What to do After Things Go Wrong

by Mark Houpt 

companion post: DOES GOD STILL HEAL (an essay by e2 Exec Dir Dr Johnson)

Last week our blog discussed what to do before things go wrong. We discussed determining your Mission Essential Functions and preparing for the inability to access those in need and having church services outside of the church building. I am sure that many of you reading that article were thinking that those recommendations were only necessary for a localized worst-case scenario, if even that. Surely, with our advanced science and technology, this type of catastrophe could never happen at this scale in our modern world.

Here we are, seven days later, and things have indeed gone wrong across the globe according to earthly definition. Despite the fact that we are in the midst of an unprecedented crisis, God is still in control. This is a crisis that is seeing earthly wealth wiped off of the balance sheets, jobs lost and businesses closed or curtailed by government decree. Churches are also physically closed and scrambling to adjust to this new way of life that is going to be with us for at least a few weeks, if not months. In today’s blog, we will take an honest, practical look at what earthly things we should do in response to manage the event in our churches.

Respond vs. React

First and foremost, God calls us as followers and the church to respond rather than react to the events that are around us and done to us. Many people do not understand the difference between response and reaction. A reaction is mostly an emotional action, many times involuntary and uncalculated; what one does in retort to something done to them. Most of us have been in the doctor’s office with our legs hanging over the side of the examination table when the doctor uses his little triangle hammer and taps our knees. Our lower leg kicks out in what we call a knee jerk reaction to that tap. It is largely involuntary and done in haste. Reactions that occur between people or people groups frequently escalated tensions and devolve into conflict. A reaction to a slap in the face is a slap back to that assailant. Reaction, in short, is nearly always our “flesh.” Contrast that with a response where a slap in the face leads to turning the other cheek. Typically, a response is a calculated, thoughtful reply. Frequently, responses elicit cooperation, compassion, and caring.

Both a reaction and response is demonstrated for us in the Garden of Gethsemane in Luke 26:50-51. We see that Peter reacts to the mob arresting Jesus by swinging his sword in anger and cutting off the ear of the servant of the high priest. Jesus then responds to this by calming the situation and healing that ear.

As Elders, we must respond rather than react to this crisis that is before us. If our congregants see our reactions in frustration to being ordered to shutter our churches, ceasing meeting in groups larger than ten, or potentially even helping the sick and dying, they will also react in the same manner. Congregants will lash out and potentially rise up in civil disobedience if we as leaders are not thoughtfully responsive. If our sheep see us responding calmly, leading the flock through the stormy waters, showing them how we can still meet and serve, then our flock will also remain calm and be more effective.  

Set up a Command Structure and War Room

In times of chaos, people need leaders and need to know who is in charge so that they can be confident that they are taken care of. In my business, when we are being attacked by a cyber threat, we establish three things – a command structure, an on-call rotation, and a command location called a war room.

A command structure is vitally important so that people know to whom to turn when they are in need. The command structure must include a person that has the authority to speak on behalf of the organization and make decisions as well as other volunteers that can carry out what the leader needs accomplished. A group of Elders could use this function to ensure that church staff can get vital questions answered, and the church congregant that may be hurting can get the help they need. The command structure is vital to smooth, clear, and concise communications.

A rotation of people to staff the command structure is of paramount importance. You do not want your people to get burned out due to being called upon at all hours of the day and night for days or weeks on end. The rotation allows people to rest their physical selves as well as their minds. Failure to have an on-call rotation will result in people getting sick due to weariness and could result in harmed relationships by reacting rather than clearly and adequately responding to situations the church needs to address in these trying times.

A war room is a location where the command structure resides. This is likely a virtual technology space like Zoom or Skype considering our social distancing requirements at this moment. However, as things change, and we are allowed to come back together, do not hesitate to make this a physical office space. The war room is where your on-call personnel will congregate, items and notes are on boards, pass down between on-call teams occurs and will be a place those in need of your assistance will know they can come to be attended to.

Over-Communicate to Address the FUD factor

Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt – the FUD factor – is strong in our nation and our churches right now. Address this head-on with frequent and transparent communications. We are all weary of “spin.” This health crisis is and will continue to be a marathon, not a sprint. We will be in this uncertain, ever-changing state for weeks if not months as our world struggles to right the ship and get back on our feet. Inspire confidence in your flock. The more accurate information a person has, the more likely they are to stay engaged and be confident. Over-communication and transparency develops a trust and relationship that makes people believe that we are in this together.

Plan for Giving Disruption

In any major disaster, a church should plan for disruption of giving and having to use the savings fund, if there is one. In this current situation, the church should be looking towards a 90% or more reduction in giving, if you do not act now. There are three key things you need to do this week to counter this threat.

  1. Establish online giving options if you have not already. A number of resources are available for processing online giving through banks or software providers such as Square and Paypal, PushPay and more. Square and PayPal are familiar to people and are great options for a quick response. I would also recommend contacting your church accountant for recommendations or conducting a Google search for church online giving options.
  2. Extend giving options. Many times banks can take automated transfers or allow persons to setup automated checking withdrawals. In the church I attend, we currently have five methods of giving: traditional cash/check, through the website, through an app, text to give, and electronic banking.
  3. Teach or Instruct your people that giving is still important. Unfortunately, many people will believe that because they are not in the building, giving is not necessary. As an Elder, we need to teach our people that giving is not determined by whether you are in the building on Sunday or not. I would recommend that your elder team record a short, five-minute video that addresses the biblical importance of giving, instructs your flock to give, and teaches how to use the methods of giving.

Risk Analysis:

As Gary introduced me last week, I am a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) in a large, nationwide data center provider. I deal with risk analysis day in and day out, even under normal conditions. Typically, the risk analysis that I conduct is related to cyber attacks against computer infrastructure and systems. Risk analysis is also used in many of your jobs in the financial sector, general business, and elsewhere. So why are we not using it in the church to guide our decisions?

Risk analysis comes in two forms: qualitative and quantitative. Qualitative risk analysis is more of a subjective process while quantitative analysis is very much fact-based. Typically, a qualitative analysis will lead to a quantitative analysis when it can. Both are formulas. One takes a threat such as a pandemic, determines the vulnerability that the organization has to the threat, and gains a risk (Threat x Vulnerability = Risk). To that, you can add what you believe the impact would be to the church.

In our current situation, I would recommend that you consider qualitative risk analysis to determine a multitude of impacts to your church and when to start recovering or coming back to traditional in-person meeting and corporate worship. A quantitative risk analysis should be conducted against financial loss due to the possible loss of giving or inability to pay bills due to that loss. Both methods are essential for elders to understand the health of the church, and to make well-informed decisions.

Conclusion:

The next few weeks and months are going to try us and stretch us. Our spiritually weaker and/or spiritually younger members of the flock will be prone to wander. Some physically vulnerable members may not be with us at the end of this. Through all of that, Praise Him Through the Storm (Casting Crowns 2005). Remember, God is in control, and through Him, we can do all things. There will be painful moments because we live in a fallen world. But our hope is not here; it is eternally with Jesus in His glory. As elders and leaders, it is our job to guide our flock to that eternal glory.

Go forth and be the church!

What to do Before Things go Wrong

by Mark Houpt 

companion post: CRISIS RESPONSE (an excerpt from our Playbook)

The news and other media resources are awash in stories of the world-wide crisis due to the COVID-19 virus, better known as the Novel Coronavirus.  Every day, numbers of infected and the numbers of deceased scroll like sports scores or financial market tickers across the screens of our televisions and computer monitors.  As businesses and other organizations across the globe assess what to do in reaction to such an event, it is not inappropriate, in fact, it should be mandatory, for Elders and church leaders to discuss how we would maintain our own operations in the event this impacts our home areas.  We can address this in what is commonly known as “Continuity of Operations.” 

Continuity of Operations Planning (CoOP) is a concept that defines a plan of action an organization will take to ensure that Mission Essential Functions (MEF) continue during an event, incident, or emergency.  As a church, we are not immune from needing these plans that define our Mission Essential Functions and how we will continue to serve when a crisis or disaster occurs.  

The CoOP should encompass a five-stage process:
Phase I                  Preparedness
Phase II                 Activation and Initial Response
Phase III               Full Operations of MEFs
Phase IV               Return to Normal Operations
Phase V                After-Action Evaluation 

Preparedness is the key to a smooth CoOP.  Preparedness, by definition, occurs long before any event or incident is a possibility.  It includes your documented plan, training, testing of the plan, and maintaining the plan.  It is a continual cycle.  A CoOP document template can be found here at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) website.

In the Preparedness phase, one of the key functions is to determine what the Mission-Essential Functions (MEF) are for your church.  While the CoOP may appear to be the function of the operations aspect of the church, Elders should not overlook their need to be deeply involved.  Elders need to define how the church accomplishes her primary mission when the doors are locked, when quarantines or isolation events are declared, or for that matter, when fear, uncertainty, and doubt reign in the community.  Some possible MEFs Elders should consider are visiting the sick in their homes and hospitals, and continuing to teach and preach the Word.  You also need to ask what functions cease or change for a season; for example, children’s and youth ministries may cease while daily office operations continue in a remote work scenario (i.e. work from home).  Elders should also consider whether some people should be asked to stay away for a season.  For example, I am aware of one church where a large group went on a cruise in the past week.  In the middle of the COVID-19 situation, those having been on cruises are high-risk.  It may be prudent to ask these people to stay at home and attend online or home services for the 14-day period recommended by the CDC.  Another group of people to consider asking to stay home, or better yet, giving permission to stay at home, are the elderly and infirm.  They are the highest risk for mortality and catching the virus.  Many elderly feel it is their duty to be at church when the doors are open.  An Elder giving them permission to not attend may be a key to their health and continued life.  All of these are legitimate questions that only an Elder can answer through prayer and seeking the guidance of the Spirit. 

A key consideration for Elders to address in your MEF definition is who responds to and determines doctrinal questions and statements.  Previous major events such as 9/11, the Gulf War, the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, etc., have shown that there will be questions whether these are “signs of the end times” or “punishments brought on by God.”  Historically, the church could have been better prepared to answer these questions.  Elders are the key to sound communication in advance, or in the midst, of an event. 

How might you determine the MEFs?  For an initial list of MEFs, perhaps consider the description of the tasks and qualifications of an Elder such as the ability to teach and preach (1 Tim. 5:17), care for the spiritual needs of the flock (Jas. 5:14), make judgments on situations such as rebuking those that are conducting false preaching or teaching, challenging those who are taking advantage of the fear in the community (Heb. 13:17, 1 Tim. 5:17 and Tit. 1:9-13).  The second layer of listing MEFs will involve seeking input from church leadership and other staff positions on what they view as essential. 

Phases II calls for activation of the plan.  It is important that the church knows who has the authority to execute and command during the plan’s activation.  In a time of crisis, without clear leadership, leadership will emerge.  A CoOP with defined leaders will prevent the power vacuum and resulting confusion that occurs when definition is lacking. 

Phase III and IV is stabilization and return to normal operations.  Stabilization is key but, because we are discussing crisis , “stabilization”  is always fluid and will be impacted by the changing situation.  Be prepared to react in this phase.  Ensure that your plan addresses the return to normal operations. 

Too many times, the plan is enacted, and no one considers what went right and what went wrong with the plan.  Phase V deals with this.  Do not skip this phase.  Without evaluation, the plan will never get better and it will fail you in the future. 

Continuity of Operations Planning is essential to your duties as Elders and leaders.  It is essential to shepherding the flock and meeting the spiritual needs of people in a crisis situation.  A CoOP is designed to ensure that the Bride of Christ is protected, maintained, and relevant in the midst of a crisis. 

2 Questions

by Billy Strother 

I love elders – always have and always will.  These dedicated spiritual servants put their hearts, souls, and finances on the line for local congregations.  In some congregations, new elders are recruited with no training or mentoring.  There is a last-second nomination scramble, with only a few days to affirm or not affirm one’s willingness to accept the nomination.  

Sometimes, new elders have no idea into what they are being launched into.  They simply said “yes” out of a servant’s heart … then comes the whirlwind.  

The congregation I was serving most recently provides rotational and intentional leadership training, mentoring, and personal spiritual care before one is invited to serve as an elder, and active mentoring continues in the first term of eldership.  

With or without training, even in the best of healthy circumstances, surprises in the burdens and joys of eldership happen to us all.  

In a recent elders’ meeting, I asked our multi-generational group of nine elders two questions.  (Our eldership is a larger number because we have been actively passing the elder leadership baton to the next generation of church leaders – half of our elders are in their early thirties or early forties, six of the nine are in their first term serving as an elder).  My explanation for the two questions posed to our elders was that I would record and share their answers on this blog, in the hope that their answers would help other newly-serving elders or those contemplating serving for the first time in eldership.  Our elders were vigorous and eager in their sharing of answers. I’m still not sure if they were talking to you or simply over-eager to educate me!  

Perhaps you have or have had that “deer in the headlights” look after your first elders’ meeting.  (My elders conceded such was unanimously their experience.)  Or, it could be that you have been asked annually to serve for years; but annually you have declined nomination – from the outside, serving in eldership looks severely mystical, or  too much like a monthly city council meeting, possessing all of the excitement of a root canal.  

I share our collective answers to two simple questions in the hope you will find encouragement in your own journey as an elder or to eldership.  

Question 1: “What do you wish someone had told you before you became an elder?”

  1. Serving would include more than a “one hour a month” meeting.  (Some elders had been recruited with the promise that eldership only consisted of one meeting for “one hour a month.”)  We corrected that inaccuracy in approaching candidates.
  2. Muting cell phones.  If you are not retired, and still work full-time, mute your cell phone!  (Texts, emails, phone calls, prayer requests, and Facebook posts will come in at all times.)  The advice?  Take control of your cell phone; do not let it control you.  Don’t just put it on vibrate mode, use the Do Not Disturb setting.
  3. Learning there is only one important voice to which to listen and follow: Jesus.  Eldership is not like politics – you represent no group in the church; you only represent Jesus, and what is best in Jesus’ eyes.
  4. Understanding the church is not like a secular, “normal” business, especially if you are from a professional business background.  (There is at times no clear “chain of command” and sometimes no “best practice” to lean on.) 
  5. Sitting in an elders’ meeting is different than sitting in a secular management meeting or fiscal court.  It is more of a burden to serve as an elder than to be a small business owner.
  6. Deferring church business out of our meetings and into staff hands as much as possible, so we could be active Shepherds to real hurting people. 
  7. Keeping necessary confidential secrets (even from your spouse) and prayer requests you become privy to as an elder, until/unless the elder team is ready to disclose them for a Kingdom benefit.
  8. Committing to be supportive when the elder team makes a decision, even if I personally (or church friends close to me) disagree.  Unless I am willing to resign, I must commit to be supportive for the sake of elder unity.  Sometimes, it is hard to admit that I might just be wrong, and that I will need to trust the rest of the elder team.
  9. Abandoning the naïveté to believe that if I reached out to every disgruntled church member who disagreed with an elder team decision, that, since they knew me, they would trust me.
  10. Finding it difficult to carve out time for prayer and Bible study because of the tyranny of the church-urgent. 

Question 2: “What Unexpected Blessing Have You Experienced by Serving as an Elder?”

  1. Watching a new idea for ministry delivery get tossed into elder meeting discussion, and then seeing it come to fruition
  2. Possessing an inside look at God’s faithfulness: knowing things kept in leadership confidence, which are best not shared outside the elders, and then watching God make bold moves to resolve or complete those things
  3. Watching people spiritually grow, including my fellow elders.
  4. Experiencing deep fellowship with elders who are spiritual heroes.
  5. Mentoring from older, experienced elders; being challenged in healthy ways by younger new elders
  6. Becoming more Christ-centered by being with seasoned elders who are already Christ-centered.
  7. Becoming a more effective leader in one’s small group, by spending time in team with effective elders
  8. Experiencing unity develop as a group of Christian men. (There was an associated quote: “There is no way I could have predicted the friendships, the connections, and my own spiritual growth with these men.”)
  9. Discovering even seemingly small leadership decisions can lead to positive, amplified Kingdom fruit
  10. Experiencing deep spiritual refreshing in elder meetings, often unexpected, and always when it was needed the most
  11. Participating in something that will bear spiritual fruit long after the second date is carved on one’s headstone

All agreed, the blessings of serving as an elder far exceeded the burdens. (That is why there are 11 answers to question 2, but only 10 answers for question 1.)  At its worst, none of us had ever experienced an elders’ meeting as bad as a root canal or a raucous city council meeting.

Jesus Came to…

by Ken Idleman 

It is the month of November 2019, and as a Christian leader, an under-shepherd of the Good Shepherd, I want to be sure I am representing Jesus and His purpose faithfully. Here is the checklist against which I am measuring myself today as a shepherd leader…

  1. He came to serve… “The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life…” (Mark 10:45). This was His calling and it is mine as a Christ follower. I want to have the mind of Christ. I want to look not to my own interests, but to the interests of others. I want to be a servant of the Servant.
  2. He came to call sinners to repentance… Jesus said… “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32). In our present generation I know this has to be done with genuine concern and a spirit of humility, but I also know it must be done. Today, the lines have been blurred. The black and white of God’s truth has been reduced to a politically correct grey. I want to be bold to do what Jesus did in the way He did it.
  3. He came to give light the world… Jesus said… “I have come as light into the world…” (John 12:46). So many walk in darkness… stumbling, confused, lost… in some cases hiding from God or hiding out in order to victimize others. Without His coming our world would be a very dark place! And He said to his followers, “You are [now] the light of the world.” I want to be a bright spot in my corner of the world.
  4. He came to divide… “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). Jesus warned that His loving Lordship would not be appreciated or embraced by everyone and that His cross would be an occasion for division in families and between friends. It was true then and it is true today that there are deep divisions between those who believe in Him and those who don’t. I am committed to help people find the bridge over this divide.
  5. He came to save us from hell… “For God sent not the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17). It is scriptural and it is rational, in a world so obviously dominated by the struggle between good and evil, to believe that a good God will punish evil and reward good, but in His mercy will save all who return His love. I want to be on a rescue mission with Him.
  6. He came to give us eternal life… “… whoever believes on Him [Jesus] will not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). It is stated in so many places and in so many ways in the New Testament. Like the thief next to him on an adjacent cross, one day we want to hear Him, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” I want to go to heaven with my family and take as many others with me as I can!

Will you join me in a devotional act of recommitment to His call?

Memory Makers

by Terry Stine 

Forty-four years ago, six men signed my Ordination Certificate.  These were men who had influenced my life, who had disciplined me spiritually and physically as I grew up in the church where they served as elders and spiritual leaders.
 
One man was an executive in the construction industry.  He looked at the church through the eyes of a man who was used to making decisions that initiated change. 
 
Another was a corporate executive who preached when needed and taught classes to Jr. and Sr. high boys.
 
The minister of my home church was also an elder and he encouraged young people to go into ministry.  He took us to Bible college campus activities and gave me opportunities to preach while I was still in high school.
 
I remember how another signer, who as a financial consultant, used his gifts to serve the church.  He helped people in the church in such a soft-hearted way.  Money was a tool for God, not a goal for gain.  He made sure the congregation gave significant scholarships to young men and women who wanted to go to Bible college.
 
The signature of the minister that I was serving under as a new youth minister reminds me of his practical help in my life.  He had been a Bible college professor, started churches, and took time to help me through my first wedding and funeral.  He gave the “charge” for my ordination.
 
Finally, one signer is a long-time friend who grew up in the church with me, and had accepted the call to minister there after he graduated from college.  His life also gives testimony of godly elders who had known us personally, and had invested in our lives.
 
These men took time to exhibit the qualities that Paul wrote to Timothy about in II Timothy 4:2.  They were prepared to correct, admonish, exhort with encouragement and patience, with careful instruction from the Word.
 
They all had worldly skill sets that could have been dominant in their eldership.  Instead, they allowed their spiritual calling as elders to be dominant and allowed their worldly skill sets to be used in secondary ways.  Instead of thinking like COOs, CFOs and CEOs, they were ministering simply as elders.  Most of these men also took night classes at St. Louis Christian College to increase their biblical knowledge to lead as biblical leaders.
 
Jewish elders in the Old Testament were older men and respected for their spiritual wisdom.  They were instrumental for the preservation of life with God in the covenant community.  When Paul appointed elders in the new churches that he planted the purpose was the same.  That is the reason Paul emphasized the qualities that should already be exhibited by those selected to spiritually protect and guide the local congregation.  
 
Paul shared with Timothy and Titus the qualities that elders should exhibit.  These lists of practical actions and attitudes would allow these men to be models of mature Christians in action and thinking.  They were to be memory makers. 

Some of the men who signed my Ordination Certificate have passed away.  Others moved and are in various congregations across the United States.  What they did as elders, how they exhibited the love of Christ through teaching and example, made an impact on me.  My ministry during the past forty-seven years has influenced many people in several countries to accept Christ.  The memories of those who shaped me live on in lives that they personally never knew.
 
What memories are you making as a biblical elder today that will reach around the world and through the years for Christ? 

E-L-D-E-R-S

by Gary Johnson 

Seven years ago, almost to the day, e2 incorporated as a non-profit parachurch ministry!  We thank the Lord for His great grace towards us, thank Him for the past seven years while trusting Him for seven more … and then some! 

As e2 celebrates her seventh anniversary, we look back over recent years and think about our conversations with 6,000+ elders at our conferences.  Time and again, conversation turned toward the same few topics.  Like cream rising in milk, we noticed elders talking about similar challenges in one location after another.  From coast to coast, in congregations both brand new and long-established, small or mega in size, these recurring themes capture the attention of elders and staff.  After thinking about this phenomenon, we have summarized these recurring concerns into six challenges. 
 
What are these six challenges?  We can remember them by thinking “E-L-D-E-R-S.”
 
E – Evangelism 
Some 250,000 churches in America have plateaued or are declining.  Why?  They suffer mission drift, failing to “seek and to save the lost.”  If elders are not leading by example and personally bringing spiritually lost friends and family to Christ, don’t expect the rest of the congregation to do so. 
 
L – Leadership
Conflict abounds between staff and elders.  Power struggles are alive and well.  We must work to turn our dysfunctional leadership teams into healthy teams.  This requires intentional forgiveness and humility.
 
D – Discipleship
Regretfully, far too many people are merely growing old in the faith and are failing to grow up – to become increasingly like Jesus.  As elders, we are to make disciples who make disciples, beginning with ourselves.  We must strive to become more spiritually mature today than we were yesterday – and help those around us to do the same.  After all, Jesus told us to do so. 
 
E – Equipping
The equipping of current elders must happen.  Stop doing the same things our grandfathers did when they were elders, while expecting different results.  We need to learn new leadership skills, raising the bar of our effectiveness.  Do you have an elder development plan in place and are you working the plan?  If not, why not?
 
R – Recruiting 
With the leadership pipeline running low, it is essential to recruit the next generation of elders.  We at e2 continually encounter churches with two or even just one elder in place.  Moreover, many churches fail to have elder candidates “on deck and ready to take their turn at bat.”  How do you identify potential elders with leadership skills and a calling to serve in this manner, and how are you preparing them to lead?
 
S – Structure 
Healthy bones make for a healthy body.  Similarly, a healthy internal structure of the church makes for a healthy church.  Let’s look and operate more like the New Testament Church and less like the federal government.  Stop nominating and electing people to specific “offices” with terms.  Is it time to rewrite the by-laws and structure the church as described in the New Testament? 
 
At e2, we help churches face up to these six challenges.  We’ve assisted hundreds of elders in dozens of churches to address each of these concerns.  How can we help you and your team?  Give us a call or drop us a note.  It would be a privilege both to hear from you and to help you. 
 
Coaching Elder Teams to Win

 

What’s next for the Church?

by Daniel Overdorf 

What’s next for the church?  What will the coming years look like?  The short answer…I don’t know.  Only God does.  But here are a few things I feel in my gut – not an exhaustive list, but a few matters to consider.
 
 A THRIVING CHURCH IN THE NEXT GENERATION WILL BE:
 
1. Global.  Can you imagine if the Apostle Paul had access to air travel?  The internet?  Skype?  Thriving churches in the next generation will recognize their opportunity to participate in God’s expansion of His kingdom down every dusty road, in every metropolis, in every village.  As the world grows smaller, our opportunities for global impact grow larger.    
 
2. Diverse.  A year ago, I participated in the Metro Christian Convention in New York City.  I was one of only a few Caucasians in the room.  Around me, worshipping, stood brothers and sisters from every ethnic background imaginable.  I thought to myself, “This is what heaven will be like.”  Then I prayed, “May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  
 
3. Missional.  Rather than waiting for our communities to “come to church,” thriving churches in the next generation will actively engage people – actual people, not just stereotypes and labels – relationally and compassionately functioning as salt and light in their cities and neighborhoods.   
 
4.  Authentic.  Recent revelations about the abuse of power among Christian leaders have damaged our credibility and our mission.  Further, they have reemphasized the need for openness, honesty, transparency, and accountability in the church.
 
IN THE NEXT GENERATION WE WILL WRESTLE WITH:
 
1. Technology.  How does a church leverage technology but not bow to it?  As we move beyond websites to livestreaming and social media (and who knows what’s to come), how can technology advance the kingdom?  What about “online church?”  
 
2. Multi-Site Churches.  This recent phenomenon is mushrooming, and multitudes are coming to Christ through multi-site churches.  In some ways, they’re more consistent with the New Testament model than our typical approach.  Will the trend continue?  Will multi-site campuses be released from the mother ship?  What will this look like in thirty years?   
 
3. What Does it Mean to be “Non-Sectarian?”  Speaking from the perspective of the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement, how will we interact with others who are also laying aside (or at least deemphasizing) denominational ties, and who share our core beliefs, but who do not share our heritage or doctrinal distinctives?  How will we live out our ideal of non-sectarianism in this new environment?
 
4. The Relationships Between/Among:

  • The Church and the Government. How will the church and government relate?  How can the church influence the culture without become intertwined with it?  Speaking of the American church, how will we handle a loss of privilege and influence in our government?  
  • Christian Higher Education and Government.  As regulations from the government and accrediting bodies evolve around issues such as sexual identity and practice, discrimination, financial aid, and tax policies, institutions of Christian higher education may have difficult decisions to make, with significant financial implications, regarding their hiring, admissions, and discipline policies.
  • The Church and Christian Higher Education.  Because of the previous two points, the church and institutions of Christian higher education may have to rely on one another more than ever before.  Some current efforts are strengthening the bond between the two, such as residencies, teaching church programs, and semesters in ministry.  We will need to strengthen such efforts in the coming years to survive – thrive, even – in the next generation.  

What’s next for the church? I don’t know for sure, but I think it may involve matters such as these.  I do know for sure that it’s God church, He is sovereign, and His Church will thrive.  What we fear, He uses as opportunities for purification and growth.  In the next generation, the church will continue to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus as the hope of the world.

Preach the Word

by Barry Cameron 

I heard of an old church in England with a sign on the front of their building that said, “We preach Christ crucified.”  Over time, ivy grew up and obscured the last word.  The sign now said, “We preach Christ.”  As the ivy continued to grow it covered even more of the sign until it said, “We preach.”  It wasn’t long until ivy covered so much of the sign you could only see the word, “We,” and it wasn’t long before the church died.
 
John Wesley, said, “Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen, such alone will shake the gates of Hell and set up the Kingdom of God upon the earth.”
 
The Bible tells us God chose “the foolishness of preaching to save those who believe” (1 Corinthians 1:21).  But honestly, a lot of what is being preached today would be considered mere foolishness.  Much of the current preaching in our world doesn’t honor God, reach the lost or come close to shaking the gates of Hell.
 
Instead, in our misguided efforts not to offend those who are lost and Hell-bound, much of today’s preaching has become so ostentatious the only person it could possibly offend is God Himself, and the only kind of people it could possibly reach are those with hearing problems (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
 
Years ago a preacher named Peter Cartwright was getting ready to preach.  Before he went to the pulpit, he was informed President Andrew Jackson was in the audience.  Church leaders told him to be careful about what he said in his sermon so as not to offend the President.  When Cartwright took the pulpit, it’s reported he said, “I understand that Andrew Jackson is here.  I have been requested to be guarded in my remarks.  Andrew Jackson will go to Hell if he doesn’t repent.”  The congregation was stunned and wondered how President Jackson would respond.  Following the service, the President shook hands with Cartwright and said, “Sir, if I had a regiment of men like you, I could whip the world.” 

Our passion isn’t to whip the world.  Rather it’s to win it.  But if we ever hope to win the world, we’re going to have to preach the Word, in season and out of season, and we’re going to need preachers like John Wesley and Peter Cartwright.
 
Steven Lawson said, “The reality is that not all preaching is the same.  There is the kind of preaching that God blesses, and there is that which he abandons.  There is the kind of preaching that has the favor of Heaven upon it, and there is that which is a mere exercise in rhetoric.  There is a world of difference between the two.”
 
We dare not “shrink from declaring the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27), but “preach Christ crucified” (1 Corinthians 1:23), and the Gospel, “not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power” (1 Corinthians 1:17), and preach the Word “in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2), “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
 
Charles Spurgeon said, “The preaching of Christ is the whip that flogs the devil.  The preaching of Christ is the thunderbolt, the sound of which makes all hell shake.”
 
Let’s pray our preaching will shake the very gates of Hell and touch the souls of men for eternity. 

Shepherds in Training

by David Hennig

In the fall of each year, the people of the church in which I was raised were asked to submit names of men to be considered to serve as elders and deacons.  Following a vetting process, candidates were put before the congregation for a vote.  I was in high school when my father’s name appeared on such a ballot and he was elected an elder.  My father was a mechanical engineer in a white-collar position for an aircraft engine manufacturer.  To the best of my knowledge he never received any training to serve as an elder, but he faithfully attended monthly board meetings.  It sounded to me like people elected to civil government – you vote people in and you hope they do a good job.  If not, you don’t re-elect them.  Over the years, I have been a part of other churches in which this form of polity was practiced.
 
Fast-forward to 2010 when I began a preaching ministry at a very small, struggling church.  There was a Steering Team in place and David Roadcup came alongside us to help.  He encouraged us to be patient in making the transition to becoming an elder-led church.  During this time I was taking seminary classes at Cincinnati Christian University and was introduced to the book “They Smell Like Sheep” by Dr. Lynn Anderson.  We used this book (and its sequel) to train our Steering Team to become elders.  We were captivated by this alternative name for elders that evoked a beautiful description of the work: SHEPHERD!  Paul used this term in his farewell to the elders of Ephesus in Acts 20:28, “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.  Be shepherds of the church of God…”
 
In 2015, we dedicated four shepherds for our flock!  Because our church family was growing, we began to talk about the need to establish a leadership pipeline.  The men we approached about serving were hesitant because they didn’t really understand what elders were supposed to do.  So, we decided to implement an apprenticeship approach.  We recruited four men of humility and character to be our Shepherds-In-Training.  In addition to taking them through Lynn Anderson’s books, we met weekly to pray for the church together; we made shepherding calls and hospital visits together; we taught Bible classes and led Life Groups together; you get the idea!  And I almost forgot – we also did our administrative meetings together.  We demonstrated to our Shepherds-In-Training that being a shepherd is about far more than attending business meetings – the real work is “out there” with, and among, the sheep!  Shepherds smell like sheep because they are with the sheep!
 
We work with our Shepherds-In-Training for about a year.  During that time we have the chance to model to them the work, coach them in the work, and evaluate their aptitude for the work.  At the same time, they learn what shepherding the church family is all about and whether it is something that God is calling them to do.  At the end of the training period, we may extend the invitation for these men to come on board as shepherds, and each trainee has the ability to decline.  During the training period we do not announce the trainees to the church family so that no one feels pressured or is put in an awkward position if they later decline.
 
We have conducted three rounds of training so far and have nine solid shepherds serving on our team.  We currently have four Shepherds-In-Training in the pipeline who may be dedicated later this year.  This apprenticeship approach is bearing leadership fruit that is making our shepherding team strong.  
 
And just in case you hadn’t noticed:  this apprenticeship approach looks an awful lot like “discipleship!”

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.