Advice to a New Elder: They Smell Like Sheep, Part 9 (Eze 34 and John 10, Part 2)

shepherd3Now, if we ignore the context of Eze 34, it’s easy to conclude that elders ought to be shepherds (true) and that their primary job is to heal the weak and injured, that is, care for their social and emotional needs (not remotely the point of Eze 34).

I’m not saying that elders shouldn’t undertake pastoral duties. They should. I just protest our abuse of Eze 34 — which is far more about social justice and the impact of Jesus’ reign on the poor than about counseling and comforting.

Now, obviously, the weak and needy of Eze 34 are not merely the poor. It’s everyone who is being exploited and abused by those in power. And this has very little to do with visiting the sick in the hospital or comforting the mourning at the funeral home. Nor does it involve counseling our members on having stronger marriages and being better parents. Elders should do that, too — but God wasn’t angry with the king of Judah because of his poor marriage counseling skills.

And when we misapply Eze 34, we don’t see the lessons that really are there — lessons important enough that Jesus repeatedly refers to this passage in his ministry, not just in John 10. Continue reading

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The Mission of the Church: Wrapping Up, Part 2 (The Hollow Church)

Eucharist-Mission1I’ve told this story before, but it bears repeating.

I’m a lawyer. I represent lots of churches. And several years ago — at least a decade ago — I met with the church leadership for a congregation in another town about to embark on a $20 million construction project. It would easily be $30 million if they built it today.

In the course of our discussions, I needed to ask them about their benevolence program. And the leaders looked at each other rather sheepishly. One spoke up, saying, “We don’t have one.” They looked a bit ashamed, staring at their feet. Then one’s face brightened. “Actually, some years, when we have money left over at the end of the year, sometimes we give some that money to a charity. Does that count?” Continue reading

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Advice to a New Elder: They Smell Like Sheep, Part 8 (Eze 34 and John 10, Part 1)

shepherd3In the last 20 years or so, the “Good Shepherd” passages in Eze 34 and John 10 have been highly influential in our thinking regarding what an elder/shepherd/overseer should do. Some find here evidence that pastoral duties (shepherding) are the exclusive duties of elders, who should spend no time on administration (defined as anything not shepherding) at all.

This is, of course, absurd. The scriptures plainly charge the elders with teaching and refuting false doctrine. And management or administration is not only part of the job of a First Century village elder or overseer, but essential to good shepherding. As Lynn Anderson points out in his They Smell Like Sheep, one reason so many elderships fail to shepherd as they should is their failure to organize and administer as they should.

My life has been blessed by having been personally counseled by Lynn on some of these very issues. My fellow elders and I have twice set up conferences with Lynn to help us sort through some issues, and in the more recent conference, Lynn particularly warned us against abdicating congregational administration and leaving the church without leadership. Shepherding cannot be reduced merely to comforting and counseling. In the ancient world, shepherds led the sheep.

(Many churches have tried having the elders do nothing but shepherding, and the experiment has generally failed. I’ve discussed this with elders who tried and really wanted entire out of administration. But hired staff members and 30-year old deacons are no substitute for the wisdom of decades in the same congregation.) Continue reading

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The Mission of the Church: Creation Care, Part 2 (The New Testament)

Eucharist-Mission1

Col 1:15-23

Christopher Wright quotes,

(Col. 1:15-23 ESV) 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.
16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things were created through him and for him.
17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.
19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,  20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds,  22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,  23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister. 

Wright comments, Continue reading

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Advice to a New Elder: They Smell Like Sheep, Part 6 (inclusive decision making)

shepherd3So how does a too-busy eldership include the congregation in decision making? Well, it depends on the size of the church and the decision being made.

We know from Acts 15 (doctrinal decision) and 1 Cor 5 (decision to withdraw fellowship) that these kinds of decisions were made with congregational participation by both small and large churches. The Jerusalem church likely had more than 20,000 members! And I sure wish the scriptures told us how the apostles managed such a huge congregation, but the scriptures are silent on process.

Let me suggest some approaches (and I’ve participated in all of these at one time or another) — Continue reading

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The Afterlife, Lesson 4, Theories About Where the Saved Are After They Die

heavenhellLesson 4, focusing on where the saved are between their deaths and the return of Jesus.

Download from Lesson 4. Right click and select “Save Link As” to download. (If you left click, it will stream.)

Or stream:

 

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Consumed by Fire: “He Waits for Me”

There’s a place I go
when I need a getaway
there’s a peace I know
that sooths the soul
And this life I’ve found
I know it’s not my own
so when I run to you
it’s like I’m running home

where I find peace
I find my way
down by the water
He waits for me
where I find strength for each and every day
joy in the midst of any pain
I believe down by the water
He waits for me

so if you’re rollin’ the dice
and just tryin to make it through
there are hands that are reaching out for you
and if you’re holding back tears
and just trying to be strong
there’s a place that is calling out for you
this is the place that I’m always running to
yes it is

where I find peace
I find my way
down by the water
He waits for me
where I find strength for each and every day
joy in the midst of any pain
I believe down by the water
He waits for me

yeah
oh there is peace
here down by the water
lay it down
here down by the water
lay it down
here down by the water
He waits
He waits
He waits for me
here down by the water
just lay it down
here down by the water
lay it down
here down by the water
He waits
He waits
He waits for me
here down by the water
There is joy
here down by the water
And there is strength
here down by the water
He waits
He waits

where I find peace
I find my way
down by the water
He waits for me
where I find strength for each and every day
joy in the midst of any pain
I believe down by the water
He waits for me

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The Mission of the Church: Wrapping Up, Part 1

Eucharist-Mission1So it turns out that the mission of the church is a huge topic. How does an eldership respond to this in their leadership of the church? Here are some thoughts. I’m open to other suggestions. After all, I can’t claim to have done all this and seen how well it works in action.

Step 1: Encourage God’s reign within the church

  1. While the atonement, Plan of Salvation, and such like should be preached, these should not be at the center of preaching and teaching to the church. Church is not about going to heaven when you die. It’s about the the Kingdom becoming more fully realized, beginning with the church. It’s about the “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” coming true in your church. It’s about the church learning to live the Sermon on the Mount, Rom 12 – 15, and other central, ethical teachings. It’s about the church becoming the church.
    1. To accomplish this, I’d look closely at the sermons, Bible classes, and small group materials to be certain not only that these kinds of questions are addressed, but that they’re addressed in terms of life in the church as a community, rather than solely as individual virtues.
    2. I’d particularly point out that if we were doing our jobs as leaders, our oldest members would be the most sacrificial, most submissive, and most willing to serve others. I’d make becoming like Jesus a stated goal.

Continue reading

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Advice to a New Elder: They Smell Like Sheep, Part 7 (Boundaries)

shepherd3At last we get to the pastoral part of an elder’s job description. First, a few boundaries —

Power under submission

There is no reason to insist that all elders take on pastoral duties — unless you also insist that all elders teach and all elders participate in administrative decisions.

There is simply no scriptural warrant for putting our understanding of “shepherd” above the equally biblical terms “elder,” “overseer,” “leader,” and “ruler.”

(1 Tim. 5:17 ESV) Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.

BDAG defines the Greek word translated “rule” as “to exercise a position of leadership, rule, direct, be at the head (of).” Liddell-Scott gives “to be set over, be the chief power.” Continue reading

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Josh Garrels: “Hiding Place”

Somewhere out there
Can anybody hear my prayer
Save me

From this dark land
If I had wings
I would fly away from everything
That hurts me and tears me down

Is there a home for a mother and a child
In the world with no place left to hide
We will run though the way is dark and long
We will sing
You’re our hope, you are our song

Lord, take my hand
Lord, help me stand

Days are getting colder
I can see the soldiers marching up to burn us down
I take my mama’s right hand tears are on my face and
She says son it’s time to summon the courage and
Run for your life, child
Flee into the night while
We still have the chance to make it out here alive
Even though we walk through the valley of death you feel no evil
You will survive

Cuz there’s a home for a mother and a child
In this world, only one place left to hide
So we will run though the way is rough and long
And we will sing Alleluia to our God

Lord, you’ve overcome
Lord, lead us home
Lead us home

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