Advice to a New Elder: Deacons

shepherd3I once attended a class taught to a group of 50 or so elders from across the Southeast. It was an open-forum kind of class, and the teacher asked what we’d like to talk about.

One elder mentioned “Deacons!” — and the room resounded with amens. Nearly to a man, the elders struggled with what to do with the deacons. Really.

You see, the Church of Christ traditional perspective on deacons has these inherent difficulties: Continue reading

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The Afterlife, Lesson 7, The Rich Man, Lazarus, and Going to Prepare a Room for Us

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 7: “July 24, 2016“.

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

Or stream here:

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Advice to a New Elder: Apologizing

shepherd3You’re a married man. Married to your first and only wife. Therefore, at home, you’ve mastered the fine art of apologizing. (Don’t even try to deny it.) Husbands who’ve managed to stay married to the same woman for 20 or more years know how to apologize.

But I’ve been astonished at the elders and elderships that find this next to impossible. Somehow, some men get the impression that the refusal to apologize is a sign of strength. It’s not. It’s a sign of denial. Self-delusion. I mean, when you mess up — and even the very best elders mess up regularly — apologize. It’s amazing how far a simple apology goes to heal a fractured relationship — and it’s just as amazing at how much damage a refusal to apologize leaves unrepaired. Continue reading

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Advice to a New Elder: A Covenant to Serve

shepherd3Some years ago, when I was first ordained as an elder, the elders asked me to read, sign, and keep a copy of this document. The years have proven the wisdom of asking new elders to do this.

The Bible does not offer a complete set of rules for how elders are to operate. For example, there’s a lack of guidance as to how elders might be removed. This document includes a pledge to resign–and to do so quietly–if asked to resign by the other elders. I think this is a wise and prudent policy.

And it certainly helps to lay out many of the other obligations elders have to each other–to be honest and forthright, to keep confidences, etc. Continue reading

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Advice to a New Elder: Another Way to Do Youth Ministry Campus Ministry Ministry: A Vision for Doing Ministry Together


[This was presented to our congregation a few years ago by one of our elders. I’ve edited the text slightly to eliminate references that would make no sense to those not familiar with our ministers and ministries. This is kind of long, but I thought it best to lay it out as a whole.]

Introduction: Are we facing a crisis in how we understand church?

Many scholars say that we are failing our members and Jesus by how we approach church. While our church’s ministries may be fine (may be what we’re used to), why settle for fine when the Holy Spirit is leading us to become the best church we can be?

To illustrate the problems sparking this crisis, we want to talk first about youth ministry, but this is not by any means just a youth ministry problem. Continue reading

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Advice to a New Elder: Silos

shepherd3I think one of the biggest shortcomings of all churches with more than one minister is the silo-effect.


More than any of the other questions, answering this one will have the most immediate and tangible impact on an organization, probably because it addresses two of the most maddening day-to-day challenges companies face: organizational A.D.D. and silos. Most organizations I’ve worked with have too many top priorities to achieve the level of focus they need to succeed. Wanting to cover all their bases, they establish a long list of disparate objectives and spread their scarce time, energy, and resources across them all. The result is almost always a lot of initiatives being done in a mediocre way and a failure to accomplish what matters most. This phenomenon is best captured in that wonderful adage, “If everything is important, nothing is.”

Lencioni, Patrick M.. The Advantage, Enhanced Edition: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business (J-B Lencioni Series) (p. 119). Wiley. Kindle Edition. (Covered in detail in this series.)

Lencioni also advises nonprofits and churches, and his teachings often apply more and better to churches than to businesses. Churches in particular have trouble focusing on anything. The elders all want a piece of the vision statement, and so a vision statement made by five elders has five points. Continue reading

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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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