When I was a young person growing up in the church in my locality, my father told me more than once that the elders, the leading brothers, are more so slaves than leaders.
Nearly twenty years have passed since I first heard this statement, and I’ve since lived and met with churches in four countries and seven localities. My father’s statement concerning the leading brothers has remained fresh with me this whole time because in my observation and experience, it was true.
It was true when I sat down to fellowship with the brothers in my college locality about attending the Full-Time Training, with self-inflicted feelings of shame and regret because they knew of my wayward history. They covered me in love, never spoke of my past behavior, and sent me with blessing and support.
It was true when I was in the Training and signed up for one-on-one appointments with trainers who gave hours of precious time each week to shepherd all the trainees, brothers and sisters alike, with no judgment or reservation.
It was true after the Training, when I had to make major decisions in my personal life and needed reassurance and guidance – the brothers were always approachable, never belittled me as a female, and never overstepped the headship and leading of Christ.
I am so thankful to the Lord for placing so many fathers and shepherds in the church where I meet today. The apostle Paul instructed the Philippians not only to imitate him, but also to “observe those who thus walk even as you have us as a pattern” (Phil. 3:17).
I’ve observed that the elders and leading brothers serve the Lord “as slaves with all humility” (Acts 20:19) to shepherd the church of God (v. 28), and I am happy to testify that they are my patterns for living out the fragrant humanity of Jesus not only for myself, but for all the saints.