Acts 14:23 Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.
This is very much in line with yesterday’s passage. This is about what we would call “lay leadership,” but the distinctions of “lay” and “clergy” didn’t really exist back then. There is no direct mention here of qualifications to be an “elder,” but given the term and the culture, age was almost certainly involved. At the same time, as the saying goes, “There’s no fool like an old fool.” Age alone doesn’t qualify you for anything. Paul goes into detail about qualifications for overseers/bishops and deacons in 1 Timothy 3, and with less detail in Titus 1, but those were written quite some time after this. My guess is that some of the choices of “elders” weren’t ideal! At the same time, I’m sure the “batting average” was quite high, because they were so totally dedicated to and dependent on the guidance of the Holy Spirit. He knows what is in a person’s heart! I’m sure there were some who let their title go to their head, and some who ran from the responsibilities involved in their position, but Paul and Barnabas weren’t depending on the people they were appointing, they were depending on God. He’s the reason the Church still exists today, despite the various unfortunate leaders and horrible policies that have surfaced over the past 2000 years. I’m reminded of the hymn that says, “Built on the Rock, the Church shall stand, even while steeples are falling.” Human organizations and institutions aren’t the main issue, it’s the Body of Christ, and He said He would build His Church. (Matthew 16:18) Individual churches are under terrific attack in various places around the world today, but that is never a reason for despair. Individual churches might disband and buildings be demolished or used for other purposes, but the Church cannot be demolished. In 1973 Bill Gaither wrote The Church Triumphant on this very topic, and he went on to write many, many more songs that have built up the Church for the glory of God. The Church is made up of very fallible people, but our Head is omniscient and omnipotent, and as long as we are connected to Him, we have nothing to worry about.
This is very close to home for me. Not only am I a local church pastor, we are organizationally completely independent. We have no “safety net,” organizationally speaking. I am 73, and do not at this point have a “designated successor.” Actually, I’ve never received as much from the church as I have given in offerings, so I don’t have an income to offer someone. Money had nothing to do with what Paul and Barnabas did here, so that isn’t a genuine issue, however big it might seem to human eyes. The Lord has been intimating for some time that He was going to move me out into wider ministry, but what that will mean is still completely unknown. Paul’s ministry was certainly wide! The prayer and fasting mentioned here are an excellent course for me to take. I am to be very aware of the need for leadership other than me and keep my heart open for whatever the Lord would say, but I’m not to be anxious about anything.
Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You that You are absolutely faithful and reliable. Help me fulfill Your plans in every detail, for the blessing of many and for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!