When David ascended to the throne of Israel, the people came to pledge their loyalty to the new king. From the tribe of Issachar came "men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do" (I Chron. 12:32). Every society in every generation has a need for wise men to provide needed counsel and guidance. The Church of Christ likewise needs wise men of understanding to help her sort out and find biblical solutions to the never-ending questions that arise to trouble her.
Many years ago when Bro. Furman Kearley became editor of the Gospel Advocate, I heard him say that he was inviting a few older, wise brethren. who had proven themselves by their years of faithful service and accumulated Bible knowledge, to be his unofficial advisors. He described the men he sought as "elder statesmen" of the church. Their standing was unofficial. They were neither elected nor appointed to an office. They had no legal standing or authority over the people. The had only their godly lives, the knowledge of God's Word, their years of faithful and productive service and their obvious wisdom to commend them.
Over the years I have been blessed to know a number of such elder statesmen who understood the times. Among them were Gus Nichols, Franklin Camp, B. C. Goodpasture, Batsell Baxter, Jr., James O. Baird, Hugo McCord, Guy N. Woods, Otis Gatewood and Basil Overton. These brethren were representative of a class of godly men who in their day helped to safely guide the church through stormy seas of controversy. All of the above have now gone to be with the Lord. Today, as before, the church has a desperate need for such elder statesmen.
Men of Understanding Have Common Characteristics
* They have lived and served Christ long enough to gain a large measure of wisdom.
* They are men who for many years have been diligent students of God's Word and know how to handle it aright (II Tim. 2:15).
* They hold a genuine concern, not just for the congregations they serve, or their personal projects, but for the entire brotherhood both here and abroad.
* They have been able to avoid the extremes that have arisen whether on the right or left of true Christianity.
* They are men of good will, optimistic and full of hope. Over the years they have made more friends than enemies. A man who had alienated large numbers of brethren is in no position to rally people, or reconcile them in times of conflict and confusion.
* They are men of broad experience. They have traveled widely among our churches, they have kept abreast of what is happening in the brotherhood both locally and afar.
* They are men of discernment and discrimination (Lev. 10:10). They can see dangers that others overlook. They can distinguish between things essential and things of no consequence. They can see through the sophistries and deceit of false teachers. They can easily spot the con-artists and deceivers that prey upon churches.
* They are men of personal discipline and self-control. They carefully weigh their words. They keep a tight rein on their tempers. They can be trusted with a confidence. They have avoided sinful indulgences.
* They are humble men who do not consider themselves to be great. They seek neither office, recognition nor honor. Their one desire is to serve others (Matt. 20:26-28) and to advance the Cause of Christ.
The church of the 21st century desperately needs such godly men to provide wisdom, counsel and guidance in their troublous time. May we be wise enough to hear and heed the Bible-based advice they offer us.