In a previous article, I wrote about why I believed younger men need to consider becoming elders in their local assemblies. I would hazard a guess that more assembly men in their 20’s and 30’s would have an easier time naming the different levels in the latest HALO game than naming the Bible passages that deal with the qualifications for elders.
Being in a leadership role in a local assembly may seem like a daunting task, so I am writing this article to provide some context about how I became an elder three years ago when I was 33. I hope it encourages other young men to spend time in God’s Word and on their knees regarding leadership in their local assembly.
My First Experience with Elders
I grew up going to a denominational evangelical church, not an assembly, so the concept of elders was foreign to me. My first exposure to elders instead of a pastor was when I went away to university just over 15 years ago. My older brother Warren had starting going to assemblies around that time, so I decided to see what they were like. The first Sunday morning I attended the local assembly, a nice older man met me at the door and asked me a series of questions about what I believed.
After answering all his questions satisfactorily, he welcomed me to the meeting and invited me to participate in the Breaking of Bread. I didn’t find out until later that he was considered to be what was called an elder. While attending assemblies in different cities during my school and co-op terms, I saw a number of different elders, but they all seemed to be at least 50, if not more. So my early impression of leaders in the local assembly was that they tended to be older, and quite often were (in my view of the word) elderly.
Studying the Role of Elders
The first study I did on elders was during a discussion-style college and careers Bible study on 1 Timothy 3. The first seven verses of this chapter contain teaching on the qualifications of elders. As I read through the qualifications, I recall thinking that most of them seemed to be attributes for which all Christians should strive for. Attributes like being gentle, hospitable, not violent, and not greedy for money seemed like they should be for all believers, not just elders.
I also noticed the qualification that an elder should not be a novice. Based on this qualification and my previous observation about elders generally being older, I figured I wouldn’t have to think about being an elder for at least a few decades.
Fast forward a few years to my early 30’s. I had been in fellowship at my current assembly for a number of years and had progressively taken on more responsibilities. I was teaching a weekly class in the Sunday School, leading the mid-week Bible study every few months, and preaching a few times a year. One week I was approached by one of the elders to see if I was interested in participating with him in a study about eldership. After praying about it, we agreed to have the studies about once a month.
Starting the Training on Eldership
We used a book called Biblical Eldership by Alexander Strauch, and I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in the topic. The book also has a study guide, and we used that as a starting point for our sessions, but often had long discussions in addition to what was covered in the guide. By the time we were done the study, I definitely knew more about what it meant to be an elder, but I still wasn’t certain that I was ready to be one. After all, I was still just 33!
A few months after we completed the study, I was asked if I would be willing to join the oversight. After much prayer and discussion with my wife, (along with much fear and trepidation) I agreed to become one of the elders at the assembly. Looking back at it now, I know I made the right decision.
Taking the Step into Leadership
At 33, I felt like I was too young to be an elder. But based on my own studies and the shared study with one of the elders from my assembly, I thought I was qualified and was being led by the Lord to step into that role. God’s plan for leadership in the local church isn’t bound by age. As you read through the qualifications in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9, and 1 Peter 5:1-3, you won’t find anything specific about age (either minimum or maximum).
If you are a young Christian man, I would challenge you to read these portions and give some thought as to whether being an elder might be of interest to you. I would also encourage you to talk to your elders about it. If you are waiting until you’re older to even think about being an elder, you are wasting prime years of your life that could be used to serve the Lord in your local assembly.