by Mike Tilley, Senior Pastor
This Sunday the members of Lake Baldwin Church will cast their vote for new elders and deacons. Among these are two candidates for elder (TJ Sellers and Dwayne Noble) who are in their 30s, much younger than those currently serving on the session.
Some might raise legitimate questions. Are they too young to serve as elders? Can they shepherd their peers, or those who are older? Have they lived enough life to have the maturity required to serve as elders?
I can’t speak for the other current elders, but I’d like to weigh in as one of the older guys. My own view is that this step for our church is both biblical and wise. Here are my reasons for encouraging our church to call young elders who meet the biblical qualifications.
1. The Bible does not give us an age qualification.
When listing the qualifications for elder and deacon, the standards include character, family, and theology. 1 Timothy 3:6 wisely says, "He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil." So we must look at spiritual age, but this does not preclude people in their 30s who are otherwise qualified.
2. Timothy himself was a young elder.
Even more, he was the teaching pastor at the church at Ephesus! Paul even had to shore up his confidence. "For the Spirit God gives us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline". (2 Tim 1:7) At the age of 31 I was called to be an elder at Stony Point PCA church in Richmond—for a while I was a timid Timothy. But my pastor said to me, “You hold the office of elder. Go for it. Take the initiative to reach out to people in your shepherding group.”
3. It’s wise to bring young elders on while the older guys are still around to show them the ropes.
We are blessed with older and younger generations in our church! Sure, the younger elders will be stretched, but we are preparing them for the future. This is good for their personal growth and development, but also for our church’s future. Trust me. You don’t want to have the older guys rotate off and have only brand new officers trying to figure it out alone.
4. Elders have never been called to be our spiritual “gurus.”
Church office has dignity, but you need not think that the elders are your only source of spiritual counsel. Your spiritual growth and discipleship will come from multiple sources, including your community group. Peer learning is healthy, and so is learning from those who are younger. For example, I learn a lot from Joe White and other young leaders. If you end up in a shepherding group with a younger elder, remember that God has clearly used young leaders in Scripture and throughout church history. And that young elder is not your only mentor.
5. Our elder candidates are qualified.
In fact, we need the gifts and younger perspective that God has given them! Both Dwayne and TJ have served for years in our church, and they both have a wide footprint of ministry through leading small groups and serving on teams. They have been theologically trained through a demanding officer training cohort. Finally, we have been able to observe their character and their marriages.
Lake Baldwin Church has an exciting future ahead! Let’s do our part to make sure that future includes a new generation of biblically qualified leaders for our church.