Elders’ #1 Job

by Jeff Metzger 

Here are three truths that should guide our elder leadership.

  • Jesus is our Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4).
  • Jesus commanded a disciple-making mission (Matthew 28:18-20).
  • The Holy Spirit created a disciple making culture (Acts 6:7).

What happens when we combine these realities?  We see Jesus is our only leader and he sets our very specific elder agenda. What does Jesus consider Job #1 for elders?  Disciple making!  Jesus clearly wants disciple making to live foremost in the heart of every one of us who are called elders in the Lord’s church.  Making disciples is the goal, the purpose, the reason, the why, the Job #1 of our stewardship as elders.  While we may do many things, everything we do should contribute to this primary thing. What happens when we prioritize disciple making as job #1?

  • Our priorities shift toward helping people find and follow Jesus.
  • We work on building a disciple making culture in our community.
  • A focus on weekend attendance shifts toward a focus on everyday obedience.
  • We invest more time in intentional relationships with people.
  • We equip and unleash other disciple makers.
  • We work hard to build a clear, simple, reproducible disciple-making system for our context.
  • Spiritual parenting becomes more important than people-pleasing.
  • Growing disciples becomes more important than growing attendance.
  • Allocation of energy and resources shifts toward changed lives.
  • Real disciple-making activity and results becomes the primary metric.
  • Growing disciples who make disciples that make disiciples becomes the consuming goal.

The understanding of our job as an elder in God’s church changes!  Suddenly God’s kingdom mission of making disciples and presenting everyone fully mature in Christ takes priority in your life and on your team. But we have a problem.  Too often we don’t see ourselves as disciple makers or spiritual parents.  Disciple Maker is not our primary self-identity or even a secondary self-image.  For too many of us who are called “elder,” being a disciple maker or spiritual parent is not even on the list of who we are!  If we are serious about pleasing Jesus that has to change.  Disciple making is Job #1!  Being a reproducing spiritual parent (2 Timothy 2:2) is God’s call for us. What do we do with this?

  1. Start with self.   Let Jesus define your identity.  You are his student, his disciple.  Your goal is to belong to Jesus, believe like Jesus, and behave like Jesus so you can be like Jesus while helping others do the same.  Look in the mirror and see a disciple who makes disciples that make disciples.  See a spiritual parent who has spiritual children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.  This is who you really are in Jesus; it is who every Christian is in Jesus.
  2. Engage with others.  Challenge your fellow elders to join you on the disciple making pathway.  Decide together to make this a priority in your congregation.  Explore and engage with a growing national and international community of disciple makers like the one at www.discipleship.org.  The discipleship.org internet community, and others like it, is a portal to a great variety of resources and encouragement.
  3. Reset the agenda.  “Find out what pleases the Lord” (Ephesians 5:10).  Make disciple making/spiritual parenting the primary agenda of your life.  Get trained.  You can do this!  And make disciple making the primary agenda item at every elder meeting.  Get trained.  You can do this!
  4. Invite the Holy Spirit.  Acts 1:8 makes it clear the Spirit is here with us to lift up and encourage witness for Jesus.  Ask Him to fill you and empower you every day to be a disciple who makes disciples that make disciples.  It really is Job #1!

As elders, we are the primary spiritual leaders of “our” congregations.  And in the way of Jesus, we lead by example (John 13:15).  When the church sees us spiritually parenting and not people-pleasing, they will notice.  When they watch us spending time with people to make disciples, they will do likewise.  When they see us in the baptistery, they will soon follow us into that water with their own friends and family.

Eternally Important Leadership

by Kevin Ingram 

September 11, 2001 is a day that, if we are old enough to remember its events, we will likely never forget. I remember it vividly. I was at work at Manhattan Christian College when my wife called and told me I needed to find a TV because a plane had just hit one of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York.

I immediately went to our Campus Center and turned on a TV – just in time to witness the second plane hitting the second tower. I knew at that point it wasn’t an accident, it was intentional. America was under attack.

The saga continued to quickly unfold as a third flight targeted and struck the south side of the Pentagon and shortly thereafter, a fourth plane crashed in Pennsylvania after the passengers attacked that plane’s hijackers. The twin towers eventually collapsed and thousands of innocent lives were taken that day.

Although deeply shaken by the events, I continued through my day. While checking my email later in the morning I received a reminder about our elders’ meeting that night at church; I was scheduled to provide the devotion to begin our meeting.

I kept up to date on the breaking news. Reports on President Bush’s activity that day followed him from the elementary school in Sarasota, Florida where he was informed about the attacks, to military bases in Louisiana and Nebraska, and later returning to Washington DC. The news reported the President’s day would end in a meeting with the National Security Council. That meeting happened to coincide with our elders’ meeting in Manhattan, KS.

With the magnitude of the days’ events swirling through my mind, I thought about our elders’ meeting that night and how thankful I was to be in that meeting, and not in any of the weighty meetings happening in DC. I couldn’t imagine the depth of decisions that had been and were about to be made in response to such a terrible tragedy in America’s history.

As my mind shifted back and forth between the two settings, mindful of the kinds of agendas each group of leaders had before them, it hit me. The meetings in DC were very important; the National Security Council was discussing our nation’s security and the physical safety of the citizens of the United States and their decisions that night would have implications many years into the future. But the agenda for our elders’ meeting involved discussing the mission of our church and the spiritual safety of people’s souls. It sunk in quickly. Meetings in DC were important to protect physical lives. Our meeting in Manhattan, KS involved eternity.

As our elders’ meeting began, I shared the magnitude of our purpose that night. As shepherds of God’s flock among us in Manhattan, Kansas, we had decisions to make that involved people’s souls. Decisions made then and there didn’t just affect lives for days or years, but for all eternity. I reminded my fellow elders of the importance of our role as servants to the congregation. While we might not want to be a part of any meeting like those held in DC, the meeting we were in was, ultimately, more important.

The bottom-line reminder for me was the role of an elder is eternally important and must be taken seriously. Every elder must serve remembering the charge Paul gave to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:28, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” People’s souls are worthy of Jesus’ sacrifice, and ours as well!

Staying Mentally Sharp

by David Roadcup 

I have a small collection of pocketknives.  One of the things about using a knife for any purpose is the need to keep the blade sharp.  Whether a hunting knife, kitchen knife, or even a chain saw, the tool is effective only if it is sharp.
 
As elders serve at their posts, one issue to keep in mind is the need to grow and flourish in mental development.  Staying fresh in this area will provide new ideas and quality information to make us as effective as possible at our posts as church leaders.
 
Staying sharp mentally can be accomplished in the following ways:

  1. Stay in the Word of God on a regular basis. 

Filling our minds and hearts with Scripture on a daily basis feeds us spiritually.  It will also keep us continually focused on the right things.  Being in the Word will remind us about who we are and what our task is.

  1. Read good content. 

Reading valuable books, newsletters and articles on leadership, spiritual development, church growth, cultural trends and other important topics is vital to an elder staying sharp.  There are now more good books on church leadership generally and eldership specifically than ever before.  Information on growing healthy churches is available by the proverbial truckload.  Online articles, e-books, blogs, podcasts and other helpful sources of information are available to leaders in amazing abundance.  As leaders, “keeping our wells full” when it comes to reading is critical.  We grow when we read.  I have served with elders who did not like to read.  This is understandable.  I would encourage those who do not find reading enjoyable to consider various audio books as an alternative – books on media (tapes, CD) or purely virtually (such as Amazon’s subsidiary Audible).  Even though some leaders may not find reading pleasurable, I would encourage them to read anyway.  It is such a great way to stay sharp, find encouragement and stay on the leading edge when it comes to leadership.

  1. Attend helpful conventions and conferences.

There are several excellent meetings that would benefit someone who is leading as an elder.  Here are just a few:

  • Exponential (March 2020 in Orlando)
  • The Global Leadership Summit (August 2020, virtually)
  • Spire (October 2019, Orlando)
  • Catalyst (October 2019, Atlanta)
  • International Conference on Missions / “ICOM” (November 2019, Kansas City)
  1. Annual Elders’ or Elder-and-Staff Retreats 

Retreats are valuable and can produce excellent results!  Getting away from our normal environment, taking time from our routine and having the chance to plan, focus on critical issues and discuss solutions are some of the positive outcomes when Christian leaders gather in a retreat setting.
 
Jim, Gary and I all lead elder retreats as part of our ministry through e2.  In these retreats, the spirit and enthusiasm is high as brothers meet to fellowship, learn and to pray together.  We discuss topics such as “The Growing Spiritual Life of the Elder,” “Leading Effective Change” and “How to Handle Conflict in the Church.”  We facilitate exercises for leaders that strengthen relationships between elders and staff.  We make time for intercessory prayer together and fellowship around the table as we share meals and conversation.  It is an excellent experience together as the Lord meets us there with His blessing.
 
Keeping our edge sharp and staying informed through involving ourselves in the above ways will make us more effective in serving our Chief Shepherd.  God bless you as you continue to grow and serve!