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Latest on Non-Staff Elders

March 17 2014 at 8:03 pm 2 Comments

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!

Mark Mitchell

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Pastors Retreat, Part 3

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,

Mark Mitchell

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Members Meeting Recap

February 27 2014 at 3:55 pm 0 Comments

In case you weren’t able to make it, here’s the full video of our brief Members Meeting held on Sunday, February 23.

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Non-Staff Elders: Next Steps

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.

Kenneth Marseco
On Behalf of the Elders

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Non-Staff Elders Information

February 9 2014 at 12:26 am 0 Comments

With the deadline for recommending non-staff elder candidates just a week away, we wanted to repost the relevant information to make sure it’s readily accessible for everyone. If you’re not informed about this initiative, please follow the links below.

Doctrinally competent, godly leaders are critical to the health and well being of this and every church congregation. Over the course of 2014 we are engaging a process to bring non-staff pastor/elders on board at Covenant Life. This presents an opportunity for every member of the body to participate in the life and future of our church by praying, submitting recommendations and supporting the affirmation process. The final day for recommending candidates as non-staff elders is Sunday, February 16.

Helpful links:

• You can review Kenneth Maresco’s letter from January 9 announcing the process
• Check out Ben Wikner’s and Kenneth’s sermons on elders
• Read the elder profile (describing elder qualifications and the nomination process).
• Recommend a member who meets the qualifications by using the simple recommendation form.

Thank you. members, for praying and playing your important role.

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Members Meeting Recap, Part 4

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:

Part 3: Kenneth Maresco on Non-Staff Elders
Part 2: Don DeVries on The Role of a Pastor
Part 1: Mark Mitchell on Reorganization

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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