Translucent Church Leadership  

Posted by Phil in

One of the things I like best about Churches of Christ is our denominational leadership structure.

We don't have one.

Each church is autonomous (pretty much) and has the ability to make decisions within itself. We're not bound to denominational strictures or fiats. Within a fairly loose set of doctrines, the individual congregations are not governed by a larger denominational body, but by elderships within each individual church. Which is where the fun comes in.

Through the latter part of the 20th Century, elderships were viewed almost as a board of directors. They were appointed for life (typically chosen by the other elders) and had basically unquestioned power of the church and its direction. This is still pretty much the case in more of the traditional churches of Christ. The shift that was happening in more progressive churches was from a director to a shepherd. And I think this is a very, very helpful shift.

Instead of being viewed from "on high," the elders lowered themselves into a position of guidance and counseling, while still acting as leaders. And the leadership styles went from being opaque into more of a translucent. As opposed to just giving directives, elders talked about why decisions were being made.

This is a style that I think really functions well, especially in the 21st Century. People like me (whether of my mindset or generation) don't want opacity from our leaders, we want to know why decisions are being made and that they've been thought through. We also want our opinions to be considered and heard, whether or not they're adopted or not. I think we would love complete transparency from our leaders, but recognizing that that's not always a possibility, we'll settle for translucency. We want to be assured that we're being led by people who love Jesus and want to be like him in their leadership, and will guide people to be disciples. I feel like I'm at a church where we have that, even if I don't always agree on how to do that.

I know our elders at Otter Creek are pursuing that and I am grateful for their leadership. I hope they continue be as transparent as they can be, guiding the congregation to look more like Jesus, both on a corporate and individual member levels.

This entry was posted on Friday, March 6, 2009 at Friday, March 06, 2009 and is filed under . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


I wonder if the title "elder" might need to be reimagined, as it has become synonymous with the office and "board of directors" as you describe. What do others think about the flexibility of the title "elder"? What about "spiritual parent" or "oh wise, ancient one"? :)

March 6, 2009 at 5:59 PM

At OC, we typically don't refer to them as elders per se. We try to refer to them as "shepherds," which I like.

March 7, 2009 at 12:36 AM

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