More on Decentralized Leadership

This blog is nothing if not eclectic. Sometimes I fear that truly important things may get lost amidst the discussion of favorite music, funny videos, and such.

In case it was “lost in the shuffle,” I don’t know that I’ve made many posts more important to healthy churches than one I made several weeks ago, “Pastor, Get Out of the Way.” Thankfully, it’s sparked a number of conversations among young guys that are hungry for an intentionally biblical philosophy of ministry—“why we do what we do.” Outside of getting the gospel right, what could be more important than understanding our pastoral responsibilities?

For those interested in pursuing the topic further, this very brief and fairly informal description of biblical offices from TCBC may be of help: Office Definitions (pdf). It’s a pregnant statement that would be worth unpacking in time, but it’s a start. And, of course, Mark Dever’s Nine Marks of a Healthy Church and The Deliberate Church are must-reads. I’d also recommend Alexander Strauch’s Biblical Eldership and The New Testament Deacon, along with Bill Hull’s The Disciple Making Pastor, which was tremendously influential on the “every member ministry” and “decentralized leadership” burdens of TCBC.

Give the office synopsis a read. Think about it.  Improve upon it. Respond here if you’d like. But implement it, by God’s grace—especially if you’re getting ready to plant a church! It’s more than a matter of church polity. It’s a biblical strategy that has implications for all of church life.



11 Responses

  1. Thanks for sending this link with me, Chris. I’ve saved the pdf for my ecclesiology file.

    As we begin our church, we intend to go “deacon-less” until the needs become obvious (not easy to define perhaps). I am hoping, though, that the needs become obvious fairly quickly, because of genuine-conversion-purred-numerical-growth.

    One thing Dever noted in his work on deacons (can’t remember if it was his long one or short one) is that he believed that their benevolent work was not simply delegation of busyness, but that it was essential to the preservation of unity (grumbling widows, etc). I thought that was an excellent observation from the text. They didn’t simply delegate diaconal duties because they didn’t have time to do them (although that was true); it also had something to do with preserving the same-spiritness within the body (i.e. a solution to the grumbling of Acts 6).

    Practically speaking, though, It seems that there has to be a better indicator for the need for deacons (or additional deacons) than the grumbling of the widows? So, as soon as the older folks don’t get their meals on wheels and start responding in a sinful manner, then we elect deacons? Hmm.

    Any ideas for indicators of when to elect deacons?

  2. My quick answer would be “when you have qualified men.” If you have qualified men early on who can help formally or informally, with practical needs or teaching needs, employ them. The sooner you communicate to people that your job is to equip the body for ministry (Eph 4:11-12) and train faithful men that can teach others (2 Tim 2:2), the better.

    You’d not put an ill-qualified man in, obviously. But if you have a qualified man to serve as a deacon (or elder, per my understanding of polity, if he’s gifted to teach), great!

    Last thought: I had heard that those who come into a church early on often leave later when it grows significantly. I thought we’d avoid that, but we didn’t. For many, their connection is to the pastor. That can seem fine when there are only 30 people. But as the church grows, you can’t be everybody’s best friend. And those whose attachment was to you (rather than the church, Christ, the gospel, etc.) start getting discontent with the amount of attention they’re getting. It’s the wagon wheel vs. spider web thing. All that to say, communicate that it’s not about you early on. Encourage ministry to take place that doesn’t have your hands all over it. Get someone else teaching SS as soon as someone equipped to do so is available. In short, prepare the church to continue well should you die, or move, or whatever. (But don’t.) :)

    Exciting times, friend! Can’t wait to see our Lord build His church there! Let’s talk some more, even on the phone as the start approaches and as you get going. Grace!

  3. I never knew how important polity would be to church life until I became a pastor. Once you have seen the elder/deacon leadership model, it is hard to be satisfied with anything less (God’s ways are funny that way).

    I had an opportunity this past spring to attend a Weekender at Dever’s Church through the 9Marks ministry. I would recommend this to anyone. It is simply the best way to “see” this type of leadership that I have come across. I am prayerful striving ot move our church towards this Biblical leadership model, but pastoring a 90 year old, established church that is settled (if you know what I mean) means taking it slow.

    I have read most of your recommended resources and would agree with your recommendations.

  4. This blog is nothing if not eclectic


  5. eclectic light? eclectic in training?

  6. Mark Patton is now my Favorite Commenter of the Day.


  7. Okay, I’m this close to marking all these comments as spam. :)

  8. “Me-too” Cents.


  9. Disclaimer: I am not and have never been a pastor. Having said that, I think this post is also invaluable for all christians. I think sometimes we (non-pastors) get too passive. We like being spoon-fed. We want to take milk from the bottle instead of digging into the steak. And I think there are many men and women out there with ability and the biblical qualifications who would love to be more active in their church if given the opportunity. This also seem like a great way to keep a pastor from burning out and losing his “first love.” I would think it would be very rewarding to see one of your flock grow to the point he can deliver a God-glorifying message.

    Insightful as usual. Thanks.

  10. […] Posted on September 2, 2009 by Chris I’ve spoken quite a bit lately about my burden for (a) decentralized leadership and (b) every member ministry. Both are core values at Tri-County Bible Church, which I’m privileged to pastor. The concept […]

  11. Preach it, Bryan. Part of this is just raising the bar for “normal” Christians and refusing to adopt a “Protestant Pope” mentality that sees ministry (and even preaching) as a “man of God” thing. There should be a perpetual domino chain of teacher teaching teachers teaching teachers.

    Appreciate you, pal!

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