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Practical Benefits of Plurality Leadership #3

This is our sixth blog post discussing the topic of plurality leadership in the local church. The first three entries surveyed the biblical datathat favors the model. What follows is our third installment addressing the practical benefits of having a team of pastors at OCF.

People get attached to their spiritual leaders, especially when that leader is the head pastor of their church. Indeed, whole congregations often take on the personality of a senior leader who instructs and inspires them, Sunday after Sunday, through the teaching of God’s Word.

What happens when that leader leaves?

Change is a fact of life. But change becomes problematic when a local church is led by one individual who does all the preaching and who functions as the key leader of the congregation.

Plurality leadership significantly lessens the negative effects of pastoral transition on a local church community. This is one of its great advantages. We have experienced this first-hand at OCF on a number of occasions.

OCF has lost at least six of our pastor-elders during my twenty-two years on the team. Reasons have varied: retirement, termination, divorce, relocation. Some transitions were more difficult than others (Michael Martin’s move to Baltimore comes to mind). Most challenging was the loss of our founding pastor, some eighteen years ago.

Duke was a highly gifted speaker who had guided OCF from a small Bible study group to a church of nearly 150. When he stepped down, one long-time member exclaimed,

“Duke can’t leave! OCF is the church of Duke, just like the Lutheran Church is the church of Luther!”

Duke’s departure clearly placed OCF in a very tough position. Few churches of 150 survive the loss of their founding pastor.

Fortunately, Duke had a vision for plurality leadership. In fact, Duke and I (and our families) had dreams of pastoring a church together back in the early 1980s, when we were both doing youth ministry at Community Baptist Church (now Journey of Faith).

Our dream came true in February of 1996, when I came on staff as a co-pastor at OCF. By the time Duke left in 2000, we had gathered together a team that included (in addition to myself) Dan Olson, Denny O’Keefe, Ed Arriola, Brandon Cash, and Stan Yetter.

The loss of our founder was still a tough one—primarily because of the relationships we share as fellow-pastors. But OCF’s plurality approach provided us with a “deep bench,” so we managed the transition quite well. We shifted around ministry responsibilities and continued to grow to become the church of 600+ that we are today.

“Jesus is the same yesterday  today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). But (as I am reminded every time I look in the mirror) Jesus’ undershepherds do not remain the same. And we do not remain forever.

Someday Joe might leave OCF to go on tour with the Rolling Stones. At any moment Brandon could submit his resignation to play second base for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Hutch and Denny might leave us to play together on the PGA tour.

Seriously, leaders come and go. Change is a fact of life. However, as we have experienced first-hand over the years at OCF, plurality leadership significantly lessens the negative effects of such a loss on congregational life and ministry.

Perhaps, just maybe, Jesus knew this, when he set up he plurality model some two thousand years ago.  Ya think???  

Posted by Joe Hellerman with

Introducing the Gospel of Luke

We take a break this week from the theme of plurality leadership to set the stage for our upcoming preaching series at OCF.

This fall we will shift our attention on Sundays from the Old Testament to the New Testament. Our messages—and sermon-based small groups—will focus on the Gospel of Luke for the rest of 2018 and the better part of 2019. Jesus! Yay!

Luke is a big book. It is not only the longest Gospel. Luke is the longest book in the New Testament. A Bible book of this size can be quite intimidating—even for those of us who have read through Luke before.

Fortunately, there are almost innumerable resources on the internet that dig into the Gospel of Luke.


Unfortunately, there are almost innumerable resources on the internet that dig into the Gospel of Luke.


Fortunately, there is a top-rate, historically and theological sound resource on the internet that digs into the Gospel of Luke.

In today’s post I will direct you to this resource and give you some pointers on how to take advantage of it. Here’s the webpage:

The author is Dan Wallace, Ph.D., a Biola graduate who is Professor of New Testament at Dallas Theological Seminary. (We use his Greek grammar book as a text in the second-year Greek courses I teach at Talbot).

The first section of the article (I. Introduction) may or may not interest you. It summarizes currently scholarly thinking about background issues such as the authorship, date, and composition of the Gospel of Luke. Whether it floats your boat or not, this nerdy stuff is absolutely essential for defending the historical veracity and integrity of Luke. We should be thankful to scholars like Wallace who take the time to summarize current thinking in a brief overview like this.

More helpful to us, as we prepare to study Luke in the Fall, are the next two sections of the article (II. Argument and III. Outline). Use this material as follows, as a helpful way to get familiar with the Gospel:

Do these activities before late September (when we begin our sermon series):

FIRST: Read through II. Argument to get familiar with the overall flow of Luke.

SECOND: Read through Luke passage-by-passage following along with III. Outline, so you can see how each passage fits into to the Gospel as a whole. A chapter-a-day will get you through all 24 chapters of Luke right before we begin our sermon series late next month.

Then, week-by-week, as we go through Luke:

 Read and reflect upon each week’s text with III. Outline in hand (maybe briefly reviewing how the passage fits into the II. Argument).

 This game plan is beginning to bear wonderful fruit in my own devotional life, as I am currently preparing for our time in Luke.

 Let me know how it works for you! 

Finally, for those of you who want a good running commentary on each passage, we recommend: Robert Stein, Luke. NAC (Broadman and Holman, 1993).

Posted by Joe Hellerman with