Tuesday, October 19, 2010

How to Have Accountability When You Don’t Have Elders....

By Bob Thune (Friday October 8th 2010)

In my last post, I argued that church planters should not install elders until the church has clearly crossed the line from “apostolic missionary band” to “established church.” But how can you ensure appropriate accountability and community in the interim?

Accountability and community are crucial in church planting, for at least two reasons:

1) Leaders often crash and burn from lack of proper accountability.

2) Even the most type-A church planter doesn’t want to be the only guy with a target on his back. Satan, critics, and disgruntled people are going to take their shots at you. Might as well have some company.

Below are the four types of accountability you must have in the early stages of a church plant, and some suggestions on how to go about getting them, before you’ve raised up additional elders.

Moral Accountability

Someone needs to be asking you the hard questions about your marriage, your thought life, your moral integrity. Until you have elders to serve as a band of brothers in this area, you must find others to do it. When we planted our church, I set up an external advisory board of four older, godly men from other churches who met with me at least once a month for this purpose.

Financial Accountability

If you’re a church planter, you probably suck at financial administration so you should immediately recruit a team of 3-4 church members, or outside advisors, who can help oversee the financial affairs of the church. Obviously you must choose prayerfully: you want servant leaders, not power brokers who are going to try to steer the church through the checkbook.

I recruited an accountant, a banker, a pastoral intern, and a corporate lawyer from our launch team and asked them to help me oversee budgeting, expenses, and accounting. The lead elder (me) still set the direction and the financial priorities of the church. But having a team ensured that I had some accountability—and more importantly, some very competent help with the details.

Doctrinal Accountability

This is an easy one if you’re part of a network like Acts 29 that has a robust doctrinal statement. Since elders are required to guard sound doctrine (Titus 1:9), make sure your people know that you aren’t making up your theology as you go.

Leadership Accountability

This is perhaps the hardest piece of the puzzle. You need the freedom to lead the church according to the calling God has given you. But you also need to seek input from others in order to avoid becoming (or even just being perceived as) a dictator.

Instead of making major decisions in a vacuum, run them by key leaders and influencers conversationally. You’re not giving these people “veto power”—in the end, it’s still your call. But by seeking input from others and making your decisions “in the open,” you’ll gain the trust of your people and occasionally save yourself from some really bad decisions.

Church planters commonly make the mistake of caving to pressure and installing untested or unqualified elders early on in a church plant. The point of this post is to show that you can have the functions of eldership without rushing to put the structure in place. You are responsible before God to raise up and train additional elders from within your church as quickly as possible. Just don’t make the mistake of pulling the trigger too quickly. As Alexander Strauch says in his excellent book on eldership: “Better to have no elders than the wrong ones.”

Originally Posted at http://www.theresurgence.com/ 

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