I grew up Baptist – the kind of Baptist that had “Deacons” instead of Elders. From what I remember, they were a board of men who served alongside the Pastor, but not with much decision-making power, and certainly no spiritual oversight or shepherding responsibilities. From what I recall, the Deacons took care of the finances and the Pastor did all the shepherding. And the congregation voted – on EVERYTHING! It felt like a spiritual democracy of sorts.
As I became an adult and began studying for ministry, I became aware of different models of church government. You could say it was an awakening of sorts. I realized that what I had grown up with was not necessarily the best, or the most Biblical model. Over the years, I’ve had my understanding tweaked on countless occasions, and have come to see that the New Testament does give pretty clear guidance, at least regarding what the Apostles expected/intended to be the “norm” in the new covenant church.
Once I moved into positions of primary leadership in the church, I began to face the difficulties of implementing that guidance. Every existing church has its own set of traditions regarding leadership, well examined or not. Often, men are serving as Elders who never should have been placed in that position in the first place. Evaluation is needed and adjustments may need to be made. A delicate task, to say the least!
Brand new churches (of which I’ve been a part of two) have to start from scratch. That’s a better situation in some regards (no traditions to overcome), but harder in others (not a lot of “qualified” candidates for serving as Elders). Then you face the harsh reality of having to figure out HOW to go about the process. You must identify good candidates, assess their qualifications and readiness, and equip them for the role. What I’ve found is that if you take those three tasks seriously, you have a job of epic proportions on you hands!
This series of posts is about that process… It will include principles and tips to help church leaders go about the very necessary task of identifying, assessing, and equipping candidates for the role of Elder.
I’ve recently published my first book – “The Elder Training Handbook” that covers all of these blog posts in much more detail. If you’d like to find a copy for yourself, go to the FREE tab at the top of this blog. There you’ll find options for the free E-book download of the ETH, as well as an option to buy a hard-copy and have it shipped to you.