Acts 6:1-7 displays a model of leadership applicable to the modern Church. It models the importance of internal structures, the priority of values-based decision making, and the equipping of called individuals to carry out their God-ordained ministry.
In those days, when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food
- Acts 6:1
As a result of the work of the Holy Spirit, the early Church grew rapidly. This presented challenges and opportunities for Christ-centered leadership. As the Church reached out to Gentiles and grew from a small group to a multi-ethnic body, the number of widows that depended on the local Church for their daily bread increased. Greek-speaking believers saw a discrepancy where their widows were not receiving the same level of care as the Jewish believers.
So, the twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and ministry of the word.”
- Acts 6:2-4
The Apostles recognized a problem among the body and took steps to lead based on their understanding of Christ and their own calling. The decision was made to choose those best fitting the ministry to carry out the ministry. The Apostles themselves understood that while this service was Godly, necessary, and important to the body, their calling was to prayer and ministry of the word. This was an important values-based decision. This decision displays an intentional decision to create an internal structure to meet the needs of the Church. Growing and healthy churches need to constantly evaluate their temporary and time-bound strategies to meet needs and live out timeless values.
This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also, Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the Apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
- Acts 6:5-6
This new ministry strategy pleased the believers. The leaders choose those best fitting the ministry, Greek believers were chosen to solve the problem for Greek widows. The apostles prayed for them and bestowed upon them the authority and responsibility to care for the widows with the laying on of hands.
So, the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
- Acts 6:7
Intentionality and wise, spirit-led decision making guided the Apostles through what could have been a disaster for the infant Church. What could have divided the body of Christ along ethnic lines became an opportunity for service and showed the surrounding community the love of Christ. As a result, the Church remained unified and multiplied!
Implementing this Model for the 21st Century Church
Following the model of the Early Church, the ministry of the Eldership is a constant focus on the timeless values and how they are lived out in the people and ministry of the local church. Strategies change, values do not. Elders are primarily responsible for the timeless aspects of local ministry; Mission, Vision, Values, Limitations, and Evaluation. This creates a picture of a preferred future for the staff and congregation to work toward in their unique areas of giftedness and calling. While there may be overlap in the responsibilities and tasks of Eldership and Staff, the work of the Eldership is primarily big-picture work, focused on asking guiding questions related to our identity and ministry while staff and congregational ministry if focused on implementation and strategy. This partnership is possible because of the following commitments and guidelines for the Eldership.
- Elder leadership is focused on Church mission. Asking and answering the questions; Why do we exist? What does scripture say? Why does it matter?
- Elder leadership is focused on Vision. Vision is the picture of who we, as a Church, will be in the future by the power of the Holy Spirit and for the Glory of the Father. The work of the Eldership is to hold all ideas, strategies, and, ministry proposals up to the standard of this Christ-centered vision and determine the proper course of action. Asking and answering the questions; Where are we going? What does that look like in our specific community?
- Elder leadership is focused on Values. Congregational values are what make us unique and separate our ministry from other congregations called by Christ. It is these values that drive the Elder decision-making process and policy development. Decisions are based on whether or not the means or ends help us display our values to the community and live out those values. Asking and answering the questions; How do we make decisions? How do we live out the mission and vision?
- Elder leadership is focused on Limitations. Limitations are not negative. They help us define our focus to best utilize limited people, talents, and finances. The Eldership’s most important role in limitations is the determination of Church Doctrine; what will and what will not be taught by leaders of all levels in our Congregation. That is why the most important characteristic of a godly Elder is ‘apt to teach’. Elders also have the responsibility and privilege to protect the ministry staff. Protecting, praying for, nurturing, and equipping staff is of the utmost importance to the Eldership. Ministry is most effective when Elders encourage, equip, and protect staff from the hazards and pitfalls of ministry. Asking and answering the questions; How do we protect doctrine? How do we protect the staff?
- Elder leadership is focused on Metrics. Not attendance, buildings, or finances, but the continual desire to question and evaluate whether or not our course of action will move us closer to the vision. Asking and answering the questions; Are we making progress? Does it get us closer to the Vision?
As a result, the primary functions of the Eldership are:
The ministry of Prayer and Teaching of the Word
Establishing guiding policy
Biblically evaluating ministry progress
Equipping and resourcing the Church Staff
To carry out this ministry, Elder Leadership is based on the following commitments
- The Elders speak with one voice or not at all
- The strength of the Eldership is a united voice
- The Elders decisions are focused on policy
- The Eldership leads by guiding ministry in a specific direction by clarifying policy
- The Elders determine and evaluate Vision
- The Eldership must clearly and concisely define who God has called Cornerstone Community Church to be and what that looks like in the future
- The Elders measure progress toward the vision
- The Eldership must monitor our progress but only against vision criteria
- The Elders lead by limiting rather than prescribing
- The Eldership sets boundaries for the ministry of the church rather than managing day to day staff decisions
The Elder-Staff Leadership Model