Open Style of Leadership

In 2009, a group of men at Dover met weekly to explore and discuss the work of shepherds in the church. Only a little of what was said was written on this web page back then, hoping that it would get updated soon. 2019 is not exactly soon! But now in 2019, these writings are an effort to recall what was said and what was learned. The term "Open Style of Leadership" came from a Flavill Yeakley book on what being an elder was really like. Yeakley was trying to communicate that elders and elderships must always be open to the congregations that they serve, and that elderships must never become "closed societies." Bro. Hottinger led that discussion, way back in 2009. We are indebted for his leadership.

I Timothy 5: 1 in the King James says "Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren." In doing that, the respect for the office of shepherd/pastor/elder is preserved. But there is more to this command than just hushing the members. Elders have a role. Elders must be "intreatable," to coin a new word. They must be people that followers can talk to with a reasonable amount of candidness about facets of a situation that elders or elderships may not have had opportunities to consider. In preparing for a course of action, there is always the possibility that some information did not reach the eldership. If the information reached them, its significance may not have been communicated. Members (the sheep) must be able to communicate with their leaders.

What if they can't? Sheep who cannot communicate with their shepherds feel isolated, alone. They feel unloved. They begin to scatter, each going his own way. They may quarrel with each other as they leave the fold, creating even more hazards for themselves, others, and the future possibilities for the church.

What if we reached a point where we could not communicate with God? How would we feel? Sad, lonely, without direction, knowing that Judgement is surely coming one day, how will we survive if we are not friends with the Judge? We wouldn't want God to turn His back on us just because He had decided to stop listening to our problems, would we? Thankfully Isaiah 59: 1 gives us the reassurance that this will never happen. "Behold, the LORD'S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: "

So we as elders must be intreatable. We must allow members to approach us with ideas that we sometimes find unscriptural, unwholesome, short-sighted, even repugnant. Listening to those ideas will not mean that we agree with them. Rather, these encounters are opportunities for shepherds to counsel respectfully with Bibles in hand to ideas that may not be accurate or fully developed. The world is out there, with its strange interpretations of scripture, and part of the elder's job is to correct worldly ideas (Titus 1: 9). Christians should never be made to feel that they have been left afloat to face the world without leadership that cares, that is Biblically informed, and which will never stop loving them.

I hope this was an accurate rendition of the discussion of ten years ago. Sid

Books that have been useful in preparing these lessons include:

Anderson, L. (1993). They smell like sheep. West Monroe, Louisiana: Howard Publishing.

Gangel, K. O. (1984). So you want to be a leader! Camp Hill, Pennsylvania: Christian Publications.

Grimsley, R. W. (1964). The Church and its elders. Abilene, Texas: Quality Printing Company.

Lewis, J. P. (1985). Leadership questions confronting the church. Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate.

Lewis, J. P. (2008). The question of instrumental music in worship. Searcy, AR: Truth for Today World Mission School.

Sanders, J. O. (1989). Spiritual leadership. Chicago, Ill: Moody Press.

Strauch, A. (1991). A study guide to biblical eldership: An urgent call to restore Biblical church leadership. Littleton, CO: Lewis and Roth Publishers.

White, J., & Blue, K. (1985). Church discipline that heals: Putting costly love into action. Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press.

Yeakley, F. R. jr. (1980). Church leadership and organization. Arvada, CO: Christian Communications.


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