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.

No Rungs

by Stuart Jones 

The American Dream continues to challenge and inspire people of all ages and backgrounds.  Motivated by the ascending rungs of the corporate ladder, employees seek to rise to the next level of success, while supervisors seek to rise to the next level of recognition.  The beauty of the system is the seemingly limitless opportunity for achievement and advancement.  In some parallels, these same motivators challenge the Church to fulfill the mission laid before us by Christ himself.  Battling complacency and constantly pursuing excellence promotes God-honoring advancement of His Kingdom on Earth.

However, within the church leadership structure adopted by most congregations, ladder rungs that mimic the American Dream have the potential to bring about a “holy nightmare.”  As we read Scripture, we discover key positions and roles that should structure the local church.  Searching the text, we can find the role of deacon defined as those who are called to action with spiritually-enlarged hearts for service.  Elders – shepherds – are defined as the pastors or overseers that God calls to lead a congregation.  And sprinkled throughout Scripture, we find the roles of staff or ministers who professionally direct and lead areas of ministry.  These Scriptural definitions hold throughout time and governance.  But their placement, interaction and value have suffered unfortunate alterations through the lens of the American Dream.  

The American Church has embraced a corporate ladder mentality of leadership that typically flows in ascending order from volunteers to deacons to elders and staff.  Those seeking to find success and advancement within the church, and within the Kingdom of God, are encouraged to strive for the next rung of the ladder.  For example, great volunteers are challenged to become deacons, while deacons are simply waiting to become elders.  This hierarchical structure for leadership does not exist in the New Testament!  Did some deacons become elders?  That seems probable.  Did some elders become staff?  That most likely defines the “elder of double-honor.”  Yet, churches falsely assume that the expectation for achievement and advancement through the leadership roles is implied in the New Testament leadership structure.  It is not. 

Instead, the New Testament highly values those who accept the roles they are gifted and called to perform.  Deacons are men who implement and complete the ever-growing tasks and needs of the church.  The role of deacon or high calling of servant leader is not a steppingstone to pastoring or overseeing a congregation.  Those who bring action to the ministry of the church and those who bring wisdom to the ministry of the church are often two very different groups made up of very differently gifted individuals.  Church leadership structures often create a progression of roles and titles that may very well inhibit the God-given gifts of individuals within the church.

Will many deacons become strong elders in a church?  That transition does often happen.  However, we cannot assume these are the next steps in the American Faith Dream.  Many who are gifted in implementing and accomplishing tasks and projects are needed as servants and doers for the duration of their time on this earth.  The time that deacons serve does provide an opportunity for the church to gain trust and confidence in their leadership potential.  However, the value of servant leadership must not be perceived as an inferior rung to shepherding leadership.

Paul said, “If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be?  If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?” (1 Cor. 12:17). We apply these exaggerated questions to the congregation as we seek out volunteers.  However, we seem reluctant to equally value the multiple leadership layers of the church.  If all elders became deacons, who would spiritually guide the church?  If all deacons became elders, how would anything ever get done?  “But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.” (1 Cor. 12:18).  Leave the corporate ladder on the ground and celebrate the leaders God has placed in your church, exactly as He wanted them to be.

More Prayer = Shorter Meetings

by Randy Boltinghouse 

Our elder leadership team meets twenty times over the course of a year, typically twice a month for two hours.  During the first hour of our meeting, we pray over each of the prayer requests made from the previous Sunday’s communication cards.  Furthermore, all of us have the same daily devotional book which we read between meetings then share on the evenings we meet.  A rotational schedule assigns each elder the opportunity to lead both the devotion and prayer time.  After praying, sharing scripture, and reflecting on the devotions, it’s been an hour, leaving an hour for congregational matters.  Our meetings consistently end at the two-hour mark.  
 
We have a policy governance system which delineates the responsibilities of the elder leadership team, the senior minister, values, vision, limitations, etc.  Policy governance streamlines what decisions need to be made and by whom.  When needed, we have spirited discussion over necessary issues.  All decisions are by consensus.  Our policy governance serves as “good bones” supplying structure, discipline, and an operational unity that results in leadership alignment.
 
That said, I don’t believe it’s enough to have “good bones.”  We need an environment of spiritual nutrition and brotherly warmth entrusted to God and His Word.  Paul wrote about this in his parting words to the Ephesian elders: “I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32).  A proper understanding of biblical eldership involves shepherds who, when they gather, do so to consume the Word, seek to be built up by it, and then strive to remind each other from it that in Christ they are heirs with the saints of all God has promised.  How can any meeting of the elders go wrong when such a spirit dominates the room?  

I’m convinced that prioritizing prayer and the ministry of the Word are what keeps our meetings unified, efficient, on schedule, and spiritually nourishing for each elder.  One of my priorities as senior minister is not only to encourage each elder toward the work of the Lord but to see that the Lord’s work nourishes each elder.  Starting each meeting with prayer, Bible reading, devotions, and spiritual reflections ensures unity, love, and a brotherly affection among the shepherds of the flock.  Our elders tell each other that our meetings are a highlight of the week; a spiritually enriching small group time.  Sometimes the agenda changes in the meeting itself because one of the elders (or the senior minister!) has a heavy heart, needing conversation time and prayer.  What that means is that the other elders will rise from their seats and surround the one in need, praying fervently with the laying on of hands.  This does not mean we do not have difficult conversations.  Nor does this mean we won’t process through differing points of view.  It means that the difficult conversations situate themselves in a larger context of loving, truthful, prayerful Christian unity.  It means that differences are discussed in a gospel tone of grace and truth.  Such unity spreads out through the congregation, contagiously affecting the church family.  Christ-honoring elderships lead to Christ-honoring congregations.  

When our elders meet, we don’t come representing the interests of the church.  We come foremost to represent the interests of our Chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ.  We come to build one another up in Him.  Our brotherly unity touches the entire church family.  If your meetings are consistently running more than two hours, they’re probably too long.  So if you want richer, more effective meetings, pray more. 

10 Commandments for a Pastor Search

by Daniel Overdorf 

Elders fulfill one of their most impactful roles when they hire ministry staff.  The wrong hire can lead to years of heartache, the right hire can result in years of fruitful and joyful ministry.  The following commandments (okay…they’re really just suggestions) can help.

1. Begin – and stay – on Your Knees.  Prayer is not just the first step in the process, it must weave itself through the entire process.  Engage the entire congregation in prayer.

2. Establish an Efficient Search Process.  Define the stages through which the search will progress.  As an example:

  • The elders appoint a search team.
  • The search team gathers résumés.
  • The search team checks references, performs phone/video interviews, then recommends the top two or three candidates to the elders.
  • The elders conduct phone/video interviews with the top candidates.
  • The elders choose a candidate to host for a face-to-face interview and visit.

3. Develop a Profile of the Ideal Candidate.  No individual will perfectly match the ideal, but developing a profile will give direction to the search.  Consider such matters as education, doctrine/beliefs, and the particular needs and personality of the church and community.

4. Assemble a Search Team.  Often, elders appoint a search team that includes a cross section of church members.  In other circumstances, elders prefer to serve as the search team themselves, or to commission existing church staff to conduct the search.  Each option is fine, but it should be defined and communicated. 

5. Get the Word Out.  Solicit recommendations from people who know ministers, such as professors, well-connected leaders, and workers from parachurch organizations.  If such networking fails to uncover appealing candidates, widen the search by posting the opportunity on ministry placement lists.  Most Christian colleges keep such lists, and consider online postings such as SlingshotGroup.org and ChristianStandard.com/help-wanted.

6. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate.  Consider at least a weekly email to all candidates still in the mix, even if just to say “We’ll be meeting next week…”  Appoint someone who is friendly and well-organized to handle this communication.  Also, provide as much information as possible to candidates about the church and community, perhaps an information packet filled with newsletters, pictures, bios of leaders, church history, budget, demographic information, and anything else that will be helpful.
 
7. Keep it Personal.  In this regard, churches should operate more like families than like businesses.  Families do not send form letters.  They do not draw conclusions based solely on résumés.  Instead, families talk, relate, interact, and ask questions.  Likewise, a personal search process gets voice-to-voice, then face-to-face, as soon as possible.
           
8. Host a Productive Visit.  When a candidate visits, plan the itinerary carefully to make it productive and enjoyable.  For example: pay all expenses, reserve a nice hotel room, stock the hotel room with a personal note and a basket of goodies, provide a car and a map with some free time to explore, plan some time for formal meetings but also informal gatherings.  Engage the help of someone who has the gift of hospitality. 

9. Reject as You Would Have Them Reject You.  At whatever point in the process you decide a candidate is not the right fit, remain personal and respectful.  Cold search teams hide behind form letters.  Caring search teams ask themselves, “How can we minister to this person?”  Through personal letters or phone calls, they’ll comment on the person’s strengths and promise to pray that God will guide them to the right opportunity.

10. Enjoy a Productive First Year.  When a candidate is hired, celebrate.  Allow time and resources for the new minister to transition smoothly.  And, don’t expect the new minister to “hit the ground running” too quickly or intensely.  That time will come, but first encourage the minister to settle his family into the community, to begin developing relationships, and to get his footing as a leader in your church.

Soon, we’ll no longer count the weeks or months but we’ll count the years our “new” ministers have served our churches.  May we begin a pattern in those early months that will stretch into those later years, a pattern of healthy partnership.

How to Persevere Under Criticism

by Mike Shannon 

I once saw a sign posted in a business that said, “When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.”  That is good advice for anyone, but especially good advice for those who work in the church.  Many factors can potentially discourage us in church work.  There are many times we are prone to give up, but God’s work requires staying power.  Nehemiah knew that.  Nehemiah had staying power.

Sometimes we are filled with good intentions.  We begin a job, but when the boring and tedious parts come we walk away.  This is, I suppose, a common human failing.  However, our character is developed not in the exciting times but in the routine times.  The job itself can become discouraging, but if it needs to be done, and it is a job God has commanded, then we must persist. 

Sometimes it is not the boring part of the job, but the challenging parts that engender discouragement.  Critics often threaten us.  Nehemiah had such a critic in a man known as Sanballat, along with his co-critics Tobiah and Geshem.  It was not long after Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem to rebuild the city walls that Sanballat and company resisted him fiercely; they even laughed in his face.  He ridiculed those who worked with Nehemiah.  Not only did Sandballat conclude the job was impossible, he mocked those who tried to accomplish it, calling them “feeble.”  Their critics suggested that a fox could knock the wall down.  They tried to distract Nehemiah with requests for meetings.  They spread slander about Nehemiah and suggested nefarious motives, once even claiming he was trying to set himself up as king.  I suppose every church has a Sanballat.  When nothing else worked he resorted to threats, suggesting something bad just might happen, but Nehemiah simply would not relent.  When Sanballat asked Nehemiah to come and consult with him, Nehemiah calmly, but firmly, replied, “I can’t come down from this great work” (Neh. 6:3).

Critics are too often allowed to control the agenda.  The harshest critic, of course, is usually the one who has never accomplished anything.  The critic is free to find fault with everything because he/she has never personally taken the risk of trying and failing.  Generally, you will find that critics are rarely doers and doers are rarely critics.  We should be humble enough listen to genuine feedback, particularly if it comes from those who are wise, but we should never let the pathological critic force us to come down from a great work.

We can change direction, change strategies, change tactics, but we must persist in our mission.  Remember when Paul came to Corinth, he had many reasons to quit.  He was discouraged, lonely, in poor health, and faced sharp criticism.  In the midst of that discouragement God promised Paul that he was with him.  God sent him people to help him deal with his great task, and a great church was built in Corinth.  Since God does not quit on us, we don’t have to quit in His work. 

We must expect the discouragers to come, but we must be strong enough to resist their influence.  In spite of the chronic critics, we can succeed if we are determined God’s work should, can, and will be done.  No doubt, most of the jobs we will take on are not nearly as challenging as building the city wall in Jerusalem.  Think of what we could do if we just had a little staying power.