Category: Article

3 Elder Essentials

1) Lead the Mission of the Church. We see church leaders doing this throughout Acts. Paul deliberates with the elders about his missionary travels. Local elders make decisions through reasonable discussion and dependence upon the Holy Spirit. Deliberating an important decision on behalf of the Jerusalem Church, the elders concluded, “It seemed good to us and the Spirit” (Acts 15:22-28). It is noteworthy that these elders made a decision in unity. Elders should work through issues toward unity in the Spirit as much as possible, speaking with one pastoral voice to the church on important matters. They should be careful to not bend an ear to individuals in the church, inadvertently becoming a pawn for divisive agendas, but always seek to shepherd together in tenderness and truth.

If elders don’t seek the filling and wisdom of the Spirit, they overestimate thier own power and wisdom and fail to serve the church well. They will easily become self-protective and withdraw from people or people-pleasing and engrossed in people. The Spirit reminds us that Jesus is the Chief Shepherd, so we don’t bear the burden of changing people nor do we have to find refuge in isolation, since the Lord “prepares a table in the presence of my enemies, and leads us through (not abandons us) the valley of the shadow of death.” The elders at City Life seek the Spirit together through study, reflection, and prayer. Our bi-weekly meetings and retreats help us focus our leadership.

2) Pastor the Church. Good pastoring starts on its knees. In Psalm 23, David recongizes his ultimate Shepherd is the Lord. In staying close to the Chief Shepherd, he will not lack anything he needs for his calling. Our elders open every elder meeting with prayer, and pray for specific people in the church who are in need. In addition, we pray for five members by name. We alternate emphases of our meetings between shepherding for pastoral care and strategy to set visionary leadership.

All of our elders are engaged in counseling the sinner, sufferer, and struggling saint, in community with our church. They are remarkably faithful, self-sacrificing, compassionate men. We frequently pair up to provide support to those who need counsel with the aim of: Listening to their Story, Empathizing with their Story, and Retelling their Story around Jesus. Counsel happens very intentionally through coaching and training leaders, doing life together in City Groups, and always seeking to be a counseling & encouraging presence. This is critical. Elders must be in touch with the flock to shepherd the flock. For that reason, it is unwise for elders to have a community group all thier own. They must live in the pastures, so to speak, in order care for the sheep well.

3) Promote & Protect the Gospel. Out of our devotion to Jesus, and his greater devotion to us, we are called to shepherd with the Rod, guide with the Lamp, and point to the Treasure of this Word. The rod is God’s Word, which should be used to guide, protect, correct the flock in holiness. This happens when we preach, teach, counsel, pray. We labor to push the gospel through everything in order to avoid authoritarian or passive leadership and to rivet people’s attention to Jesus Christ as thier supreme authority and King, and thier source of endless satisfaction, love, and forgiveness as Redeemer. Elder authority is alway mediated through Jesus, and points back to Jesus as Head of the Church ruling through his Word. Spiritual authority is not residential in elders, but in the office that must maintain the utmost character to carry out the ministry of the Word among God’s people.

My 3 Favorite Coffees of 2017

Since moving to Austin over a decade ago, coffeeshops have filled the streets about as quickly as high-rise condos have populated the skyline. You’ll find one of these below. Since using a Breville espresso machine, I’ve begun to favor beans that make for a great espresso. The fact that I’ve limited myself to a coffee a day over the past year has made me even more picky (although I’ve splurged a bit the last month!). All of these can be used to make a great cup of coffee and would be a great gift for a coffee lover.

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Irving Coffee Roasters: Blackstrap – This espresso is rich, molasses-caramel, heavy-in-the-best-of-ways goodness. A favorite from NYC and worth ordering every single time.

 

large_b24823b1-233e-4b86-80a5-fcb592e1d33eCounter Culture46 – In addition to having a cool, pastel, no-nonsense compostable bag, this bean is smooth, smokey, and dark chocolate. Not as dark as Blackstrap, it’s a great everyday bean. Its name comes from the 46th recipe Counter Culture created.

 

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TweedTimepiece – This coffee is from the most-expensive, sheik coffeeshop in Austin, Houndstooth, with its original store located in the downtown Frost Tower. These guys take coffee seriously, and it shows. Timepiece manages to combine the caramel I love with a brightness that keeps it from being too heavy.

Reading as Resistance

I couldn’t have done it without him. A lot was going on at the time, difficulty in work, rumors circulating, and personal trial, but he helped me through it. Under his influence, I slowed down in a demanding season.

One particular afternoon is dyed into my memory. I drove to my local coffeeshop and got the usual, cappuccino. The expresso is rich and smooth. Some coffeeshops use too much milk and water down the espresso but not here. It takes time to make so I take time to enjoy it.

I displaced swirling anxieties like a cannonball in a pool on a hot summer day. Plopping down in a chair in the warm sun, I opened The Old Man and the Sea. It was an act of resistance. I was fighting a big fish and Hemingway’s’ prose helped me surrender. It was an invitation that couldn’t be turned down.

Reading, sustained page turning not bouncing through click bait, is an act of resistance. It focuses a hurried, technologically charged mind. Page by page we say no to the speed of productivity. Thought by thought we learn to resist efficient ideology. Slowly we evolve, chapter by chapter, from consumer to pupil.

Ernest Hemingway taught me to observe. In order to observe, I have to be still. In being observantly still, I uncover some of the richer texture to life, the experiences and people right in front of me, the scents curling up from a hot sandwich, the crunch of lays potato chips, the vapid look of a stranger’s face, the plea for attention in a child’s cry, the realism of food-encrusted dishes waiting for a wash.

Life deserves a better look.

Thank you, Ernest Hemingway, for taking me to school in such a delightful way. Oh, and happy birthday (July 21, 1899 – July 2, 1961).

Is it Inauthentic to Read the Bible & Pray When We Don’t Feel Like It?

Is reading the Bible or praying when you don’t feel like it kind of fake? Shouldn’t we wait till we have true feelings to be close to God? Shouldn’t it be authentic?

Values Trump Feelings

Consider what would happen if we applied the same logic to everything else in life. If I only stayed true to my wife when I felt like it, I would have blown our marriage by now. In fact, we often do things we don’t feel like doing: going to work, disciplining our kids, or having a difficult conversation with a spouse or friend. Why do we do these things? Because, in those instances, we have a value greater than our feelings. Our value trumps the feeling. This is also true in Christianity. We may not feel like praying or reading the Bible, but that shouldn’t lead to abandoning Scripture reading, meditation, and prayer. Why? Because we possess a value greater than feelings. That value is worship. We believe worshipping God–knowing him, enjoying him, receiving and applying his wisdom to our life–is more important than anything else.

What Is Authenticity?

But isn’t it inauthentic to pray and read the Bible when if you don’t feel it? If I read the Bible or pray, particularly I don’t feel like it, isn’t that just fake? Well, would you say that about the police officer who puts himself in the line of fire when he’d rather be at home with his family, or the mom who patiently corrects her children when she actually feels like screaming and pulling her hair out? Would you charge a friend with inauthenticity because they sat down to confront a friend about their alcoholism when they didn’t feel like it? Authenticity can’t be measured by feelings alone. What, then, determines authenticity?

Authenticity depends on what you want to be true to. It’s relative. It isn’t inherently noble. What determines the nobility of our authenticity is the thing we trying to be true to.

If you want to be true to your company or personal work ethic, you’ll go to work whether you feel like it or not. If you want to be true to friendship, then you’ll have the hard conversation with your friend. If you want to be true to Jesus Christ, you’ll talk to him, and listen to his Word, whether you “want” to or not. Worship trumps feelings. Worship is Spirit and truth, not truth and feeling (John 4:24). This side of heaven, our feelings will come and go, but with the Spirit’s help we can be faithful and true till heaven reaches us. If you are a Christian, then you’ve said the overarching value of your life is the worship of God, the Father, Son and Spirit.

Truly Authentic

Reading the Bible and praying, then, is actually one of the most authentic things you can do because it reminds you that you are more than your feelings; you are Christ’s. You believe Christ has given you a more authentic way of living, in and with him, more than anything else can offer. Reading the Scriptures then, reminds us of the truth, helps us live in line with our true Self in Christ. The person who lives this way will, over time, discover deeper joys, develop sturdier character, and become more authentic (not less). Why is this? Because Scripture and prayer bring you near to the overarching truth of your life over and over again. They form worship.