HOW THE ELDERS SHOULD BE TO THE CHURCHES
Needing to Have a Vision concerning the Church
The elders need to have a vision concerning the church (Matt. 16:16-18; Eph. 5:32). They need a vision to see all the foregoing items in this message. For over fifty-eight years the tone of this ministry has never changed because of the vision we have received. We have never changed our speaking despite all the turmoils in the church. Instead, all the turmoils have strengthened our faith.
Needing to Love the Church as the Flock of God
The elders also need to love the church as the flock of God (Acts 20:29). The church is God’s flock, and the elders are those appointed by God to care for the flock. As such, the elders need to love the church. We should love the church as a mother loves her own children (1 Thes. 2:7). In taking care of a church we should never take the way of legality. If we take the legal way, we will bring trouble to ourselves. Love is the only way that can build up the church.
Being the Overseers in the Church Life
The elders are the overseers in the church life (Acts 20:17, 28a; Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:1-2, 6-7). An elder is a person of maturity, whereas an overseer refers to the function of an elder. The responsibility and function of an elder is to oversee the church.
Not Being the Rulers of the Church,
Lording It over the Church,
but Being Patterns of the Flock,
Taking the Lead in the Church Life
The elders are not the rulers of the church, lording it over the church, but rather patterns of the flock, taking the lead in the church life (1 Pet. 5:3; 1 Tim. 5:17; Rom. 12:8; 1 Thes. 5:12). The elders are overseers but not rulers. If a matter is taken care of in the wrong way, the elders should not correct too strongly by rebuking but should simply take care of it in the right way. In this way, everyone will see the proper way to do it. They must not lord it over or rule over the situation. If a rest room has not been cleaned well, an elder should not blame or complain. Rather, because he is an overseer, he has seen it, and he can silently clean it in a better way. This is the proper way. An overseer is not a ruler but a pattern. If a proper pattern has not been built up, the overseer should build it up.
(Elders' Training, Book 11: The Eldership and the God-Ordained Way (3), Chapter 1, by Witness Lee)