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 :

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.