Seven Principles to Help a Congregation Thrive

Introduction: These series of posts are designed to outline the unique management style of Jesus in his ministry and the leaders of the Jerusalem church, the most successful in history. In them we find excellent models for leading churches in any era. Surprisingly, the methods are quite modern, following principles of the latest and best social science research.  More importantly, they faithfully hold to God’s Word and the leading of His Spirit. A congregation employing  these management principles may go far to successfully fulfill Christ’s mission.

Sadly, these principles and methods often fly in the face of the how churches are traditionally managed. We offer them with the prayer they will be examined and tried, which may alleviate errors in leadership that have greatly weakened the body of Christ.    

Managing Conflict in the Church.  In Acts 6: 1-8, we find the young church facing its first serious conflict. In violation of Christ’s law of love (John 13: 44,45; Galatians 6: 1), the needs of Hebrew widows, who were “in,” were being  met, while “outsider” Hellenist widows were not.  This is an all too frequent occurrence when people gather in groups. Typically there are the favored “in’s” and less favored “outsiders.” This often occurs in the church, bringing discord, divisions and even church splits, as tragic as the worst divorces.

We also find in Paul’s letters to Galatia and Corinth, the apostle’s similar urgency to manage conflicts in the body.  But let’s turn to how the apostles managed the conflict in Jerusalem, step by step.

They Know their Flock. They are fully aware of what’s going on in the church. Often pastors might tend to isolate themselves, perhaps using “study time” as an excuse, to remain aloof from the people. It’s apparent the apostles didn’t make this mistake. To have handled this problem so wisely, they had to have mixed in with “old guard” Hebrews and Hellenists alike.

 Understand Priorities by (a) Heeding Jesus’ pleas for his church to “be one,” (John 17: 21-22), they understand church unity must be maintained at all costs. (b) Sharing leadership with others in order to properly manage the church. (c) Being true to their primary calling  to lead the church through prayer and the ministry of God’s truth.

Do Not Take Sides. They avoid  the pitfall of siding with the Hebrews, members of their own circle, or favoring the neglected Hellenists.  Either would further widen the gap between them.

Devise a Plan Which (a) creates a new leadership team. (b) outlines duties and a job description (c) lists requirements for those assuming church leadership.

Wisely delegate to the whole church the task of electing these leaders. Employing this democratic process is a startling departure from the norm. The apostles might have appointed  the deacons themselves or left it to chance by casting lots, (Acts 1: 24-26).  Instead, they reveal their faith in God and confidence in the body. This choice also greatly lifted morale, since Luke reports,  what they said pleased the whole gathering. And notice the incredible outcome. Luke writes, “The word of God continued to increase and the number of disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem.” Furthermore, two of their choices, Stephen and Philip, were greatly used of God.

They ordain them by laying on hands, providing the new leaders with the authority they need to fulfill their role and  demonstrates to both sides, the new leaders have the full confidence of the apostles to carry out their mission.

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