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For church leaders - Introduction

Throughout the New Testament Epistles believers are constantly exhorted to love one another, indeed Jesus taught that the world would know we are His disciples by our love for one another.

If one of our number has ‘fallen away’ or is in danger of doing so, none of us should adopt the attitude of the Priest and Levite who refused to get involved in assisting the man who had been ambushed, beaten and left for dead. Whenever one of our brethren has been lured off or negligently strayed from the straight and narrow way, either doctrinally or in their behaviour, we cannot ignore their plight.

Whilst therefore recognising the duty of all believers to one another that responsibility is heightened in the case of Church leaders such as Bible Class teachers and Youth workers.

However I believe that a particular duty of care lies with the elders of the church. In Gal 6:1 Paul tells those who are ‘spiritual’ that it is their duty to restore the brother ‘taken in a sin’.

A few years before my own ‘fall’ I had copied these words of A W Tozer into the flyleaf of my Bible  “The ministry is one of the most perilous professions. The Devil hates the Spirit filled minister with an intensity second only to that which he feels for Christ Himself. The source of that hatred is not difficult to discover. An effective Christian minister is a constant embarrassment to the devil, a threat to his dominion, a rebuttal of his lost arguments, and a dogged reminder of his coming overthrow. No wonder he hates him.  Satan knows that the downfall of a prophet of God is a strategic victory for him, so he rests not day or night devising hidden snares and downfalls for the ministry”.

Sadly and despite my having considered this warning important enough to write in the flyleaf of my Bible, when the devil followed an attack as a ‘roaring lion’ with one in which he approached as an ‘angel of light’ I failed to see it for what it was and fell into his ambush.

Where Tozer uses the word ‘minister’ I think the word ‘elder’ would be more appropriate. An elder serves as a watchman and a shepherd whose downfall would cause havoc among the flock. It is for this reason he is the subject of so much satanic hatred. Gal 6:1 would suggest that he is particularly vulnerable whilst seeking to restore the fallen and must ‘consider himself lest he also be tempted’.

I am aware that different churches have differing forms of government and it is not my place here to debate them. However I do believe it is very dangerous for the man and the flock when a local church has only one recognised elder; as he and they are even more exposed to attack. Should an elder fall, (let he who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall) or start to err, unless he and the flock recognise other elders, who will be there to prevent the flock from being led astray, and who will lovingly point out to him the error of his ways?

I believe elders, who I have already likened to watchmen and shepherds, have a threefold ministry with regard to backsliding.

Firstly elders have to protect their flock from predators who seek to come among them.

Secondly they have to be watchful and protect them from themselves and prevent them from straying.

Thirdly if they have, despite the elders best efforts, fallen into the hands of predators or managed to wander off from the flock it is the duty of the spiritually mature to restore them.

Like the Good Samaritan the task of restoration can be costly in terms of time and resources and is not without risks. In tending the needs of he who fell among thieves, to some degree the Good Samaritan left himself exposed to the villains returning and attacking him.

The signs of backsliding >