Who Owns a Church, Part 2

Disclaimer: I love shepherds. Unfortunately, I’m a full time minister. That means that the worst of my stories come from interaction with elders. Most of the elders I’ve known are good people. Unfortunately, the requirements for elder require more than just being a good person. I’m afraid I might come across as an elder-basher, which is completely not my goal. Please keep this in mind as I share some of my stories.

Disclaimer 2: My current elders are amazing, and they’re not standing over me as I type this. Their dedication to being spiritual shepherds and seeking out the meaning of that on a daily basis attracted me to this congregation.

Actual Post: We’ve been playing with semantics a little bit in the discussion about church ownership and I realized I probably didn’t connect my thoughts all that well. It’s what happens when you blog in your easy chair watching all the critters in your back yard.

I made a potentially illogical jump between owning the church and making decisions for the church. I completely understand the confusion in that area. I suppose a compromise question would be “Who’s the boss?” That, in fact, let’s us expand the conversation beyond churches with traditionally hierarchies and include those that don’t have elderships. These churches may operate with deacon’s meetings, men’s meetings, or congregational meetings. Either way, when you’ve got an organization that has a central group of people making decisions for the whole, you’ve got to ask the question about how they are supposed to function. What are the guidelines by which they make decisions?

Scarily, many of the elder/board/committee meetings I’ve sat in on have not been focused on any external criteria by which they make decisions. Guess what takes over in the absence of core direction and guiding principles…

Selfishness and individualism. This is one of those times when the church is no different from world. When there are no guidelines keeping people in check, they tend to revert to the worst parts about themselves in making decisions. They may protect their own interests, the interests of their spouses, the interests of their small group of people that they connect best with in the congregation, or any other influences they may succumb to. The most unhealthy of our leaders will resort to passive-aggressive behavior and downright manipulation. This is not an absolute, 100% of the time kind of thing. I think, though, that we can look at the condition many of our churches are and trace the history enough to find clear evidence of this occurring.

So, what is the outside force that should keep our leaders in check? What are the core leadership principles that should be followed to prevent this type of stuff from occurring?

We’ll talk about that more in the coming days. Until then, you tell us what that outside force should be.

4 Responses to Who Owns a Church, Part 2

  1. Greg England says:

    Well, if I can’t bash elders, that leaves me pretty much speechless! Actually, the elders I’ve worked under (with the exception of one who was a tyrant and closet alcoholic) have been great men … just not the best leaders.

  2. Greg England says:

    Well, if I can’t bash elders, that leaves me pretty much speechless! Actually, the elders I’ve worked under (with the exception of one who was a tyrant and closet alcoholic) have been great men … just not the best leaders.

  3. James says:

    Just my opinion, but saying men who have accepted the responsibility for shepherding a congregation but have neither the integrity nor skill to lead properly are still good or great men is the same as saying Jesus was a good man and great teacher but not the Son of God. It doesn’t match the facts.

    “He was a great man but not a good elder.” Sorry, if he was a good man he wouldn’t be an elder, unless he was capable.

    A great man who cannot lead would step down from his position or take steps to become a better leader. One who does not recognize his shortcomings or refuses to respond to them responsibly is not a great man.

    To me, the bigger question is, when members of a congregation realize that an elder or elders aren’t fit spiritually for the role they’ve accepted what can the people do? How does one remove, recall or replace a person in power without causing division and fractures?

  4. James says:

    Just my opinion, but saying men who have accepted the responsibility for shepherding a congregation but have neither the integrity nor skill to lead properly are still good or great men is the same as saying Jesus was a good man and great teacher but not the Son of God. It doesn’t match the facts.

    “He was a great man but not a good elder.” Sorry, if he was a good man he wouldn’t be an elder, unless he was capable.

    A great man who cannot lead would step down from his position or take steps to become a better leader. One who does not recognize his shortcomings or refuses to respond to them responsibly is not a great man.

    To me, the bigger question is, when members of a congregation realize that an elder or elders aren’t fit spiritually for the role they’ve accepted what can the people do? How does one remove, recall or replace a person in power without causing division and fractures?

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