An assembly of God consists of saints, overseers (elders), and deacons as seen in Philippians 1:1. All in the fellowship have been saved by God’s matchless grace, have been identified with Christ in baptism, and are gathered to His Name as seen in the simple pattern of Acts 2.
In these gatherings of the Lord’s people there are leaders raised up of God to guide His beloved saints. The New Testament refers to these leaders as shepherds, elders, overseers, stewards, and rulers. They have the care of the assembly ever before them, not only for the present, but with a view for the future. Elders are keenly aware that younger elders will be needed for the future to lead, guide, and serve the saints. Scripture will guide the elders in their consideration of future leaders.
With the spread of the gospel in the Acts, precious souls were saved and assemblies planted. These testimonies for God were greatly blessed by the visits and guidance of the apostles. The apostle Paul appointed elders in each company to guide the believers in God’s ways. These men were raised up of God (Acts 20:27) and the apostle acknowledged them as such. Scripture speaks of these men as overseers since they were to watch over the house of God. They would guide, guard, shepherd, care for, and labor among the believers. The saints were to know them and esteem them highly in love for their work’s sake. Thus the harmony of the assembly would be maintained and the testimony blessed.
With the passing of time the elders would need to consider younger men and prepare them for the continuation of the work of God. What should they look for? The men desirable would be marked with the characteristics found in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. They will be men of the Book, holding fast the faithful Word with the ability to teach others. They will be busy men desiring a noble work with a genuine interest in the assembly, willing to work unnoticed and with the elders. They will not be Absalom-like, who appointed himself to the position of judge, and then proclaimed himself king without the direction of God or man. Even though Absalom had followers, his life ended in disaster. They will not be like Lot who should wisely have deferred to Abraham, the older man, in his choice in Genesis 13. That choice resulted in tremendous personal loss. Rehoboam came to the throne of Israel following the years of glory that marked the reign of his father Solomon. The nation was weary of the heavy taxation and other demands upon them. Rehoboam was confronted by the congregation of Israel concerning these heavy burdens. Wisely, he sought the counsel of others. Foolishly he followed the advice of younger men, his contemporaries, and rejected the counsel of older men who were marked by maturity of judgment. The result of that choice was a divided kingdom.
Younger men who will be of great value to God’s assembly will be like a Joshua who was privileged to work with Moses, the man God chose to lead His people. For 40 years Moses provided strong leadership for the Israelites, sacrificing much for the good of the people. In contrast, Aaron was weak as a leader and was swayed by the people. Joshua learned valuable lessons from Moses during those years, particularly at the time Israel worshiped the golden calf. God was preparing Joshua to lead His people into the promised land of Canaan. He trusted and obeyed his God. Paul and Timothy are another example. Timothy labored with the apostle, learned from him (2Tim 3:10), and, when needed, was sent to the various assemblies to strengthen the faith of the believers. The apostle Paul had the greatest confidence in him and said, “I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state.” Joseph and Daniel were both greatly used of God. Through many challenges God prepared them for useful leadership.
We would all agree that older brethren must not make all of the decisions until they breathe their last; younger men must be included. For the younger men, it is imperative to work in harmony with, listen to, and learn from the experienced brethren. There are lessons from Scripture to guide us. We have the example of the perfect Servant Who served His God as none other could. May we seek to follow in His steps. Allow me to lift the words of Ezekiel 22:30 and apply them to our present subject – God said, “I sought for a man.” God is still seeking men to preach the gospel and men to care for His people. May we hear the voice of God through the words of King David so long ago: “Who then is willing to consecrate his service this day unto the Lord?” To those who rise to this honorable work, God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love and will grant a full reward at the Bema.