It is very rare to find an individual who does not appreciate the prayers of others for them. There have been a few times over the years when I have run into people like that, but those occasions are very rare.
As one who has, in the past, preached full-time and as one who continues to try to serve as an elder in a local congregation, I can assure you that men who serve in either one or both of those capacities appreciate the prayers of their brothers and sisters more than they might be able to express. I have been encouraged over the years by people who will let me know that they include me and my work in their daily, personal prayers. It is humbling to know that people think enough of a local congregation and of those who serve in various capacities in that congregation to include them (us) as they address the Father.
It is also encouraging when men lead a public prayer and include in that prayer a petition for the elders of a local congregation. I am blessed to be a part of a congregation in which this happens on a regular basis.
Recently, one of our men led a prayer that expressed a thought I’m not sure I’d ever heard before in a public or a private prayer. As soon as he finished leading us in prayer, I took out my phone and typed in that thought so that I wouldn’t forget it. As he prayed for the elders, he expressed the desire that:
“…we (the congregation) will be an encouragement and not a hindrance to them (the elders).”
That thought has been on my mind ever since our brother first expressed it. I have thought of countless ways by which members of a local church can (and many do) encourage elders. Those who live godly, dedicated, productive Christian lives can be (and are) a source of encouragement to those who serve as shepherds of God’s people.
Sadly, “the other side of the coin” is also true. There are those who are sporadic in their attendance at worship services and other opportunities for spiritual growth; who are, at best, half-hearted in their dedication; and whose only “contribution” to the local congregation may be that they see themselves as the self-appointed church critic.
It should be obvious that elders would be discouraged about and disappointed with somebody who may not be truly converted; who is apathetic about serving the Lord; and whose only “contribution” to a congregation is negative. It should also be obvious that such people would discourage and disappoint many others; including those who may not be in a “leadership position.”
While all of that is true, our brother did not use “discouragement” or “disappointment” as he led us in prayer. Rather, the word he chose was “hindrance.”
It is of interest to me that the prayer was not primarily about the hindrance of the local congregation and/or of the cause of Christ throughout the world. Our brother’s concern as expressed in the prayer was that the elders might not be hindered.
It would be tempting at this point to begin a list of all of the possible ways that an individual elder or an entire eldership could be hindered by members of a local congregation. I suppose that the extreme of this would be the occasions when and elder’s own spirituality is hindered to the point that he “throws in the towel.” Sadly, some good men have given up on serving as shepherds because their own faith and growth was severely hindered.
It is tragic that, in some communities, it is even possible to find men who were “drastically hindered.” At one time, these men were faithful to the Lord. They served His people by being one of the shepherds of a local congregation.
Now, neither of those statements is true. They are no longer serving as elders. The pressure was too much. Along with that, they are also no longer faithful to the Lord. Not only have they lost interest in the souls of others, they’ve lost interest in their own souls.
I fully understand that each of us must give an account for our own actions (cf. 2 Cor. 5:10). I also fully understand that a valid argument could be made that something must be lacking in men who would abandon the Lord because of the behavior of others.
At the same time, I would not want to be in the position of a person who would hinder, in any way, anybody who is trying to serve the Lord in any capacity. I would hope that I would be seen as one who encourages and who does not hinder.
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you (Heb. 13:17, ESV, emphasis added).
AUTHOR: Jim Faughn