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The Editorial

Leading growing churches

It’s a great joy that many churches are growing.

John Benton, Editor

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Some are growing rapidly. In our own congregation, starting around a year ago, we have seen substantial blessing and along with folk being saved we have had many applying for baptism and church membership – Soli Deo Gloria!

But when a church grows, as Ray Evans says in his excellent book Ready, Steady, Grow, the culture of the church inevitably begins to change. Communication within the church becomes far more complicated, not least because the number of possible conversations between larger numbers of people increases almost exponentially. There is far more room for misunderstandings, hurt feelings, etc.

With this in mind, questions concerning the management of the church by its leaders rightly come onto the agenda.

Management style

Many images of the church are used in the NT. But when it comes to the management of the church by its leaders then the idea of the church as a family or household comes to the fore (1 Timothy 3.15; Ephesians 2.19). So, for example, as a leader Timothy is told to conduct himself towards others in the church at Ephesus as he would to members of his own family (1 Timothy 5.1,2). And when it’s time to appoint elders/ pastors then a man’s track record in managing his family is highlighted as to whether or not he is likely to make a good church leader: ‘If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?’ (1 Timothy 3.4,5). Here Paul is, of course, assuming a complementarian view of men and women with the husband’s role, under Christ, being that of the head of the household (Ephesians 5.23,25f).

It is significant that Paul does not look for a man’s management skills to be proven in business, or in the military, or in farming, etc, but in the family. Indeed we could say, as a soon-to-be-published book by Gavin Peacock and Owen Strachan puts it: ‘In many ways the elders are with the congregation in a husband-wife relationship’* (1 Timothy 2.11-14).

Practical implications?

Sadly, as our nation approaches the referendum on EU membership, we see plenty of examples of how the decision-making process should not be conducted – facts very difficult to obtain and scare stories almost every day.

But if we take seriously the idea of congregations being governed like families, then it is worth asking what that might be meant to look like. First, in seeking to lead and perhaps do things differently in the church, maybe leaders should ask themselves: ‘Am I going about this in a way that I would treat my wife or my children if we were making changes – say, deciding to move house?’ Certainly the family style of management would imply a listening / caring leadership rather than simply expecting a ‘no questions asked’ attitude or ‘rubber stamp’ from the church meeting. Second, when it comes to training younger men to take on leadership responsibilities in a church, surely a large part of that training ought to include teaching them to become better husbands and fathers. But I’m not sure that features prominently on too many courses of which I know. Third, there is nothing wrong with large churches. But if churches do expand markedly then the leaders need to think through very carefully how not just to maintain the ‘family feel’ of a congregation, but also how to exercise a leadership style which is not that of a corporate organisation, but that of a family.

*The Grand Design: Male and Female He Made Them by Gavin Peacock and Owen Strachan, Christian Focus.