When Elders Are Jerks

Here are few tips, but let me admit this is the counsel of a novice, and the counsel of someone who is not naturally good at the politics of group meetings. I’m writing this because no one else has, and maybe it will inspire someone else to write something better.

1. Begin by thanking God for placing each of the other men in the room (Acts 20:28).

When you walk into a meeting, look at the faces around the room, and thank God for each of them. The Holy Spirit made them overseers, remember? He put them in the room. And who are you to defy his wisdom? Thank God for the sacrifices of time and energy they have made to be there and to serve the church. They might even be making financial sacrifices to be there. Praise the Lord!

2. Become an active listener (James 1:19).

Oh, this one is hard for me. I’m so quick to be convinced of my opinions. But determine to work hard at listening and understanding what the other brothers are saying. On a related note …

3. Give the benefit of the doubt.

I’m not sure I have a proof-text for this one. But you know what I mean. Assume good motives, even when you disagree. Assume also that their perspective might possess a better rationale then they are capable of articulating. Can you even help them state their point? On a related note …

4. Be convinced that there’s wisdom in a multitude of counselors (Prov. 11:14; 24:6).

I say “be convinced” because I know you know there is wisdom in many counselors, but we all forget it.

Here’s the deal: I have difficulty thinking of a time in which a good idea was presented, and nobody in the room could improve it. Somebody always improves it, making the good better. Other brothers also expose the bad. Don’t you see God’s purposes of reminding us of our finitude in the wisdom of many counselors?

5. Look for ways to facilitate unity and understanding (Ps. 133:1; Eph. 4:3). 

When I realized the problems with only speaking when I thought the elders were about to go off the rails, I decided to change my approach: Be most interested in speaking to bring clarity or unity to the brothers. Maybe two brothers disagree, or are speaking past one another.

Is there something I can say to facilitate unity and understanding between them? The focus moved from, “Let my deep wells of wisdom save you fools,” to, “How can I promote peace and truth?”

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jleeman@churchleaders.com'
Jonathan is the director of communications for 9Marks. He first joined Capitol Hill Baptist Church in 1996. After a stint in journalism, he felt called to ministry in 2001. Since then he has completed one seminary degree, is working on another, and has served as interim pastor in two churches. Jonathan is absolutely amazed that God has saved him, in spite of all the reasons he has given him not to. He’s also amazed that he has a wonderful wife, Shannon, and two young daughters, Emma and Hannah.