Our society increasingly mocks and rejects the idea that Christ calls us to a life that is centered on Him and the work He is doing through His church and His people. And yet there are many passages that admonish us just on this point, that the role of the church is to help us know Christ and walk according to His commands and His design (e.g. Matthew 28:19-20, Ephesians 4:11-16, Hebrews 13:17).
Thus, Hebrews 13:17 tells us that the leadership are to keep watch over the souls of the people because they will give an account to God.
The Greek word “keep watch” is “agrupneo” means literally means to abstain completely from sleep. To pass sleepless nights, to be sleepless and to lie awake and think about something (Liddell/Scott). Figuratively, it means to be vigilant and fully aware of a threatening peril (BAGD). The Expositors Bible Commentary says this envisions the leaders keeping awake at night in their concern for the people.
What are we to watch out for?
In John 10, Jesus taught on the “Good Shepherd”. This critical passage is all about how Christ is our true shepherd and He leads and feeds His people. Yet in that passage, Christ alludes to wolves that attack the flock. Moreover, He warns that “hired hands” flee in the face of these attacks. While not the direct point of the passage (which is for us to look to Christ as our True Shepherd), our Lord certainly gives warning to anyone who would take on the role of oversight, and yet run in the face of attacks.
The kinds of attacks that a church might face include attacks from the world, from within, from our flesh, from wolves and from indifference. Thus, the leadership of the church must always “keep watch” that the world’s influences to no invade the church, that division does not destroy the church, that our flesh is ruled by the Spirit, that wolves do not lurk amongst us, and that the idleness of indifference does not pervade. Unlike the disciples who could not pray and keep watch for one hour, those entrusted in church leadership need to be ever on the alert for the care of the church.
Hebrews 13:17 gives a further comment by saying these leaders will give an account to God. The idea of giving an account ought to concern every church leader.
The word “account” is actually the same Greek word for “word” (it’s “logos”). The idea then, is that the leadership will have to speak to what they have done in their leadership roles and why. It pictures a summoning before the Lord and an explanation of what transpired under their leadership, why they allowed or instituted such things, and what their intent was. In all ways, the only right answer will be: I did this for You and Your glory. I did this to obey Your commands. I did this seeking to serve You and be faithful with the calling You entrusted to Me. Only these answers will receive the commendation, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”
And so, some of the responsibilities entrusted to elders include: the proclamation of Christ (Acts 18:5); encourage the church (Acts 16:40) by strengthening them in their joy (2nd Corinthians 1:24, Philippians 1:25) and their faith (Acts 14:22) through preaching/teaching (Acts 15:32, 35; 1st Timothy 4:13), reproof, rebuke, and exhortation (2nd Timothy 4:2).
A strong component of the elder’s ministry is to live as an example to be modeled and followed by others (1st Peter 5:3; Philippians 3:17; 1st Timothy 4:12; 2nd Thessalonians 3:7; 1st Corinthians 4:16, 11:1; Hebrews 13:7).
In a practical sense, their role is to protect the doctrine of the church (1st Timothy 4:16), refute those who contradict (2nd Timothy 2:24), teach (1st Timothy 3:3), shepherd and visit the people (1st Peter 5:2), help distribute resources to needy brethren (Acts 11:30), help decide disputed matters between brethren (1 Corinthians 7:5), and oversee (although not actually administer) the financial and physical aspects of the church (Acts 6:2-3).
Likewise, they are to consider (Acts 14:23) and examine (1st Timothy 5:22) and appoint new elders (Titus 1:5) to join them in carrying the burdens of the ministry. In essence, their role and responsibility within the church covers “all that pertains to the Lord” (2 Chronicles 19:11).
While the list and duties of the elders is long and extensive, they do not serve alone. The Lord has also given the church “Deacons”. The term “deacon” literally means “to serve” and may literally come from the word “dia” meaning “though” and “konia” meaning “dust” (hence, “through the dirt”).
Deacons, are those who have a unique gift, not only to serve the body but also to use their gifts of service in such a way as to enable the elders to lead the church (Philippians 1:1). Thus, deacons serve under the oversight of the elders in various capacities depending upon their gifts.
Thus, together these church leaders give an account to God for their role in His work.
We believe the following men have been appointed as elders at WCC and have accepted this accountability to Him: