About 35 years ago, Frank James made what he called “a snap decision” when his church asked him to consider becoming a ruling elder.
“It may not have been a considered decision,” James said during Wednesday’s inaugural ruling elder luncheon at the 221st General Assembly (2014) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), “but it turned out to be one of the most important decisions of my life.”
James, an attorney and retired Army officer, is a ruling elder at Southminster Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Alabama. His half-hour talk for a roomful of ruling elders was on “Exploring the Continuing Call of Being a Ruling Elder.”
If he’s learned one lesson since his ordination, it’s that “God does not call people to any task without equipping them for that task.” That’s the same lesson Moses learned, James said, after he pleaded with God to find someone else to lead God’s people out captivity.
As he’s served the church at many levels – congregational to national – James said he’s “having a harder and harder time saying 'no' to requests to serve in church leadership positions, even those that require qualifications that I do not possess. If we say 'yes' and take even a small step toward the task, God equips us to finish the task.”
The lesson in that, he said, is that “we cannot allow our sinfulness, lack of knowledge, socioeconomic status or lack of self-esteem to get in the way of God’s call. God does not use perfect people to accomplish God’s objectives. Instead, God uses sinners like me to accomplish them.”
Ruling elders should be both “comforted and inspired,” he said, to see evidence of God equipping them for the journey as they do the work God’s calling them to do.