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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…


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.  


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.


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.


"Articulating vision is the primary work of elders."  No, it is not. 

"Elders consumed with the daily doing of ministry have lost sight of their essential calling."  No, they haven't.

Let’s think about this a little further. 

In Acts 6 the apostles resist “the daily doing of ministry” by saying “no” to waiting on tables.  They conclude that their focus must be on prayer and ministry of the Word.

 Why invest in prayer and ministry of the word?  Is it not to discern and communicate God’s will for His people?  And what is discerning God’s will for His people all about? Is it not discovering a picture of God’s preferred future for His church and His world?  And isn’t a picture of God’s preferred future just another name for vision?  So to the extent that the work of pastors/elders is about prayer and ministry of the Word it is also about seeking and articulating a biblical vision. 

Blessed are churches led by pastors/elders who can say with the apostle Paul, “I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven” (Acts 26:19).

There are good things said in this article.  At the same time, I couldn't agree more with Eric's comments as to a couple of things said in this article.

Today's culture seems to demand that we must "be the best," that whatever we take on be "incredibly exciting," that we must have "great impact on many."

None of that is bad, but insisting on them is.  I love churches that are faithful, regardless of whether they have a "unique vision," or whether they have embarked on "uncharted waters."

The Gospel story is pretty old.  Preaching it may require churches to address the particularities of their own congregants and communities, but the revolution has already happened.  Churches don't have create a new one.  The old one, preached and lived well, is pretty exciting actually, and pretty satisfying.

Perhaps hyperbole sells, I don't know.  But it can also disappoint.  If we demand from elders that create a new vision, they just might.  Or, they might just become discouraged for doing the mere stuff that needs to be done, that apparently has no value.

Doug - While I agree we can't create a new vision because the ultimate vision has already been established, we most certainly need the Elders to ensure the proper vision is being worked out in our congregations. As we see a significant lack of engagement among members, the Elders need to be out front, sharing the vision, and ensuring it is truly being part of each and every part of what we do as a church family. Are each one of our ministries operating and succeeding within the vision set forth? That is what we must ask. Repeatedly.


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