I gave a pretty big announcement on Sunday, and I’m sure that not everyone heard it, so what follows is the gist of what I said.
When does a church plant become a church? I believe it is when elders have been appointed (or ‘ordained’) through prayer, and given responsibility to shepherd the church.
After Paul and Barnabas had finished their first missionary journey, they made a return visit to some of the young church plants and Luke tells us:
When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconic and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed. (Acts 14.21-23)
Similarly, after Paul had planted some churches on the island of Crete he had to leave before the job was done. But he left his protégé, Titus, to complete the work, telling him:
This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you… (Titus 1.5)
Elders are massively important to church life, because of their function as pastor-shepherds. They exercise a kind of fatherly role, making sure things are healthy in the church. A lot of people have summed up their role as Guard, Guide, a Govern. They guard, which means they are concerned to protect the church from harm and make sure the teaching is on point. They guide, which means they are always listening to the leading of the Holy Spirit and seeking to obey him as they set a direction for the church. And they govern, which means they make sure things are run skilfully and everyone in the church is given opportunity to serve.
So, how are we going to get elders at Grace? The first step is to form a kind of proto-leadership team, seeking to work with some guys to figure out if they are called and gifted for eldership. The second step will then be to call in some help from our wider family in Advance to help assess our guys, and ultimately (God-willing) pray them into service.
As of last week a team has been formed. They are myself, Danny Hutton, Eugene Chiam, Luke Boardman, and Jeremy Moses. I have huge respect for each of these guys, and consider them to be among the best men I’ve ever known.
This team is not set in stone. It is possible that at any point one of these guys might step down, or another may join (or three others, for that matter). Neither does it necessarily mean that all five would be appointed elders at the same time. But it’s a start, and as such it’s one of the most important things that’s happened in the life of this young church.
What can you do? Please pray for this team to grow in love and wisdom, godliness and Spirit-filled anointing for the task. And please also offer these men the respect and honour that leadership ought to hold as they seek to serve the church with their time and talents.