are to serve our Lord. We are to serve our staff. We are to serve our ministries. We are to serve our people. Servant leadership - that is the foundation of the role of any Elder. That is the foundation of the role of each man called by God to be Elders and pastors here at Gaylord E-Free!