Category: Elders (Page 1 of 2)

Actual Leadership

Today is Opening Day and this is the year the Texas Rangers win 90-games and lay the groundwork for a World Series Championship in 2024! They have the best team they’ve ever had in their miserable history, the best starting rotation in the Major Leagues, an All-Star duo up the middle, and the best pitcher in the world in Jacob deGrom. Bochy-Ball begins today. And it’s going to be a whole lot of fun.

Yes. I know. I’m drinking in every bit of it. I’m swallowing it whole. Hook, line, and sinker. I’m in.


When a baseball team is picking its captain, they don’t choose a rookie. Has a rookie ever been made the captain of a sports team? Healthy teams pick the ones who’ve won championships and played in All-Star Games. They select as captains those who’ve been doing it at a high level for a long time. They choose the ones who arrive early and stay late and live in the weight room. They don’t pick a guy because he’s all blinged-out and he drives a million dollar car and he just filmed a really funny commercial for Nissan. They pick a man with experience. A man who goes above and beyond.

They look around the locker room and say, “Who do we want to be like? Who can we imitate? Who’s already been there and might be able to get us there with him?”

That’s the guy they choose as their leader.

It’s very similar to selecting shepherds to lead your church family. We look around the congregation and ask, “Who do we want to be like? Who can we imitate? Who looks the most like Jesus? Who’s acting and thinking and living like the Christ?” Let’s pick that guy.

You’re not looking for men who CAN be shepherds; you’re looking for men who already ARE shepherds. You just need to make it official.

“Respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord, and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work.” ~1 Thessalonians 5:12-13

Designate the ones who are acting like shepherds. The ones who are working hard to serve the saints. Submit to them (1 Corinthians 16:16). The ones who are already teaching, praying, and encouraging; the ones who are already making the visits and volunteering and leading small groups and pouring themselves into the relationships and the mission of your congregation. Follow them.

“Take note of those who live according to the pattern.” ~Philippians 3:17

Those who live according to the Gospel. Those who live in the name and manner of our crucified and coming Lord Jesus. Take note of them. Recognize them. Point them out. And follow them.

These church leaders are selected because of their work; they don’t start working because they get selected. The Bible says look at the people who are already serving the Lord and his Church and acknowledge them. These people are surfacing as spiritual leaders, so recognize it officially. Does he act like Jesus? Does he sacrifice and serve? Does he consider the needs of others more important than his own? Does he dwell in the Word and pass on the faith? Is his life being visibly transformed by the Holy Spirit?

Then he’d probably make a good elder.


Our Worship Minister here at GCR, Cory Legg, and I are heading to Abilene today for the now twice-annual ACU Summit. The highlight of the day will be the keynote dinner with and presentation by Kristin Kobes Du Mez, the history professor at Calvin University and author of “Jesus and John Wayne.” Her 2020 book articulates so well the problem the American Church has with credibility and Christian influence because of our ties with national politics. She connects the dots so clearly between the Church’s grab for power by using the ways and means of the world as opposed to transforming the world by Christ Jesus’ ways of sacrifice and service. She says so well in this book what I’ve been trying to say clumsily and without much effect for almost twenty years. I can’t wait to hear her this evening.

And if you’ve been thinking deep down in your gut for a while now that there’s something wrong with Christians asserting their rights, demanding their positions become everybody’s positions, and using power, threat, and violence to accomplish it, then I urge you to read her book. There’s a reason the Church is dying in the United States. And we have nobody to blame but ourselves. Lord, have mercy on us.



Spiritual Leadership

When a church is selecting its leaders, it needs to look for spiritual leadership, not worldly leadership. The difference between the two is huge. It’s leading by sacrifice and service instead of by authority and power. It’s paramount. If we’re following the example of our Lord Jesus, the Good Shepherd, this is a non-negotiable.

“When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” ~John 8:28

Jesus says, in other words, “When you see my dying, when you watch me willingly give up my life for others, you’ll know I am the promised Messiah, the Good Shepherd.” Jesus is always completely surrendered to God’s will. He is doing God’s will in God’s ways. The proof of that is in his willingness to humble himself, to make himself the least important person in the room. To die.

“My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” ~John 4:34

My food, my passion, the thing that sustains me, the thing that motivates me, what keeps me going, my everything – is to do God’s work in God’s ways. My Father sets my agenda and he alone determines how I conduct my ministry: with sacrifice and service and submission. That’s how a shepherd leads. Never by power. Never by authority. It’s spiritual, not worldly.

The mother of James and John tells Jesus to ordain them as rulers next to Jesus in the coming Kingdom. He asks if they can pay the price. She says they can. He knows they can’t. The other disciples are indignant. So Jesus gathers all twelve together and gives them a lesson in the differences between spiritual leadership and worldly leadership.

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles (nations) lord it over them and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life.” ~Matthew 20:25-28

Jesus is talking about government leaders and business boards and military commanders. The way they lead is not the way we lead. Good shepherds lead from the back of the line, never the front. They lead by washing feet and dying, never by dictating and demanding. No chain of command, no hierarchy, no flow charts. The biblical model of Jesus, the Chief Shepherd, turns all that upside down. It’s the exact opposite of the way the world leads.

We mess this up in the church sometimes when we select worldly leaders as our spiritual leaders. It doesn’t work. Our culture tells us to choose successful men which means men who make a lot of money and dress nicely and drive expensive cars and live in massive houses, men who are leaders in the community, influencers in politics, and members of the board. Don’t do it. That’s exactly the opposite of spiritual leadership.




Relational Leadership

You’ve got to look at this incredible pass from Luka to Hardy during last night’s Mavericks win over the Pacers. Put the video on full screen and let it roll for like three times. It’s just unfathomable what Luka does almost every single night. It’s not enough to keep them from completely blowing the end of the season – was there anybody who thought the Kyrie trade was going to work? But, man, Luka is a special dude. I pray they haven’t totally ruined him with that putrid trade and this monumental late season collapse. Watch this crazy pass.

This Sunday is our deadline at GCR Church for recommending new shepherds to join our existing eldership. And I want to remind us and anybody else who might be reading this in a different context that we are looking for relational leadership, not positional leadership. Too many churches are led by strangers who are not recognized by the sheep. A true shepherd is followed not because God has given him authority, but because the sheep recognize his voice. In the Bible, God doesn’t tell his people to respond to a leader because he has an office or a title. It has to do with relationship. Uphold these men, the Bible says. Recognize them. Follow them. Not because their names are in the bulletin or because they approve the budget. But because of their hard work. Because of their love for the Body. Because of relationships.

“I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” ~John 10:14

Shepherds in Bible times were not day laborers who show up for work in the morning, put in eight hours with a lunch and a couple of 15-minute breaks, and then call it a day and go home. They lived with their sheep. Day and night. Season after season. They fed them, protected them, loved them. The sheep knew their shepherd’s touch, they recognized his voice, and they followed no other shepherd. It’s about relationship.

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me.” ~John 10:27

Picture Jesus with his disciples. Eating with them, walking and talking with them, working with them, teaching them, encouraging them; praying for them, correcting them, loving them; washing their feet and dying for them. Ordaining elders is about acknowledging relationships, not appointing positions. This doesn’t mean elders don’t have a title, but it means their authority comes from their lives and hearts and Jesus in them, not the title. They have the title because people follow them, not the other way around.

It’s one part of the church saying, “This man is a wonderful shepherd to us and we think he’d be a great shepherd for the whole church.” And the rest of the church saying, “Yeah, please shepherd us, too!”

When we’re looking for elders, WHO he is is a lot more important than WHAT he is. Relational, not positional.



With Prayer and Fasting

“Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord.” ~Acts 14:23

Today is a congregational day of prayer and fasting for our church at GCR as we focus our energies and attention on the solemn task of selecting additional shepherds. Instead of eating, we are using our mealtimes and snack times today to spend concentrated time in Word and Prayer, in communion with the Lord and one another, as it relates to choosing new elders. I invite you to join us today. If you belong to the GCR Church, use this guide in whatever way you’d like as you go through your day. If you’re not a member of our congregation, would you please pray for us at least once today? Lift up your brothers and sisters in Midland to our Father in the name of Jesus and ask him to bless us with wisdom and clarity and with good men with servant hearts. Then, if you’re in Midland, join us at 5:30 this evening as we break the fast together with a congregational supper. Then at 6:30, we’ll dismiss the kids to children’s worship and Bible class while we adults hang back for some conversation regarding “the lists” in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.

Ezekiel 34:11-16, 25-31
Pray for our current shepherds and their wives by name

Psalm 23:1-6
Thank God for the elders who have faithfully gone before us at GCR

John 10:1-10, 11-18
Pray for the one(s) you are recommending as new shepherd(s)

1 Timothy 3:1-7
Pray for men of character who are beyond reproach in our city and church

Titus 1:6-9
Ask the Holy Spirit to guide our church during this process

1 Peter 5:1-11
Pray the new shepherds will fit in well with our current elders and the leadership transitions will be smooth for them and our church

Hebrews 13:7, 17, 20-21
Pray that our church will make the work of our shepherds a joy

Matthew 20:25-28
Ask God to raise up men with servant hearts to lead our church

Ephesians 4:11-16
Pray that the Lord will encourage us, unify us, and grow us through this shepherd selection time

1 Thessalonians 5:12-13
Pray that our whole church will participate in the selection process

May our Lord bless us and guide us together with his grace and peace.

On Sabbaticals and Continuing Ed

Let me explain a bit about the mandatory one-year sabbaticals and the continuing education and elder training for our shepherds at GCR. As we are restructuring our eldership and selecting additional shepherds to serve, I’ve received a couple of questions about these two new pieces.

First, regarding the sabbaticals. Our shepherds are going to begin serving three-year commitments. We are no longer ordaining elders to lifelong appointments. (I’ve already detailed the reasons behind these three-year cycles in earlier posts.) An elder can serve two consecutive three-year cycles, but that seventh year is a mandatory one-year sabbatical. This 12-months is not just a break. It’s not a year in which the elder doesn’t have to attend meetings or read the minutes from those meetings. The sabbatical is an intentional time for development as a shepherd and spiritual renewal.

The way we’re structuring things, the elder about to take his sabbatical must present his sabbatical plan to the rest of the shepherds for their approval. I’m planning to attend this conference or this retreat; I’m going to read these two books on spiritual leadership; I’m going to re-engage this certain ministry; I’m going to attend a new weekly Bible study; I’m traveling to the mountains for a two-week spiritual retreat. Whatever the plan, it should be intentionally designed so that elder can be renewed spiritually and equipped to be a better leader of the flock.

One elder will be assigned to walk with that shepherd during his sabbatical, to pray for him regularly, to check in with him periodically, to meet with him quarterly to get updates. Then, when the sabbatical is over, that elder will give a report to the rest of the shepherds. This is what I did. This is what I heard from the Lord. This is what I’m thinking now. This is what I see more clearly now. This is what convicted me during my time away. If that elder wants to step down after his sabbatical, he’s good to go – he served two three-year cycles, he did what he said he would do, he did what the church asked him to do. He leaves with our gratitude and appreciation. If he wants to continue serving as a shepherd, he must be approved by the rest of the elders to come back.

Again, this mandatory sabbatical allows an elder to get away from the urgency of the position to evaluate their continued calling in a healthy way.

Second, we are placing an expectation on our shepherds that they will continually seek training in spiritual leadership. They will attend ElderLink conferences and seminars on church governance. They will go to ACU Summit and/or Pepperdine Harbor. They will participate in spiritual leadership training at GCR, the details of which are still being worked out, and work outside our GCR bubble to experience other settings and different churches to become better equipped to shepherd our flock.

We expect our ministers to be engaged in continuing education. We expect our ministers to stay professionally sharp, to get outside our box, to seek new and better ideas ways to proclaim the Gospel and minister to our people and serve the community. We expect our ministers to pay close attention to their own relationships with the Lord. Shouldn’t we have those same expectations of our elders?

Someone pushed back a bit on that with me Sunday: “Well, the ministers are full-time paid staff. That’s part of their paid job.” My response was, “In our system, the elders are the ones who make all the big decisions for the church. We should probably be more concerned about their continuing education and spiritual development than that of the ministers.”

Bear with me as I keep processing our restructuring and shepherd selection at GCR Church in this space. If this is helpful to you in your setting, praise God. If you come here looking for occasional updates on my family or daring sports opinions, you might be out of luck for a few days. My youngest daughter and my older son-in-law flew to Arizona last weekend to take in a Taylor Swift concert to which I cannot relate and about which I have nothing to say. And the whole left side of my brackets is demolished. Completely trashed. I’m in last place in our family contest and, if not for Kim O’Connor, would be in last place in our church contest. I’ll stick to writing about shepherd selection for a while.



Servants FOR the Church

I have completed my March Madness bracket in preparation for the most glorious two-and-a-half weeks in sports. I’ve got NC State upsetting Baylor in the second round and Penn State doing the same thing to A&M. I’ve got Texas losing to Houston in the Midwest Regional Final and TCU going all the way to the West Regional Final and losing to UConn. I’m picking Arizona and Duke to join Houston and UConn in the Final Four with Cougar High beating Zona for the championship. Those are my picks. And I am less confident in them as I have ever been.


As we prepare to select additional shepherds at our church at GCR, let’s discuss some of our expectations as church members. Deep inside our bones, all of us are free-enterprise, open-market, individualistic consumers. All of us drink deeply from the wells of retail and marketing. The customer is always right. Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back. 30 days free trial. Sometimes, if we’re not careful, we sell Christianity or the Church by trying to make it low cost and high value. We have to continuously guard against those cultural tendencies.

We can also treat our elders as if they are “goods and services” we’re owed as faithful church members.

I do believe our shepherds should be a front line support for our families and our marriages. They should be present during times of illness and death. I think all that is in the job description. But is that the ultimate end of eldering? Is the goal for a shepherd to provide encouragement and comfort to the members? When the elders get to heaven, will Jesus’ first question be, “Did you provide enough emotional support for my sheep?” I think that question will be on his list, but I don’t think it’ll be in the top ten.

If we’re not careful, the care and support of an elder could become another of the consumer goods to which church members feel entitled. We might read our elders through consumer eyes. And consumers either get what they want or they go shopping elsewhere.

Shepherding is not a free counseling service that provides comfort in the hospitals and prayers at the funerals. Shepherding is a mentoring program designed to call every member of the church into Christ-like living. Elders are to teach and model and lead others toward more selfless service, submission, sacrifice, and, yes, even suffering. And that’s a lot harder than just being a comfort during times of trial.

Sometimes we get the idea that the church owes me counseling and comforting and the top guys showing up to anoint me with oil and pray with my family whenever I call. Or my friend’s family. Or the funeral of somebody who sat on the west side. Sometimes it’s not the natural result of loving relationships and community in Christ, it’s an entitlement, something bought and demanded. So, the elders, instead of being viewed as our spiritual leaders who call us and lead us to faithful service, are seen as our servants to sacrifice and serve for us so we don’t have to.

When a visit or a prayer by an elder becomes something that’s demanded by people who wouldn’t go to the funeral of that elder’s mother, we’ve turned Christianity into a commodity instead of a community. We’ve completely forgotten we are members of this faith community to learn to become like Christ, not to have our egos stroked or our consumer demands met.

So, yes, it is right and necessary that our shepherds visit the hospitals and attend the funerals. But only if the members see that as an example to be followed, not as a service to be expected or demanded.

True shepherding is leading God’s people to do what the elders do. To be visited and served by church members trained by their elders to visit and serve on their own would be the sign of a deeply healthy congregation – a richly blessed body shaped in the image of our Lord.



« Older posts