Sunday, April 22, 2018

Shepherding Glenwood

Did you know that there exists an annual study in America that tracks the public’s confidence in America’s leaders? The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard conducts the study every year. Here are some recent results:
  • 69 percent of Americans think we have a leadership crisis in the country today. 
  • 70 percent agree that unless we get better leaders, the U.S. will decline as a nation. 
  • 68 percent disagree with this statement: "Overall, our country's leaders are effective and do a good job." 
I don’t think it is assuming too much to say that many in this room would find themselves with the majority in this study. As a general rule, in our time, we distrust leaders. And perhaps we have reason to distrust leaders. Political leaders, on both sides of the aisle, have been involved in highly public scandals in recent years. In the business world, also, we have seen stories about corruption and embezzlement.

I’ll just say it this way: In our world, we have grown accustomed to seeing leaders fail. In politics, in sports, in business, in schools. And because of all of these highly visible failures, Americans distrust leaders.

That has been true within the church as well. Again, there have been plenty of highly visible stories to make us feel that way. In the 1980s there were so many stories about televangelists conning people out of millions of dollars. There were sex scandals involving church leaders that surfaced again and again. We have seen church leaders beg for more money on TV. Imploring people to give money to the ministry. Those same leaders driving around in sports cars that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Living in multi-million dollar mansions. The scandals over the past 2-3 decades have conditioned us to distrust leadership.

You know, our world is saturated with stories of failed leaders. But this morning, I want to help us remember something so very important. There are some really good leaders too! I’m afraid that so much damage has been done by the really bad ones, and they get all the press! That we forget that the vast majority of people who lead have wonderful hearts. They do what they do because they love their business or this country or the church. I hope I don’t have to convince you of this, but I’ll tell you: our elders are wonderful, godly, Spirit-filled men. I will keep their identities anonymous, but I want you to know: I’ve seen some of these men dig deep into their own pockets to help struggling families pay their bills. I’ve been in the room as they prayed with a family whose loved one lay dying in the bed. I’ve watched as they have discussed for hours how to best help a couple whose marriage was failing. Our elders love this church!

Seven years ago, when I moved my family from Lubbock. That was a tough decision for us. We left our entire family there. What finally helped us make the decision to come here were the elders at Glenwood. Seven years later, I still believe they are some of the best shepherds I have ever seen. This morning, I want to spend a few minutes describing for you how they shepherd us.

I made the comment last week that shepherding a church today is much more complex than it was in the 1st century. Churches then were made up of only 1-2 dozen people. It is much easier to know, lead, and guide people in that size group. As congregations grew larger, elders had to organize themselves differently to make sure the church was properly cared for. Several years ago, our elders decided to change the way they function. The reason? They wanted to make sure this congregation was properly cared for. When a congregation is larger than a few dozen people, its easy for the urgent to get in the way of the important.

We don’t like to talk about this a whole lot, but there is truth in this statement: the church is a business. It is not primarily a business. But it does have many functions of a business. More than $1 million flows through this church every year. There is some administrative oversight that has to take place. Our elders found that they were having to spend too much time on management and not enough time on relationships. So, they (like many other congregations) adopted a new model.

All of our elders help to shepherd the flock. All of our elders have different families that they shepherd more closely than others. For example, Roger McCown has 13 families. Bill Chambers has about 12 families They do not ignore the other families of Glenwood, but they spend more time with these folks. Getting to know them. Praying for them. Mentoring them. But, there is some administration that needs oversight. So, the elders also formed an administrative team. This group has additional meetings. They oversee the budget. They work more closely with the staff in day-to-day operations. They provide more oversight in the maintenance of the building and the property. They do not micromanage those areas—we have paid staff. But they do provide oversight more closely.

At any time, 3-4 elders serve on this administrative team. Right now, Lee Browning, Wayne Propst, Don McCarty, and Jack Hooper are the elders. I also meet with them and am part of that team. Every year, one elder rotates off and another elder rotates onto this team. The reason this team exists is to free up the other elders from meeting constantly about administrative issues. An important note: This group does not make decisions about the direction of this church without the other elders. They deal with administrative matters. Any major decision is brought before the entire shepherding group. Additionally, there is a smaller shepherding team that makes sure the entire eldership is focused on the right things. Right now, Reggie Howell is the current chair of that team. Bill Chambers served last year. And Roger McCown will shepherd the elders next year. This team sets the agendas for the elders' meetings.

They also keep a broader look on the entire family. Are their families that need special attention? Are their families or individuals that the elders (as a whole) need to meet with and pray over? I can tell you that the vast majority of the elders' meetings at this church consist almost entirely of prayer! Look, there is no “one-way” to shepherd a church. Our elders have chosen this model because they believe it best situates them to tend this flock. You may not agree with every decision they make, but no one can rightly put into question their love for this church.

I think it is important for everyone to clearly understand this model. Because we are about to recognize men in this church to join this team of elders. We need to look for people with the gift of shepherding. I think there are several “unnamed shepherds” in this room who: are young and old, have been here decades or only a year or so. My prayer is the God will give you the courage to join this amazing team of shepherds and help guide us into the future. And speaking of this amazing team, I want to recognize four of them this morning.

During our Family Meeting a few weeks ago, our elders shared that some of them were contemplating “retiring”. After a lot of prayer and thought, four of them decided now was the time for them to step away. They want to be clear: They are not angry. They love this church! They love this eldership. They love our direction. But, as we begin the process of adding new elders, they think this is a good time for them to transition. When you hear what I’m about to tell you, you will understand.

These four men have served this church as an elder for a combined 92 years! (Yes, you heard that correctly) They are going to hate me for doing this, but I think we have to. I would like for Jack Hooper, Gene Branum, Ike McKinney, and Don McCarty (and spouses) to join me up here. I want us to thank them for their service. I want to invite our other elders to come surround them as Bill Chambers leads a prayer over them.

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