Free E-Book for You (or a Friend)

Most of you probably did not get up this morning thinking, "I really need to find some good material on leadership in the church!" That is the topic of this free e-book, so let me tell you two things before you tune out.

1) It is important for believers who are not paid or educated for ministry to provide leadership in their church.

Often the overall direction of the church is not determined by pastors, but by the people who appoint pastors and establish policy. Unfortunately, many are sitting back and allowing the pastors to make all the decisions.

You, or someone you know, may be in a position to provide important leadership in your church, even if you are not a pastor or elder. This free e-book can be a useful tool in trying to understand what the Bible says about pastors or elders.

2) You might know someone who is interested in the topic of leadership in the church, so please pass this on to them.

There is a significant movement of people leaving the church, but it is not because they are losing their faith; they are disenchanted with the church. Some are asking questions about how we should "do" church. I don't think anyone should leave regular fellowship with a local church (even though it has problems). But we should be asking what the Bible says about church.

There are also many pastors and leaders who are frustrated and are looking for answers. One of many issues about church is leadership. "How should pastors lead?" "Who should be in charge?" "How many pastors (or elders) should there be?" "What are pastors (or elders) responsible for?"

This free e-book attempts to find answers from the Bible for each of these questions and more!

ONE LAST ENCOURAGEMENT: You do not have to read this whole book to find out what you need to know. This is a pdf version of my Ph.D. dissertation and is therefore quite detailed.

You might want to start with the conclusion and dig in where it seems interesting.

Here is an excerpt from the conclusion:

"That elders in sin are to be confronted demonstrates that the church is not to submit to their leaders blindly. Instead, they are to follow as those who are persuaded (Heb 13:17). Elders and leaders who teach twisted things are not to be tolerated (Acts 20:29–31; Titus 1:9–16). The ultimate basis of the authority of an elder, therefore, is not his office or his authorization to lead and teach. The basis for his authority is the alignment of his life and teaching with the truth of God’s word. While elders have authority de jure of position and responsibility, the primary authority that elders exercise in the community is authority de facto of influence based on sound teaching, wise leadership, and godly character."

Ready to Pray!

A native Indian pastor spoke in our church yesterday. He told stories of amazing answers to prayer and healing. I am challenged by this because I know that God wants to work powerfully in his church to show is love and glory and draw people to himself. He wants to do this here just as much as he does in India. I want to see him work powerfully through me and our church to see many drawn to him. Why isn’t this happening on the same scale in our lives? What is required for God to do this?

Faith, passion, and courage. Faith in who God is, his will and power. Passion for the lost and for God’s kingdom to grow. Courage to obey and love in the face of opposition and mistreatment.

So, what does this mean for me today? What is it that I must do that I am not doing to demonstrate faith, passion, and courage? My first clear thought is this: PRAY. Pray alone, pray with my family, pray with my church, pray with others, pray with the lost. Pray all the time; pray anytime. “You have not because you ask not” (James 4:2).

Transient

As I observe my own life, and the life of our church, I see that we are ready move forward in accomplishing our mission of making disciples. I think of how to obey and how to equip people for doing so. And I already know that prayer is foundational to any such ministry. Please, Lord, teach me to pray!

Ministry Commission and Appointment

It continues to be a great privilege to be a part of and serve our church body, Highland Christian Fellowship. We continue on our original journey of seeking God in his Word about how he intends his church to live and fulfill our mission to make disciples. 

A question we have recently been considering is what the church has traditionally called "ordination," and what we are calling Ministry Commission and Ministry Appointment. Here is an excerpt from a document we are working on that gives the biblical explanation of this important function in God's family.

group-prayer.jpg

"The Bible teaches that all believers are ministers (Eph 4:12). There are times that believers are called to particular types of ministries, whether to a short term mission trip, a particular service that one engages in for his or her entire life, or a position in the local church. The Bible also teaches that the local church is an important part of affirming, equipping, and sending people into ministry.

"Based on biblical examples, there are basically two purposes for what is traditionally called “ordination.”

  • Ministry Appointment – this is an appointment to a particular position of ministry in the church. The two positions described in the NT are for elders and deacons (See Acts 6:1-6; 14:23; 1 Tim 5:22; Titus 1:5).
  • Ministry Commission – this is the commission of a person to a particular type of ministry. The local church is affirming a person’s gifting and calling to ministry and committing to support them in this ministry (See Acts 13:1-3; 1 Tim 1:6; 4:14).

"These actions taken by the local church fulfill the basic legal and cultural understanding of ordination. However, there are reasons why we may choose not to use this term in our church.

  • This term is not used in the NT.
  • This term is used in the OT with reference to succession of leadership and priesthood, which are not good parallels for leadership appointment and ministry commissioning in the church.
  • The cultural understanding of this term also carries ideas related to power and/or clergy/laity distinction that we are not conveying.

"Therefore, we can use the descriptions above, 'ministry appointment' and 'ministry commission.' In both cases, the biblical examples indicate that the local church corporately expresses these through prayer and the laying on of hands."

Moses and Shared Leadership

I am thankful to God this week for two new elders at our church, Highland Christian Fellowship. R.D. Hodges and I have been elders for about four years now. Last Sunday we added Walt Stringer and James Wilkes. It was a long and beautiful process to see our fellowship seek God’s leadership in this (I should write about that, too). I love shared leadership. It is biblical and it makes sense. Having a plurality of elders was one of the primary findings in my dissertation The Authority of Church Elders in the New Testament.

I encountered in my Scripture reading this morning another affirmation of this principle. It is in Numbers 11, which is interesting in light of the fact that some point to Moses as the paradigm for a one-man leadership model.

Moses prayed, “I alone am not able to carry all this people, because it is too burdensome for me” (v. 14). God answered, “Gather for me seventy men from the elders of Israel. . . . I will take of the Spirit who is upon you, and will put Him upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you will not bear it all alone” (v. 17).

Sometimes it is difficult for men to share leadership. They become jealous and prideful. But “Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth” (Num. 12:3). When some men in the camp began to prophesy, manifesting that they also had received some of the Spirit, this bothered Joshua, Moses’ assistant. These men in the camp were not at the tent of meeting, where it seemed to Joshua that the official authorization of this shared leadership was imparted. Joshua said, “Moses, my lord, restrain them.”

How common it is to try to control such things. But Moses responded to Joshua, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!” This demonstrates one of the most important qualities of a leader. His objective is not to have control, do things his way, and have all the leadership, gifting, and honor. His goal is the good of the people. And when more of the people are gifted and active in ministry and leadership, the more blessed and healthy the people are.

Thoughts on Ministry and Money

The following thoughts on ministry and money are primarily a personal conviction, upon which I am basing my own approach to ministry and financial support. I know there are many sincere believer who take other approaches. I submit these ideas for discussion, hoping to encourage reflection and biblical study on the subject.

“You received without paying; give without pay.” Matt 10:8b

A common method local churches use to support their pastors financially is through a salaried position set up through the church budget that is funded by the regular, undesignated giving of its members. I would like to suggest that such a financial set up does not best honor the biblical principles of giving and finances in the church.

The first reason is based on my understanding of what a church would look like that most honors the biblical principles of discipleship, fellowship, and leadership for the church.  As I argued in my Ph.D. dissertation, Scripture indicates that elders are a group of local believers who have already demonstrated their ministry abilities and qualifications within a local church, who are called by God, and who are appointed by the fellowship to be elders. This is in contrast to the common structure in which a single man from outside the community is hired to be the senior pastor.

In addition, a strong argument can be made for the wisdom, benefit, and ministry effectiveness of maintaining smaller, church-starting churches, as opposed to building mega-churches. Some of the reasons that smaller churches are positive include pastor/believer ratio, less need for institutionalization and buildings, conducive for intimacy and accountability, reproducibility, etc. The point for leadership is this: If a group of men were pastors of a relatively small church, sharing shepherding responsibilities, there would be little need for a full time pastor.

It is clear, however, that the local church is called to support those who are ministering the word them (1 Tim 5:17-18; Gal 6:6). I suggest, though, that it is still not best to support such elders and teachers through any type of salary budgeted from the undesignated gifts of believers. Instead, they could be supported through the designated gifts of anyone who is convinced they should support them. Here are the reasons why:

  • Elders are warned in Scripture not to shepherd God’s people for personal gain (Acts 20:33-35; 1 Tim 3:3, 8; 6:5; Titus 1:7, 11; 1 Peter 5:2).
  • Elders are not employees of the church, and the appearance of such should be avoided.
  • The gospel, truth, love, and ministry should be offered freely (Matt 10:8b).
  • The biblical pattern for supporting those in ministry seems to be that the ministry is given first and the support is offered after, based on the ministry (Matt 10:9-11; 1 Cor 9:11).
  • Money can become an obstacle for the gospel (1 Cor 9:12; 2 Cor 11:7; 1 Thess 2:9).
  • Believers who support those in ministry, as with all other giving, should do so freely, out of conviction, according to God’s leading, and in obedience to God’s Word (2 Cor 8:1-12; 9:1-7).
  • Examples of giving in the NT indicate that when believers gave corporately, they were giving to a particular need or types of needs (Acts 2:44-45; 4:32-37; 6:1; 1 Cor 16:1-4; 2 Cor 9:1, 5).

 

Equip All God's People

"The goal of the church is never for one person to be equipped and empowered to lead as many people as possible to Christ. The goal is always for all of God's people to be equipped and empowered to lead as many people as possible to Christ." - David Platt

HCF Covenant

Here is our covenant for Highland Christian Fellowship:

Highland Christian Fellowship Covenant

As baptized believers in the atoning work of Jesus Christ, indwelled with the Holy Spirit of God, and saved through the grace of the Father, we do now, in the presence of God, and this assembly, enter into covenant with one another as one body in Christ. As we are transformed and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we commit to pursuing a life of obedience to the following biblical principles:

  • Live for Jesus Christ and take His commandments and His commission seriously; to offer our time, energy, money, and prayers to participate in and support local and global efforts to make disciples of all nations (Mk 12:30-1; 16:15; Lk 24:47; Mt 28:19; Acts 1:8).
    • Be family; to be committed to each other; to love, accept, and forgive each other. Help one another grow toward Christian maturity by bearing one another's burdens (Gal 6:2), encouraging one another (1 Th 4:18; Heb 10:25), exhorting one another (Heb 3:13), praying for one another, confessing our sins to one another (Jm 5:16), speaking the truth in love to one another (Eph 4:15), admonishing one another (Col 3:16), building up one another (1 Th 5:11), teaching one another (Col 3:16), comforting one another (1 Cor 13:11), submitting to one another (Eph 5:21), serving one another (Mt 20:27-8), patiently bearing one another (Eph 4:2), regarding one another as more important than ourselves (Rom 12:10), caring for one another (1 Pt 4:10), exercising our spiritual gifts to serve one another (1 Pt 4:10), being kind and tenderhearted to one another (Eph 4:32), forgiving one another (Eph 4:32), and loving one another (Jn 13:34-5). Inviting one another to pray for us, teach us, correct us, or rebuke us, if necessary, in a spirit of gentleness and humility, should we stray from our Lord's commands, because the thing we desire most in life is to glorify God and serve Christ. We voluntarily submit ourselves to one another and to the discipline of the Church.
    • Love, honor, and esteem the pastors/elders and to pray for them. (Gal 6:6; 1 Tim 5:17; Heb 13:17)
    • Support the Church in prayer, talents, offerings, and with other financial support and time as the Lord enables. (Acts 2:44-5; 4:34-5; 1 Cor 16:2; 2 Cor 9:6-7; Gal 6:6;  Jm 5:16; 1 Pt 4:10)
    • Maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph 4:3) while respecting and sharpening one another in areas of disagreement; preserving purity of biblical doctrine in primary matters of importance (1 Cor 15:3-5; Rom 16:17; 1 Tim 6:3-5) and exercising generous patience, love, and mutual edification in matters of secondary importance and personal conviction (Rom 14; 1 Cor 8, 10:23-33).
    • Unite with some other church, where we can carry out the spirit of this covenant and the principles of God's Word, as soon as possible if we depart from this place.