Saturday morning, May 6, the elders and staff met with about thirty deacons and ministry leaders. After enjoying breakfast together, the group spent about two-and-a-half hours discussing the strengths and needs of this congregation.

Approximately half that time was spent in group meetings. Four small groups each met with an elder and a staff member to discuss three questions. "What are West-Ark's four greatest strengths?" "What are West-Ark's four greatest weaknesses?" "What four things can West-Ark do to stimulate spiritual and numerical growth?" The ideas and discussion came primarily from those who were not elders or on staff.

Each question was discussed independently. Each member in the group wrote each of his four answers on a "sticky" note. All answers were placed on a large sheet of paper. The group then collectively considered all the answers and formed a consensus on four suggestions. Many answers fell in common areas of thought.

Approximately half the time was spent in a general meeting of all the groups. A spokesman from each group presented his group's consensus answers to the questions. (Amazingly, each group's conclusions were quite similar.) Then collectively the whole gathering discussed the greatest strength, the greatest weakness, and the number one thing that needed to be done (with emphasis on the doing).

We closed the gathering by each man getting on his knees and praying as Cliff Casey led our prayer. It was an incredible, meaningful, encouraging morning of thinking, discussion, and prayer. The spirit was phenomenal. The love for God was powerful. The sense of mutual devotion to Christ and his kingdom was visible.

The group consensus was that the congregation needed to find more shepherds to help the four elders we have. This was not the mere suggestion that more men be added to the eldership. It was the desire for men to shepherd. It was the desire to see that more of the "business matters" be given to responsible deacons to free elders to spiritually shepherd the congregation. The group wants the congregation to pray that God will guide us in finding such men and freeing them to shepherd.

A companion consensus was the need for every Christian to pray more and to increase his or her faith. We need to be a people who depend on God in prayer and faith.

Please pray for God to guide us as we seek more shepherds. Please pray for God to guide us as we seek to free these men to be shepherds. Please pray for God to help us grow to a new level of faith as individuals and as a congregation.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 14 May 2000

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