Lead with Integrity

by LD Campbell 

We’ve heard it over and over, “America is suffering an integrity crisis.”  And we all agree.  And we are comforted in blaming political leaders for the moral mess we are in. 

However, Christian leaders must bear the greatest responsibility for the moral mess in which we find the world, our country, and our churches.  The largest Christian denomination in the world has been rocked again and again by the lack of moral integrity of its leaders and now is losing members by the thousands.  Recently, the biggest protestant denomination in the United States is coming to terms with the lack of integrity among its leaders past and present.  It will be interesting to see how the members of that denomination react to the revelation that revered leaders were not so “obedient to their calling.”

There is no way to lead without integrity.  But what is integrity?  Everybody agrees we need more integrity, yet hardly any of us explain what we mean by integrity, or how we even know that it’s a good thing, or why our culture needs to have more of it.  The problem is, it means something slightly different to each of us. 

Perhaps the best definition of integrity I have seen comes from Yale’s Professor of Law Stephen Carter, in his great book called Integrity:

Integrity, as I will use the term, requires three steps: (1) discerning what is right and what is wrong; (2) acting on what you have discerned, even at personal cost; and (3) saying openly that you are acting on your understanding of right and wrong.  The first criterion captures the idea of integrity as requiring a degree of moral reflectiveness.  The second brings in the idea of an integral person as steadfast, which includes keeping commitments.  The third remind us that a person of integrity is unashamed of doing the right. 

Carter is on to something.  What if all of us who lead the church, pastors, elders, deacons, ministry leaders, small group leaders not only believed Carter’s definition of integrity but practiced it?  This kind of integrity can only be accomplished by obedience, simply learning to do as we have been told, primarily by the Word. 

Carter also said:  “The wholeness that the Christian tradition identified as central to life with integrity was a wholeness in obedience to God, so that the well-lived life was a life that followed God’s rules.”

And he goes on:  “But obedience to what?  Traditional religion teaches that integrity is found in obedience to God…  Everything that you do, do for the sake of God.” 

Obedience pure and simple is the beginning of “soul care.”  One of the best books I’ve ever read on the ministry is The Pastor As Minor Poet by M. Craig Barnes, President of Princeton Theological Seminary.  In it he writes that “There is nothing that pastors (church leaders) do for the congregation that is more important than taking care of their own souls.” 

The church does not expect its leaders to be perfect, but they do have the right to expect us to be models of integrity; integrity that results in being obedient to the One who was obedient even unto death.  They have a right to expect that a church leader’s obedience will lead them into a life of holiness – an unused word in our time.  

I can still hear my grandmother saying to me, “When will you learn to do as you are told?” 

Brothers and Sisters in India

by Gary Johnson

Greetings from India!  As I write, we have just completed our first-ever international elders’ conference. We joined CICM (Central India Christian Mission) to provide focused teaching on this critical subject. Dr. Ajai Lall, a close friend and brother in Christ, invited e2 to share for three days. The conference was recorded and will be distributed to their 3,000-plus churches across India and in neighboring countries. Hundreds of church leaders attended from both India and neighboring nations.

Dr. Ajai said that this is the first time, in the thirty-six-year history of the mission, that elder-exclusive material was presented for their church leaders. Not only will the videography and transcripts be provided to their thousands of church plants, it will also be utilized in their undergraduate and graduate curriculum in CIBA, their Bible college. An evangelistic zeal is present here, with tens of thousands of people coming to faith in Jesus. Many of these churches are new plants and are desperately in need of spiritual leaders. Moreover, there is a great deal of horrific persecution of Christians in India. Please pray for these leaders to be boldly and compassionately courageous as they advance the kingdom of God in a nation of more than one billion people.

We met one brother who has been walking for hours on a regular basis into an extremely remote village sharing Jesus. He has been privileged to pray over some of the children in the village and seen God miraculously heal them. Please pray for Brother E. as he brings Jesus to people who don’t know Him. Likewise, we heard from other Christians and ministers who have been disowned by their Hindu families, persecuted viciously by [former] “friends” and neighbors in the province of Orissa, and others who have continued to boldly proclaim the Good News in the face of death threats. Our Christian brothers and sisters shine the light of Jesus in a spiritually very dark place.

Thanks to many of you who prayed for us, and to those of you who gave financially to make this trip possible. In particular, we thank – once again – CDF Capital for their generous support that enabled this conference to take place. CDF Capital believes in and encourages elders across the country – and now around the world – by their generous partnership with e2.

In many ways, e2 is becoming a movement of leaders around the world who are determined to lead well.

How to Shepherd

by David Roadcup 

One of the foremost elders of the church, the Apostle Peter, gives us a clear picture of our role as elders.  In 1 Peter 5:1-4, Peter he states:

Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed,  shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness;  nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.  And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 

Paul also makes clear that our main role is that of shepherd.  We are to manage, lead and cast vision.  These roles are all important to an effective elder team.  But we should be focused first and foremost on our role as shepherd

In smaller churches, the role is hands-on, up close and personal.  In our mega-churches, elders oversee webs of relationships in the church (small groups, Sunday School classes, ministry teams [i.e. Praise Team], etc.).  In larger churches, elders should manage the task of making sure that the thousands or hundreds of people who attend the church are being shepherded in an effective way. 

Whether the church is small or large, elders are to be shepherds.

What does this look like in today’s church?  Here are a few suggestions that might bring clarity to our role:

1)      We are to be visible to our flock.  In a smaller church, this is no problem.  Everyone knows who the elders are.  In churches of 300 and up, it is possible that many in the church don’t know who the shepherds of the church are.  Finding ways to make our shepherds visible to our congregation would help this problem.  Having elders introduce themselves before they lead in prayer in worship services would be good.  If your congregation uses an invitation song in worship services, why not have elders up front at invitation time to receive those who come forward?  Having elders (and maybe their wives) in the lobbies of our buildings at worship times, proactively connecting with people before and after services, would allow contact and connection with those in our flock.

2)      We are to be prayerful for our flock.  One of our main ways to shepherd our people is by offering intercessory prayer on a daily basis for our people.  We should pray daily that God’s blessing, Presence, protection from temptation and peace should be upon the lives of our people.  Our children, teens, college students, singles, married couples and senior saints all need the mantle of prayer that we provide as shepherds.  When we daily intercede for our people, we are spreading a covering of protection over our flock.  Remember, brothers, prayer makes a difference.  Let us protect our people daily by lifting them up in prayer. 

3)      We are to be involved in shepherding activities.  Today’s church growth research indicates that any person, leader or layman, can only connect with significance with approximately 60-80 people in the congregation.  If this is so, as an elder, I know I can touch at least that many people through various means.  As mentioned previously, leading a small home bible study group, teaching a Sunday School class, playing in the Praise Band, etc. are all ways (plus many others) that we can establish relationships and connect with people.  It is an absolute “must” that we are touching people at the grass roots level as shepherds.

Elders, following in the steps of our Lord Jesus, Peter and Paul, let’s shepherd well.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Change Agents

by Mark Taylor 

How do you feel about change? 

It is the universal experience of seeing things today that are so much different than they were just a year or maybe even a week ago.

Some people love change.  They redecorate their living rooms, trade in their cars, or cycle their wardrobe regularly.  They’re never satisfied with the way things are, always looking for something better.

Some people avoid change.  They don’t want to spend the money to buy new.  They don’t want to learn how to use something different.  They’re comfortable with the way things are.

Where do you fall on the continuum between resisting and craving change?  Your answer may say a lot about how you approach your ministry as an elder.

Embracing Change
We live in an era of unprecedented change.  By the time we understand one sociological trend, another has taken its place.  By the time we figure out how to use our smartphone or web-enabled TV or self-parking car, a different version is on the market.  And sometimes older folks like me yearn to retreat from the pace of change and just resign ourselves to the fact that the world is passing us by.

Of course, that’s not the attitude for a leader.  Leaders anticipate, embrace, and initiate change.  Leaders know you can’t build a house without digging up a foundation.  You can’t grow a crop without breaking up the dirt.  You can’t rear a child without constantly buying him larger shoes and shirts.

We can’t reach our communities for Christ with the same programs, building, church staff, or strategies created ten, twenty, or thirty years ago.

Do you talk about change in your elders’ meetings?  Who suggests them – the elders or minister?  How do you cope with suggestions for rearranging or rethinking how you do ministry?

Every group of elders must face the fact that leading and supporting change is part of their responsibility.

Leading Change
Five years ago, Jon Walker, minister with Willowbrook Christian Church in Victor, New York, shared a formula for coping with change.  It had been offered by an elder in his congregation.

R = A/T ± S

The formula reads this way: Resistance to change equals the Amount of change, divided by the Time before the change, plus or minus Salesmanship; A and T should, if possible, cancel out.

If your church is changing what brand of coffee it serves at the welcome center, you’ll probably not encounter much resistance.  The Amount of change is small.  But if your church is moving from one side of town to another, you may experience major resistance, because this is a huge change.  In this case you need to allow plenty of Time between when you announce the change and when it happens.

You’ll use that time to carefully explain the rationale, patiently listen to objections, and thoroughly answer questions. People need time to absorb all the good reasons for making the change.  Leaders will wisely allow for all this interaction and not demand that the church follow them just because they’re called “leaders.”

During that period, the elders’ role is crucial.  That’s when they’ll use their Salesmanship skills and encourage church members to agree with the proposal.

If you don’t like the connotation of “salesmanship,” then let the S stand for Shepherding.  Your role in leading change is to keep the flock together, go after strays who want to wander off in a different direction, and counsel and correct members who willfully resist their leaders.

Facing Change
Some facts about change:

  1. It’s almost always difficult.  By nature, people like things to remain comfortable and familiar.
  2. It almost always brings conflict.  The most vocal among the resisters will challenge, campaign, or complain.
  3. It is absolutely necessary if a congregation is to grow.  The seedling in your hand today cannot become a mighty tree if it remains forever in the same small pot.

To make these changes possible, a congregation needs elders who are not afraid of change, leaders who will prayerfully seek God’s guidance about which changes to make now.  Your role as an elder is carefully and lovingly to lead your congregation to welcome the changes that will advance the Gospel in your community.