Showing posts with label Elders. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Elders. Show all posts

Friday, June 14, 2024

Too Hot to Handle: Disconnected?

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

Immanuel Can: Tom, let’s talk about elders, particularly in their shepherding (the meaning of “pastoral”, as you know) relationship to their congregations.

I’ve observed a consistent phenomenon: churches are usually required by law to have some sort of general annual business meeting (AGM). At that meeting there are always some members of the congregation who are unhappy with something that has been decided on their behalf. It may be something small, or something quite big.

Wednesday, January 03, 2024

Going to the Dogs

“They are all silent dogs; they cannot bark, dreaming, lying down, loving to slumber.”

Our late Shih Tzu was not a silent dog, but he was probably as close as you’ll ever get. He almost never barked, and when he did, about the most you’d get from him was a polite, solitary “Arf.” If you didn’t respond to that, you were on your own.

A non-barking dog is world’s greatest pet when you live in an apartment and want to maintain some sort of decent relationship with your neighbors. But our little guy would not have made much of a watchdog.

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Disqualifying Dad (An Unlikely Defense of John Piper)

John Piper is a well-known 77-year old Minnesota pastor and media presence with four sons, three of whom currently do not rock his spiritual boat. Barnabas is a pastor in Nashville, Benjamin a construction worker and Karsten a college English teacher. If either of the latter two are not believers in good standing at their local churches, we certainly never hear about it.

Yay for good parenting doing what it is supposed to do.

Abraham Piper is another story. The man even has his own Wikipedia entry and a TikTok following of over two million for his two pages, self-described as “a smidge of sacrilege” and peppered with salty language. Not a believer, and not only out and proud of it, but formally excommunicated to boot, and dedicated to taking shots at the faith and publicly mocking his father’s beliefs.

Thursday, May 04, 2023

Mastering the Pastor Disaster

Her voice on the end of the phone was shaky. Clearly she was very, very upset about something. But she couldn’t bring herself to tell me what. Her words came out in a kind of extended groan that seemed to swell up from inside the depths of her heart, but could only leak past her lips. Something very bad had happened.

As our conversation continued, I gently drew more details out of her broken responses, and it became clearer. Not only she, but all her friends and her church, had been betrayed. A leader in their circle, much loved and widely admired, had turned the corner of a disastrous course. The first of the news had just broken; and she had called me less to tell me than to seek some kind of soothing for her aching soul.

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Who’s Minding the Store?

I’m seeing more and more of those “self-checkout” units at the local stores. They always creep me out a bit. There just seems to be something really weird about the idea of walking up to a mechanical box, shuffling around my own transaction, and then leaving, going out of a store without passing by a person.

I feel as if I owe somebody some kind of explanation, like “Here’s my purchase, and here’s my money, and they match up; so don’t call the cops.” And then this person is supposed to give me the nod, like, “Okay, you’re alright this time; but when you come back, we’ll need to see each other again.”

Friday, December 30, 2022

Too Hot to Handle: The Role of a Senior Pastor

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

A website with plenty of other, more helpful posts also contains this gem:

“Question: What does the Bible say about the role of a senior pastor?”

Tom: Oh, you’re going to make ME pull the pin on this one? Fine, fine.

The question is phrased this way: “What does the Bible say?”, which might lead one to naively conclude that the answer will have something to do with the teaching of the Bible. Which it sort of does ... until you read the first sentence.

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Wheat and Weeds

I was talking to a close friend last week. He’s serving as an elder in a local congregation of believers. A man of their gathering has raised an issue; he feels very strongly that certain forms of worship are simply out of court for Christians. But the form he most particularly dislikes is one that scripture never even really talks about one way or the other. In fact, if I told you what it was, you’d likely be very surprised; it’s something that Christians have done routinely for a long time now.

My pal was struggling with how to handle this guy.

The objector is pretty strong on his beliefs, and he’s not at all happy that the elders are not jumping to his side instantly. But my friend is more thoughtful and scriptural in his convictions; and I think he senses that the objection is more a matter of personal preference than of principle.

Thursday, December 01, 2022

Who’s Running This Place Anyway?

Churches today need leaders — badly. And biblically speaking, that means they need elders.

“Elder” doesn’t necessarily mean old but it does mean spiritually mature, so some age and experience are required, of course.

Unfortunately, spiritually mature people are in short supply these days. I fear that the majority of my generation, the currently middle-aged, didn’t spend much of their youth reading the Bible or seeking spiritual growth opportunities. Consequently, those now in the best age group to be selected as elders to lead the churches are not quite up to the task.

But churches still need leadership.

Friday, August 26, 2022

Too Hot to Handle: Feeding the Sheep

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

When the Lord Jesus restored Peter, he gave him a job: “Feed my sheep.” He repeated his instructions twice, each time with a slightly different verb, and in one instance with a slightly different object.

Assuming we think there is an example in this anecdote for Christians to follow, the net effect is to make the men who shepherd the people of God in our present age responsible for the entire flock — young and old, of whatever type — and to charge them with the care of their spiritual diet, as well as their guidance and direction.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Anonymous Asks (163)

“Do elders have authority?”

A hundred years ago nobody would have asked this question. Today, authority of every kind is being challenged at every level. Don’t like what the founders wrote in the Constitution? Just reinterpret it. Don’t like the Governor’s latest executive order? No worries, an unelected County Circuit Judge will shortly declare it unconstitutional so you don’t have to comply. Don’t want the fraudulent election results you certified audited? Just refuse to hand over the evidence of your malfeasance. Are the health care rights guaranteed in your province getting in the way of your ability to impose mandated vaccination? Don’t worry, we’ll find a way around that.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Semi-Random Musings (23)

I have seen the future of the church. It is non-institutional, non-sectarian, untraditional, discreet, highly portable and deadly serious. These are all good things.

That’s my conclusion after a week away up north with a group of 11 Christians of varied backgrounds, denominations and convictions from all over our province. What drew us together was a pair of mutual friends and our love of Christ, not any particular theological compatibility or shared history.

Here is my concern, and it’s a big one: in our movement toward what sure looks like the inevitable next phase of church life in North America, we are in danger of leaving our leadership behind.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Binary Thinking

How we choose to express disagreement is often more important than what we are disagreeing about in the first place.

Some folks have a tendency to take aim at the most ridiculous, transparently caricatured representation of the side they oppose. I used to put it down to straw-manning. I considered people who argued this way manipulative and calculating.

Now I wonder.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Too Hot to Handle: Minding the Store [Part 2]

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

Continuing a discussion arising out of Immanuel Can’s recent and well-received post “Who’s Minding the Store?

Elders have the job of feeding the flock. IC’s post suggested that not only the Holy Spirit’s leading but a certain amount of human organization, ingenuity and especially careful observation are necessary in effectively carrying out that task. I pointed out some of the things that make that tougher than it looks, and we considered three of them last week. And here we are.

Tom: Since you mention individual gifts, IC, I pointed out in our discussion last Friday that our gifts tend to predispose us to see the world a certain way.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Leadership: It’s a Dog’s Life

It seems everybody today is complaining about the lack of leadership in the local church. Those appointed to lead are not leading at all, or they’re leading too much. Either the whole church is failing to stand for anything, or else arbitrary and inflexible leadership is killing off the life of the church by strangling it with tradition, routine and rules. No one likes how things are running, but no one is terribly sure what a better style of leadership would look like.

Oh, there’s no end of advice out there.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Too Hot to Handle: Minding the Store [Part 1]

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

In his recent post “Who’s Minding the Store?” Immanuel Can considered the responsibility of elders in deciding what should be taught in the local church they care for. His point was that elders need to really know their congregations in order to provide them with the spiritual food they need. Somebody needs to “mind the store”, so to speak.

Tom: I wanted to get into this a bit further with you, IC, and it seems to me this is a better place to do it than a back-and-forth in the comments to the original post.

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

If It Happens Again I’m Leaving

Doug Wilson is not the only Christian blogging about the phenomenon of people leaving a church over the issue of compulsory mask-wearing, but he’s probably more quoted on the subject than most. Responding in a recent post to questions from believers frustrated by the stand their own elders have taken over the issue, Doug has (perhaps inadvertently) opened a larger can of worms than the mask issue itself, which is the authority of elders to bind the consciences of those under their care over matters about which scripture is silent.

And the mask issue is certainly that.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Too Hot to Handle: Disconnected?

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Semi-Random Musings (14)

Numbers 4 states repeatedly that only men from the tribe of Levi between the ages of thirty and fifty were to be engaged in the service of the tabernacle. Upon reaching fifty, they were to “withdraw from the duty of the service and serve no more.”

On this basis I have heard it suggested that local church elders should be careful not to stay in the saddle too long, and that age fifty is a logical time to pass the torch to the next generation. Presumably then, these men — still fifteen years too young to collect a government pension — should make their way back to the pews to spend their next thirty or forty years grinding their teeth at the spectacle of younger men making all the mistakes they have learned to avoid. Or else start spending all their winters in Florida.

This cannot be quite right. It isn’t.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Mastering the Pastor Disaster

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Who’s Minding the Store?

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Friday, May 03, 2019

Too Hot to Handle: A Lack of Leadership

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

Is a good man always hard to find?
Immanuel Can: Tom, we need a new generation of spiritual leaders in our congregations. But they don’t seem to be appearing in most places, and not nearly fast enough for the rising need.

What can we do?

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Should Elders Give Orders?

Frank Viola’s Reimagining Church: Pursuing the Dream of Organic Christianity is a vitally important — even radical — reassessment of the church that attempts to encourage evangelicals out of clericalism and into something much more like what was taught by the apostles and practiced in the first century. Several summers ago, I examined it here, here and here.

Friday, August 03, 2018

Too Hot to Handle: Rule Upon Rule, Line Upon Line

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

Tom: Immanuel Can, we’ve both done a little Bible teaching over the years in local churches. I have been noticing a trend toward verse-by-verse Bible teaching over, say, topical messages, and I’m wondering if you’re encountering the same thing.

Immanuel Can: It varies. I do think I’ve seen a mild trend that way, but not exclusively so. What makes this interesting to you, Tom?

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Making Do

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

So a friend and I are out for lunch, and as usual we’re discussing the church. A recurring theme: the New Testament ideal vs. street-level reality. A plethora of genuine difficulties may arise when we seek to apply what was done in the first century in our modern church settings.

An example: shepherds and teachers. You need to have them or the flock simply doesn’t get guarded, guided, fed or cared for the way it should. But in smaller local gatherings, sometimes you just … don’t. For one reason or another, right now they’re not there.

That’s one kind of weakness. Definitely a problem.

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Commentariat Speaks (13)

Many moons ago I wrote a post about the evolving definition of the word “religion”. When I was a teen it was common to hear that “Christianity is not a religion, it’s a relationship.” By the strictest definition of the day this was probably true, and it was a distinction worth making.

Today, however, the popular usage of “religion” (and the dictionary definition with it) has broadened sufficiently that this is no longer the case, and anyone who insists upon repeating that old saw is not just pedantic but factually incorrect.

The point that among religions Christianity is uniquely relationship-based remains worth making, but the stark contrast between religion and not-religion no longer exists. You can have your religion more or less relationship-free if that’s your thing.

Not that it’s likely to do you much good.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Seems Good to Me

Elders haven’t got the easiest job in the world.

The average local church requires answers to a hundred different questions in the course of a year. Some are of an obvious and urgent spiritual nature. Others appear innocuous and procedural, though even these may be chock-a-block with hidden spiritual landmines.

Sure, deacons handle many of the day-to-day administrative details in gatherings where New Testament principles of operation are given priority, but that still leaves an awful lot of territory to be talked over, prayed through and hashed out between busy men just trying to do the best possible job of shepherding the people of God, often while caring for their own families and leading busy lives.

The most careful, prayerful, diligent and confident leader must still occasionally ask himself “Are we getting this right?” Or if he doesn’t, he should.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Leadership: It’s a Dog’s Life

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

One More Kick at the Can

Confrontation is not easy. Not for most people at least, which is a good thing: people who lick their chops at the thought of a good set-to are the last people who should be confronting anyone.

My job involves the occasional confrontation. Happily, not often; maybe three times in the fifteen years I’ve been supervising. In our office, the kitchen is the best place to chew someone out when you absolutely have to. It’s open and accessible so that nothing is done behind closed doors, but far enough from the troops that nobody hears what you’re saying — unless you intend them to.

At least that’s the way I choose to do it. I’ve never liked the practice of running to upper management when I have issues with the behavior of employees who report to me. Not at first, anyway.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Who’s Running This Place Anyway?

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Inbox: Policing the Table

A reader queries an older post. Jeff asks:

“Are there any hard guidelines as who can eat the Lord’s supper? You refuted a few in this post but are there others not mentioned? (i.e., baptism, member of a local church, a women who doesn’t want to wear a head covering, etc.)

Also, who has the authority to decide who gets to eat and who doesn’t? Obviously God has given us certain instructions pertaining to church order, is it the elders / pastors / leaders’ job to police these issues?”

Good questions, Jeff.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

My Church Must Change

There’s a thread of an idea that pops up at the end of a previous post that I wanted to take a few more moments to explore, since it’s been cropping up over and over again throughout my life.

Parents love their kids, or at least they should. In properly-functioning family units, which would hopefully include most Christian families, parents generally fulfill their responsibilities more consistently and effectively, though none of us can claim to have achieved perfection in parenting. Far from it.

But some parents cannot resist putting a finger on the scales to help their kids through life. This is the source of all kinds of trouble.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Nice Getting to Know You ...

Embarrassing story of father-failure. Brace yourselves.

My youngest son was fired not too long ago. Well, “fired” is a harsh word for something that was actually done with unusual politeness. The Asian manager of the donut store where he’d been working for three weeks let him know at the end of his shift that, “Uh, it was really nice getting to know you, but you don’t need to come back next week.”

Hmm. Okay then.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Too Hot to Handle: The Role of a Senior Pastor

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Monday, March 06, 2017

To Jezreel By Chariot

Jehu-style leadership is not always a bad thing.

Both Jehu and David were anointed king of Israel at God’s command. David chose to serve King Saul faithfully until forced to flee for his life, then served God and country as he was able while on the run until Saul met his end in battle. It took approximately 32 years to establish David’s kingdom.

Jehu, on the other hand, sniffed the political winds, discovered his fellow commanders all had his back, then promptly drove his chariot to Jezreel at speed and killed not just the king of Israel and his entire family, his friends, his priests and his inner circle, but the visiting king of Judah to boot. His kingdom was established in a matter of hours.

The similarities end with the anointing oil.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Anointing a Bramble

The worst leaders are people desperate to lead.

I think we’re all seeing that on TV right about now. The conventional wisdom is that America is reduced to scrounging for its least-worst presidential option, and the pickings are world-record slim.

This is not a new problem. In democratic countries, politicians are stereotypically less credible than used car salesmen, TV evangelists and the mainstream media.

People who want to run the show are often the worst people to actually do it.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Mastering the Pastor Disaster

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Too Hot to Handle: Minding the Store [Part 2]

 The most recent version of this post is available here.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Too Hot to Handle: Minding the Store [Part 1]

 The most recent version of this post is available here.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Who’s Minding the Store?

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

“We Should Only Allow …”

I’m reading a twenty year-old article on the subject of divorce written by a Christian whose judgment and understanding of scripture I respect and whose personal conduct as a believer is excellent.

So it’s hard to explain why I feel a bit irked as I work my way through it. I think it has to do with the phrase: “We should only allow …”

I wonder, who is “we”, and what is the biblical mechanism by which we choose to “allow” or “not allow” certain sorts of choices to be made by other believers?

Monday, May 30, 2016

Elders and HR Departments

Gotcha, Mr. Employee!
Having recently experienced a round of mandatory workplace sensitivity indoctrination administered by our Human Resources department (part of a company-wide initiative, not the result of any particular violation on my part), I’m struck by the differences in how offenses are handled between believers and between my fellow employees.

When I say “not the result of any particular violation”, I should probably append the word “yet” just to be safe. The number of ways one may offend in the workplace today is truly remarkable, and there’s no guarantee I will not fall afoul of their ever-morphing web of ultra-flexible guidelines at some point.

They’re like flypaper. I kid you not.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Throwing Money

My brother once commented (rather perceptively) that I try to solve every problem I encounter by throwing money at it.

He was not wrong. And I’m not the only one.

An elder at one of the local churches in my neighbourhood invited me over for dinner a few weeks ago, and we spent a very enjoyable evening together discussing nearly everything under the sun. One of the subjects he brought up was the regular compensation of pastors.

To his satisfaction, I did the expected double-take.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Leadership: It’s a Dog’s Life

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Binary Thinking

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

The Power of Two

How do we make decisions in the church? What is the teaching of the New Testament?

In his book Reimagining Church, Frank Viola contends that the normal method of making major decisions in the church is by consensus, not just of leadership but of every believer in a local church. (You can find my review here.)

He uses the council at Jerusalem in Acts 15 as his sole scriptural evidence.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Reimagining Decision-Making

How does your church go about making decisions?

Perhaps you don’t actually know. In very large churches, the process of deciding what is going to be done may be quite opaque to those who meet there. Where there is a very distinct hierarchy in place, perhaps decisions are made unilaterally, or maybe they are initiated by a ‘head pastor’ or equivalent and signed off on by a board or council of elders. Then again, maybe they are arrived at by discussion among elders and presented fait accompli to the congregation. Or perhaps opinions are solicited and discussed, and a decision is later made with the promise that “all voices have been heard and all opinions considered”.

Maybe there are lots of ugly politics involved that nobody really wants to talk about. I don’t know your church, so I won’t presume.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Keeping It Relevant

Is this old enough for you?
In a previous post, I set out the evidence from scripture that elders ought to be, well ... older.

Bit of a disappointment, I know. It is the nature of our society to obsess over youth: to make a big deal of energy, enthusiasm and an absence of wrinkles.

That’s actually a pretty modern quirk. Societies all over the world used to have great respect for the wisdom that comes with age, even though such sagacity was rarely accompanied by a six-pack or a pretty face.

No more. We’re so happy to see young people contribute in our churches that even if what they offer is mediocre and half-hearted, we’re pole-vaulting over each other with joy and pronouncing them the next big thing.

Almost always to their detriment, and ours.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Elders Are Older

... though not necessarily THIS old.
I recently participated in an online discussion on the subject of elders that generated a significant number of responses. Some of these were more on point than others, but there was enough muddling of the issues, inadvertent straw-manning and anecdotal meandering to make me feel that it’s worthwhile addressing at least one aspect of the qualifications for elders that we find in scripture.

That aspect is age: Elders are older.

Sorry, that’s my understanding of New Testament teaching. It is, evidently, not the understanding of many of my fellow believers.

Defining Terms

One problem with online debates is the tendency to talk past each other because we have not agreed on what we mean, so I’d like to be as clear as is possible.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Pastor, Get A Job

Adam Russell posts a short piece on “The Bi-Vocational Life” at promoting the tentmaking lifestyle. His thesis, that work and ministry are not mortal enemies, is actively contested in the comments section, where a number of pastors who have lived the bi-vocational lifestyle make the point that, well, it isn’t a lot of fun and you don’t ever get a day off.

If I respond with “Poor babies”, am I going to draw heat?

Okay, I’ll dial the rhetoric back a notch or two.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Recommend-a-blog (4)

Bible teacher Jack Spender tackles a tough but relevant subject in a post called “When Should an Aged Elder Step Back?

It’s a good question, and one to which the answer is not necessarily about the number of years you’ve lived, but more about effectiveness and planning for the future of the local church.

The author is Brethren, but his reflections and suggestions are relevant to any Christians that still observe the New Testament principle of recognizing or ordaining elders, with or without a paid pastor. There is a time to serve and a time to get out, and far too many do not recognize when the latter has arrived.