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Our personality is no longer an excuse nor a hindrance, but instead, it is a vehicle in the process of being conformed to the image of Christ.

May 22, 2016 3 2 comments
Discussion Topic

Churches are ready for the next generation to take on leadership roles as deacons, Sunday school teachers, and more. But is this happening? And if not, why?

May 9, 2016 1 7 comments
Discussion Topic

To prepare for the Gathering, participants were given some questions to spark their ideas on ministry and the local church. We thought it could be helpful to pass those questions on to YOU!

May 2, 2016 0 2 comments
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Leadership was that scary monster under the bed for me. Thinking about telling others what to do would wake me up at night in a sweat. So how could a guy like me accept leadership?

May 1, 2016 2 0 comments
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Likely you have heard someone suggest that a certain point of view is correct because they make an appeal such as "I have a friend who..." Sometimes the word 'friend' is substituted by a family member, or a person featured in a video, or a person in a book. Of course the personal connection...

April 18, 2016 0 0 comments
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At a recent symposium, “Speaking Truth in Love: A Forum on Human Sexuality”, convened by the Presbyterian Church in Canada (PCC), one of the speakers, Karla Wubbenhorst surmised that at the root of some of the current debates that are occurring within that denomination, willfulness might be at...

April 5, 2016 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

There are many leadership lessons to be learned in the story of the 1949 Mann Gulch in which 13 firefighters were killed and the story is well told by Norman Maclean in his book Young Men and Fire...

March 15, 2016 0 0 comments
Q&A

I am looking for a resource for Council members at our church to participate in that has a fun, team-building theme. 

January 27, 2016 0 1 comments
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The National Gathering will bring together local ministry leaders for a time of inspiration, reflection on what God is doing in Canada and what God wants us to do next. 

January 19, 2016 0 0 comments
Resource, Conference or Event

In May 2016, churches in Canada will gather to connect and inspire the local church, regional missions, and denominational ministries at the Canadian National Gathering in Waterloo, ON. 

December 22, 2015 0 0 comments
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Youth and young adults have to begin to see that they are NOT the church of the future, they are the church of NOW. They need ownership in the ministries they will be asked to lead.

November 16, 2015 1 0 comments
Resource, Image

Check out this infographic (from Wake Forest) that provides strong traits on what it takes to be an influence not only in the church, but in the community as well.

September 23, 2015 0 0 comments
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I’m ready to go. I’m refreshed and ready but it doesn’t seem the church is ready. Everyone is still on “summer” mode. What do I do with August?  

August 17, 2015 2 0 comments
Resource, Book or Booklet

I just finished what has got to be the best book on leadership I have read yet. Instead of a list of strategies, it was about how our relationship with God strengthens our own soul for leadership.

August 11, 2015 1 3 comments
Discussion Topic

I have a personal passion for leadership and young people. For this reason, I raise the question: What are we doing in our churches to intentionally raise up young Black and Reformed leaders?

July 20, 2015 4 2 comments
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Women in my study, many of whom were exceptionally talented leaders, found themselves relegated to spiritual grunt work based on the idea that women should serve in quietness and submission. 

June 15, 2015 4 3 comments
Resource, Webinar Recording

This webinar explores why a western worldview has caused the Church to often ignore or deny the reality of Satan and the demonic and, in contrast, what a biblical worldview would have us believe about spiritual realities.

May 20, 2015 0 12 comments
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Because both the denomination and individual congregations have limited resources, we get the biggest bang for our buck focusing on pastors. But what about lay leaders? Do they really matter?

April 20, 2015 0 3 comments
Resource, Webinar Recording

This webinar explores how healthy boundaries enhance ministry, how power dynamics influence ministry relationships, and how to avoid some of the common pitfalls.

April 8, 2015 0 4 comments
Resource, Webinar Recording

This webinar is for any Christian who desires to grow in their own capacity to be a grace filled presence in the middle of a challenging exchange.

March 25, 2015 0 0 comments
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As a result of being a church pastor in the same church for sixteen years, I have come to the conclusion that the DNA of church planting is in alignment with the DNA of church renewal...

March 12, 2015 0 0 comments
Resource, Webinar Recording

We all know that deep change in individuals or organizations is rare. This webinar asks, "In these rare instances of deep change, what happened?"

February 18, 2015 1 0 comments
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Is there a business mindset present where profit and loss are looked at; pastoral staff are seen as employees; parishioners seen as customers; and the council as management?

January 19, 2015 2 2 comments
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Shepherds and sheep. Leaders and followers. The Good Shepherd himself spent time being both. Do we teach our leaders how to be good followers? What about our congregations?

December 2, 2014 0 0 comments
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As leaders in the church we can often feel under-thanked. How might we instead develop an 'attitude of gratitude' as we serve those we've been called to lead?

November 12, 2014 0 0 comments

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I doubt that the empiricist feels any compulsion to disprove the miracles of the multitude of religions.   A strict empiricist simply denies them because there is no empirical evidence to support them.  And if there is no support other than opinion or belief, why consider them.  It seems to be a matter for those who believe in a particular miracle or miracles in general to give proof, and not the other way around.  Believing something is true doesn’t make it true. When there is verifiable evidence, I imagine even the empiricist would admit validity.  

Of course, you realize there are a variety of shades of empiricism.  You seem to be talking about the stricter empiricist when talking about empiricism.  I haven’t placed myself in any such categories, but if I were to, I might feel closer to pragmatism which stresses practical consequences.  And I don’t really see much in the area of practicality when it comes to the spiritual warfare espoused by the third wave movement (Pentecostalism).  That’s especially true when we realize that the science of psychology, with a good track record, has tackled the problems associated with what neo-Pentecostals have associated with spiritual warfare.

A Frank Peretti fictional scheme of spiritual warfare may look fantastic on paper, but it’s fictional and doesn’t work in reality.  And the same is true of third wave spiritual warfare. It interesting that our ecumenical creeds don’t touch this topic, and what our confessions have to say is very scant.  And even what our confessions have to say doesn’t fit nicely into the paradigm of the third wave movement. This whole third wave movement is very recent and gets its impetus from a more recent form of Pentecostalism.  And it seems questionable.

Of course, I guess we could go back to the  witch hunts of the 17th century.  They, too, were part of a Christian religious movement (Puritans) that had no grounding in reality or truth.  That’s an example of something thought to be true (with religious grounding) among a segment of Christianity but in actuality belonged to an archaic mind set.  The same could be said for palm readers, sorcery, magicians and witchcraft.  Throughout history, but especially in early history, belief in magic and people possessing magical powers was common.  Even Pharaohs and kings claimed magical and divine powers.  This too, was part of a primitive or archaic way of considering reality.  Perhaps you don’t agree.  But very few political leaders today claim divine or magical powers or insight into reality that others don’t possess.  We’ve moved beyond the primitive cultural perceptions of reality that belong to a past culture. And we can still believe in God.  So yes, Jeff, the Bible was written under the umbrella of an archaic culture in many ways and what was seen was witnessed through the lens of that culture.  That’s similar to the Puritans truly believing that many in their communities were witches and possessed by demons and should be burned at the stake.

One other thing, Jeff.  CS Lewis said (in your quote) he doesn’t deny miracles performed outside of Christianity or even through other religions (pagans).  But I would imagine he (and you) would deny the miracles that confirm the truth of other religions, such as the angel Gabriel being the agent though whom God gave Mohamed the Koran, or the angel Moroni revealing the golden plates (the book of Mormon) to Joseph Smith, therefor making those writings the God inspired writings and therefor without error.  It’s easy to acknowledge miracles if there is no great consequence involved.  We, as Christians, believe, similar to the Muslims and Mormons, that our Scriptures are the inspired word of God and therefor absolutely true.  On what basis do you know that Christianity is the one true religion and that Christ is the only way to God?  And is the reason you give the same reason they would give for believing their religion is the one true faith?

 

It seems that the possible presence of the miraculous or supernatural in other religions is a greater threat to the empiricist that it is to the Christian. 

I think rather than painting all Christians with one brush, you'd have to admit for a wide variety of viewpoints on this subject even within conservative Christianity. For example, this quote from CS Lewis : "I do not think that it is the duty of the Christian apologist (as many sceptics suppose) to disprove all stories of the miraculous which fall outside the Christian records…I am in no way committed to the assertion that God has never worked miracles through and for Pagans.” 

But to return to the original question-- are the miraculous and supernatural elements of the New Testament accounts archaic, or simply not in line with a modernistic worldview?

CS Lewis can speak of a “chronological snobbery,” but Christians have their own form of snobbery.  Christians can speak of their religion as though it is the only valid religion in existence.  Christianity considers itself as the exclusive religion, and other religions do the same. Religions tend to be mutually exclusive, but none more than Christianity. That’s the height of snobbery.  So when it comes to the miracles of other religions (miracles that are central to their faith) we, as Christians, discount them as groundless, unrealistic or unreasonable. Just consider how we view the many so called miracles of the Mormon religion or the Islamic faith.  And, of course, their miracles are backed up in their Scriptures which are fully inspired by God, like our Scriptures.  So how can we claim, we’re right and you’re wrong?   But didn’t you say, Jeff, that Christianity at its core is irreducibly miraculous.   It would seem that Christians use the same principles, to discount the miracles of other religions (and therefor those religions themselves), that these so called modernists use to discount Christianity’s miracles.  But, all the while. we claim that our miracles (which are central to our religion) are valid and should not be called into question.

We think modern science is unreasonable to call into question Christian claims (such as the six day creation account).  This is another example of Christian arrogance.  Christianity is not the only religion that has miraculous religious creation accounts.  Are scientists suppose deal with all the differing religions one at time.  Why is it that Christians think that their view of a miraculous creation is the only valid account and only one capable of standing up to the science of today?  Isn’t this another example of our snobbery?

Or as Christians, we send our missionaries into Islamic countries in order to get Muslims to change religions, even when it may mean they will suffer terrible persecution.  Isn’t this part of our Christian arrogance?  Our religion is not just better than yours, but ours is the only true religion and your is a false religion.  “So change and suffer. You’ll be better off.”

From inside our box of Christianity, we don’t think we are arrogant or snobs.  But from the outside we are seen as the epitome of snobbery.   So it doesn’t really do much good for CS Lewis or other Christians to criticize when the mud is really on our own faces.

You are right Jeff, everything old is not necessarily bad or outdated.  But, at the same time, there is much that is old or very old that is archaic or primitive.  And this whole spiritual warfare movement represents a first century mentality or world view that is archaic.  The fact that there is no objective verification for it confirms it’s primitive nature.  I did like the movie, “Ghost Busters,” but I’m not ready to claim that it represents reality.

Roger,

Granted. It just seems that there is a sense of what CS Lewis would call "chronological snobbery" in your earlier comments, the thought that because something is old it is therefore bad or discredited. Simply because something is ancient doesn't therefore mean that is archaic. Has modernity progressed in some ways? Certainly, but at the same time what is termed " reasonable" according to modernity is also often very reductionistic. The resurrection may seem very unreasonable to a modern worldview, but that may be more a judgment on the worldview and not on the resurrection.

I'm sure we can debate this, but historic orthodox Christianity at its core seems to be irreducibly miraculous. If we remove the miraculous from it as simply archaic, I'm not sure what we' re left with.

Perhaps third wave Pentecostalism's view of spiritual warfare isn't the formulation or framework or language most in harmony with reformed theology. But there are formulations out there that don't neglect or entirely discount this area. That's another discussion, I think.

Hi Jeff Brower.  Hope you’re doing well.  I think that is your term - “strictly modernistic.”  I didn’t use it.  But of course, there are a lot of Christians (inside the CRC and outside) that understand the incarnation and resurrection as you do, but don’t buy into this spiritual warfare movement.  I think I would take exception to both words, “strictly” and “modernistic.”  If you are equating modern with reasonable, I would prefer reasonable, without the use of “strictly.”

 

Roger,

Can you interpret the incarnation and resurrection of Christ through this same strictly modernistic lens?  

 

Hi Jeff. There is no official format for “Network” articles that I know of.  It just seems that the large majority of articles on this site are short articles that take no more than fifteen minutes to read, some even less.  So when a one hour video turns up, it just seems out of character for the Network.  I don’t generally come to the Network to read or watch lengthy articles.  Of course, no one is forcing me to read any article, so I can be as selective as I wish.  The subject matter of your article did catch my attention.  Thanks for writing or video taping.

Yes Jeff, I am aware of what our denomination has done with “Third Wave Pentecostalism.”  Personally, I think it’s disappointing.  I apologize for sounding less than sensitive to this cause.  I know you are deeply involved in this thinking.  But, to me, it sounds so much like a dumbing down of Christianity.  It’s a regression of any intellectual advancements cultures have achieved. This represents a superstitious mentality that belongs in the dark ages, rather than in the twenty-first century.  Plus, it is not even verifiable.  It’s more a matter of opinion, and the subject matter for vampire and exorcism movies, but not reality.

I understand what you are saying about Jesus dealing with the demonic and Satan himself.  That’s the dilemma.  I’m of the opinion that our views of inerrancy and infallibility fall short in expressing an honest view of truth and reality.  The views that we hold to (of the Bible), in a large sense, bind us to a first century way of understanding life and reality.  They hog tie Christians into an archaic perspective, and bind us to a primitive and superstitious view of spiritual warfare.  Jesus was part of a first century culture.  He participated in that culture.  He dealt with people under the umbrella of an archaic culture and primitive superstitions.  For Jesus’ message to make sense in the first century he had to adapt to the culture he was part of.  He couldn’t come into the first century and live and preach as though he belonged to the 21st century.  If that was the case, he would have driven a Chevrolet rather than a mule.  But that would have made him a mismatch for his culture.  So instead he came into the first century world and brought a message of hope that was relevant under the umbrella of that world and its culture.  We have to be able to discern what belonged to the first century, and leave behind what doesn’t fit in the 21st.  And we can leave behind your notion of spiritual warfare and much of this third wave movement.

Is it any wonder that Christianity isn’t growing in Western culture?  When you add your views of spiritual warfare and third wave Pentecostalism, Christianity becomes all the more unbelievable and unrealistic to the world, at least to the world of reason.  I apologize, again, for being crass in responding to your article.  I think you mean well, but I do think you have seriously missed the boat.  Please don’t take offense.

Roger:

I appreciate you input. I must say I'm a bit confused about the material not fitting your article format. I wasn't aware that anyone had turned the webinar in for any type of article publication. Perhaps it happens automatically with all webinars. 

I assume that you are aware that the topic of Spiritual Warfare has been formally discussed within the CRCNA for a number of years and that in 2009 Synod approved the report of the "Third Wave Pentecostalism" study committee, which had an extensive section on spiritual warfare.

It is unfortunate that you were not able to attend the webinar, because it did focus on what seems to be your main issue of contention--worldview. You are clearly speaking from a western worldview, which is greatly impacted by scientific naturalism. However, by it's very definition, it doesn't not allow for the reality of that which is spiritual (supernatural, if you will) and, therefore, not limited to the analysis proffered by scientific naturalism. Those from a Reformed perspective have, for the most part, done a good job in being able to find a balance between a western and a biblical worldview, which are at times in conflict with each other; or at minimum, approach the world from differing perspectives, resulting in differing outcomes, responses, expectations, etc...worldview.

Since the Bible account seems to clearly demonstrate that Jesus spent a significant part of his ministry in dealing with the demonic (and at least one recorded direct encounter with Satan), it would seem that the presence of the demonic represents for than "deluded, superstitious first-century view of the world;" unless we are willing to count Jesus (God) among those so deluded.

Roger, I have a feeling I will not easily sway you from your convictions. I do invite you to view the webinar in its entirety, or better yet, read the book the Webinar series is based upon: "Straight Talk About Spiritual Warfare," publish by CRC Publications. It is technically currently out of print, but still available on line. I would assume it is also in Calvin's library since it was used as one of the texts in a CTS class for a time.

Thank you for your interaction. - J. Stam

Thanks Jeff for your article on spiritual warfare.  I looked at the handouts that you provided but did not watch the video.  A one hour video doesn’t seem to fit the format for Network articles.  I would have appreciated a nutshell version of the video, in print.  I did pick up a basic gist of what you may have been saying, plus I’ve done a small amount of reading on this spiritual warfare.

I personally do not see where this kind of teaching has any place in the CRC, let alone Christianity.  I think it lends itself to delusional and primitive thinking.  The leverage that you may have is that you can find some Biblical warrant for spiritual warfare.  But the world and life views of the first century were very primitive.  In Bible times, people didn’t look for answers to their maladies in natural laws and natural order, but rather in the spiritual order.  Bible times were pre-scientific age, pre-industrial age, and pre the age of reason or enlightenment.  Their life view was very limited and superstitious.  And the Bible authors wrote from within the cultural perceptions of their day which included this superstitious perception of life.  They were products of their culture and not products of logic or enlightenment or cultural growth and advancement.  This is the thinking that goes into your “spiritual warfare” mentality.  A regression to first century superstition. Plus, on top of being built on a first century world view, spiritual warfare has little or no objective verification.  It all seems to be a matter of emotional perception and opinion.

This thinking of yours may gain some foothold among the less developed societies of our world, but in more developed cultures it is more a matter of delusion.  Who really wants to go back to an age of first century superstition?   Thanks Jeff for this article.  We do need to know what others in our denomination are thinking.  For one, I hope the teaching that you are espousing does not catch on.

Esther, that exactly the type of scenario I would like to see come to life! The challenge is that right now neither pastors nor lay members get the training they need to make it successful. Paid staff can be a wonderful blessing, but they can also be a crutch if it means church members don't have the opportunity to lead in community.

 

What kind of lay leadership development resources would you like to see widely available? Bbooks? Webinars? Guides for establishing mentoring/discipleship relationships?

Hi Esther! 

Thanks for this thoughtful response. The role of lay leaders is HUGE in encouraging and sustaining a church. What a gift it is to have people who want to serve, such as the voluntary Worship Director you mentioned. Thanks for sharing!

 I have seen the pastor of a small church struggle with the weight of his ministry when because of lack of funds there is no other supportive staff to serve with him, to pray with or to share vision casting. The Council Is there (once a month) but much like Synod they have an agenda to follow and full time jobs to go back to the next morning. That makes for a very lonely staff meeting if you are the pastor and the only person in attendance. If we believe in the priesthood of all believers, why not develop a strong team of lay leaders? Meet together, pray together, vision cast, mentor them in their leadership role? As the article say "It is the lay leaders who will remain in the congregation after the pastor moves on to another church."  Currently I know a young person who is voluntarily doing the tasks of a Worship Director while the church seeks to hire someone "with the right pedigree". Why not mentor this person into the position as a voluntary staff ? Is the "priesthood of believers" more limited than we want to acknowledge?

Instead of the scenario where the pastor serves alone, he develops his lay leaders; serving  as a lead mentor in a group where they support each other in prayer, encouragement, (and a little troubleshooting) but mostly sharing excitement together about the small and the big ways God is working in the church. Wouldn't everyone benefit and God be glorified? Being more intentional about bringing lay leaders along together not only focus's more on building  each other up  but in the long term it builds a stronger foundation for the church as a whole. Paul said "make my joy complete by being like minded, having the same love, being one in the spirit and purpose."   One doesn't have to be "the loneliest number", it can mean a unified community serving with like purpose. God may have given you a community of lay people at your church instead of professionals; work with what you were given.

 

Marlin...Good questions. I know Faith Alive has Elder and Deacon Handbooks which are helpful in many ways. I myself learned about leadership through hardknocks, big mistakes, and lots of books. Courageous Leadership by Bill Hybles is a good one as is Leading From the Inside Out by Samuel Rima. One issue which needs to be looked at is the fact that the business culture has become so entrenched in our culture that it is hard to look at things otherwise. One big thing is that many churches use Quick Books for finances. Yet Quick Books lists profit and loss. A church isn't called to make a profit but to be one. Also look at how church budgets are laid out. They are generally laid out as what the item is (i.e. Sunday school curriculum) how much is budgeted and what the actual is. And the list goes on. What if the budget was listed not by just basic things but by what ministry it is part of. This shows that the priority isn't money but ministry. So instead of just listing Sunday school curriculum with outreach and the building fund, separate them into faith formation (Sunday school), The great commission (outreach) and hospitality (building fund). Just how you list things shows the priority we place on things and how we view it. If we shift from a business mindset which tends to manage things to a ministry mindset which tends to join God in mission, we can begin to change what our focus as the church is. My original draft was about 400 words longer than what is above. 

The installation/ordination of Elders and Deacons states the gifts needed and responsibilities for both offices. Yet these are largely ignored because people become focused on funding, on landscaping, on keeping people happy. This is now managing not ministry. Even just going through the charge to Elders and Deacons with your elders and deacons might help in basic training. Also reminding them that money is a tool to do ministry not the goal of ministry. Yes, lights need to stay on, heat needs to be pumped through vents, the pastor needs to be paid, etc., but these are all tools to do ministry not to goal of ministry. 

I would say that training begins by going back to the basics. When I was in football and the game went bad, we practiced in pads the next practice. This meant we went back to the fundamentals as the foundation of our practice and our next game. The best way to train is to go back to the fundamentals. Even if they've been an elder or deacon for decades, it never hurts to go back to the fundamentals and get a refresher course. You'd be amazed at how much people don't realize the importance of being a deacon outside of taking offerings and landscaping. Hope this answers some of your questions. Keep 'em comin

Joshua,

   I agree wholeheartedly! and I agree that training is the answer - the question is what training? How do we do the best we can in leading the church  - what does that look like in the face of a budget shortage, a lack of vision, a power struggle? What is the administrative role of the council?

  It seems our churches are floundering due to some systemic problem with our leadership structure.

There is some training and materials available for the elder shepherding role but I haven't found anything on administration and leadership.

Locally we have a monthly meeting of the area CRC council chairmen. It is apparent to all of us that there is much room for improving how we lead - but if there is no training or materials the only option seems to be 'take what we know and do our best' (which is the scenario you described in the article). Getting together and sharing experiences and 'best practices' is helpful but is still kind of the blind leading the blind. Often the result is abdicating our leadership role to the pastor which not only is a further time burden to him but often makes him the target when decisions are controversial

Any suggestions on leadership training for council members and chairmen and even future leaders would be very helpful.

Thanks for the bringing up the subject.

Gwyneth, I wonder if your statement is a bit too broad.   I mean where you say, one-size fits all obedience creates gaps or separations.  It seems to me there are times when that is true, and times when it does not apply.  If we say that murder is wrong, and hatred is murder, are you saying that only applies to some people and not to others?  Or that it is okay for some people to commit adultery while not okay for others?  Are there legitimate gaps and illegitimate gaps?  

On the other hand, I agree that the way we love our neighbor or our wife is legitimately different in many circumstances; one prefers roses, the other prefers candy or a kiss, the third prefers a shovelled sidewalk.  

Wouldn't it be so much easier if obedience looked the same every time? Easier, yes. Biblical, no. One-size fits all obedience is one of the ways I see Christians creating gaps that distance us from those with whom we belong. It requires much more devotion, stillness, and open-mindedness to discern what God is saying love looks like moment by moment, person by person, opportunity by opportunity. Sadly, I haven't lived this way through most of my moments, people and opportunities. But God is relentless in His pursuit of my heart. Praise be to God! There's a blessed, abundant-life alternative and I'm being woken up to the journey we've been on together for 39 years. Better late than never, right?! Grace abounds. To God be the glory.

Almost everyone thinks they are pleasing God....  some think they can please God without being obedient to him.  

Thanks for your comments, Alex. I agree entirely, as I tried to express in the posting, that these are traits all leaders are in various stages of developing, rather than a benchmark that must be met before being eligible to lead. I would love to see that kind of language seep into the way we talk about leadership opportunities in the church. Eligible candidates for leadership are not perfect, they will make mistakes, and we as a congregation commit to offering them the same grace we have received from our Heavenly Father. We are each on a journey of development as the Spirit forms us into who we were created to be and He uses the Body to support us in that process.

As to the the issue of leaders exiting a church, or even the denomination, and why they do that...That sounds like a great Discussion Topic to start here on The Network :-). I know that I have heard both praise of our strong 'denominational focus' from those who only have experience leading in other contexts, as well as hearing the burden of that 'interference' from those from inside and outside. At least two sides to every coin. Ah, what will it take to be one big happy family of God? Sigh.

 

Some thoughts

I've been working on a definition of the word Leadership and have settled on this summary.

"Leadership is the surrender, allegiance and subservience to the Lord Jesus Christ, whereby every activity of operation is to be a doxology to Him and an intentional representation of Him in the lives of others, as an example, for the glory of God."

It seems many frustrations that surround leadership concern what I term "result oriented leadership." Paul did say, "We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me" (Colossians 1:28, 29). However, Paul knew that while we disciple (water) only "God can grow" (1 Corinthians 3:6, 7).

The Word establishes qualifications, so God requires elders to be able to teach-The great news; when we present the Word of God the Holy Spirit is the power source not my awesome presentation. God himself has promised that "his word will accomplish his purposes" (Isaiah 55:11). My responsibility is to study to show myself approved (2 Timothy 2:15) and then to apply the truth to my own living. One of the most profound teaching moments I experienced

was when a former Wheaton College President said, "One thing I have learned and that is when you sin, repent quickly." It seems the threshold for the ability to teach is meet when the persons life bears fruit and it is demonstrated in tangible ways in ones household and personal character. The body of knowledge threshold should be tested but if no fruit is evident then memorizing words is not adequate.

As for standard, "be Holy, as I am Holy" it will never be lowered for anyone, in fact we are assured to arrive (1 John 3:2; Philippians 1:6; 1 Peter 1:16)

Test Standard: Believer, "In Christ" then examining ones life under a microscope does a particular sin or sins have a sway or hold on your life.

I agree that the "bar is somewhat high for leadership staff in any church, but I see that as a goal rather than a qualification. 

However, I have seen many persons who served faithfully their terms in council/consistory then leave to attend other churches, not because of the high expectations, but I wonder if it has more to do with Denominational Chauvinism that comes into sharp focus when serving in these esteemed positions. Do they flee mostly to the larger mega churches where denomination focus is not as pronounced? How can the CRC address that?

As you rightly say, John, its hard to escape the scriptural importance of 'teaching' as part of leadership. Titus 2 uses the term over and over when describing the leadership role Titus is to play within his context. Being a teacher by nature and nurture I have often heard, "I could never do what you do," from parent volunteers in my classroom, VBS crew leaders, church members after a Children's Message, etc.. And it is true that that I have experienced individuals shying away from leadership opportunities because they felt they weren't 'good enough' at the teaching thing. I could go on and on about how the skills of being a good teacher can be taught and developed among our leaders, but I am more interested in hearing from you about your question. 

I would love you to unpack your question, "Do we agree with Scripture on this?". What has caused you to question our (CRC's?) agreement with this aspect of being a leader, specifically in elders? What have you experienced (or not experienced) with regards to the role of elders as teachers? 

I agree that there are all kinds of ways to teach.  And I agree that teaching does not mean being an expert science teacher, nor a theology prof.  Teaching should mean sharing the gospel with anyone, whether it is in a discipling relationship, an evangelism relationship, or simply defending faith, or contending for the gospel.  Every christian should be able to disciple another, and every parent to a child, but it seems the ability to teach means that they can explain and are eager to explain the gospel to others, whether friendly or foe.  

I agree that the ability to teach should be a requirement of an elder. I do think we have to be careful that we don't translate what we think of as "teacher" as what it means to be an elder. We tend to think of "teacher" in the same way that we think of our pastor teaching in a catechism class or Bible study. Or we think of a high school, college or university professor teaching a group of students. Being able to teach others in the role of elder is the capacity to make disciples who make disciples. This is more organic but still teaching.  An elder should be able to walk alongside someone in a discipling relationship where they are then capable of walking along someone else and discipling them in a discipling relationship? That's what it means to teach. There are organic structures and there are organized structures for teaching. The organized capacity to teach looks different.  I think it's appropriate to ask the question of someone nominated to be an elder, "Are you discipling someone now or have you discipled someone in the last year?" as evidence of the ability to teach. I think that this gets at what the article is trying to highlight. 

It would be interesting to see an explanation of what it means that elders should have the ability to teach others.  As scripture indicates is a required characteristic for elders.  Do we agree with scripture on this?

Thanks, Louis, for the encouragement. I've only been at this a short while and already the connections that have been made with those in our broader community are a strong motivator in continuing the work of adding resources and creating posts that inspire others to dialog about Leadership Development. Shalom.

Thanks for highlighting that link, Ken! 

Thanks so much for sharing these observations with your readers, Gwyneth! I had not (yet) taken note of this book. To share this important type of information is exactly what these columns are for.
The best to all our readers and contributors!
Louis Tamminga
 

There is also a page for Elders and Deacons on the ServiceLink site, with job description templates for elders and deacons.  These can be modified to fit the specific needs within any given congregation.  You can find them at:

http://www.crcna.org/servicelink/engage/elders-and-deacons

Verlyn,

Thanks for an interesting post on Paul's pastoral sense and strategy.

It's an interesting thesis: Paul learned gradually that local pastors have more influence than out-of-town experts and therefore shifted his strategy from writing letters to churches to writing letters to local pastors.

It's an interesting thesis, which I will explore with my students the next time I teach NT Survey.

But I think it breaks down at a couple of points.

-Paul's letters to Philippi and Thessalonica seem to have been well-received and accomplished their purpose. So maybe the contrast is not so much letter vs. personal presence as Corinth vs. Macedonia.

-It seems clear that Titus was able to turn the situation around in Corinth. This was likely due to his exceptional ability, more than the force of personal presence. Paul's personal presence in Corinth did not always accomplish his goals, any more than his letters did.

-having served in several locations as a local pastor, and on several occasions as the out-of-town expert (including writing "pastoral letters" from afar),  I do not think there is a clear pattern of local pastors having more influence. I have seen it work sometimes one way, sometimes the other.

Maybe the take-away point is: vary your strategy.  Which is, I guess, just what you say Paul was doing.

Thanks for writing,

Thomas Niehof

 

Wow, Jolanda! Gathering all those posts makes it even easier to navigate our way to helpful materials. Thanks. 

Thanks, Larry,

Your summary, sharing made for encouraging reading. It's applicable for planters as well as pastors in "organized" and maybe even declining churches, of which we have sufficient, if not way too many.

I'd like to underscore the one observation/wisdom shared regarding pastoring the sheep the pastor has and not using them just to get more sheep. In observing the church from a more and more removed vantage, I'm seeing a reluctance on pastors' part to be the shepherd, although I'm glad the ranching model appears to have vanished.

"...taking care of people" is the still the pastor's responsibility and it'll receive a promised blessing, as Jesus told Peter after restoring him to his leadership role.

Just some thoughts from a pastor somewhat out to pasture...

George

Thanks for this interesting post, Jolanda!

Hi Larry,

As the Section Administrator for Leadership Development, I wanted to say "Thanks!" for your posting. It's great to see a name other than my own in this neck of the woods. Traffic is growing and I am excited for the dialog that is happening on and off the site about this incredibly important topic. 

This is a fantastic post that gives us lots to think about in our own ministry context, whether we're are a leader or not. As a pastor's wife I know how this list will resonate with the desires of my husband's heart when it comes to the church he yearns to lead. And as a Mission Developer working with a steering team to plant a new hybrid of church plant/campus ministry, this list gives them an opportunity to ensure priorities like these are front and centre when hiring the new ministry leader and establishing a launch team. Anything that causes us to stop and reflect on present realities, challenges them and then motivates us to adjust to the newly discovered 'desires of our heart' is time well spent. Thank you for passing this on to us.

I want to add to the question you posed. So, with the established church as the context, I'd love to hear feedback on which items from this list of leadership wisdom have the greatest potential for church culture transformation? And second to that is the question of where within the church should the locus of change begin for permeating and lasting change? The pastor? A small group of passionate individuals outside of the leadership? Both?

The list is the relatively easy part...but determining (agreeing on) the place to start and starting are two much more difficult tasks it seems. Or do we just make them difficult by seeing the traffic jam and not the destination? One simple, possible, immediate "Yes!" at a time, I guess.  

Hi Steve,

Thanks for the encouragement! You're absolutely right about there being scriptural examples of 'leadership development' that can speak into the formation of a spiraling process. And I am looking forward to diving deeper into those examples to see what Truth we can take from them for today's context. It's going to be a slow and steady study that will, hopefully, also include gleaning stories from those who have been 'developed' through a similar spiraling process and lots of general conversations about the realities of leadership development in our churches. 

I won't get very far on this adventure without the support of interested parties joining the conversation, so please feel warmly welcomed into a continuing dialog. As this is an 'on the side' endeavour, I try to limit my Network time to Thursdays and Fridays, so if you don't get a response, I'm not ignoring you. 

Shalom.  

Several examples from the Bible come to mind when it comes to leadership development. Joshua was mentored by Moses for over 40 years before God finally said it was his turn to lead the Israelites. During this time, he was Moses' right hand man. Moses also gave Joshua challenges which encouraged his leadership skills. 

Of course there is also the example of Jesus and His disciples. He didn't  just teach them but He sent them out to practice what they learned. 

I'm sure there are other examples in the Bible. I agree with you, Gwyneth, when you say "the leadership development process is generally happening after the role has been assumed." Those of us in leadership roles need to be mentoring our co-leaders and replacements now.  We never know when God will decide that it is time for someone else to take our place. 

I look forward to reading your future posts on this subject. 

Ideally leadership and vision should come from the congregation/council as the pastors come and go. Too often, when vision and leadership is left to the pastor, (s) he implements appropriate changes but the congregation balks and pastor/congregation conflict results. When calling a new pastor the church needs to present it's mission/vision and make their calling decision based on which candidate is best skilled to lead in carrying it out. A myth about ministers is that most are basica Lily the same. Granted the functions of the pastor's position are the same (preaching, pastoral care, administration, leading, teaching, coinciding, and handling conflict) and we all receive simular training at CTS, our spiritual gifts are different making each candidate unique.

There was a similar question asked of the Apostles in Acts 6.

"In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, 'It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.' "

This type of pastoral leadership might be seen as passive or even lazy from a modern pespective, but it actually binds the church together by creating trust between pastor, council and the congregation. "Prayer and the ministry of the word" still involves visiting, council meetings and necessary administrative tasks (afer all, the Apostles' decision was made at a council meeting). However, the text does seem to state the preeminent task of the pastor is bringing the Word.

Good question, John!

Preaching is itself a form of leadership.

Both are critical and preaching can and is the avenue which a great chunk of leadership vision is conveyed. It is not a dichotomy at all. But...interestingly enough here are some stats presented through the Strategic Planning process that went throughout North America this past fall. 

This is taken from CRCNA Pastoral Excellence Survey

Source: 2012 Survey by Calvin College Center for Social Research

Here is how CRC Pastors describe themselves:

The 2011 Top 3 pastoral self- perceived skills: Listening and Encouraging, Communication, and Maintaining a non-anxious presence.

The bottom 3 self-perceived skills: Strategic Planning, Conflict Management and Motivating People to perform at their full potential.

 We feel like we can preach (communicate) but we feel like we cannot do the work of Strategic Leadership nor motivate others to lead. However one might weigh which skill is more important (or to what degree) we need to do work in equipping ourselves to better leaders perhaps.

Not clear on why dichomy with respect to vision rests solely with the preacher. Just because an individul is designated a leader does make them leadership material or a good "mensch" leader. If the vision is great but the leadership and/or preaching is wanting, the flock may have a shepherd but not necessarily a Good Shepherd.

Why do you have to choose one or the other? I think both are important. The days of one person being able to do it all (the domine) are long gone.

Great discussion, guys. You both have excellent points here.

However this plays out, I really do believe we need to maintain the theology of “calling” when it comes to issuing and accepting a “call.” Otherwise we're just dealing with getting a "job" out of seminary, with little vocational sensibility between, "Take, eat, remember and believe…” and, “You want fries with that?” Seriously, if we act on the same panic as the average University of Wherever MBA graduate – and use the same methods to secure employment following the completion of our (expensive) education program – are we approaching our "calling" with a proper trust in God's sovereignty? How can we expect others to do so if we do not?

I write this as one who did a bit of investigating into a call before my candidacy was solidified, engaged in some highly questionable “exhorting” on some unsuspecting believers, and participated in some other activities and speech that I may not reccommend to another seminarian. If the process can be improved, then let the brainstorming begin. John, are you up for an idealistic synodical overture?

Sam, good to hear from you! I think there are some very concrete things that could happen. For example, the Evangelical Covenant Church holds regional "ministry fairs" where pastors and churches from the region meet. For example, if you wanted to be a pastor in Iowa. Minnesota, or South Dakota, then you would be paired with the regional director of the area, and they would be working with the vacant churches to find a match. Then, you would attend a "ministry fair" in the area in which every vacant church would attend as well. Before you know it, you have a match. Each student gets paired with a regional director who walks with you to find a call. The CRC hit on this when we had that fair at the seminary a couple of years ago. Pastor search committees of vacant churches came and met with students. But guess who organized it? CTS students. That's the problem. 

After thinking about this a lot, this is probably the best way forward. It wouldn't even require us lifting our synod ceremony which is the big concern for a lot of people. Your thoughts?

John, just wondering what you are thinking of in forms of an overhaul? You list an idea at the end but I'm not sure that's any better than the system they have now. I don't see how that would fix the problem of having some candidates waiting for a call. I followed the rules pretty well and thought it went alright (but I write this from the safety of my church office.) 

The only sure-fire way I can think of is to switch to an appointment system, but that doesn't really fit our ecclesiology or theology of calling...called by God and the church. I'm open to suggestions though.

Hi, Doug,

Thanks so much for responding!  Your insight is very helpful and covers a lot of the various situations - I love the water references you have sprinkled throughout.  Your comments regarding the staff person's own agenda are especially challenging and worth noting.  Thanks for the book suggestions, too.  I have a feeling that you are writing from personal experience.  And "Amen" to your reminder that it's Christ's Church!

Blessings,

Jeanne

"How" a Pastor Leaves may determine the way the rest of staff respond and influence their ability to continue in ministry.  If  a pastor  has prepared his staff for the departure - It can go on very smoothly.

If leadership is assigned that share's the pastor's same ministry direction, It is quite posslbe to remain intact as a ministry team.

Staff's ministry direction - still comes from their job description - Unless the leadership of the church should decide to renegotiate ministry responsibilities for staff members, and spell out whether the changes are  temporary or longer term.

A Sudden departrue by a pastor - is like a youth group canoe trip when someone "suddenly" leaves the canoe - other canoe-ists run in to  save stuff and people and more than likely crash and splash overboard themselves.

Three books I have found helpful in these situations are:  Leadership from the Inside out, by Kevin Harney, Escape from Church Inc, by E Glenn Wagner,  and Leading from the Second Chair  by Mike Bonem and Roger Patterson.

A fourth may be the "Boundaries" book by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. 

A Staff person's own agenda will also play a huge role in how the transition develops.  If we think we can "rush in" and save the day or have an idea that "now they will see what I can do" - could be more like diving into shallow water, you can get very hurt.  You may find yourself running after ego - or power, and be leaving the care of the flock to pursue your agenda,

Remember it is Christ's Church and His power, He is already the Savior, Let His Spirit guide the  response - and wade in slowly and reverently.  He knows His plans for you and His people.

 

 

 

I will second Jack's #1 - prayer, prayer and more prayer  (that's 3 principles, right? =)...   especially time listening together in prayer.. you want the vision to come from the Holy Spirit.  So bring a focus before the LORD, spend time listening for His direction.    Crazy stuff happens when you start "hearing" Him.

If you aren't familiar with listening prayer, you will want to be, so that you can test and discern the thoughts that are shared through this time.  there are some great books on it, I would say Brad Jersak's "can you hear Me? - tuning in to the God that speaks is a very practical one that helps teach concepts on "listening" to the Holy Spirit. 

It seems, we often don't intentionally seek the Holy Spirit's guidance, we just hope and pray that He gives it to us, but it is not intentional, quiet time, listening for what He wants to share.     Lots of reasons for this.

So, I pray that you and your team will be led into His vision that He has prepared in advance for you and your congregation, but I also pray that you will have amazing experiences encountering God through listening to the Holy Spirit.

Hi John,

If what you what you want from a 2 hour vision meeting is a some kind of plan for the future, then there are lots of ways to accomplish that.  And there are very few "rules" if any.  But if visioning is holy, then that's a good place to begin.  So:

Rule #1: Keep it holy.  No 2 minute bookend prayers.  Instead, explore what it means to allow God enter holy community in the room in which you meet.  This requires transparent hearts, with each other and with God.  So begin with sharing and let that lead to prayer. 

Rule #2: Two hours is very short, so don't waste any opportunites.  Use the sharing to start the visioning.  There are lots of good questions to help this along.  You could try: What have you appreciated most about this church?  Which of God's promises speaks most loudly in this church?  Or develop a question that speaks more directly to area of visioning you want to deal with: If you want to vision about the discipleship of youth a useful question might be "What did you appreciate most about the learning that happened in your youth."  Three crisp questions is the maximum you can deal with in 2 hours, so choose them wisely.  So one useful order does like this: 1. What's good about...? 2. What's not good about...? 3. What can we do about that...?  If the discussion gets too vague - the question was likely too vague.

Rule #3:  Two hours is very short.  Either do a longer vision about a narrow topic, or a shorter vision about the big thing.  Or consider this part 1 of several if you can get the rest of your leaders on board.  Trying to accomplish too much in two hours can be harmful.

This is certainly not everything you need to know.  But these are three quick "rules" with potential for a community building, vision meeting.

Jeff,

The CRC's Leadership Exchange recently launced a new website that you might want to check out:

http://leadershipcrc.org/

Your comment brings back good memories, Jeff. I was the director of the 4th Leadership Development Network 2000-2004, the Texas Leadership Development Network. We began with two sites and had three the last year. I know of six of those involved during those four years in full time ministry today. It would be interesting to know how many in all the LDNs that have been in existence are in full time ministry today.

It was great to see late bloomers who would not attend a formal theological education for whatever reason, still be able to get quality training for ministry.

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