After sitting through hundreds of elders meetings I can tell there are lots of different kinds of elders out there. All of them deserve respect due to doing a volunteer job that few are ever actually trained to do and the fact that they are serving God. I have worked under some truly great shepherds and also have worked under some really challenging ones.
One of the things I have noticed over the years that was nailed home last week is that far too often elders treat leading the church like leading a secular organization. This is often true from the appointment of elders and what people are looking for in their leaders. People want success and think that people who are successful growing a business must be good leaders in the church. But often that is not the case at all.
The things that make a good business leader don’t always translate into spiritual leadership, much less Jesus’ example of being a leader. In fact, if you ran a business like Jesus it would probably fail. You would have to give away products to all who asked and even give them extra stuff (Luke 6:30).
If you listen to what Jesus said about leadership it also runs counter to worldly business leadership practice. I am speaking very broadly here and very generally…there are exceptions to what I am saying. Jesus said the greatest among you will be your servant, not your CEO.
We need to make sure the culture of our leadership is spiritually minded and discerning. How do you do that?
First – submission rather than domination. Submit to God in everything rather than expand your brand.
Second – Prayer and fasting. There is no movement without prayer and fasting. Church leaders should pray and fast, regularly.
Third – Listen. Pay attention to God, the congregation and the community.
Fourth – Don’t do a single thing unless it honors God, advances the kingdom, makes disciples, or encourages the saints. Sometimes churches try to do too many things and miss the most important things.
Fifth – Reassess your leadership and the processes that put leaders in place to make sure you are actually trying to discern God’s voice (think Acts 13:1-3).
Sixth – Look for the people among you are shepherd people and take note, those are your future elders.
Seventh – Don’t go after your elders on this – they are doing their best and doing all they know to do. They are good people repeating what all the faithful people before them did. They should be appreciated for their service.
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I noticed this the very first time I met with a group of elders in the US. Majority of the elders were successful in different business areas. Elder meetings were like business meetings I had attended in a a professional life.
And yes, there are these “hidden gems.” Men who truly cared about the spiritual needs of the flock they shepherded.
I have always thought that the secular side of a congregation should be carved off from the religious side. There are many business aspects that must be managed well, e.g. property, legal, tax payments, employment agreements, policies, investments, salaries, cash flow management, etc. Elders, of which the minister should be one, should be handling religious matters. Elders tend to manage everything in the list above and little else.
“The secular side of the church” is a term which shows where we are missing the mark, I think. There should not be a “secular side.”
There should not be employment agreements, investments, salaries etc. The early church got along without all of those things much better than we seem to in the 21st century.
That congregations had to “borrow money” from the government to to support payroll, some in the millions of dollars, is the strangest notion ever!
There was a time where all members were ‘ministers.’
Where money was raised to help those in need. Where money was sent to those involved in missions – but who could support themselves, too, when necessary.
Where money was used to support orphans and widows.
Where members opened their homes for gatherings.
“We” now spend the majority of money on real estate and payroll, rather than missions and widows/orphans/needy.
And a minister who should be an elder? And vote on his own pay raises, benefits, performance review??
Churches of Christ, who used the lack of ‘clergy’ as one of the major differences have now taken on professionalism to the nth degree. And then we wonder why we are no longer growing? The professionals are doing the job of ‘ministry.’
As far as missions go, we have made that into a business formula as well. Where do we get the most converts for our buck? And missions, too, has become the realm of the professional!
“We” spend thousands upon thousands for educational materials. Church growth consultation. Head hunters for the next minister.
“We,” too, walk in the way of secularization. With our eyes wide open.
One of the ‘good’ outcomes of COVID? We have seen that the structure as ‘we’ have developed is one of the causes of loss of members.
Rudy when you have property, payrolls, and employees, you must have a secular side. I suggest you join a house church where you won’t have to worry about things like that. And no, I would not have a minster voting on his/her pay but if elders only managed the religious side, this would be a moot point.
Or, we change the way we think about real estate. Maybe, just maybe, we do not need multi-million dollar edifices.
Or six digit salaries for professionals.
Remember, the amateurs did really well! In the meantime, too many of us have forgotten the widows, orphans, the hungry… You see, we cannot afford that, since we have mortgages to pay, payroll to meet…
I do not intend to be sarcastic. But I see we have indeed become ‘just like everybody else.’
Kind of like when Israel wanted a king, just like the neighbors.
Gods, just like the neighbors.
Cultic exercises, just like the neighbors.
“We” now have our professional clergy, just like the neighbors.
And “we,” now, are paying the price for that, just like the neighbors.