Written by former pastors and denominational leaders (Assemblies of God), Rich DuBose and Mel Surface, The Church That Works is a short, simple read about the proper authority structure for a church and her board.
Author’s Big Idea
God has called your pastor to your church as has given him a vision for how your church should go about accomplishing the Great Commission. The authority of the church rests in the hands of God, and He has entrusted that authority to the pastor. The church is more of a theocracy than a straight democracy. There is a board of elected deacons, but their job is to offer the pastor support and counsel, not to serve as the “voice” of the people.
I totally agree that pastors need the freedom to execute the vision God has given them for their church. If a church has a history of trying to control or limit their pastor—to “keep them from going to far”—then that church has lost sight of their mission. Sure, some pastors go off the rails theologically and morally, but I would argue that the opposite problem of church’s limiting their pastors and hampering their attempts to reach the lost is far more prevalent.
This book is really simple and straightforward, and to that end, the “big idea” serves as an effective summary. However, I guess I can expand on of the books’ themes.
The first deacons were selected to assist the apostles in serving the church community by, essentially, putting hands and feet to the leaders’ vision, freeing them up for more prayer and study. No where in this or in any of the epistles is the idea of the deacons serving in a check-and-balance capacity. In our passionate American zeal for democracy, we’ve modified the purpose and position of “deacon” far beyond it’s original intention.
Here’s a bit of the hypocrisy of pentecostalism: we talk and talk and talk about the power of the Holy Spirit and how He is absolutely crucial to our everyday lives, and we lay claim to the same spirit that empowered the first-century church. And yet, we constantly limit, constrain, worry about, and question our pastors and leaders. So, to draw these two elements into direct contrast: we claim the same power and presence of God as the first-century church but deny our leaders the trust and freedom that the first-century leaders had? Don’t they have that same spirit? I’m not naive. People fail. Pastors fail. But that’s the point of denominational coverings and external oversight. If the pastor goes off the rails, their superiors can come in and either help to restore or remove them. Independent churches are so very scary for that very reason; there’s no one watching them.
This book was written from within an Assemblies of God ministerial context, which is my denomination, so there may be some issues there for non-AG people that I might have missed. Although, I do feel like the authors did a very good job of leaving room for other denominations and traditions.
The biggest issue with the big might be how it’s presented. The book is really intended for pastors and boards to read, and therein lies the issue: how does a pastor bring a book to his board that basically says, “The way we’ve been doing this is wrong. You’re not here to keep me in check. You’re here to help me.” I guess the way you present it would all depend upon your board’s history and relationship with the pastor. Our board and staff went through the book at the recommendation of one of our denominational leaders (my dad!), so that helped!
This is a very timely topic. Without saying too much about Mars Hill, this book affirms the need for the pastor to execute the vision God has given him, but it does not advocate, and in fact warns against, removing all pastoral constraints. Denominations, church associations, and external oversight committees are crucial to helping—yes, helping—pastors to minister properly and healthily.
I think that the vast majority of church boards should go through this book. That’s not to say that every church should radically rewrite it’s DNA, but there is a lot here in this book that could benefit most, if not every church.
You can buy The Church that Works from Amazon.
[Image via Amazon]