Firstly, it’s good for the church to encourage their elders. Elders need encouragement. The Bible, in fact, commands God’s people to encourage their elders, to respect them, and to show them honor (1 Thess. 5:12–13; 1 Tim. 5:17). But people don’t realize how much we really do need encouragement.
When I speak of elders, I’m speaking not only of ordained pastors but all ordained elders in the church. I would also say that goes for deacons as well. We need encouragement. Too often people think that those of us who are elders, particularly those of us who are preachers, are so bold that we don’t get nervous and we don’t need people’s encouragement, but we need it desperately.
We’re not talking about flattery. We’re not talking about empty words. We’re talking about real encouragement. And in my opinion, the greatest encouragement I can ever receive is when someone says, “I’m praying for you, and for your family, that the Lord would sustain you.”
But to the question, as the church encourages its elders to care for the church and for Christ’s sheep, we have to remember that ultimately they’re not our sheep, as Peter says (1 Pet. 5:2). It’s God’s flock, it’s not our flock. The congregation I serve is not my congregation, it’s Christ congregation. I am a servant of that congregation.
We need to encourage elders to care for us and to love us. The way in which we go about that is very important. If we have a humble spirit and we go about asking our elders to help us, to mentor us, and to disciple us—to take their time with us—elders will often recommend good resources and good books. But for the humble individual who says, “I need help,” for the humble man or woman, or young man or young woman, it might mean that a good and faithful elder may need to appoint someone else. It might mean we need to ask an older woman in the church to come and help serve a younger woman, or an older man to come and help serve a younger man.
But all elders, while they need to be encouraged, also need to be challenged. We need to be above reproach and striving to truly serve and help those under our care. We can’t all do it in the same way, in the same manner, and with the same time and investment, but we need to strive to do what we can to serve and care for those sheep who are under our care. That is our charge, not to serve ourselves, but to serve them. And that means not on our terms, but sometimes on their terms.