In July 2019, our church family will have the opportunity to prayerfully submit the names of a couple men that they believe would be good candidates for Eldership for our church. Please take some time to watch the video or read the notes below from Pastor Robert regarding this important season for our church as we come together to seek God’s will with the leadership of our church.
[Please take a minute to read these notes or watch the video]
In our "It's Not You, It's Me" series, we talked about how our love, submission, and service affects our relationships with people in the Body of Christ, the Church - and specifically our church.
As we read in Ephesians 4, Paul speaks about the service-oriented, mutual submission-based leadership in the New Testament Church:
 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk [or live] in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, [by God]  with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,  eager [ready and willing] to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism,  one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
These are some key characteristics of the life that God has called us to live through His strength: humble not prideful, gentle not violent, patient not anxious, bearing in love not writing others off, and eager for unity and not ready to fight. Church leadership should certainly be setting the example in these.
Then through that one God and in unity with the body of Christ:
 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift.
This is not saving grace, it is SERVING grace. It is a gift from God for a purpose that is much bigger than us. Then Paul says…
 Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.”  (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth?  He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)
Paul is quoting Psalm 68 here when David was singing about the victory and triumph of God who would one day “ascend on high,” lead a “host of captives” out of captivity, and then “receive” or “give back” gifts (in the same way that God “gave back” Adam’s rib in the form of Eve - a great gift for him). Of course, David was prophesying about what Paul experienced: Jesus descended to Earth, died on a cross, rose again, and then ascended back to heaven. But when Jesus ascended, he sent back down some “gifts.”
What are those gifts? Paul continues to tell us:
 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers…
Why did Jesus send back down these various “gifts” of leadership to His people in the beginning the unique movement that became known as “the Church”? Because…
 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,  until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to [maturity], to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,  so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.  Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,  from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
So here is the picture we need to get:
- Jesus is the true head of the Church
- The body of believers is the Church
- Within the body are some members that serve by leading
Let’s break those down.
1. Jesus is the true head of the Church. He always has been and always will be. However, from the very beginning of time humanity has been trying to dethrone him. Adam and Eve questioned God, people tried to build a tower of Babel to contest God, Pharaoh tried to go against God, the Israelites tried to replace God’s law and positioned a king for themselves, and the list goes on. Then fast-forward many years and Rome tried to put a mediator between God and and his people - instead of Jesus.
And over the last century, even evangelical churches have constantly been trying to put a man that they call “pastor" or “bishop" or whatever else in a place that only Jesus can fill. And it is at least unbiblical and at most idolatry. I have been around the church-world long enough (and I’m sure most of you have, too), to know that there is SO much unhealthiness in the leadership of churches today. Of course, there is no such thing as perfection as long as people are involved, but God has laid out a “five-fold” plan of spiritual leadership for the church (including us) to follow - and we just need to follow it!
2. The body of believers is the Church. As Paul explains thoroughly in 1 Corinthians, every member of the body has gifts FOR the body - to serve one another, care for one another, encourage one another, sharing with those in need, praying for one another, giving the Gospel to others, and simply being a contributing player on the team (or contributing part of the body). That is why we challenge everyone that is new to our church to come to the Growth Track - so they can learn discover how God has gifted them to serve Him and others
3. Within that body are some members that serve by leading. The gifts that those leaders lead with are (as Paul said) apostleship, prophecy, evangelism, shepherding, and teaching. What exactly those gifts are for is a whole other study, but we need to know that they are all important for the purpose of speaking the truth in love and leading the Church toward the unity of the faith, the knowledge of Christ, maturity, fullness, confidence in the truth, and growth.
To be clear, these leaders are what Scripture calls “Elders” or overseers. While the New Testament “deacons” (or servants) took care of the practical, physical, or even administrative “hands-on” needs of the Church, the Elders focused on the spiritual needs of the Church through teaching and leadership. How exactly that all works can be unique and flexible, but THAT it happens is essential.
For example, I am one of the three Elders of our church that are spiritually overseeing through teaching, praying, protecting, setting direction, strategizing, developing, and positioning of others. While the more modern term, Pastor, is interchangeable with Elder, we use it to mean a “Staff” or paid Elder. So while I am one of on the Elder team, I’m also the Lead Pastor.
For our church, the team that runs the ministries of our church are what WE call Dream Team Leaders (because our team of volunteers are called the Dream Team) - which is all led by our church staff. Then our LIFE Group leaders are on the front lines of caring for our church body (because it is in our groups that we want to see everyone living life together and caring for one another).
This is all very important stuff for all of us to know for three reasons:
1. So we will be unified around our mission and vision. To move forward with God’s mission to make disciples and vision to become more permanent in western Augusta County while poising ourselves to multiply through church planting, we have to be unified in our submission to Christ as the head and true shepherd of our church and our Elders as (in a sense) “under-shepherds.” We have to know what position we each play and what God expects of all of us.
However, the American Church is right now in a difficult spot. There are families that leave churches on the regular - sometimes bouncing from one to another like the story of Goldilocks and other times giving up entirely of unmet expectations. At the same time, Pastors and Elders are leaving the ministry at an alarming rate for being overwhelmed with impossible job descriptions, loneliness, and giving their lives trying to care for others while no one cares for them. Then on top of that, many churches have aging congregation with facilities they cannot manage - so they close. And all of this is happening while the mission suffers. May these things not be so for us.
2. So we know how to pray. I want you to be in prayer for the needs we have on not only on our Dream Team (especially Kids Church leadership and small group leadership), but we also need help with behind-the-scenes administrative work (that is increasing the further we get). There are certain vacancies that need to be filled and tasks that need to be done.
The more our church has to rely on any one person, the weaker it is. The more committed players on our team, working in their gifts, the stronger we will become. God has blessed us as a church in incredible ways. Let us pray, as Jesus told us to, that he will send even more laborers into the fields - because the harvest is plentiful and ready to be picked.
3. Because we need to bring on more Elders to our team. From the very beginning of the New Testament Church, Elders (or Pastors) have been raised up and ordained to lead the local congregations. While we do not necessarily have a “handbook” in the Bible for how the Church should run, there is more in Scripture about it than most people realize (especially from Jesus’s teaching, the Book of Acts, and Paul’s letters to the Churches).
So following that same pattern, we are talking about positioning new Elders on our team, too - which is not something we have done since we started our church. In addition to myself, the other two Elders (Travis Campbell and Caleb Spence) are the same ones we had in the beginning when we launched from Calvary Baptist Church in the beginning of 2015! Our church body has benefited GREATLY from the countless hours of prayer, discussion, and action that these men have put into our church mostly behind the scenes.
Just to give you an idea of what we have done through these few years…
- Met with many people to give counsel, provide spiritual restoration, and even church discipline
- Prayed for many hours on our faces before God for wisdom and for the health and future of our church
- Worked through details of the Constitution and By-Laws
- Fought on the front lines of the spiritual battle we are in and often bore the brunt of any criticism
- Made big financial and budgetary decisions early on until forming a Stewardship Team to help with those decisions
- Prayed over every person desiring to become a Covenant Member
- Discussed topics regarding our mission, strategy, measures, vision, and values, and made direction-defining decisions
- Worked through the bringing on of another pastor… and then worked through his resignation plan
- Led our families as examples to our church body
- Put on a marriage “seminar” with our wives
- Worked alongside Future Home team
- And much more
In an effort to stay healthy, we built into our Eldership structure a system to not only bring on new Elders as the church grows and matures, but to also give current Elders seasons of intentional “sabbatical” rest. Our plan is for Staff (or paid) Elders (like myself) to take a several-month long sabbatical every 5-7 years while a volunteer Elder should step away for 1 whole year every 3 years of service (so 3 on, 1 off, and so on). A volunteer Elder may come back on after their sabbatical as long as they AND the current Elders agree they should.
With that being said, we are now in the 4th year of our church… and (regrettably) none of our elders have taken a break. And while the first few years of any Church is full of just trying to figure out what we should or shouldn’t do, I think you will agree that it is time that we follow through with both initiating the process of giving our Elders a rest as well as bringing on new elders.
So… Lord-willing, here is the plan:
- Travis Campbell will step off as an active Elder this Summer to rest
- Next Summer (2020), Caleb Spence will rotate off
- In 2021 (during my 7th year total of pastoring) I will take a sabbatical
As I said earlier, both of these elders will be up for returning to the Elder team if they feel called to do so AND the current elder team votes to bring them back on - allowing us to keep the integrity of our team and build it as needed.
Also, at the same time they are rotating off, this summer we are initiating the process to bring on (hopefully) 2-3 new Elders. This will allow us to build up the team quickly as well as develop a plan for others to come on in the future.
So what is our next step?
This Summer we taught on Eldership, presented the need, prayed for God’s will to be done over our own, and prayed for wisdom to make the right choices.
Starting this Sunday (July 21), anyone that is part of Village Church will have an opportunity to prayerfully submit the names of a couple men that they believe would be good candidates for Eldership. Based on the Scripture that we have looked at, we must ask ourselves these kinds of questions:
- Does he desire the work of an Elder?
- Does he love God and care for people?
- Does he stand firm on God’s Word?
- Does he have an aptitude for teaching Scripture?
- Does he live an exemplary Christian life that is above reproach?
- Does he already stand out as a spiritual leader?
- Has he proven himself already as responsible, committed, and faithful?
- Does he agree with our mission, strategy, vision, and values?
- Is he fully committed to his wife (if married)?
- Is he a leader in his home (if married)?
To be clear, these expectations are not about perfection, but they are about someone living an exemplary life that is striving to be like Christ. The stronger the leadership is, the stronger the church will be.
Also we want to consider whether a candidate’s values match our church’s values, whether they would be a relational fit and help to the team, and whether they have gifts that the leadership team needs. However, this is not any kind of contest of personalities or superlatives. We are simply looking for men that are examples of godliness, that are already serving within the body, that are discipling others, and that are able to devote time to being an Elder.
After we get nominations for Eldership, our current Elders will prayerfully choose 2-3 of them to meet with, determine their willingness, set a plan for further development if needed, and then present them to our membership to vote on in a Church Family Meeting. We want to be careful to confirm God’s leading, but we also want to move as quickly as we can to give our Elders rest.
Lastly, I would like to remind us that our striving to be a Gospel-centered, Christ-exalting, healthily-led church that is reaching the lost and making disciples that are connecting to God, growing in community, serving others, and going and leading others to Jesus is not just something that we do “on the weekends” or out of religious obligation. We are in WARFARE against the darkness. Meaning that when we worship, read, pray, show up early, stay late, confess sin, encourage one another, eat together, visit each other in the hospital, live life together… and all these things that we do as the Church, we are literally engaging in battle against evil!
This is serious. Many soldiers have already fallen around us, but we must stand strong for the glory of God and the sake of the mission ahead of us! And the great news is that we WILL be victorious in the end because we are following our Great Commander who cannot lose.
July 17, 2019