By Jeff Faull
“Look to the rock from which you were hewn and to the quarry from which you were dug” (Isaiah 51:1, New American Standard Bible). The Old Testament prophet Isaiah was not writing about church leadership or the Restoration Movement, but his words could easily be appropriated for Restoration church leaders. It is both refreshing and profitable for us to “look to our quarry” and gratefully consider the noble and admirable beginnings, underpinnings, and the future of our Restoration heritage.
But could we start with an admission? Some inherent pitfalls come with our simple plea and its accompanying slogans. Our emphases on scriptural purity, Christian unity, congregational autonomy, leadership plurality, and biblical vocabulary bring with them some unique challenges. And in our great desire to get it right, we are still vulnerable to doing it wrong. Consequently, we who are heirs of the Restoration Movement have sometimes promoted a pronounced biblical structure of leadership without a practical biblical posture of leadership.
My 30 years serving the same Restoration Movement congregation have taught me the indispensable value and joy of a healthy eldership. I am convinced that one of the greatest factors in longevity and health of ministry is a quality eldership team. In that spirit, I offer five “best practices” for Restoration Movement church leaders.
We Are Best as a Movement When Our Leaders Foster Mutual Authority and Respect
Our Restoration predecessors were averse to clergy/laity distinctions and the abuse of pastoral authority. They were rightfully insistent on the plurality and authority of shepherds. Unfortunately, this sometimes led to the ordained minister’s role being minimized . . . in some cases relegating them to the status of hireling. Healthy leaderships cultivate a structure, attitude, and practice of mutual authority and respect with clear roles, responsibilities, and expectations.
We Are Best as a Movement When Our Leaders Engage the Union of Truth and Love
The psalmist articulates the union of truth and love beautifully: “Lovingkindness and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other”(Psalm 85:10, NASB). The union of truth and love has too often been presented as a simple balance or a mixture. For example, “She’s a little too high on the truth scale,” or conversely, “She puts too much emphasis on love.” However, you can’t have too much love and you can’t have too much truth.
Truth doesn’t need a little falsehood to soften it, nor does love need a little harshness to toughen it. Truth and love are not opposites. They are not mutually exclusive. You can apply or demonstrate either of them incorrectly. Certain demonstrations of love or truth aren’t appropriate for the time and place, but there is never too much of either. Both are eternal. Both are the essence of God. Both are integral to the other’s definition.
When we speak the truth in love, we are most faithful to our own plea. Let there be no doubt that the union of truth and love is at the heart of restoration.
We Are Best as a Movement When Our Leaders Facilitate the Cooperation Between Autonomy and Accountability
One of the most beneficial characteristics of our DNA is congregational autonomy. We employ a plurality of local leaders who guide, shepherd, and strategize in faithfulness to the charge given them by God. No outside interference or mandatory, man-made, external structures and controls should hinder our quest. However, that great design can be corrupted when isolation and insulation become the standard way of operating. When congregations and leaders network, fellowship, and learn from each other’s successes and failures, and when we cooperate for kingdom advances, an environment for true restoration of New Testament Christianity can occur.
We Are Best as a Movement When Our Leaders Insist that “Ancient Paths” and Contemporary Culture Are Bridged Correctly
The “ancient paths” mentality of Jeremiah 6:16 remains a foundation for Restoration principles. Jeremiah wrote, “Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it” (NASB).When we insist that the eternal wisdom and plan of God is never archaic or outdated, and yet we fearlessly engage with the realities of our contemporary society, we can find optimum relevance and effectiveness in engaging our culture. When those two worlds are bridged, without compromise, the church shines.
We Are Best as a Movement When Our Leaders Intentionally Merge Theology and Mission
We tend to think purists and pragmatists inhabit opposite ends of the spectrum. That can be an accurate assessment. But real restoration of New Testament Christianity begins with the realization that ministry and mission are actually the outworking of our theology. From the Greatest Commandment to the Great Confession to the Great Commission, our professions and practices must align and be consistent to help us become the great congregations God intended.
As fellow leaders, we look forward to the day when the Chief Shepherd appears and presents unfading crowns of glory. In the meantime, we seek to give our best efforts to restore not only a biblical structure of leadership but also a biblical practice.
Jeff Faull serves as senior minister at Mount Gilead Church in Mooresville, Indiana, and as a board member with e2.