Church members: If you’re tracking your e-mail and this blog, you’ve seen some recent communication from me about the pastors retreat (see blog posts one, two and three). It was a fruitful time where the Lord met us and refreshed us. Thank you for praying!
One of our activities was evaluating the many recommendations we received for Non Staff Elders. As I shared earlier on this blog and in church this past Sunday, members of the congregation submitted 82 recommendations all told, and of those, 29 men, for a variety of reasons, asked not to continue in the process. That left 53 names for us to consider in light of the biblical qualifications, and we have invited 23 men to continue with the process.
We have already met with most of the 23 men and their wives and talked about the next steps of evaluation and training. They will let us know shortly whether they have decided to proceed or not.
As a pastoral team, we wanted to let you know we are not planning to publish the names of the 23 candidates at this time, as they are still deciding whether or not to pursue the process. Our heart is for them to be able to wait on the Lord without the pressure that might come from a lot of people inquiring. At the same time, we have encouraged the candidates to make their own decisions about whom to keep informed, whether they decide to continue or drop out of the process.
I want to invite you to pray for these men and their wives as they put this decision before the Lord. Please pray for God’s guidance and wisdom in this moment that is very important for their lives and for Covenant Life Church. We are grateful for God’s grace, goodness and help as we take these next steps to identify the men he is calling as shepherds for this flock!
The candidates who decide to pursue eldership will spend the next several months in the personal evaluation and training process. Then in August and September we will present them to you for your input, consideration, and affirmation.
Thank you again for your prayers and active participation!
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March 12 2014 at 3:02 pm 0 Comments
We devoted Day 2 of our retreat to discussing the contents of a paper that was the combined work of Don DeVries, Kenneth Maresco, Kevin Rogers and Ben Wikner regarding the role and responsibilities of pastors. These men studied a number of Scriptures, read about a dozen books, and contacted several churches that we wanted to learn from.
Why invest time in this study? We’ve made it a priority because the nature of pastoral ministry—how we define the role and responsibilities of elders—has been central in many of our conversations with members over the last several years. We’ve received a lot of questions and criticism centered on this topic. So we wanted to examine Scripture (like the Bereans in Acts 17:11) to refresh our understanding and reset our vision regarding pastoral ministry in the church.
I am happy to report it’s been a very worthwhile and fruitful process. As a result of the paper and much prayer and discussion, we were able to articulate several themes that we plan to share more about in the months ahead:
We want to:
• Articulate and teach a definition of pastoral ministry that is biblically sound and succinct enough for us all to grasp and remember.
• Teach the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers and see its effect grow in our life and practice as a church. This doctrine affirms that each and every member of the body of Christ has the privilege of direct access to the Father through our High Priest Jesus Christ, and that every part of the body is called, gifted and needed for the good of the whole.
• Develop a multi-faceted approach to caring for members that includes care group participation, direct pastoral care for those in spiritual need, biblical and theological classes, counseling resources and ministries, training and equipping of care group leaders, and partnership with outside counseling agencies.
Again, there’s much work and discussion to move forward on these topics—and it all represents a great opportunity to equip the saints of Covenant Life for the work of the ministry!
Grace to you,
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February 18 2014 at 1:53 pm 0 Comments
Thank you for praying and participating as our church walks through the process of nominating and choosing non-staff elders. We have received a large number of nominations, and it is clear from the supporting comments that members have taken the charge to nominate biblically qualified men very seriously.
As the nomination process has progressed, we have grown freshly aware of the grace of God on our church. God has indeed placed many biblically mature men in our midst who have selflessly served our congregation in many ways for a very long time. It is a great testimony to the kindness of God that we have many such men rather than too few!
The pastors will review the nominations on our retreat scheduled for February 25-28 and prayerfully select the men who seem at this time to be most qualified based on the relevant biblical passages (see our elder profile). We will also consider whether each man has demonstrated firm support for, and willingness and ability to teach, Covenant Life Church’s Statement of Faith. In addition we will be looking for men who share the vision and mission of Covenant Life Church, and who possess a history of fruitfulness in shepherding God’s people.
It is important to note that this is the only time non-staff elders will be chosen solely by the full-time pastoral staff. Hereafter, non-staff elders will be chosen by both the full-time pastors and the non-staff elders affirmed by the congregation.
Please pray that the Lord will lead the pastoral staff as we undertake the selection of this first group of non-staff elders. We want to proceed with sober judgment and hearts poised to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. Thank you again for your prayers and your engagement in these important matters.
On Behalf of the Elders
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November 21 2013 at 10:45 pm 0 Comments
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!
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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.
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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
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