This is our fourth post recapping what various pastors shared this past Sunday evening at Members Meeting. Previous posts:
Isaac Hydoski on “Small Group Ministry” – Sunday, Nov. 17
In concert with our work on organizational structure and the role of a pastor, a third project team consisting of myself, Adam Malcolm, Joe Lee, Kenneth Maresco and Angel Cabrera was tasked by the elders of the church with the important work of evaluating our existing small group ministry.
From the earliest days of Covenant Life Church, small groups have played a vital role in our life together as a congregation. Relationships have been developed, believers have matured in the faith, unbelievers have come to know Jesus, and we have provided care for one another for many years. As pastors we recognize this fruit and are deeply grateful to God for what He has done through our small group ministry.
Through the years, we’ve seen much fruit, but we recognize that our practice of small groups has had its weaknesses. We believe an honest look at both strengths and weaknesses of the past will help sharpen our direction for the future.
As we began our work in earnest back in September, it was our conviction that our church’s purpose and approach to small group ministry would remain first and foremost rooted in Scripture in both purpose and methodology. A particular area of interest related to this conviction are the “one anothers” of the New Testament.
When studying the dozens of “one anothers” in Scripture it becomes clear the body of Christ is called to be in close relationship with one another so that we can live out the fellowship we share in Christ. Verses such as “instructing one another” (Romans 15:14), “serving one another” (Galatians 5:13), “bearing with one another” (Ephesians 4:2), “forgiving one another” (Ephesians 4:32), all share the common trait that Christians should be helping each other live out the plan God has for each of us and the church overall. We believe that being in small group fellowship is a vital way we can live out the “one anothers” together.
There are many models and ideas for small groups in the body of Christ. And with the diversity of models that exist, it would be easy to simply adopt a structure that seems exciting, innovative or compelling. Instead of taking a purely pragmatic approach, we want to focus on the values we see in Scripture. That means making small groups a place where we are helping each other worship God in all aspects of our individual lives, love one another as Jesus loved us, and make more disciples of Christ.
And so our approach has been with these values in mind as we prayerfully pursue a renewed vision and direction for our small group ministry that is pastorally wise for our particular church in this particular time.
Here’s some of what we have done to date to sharpen our thinking:
• We began by studying the 45+ verses earlier referred to as the “one anothers” in Scripture to help bring definition to what the church is and how the church is to interact together as the body of Christ.
• We are seeking to learn as much as we can from other evangelical churches that are committed to small group ministry. We are currently speaking with leaders from eight different churches that cover the spectrum of small group ministry approaches, from Bible study groups, to fellowship groups focused on sanctification, to missional communities focused on outreach. We are learning a lot by looking at the strengths and weaknesses of these various models.
• And finally, we are listening to you! This fall we invited the entire church to attend two meetings where the goal was to solicit your ideas, input and feedback about our small groups. Over 160 of you attended and had in-depth conversations with each other, led by a group facilitator, on topics such as the purpose of small groups, present small group experience, role of leaders and members, role of pastors, how a variety of biblical values should function in a small group setting, to a simple final question that we wrapped up with: “What is the one thing you’d like to say to the pastors about care groups?”
The result of these brainstorming sessions was a 30-page report capturing your ideas and input as members. This has helped us to understand both the strength and the diversity of opinions that exist within the church. Your feedback, thoughts and counsel are helping shape our work in an ongoing way, and your participation is making our partnership together tangible.
While our research and discussions are ongoing, there are a few key categories we have settled on, and even referred to in my brief summary tonight. Moving forward we’re likely to include these in our final presentation to the elders:
• We believe small groups are a vital component to the overall health of Covenant Life Church. Small groups are one of the primary ways we fulfill our purpose and mission as a local church overall.
• We believe that our church family will need clear and ongoing biblical vision for what true community life in the church looks like, and the role that small groups will play in this.
• We don’t believe it necessary to do a church-wide reorganization of all our small groups. Rather we will be seeking to widely and systematically influence and equip our groups in a more concerted fashion.
• We believe that more training and more consistent equipping for our small group leaders is a vital means for us to be an effective discipling and equipping church.
• We believe that the study of the Scriptures should be a vital aspect of every small group’s fellowship together.
We will be keeping you updated in the days ahead and making you aware of the progress we are making. Thank you for praying for us!
November 20 2013 at 3:10 pm 0 Comments
Here’s the third of several posts recapping what various pastors shared this past Sunday evening at Members Meeting. Also see Part 2: Don DeVries on The Role of a Pastor and Part 1: Mark Mitchell on Reorganization.
Kenneth Maresco on “Non-Staff Elders” – Sunday, Nov. 17
I have been asked to provide an update on our process for identifying, raising up and setting in non-staff elders here at Covenant Life Church. This is probably one of the most important tasks we will undertake this coming year because doctrinally competent, godly leaders are critical to the future health and well being of this congregation.
As you know, we currently have only had full time, paid elders. We’ve come to see that Scripture does not constrain churches to appoint only paid elders. In 1 Timothy 5:17-18 Paul says “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”
On one hand, this passage affirms that it is appropriate for a church to support its elders financially. At the same time, it assumes that not all of them will be compensated. We also know that at times Paul himself laid down this right to support in order to serve the churches he ministered to, as he describes in 1 Corinthians 9:6 and 1 Thessalonians 2:9. Because Scripture allows for both paid and unpaid elders and because we have a need for additional elders despite the constraints of our budget, we believe it is will be both wise and beneficial for us to recognize non-staff elders. And we are anticipating the benefit to the church through the wisdom, grace and experience of these men being added as shepherd leaders.
Non-staff elders are men who have other professions or work responsibilities (though we may have some men who are retired functioning in this role) and yet participate on our “Board of Elders”. The inclusion of non-staff elders in the leadership, shepherding responsibilities and the governance of the church is a change for Covenant Life. We believe it is a biblical and wise change that will serve the spiritual health of our congregation. We are praying this will inspire the men of our congregation to grow in and pursue the spiritual leadership God has called each of them to and that our church will grow in the days ahead as its benefits from the leadership of men whom God has raised up for this ‘noble task.’
So let me take a moment to describe how are we going to raise up and affirm these men, and talk about your role as a congregation.
First, we understand that this process for raising up non-staff elders is new for our church family, and therefore we want to carefully and biblically lead the church into this change in governance. We plan to shepherd you through this process by teaching from God’s Word, and we’ll also be inviting you out to Coffee & Conversation evenings for discussion on these matters.
We want you to know that we are excited for where the Lord is taking us and look forward to blessings that will come to the church as we receive these men God has prepared to help shepherd our congregation.
In January on a Sunday morning, we are going to be teaching on the biblical requirements and responsibilities of elders. We will also be handing out an Elders Profile that will list the relevant Scriptures and describe the important role of non-staff elders.
At that time we will be inviting you to recommend men you believe might qualify for this role as you consider both the biblical character requirements and the specific role of non-staff elders . The elders will carefully consider and discuss all recommendations.
Once the elders have settled on a group of eligible candidates, we will talk to these men personally to see if they desire to explore this calling. Some men will likely choose not to participate. Some may not believe they are called; some may not feel that they can devote the necessary time given the current demands of family or career. Others may make us aware of weaknesses or sins that require growth before pursuing the office of elder.
The men who are selected and agree will undergo a rigorous interview process. After that process they will participate in three sessions of theological training over a period of three months, and participate in a small group for couples for several months.
After successfully completing this process, their names will be recommended to the congregation. Members will have four weeks to express any comments, encouragement or reservations. After that time, the men will be affirmed by a vote of the members of the congregation. After they have been affirmed we will lay hands on these men before the congregation on a Sunday morning (I Timothy 5:22, 2 Timothy 1:6).
That is the process we have outlined. So what can you do right now?
1. Pray. We need to lift up our hearts and our voices to the Lord to help us in this process so that we walk wisely as a church and that the right men will be placed as elders in this church. Please join us in prayer as we take this step together.
2. Participate. I have mentioned the important role that of the congregation in this process. Please be considering these matters, and participate when you are invited to.
3. Pursue. For the men in our church, please consider whether God is calling you to be an elder, in the near future or in the more distant. Regardless, inasmuch as it is a good thing to aspire to be an elder (1 Timothy 3:1) you can prepare yourself by pursuing wisdom, knowledge and growth in godliness.
4. Support. One simple, but meaningful way to contribute to this process is to be supportive and encouraging wherever you can. This is new for our church and can seem daunting, especially for those who are called as non-staff elders. The process understandably involves a great deal of scrutiny for these men. The participation, support and encouragement of the body will help to facilitate the process and to establish a strong eldership for years to come. As Scripture teaches, it is good for elders to serve with joy and not with groaning, for this would be of no advantage to the flock (Hebrews 13:17).
Thank you for your prayers and support as we continue to serve the Lord together.
January 14 2013 at 8:46 pm 3 Comments
We’ve prepared an updated webpage about our new church constitution to help you know what’s coming in the new year and give you a picture of the process we’ve walked through to date. We invite you to browse the information we’ve put together; we’ll keep updating it over the next few months to help you stay informed as we move into the final steps leading to ratification.
Two things are coming up next month that we’d like to highlight here: First, on February 1, we plan to make a new draft of the constitution available to the congregation. This draft will reflect changes made since the first public draft was distributed at the June 28 members meeting. Many of the changes have come in response to helpful feedback from members via e-mail, last summer’s Coffee and Conversation meetings, and dialogue at the “Constitution 101” Sunday classes last September. Thank you to everyone for your invaluable help!
Second, on February 10 at 6 p.m. we will be holding a Coffee and Conversation session to discuss the latest draft and receive your input. We invite every member to attend and engage with the thought, prayer and hard work that’s going into this important document.
If you would like to submit notes or feedback in advance of the meeting, please use the form below, or contact us directly. Your prayers, ideas and feedback are making a wonderful difference.
May God be glorified as we complete the constitution process!
The Pastoral Team
March 3 2012 at 3:46 pm 1 Comments
Thursday and Friday, most of our pastoral team, joined by pastors from the Arlington and Fairfax Sovereign Grace churches, participated in a hands-on preaching workshop led by David Helm and others from The Simeon Trust. Named after 18th century British evangelical preacher, Charles Simeon, the Trust has served for over a decade, equipping preachers through a series of workshops across the country.
David describes the mission of The Simeon Trust: “We are a one-trick pony. We do one thing. We try to help people increase their confidence and ability in handling God’s word. So that’s why we exist—to increase someone’s confidence in the word of God and their ability to handle it well.”
In addition to receiving instruction for interpreting and preaching Scripture effectively, the pastors worked in small groups for practical application. Each presented a prepared text and received feedback from his peers on how to hone his preaching skills. They also had an opportunity to hear expositions from Joshua Harris and Matt Maka and provide feedback.
Kenneth Maresco, who helped organize the event, said, “We were very excited to have The Simeon Trust in because the work of pastors is primarily Word work, and these men are committed to training pastors to handle Scripture rightly. The members of our pastoral team and brothers from Arlington and Fairfax are being inspired to work hard in the Word. It’s refreshing once in a while to pull away and have this kind of training as a staff so that we can continually improve in our ability to serve the people of God.”
Thankful for God’s hand on the ministry, David states, “We used to do one of these [workshops] a year with about 30-40 people. Now we do 19. This year we expect over 800 pastors will go through it. So, a lot of churches are being positively influenced at a grass roots level.”
February 13 2012 at 4:46 pm 3 Comments
Jesus According to Scripture: Restoring the Portrait from the Gospels, by Darrell L. Bock
This is a study of the life and teaching of Jesus using the actual material of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. It is not a gospel harmony, however. From his introduction, Bock states that his purpose is to present “a coherent portrait of Jesus … from the canonical Gospels that is both rooted in history and yet has produced its own historical, cultural impact because of the portrait these four Gospels give of Him.” Instead of focusing on the dissimilarities among the Synoptics (Matthew, Mark and Luke) and their differences from John, Bock seeks to appreciate how these dissimilarities support a unified portrait of Jesus. As detectives know, absolute agreement among witnesses suggests collusion, while slightly different reports demonstrate authenticity.
What an edifying experience it was, reading through this book with an open Bible! Bock states as a premise in his introduction … “too few people, much less students of the Gospels, are familiar enough with the Gospel accounts as they stand.” I would have to agree. Having read the Gospels countless times in my forty years as a believer, I benefited much from reading this book, seeing things I had not seen before. Bock is an excellent scholar, able to communicate on a popular level. He presents the helpful perspective that these documents stand tall as historically reliable. They are the eyewitness accounts of the apostles. They are the reason why Christianity spread so rapidly in the 1st Century and why it continues to spread in a mission that will result in God’s glory filling the earth as the waters cover the sea.
Fabricating Jesus: How Modern Scholars Distort the Gospels, by Craig A. Evans
For most of the church’s history, her views of Jesus Christ have been shaped by those documents known as the canonical gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. But over the last century or so modern (and post-modern) critical scholarship has amazed us with so-called facts and theories about Jesus much at odds with the portrait given in those documents. For example, the idea that Jesus was functionally illiterate, was married to Mary Magdalene or that Judas Iscariot, far from betraying Jesus, was really the greatest of his disciples. These and other ideas have found their way into the popular mind through books, TV documentaries and movies such as The Da Vinci Code. Evans explodes the shoddy scholarship that undergirds such contentions. In doing so he supports the historical reliability of the source documents of the Christian faith—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. This book is easy to follow and has an engaging style. It will be helpful for those who have faced questions like, “Why does Christianity only accept four gospels when many others were written?”
November 20 2011 at 9:52 am 1 Comments
The pastors have planned three “Coffee and Questions” evenings in December where members of the pastoral team will be on hand to provide any update they can on current events and respond to questions. It’s a busy time of year, but we hope you will take advantage of this opportunity.
Use the form on the Church Family Blog to sign up for one of the nights. Signup is first come, first served, and to maximize the number of members who can participate, the form limits you to signing up for one evening only. We are hoping to serve about 100 people each evening. Thanks for your love for the church and for wanting to be a part of these gatherings.