April 12, 2022
1 Peter 5:1-5 NIV
5 To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: 2 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. 5 In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders.
To the elders among you. . . Much has been made over the centuries of the biblical meaning of this term, “elder,” and how the church should interpret it. It mostly comes down to the leadership structure of the community and the designation of a particular role or position within the community. Some churches designate their “elders” as their ordained leaders. Others make the “elders” a type of board of governance and leadership. Whatever the case, Peter is clearly referencing some kind of leadership structure in the community, noting an official kind of entrustment of a group of people into the care of another person.
I would like to address the issue of “elders” with less specific ecclesial application and a more broad conceptual understanding. Interestingly, and ironically, in all the wrangling over who can be an elder and who cannot, one of the most obvious and important features of the term may have been left behind. Elder actually does mean elder. It means older. Peter, who identifies himself as a “fellow elder” is probably around 60 at the time of this letter. And in case you missed the memo, I recently turned 55. I received a few Happy Birthdays, but no induction into Elderhood. So today, I am officially welcoming myself into the Elder Class.
In celebration of my entry into Elderhood. I am addressing any and everyone 55 and older in the Body of Christ. Some of you are wondering where I got the number. I just decided it. So here’s to you, members of the Elder Class of Saints in the Church Jesus is building—men and women. I address you, like Peter, as “fellow elders.” I recognize I am a mere freshman member of our class of Elders.
To us all, I say it is time for us to stop lamenting the present state of affairs and step fully into the calling Jesus has for us. The calling is not to take ownership, but to humbly claim responsibility. There is a role and responsibility only we can and must play in this Church. This role and responsibility does not begin with our local church. This is not primarily about getting more involved, but becoming more consecrated. It begins with Jesus Himself. He is our first and highest calling. This is about offering as a gift the rest of our earthly lives to Jesus Messiah and the Church He is building.
Local churches are very confused about old people. They think we want to fold bulletins, go on museum tours and attend seminars on aging at the church—and I almost forgot, write checks! And it’s time to stop grouping us into triaged ghettos of the progressively aging. The world trends toward gathering and grouping people according to their inabilities, disabilities and incapacities. Because the Kingdom of Heaven is ontologically distinct from the world, the Church Jesus is building must be categorically different. Everywhere you find the Church Jesus is building it will reveal a DNA of inter-generationality, unearthing a culture of spiritual parenting and grand-parenting.
We must show retirement the door. Sure, you can quit your job, and even move into a retirement village, but you can’t retire in the Church Jesus is building. He is looking to promote you—not to becoming a busier volunteer, but to live from a Shepherd anointing. After sixty or seventy years, you have a flock. It may not feel like a flock but it is. You must learn to shepherd this flock with ever increasing wisdom, love and encouragement to wake up to the real life. And if you don’t have a flock, Jesus stands ready to entrust you with one.
And as we get admitted into the senior class of the Elder years, we are being called to a demonstration of 2 Corinthians 4:16, which says, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”
Old is good. Older is even better. Jesus has not reversed aging. He did it one better. He reversed death. And because Jesus has reversed death, it constitutionally changes the entire concept of aging. As Elders, it is time to step into a whole new relationship with death and dying. We have the opportunity to lead the culture in what it looks like to die well—to go out not with a whimper, but in a blaze of glory, leaving a legacy of life and love. In this way our passing will become awakening for so many of our peers who don’t yet know God—not to mention our children and their children and their children.
Come on Elders of the Kingdom! You may try to dismiss me as an idealistic “freshman” member of the Elder Class. Just know, I won’t stop. I’m coming for you!
Wake up sleeper and rise from the dead. . .
Jesus, you are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. Thank you for the Elders among us, the ones who go before, blazing the trail of sainthood. Lead us into a culture of deep honor and blessing, where the young revere the Elders and the Elders serve the young. Break us out of our silos of sameness and into the rich gift of the intergenerational Kingdom of God. Holy Spirit, spark calling in the Elders among us. Remind us that nothing is wasted. No time has been lost on your clock. You will accomplish your will. Bring us into it more fully. Praying in Jesus’ name, Amen.
Are you an Elder? Does this encourage you or not? Are you ready for new vision? Are you a younger person now? How do you view becoming an Elder? Will you prepare for it?
For the Awakening,
Our Board met this week and we came out with an opportunity for Sower Nation. Organizations like Samaritans Purse, the Salvation Army, and many others are doing important work in Ukraine to relieve the human suffering caused by this unjust war. There are many excellent options for people to donate who may not have a way to be directly involved with Ukrainian leaders whose “boots are on the ground”.
Seedbed senses a call to involvement in a different manner which allows our friends to become personally involved in the caring for the homeless, injured, and traumatized people of Ukraine. As you would expect, we see this through the lenses of sowing for awakening. We are noticing people are becoming more sensitive to the same things that our Lord is crying about. We are sensing signs of awakeing of the global Body of Christ. Therefore, we are looking for people of peace with whom to build partnerships for long term awakening work through this tragedy. Great Awakening has often come to the world out of the ruins of war.
Jesus has led us to such a partner He is deploying as an extraordinary vessel of love on the ground in Kyiv, Ukraine. The Ukraine Evangelical Theological Seminary (UETS) was founded in 1992, has 1,000 graduates from 16 evangelical denominations in Ukraine alone. It is currently the only seminary in the former Soviet Union with both bachelor’s and master’s programs accredited by the European Evangelical Accrediting Association (EEAA). UETS’s president is assistant bishop of the 250-church denomination of the Ukrainian Evangelical Church. UETS has mobilized themselves in profound ways to provide direct relief to so many in dire need. This includes evacuations, food, shelter, medicine, direct ministry to Ukrainian military, and more.
A member of our Board became a partner of UETS in January 2021, long before the threat of war was known. This relationship has resulted in Seedbed having a relationship with “boots on the ground” ministers whose priority has become “to be the John 1:14 (Emanuel) love of God, not just to teach it”. Members of our Board have personally contributed upwards of $250,000 directly to UETS. One of our Board Members has made a match gift of $20,000 for Seedbed to give to this effort. We would like to invite you to join us in this effort, as you sense the leading of the Holy Spirit. 100% of anything given will go directly to UETS. If you give here you will receive a charitable giving receipt from Seedbed.
Expect to be hearing more of the unfolding story going forward. We are working to host a Zoom gathering with the Rev. Dr. Ivan Rusyn, President of the Seminary, to which we will invite any among you who want to join. Watch for details. If you would like to contribute to this work, please use the link here to do so.