One of the most important jobs of the elder is monitor his spiritual health. Paul counseled Timothy to “…watch thou in all things…making full proof of your ministry (1Timothy 4:5 KJV). This same “watchfulness” is in the elders job description for the church. Paul instructs the elders at Ephesus to “Take heed…to all the flock…” (Acts 20:28).
I love having a group of men that meet once a month to pray for the flock, plan for the flock, and protect the flock of God. There are some very sneaky ways in which sin, wrong thinking, wrong philosophy, wrong theology, apathy, or indifference can come into an unsuspecting body of believers and wreak havoc over time. There are some obvious and observable evidences of health that should quickly help us see if we are headed toward good health or is there a need for an adjustment. Although not an exhaustible list, here is a list I look at to help me adjust.
1. Is Christ seen preeminent in all areas of church life? (Col 1:18) Christ is the Head and in everything He IS preeminent. We don’t make Him this, He IS this. The question then becomes “Are we keeping in line with what is true?” This would include preaching. We can have a very well though out sermon with our Hebrew/Greek well developed and fully defined and have a profound exegetical outline and well articulated illustrations and never get to Jesus. Children’s ministry, teen ministry, college ministry, men and women’s ministries must all get to Christ and His preeminence.
2. Is the Word central and authoritative? Pragmatism is slick. It dulls the senses and silently allows things that Scripture would never condone. The words “central” and “authoritative” are key. Central means it is in the middle of our thinking in all areas. Authoritative means we wrestle with our wills and emotions and seek to make sure our motives are submitted to God’s clear directives.
3. Are there lives changing? One of the joys of Scripture is to see just how God works His glory out in lives and the profound impact that has on a life. People who are constantly pursuing God will always be changing from glory to glory (2Corinthians 3:18). Paul wanted His churches to continue to grow in their understanding of Christ and the aroma of Christ to permeate all of life (2Corinthians 2:14). Growth in Christ is always seen by others and ultimate demonstrates itself in people becoming less like themselves and more like Christ.
4. Is there ownership of sin? John is very clear, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves” (1John 1:8). The sad thing about aging in our organized churches is falling for this trap. Like the church in Sardis, there is a “reputation of being alive” but are really dead (Revelation 3:1). Much deadness can be traced to how the Laodiceans thought of themselves in full denial of what was true (Revelation 3:17). They didn’t own their sin. Let’s say it another way, “They didn’t treasure Christ and His magnificent grace.” Confession and repentance must be an intentional part of individuals and practiced corporately as well.
5. Is there a growing care for “one-another?” This spills over into so many areas of the church. People sacrificing themselves to give to each other was a key characteristic of the early church that made an indelible mark in the culture (Acts 2:42-46). We feel sometimes that we have to program our way into the surrounding culture when we should begin with genuine care, “one-another” each other in a way that is in direct contrast to the self-serving life-style of people without Christ.