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"MESSAGE FOR JANUARY 15, 2012"

Truth-driven church government

          This week, we take another week off from our study of the book of Acts to introduce some exciting and we believe ministry-enhancing changes the leadership will soon be proposing to the church in the form of a new constitution.  Though these changes are being presented in detail later this month, the process of change has been years in the making and will not be completed before next fall.  As we mentioned last week, these changes are intended to structure our church ministries in ways that are more in tune with explicit Biblical teaching on church government and implicit Biblical principles relating to that.  All the information you’ll hear today will tomorrow be posted on our church website or offered as hard copies in the church office. Last week, we gave a quick review of the plural eldership ministry here at Mount of Olives and if you are curious about information pertaining to the pastor-eldership, please consult the constitution on the web.  We cited four biblical principles that should guide our ministry.  Because I will be referring to them today, let me just briefly review them. 

First, we said that the church’s organizational structure must be ministry-oriented.  For instance, someone tells you they are on the Men’s Committee (or whatever committee) and you are unfamiliar with that ministry.  You ask them, “Oh really, what does X committee do?”  If they respond by saying, “Well, we meet on the first Tuesday of the month,” that’s not a good answer.  What that communicates is that committee member sees the committee as oriented around a meeting, not ministry.  Meetings are at times necessary, but only as a means to facilitate ministry.  Time spent in meetings that do not ultimately result in ministry is often wasted time.  Similarly, if you spend 90 minutes in a committee meeting and the ministry for which God has given you gifts and passion is discussed for only five minutes, that is not a very efficient use of your time when you could actually be using it to DO ministry.

Second, we said that the church’s structure must encourage body life. That is—it must encourage as many people as possible in the body to minister.  A church where 20% of the people do 80% of the work almost certainly has some sin to repent of, but that unhealthy dynamic also may indicate that the ministry structure is getting in the way of ministry.  Ephesians 4:15-16 says,  15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.  It’s as each part of the body works properly, which includes speaking the truth in love, that the body grows into maturity so that it builds itself up in love.  The new structure is intended to encourage body-life without organizational barriers like, “You can’t visit the hospital as a representative of our church-- that’s so and so’s job.” or, “You’re not on the right committee.”   

We also said that a church’s structure must encourage healthy accountability. Ministry can expose sins of our heart that we might not even know we have and the church is responsible to address that in redemptive ways. Simply waiting until a poorly functioning committee member’s term of office is over is not healthy, but our current structure doesn’t do much to encourage accountability.  Finally, we said that a church’s structure should be flexible enough to facilitate the sometimes spontaneous movement of the Holy Spirit.  Sometimes the Spirit works in ways that require a timely response.  Someone who absolutely must have a car to get to work has a traffic accident and their car is totaled.  They have no family in town and the church should be able to meet that need for temporary transportation.  Right now, we do one of two things in those cases.  We tell them, “We’ll get to you when such and such committee meets which will [sometimes] be in three weeks.”  Or, one of our church secretaries—who are already very busy, must take time to call around to church folk to see if anyone can meet this kind of need.  That’s one of 100 examples that can be given, but right now our structure impedes many such ministries.

Now, I want us to examine what we in leadership recommend to you as a ministry structure is truth-driven and much better integrates Biblical teaching into how we organize and conduct our ministries. There is a lot of material here so again, please feel free to dig deeper into this by looking at the material on the website posted tomorrow.  Broadly speaking, the proposed plan is for the elders to oversee a new ministry structure that also depends on deacons and deaconesses bringing significant godly influence to our ministries.  Our recommendation is that the current committee structure would gradually be phased out in favor of ministry teams that are at certain points, very different than standing committees.  The two basic Biblical truths upon which this structure is based is first, although we should all be servants, willing to do anything reasonable we are asked in the body of Christ, God has gifted each of us specifically and sometimes in fairly specialized areas.  Therefore, the bulk of our ministries should flow from our areas of personal giftedness and passion.  Allowing a believer’s gifts to strongly factor into the process is simply following the leading of the Holy Spirit who gave these gifts to us as believers.  This provides the church with Holy Spirit-gifted ministry and maximum joy within those who are ministering.  A second truth is exemplified in Acts 2:42-47. 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

This text pictures a church body teeming with dynamic and Spirit-driven ministry.  That is the kind of active, dynamic ministry we as leadership want to facilitate here.  Currently, our standing committee structure provides us with a high level of order and predictability, but it does not well meet many other Biblical criteria.  Admittedly, one of the challenges with more flexibility, freedom and diversity in ministry formation is the potential for a lack of control in this far more dynamic, Spirit-dependent model.  We are moving from a ministry model that is very predictable, but at times flows like molasses; to one that at times will be spontaneous and could more closely resemble a gushing fire hydrant.  As we have read through the book of Acts, it’s clear that dynamism and the absence of heavy structure are the norm for ministry.  However, there must be some controls in place because another Biblical truth we must integrate into the model is that “all things should be done decently and in order.” [1 Cor. 14:40] 

In order to bring this kind of control without losing a sensitivity to the Spirit, the intention is—on each ministry team, there would be a member of the diaconate—a deacon/deaconess in each area of ministry. The diaconate will receive from the elders general training and equipping for church ministry and also ministry-specific equipping, where needed.  This will enable the ministry of our church to remain faithful to Scripture and flourish as this mature, trained diaconate brings godly influence to the ministry teams.  The diaconate will also function as a liaison between the ministry teams and the elders.  They will also help provide the order and decency that ministry requires by helping keep the team on task, staying faithful to the vision of the church, helping with budgets, consulting with the elders when potential problems arise as well as work with the elders to recruit additional members of the team as needed.

We will put some Power Point slides up in a moment to give you an idea of our proposal of how this will look.  The advantages of this structure for ministry include:  much greater flexibility and openness to the Spirit.  The teams do not have to meet at a certain, static time, but when the team members mutually agree to meet—in homes, at church, Bridgeman’s, etc… As we said, each team is served by ministry trained, spiritually mature deacon(s)/deaconess(es) who will be examined by the elders to determine if they meet the qualifications established by Paul in the Pastoral Epistles.  The diaconate candidates will be voted on at the Annual Business Meeting after they have completed their initial training.  This structure will also help solve the problem of assimilating new people because as people become involved in ministry early on, they will form relationships not possible on Sunday mornings.  Currently, standing committees are reserved for members only.  Under this proposed structure, ministry teams may be composed of anyone who attends regularly.  New ministries may be proposed to the elders by anyone here by simply filling out a proposal for a certain ministry--listing its Biblical basis, objectives and the anticipated resources required.  This will encourage the development of new ministries and therefore the involvement of more people in this body.

Although certain ministry teams like Children’s Ministry and others will need to meet year-round, others will be more ad hoc, created only for a limited objective and therefore requiring a limited time commitment.  For instance, the ministry team for the Festival 5.1 K and we hope many other new seasonal ministries will only meet during certain times of the year.  This will make participation in the ministry team more attractive to those who are not able to minister for a three-year term.  Also, the ministry teams will be more specialized.  That means that a believer who is gifted in a narrowly defined area will not need to spend significant time in meetings that have little if anything to do with his/her area of gifting.  Finally, this narrower focus and flexibility in meeting times and locations is more conducive to understanding ministry as serving Christ and his church than simply attending monthly meetings.

The elders in this model have manifold responsibilities that include solely overseeing all adult teaching and the prayer ministries.  The elders will pray for all the diaconate and ministry teams, especially those teams falling under their immediate area of responsibility.  Each elder will give general oversight to all the ministries, but more intense oversight to those specific ministries that are most consistent with their own passions and giftedness. The elders will also serve as equippers to provide oversight and resourcing to the diaconate to help them develop greater competency in the ministry teams on which they serve.  The elders will meet with the entire diaconate whenever the elders or deacons see this as necessary but concerns that are specific to one ministry team will be dealt with on an ad hoc basis and meetings will be held as needs arise.  That’s the basic skeleton of this structure, but in order for you to get an idea how it will function, let’s take a look at some Power-point slides.  First let’s look at “Suggested Areas Requiring Diaconal Ministry.”  In other words, these are the most obvious ministry teams that will exist initially—along with others the body may later add that will address additional ministry needs of the body.  In other words, no area of our current ministry will be eliminated, but some with broader responsibilities will be divided into smaller, more specialized parts and some new ones will also be created for areas of ministry that are now being overlooked.  Here’s a slide giving all the proposed ministry teams along with a suggested number of the diaconate who will provide spiritual influence to the other members of the team.  If you have questions about what these ministries specifically do, later slides will give more detail.

First, is the Prayer ministry team, which will include with the team, two members of the diaconate plus the elders.  That direct pastoral involvement is consistent with the apostle’s priority of the ministry of the word and prayer seen in Acts six.  Next, the Discipleship/Small Group Ministry Team also with significant elder involvement and for the same reason.  The Benevolence/Member Care Ministry Team will serve with four of the diaconate in addition to the other people who are called to this ministry.  The Children’s Ministry Team with four of the diaconate.  AWANA will be under children’s ministries but with three of its own deacons.  Facilities and Grounds with four of the diaconate, the Finance Ministry Team and The Hospitality and Special Events each with four of the diaconate; Local Outreach, also with four and Missions with three of the diaconate. The Nursery Ministry Team for all church nursery needs will serve with three of the diaconate, Worship with four, as has the Assimilation Ministry Team and finally the Youth Ministry Team with three of the diaconate serving alongside the Youth Director. 

Now, let’s look at what we currently see as the specific areas of ministry under each ministry team.  First, the Prayer Ministry Team.  The point in showing these slides is not to enable us to read and digest every element of ministry, but to give us a general idea of the responsibilities of each ministry team.  If you want to scrutinize these lists more closely, please visit the church website or church office tomorrow.  Second, the Discipleship/Small Group Ministry Team.  We trust that discipleship ministry will be occurring as we all do other ministries— the Biblical model is to make disciples as we teach them to obey all that Jesus taught—so we clearly don’t want to relegate discipleship to this one ministry team.  This team will be mainly devoted to adult education and small group development.  Next, the Benevolent/Member Care ministry Team for those who are gifted in this way.  Remember, with four of the diaconate represented on this team, these responsibilities could be divided into four, more specific areas of ministry—one deacon might serve in hospital visitation with his team while another might serve to meet benevolent needs with her team. Next, the Children’s Ministry Team, which again can be divided into more specialized ministries, with a  deacon/deaconess for each area if need be.  Awana is part of that ministry.  Facilities and Grounds, many of the responsibilities of which are now in many ways consistent with what our current “Trustees” do.  But again, if we needed a specialized ministry team specifically for “Ventilation System Upgrading,” that team would exist for as long as the need exists.  Certain ministry teams may exist for only a few weeks or months before they are dissolved. 

The Finance Ministry Team will have responsibilities that are now found in several different ministry areas that handle money and assets.  This brings them all together under one team, enabling the elder with a passion in this area to oversee all the finance areas of the church more easily. The Hospitality and Special Events Ministry Team also covers areas that are now under very divergent committees.  This structure puts them all together to reduce the possibility of conflict that may occur with different committees each needing the kitchen or the banquet hall at the same time.  Again, separate ad hoc ministry teams could be developed for things like a Valentine’s Day Dinner or other hospitality areas of ministry that are not now possible because the current Women’s Ministry is already swamped with their current ministry.

We must be careful about limiting church outreach to The Local Outreach Team.  All ministries should have an outreach component or orientation—at least implicit in their mission statement.  And we must never relegate the role of reaching lost people to one ministry team—that is the responsibility of all of us.  However, this team will work on specific outreach strategies for our church as we seek to reach our Jerusalem.  The Missions Ministry Team has three of the diaconate, not because it is less important, but because Missions Ministry is fairly monolithic—being focused mainly on the care of our missionaries and our goal of reaching the unreached with the gospel.  With less complexity, fewer deacons are necessary.  The Nursery Ministry Team is self-explanatory.  This is a high-labor ministry team, especially in coordinating and scheduling the nurseries.  Next, the Assimilation Ministry Team.  This ministry does not currently exist in any concrete form, which means that we are generally doing a poor job of making our new people feel welcome and involved in the life of the church.  Finally, the Youth Ministry Team which would be roughly equivalent to our current…Youth Ministry Team.

The next set of slides represent our attempt to try to provide a “mock budget” for each of these ministries.  These budgets are based on current line items for these ministry areas, but the elements of these teams may now be scattered across multiple committees.  You’ll notice that, as we said, there is a line item of five percent of the budget for each team that will be strictly for new ministry development. This percentage figure is basically a guess on our part. We will doubtless discover that some teams spin off many new ministries while others are less conducive to that.  For right now, we propose equal amounts to each to be fair.  If later you scrutinize each line item, please do so remembering that this is a mock- up of a budget and is intended only to be a suggestion and to show you that we have considered this budget piece and have a model in place that the Finance Ministry Team will eventually take over and modify to fit our real budget needs.   

The next area we want to illustrate on slides for you is the Suggested Diaconal Training.  This is the initial training necessary for those who will be candidates for the diaconate.  The idea is to initially give four, 90 minutes sessions of general training to equip the diaconate to serve in a manner consistent with the vision of our church as well as provide basic ministry skill sets in areas crucial for bringing Christ’s influence to ministry.  This training includes some “nuts and bolts” ministry equipping as well as conflict management training.  This education is for general equipping.  For those serving on the diaconate, there will also be additional equipping required of a more specific nature depending on the ministry team.  The idea is not to over-train, but to give everyone enough training to keep them well equipped.

Finally, we want to introduce our current thinking on The Time Line for these changes.  The implementation will be gradual, but not nearly as gradual as the implementation of the eldership—the pace of which has been likened to the growth of a Redwood Tree or perhaps a coral reef. The final conversion of all the committees will not be targeted for completion until October, so we hope to be leaving time for a thoughtful and careful transition process. 

That’s all!  You are probably feeling a bit overwhelmed and all this information will perhaps raise more questions for you.  We ask you to please help us in this process by doing these things:   

SLIDE—CONGREGATIONAL  ACTION  ITEMS

-Pray for leadership in this process---that we would be open to changing this and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit through the body.

--Look over the materials in this message and on the slides carefully.  Sermon manuscripts are available today (as always) and the other materials will be available tomorrow for your examination.

--Get involved!  Come to the Town meetings and share what excited you and what is less exciting to you

--Be thinking about where you fit into this new structure.  Perhaps there are other new ministries God wants you to begin

--Keep an open mind during the transition process.

Finally, we welcome your input and would also like you to remember that, if you find elements of this plan that don’t resonate with you, remember that this plan for change should not be considered in a vacuum, but must be compared with the structure we have now.   If you have other truth-driven changes in mind, please give your input.  By God’s grace, may his will be done here for his glory and our joy in ministry.

 

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