By: Barr Overcast, Assistant Pastor
As we draw near to a historic moment in the life of our church, many of you undoubtedly continue to have questions about particularization and the process for determining elders. We want to make sure that everyone understands the process as much as possible, and so we have put together some answers to these “Frequently Asked Questions.” We also welcome your questions about any aspect of the particularization process, which you can submit through this form.
1. Why isn’t the nominee I submitted on the ballot?
In 1 Timothy 5:22, Paul says, “Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands.” Laying on hands is another way of talking about ordination, so Paul is saying that we should be cautious when it comes to who we ordain. One of the ways that we seek to be obedient to Paul’s words is through a three-part process of election. The first step is nominations from the congregation, which we did in the Spring. This is followed by a period of vetting by the church’s session, and the final step is for the candidates to be voted on. This ensures that there is ample opportunity for those who are not ready to be kept from church office.
This means that not everyone who gets nominated will be placed on the ballot. Sometimes this is a personal choice; sometimes the session removes them from the process so that they can work with them on specific things and come back in the future. Don’t be surprised if you nominate someone and their name shows up on the ballot in a year or two.
2. Will we get to know who the other nominees were?
We intentionally don’t advertise how different people faired in the vetting process or even who was nominated. The last thing we want is for a man to feel publicly embarrassed, especially since not passing the examination process is such a common occurrence.
3. Is it okay to be a bit overwhelmed or indifferent during this process?
It is perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed or indifferent in the face of elder elections. For those who haven’t spent time participating in a presbyterian structure of church government, the whole thing can seem complicated and confusing. And if you don’t quite understand what’s going on, the easiest response is often to sit back and just let it happen. Our goal, however, is to educate the church on how this process works and why it is important. We will do our best to explain the process and why we do certain things, but we also welcome and encourage you to ask questions along the way. One of the things it’s important to know is that in the presbyterian government elder elections are one of the few things that members actually get to vote on. Most decisions in the church are made by the elders, which is why this vote is so important. The direction of our church, towards spiritual health or sickness, is set by the men who are elected into the office of elder.
4. How do I know whether to vote for a candidate?
These men have been nominated by members of the church and have been approved by the session. Therefore, if you don’t know an elder candidate very well, it’s perfectly acceptable to trust the wisdom of others and vote “yes.” However, if you have reason to believe that any of these men are not fit for the office of elder, it is your right and obligation to vote “no” for that candidate. You are also encouraged to make any concerns known to the man in question and/or a pastor.
Finally, we encourage you to take time to get to know Jon and Josh as you are able so that you can vote with confidence.
5. What sort of relationship will I have with the elders who get voted in?
These men have passed the elder elections because we believe they are already doing the work of shepherding the people of Christ Redeemer to some degree. We believe that they are already living out the descriptions of an elder given in 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1, and 1 Peter 5; their primary role will be to continue to live out these qualities. With that said, you shouldn’t expect any changes in the way you relate with Jon and Josh. Over time, you will see them leading more visibly at times, but even more so behind the scenes.
However, they will also receive the authority to govern the church upon being ordained. This means that their shepherding, while not being infallible, will carry the weight of those called by God and ordained by the church to protect the flock. As a group, these men will also have the authority to oversee and govern the ministries of the church, and members of the church are called to submit to this authority.