Elders

Pastors and Self-Centeredness… The Social Networking Challenge

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Is it possible that a pastor can be self-focused, self-centered, downright narcissistic and not even know it? I’m certain it’s possible.

I must confess that there was a time in my life when those terms described me and I didn’t realize it. You say, “How can that be?” Because, in this social networking world, what may seem to be the normal way to live life may actually be the avenue through which we feed our own egos. And many pastors are social networking phenoms!

Blogs, Facebook posts, Instragram post, and 140 character Twitter messages may simply be ways to prompt our “audience” to praise us. Each time a blog post gets read, every instance when a Facebook post goes viral, and anytime a tweet catches the eye of the multitudes or a celebrity pastor or denominational leader retweets it, the self-centered pastor gets his fix. And, if we’re addicted to getting a fix of this nature, we are self-absorbed, attention addicts. I understand this well.

I use to watch my klout score closely. If it grew my ego got its daily fix. I checked my blog stats at least four times a day to see how many people had clicked on the content I’d made available to the world. And it wasn’t unusual for me to tweet three times a day then watch to see how many times I was retweeted. While a pastor may not realize it, social networking may be the avenue through which they seek glory for themselves rather than seeking to make Jesus famous. You see, it’s impossible to glorify oneself while at the same time bringing glory to God.

I would like to challenge those of you who pastor and are deeply into social networking to do the following for two weeks. If you do this for two weeks, the level of emotional withdrawals you experience will tell you much about your heart.

The Challenge… Don’t tweet, blog, Instragram, or Facebook for two weeks. During that time, make a note of how often you start to do one of these things and feel discouraged that you can’t. Also, make note of how often you fbranding-forum-kharkov-comeel as though you’re not being heard by your “audience.” And most importantly, when either of these feelings occur, ask God to reveal to you your primary motivation for being a social networking junkee.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with social networking – unless it causes you to be more fixated on building your brand than on building the Kingdom of God.

 

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6 Audacious Guidelines For Elders Aspiring to Unity With the Church Staff

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One of the primary roles of an elder is to promote and model unity to the church body. In many instances, this breaks down when elders and staff members are at odds with one another. So that this tool of the Enemy is never at play, it’s important that the elder body understand their role as it relates to staff members.

The five elder guidelines below, if adhered to, will do much in creating unity between the elders and the church staff team.

Elders must…

  1. Encourage staff members. – When an elder sees a staff member accomplishing Kingdom advancing work, speak words of encouragement.
  1. Protect staff members. – One of the most important roles an elder plays is the protection of the church body. Staff members are part of the church body. When someone complains to an elder about a staff member, the elder should follow biblical guidelines (Matt 18), Step 1) Be certain the complaint warrants a conversation. If the complaint is trite or doesn’t warrant a further conversation or if the complainer is wrong, tell them so. Step 2) If the complaint warrants a conversation, encourage the complainer to speak with the staff member directly. If they refuse, graciously let them know nothing will be done with the complaint and that it isn’t to be discussed with others. Step 3) If the concerned church member goes to the staff member and the issue isn’t resolved, they should take someone with them to speak with the staff member. That person should be the elder they first spoke with. 4) If there is no resolution the elder team should become engaged in the situation.
  1. Execute your role and your role only. – In most instances, elders do not have the primary oversight of the staff team. This is the role of the Senior Pastor and/or Executive Pastor. The elders should only get involved in a staff situation if the staff member has done something that demands church discipline or the Senior Pastor and/or Executive Pastor request assistance or input.
  1. Give advice only when requested. – Most churches seek God intently and have done intensive research prior to hiring a staff member. In almost every instance, the staff members at these churches are extremely effective or they wouldn’t have made the cut. In almost every instance, they know their job better than any of the elders as they have received substantial training prior to arrival and are in the middle of the work on a daily basis. Elders who find it necessary to give unsolicited advice to staff members will become a detriment to the staff member and a deterrent to the unity of the body. When it comes to advice, every elder should envision the door between them and the staff member as having one doorknob, and that doorknob is on the side of the door where the staff member is located. If the staff member opens it, the elder should then feel free walk through it.
  1. Follow the chain of command. – When working as a volunteer in a ministry led by a staff member, an elder should humbly fall under the leadership of the staff member and function as anyone else does who is part of that ministry.
  1. Make the staff member’s job easier. – This should be the goal of every elder as it relates to staff members. If you read through the list above again, you’ll see that, if every elder understands and lives by these expectations, the elder team will not only relieve the tension of staff members and create a beautiful relationship between the elders and the church staff, the elders will also play a key role in growing staff members more and more toward Christlikeness, a lifelong endeavor.

 

Accomplishing Biblical Expectations vs. Aiming at Elder Evaluation

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Elders and Groups Pastors… There’s a cataclysmic difference between accomplishing biblical expectations as opposed to working toward having a positive elder evaluation. That is, if the elders are mostly about numbers.

The role a groups point person serves is a disciple making role, discipling people so they can disciple more people. When we look at Scripture we find this model in the life of Jesus and beyond. Jesus discipled a small group of people, His closest disciples, who would then disciple others who would disciple others. Jesus modeled this so powerfully and purposefully that Paul establishes this paradigm concretely for generations to come. He does this when he tells Timothy that he is to disciple some who disciple some who disciple some (2 Timothy 2:2). The primary role of a groups point person is to make disciples who make disciples.

On the other hand, many elders believe the role of a groups point person is to make sure people stick. The model some elder boards have embraced is a model that took root with the church growth movement and has been firmly established over the last 25 or so years. In this scenario the primary thing a church is to do is to get more and more people to become part of the ecclesiastical machine. In this situation a groups pastor sees their role as helping people make friends and connect with others so that they’ll continue to attend worship services, serve in ministry areas, and give financially to the church. In this paradigm we may well assimilate people into church life without making mature disciples of many of them. Why? We want to make the elders happy. Because of this, we lower the expectations of group members to accommodate those who would never attend a small group if the expectations of a disciple of Jesus Christ were the expectations that were being espoused and expected of those who gather weekly.

Bottom line… Many elder boards have as their mantra to the groups pastor, “Get more people into groups!” Elders, might I suggest a new mantra for you?, “Get more people into groups AND disciple some who will disciple some who will disciple some.” That is, create a two track groups ministry for your groups point person to lead. In order for the groups point person to do this they’ll need to, 1) Continue to place as many guests and church attenders as possible into a group. This is important as this will be the first step for many into a spiritual journey of any kind. 2) Create a second track through which the groups point person can gather a few people who they disciple up close and personal who will disciple some who will disciple some who will disciple some.

Elders, if you’re going to head down this pathway, you’re going to need to reconsider the expectations you have of your groups point person. You can’t ask your groups point person to take on these two essential ministries if you aren’t willing to do three things, 1) If necessary, allow them to be discipled by someone. If someone hasn’t been discipled themselves they will be unable to disciple others. 2) Take some things off their plate. Most of the groups point people I’m in contact with are responsible for an immense amount of non-disciple making/group responsibilities. Making disciples using Jesus’ model is time consuming. 3) Be willing to be discipled yourself. If you’re an elder and you’ve never been discipled, you’ll never understand the immensity of discipleship until you’ve been discipled. And, until you realize the importance of it, you’ll find yourself always wanting more people to stick more than you’re longing for your church to make mature disciples who make mature disciples.

Is There Age Discrimination in Today’s Church?

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Because I work with many churches and church leaders, church leadership headhunters often call me asking if I know of someone’s name they might pass on to a church trying to fill a position. I had been hearing the same request over and again so I asked one of the headhunters this question, “When a church is looking for a senior pastor or staff member, do they tell you what the maximum age is of the person the church is willing to consider?” The fellow on the other end of the line responded affirmatively. I then asked the next obvious question, “What is that age?” When he said the number most churches were verbalizing to him I was dumbfounded. Without hesitation he said, “35” (It was either 35 or 30, I can’t remember which so I’m giving the benefit of the doubt by giving the higher number.). At some point, the average search team makes a decision and writes it down. They have decided that they will only consider someone in the position that is in their mid-thirties or younger.

But this bias isn’t limited to committees. It may be especially troubling when 30 something pastors are hiring their next staff member. I was once sitting with a group of senior pastors. During a conversation about a church in need of a pastor, one of the more vocal, outspoken pastors in the group declared, “I know that church. They’ll never be a growing church because they won’t be able to get a young pastor to come to their church.” The insinuation… Church leaders over 35 are obviously going to be ineffective leaders.

I’m so glad that some of the present decision makers didn’t make the call on some of the most important people in biblical history. Think about it… 80 year old Moses wouldn’t have made the first cut. Neither would Joshua. Joshua was given charge of the conquest of Canaan the last thirty years of his life and he was 110 when he died. Daniel served God from the days of his youth, for over 70 years. Most believe he was over 80 when he was one of the governors over the kingdom of Babylon, was thrown into the lion’s den, prospered during the reigns of Darius and Cyrus, and received visions that are still important to us to this day. Had he had those visions in today’s church culture, he may not have been respected enough to get them published. Even Paul, the most important church planter of all time, the chosen man of God who took the gospel to non-Jews couldn’t get a position in many of today’s churches. In Philemon 9 he refers to himself as, “Paul, an old man…”. Yet we know that during his later years he was still writing, traveling, visiting and encouraging churches, and endured the life of a prisoner on behalf of the Gospel.

Maybe today’s church needs to remember what the Bible promises concerning people of age and maturity who have grown in righteousness.

The righteous flourish like the palm tree
and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
13 They are planted in the house of the Lord;
they flourish in the courts of our God.
14 They still bear fruit in old age;
they are ever full of sap and green,

Psalm 94:12 – 15

Looks like one age group a pastor search team can count on to be effective, at least according to Scripture, are older people who have journeyed with God. The Bible says that they will, “bear fruit in old age”. (vs. 14)

Or maybe today’s church needs to remember that all categories that bring about mental segregation were set aside when the body of Christ was established… 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. Galatians 3:26 – 29

Or maybe it would be wise for those making the next hire to consider a person’s spiritual maturity, ministry experience, spiritual gifts, calling, and passion for the community they’ll be ministering in. When these things are taken into consideration age means nothing.

Most importantly… Maybe today’s selection team should be careful when they speak with their congregation. Oftentimes they say to the church members, “We’re praying and seeking God’s person for this position.” Why should they be careful? Because if the team is limiting God to people under or over a certain age, they may not be seeking the next person God wants to bring to the church. They may be  seeking to present a candidate that fits the view they have in their minds eye, and what we see in our flawed, sin ridden, imperfect mind may look nothing like what God is seeing in His.

The Benefits of An Equal Elder Leadership Model… Day 3 With Dr. Bob Halstead

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Today is the last day of a three day interview with Dr. Bob Halstead. If you’ve been reading the blog for the last two days, you’re aware that moving to an elder system and choosing to be an equal elder has greatly enhanced Bob’s ministry and created a much less stressful situation for him.

Today he talks about the benefits of moving to and equal elder model of leadership.

 

Rick: Bob, if a pastor were to say to you, “I’d never be willing to release the control I need to lead my church.”, what would your response be?

Bob: Rick, I would challenge them to study the Bible on this topic specifically and ask him to do what we did. Each study session we spent sufficient time praying that God would remove our pride, pre-conceived ideas, backgrounds, traditions and agendas so that He could lead us in His direction. He did it all. It was amazing.

Rick: What are the benefits of this leadership model as you’ve experienced it thus far?

Bob: It has been a tremendous blessing. One of the great benefits I have seen is that our spiritual gifts have emerged like never before. Now there is a freedom for each Elder to function fully in his gift with equal acceptance and responsibility.

We have also gained in wisdom, as a group, when there is this freedom to be open and transparent. We have become much more accountable to each other with our lives. This has drawn us closer than ever before. We really do have each other’s back for our good and His glory!

I can’t thank Bob enough for his willingness to be interviewed. His insights and experience have enlightened many and may make a difference in how you lead your church in the future.

Thanks, Bob!!!

How Being an Equal Elder in the Senior Pastor Role Changed a Pastor’s Life… Day 2 With Dr. Bob Halstead

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If you read yesterday’s blog you know that today is day two of a three day interview with Dr. Bob Halstead. Bob is the senior pastor of Eastside Baptist Church in Stockdale, Georgia. Sometime ago he decided to set aside his preconceived notions concerning being a staff and deacon led church. Since then he’s re-engineered his church to be an elder led church.

I believe his insights and experience will be helpful to you. Check it out.

 

Rick: How has the transition to being an elder led church changed the role of “senior pastor” in your mind?

Bob: This has been such a liberating change. I love it. It has taken the weight off my back alone and distributed it on all of our shoulders equally. Through the study we as a staff and now Elders grew so close to each other. That was part of the plan, we believe, from God. We now are accountable to each other for our lives, families and ministries. This is the way God intended it.

I allowed the staff to choose my title since “Senior Pastor” was not going to be my role any longer. They chose Teaching Pastor which is more descriptive on my position in the new structure.

Rick: I’m wondering Bob, do you feel as though you’ve lost the leverage you need to make decisions on behalf of the church body? If so, why? If not, why not?

Bob: No. I feel I have gained a team that now is with me in seeking God’s leadership and will. Think about this, “What are the odds of one man missing God’s direction verses 5 men missing God’s direction?” That is what happened. I think you get the point. This new system is wonderful.

Rick: What do you do when you have an initiative you feel needs to move forward but the equal elder team you’ve put together isn’t on board with you?

Bob: I trust in a sovereign God who can change the hearts of the rest of the Elders or use them to show me that my will or timing was in the way. It is His church and He leads us in His direction and His timing. If we are not unanimous on any decision then we know it is either an “no” or “wait.”

Senior Pastors Giving Up Control, Going to an Equal Elder Leadership Model… My Interview With Dr. Bob Halstead

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A few months ago I had an amazing conversation with Dr. Bob Halstead, senior pastor of Eastside Baptist Church in Stockdale, Georgia. Bob is a humble man, an individual who has chosen to set aside the oftentimes discontenting and overwhelming ideology that the senior pastor and staff team run the church. He moved to an elder led model with him being an equal elder. I think you’ll be blindsided by some of the outcomes of giving up control and giving others equal footing.

This is day one of a three day interview.

Rick: Bob, I understand that you changed your churches leadership structure? Would you mind describing the structure you were using and the structure you’re now using?

Bob: For years we had a staff-led model of leadership at our church. Now we have a elder-led model of leadership where all the elders are equal in leadership and authority. Each elder has an area of minister he gives leadership to and is responsible for.

Rick: How did you come to the conclusion that you needed to restructure?

Bob: With using a staff-lead approach there was a resistance that would rise from the fact that our by-laws were written for a deacon-led approach. Both parties would pick and choose which parts of the by-laws we would ignore or adhere to. With this friction we knew that we needed to revisit the whole polity issue and make a decision as to which style it was going to be and get our people and policies in alignment.

The restructure came out of a 3-year study by the staff and key leaders in the church. We met for 2.5 hours twice a month for 3 years looking in the Scriptures about what God’s word has to say about how the church should function. This was the most exciting study I have ever done in the church. God blessed it in a tremendous way. Most of us had a preconceived idea about how the structure would end up looking and all of us were wrong. The Bible straightened us out. We looked at how scripture depicts the body functioning and what it teaches the leadership should be responsible for. We discovered that both have important roles and responsibilities.

There is much about Elders and how they are to shepherd, lead and administrate the church. Deacons have a helpful and vital role and the body has a great responsibility to seek God’s guidance and discernment then follow His direction. It makes a beautiful picture and partnership when done correctly.

Certainly the Bible leaves a lot of questions unanswered that we would like answers to but the all-wise God gave us a timeless, cross-cultural plan that gives us basics without all the details so that we can adapt His truth to our individual situation.