General criteria to consider for someone to be in Session
Dear BPCWAians, Last week, we looked at some pitfalls of why churches may get the wrong people into Session. On the flip side, we want to positively look at what we consider whether someone is suitable for Session. While we must be extremely cautious about who to put up, we also must not lose sight of the fact that God did intend for a church to have elders and deacons. We mustn’t swing to the other unbiblical extreme that there is no need for a Board or a Session. The Bible doesn’t reveal a church structure that is run by the congregation at large, but instead it is by His appointed pastor, elders, and deacons. So, we should desire and we should pray for suitable men to be in the Session of His church. And when God gifts a church with such men, the church should not have a false sense of bravado and want to function without a Session.
I have written detailed pastorals on the qualifications for elders and deacons as found in 1 Timothy 3. I hope you will take the time to re-read them from our archive of bulletins loaded on our church’s website. You will find them from 4th June to 16th July 2017. For this pastoral, I wish to visit 3 general criteria from other parts of Scripture, citing some reasons when we consider someone is suitable for the roles of pastor, elder, and deacon according to God’s criteria in His Word. One pastoral can never present an exhaustive list, but these are some key considerations that must be considered.
1) Convictions. It is a requirement for anyone who accepts a nomination for Session to pledge that they believe in the doctrines of the church. Doctrine can either unite the Session, or divide it. Am 3:3 “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” If anyone disagrees on church government, on the doctrines taught and the direction of the church, they cannot work together, nor even stay quiet for long. Unhappiness brewing inside will eventually be evidenced in their speech, snide remarks of how things are done, and even into conflicts.
2) Character. The Bible has very specific qualifications for pastors or elders or deacons which we will cover later. But those specifics assume there are first many other critical aspects of character that that person must have. Deaconin Greek simply means servant, and the first deacons served tables (Acts 6:1-4). The test is when someone just tends to stand around and chit chat and play with children while others are busy helping, such a person should not even be considered to be in the Session at all. Such a person has no heart to serve God’s people. Then there are some who take it as a title or position of power instead. In a church, people should never serve for personal benefits, for prominence, or to be in charge of others. Service is not about a title, but an attitude. Anyone that is in Session must have a strong sense of duty, responsibility, and a desire to serve tables, not simply to be in charge of others who serve, or to have a church position to pridefully tell others outside the church. Since some deacons are assigned to be the Session representatives to other ministries, it does not mean that only deacons do all the work in these ministries. Christians too must serve as God gifts them, according to the needs of the church. But deacons are chief servants in the church ie they lead by example in working diligently. Pastors and Elders are to be given to the Word and prayer (Acts 6:4). They must not delegate so that they can be free and idle. Instead, they must constantly consider what the church and God’s flock need, use the Word effectively and ably to lead and help and pray much for the church and individuals. Elders must provide the leadership needed. To do so, they cannot be hands-off, ignorant, and careless. They need to be actively engaged so as to care well for God’s church. Also, Pastors must not farm out preaching responsibilities so that he is free. And ruling elders must not fail in knowing the church well and leading courageously instead of just avoiding issues and ignoring what needs to be done in God’s church. He must know how to apply Biblical principles in making choices for the church. Worse of all, elders must never leave the flock unattended to when there are dangers. Without the genuine character of sincere service towards God (not eyeservice as menpleasers described in Eph 6:6-8), and without diligent care for God’s work and His people in the church (instead of hirelings in John 10:12), the person ought not to be in a church’s Session.
3) Constancy.One may initially seem to have the right convictions and character, but will he change easily and over time? One can declare their convictions on paper, but whether these are personal convictions will be seen in their lives when they come across challenges or difficulties. Anyone who is in Session must not be someone who is just a yes man in front of the pastor but speak opposite to that when they are in a private conversation with someone else because he wants to be liked by others or want some personal benefits. A divided Session will lead to a divided church that cannot stand (Mark 3:25). Neither should pastors and elders commit to a biblical decision but change over time because of the desire to please man for being popular and gain more votes. The Board and Session must never fail the church because they are voted in to safe keep God’s church according to Scriptures and the church’s Constitution. In short, each one must be a proven servant of God. The reason why observation over an extended period of time is essential before they are nominated into Session is that one can seem very promising at the start, yet falter after the initial euphoria when the hard work sets in. We also should not have anyone in Session who may be a zealous ad hoc worker, but who does not sustain for long, fizzles out or slackens after some time, or who needs constant supervision to get things done. God gives gifts to everyone, but not everyone must be in the Session.
Rom 12:4-5 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: 5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
Yours in our Lord’s service,