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Three Reasons Why Spiritual Elders Are Essential for the Christian Walk


“God is so kind to provide us with a local body of believers to point us to Christ. We were never meant to live this Christian life on our own, and, truly, it is impossible to run the race alone….What a gift it is that we have other Christians we can look to who are wiser, more mature, and more seasoned in their faith!”


If you grew up in the South, or in any traditional home for that matter, you’ve likely been encouraged to “listen to your elders.” Whether it’s a charge to obey our parents and grandparents, or to simply seek wise counsel, Christians know that there is much to gain by surrounding oneself with older, more mature believers.

Unfortunately, there is a lost interest among younger Christians to seek counsel and discipleship from their elders. Churches generally neglect to emphasize the importance of such fellowship and, in some cases, even work against it. The product ends up being stagnant believers who struggle with assurance of salvation, apathy, pride, doctrinal error, unwise decision-making, unrepentant sin, and inactive church membership.

The church I grew up in, for example, offers two worship services on Sunday mornings: a traditional service and a “contemporary” service. You can imagine the difference. The traditional service, typically preferred by older Christians, offers a choir, hymns, a pulpit, and lights that are on. The contemporary service, often more appealing to younger Christians, offers a dark room, concert-style worship songs, colored lights, and an iPad stand for preaching.

The problem with this format, obviously, is that the younger Christians cannot know and serve the older Christians, and vice versa. Such a design actually hinders the spiritual need for younger Christians to get spiritual influence from their elders.

Biblically, we are to be in consistent fellowship with elders of the faith. Just as Timothy learned from Paul, Elisha learned from Elijah, and Joshua learned from Moses, we 20-something Christians should be compelled to learn from and emulate the maturity we see in the older believers in our local church. Titus 2 is not only a biblical call for the older Christian to serve and train the younger, but it is also a call for the younger to sit under the discipleship of the older.

Without it, the mind of the Christian is susceptible to being “tossed to and fro” by various doctrine and counsel.

We need our elders. We need them for discipleship and wise counsel, we need them to know how to serve one another, and we need them for spiritual guidance in trials.

Discipleship and Wise Counsel Leads to Humility, Holiness, and Edification

In this Christian life, it is tempting to believe that we have it all together. We think we know what is best for ourselves, and only we really know where we stand in our relationship with God. But the Bible tells us we are deceived. Jeremiah 17:9 says our heart is deceived above all things and “desperately sick.”

Wise counsel from our elders protects us from our pride and humbles us to grow in our faith. Job 12:12 says “Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days.” Older Christians, because of their length of days, have been blessed with trials and experiences to help better be an example to us of how to run the race faithfully, to strive for holiness, and to endure hardship.

Serving the Church Means Serving One Another

Sometimes, especially in larger churches, it’s difficult to know where and how to serve. Greeting church-goers at the door, teaching Sunday School classes, and singing in the choir are ways to serve on the Lord’s Day, but what does it look like to serve one another during the week?

Fellowship with elder believers means serving one another, and if you are being discipled by an older woman in the church, you can learn from her new ways to serve. She may cook for you or bring you various gifts to encourage you. By imparting her wisdom to you and spurring you on in love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24), she is serving you. Ways you can serve her include washing her dishes, calling her, spending time with her, and caring for her physically as she grows weary. Church service doesn’t stop on Monday morning, and fellowship is a sweet, sweet blessing to be enjoyed by Christ-followers.

Wisdom Is Needed in Trials

Trials are a guaranteed part of the Christian life. In John 16:33, Jesus warns us that we will have tribulation in this life, but there is hope. He says: “Take heart; I have overcome the world.”

When trials come, we can have one of two responses: We can run from them, wallow in our sorrow, and reject godliness — or we can rejoice in our suffering, knowing it produces endurance, character, and hope (Romans 5:3-5).

To embrace the latter, it helps to look to our elders who have experienced and endured a lifetime of trials. As the old hymn
“It Is Well With My Soul” goes,

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, let this blest assurance control

That Christ has regarded my helpless estate, and hath shed His own blood for my soul.”

It reminds us that all we need in our troubles is the hope of Christ. Mature believers can not only remind you of this glorious truth, but they can encourage you to trust that, through the trial you are in, God will refine you and mold you to be more like His Son.

God is so kind to provide us with a local body of believers to point us to Christ. We were never meant to live this Christian life on our own, and, truly, it is impossible to run the race alone. We need one another. What a gift it is that we have other Christians we can look to who are wiser, more mature, and more seasoned in their faith!

Follow Reagan on Twitter! @thereaganscott

Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and policy? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page where we’ve published several long-form pieces that will help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.