When we think of the work of the elders of the church what are the primary duties that we consider? In the Book of Acts, chapter 6, the elders of the church are to devote themselves to the ministry of the Word and to prayer. These are the two basic callings of those who minister in the eldership of the church.
A few weeks ago I was privileged to participate in the memorial service of a Christian woman from another congregation. There were a number of ministers who participated, all reformed in conviction. The son of the woman, who had gone to her eternal rest, gave me a gift for participating in the service. It was clear that he knew me very well. As he was going through his mother’s belongings he found Session Minutes from a church where one of his relatives had served as a ruling elder in the early 1900s. The Session Minutes were from Roseburg, Oregon Presbyterian Church and they were dated January 7, 1917. Accompanying the Minutes was an old photo of the church building.
As I read the Minutes when I got home, I was pleased with the gift. The Session Minutes were not filled with the extraordinary and the exciting. They were not great plans for a program that would change the city in which they served. They were not filled with anything that would be of much historical value, at least not in man’s eyes. The session Minutes were mostly filled with notation concerning elders who prayed. They prayed for their State Legislature and they prayed for an ill elder who had just turned 79 years-old. Following the Session meeting these men went to visit their ailing brother elder. Nothing exciting. Nothing extraordinary. Prayer.
The session Minutes exemplified the ordinary means of grace to which the elders of the church are called. Prayer and the ministry of the Word are the timeless means that Jesus Christ uses to build his church. Extraordinary things are accomplished through the ordinary means of grace.
Church ministry is busy. There is paperwork that needs to be filed. There are letters that need to be written. There are phone calls and emails and texts. In the midst of all the busyness of ministry, be mindful of those ordinary things to which the elders have been called. They are called to minister the Word. That is done through preaching especially; as well as discipleship, family visitation, and counseling. And they are called to prayer; both public, with brother elders, and in private.
In the midst of our ever moving lives, brothers, do not neglect the ordinary things. Do not neglect prayer.
William Wiberforce once said,
“This perpetual hurry of business and company ruins me in soul if not in body… I suspect I have been allotting habitually too little time to religious exercises, as private devotion and religious meditation, Scripture-reading, etc. Hence I am lean and cold and hard… I have been keeping too late hours, and hence have had but a hurried half-hour in the morning to myself. Surely the experience of all good men confirms the proposition that without a due measure of private devotions the soul will grow lean. But all may be done through prayer—almighty prayer, I am ready to say—and why not? For that it is almighty is only through the gracious ordination of the God of loving truth. On then, pray, pray, pray!”
How true for the individual Christian. How much more true for the ordinary ministry of Christ’s church.
On then, brothers! Pray! Pray! Pray!