THE FUNCTION OF THE ELDERS
Managing the Church
Now we come to the function of the elders. According to 1 Timothy 3 and 5 we can see that the elders, first, have to manage the church just as a father manages his family, his house. First Timothy 3:4-5 says concerning the elders, “One who manages well his own household, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (But if anyone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?).” Some of us might be managers in a business. As a manager in a business we should not consider ourselves as a ruler. If a business manager considered himself as a ruler, he would be out of a position and no one would hire him. Even a father or a husband cannot take the attitude that he is ruling his family. If he conducts himself in this way, divorce from his wife and rebellion from his children will follow. Your ruling will rule out everybody and only rule in yourself. A father should not rule the family but manage it. In the same way, the church is our Father’s home, His house, His family. He needs some human beings to manage His house for Him. For a father to manage a family is not simple. He has to acquire everything, and he has to prepare everything for the members of the family.
Apt to Teach
First Timothy 3:2 tells us that an elder should be “apt to teach.” The word apt implies being able and accustomed to. You may be very smart and have the ability to teach, but you may not have the habit of teaching and you may not like to teach because you are lazy. A mother cannot leave the family for half an hour, leaving the children alone without her. A mother cannot raise up children well in this way. The mother must be able to teach and must be apt to teach. She must have a teaching habit. If a local church has some elders who in their care of a local church are like mothers raising up their children, this would be wonderful. If a local church among us has elders teaching their members as a mother raising up her children, that church will be very good.
Taking the Lead Well and Laboring in the Word and Teaching
First Timothy 5:17 shows us another aspect of the elder’s function: “Let the elders who take the lead well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in word and teaching.” This verse indicates that all the elders should be those who take the lead well. Therefore, these elders who take the lead well should receive double honor. Honor here means the life supply, which includes material supply for daily necessities. Because the elders are so occupied with the church, they do not have any time to make a living; therefore, the saints have to honor them by providing them with their daily necessities.
First Timothy also says that those who labor in word and teaching are especially worthy of double honor. All the elders have to take the lead. Among these elders who take the lead there may be some who have the burden to teach and to labor in the Word. These teaching ones are especially worthy of double honor. The reason for this is that nothing exhausts people more than teaching. Every good university professor and every good teacher in the elementary school is always occupied day and night. A teacher who is not occupied fully with his teaching could never be an adequate teacher. No other job occupies people like teaching. If I did not have to take care of the two annual trainings for teaching the Word, my life would be much easier. I would be able to sleep well without any burden. I could travel around the globe to hold meetings with little preparation. If you ask me, however, to be an elder in Anaheim, this is much harder.
The problems in a local church are mainly because of the lack of feeding. All the mothers know that to feed a family of eight people is not easy. The mother has to take care of the appetite and of the taste of the family. She must also cook the most nourishing foods. The mother’s job is to feed the family even if they get bored with what she cooks and turn away. In like manner, we may present a message which the saints do not like. Then we have to pray and labor, finding a way to present the messages which the saints would desire to take and have an appetite for. Even if you are a genuine, typical mother, your children will run away after two weeks if they are not fed properly. Thus, you will lose your position as a mother. No one would take you as a mother. Your children need to be fed. They need something on which to live. It would be ridiculous for any mother to try to get her children on her side without taking care of the cooking. To feed a person with the best food is the way to win a person’s heart.
Humanly speaking, if you want to keep your “position” you must feed the saints. Then your “position” will be fully secure. If you do not take this way, your position will not have a long life. If you take the political way of controlling the saints to win the saints over to you, you will lose your position.
(Elders' Training, Book 04: Other Crucial Matters Concerning the Practice of the Lord's Recovery, Chapter 8, by Witness Lee)