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."

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.

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"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).

 

Life-Changing Ecclesiology

The following letter is written by my brother-in-law Sean Gossett to his church. It is explanation of how his changing understanding of church leadership and ministry is the basis for seeking to be bi-vocational. It is my conviction that it is important for the church today to seriously compare its current practices with New Testament teaching on church leadership and body life. It is also my conviction that doing so will result in significant changes for the local church and her leaders.

Sean Begins Bivocational Ministry at Springhill

For about three years now, I have been on an exciting journey in my faith. Specifically, I sense that God has been changing my convictions about what makes for a healthy church. Back in October, I met with the elders and shared what God has been doing in my life. I requested a pay reduction and an extra day off during the week to pursue real estate investing. Beginning in January, I will be bivocational at Springhill, devoting part of each week to ministry at Springhill and part to ministry “in the world” through real estate.  My responsibilities at this point will not change.  I will just have fewer hours in the office each week.

I sense that God is directing my heart to simplify church ministry. One observation I’ve made is that staff-generated, program-driven ministry is less “effective” than ministry initiated by the people. Families across our nation are failing to disciple their own children. A major contributor, in my opinion, is the program-driven church. I don’t believe that programs are inherently wrong, but many have traded an ongoing, lifestyle of surrender to Christ’s Lordship for a cheaper version of Christianity, where the chief end is involvement in church activities.  I think this can have harmful effects, as people ease their consciences with church busyness, thinking that they’re doing their duty for God. It is a checking off the “spiritual box” in one’s mind, if you will.

What does this have to do with my decision to leave a career in ministry? If programs are not the focus in the church (and there are less of them), there is no need for full-time staff members because there isn’t enough work in the week for them to do. Is this good? Yes, I think so, because the church becomes less dependent on one or two people. The responsibility and health of the church is spread out. This is the reason that I believe that God has charged a co-equal group of elders to share the responsibility of leading the church – because it is not healthy for one man to do it.

One of the questions I’ve wrestled with is, “Is a career in pastoring wrong? What does scripture say about this?” Though I don’t have a definitive answer to this, it has been important for me to answer, personally, to be sure that I’m not running from something that God “called” me to earlier in life.  While space prohibits a more detailed response, one thing that has been suggested to me is that during New Testament times there was no concept of a career in pastoring. In scripture Paul mentions compensation in ministry, but compensation is different than a career or livelihood earned entirely from the church. There are several implications of this that affect a church’s health.  Most noticeable is the scriptural teaching of sharing the burden of leadership among all church leaders.  Lining my life up with scripture regarding biblical church leadership is a major motivation for me in this entire process.

Another benefit of bivocational ministry will be financial relief for our church. I heard recently that the average United States church keeps 98 cents of every dollar, while only sending 2 cents abroad for missions. Springhill isn’t much different from that statistic. It is my hope that our church will be free to give away more of our resources in the future. I can have a direct impact on that by providing for my own family.

Along this journey, Anna has been my dearest friend and most trusted confidant. I have treasured this journey with her. Also, there have been many godly men who have counseled me in this decision. Their wisdom and input has greatly impacted my thinking. I’m grateful for God’s wise plan for making good decisions in the safety of the community of believers (Prov. 15:22). That said, I’m on a journey with God and don’t have all of the answers. I welcome your questions and discussion and even correction, if I am wrong. My only desire is to line my life up with the Word of God, for the glory of God!

Sean

The Church Without Walls

I recently read this article: “Crazy Passion: Francis Chan Keeps Pushing and Pushing to Make More and More Disciples” by John Brandon in Christianity Today, Oct 2009. I like some of the things I hear about what he is doing. Here are some snippets of the article:

“In church, rather than rehab people, we just put them in a wheelchair and say, ‘We will do everything for you,’” says Chan. “‘You don’t have to witness to your neighbors. We will send out fliers and do TV shows and evangelize for you. You don’t have to counsel your neighbors; just give them the church’s phone number. Now we are saying, ‘You be the discipler. You have the Holy Spirit in you, and we want to equip you to reach your neighbors.'

"Chan’s long-term plan involves building the church without having a building. . . . The experiment is a way to find out how the church can grow without the limits of a building. . . . The structure is intended to encourage authentic discipleship, where small churches birth more small churches as believers grow and mature, attracting new members. Vanderstelt says the main challenge with this approach is that it requires a shift in leadership perspective.”

The vision of our church, Highland Christian Fellowship, is also to establish new, reproducing church fellowships. And I agree that the approach described above "requires a shift in leadership perspective." They were talking about pastors moving away from functioning as "managers or directors of programs." While this must be done, I believe a more drastic paradigm shift must occur. The above model will work better (if at all) if we are willing to have local, native, non-ministry-as-career teams of pastors who shepherd small, reproducing churches.

"The Church is the Church only when it exists for others. To make a start, it would give away all its property to those in need. The clergy must live solely on the free-will offerings of their congregations, or possibly engage in some secular calling. The Church must share in the secular problems of ordinary human life, not dominating, but helping and serving. It must tell men of every calling what it means to live for Christ, to exist for others." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison (thanks Alan)