One of the greatest joys in my 26 years of ministry at Central Peninsula Church has been working side by side with our team of elders. Together we have over 100 years of experience serving as elders. That means besides growing old together, these guys are my friends. We hang out together. We have fun together. We laugh a lot and shed a few tears. We support each other through personal struggles and losses. We confess our sins to each other and pray for one another.
When I try to assess a person’s character I sometimes ask myself, would I want to go to war with this guy? Would I want this guy covering my back on a beachhead landing like the one at Normandy? I can honestly say I’d gladly go to battle with any one of our elders.
And it IS a battle! Being an elder isn’t a glamour job. There are no perks; no fringe benefits. Each one of them and their families pay a steep price. They pay with their time. They commit enough hours and days a year for it to be considered a part-time job, but there’s no paycheck at the end of the month. They commit nights and weekends; our meetings often last until midnight. One of our elders regularly gets up at 4:30 am for work the next day, and sometimes he even drags himself straight to work from our meeting! Being an elder cuts into family time, work time and leisure time.
They pay in other ways too. We commit ourselves to rigorous accountability where we give each other the right to ask hard questions. We’ve made a commitment not to hide. We’ll tell each other the truth about ourselves, even when it’s ugly. Sometimes they pay with their friendships. Often, an elder has to make tough decisions that people don’t agree with or think is fair. Most of these men have lost at least one good friend as a result of being an elder. Those losses cut deeply, not just into their own hearts but into the hearts of their wives and kids. Perhaps the steepest price they pay is an emotional one. Like the ancient High Priest wore on his breastplate the names of the 12 tribes of Israel, these men carry the brokenness, pain and sin of many on their hearts, and it takes a toll.
I will share more in an upcoming blog post about why I believe shared elder leadership is the right way to lead a church. For now, I just want to say how thankful I am for the elders of CPC. I look forward to the day when Peter’s words about faithful elders are fulfilled: “And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away” (1 Peter 5:4).