Advice to a New Elder: The Preacher/Elders Relationship, Part 2

shepherd3We need to deal with a couple of false doctrines.

False doctrine 1: We shouldn’t hire preachers. There is no authority to hire them. Preachers are bad.

That’s just wrong both doctrinally and practically. There was once a considerable branch of the Churches of Christ for which objection to the “hireling” minister was a defining doctrine. There were lots of debates and discussions on the issue in the early 20th Century. This goes back to the Sand Creek Address and Declaration.

The problem solved itself — because those churches have nearly all died. The few that are left are small and weak.

In modern-day America, we do not know how to be successful without a paid preacher. And you can spout all the theory you want, but this teaching kills churches. We have over 100 years of experience, and the result is dismal failure. Continue reading

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Advice to a New Elder: The Preacher/Elders Relationship, Part 1


[Reposted from 2012]

A reader asks,

Have you written on the issue of elder-led vs. the lead pastor model?  At work, I’m a big believer in the sole leader — follow or get out of the way — model.  I’m not sure that’s what God had in mind for the church. Any practical ideas on governing without squeezing the life and passion out of the staff?

Dear reader,

Here’s where I am in my thinking.

1. The scriptures give us considerable flexibility but elders cannot abdicate their jobs. They can delegate, but they can’t give away ultimate oversight.

2. The preacher should be treated as a near-elder, meeting with the elders as part of the team. He doesn’t get a vote, but that should never matter.

The reason is that, like elders, he visits the sick, teaches doctrine, mentors future leaders, etc. Elders and preachers do the same things, and the elders need someone on staff to coordinate getting their vision into effect. Continue reading

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Printer Shortcut Modified

printiconI’ve had a number of readers ask for a better print feature. Therefore, my brilliant computer coding nephew has kindly re-written the print code so that, when you hit the print icon, you get a clean version of the article but no comments. Should be ideal for printing and binding in a notebook or stuffing in amongst your lesson notes.


PS — You can still print the comments. Just highlight whatever you want to print using your mouse and then right click and select the Print option. It should print whatever you highlighted only — although each browser may be a little different.

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The Mission of the Church: Wrapping Up, Part 9 (Living the Sermon on the Mount in Community, Part 2)


(Matt. 5:43-48 ESV)  43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?  48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

We’ve covered this one several times — but to me, it’s at the core of the gospel. We are saved so that we’ll become like God. The Spirit is given to us so we’ll become like God. Jesus died for us so that we’ll become like God. All this restores us to his likeness and image. It fixes what was broken in Eden. Continue reading

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Advice to a New Elder: Group Dynamics, Part 3 (Search Committees)

shepherd3Among the most important decisions made by elders is who to hire as a minister. Traditionally, Churches of Christ do this by search committee.

I’ve posted a series in the past on the search process. I’ll not repeat those materials here. Rather, I want to talk about how you appoint a search committee.

Here are the rules:

  1. The rules about group dynamics apply to search committees. Don’t pick one too big or else you’ll (a) dump all the work on the chair and (b) empower/force the chair to make every decision himself/herself. It may seem very democratic to let nearly everyone who cares about the hire be on the committee, but it will make for a miserable experience for the members. The meetings will drag on forever and the members will not enjoy their service. It’s almost cruel. Don’t do it. Don’t let it happen. Continue reading
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The Mission of the Church: Wrapping Up, Part 8 (Living the Sermon on the Mount in Community, Part 1)

Eucharist-Mission1Unless I change my mind (which the readers often induce me to do), this is the end of the series (but it’ll be in two parts).

To me, the first mission of the church is to live the Sermon on the Mount with each other, for each other, among each other. The Kingdom is where God reigns, where his will is done on earth as it is in heaven. And that has to start among his people, in his Kingdom. I mean, how can we pray the Lord’s Prayer and not then seek to live the Sermon on the Mountain (SOTM)?

I’ve started a series on the SOTM not too long ago. I’m not going to attempt a detailed exposition here. Just a few points, and then we’re done.

1. The Beatitudes are not be-attitudes. They describe people who should celebrate the coming of the Kingdom. The coming of the Kingdom means that, for example, the prophecies that promised the earth to the meek are coming true. Therefore, the Beatitudes are really more about what the Kingdom is going to be than what we need to become. But, of course, if we look at our churches and we aren’t blessing the poor in the spirit, the meek, the mourning, etc., well, we’ve messed up. Our church is not being true to the Kingdom ideals it was founded for. Continue reading

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Advice to a New Elder: Group Dynamics, Part 2 (Size and Power)

shepherd3Someone has probably sorted this all out scientifically. But here’s something else about group dynamics you need to know: people behave differently depending on the group size.

With a group of four or less, you can have an accountability group. In such a small group, even men will share their fears and frustrations, talk about their marriages and temptations, and otherwise bare their souls in ways that men normally do not do. But never in a larger group.

Why not five or six? Well, four people can sit around a table and talk in hushed tones. Four people can keep a secret. With four people, everyone will have time to talk, and trust can be built with everyone because they are all sharing. Not so with six. Besides, no man wants his business known by more than the dead minimum.

A group of eight can run a church ministry or program — and everyone will have a chance to talk and participate in the meeting — if it’s at least an hour long. If the chair works hard to make sure everyone participates, it can work up to 12. No more.  Continue reading

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The Afterlife, Lesson 6: Eternity

heavenhellToday’s lesson is on the meaning of “eternity” and “eternal” in the New Testament — and how these words don’t necessarily mean “everlasting.”

Download here. Lesson 6: “Eternity”.
Right click and select “Save Link As” to download. (If you left click, it will stream.)

Or stream here:

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The Mission of the Church: Wrapping Up, Part 7 (Community Disciplines, Part 3)

Eucharist-Mission1Community Discipline 5: Party

I admit that “party” is not found in most Bible translations. But the concept is certainly there. We just don’t see it.

How did the father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son deal with the return of his son?

(Lk. 15:22-25 ESV)  22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.  23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate.  24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.  

25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing.”

He had a feast of a fatted calf (in a culture where beef was a rare luxury), played music, and danced. <sarcasm font>Jesus, of course, is opposed to these things — and so why he used them to illustrate the behavior of YHWH, God of the Jews, is more than a little intriguing.</sarcasm font> Continue reading

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Advice to a New Elder: Group Dynamics, Part 1B (Conflicts; Pastoring the Preacher)

shepherd3Dealing with conflicts of interest is one area where business is generally more ethical than churches. Business law says that you can’t vote if you have a conflict — and the conflict has to be disclosed to the group and you may not participate in the deliberations on that topic.

A young man applied to be youth minister at my church. I had acted as his surrogate father at his wedding. He grew up in my house. And I recused myself. I refused to participate in any element of the hiring process. He didn’t get the job, which was a huge disappointment to me. But because I always recuse myself in such situations, he can’t blame me for not getting him the job he wanted (not that he would), and his mother can’t blame me for not bringing her son home.

This is not about being unwilling to face family and friends. It’s about doing the right thing — and no one should ever vote on a matter where he has a personal interest that might keep him from doing what’s best for the church — even if he’s willing to vote against his own best interests. Best to stay out of it so there’s no question and so you can assure the congregation of the integrity of the process. I’d leave the room when the topic comes up for discussion.

(And, no, the elders cannot give you permission to not recuse yourself. If you have any personal integrity at all, you recuse yourself on your own initiative, even if the other elders are telling you it’s not necessary. If you don’t recuse yourself, then you won’t be able to ask the other guys to recuse themselves when they should.) Continue reading

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