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Why Train Men for Eldership?

The lack of elder training is an extremely critical problem that presents itself to us as a two sided problem. On the one hand, we have been in the season of the restoration of the apostolic grace to the church for approximately a generation, yet most of the churches that “opened themselves up” to the reformation remains without the apostolic model of a multiplicity of elders ruling the church.  On the other hand, those who “believe” in the Biblical model of eldership rule are not training the very men who lead and have oversight of the churches. We erroneously believe that our serving elders understand spiritual oversight and care, but in fact our churches are filled with elders who confess that they are unprepared and untrained for their work. Even Bible schools and seminaries, for the most part, do not prepare men to provide spiritual care or leadership for a congregation.

This lack of training is not uncommon among organizations that operate in a familial manner. A leading news magazine reported on the amazing strength of family-owned businesses, estimating that “a high percent of the nation's gross national product" was produced by family-owned firms. After enumerating many positive aspects of the family-owned business, however, the article reported that its chief weakness is its failure to train the next generation of family leaders: "On the whole, only a third of family-owned companies survive into the second generation because founders often are too busy to plan ahead or because they lack confidence in their young."

The local church is an extended family that does God's business. Like many family-owned businesses, local churches fail to train the next generation of leaders. Church leaders are frequently too preoccupied with the work of the church or lack vision for training future leaders. They have seriously underestimated both the need and their responsibility. Like flowers in spring, leaders who are ready to bless the flock will not appear without planting or preparation.

Training men for future leadership and ministry should not be a novel concept to the Christian who is familiar with what the Bible teaches. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ spent a significant part of His public ministry preparing for the future. He patiently poured His life into twelve men, training them to be the future leaders of the church. He was a master teacher and mentor.

Like his Lord, Paul was also a discipler of men. He had his Timothy’s, and he expected his Timothy’s to train others: "The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also" (2 Tim. 2:2). Paul expected that when Timothy departed from Ephesus he would leave in place trained, faithful men who would continue the development of future teachers and leaders.

It should not be assumed that men trained in a seminary are exempt from the need for specialized preparation for the responsibilities of being an elder. Unfortunately, seminaries train a man to be the leader of "his own" congregation rather than an equal participant on an elder council. Seminary graduates who receive significant preparation in the application of scriptural principles to the governance and care of the church are a blessed exception to the rule.

Elder training is essential to the church's response to the great commission. Our Lord's command to go, to teach, and to make disciples of all the nations—in other words, the discipleship process—cannot be sustained without elders.

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