Being “on mission”

I am revisiting Briggs and Hyatt’s book on Eldership and find myself challenged by the lead question: “How would you define ministry?”

The working answer for Briggs and Hyatt: meeting people where they are and journeying with them to where God wants them to be. 

They have a list of what ministry is not to reaffirm that definition:

It is not waiting for people to come to us and then journeying with them. That’s how we think of church in America. (I wish it would stop.)

Ministry is not meeting people where they are and being content with that condition. That’s simply friendship.

Ministry isn’t meeting people where they are and then journeying with them to where want them to be. That’s manipulation.

And my favorite: it’s not meeting people where they are and journeying with them to where they want to be. “That’s Oprah with a little bit of Jesus sprinkled in.”

Let the journey be to God. Let the journey begin where you are. Let’s walk together.

Book Review: Eldership and the Mission of God

J.R. Briggs and Bob Hyatt have teamed up to write a book on elders in the context of being a “missional” church. (I am not even going to pretend I know what that word means. I’ve tried. I’ve failed. Just go with it.) The book is Eldership and the Mission of God: Equipping Teams for Faithful Church Leadership

Alan Hirsch writes the foreword to the book and starts with this: “The church doesn’t have a mission; God’s mission has a church. And the calling of the church, first and foremost, is to seek God’s rule and reign.”

While I will never get the term “missional”, I do know that when I generally read books by “missional” pastors, they resonate with how I see ministry and mission within my community.

This book is wonderfully simple. It is a “quick read,” but don’t leave it as simply that. Refer to it again and again. Visit the biblical underpinnings of eldership in their explanations. Understand how they developed the roles of elders within their own contexts. When you are working on how to form a team of elders, pull this book out again. Mark it up. Don’t dog-ear it. I hate that. Use post-it notes or something. Respect the page!

This is about biblical journey. It is about life journey. It is not about structure for the sake of structure. It is learning to build long-term relationships that root the church deeply in the community and disciple believers to change their world. We want to do so much more than simply “get people saved.” It’s more than getting them “ready for heaven.” We need to equip people to bring heaven to earth as we live. It is a powerful calling.

Reading this book helped me reflect on the wonderful relationship we have built in our own church. It is an established church but over 17 years of ministry the “board of deacons” has become a true team of elders. We have a staff as well, and I meet with them more regularly, but together we have a unit that prays together, counsels together, longs to build community in our church, and longs to build the Kingdom in our community. This book was a refreshing reminder that we are doing something solid and good. (It’s also a reminder that I should write things more quickly and try to get them published before these guys. 🙂 )

When they visit the biblical passages typically connected to elders, they talk about the role of men being leaders in their families. They also tackle the tough issue of women in leadership as well. They walk through those tough passages as well. (I have to leave something dangling so you’ll actually read the book, so I’m going to leave off what they conclude.)

This is a good basic manual that is worth visiting again and again. For me, it serves as a possible “thank you” gift to the team I serve with because they model so wonderfully what this book lays out. For new church plants, this is worth visiting as you dream about good leadership structure.

We need ALL the gifts in the church! We need ALL the gifts possible in leadership. It can’t be a one-man show any longer. This is a great tool for taking us to true team leadership.

I was sent this book by IVP for review. I am under no obligation to write a positive review.