Selecting Shepherds in 2014: Can It Be an Exercise in Spiritual Growth?
The elders are using this week’s blog entry to address a matter of our congregational life together, maybe a bit of departure from our usual use of this space.
This is the year for what has become our biannual shepherd selection process. This year, Brian Potts’s and John Wright’s current terms are coming to a close, and should they desire to continue, their service will be brought up for reaffirmation. Additionally, we would like to open up the opportunity for new elders to be appointed.
In 2004, we began using a system for shepherd selection that was predicated on a number of principles:
- That the congregation as a whole should be involved in selecting its leaders (and would want to be involved);
- That the congregation as a whole—prayerfully, having been reminded of the scriptural teachings on leadership among God’s people—was wise enough to see who among us is following in the steps of Jesus in a way that the rest of us want to follow him;
- That God through his Spirit could and would superintend such a process as we bathed the process in prayer;
- That being appointed an elder was not like being appointed to a Federal judgeship: no one was to serve longer than four years without the congregation prayerfully reaffirming that this is someone who is leading us in the steps of Jesus;
- That through participating in the process, all members would be able to feel that our elders were not “the church’s” elders, but “our” elders.
We’re ten years down the line in using that procedure with a tweak or two here or there. Integral to the process is that the congregation is asked to nominate men deemed qualified to serve. Full participation by the church family is key to the success of the system.
One of the things that is concerning to the current elders is the perceived drop over the years in the number of people who participate in the nominating process:
In 2004, 102 people turned in nomination forms
In 2006, 91 people turned in nomination forms
In 2008, 85 people turned in nomination forms
In 2010, 65 people turned in nomination forms
No individuals received a sufficient number of nominations to be considered “called out” by the congregation to serve
In 2012, 88 people turned in nomination forms (although 25 of those checked the box that they did not see anyone in their prayerful deliberations that they wished to nominate)
Again, no individuals received a sufficient number of nominations to be considered “called out” by the congregation to serve
The concern is this: What does the drop in participation (and the accompanying reality that no individuals are receiving sizable numbers of nominations) mean? Does it represent a lack of faith in the procedure? Or, does it mean that the congregation is being very careful in its prayerful assessment of potential elders? Or, is it a sign of an even deeper issue, that we are so disconnected as a congregation that we really would not even be able know who is and who is not qualified to serve as an elder? Has the present process just become a popularity contest, a congregational equivalent to a class election?
This is a topic the elders are prayerfully discussing among themselves right now. In coming weeks, we will be proposing some changes to the current procedure in an effort to increase your participation and to better be able to identify those whom God has prepared to lead Southeastern. And in coming weeks, we will be looking for some input from you on how to make our shepherd selection process something that truly enhances the life of this church.
We ask you to carefully and prayerfully consider your personal responsibility and participation in the process. All members, from the youngest to the oldest are encouraged to invest themselves in the care and development of our church family.
If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to discuss it with any of your elders.