“Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.” - Acts 20:28
These are wise words. Wise words from a man whose life had been totally turned around by encountering Jesus. Wise words that God has breathed into the text of the Bible.
It has been a great privilege serving the only church that I have been a part for nearly 17 years now. So as Gavin was recognised as an elder last Sunday, I reflected on eldership throughout that period and how it has changed from one team to another, with people who have moved on for a variety of reasons. Some have planted churches, some are serving other churches, one apostolically leads our family of churches and some have succumbed to the great responsibility of overseeing the church of God. It’s never easy! None of us dares to be complacent. However, one thing I would say is that over the years, despite the highs and despite the lows of eldership; despite the heartache and absolute excitement, the one thing I can say is that it has been pure joy.
Joy, is a funny word isn’t it? I’m not talking about worldly joy or happiness as many would understand – the experience of favourable circumstances all the time. That’s not the Biblical joy I mean and it’s certainly not eldership! No, what I mean and what the Bible describes as joy is, come what may, the joy of knowing the goodness and grace of God. This is the thing that has always got me over the years. Despite the tragic, the marvellous, the frustrating, the offensive, the wonderful experiences of being in an eldership team, Jesus never fails us. Jesus always sustains us. Jesus never gives up. This God that we worship and who has captured our hearts is always proving himself trustworthy and good; declaring his authority to move as He pleases; building His church with nothing coming in His way.
Knowing that gives us great confidence and hope as elders to take on this Spirit-delegated responsibility to oversee Jesus’ church and to love and care for all the people, crossing divides and personalities, forgiving one another and growing in God together. And as we do this we watch out for one another. The Apostle Paul says in the same verse that ‘savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock…[that] even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them’. So be on your guard! We pray earnestly for each other. We meet regularly and build strong friendship and community and we serve all we can. This is the church of God. Never a dull moment!
In the end, we remember that Jesus obtained you and me, his church, at the cost of his blood. Not just for ourselves but for the great mission of God declared through his people starting way back with Abraham.
‘I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities…and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed’ - Genesis 22:17-18
And so until that day as Andrew Wilson once put it ‘we are called to be not just gatherers, growers and governors, but also guides, gospellers and guardians; not in mere pragmatism, professionalism or presentation, but in preaching, protection and prayer’.
That is the joy of eldership!
A joy emanating from the Joy of God the Holy Spirit!
That’s the journey for Gavin and Hayley, soon to be parents of a newborn girl. Pray for them as they continue to experience the goodness and grace of God. Pray also for us as this new eldership team and as your ‘shepherds of the flock’ accountable to the Great Shepherd who always pours forth His joy….a joy everlasting.
With Gavin recognised as an elder, Raj reflects on eldership throughout the life of Jubilee and how it has changed from one team to another.
We're sure you’ll be aware that in this last week, Don and Lisa Smith from Centreville, Michigan, USA have been with us. They have been such a blessing to us as a church and as they now move on to serve Hope Church Bedlington at their weekend away in the Lake District, we asked them to write a brief reflection of their time at Jubilee.
Knowing we are in Christ will lead us to think and live differently too. Paul says in Colossians 3:1, ‘Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God’.
C.S. Lewis wrote 'If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most possible explanation is that we were made for another world'.