Tuesday, October 27, 2015


The hardest responsibility an elder has...

There is an amazing passage in Hebrews about obeying and submitting to your spiritual leaders.  We are urged to do this because the leaders are watching over us as men who must give an accounting.

I believe this passage is talking about elders and I believe we have to account for how we care care for our sheep.

I have heard it said that elders are responsible for the salvation of their flock.  Not true.  I cannot save anyone.  Jesus and God do that.  And I am only responsible for my personal faithfulness.  Just as each individual is.

So then ... what does it mean to give account for the sheep under my care?

I believe that as a shepherd my job is to encourage, motivate, and inspire my flock.  I want to be out in front leading them into heaven.  I have to be sure that when my flock follows me that they will end up in heaven.

So it is important to warn any of my sheep that leave the safe path.  I believe as an elder I have to warn, rebuke, give advice, hold out a hand, model forgiveness, and discourage action or talk that could lead to someone to fall from grace.

So elders pray, speak truth, confront, encourage, and lead by example so all the flock gets home safely.

Even if my sheep get mad, or threaten to quit, I will act and speak to the dangers I see.  And as a shepherd, I will not endorse actions that endanger their salvation.

I give pointed advice based on Scripture in an effort to bring wandering sheep back into the safety of the flock.

That is an enormous responsibility, but here is what enables a shepherd to bear up under it.  I am not responsible for whether anyone listens, obeys, or follows.  That is their choice.

I seek credibility by using Scripture, by living forgiven myself, for being vulnerable enough to be living proof that God restores, and by investing in lives so that they know they are loved by me.

So I do not believe God is going to hold me accountable if you choose to leave Jesus.  He will hold me accountable for not trying to change that decision.

Sometimes elders are afraid to be seen as meddlers or be accused of being judgmental.  It hurts when one of your faith family ignores you, disobeys you, or will not listen.

But it hurts more to not try.

So that is why elders cry, plead, pray, study, and show up in the middle of the night to help.  It is why we are willing to get down in the muck and mire of your sin to help you out.  It is why we are willing to endure the blood and vomit of a life blown apart by sin.

Because we love you.  Because Jesus and God love you.  Because your are our family.

So here is the job of an elder:  do all that we can to get everyone home safe.

So God, please strengthen your shepherds all over your kingdom. Give them courage to be faithful to your call.  Help us get your people home safe to you.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015


Elders better know Scripture

We are moving along in our process to select elders at Southern Hills and I am still thinking about what Scripture says about the kind of man he wants to lead his people.

Elders have to know Scripture.  And they better be using it.

I grew up hearing the Timothy passage about "apt to teach" and somehow I got the impression that meant elders should be willing to teach a Bible class if needed.  I hope I just heard it wrong.  Surely nobody taught that.

But I never heard much from Titus about elders knowing the Scripture in order to refute false teaching and also to strengthen the weak.

And I sure never heard growing up that actually elders in the New Testament were the paid teachers and ministers.  What we call ministers were probably evangelists in the first century.

So I am convinced elders have to know Scripture and to really shepherd they must know how to use Scripture.  

Elders might teach and preach publicly.  Some have that gift.  But I think most elder teaching from Scripture is done in living rooms and coffee shops.

Here are the ways I see elders teaching.

Refute false doctrine.  In the midst of pain, it is not uncommon to hear things that are not true. Or real questions expressing doubt, fear, and uncertainty.   Why would God do this to me?  Where was God?  God did not answer my prayer.  I believe that there is a right time and way to teach, but I believe elders need to speak truth into lives during pain.

Or when someone in our flock wants us to approve of their divorce because God wants them to be happy. Wrong.  Elders speak truth about faithfulness, obedience, and joy given thru faith.  Or when a member says God would never have anyone divorce, no matter what.  Wrong.  Elders speak truth.

Or when visitors want to know more about Jesus and how to follow him.  Elders can teach in that way (tho I really think this is what evangelists do).

When members have questions about baptizing their young children. or why their older children have not accepted Christ.  Elders must know truth and speak it into lives.

Elders shepherd by showing from Bible stories how Satan works and how to resist temptation.

Elders speak truth about receiving forgiveness and about extending forgiveness.

Knowing Scripture lets real truth be spoken into real lives from a real God.  

You want elders who know the Book.  You want elders who know how to use the Book.  

Teachers.  Shepherding their flock with advice that comes from the mouth and heart of God.  

Sharing Scripture to exhort, encourage, rebuke, and admonish.  

So we all get safely home.

Thanks God for your Word.  Give us leaders who know truth and who will love us enough to speak it into our lives.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015


What is a blameless, above reproach elder anyway?

Timothy and Titus have the phrase "blameless" and "above reproach".  I Peter says be an example for the flock.  So what does that mean for those of us who are thinking about serving as elders?

It does not mean perfect.  Let's be real.  Only Jesus was perfect.  There are no elders who are perfect.  Not in our past.  Not in our present.  Not in our future.  I do not believe the standard is perfection.  I do not believe it means that we should find men whose sins are not public or known by others -- those who just keep up appearances.

I also do not think it means that elders are just like everyone else so do not expect more out of them than you would any Christian.

Here is what I do think about elders living as blameless, above reproach examples.

We should hold ourselves to a higher standard.  I don't mean to be better, but to expect more out of ourselves.  Let me give some concrete examples.

Christians should not get drunk.  None of us should, but some of my flock really struggle with alcohol.  We even have a service named "bar church" so yeah, alcohol is a constant struggle.  It is a battle in our culture.  It is a struggle for our teenagers.  Elders are not to be given to much wine.  So I would not argue that Christians cannot social drink as long as they do not get drunk.  But why the admonition to elders to be careful about how much they drink?  Maybe it is the higher standard idea.  Should elders intentionally choose not to drink?  Or to be very careful about where they have a glass of wine?  could this be part of what it means to be above reproach and an example for the flock.

I have lived for some time under a set of guidelines that have to do with the opposite sex.  No lunches, no phone calls that cannot be overheard. No one- on-one counseling, no closed doors.  Are these behaviors prohibited in Scripture?  Or are these ways an elder should insure blameless and above reproach?

There are other examples I could use.  Church attendance,  Should elders be more rigorous in attendance?  What about giving?  Should elders be encouraged to talk about how much they give?  At least in terms of percentages.  Higher standards and expectations.  Blameless, above reproach, examples.

There are lots of behaviors that may not be required but I believe elders should practice.

And when a man says that this is infringing on his freedom in Christ, then maybe he is not ready to be a shepherd.

I want to set the bar higher as an elder.  I should expect more from the leaders than I do from the followers.

I do want to set standards in my life that cannot be questioned -- blameless.

I want to live in ways that would not give excuses or cause spiritual babies in my flock to be confused -- above reproach.

I want to set an example.

So am I saying that elders cannot be just like their members?  Yes.  Am I arguing that I have to give up certain rights and freedoms just because I am a shepherd?  Yes.

We are asking and expecting people to look to us to see how to follow Jesus.  We are not perfect.  We still have many things to work on in our lives.  But we are going to expect more from ourselves as leaders.  We are going to follow practices that protect us and our flock.  We are going to attempt to go above and beyond in setting an example.

So Father... I know how far I am from your holiness.  But I want to live like your Son.  Help me to live in such a way that my flock will not be confused or have reason to falter because of what they have seen in me.  Thank you for forgiving my failures.  I am sorry for the lessons I had to learn the hard way but thankful for your grace.  So I'll keep growing and maturing till you send your son to take me, my family, and my flock home.  

Tuesday, October 06, 2015


So what about EKs (elder kids)?

Still thinking about elder selection.  Today I am thinking thru what it means that an elder should have faithful children.  So let me offer a few thoughts on where I am today.

It seems really hard to invite your congregation to take a look at your kids.  In some ways it even seems as if you are inviting others to judge you kids.  Or to judge your parenting.

But I think there is a good reason for this.  Well, of course there is a good reason or God would not have put it Scripture.

First, remember that faithful is not the same as perfect.  There has only been one perfect child and he came to earth and died for our sins.  I certainly think faithful leaves room for strugglers, battlers, and those who have failed in the past.  But are they following Jesus?  Are they walking in the light?  Are they trying?  Have they quit on Jesus?  Given up?  These are how you look at elder's kids.

But I do think if your child has rejected Jesus, or is clearly living as a prodigal in a far country, perhaps now is not the time for you to lead others.

Most congregations know our kids anyway, so I not sure they are judging.  Just observing.

And parenting is great training for being an elder.  Forming faith, understanding priorities, different personalities, intentional discipling, loving discipline, praying, and giving spiritual counsel.

I Timothy 3 even indicates that looking at a man's kids gives you insight into the kind of elder he would be.  I think your kids are your portfolio for being an elder.  Looking at your family is a snapshot of what the church would look like under your leadership.

And yes, I am one of those that thinks your kids ought to be grown before you serve as an elder.  One reason is that being a Daddy is incredibly time consuming.  So is shepherding.  And frankly, you don't know how faithful my kids are until they are out on their own. They are certainly not a finished product before.

As for my two, Julie and Joe Don, my greatest joy is to know that they are Jesus followers.  Not perfect, but faithful.  It is no secret that I gave them both a lot of baggage to overcome.  But Marsha and I did one thing really well... we managed to give them Jesus.  And he is bigger than all the baggage they got.

So I always ask my kids about how they feel about my serving as an elder.  They know the Scripture and they know me as well as anyone other than their Mom.  Julie and her bunch are even part of my church family.

If they don't think I am elder material... then I am not.  If they think I am... well, they should know.  After all, I shepherded them for all their life.

So thanks God for my kids.  I am grateful every day that they love you and seek to follow you.  Help me to "raise" my flock with the same love and passion that I put into raising Julie and Joe Don.  And thanks God for giving me the right partner in Marsha to mold them into followers of your child.  In his name...

Thursday, October 01, 2015


So do we want to be an elder?

So thinking about elder selection and today I want to talk about practical aspects of an elder and his wife.

I think it is a couple selection.  I do not believe "husband of one wife" is just a requirement that elders be married.  Or some kind of disguised commentary of divorce and remarriage.  I think in very real and practical ways a church is selecting a couple to lead them.

Let me be clear.  I am not advocating women elders.  I do not think that you are selecting two elders.  But I also believe that in practical terms my work as an elder is not sitting in meetings with other elders.  Shepherding happens in the lives of people and Marsha is just as important in that as I am.

Our marriage should be a model for other couples.  Not perfect.  But making it work and getting better every day.  In our case, we are great models for wounded marriages that get healthy.  Our scars are living proof that Jesus redeems, restores, and heals.

I do not keep secrets from Marsha.  Part of that is our personal commitment for our marriage but it is also because we function as one.  When people use the word confidential when talking to me, I tell them that Marsha will know She may choose not to hear some things and I may tell some things generically but she will know.  I value her judgement, I trust her advice, and the burdens are too heavy to carry alone.

And frankly, most shepherding I do needs a woman's touch.  I believe men and women bring different gifts and strengths to shepherding.  Maybe that is why God said elders are to be married.

People will talk to Marsha that will not talk to me.  Abused women, women whose husbands have crossed lines, and woman without Christian husbands may feel much more comfortable talking to her.

And if you are a woman in my flock seeking spiritual counsel and advice, you cannot talk to me unless Marsha is there.  Protects you, protects me, and stops gossip.

Being an elder takes up a lot of time.  Your wife better buy in.  Elder wives hear a lot of things and they have to be discreet.  Lots of people in and out of our home.  Lots of meals cooked and served.  Lots of prayers prayed.  Our house is stocked with Bibles, Kleenex, coffee, and cokes.

It takes both.

The first time I became an elder -- over ten years ago now -- I had one of the current elder's wives tell me she was putting my name up to be one of the shepherds.  When I thanked her, she said it was not about me.  She said it was because Marsha would be a great elder's wife.  She was right and there was a lot of wisdom in her statement.  Churches need good elder's wives.

So I think selecting an elder means looking at the couple.  Marsha has to be every bit as invested as I am.  She has been a great elderess.  Better wife, Mom, and Mimi.  But a great shepherd's wife.  Together we make a good team.

So God... thanks for Marsha and her love for your people, especially those who are disenfranchised, lonely, and overlooked.  Thanks for her passion for lost souls.  And thank you that she lives out every day the truth of your grace extended to others.

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