Friday, October 30, 2009


Elders and preachers...

I have been hearing a lot of talk lately about the relationship between preachers and elders. Are they employer/employee? Are they joint partners in leading the church? Are the inevitably going to be at odds? Do they have be locked in a power struggle? Who sets the vision for the church?

I don't know that I have all the answers, but I do have a few observations. And remember, I have been in full-time ministry, I'm currently serving as an elder (at one of the churches where I was once on staff). And, tho I am not paid by Southern Hills, I am a preaching elder because of Wed. nite HIP.

Elders and preachers have different tasks. Elders are to shepherd the flock. Ministers are involved in teaching, preaching, and evangelism.

Elders answer to God for the souls of theri flock. Preachers answer to God for their ministry.

Elders generally are volunteers. Ministers are generally paid.

Elders are generally selected by the congregation. Ministers are generally selected by the elders.

Don't forget that ministry is not just a calling... it is a job also. And elders do control the paycheck.

Elders generally stay. Preachers generally do not.

In the United States particularly, we have a professional clergy (yes, even in churches of Christ). Elders are "amateurs".

Preachers often have a very clear vision of what the church ought to be; they then persuade others to "buy in" to their vision and they have multiple avenues to do that.

Elders have to work in concert with others to form a vision, and then do not have very many obvious ways to communicate it.

Many, if not most, elders could not be effective as professional ministers (not saying that is a good thing, just that it is reality).

Many, if not most, preachers are not qualified to serve as elders.

I have always wondered if the church would be healthier with more full time elders and less full time ministers.

You can draw your own conclusions. And feel free to share them.

Well, just more ramblings from this preacher... or elder... or elderly preacher.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Things I love about being an elder...

We are starting elder selection at Southern Hills and since we all existing elders go thru the selection process, I have been thinking about what I love about being an elder. And for all of you considering this calling, maybe this will be helpful.

... I love the elder blessings over new Christians.

... I love it when the elders bless ministries and servant leaders.

... I love our prayer time when we pray for our flock.

... I love annointings and prayers for healings.

... I love broken marriages on our couch seeking healing.

... I love broken brothers sitting on my back porch asking how I made it.

... I love praying over houses, rooms, schools, and workplaces.

... I love it when Marsha and I pray over new babies.

... I love getting down in the trenches with hurting, wounded, and scarred Christians. Hate it that they are there. Love helping them get out.

... I love blessing missionaries.

... I love praying over wanderers coming home.

And I know you don't have to be an elder to do some of these, but there is something powerful about doing these as an elder. And as an elder's wife. Because without Marsha, I wouldn't be any good at any of it.

It is too easy to remind myself of what I don't like as an elder, so I thought I would remind myself of what I love about it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Churches and systems...

The elders at Southern Hills are going thru an evaluation concerning the implementation of a new leadership model and some people wonder why I am not more enthused about the change. And I do need to say I am in favor of the new model, but I am not overly excited and here is why.

... no system is going to be the answer to church growth and viability. If systems were really that important, God would have made structure much clearer in Scripture.

... I don't think the old model was a disaster, a failure, or fatally flawed. We had a lot of growth under the old model. We will have problems under the new model. And we will have growth under a new model. We have problems under the current model.

... because church growth is about people, not models.

... it's not really much different from the model we are under now. The names and on-paper structure may change, but I am not sure the congregation will notice much of a difference.

...I've been around a long time. Long enough to realize that there are no "magic bullets".

I do like...

that elders will be able to focus more on casting the vision, setting the direction of the church, and being intentional about overseeing the congregation. Sometimes we have let others do this by default. I think this has the potential to make our task much clearer.

that staff will have more structure and accountability. Like most churches I know, we have an enormous amount of our resources invested in our ministerial staff. And, like most other congregations, we communicate poorly with them, do not give them guidance, do not hold them accountable... and then shock them when we tell them things are not going well. Or they tell us that things are not good. That does not seem to be very strategic. So the new model will help in that regard.

It will free up more of our elders to focus on shepherding.

Besides making it easier for elders to oversee and shepherd, and making our staff function more efficiently, it is a model under which deacons can serve effectively.

I know there are some wondering whether we are going to respond to anything we learned from having a consultant share an outsider's view of SH. So we are working on it.

So what does the new model look like? We are still working on the details and haven't made final decisions, but we will let everyone know when we do.

So just thought I would share some of my thoughts.

And they are mine alone. They don't reflect the elder's view, or the staff's perceptions. They are just my out loud ramblings.

Monday, October 12, 2009


Emotional roller coaster...

The last week has been an emotional roller coaster.

My Aunt Eb died last week. She was over 90 and had been in and out of a coma for several weeks so it was not a surprise. But I remember staying at their house and how much I enjoyed eating her cooking. All homegrown vegetables and the meat was always wild game.

Herald of Truth had our annual fund raiser in Nashville. Great crowd. Lots of connections. Raised money. I'm a preacher, not a fund raiser, but I do know that raising money lets me do what I love to do.

My "Aunt" Margaret died unexpectedly Friday night. She wasn't my blood aunt, but they were my folks best friends while I was growing up. We spent every Christmas Eve together for twenty years. Her husband, Uncle Ray, and my Dad served as elders together. She was always an encouragement. So now heaven looks a little more like home. Going to her funeral tomorrow. Will see lots of friends for my younger days, including her daughter Susan.

Saturday I helped one of our Southern Hills Dads baptize his college age daughter. After Lauren left home and got on her own, she realized how much she needed to give her life to Jesus. Long distance study, but very special. Came back to Abilene for the baptism so most of her family could be there.

Sunday I got to do the baptisimal blessing for Geneva, Angelica, and Carlos. One of our SH doctors works with Geneva and saw her bringing her Bible to work. Asked her if she wanted to study together. They did, and she and her daughter decided to be baptized. Her boyfriend is Carlos. She would study with him what Bobby was teaching her. He wanted to know if he could be baptized also. Great story.

Very emotional, but a great week. Some of God's people went home. Others became God's people.

I love the Christian life.

Thursday, October 08, 2009


Thoughts on Praising God...

Recap from last night's HIP lesson on praising God.

Praise starts with the realization that there are things I cannot do for myself.

Praise acknowledges that there is someone who can do what I cannot.

So... I cannot live in the presence of a holy God because of my sin. Jesus can fix that. I do not have the power to change my life. God does. God is able to do what I cannot.

The third thing is that we have to declare these truths. I need to praise God and Jesus by telling them that I know my helplessness and that I know of their power as Creator and Savior.

I praise them by telling others of their power. I witness and testify to what God is able to do.

And I praise them publicly. This is done in worship by our singing, our prayers, and in our preaching.

God you are everything we are not. We realize and acknowledge this in the name of Jesus, the one who did what we could not. Amen

Friday, October 02, 2009


Ramblings about sharing my faith...

Random questions and thoughts I have had lately about sharing the story of Jesus.

... have I really told the Jesus story if no one listened?

... response is not my responsibility.

... is the ability to be an effective evangelist a learned skill -- or a gift?

... I really believe most Christians want the lost to know Jesus.

... so why do so few of us do anything about it?

... is it OK if some are ground breakers, some are seed sowers, some water, and some harvest?

... is it a "mission" trip if you dig a water well but don't talk to anyone about Jesus?

... I like it that our elders at Southern Hills are requiring everyone that receives support from us for mission trips is required to be able to tell their Jesus story and do a gospel presentation.

... I like it that we don't require any particular presentation, just that gospel is shared.

... I think I'm right to keep insisting that it about people not programs.

... I am sure there are other valuable spiritual calls, but I am OK with being fanatical about our call to share our story.

... the older I get, the less time I want to spend doing anything other than working with the lost and motivating and equipping others to do the same.

These are just my reflections for what they are worth. Maybe they will help you. Reactions? Thoughts?

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