One of the great joys of being part of the leadership team at Bethel Church in Fargo, North Dakota, is its willingness to constantly self-evaluate and transform itself for more effective service of the Master. All of this starts with the elder board, which, I might add, is by far the most balanced and unified board I have ever worked with. I can’t imagine being anywhere else in the world! Honestly, I cannot get enough of these men.
In their wisdom, and with the help of a variety of mentors including Larry Osborne and Bill Hybels, both of whom having spoken richly into our overall context, the board of elders has been making a thoughtful and methodical transition away from the traditional representative board model to what we are calling a leadership board model. It is worth noting that in both models this particular board has demonstrated a great yieldedness to God’s Spirit, and has owned a humility that has been quite captivating. However, with the size and scope of Bethel Church being what it is, and with a constant review of the Scriptures shaping our culture, a transition has been called for. The differences between the two can be laid out as follows:
The Leadership Model always wants to know “what is God’s best for Bethel Church?,” whereas the Representative Model is forced to ask “what is in the best interest of various constituencies within the congregation?”.
The Leadership Model wants offer “the best possible reflection of an enduring strategic vision and mission,” whereas the Representative Model has to deal with a potentially wide variety of vision ideas and mission idea.
The Leadership Model offers a greater sense of objectivity to all matters related to the Body of Christ, whereas the Representative Model, by design, remains too subjective.
The Leadership Model is by design more forward thinking, focused on crafting an enduring legacy, even if this invites significant transformation, whereas the Representative Model, despite its well-meaning efforts, is often forced to protect a legacy and resist significant change.
The Leadership Model is allowed to be smaller, and therefore more agile, whereas the Representative Model is expected to be larger, concerned that the many “districts” within the church are represented.
The Leadership Model oversees and unleashes principle leaders and the teams they direct, whereas the Representative Model, being concerned for the unique interests of various constituencies, too often micromanages and therefore limits trust, creativity and, often, change.
Now there are certainly other points one could highlight as well, but these are some of those things initially evidenced. I will add one important reflection, and that is that the trust environment is enhanced day-by-day with this leadership culture that our elders are wisely implementing.
Of course, none of this violates the reality of congregational influence. A wise leadership board will always have its finger on the pulse of the congregation, and the congregation—in keeping with the unique culture of the Evangelical Free Church of America—continues to nominate and elect elders who are tasked with overseeing the church. But under the Leadership Board Model the congregation can rest assured that the elders duly elected are indeed thinking about the church as a whole and not just its part, and the future into which God wants us to step.
Did I mention that I can’t imagine being anywhere else in the world?