The reason I wrote the last article in the Beacon Lights is to call your attention to the important place which the consistory occupies in the midst of the church of God. But I want to stress that the consistory is not something with which we as young people need not be concerned. But, even then, I am not really interested now in writing about your relation to your consistory, but I am writing about the problem that often arises in our churches when the annual nomination is made for consistory members. And I am writing about that problem as it concerns us as young people.
The problem has two sides. In the first place, the consistory is often faced with a problem of finding men for the nomination that are qualified for the office of either elder or deacon. In the second place, those whom the consistory considers qualified, do not often feel that qualification themselves. They ask to be left off the nomination because they do not think that they can take on the duties of the consistory properly.
Our young people look forward to take their place in the church as full confessing members. And especially our young men should look forward to an active place in the midst of the church. Part of that activity will be to serve in the consistory, for that is the highest place they can occupy in the church. And therefore, it is a sad commentary on our young people, when they come into the church, and there are no qualified ones among them to serve as office bearers. And therefore, the youthful years can be of utmost importance in their preparation for this.
I am not denying the fact that God calls to office, also the office of elder or deacon. The church belongs to Christ, and Christ is the office bearer in His church, for He alone rules over it. He has the power that is in the sphere of the church. He alone has the power of teaching, the power of ruling, and the power of discipline within the church. But He has chosen to exercise that rule through human men. That does not mean that He relinquishes that rule; but rather that He continues to rule through the agency of the consistory. And therefore, He also calls to office. He calls those whom He has chosen to be the rulers in the midst of His church. But this calling to office, He does through the instrumentality of the consistory itself. That does not mean that He relinquishes the right to call to office, but that He exercises that power through men which He has chosen.
The consistory makes the nomination, and the congregation chooses, as servants of Christ, but according to the qualifications of the office as laid down by Christ in the Scriptures. They pick those men who are the most qualified to function in the office of elder or deacon.
It is a sad situation in the church when the consistory can barely find enough men in the congregation who are sufficiently qualified to function in these offices. That is not the fault of the consistory. They are called to nominate only those who according to the Word of God can fulfill the duties which will be theirs. But it is a sad situation when the consistory feels that men are qualified, and they come to the consistory with all kinds of reasons, not always pertinent, why they should not be on the nomination. It is possible that the consistory is unaware of certain things which would make a man unfit for office, but more than often, the excuses given are not valid.
It is therefore important that we as young people understand what it means to us to take this place in the activity of the church institute.
Therefore, in the first place, we should use the time of our youth as a preparatory course for that calling. All that we have talked about in past articles is relevant here. Societies and Catechism occupy a very important place in the preparation of our life. They occupy such a place, because in their own way, they increase our knowledge of the Scriptures. For to know the truth of God’s Word is above all things important. But our study of God’s Word is not limited to these meetings; but must become a personal matter. To know the truth that we as churches maintain and develop, is above all things important. And in our study, we will then learn the importance, place, and duties of the office bearers in the church. We will understand the calling of these men and the place they occupy. We will know what is expected of us as office bearers and what our duties will be if God calls us to this holy office. It is therefore important that we walk a godly walk. The time to shun the world and to live holy lives is not for some future date, but must begin in our youth. Contact with the world of sin leaves an ineradicable mark upon our souls. Such is not preparation for the holy calling to serve as office bearers in the church of Jesus Christ.
Therefore, to seek the office of elder and deacon is a worthy work. That does not mean that we play politics in the church of Jesus Christ; drum up support in the congregation, and campaign, as an aspirant does, to the office of the President of the United States; but it does mean that we live a spiritual life in the midst of the church, and deeply involve ourselves in the life of the saints with an earnest study of God’s Word, and a sincere desire to serve God in whatever position He chooses to place us.
We would also make a few observations from a little different point of view. When a consistory places a man on nomination for the office of elder or deacon, it is not our calling to come with all kinds of petty excuses why we should not serve. We must remember that the nomination is already in a sense the call of Christ. For Christ calls from the nomination through the church, and therefore those who are qualified to be on the nomination, are also qualified to be called of Christ. That call cannot be lightly ignored or excused. The only question that faces us when we consider this nomination is whether our being chosen to the consistory will hinder the functions of that body and thus be detrimental to the welfare of the church in general.
We may feel that we are not qualified. That is not only natural, but a fruit of our deep realization of the seriousness of the calling. And therefore, that is certainly good, when one feels that he is not able to function. But that one must remember, that when Christ calls to the office of His church, He calls sincerely, and therefore He also qualifies for the office. It is true that if our labors were to be successful, we could never serve. But because Christ calls and qualifies and blesses the labors of His servants, therefore they are fitted and enabled to serve. A petty excuse is wrong.
That does not mean that all men are so fitted to serve in the consistory. There are those who cannot and will not be able to function as elder and deacon. And that does not even mean that it is due to their own unspiritual life. God has never given all the talents to occupy this place. But it does mean that the fault often lies with us. We do not show sufficient interest in the things of the kingdom of heaven and the affairs of the church to prepare ourselves intellectually and spiritually for this office of Christ.
We as young people should realize that this place we may be called to occupy; and that the church of Jesus Christ is worthy of our best efforts, and therefore, our best preparation, which begins in our youth.