Pastoral Q & A: How Do I Indicate My Aspiration to Serve as an Elder or Deacon?
Wanting to be an office bearer is a great thing – Scripture says so in 1 Timothy 3:1, “The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.” We certainly want to encourage men in our churches to have such aspirations. For those who aspire to the ministry it’s relatively easy to indicate your aspirations. You do pre-seminary studies and then go to seminary. However, how do you let people know if you have an aspiration to be an elder or deacon? Perhaps you could say it directly, or you might wait until your elder asks you on a home visit. But what if verbally indicating your aspiration might be frowned upon or even seen as somewhat arrogant?
As it turns out, there are more ways to indicate the aspiration to serve as an elder or deacon. Let’s look at three ways in particular.
Scripture speaks about the qualifications of office bearers in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. One should certainly go to those qualifications and use them as targets to aim for in a thankful Christian life. However, they can all be summed up with one word: maturity. An office bearer has to consistently demonstrate Christian maturity. There has to be evidence of a life lived in union with Jesus Christ. That’s going to be seen first and foremost in a love for Christ and for the gospel. If the gospel doesn’t personally excite you, if you don’t feel love for Christ in your heart, how would you lead others in that direction? If you don’t love reading and studying the Bible, how would you guide others to do it?
If you aspire to be an office bearer, Christian maturity also has to be seen in the home: “He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will be care for God’s church?” (1 Tim. 3:4-5). As an outworking of that, an aspiring office bearer ought to be leading his children in daily family worship. You have to be discipling your own children before you can be discipling others.
If someone aspires to office, there also has to be maturity evidenced in regards to the church and his involvement with it. For example, an aspiring office bearer makes public worship twice on the Lord’s Day a priority. Titus 1:9 says, “He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught…” That implies being under the Word as often as it is taught. An office bearer has to set an example in this regard and so an aspiring office bearer is going to aim for this too.
A Desire to Learn
In Hosea 4:6, God said “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…” Learning is essential for all Christians. This is why 2 Peter 3:18 says, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” But this imperative to grow in our understanding of the Christian faith is sharper for those who are leaders in Christ’s church. The young pastor Timothy was called to do his best to rightly handle the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:14). He was to immerse himself in studying and teaching the Scriptures so that everyone could see his progress (1 Tim. 4:13-15).
So what about those aspiring to the office of elder? An elder is called to first exemplify the learning and growing Christian. Moreover, he’s also called to oversee the teaching and preaching in the church. How is he going to be equipped for that if he’s not reading and learning more? Even deacons are called to “hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience” (1 Tim. 3:9). They have to have a good (and growing) grasp on the doctrines of the Christian faith. After all, they’re also leaders in the church – governing the ministry of mercy.
If you aspire to be an office bearer, one of the best things you can do is go to your pastor or ward elder and say: “I want to read a good book. Can you recommend something?” Readers are leaders – and serious readers in the congregation are going to get noticed.
A Desire to Serve
Last of all, being an office bearer is all about service. Being a shepherd is about serving the flock. What about the deacons? The very word “deacon” means “servant” or “minister.” Those who aspire to this noble task should strive for a track record of service in other capacities. When the opportunity arises to volunteer, the man who aspires to office should be the first one to put up his hand. Those who are keeping busy with non-office bearer work in the church community will often find themselves being noticed when it comes time to nominate for elders and deacons.
To sum up, perhaps you’ve noticed that these three ways have one thing in common: they’re all things we ought to be striving for as Christians at any rate. Every Christian ought to aim for growing levels of maturity. Every Christian ought to desire to learn and serve. So, basically, if you aspire to be an office bearer, live like a Christian.