I was preaching on Acts 20:17-38 yesterday and Paul’s final teaching to the Ephesians elders. It is a challenging passage as Paul teaches the elders from his example what eldership looks like. I’m not going to rehash it all here but in summary elders share life with the congregation, leading from among them not above them, they work hard to teach the all the truth of scripture evangelistically and pastorally without flinching, they watch themselves so they minister out of an overflow of relationship with God, they whack wolves as well as feed sheep, and they give willingly to the congregation, pouring themselves out for the flock not fleecing it.
But what has really struck me as I’ve thought on this passage and the many people bemoaning the lack of elders and leaders in the church was Paul’s repeated phrase “You know how I lived from the whole time I was with you…” “You know that I have not hesitated to preach to you…” “Remember that for three years…” “You yourselves know that…” Paul’s example to these leaders is what drives this last charge to them. Paul says they know him, they have seen, they have experienced his life, love, ministry, passions and so on. And as he calls them to lead as he goes, he does so knowing they have seen up close what eldership looks like, his characteristic are contagious.
If we find ourselves with a lack of leaders we have to ask the question, is that because we, or a previous generation of leaders, haven’t shared their lives, their passions, their faith in action, their Saviour and enjoyment of him with the next generation? If we currently have leaders, are we, are they, sharing in the way Paul does, so that the next generation of leaders are in the incubator day by day, week by week, so that elders are being formed over the long term by our example?