Month: January 2014

5 Questions to Ask Deacons

We’re just finishing up our second round of Deacon interviews. I’ve been overwhelmed and the godly caliber of men and women who have gone through our training process and eagerly aspire to be lead servants in our church. As the elders interviewed each candidate, we asked them 5 main questions:

1. Based on the character qualifications of 1 Tim 3, where are you the weakest?

  • We followed their answer up by asking for specific examples.
  • We inquired how they are experiencing growth and change in this area.
  • We looked for a personal and specific application of the gospel to their weaknesses and helped them with this, which created a great pastoral moment to exhort, encourage, & counsel

2. Do you have a budget and how much debt do you currently have?

  • If deacons are exemplary servants, they need to be exemplary with their money.
  • If they are handling finances for the church, we should be handling it well at home.
  • Follow up questions about good vs. bad debt and plans to pay off.

3. Are you in a Fight Club (discipleship group)?

4. Do you have time in your schedule to commit to being a deacon?

  • We laid out general expectations and emphasized flexible but regularly monthly commitment.
  • Monthly deacon team meetings work to create collaborative environment for ministry.

5. Why do you want to serve as a deacon?

  • This gets to the heart and allows us to see if this is all duty or a calling.
  • Was a blessing to hear some of the responses.

The Circle of Friends

Everyone’s alike. We all get along. We “click.” Yes, but click on what? Get along where? What’s often passed off as community is really nothing more than a circle of friends. The “circle of friends” is an insular, self-affirming circle of homogeneity. You share the same income, values, and jokes. You like the same restaurants, have some history, laugh together, and may be the most dangerous influence on one another.

Media critic and documentarian Adam Curtis has suggested that since the explosion of information and celebrity culture, we now determine reality based on our own experiences with our circle of friends.* Our peers now possess more authority than government, history, reason, or God. For example, what you do on the weekends, with your time, where you buy your house, and how your spend your money, may be primarily the result of friendship influences not deep values.

Your views on sexuality, politics, church, and God are easily shaped by little finite people and their opinions of you more than a transcendent, good, holy Authority and what he thinks of you in Christ. You may consume questionable amounts or kinds of media, or refuse to sacrifice your time and money for others, insist on isolating yourself from ‘sinners’, or rarely talk about the deep truths of the Bible because, well, your circle of Christian friends has settled for less.

Those who encircle Jesus are just the opposite: living under God’s great and gracious authority, working hard to live like Jesus, to love those who are different and hard, seeking deep joy and genuine laughter with those who stir up belief in the gospel, who promote joy in God, enjoyment of his creation, and service to others. Are you part of the Jesus circle, the countercultural community? Or are you caught in the circle of friends?

*Thanks for Mark Sayers for drawing my attention to Curtis’ work. This post is an excerpt from the sermon “Come After Me”

Why Neighborhoods Are the Future in Austin

It’s no surprise to anyone living in Austin that our city is growing. As of July 1, 2012, USA Today reports Austin as the 11th largest city in the country and the highest growth rate since the 2010 Census at 6.6%. That same month City Planners released an updated schedule for Neighborhood Planning Areas, which channel funding and chart infrastructure to make Austin truly a city of neighborhoods. This, of course, is how many larger cities function. San Francisco and New York both spring to mind. What does this growth mean for church planters in Central Texas? How should this growth shape how we plant new churches?

austinneighborhoods

On February 6th, we will hear about this kind of church planting from the future. Jon Tyson, Pastor at Trinity Grace, New York, has established a thriving and multiplying a parish model of church planting in the largest city in the country, New York. Over three sessions, Jon Tyson will make the case for a parish model of church planting as the future of church planting in growing cities. He will share his story of multiplying parishes at Trinity Grace and how to disciple and grow leaders within your church. All of this, Tyson says, requires an understanding of how to move beyond relevance to discerning contextualization.

Join us for what promises to be one of our best and most relevant MicroConferences yet.

How We Develop Elders

One of the things I enjoy most about my job is discovering men whom God has called into ministry and developing them into godly shepherds and missional leaders. Currently, we are training three elder candidates and two church planting residents. What a privilege! As we develop elders, we don’t look for strong business or cultural leaders and them knight them for church leadership. Rather, we look for men who are already shepherding others through missional communities and invite them to join an elder development process (See Diagram). Some of these men are strong business leaders and some are not. We want eldering men for our elder candidates.

Elder Development Process

The Elder Development Process begins with inquiry and aspiration and ends in assessment and appointment. Here is an Overview of our Elder Process. Once the candidates have been approved for training, we begin the phase of Preparation. In this phase, we place a strong emphasis on character, spending 2-4 months on character assessment, spiritual development plans, transparency, spousal partnership, and resolve.

Character, Doctrine, & Skill

The three areas we are developing are character, doctrine and skill. Through three overlapping and self-nurturing phases, we move towards godly, experienced, qualified leadership.

Phase 1: Biblical Understanding & Character

  • Transparent conversations about doctrinal, character, and skill weaknesses. Talk through growth plans for each candidate. Gospel-Centered Elder Study Guide, written by Bob Thune has been a helpful tool.
  • Make sure candidates are currently serving and sharing what they are learning in some capacity. Coaching and skill development in counseling
  • Biblical Eldership – Readings and socractic discussions on the nature and responsibilities of eldership. Exposure to elder meetings

Phase 2: Doctrine (courses offered in our semi-formal City Seminary)

  • Christ-centered Interpretation
  • Systematic Theology
  • Cultural Apologetics

Phase 2: Pastoral Skill

  • Gospel-Centered Discipleship
  • Gospel Counseling