Sojourn Network exists to plant, grow, and multiply healthy churches and pastors. Therefore, we are proud to release the first of what will be (Lord willing) a series of ebooks focusing on the “How-To” aspects of various ministries in and through the local church. It’s not just enough to fund church plants or do assessments; we must also support and help one another on how to pastor and lead our churches towards their most fruitful future. Some ebooks will lend themselves to soul calibration for the work of the ministry, while others will examine the riggings of the individual events or specific ministries (a few of our first “How-To” ebooks will detail child dedication services, community groups, and visual arts in the church).
So, below is a letter that will open our first ebook, Healthy Plurality = Durable Church: “How-To” Build & Maintain a Healthy Plurality of Elders, which I authored. The message here embodies what we hope for each of our ebooks and the gospel impact they hopefully bring. We want to bring clarity, charity, and a theological driven-ness to the everyday ministry of the local church. We aim for “How-To” guides that are far more than instructions from experienced (and current) practitioners, but certainly not less.
When I was in seminary, I occasionally “spaced out” in class. Once during a preaching class, while my mind slipped skyward, a pithy statement from my professor yanked me back to earth. “The best preachers,” he said, “will tell folks what he’s going to tell them; then he tells them; and then tells them what he told them.” “Wow!” I thought. If repetition made for good preaching, then parenting had already given me a serious head start. With four kids, redundancy was like a second language to me. To preach I just needed to take my gift for repetition and drop the "parental threat" — you know, that final line where you tell them what you would do if they didn’t listen. Preaching was going to be simple.
It wasn’t. But over time I learned that my professor was essentially right. Redundancy serves folks when you have important things to say. I hope it works for writing too. Because in the very next sentence I’m going to tell you what I want to tell you, so we can talk about it, and then I can remind you of what we discussed.
Leaders, the quality of your elder plurality determines the health of your church.
All over the country the fat is hitting THE church fire because the principle of plurality is misunderstood or ignored. Do you see it happening? In churches large and small, plurality failures land like a dull ax, brutally splintering many a congregation. Lift the lid of most pastoral failures and the stench of some plurality dysfunction wafts over the senses. Plurality ambiguities or avoidances cast a darkness that incubates some pretty ugly stuff. Dissect the ecosystem of many celebrity-pastor problems and you’ll find plurality failures — or worse, no plurality at all.
Make no mistake: This saying is trustworthy and worth repeating. The quality of your plurality determines the health of your church.
But healthy plurality is hard work. It’s part art, part science, and wholly service fused together by men applying tenacious initiative and patient love. Effective pluralities require hearts filled with integrity and wise, skillful hands. And time, lots and lots of time.
My first pastorate lasted 27 years in the same church. For most of that time, I was the lead pastor and we continually tuned and re-tuned our understanding of plurality until it served the church well. We made plenty of mistakes and it was painstakingly hard work. It meant having men get to know me down to the level of my dreams, desires, giftings, and temptations. But I treasure those memories and the fruit that the plurality bore in my life and in the life of our church. Since then I’ve served on multiple teams in different roles. Sometimes we’ve applied plurality well; sometimes we’ve made some big mistakes. But through it all, I’ve only become more convinced of my earlier point: The quality of your plurality determines the health of your church.
In this ebook, I will share what I have learned about how to define and assess a healthy plurality of elders, and I hope it is of help to you. We’ll look at what makes pluralities durable and what makes them so unpredictably delicate. We’ll talk specifically about why and how a healthy plurality contributes to a healthy church, including:
- How healthy pluralities create a context for elder care.
- How healthy pluralities offer authentic community characterized by vulnerability, honesty, and growth through self-disclosure.
- How healthy pluralities, and the unity they enjoy, become a microcosm for the entire church.
Plurality matters. Plurality is like character, sooner or later character trumps skill and will determine the health and vitality of the church. So we’ll also learn not to assume the health of our unity, but to ask questions that will diagnose the strength and substance of our plurality. Together we will examine:
- Agreement: do we agree with each other?
- Trust: do we trust one another?
- Care: do we care for each other?
- Fit: do we enjoy being with each other and know where we fit?
My friends, we’re not merely looking for a few laughs, some decent conferences and a few good years together. We want churches that last. But to achieve that goal, we need strong pluralities. Sojourn Network, or any network, will be a success to the extent that we help build strong pluralities. And in the event you’re still asking ‘why’, permit me the indulgence of another repetition:
Because the quality of our plurality determines the health of the church.
For the gospel at work in churches that last,
You can find this Sojourn Network ebook in the Sojourn Network store, Amazon, or iBooks.