The Wittenberg Trail

One of the things I noticed when I started my term as an elder at my congregation was that there wasn't any training so that an elder understood what the position entailed.

It also seemed that the responsibilities weren't really spelled out. Basically the "description" mentions that an elder should conduct himself in a manner which reflects Christ; assist pastor in spiritual matters; oversee pastoral staff; make sure all church activities are conducted in Christian manner; and make sure that all Christian instruction agrees with Scriputre. In addition there are care areas that an elder may be assigned which are explained in the same general manner.

Maybe I'm wrong here but it seems that things could be defined more specifically. I say that because I've checked a couple of websites from other LCMS congregations that seem more specific than what we have. Therefore I'm planning to present some ideas at an upcoming meeting that better define the role of elders and ideas for training. So I guess what I'm looking for are suggestions from all of you.

Thanks in advance.

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I'd agree that we don't want to write our own definition and I can see how that can be construed after re-reading my post. The five general areas are firm and can't be changed. However I think there could be a greater understanding of what it is that an elder is responsible for - paricularly in terms of oversight. In other words what is meant by overseeing all activities and Christian instruction to ensure it is in accordance with Scripture (and the Lutheran Confessions I would add). I say that because the elders in our congregation aren't "involved" with other boards and committees even as an "ex-officio" which I find a little concerning since you can't oversee if you don't know what's going on.

Perhaps more training especially in the areas of scripture and the Lutheran Confessions is what is needed.

Is your elders' Bible Study separate from regularly scheduled meetings.
I think that you should. During the years that I had served, I found that many of the elders did not know
what they were supposed to do. When a pastor meets with his elders for the first time, he should find out
how much training they have. If they have not been trained, he should to it that they are. They should review their training from time to time and then be held accountable. In the congregations where I was at, the men didn't know what they were supposed to do, and weren't too open to being trained.
I repeatedly turn down requests that I become an elder. It's primarily because I'm in the same position as apparently Matt is, judging by his picture - I'm not an elder!

I just skipped our Wednesday bible study to put my 18-month-old to bed because she didn't take a nap while I was at work today and my pregnant wife needed some down time. I'm truly at a loss for how the term can possibly apply to me.

I'm pretty sure they're called elders because they were originally elders... aren't they? It's my understanding that retired empty-nesters with 40+ years of bible study and Church involvement are the best candidates to fulfill any requirement we come up with. Why is there such a tendency to hit up the 30-somethings these days?
I am an elder in a large congregation and we have only 1 full time pastor. Yet, even when we had 2 full time pastors the elders still had oversight over a specific geographical area where congregation members live. (The congregation is located in a large metropolitan area). We call our members, visit with them, especially seek to contact those members whose Worship and Communion attendance is falling, reffering them to the pastor if necessary. We do this by means of what we call the Shepherding Process, seeking to find out what life circumstances may be keeping them from Worship and even from contacting the pastor. At the present time we do not have an elderb specific Bible study. We do, however, start our Board of Elders meetings with prayer and devotion, usually following one of the services in the LSB. Peace be with you! Your Servant in Christ, Ron Jones
We also have a shepherding process where we make contact with a few people in our group each month. And we've started looking at worship attendance and we have prayer and devotion. I think where my concern is that how can you expect people to serve if there isn't a clear picture of what is involved with this very important role.

Micheal you mention training, but what type of training should there be? Our training since we assist with communion was basically the robe and knowing the "Take eat ..." and "Take drink ..." (if we have to do individual cup during continuous communion)

Also for those that are elders in your congregations are you responsible for knowing what is taking place on other boards or committees, be it as a member or sitting in on meetings or getting minutes and then reporting back at your regular elders' meetings?
I think the main reason the elders in LCMS don't do that is that while they are called elders, they really aren't elders in the biblical sense. Elders are ministers, bishops whatever you want to call them in the bible. Elders in the LCMS are not given that role and it seems to me that a lot of elders and congregations are kind of confused about it. I don't really know why it isn't talked about and explained. Maybe no one wants to go and say something like we have elders but they aren't biblical elders because that tends to bring up questions like why not.

As far as pastors, it seems to me like a lot of it comes down to the fact that one of the clearest passages concerning the treatment of the sick by annointing and the laying on of hands is in James. I'm somewhat surprised to find that many pastors, at least on the internet, seem to want nothing to do with it on account of that. That's a difficult position to maintain since it is also mentioned in the Gospel of Mark, and the fact that when they take their ordination vows they subscribe to the 66 book canon accepted by the LCMS. Many of them argue though that they really didn't. So it appears to be a case where the synod asks a question meaning one thing and at least some answer the question meaning something entirely different.

Jas 5:13-16 ESV
(13) Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.
(14) Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.
(15) And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.
(16) Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Mar 6:13 ESV
(13) And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.

Mar 16:18 ESV
(18) they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover."

It appears to also have fallen out of favor in reaction to the Catholic rite of extreme unction and the teachings concerning it being a sacrament and thus forgiving sins simply through the performance of it. The Catholic Church turned what was to be a rite of life and turned it into a rite of death.

Martin Luther wrote rather strongly against the sacrament of extreme unction in his "Babylonian Captivity of the Church" and so while he did not say that elders should not be called to the sick and annoint them and pray the prayer of faith, by and large, that was the effect within the Lutheran Churches, though some do indeed practice annointing of the sick, even within those that do it could not be said to be common.

Hope that helps explain it. Even if the elder says he doesn't practice annointing, I would think that there could be no objection raised to coming and praying over and for the sick person.

A wise theologian once told me when I was asked to serve as an elder in our first church (I was 28), "You don't have to be able to sit at the right hand of God to serve as elder". I went ahead and served, and it was and has been one of the most challenging experiences I've ever had. I mean that in a positive as well as negative sense. My understanding of The Lutheran confessions has grown through this experience, and my faith has been both tested and exilirated. I found that the following Issues Etc. program hit the nail right on the head. Follow this link and go to the program for March 11, give your self an hour, and you will find this most helpful.

I burned a copy to share with my Pastor and the incomming board members.
A couple of notes here; I believe you are correct in your observation as to the annointing being too close to the Catholic rite. Yet, the LSB Pastoral Companion has the rite of annointing for healing. Which, IMO, is very cool. Being a convert from the RC church and now an LCMS pastor, I have observed the reservation some have at touching another in the process of praying for healing. Perhaps we can lay this one at the feet of the rampant pentecostalism that almost destroyed many churches. e.g. If you can't speak in tongues, the obviously you are not a believer. Also, I would have NO problem at all should any of the elders who assist me in my ministry desire to utilize the rite as found in the companion. Why? Because it, of itself is not a sacrament; so, by all means do so as elders. For the true reason behind our actions ought to be that of service and of compassion in all aspects of our Christian walk. Thanks Brad for bringing this up! It highlights for me areas that I can hpoefully help the elders to serve the parish with more love and care.
I think we are really seeing at least a bit of a resurgence of the use of the rite among Lutherans.

I have heard some looking to the Pentacostals as to why they don't. For instance the fact that healing is not always granted by God, but then we do indeed pray for healing for people and we aren't stopped by the fact they aren't always healed.

Do your elders have a copy of the LSB Pastoral Companion? I'm not sure what percentage of elders even realize the rite is there in the book, I would guess less than half.

There is also the matter of we don't do it because we haven't done it in the past. In other words I think to more than a few, it's a matter of tradition. Since they are not familiar with it, they have concluded that it isn't done or even is not proper to do. A bit of folk theology if you will.

Part of my interest in the topic comes from the fact that I have had the elders annoint me and pray over me with the laying on of hands and while I didn't suddenly jump up like someone at a tent revival in a movie, let me tell you it was a very dear thing and it strenghtened me. It is just such an intimate time with God and the elders.

Right-on, right-on, right-on! Listen to that Issues Etc. program, you'll find out that you are right; most of what is refferred to as "elders" in the NT are acutally today's Pastors. Good luck with your family. Today we celebrate what my baby girl calls "the day we both met" her 23rd birthday. Love 'em while you got 'em!! They grow up too fast.
At least on the surface this description of the pastoral care. If someone is near death. I desire to be called so that I may be present during the process. Not just so that I am ready to show up at the funeral, but so that I can offer pastoral care as death approaches.
In answer to your question - no; but they soon will have as I alluded to previously. Yet, here is another interesting point for the discussion. IF, an elder were to bring already consecrated elements to a member - is it then truly communion? Remember now, this is an animal of a different sort. +Peace+
BTW - I'm glad - in a sense that you did not have holy tremblings!

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