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 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 and by his Spirit equips them, 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. He 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 among you 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 governing the church in Christ's name. They received this task when Christ entrusted the apostles and their successors with the keys of the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 16:19). Elders are thus responsible for the spiritual well-being of God's people. They must provide true preaching and teaching, 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 showing mercy to the church and to all people. They received this task in the early church when the apostles designated special persons for the work of mercy (Acts 6; 2 Cor.8-9). In Christ's name the deacons relieve victims of injustice. By this they show that Christians live by the Spirit of the kingdom, fervently desiring to give life the shape of things to come. Deacons are therefore called to assess needs, promote stewardship and hospitality, collect and disburse resources for benevolence, and develop programs of assistance. They are also called to speak words of Christian encouragement. Thus in word as well as deed they demonstrate the care of the Lord himself.
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.
Now 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?
Answer [by each officebearer]: I do, God helping me.
The officiating minister shall then say [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. Amen.
Charge to the Elders
I charge you, elders, to "guard 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). 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).
Charge to the Deacons
I charge you, deacons, to inspire faithful stewardship in this congregation. Remind us that "from everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded" (Luke 12:48b). Teach us to be merciful. Prompt us 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 the needs of causes and use the church's resources discerningly. Be compassionate to the needy. Respect their need for dignity; hold in trust all sensitive matters confided to you. Encourage them with words that create hope in their hearts and with deeds that bring joy into their 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.
Charge 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. 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 which 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.