How “Above Reproach” Lay Elders Saved My Ministry


A special elders’ meeting was called. This time, I, as the senior pastor, was the subject of concern.

Our lay elders had detected flashes of unhealthy, fleshly pride in me. They wanted to nip these things in the bud—things like secretly and unilaterally making ministry decisions I knew our other two staff pastors would object to or avoiding certain difficult pastoral calls because I knew they would cause offense (yes, I wanted to be liked).

There was actually quite a laundry list of offenses. After nine years of ministry in that church, this was the first time I experienced anything close to such a grilling.

As my offenses were enumerated, I felt my blood pressure skyrocket. I had a comeback for each perceived offense. My reflex was absolute defensiveness.

But then I looked into the faces of these four or five men. I knew them. I knew their track records of humble, faithful, loving service in our church. They were the kind of men who, if they slipped in displaying the fruits of the Spirit, they wouldn’t slip for long and would humbly repent. They cared so deeply about their own walks with the Lord and the health of our church. And any serious accusation, if leveled against them, simply couldn’t stick.

These men, though imperfect, were above reproach. I knew that. And now they were unified in confronting me for my foolish pride. By God’s grace, at that crucial moment, I reasoned, “If these men say I have a problem with pride, then I better get to repenting.”

Now, had these men not been qualified elders, it would have been so much easier to go tit for tat with them. And chances are I would have left and sought out a different church “more appreciative of my gifts.”

But there was power in their holy lives. The Lord of the church was speaking through them to get through to a young pastor who thought too highly of himself. I’m forever grateful for that biblical prescription, “An overseer must be above reproach,” as I pastor that same church 21 years later. Without those men, I’m not sure my ministry would have survived.

Gary Kirst

Gary Kirst is the senior pastor of Galena Bible Church in Galena, IL.

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