When we embrace the gospel of Christ, we are called to a journey of transformation. Elders are invited – by virtue of their call to be shepherds of the people of God – to lead the community in this work of transformation. We could use other words – redemption, salvation. Central to this claim is the vision that God wants to change the story of the person, place and community.
God is not the only one who wants to change the story. Most politicians make that claim as well. Countless TV analysts have visions for how we can do better. (Few would use the word repentance. God does.) So we live in a world where many make claims about how to change the story of our lives and our communities. In a given week, there are probably more Christians listening to the words of Oprah than the words of God. More people probably pay attention to TV makeovers than pay attention to God’s invitation to transformation. Elders – in working for God – have a tough job.
Recently, I picked up some books by James Byran Smith. They are called the Good and Beautiful God, Good and Beautiful Life, and Good and Beautiful Community. Smith invites us to participate in the journey led by the Word and Holy Spirit that will transformation our lives into Christlikeness. I think these books will help elders do their job.
Smith has done a great deal of reflection on how change happens in the Christian life. Through his biblical theological conversations about God, life and community and through practices that seek to build transformation into our lifestyles he seeks to engage us and our communities in the change God want to work in us.
I encourage you to take some time to read these books. Use them in your eldership. Perhaps it would be good to form a small group to work through them. In the tough work of eldership, these may give us some encouragement and direction.