Howard Mooney - Elders' Meeting - Redmond, Oregon - May 17, 1985

The main purpose of a meeting like this is to help the Elders among us know how much they are appreciated, and what a valuable place they fill in this fellowship. The further on I go, the more I thank God that in His all-perfect way, He planned that there would be Elders. I don't suppose you know how much peace you bring to our minds, or how much of the load you take from off our shoulders. We are so glad that God has planned it to be that way. I might mention before we go further, that this is the only group of people in the world where this relationship exists between the ministers and the Elders and the saints. There are groups of people in the religious world and in the business world and the financial world that have a working relationship, but they know nothing about the meaning of the word 'fellowship.' This is the only group of people in the world where the Lord's servants, and the Elders and the Lord's people can work together in such a harmonious way.

 

I like the way in which Paul wrote in Philemon, verses 1, 17, and 20. Philemon was the Elder at Colosse and the church met in his home. Paul spoke of him as a fellow-laborer. Then he referred to him as a partner, and then he referred to him as a brother. As far as I know, this is the only time in the Scripture where an Elder is referred to as a 'fellow laborer.' This Elder, Philemon, had his heart so much in the Work of the gospel that he was doing everything he could to help Paul with his load and with his activities. He was as much help to Paul as any of the fellow laborers were. Then he referred to him as a 'partner.' Partners share and share alike. They are equal partners in the business. When one is away, they do not worry about the business because they know the other is looking after their interests the same as they would if they were present. I do not think you can understand how much it means to us, especially when we are on the other side of the sea, and we cannot be there with the little flocks as we would like to be. You cannot know how much it means to us to know we have a 'partner' who is watching out for the flock just as though we were there. 
 
There are three chapters of, Scripture that Elders and their wives should often read together. We would encourage you, to read together and to pray together. We do this as workers. These three chapters, are I Timothy 3, Titus 1, and I Peter 5.  These chapters explain in detail the qualifications of the Elder and they explain in detail the responsibilities Elder's wife. 

 

We are glad to see so many young couples with us in the meeting tonight. We have often encouraged the young married couples to read together these chapters and pray that God will work into their young lives the qualities that would prepare them so that if an Elder should pass away, they would be qualified to fill the vacancy. That happened over on the coast. A very worthy Elder passed away. The church had prospered under his care. There was a young couple in that meeting probably in their early thirties. They had been in a convention meeting couple of years before this when we had encouraged our young couples to read often these chapters together. This young couple had done this and when an Elder was needed to fill, the gap, they were qualified.  I am glad to tell you this little church is prospering under the direction of this new Elder even as it had before.

 

The church missed that old Elder, naturally. They had relied on him as a father. We are relying on you. You are the next generation. There are Elders among us that possibly will not be with us another year. You would be surprised to know the number of the Elders that have passed away within the last two years. We hope that these chapters will be as much of a stimulus to you, who are younger, as they are to those who are older and filling the place of an Elder in the flock today. There is nothing wrong with a person's wanting to be an Elder or their desire to fill the office of a deacon, and if a young person has this desire it is a godly desire.

 

In Titus 1, the terms 'Elder' and 'bishop' are used synonymously. We usually think of the one taking charge of the meeting, when the Workers are away, as the ‘Elder' because he is chosen from among the older ones.  In I Timothy 3:6, we are reminded that you would not give a novice this responsibility. They might not realize the seriousness of it. They might be filled with pride.  You would make sure that they understood the seriousness of the responsibility that is given to them. Paul used the words ‘bishops’ and 'Elders' interchangeably. The word, 'bishop,' means an ‘overseer.'

 

In the first chapter of Philippians, Paul also referred to the “deacons,” as well as the Elder. We are often asked what is the responsibility of the deacon? He was the one who took charge of the meeting when the Elder was not there. We like to follow the same pattern today. We like someone appointed to lead the meeting when the Elder is not there. That way there is no confusion.   We found out one time that when an Elder was away his wife would ask some man in the meeting to lead the meeting. You would know that such was out of order. If, for some reason, you need to be away from your little flock, and you do not have someone to take your place, let us know so that the meeting can be directed as the Lord intended.

 

In the New, Testament days, there was more work involved than there is today because the church was responsible for the widows and the needy. There was no social security, benefits or other provision made and that is why the deacons were given this responsibility. That is what Paul was talking about when he said, "Let not a widow be taken into the number under three score years, well reported of for good works, etc."

 

We had a woman come to us in a state of panic, and she asked, "Does that mean I cannot be taken into full fellowship until I am sixty?" Paul was referring to the widows whose care was resting upon the church. We do not have that care today, but there is another part of an Elder's responsibility which is equally as important. That is to see that the flock is visited. We have an Elder in Portland who would often call one younger couple in the meeting and say, "We have someone in the hospital, or there is someone in the meeting and something seems to be wrong with them, or someone else in the meeting last Sunday was shedding tears." He would see that they were visited. No one missed a meeting twice but what they were visited. No one was in the hospital but what they were visited. This is a very important part because we as workers cannot always be there. We never like to see a little old widow neglected or left alone, or anyone in a nursing home that is not visited. If there is a visit that you cannot make, you just call up the one appointed to help you and ask them to make the visit.

 
In I Peter 5:2, Peter exhorted the Elders to "Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly, not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock." One of the first things Peter said was "feed." Sometimes the Lord's people get a little careless and they do not study as they should. Consequently, they do not have any bread to bring to the meeting. Therefore, a special responsibility rests on the shoulders of the Elders to see to it that there is bread for the meeting. Peter than added, "Taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint." Don't take the attitude that this is my obligation, but do it willingly. Let them know that you count it a privilege. “Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but by being ensamples to the flock.” Don't be a lord over the little flock, just live before them what they should be. One way that people lord it over others is by instruction, saying, "Don't do this, or don't do that." The greatest effect that any of us have over our brethren is the power of a good example. Paul said in another place that he wanted to live so that others would be provoked to emulation, or to be like him and to have what he had. When we take heed to ourselves as we should, that makes us an ensample, which is much better than a lecture.  The word 'ensample' which is used here is different from the word 'example.'

 
The word 'example' refers to the original, and the word 'ensample' refers to a copy of the original. We all recognize that we only have one example in this fellowship, and that is Christ. But, we can allow the Lord to so work in our lives the virtues of Christ so that like Paul said, "You follow me even as I follow Christ." In the building profession, the architect draws up the original plans. Those plans are called the example. The builders may make a number of copies of it so that the plumbers can have one and the electricians one, etc. These are called 'ensamples.' They are all copies of that architect's original drawing. I was talking to one of our friends one day who is an architect. He said the original drawing was kept in a safe. No one sees it, but it is kept there for safe keeping. The people working on the job never see the original but they know what it is like because they are working from an exact copy. Christ, our original example, is now in Heaven. No one sees Him, but as we are conformed to the image of Christ, they can tell what He is like by what they see in us. That is the way that God intended it to be. When we are that kind of an ensample, it is easy for the flock to have something that they can safely follow.

 
When we think of Jesus as our example, we think of Him in His example in prayer. Jesus prayed His long prayers in private. He prayed His short prayers in public. That is a good example for us also to follow. Jesus spent all night in prayer to God, but in public He prayed briefly. He prayed one time, "Father, I thank Thee that Thou hast heard Me. And I knew that Thou hearest Me always." That doesn't sound like much of a prayer, but that is what He was thankful for at the time. He was so thankful that God heard Him every time He cried in distress. It would be good for us to condense our prayers in the meeting so that everyone in the meeting will have time for their part. I knew of a home in Spokane. When the Elder and his wife purchased that home, the older workers arranged for the church to remain in the home as it had been. One of the first concerns that this Elder and his wife had was that although there were about 40 in that meeting, just a few took up all the time praying, and others took up all the time testifying. There were many in the meeting that never had a chance to take part. The Elder said to his wife, "We won't say anything about this. We will just set an example for them." So when they prayed, they prayed very briefly but very effectively, and when they testified, they testified very briefly but with real bread in it. It wasn't long until others began to follow their ensample, and it wasn't long until all 40 were taking part in both prayer and testimony, and the meeting was over well within the limit of time. That is what Peter encouraged the Elders to do. Set the right example before the flock just like Jesus did in His day. That is what will make you an ensample to the flock.

 
There is another thing that the Scripture teaches us to do and that is to meditate on our prayers before the meeting just as we meditate on our testimonies. If a person goes to a meeting with something definite in our hearts to thank God for and something definite to testify about, you have a real godly effect then upon the others in the meeting. It is nice to just pause before the meeting to ask yourself the question, "What am I the most thankful for, and what do I feel the most in need of?" With that in our heart, it helps us to pray briefly, originally, and effectively each time.

 
I would like to mention another thing about this matter of prayer and testimony in the meeting. When you pray in a meeting, make sure that your voice is loud and clear enough so that everyone in the room can hear you. There seems to be a feeling that often creeps in among us that we should modify our voice when we pray. There is nothing in the Scripture that suggests that. I often feel badly when someone prays or testifies in a low voice and half of the people in the meeting fail to get the benefit of what is being said. My hearing is not as keen as it used to be, but I still hear better in the meeting than most of the folks who are there. I know that when I cannot catch all that is said, the older people in the meeting are not getting it either. They are the ones who need it. They are living in the final trials of life and they need all the help they can get out of the meeting. Paul said, "Consider one another." This is one way in which we can be considerate. You do not need to shout, but you can speak loud enough so that all in the meeting can get the full benefit of what you are praying and testifying about.

 
There is something else I wish we could do something about. It is this matter of saying "amen" following the prayers and testimonies. They do this in most of the countries. After a brother gives his testimony, it is good to hear a little "amen" to assure that person that their testimony was helpful. A man from New Zealand was in a meeting of ours not long ago. After the meeting, with tears in his eyes, he asked the Elder what he said wrong in his testimony. The Elder said there was nothing wrong with what he had to say. This man replied, "No one said 'amen' after I finished speaking, and I felt that my testimony was not in order." Just a little 'amen' shows we appreciate what they have shared. It is a little word of encouragement when a person says 'amen.' It is just saying, "I heartily endorse what you have said." It makes me feel good when I hear someone say a little 'amen' after my part. This is a little thing that Elders and their wives can be an example to the flock in. These are things that helped in the New Testament fellowship and they still do today. I hope we will all feel responsible to make every meeting what it should be.

 
There is another part of the meeting that we feel is very important. It is the part where we partake of the bread and wine. I suppose you all understand that it is nice to have the emblems in the center of the room when this can be arranged, just to remind everyone that Christ is the center of this meeting. We do not want to make a great formality of this. One older worker said, "We could be so taken up with the formality that we would miss the reality of what the bread and wine is intended to mean." It is nice when each one recognizes that they have the privilege of expressing thanks for either the bread or the wine in the meeting. In this way, no one or two would feel responsible each time. We would like anyone in the meeting who has an understanding, to feel free to express their thanks for the communion.

 
What are we going to do with what is left over after all have partaken? I remember one time asking an older brother about this. His reply was there are no rules or no law about how the emblems are disposed of. In the Old Testament Passover Feast, which was a forerunner of our fellowship meeting, if there was anything left over, it was burnt with fire. And, if there was anything left over of the drink offering, it was poured out on the ground. It would be nice if what is left over from the communion could be disposed of in this way. This is not a ruling, but it is a respectable way to take care of the disposal of the emblems. If there is anything left of the bread, it is good to burn it with fire. If there is anything left of the wine, it is good to pour it upon the ground. In some places in city life, this cannot be done. We tell them it is not mandatory, but I think if there is any left over, it is good to do so if it is possible. It is sacred to us in that it has reminded us again of the life and death of Christ who has made all of this possible.

 
These three chapters explain the ideal for the Elder and his wife. I certainly would encourage every Elder and his wife to read them together frequently. We would also encourage every young couple to read these chapters together and pray that the Lord will work into your lives the qualifications that would enable you to some day fill that place. We certainly would encourage every young couple to pray together and study together, just as we do. This will keep your home united and it will help you to keep the spirit and atmosphere in the home as it should be. We would like you to prepare yourselves so that if an old Elder should pass away, you would be ready to step in and fill the gap. It is not that you are looking for a place of recognition, but that you see the privilege of looking after the little flock, and you have made yourselves ready to step into that privilege.

 

If you would like, please read from time to time Acts 20:28, "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost bath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood." This helps us all very much to take heed to ourselves. Just make sure that you are an ensample. Just make sure that you are doing the right thing before that little flock so that everybody in the church would like to have the same spirit that you have and possess the same example that you have. The greatest power that anyone can have is the power of example. Just live as close to Christ as you can. He is our example in everything. It is interesting to notice as we read the gospels over, the many things that Jesus did just to leave an example so that we would know how to handle each situation that we might face.

 
We would like to tell you again how much you mean to us. Not only when we are on the other side of the sea, but also when we are in other parts of the field. It is comforting to know that we have partners that are watching over the flock, and that we have fellow laborers who are helping to carry the load. This is the only group of people in the world where the Elders and the ministry and the people are pulling together. This is possible because we are having fellowship with the Lord Himself, and, when we are having fellowship with Him, we are all enjoying fellowship with one another.