Helpful Tidbits for Organic Church Life                                          December 21, 2009
A Brief History of Elders
My Reflections
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amanda_hebrew danceNeed wisdom? Here's a source we often overlook: the elders (i.e., older) of the church. Over the past two weeks, I was reminded why "Paul and Barnabas appointed elders" as they moved from town to town, making disciples, and planting churches (Acts 14:23). I was also reminded that children can be quite competent and shouldn't be relegated to the fringes of our churches. In short, we middle-agers would do well to not view ourselves too highly; God is at work in every generation.

QUESTION/TOPIC IN FOCUS: The wisdom of elders (and the competence of children)
A Brief History of Elders
Excerpted from Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary
In ancient times authority was given to older people with wider experience. These were often considered the most qualified to hold places of leadership. The basic meaning of the Hebrew and Greek words for elder is "old age."
In the Old Testament those leaders associated with Moses in governing the nation of Israel were called "the elders of Israel" (Ex 3:16; 24:1), "the elders of the people" (Ex 19:7), or the "seventy elders" (Ex 24:1). Moses called these elders together to give them instructions for the observance of the Passover before the Exodus from Egypt.
A governing structure similar to the ruling elders among the Jews was followed in the early church. The title elder was continued, but the significance of the office changed. Thus, the term elder is used in the New Testament to refer to the Jewish elders of the synagogue, to the members of the Sanhedrin, and to certain persons who held office in the church. It also implied seniority by reason of age (1 Tim 5:2; 1 Peter 5:5).
My Reflections 
han_dance_groupOn each of the past two Saturdays I participated in Hanukkah celebrations, each well-attended by a network of home fellowships seeking to be Torah observant (basically, that means seeking to live in such a way that one's life "hits the mark").
Although Hanukkah isn't a mandated biblical holiday, it's been good (and fun) for my family to move away from the consumerism often associated with Christmas to the joyful recognition that Jesus is the "light of the world" (Jn 8:12).
Aside from Hanukkah's history and meaning, however, it's what I observed that really packs a punch. Admittedly, when I go to these things I attach a certain stereotype. These people are gonna be old. No, the stereotype isn't entirely accurate, but there is some truth to it. Regardless, when I stop to consider that the man who taught is a physics prof and that another man used to run with the original Kansas City prophets and that one of the women is a concert-quality violinist...I must stop and wonder, Why have all these people, people with large brain-pans and remarkable experiences, gathered here? What do they know that I don't?
pianoAnd then there was the next weekend (last Saturday). We had gathered at an assisted living home for the elderly. Just after the program, some of the children asked me if they could tinker with the piano in an adjacent room. I peaked in; it was a baby grand, probably worth upwards of $10,000. Hesitant, I said, "Yes, but be really careful. It's not a toy." A bit uncomfortable with my poor judgment, I kept my ears open, listening for horseplay. Instead, I heard Linkin Park, Bach, and Chopin coming from the hands of about five children, including my own son.
In short, I was reminded that God is at work in every generation. Elders are an important facet of the church. And children are often more competent that we think.
Hope this was of some benefit to you.

Traver Dougherty
The Banqueting Table