This saying is trustworthy: “If anyone aspires to be an overseer, he desires a noble work.” –1 Timothy 3:1
The role of an elder may look a little different than what you might think. To explore what it means to serve and lead as an elder, we spoke with a couple of elders who serve as part of our Administrative Elder Team about their stories and what serving as an elder means to each personally. One shares on camera, while the other shares through written story.
Part 1: Rusty Palmer
Part 2: Dave Halperin
Dave’s faith journey began at a church youth group meeting in early high school. There, he made a decision to follow Christ.
“Although I believe this decision was sincere,” Dave shares, “it was not followed up with any real teaching on how to grow in Christ and godliness. Without any regular time in the Word or guidance to practice other spiritual disciplines, my spiritual growth was stagnant. I remained ensnared in many of the same patterns of sin and was particularly motivated by peer pressure and a desire to fit in. Towards the end of high school, through a painful life event, the Lord began to open my eyes to what biblical Christianity looked like and what it meant to surrender all to Him.
“I joined Navigators my freshman year of college, and I really began to receive solid biblical teaching on spiritual disciplines and spiritual growth. Although there have been ups and downs since, and although it will never be complete this side of Glory, my sanctification journey has made steady progress since then.”
Fifteen years ago, at a church in Ohio, Dave began to consider that the Lord might be calling him to serve in a different way. He knew that elders were responsible to lead and shepherd the local body of believers, but, as Dave explains, he “didn’t know what leading and shepherding looked like in a very practical, nuts-and-bolts, blocking-and-tackling kind of way.”
That all changed when Dave began to learn “that elders are responsible to know, feed, lead, and protect the flock. They are to do these things on both a macro or congregational level and on a micro or personal level.”
For Dave, it took almost a year of prayer and seeking wise counsel before he came to a point where he responded with, “If the Lord wills for me to serve as an elder, then my desire is to faithfully serve Him there.”
“In all transparency,” he says, describing part of his hesitation in the beginning, “then as well as now, I feel inadequate for this high calling. However, His grace is sufficient, and His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor 12:9). If I abide in Him, He will help me bear good fruit in this role (John 15:5).”
Dave delves into what it means to serve on both macro and micro levels, in knowing, feeding, leading, and protecting the flock. “Macro or congregational knowing is done primarily through identifying individual members in our congregation through their profession of faith. This is accomplished through our elder visits with candidates for membership, where we confirm their testimony. This is how we know, on a macro level, the sheep for whom we will have to 'give an account' (Heb 13:17).
“Micro or personal knowing is done primarily through small group interactions – my own small group, the small group leaders and their groups that I oversee, and the men’s group I meet with. I also serve as a faith trainer in the Children’s Ministry, and this has been another great way to get to know our church family on a more personal level.”
He continues, “For me, feeding the flock happens most often in small group and when serving as a faith trainer. Leading and protecting is worked out most often in the context of the broader elder council as well as smaller teams, but also in one-on-one counseling, hospital visitations, elder prayer for the sick, and personal prayer for our faith family.”
Dave feels God working in his life through his time as an elder in more ways than one. He says, “God is certainly teaching humility. I see my own sinfulness and inadequacies magnified as I labor for the kingdom in this role. But probably more so than anything else, my love for the local church has grown over the years I’ve served. Although I will always fall short, my desire is to love the church as Jesus did – sacrificially, with grace and truth, and compassionately.”
As an elder, Dave prays for “wisdom, guidance, and discernment from God to help Brook Hills be the church that He has called us to be.”
“Pastor Matt has done a wonderful job of giving us a vision of what this looks like with the ‘We Are’ series, and our current ‘Life Together’ series builds on that foundation.” Dave adds, “As elders, our desire is to help lead and shepherd our faith family to work out this calling in real and practical ways. There will be many peaks and valleys for us as a faith family along the way, but there is joy in the journey, and our desire is that one day every Brook Hills member will be able to hear Jesus say, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’”
Dave Halperin and his wife, Christine, have been married for over 25 years. They have three daughters, Caitlin, Allison, and Lauryn. They moved to Birmingham from Cleveland, Ohio in 2012, and they became members at Brook Hills in early 2013. Dave currently works as the Director of Operations for a manufacturing company here in town and serves as an elder as well as in Children’s Ministry at Brook Hills.