Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 20, 1958

Advice To Elders

Hugh Davis, Birmingham, Alabama

The apostle Peter wrote, "The elders therefore among you I exhort, who am a fellow-elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, who am also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Tend the flock of God which is among you ..." (I Peter 5:1-2.)

When elders, who are negligent to tend the flock of God which is among them, surrender their responsibilities to elders who are ambitious to tend the flock of God which is not among them — the result is trouble: the kind which produced the first apostasy and which can also produce another. Every informed student of religious history knows that the Roman Catholic hierarchy sprang from a corrupted eldership. Elders, who were not content to attend to the affairs of the local church wherein they were appointed, began reaching out; extending their power and influence into other local churches. After awhile this thirsting for power developed into a battle for supremacy. The winner was entitled "Lord, God the Pope!" Thus was born "the man of sin" (2 Thess. 2:3.) to whom the entire Catholic Church does obeisance.

We may be further along the road of Romanism again than some of us would like to think. It is not at all uncommon to hear of elders of one church tending to the affairs of another church or churches. This may come about in several ways. It may be by desire to be tended by others. Not long ago I heard of one long-established church contacting a much younger, but stronger church, with the request to be taken under the oversight of the younger church. Sometimes one church will begin another church and for years the elders of the "parent" church will keep the "offspring" tied to its apron strings. A favorite practice of some is to get another church under obligation by reason of financial assistance, with the danger of support being cut off unless the desires of the elders of the contributing church are complied with. Then there are those elders who are ambitious to gain control of the resources of other churches in order that they might promote and oversee brotherhood operations. Some of these, being elders over large and rich churches, already have great sums at their disposal, but due to their extensive solicitation campaigns, they manage to have money from hundreds of poorer churches pouring into their coffers. Why? Not because they are unable to do the work the Lord would require of them, but because they have deliberately planned and initiated programs of such magnitude as to necessarily require the resources of other churches. It is possible that some pastors are more concerned with the fleece than with the flock — especially if it is a flock that is not among them?

What is the cure for this problem? The ideal situation would simply be for all elders to follow Peter's advice to "tend the flock of God which is among you." But if some will not keep "their first estate," just remember that they cannot possibly take over in the church were the elders to tend the flock that is among them, for in tending they do not surrender their responsibilities to such men.