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Can the example of elders hinder others from serving?

Posted by on May 4, 2011 in blog links, elders | 5 comments

Can the example of elders hinder others from serving?

My friend Jason at “Second and Content” is currently in South Africa for a year working in tribal villages. He wrote a very good post called “Some Thoughts on Elders” in response to an older post that I linked to on twitter and Facebook.

His post is long, but well worth reading. He discusses elders from both a scriptural perspective and from his experience in both traditional and less-traditional church structures.

In this post, I want to highlight one thing that Jason talks about. The way the elders serve can affect how (or if) others in the church also serve.

Here is part of what Jason writes:

I’ve always been a firm believer that every Christian is responsible for doing ministry.  Sometimes I feel like there is such a distinction between clergy and laymen today that ministry has been localized only in the hands of pastors. Or if the body does do some sort of ministry, its once a year, on one gigantic day of lets-help-people-and-wear-t-shirts!  Often times the response I’ve gotten from people when asked whether we should pay ministers or not was that the church paid pastors so they could do ministry more effectively.  Yes, this motive has great intentions, but unfortunately it creates a mindset that further widens the gap between the two fictional distinctions of clergy and laymen.  The biggest influence on my life in regard to ministry was a particular Dr. who showed me that it was possible to do ministry and carry on a job at the same time.  His particular gift was teaching, and he utilized that.  When an elder (and when I say elder, read your conventional definition for pastor, one who teaches and guides the flock) displays the example that it is possible to do ministry and work a full time job (i.e. work just like you do) it shows people that they can be doing ministry as well.

What do you think? Does Jason have a point? Can elders serving and working a job be more of an encouragement and example to others than elders who serve and are paid by the church?

(And, yes, I’m sure my readers will have differing opinions on this. I would love to hear your opinion, otherwise I would not have asked.)


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 5-4-2011

    Yes it not only can, but does. BTW, I think you already know this but I believe paying someone to exercise their giftedness within a local assembly is harmful to both the assembly and the one being paid as well as being devoid of scriptural support.

  2. 5-4-2011


    Your question, “Can the example of elders hinder others from serving?”

    Absolutely, without doubt!

  3. 5-4-2011

    Absolutely. Paul makes this point in 1 Corithians 9:12 (which is ironic because this is where so many people plant their flag in the defense of a paid professional ministry)

    If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. (1 Cor 9:12)

    Paul recognizes that demanding material support is an obstacle to the Gospel and as such joyfully rejects it.

  4. 5-4-2011

    Again, absolutely. More and more, I am losing touch with some of the voices that used to inspire me because they exist solely within the occupational church world. I did too for a number of years and only now, after 4 years of being back “in the working world” do I realize the disadvantages I faced before.

    It would be interesting to list the things I think are the major differences between occupational minsters and those that are not.

    Some of the bigger differences for me would be:

    – the ability to be paid to study scripture and ministry vs. scheduling this time in conjunction with full time work, church and family life.

    – Ability to attend conferences and networks usually made up of other like minded occupational ministers vs. being outside this network and again, subject to the demands of traditional work week. (Ironically, as I type this from my office desk… ;)

    and many more…

    While these may seem to be a benefit to these opportunities, I think there are unintended consequences at play here that maybe more adverse than first thought.

  5. 5-4-2011

    Thanks everyone. I’m sorry but I’ve been away from a computer and haven’t been able to interact with your comments.