Blessed to be a Blessing


A model for Elder Leadership

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 

Elder Leadership


Empowerment and the Church

Empowerment is an important topic in leadership and especially important in contemporary Church development literature. Ciulla (2004) writes, “Empowerment is about giving people the confidence, competence, freedom, and resources to act on their own judgments” (p. 59).  Empowerment is essentially a transfer of power from the leader to the follower that puts the follower in the position to act.  Ciulla views most empowerment in leader-follower relationships is ‘bogus empowerment’ and summarizes, “I describe bogus empowerment as the use of therapeutic functions to make people feel better about themselves, eliminate conflict, and satisfy their desire to belong (niceness), so that they will freely choose to work toward the goals of the organization (control of individualism) and be productive (instrumentalism)” (2004, p. 64-65).   Bogus empowerment gives the follower the feeling of empowerment while keeping them under the same system of responsibilities, duties, and relationships and it is something that the Church is all too experienced with.

                Bogus empowerment is most prevalent in the Church in discipleship/spiritual formation/leadership development ministries.  The goal of many of these Church ministries across denominations is the faithful and noble attempt to live out Ephesians 4 command to, “equip his people for works of service”.  In practice the approach is strikingly similar wherever one goes; take an inventory, take a class, join a small group or some other ministry to discover your passion and giftedness.  The goal of this is to empower believers to use their gifts, passions, and abilities in kingdom services.  The catch is that more often than not the church takes those discovered divine designs and fits them to a specific volunteer staffing need the congregation has.  Many leadership development programs in congregations function similarity.  The Church says it wants leaders but what it really wants is a warm body supervising the sugared up Jr. High kids.  This represents a good example of bogus empowerment because the relationships never change.  We say we want to empower believers but in the end they are still under the same staff lead and controlled ministry model, working toward the same goals as before but operating at a higher level.  While this is not the case everywhere, it is typical.  To be fair, many Churches have true empowerment programs for spiritual and leadership development but they are severely outnumbered by programs for staffing the busy work of the church disguised as spiritual and leadership development.

Ciulla’s characteristics of leadership as an empowering moral relationship could bring a powerful, transformative, and missional impact to the way the Church views equipping and empowerment.  The key to empowerment is in relationship.  “Bogus empowerment attempts to give employees or followers power without change the moral relationship between leaders and followers.  Empowerment changes the rights, responsibilities, and duties of leaders as well as followers” (Ciulla, 2004, p. 80). In a Church context the end result is almost a role reversal.  The leader becomes a resource serving and helping the follower carry out their passion, goals, and heart for ministry whether or not it takes place in a traditional ministry setting.  This results in the responsibility for ministry being turned over to the follower. “When leaders really empower people, they give them the responsibility that comes with that power” (Ciulla, 2004, p. 77).  A leadership model that seeks to equip and release congregations to pursue their own calling takes great risk on the part of the Church as it may lose members who choose a new direction to fulfill their calling but could make a real impact in the big picture of advancing the Kingdom. 




Ciulla, J. B. (2004). Leadership and the problem of bogus empowerment. In J. B. Ciulla (Ed.), Ethics, the heart of leadership (2nd ed., pp. 59-82). Westport, CT: Praeger.

Change in the Rural Church

Creating change in any organizations is a vital and healthy practice but can be difficult to successfully accomplish.  This is especially the case in rural congregations.  Kotter (2012) believes that many organization’s change efforts fail due to a lack of holistic approach.  Although his process is one among many, its step by step approach would be extremely helpful to organizations that are resistant and unfamiliar with change.  Change, in many cases is a time consuming process.  In rural areas, this can be even more so.  Wells writes, “Remember that change in the town and country church is a marathon, not a sprint” (Wells et. al., 2005, p. 77).  change-roadsignWith that in mind, let’s look at some steps.

Step 1 is to “Create a sense of urgency.  Help others see the need for change and the importance of acting immediately” (Kotter, 2006, KL 723).  The shepherding of others to see change can be one of the more difficult areas of a change event, especially in a rural area/culture where many churches are located.  Changes in general are typically so gradual they are not noticed (Wells et. Al., 2005, p. 59).  The responsibility of a leader in change is to help everyone see the same picture of the need.  Good can sometimes be the enemy of the great as moderately successful congregations would have a hard time seeing the need for change as attendance and giving are doing well, programs are well attended and staffed, etc… An effective way create urgency and knowledge of the need for change in an organization with a false sense of security like this is to help the leaders see the need for change themselves.  For example, asking “Have you seen so-and-so in a while” to bring attention to their high turnover rate.  The bottom line is that no change will take place until the vast majority see it as not just helpful but necessary.

Step 2 is “Pull together the guiding team” (Kotter, 2006, KL 723).  Change events need teams.  Kotter’s focus on a team with a diverse set of skills and attributes is Biblical (1 Cor. 12) and would be essential to change in a rural congregation. In that context, it would be important to build a team to leverage the relational aspect predominant in the church.  Wells writes, “If relationships are intact, then the congregation will be much more responsive to their leaders’ proposals for change” (2005, p 85).  It would be important to build a team representing the diverse membership of the congregation.  Looking for team members from new members, old members, young age, old age, with or without children, young adult, and others would give all in the church  someone to ‘make their voice heard’ in regards to change.

Step 3 is “Develop the Change Vision and Strategy.  Clarify how the future will be different from the past, and how you can make that future a reality” (Kotter, 2006, KL 723).  Vision and Strategy go hand in hand and are crucial for organizational success.  They become all the more important in change management because they give the organization concrete images and plans in a time of uncertainty. In many rural and town and country churches, this may be the toughest part of change management.  No change takes place until people can see it with their minds-eye.  Preach it, teach it, talk about it over coffee, anything to get the picture of the preferred future off of paper and into hearts.

Step 4 is “Communicate for Understanding and buy-in. Make sure as many others as possible understand and accept the vision and the strategy” (Kotter, 2006, KL 723).  This is where the real legwork of a congregation would happen.  The communication strategy must be comprehensive; from the pulpit down to the publications, a church needs a unified communication plan so everyone understands the change.  Realistically, no church can expect 100% buy-in on change but it is important that everyone at least have the opportunity to voice their opinions or objections.  “It is the leader who has done the hard work of listening to the concerns of the other who will then be listened to” (Rendle, 1998, p. 120).  It would be helpful to roll out any change plans on an evening dedicated to such purpose.  In that service the leadership could lay out plans, explain reasoning, and have dedicated time to voice concerns and field questions.

Step 5 is “Empower others to act.  Remove as many barriers as possible so that those who want to make the vision a reality can do so” (Kotter, 2006, KL 723).  Empowering others during change is especially helpful for buy-in to the change process and closely linked to Step 4.  But empowerment is not only for buy-in but Biblical reasons as well.  Empowering others is the role of congregational leaders (Eph. 4:12) and is supremely important in organizational change.  “Leaders need to nurture the natural gifts of the congregation and help provide new learnings in order to help it mange a time of change” (Rendle, 1998, p 70).  The typical congregation form of empowerment is a clipboard or signup sheet and that will not cut it here.  A solution would be an individual who is familiar with the gifting of the members of the congregation and whose specific purpose on the change team is to recruit people to help and act as a resource for those people.

Step 6 is “Produce Short-Term Wins.  Create some visible, unambiguous successes as soon as possible” (Kotter, 2006, KL 723).  These short term wins toward change build momentum and trust as Wells writes, “Before tackling some of the more important or challenging changes, build momentum and trust by starting with some of the obvious changes that most everyone can see need to happen, or some of the simpler and more doable changes that won’t be hard to accomplish, or some of the less controversial changes” (Wells et. al., 2005, p. 77).  This is especially important in the rural setting due to cultural considerations.  “Given the historical and cultural context, mini-changes are generally preferred in town and country churches.  In rural areas change has tended to come more slowly and with some reluctance.  In such a context, revolutionary changes may cause more harm than good, even when the change itself is successfully implemented” (Wells et al., 2005, p. 62).  A taste of change that works creates a hunger for more.  Here again communication is essential.  Congregational leaders would do well to celebrate every small win toward change in a formal way; a bulletin board, newsletter, illustrate the wins during sermons, etc…

Step 7 is “Don’t let up.  Press harder and faster after the first successes.  Be relentless with initiating change after change until the vision is a reality” (Kotter, 2006, KL 723).  This step is self-explanatory.  To keep enthusiasm high and work toward progress change must come at a steady and familiar pace.  This in itself will help Step 8.

The 8th and final step is, “Create a New Culture.  Hold on to the new ways of behaving, and make sure they succeed, until they become strong enough to replace old traditions” (Kotter, 2006, KL 723).  Leadership is vital to this process.  It is not just about a singular event but a new culture that must be upheld.  “Leaders do not just need to make things right.  Theirs is the far more difficult role of introducing people to the new condition and helping them to learn new ideas, behaviors, and alternatives that are more appropriate to the new condition” (Rendle, 1998, p.41).  The new culture, familiar to change is a healthy one.  All organizations need change over time but a culture that embraces change, when it is needed and necessary, will be quicker to react and able to change in a healthy and God-honoring way.

One thing that should be noted about change, especially in a congregational context, is that the end result should not be the only consideration in change.  Kotter’s steps help illustrate that the process matters.  “Process is as important as the end result.  Process is ministry.  Ministry doesn’t begin after the change is completed; ideally ministry will happen during the process of change.  Both route and destination hold great promise” (Wells et. al., 2005, p. 62).  There are many reasons and resources for change available to the Church from the business world that can and should be used but it would be disastrous to see it as only an organizational change and not a spiritual one.  “Leaders in congregation need to remember that some of their most essential learnings will come from their Bible study and not from their budget reports” (Rendle, 1998, p. 23).





Kotter, J. P., & Rathgeber, H. (2006). Our iceberg is melting: Changing and succeeding under any conditions St Martins Press.

Kottter, J. (2012). The 8-step process for leading change. Retrieved 4/15, 2013, from

Rendle, G. R. (1998). Leading change in the congregation: Spiritual and organizational tools for leaders Alban Institute Herndon, VA.

Wells, Barney, Martin Giese, & Ron Klassen. (2005). Leading through change: Shepherding the town and country church in a new era Church Smart Resources.

Effectiveness, Discipleship, and the Mission of the Church

What is the mission of the Universal Church and how can we evaluate its effectiveness today? To assess the effectiveness of this generation in advancing the mission of the church we must first understand the universal mission of the Church.  Daft (2004) writes, “the overall goal for an organization is often called the mission – the organization’s reason for existence.  The mission describes the organization’s vision, its shared values and beliefs, and its reason for being” (p. 55).  The overall goal for the universal Church was given by Jesus to the Apostles in Matthew 28.  “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing in them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Mt. 28:19-20a, NIV).  The mission of the Church is to make disciples.  Going, baptizing, and teaching are all subordinate participles in the original langue and the imperative is ‘make disciples’ (Wilkins, 2004, p. 951).  “Implied in the imperative “make disciples” is both the call to and the process of becoming a disciple” (Wilkins, 2004, p. 952).  I may be splitting hairs but the commission of Jesus and thus the mission of the church is not worship, glory to God, loving others, serving the community, or even soul-winning.  All these things fall under the umbrella of being a disciple of Jesus.  If the church is carrying out its mission of making disciples then it will be nurturing people into a relationship with Jesus that carries out all these things.

follow-me     The more difficult question to answer is whether or not this generation of the Church has been effective at carrying out its mission.  Wilkins writes that part of the discipleship strategy (and thus the goal of making disciples) has failed in the modern church; “It is perhaps in carrying out the directive of the final participle that we have failed the most: “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Do we have a personal strategy for carrying this out? Because most of us personally and most of our ministries lack such a strategy, many have called this the Great Omission of the Great Commission” (Wilkins, 2004, p. 971).  Others believe that the Church has lost focus on making disciples; “The Church is in crisis today because we have wandered from our core mission and we must get back to it” (Ogden, 2003, p. 1).  Honestly it is hard to measure an abstraction yet Jesus gives us an outward product of an inward reality.  Jesus says in John 13:35, “Your love for one another will prove to the world you are my disciples” (NLT).  I will say that the universal Church has made disciples.  I personally cannot say that they have been particularly effective at it.  There are a lot of believers but not nearly as many fully committed, transformed, and growing followers of Jesus that make being transformed into the image of Christ their consuming passion.  Likewise there are a lot of believers out there who love Jesus unconditionally but put strict limits on whoever else could be worthy of love.

As already stated, we are given the mission and strategy of the universal Church by Jesus in Mt. 28.  The strategy (going, baptizing, and teaching) is the same but looks different in every context.  Wilkins writes about going;  “’To obey Jesus’ commission may require some to leave homeland and go to other parts of the world, but the imperatival nature of the entire commission requires all believers to be involved in it.  The completion of the commission is not simply evangelism.  Rather, it means calling unbelievers to be converted and embark on the process of being transformed into the image of Jesus in lifelong discipleship” (2004, p. 954).  Disciples are locally and globally minded followers but everyone’s ‘go’ is unique.  Still there is no denying that the strategy is to go.  Baptism throughout the NT is the starting point for new life in Christ.  Teaching is where many congregations fall short.  Many are good with the basics of discipleship but have few lifelong resources for growth outside of popular and topical small group/Sunday school options.  Every Church needs a plan to help each person take responsibility for their growth in Christ.

To raise up the next generation of globally minded, culturally aware disciples the Church must be intentional about discipleship.  Personally I think the best structure for this is the method Jesus used with his first disciples; an intentional, relationship-based journey of continual learning of who Jesus is and what it looks like to be like him.  Every congregation’s unique context and values will determine the form this takes.  The modern small-group movement is a good tool for this but small-groups are just another way, not the only way, to encourage community.  A congregation that is successful at making disciples will make an intentional effort to build community between a diverse sampling of believers and equip them with the tools to understand where they are in their own discipleship journey and help move them along in their journey of Christlikeness.






Daft, R. L. (2004). Organization theory and design (8th ed.). Mason, Ohio: South-Western.


Ogden, G. (2003). Making disciples of Jesus: The unique mission of the church. Retrieved 10/4, 2013, from


Wilkins, M. J. (2004). The NIV application commentary: Matthew. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing,

Organizational Theory and Leadership

Organizational Theory is a complex and wide-ranging study.  Even defining the organization can be a highly debated topic.  Daft (2004) defines organizations as “Social entities that are goal-directed, are designed as deliberately structured and coordinated activity systems, and are linked to the external environment “ (p. 11).    Organizations are social entities because they ‘people-centered’.  “Entities are social because they are dependent on human activity for their existence” (Fleetwood, 2005, p. 201).  Organizations exist and function because of complex human interactions.  Organizations exist to “bring together resources to accomplish specific goals” (Daft, 2004, p. 12) and are designed with that purpose in mind.  Finally, organizations are linked to the environment.   It must gather resources from outside itself, produce, and function in a complex set of external relationships including but not limited to stakeholders, suppliers, customers, community, market, and competitors.  An organization, “draws its very sustenance from the environment, and if it cannot, it ceases to be a viable organization” (Hunsicker, 2001, p. 153).  The bottom line is that, “The survival and prosperity of an organization depends on effective adaptation to the environment, which means marketing its outputs (products and services) successfully, obtain necessary resources, and dealing with external threats” (Yukl, 2002, p. 16).  In the modern world organizational environments do not only concern local variables but international ones as well.  “One of the most significant changes in the external environment today is globalization” (Daft, 2004, p. 13).  Organizational theory is the study of the complex internal and external relationships, structures, and functions, of the social structure that is the organization.

It is important for leaders to understand the organizations they serve.  “Understanding organizations is more than just an academic pursuit, it is a primary requisite for good leadership” (Hunsicker, 2001, p. 153).  Leadership is deeply tied to organizational theory.  “There is no single “correct” definition” of leadership  (Yukl, 2002, p. 7).  Organizations are social entities and leadership is a social process.  “Leadership is a social process, and though it may be institutionalized through defined formal roles, it is present at entry level and enacted in an ongoing way though continuous processes of communication, inspiration and dialogue throughout the organization” (Bate, Kahn, and Pye, 2000, p. 199).  Yukl (2002) sees organizational leadership as a process of influence that can be carried out by individuals or a group to bring about understanding and facilitation in effort to accomplish goals (p. 7).  Leadership, as it relates to organization theory, is the application of knowledge and influence while considering internal and external factors and forces in an effort to “reasonably balance, integrate, and harmonize the two while leading their organizations toward productive goals” (Hunsicker, 2001, p. 158).  The connection between organizational and leadership theories is complicated and strong.  Some leaders work best in certain organizational theories and certain organizations are more effective with certain leadership theories.  To say the two are interconnected is an understatement.

Organizational theory seems like a field of study that has few practical applications.  Many of the topics and subjects of study are complex and the very nature of the organization, as a social structure, is hard to observe.  The reality of the field is that organizational leaders who can stand in the gap between organizational design (structure) and organizational development (culture) make the field extremely practical.  The theories, when in practice, make a real difference in the implementation and outcome of organizational goals.






Bate, P., Khan, R., & Pye, A. (2000). Towards a culturally sensitive approach to organization structuring: Where organization design meets organization development. Organization Science, 11(2), 197-211. Retrieved from

Daft, R. L. (2004). Organization theory and design (8th ed.). Mason, Ohio: South-Western.

Fleetwood, S. (2005). Ontology in organization and management studies: A critical realist perspective. Organization, 12(2), 197-222.

Hunsicker, F. R. (2001). Organization theory for leaders. In Lester, Richard I. & A. Glenn Morton (Ed.), Concepts for air force leadership (4th ed., pp. 153-158). Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama: Air University Press. Retrieved from

Yukl, G. A. (2002). Leadership in organizations (5th ed.). New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.



Although many in the world and in ministry believe there is a difference between the two disciplines, to preach is to lead and to lead is to preach. In 360-Degree Preaching Michael J. Quicke presents the case that not only can there be a conversation between preaching and leadership but there must be for creating and encouraging healthy change in any congregation. 360-Degree Preaching is thoroughly practical and aimed at all preachers; “I write this book for average preachers whom God loves and uses.”[1] Quicke develops his book in two parts. Part one “shall describe how preaching and leading seem to operate in different spheres.”[2] Quicke explains the historical and cultural ideas behind leadership and preaching and while they have been traditionally seen as separate disciplines they must work together because God has always used preaching to move his people. Part two is a model “for a working relationship so preaching and leading can “do business” together.”[3] This is where Quicke spends most of his time and effort. It is a practical section that helps develop a place to start and keep growing as a preacher-leader.

The strength of Quicke’s work is in his practicality. Most of his book is practice and not just theory. Many leadership books are heavy on theory and lite on why it matters. Quicke presents enough theory in part one to give the preacher-leader a basic understanding of the issues and their importance and then dives into why it matters in part two. Part two, along with the appendices is an excellent resource of skills, steps, charts and examples. These strengths make 360-Degree Leadership not just a read but a resource. I find 360-Leadership weak in two areas; first in the area of other Church leaders, second in the area of discernment. Quicke’s Baptist background is reflected in his leadership style; a strong, central pastoral figure and a limited role of other Church leaders. There are only four mentions of Elder in the entire book. I assume Quicke believes in the plurality of Church leaders but in leaving this out he missed the opportunity to explain how preaching leads leaders and encourage the Preacher to lead and teach communally. The Church is the community of God. Even if it has one central, vocal, preacher-leader (I believe the Church should have a plurality of voices and this is possible under Quicke’s model) a congregation still needs the unique gifts God has given the Church and no one leader has them all. Secondly, although Quicke is heavy on how and why the pulpit leads he is light on where the pulpit leads. I wish the author would have included a way to help people completely new to the process get starting in understanding how the Preacher leads the Congregation in finding their vision and values. He is very clear on how to preach together there but is fuzzy finding where there actually is. He clearly presents a strong case on how to Change but nothing on knowing what to change.

Quicke challenges me in chapter six on Learning Skills. Each section has a reminder that has helped me; Every Sermon Matters.[4] Beginning with realistic full-blooded preaching he writes that every sermon has to create some tension. Change is by nature a pull between where you are and where you need to be. If the sermon is not helping to stretch the hearer then it is not ultimately serving a purpose. Every sermon matters because “preacher/leaders must learn how to preach powerfully about God’s biggest picture – by emphasizing his kingdom.”[5] Preaching that transforms congregations has to deal with something bigger than the moralistic and individualistic sermons that preachers are prone to preaching. These reminders help give me some important questions to ask in my own sermon development. I need to ask; “What is the big picture for this message?” “How does it fit into getting us where we need to go?” and “Would it matter if I didn’t preach this sermon?” If every sermon matters then every message has a point and purpose that gets the church a step closer to realizing its vision.

360-Degree Leadership has encouraged me with my struggle to see the importance of preaching and worship. If preaching leads the congregation it also leads in worship. Preaching is first worship and it requires worship to even begin. “Nothing sabotages spiritual leadership more savagely than missing personal worship.”[6] Preaching is spiritual leadership so preaching needs personal worship. Sometimes I get too caught up in studying, preparing, and preaching sermons that I neglect personal worship. It is an important reminder that the preacher cannot lead where the preacher has not been and if the preacher has not worshiped and wrestled with God through the text then it will be difficult to get the hearer to. “Nothing should receive more care, skill, and devotion than planning intentional worship in order that people encounter more of God.”[7]

Preaching is powerful and preaching leads. 360-Degree Leadership is a call to preaching that matters and preaching about what matters. God-honoring preaching guides the life of the Church because there is no area of its life that preaching does not touch.

[1] Michael J. Quicke, 360-Degree Leadership: Preaching to Transform Congergations, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2006, 16. [2] Ibid., 17 [3] Ibid., 24. [4] Ibid., 109 and following. [5] Ibid.,116. [6] Ibid.. 133. [7] Ibid.

In the Name of Jesus: Exorcism Among Early Christians – Graham H. Twelftree

Twelftree’s work on exorcism among early Christians is as deep as it is wide. His book surveys the varying perspectives on Christian exorcism, and its practice among the New Testament through 200 CE. He states his thesis early 51EUUbKCP1L__SS500_on in the book, “Hence I have two principle aims in this study. My chief aim is to determine the place as well as to describe the practice of exorcism among early Christians reflected in the New Testament documents. Secondarily, I will attempt to explain the variety of approaches to exorcism in the New Testament Canon.”[1] To do this he describes and discusses exorcism and exorcists during the first century, including Christian and Non-Christian. Then, he takes a chronological approach to examining what writers of the New Testament have to say about the practice among early Christians. Finally, he considers extra-Biblical sources including the Apostolic Fathers and critics of Christianity to examine their views of the practice up to the year 200 CE.[2] After his vast historical study, Twelftree comes to the conclusion that, “I am obliged to recognize that it (the New Testament) has provided the church with a range of options for understanding and dealing the demonic.”[3] The early Christians were “remarkably restrained”[4] in their interest and imagery of exorcism and that when techniques are discussed it stands in contrast to other ancient sources for its “extreme brevity.”[5] Twelftree’s final conclusion is that the New Testament writers believed “exorcism was a confrontation between the divine and the demonic in which the demonic was defeated”[6] and the defeat was not through any power from the Early Christians but “because they brought about a confrontation between Jesus and the demonic.”[7]

The major strength of Twelftree’s book is his depth of content and research. This is not just a survey of mentions of exorcism in the New Testament but a deep study of the social-historical context and views on exorcism of many different groups during the time that he research. He often includes detailed translation notes and information from other writers and commentators that give solid scholarly depth to his work. It is also to his strength that he limits the scope of his study to 200 CE and focuses on just the early Christians so that the reader can get a picture of early Christian history that is not influenced by stores and traditions that came after 200 CE whose historicity is sometimes doubted. One weakness in his writing is his frequency of offering conclusions based on small amounts of evidence and including conjecture in his conclusions; practices that “may have been known”[8], inferring conclusions from little evidence[9], grammatical contrasts based on what “could be”[10], and writing “although these important conclusions have a slender base”[11]. Twelftree’s should have left these comments out as they may cause the reader to doubt the author’s confidence in his own work.

[1] Graham H. Twelftree, In the Name of Jesus: Exorcism Among Early Christians, Grand Rapids, Baker Academic, 2007, 29.

[2] Ibid, 31.

[3] Ibid. 293.

[4] Ibid, 294.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid, 295.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid, 41.

[9] Ibid, 61.

[10] Ibid, 70.

[11] Ibid, 76.

In Defense of Miracles: A Comprehensive Case for God’s Action in History – R. Douglas Geivett and Gary R. Habermas. E.d.

The Goal of In Defense of Miracles is to present a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary approach to understanding whether or not God has worked in history through miraculous events. The book is organized into a four part structure of chapters written by different authors, “commissioned because of their expertise in each case.”[1] The editors begin with the case against miracles and then the parts explore different approaches to understating miracles. Part two deals primarily with the philosophical problem of the possibility of miracles. Part three discuss the ideas surrounding miracles and the ideas of God’s involvement in creation. Part four presents case studies for specifically Christian miracles. The 51HXKzpq0KL__SS500_major premise of the book comes in the conclusion, the fact that after observing and discussing miracles in philosophy, history, theology, science, etc… the case for miracles stands. The authors believe that the case they have laid out to defend miracles in these disciplines is not just for the intellectuals but for everyone. “In our view, the case for miracles is strong and needs to become better known outside the academy.”[2]

The major strength of the book is the editor’s multi-disciplinary approach. Their goal was to create a comprehensive work and they accomplished it. Their approach leaves no area untouched as they survey many disciplines. The scholarship and authors are very thorough and knowledgeable in their topics. I specifically appreciated how each author takes the space in their chapter to answer counter points or arguments that may be presented from opposing viewpoints. This helps make the book practical for apologetics and even devotional thought. The major criticism of the book is that it seems to be entirely focused on being a rebuttal for David Hume’s Of Miracles from 1779. The editors write in the introduction, “In many respects, the chapters by Hume and Flew set the agenda for the rest of the book.”[3] This seems to make the book feel dated. There must surely be a better work against miracles to respond to since 1776. I believe that the book would reach a wider audience if the authors did not specifically intend to address Hume and Flew in every chapter. Aside from that organizational issue, the book may be too scholarly for some. The language and concepts may be too academic for individuals outside of the academic circle. The authors need to take time to explain complex concepts so that readers can have a conversation across disciplines without needing higher education in each. Overall the book is well-researched and full of helpful information to serve as a primer for a multi-disciplinary study of miracles.

[1] R. Douglas Geivett and Gary R. Habermas, In Defense of Miracles: A Comprehensive Case for God’s Action in History, Downers Grove, InterVarsity Press. 1997, 25.

[2] Ibid, 280.

[3] Ibid, 19.

Miracles in Jewish and Christian Antiquity: Imagining Truth – John C. Cavadini e.d.

Cavadini is the editor of the series of papers presented in Miracles in Jewish and Christian Antiquity. He writes in the preface, “The essays in this collection originated in the annual year-long seminar on Christianity and Judaism in Antiquity held in the Department of Theology at the University of Notre Dame.”[1] The papers all revolve around miracles in the ancient world. Cavadini presents them first by tracing the history of the problem of miracles and continuing through 51pymBF-e1L__SS500_the Biblical period, post-Biblical period, and drawing on both Testaments as well as Jewish sources. Although they explore different ideas surrounding miracles ,”in the end, all of the essays explore ways in which miracles stories, both biblical and postbiblical, invite us into the realm of the imagination as itself a locus, and in some cases a privileged locus, of truth.”[2] This is the ultimate thesis of Miracles in Jewish and Christian Antiquity; to explore the miracles and how the invite the reader into imagination.

The strength of this collection of papers is in the scholarship. The academic work presented is of the highest quality and writers present their information in a way that acknowledges multiple academic disciplines as they explore the miracle texts of their individual papers. The papers bring to life not only the theological points of their miracle texts but the social and historical developments surrounding the events and interpretations throughout history. I personally found the Cultural and Social Questions Checklist[3] to be particularly helpful in understanding miracles from a multi-disciplinary point of view. The collection of papers does have a downside, the fact that it is a collection of papers. Honestly, I see no reason for this publication other than the fact that they wanted a collection of all the papers presented for the 95-96 seminar on Miracles. Each stands alone and there is no interaction between chapters and thus no development of a main idea or thesis. The individual papers have development and purpose but the book seems as if it lacks direction.

[1] John C. Cavadini, Miracles in Jewish and Christian Antiquity: Imagining Truth, Notre Dame, University of Notre Dame Press, 1999,vii.

[2] Ibid, ix.

[3] Ibid, 39.

Healing in the Bible: Theological Insight for Christian Ministry – Fredrick J. Gasier.

Healing in the Bible by Fredrick J. Gasier is a conversation between the healing stories of the Bible and our modern world. Gasier approaches the healing texts with a different method than most scholars. He does away with the typical methodologies of critical exegesis and thematic study to use a case study approach Imageof what he calls “a hermeneutic of appreciation”[1]. The case study method attempts to consider each text individually and how it contributes to the overall theme of healing in the Bible. Gasier’s thesis is presented on page 5, “The goal of this book is to explore the ways in which the Bible amplifies the claims and promises of both Testaments – “I am the Lord, your healer” (Ex. 15:26); “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people” (Mt. 4:23) – and then to think about all of this in our own cultural perspective.”[2] Healing in the Bible is more of a conversation with scripture than a conversation about scripture.

Gaiser’s strength is in his method of developing his thesis. Considering each text by itself makes his work very approachable and understandable. In general, his reflections tying the ancient healing texts to the modern world are refreshing. Discussing the texts and miracles without a fight over worldviews or apologetics puts more focus on the text and allows for appreciative reflection regardless of one’s view of the text or miracle. There is something for everyone in this approach. However, his strength is also his weakness. The case study approach makes his book feel like he does not ultimately get anywhere, like meandering around scripture with nothing to prove. It is hard to understand exactly what one is to take away from the book as a whole. Some readers will be turned off by the amount of speculation and opinion Gaiser includes in the chapters, specifically in chapter 11 where he draws too heavily on what he calls Israel’s “radical monotheism”[3]. Overall, Healing in the Bible is insightful and well-developed. 

[1] Fredrick J. Gaiser, Healing in the Bible: Theological Insight for Christian Ministry, Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2010, 4.

[2] Ibid, 5.

[3] Ibid,148.