the answer is “Christ-centered leadership”

IMG_3291Bell-Yesterday morning, during worship services at the First Presbyterian Church of Brandon, we ordained and installed a new class of elders.

Our system involves a three-year term, with a third of the leadership team rotating out each January. This year, as always, the incoming elders are a diverse group of deeply committed, creative, faithful followers of Jesus.

It’s a powerful moment when new leaders kneel in front of the congregation (see picture, below), when they are surrounded by other elders, and when the ordination prayer is accompanied by “laying on of hands.” The presence of the Spirit of God is palpable.

Rebekah asked the outgoing elders to bring the morning message via a series of five-minute testimonies. Without exception, they all shared stories not only of how God has used them but of their personal spiritual growth over the past few years.

IMG_3294
“laying on of hands” and ordination prayer

SO WHAT’S MY POINT? This is the “so what?” part of today’s post. Wouldn’t this story be more appropriate if it was published in our church newsletter rather than splashed all over the World Wide Web?

And my answer is, “No, everyone should read this!”

The reason I believe everyone should read this is that – throughout our nation – the so-called “Traditional, Main-line Church” is increasingly losing ground, losing influence, shedding members, slipping into irrelevancy, closing its doors, and failing to engage the core imperative of making disciples of Jesus.

However, here in the community of Brandon, Florida, First Presbyterian Church is healthy, vibrant, full of authentic spiritual life, and owns a mission statement that we’re actually carrying out. Here it is:

Our Mission: To share the Love of God by serving our church, community and beyond; and to develop and empower passionate followers of Jesus Christ.

So what’s the short answer as to how? and why? Well, it’s not flashy and it’s not complicated, and it goes back to the first two photographs in today’s post. It’s all about the leadership team.

IMG_2980BUT THEY’RE JUST A BUNCH OF ELDERS? No, they’re not “just a bunch of elders!” You see our pastoral team, (Rebekah and Tim, along with Earl), believe that their most important job is to train, equip and support our church leaders. It begins with eight-weeks of intensive training (even if they’ve already served as an elder before), and it continues as our church leaders work together as a “ministry team” rather than executives in a board room.

  • It’s really very simple: absolutely nothing happens at First Presbyterian Church outside the context of Christ-centered ministry. Or, as Rebekah would likely put it, “If the answer isn’t ‘Jesus’ then we’re probably asking the wrong question.”

I am convinced (especially in a religious culture dominated by fundamentalist rhetoric and evangelical mega-churches) that it is increasingly important that strong, healthy main-line churches maintain a vital presence in every community.

IMG_3297THE ANSWER: And the solution isn’t packaged in some canned “can’t miss” program, it’s to be found in teams of faithful servants such as the seven new elders who were ordained and installed at First Presbyterian Church of Brandon this past weekend.

“To share the Love of God by serving our church, community and beyond; and to develop and empower passionate followers of Jesus Christ.”

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