The Challenge Facing Congregational Leadership

ďTherefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.Ē (1 Peter 5:1-3)

I was asked to share my insights on congregational leadership. I was not provided thoughts--the insights are my own. If you disagree, disagree with me.

Selecting elders is a unique moment in a congregationís history. It can be a great affirmation of Godís goals. It can be a tragic commitment to human agendas that change a congregationís focus for decades. It is always a courageous commitment to faith in God, or a commitment to convenience that seeks comfort. Amidst swirling fears, it can be a time of fear rather than an opportunity for faith. If Christians hold genuine confidence in God, it should be a unique moment of faith.

Among the many challenges confronting those who lead is the challenge of congregational diversity. Younger and older Christians hold different perspectives. The struggles of Christians from non-spiritual backgrounds are often distinctive. Christians from differing heritages and traditions do not have identical concerns as Christians from three [or more] generations in churches of Christ. Christians with differing ethnic or national backgrounds view this world and its problems from differing views.

A remarkable thing about this congregation: the ability to respect Christians whose faith and repentance led them to baptism into Christ EVEN IF WE DISAGREE LATER. Quickly additional elders will confront this diversity. Soon they will decide if Godís purposes are achieved through unity in diversity or conformity to demands.

The problem is not new. In fact, it is as old as the church. Diversity between Jewish and Gentile Christians created enormous first century church problems. You can see this problem in Scripture. Consider Jewish Christiansí reaction in Acts 11:1-3 to the conversion of the non-Jewish Cornelius in Acts 10. Not even a vision from God altered their distaste for any non-Jewish person! Consider the conflict between Jewish and Gentile Christians in Acts 15:1-5. This dispute had to be referred to the Jerusalem leadership! Consider the resentment of Jewish Christians toward Paul because he dared convert Gentiles (Act 21:20-22). Their elders could not prevent the explosion fueled by Jewish false rumors targeting Paul! A core issue prompting Galatians was this conflict between Jewish and Gentile believers in Christ. Consider more about first century ďin churchĒ conflicts by reading, Unity and Uniformity in the Early Church, on this site.

We are a diverse congregation. A leadership that respects this diversity is essential to spiritual success as we seek Godís goals. Godís purposes, not human agendas, must guide us as Godís people.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 11 January 2007

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