A Letter to William D. Hyatt from Ray Stedman
December 29, 1990
First, congratulations to you and Yvonne for 25 years together. It is always
great to see couples demonstrating marriage fidelity in these days of quickie
marriages and even quicker divorces! As you know, Hawaii is very important
to Elaine and me as we began our marriage there 45 years ago last October!
We are pleased to hear that you enjoyed your time there.
I apologize for some delay in getting this letter back to you, but I was
given a heavy assignment in writing by Intervarsity Press and was asked
to get a manuscript back to them by Christmas. That meant writing-for 6-7
hours a day in the intervening time, hence my delay.
It was encouraging to me, however, to note your concern for the [PBC] South
eldership. You are quite right that some remedial action needs to be taken
immediately to get the elders back on the track of biblical eldering. You
ask: How do elders actually come to understand where the Lord of the church
is leading it? The answer is basically threefold:
1. By accepting the fact that this is their primary role! This
is the way they are to use their time. They cannot use the excuse that they
have no time for the methods that make this possible, for this is their
major responsibility, given by the Lord himself. Jesus is present at PBC
South and is active in doing exactly what he said he would do: to open doors
for ministering by the people, and close other doors (Cf. Rev 3:7-6). He
has revealed to his apostles how he plans to make those open doors known---by
speaking to and through elders (Titus 15, Acts 20:26-29).
2. Further, his instrument for making known his mind is the Word of God
taught by the Spirit of God. Elders must be constantly studying the Word
and discussing it together: It Is not enough to assume the knowledge they
have gained in the past is sufficient. Light must spring forth from the
Word continually. This studying is to be done individually, by twos and
threes, and corporately at meetings of the elders together When various
issues come before them they are to ask: what principles from Scripture
bear upon this problem? If they haven't time for this then they haven't
time to be elders at all, and ought to resign!
To have the time for this they are to deliberately refuse to get involved
in solving what you call "practical" problems, the nuts &
bolts of running a church. This is clearly the point of Acts 6:2-4: decisions
about maintenance problems, building expansions, painting, carpentering,
organizing an office, etc., etc., must be passed along to deacons (both
male and female) who are qualified by knowledge to deal with such matters
If elders allow themselves to get tangled up with such they are being unfaithful
to the task for which the Lord called them!
Furthermore, what they learn in their studying, they are to teach to others---this
is what Acts 6:4 calls "the ministry of the word" which elders
are to give their attention to. This teaching is directed toward preparing
others to be elders, or preparing them to teach in Sunday School or home
Bible classes, or to minister from the pulpit, or in evangelistic outreaches.
The elders are obviously to the local church what the apostles were to the
church at large. They have the ministry of apostleship, carried on at a
3. With this goes the ministry of prayer (Acts. 6:4 again). This, too, is
an individual ministry and a collective one. Together they are to pray for
wisdom in making decisions, for clarity in understanding Scripture, for
harmony in their meetings and in the church, for healing for those who are
sick, for vitality in worship, for courage to discipline biblically for
power to be manifested in the ministry of the saints. Again, if they haven't
time for this then they haven't time to be elders at all. They must not
allow anyone to take this ministry of the word and prayer away from them
for it is given to them by their Lord and it is to him they must give on
account of their stewardship (Heb. 13:17).
So I urge you to share this letter with the brothers there and take the
steps which the Lord will indicate by bringing about unanimous agreement
to remedy this faulty situation. The church will never be stronger than
its leadership, but if the leadership is faithful the Lord will do great
things among them.
Give my loving greetings to all.
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