Not long ago, a man said something like this:
I enjoyed the ministry today, but one thing you said really caught my attention. It was the statement that there is an active as well as a passive side to the work of elders. I need to do some serious thinking about that, because … through most of my years I have been a passive elder.
I remember wondering how many other elders might feel the same way. Some will wonder that an article on such a subject could be needed at all. Isn’t it obvious that both active (action) and passive (accepting) roles are involved in leading people? We might think so, but consider the following.
In many churches, one man is the picture of action and involvement. Preaching the Word, chairing committees, leading in visitation, in decision making, in outreach and a host of other activities. There is not much time for being passive about anything.
On the other hand, I have been told on several occasions by men who have been elders for years that the chief responsibility of any elder is stated in I Peter 5:3 namely, to be “examples to the flock.” Presumably if an elder is a godly example, everything else will fall into place.
Clearly, all elders need to strive for balance in leading the church, but does that balance extend even to being more active or passive in how one leads?
The need for balance
It is quite apparent that people with widely different personalities can become effective leaders in society and in the church. Churches that depend on a plurality of brothers and a team approach to leadership, often observe an interesting mix of personality types in the group. Some are more outgoing and expressive; others are quieter and more reserved in their participation.
A quick check of Scripture passages relating to church leadership makes it clear that in some things elders must simply be,and in other situations they must do. In fact the passage from I Peter 5 cited for what elders must be begins with a charge to do something:
The elders who are among you . . . feed the flock of God… (I Peter 5:3,4).
In I Timothy 3, Paul describes the qualities of an elder as both passive virtues such as “sober minded” or “patient,” and with action words such as “given to hospitality” or “apt to teach.” Without question, both aspects are important.