Third Item: Two New Elders

Dear friends,

This is the fourth in a thread of five e-mails attempting to open doors of conversation about key topics for us to consider at our annual family meeting coming up on June 6th. I hope that we can answer questions and raise them, as well, because we want to have time to talk through where we believe that God is leading us.

We are expecting to welcome two new elders to the council of elder. Joel Lloyd and Dwight Bernier have walked through an extensive process to prepare to become elders. They meet the qualifications of an elder as seen in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 2. This is a great work that they desire to do (1 Tim. 3:1), and we have done all that can be done to help them start right.

There have been a few questions regarding Dwight’s role, and we can really understand that. This past Sunday we had some time to communicate with some of you in a small group, and we realize that not all of you were able to make it. You can hear my answers (along with a few of the questions – we didn’t have a good way to mike them, sorry – here).

A New Opportunity

This seems pretty confusing, and we will admit that. We think that it is confusing, not because it is illogical, but because it is unusual. On this topic the Bible provides clarity and lacks clarity.

The Bible provides clarity:

The Scriptures provide clarity on the character and the roles of an elder. If we look at 1 Timothy 3:1-7 (also Titus 1:5-9) we can see the character of an elder.

  • The terms elder, bishop, and shepherd are used interchangeably – see 1 Peter 5:1-5; 2 Timothy 2:2; Acts 20:17, 28).
  • They are to be marked by servanthood and humility (Matt. 11:29; Mark 9:33-35; John 13:12-17). This servant leadership does not imply a lack of authority (2 Cor. 10:8; 2 Cor. 1:24).
  • These leaders are almost always referred to as a team effort – a plurality of leadership (Acts 13:1; 15:35; 1 Cor. 16:15-16; 1 Thess. 5:12; Heb. 13:7, 17; Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:1-2).
  • One summary of the tasks of an elder goes like this: shepherd eagerly, serve sacrificially, teach the word, train in righteousness, protect the mission, pray for the saints, lead with diligence, and love as Jesus did.

The Bible does not provide the clarity we desire:

One all of the critical issues of faith and doctrine, Scripture speaks with absolute clarity. Unfortunately, it does not bring that same clarity to all of our questions. The Bible simply does not answer our questions when it comes to what to do for a young man who is moving to Montreal to plant a church – should we appoint him an elder or not?

Dwight is young, but he has a proven track record with Windham Baptist Church. We have observed his character as he has invested in this faith family. We are familiar with where he is strong as well as with where he needs to grow.

What we know:

  • Dwight has the desire to be an elder (see 1 Tim. 3:1).
  • Dwight has the proven character and qualifications to be an elder.
  • Dwight’s heart is for Windham Baptist, even though he also looks forward to planting the church in Montreal. He has and will serve here – this is not a stepping stone to something better.
  • Dwight has asked the elders for help. Since a plurality of elders is the rule of NT church, Dwight realizes a need for support and help in the church planting process. This is yet another opportunity for us to be generous toward the kingdom of God around the world!
  • We, as elders, see no Biblical conflict with this decision.

The biggest question is, “What do we do when Dwight and Jess and Nehemiah move to Montreal? Should he still be considered an elder at WBC?”

Here’s what is clear. When that day comes, Dwight will no longer be responsible for shepherding this faith family. But we will be responsible for shepherding him and providing help and oversight for the church plant in Montreal in its infancy. Once elders are in place in the Montreal church, we will no longer function this way. We will remain sister churches, each responsible for their own faith family yet lovingly connected as family.

Wrap up:

I think we need to celebrate this time, rather than fear it. I am certain that the early church felt a bunch of strangeness as it tried to figure out how to function. We feel that now. Yet we should be so excited that one of our sons loves Jesus so much that he and his family want to move to an unreached people group and bring the gospel there. So many of you have been vital to making this mission happen!! You, personally, have invested and prayed and dreamed alongside of Dwight – God has used you powerfully, your love for the gospel has overflowed in generosity!

Our elders are asking us to take a “righteous risk” here.

What questions do you have? This letter is long enough already – but I am sure there are good questions or clarifications that are necessary. Please send them to me at mark@windhambaptistchurch.org.

May God bless us with these types of challenges time and again, as Jesus’ sent people our region with his presence, making disciples who make disciples who know how to glorify God in all things. That’s what is already happening – God is doing it through you.

May our tribe increase.

Pastor Mark

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