What’s the essential work of an elder? Church order assigns multiple tasks to elders including: overseeing the life and doctrine of the church, exercising admonition and discipline, investing in pastoral care, promoting evangelism and defending the faith. All these are good, biblical and necessary tasks but they overlook the essential work of pursing, promoting and protecting the vision and unique calling of a congregation.
At the heart of healthy congregations is a deep sense of calling. High impact Gospel-driven congregations living in a rapidly changing world think deeply about the “why” of their “what.” And high impact Gospel-driven churches articulate this “why” in a clear, shared and compelling vison of the future. Articulating vision is the primary work of elders.
Here’s how elders attend to this visioning responsibility…
PURSUING THE VISION
Elders pursue the vision when they ask the foundational question, “Why?” Why has the Lord placed us in this particular location at this particular time among these particular people with these particular resources? Elders must believe the place, time, people and resources are providentially assigned. Elders should invest in prayer, reflection and the naming a unique congregational vision. Wise elders do not engage in this visioning work alone but solicit others (including, potentially, a Church Renewal Lab team) to assist in listening, learning and imagining. This demands, of course, that elders assign the daily urgent work of ministry to others as illustrated in Acts 6.
PROMOTING THE VISION
Elders not only bear responsibility for pursuing a vision they must also promote that vision. They must be the cheerleaders for the work to which a congregation is uniquely called. With clarion voice they should communicate the essence of the church’s work. At the heart of this vision is, of course, the preaching of the Gospel and the Gospel’s call to transform lives and communities for Christ.
PROTECTING THE VISION
Vision, once identified, needs the protection of a courageous group of ordained leaders willing to venture into uncharted waters. Protecting vision is particularly important when it comes under attack by those who prefer calmer seas and more familiar waters. Elders serve as a congregation’s men of Issachar “who understand the times and know what should be done” (I Chronicles 12:32). Blessed is the congregation with elders unrelenting in their commitment to pursue, promote and protect a clear, shared and compelling vision. Elders consumed with the daily doing of ministry have lost sight of their essential calling.