People of the Book

by Gary Weedman 

Two of the early slogans in our Stone-Campbell tradition were: “Where the Bible speaks, we speak; where the Bible is silent, we are silent” and “No book but the Bible.”  Yet, for such a people of the Book, where is the Bible in our public worship?  I fear that it is all too absent.  A few years ago, I talked to a young married couple, raised in the Christian church, who had migrated to a more liturgical denomination. I gently inquired as to the motivation for such a move.  Their response: “We miss hearing the Bible in worship.”
 
The public reading of Scripture has always been an important part of corporate worship.  After a long period of absence of the Scriptures in worship, Josiah (7th C. BC) “read … all the words of the book of the covenant that had been found in the house of the Lord” (2 Kings 23:2).  Imagine – a worship service that consisted of the reading of the entire book of Deuteronomy!  The event launched a mighty reform throughout the Kingdom of Judah in behavior and devotion. 
 
A similar phenomenon occurred in the 5th Century BC as Ezra led a large group of exiles from captivity in Babylon to Jerusalem.  He read from the Law “from early morning until midday … and the ears of all the people were attentive” (Nehemiah 8:3).  The result was, once again, a great religious awakening.
 
This emphasis on public reading continued in the synagogue.  Jesus read from the scroll of Isaiah (now chapter 61) and declared himself as the fulfillment of the text that very day (Luke 4:21).
 
These readings were considered an act of worship and not merely preparatory to the main event.  So, when Paul advised his delegate Timothy to “give attention to the public reading of Scripture” (1 Timothy 4:13), he was merely affirming the accepted practice of the early church adopted from their roots in the synagogue. 
 
A powerful demonstration of the power of the oral impact of Scripture is the dramatic presentation of the Gospel of Luke by Bruce Kuhn, a Broadway actor.  Through a dramatic recitation of this Gospel from memory, the impact is remarkable.  Although I had read Luke for myself and have written about large portions of the Gospel, I “heard” aspects of the Gospel for the first time.  For example, I had never “heard” how many times that Luke records Jesus and others saying, “Fear not.”  Those who heard his presentation can never read Luke the same.
 
Elders can lead in the restoration of the public reading of the Bible in contemporary worship.  We have the tradition of Jewish worship, the practice of Jesus, and the admonition of the apostle Paul to support such practice.  May we once again be a “People of the Book.”
 
What, then, can we do?  A few suggestions: 

  • Restore the ancient practice of Scripture reading in worship, preferably a substantial portion from the Old and the New Testaments.  There are many examples of weekly readings available from the Internet and from church history.
  • Make these readings a celebration of the presence of God and not merely a perfunctory preface to the sermon.
  • Create a ministry team of readers whose work is the reading of the Scriptures in worship and who learn the role of public reading of the Scriptures throughout the history of the church.
  • Use varied reading presentations, such as a leader with response from the congregation, two or more persons reading together, or a choral reading.
  • Promote Scripture memorization and recitations through church programs like Bruce Kuhn’s. 

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

 

12 Mistakes Dead Churches Make

by Barry Cameron 

Every year thousands of churches unfortunately close their doors. Why? Because they kept doing things that did them in. Here are some mistakes dead churches make.

Dead churches erroneously believe …

1. Growth just happens.  They mistakenly believe growing churches are nothing more than the result of being in the right place at the right time.  Even the perfect garden in the perfect place won’t stay perfect if you just walk away and leave it.

2. You can have evangelism without evangelists.  In other words, you can reach the lost without ever having anyone in the church actually reach out to the lost.  They believe you can win souls without soul winners.  That’s why they die.

3. You can have progress without change.  They want to grow.  They really do.  They just don’t want to change.  They don’t want any new people taking their parking place, seat, or place of leadership in the church.

4. You can have success without sacrifice.  They want growth and don’t mind the cost as long as someone else pays it.  They’ve convinced themselves great things can come about without any price being paid or pain being experienced.

5. God will bless in spite of sin and unholy living.  They believe God will bless in spite of how they live.  Obviously, there have been no in-depth studies of the lives of people like AchanSamsonDavidAnanias and Sapphira to name a few.

6. First-class facilities, grounds, printed materials, programs and activities aren’t important.  In a dying church, members often think ripped and worn out carpet, parking lots with cracks as wide as the Grand Canyon, burned out lights, poorly designed, typo-riddled programs, landscaping resembling a tropical rain forest, equipment from the 50s, etc., doesn’t matter to the unchurched.  The fact is, people who demand excellence in the cars they drive, homes they live in, and places where they do business, won’t accept less than the best from the church they attend.
 
7. Leaders don’t have to be tithers.  Their leaders lead by the motto: “Do as we say, not as we do.”  Most people would be shocked to learn how many leaders don’t tithe in dying churches.  Their “weakly” giving is just that.  That’s why their church is dying.

8. By-laws, budgets and board meetings are really important.  They are constantly beset by the big “Bs”: By-laws, Budgets and Board meetings … as if those things somehow impart the supernatural, providential blessing of God.  Growing churches focus, instead, on the Bible.

9. The Pastor and staff work for us.  They see their Pastor and staff as official employees who are paid to do the work of the church.  The Bible teaches the opposite.  In fact, the Pastor and staff are to equip the saints “for the work of the ministry.”   

10. Being traditional is spiritual.  People in dying churches think “the way we’ve always done it,” is somehow holier than attempting something new.  They forget the time-tested traditions of today were cutting edge “new” things of the “good ‘ole days.”

11. The world cares about our doctrine.  They mistakenly believe their beliefs will bring more believers.  Few unchurched people even know what doctrine is.  We ought to have the right doctrine for sure.  However, just having the right doctrine alone won’t grow a church

12. There’s always next year.  They have no sense of urgency.  Growing churches are passionate, enthusiastic and urgent about everything.  They pursue ministry every day, as if they don’t have the promise of tomorrow.  Because they don’t.
 
Neither do we. 

3 Words

by Mike Shannon 

There is an incident in the book of Acts that gives us insight into the role of elder as it was understood by the New Testament church.  It is recounted in chapter 20, verses 13-38.  Paul is on his way to Jerusalem.  He did not know precisely what would happen to him there, but he suspected it would be difficult and perhaps even cost him his life.  Paul took time from his journey to Jerusalem to say his farewells to the elders of the church in Ephesus, a church that meant a lot to him.  This meeting ended in many tears as Paul said they would never seem him again.  In verse 17, Paul summoned the “elders,” which is probably the most common term for the office, even in our own time.  In verse 28, he called them “overseers,” and admonished them to shepherd (pastor) the flock, which is the church.  This is a passage that gives strong evidence that all three terms were applied to the same “office.”  Let’s look at these three words as a guide to critical elements in our understanding of the work of an elder. 

First, consider the word “elder.”  It means just what is sounds like it means.  It is an older or mature man.  The Bible never prescribes exactly how old an elder should be, but we can still draw some conclusions about what is behind this designation.  A leader in the church should be mature, at least emotionally, intellectually and spiritually.  These qualities would most often be found in people who were also chronologically mature. 

Secondly, consider the word “overseer.”  The English word is actually a quite accurate translation.  We instinctively know what it means.  The elders provide general oversight over the life, doctrine, and health of a church.  Although it doesn’t sound like it, the English word “bishop” is derived from this Greek word. 

Finally, the last word is “pastor.”  That word is used widely in our world today, but it is actually used rarely in the New Testament, at least when referring to an office.  It is the word “shepherd,” and in this passage it is the verb form that is used.  While the term “pastor” is often used for the minister or preacher of a church, it seems that this term originally applied to elders, and some elders were, no doubt, teaching pastors. 

My purpose is not to make a case for proper titles.  There is a place for such discussions, but my purpose is to consider that these three words describe essentials components of a church elder’s work. 

He should be mature.  Almost nothing is more destructive in a church than an immature leader.  Childish behavior will disrupt meetings and the overall building of a Christian community. 

He should be sure to take care of the overall health of the church.  While good elders delegate to deacons and other church workers, there is nothing outside of their concern.  For instance, good elders will take the time to study and understand biblical theology so they can guard the spiritual health of the community.

He should have a shepherd’s heart.  It is not just about meetings and policies, however important they may be.  Elder boards should consider how they can care for the flock: visiting the bereaved, visiting the sick, consoling the broken hearted, etc. 

I could say it like this: elders, be mature, be aware, and be compassionate.  In doing so, you will lead like Jesus – our good shepherd.

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.

Communicate

by David Eubanks 

If I were asked to suggest five items of advice to church leaders, near the top of the list would be communication.  We must place a high premium on communication.  How often I have seen wrong conclusions drawn, misunderstandings occur, unnecessary hurt feelings experienced, and outright division rend the church, simply because of a lack of communication.  In some cases, those consequences were suffered because of a refusal to communicate.
 
Leaders are elected or selected because people have confidence in them and in their judgement.  One way to maintain that trust is wise communication.  Even though critical decisions are often made by a small number of leaders for a large number of people, and sometimes a few of the factors in those decisions need to be kept confidential, it is wise for leaders to communicate accurately and in a reasonable time all that can be related concerning their decisions and plans.
 
Unfortunately, with a few leaders any question raised regarding a decision they have made is interpreted as a challenge to authority, and stubborn bullheadedness ensues; conflict, occasionally irrevocable, follows.  Sometimes, a little communication beforehand or afterward would have prevented the questions even being raised and the conflict prevented entirely.
 
I remember vividly a true circumstance in which a friend of mine, a former elder in the church, prevented a major schism in the congregation by merely calling together younger members who were ready to leave the church immediately.  He told them that he was certain that they did not know the whole story concerning the situation that troubled them and urged them to wait until more was known.  Providentially, they listened to him; division did not occur, and the church is thriving today.  The leaders had made a personnel decision and some of the details could have been related earlier, but they saw no reason to do so, taking the approach: “The people elected us; they should trust us.”  While that statement is true, we need to recognize that we do not live in an authoritarian culture, but an anti-authoritarian culture, augmented by an electronic media craze that demands information and thrives on gossip and misinformation.  Wise, measured, deliberate communication by the leaders of a congregation can prevent the spread of those relational cancers. 
 
Paul was chosen by Christ and miraculously endowed to fill the role of an apostle.  By God’s own appointment, he commanded authority and sometimes exercised it.  Yet, I never cease to be amazed at the level of communication that he carried on with the churches that he established and served.  Much of his communication was to clear up misunderstandings, identify troublemakers, clarify the truth, and soothe hurt feelings.  But he sometimes communicated in anticipation of misunderstandings that could arise and to head off conflict that might result accordingly.  
 
We do well to follow Paul’s example. 

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. 

Saying “No”

by Ken Idleman

I love this Scripture passage in the Pastoral Epistles:  Titus 2:11-14.  It consists in a short declarative statement followed immediately by one of the longest recorded sentences in the entire New Testament.  Ready to focus? 

Here we go:

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.  It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

One of the first words we learn to say as toddlers is the word “no.”  You and I probably don’t remember saying it during our own childhoods, but those who have reared toddlers know very well that they have it down!

“Time to go to bed.”  “No!”

“Brush your teeth.”  “No!”

“Eat your carrots.”  “No!”

“Clean up your toys.”  “No!”

Of course, our job as parents is to teach our children the real meaning of “no” and the appropriate times to say it.  It can actually be a good word.  “No” can be used in a very positive way if it describes God-honoring boundaries for your life.  Learning to say “no” is a capacity that can and should be honed and directed; when it is, it’s a good thing.

To say “no” to some things is actually a virtue.  Saying “no” to ungodliness and worldly passions is a prelude to living a self-controlled, upright and godly life.  “No” helps to define your values.  It shapes your ethical and moral development.  It divides good from best.  It shapes your future.  It ensures your destiny.  

We all need more practice at saying “no.”

How to Enact Elder Governance

by Jared Johnson

We received numerous requests for “next steps” following Pastor Hennig’s comments on shepherding two weeks ago.  We have helped numerous churches make the change from an “elected office” leadership paradigm to what we call “elder governance.”  You may also download this paper from our site explaining the foundations of elder governance further, all from the pages of Acts.  Both linked resources above are free. 

Here are the few steps we would suggest if your congregation wants to pursue elder governance. 

1. Acknowledge appropriate limits.  
Recognize that this process will require time.  Depending on your congregation’s leadership history, it could range from weeks to years.  Don’t get discouraged as you take one step at a time.  Your current elders, servants (i.e. “deacons”), etc., should continue filling their roles of servant-leadership.  Making a switch in the leadership paradigm of your church does not automatically require anyone be “fired!”
 
2. Ensure bylaw compliance and build agreement.
You may need to take some specific action(s) according to your current bylaws.  If they outright prevent the congregation from using an elder governance paradigm, you may even need to amend your bylaws – thus a possible years-long process.  Begin teaching and talking about this among the leadership and congregation to build buy-in.  But also be aware that, especially in congregations with a very long-time “democratic” paradigm, there are bound to be some individuals opposed, even stridently.  Walk with them, talk with them.
 
3. Identify and Recruit  
As your elders continue doing what they’re doing, identify those tasks that need to be delegated, then recruit capable volunteers to whom the elders will hand off the non-elder-governance tasks.  A very common example is the church’s budget.  Elders set the spiritual tone of the congregation; nowhere in Acts (nor the full NT) do we see elders managing the minutiae of a congregation’s assets.  If the elders are scrutinizing every line item from the checkbook at each meeting, recruit an office manager, accountant, etc., to help the church administer its budget.  This does not mean the elders have abdicated financial oversight.  It means they’re devoted, primarily, to spiritual matters.  They shouldn’t spend any time debating whether the $17.99 snow shovel was over-spending versus $13.99.  Prayer > payments.
 
Other arenas can be given to volunteers; budgeting simply seems to be the most frequent.  Other duties to delegate could be building use / rental inquiries, benevolence / food pantry (see Acts 6!), following-up with visitors, filling communion cups, etc.
 
Recruit capable volunteers for the tasks your elders are planning to give away.
 
4. Communication: Write & Teach.  
A written plan diminishes opportunity for complaints and fault-finding in the future.  Put everyone on a literal same page.  A step-by-step plan can be simple and direct, i.e.:

  1. By April 30, recruit:
    1. qualified volunteer to oversee budget.  
    2. an elder to meet with new Finance Servant monthly.
  2. By May 15, update bank with Finance Servant’s name:
    1. signature authorities 
    2. online login 
    3. debit/credit cards that need to be issued and/or shredded
  3. By May 15, inform Offering Counting/Deposit team of new role and person filling it.
  4. June 1 and ongoing: continue operations with new Finance Servant overseeing rather than elders.

Make time to teach about elder governance as well.  Create an information packet.  Hold Q&A sessions.  Engage the people, showing why this model better-follows the pattern established in Acts, rather than mimicking branches of government. 
 
5. Monitor boundaries.
As you create and enact your new governance paradigm in the congregation, opportunities will arise to default to old habits.  Resist them.  Lovingly remind all involved – an elder who falls back on an established pattern, a new volunteer who may think they’ve been given more leeway than intended – that there’s a new way of doing things.  Assume the best unless evidence shows otherwise!  It’s easy to assume we have the right motives; we should extend that grace to others who lead alongside us.
 
Monitor the change your congregation just made; go into it expecting that periodic recalibrations will be needed.
 
Above all: soak the whole endeavor in prayer.  

Elder governance can provide the structure that will unleash the people of a congregation to use their gifts for the glory of God, expanding His Kingdom.

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!”