I enjoyed visiting with Jim in my office earlier today. In the course of our time together, he asked how much our church's elders were paid. He was really surprised when I told him that they are all volunteers. I can understand why.
I've known some great elders in my time as a preacher, and they all desrved to be paid. Ray S. cared enough to confront me when I was still wet behind the ears. Ron R. was like an uncle to me when we lived in Kokomo. Terry U. is the most biblically literate elder I've ever known. Mike K. is the first elder I've ever been able to call a "friend who sticks closer than a brother."
It's not enough to say that these men all deserved to be paid, either. Fact is, you couldn't pay them enough for a lot of what they do. My dad was an elder, and I watched him experience the joys and the heartache of serving in that role. There were times when serving was an almost unbearable burden. Just the other day we talked about one particularly difficult congregational meeting when he was on the hot seat for making what was, at the time, a difficult leadership decision. Twenty-five years removed, the pain is so real that it is still hard for him to talk about it. Fact is, every elder I've ever known has had similar experiences.
An hour or so after Jim asked me how big our "elder payroll" is, South's elders met for their monthly meeting. It was a good one. I really appreciated the input the guys have in our ministry. They all bring different gifts to the table, and God seems to give them the right thing to say at the right time.
Mike V. keeps his eye on the bottom line. I really love that he has a heart for ministry and that he does all he can to make our financial resources go as far as they can. Without him and his team keeping an eye on the books, we'd be in tall grass. He has a heart for seeing people become all that God has called them to be - including me.
Dick has a dry, but great sense of humor. He usually sits quietly by, but when he speaks he asks the right questions, and can break down an issue so that it is manageable. Tonight he took a complex issue and framed it in a way that made it seem less intimidating.
Terry S. is an encourager. He is the most extroverted and gregarious elder with whom I have ever served. Terry stops by my office to pray with me every Sunday morning. He encourages the whole staff that way. His vocabulary is filled with superlatives, which he dishes them out liberally (and means every word).
Mike B. is kind. And steady. And sure. If Mike says he is going to do something, I can count on him doing it. He keeps track of all the new members at South and makes sure that each of them receives a visit in their home from the elders. He will tell you that Mr. Palmer (or maybe Doc Doty) was "Mr. South." But for me, that person is Mike.
Chris is so insightful. He asks probing questions that cause the staff to reflect on on their spiritual condition. How are we with God? What is robbing our joy? Are we being true to our staff covenant. Chris is always looking for "the vision" thing, but he is careful to make sure that we don't get so focused on the big picture that we neglect our own spiritual condition.
Joe is the newest of our elders. His heart for families is evident and he leads by example with his own. His priorities are clear: God, family, ministry, work - in that order. He, too, is quiet by comparison. And that gives his words, when he speaks, even more weight.
Terry R. is a servant. When he retired from GM earlier this year, he devoted his time to custodial work at South. But he doesn't "neglect the ministry of the word and prayer" to sweep floors. Terry was instrumental in leading a couple to Christ just this last week. He is so grounded and understands that the best ministry is done in relationship.
Tom has been a personal encouragement to me, too. In a lot of ways, he has a no nonsense approach to life, and yet when he ministers to people he does so with an obvious grace and mercy.
Every one of these men is amazing.
There will be, no doubt, a cynic or two that will read this and suggest that I am currying favor with the men who are my overseers. So be it. But credit is due where credit is deserved, and these men deserve credit for their service. That's not why they do it, of course. (They might even get a little bit ruffled at the idea of me writing this.)
Bill Hybels made a statement a while back that stuck with me. (I quoted a portion of it in my last post, actually.) He wrote, "The local church is the hope of the world, and its future rests primarily in the hands of its leaders."
If he is right, and I think he is, that means South Lansing Christian Church has a great future ahead.