A New View

by Jeff Metzger 

How do we picture ourselves as elders?  Maybe it’s time to change the way we view our job as leaders in God’s church.  In John 10:42-45 Jesus clearly challenges us to a new model of leadership.  Jesus’ way of leadership is not about authority and control.  It is about serving others in love and imitating His life of sacrifice.  

That’s why it’s not surprising Jesus never used “boss” or “manager” to describe our role.  That’s a misplaced paradigm.  Jesus’ favorite description for his church is “flock.”  And the dominant biblical picture for spiritual leadership, painted across 500 pages of the Bible, is a shepherd and his sheep.  What do shepherds do?  They lay down their lives to feed, guide, protect, care for, and rescue the flock! 

So that’s our challenge.  We step out of the board room and into the pasture.  Imagine the scene.  Feel the breeze.  Look around.  Smell the grass.  Smell the sheep!  We have some wet grass stuck to our mud- and dirt-streaked sandals.  This new perspective changes everything.  In the pasture, our role is not about the institution.  It’s about the people and their well-being. 

People are fed up with institutional oversight.  They have that at work!  In God’s family they want something much better.  They want our loving, caring, mature example.  They want a spiritual parent and guide, helping them grow up and get safely to Jesus. 

Our role as shepherds flows from this – God is our Shepherd!  Our work flows out of the nature of God.  In Acts 20:28 Paul told his close friends plainly, “Be shepherds of the church of God.”  That’s why we are to …

  • Be a model to the flock who finds out what pleases the Lord (Ephesians 5:10).
  • Be a leader to the flock who always moves people toward Jesus (1 Peter 5:1-5).
  • Be a cheerleader who constantly encourages and equips the flock for ministry and maturity (Ephesians 4:10-14).
  • Be a spiritual parent caring for and teaching the flock like a father cares for and teaches his children (1 Timothy 3:5ff).
  • Be a teacher to the flock by knowing, loving, living and sharing the truth while refuting falsehood (Titus 1:9-10).
  • Be a prayer partner on call to pray for the flock and anoint the sick (James 5:14).
  • Be a watchman who guards against danger and watches out for the flock like a vigilant, sleepless sentry (Acts 20:28-30; Hebrews 13:17).

Now, let’s step back into the board room in our minds and look around.  Bosses and managers manage buildings, budgets, personnel, and programs.  They …

  • Call the shots, make the decisions
  • Withhold permission
  • Control and order people around
  • Think for other people
  • Legislate in matters of opinion
  • Grease the squeaky wheels

For too many church leaders this is how they spend the majority of their “shepherding” time.  But, none of these things are what God calls elders, shepherds, overseers to do.  Making these things our primary, or even partial, role is not what Jesus intends church leadership to be! 

The way we see ourselves matters!  We may never have been near an actual sheep in our entire life, but Jesus wants us to see ourselves as a shepherd.  

Shepherding is people-work, not meeting-work.  It is mostly about relationships.  It’s about helping people grow into the character of Christ and serve the cause of Christ.  

Imagine what it would be like to view ourselves in the mirror and see shepherds smiling back!  Can you see it?  Be it! 

Return, Remember, Rebuild

by Jim Estep 

We often relegate the notion of “thanksgiving” to a day on the calendar, one specific time that we pause and take an account of God’s blessings.  But in the Old Testament, thanksgiving was regular and even habitual.  The Hebrews cultivated a spirit of thanksgiving throughout their history.  In fact, one whole category of the book Psalms is thanksgiving, (107-150 are replete with the theme), recounting the blessings of God to the Jewish people.
 
Nehemiah was a man of thanksgiving.  Jerusalem had been destroyed by Babylon in 586BC, and after 70 years away, the Hebrews’ release from exile must have been greeted with unrestrained enthusiasm.  But it would also pose great challenges.  Nehemiah was a leader who was given the task of overcoming some of the greatest of these challenges; in the midst of them, thanksgiving to God was always present in his life and work.
 
Nehemiah 12 mentions “thanksgiving” four times as he recounts and engages God’s calling on his life.  First, he gives thanks for the return.  Nehemiah was the leader of the third group to return from exile, and verse 8 highlights the songs of thanksgiving for those who were now able to return to their homeland, Judah, after generations away.  They felt profound thanks to God for being home.
 
Next, he remembers their history, singing of them as well.  Verse 24 even speaks of responsive singing between two groups, “as prescribed by David the man of God.”  Later in the text (verse 46) he recalls, “For long ago, in the days of David and Asaph …”  Thanksgiving is part of remembering the past, embracing it, continuing its traditions.  That was especially true for the Jews, having lost them for 70 years of exile.  They were finally free to reclaim them.
 
Third, thanksgiving is given specifically because of the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls.  Having been destroyed decades before, the daunting task of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem was completed in just 52 days (Nehemiah 6:15).  Later in the book it was time to dedicate them to God with thanksgiving.  Nehemiah 12:27 says the Levites dedicated the walls “with songs of thanksgiving,” acknowledging God’s provision.
 
As we lead God’s people, thanksgiving has to be a perpetual practice for us.  (Yes, we even go beyond the occasional inclusion of “Blessed Assurance” and “Count Your Blessings” during worship!)  Let’s lead the church to times of deep thanksgiving:  returning to the foundations of our faith, helping our brothers and sisters remember our heritage, and always pointing them toward building a future that is stronger and healthier than ever before.  Amen!

A Good Reputation

by Ken Idleman 

Paul’s first letter to Timothy details the character requirements of a local church elder.  1 Timothy 3:7 declares, “An elder must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.”

AshleyMadison.com launched as a web site in 2001 as a place for people, in ostensibly committed relationships, to go if they wanted to cheat on their spouse or significant other.  Their marketing slogan: “Life is short.  Have an affair.”  The additional allure was the promise of anonymity/secrecy.  But alas, once again the things done in secret were shouted from the housetops!  The Ashley Madison database was hacked.  Their records were distributed in the public domain.  

But this time the national expose of secret sin did not result in the shaming of anyone who was particularly well known.  Rather, this time the dark shroud concealing immorality was stripped away exposing the sad lies and secret lives of a staggering 30,000,000 individuals, mostly regular folks.  The population of the United States is only 325,000,000!  This means almost one in ten people in our country were implicated in this scandal.  It means that no matter who you are, you probably know someone who has pursued this quest to experience marital or relational unfaithfulness.  For some it is just a fantasy you say?  They would never act on their fantasy you say?  Listen … if you shop, there is no guarantee you won’t buy.  If you flirt, there is no guarantee you won’t seduce or be seduced.  If you chase a fantasy, you will probably capture it – sooner or later.  And for many, their secret life of shame became common knowledge.  

Their good reputation with outsiders was at least temporarily damaged.

During the same week as the Ashley Madison hack, an Old Dominion University fraternity made the news by welcoming new female students and their fathers to the campus with garish black letters scrawled on white bed sheets hanging from frat house balconies: “Freshman daughter drop off!” and “Drop off mom too!”

It was an ominous harbinger of the very real danger faced by college girls, 25% of whom, according to a survey of graduating senior girls done by the University of Iowa, were subjected to sexual molestation, sexual abuse or date rape during their four years of college.  So, dads – entrusted with the protection of your daughters – what do you think of these odds?

I remember the late 60’s and the ‘free love’ movement in the culture.  It was dubbed the ‘sexual revolution.’  And Ed Stetzer is right: “A revolution means that a war is being fought.  In revolutions, bombs are dropped, attacks are launched and there are thousands of casualties.  Sadly, today the war is being waged against the way of Jesus … that marriage is between a man and a woman, becoming one flesh, in one marriage, in one sexual relationship, for one lifetime.”  And for those who have failed to follow the Jesus way, His cross stands in time and space as a tangible reminder that regardless of anything else, a way of rescue from sin and shame, guilt and judgment, still exists.

The Psalms gave us an infinitely better slogan than Ashley Madison’s to preserve a good reputation with outsiders: Psalm 90:12, “Teach us how short our life is, so that we may become wise.”