Gospel Eldership

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Well, I was pretty disappointed from the offset on this book.   I know, I know… what a way to begin a book review.  Bear with me.

I really, really was excited about this book.  As a person who has an interest in developing biblically sound leaders… this book jumped out at me as a great resource.  Then it happened… the top of page 4:  An elder is a man.

That is where my heart sunk.  I’ve been pretty honest in other posts about my struggle with the role of women as Pastors.  It was once something I was very against, morphed into something that became not quite so hardlined.  There were clearly times where God called a woman to lead (Deborah) and there are references of women in the New Testament as apostles and deaconesses.  It’s left me in a place currently where I feel as if the calling of women into headship is not outside of God’s character (even if it isn’t the norm).   It has even challenged me to the previous post, If Not Here, Than Where? … I can’t deny that women are called to lead and we need to have a place for them to do so.

Additionally, even with a historical belief that women were not called to be Pastors, I’ve never attended a church where women have been excluded from the role of deacon or elder.  In fact, it has been something I have seen Pastors embrace.  To have a female perspective will give staff the pulse of the women in the church, to have an elder that can counsel women directly without question of impropriety is a good safety measure, etc.

The scriptures clearly call women to teach other women, and that would also be to lead and guide other women. Why could there not be an elder, deacon, or even Pastor that does not oversee women?  Even if you were complementarian, I would think you could see that this would be an answer to the “if not here, then where?” question.

I wanted to keep reading though, and shortly found myself hung up again.

Thune states:  Complementarianism is the theological term for this viewpoint.  Men and women are complementary in their God-given design and roles, with men bearing the responsibility for spiritual leadership in the home and church.

He continues with the question:  If the men in your church looked like the men this resource envisions, would you have any reason not to trust, respect, and affirm their leadership?

And… to that question, I answer emphatically NO!  I would have zero reason to question their leadership. And… THIS IS THE VERY PROBLEM WE FACE IN THE CHURCH!

Right now statistically, women are comprising 60-65% of the warm bodies sitting in our pews every Sunday.   They make up 80-90% of the volunteer force in the church.  If you look at any church small group or bible study calendar, I would dare say that women’s ministry programs/events/studies will outnumber the male counterparts 4 to 1.

When I speak with women at events, do you know what the number one complain I get is?

I wish my husband was the spiritual leader in our home.  I’m tired of doing this on my own.  I don’t want the job.  It’s not supposed to be my job. 

When I speak with Pastors and other church staff, do you know what they give as a reason for not wanting women to go away on weekend long retreats?

If the women aren’t here on Sunday, the men don’t come and they don’t bring the children.

Now, I do not know if this is a regional thing.  Perhaps in the area of the country Mr. Thune is from, men are still the spiritual leaders.  But in THIS area, where I live, it is not the case.  The women are picking up that role, whether they want it or not, and therefore they are leaders in the home and in the church.  I’ve yet to sit in a church service, conference, or event locally that has challenged men to stand up to the occasion and change that direction.  The men have not be challenged to come when the women can’t, but instead they women have been told not to go.  A burden has been put upon their shoulders that was never meant to be, but the women are rising to the occasion.

It’s not that I disagree with Mr. Thune’s perspective on how God ordained the order of the family and headship.  Hardly, ideally it is exactly what God would want… but it’s not happening… and can we afford for those who are stepping up into leadership to not receive the proper training and development?

John Piper once spoke at a conference about his parents.  His father would travel for work, and while his father was away his mother stepped up to the occasion.  She handled the home until his father returned, then it was returned to his care.  Right now, our men are away… and we are handling the church… until they return.  Women are waiting for their men to “come home” and lead.  Until that time, we have a responsibility to our children and those who are in our charge.

If women are going to be spiritual leaders of their home, and in the church, picking up that slack… then they must be 1) equipped for the job with proper training and 2) held to the same standards a man would be in that position.

It is from that point forward, that I absolute LOVE and VALUE what this book has to offer in the way we are equipping our leaders.  I’ve seen many elders appointed in my day, but do you know that I’ve never heard of any one of them going through any sort of intentional or purposeful development… especially like this book offers.

I think this is a great resource for your existing elder team to work through together, in order to have a better understanding of their role in the church, further their relationship with each other, and have a better understanding of theology for their own personal edification and in leading others.  But, this is also a great tool for potential leaders in the church (not just for the role of elder).  It allows for honest introspection, challenges our leaders to a deeper commitment, raises the stakes on integrity and ethics of the leadership role, clear expectations from a biblical perspective for our leaders, and exercises and conversation that cause our leaders/potential leaders to really think about whether or not eldership is a calling on their life now (or ever).

The more I dug into the remaining content, the more I caught myself nodding my head in agreement.  THESE ARE THE MEN WE NEED IN OUR CHURCH.  Where are they?

Will they answer the call?

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My review of “Gospel Eldership” is entirely my own opinion.  I received the copy of “Gospel Eldership” from New Growth Press with the intention of a review.  Any thoughts expressed are my own and not influenced in anyway by the author or publisher. 

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I’m Asking for Trust, Not Power

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I’ve spent a little over a year doing some self examination, particularly in the area of leadership.  I came to a realization today, and jumped right to the keyboard to share it.  What I realized was my greatest struggle in leadership (now, and in the past) has always fallen in the difference between POWER and TRUST.   This applies to my management background and even within my ministry work.

Men, generally speaking, are looking for power and authority.  They climb the corporate ladder because they want to be top dog.  This isn’t true for all men, and this doesn’t negate that they work really hard and make sacrifices to get there.  It is that drive to “be their own boss” that makes men want to elevate their position or even start their own company.   Even in the church there is usually a progression:  Youth Pastor => Associate Pastor => Head Pastor.  In ministry it is common for a man to work his way up too, he may start out as an usher and then become head usher.  This forward movement is normal for men.

Women, I contend, have a different motivation.  Most women are not looking to be in power or have ultimate authority, but instead they want to be trusted to get the job done.  Women will stay in the same role for years, even a lifetime, if they find the job fulfilling.  In ministry, you can see this displayed in Sunday School teachers or Women’s Ministry leaders who have happily been serving for decades.  For many years the predominant use of women in the church came down to very domesticated roles, like rocking babies in the nursery, teaching Sunday School, singing in the choir, decorating the church, secretarial, and acts of hospitality (coffee on Sunday mornings, or food for the sick).  Historically, that is a fairly accurate role… but as time passed and women became educated and entered the workforce, there was a shift.

Women have become innovators and inventors, they write software, perform surgeries, run multi-million dollar organizations and corporations.  They have become college professors with doctorates, leading experts in many fields, politicians, business owners, and entrepreneurs.  Women have contributed significantly to the world through art, music, and literature.  When they raise their hand to volunteer at church, they are looking for a way to use those talents and skills to help the church in it’s vision.  However it is pretty common to usher her toward the children’s ministry director or hospitality team.

After my first was born, I chose to become a stay at home mom.  In nearly seventeen years, and multiple churches as we moved, there has not been a single conversation regarding my professional background among church leaders.  Not one.  Yet many of those skills would benefit any church or organization I have worked with. 

Not a single one could tell you that I was the fasting rising, and youngest manager in my company.  Nor, that my numbers were the best in our region (and in some instances our state).  They wouldn’t know that I wrote training manuals on how to more efficiently execute certain positions in the company, and was moved to a training location to prepare future managers.  That I managed a staff off one hundred people, nearly a hundred thousand dollars per day in sales, and nearly half million dollars in inventory on any given day.  I have hired people, trained people, and fired people.  I have negotiated commissions, raises and contracts.  I have experience in marketing campaigns, organizational structuring, etc… etc.

I don’t list this as a source of pride, but simply a fact… a short resume of experience that goes continually untapped in multiple arenas.  I know that I am not the only one, I am not the only woman who has sat in the pews from week to week and knows deep down she could be doing more. I’ve talked to women who have approached their Pastors offering up their experience, only to be brushed aside. 

I spoke with a woman recently who lamented that her church hired a young barely experienced guy for a job that she had thirty years of experience in.  She would have VOLUNTEERED to do the job, but she had no clue her church was even hiring.  When I asked her if the church knew she had experience in that field, she said YES.  Apparently on numerous occasions she volunteered and every time was told her services were not needed.  She wasn’t even given a chance.

I know that feeling.  I’ve offered my services and been told “no thank you”, I have been mirco-managed too.  I also know what it is like to be in a leadership role with the total support and trust.  As I reflect upon those experiences I realized it really had nothing to do with being in authority, power, or being the top dog.  Knowing that those whom you are working or serving with TRUST you is the game changer.

If a woman in your church has experience running a multi-million dollar organization, her gifts are better utilized on a finance committee, building committee, or even on staff versus putting out coffee and donuts each Sunday.  The woman in your church who has been a hiring manager is a great person to include on your Pastor/Staff search committees, creating clear cut job descriptions, and listing your job postings.  A woman in your church who has a background in hospitality is a great person to consult when the church wants to throw a large event to ensure nothing is overlooked.  My great aunt was an accountant for a major corporation, and served as the treasurer of her church for decades. 

It would be irresponsible to not consider that some of these women who left a given field may NOT want to do the same job in the church.  Or, they may be happy to be consulted with for major projects but have no interested in full time commitment to a particular role.  This is especially true for our retirees who are using this time to travel and spend time with their growing families.  However, even some of our retirees are happy to share their experience and knowledge, so we can’t discount them either.  In as much, you may find the corporate CEO who never had a family of her own is happy to rock babies every chance she can get.  We shouldn’t assume the best place for women to serve in the church.  Instead we should be proactively placing them based on their experience, spiritual gifts tests, and speaking to them in regards to their area of interests. 

Women in church leadership want the staff members to trust that they are capable to do the job and to allow them to lead, not without accountability of course… but with support.   Women want the church leaders (and this includes women’s ministry leaders, and other subministry leaders) to talk to them about their professional or educational background.  Then work together as a team to find where you are best suited to serve.  I recently read that there is growth in the number of women who are leaving the church, and I can’t help but think this may be the reason why.

Generally speaking, when you give a person a job or a role within a church that uses their gifts and talents… they become invested.  They will remain part of the body long term.  However, when a person feels overlooked, unappreciated, or undervalued they tend to leave and find a place where they are.  If we want to slow down or even stop the departure of women from the church, we need to be proactive in connecting them to the church in a meaningful way.

The Big No.

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No. Nope. Nada. No Thanks.

Do you know what really stinks?  Being told no over something you are passionate about, or a step you are ready to take.  Most people, when told no, will take it personally.  It will bother us that we are not being allowed to go somewhere or do something because someone else said so.

Kids don’t like it.  When they are told no, they feel like you don’t like them.

Teens don’t like it.  When they are told no, they feel like you are treating them like a child.

Adults don’t like it.  When they are told no, they feel that you are rejecting them or their contribution.

The hardest place to hear no, is in your church.  The place where you want to serve and someone is telling you that you can’t.  It is really, really hard.  How do you process that?  God lays something on your heart and someone is saying NO.  Now what?

Their intentions are usually good… even though they have said no.

I have attended a few churches over the span of my life due to relocating, and I have experienced an assortment of “no” situations.

I remember once volunteering for something, and I was told “No, you already have enough on your plate.”.  I didn’t understand how this person could make that decision for me.  That didn’t seem fair.

Then, there was the time I was given permission to lead a specific event.  I was so excited, spent a ton of time getting the ideas together, only to find out the leader changed her mind.  I was rejected before I even had a chance to prove myself.

Years ago, I volunteered to join a ministry team.  I asked for a specific position and was told that I would be better suited in another.  I scratched my head in confusion, how did this person know what I was good at and what I wasn’t?

I also recall many times in the course of leadership where I had to be the one to say, no.

Let me assure anyone who is reading this… is stinks to hear the words no.  But, it also isn’t exactly fun having to say it either.  No one wants to be the dream dasher.

I’ve had to say no because something wasn’t in the budget.  I had to break the news that someone’s idea for the ministry wasn’t going to happen.  I’ve had to tell someone that we didn’t need any extra volunteers.

What I have learned over the years is that it isn’t the word no that is the problem.  It is usually in our delivery.  It is also in our perception of what no means, if we are on the receiving end.

No, in MOST cases really means…. No, not right now.  But, we fail to express it in this way.  We also fail to receive it this way too.  Miscommunication is at the root of so many confrontations and obstacles in ministry… IT IS RIDICULOUS.

We can all make a better effort when it comes to the word NO, in how we use it and receive it.

We can go along way to clear up communication and avoid assumptions when we:

  • take a moment to explain our decision (even if that is simply acknowledging that you can’t share details, but you have a reason why the answer must be no).
  • instead of reacting, take a moment to respond with a question for clarification on the answer.
  • assume the best about the person delivering the “no”, not the worst.

Finally, for the person who is often in the decision maker… remember this….

If you keep saying no, eventually people stop asking.

This may result in their making decisions WITHOUT your input.  They will move to the “better to ask for forgiveness than permission” stance.  You don’t ever want to be in a place where you don’t know what is happening in your home, ministry, church, or organization.

It also may result in a person who is trying to actively be involved to stop volunteering.   If they keep getting shut down, why bother?  If you have to say no multiple times, you need to be transparent about why.  Is the person not ready to take that position yet?  Be honest, and come up with a plan to get them there.  Do you see a better place for the person?  Share that, explain why.  People want to feel valued and repetitive rejection affirms in their mind that they are not wanted or needed, that they have nothing worthy to contribute.

Also if you find yourself saying no too much, to too many different people, too many times… it may be a moment where you need to do some self evaluation.  Why are you saying no so much?  Are you being to controlling or micromanaging?  Or do you just have an abundance of people who are ready, willing, and able…. just waiting for the word to go.  In the first case, you need to begin to trust those who God has brought into your life and organization.  In the second case, if you have too many people with too many ideas… come up with a plan to deal with that.  Find a place for them to serve.  Put them together if they share common vision and ideas.  You may find what you really have is a team, not a group of individuals, who are ready to serve with your direction.

My husband once said, in response to a request from our daughter:

If we always say no, it loses it’s value.  We have to say yes to some things, even if we are not totally ok with it. That way, when we do have to say no… she knows there is a good reason and she’ll be more apt to accept it.  If we always say no, she won’t ask our opinion or permission anymore.

I have begun to view that parental tidbit as something valuable even in ministry service, and leadership.  If you want your no to have a stronger impact, then you must say YES more often.  This doesn’t mean that we allow everyone to do what they want, however they want.  We can put in boundaries and systems of checks/balances.  We can slow down the process to manageable steps and evaluate as we go.  We can guide and redirect as needed.

That’s good leadership.

 

When Scandal Rocks the Christian Community

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It’s been a rough few months in the Christian community.

It is hard, as a believer, when we see our public figures fail.  It may be the Pastor who admitted to an affair, or the revelation of a tv family’s son history of molestation… but the biggest catapult has been the Ashley Madison website hack, and leak.

Well known Christian pastors,  Christian celebrities, and Christian bloggers are being exposed for their involvement with the sight.

I read an article today, where one Christian professional is anticipating that over the next few weeks, we may see over 400 Pastors and leaders resigning from their positions.

And, I am at a loss.

I have never held leaders up to a standard of perfection, and I am not issuing them a pass at all.

But, I want to address something else….

How was their name found and made public?  Did these Pastors and leaders come right to their spouse and church leadership and confess the minute they found out about the leak?  Did someone hunt their name out and expose them?

Yes, every sin will be exposed… and I am not saying it shouldn’t be.  I am not suggesting there shouldn’t be accountability for their choices.

However, I am a bit broken at the thought that people were going through the Ashely Madison lists looking for names they recognized.  Looking for names of people they could rat out, of lives that they could destroy.

I know that there are some folks who have an agenda against the church, that may have been looking for the big names in the Christian world.  I’m less surprised about that, because we know that is sort of the norm when you step out in the public as a Christian.

But… what really bothers me… the idea that one or more members from any given church, may have been looking up the names of the men in their church and their church leadership.

I don’t begrudge a wife looking up the name of her husband.  But, in my opinion, that is the extent of where our curiosity should extend.  Our own homes, our own families.  When I first saw the article and the link to check names/email addresses… it never once occurred to me to check for my Pastor or any of our staff members.

Yet, I know in my heart… for this many churches to be affected…. someone was.

In one of my seminary classes, we were warned that there would be people, who sit with us weekend after weekend … worshiping with us, praising with us, learning with us… who were just looking for the opportunity to stir up trouble.  This was not a warning to paranoia, but rather to just make sure we are aware it happens.

It was so hard for me to believe… but now, not so hard at all.