Elders: The Shepherding Model, Part 1

IShepherd get emails —

I thought I’d get your perspective on what a biblical eldership looks like. Our current elders are using the Lynn Anderson material (DVD, workbooks, etc) “They Smell Like Sheep,” to try to become better shepherds, but it seems there are some on our visioning team (not elders) who feel that the shepherds should be prayer warriors and spiritual counselors/mentors, but should step away from the ‘business’ side of church leadership.

So my question is, what is the leadership structure of your church like? Do you know of any churches of Christ that are leading with either some type of committee, or even staff as its principal ‘business’ leadership while the elders serve strictly in spiritual, prayer, counseling, mentoring roles? How is it working for them? And how did they make the transition to that type of leadership structure?

Thanks in advance, and God bless,

(btw, I love your website, it is such a wealth of information, I read it often. Thanks for taking the time to share that information with the rest of the brethren!)

That’s a really good question. It’s one we’ve been wrestling with at my church for years.  So I have to say in advance that what I say is not the official position of our eldership or church or anyone but me — and I might change my mind tomorrow — or before I finish this post. This is going to be a little scattershot, but it’s the best I’ve been able to do.

There’s a wave of thought in the Churches to go to what some call the “shepherding model,” where the elders become “shepherds” only and the staff picks up much of the rest of the church operations — such as ministry oversight, budgeting, and sometimes even hiring and firing. While theories vary, the gist of the idea is that the elders spend their time in prayer and in counseling and mentoring, while turning the rest of the leadership over to the staff, deacons, or volunteers.

There are in fact congregations that have done this whole hog. Other congregations have moved some elders to a pure “shepherd” role leaving two or three elders to handle the ministries, staff, and money, typically together with the preacher and/or an executive or administrative minister. I think the second structure is more common than the first — as it’s very unusual in the Churches of Christ for the elders to delegate hiring and firing to the pulpit minister or an executive minister. But that’s been done — and sometimes with great success.

Here’s how I’ve got it figured. There are three words used in the scriptures to describe the work of elders.

1. “Shepherd” certainly requires elders to be far more than business managers or a board of directors. Lynn Anderson’s excellent They Smell Like Sheep: Spiritual Leadership for the 21st Century is a great book and argues well that elders must be more involved in the members’ lives and deal with far more than the budget. Amen.

2. But elders are also “overseers,” and that word really means “supervisors.” I’ve checked every use in the Septuagint and the New Testament.

3. And elders are, of course, “elders,” and that word refers to the leaders of the synagogues and, before that, of the Israelite cities. These were men who were a combination of city council and city court. They literally sat at the city gate and decided who could come into the city, and they decided disputes among the inhabitants. During the time of Jesus, the elders of the synagogues had considerable authority, although we don’t have much detail —

(Mat 16:21 ESV)  21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.

(Mat 21:23 ESV) 23 And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?”

(Mat 26:3-4 ESV)  3 Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas,  4 and plotted together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him.

(Mat 27:1 ESV) When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death.

(Mat 27:11-12 ESV) 11 Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You have said so.”  12 But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer.

(Luk 22:66-68 ESV) 66 When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people gathered together, both chief priests and scribes. And they led him away to their council, and they said,  67 “If you are the Christ, tell us.” But he said to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe,  68 and if I ask you, you will not answer.

(Act 4:5-7 ESV)  5 On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem,  6 with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family.  7 And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?”

(Act 24:1 ESV) And after five days the high priest Ananias came down with some elders and a spokesman, one Tertullus. They laid before the governor their case against Paul.

The elders in Jerusalem (presumably, elders of the Jerusalem synagogue) do not come off well in the Gospels or Acts, but they clearly were men of considerable authority and were called on to judge disputes, including religious disputes. The Roman government considered them representatives of the Jewish people.

And yet, despite how badly they come across in the scriptures, Acts calls the leaders of the Christian congregations “elders” with no irony. Indeed, even in Jerusalem the church is led by the apostles and elders — so the church clearly followed some elements of the pre-existing Jewish practice, setting up a parallel system of elders. They could have chosen another word, but Luke prefers “elders” despite his frequent references to the elders in Jerusalem who were enemies of the kingdom.

The idea seems not to be to end the authority of elders, but to have elders who are truly men of God filled with the Spirit, exercising servant leadership as Jesus taught. Of course, the elders of the church would not have any recognition by Rome and would have no political authority. But the church surely used the term intending to continue the ancient practice — although with changes appropriate to the new covenant and the kingdom.

4. Oh, and “shepherd” means shepherd, and shepherds not only comfort and heal and protect the sheep, they lead the sheep to find good food and water. The sheep go where the shepherds lead.

5. Elders are specifically charged with protecting the church against false doctrine (Acts 20:29-31; Tit 1:9). And this seems to be consistent with the Jewish elders of the day.

And so, it appears clear that elders/overseers/shepherds are to have authority in the church and to exercise oversight. However, it’s also clear enough that they can delegate that authority — as in Acts 6, where deacons were appointed to care for the Hellenistic widows, and as Moses had done.

Therefore, elders cannot abdicate their ultimate responsibility, but they can delegate to staff, to members, to teams of members and staff — as the Spirit and wisdom require. So the question is what is wise and where does the Spirit lead?

Delegation

Now, I should add that delegation of responsibility also means delegation of authority and discretion. The elders have to empower those they delegate to to do their jobs without being second guessed and micro-managed, but without capitulating and abdicating. It’s no easy thing.

The wise course, I think, is for the elders to carefully explain to the staff or volunteers to whom they are delegating what they want and what the expectations are — and to then hold them accountable for just that and to not second guess decisions made within the authority delegated.

It’s not that the elders can’t override decisions, but that it’s very demoralizing to people have their decisions overruled when the volunteers were doing as instructed.

On the other hand, occasionally it will be necessary to step in a gently and lovingly make corrections, re-train the volunteers and staff, or even work with them to re-vision the ministry. The elders are ultimately responsible, need to let those things delegated stay delegated, but need to correct sufficiently severe problems before things get entirely out of hand — but they should do this rarely.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
This entry was posted in Elders, Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Elders: The Shepherding Model, Part 1

  1. Alan says:

    And so, it appears clear that elders/overseers/shepherds are to have authority in the church and to exercise oversight. However, it’s also clear enough that they can delegate that authority — as in Acts 6, where deacons were appointed to care for the Hellenistic widows, and as Moses had done.

    I emphatically agree.

    We have two elders (hope to add another soon) and fifteen excellent deacons. If a task looks like business administration, we give it to a deacon. We aggressively delegate, so we can focus on things related to shepherding and teaching — prayer and the ministry of the Word.

    OTOH, even though the elders delegate they can't escape ultimate responsibility. The Holy Spirit made the elders overseers (Acts 20:28), and they can't duck the accountability for that. So they must delegate to reliable people, and must provide the necessary level of oversight to ensure that things are done as they should be. The buck stops with the elders.

    While we don't call the minister / preacher / evangelist a deacon, in many ways he operates like the deacons. However, he meets more regularly with the elders and participates actively in discussions and decisions. The elders delegate a lot of things to the minister.

    Here's an interesting article by J. W. McGarvey providing a pretty good overview of church leadership:
    http://www.mun.ca/rels/restmov/texts/jwmcgarvey/e

  2. How does one exercise "authority" and simultaneously be a servant?

    I'm not disagreeing — but really asking the question to recognize the apparent conflict in the role of elder.

    One aspect of the analogy of "shepherd" is that typically, sheep wander pretty aimlessly. And only when the sheep gets far afield, or begins to wander into a dangerous place does the shepherd intervene.

    It seems to me that authority and servanthood cross at the point of encouraging the flock to "love one another the way Jesus loved us" at every point. And where someone begins to wander from that premise, an elder should stand up and say "whoa, are we sure we're handling this the right way?"

    When I became Chief Operating Officer of a corporation, at first I thought, "finally, I get to make decisions!!"

    Then, I discovered that my role was less about making decisions and more about mentoring my staff to make the same decision I would make, without me having to make it or before they brought it to me. My role came to focus on resolving the conflicts in perspective within the staff.

    — Just another way of looking at it.

  3. Alan says:

    How does one exercise “authority” and simultaneously be a servant?

    It's a tough balance. But Jesus did it!

  4. Clearly he did, Alan. Emulating Him is the challenge, not just for elders, but for each of us.

  5. JamesBrett says:

    the eldership at my sending congregation prefer to be called shepherds — and have delegated most (or all?) business decisions to an administrative committee. their reasoning is here:
    http://stonesriverfamily.wordpress.com/shepherds/

  6. Jim Haugland says:

    We, as Shepherds, have and do struggle with this from time to time, especially when we first became Shepherds. I am interested in seeing the various opinions and suggestions that will be put forward. I have more questions than answers: Should Shepherds/Elders/Overseers (E/S/O) delegate all business like decisions to the staff or lay committees? Does this include how contributions and ministries' budgets are determined? Who has the responsibility for the final approval? Who determines and administers/oversees staff raises (part of the budgeting process)? Who ultimately determines the spiritual direction of the local church, which again includes how the financing of the various ministries are determined to meet the church's mission and vision in the local community (I believe the Sr Minister must be involved in this). If the Sr Minister only decides staff raises is, or should he, involve the E/S/O in these decisions? If he has the delegated responsibility to hire & fire staff, should this be his final decision only (i.e., does he have any responsibility to share and involve the E/S/O? Who decides)? Does all spiritual counseling fall to the E/S/O only? Who decides this should be the responsibility of the E/S/O only? What if a member requests a visit from the Sr Minister or a staff member or teacher? Are they exempt from any spiritual counseling, or visiting the hospitals (many if not most E/S/O work full time)? In larger churches, should E/S/O) be a part of the paid staff in some way? Would that be biblical? Who would he/they report to, Sr Minister or E/S/O or both ? (I think both in a mutual colleagial model). Should the staff and or Sr Minister be the ones who determine what they believe to be the appropriate roles of staff and E/S/O? Who decides this? Could this lead to the staff/Sr Minister only deciding the appropriate roles of the staff and E/S/O? Can E/S/O who work fulltime adequately shepherd? Is it easier for them to just delegate everything to the staff? Is that Shepherding? If the Sr Minister is given the responsibility to manage the staff (hire & fire) what responsibility does he have, or should have, in including the E/S/O in the final decision? If a staff minister is falling down on their job, but is a close friend of the Sr Minister, who decides the outcome if the Sr Minister only is given the responsibility to hire & fire? What should be the Sr minister's view of the role and responsibilities of E/S/O? Are Churches of Christ moving in the direction of one Pastor/staff rule? Is this the right direction today since the first century church's leadership role of E/S/O has arguably changed. It appears to me that denominational churches that have grown the most have a strong minister/Pastor as the leader, who it appears to me makes all the final decisions on budgets, ministeries, spiritual direction, hiring & firing (I could be wrong on this point)? Can this lead to the Sr Minister and/or staff ultimately deciding what they believe to be the role of E/S/O? Is this biblical? Who decides? If the Sr Minister/Pastor is no longer fulfilling his role & responsibilitiy (R/R) who decides they must be replaced and who does this? Should the Sr Minister/Pastor determine his own R/R and who should evaluate him and determine his salary? We have a great relationship with our Sr Minister and staff. He is doing a great job, and we rely on him and give him a very prominent role in the spiritual direction and leadership of our congregation, as I believe it should be if you have the right Spirit led man. He is very conscious, considerate and protective of we Shepherds, as we are of him and the staff. But ultimately, who will stand before the Great Shepherd as responsible for the spiritual maturing and discipline of the church? I think that this consideration is the major reason the Sr Minister should also be a E/S/O, provided he has clearly demonstrated over time to the congregation and the E/S/O that he has been chosen by God, as demonstrated by his spiritual giftedness to serve in this capacity. Will he be judged much as the church's E/S/O anyway, considering the role that they now serve in today's church leadership? I think so.

  7. Jim Haugland says:

    James: Thank you for sharing. We prefer Shepherd also over Elder & defer/delegate many decisions to our Minister of Administration, Sr Minister & other committees which have worked well for us. One of the major benefits of this model is that it forces Shepherds to focus on the main thing: prayer, ministry of the word (Ac 6) & addressing what example of spiritual teaching, member involvement & leadership we are modeling before our members? More than once I have asked myself am I really shepherding? And what does that exactly look like (everybody has an opinion)? And that is very important to contemplate, since we are to be held accountable. When we rely on those we delegate responsibilities to we must depend on their spiritual good judgment if they believe they should involve us or request a meeting with us for discussion, & they have done so (I think it reassuring to Shepherds when those who have been delegated to manage specific responsibilities are also sensitive to the fact that we are to be held accountable), but it is not always easy to determine exactly what we should be directly held accountable for (again everyone has an opinion)? It is too easy to fall into a default secular position of a BOD because that is the secular model of business with which we are all familiar. But, the spiritual "business" of the Lord's body must be different than the worlds, & I believe that there can be/is tension between the flesh & spirit of leadership (we are afterall human) where our adversary seeks to take advantage to cause disunity & division (this also applies to Shepherds & the staff). We must delegate. (We can't nor shouldn'tbe expected to do everything) if others are to grow spiritually who may choose someday assume the responsibility of a Shepherd or we will become just another BOD. The questions I posited are to gain better insight for me from others as to what they understand constitutes biblical spiritual leadership/oversight in support of the churches mission & vision. Our leadership functions very well, in my opinion, but it is not perfect, & we can learn from others who may do some things better. If the leadership of Shepherds, staff or delegated committees are not spirit led individuals who do not truly love the sheep, Satan will weave himself into the mix. The larger a church becomes the more challenging I think Shepherding must become. (I hope I am wrong?)

  8. Jay Guin says:

    Jim asked,

    We, as Shepherds, have and do struggle with this from time to time, especially when we first became Shepherds. I am interested in seeing the various opinions and suggestions that will be put forward. I have more questions than answers:

    Me, too.

    Should Shepherds/Elders/Overseers (E/S/O) delegate all business like decisions to the staff or lay committees? Does this include how contributions and ministries’ budgets are determined? Who has the responsibility for the final approval?

    I think it depends on gifts — of the elders and those available to delegate to. There's no absolute rule. But the elders have final approval authority always. But I think the wise eldership rarely overrules those to whom they delegate.

    Who determines and administers/oversees staff raises (part of the budgeting process)?

    At my church, the elders handle staff raises. I think this is the practice of the vast majority. A few churches delegate this to an administrative committee, often but not always with some elders serving on the committee. Even fewer delegate this to the preacher or an executive minister. Of course, in those cases, the elders have to decide on salary for the preacher and/or executive minister.

    Who ultimately determines the spiritual direction of the local church, which again includes how the financing of the various ministries are determined to meet the church’s mission and vision in the local community (I believe the Sr Minister must be involved in this).

    I think the direction of the church must be set by the elders. How can you be a shepherd and not decide the direction for the flock? That's what shepherds do! But I think the wise eldership makes that a participatory process, including the staff and the congregation where possible.

    In my church, we are about to embark on a series of meetings with church members to discuss the congregation's direction. It'll take a few months, but it's important that the congregation be heard.

    If the Sr Minister only decides staff raises is, or should he, involve the E/S/O in these decisions? If he has the delegated responsibility to hire & fire staff, should this be his final decision only (i.e., does he have any responsibility to share and involve the E/S/O? Who decides)?

    I think the finality of his decisions is up to the elders. If they give him the final say so, then he has it — absent some horrible error in judgment, such as firing a woman for filing a harassment complaint — something stupid like that. The authority of the minister should be made clear up front — but any delegation can be withdrawn if he handles it poorly.

    Our preacher does not have hiring and firing authority, but we involve the entire staff in hiring decisions, as they have to work together after we make a hire. We also involve those members who will be most closely involved, such as key adult volunteers when a teen minister is hired.

    When we fire a minister (other than the preacher), we consult with and advise the preacher. We make sure we've heard his input and counsel, because we respect his views and advice, but we take full responsibility for the decision. It's ours, not his.

    There aren't God-given spiritual laws, but I think they're wise and prudent.

    Does all spiritual counseling fall to the E/S/O only? Who decides this should be the responsibility of the E/S/O only? What if a member requests a visit from the Sr Minister or a staff member or teacher? Are they exempt from any spiritual counseling, or visiting the hospitals (many if not most E/S/O work full time)?

    We have two elders who work on staff, both on a part-time basis. Counseling is divided among staff and elders. We are very fortunate to have semi-retired elders who can handle a large share of the visitation and counseling load, but the ministers carry a very large share due to their fulltime status. Those of us who with fulltime times jobs have limited time for counseling.

    I would never require that all counseling be done by elders. After all, some of our best counselors are women, and every church has a network of informal counseling relationships that has nothing to do with the church office.

    In larger churches, should E/S/O be a part of the paid staff in some way? Would that be biblical? Who would he/they report to, Sr Minister or E/S/O or both ? (I think both in a mutual colleagial model).

    There nothing at all wrong with elders being paid by the church. The scriptures anticipate that possibility.

    (1Ti 5:17-18 ESV) 17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, "You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain," and, "The laborer deserves his wages."

    But I wouldn't have the elders report to the senior minister. He reports to them. An elder doesn't have to be the preacher as well to be paid. He may be paid so he can dedicate his time to counseling and visiting, or to administrative duties, or otherwise work for the church as need be.

    Of course, any one elder answers to the elders as a whole.

    Should the staff and or Sr Minister be the ones who determine what they believe to be the appropriate roles of staff and E/S/O? Who decides this? Could this lead to the staff/Sr Minister only deciding the appropriate roles of the staff and E/S/O?

    Wise elders would ask the preacher for his input on appropriate roles, but the scriptures vest doctrinal decisions in the elders, and the ministers should submit to the elders. "Submit" doesn't mean they can't express their opinions and even confront the elders in a loving, respectful way. They can teach the elders. But ultimately the final decision is with the elders — both the doctrinal element of establishing roles and the oversight element. Overseers oversee. They decide what to delegate and what not.

    The preacher should be a colleagial participant, but ultimately answers to the elders.

    Can E/S/O who work fulltime adequately shepherd? Is it easier for them to just delegate everything to the staff? Is that Shepherding?

    In a church of much size at all, it's hard for men with fulltime jobs and families to also counsel and visit. When I was first ordained as an elder, I tried to make all the funerals — and it was impossible to do even that. But we have a church of 700+. Counseling, visiting, etc. for a large church is much more than a fulltime job.

    Yes, it's easier to delegate to staff, but it would be a mistake. We divide the work.

    If the Sr Minister is given the responsibility to manage the staff (hire & fire) what responsibility does he have, or should have, in including the E/S/O in the final decision?

    It depends on the terms of the delegation are. The elders can insist that they be consulted — or not. I'm sure different churches operate different ways.

    If a staff minister is falling down on their job, but is a close friend of the Sr Minister, who decides the outcome if the Sr Minister only is given the responsibility to hire & fire?

    All delegated authority can be withdrawn. It's delegated, not transferred. Any eldership can always step in when delegated authority is being abused — they just need to do so as rarely as possible as a matter of wisdom and prudence. If they intervene too much, the person they delegated to will soon either quit or refuse to make a decision without asking the elders first — undoing the good the delegation was meant to accomplish.

    What should be the Sr minister’s view of the role and responsibilities of E/S/O?

    Following prayers, study, discussion, and discernment with the elders, the same view as the elders' view.

    Are Churches of Christ moving in the direction of one Pastor/staff rule?

    We are not heading toward the Baptist model. In their model, the pastor has final authority for "spiritual" matters — subject only to the right of the congregation to fire him. I see no tendency in that direction at all.

    Is this the right direction today since the first century church’s leadership role of E/S/O has arguably changed.

    I would not argue in favor of the Baptist model. However, larger churches require that leadership be delegated to more people, or else what needs to be done gets bottlenecked because the elders, as part-time volunteers, just don't have time to do it all themselves.

    While your questions have focused on delegation to staff, it's very important, I think, that the elders delegate much of the work to volunteers where possible. The congregation has to feel ownership of their own church.

    It appears to me that denominational churches that have grown the most have a strong minister/Pastor as the leader, who it appears to me makes all the final decisions on budgets, ministeries, spiritual direction, hiring & firing (I could be wrong on this point)?

    Some denominations are in fact organized that way, but many very large churches have an eldership. But the eldership delegates heavily to the staff, letting the preacher or an executive or administrative minister handle personnel, for example. This is sometimes call the Carver or Policy governance model.

    In that model, the elders would set the church's vision and direction — with input from many other — and then assign the task of running the church day to day to staff — holding the staff accountable for the results. http://www.carvergovernance.com/pg-np.htm describes an approach adopted by many large independent Christian Churches and others. The elders remain very much in authority, set broad policy, set limits, and then charge staff with making it happen. (The article linked is not about churches but nonprofits. Some adaptation would be required.) The point is that the preacher or an administrative minister can be given considerable authority and yet be fully answerable to an eldership that retains ultimate control — and it's been shown to work in very large churches.

    Here's a discussion from a spiritual perspective: http://www.valuesdirectedbusiness.com/articles_vi

    Can this lead to the Sr Minister and/or staff ultimately deciding what they believe to be the role of E/S/O? Is this biblical? Who decides?

    No. The elders decide doctrine and policy. All authority that's been delegated can be taken back.

    If the Sr Minister/Pastor is no longer fulfilling his role & responsibilitiy (R/R) who decides they must be replaced and who does this? Should the Sr Minister/Pastor determine his own R/R and who should evaluate him and determine his salary?

    The preacher (even if an elder) must answer to the eldership and can be fired by the eldership.

    We have a great relationship with our Sr Minister and staff. He is doing a great job, and we rely on him and give him a very prominent role in the spiritual direction and leadership of our congregation, as I believe it should be if you have the right Spirit led man. He is very conscious, considerate and protective of we Shepherds, as we are of him and the staff. But ultimately, who will stand before the Great Shepherd as responsible for the spiritual maturing and discipline of the church?

    The elders bear ultimately responsibility.

    I think that this consideration is the major reason the Sr Minister should also be a E/S/O, provided he has clearly demonstrated over time to the congregation and the E/S/O that he has been chosen by God, as demonstrated by his spiritual giftedness to serve in this capacity. Will he be judged much as the church’s E/S/O anyway, considering the role that they now serve in today’s church leadership? I think so.

    Actually, the more authority you give the preacher, the more important it is that he be answerable to the elders and not be an elder. If the church follows the Policy or Carver governance model, the preacher cannot be an elder. You see, the elders have to be answerable to one another as a team of peers. If the preacher has too many unique powers, it upsets the ability of the eldership to work as a team — and makes it hard for each person to understand his role.

    In short —

    1. Elders should remain ultimately in charge regardless of the model or vision adopted.
    2. But the elders may delegate to staff, a committee, to a subcommittee of elders or elders/staff, to volunteers, etc. — provided (a) they retain the right to un-delegate and (b) they delegate based on the Spirit's giving of gifts.
    3. Elders may be on the payroll if it serves the best interest of the church — and it often will in a larger church.
    4. Elders may even go so far as to delegate day to day management to an employee under the Policy (or Carver) governance model, provided the elders retain ultimate authority and assure that the staff works for the elders and not the other way around.

    If you've had much experience with nonprofit boards, the reality is that the board is often mere window dressing, doing whatever the executive director wants. That's not the model. It's not a good model for churches or nonprofits. Rather, the elders have to set the vision and doctrinal boundaries of the church — but must do so with input from as many people as they can manage. This is part of what it means to be a servant-leader. They don't presume to know all the answers or to have all the wisdom in the church. And they should be humble enough to ask other churches, elderships, professors, etc. for advice.

    One final note. In many presentations I've seen of the "shepherding model," the role of the elders as vision-casters is omitted. It is my view that one of the most important roles of elders/shepherds/overseers is in finding God's vision for the church — although with the input from many others. Indeed, you can't travel long in sheep country and not see that it's the shepherd who leads the sheep to green pastures. The shepherd decides when it's time to move to a new and better location because that's where God has placed the green grass.

    Shepherds lead. And, yes, the bind wounds and protect and shelter the sheep, too. But they are the leaders and can't delegate that entirely away. But they may (and should!) certainly involve others in the process of seeking God's vision.

    You see, if the elders do nothing but tend to the hurts of the sheep, the sheep will ultimately starve. The shepherd has to look outside the pasture to where the flock needs to go as well. An eldership that is solely inward looking, may develop some very loving relationships, but they won't lead the church anywhere.

    But vision ultimately comes from God — not the latest seminar or book or what works so very well at the church in the next town. And wise shepherds would do well to spend considerable time looking for green grass and still water.

    Or to change metaphors, the church is all about service and sacrifice. And elders should be looking for crosses to carry and leading the congregation toward crosses and away from self-indulgence. Because crosses don't look green and still to a sheep. But to a shepherd they should look like the greenest of green pastures and stillest of still waters — because the cross is where resurrection is found. And that leads to Paradise.

Leave a Reply