ANATOMY OF AN OPEN MEETING: What Leaders Do?
BY KEITH GILES
Part 5: OTHER FUNCTIONS OF A LEADER IN AN ORGANIC CHURCH
In this, our final installment, we’ll talk about a variety of things that leaders (or “elders”) in the open meeting or new testament church should be prepared to do, as-needed.
The purpose of the Church is to disciple others to follow Christ and to obey everything that He commands. Obedience to Christ, then, is critical to the life of the Body, and our gatherings together should be one of the primary places we learn how to follow Christ together on a daily basis.
Discipleship, I believe, is not always a leader/student arrangement where the mature Christian is teaching the baby Christian how to follow Christ. Not that it can’t be that way, of course, but I don’t believe it’s the only way we make disciples.
In our house church family I’ve found that a by-product of our fellowship together is a sort of constant discipleship where the Body works together to help everyone else follow Christ daily. It’s an ongoing reality where we are learning together how to follow Christ personally.
Dealing with Conflict
As an elder in the Body of Christ, one of our roles is to deal with conflict when it arises. It might be an argument between individuals in the group, or it might a divisive person who stirs things up, or it might be a disagreement over an issue of doctrine or a point of contention over a practice in the Body.
Our group has had a variety of these issues over the last six years. Sometimes the issues are trivial, and other times they are challenging. As always, spend time on your knees asking the Lord how to proceed. Remember, Jesus is the one who is building His church, not you or I. Always, continually, submit everything to Jesus and allow Him to move and to lead your church family through this process of healing and reconciliation.
Sometimes, a leader might have to confront a member who needs to be disciplined, and for that I recommend a group of elders within the Body who are motivated by love and full of wisdom and Godly insight. The goal is always reconciliation and restoration. Be as discreet and private as possible as long as the person is cooperative and repentant. Only take things to the entire church body as a very last resort, and then again, only with the desire to bring repentance, reconciliation and restoration.
Guarding your Family
Sometimes there are predators who come into your church family and you need to have discernment to recognize them and move quickly to remove them. This might involve meeeting with them in person to let them know why you’re asking them to leave, or you might need to pull them aside and give them a warning if you think they just need a friendly reminder to change their behaviors.
The kinds of behaviors we need to be wary of are those who cause division or strife in the Body:
“I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.” (Romans 16:17)
Also look out for those who seek to have their way or to run the show. If this is something that you’re not called to do, then it’s certainly not something that anyone else has the right to do:
“I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will not welcome us. So when I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, spreading malicious nonsense about us. Not satisfied with that, he even refuses to welcome other believers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church.” (3 John 1:8-10)
Rather than allow one person to have their way and drive others out of the church, you should step in with other elders and ask this person to leave if they cannot fellowship without throwing their weight around.
You, of course, need to watch out for people who claim to be Christians but who are actually not following Jesus at all. As Paul explains:
“But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.” (1 Cor. 5:11)
What Paul means, literally, is that we should not allow these people to gather with us when we eat and fellowship as a Church.
As always, the goal is reconciliation and restoration in the Body, not to damage people or to condemn people. So, if you’re doing this right, no one else in the
Body will ever know that you’ve met with anyone to discuss anything because you’re honoring the people you love, not engaging in gossip or slander.
Again, this is not about control. We don’t want our church fellowships to be about making people act like us or think like us. Please don’t use this as a license to police the behaviors of your church family.
Defend the Liberty of Everyone
This one, to me, is the most difficult but one of the most important things to remember in an open meeting. In our church family we like to say that “everyone is in process” and this means that we’re all coming from different denominational backgrounds and we’re all at different levels of maturity in various areas of our walk with Christ.
This means that we do not ever attempt to get everyone else in the Body to agree with us on every point of doctrine. Our group does not have any Statement of Faith for this very reason. Our only criteria for gathering together, and for accepting people into this Body is simply this: “Do you love Jesus? Are you actually seeking to follow Him in your daily life?” And if your answer is “Yes” then you are welcome to be a member of this Body.
All we ask is that you don’t attempt to change us to believe what you believe and we promise not to try to change you to believe what we believe.
This simple attitude of liberty has allowed our group of former Baptists, Pentecostals, Charismatics, Methodists, Presbyterians, etc. to fellowship together for over six years without heated arguments over doctrine. We gather only to seek Jesus together and to help everyone else in the group to follow Him in their daily lives.
Unless you want to create a church that is full of people who act and think and believe just exactly the way you do (and to me that’s a nightmare), I encourage you to learn how to disagree agreeably and to major on Christ when you come together, not on this or that little pet doctrine or theory.
You’ll not only learn things from people who think different from you, you’ll also fulfill Christ’s desire that everyone in His Body be one, even as He and the Father are one. Our unity isn’t based on agreement on doctrines, but on our sincere love for Christ alone.
Did I miss anything? If you’ve got any further questions about anything I’ve talked about in this series, please leave a comment below. I’m open!