Have You Been to an Eldership Funeral?

death precedes resurrection

We were anticipating more leadership in the congregation. In a few weeks, we looked forward to completing the selection process, and appointing a new shepherd or two. I asked the elders if they were planning an eldership funeral. They hadn’t thought about that.

I explained. It was my observation that often when new elders are appointed, you don’t get new elders. You get junior elders, trainees. They’re expected to do everything just as it’s always been done. If there’s conflict in the eldership, the new men will be recruited to be on each side.

Often when new elders are appointed, you don’t get new elders. You get junior elders, trainees. Click To Tweet

Also, when new elders are appointed, there aren’t just new elders, there is a new eldership. If you have a beaker with a chemical in it, and you place one drop of another chemical in it, you don’t just have another drop of stuff, you have a new compound.

[tweetthis]When new elders are appointed, there aren’t just new elders, there is a new eldership.[/tweetthis]

Any time there’s a change in a leadership group (one or more leave, one or more are added, one or more have a significant change in family, job, or health status), you have a new leadership group.

I thought it would be good to acknowledge that, learn from it, and start with a new group. It was one of those ideas I gave for consideration not knowing if it would be considered or delegated to the waste basket.

The next month, the elders said, “We’ve discussed the eldership funeral. We want to have one and we want you to preach it.”

People often ask, “What do you do at an eldership funeral?” — same thing you do at other funerals: stand around the casket, talk about the deceased, recall their good traits, and talk about how we’ll make it without them.

We went to a log cabin in Bell Buckle, Tennessee, on a Friday night, and had a three-hour funeral.

After going over Guidelines for a Good Discussion, which you can have in an eBook by subscribing to this blog (Subscribe), we began the funeral.

This was a parable of what was happening to the present eldership. Everything Jesus taught was in parables (Mark 4:33, 34). If you don’t like a preacher or teacher who tells stories, you don’t like Jesus because “He did not tell them anything without using stories” (Mark 4:34, CEV). We noted and discussed Paul’s emphasis on the gospel — death, burial and resurrection of Jesus (1 Corinthians 2:2, 1 Corinthians 15:1-4). We wanted to follow Jesus’ example of preparing His disciples for His death (Matthew 16:21-26). We observed the advantage of funerals. Solomon said it’s better to go to a funeral than to go to a party (Ecclesiastes 7:1-10). We read funeral passages. A Word and PDF document of the outline are available:

Eldership Funeral PDF

Eldership Funeral Word

We recalled the history of this group of leaders. They became shepherds during a difficult time in the history of the congregation. Not one of them had ever served as an overseer. Every situation was new to them. They were dealing with a congregation hurt and unsettled because of sustained conflict. They had led well. The conflict had subsided. There was peace. Read about the process: Starting from Scratch.

We “stood around the casket” and talked about this eldership, recalling early fears, discussing how they became a team, and how they were as a group. If a group of elders has unfinished business, it will be transferred to the new elders being appointed.

Our attention turned to the additional leadership soon to be appointed. How would they be integrated? Would they be told the rules? Often a group’s rules are unconscious, unspoken, but understood. We don’t think about them, don’t discuss them, but if you break them, you are in serious trouble! As they considered this, they said, “They can change some rules, but some they can’t.” The came up with two lists of rules: negotiable and non-negotiable. Read about this: Shepherds, What Are your Rules?

I enjoyed the night. We celebrated how God had worked with these men during a difficult time The church had grown and matured. They had survived the storm and were enjoying the sunshine.

Our next topics:

  • What hopes and dreams do you have?
  • How will you communicate these to each other, to the new elders, and to the congregation?

We concluded with the Five Tasks of Dying — how to end any relationship:

  1. Forgive me.
  2. I forgive you.
  3. I love you.
  4. Thank you.
  5. Good-bye.

I’ve “preached the funeral” of four elderships where I’ve worked, including one interim congregation, and officiated at one funeral at the beginning of a New Shepherds Orientation Workshop. I think it’s healthy to discuss these issues.

Many people get excited over resurrection. Fewer want to volunteer for crucifixion. Click To Tweet

For copies of the outline, click the links:

Eldership Funeral PDF

Eldership Funeral Word

What have you observed in a good transition when new leadership comes into a group?
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What Have You Quit Lately to Become a Better Leader?

the apostles refused to go to the grocery store to feed widows

The response of the apostles in Acts 6 amazes me. When there was criticism because Grecian widows weren’t getting their fair share of food, the apostles replied, “We won’t be going to the grocery store to get food for our Christian sisters.” Can you imagine that attitude from men Jesus taught and trained to be good servants and to follow His example?

When I read that, questions come to my mind. Did the apostles not know how to distribute food? Were they too dumb? Did the apostles think they were too good to do lowly work like delivering groceries?

The answer to all those questions is, “No.” They weren’t too dumb and they weren’t too proud. They had experience in food distribution. They were servers when Jesus fed 5,000 and 4,000 men besides women and children. They gave food to the people. They gathered left-overs after the picnic.

But at this point in their leadership, they said, “It is not reason, it is not desirable, it is not right, it is wrong for us to leave the word of God and serve tables.”

[tweetthis]Do we as leaders in the Lord’s church realize it can be wrong to do right?[/tweetthis] [tweetthis]It’s wrong to do right when the right thing isn’t what we need to be doing now.[/tweetthis]

From this account of the apostles’ refusal to take part in this act of service, which they had done in the past, I wonder if I’m doing the same tasks in my leadership as I did ten or more years ago? [tweetthis]Am I doing the wrong right thing?[/tweetthis]

Circumstances that Bring Change in Leadership

  1. Understanding the responsibility of leaders. It isn’t the duty of leaders to do everything that needs to be done. Paul wrote, “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11, 12, NKJV). According to the Holy Spirit, writing through Paul, leaders are to equip Christians for the work of ministry. Preachers don’t have to visit every sick person. In fact, that work in scripture is assigned to elders (James 5:14). All citizens of the kingdom will be held accountable for this ministry (Matthew 25:34-36). Leaders are to help all saints be better ministers.
  2. Growth. Have I learned anything in the last twenty years? Have I gained new skills? I can’t do everything I used to do, everything I’ve learned to do, and everything I’ve learned to do better — and do everything the way I’ve always done it.
  3. Training of others. We have men in the congregation at Northside who fly for UPS. One is a trainer. He flies some. But he can’t put in the hours delivering packages he did years ago and train pilots. He had to quit some things to do other things.
  4. Possibility of disability and certainty of death. Elders, preachers, deacons, and other Bible teachers are getting older and will die. Some will be unable to continue their leadership duties before they die. We need to be asking and answering the question George Jones sang in the song written by Troy Seals and Max D. Barnes, “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes?”. [tweetthis]He who leads without leading others to lead is no leader.[/tweetthis]

It’s good to take inventory. How am I growing as a leader? What have I quit? What do I refuse to do because I have something to do others can’t do? And if I do what I’ve always done, I can’t do what I need to be doing.

What have you quit to be a better leader?
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