Congregation of Jesus Christ, today we celebrate God’s gift of faithful leadership for his people. We joyfully thank him for elders and deacons who have served well and have completed their terms of office. And we praise him for providing their successors.
In the officebearers of the church we see the love of Christ for his people. As the Lord of the church he appoints leaders to govern in his name and to promote the spiritual well-being of his people. By his Spirit he equips these leaders so that believers may grow in faith, develop disciplined Christian living, serve others in selfless love, and share with all the good news of salvation. The apostle Paul stated this most clearly when he wrote to the church, “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-13). And Jesus Christ taught us the spirit of true leadership when he said, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:26-28).
Elders serve by exercising oversight of the church in Christ’s name. The apostle Paul told the elders at Ephesus: “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). Elders must provide for the true preaching of the Word, instruction for faith formation for both youth and adults, regular celebration of the sacraments, and faithful counsel and discipline while keeping in confidence those matters entrusted to them. And they must promote fellowship and hospitality among believers, ensure good order in the church, and stimulate witness to all people.
Deacons serve by leading and equipping the church to minister to its members and the world in a rich diversity of ministries, awakening compassion, demonstrating mercy, seeking justice, and collaborating with God’s Spirit for the transformation of persons and communities. In imitation of Christ’s mercy, deacons teach us to love God, our neighbors, and the creation with acts of generous sharing, joyful hospitality, thoughtful care, and wise stewardship of all of God’s gifts. Deacons offer holistic responses that respect the dignity of all people, working to change exploitative structures and systems, equipping the church for ministries of reconciliation and peacemaking, and seeking opportunities for advocacy. To help them accomplish these tasks, deacons are to identify and develop gifts in both the church and community. By adding to all this words of encouragement and hope, deacons demonstrate in word and deed the care of the Lord himself.
The deacons and elders, together with the ministers, are responsible for the -general administration of the church.
These tasks of elders and deacons call for believers who are Christlike, who are mature in the faith, and who exercise their offices with prayer, patience, and humility.
Today we intend to ordain elders and deacons and to install them for terms of service in this congregation. Those appointed to the office of elder are [names]. Those appointed to the office of deacon are [names].
To express your acceptance of these offices, you are asked to stand, and here in the presence of God and his church, to answer the following questions:
Do you believe that in the call of this congregation God himself is calling you to these holy offices?
Do you believe that the Old and New Testaments are the Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and life?
Do you subscribe to the doctrinal standards of this church, rejecting all teaching which contradicts them?
Do you promise to do the work of your offices faithfully, in a way worthy of your calling and in submission to the government and discipline of the church?
[The officiating minister then asks each delegate individually]:
[Name], what is your answer?
[Each delegate responds]: I do, God helping me.
[The officiating minister shall then pray the following or an alternate prayer of his/her choosing (the laying on of hands at this point is optional)]:
God, our heavenly Father, who has called you to these sacred offices, guide you by his Word, equip you with his Spirit, and so prosper your ministries that his church may increase and his name be praised.
[To the elders]
I charge you, elders, as shepherds of the flock, to “hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that [you] can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it” (Titus 1:9). Be a friend and Christlike example to children. Give clear and cheerful guidance to young people. By word and example, bear up God’s people in their pain and weakness, and celebrate their joys with them. Hold in trust all sensitive matters confided to you. Encourage the aged to persevere in God’s promises. Be wise counselors who support and strengthen the pastor. Be compassionate, yet firm and consistent in rebuke and discipline.
Know the Scriptures, which are “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). Pray continually for the church. Remember at all times that if you would truly give spiritual leadership in the household of faith, you must be completely mastered by your Lord (1 Tim. 3:2-7).
[To the deacons]
I charge you deacons, to inspire faithful ministries of service to one another, to the larger community, and to the world. Remind us that the Lord requires us “to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with [our] God” (Mic. 6:8). Teach us to be merciful and to seize new opportunities to worship God with offerings of wealth, time, and ability. Realize that benevolence is a quality of our life in Christ and not merely a matter of financial assistance. Therefore, minister to rich and poor alike, both within and outside the church. Weigh our opportunities for giving and service and use the church’s resources discerningly. Be compassionate to those in need and treat them with dignity and respect; hold in trust all sensitive matters confided to you. Encourage with words that create hope in hearts and with deeds that bring joy into lives. Be prophetic critics of the waste, injustice, and selfishness in our society, and be sensitive counselors to the victims of such evils. Let your lives be above reproach; live as examples of Christ Jesus; look to the interests of others. And in all your ministries help us participate in the renewing of all things even as we anticipate its completion when God’s kingdom comes.
[To the congregation]
I charge you, people of God, to receive these officebearers as Christ’s gift to the church.
Recognize in them the Lord’s provision for healthy congregational life. Hold them in honor; take their counsel seriously; respond to them with obedience and respect; accept their help with thanks. Wholeheartedly participate in the ministries into which they lead you. Sustain them in prayer and encourage them with your support, especially when they feel the burden of their office. Acknowledge them as the Lord’s servants among you.
Do you, congregation, pledge to receive them as you have been charged?
[Answer by the congregation in unison]: We do, God helping us.
Our merciful Father in heaven, we thank you that you have provided faithful and gifted people to serve as elders and deacons. As these new officebearers assume their responsibilities, fill them with your Spirit, endow them with your wisdom, and grant them strength.
Make them faithful workers in your vineyard. Under their guidance may your church grow in every spiritual grace, in faith which is open and unashamed, and in the committed service that promotes your reign in the world. Help them to perform their duties with enthusiasm and humility. In their work, grant them a sense of sustained awe that is rooted in daily adoration of you, their Lord. Through them may your name be honored and your church be served.
Help us, your people, to accept them gladly, encourage them always, and respect them for the sake of your precious Son, our Lord, in whose name we pray. Amen.