Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 2, 1955

The Scriptural Work Of Elders

Cecil B. Douthitt, Brownwood, Texas

Tend The Flock

Peter exhorted the elders to "tend the flock of God which is among you." (1 Peter 5:2.) The name "shepherd" or "pastor" also connotes this duty.

The work of tending the flock requires that elders do three things: 1. Lead, guide, and direct the flock in "paths of righteousness"; this was discussed in the topic on "exercising over-sight." 2. Feed the church; this duty has been discussed already. 3. Watch in behalf of souls, or protect the flock from the adversary; this duty we discuss now.

Enemies that would divide, scatter and devour the flock are lurking always. "The devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour." (1 Peter 5:8.) Error sometimes appears in places the least expected. It may appear in the pulpit, in the class-room literature, or in the visual aids being used.

Paul said to the elders of the church at Ephesus, "I know that after my departing grievous wolves shall enter in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Wherefore watch ye." (Acts 20:20-31.) This and many other passages teach that "speaking perverse things," teaching the doctrines, precepts and theories of men, is the most destructive weapon used by the adversary. In order to protect the souls of their charge from erroneous doctrines and theories, the elders must acquaint the members with those scriptures that condemn the false doctrines.

About sixty years ago the question of a church's contributing to a missionary society was disturbing the brotherhood. The elders of a certain church determined among themselves to study that question, and then teach the truth on it to their charge. Of course, they soon came up with the right answer. They began immediately to teach the church those passages of scripture that set forth the truth on that question, and those passages that condemned the error. Those elders knew how to watch in behalf of souls.

About thirty years ago the question of a church's contributing to a Bible college was disturbing some congregations. The elders of a certain church decided among themselves to search the scriptures and learn the will of God on that issue. They studied carefully and prayerfully; they read and listened to arguments by brethren on both sides; they learned the truth, and then taught that truth to their charge. They knew how to tend the flock of God.

About four years ago the question of a church's contributing to a human benevolent society, such as the Red Cross, or the Infantile Paralysis Foundation, or Childhaven, or the Damon Runyon Cancer Fund, was disturbing the church in some quarters. The elders of a certain congregation determined to discover the truth on that issue. They studied it diligently; they sought information from every available source; they listened to arguments on both sides. Of course, they learned the truth, and having learned it they did all they could to make the church acquainted with the passages of scripture that set forth the truth and condemned the error.

Today, the question of many churches' sending contributions to a sister church for a work to which all the churches are related equally is disturbing the brotherhood. Every eldership in the world should make a careful and prayerful study of this issue of centralized control and oversight of work and resources; elders should seek information from every available source; they should study the arguments of men on both sides. If they will search diligently for the truth, observing the five indispensable rules of Bible study set forth in this discourse, they will come up with the right answer. Then they should teach that truth to the church. They cannot do less, and obey the injunction, "Tend the flock of God."

Conclusion — Worthy Of Honor

Faithful elders have a right to expect the cooperation of every member of the church. The apostle to the Hebrews gave these orders, "Remember them that had the rule over you, men that spake unto you the word of God"; "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit to them: for they watch in behalf of your souls, as they that shall give account; that they may do this with joy, and not with grief: for this were profitable for you." (Heb. 13:7, 17.)

No charge should be received against him, except at the mouth of two or three witnesses (1 Tim. 5:19), and his burdens should not be made heavier by thoughtless and unjust criticism. (1 Tim. 5:1.) "But we beseech you, brethren, to know them that labor among, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you: and to esteem them exceeding highly in love for their works sake." (1 Thess. 5:12, 13.) To fail to respect the faithful elder for his work's sake, is to fail to respect the word of God.