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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The Bible Project

Truly excellent series of brief videos summarizing Bible themes and books. For example,

These videos present very sophisticated theology in easy-to-understand, brief segments. These would be excellent for Bible class or small group study.

For more information, click here. To download HD versions and study guides for free, click here. To donate, click here.

I am totally blown away by both the sophistication of the theology and the skill with which the lessons are taught. These would work for any age, middle school or up. But most adults will learn from any of these videos.

Highly recommended.

WARNING: Highly addictive material. Please do not operate heavy machinery or drive a car while watching.

PS — Even the one on Numbers is fascinating.


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NEEDTOBREATHE: “Washed by the Water”

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Advice to a New Elder: Group Dynamics, Part 1A (Why You Should Call for a Vote)

shepherd3Many years ago — maybe even back in the 1960s — we used to talk about group dynamics. But I’ve not heard that term in a very long while.

Here’s the idea: people in groups act differently from people not in groups. And groups act differently depending on their size.

So this is actually a big deal if you’re an elder — because you are now part of a group. And that group will not act like you — or any other member. It will act like the group — and sometimes the group-ness will get in the way of doing the Lord’s work. And it can be incredibly frustrating unless you recognize why the group does what it does so the problems can be addressed.

This is actually an academic discipline, and materials are easily found via Google. The best resource for a church, in my opinion, is Patrick Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. Buy it. Read it. Study it together with the other elders and the ministers. Then buy, read, and study Lencioni’s The Advantage.

The Advantage covers much more ground than The Five Dysfunctions, but don’t try to save money and time by skipping The Five Dysfunctions. The principles are so important to an eldership that you just have to read The Five Dysfunctions first. It’s an enjoyable, easy read  and very true to biblical principles. And it will enlighten you about why teams work and don’t work. Mandatory reading. Continue reading

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The Mission of the Church: Wrapping Up, Part 6 (Community Disciplines, Part 2)


Eucharist-Mission1Community discipline 3: Eucharist

I’ll be uncharacteristically brief — having covered this before.

  1. Give your small groups permission to take the Lord’s Supper as part of their common meal — a love feast — as well as the congregational Lord’s Supper at the Sunday morning assembly. I personally guaranty you that Jesus won’t be offended that you remembered his sacrifice twice instead of just once. In fact, powerful things will happen if you do this. You might want to plan some assembly time for a testimony or two six months into the change.
  2. Take communion in a joint service with another congregation or congregations. “Love one another” is not bounded by your membership list. Every church in town should feel loved by you — and if you love them, you’ll want to eat with them. And if you want to eat with them, you’ll want to do so in the name of Jesus — which only naturally leads to the Eucharist.

Community discipline 4: Baptism Continue reading

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