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When we embrace the gospel of Christ, we are called to a journey of transformation. Elders are invited – by virtue of their call to be shepherds of the people of God – to lead the community in this work of transformation.  We could use other words – redemption, salvation.  Central to this claim is the vision that God wants to change the story of the person, place and community. 

God is not the only one who wants to change the story.  Most politicians make that claim as well.  Countless TV analysts have visions for how we can do better.  (Few would use the word repentance. God does.) So we live in a world where many make claims about how to change the story of our lives and our communities.  In a given week, there are probably more Christians listening to the words of Oprah than the words of God. More people probably pay attention to TV makeovers than pay attention to God’s invitation to transformation. Elders – in working for God – have a tough job.  

Recently, I picked up some books by James Byran Smith.  They are called the Good and Beautiful God, Good and Beautiful Life, and Good and Beautiful Community. Smith invites us to participate in the journey led by the Word and Holy Spirit that will transformation our lives into Christlikeness. I think these books will help elders do their job.

Smith has done a great deal of reflection on how change happens in the Christian life. Through his biblical theological conversations about God, life and community and through practices that seek to build transformation into our lifestyles he seeks to engage us and our communities in the change God want to work in us. 

I encourage you to take some time to read these books. Use them in your eldership. Perhaps it would be good to form a small group to work through them. In the tough work of eldership, these may give us some encouragement and direction.   


Thank you, Neil.  As always, well-considered thoughts.  It occurs to me that what growing, vibrant churches have in common is - among other things - a focus on gospel-empowered life transformation in both their preaching and teaching.  Not only do people look for help in coping with themselves and with life, and not only is a transforming communicty contagious, the gospel clearly has the power to change.  This is what the church is uniquely charged with.  For while it is true that the church ought to feed the poor, visit the sick and teach the illiterate, if the church fails in these, others can and will do it; but if the church no longer preaches the redeeming and transforming Christ, no one else will.  Besides, transformed people will ensure that the hungry are fed, the sick visited and the illiterate taught. 

With thanks to God,



Pastor Neil,

Thank you so much for your writings and insight as to the role of elders.  What a huge task for elders to be shepherds of the people of God; to be able to lead the people on their journey towards transformation. At a time when it seems that elders’ visits are not so common anymore.  Could it be that our own spiritual lives need a lot of “work”. Could it be that we don’t have a true or solid relationship with God?  Do you think that all potential elders should take a course, before becoming an elder? A course that focuses on our daily need for a personal relationship with God and our neighbour. A relationship that consists of talking and listening to God, repeatedly. So, that we truly understand what it means to love the Lord God above all and our neighbour as ourselves.

Most of us are very reluctant to be an elder. Could that be because we don’t have a personal relationship with God? I think, if we did, we would be much more anxious to serve Him, and fulfill our tasks as elders.

In His Love,


In today's world, it seems the first solution to every problem, is a course.   Maybe a course is a good idea.  But maybe it also seems a bit odd.  When is the last time anyone took a course to be a parent?   Maybe some have, but most have not.   Yet most are good parents.   I would suggest that the course to be an elder is given by the elders.   They model what it is to be an elder.   They demonstrate what it is all about.   And a course, or a workshop may indeed help, since perhaps elders or those who might become elders don't spend enough time focussing on living the christian life and doing the things that elders might do.  Maybe another problem is that there is too big a distinction between elders and pastors.   Pastors ought to assume that elders have the authority to do what pastors do, and thus lead and teach them in those things.   Elders are not business leaders, but spiritual leaders primarily.   They need to understand their role.  Maybe a course will help.  As long as the course is not all about business, but is about spiritual leadership. 

John, you are totally  right, it is all about spiritual leadership. A course I was referring to would not be a course as to how to be an elder, but  a course that would focus on the need to have a daily walk with God. A course in spirituality. A course that would make us "discover" what it really means to be an elder. A course that would create the desire in us to be a shepherd for the people. In other words, a change needs to occur within, so that we would be fully  committed to the call of elder. I think that most of us are not properly spiritually "equipped", and therefore feel inadequate, and therefore not fully committed.

Okay, we agree that a course needs to be about spiritual leadership.   Does that course need to be limited to elders?   Would not parents, fathers and mothers, grandparents, and even teens and young adults going to college or university also benefit from such a course?   I guess I've always assumed that there is a leadership aspect to every course you take, every bible study you participate in, every catechism class young people attend.   But maybe the leadership aspect should be stressed more.  

Often courses or studies impart knowledge about a subject, without imparting ways of teaching those same concepts and knowledge to others.   Maybe that should change.   When a parent teaches a child, he is already teaching the child of that child.   Do we have an awareness of that?   How does that translate to the leadership of parents and elders and deacons within the church context?  

The equipping of elders begins when children are young, when teenagers and young adults are learning, and when  young parents begin to raise their children.  The mandate from Matthew 28 to go into the world and preach the gospel is for every christian in their own situation;   this is spiritual leadership in action.   This is teaching, which elders are apt to do.  Ruling a family well is a demonstration of leadership.... but the ruling of the family should be in the context of Matthew 28.  

We learn by doing.   But when we start "doing", we can learn from each other, and a course on this leadership, or a two hour group discussion on this once or twice a year, for accountability and growth sake, could be beneficial.  

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