Tuesday, October 25, 2011

(Old) Statistics on Pastors

By Dr. Richard J. Krejcir
(original post can be found at http://www.intothyword.org/apps/articles/default.asp?articleid=36562)

What is Going on with the Pastors in America

Here are some startling statistics on pastors; FASICLD (Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development). This quest started in 1989 as a Fuller Institute project that was picked up by FASICLD in 1998. 

After over 18 years of researching pastoral trends and many of us being a pastor, we have found (this data is backed up by other studies) that pastors are in a dangerous occupation! We are perhaps the single most stressful and frustrating working profession, more than medical doctors, lawyers, politicians or cat groomers (hey they have claws). We found that over 70% of pastors are so stressed out and burned out that they regularly consider leaving the ministry (I only feel that way on Mondays). Thirty-five to forty percent of pastors actually do leave the ministry, most after only five years. On a personal note, out of the 12 senior pastors that I have served under directly, two have passed away, and four have left the ministry totally—that is, not only are they no longer in the pulpit, but they no longer even attend a church. And, I run into ex-pastors on a regular basis at conferences and speaking engagements; makes me wonder “what’s up with that,” as my kids would say.
From our recent research we did to retest our data, 1050 pastors were surveyed from two pastor’s conferences held in Orange County and Pasadena, Ca—416 in 2005, and 634 in 2006 (I conducted a similar study for the Fuller Institute in the late 80s with a much greater sampling).
  • Of the one thousand fifty (1,050 or 100%) pastors we surveyed, every one of them had a close associate or seminary buddy who had left the ministry because of burnout, conflict in their church, or from a moral failure.
  • Nine hundred forty-eight (948 or 90%) of pastors stated they are frequently fatigued, and worn out on a weekly and even daily basis (did not say burned out).
  • Nine hundred thirty-five, (935 or 89%) of the pastors we surveyed also considered leaving the ministry at one time. Five hundred ninety, (590 or 57%) said they would leave if they had a better place to go—including secular work.
  • Eighty- one percent (81%) of the pastors said there was no regular discipleship program or effective effort of mentoring their people or teaching them to deepen their Christian formation at their church (remember these are the Reformed and Evangelical—not the mainline pastors!). (This is Key)
  • Eight hundred eight (808 or 77%) of the pastors we surveyed felt they did not have a good marriage!
  • Seven hundred ninety (790 or 75%) of the pastors we surveyed felt they were unqualified and/or poorly trained by their seminaries to lead and manage the church or to counsel others. This left them disheartened in their ability to pastor.
  • Seven hundred fifty-six (756 or 72%) of the pastors we surveyed stated that they only studied the Bible when they were preparing for sermons or lessons. This left only 38% who read the Bible for devotions and personal study.
  • Eight hundred two (802 or 71%) of pastors stated they were burned out, and they battle depression beyond fatigue on a weekly and even a daily basis.
  • Three hundred ninety-nine (399 or 38%) of pastors said they were divorced or currently in a divorce process.
  • Three hundred fifteen (315 or 30%) said they had either been in an ongoing affair or a one-time sexual encounter with a parishioner.
  • Two hundred seventy (270 or 26%) of pastors said they regularly had personal devotions and felt they were adequately fed spirituality. (This is Key).
  • Two hundred forty-one (241 or 23%) of the pastors we surveyed said they felt happy and content on a regular basis with who they are in Christ, in their church, and in their home!
  • Of the pastors surveyed, they stated that a mean (average) of only 25% of their church’s membership attended a Bible Study or small group at least twice a month. The range was 11% to a max of 40%, a median (the center figure of the table) of 18% and a mode (most frequent number) of 20%. This means over 75% of the people who are at a “good” evangelical church do not go to a Bible Study or small group (that is not just a book or curriculum study, but where the Bible is opened and read, as well as studied), (This is Key). (I suspect these numbers are actually lower in most evangelical and Reformed churches because the pastors that come to conferences tend to be more interested in the teaching and care of their flock than those who usually do not attend.)
Here is research that we distilled from Barna, Focus on the Family, and Fuller Seminary, all of which backed up our findings, and additional information from reviewing others’ research:
  • Fifteen hundred pastors leave the ministry each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or contention in their churches.
  • Fifty percent of pastors' marriages will end in divorce.
  • Eighty percent of pastors feel unqualified and discouraged in their role as pastor.
  • Fifty percent of pastors are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.
  • Eighty percent of seminary and Bible school graduates who enter the ministry will leave the ministry within the first five years.
  • Seventy percent of pastors constantly fight depression.
  • Almost forty percent polled said they have had an extra-marital affair since beginning their ministry.
  • Seventy percent said the only time they spend studying the Word is when they are preparing their sermons (This is Key).
Most statistics say that 60% to 80% of those who enter the ministry will not still be in it 10 years later, and only a fraction will stay in it as a lifetime career. Many pastors—I believe over 90 percent—start off right with a true call and the enthusiasm and the endurance of faith to make it, but something happens to derail their train of passion and love for the call.
Focus on the Family has reported (http://www.parsonage.org/) that we in the United States lose a pastor a day because he seeks an immoral path instead of God’s, seeking intimacy where it must not be found. F.O.F. statistics state that 70% of pastors do not have close personal friends, and no one in whom to confide. They also said about 35% of pastors personally deal with sexual sin. In addition, that 25% of pastors are divorced. The statistics I had with church growth resources is even higher. Pastors who tend to be very educated seem to have the ability to embark in sin on Saturday and preach the Word on Sunday without thinking anything is wrong.

Remember, Pride and Arrogance will be the diving board that will spring the pastor into the pool of sin and cause a church to fight amongst themselves! 

Out of the 1050 pastors we surveyed during two pastors conferences held in Pasadena, California, 825, or 78% (326 in 2005 and 499 in 2006) said they were forced to resign from a church at least once. Sixty-three percent (63%) said they had been fired from their pastoral position at least twice. In the survey, we asked why they were fired—from the reasons given by the church board versus what they felt the reason was. We laid out 15 categories with a blank space to fill out what we may have missed: poor leadership, conflict with key staff or lay leadership, gossip, lack of funding, doctrinal divide, hardship on family, not connecting with membership, power plays, church council refusing to resolve conflict, resistance to their teaching, resistance to their leadership style or vision, failure to teach biblically, poor people skills, failure to follow job description, inappropriate relationship, or other sin. They gave us a top five main explanations on a scale of one to five, with few (8%) reporting on any of the other categories. These stats are based on number one response; at the same time, over 70% of pastors stated three of these five reasons. Here is the order (these findings have been retested and back up in internet polls done since 1998, and church survey studies done since 1980:
  1. Four hundred twelve (412 or 52%) stated that the number one reason was organizational and control issues. A conflict arose that forced them out based on who was going to lead and manage the church—pastor, elder, key lay person, faction, ...
  2. One hundred ninety (190 or 24%) stated that the number one reason was their church was already in such a significant degree of conflict, the pastor’s approach could not resolve it (over 80% of pastors stated this as number 2 if not already stated as number one, and for the rest, it was number 3!).
  3. One hundred nineteen (119 or 14%) stated the number one reason to be that the church was resistance to their leadership, vision, teaching, or to change, or that their leadership was too strong or too fast.
  4. Sixty four (64 or 8%) stated the number one reason to be that the church was not connecting with them on a personal level or they could not connect with them, or the church over-admired the previous pastor and would not accept them.
  5. Forty (40 or 5%) stated that the number one reason was not having the appropriate relational or connecting skills as a pastor. (It is interesting that no one mentioned lack of teaching ability—only that their teaching was not accepted. Could this be pride?)
The other significant study of pastors that held similar results as ours was conducted by psychologist Richard Blackmon (with ties to Fuller Seminary and Dr. Archibald Heart), also reported by the Los Angeles Times newspaper. In 1985 as well as more recently too, Blackmon surveyed one thousand pastors from four major denominations in California, USA. His research, which was ongoing up to 2004, revealed that over 75% of ministers are extremely or highly stressed. He even found that 31.75% of the clergy surveyed had sexual intercourse with a church member—who was not their spouse! In addition, he found that 30% to 40% of ministers ultimately drop out of the ministry. His research goes on to say the average insurance costs to churches for dealing with mental breakdowns with clergy is four percent higher than any secular industry. Blackmon states that the significance of the stress is mainly based in the areas of personal finances, church finances, building issues, recruitment of volunteers, counseling issues, and visitation. Sermon preparation and teaching seem to be last on his list! 

The stress, according to Blackmon, is a primary result of the continual, intense, care responsibility of pastors compared to a medical doctor who will see a terminally ill patient for an hour or so, then see them again in a few weeks. He suggests that the pastor must set personal limits for himself to maintain balance, develop relationships outside of the church, and to be in a support group with other pastors. Very good advice! 

The problem, as we have found (and I agree with Blackmon, but as a symptom and not the prime issue), is that people lose focus on what the mission and central theme of the Church is. Both pastor and churchgoer miss the main theme of what a church is about, which is to know and worship Christ as Lord. So, when there is no growth from the pastor’s personal life, no discipleship, few people in Bible Study, then there is no mission or appropriate purpose for that church, and there are no goals; therefore, there's nothing really to do effectively. The result is the “shearing of the sheep.” Instead of being fed, they will feed upon one another, as well as the pastor, in a feast of conflict and strife. Since the church has nothing to do, then all the energies are turned inward to attack one another. I guess it beats being bored.

When I was with another church growth consulting firm, we did a major study of pastors and came up with some astounding statistics. We found that 90% of pastors work more than 50 hours a week. One out of three pastors state that being in the ministry is clearly hazardous for their families. One out of three pastors felt totally burned out within the first five years of ministry. Over 70% of pastors do not have anyone they would consider to be a friend, and hardly any pastors had any close friends. Ninety percent (90%) of pastors feel they were not adequately trained to cope with ministry coordination and the demands of the congregation. Seventy-five percent (75%) of pastors experience a significant crisis that they faced due to stress in the ministry (Fuller Institute, 1989-1992). We at the FASICLD retested that data by various means starting in 1998 and also retested the results in an internet survey form several times over the last eight years. We found it has slightly worsened. Most pastors now work up to and more than 60 hours a week. Hence, why the divorce rate among pastors is rising and pastor’s children rarely stay in the church or keep their faith. In both studies, over 40% of the pastors reported serious conflicts with their parishioners every month. This leaves pastors physically tired, spiritually weary, and even distant from God! Thus, they cannot properly minister or connect with their flock. 

There was a poll taken by a sociologist named Jeffrey Haddan (“Prayer Net” Newsletter, Nov. 13, 1998) in which he polled over 7,400 Protestant ministers. He found that 13% to 51% of ministers, depending on their denomination, accepted Jesus' physical resurrection as a fact. His poll states between 19% and 60% of ministers believe in the virgin birth of Jesus. The poll goes on to say between 67% and 95% of ministers believe that the Scriptures are true in faith, history, and practice. These statistics are extremely despairing. What do these ministers think they are doing? What is their purpose? And, what are they trying to accomplish in God’s Holy Church? If you are the church leadership and you do not believe in the tenets of Scripture, you have no business being in leadership and certainly no business being the Shepherd and teacher of the flock. What you are is a wolf in sheep's clothing, which will be harshly judged by God. 

We at FASICLD conducted a simpler internet poll in 2005 of 2,245 pastors and another 1050 in person by our surveys in pastor’s conferences as seen above. Because we are reaching Reformed and conservative Evangelicals, the stats are very different. We found that over 90% of pastors polled believe in the resurrection, virgin birth, and the validity of Scriptures (we did not get into the various aspects of inerrancy). The significant problem we found is the “buzz” or willingness to go beyond belief into trust, and then model that to their congregations. Being beat up in the ministry wears them down and derails their focus.

The result of both studies is this: the pastor must be theologically sound. A pastor who does not have a good theology is like an engineer who does not know math; he or she would totally be unable to do the job of designing. A pastor that is not theologically sound is like a surgeon who does not know anatomy and physiology; would you want him or her to operate on you? Would you want a lawyer representing you who does not know the law or the court system? When we are in the pulpit proclaiming the truth of Christ, it better be just that—the truth of Christ, not our inclinations, new ideas, or the latest trend in theological thinking. All these new waves of theology just confuse and alienate the body of Christ, who are the parishioners we serve and are called to protect from false doctrine, rather leading to God's truth. Most of these new ideas keep changing and conflicting, and only last a few years until the next latest theological fad comes into play. Why play with the fire of that game when God’s truth remains the same and only our creative thinking keeps changing? It's good to be creative as long as it does not go against the teachings of Scripture! 

The results of the survey are that pastors face more conflict, more anger, and more expectations than ever before. At the same time, they work long hours and have little pay, little reward, and produce their own dysfunctional families because of their absence. And, to top it off, they are not being adequately trained nor fed spiritually. I need to state clearly that this is not true of all pastors; there are many who are excellent in obeying their call, pastoring great churches, and being there for their families who are growing in the Lord. And, as a pastor, I must be aware of this so I do not fall in these traps myself. The statistics tell us that many more pastors have not learned to balance family and ministry or adequately deal with the immense struggles of the job. Thus, many are not able to lead their church where it needs to go because they have not been where they are seeking to lead others in growth or in spiritual formation. I totally sympathize with them, yet I call pastors to wake up to what they are doing, and why they are doing it. At the same time, hey church, take care of and respect your pastor! 

The bottom line is this: if you are a pastor your job is to serve Christ first and foremost! Thus, it is imperative that we do not become thoughtless or uncaring concerning the buildup and practice of our personal faith. In so doing, we are also to be aware of and embrace the opportunities Christ has and will still bring for us. Our focus must be on the main thing and Christ is the main thing and at the same intention we are not to negate or neglect our personal faith development or our family. If we do, we personally fail and thus our churches will fail too and our family fails and we create the massive destruction, conflict, chaos and strife that has become so rampant in so many churches. We are called to do the opposite to discord and conflict, we are called to bring cohesion and community and show the character and love of Christ first to ourselves, then our family and then our church. In so doing we bring growth, maturity and love, being in and practicing “true spirituality!” 

If we do not have a desire to pursue the call of God, we have to ask ourselves why and what is in the way. Why are we in ministry? We have to ask, what is the role of pride and the desire of sin and how is it blocking us from proclaiming Christ as a pastor? Sometimes, we may not recognize sin and will perhaps rationalize it away. This happens especially when solid biblical theology or teaching is not being rooted in us and not thus being taught from us, then our churches become just social clubs of gossip and contention or entertainment and not the real effectual Chuirch of Christ where He is model and shown as Lord. Remember, our election is proven by our obedience, fruit, and growth in Christ! 

As pastors, it is our call and duty to be on guard against the erosion of biblical values and damage to our and our churches beliefs and biblical mindset (Psalm 123:3; Mark 4:19)!
Remember, churches fail because we as pastors fail; we tend to place our needs and desires over the Lord’s. It is His Church and we are His servant. Let our focus be on the right target—that is, His Way and not ours! We are called to a higher purpose. We are not called to ourselves. We are to lead others to Him, not to our self. Ministry is a wondrous call, it can be joyful and fulfilling; it is also a dangerous thing because we are before a Holy God. Yes we have grace, but we have responsibility too!
© 2007 (research from 1989 to 2006) R. J. Krejcir Ph.D. Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development http://www.truespirituality.org/

Friday, September 23, 2011

A Pastor's Expectations of Church Members

Years ago, when my family and I wanted to join a church in Southern California we participated in the required membership class.  In some previous churches in which we were active there was no formal membership, let alone membership classes. When we moved to Southern California we joined a mega church. They had formal membership in which prospective members sat through two Sunday School classes which addressed the church’s constitution and presented their various ministries.  At the conclusion of the second hour we became formal members.

When we purchased a house some distance away in San Diego County we decided to join a smaller (185 or more people) church.  The pastor and elders took membership far more seriously. This was new and refreshing to us. Yet the surprise came when they required those of us who went through the eight-hour membership class and wanted to join, to sign a membership covenant.  Neither my wife nor I had ever heard of such a thing, so it seemed a little odd.  The membership covenant outlined ways the pastor and elders promised to serve those of us who were members. Then it listed a dozen or so expectations for their church members. Reading over the covenant and seeing nothing about which to be alarmed, we both signed it.  In the course of the following week the pastor and elders interviewed us.  Two Sundays later we made public professions of faith and were formally received during the worship service.  It was a big deal.

Since then, there was only one other church that had such a thing. This kind of membership covenant is something Peacemaker Ministries strongly urges churches to implement. In fact, regardless of a church’s affiliation, Peacemaker Ministries provides a recommended covenant for members. You can find more information on their website at : http://www.peacemaker.net.

Reflecting upon that covenant it dawned upon me how it might be a way to balance the expectations church members have of their pastor (and elders).  Church members often feel free to voice, even demand, their expectations of pastors (or elders) with little regard for the impact those expectations (good or bad, true or false) have on the men serving in church office.  After all, church members’ expectations are the primary reason why pastors leave a pastorate or leave the ministry altogether.
What expectations do church members and regular attendees typically have? From my personal experience and based upon what many fellow pastors have told me over the years, the great majority of those expectations fall outside God’s own requirements for pastors (and elders). In other words, they are little legalisms. While I could probably write another book, the subject and title of which might be 1001 Common Expectations for Pastors, this is not the place to elaborate.

My point is: church members do have expectations of their church leaders, but church leaders have expectations of local church members. Perhaps the pastor expect things like, “She must never be critical of me,” or “Every participant in activities will always show up early or on time,” or “The youth should pay attention to my sermons as much as I paid attention when I was their age.”  To require those things would be to set up another bunch of little legalisms and commit the same error or sin .  That would be plainly wrong.

Nevertheless, pastors and elders would be right to draft and communicate a list of expectations for all members within the local church that are biblically determined. Allow me to propose such a covenant:

Our objective is to see every member and regular attendee serving and ministering to God and to one another in the love of Christ in order that we all become one new and mature Body who lives in the unity of the faith (Eph. 4:13), in an intimate full-knowledge of Jesus that fosters a deep love for and full imitation of Christ (Eph. 4:13), and who lives in the truth that is spoken and expressed through love (Eph. 4:15).

Therefore, I make a commitment to:
* Glorify God by serving Him in regular, corporate worship each Sunday (unless I am providentially and legitimately hindered).

* Grow out of my “comfort zone” and grow more and more in grace and truth in my personal relationship with God in Christ (Eph. 4:18; 2 Pet. 3:18)

* Grow out of my “comfort zone” and grow more and more in a godly, personal relationship with God’s people at _____________________ Church (Matt. 22; Jn. 15:12; Jas. 2:8; 1 Pet. 1:22; 4:7ff; 1 Jn. 4:7-12; 5:1).

* Regularly pray for others in the church  (Acts 13:1-3;James 5:15; Eph. 6:18-19; I Tim. 2:1-4).

* Actively edify others by encouraging them in their spiritual growth and development of Christ-like character (Acts 20:32; Rom. 14:19; 15:2; 1 Cor. 14:26; Eph. 4:12-13; 1 Thess. 5:11).

* Exhort and encourage others by giving aid, strength, and comfort, and by being a real friend in time of need  (Heb. 3:13; 10:24-25; 1 Thess. 4:18; 5:11).

* Lovingly admonish others (to admonish means ‘to train by the Word through encouragement, reproof, or protest’) (Rom. 15:14; 1 Cor. 10:11; Eph. 6:4; Col. 1:28; 3:16; 1 Thess. 5:12, 14; 2 Thess. 3:15; Titus 3:10).

* Showing love by seeking to do good to others through self-sacrifice and giving (John 13:34-35; 15:12; 1 Thess. 3:12; 4:9-10; 1 Pet. 4:8; 1 Jn. 3:11, 23; 4:7, 11; Rom.15:2; 13:8-10; Gal. 6:10 ;1 Cor. 13; Col. 3:12).

* Having a servant’s attitude and actively serving others in meaningful ways (Rom. 12:10; Eph. 5:21; 1 Pet. 5:5).

* A regular and obvious demonstration of true affection to others (Rom. 12:10; 16:16; 1 Cor. 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:12; 1 Pet. 5:14).

* Practice hospitality (at least twice this year for someone with whom I am not very familiar; this could involve having them for supper, dessert, coffee, enjoying a picnic with them, etc.) (Rom. 15:7; I Pet. 4:9).

* Serve this church as a whole by using my talents and spiritual gifts (John 13:14; 2 Cor. 4:5; Gal. 5:13; Phil. 2:3-8; Rom. 12; 1 Cor. 12; 1 Pet. 4:10).

* Handling the failures of others with grace, mercy and love (Eph. 4:2, 32; Col. 3:13; James 5:16).

* Be an active peacemaker in our church (Prov. 19:11; Matt. 7:1-5; 5:23-24; 18:15; Eph. 4:32).

* Not condemn others in matters of personal conscience (Rom. 14:13).

* Not destroy the character of another by my words (Gal. 5:15, 26; Eph. 4:29; James 1).

* Not lie to others (Col. 3:9).

* Not speak evil against another person (James 4:11; 5:9).

* Verbally and actively support the vision, mission, and goals of our local church.

* Participate in the annual congregational meetings.

Before God I will seek to put off whatever is keeping me from loving and serving my church family as myself, and work toward putting on Christ through His Word and by the power of the Holy Spirit.
My name: ______________________________________
_ _ _ _ _ _ _
Certainly you could think of a more comprehensive list or one that more completely satisfies (even generally) the requirements the Scriptures have for God’s people within the local church.   What do you think?

My Expectations of Church Members

It is rare that a week goes by where, as a pastor, I have not failed, disappointed or offended someone within the church. I know because people feel the freedom and apparent need to tell me.  That can be discouraging. In fact, I’ve observed that there is a corresponding corollary between the frequency of failing, disappointing and offending, and the level of discouragement on my part.

In those more sobering and clear-headed moments, I am able to evaluate what was said to me about those failures, disappointments and offenses against what Scripture says. On the one hand, it is a constant reminder of my sinfulness, weakness and inadequacy. On the other hand, it is a commentary on the nature of people’s expectations of me as a pastor. Merely evaluating the comments or criticisms over the past several weeks, it has been quite obvious that most of those failures, disappointments or offenses were not against God but against members’ expectations.

That got me thinking. What if I, as a pastor, took the liberty to assess church members based upon my personal expectations of what I want from them?  Granted, all pastors do that to some degree; but I am not talking about all pastors.  I‘m talking about what I want! I am talking about taking the same liberty that so many church members (and deacons and elders) do:  judge others within the local church according to their own personal standards.

So, allow me to expose my selfish desires for what I want, expect, demand(?) of all church members within any church in which I serve. Here’s the shortlist:

1. For every member and regular attendee to be at every event I am at.

2. To be faithful to every Bible study or class I teach.

3. To be early to Bible study, Sunday school and worship.

4. To be attentive to everything I say and teach.

5. To learn more from me than from any other teacher or pastor.

6.To give undivided attention to every sermon I preach (never be bored, never fall asleep, never miss a sermon).

7. To never compare me with any other pastor or preacher, unless it’s in a positive way.

8. To idolize me more than all of their current idols and superpreachers.

9. To have each person or family invite me and my family for supper at least once a month.

10. To do what I ask them to do and go where I ask them to go.

11. To anticipate when I will get sick or enter the hospital, and attend to me accordingly.

12. To always pray for me.

13. To adore my wife.

14. To think my children are perfect and wonderful.

15. To never correct me, scold me, rebuke me or say anything negative to me.

16. To read every article, blog or book I write, and like them.

17. To speak glowingly to everyone they know about how wonderful I am.

18. To bring people to my church every week in order to make the church grow in a way that will break all records (so that I too can be featured in Christian magazines and go on speaking tours).

19. To not expect me to live up to what the Bible says a Christian should be.

20. And certainly not expect me to live up to what the Bible says a pastor should be and do (that’s just too unreasonable).

21. To always be available when I call.

22. To always be home when I come to your house.

23. To like the same personal tastes and preferences I like.

24. To enjoy the same games and sports as I.

25. To like the same music that I do, especially in church services and events.

26. To dress according to my preferences and standards.

27. To always be pleasant and kind to me.

28. To tell me how much you like what I do or say (I would be angry at you if you don’t).

29. To never have any expectations of me (such as having to be at every class, Bible study, or worship service because I do have other things I want to do, you know?)

30. To visit with me when I feel like you need to (and you should have the foresight and intuition to know when that is).

31. To always send me birthday cards (gifts would be awesome).

32. To read the same books, magazines and journals that I do so we can discuss them at my pleasure.

33. To make sure everyone else in the church is doing what they need to do in order to make me happy. If they don’t then I will threaten to leave.

34. To fulfill this list and anything else I can think of.

35. And never to think I’m ever being selfish expecting these things!

Because, as we know, church is about my kingdom coming and my will being done; for mine is the kingdom and the power and I want the glory, forever and ever…

Friday, September 16, 2011

What are the Priorities, Purpose and Duties of an Elder?

A.  God gifts, calls, and ordains a man to an office that has certain Biblical duties and tasks.
There are three images in the New Testament for the office of elder:
1. He is a father of the household of God (Matt. 13:52; 1 Tim. 3:5).
2. He is a shepherd of God’s flock (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2).
3. He is a co-ruler in God’s assembly (Heb. 13:7, 17; 1 Thess. 5:12, 13), and therefore do so.

B.  As a man called to the office of elder he has certain priorities:
1. To serve the Lord first of all (Acts 20:19; Gal. 1:10; 1 Thess. 2:4; Eph. 6:6-7; Col. 3:22-24).
a.  Reflected in the highest emphasis of studying and serving God’s Word and devoted to prayer (Acts 6:4 20:20,27).
b.   Along with the other elders he is to confront opposition with sound teaching 
     (Eph. 4:15).
c.   He serves the Word and hence help to feed the flock of God (1 Pet. 2, 5).

2.    The elder serves the congregation:
a.    It is obvious that his priority in church is to equip the saints for service 
      (Eph. 4:11,12).
b    He also, along with the elders, warns of the consequences of sin (Col. 1:28-29).
c.  The elders priority is to arm God’s people for spiritual warfare (2 Cor. 11:13ff; 
     Eph. 6).

C.  As an elder there are certain functions and duties required:
1. To be an example to the flock of God (Ti. 2:7,8; Heb. 13:7; 1 Pet. 5:3)
a.    He is to be an example of a godly life (1 Tim. 4:6).
(1)   By keeping himself right with God
(a) By guarding his life (Acts 20:28).
(b) By walking in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16).

(c) By growing in grace and knowledge of Christ (2 Pet. 3:18).

(d) Through active, regular prayer and study (Acts 6:4; 1 Tim. 4:13-16; 2 Tim. 2:15).
(e) Through proper delegation of certain tasks to deacons (Acts 6).
(f) By separating from selfish interests (Acts 20:33-35; Rom. 13:8).
(2)   He holds himself in a wise and biblical balance
(a) Keeping his home in order (1 Tim. 3:4-5).
(b) Being a good steward (1 Cor. 4:1-2; 9:17; Col. 1:24-25).
(c) Through the study-appropriation of God’s Word (2 Tim. 2:15).
(d) As true sacrifices unto the Lord (Phil. 2:17; 2 Tim. 4:6; Acts 20:24; 31:13; Phil. 3:7-8).

b. He is also to be an example to the flock in knowledge and application of 
     biblical doctrine (1 Tim. 4:16).

2.    He is to be a sound teacher of the Word of God (Mk. 6:34b; 1 Cor. 12:28,31; Col. 1:28; 1 Tim. 3:2; 5:17; Ti. 1:9; Jas. 3:1; Rev. 7:17).

3.    As a shepherd of God’s flock (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:1-2):
a.    He comforts the sheep, nourishes them with compassion (Matt. 9:36; Mk. 6:34; Jas. 5:14)
b.    He is engaged in protecting the congregation (Jn. 10:11,15; Acts 20:28-30; Ti. 1:9; Eph. 4:14; Heb. 13:17)
(1)   From outer enemies (2 Cor. 11:12-15)
(2)   From inner enemies (2 Tim. 2:16-18; Jude 12-13)

4.    He is a godly ruler (Heb. 13:7,17; 1 Thess. 5:12-13; 1 Tim. 5:17)
a.   Through the proper interpretation and application of Scripture to life within the  
b.    By making provisions for the good order and well being of the church.
c.    By exercising the keys of biblical discipline (nurture and chastisement) (Matt. 18:15-18).
d.    By not lording it over God’s people.

What are the Biblical Expectations of a Deacon or Elder?

What are the Expectations of a Biblical Officer?
(See 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:6-9; Acts 6:1-6)

At minimum:
1. Maintain a regular, daily practice of time alone with God in Bible reading and prayer
2.  Have lives marked by moral and spiritual integrity.
3.  Have a wholesome reputation among believers and unbelievers alike.
4.  Have a firm grasp and conviction of the truths of the Christian faith as revealed in the Scriptures, and must be able to teach those truths.
5. Must have the spiritual capacity to discern, expose and withstand the assaults of heresy and unbelief (elders).
6. Must have homes that reflect an atmosphere of harmony, godliness, and genuine hospitality.

He reflects the required character of an elder (substantially, though not perfectly):
1.  He is above reproach            (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:6)
a. Not to be laid hold of; nothing in his life is open to rebuke.
b. Here is the reference to the general character or sum total of those godly virtues. It means he is not open to censure, having an impeachable integrity; in accord with Biblical requirement for leadership.

2.  Restrained Control (1 Tim. 3:2; 1 Thess. 5:6,8)
* He is temperate.
* There is sobriety of life, free from excesses; not inebriated with the issues of life.                                   
* He is self-controlled through the work of the Spirit of God (Gal. 5; Phil. 2:13) and by godly wisdom. (This does not carry with it the idea of a strictly disciplined person, but rather one who is disciplined and properly flexible in the use and application of all things for the glory of God.)
     a.  Restrained control in that you are gentle (2 Sam. 22:36; Psalm 18:35; 1 Timothy 3:2,3)
The idea of gentleness, a very important quality in a godly leader, is that of being patient, mild, reasonable, and full of grace and graciousness.  
* Does not insist on having his own way.
* Gentleness sees people as sensitive beings and deals with people where they are and encourage them to grow.
* Shows carefulness in choosing words and expressions so as not to needlessly offend (Gal. 6:1). At the same time he is not afraid of offending; in other words hurting people’s feelings is not a motivation for what he thinks or does.
* Reflects care, affection and good will toward others (Eph. 4:2).
* He is not abrupt, rude, terse, tactless or critical in my communications. This is a quality the godly leader is to pursue (1 Tim. 6:11). 
* He exercises the fruit of God’s Spirit (Gal. 5:23; Phil. 4:5).

Here are some characteristic ways to be biblically gentle:                       
(1)   A true gentle man
* approachable (my personality has no sharp edges)
firm, but diplomatic even when correcting opponents (Gal. 6:1; 2 Tim. 2:23-25)
* kind and gracious like Jesus Christ (Matt. 11:29; Acts 24:4; 2 Cor. 10:1; 1 Thess. 2:7).
* God has granted him with wisdom that is a biblical and exercised in gentleness (James 3:17)

(2) Gentle in that he is not pugnacious (1 Tim. 3:3; Ti. 1:7 )
*  Not a striker at home with my wife and children, nor with anyone else. Not physically abusive.
*  Not prone to violence; not given to blows; not a fighter. 
* Not one who is harsh with words or verbally abusive.
*Doesn’t lash out when hurt or incite arguments, nor alienates people by an attacking manner.
* Is not eager to always make his point or get his way.
* Does not follow through with a hot temper. (Prov. 3:30; 15:18; 17:14; 20:3; 25:8; 26:17; Phil. 2:3)

(3)  Gentle in that he is not quarrelsome (1 Tim. 3:2, 3; 2 Tim. 2:14)
*  Demonstrates an aversion to verbal fighting, quarreling, and arguing.
* However, he knows what, when, and how to debate rightly.           
*  Does not rejoice and take delight in outdoing others and defeating their ideas and beliefs; thus, no harsh dogmatism or strongly offensive approach toward people. Not a contentious disputer (1 Tim. 6:3-5; 2 Tim. 2:22-26; Ti. 3:9).
*  He has and displays a sense of peace, tranquility, and calmness. He is a peacemaker; one who is able to bring calm to a stormy situation. (Eccl. 10:4; Matt. 5:9; Rom. 12:18; 14:19; Heb. 12:14; Jas. 3:17)

  1. Restrained control in that he is not greedy  (1 Tim. 3:3; Ti. 1:7)
* The acquisition of money or things (that which sustains or makes up life) is not a high priority in my life.
* His life is characterized by simplicity and humility in attitude and economic style.
*  Heavenly priorities dominate (Matt. 6:33).
* His possessions do not reflect comfort-seeking in things or in undue accumulation of needless things.
* He has a firm conviction in resisting dishonest and shady methods for acquiring money or things.
*  He is free from the love of money, especially since this is often one of the deadly temptations for a godly leader (1 Tim. 6:5-10; Acts 20:33; 2 Tim. 3:6-7).

            c. Restrained control in that is not given to selfish anger (Ti. 1:7)
He is not prone to anger; not overly passionate.
*  No trigger temper or character that is generally irritable.
*Not too easily offended, thus unapproachable and unpredictable in temper (Pro. 16:32).

            d. Restrained control in that I am not given to much wine (1 Tim.  3:3; Ti. 1:7)
* He does not linger over wine; not over-indulgent or a drunk; controlling the wine, it does not control the man.
*The principle is one of control over bodily appetites (Gen. 19; Prov. 20:1; 23; Eccles. 10:17; Isa. 5:11; Isa. 28:1; Luke 21:34; Rom. 13:13; Eph. 5:18).
            e.  His overall character is that he is self-controlled  (Ti. 1:8)
*  There is a mastery over self.
*His passions and appetites are controlled.
* He is not lazy, gluttonous or given to filthy talk (Eph. 5:4).
*He has an ordered life, one reflecting heavenly pursuits and priorities (Acts 24:25; Rom. 6:12; Jas. 3:2; 2 Pet. 1:5-7; Matt. 26:41; 1 Cor. 10:12; 1 Pet. 5:8).

3. Humble (not self-willed) (Luke 14:10; Phil 2:3; Ti. 1:7; Jas. 4:10; 1 Pet. 5:5)
* He is not willful, obstinate, domineering, and arrogant. 
* He does not stand hard on “everything” he believes, and do not insist on his own way, ideas, or beliefs. In other words his principles have not become unbreakable laws for others (Rom. 14).
* He has a genuine interest in others and in what they say and do. 
*  Being self-willed is also characteristic of one who delights much in his own appearance, performance, or status to the obvious neglect of others.
* Humility is the prerequisite to being teachable, thinking rightly about myself (Rom. 12:3, 10, 16), rightly seeing myself before the face of God. This is a quality I am praying for and ever growing in.

4. Holy  (Ti. 1:8)
* Religiously, biblically devout, pious.
* Manifestly more like Jesus Christ than like my culture and the world.
*Consistent in carrying out the basic Gospel duties in private and public affairs of life. Living out the Spirit-filled life of Christ. (Lev. 11:45; Luke 1:74,75; 2 Cor. 7:1; Heb. 12:14; 1 Pet. 1:16; 2 Pet. 3:11)

5.  Hospitable  (1 Tim. 3:2; 5:10; Ti. 1:9; 1 Pet. 4:9)
* The love of Christ in me exhibits itself by loving my neighbor as oneself. 
* Genuinely and demonstrably kind to others,  even strangers.
* He is generous.  This love of heart is expressed in the open door, demonstrating a kind, compassionate, welcoming Savior.
* As a biblical leader I am a model and pacesetter in this. (Rom. 12:13; Heb. 13:2).

6. Just   (Ti. 1:8)
* Means upright, righteous; impartial in dealing with people.
*He is able to forget personal interests and seek the truth in situations, in inter-personal conflicts, or as an umpire over differences.
* He lovingly but boldly speak what is right; with an ability to hear both sides and weigh the evidence honestly (Deut. 16:20; Psa. 82:3;  Prov. 21:3; Isa. 56:1; Rom. 13:7; Col. 4:1).

7. Lover of good  (Ti. 1:8)
     *  He has a love of virtue, of godly men and good things. My affections  are attached toward the Lord, to
         good things and godly people rather than being drawn toward worldly pleasures and gratifications.           
* His concern is toward holiness, Spirit-empowered obedience to God’s Word, an anticipation of the 
    world to come.
* He has a love of God’s truth rather than such things as position, fame, abilities, possessions, etc., which are soon to pass away (1 Thess. 5:21; Heb. 3:6; 4:14; 10:23; Rev. 3:3).

8. Prudent  (1 Tim. 3:2; Ti. 1:8)
In other words he has a sound and self-controlled mind.
*  A developed skill in the art of life, having learned the ropes of applying the Word to life’s issues.
Temperate, not controlled by impulse but by Biblical principle.
Responsible, as opposed to a feeling-oriented life.
*  His life reflects Biblical priorities, demonstrates sound thinking, and right decision making because I am thinking God’s thoughts about the issues of life.

9. Respectable (1 Tim. 3:2)
* Well-ordered, well-arranged, decorous in behavior and speech. The term may refer to 1. Manners, etiquette, and personal habits; 2. Simplicity of life-style rather than eccentricity or extravagance; or 3. A general reference to a rightly ordered life.
* He has inoffensive and unblameable socially acceptable manners.
*  He is gentlemanly in the treatment of women, in dress, hygiene, eating habits, and sociability with various people.
* He is respectable because he respects others (men, women, young, old). Also unpretentious, modest, with an easy going life-style.

Additional Questions for Personal evaluation:
APersonal Life
* Fears and loves God?
*Meets the moral and spiritual qualifications of 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 (Substantially, not perfectly)
Practice regular Bible reading and prayer.
*  Serious about obeying God and obeying God’s Word.
* Is killing sin and growing in grace, and it is evident by the fact that he is  not the same today as he was a year ago, or five years ago, or ten years ago.
*  Teachable, eager for learning more spiritual truth.
*  Teachable and eager to learn and strengthen his gifts and talents.
* Hunger for grace, truth and righteousness.

B. Family Life (if applicable)

*  His home reflects an atmosphere of harmony, godliness, and hospitality
Has a good relationship with his wife that evidences conformity to the standards of Ephesians 5:25-28? I am practicing self-denying love that serves, nourishes and cherishes my wife.
*  Rules his children with a graceful, loving, but firm hand.
* Consistently practicing biblical discipline and love toward his children (i.e.: verbal instruction and corporal correction).
*  His marriage and family life is a model that can be commended to others.
* His wife and children respect, honor and submit to his godly leadership.
* He provides spiritual leadership to his wife/family.
*  His wife and children are following his spiritual leadership.
* The home evidences a commitment to spiritual priorities.
* His wife has godly priorities.
*  She is committed to ministry in the local church also.
*  She supports him in serving as a deacon or an elder.