All of the really great preachers in Churches of Christ from the really great congregations in our fellowship — the churches that are really dynamic and moving and making a difference in the world and in the Kingdom — all tell a similar story. Jeff Walling, Terry Rush, Patrick Mead, Rick Atchley, Lynn Anderson, Don McLaughlin, Mike Cope and others all say the same thing.
“The day our elders decided to let go, to stop focusing on administration and decision-making and start working on prayer and teaching and relationships, is the day our church really took off. Our church just exploded the day our elders changed the way they lead.”
They all say the same thing.
That’s when churches thrive. That’s when churches begin to breathe and grow and mature. When the elders decide to equip and release.
Let the deacons handle coke machines and paint colors and display stands in the foyer. Let the staff deal with bulletins and office supplies and rules for the gym. Let ministry leaders take care of programs and mission trips, casseroles and camps. Free the members to worship and serve and evangelize and work and fellowship.
Our elders here at Legacy are doing that. In what has been termed a “transition” year for us, our shepherds have decided that their leadership must be re-envisioned from within. Their role as shepherds is not primarily to make decisions. Their role is to spiritually guide our people. To pray. To study. To serve. To walk alongside us. To mentor. To lead from a relational standpoint, not a positional standpoint.
Our Legacy shepherds have been taking bigger steps in this direction for a while now. And the congregation’s been blessed. Our elders and ministers are up here every weekday morning from 7:00 – 8:00 praying over the needs of this church and this community, praying with people, consoling people, loving people. They’re attending and shepherding our Sunday evening Small Groups Churches, getting in the living rooms and kitchens of our brothers and sisters, holding babies and making peanut butter sandwiches and hugging the hurting. There are more Bible studies, more benevolent works, and more counseling.
And now this:
Our shepherds have been meeting twice a month for as long as anybody can remember. For the past two-and-a-half years it’s been the first and third Thursday evenings. Not anymore. Starting this month, our elders are meeting on that first Thursday to vote and make decisions and do whatever else they absolutely have to do. Yes, we’ll still pray and attend to the needs of the flock as they come up in that first meeting. But on that third Thursday, beginning tonight, we’ll gather only to get our visitation assignments. And then we’ll hit the streets.
Two-by-two. We’re going to visit those in our church who are sick. In the hospital. Brand new members. Those who’ve recently been baptized. Shut-ins. Families with brand new babies. The goal is to be inside the homes and holding the hands of 30 of our families during that night. No meeting. No decisions. No administrative matters. No motions and seconds. No votes. One of our meetings a month is going to be completely dedicated to praying with our people. Consoling them. Praising God with them. Listening to them. Helping them. Walking alongside them.
The elders here have promised this year to intentionally let go of some things and zero in with greater focus on other things. This is one of those things.
Our shepherds are not divorcing themselves from the administrative needs of the church, but they don’t see them as their primary function, either. They’re working toward a relational leadership style and model that demonstrates holy shepherding. This move communicates clearly that they view visits and prayer and study — spiritual guidance — as more important than the board meetings.
Tonight’s the first night. Pray for our shepherds and ministers as we take this step together. Encourage them as they pursue a more biblical approach to servant-leadership. Thank them for their dedication to the people of this flock. I’m so proud of them. This is huge. I’m honored to serve with them. I can’t wait.