36. Review Article # 2: T.J.Addington, High Impact Church Boards (2006).

6. Building Cultures of Empowerment. How does a church move from a “permission-withholding culture” to a “permission-granting culture” (160)? Addington proposes that churches develop processes that give “maximum freedom and empowerment within agreed-upon boundaries” (161). He suggests that Jesus’ actions in commissioning his disciples and empowering them with the Holy Spirit are consistent with these ideals. He was willing “to risk giving His ministry away” (162).

Jesus certainly authorized people to represent him and thus contribute to building his church. However, I think there needs to be a bit of balance in the presentation. While Jesus invites us into his Kingdom and transforms us so we can contribute to his mission, he is still Lord. Jesus is in control. God is sovereign. While we may prefer, even like the word empowerment, at the end of the day, Jesus is Lord.  Ministry is not a commodity we control, but a responsibility of obedient discipleship for every believer. Ephesians 4:16 does name Jesus as “Christ, the head.” Through Jesus “the whole body produces the growth of the body.” Does Jesus “give ministry away,” or rather does he graciously include us in his ministry.  Without Christ’s leadership, nothing will happen. Ephesians 3: 20 reminds us that it is Jesus’ power that is at work in us to accomplish God’s will.  I think Jesus was always in control.

Christians are involved in “ministry” all the time. Being the assistants of Jesus for Kingdom advancement is a 24/7 activity. Everything a local church does should assist believers to be Kingdom agents, i.e. ministering agents of Jesus.  So it is not so much an issue of “controlling ministry”, I would suggest, as it is an issue of enabling people to engage the ministry God has already called them to complete.

I sense some inconsistency with earlier chapters that argue for values, mission and vision as means to build alignment. While different language is used, alignment is a form of control, employed to discern which ministries will be most effective in enabling the church to fulfill its mission. Presumably then Addington would argue that “giving ministry away”, thus empowering people, still operates within the bounds of values, mission and vision. I agree we need trust, energy and enthusiasm, but sometimes  a church board will have to say no to a proposed ministry initiative because it is “out of alignment.”

I would also suggest that every church has a culture of control, however it may be described, named, or designed. When the controlling elements are working properly, they work together to sustain the health of the church (e.g. control that protects against false teaching; control that enables risk management; control that keeps the focus on mission achievement). The question is how a church board can exercise appropriate and helpful control so that people in the congregation have opportunity to fulfill their divine calling as believers as part of a particular faith community.

7. Big Rocks, Pebbles and Sand. Addington offers excellent, practical advice to help boards keep focused on the main things they should be doing and not get distracted by stuff which really is not their job. As main board responsibilities he identifies discernment of values, mission and vision; definition of ministry initiatives; the six dimensions of church leadership (oversight over spiritual power, teaching, protecting, care, equipping and unleashing, and leading); establishing policies and ensuring church health (167).  In my opinion I would add risk management, the evaluation and care of the lead pastor (and other staff as appropriate), and evaluation of ministry programs. Addington may be including these elements in the broad category of “leading”.  Boards need to be in control of their agendas and the chair carries special responsibility to facilitate this.

In general I fully support Addington’s prescription that church boards should not get into management. However, it may be necessary in times of crisis for a board to get more involved in the details than at other times.  Most of the process issues (e.g. approving volunteers for ministry positions) can be handled by developing good policy. However, the board needs to ensure that the policy states who is accountable for its implementation and how the board will monitor compliance. As well, the advice to keep the board focused in their agenda on future issues should be implemented.

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