Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson report that “we let the data set the agenda, and godly leadership was at the top.”
 Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson, Comeback Churches: How 300 Churches Turned Around and Yours Can Too (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2007), 34.
In the Churches of Christ, it’s all about the elders. Lousy elders produce lousy churches. Great elders produce great churches. Divided elders produce divided churches. Great ministers are vital, but the best ministers in the Churches can’t overcome lousy elders. It’s that simple. Until a church produces a generation of Godly elders, it won’t grow — or if it grows, it’ll growing in a bad way (such as by sheep stealing or becoming cultic).
Now, it’s notoriously difficult to get shed of bad elders. I’ve addressed three series of posts on eldering that would be relevant here —
And for all that, I wish I had an easy answer. I don’t. But let me offer one more answer: one way, perhaps the best way, to fix an eldership is through the adult Bible classes. Here’s what you do (whether you have a great or lousy eldership) —
* Eliminate Br. Jones’ class — you know, the class where the same guy teaches it year after year, generation after generation. Require teachers to rotate among the classes. If you don’t, then each class will have its own theology. You’ll have the liberal class, the legalistic class, and the we-like-Bible-stories class. If you want a church split in a generation, let classes have the same teacher all the time, picking their own material, and teaching different doctrine.
* Teach grace to every class — many times, from many angles. The Amazing Grace series here is one template to work with. I’ve posted a bunch of material here to work with. Maybe you just work through Ephesians, Romans, or Galatians. Maybe you teach a gospel, noting how Jesus’ emphasis is not on doctrinal purity so much as on changed lives — and with heavy emphasis on the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant, and “judge not.” Grace is in all the books. If you’re not teaching grace, you’re not teaching Bible.
* Teach the Spirit. Until you include the Spirit in your theology, it won’t really make sense. And it’s my observation that as people become more aware of the Spirit, the Spirit works more powerfully in them. And ultimately, this is a problem the Spirit needs to fix.
* Don’t let the elders skip class. Well, not much. In some churches they routinely meet during class. They need to be with the sheep, and they need to participate in the teaching through discussion as class members if not as teachers.
* Once the church is prepared through the classes, reinforce the teaching through the pulpit.
I’ve seen it work. After a while, the church will change.
Build a church on compromise, and it’ll fall apart. Build it on grace, and you’ll have a church filled withe gracious, Spirit-filled people. Some will become elders.
This is a hard one for us in the Churches of Christ. We know we’re supposed to pray, but the combination of American self-reliance and Church of Christ Deism makes it hard for us to really believe that prayer works. We believe it, but not in our bones.
By “Church of Christ Deism” I mean the notion that God has never violated the laws of nature — done a “miracle” — since the apostolic age. It’s a gross over-reaction to Pentecostalism, and it’s being more and more loudly taught in some circles. It’s a ridiculous teaching, but it’s led to a culture where we are uncomfortable talking about answered prayers or asking for God to heal those we love.
However, if God really does answer prayers, we’d be nuts not to take advantage of the power of the Maker of the Universe to help us further his agenda. We need to get on our knees and pray. Our people are reluctant to do it — and I think the solution is not a sermon that makes us feel guilty for our lack of prayer but testimonies from people whose prayers have been answered. There’s nothing like evidence to persuade us rationalistic folk.