Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Eldership is Toast!

From out of nowhere came news that the three men who comprised the eldership of the Cincinnati Church of Christ: ("Lead Elder") Jim Fulcher, Joe Dilts, and Tom Meade, resigned from their positions and thus dissolved the eldership of the Cincinnati Church of Christ. Their pictures have been removed from their website (according to this post). The reason for their collective resignation is the inability for them to work together. Even with outside assistance and direction - from other International Churches of Christ congregations - they could not reconcile their differences and operate effectively as an eldership. In fact, it appears that they may have been directed by the other ICOC leaders outside of the Cincinnati Church of Christ to resign.
"[The elders] each spoke to us and said that they have tried for a while to work through the issues they had. Leaders from other [ICOC] churches were brought in to try and help them out, and give advice, but in the end they (ed: the elders or the leaders from the other ICOC congregations?) felt that what was best for the church (ed: the Cincinnati CoC or the ICOC or both?) would be them stepping down."
At this time, Lead Evangelist Doug Lambert will be leading the congregation. A process to choose new elders appears to be underway.

In my opinion, it's too early to draw conclusions and predict outcomes, but we do know the following facts and what they imply:
  • The Cincinnati Church of Christ leadership structure failed to transform from one man leading the entire church (the traditional ICOC model where an Evangelist possessed the ultimate and final power and authority for an entire congregation) to a plurality of qualified spiritual leaders shepherding the entire flock. This was one of the promises made after the events of the Henry Kriete Letter ten years ago.
  • Consequently, the elders were merely figureheads. The functional "eldership" was, and remains, the hired evangelists (Doug Lambert and John Cleghorn) and other paid staff (Michael DeAquino and Chase Mackintosh).
  • The Cincinnati Church of Christ could not resolve this situation internally as an autonomous church. They had to call in others in the ICOC for assistance to receive discipling. And that external discipling influence obviously failed to keep the eldership together.
  • Jim Fulcher failed to establish an eldership in the Cincinnati Church of Christ, even ending up as one of its elders. This is one of the reasons he was hired as the Lead Evangelist in early 2007.
  • If the most qualified men in the entire congregation couldn't work out their differences, even after decades upon decades of ICOC discipling - before, during, and after Kip McKean was over them in leadership - what does that say about their discipling system?
  • If this is the result of discipling for the most spiritually mature in the congregation, what kind of discipling is everyone else receiving and how are they maturing?
  • I'm not surprised that a dysfunctional eldership like this would have appointed a man as unqualified as John Cleghorn as an Evangelist. (See a previous post I wrote for details.)
  • How can this problem be avoided in the future? Can more ICOC-style discipling even fix this problem?
  • The Cincinnati Church of Christ, even after thirty years of existence as a discipling church, has failed to produce leaders from its own membership to effectively shepherd itself. How can it successfully replicate itself in the long-term by planting ministries and other churches?
In one sense, this event was surprising, but not unexpected. This is simply just another natural outcome of their theology. Jesus said "by their fruit, you will recognize them" (Matthew 7:15-20).

If you're a current member reading this, please think seriously about these facts and questions. There is no quick fix. Look hard at the past and look long towards the future. Do you want the discipling you receive and give to end up in a situation like Fulcher, Dilts, and Meade? Finally, don't be afraid to comment or send me an e-mail or tweet!


Anonymous said...

Only thing worse than a dead church is a dead blog - you scared X-Ray?

X-Ray said...

Scared of what? I've put my faith in the authentic Jesus Christ six months after leaving the ICOC. His perfect love drives out all fear.

Dead "churches" under the clear judgment of God because of their complete lack of impact on their surrounding communities don't require a lot to be written about them. But this may always be subject to change!

Unknown said...

I was a member of the Indianapolis based organization between 1995 and 2003. I guess I find these and other posts to be offensive. While the organization was flawed God's Church of course can never be. Jim Fulcher was by far my favorite evangelist and God used 1 sermon by him to capture my attention. And I know that there were many men and women who were at least trying to be what God calls us to be. Now, about me. I don't mess around with God trying to paint myself as a Christian who is not perfect. I'm out here doing my own thing. Still I miss those close relationships. My manz, it is good if your blog is dead as maybe you realized that you don't need to re-do what God has already done (did God need you to expose anything?). But what is there to rejoice about when leaders fail? Get yo ass up there (anywhere) and do it the way it is supposed to be done.