Training Up Elders in the Way they Ought to Go

ELDERS: The Biblical Picture of a Mature Christian / View PDF Tract / The Older The Bolder – Marshall Almarode 

Over time, many Christians have lost their focus on one of the main principles of the Church. Along with fellowship, prayer, singing, worship, and reading the Word of God, we need to be training mature Christians and elders how to refute false doctrine. Refuting false doctrine is a Biblical command that is largely ignored in today’s Christian Churches. In the 1800s, debates were very popular and controversy was common. People today generally do everything they can to avoid controversy because of the teaching of the “Positive Faith” movement in the church. The church tends to ignore church discipline and the church tends to no longer rebuke or refute those who oppose the gospel.  Have you ever heard of a Sunday School class called “Refuting False teachings?” I haven’t, yet this is a gospel mandate.

Picking elders for today’s churches is usually done more like a business: pick those who are successful in business. These, in turn, use their business skills to make the church “successful” as a business organization. Rule #1 in any successful business is, “the customer is always right.” It is no surprise that businesses and successful politicians must be people pleasers. Their strategy must be to gain popularity or be out of business. When this worldly wisdom of man comes into the church, the focus is subtly changed. Most have not noticed that the focus is not what God wants (making disciples), but has become what the potential consumer wants. The focus has changed from training and making disciples to making a comfortable place for potential converts. Have our churches today become “people pleasers?” Yes, they have! Many churches have become seeker friendly.  This sounds good to man but is not biblical.

The focus of the church ought not to be what the nonbelievers think they want. The Biblical focus is on discipling those whom God has already given us (Ephesians 4:12, I Peter 5:2). When the church starts looking to the world for direction, church growth becomes more important than Biblical training for those already in the church. Due to a refocus to popularity with the world, the churches have neglected the Biblical mandate of training elders and members on how to refute false teachings. This contributes to elders who are ill-equipped to defend the faith and give good answers to those in false religions. When the leaders do not become equipped, the whole church tends to stay immature in the faith.

Paul talks about Christians who do not grow but stay as immature infants in the faith.  Hebrews 5:12-14, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”

Paul lists a qualification for the elders that is not being taught in today’s churches. It states that one of the qualifications of an elder is that he can refute those who oppose the gospel.  Titus 1:9 says, “[An elder] must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught so that he can encourage others with sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.”  When looking for elders, how many churches do you know who ask questions about their candidate’s abilities to refute those who oppose the gospel? I dare say that, in today’s church, you have rarely heard of one. Yet, the clear teaching to refute false teachings (doctrine) is in the Bible in many places. Elders are the picture of maturity in the faith, so mature Christians ought to have the same qualities as the elders. Pastors should focus on what God wants for His church: to become mature in the faith so they can train, protect, and rebuke.

Paul goes on to state in Titus 2:15, “These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority.” Paul tells us in Acts 17:2 that his authority is the Scriptures. “And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them and for three sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures.” When Paul reasoned, he used the Scriptures as his authority. Elders and mature Christians need to know the Scriptures well enough to be able to refute false doctrine

Paul instructed Titus to stop the mouths of those who are unbiblical. Titus 1:10-13 says:

“For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain. One of … [their own] prophets said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” This testimony is true. For this reason reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith.”

Reproving is a function that corrects Christians from heresy and keeps people from distorting the gospel. Ephesians 5:11 says, “Have no participation in the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” We are exhorted to expose false teachings. Will we stand firmly and warn our brothers and the unsaved, or will we compromise the gospel by omitting the biblical warnings?

Business managers know that if the non-believing public become offended, they will not visit and stay long. Why would Biblical Christians want to seek the opinions of the unsaved public and let the opinions of the unsaved dictate what they allow to be taught openly inside the church? Biblical Christians are being held hostage in the church and told not to offend the non-believing public! Paul tells Timothy when to preach the Word of God.  II Tim. 4:2 says, “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.” “In season and out of season” means when it is popular or not.

Missionaries to Mormons, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Roman Catholics and the Seventh Day Adventists (to name a few) tell those that they witness to that they are not saved! They might even tell them that they are going to Hell because they believe in a false gospel and/or a false God! This kind of witnessing has become unpopular because it is “negative.” It is now illegal to do this in Canada. Many mature Christians avoid controversy at all costs. Sometimes it is the elders themselves who oppose ministries that are controversial. Instead of encouraging their missionaries and providing a place for their mission inside the church, they oppose their callings and discourage their work. Some elders have gone as far as trying to get rid of these Christian missionaries who have been called to witness to people in false religions.

Ask yourself these questions: Does your church have a ministry to those caught in false religions? Are your elders focusing on those whom God has already given them and training up mature Christians in the Word of God who understand that God directs us to stand for the true gospel and refute false teachings? (Galatians 1:6-10). Do the elders have groups who they disciple, or do they just do church business meetings? Elders and mature Christians need to teach the Bible correctly and then go out and share the true gospel and refute those who oppose it.

What can one person do? Christian leaders who trust and listen to God’s Word must not compromise the gospel.  We must warn people against false teachings even if it is unpopular!  Mature Christian should be discipling others in the Church. Your church should have a standard for elders and Sunday School teachers that includes teaching from the Bible and witnessing. Titus 1:9 tells us that our elders and leaders must stand firmly for the whole message of the Bible and be willing to offend those who are not saved by clearly teaching the truth and refuting false gospels. He must be in the battle or he will become weak and compromising. The question for all elders and mature Christians is this: will we be popular with the world or will we be in obedience to God’s Word and start refuting those who oppose the gospel? Are we willing to be a friend of God and unpopular with the unsaved world? The Bible tells the elders to refute false teachings and encourage others to do the same!  We need to do what the Bible says!


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