Is the Engine of Your Team Healthy?

Local churches mentioned in the New Testament always had more than one pastor. They always had a plurality of pastor-elders. Numerous passages in the Bible indicate this. For example, see Acts 20:28; Ephesians 4:11; 1 Timothy 4:14; 5:17; Titus 1:5; and 1 Peter 5:1–5. This is why the leadership of our church is carried out, not by one leader, but by a team of spiritually qualified men.

The pastor-elder team at our church includes two “staff pastors” and six “non-staff pastors.” We typically meet every other Wednesday night for 3–4 hours. We share a meal, pray for each other and our church, and discuss things related to the health and direction of our congregation.

During the meal at our pastor-elder meetings, we often discuss a book we’re reading together. We spent significant time at our last three meetings discussing Dave Harvey’s latest book Healthy Plurality = Durable Church. The book is short, sweet, and full of thought-provoking questions and ideas. It’s the kind of book you’re thankful for even if you do not see every point the same way.

Harvey begins his book with a thesis: “The quality of your elder plurality determines the health of your church.” In my own experience, although far less extensive than Harvey’s, I’ve found his thesis to be true, especially over the long-haul of a church. This means working on the health of your elders is a nearly constant priority. As with healthy eating, you can take a break for a meal or two, or even a week or two, but bad things happen if you eat hot dogs and Cheetos and sticky buns and drink Mountain Dew and IPAs for a year.

In an appendix of the book, Harvey lists several questions he finds helpful for an elder team to consider as they evaluate the health of their team. I’ve included these questions below. But you don’t have to be an elder board to find these questions helpful. I suppose with only slight modifications here and there, they could apply to most teams that are committed together in Christian ministry.

If you’re a pastor, I encourage you to grab this book and discuss it with your team because “the quality of your elder plurality determines the health of your church.”

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Four Indicators for Inspecting the Healthy of a Plurality

1. Agreement: Do We Agree with Each Other?

  • Is the doctrinal basis of our unity as a team well-defined?
  • Do we have a statement of faith, and if so, do we all affirm our statement of faith?
  • Are we growing together theologically through study and discussion?
  • Is it clear to me that you have worked hard to understand my positions and can represent them without exaggeration or misrepresentation?
  • Is dissent sufficiently principled and coming from a heart that honestly believes this decision may contradict our values or harm the church?
  • Will you wisely represent the position of the plurality to others, whether you agree or disagree?

2. Trust: Do We Trust One Another?

  • Will you be loyal to God’s Word by being completely honest with me?
  • Will you judge me or exploit me when I show weakness?
  • Will you be patient with me in areas I need to grow?
  • Can you be discreet once you really know my temptations?
  • Am I confident that you will not share what I confide with anyone who should not know?
  • Do you have my back?
  • Will you be humble if I risk correcting you?

3. Care: Do We Care for Each Other?

  • Is it clear to each of us that our state of soul matters to each other as much as (or more than!) our performance?
  • Are conversations more likely to encourage or critique?
  • Can we point out specific times where we talk about our lives, families, struggles and/or temptations (something apart from ministry!)?
  • Does my feedback on your performance include encouragement?
  • Does someone on this team know where I am vulnerable to temptation?
  • Would my wife feel free to call you if I was tanking? Why or why not?

4. Fit: Do We Enjoy Each Other and Know Where We Fit?

  • Does my personality appear to mesh with these men?
  • Are we able to work together in ways that deepen our relationships rather than strain them?
  • Do I know my role and what is expected of me?
  • Have we clearly defined how we will evaluate one another and what determines success?
  • Am I aware of the specific and regular contexts where we will evaluate our fruitfulness as a team?