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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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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