“Overseen not Overlooked”
"For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls."
(1 Peter 2:25)
People need oversight. Employees need supervisors: the workplace with an effective supervisor is more productive. Students need teachers: the classroom with competent teachers creates an environment conducive to learning. Children need parents: homes with loving parents are better in every way. However, in all these relationships there remains the danger of being overlooked. Overlooked employees feel underappreciated; overlooked students feel left behind; overlooked children feel unloved. We have a great need to be overseen but all too often we end up being overlooked instead. In keeping with God's character, he has made abundant provision for his people in this regard.
It is God's will that Christians bind together in "teams" where they live. These "teams," or churches, work and worship the Lord together in unity (Acts 2:42-47). When Paul explained his reason for leaving Titus in Crete, he specified that Titus was to “put what remained (or what was lacking) into order, and appoint elders in every town…” (Titus 1:5). Elders are to act as shepherds and overseers in the local congregation (see 1 Peter 5:1-3 all three terms are used interchangeably). From Titus 1:5 we must infer that a church without elders is lacking and 'out of order.'
When a church appoints elders based upon the godly characteristics Scripture lays out in places like Acts 20, Titus 1, 1 Timothy 3 and 1 Peter 5, that group of Christians is blessed by God. Elders are not expected to be perfect but they are to be mature in their faith. All the attributes listed in Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3 concerning elders, with the exception of being married and having children (1 Tim. 3:2-5), are essential for every Christian to be growing in. So an elder is "not a recent convert" (1 Tim. 3:6) but a mature disciple of Christ. If mature Christians are appointed as elders according to God’s plan then a local congregation enjoys the peace and stability that God intended.
One of the greatest blessings of being under an eldership striving to fulfill their duty is that of oversight. Whereas the evangelist is to keep a close watch on himself and the teaching (1 Tim. 4:16), the overseer is to pay close attention to himself and the flock (Act. 20:28). These ought to be comforting words to us. Don't mistake the watchful and vigilant oversight of our elders for intrusive meddling. These are faithful men who are watching out for us, to encourage and correct us so that we can have the best possible chance to stand in the grace of God on the Day of Judgment. We have the blessing of serving our Lord Jesus under overseers who are busy “keeping watch over [our] souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” (Heb. 13:17) Are we a source of joy or groaning to our elders? It's something to always keep in mind!
When godly men serve as shepherds taking their lead from Jesus (1 Pet. 5:1-5) and saints reciprocate their shepherds' service with Christlike submission and obedience, we are acting out the paradigm of Christ and his church. So then, let us rejoice that God has blessed this church with capable men to serve as our overseers. Let us especially rejoice as we consider Jesus, our chief Shepherd, the perfect Overseer, who guides and comforts us through the dark valley of this life. As part of his flock, take heart that the Good Shepherd knows his own and his own know him (Jn. 10:14; 2 Tim. 2:19) and that we will be overseen but never overlooked.