21 May, 2024

The State of Elder Teams in Independent Restoration Churches

by | 1 May, 2024 | 0 comments

By David Roadcup 

Leadership is a critical issue in all churches. Experts tell us, “Everything comes down to leadership.” Leadership is key to fruitfulness, success, and accomplishing our goals. When effective, godly leadership is present, goals are realized. One of the most important aspects of the life of a healthy church is the building of a solid, biblical elder team.  

The question is, “Where are we as a movement when it comes to elders and their leadership in the typical Restoration church?” 

First, a disclaimer: Each church and each eldership in our movement is unique unto itself. Each has its own history, cultures, traditions, rituals, practices, and policies. 

During my 27 years in church consulting, 22 years of local church ministry, and as a founder of the e2: Effective Elders ministry, I have been with, worked with, and ministered to literally hundreds of elder teams. The observations below are drawn from these experiences as we ponder the state of the eldership in the Independent Churches of the Restoration Movement.   

THE POSITIVES ABOUT OUR ELDER TEAMS 

Many of the elders I have worked with are just beginning their tenures of service and many are wisened veterans. In my work with them, I have learned this: these brothers are completely committed to Jesus and his kingdom. They are effective leaders who serve the body of Christ. They are men who love the Lord with all of their hearts, who serve with distinction, and who make the Lord proud with their work. They are the shining stars in the Lord’s array who, through thick and thin, good and bad, potholes in the road, struggles, stresses, challenges, and victories, remain genuinely committed to the care and shepherding of God’s people. They are fulfilling their call from Christ and are treasures in the kingdom of God. I am personally thankful for these men and their sacrifice of time, energy, and attention to the bride of Christ.  

I am impressed and excited about the understanding of our churches when it comes to the role of the elder team. Christians know the great value of having godly men lead, shepherd, and protect their church. The church’s clear understanding of this biblical guideline is always encouraging.  

• I am positively moved by the response of our churches and their leaders to e2, a ministry the Lord has raised up specifically for elders, their training and development. This ministry began around a picnic table at TCM’s Haus Edelweiss in Heiligenkreuz, Austria, in the summer of 2008. Jim Estep, Gary Johnson, and I felt the Lord calling us to create a ministry to equip and encourage the elders of our churches. Our goal was to help churches recruit, train, and develop biblical, qualified, Spirit-filled elders who would lead their churches in the Spirit of Jesus. Over the past 15 years, the Lord has opened doors for us to be able to train more than 12,000 elders across the country, and our material is being used in 27 countries. We have published 13 books in as many as six foreign languages, as well as dozens of digital resources on video, each dealing with an aspect of elder leadership.  

Elder teams are seeking training, biblical information, guidance, fellowship, and encouragement from this ministry. They are attending our Elder’s Retreat each spring in large numbers. They are accepting our invitation to become a partner church whereby we create an agreement to coach, teach, and encourage their church’s elders to grow to their full potential as church leaders. More information is available at www.e2elders.org.  

THE NEEDS FACING OUR ELDER TEAMS 

There are several challenging areas we face when observing our elder teams. 

• Many churches are not recruiting new elders as carefully as they should. Great care, prayer, and fasting should go into the selection of men for our elder teams. In Acts, we repeatedly see prayer and fasting employed as leaders set aside leaders. This should be a part of all elder selections. 

• A large percentage of churches still offer no training or teaching for new elders coming into service. The training regimen for most new elders is simply to watch what the previous elders did and follow that pattern. This teaches new elders that their main work in the church is to go to meetings and pray in Sunday morning services! Planned training is absolutely critical in the preparation of new elders.  

• Some men who serve as elder should never have been placed in that role. These men make up a very small minority of elders in our churches. Granted, they have been baptized, are regular in church attendance, and contribute financially, but they do not exemplify a transformed life nor have they surrendered to the lordship of Christ in their lives. Such men can be identified by their dramatic need for power and control. They are egotistical and can be narcissistic. By their actions and attitudes, they demonstrate that they do not understand the biblical teaching concerning how a man is to live and lead as a model of Jesus. These men can hopefully be led to a personal surrender to Jesus (see Romans 12:1-2 and 2 Corinthians 5:17), but placing them into an elder role before genuine conversion can be disastrous to the health and growth of a local congregation. Their leadership can be devastating. When discovered, they must be removed as soon as possible.  

THE CHALLENGES FACING OUR ELDER TEAMS 

As a band of brothers, let us take to heart the truth that as “iron sharpens iron, one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). In the days ahead, let us resolve to . . . 

• learn, understand, and live out the qualifications given in Scripture for our service as elders. 

• learn the importance of and how to build strong and lasting relationships. 

• learn how to understand and interpret the culture in which we serve so we can be more effective.  

• learn to teach and preach the Word of God with accuracy and effectiveness.  

• learn to create a model of biblical governance as opposed to a model not found in Scripture or the adopting of the “corporate” mindset when it comes to leading the church. 

• learn to build vision, mission, and values to undergird our forward progress as we develop strategic plans for our congregations. 

• learn how to grow closer to Christ through the Word of God, prayer, and other important spiritual disciplines. 

All things considered, elder teams of the Independent Restoration Movement churches are on the rise! Good things are happening. Our leaders are growing. The opportunity to learn and grow is certainly available for any elder team who wants to move forward to greater effectiveness. 

David Roadcup is cofounder and outreach director for e2: effective elders. He serves as professor of discipleship and global outreach representative with TCM International Institute. He is also on the board of directors of Christian Arabic Services. 

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