Tale of 2 Ministries

by Dave Thurman 

Charles Dickens penned one of the most memorable lines of English literature in the opening of his A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times…”  He was describing two metropolitan areas – London and Paris – separated by a little over 200 miles.  Ministry often tends to be that way for those who serve.  But as I look back at my first two full-time ministries, one filled with difficulty and frustration, the other full of joy and fruit, it is easy to see that the elders made the greatest difference.  As a baby-faced preacher who desperately wanted to reach the lost and disciple people, it truly was “A Tale of Two Ministries.”

In my first ministry I served a small congregation in Northern Kentucky.  I was twenty-two and my bride just twenty, still a student at Cincinnati Christian University.  For the sake of transparency, I didn’t really know what I was doing.  I prepared sermons and preached with passion, tried to comfort the afflicted and call members to a higher level of commitment.  But along the way I received little to no encouragement from the elders, who saw it as their job to keep young bucks from creating too much chaos.  The preacher before me had been fired, and there were days I thought I was right behind him.  It wasn’t that the elders were bad men – a couple of them became friends – but together they saw themselves only as supervisors, not shepherds, and as I tried to be innovative and make some needed changes, they beat me down.  It impacted my marriage, as a beautiful young woman saw her husband under attack.  Being stubborn and inexperienced, I tended to fight back, which of course, only made things worse.  Thanks to a sweet elderly couple who lived next door and took us under their wing, we survived and the church grew.  But it was a rough introduction to located ministry. 

Three years later, I accepted a call to Marengo Christian Church (Indiana), just 24-years-old, and only slightly less wet behind the ears.  Immediately I found that the elders were my biggest supporters, wanting me to succeed.  They held me accountable, but more than anything, we prayed together, envisioned what the church could become, and in the next 8 years the congregation doubled, reaching more than a quarter of the town’s population.  Two men in particular, each with unusual names, Novy Andry and Revis Crecilius, coached me up, showering me with love.  Many elders’ meetings ended with all of our leaders on our knees for in extended prayer.  They valued me, my wife and our kids, and it was, in many ways, the best 8 ½ years of my life.

So, what made the difference?  Sure I was a little older and more seasoned.  I walked in the first day with a better plan and a bit of wisdom.  But most of the difference was in the MO of the elders I served with.  In one congregation, I was a partner in ministry; in the other, just a hireling. 

Elders: never underestimate the impact of your leadership.  You set the tone for the entire church – preacher included – and the most talented preacher in the world will only succeed if you come alongside him, build him up, and lovingly guide and correct him. 

Earlier this year I returned to Marengo, 32+ years after that first call, to conduct the funeral for Novy’s wife, Colleen.  It was a beautiful day, and I had the opportunity to tell Novy what a gift he’d given me as a young preacher.  He shepherded our family.  The Andry house was always open to us.  Novy came in person to have hard conversations one-on-one.  He loved me like a son.  That simple man, who worked on a line at Ford, did more to make me a successful preacher than he will ever know. 

Lead well, brothers.

Adopted

by John Caldwell 

I was literally moved to tears when I read a front-page article in the Indianapolis Star on November 25.  It concerned a 17-year-old girl who had just been adopted after 4,057 days in foster care in 36 different placements.  That’s over 11 years since she was removed from her very abusive biological parents at six years of age.  Nearly 1,000 other kids in the system had been adopted while she waited.  Her hopes had been raised again and again only to be dashed in disappointment.  Then, while living in a group home, she met Mike and Patty at an adoption event.  When they met again she told them, “When I got back to the group home, I was hoping you guys wanted me, because I wanted you guys.” 

I was hoping you guys WANTED me…”

When she moved in with Mike and Patty on a trial basis it was hard to believe it would last since she had been hurt so many times before.  However, on November 16, it became official.  She was now their daughter, a part of their family.  Furthermore, she legally changed not just her last name but also her first name because it had been given to her by her birth parents – whom she doesn’t want to remember. She’s a new person, with a new name, a new family, and a new home.  She’s ADOPTED!  Wow!!!

One of my favorite praise choruses is Hillsong’s “I Am Who You Say I Am.”  The words to the bridge of that praise song always move me: “I am chosen, not forsaken, I am who you say I am – You are for me, not against me, I am who you say I am – You are for me, not against me, I am who you say I am – I am who you say I am.”  But one of the other things that God says to me is that, “I am an adopted child of the Most High God.”

There are many names, titles, or descriptions given in Scripture for the Christian.  Here are just a few: believer, saint, blessed, child of God, chosen race, royal priesthood, holy nation, disciple, redeemed, saved, set free, reconciled, and so many others.  But after reading Scarlet’s story (her old name) “adopted” will always have a very special meaning for me.

But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent Him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that He could adopt us as his very own children. (Galatians 4:4-5 NLT, emphasis added)

God decided in advance to adopt us into His own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ.  This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. (Ephesians 1:5 NLT, emphasis added)

It is also significant that when Scarlet was adopted, she put her old life behind her and took a new identity; not unlike when we “died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.” (Romans 6:4 NLT)  

Scarlet had said to Mike and Patty, “I was hoping you guys wanted me, because I wanted you guys.”  The incredibly good news is that we never have to wonder with God.  He wanted to adopt us in advance, and both proved it and made it possible through sending His “only begotten Son.”  And that, my friends, is the GOOD NEWS that we get to share with the world!

Leading with Style

by Rick Chromey 

Every elder leads with style. 

Some elders are active leaders.  They like to be in command and want to get work done.  Some elders are passive leaders.  They prefer working from the shadows, watching and waiting until the time is right.  

Some elders lead emotively.  They work from their hearts, leading “randomly” with a focus on people.  Some elders lead cognitively.  They manage from their heads, operating more sequentially and focus upon tasks.  

Consequently, four different leadership personalities emerge (and you are one of them).

 Active / Emotive:  The Game Show Host

Game Show Host elders are inspirational leaders.  They are delightful, gregarious, daring and charismatic.  Their active nature creates energy and their emotive connections spark attention and affection.  They make decisions through hunches and measure success by applause.

But Game Show Hosts also carry liabilities.  By default, they are not planners and are often undisciplined.  They dislike details, schedules, lists, and deadlines.  Their randomness frustrates sequential leaders (Chefs and Stage Managers) and this disconnect creates conflict related to their spontaneity, riskiness, tardiness and messiness.

Active / Cognitive:  The Chef  

Chef elders are confident leaders.  They enjoy taking the lead and cooking up flavor.  They are decisive, reliable, organized and practical.  Their active nature puts legs underneath dreams and their cognitive nature creates recipes for success.  Many chefs are master communicators and visionary leaders.  They make decisions through highly-developed intuition and measure success by completing the mission.

But Chefs aren’t perfect.  They can easily become rogue or lone ranger leaders.  They can thrive in conflict and heat, which irritates the other styles.  They don’t always care about hurt feelings or disgruntled people.  Their high expectations – for others and themselves can create an environment of perfectionism and workaholism. 

Passive / Cognitive:  The Stage Manager

Integrity is the heart of a Stage Manager elders.  They don’t need the stage or spotlight to influence change.  Rather, these elders operate to the side with well-designed scripts to ensure the work is a success.  They are thoughtful, disciplined, cautious and efficient, economical leaders.  Their passive nature naturally brakes for change, especially with abruptly-conceived visions (frustrating Game Show Hosts) and disagreeable ideas (angering Chefs).  Stage Managers want every decision to be measured and reasonable.  Consequently, they make decisions on the facts and gauge success by security and rationality. 

Stage Managers are not without flaws, however.  They can stall good plans, resist positive change and by stymied by “analysis paralysis.”

Passive / Emotive:  The Counselor

The Counselor personality is an elder who leads with compassion.  These sensitive, people-focused, tender leaders are always seeking compromise, resolution and interaction.  Their passive nature makes them bristle at conflict and their emotive sensibility drives them to nurture relationships.  They are dependable, diplomatic, relaxed and patient to a fault.  They make decisions based upon consensus and measure success by general feelings of goodness, forgiveness and positivity. 

This idealism, however, can create issues for Counselors.  They can crack under pressure, avoid risks, disengage, disappear without notice, and grow frustrated with conflict.  Counselors don’t want to leave anyone out, behind, or down.

Every great and working eldership will include each of these personalities. 

We need Game Show Hosts to lighten the mood, inspire change and motivate people.  We need Chefs to craft vision, challenge assumptions and move the church forward.  We need Stage Managers to monitor change, calculate risks and create concrete plans. We need Counselors to resolve conflicts, show compassion and generate interaction. 

No one style is better than another and like the parts of the human body, every personality contributes something to the cause.  One final thought: an eldership that’s top-heavy in one style will prove dysfunctional. 

Too many Chefs spoil the broth (as every chef prefers their own agenda).  With too many Game Show Hosts, nothing will get done (since detailed plans and deadlines are necessary for success).  Too many Stage Managers will stall the organization (because every stage manager wants everything “perfectly perfect”).  Too many Counselors and there will be chaos (as consensus rule is naturally messy). 

The best eldership will feature all four styles. 

And that’s a winning combination.