How to Shepherd

by David Roadcup 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elders Cast Vision

by David Roadcup 

The ability to craft and utilize a compelling vision is one of the cornerstones in the life of an effective church.  

What is vision?  It is developing the ability to see what is not yet there.  It is seeing things as they could be through God’s eyes.  It is looking beyond where our church is at the present and asking, “What does God want to see happen in the life of our church in the future?”  The ability to proactively move to develop a workable vision and then communicate that vision to your congregation members, leading them to buy into that vision, is a crucial step to moving a church forward.  

A very important question:  What part does an elder play in determining the vision of a church?

First, we must ask another question: Who determines the vision of a congregation?  There can be a variety of views on this issue.  It is only logical to respond to this question in this manner:  in most cases the lead minister (senior minister, preaching minister, etc.) of the organization should be the “tip of the spear” when it comes to vision casting.  A good lead minister will always seek the Lord in prayer for the vision for his church.  In addition to prayer, the lead minister should consult with his staff and the elder team when setting the vision.  This process should always be a collaborative process initiated by the Lead Minister.  All key leadership individuals (paid pastoral staff and elders) should have input into the development of the stated, written and communicated vision.  

In bringing input and ideas to the vision casting table, let me encourage every elder to keep the following in mind:

  1. Vision should be determined through the direction of the Word of God and prayer.  All we strive to accomplish should be directed by God’s Word and prayer.  We know from Scripture that God’s will is very clear about our ultimate vision.  The Great Commission (Matt.28:18-20) indicates that our ultimate goal is to win those who are lost and outside of Christ, to immerse them and nurture them to a healthy level of spiritual maturity.  This work is to be done here at home and around the world in every country, city and village.  It is as clear as that.  Winning the lost and nurturing the saved, here at home and around the world, is our primary objective. 
  2. Key leaders create and agree on the vision.  The Lead Minister propels this effort.  He must lead in this area.  But as an elder, know that you should be able and encouraged to make a contribution to this process.  Here is an effective question that every elder should ask himself when vision-casting: If money were no object (if a church had all the money it needed – an unlimited supply), what would you like to see happen in your church?  What would we do when it comes to evangelism?  What would we do in terms of our youth ministries?  What would we do when considering our missions outreach and urban evangelism?  What would we do for the marriages in our congregation?  in other words, if the sky was the limit, where would we like to see our church in 5 years if we were truly accomplishing our vision and mission?  I truly believe that as the leadership team of the church, we should dream big!  We should ask the Lord to show up powerfully – undeniably – in our church.  
  3. We communicate the vision to the church.  The vision we believe God has given us for our church then needs to be communicated to the body through a series of sermons, the church’s bulletins, newsletters, etc.  We make sure that everyone in the church knows the vision of the church and will come on board in executing that vision through our staff, finances, prayers, buildings and ministries.  

Elders, as a main part of the leadership team, should participate in the vision casting of their church.  THrough prayer and collaboration, a Holy Spirit led vision can be clarified and accomplished! 

How do I know if my church is healthy?

by David Roadcup

A doctor examining a patient looks immediately for signs of vitality and health.  When the signs are present, the doctor knows the patient is doing well.  When the signs are not there, this is telling the doctor that the patient needs attention.  A diagnosis is made, medication or treatment is prescribed, and the patient finds restoration of health. 

The same is true for a congregation.  Certain characteristics in the life of a church tell us that the church is healthy and thriving.  A lack of these characteristics would tell us that the church needs attention and treatment.  A church’s “vital signs” can be broken down in many ways, but for today, let’s examine three of the most important church health measures:  

The Unity of the Congregation 
The unity of a church is critical to the health of that church.  Disunity within the body brings division, strife, and jeopardizes the church’s ability to fulfill her mission.  If there are points of disunity and they are growing and getting more intense, the primary leaders (senior minister and elders) must face the causes of the disunity, pray for guidance and move into the issues, carefully handling them with wisdom and discernment.  Elders must proactively handle and manage whatever is causing the disunity.  Jesus Himself said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand” (Mark 3:25).  Satan has used disunity for two thousand years to slow down or destroy the effectiveness of the church.  This must be a continual focus of leadership.  As leaders, we carefully guard the unity of our church body.  

The Evangelism of the Congregation
The winning of the lost to Christ is the first and foremost purpose of the body of Christ (Matt. 28:18-20).  We must evaluate on a regular basis what we are doing to reach lost people. 

In the Christian Church, we have many congregations that are very invested in winning first time believers to Christ.  Churches in our brotherhood report baptism services of 50, 60 or more people baptized on one day in a celebration of salvation!  How pleased the Lord is with this!  An acquaintance of mine immersed over 700 new believers in one Sunday afternoon.  This is the heart of the church. 

We must take a hard look at our evangelism results, friends.  Are we really looking for, encountering and leading to faith in Christ those who are outside the kingdom?  We simply need to look at our numbers.  How many first-time believers do we baptize on a monthly basis?  On an annual basis?  This number will tell us about the evangelism “temperature” in our congregation.  Remember, leading first time believers to faith is the beating heart of the body of Christ.  

The Discipling/Assimilation of the Congregation
As we evangelize non-believers and lead them to Christ, we need to also be devoted to the spiritual growth and maturation of these believers.  Exposing them to great Bible teaching on a regular basis is at the heart of their spiritual health.  We teach our people to feed themselves when we teach them about the classic spiritual disciplines and how to incorporate them into their lives.  We need to involve them in significant ministry and service.  And they must be connected to other believers in fellowship and community.  Each of these aspects are necessary to help our members become healthy and “heart deep” in the life of our congregation.  

Each of these three areas need to be regularly monitored.  As leaders, we look at our numbers and the effectiveness of our ministries.  These will tell us how healthy our church is as we continue on the journey to developing, through the Lord’s guidance and will, a healthy and productive church. 

The Elder and Fasting

by David Roadcup

Ken Helm was “an elder’s elder.”  He served at Christ’s Church at Mason, OH for years, working with his fellow leaders in shepherding the outstanding church there.  One of his personal practices was to fast every Monday on behalf of his church, her ministry and her staff.  Ken felt that seeking the Lord through the discipline of fasting was an important part of his leadership.  He never imposed this discipline on anyone else.  He just quietly set aside Monday as a dedicated day to seek the Lord on behalf of Christ’s Church. 

An elder should always perform his work as shepherd, teacher and leader through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Scripture tells us that power is made available to every leader when we seek the Lord through the practice of the classic spiritual disciplines.  One of the most important disciplines, when seeking guidance for our elder work as elders, is the discipline of fasting.  

One of an elder’s greatest tasks is to lead the church in the spirit of Jesus.  The spiritual life of an elder is more important than any other aspect of his leadership.  To lead on the elder team with a strong spiritual life, with integrity and personal purity is of utmost importance.  

It is interesting that the Bible never commands us to fast.  Rather, it is assumed, especially by Jesus in Matthew 6 that His followers will make times of fasting part of their spiritual regimen.  This should especially be true for those who are primary leaders in the church.

Fasting is defined as the “cessation from food and drink with caloric value and possibly other important things, for a period of time for the purpose of dedicating oneself to God and His purposes.”   We can biblically fast from eating and drinking, from sports, people, work, the phone, TV and other forms of engagement and entertainment.  Fasting is temporarily putting aside something important to us to focus on God and our relationship to Him. 

When elders fast and pray before the Lord on behalf of their churches, it a time of power and movement of the Holy Spirit.   

Let me make a suggestion – what if the paid staff and elder team decided to fast one meal a week or a meal every other week or even a meal once a month?  It could be breakfast, lunch or dinner or some combination or possibly a 24-hour fast.  During this time, the unified group would pray for the lost in their ministry area, for the maturing of the saints, for the church family as a whole, for those who were suffering difficult times, for the young people of the church and community, for the missionaries the church supports and for each other and each other’s families. 

What would happen?  An old adage comes to mind – “Has anything happened in your church over the last six months that cannot be contributed to good planning and effective strategy?”  Can we clearly see the Lord’s hand at work in fulfilling our ultimate purpose of winning the lost and nurturing the saved? 

Brothers, fasting is one of the most powerful means of drawing close to the Lord and receiving His direction and blessing.  As leaders, called to fulfill Jesus’ command (Matt. 28:18-20), we must use all means available to us to reach our goal.  Let us seek the Lord with our whole heart and utilize the discipline of fasting in our individual and collective ministries. 

One last word, brothers.  To see victories in our church we have never seen before, to go places we have never been before and to see the Lord at work in our church as never before, we should expect to do things we have never done before.  Fasting and fervent prayer can open the door to a new chapter in the life of our church as she seeks the Lord.

How to Guard our Team Relationships

by David Roadcup

A good ministry friend of mine calls his paid staff and elder leaders the “team” of the church as an acrostic for Together, Elders And Ministers.  These two groups, working together, form one of the most important elements of a healthy and productive church.  It’s critical that the staff and elders of every church are committed to one another, work together and build a strong and lasting bond of trust, love and commitment.  This allows them to lead their church with a strong sense of unity and purpose.  

Recently as I was watching “Animal Planet,” solider ants in Africa were laboring together to dissect and take leaves back to their nest.  The industry they were showing was awesome!  The ants, working together, were able to de-leaf huge amounts of jungle plant material and store it for food.  Their cohesion and unity accomplished the task.  

One of the main keys of a good elder-staff team is their ability to work together to intentionally build strong, lasting relationships between themselves.  This relationship forms the foundation for their work and service together in the name of Jesus. 

There are numerous important elements that go into building such relationships.  Today, let’s consider four: 

First, pray for each other.  Intercessory prayer is taught in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament.   Each day, as the leadership team, we should lift each other up in prayer, asking for God’s blessing and strength for each other.  Prayer is one of the main keys to our fellowship and relationship in Jesus. 

Second, work toward a shared vision.  The Great Commission forms our marching orders.  It is our main purpose and focus in understanding God’s heart for our mission.  In leading the church, we must keep this divine directive before us at all times.  Every paid staff member and every elder should know and be able to state the Vision and Mission Statements of the church.  When there is a shared vision that everyone on the TEAM buys into and when we are all moving in the same direction, our vision acts as a unifying force for our work and service.  Being on the same page, sharing the same Holy-Spirit-given goal welds us together as we move forward in fruitful ministry. 

Third, spend time together.  Fifty years of ministry have taught me many things, and this is one lesson: the more time a group spends together, the more they grow together in relationship.  Time, whether spent in formal meetings or in informal settings, cements and strengthens our understanding of one another and deepens our love for each other.  Our formal staff and elder meetings are important in leading the church.  We should also find ways to meet, converse, eat and play together.  Formal and informal time together are both critical in relationship building.  It was Plato who stated, “You learn more about a person in an hour of play, than in a year of conversation.” 

Fourth, show honor, love and respect for each other.  These relational traits are the cornerstones of relationship building and working together.  We understand that Jesus commanded that love should be one of our highest values as members of His body.  Love leads the way. Love guides our words, thoughts and actions towards one another.  On the TEAM, the older members should see the younger as their sons.  The younger should see the older as their older brothers and fathers.  Our relationships must be built on the foundation of love and care for each other.  

On the TEAM also, we make every effort to put others before ourselves.  We go into every leadership meeting with a “towel and basin” attitude in our hearts and on our hands.  

I have found that if there is one area the evil one will attack, it is the relationships among the leaders of a congregation.  So let’s each one, brothers, always be a part of the solution to relationship problems, not their start.  Let’s stand back-to-back and shoulder-to-shoulder against the attacks brought by Satan.  Through our unity, love and mutual support, we will build a strong and effective TEAM as we bring glory to Christ our Lord.