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
Mark Driscoll has written a series of booklets called A Book You Will Actually Read. The one on Church Leadership is a gem–concise, biblical, informative. We ordered a bunch for our leaders and will distribute them at our next leadership training.
- Jesus in the Church
- Women in leadership
- Organizing the Church
- Air war and ground war
I meet with two guys every two weeks for pastoral accountability. I hesitate to use the word “accountability” given all its negative connotations. I have written on those here, charting a more gospel-grounded approach to accountability. We read through a book of the Bible every two weeks and then meet to do “Text-Theology-Life”. Currently we are reading through 1 Timothy.
Chapter three is about the qualifications of an overseer/elder. These are easy to read with a view to cultivating more elders/pastors, but the Spirit slowed me down enough to consider, not assume, my own status in practicing these qualifications. The string of adjectives can be intimidating: “must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach…” In particular, I have been lingering over “manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity.” One way to get at what Paul means is to consider the opposite.
If your house is in disorder, with kids managing the parents based on their incessant wants and unruly behavior, then chances are the household is not well managed. If kids schedules and pleadings are constantly caved into, its the kids that run the home, not the parents.
Some planters/pastors abdicate this responsibility in pursuit of “nobler church ministry,” but the logic of Paul is exactly the opposite: “If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?” Some are so busy managing their churches, that they neglect their own families. This is a disqualification for pastoral ministry. It puts the cart before the horse, church before family. Some of us need to repent both privately and publicly over this sin.
However, we can’t mistake generally problem free households for well-managed households. My kids have a pretty good tempermants, but am I managing—protectively and caringly leading—my family practically and spiritually? Am I modeling and cultivating tenderness, respect, and obedience? Or am I just coasting on good kid temperament? Do I take time to instruct my children with patience and love? Do I pray with them and teach them about Jesus? Do I spend time with my wife away from the kids discussing family life and just delighting in her? These are questions I am asking myself.
For some helpful audio and notes on the qualifications of pastors/elders, check out Darrin Patrick’s talk “Developing Elders, Deacons, and Members.“