- Click here to read a conversation introducing this section
Tim Pastor: My church of 500 members has had a pastor-hierarchy model for thirty years. I’ve been the senior pastor for the past five years. Is it possible to make such a huge change in a church like ours? Have any other churches done this? We barely survived the remodeling program two years ago … almost split over the color of the carpet in the sanctuary. A change of our leadership model? Well, I’m not sure that will fly, but we need to do something—the present way we do leadership doesn’t seem to be working too well.Paul Mentor: Great questions, Tim. Actually, we are hearing from many just like you who are rethinking how they do leadership because they have concluded something is wrong. Some have, for sure, made the transition to a biblical-based elder form of church government—and, believe it or not, they’ve survived to tell about it! Not only survived, but are doing well.Tim: Well this looks exciting. I’m going to call a meeting and get started. No time to waste in turning this church around!Paul: Whoa, slow down. You don’t want to approach this like a wrecking ball and create a lot of misunderstanding or mistrust.Tim: What do you mean? Don’t all great leaders “charge ahead where no one else dare go?”Paul: When it comes to changing the leadership structure in a church, you can easily end up defeating yourself.Tim: Hmm, I don’t want that to happen. Well, then, what’s the first step?Paul: Glad you asked. The first step is for you to examine your motive.Tim: That’s obvious, I want to convince our church to go with a biblical eldership model of leadership.Paul: That may be the goal, but why do you want to see this happen? Your motive will affect how you communicate BE to others. Actually, there can be a mix of motives, and it is good to sort these out because they can affect your efforts in different ways. Some good motives are: love for the people, honoring God, commitment to Scripture—things like that. But it is also possible to be motivated by a mix of frustration, power struggles, pride and insecurity .Tim: Wow, this could get complicated. How do I begin sorting through it all?Paul: Another great question – all great leaders know how to ask good questions and are willing to accept help. Here’s where we can help you.
If you are here, then you are a pastor who desires to guide your church through a transition to biblical eldership (BE). We commend you for your willingness to pursue BE, knowing that moving from a pastor-led hierarchy of leadership means giving up some authority and organizational status. This requires true humility.
You have been called by God to love his church and you have sacrificed greatly for the honor of being God’s servant. Very few understand the sacrifices you have made, whether financially, personally or relationally. You may be overworked and exhausted by the leadership model you have lived by. You may feel there needs to be more done in leading God’s people. You have experienced times of elation, and also times of great discouragement. The fact that you are reading this means you haven’t given up, but are looking for a better way to lead God’s people.
In most cases, we feel it is important for you, as the pastor, to take the lead. Or in our terms, you should be the primary catalyst. People in your congregation respect you and are looking to you for leadership already. You are in the best position to set the stage for the entire church to embrace BE. At the same time, you will need to lead the church to transfer their trust and dependence from you to the goal of the shared leadership that BE teaches. This will have some unique challenges, both for you and for the church, as they learn not to rely on you for “everything” and learn to trust the qualified and installed elders. It may be difficult for someone who is used to being “over” the other leaders, to humbly take his place alongside a group of qualified elders, in a mutual accountability relationship. You will be watching as others take over authority and functions that once were yours. Think of Barnabas who gave way to Paul and other men in Acts 13:1-4 in discerning the Spirit’s guidance. There is a spirit of celebration in the elevation of others, even above himself (Phil 2:3-4).
The place to start is to examine your motivations, not only the obvious ones, but also the “hidden things of the heart.” For this, continue on to the next section, “Motivation” where we will walk you through a few things.