320 Hwy. 31 N., Athens, AL
MEMBERS OF THE COMMITTEE
Cheryl Bryant ex officio
Larry Adams. . . Chair
Table of Contents
This document is the result of over a year of prayerful and often lengthy discussion, revision, and decision-making. I appreciate the hard work the committee members did and are doing to make this declaration of understanding a reality. I also appreciate the input and discussion from the Operations Committee. The committee members and the Operations Committee richly deserve all the praise they can be given. The myriad writers throughout time and the brotherhood of Christ were also indispensable in arriving at the document you have in your hands. This document, however, is a human endeavor and is subject to all human frailties. Ultimately, as chair of the committee and editor of this document, any and all shortcomings in this document are mine. The members of the committee hope only that this declaration of understanding helps us as a congregation to give greater glory to God by helping ourselves to govern ourselves in accordance to his will so that our community and others can be led to Christ through our examples and Jesus' saving love. Thank you again to all those who had any part in helping us to develop this declaration of understanding.
God has had a covenant relationship with mankind since he created humanity in the Garden of Eden. This was, and still is, a relationship based on mutual trust and responsibility. Mankind, however, has often broken this trust. In fact, humanity broke this trust so often and to such a degree that God destroyed mankind in Genesis 6; that is with the exception of Noah and his family, to whom God declared "I will establish my covenant with you" (Gen. 6:18). God's covenant with Noah and all mankind has been maintained with varying degrees of success until this day. Today, God's covenant people are found in his church (Lk. 1:67-72; Acts 3:25; Rom. 9-10: 13; Eph. 2:11-22; Heb. 8:6-13). At times the covenant was in oral form only; at other times, such as with Moses and the Israelites in the wilderness, the covenant was written down in a more permanent form. In time, the history of the Hebrew nation, the story of the coming of the Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, and the acts and letters of the apostles were also written down in the form we now know it, the Holy Bible. This is the form of God's covenant and will with and for mankind today. There is, therefore, no reason why we as people of God, in a covenant relationship with Him, cannot write down such things as we see fit to clarify and explain this covenant to ourselves. In fact, we commonly do so in the form of bible commentaries, class study guides, and expository essays. This is the scope and purpose of this document, to clarify and define the roles and responsibilities of church leaders within the confines of the local congregation(s). It is by no means definitive, nor does it pretend to replace or alter the word of God as we have it in holy scripture; rather it seeks to facilitate the relationship of the congregation's leaders and their charges. It is a consensus declaration of our understanding of that relationship and all it entails
How this question of the roles and responsibilities of congregational leadership is answered depends a great deal upon what the congregation sees as its need(s) and mission(s). We are proceeding under the assumption that this question is answered in a two-fold manner: The need(s) and mission(s) of this congregation are to 1) touch and influence more lives of people in our community who are not Christians, and 2) nurture, build up, and bring to maturity the lives and souls within our congregation. Consequently, we see our leaders as shepherds, not executive officers.
· We have them as our caretakers, not our representatives to or for God
· We have them to care for our sick, weak, troubled and discouraged/disheartened
· We have them to help us protect ourselves from evil people who would destroy our fellowship and damn our souls
Perhaps it is easier to define the roles and responsibilities of church leaders if we look first at what they are not and do not do. We understand from the New Testament that early congregations did not own property or buildings, nor did they have any kind of legal recognition as a religious entity. Therefore, whenever the early church leaders met, it follows that they did not focus on property or building issues, nor did they concern themselves with the legality of what they were doing. Are congregational leaders therefore barred from discussing and concerning themselves with these issues? No, but if they are doing so, then they are by necessity distracted from those roles and responsibilities with which the early church leaders concerned themselves. It is also significant that none of the words usually understood as "rule," having authority or the right to exercise power," absolute ownership," high place, preeminent position of authority," "potentate, high officer," "to command," or " obedience to one in authority" are ever used in the New Testament in context with elders or their functions in the congregation(s). All of these words are biblical words and are used elsewhere in the New Testament text. They were certainly available to the New Testament writers had they chosen to use them; they did not. However, perhaps the strongest indication of the roles and responsibilities of elders is found in the words of Matthew in the ninth chapter and thirty-sixth verse, when he tells us that "when [Jesus] saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd." No doubt the Jewish Christians had leaders. There was the Council of Seventy as well as a plethora of other public officials, teachers, and leaders, yet Jesus felt sorry for the people because they had no shepherds. This figure of the shepherd, then, is the focus and frame of reference for determining the role and responsibilities of congregational leaders in Jesus' church. As shepherds, the leaders of a congregation are intimately involved in the lives of those given into their charge. In an extended discussion of this relationship in John 10, Jesus speaks of how the shepherd knows each of his flock by name and attends to them individually. Such a relationship entails knowing a great deal of personal information, and strictest confidentiality is presumed to be maintained by all those seeking the office of elder in the Lord's church.
A. A Nominations Committee MUST Be Formed
This committee should consist of a substantial number of, no less than five (5), members1 of the congregation who should avoid conflict of interest by either not nominating and/or recusing themselves from decisions involving their nominee(s). The responsibility of this committee is to the congregation. Consequently, this committee should be selected and confirmed by the entire congregation and not by the Operations Committee or any other body that would not allow every member of the congregation to have input into this process. In fact, this same procedure may well serve to select deacons and the committee to which the nominations are to be referred, as well as any other committee or group tasked with special duties. A timeline for filling additional offices can be developed by this committee for approval by the congregation at a later date.
B. Origination Of Nominations
The selection of leaders must come from the broadest base possible, the congregation itself. Consequently, a method for ascertaining the will and desires of the entire congregation must be devised.
C. Ballot (type/form)
1. A ballot/form2 should be issued to every member of the congregation. If individuals choose not to exercise their right to nominate men for leadership positions, that is their right as well, but every effort must be made to give each and every member the opportunity to nominate someone. Multiple nominations for a given person only strengthens the ability of the congregation to ascertain the level of influence and support the nominee has among the members of the congregation. The multiple nominations, in turn, allow the nominee to become aware of the level of support given by the members of the congregation.
2. The ballot must contain a statement of nomination.
3. The ballot must contain a reference list of the qualifications, gathered from all germane scripture, for a given leadership office. This reference tool, however, is not simply a checklist by which the members of the congregation qualify or disqualify a given nominee. In the books of 1 TIMOTHY and TITUS, the sources of most of the characteristics of shepherds most often called "qualification," matters of faith, a love for Christ, love for the congregants, and the "fruits of the Spirit" as identified by Paul in GAL 5 are not directly addressed. This reference list is, instead, a means by which a nominator may discuss with a given nominee fitness and desire to fulfill the duties of a leader within the congregation.
4. The ballot must contain an affirmation that the nominator has had personal contact with the nominee, and that the nominee has expressed a willingness to be nominated for a specific leadership office.
1. Ballots should be distributed and adequate time, perhaps as much as thirty days, be given to complete the nominating process.
2. Once ballots are in and nominations have been closed, then a sufficient time allotment should be given, again possibly as much as thirty days or more, to compile nominations, research the fitness of nominees, interview the nominees, identify objectors to a given nominee, and facilitate face-to-face reconciliations of objectors and nominees.
3. The nominations committee, in its ENTIRETY must confirm nominees and facilitate objector/nominee reconciliations. No face-to-face meetings are to be conducted between objector(s) and nominees unless every member of the committee is present.
A. Congregational vote
1. The precedent for a congregational vote is both definite and available.
a. ACTS 14:23 the word translated "appointed" literally means to signify by stretching out the hand. This was the sign commonly used in the Greek forum to signal a vote of yes or no (Vines, McGarvey, Lipscomb, Boles3). Although there are those who would argue that such a word should not be taken so literally, there is no compelling evidence that the early church thought so.
b. We use other means, such as paper ballot, to signal votes today, but the essential process remains the same (ACTS 1:15-26). Each member of the body has one vote per nominee. The committee suggests that a minimum passing vote would be 75% of those voting. The committee also suggests that a minimum of 51% of those eligible to vote must vote in order for the process to be valid.
B. Installation ceremony
1. A public confirmation or presentation was consistently the second part of this two-part process of installing leaders in the early church (ACTS 6:1-6; 14:23). The level of formality, length, and ritual involved in this process is not completely detailed in the New Testament. Therefore, the individual congregation(s) must develop this portion of the process to suit their needs and preferences.
Life is a continuous series of events. People are born; people die. People get jobs; they lose them. People move into the community; they move away. Sometimes people simply get tired. The flux and change of life itself mandates that a congregation be prepared perpetually for change in its leadership. For this reason, the committee suggests that the shepherds of this congregation serve rotating, staggered terms of service of four years. After the initial installation of leaders, the nominating committee will begin to seek additional nominations at least every two years, oftener if men become prepared to serve. Any given elder may serve up to two (2) full consecutive four-year terms, but, in an effort to allow him to rest and rejuvenate himself, he must then rotate off active duty in the eldership for at least a one (1) year period before assuming the work again if nominated and appointed by the congregation. Ideally, every household and person in the congregation is represented by the shepherds, and no one elder will be so burdened as to not be able to meet his obligations to those under his care. When the Israelites adopted this system of government during the exodus from Egypt, a one-to-ten ratio was used. If we follow this pattern, a congregation of 300 should have 30 elders and every family must be represented by a person specifically named to do so! In any event, the committee suggests that the initial appointment of leaders should not be composed of less than five (5) members, and if at any time the number of active elders should fall below five (5), then the nominating committee must immediately reconvene to receive nominations to complete the minimum complement.
A. With Deacons
Deacons are apparently "shepherds-in-training" in the New Testament. The qualifications for both elders and deacons are essentially the same with only minor variations. The pattern of older (elder) men teaching and guiding the younger men, as in an apprenticeship program, is a well-established one in the Bible. Within the context of giving some of the qualifications for shepherds in the letter to Titus, Paul reminds him of this pattern. As such, there should be a mentor relationship with the shepherds. It is to the deacons that the congregation delegates responsibility and authority for the day-to-day operation(s) of the assembly and its physical plant in order to free the shepherds for the work of meeting the spiritual needs of their flock.
B. With Teachers
The primary relationship here involves training and insuring sound doctrine. The shepherds, however, need not be directly involved in developing, providing, or implementing programs, nor should they be burdened with acquiring and maintaining equipment and supplies. These duties are precisely of the type that should be delegated to others in order for the shepherds to get on with their primary work.
C. With Evangelists and staff
This relationship is one of coordination and cooperation. Evangelists' responsibilities are to the congregation. Consequently their primary goal should be to complement the work of the shepherds.
D. With Committees
Committees serve at the pleasure of those who appoint them. At times, the appointing body may be the shepherds, and at such times the committee would answer to the shepherds. At other times, committees may serve the congregation at large, and in those instances would answer to the congregation rather than the shepherds. We envision, for example, that something very much like the current Operations Committee will continue to function in order to coordinate the various ministries and functions necessary for the smooth operation of a congregation. Both shepherds and deacons will of necessity by virtue of their various works and duties be a part of such a committee, but the membership will not be limited to these two offices. A committee of this type would of course be answerable to the congregation rather than as a delegation for or from the shepherds and deacons. The scope and purpose of the committee determines answerability. It is assumed, however, that any committee will always serve with a spirit of openness, integrity, and cooperation with all members of the congregation.
E. With Other Ministries and Work(ers)
As shepherds having been given, and having accepted, the responsibility of meeting the various needs of the congregation by the congregation, the elders should always consider ministries as resources to aid them in their duties. As resources, the ministries are a valuable commodity, and share many, if not all, of the privileges and responsibilities that committees enjoy. The elders do not control or dictate to the ministries, but instead utilize them to promote the achievement of the stated goals of the congregation. Consequently, shepherds should jealously guard and protect the ministries and have much the same relationship with them as they might have with the various committees.
Most, if not all, of us know virtually nothing of shepherds. Most of us have never seen one. Few, if any, of us have direct experience with the manner in which a shepherd leads and cares for the sheep. Possibly, through the stories of our American West, we have some sense of practices and procedures employed on the "open range," but that knowledge is secondhand at best and a Hollywood glorified and glamorized version of actuality at worst. Yet, the figure of the shepherd is consistently that chosen by God (2 SAM. 5:2; PSA. 23:1; ISA. 40:11; MATT 26:31; John 10:11; 1 PET. 5:2; REV 7:17 and others). Unfortunately, we are familiar with the New Testament descriptions of the Sannhedrin and have often superimposed its system upon our congregational leadership, possibly because it resembles something we are familiar with, a board of directors. We do this in spite of the fact that Jesus himself consistently condemned this body and urged his disciples not to follow their practices. 1 TIM. 5:17-21 clearly indicates that the congregational leadership is answerable to the congregation as a whole, not the usual practice of a board of directors. Furthermore, Paul clearly contrasts the types of church leaders in 3:1-7 and 6:3-5, with those of chapter three preferred. The characteristics listed in chapter six, however, are more representative of those considered appropriate for a "successful" executive officer serving on the board of a large corporation. It is also clear that although the congregation at Ephesus had men serving as leaders, Paul urges the development and installation of more, indicating that the process of developing leadership was a perpetual process. Contrast Paul's outlined process with that of a modern board of directors in which leadership is only changed when problems arise or a board member dies. But, returning to the original question, what exactly did/does a shepherd do?
A. Feeds the flock
The term(s) translated "feed" in its various forms is used over 40 times in the New Testament. The figure is used over 90 times throughout the Bible. In its primary form, feed refers to the literal work of a herdsman (MT. 8:30; MK. 5:14; LK. 8:34; LK. 15:15). Feed is also used metaphorically of a ministry (JN. 21:15,17). The secondary usage, however, is that of acting like a shepherd (LK. 17:7; 1 COR. 9:7; MT. 2:6; JN. 21:16; 1 PET. 5:2; ACTS 20:28). The figure is sometimes translated as "rule" (JUDE 12). In an interesting dialogue with Peter, Jesus uses the terms alternately in JN. 21, using first the primary (literal) form and then using the metaphorical form. These terms are not interchangeable, but rather have provided fuel for much discussion as to the manner in which Peter apparently missed the significance of Jesus' remarks. The remaining forms of the term(s) variously mean "to make grow, nourish, bring up or rear (as children), or fatten (to fill or satisfy with food) (Vines, 87-88). Shepherds of the congregations of the Lord's church are to feed the flock in both a physical sense and a spiritual sense. This work is more than simply instructing the people in God's word. It is feeding their hopes, but not their fears; their aspirations, but not their failures; their achievements, but not their stress. It is "fattening them up" to reach their potential as the sons and daughters of God, and the brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ.
B. Leads the flock
This figure is used over 70 times throughout the Bible. It is applied literally and metaphorically. It is applied to both God and mankind alike. In its primary form, "lead" literally means to "bear, bring carry" (Vines II.321). In all other forms it carries the idea of guiding and going before to show the path or way. Never is it used to indicate simply providing direction.
C. Watches over the flock
This term , in its noun form, means to guard or have custody of (Vines IV.200). In its verb form, that form most often used to refer to congregational leaders, it means to be vigilant and awake and is most often used to discuss external rather than internal threat(s).
This series of suggestions is in no way a replacement for God's word in the Bible. Instead it is a clarification of how leadership might be developed and maintained in this congregation. These suggestions may or may not be appropriate for other congregations, but are the consensus of those who worship God in this place. We pray and hope only that they aid us in doing all we do as a congregation "decently and in order," and that they reduce friction to a minimum, thereby making the work we do for the Lord that much easier and more enjoyable. As a document written by human beings for human beings, it is by no means perfect or infallible and is subject to change at the will of the congregation, but we pray it aids us in achieving our missions of reaching the lost and building up the Lord's people.
1. A member is defined as anyone who is in a covenant relationship with God through baptism and belief in Jesus as Christ.
2. This ballot/form is to be developed by the Leadership Development Committee/Nominations Committee for congregational approval with the initial selection/installation of shepherds.
3. All of these sources of information are listed in the suggestions for further reading and study.
Anderson, Lynn. They Smell Like Sheep. West Monroe, LA: Howard Publishing.
Chadwell, David. @ his web site as minister of the West Arkansas Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR.
Lyles, Cleon. Bigger Men for better Churches. Little Rock: by the author.
Nave's Topical Bible. Nashville: The Southwestern Company.
Smith's Bible Dictionary. Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers.
Vine, W.E. An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company.
In addition to these sources, a good bible concordance is a must in order to find all the pertinent and germane passages of scripture related to a given topic. Any and all commentaries available should be consulted on the various biblical passages cited . H. Leo Boles and David Lipscomb can be found in the Gospel Advocate series. J.W. McGarvey is well known for his own series in the Gospel Light Publishing Restoration Library. There are also myriad other sources, too numerous to mention, for defining and designing church leadership.