The Need for Preparation
Spiritual preparation is important because the Scripture speaks clearly:
“Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain” (Psalm 127:1 NASB).
It would be easy to assume that all you need to do, as the catalyst for change, is change the structure and God will bring blessings. However, God uses people, beginning with you, and that means more than just a structure is involved. The church is the living, breathing, body of Christ of which he is the head. You don’t want this whole thing to be a monument to your abilities and leadership, but his. That makes the task larger than any one human can accomplish in the flesh. Preparation is needed so that God receives the glory.
So then, if you are motivated by God’s glory, you can be assured that he will spiritually enable you for the task:
“… His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3).
Leading the way to transitioning your church to biblical eldership (BE) requires using the gifts God has given you for the task. In order to do that, you need to be personally prepared in your spiritual walk with the Lord. Scripture says,
“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25 NIV).
The work is spiritually discerned. There may be spiritual battles as leadership styles and personal preferences conflict. But if done carefully, prayerfully and humbly, we believe the Lord will use your efforts to foster biblical eldership in your church.
The following steps will help you prepare for this great task:
Step1 – Prayer
Give priority to prayer so that you may:
- Safeguard your own heart
Paul in his farewell speech to the Ephesian elders said,
“Be on guard for yourselves …” (Acts 20:28).
We best guard ourselves by maintaining constant communion with God. Temptations to pride, self-will, impatience, and other sins of the flesh are hazards of leadership. Simply put, close communion with the Lord is necessary for you to influence your church toward BE.
- Gain God’s wisdom and insight
What happens in the church is intended by God to reflect his wisdom, as Paul says,
“…that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places” (Eph. 3:10).
It takes wisdom to (re)build a church’s leadership structure based on the unchanging, solid foundation of God’s Word. Many unanticipated issues will arise whenever people are involved in change. Wisdom, understanding, insight and tact are all essential.
- Recognize the spiritual battle involved in implementing BE.
The enemy of God’s people does not want your church to function in God’s way. Recognizing this affects how you will respond to opposition if and when it arises:
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:3-5).
- Ask the Lord to move in the hearts of the leaders and congregation.
“The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes” (Prov. 21:1).
If this is true for a secular king, it is also true for the existing leadership of a local church and for the congregation. If the current leadership team is resistant or is divided about BE, then you must walk very carefully here. A healthy transition models the very essence of biblical eldership, namely, God moving in numerous hearts, rather than through a single strong personality.
- Seek God’s timing.
Better to wait until the Lord moves than to force change at the wrong time. Sometimes old habits and convictions may not change easily. It may be that people joined the church because of their embrace of the existing leadership, so to change to a different leadership model could be difficult for them. While biblical eldership is important, it should not be pursued if the consequences would be a church split. Even if there is agreement to move forward, there will be factors that affect the pace of change. The whole process may take from nine months to two years or longer.
Step 2 – Reading
We encourage you to immerse yourself in what we call “BE Readiness Reading.” This would include the following:
- The main biblical texts. Study and know well the following: (Acts 14:23, Acts 20:17-38, 1 Peter 5:1-4, 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9. Do a search in the NT on the words elders, overseers, bishops and shepherd to uncover other passages. You can use one of the many online Bibles, like the NET Bible
- The “Biblical Eldership Booklet,” a brief (47 page) introduction to the importance and biblical basis for eldership. This will most likely be a review if you have come this far in the BE Implementation process. But, it is good to be familiar with this short tool, because it will be instrumental later in teaching the congregation.
- “Leading With Love,” by Alexander Strauch, an essential read for the importance of love when leading the church.
- “Agape Leadership,” the biography of Robert C. Chapman, an example of loving leadership from the 18th century. Chapman provides an excellent model for the kind of leadership that God uses to influence people—leadership that is characterized by love.
Step 3 – Meditation
Because attitude and character are so important during leadership change, we encourage you to infuse God’s Word into your life as you go through this process, particularly passages about the most important characteristic, namely love. Leading the way in love provides the spiritual tenor for the transition, and will carry over into the functioning biblical eldership.
“But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love ” (1 Cor. 13:13).
“… we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love ” (Eph. 4:15–16 emphasis added).
Consider memorizing and meditating on 1 Corinthians 13 as you begin this great work—so that you are in constant awareness of the need for loving leadership.
Step 4 – Personal Evaluation
You’ve already evaluated your motivation. Now is the time to evaluate your personal preparedness by working through the Pastor’s Preparation Worksheet. This is a checklist to use like a mental & spiritual crowbar to pry open your insights:
- Download the worksheet and prayerfully work through it.
- Ask someone close to you (your spouse or close friend) to give you feedback on your answers to the worksheet.
- Pray, asking God to reveal the “thought and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).
If there are any concerns raised in this exercise, they need to be addressed before moving on in the process. Only you can determine before the Lord your state of readiness for moving to the next step.
Step 5 – Spiritual Gifting
Finally, consider how your spiritual gifting may color your perspective on leadership. For example, a person with administration gift may over-react to inefficiencies of the existing leadership and minimize the pastoral aspects of leadership. A person with the gift of helps or mercies may be wary of men gifted in leadership or administration. Biblical eldership involves not only plurality in number, but diversity in giftedness. The differing perspectives will help make the whole process well rounded and reflect the ultimate goal of genuine body life where all the gifts are being used, even at the eldership level.
Now, you have one more decision to make before you begin moving ahead with forming a transition team. You need to decide which of two approaches you will take with your church. For this, click “Determining Your Approach” in the menu or here.