Determine Your Approach

Click here to read a conversation introducing this section
Tim: Well, I’m ready to go! It took a while to work through my motivation and get prepared. I think I’m ready.

Paul: That’s great, Tim. The work you have put in so far will make a big difference. Now it’s time to think through your situation. What you do next will depend on your where your church is right now.

Tim: Well, we are in East Tumbleweed.

Paul: No, no, I mean where your church is in its life and growth.

Tim: I thought maybe you were going to talk about geographical and cultural issues that arise in different places. Wouldn’t a church in, say India, see leadership differently than a church here in East Tumbleweed? Is this a “one shape fits all” sort of thing?

Paul: Well that does have a bearing on implementing BE, but we are going to focus on something more basic. But, the great thing about BE is that it avoids the cookie-cutter approach where all churches end up looking the same. In fact, when a church is led by a plurality of elders under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, with Christ as the Head, then every church is better positioned to be the church Christ wants them to be – and not be a mindless duplicate of another church.

Tim: That makes sense.

Paul: That’s right. Now when considering transition to BE, there are two different approaches we need to talk about, to see which one would be more suitable for you situation.

Tim: Never thought about it that way. But will you at all address the culture thing?

Paul: It will come up at times, but the biblical principles of leadership are universal truths because they are biblical truths. That is the main impetus of this material. True, some aspects of BE may be more difficult to implement in some cultural contexts than others. The goal is consistency-plurality of qualified elders shepherding the church without distinction between laity and clergy. You may want to go back and refresh your thinking from the first section of this site, “What is Biblical Eldership?” Let me be quick to say, if you find something in our material that doesn’t make sense in your culture, let us know so we can improve our website in that regard.

Tim: Will do. I guess I am being a little tentative, because I have some doubts that it will fly with our group here in East Tumbleweed.

Paul: You may be surprised once people understand BE and see its benefits. But, let’s dig in. You will need to evaluate which of the following scenarios best fits you church. From there you will be able to start formulating a plan.

Tim: You have my attention!

The Approaches

Loving patience should be the rule, regardless of which approach you use. Even if your efforts are thwarted, your patience will be evidence of your submission to the Lord and his timing, and may in the long run produce the fruit of implementing biblical eldership—but just on a different time table. There is a time and place for change, so we encourage patience and grace in all your efforts.

There are two basic approaches to pursuing a transition from a church to an elder-led ministry. Which one is best in any given church depends on the relationship between the catalyst (pastor, board member, leader) and the congregation, the level of maturity of the congregation, the history of the church and many other intangibles. A word about terminology: we use the word “form” below to refer to the structure and principles of leadership. The term “function” refers to the work of shepherding and leading.

Here are the two approaches:

Change the function first and then the form.

  • The catalyst (pastor or board member) gathers a group of men and trains them to function like elders (in a “non-official” capacity). If no pastor is present, the group trains each other using materials we recommend elsewhere on this site. This group of men begins functioning like shepherd-elders, though without the formal authority of elders.
  • Teaching for the congregation will be provided on healthy church life, leadership and eldership.
  • In time as the congregation sees the benefits of being shepherded by biblical elders, they will see that changing the formal leadership structure to support BE is a natural next step.
  • Clarify and formalize a structural change in leadership to support BE functioning.
  • Develop a transition team which will guide the congregation in investigating BE. This will involve teaching, discussions and planning of how BE will fit in the context of your church.
  • Men are developed and appointed to function as biblical elders.

Change the form first and then the function.

  • The church works through a change to the formal leadership structure and principles first, and then once adopted, begins to change the actual functioning of leadership.
  • The objective is stated upfront, where a “catalyst” develops a transition team that will provide a team approach to leading the congregation in pursuing BE.
  • The transition team will guide the congregation in investigating BE. This will involve teaching, discussions and planning of how BE will fit in the context of your church.
  • Men are developed and appointed to function as biblical elders.

You need to determine which approach is best for you and your situation. That decision will guide you in how you approach the rest of the steps.

What’s Next?

Now it is time to begin the rest of the process. We will be following one sequence of steps for both approaches, because there is a lot of overlap. However, there will be a few times when we will flag a step as applicable to only one approach—if that approach is not yours, you should skip that step.

So go ahead and click on “Formulate Your Plan.”