I'm including another snippet from one of my research-interviews this summer that I will be unable to use fully in my thesis, but it's just too interesting to leave any bit of it on the cutting room floor. This section of our conversation steered a bit from our focus (on handing over leadership to the next generation within a local church) and, for a moment at least, the topic moved to church governance. Many churches, and certainly most Baptist churches, are supposed to be led by the congregation according to their constitutions. The pastor of this interview suggests that a church should be instead led by the leaders. He's got an interesting take on things that I thought some of you might find encouraging, enlightening or at least intriguing. Let's jump in around the 25 minute mark of the interview:
Me: How do the Elders fit into all this?
Pastor: They are key players. That’s one of the key things for us is to try to take more
of a…, you know, in the past the Elders carried a lot of the responsibilities
around here. But we’re trying to
take more of the business side of the church. So we’re trying to streamline what they’re role is and put
the details in the hands of the staff so that they can be leading small groups
and be a part of shepherding. We need them shepherding small groups
more than we need them making business decisions for the church. That’s what we’re trying to do. Right now we meet every other week with
our Elders. We’re hoping we can
get it to where we meet once a month.
Because that’s what I want.
I want them… all of them but one right now are leading a small
group. That’s really crucial for
us. If they’re here all the
time for Elder Board meetings then it’s hard for them to spend the time in
ministry. Another key phrase for
us is “fewer and finer commitments.”
That’s key for us. You
know, are we making disciples? Are
we developing leaders? Call it
what you want, but leadership development is discipleship. If our Elders are too busy with
meetings that they can’t mentor and be involved in discipleship then what are
Me: So it doesn’t sound like you can be attending here very
long without having that permeate?
That’s all part of our DNA that’s a part of our membership process. And, you know, some people have left
our church because they don’t like that.
They just want a nice little country church that they can go to. Well, I’m probably saying that a little
bit more harshly than it needs to be said. But when I came they asked me to lead; they needed someone
to lead them. They hadn’t been led
effectively, so I’m doing what they asked me to do.
Me: You would say the call to commitment is high?
Pastor: Yeah, but I mean that its not like we have shut down a
whole lot of ministries but for me it’s always the issue that if the leaders are
burnt out then I will shut down a ministry. Some people are like “well, we’re consumers and you have to
provide this for us.” And they
don’t care if the leaders are burning out or not, they just want what they
want. But our leaders are going to
determine what’s being run. It’s
like a football game, the people in the stands aren’t calling the plays. And so if people want to have influence
on decisions that are being made then you have to be part of the team. Not just an audience out there. So we’ve had some that have felt like
they had an attitude and we said, “Hey, we want you to come here but don’t mess
with our church, this is our church.”
And we’re going to be doing things our way. And we’ve had a really lengthy discussion with our Elders,
really healthy discussion asking if this is going to be a representative government
and have us going to the people and doing surveys in order to make them happy
or are we going to be a leadership government that says what is it that is on
God’s heart for this church, what are we going to lead these people to do? And that’s a big difference. I would say in the past it was very
much a representative government where we would let the people do what they
wanted to do as long as they were happy.
But that’s not what God has put on my heart. A lot of the churches…
do it that way, but that’s not what I believe when I look at the
Scriptures. Jesus led, and people
left! You look at John five and
six, you know, where they walked.
They didn’t want it. He was
talking about drinking blood and eating flesh and they didn’t want to be a part
of that. And Jesus looked to the
twelve and said, Hey are you going to leave to? And that’s when Peter stepped up and said, Hey where are we
going to go, you’ve got the words of eternal life. So you know, we’ve just tried to set an agenda saying that
we believe God wants us to be a disciple making church. So what I’m saying is that we invite
everybody to come along, the door is wide open. We have vision nights, we have leaders meetings. I’ve got nothing hide and nothing to
prove, but not everybody wants that.
And so for some people, they’ve just said, and it hurts, you don’t want
anybody to leave. But I’d say, you
know, we’re pretty much through that process. I mean anytime you come into church you’re going to experience some of that.