From the elders of Bent Tree.
Shared in the worship service on Sunday, May 12, 2019
In the weeks following Pete’s resignation, we conducted a series of town hall meetings in various homes, at the Carrollton campus in the Family Theatre, and at our Frisco campus. It was a wonderful opportunity to hear from the body and share our thoughts as leaders about going forward. At the town hall meetings, we indicated we would be addressing three key areas at an upcoming elder retreat, which occurred April 28-30. The areas we said we were going to address were:
- God’s calling on our church – meaning, was there anything new that God is calling us to?
- The leadership structure – meaning, what is the organizational structure and the best way to fill the senior pastor role – is it one person, a shared role, or some other model? and
- Answering the “who” question – meaning, who will fill the leadership roles? So that was our task for the retreat.
We knew it would require much wisdom and unity for us to effectively address and answer these questions – and that meant much prayer. We are very aware that many of you have been praying and continue to pray for the elders and church leadership. We joined you and immersed ourselves in prayer before, during, and after the retreat. Thank you for praying for us. We really felt covered in prayer and it made a huge difference.
The leadership team at the retreat consisted of the elders, the Senior Leadership Team (Mike Wiltz, Sheila Buckler, and Scott Dyer). We also invited our two PLP pastors (Amy Leigh Bamberg and Steven Christopher) and JoAnn Hummel to participate and provide some “out-of-the-box” thinking for us to consider. We had three days of deep, rigorous, and lively discussions supported by a genuine process of collaboration and prayer. Our discussions were facilitated by Tom McGehee, who is a gifted facilitator. He led our conversations well.
1) As to the first question, God’s calling on our church — this was an area we started with and dove deep on. We love our church and its distinctives — grace lived out, indwelling Christ, biblical preaching, shared leadership, and missions — and were not seeking to re-imagine our church in any fundamental way. In fact, the Bent Tree distinctives were off the table, and our focus was on what else is God wanting to do in and through us in the season before us now.
We spent much time exploring the essence of the church, of leadership, and what it means to be a follower of Christ. With our eyes and hearts on the early church, there were several specifics and general themes that emerged in our discussions. We were struck by the simple focus and example of the early church, who “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and prayer,” as recorded in Acts.
Many times during the retreat we collectively expressed a genuine desire to operate in the simplicity and power of the early church, asking ourselves, “What would that look like for us today?” We covered a lot of ground here, discussed many intriguing ideas, and all walked away encouraged that we must continue to lead in this area. We will continue to pray over this topic and seek God for clarity. The general theme was for a call for greater motion and deeper devotion for our Body. We recognize the present need for us to grow deeper and to encourage every believer to respond to God’s calling on their life – as the Apostle Paul prayed for the church, “that you might live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” We believe our focus must be on both “grace and truth” – and we must never shy away for the power of both to transform lives and fully unleash the body to be everything God desires for us. There will be more to come on this as we move forward – stay tuned.
2) As to the second question, regarding the leadership structure and church operations, we took a deep look at many leadership models that are in use by churches our size (i.e. mega churches). It’s amazing how many variations exist — from a traditional senior pastor-hierarchy model to various collaborative leadership team models, with variations in between the two. Because Pete has been gone since December 2018, we have already been operating in a collaborative leadership team model, which has worked very well and has given us confidence in this type of model. Additionally, we have a growing concern that a solo senior pastor model at the top of the organization is both unhealthy for the individual and not the best model for our church at this time.
So, we believe a shared Senior Leadership Team model is the right structure for our church at this time. We have incredibly gifted leaders on staff who have proven themselves. We believe God has blessed us with solid leaders that can and will effectively lead us going forward. To our current Senior Leadership Team we are adding a Lead Teaching Pastor role, whose primary responsibility will be to provide leadership via the ministry of proclamation from the pulpit. This obviously is an important leadership role for the church, as much of the vision, theology, and encouragement for the body is communicated each week through the pulpit. The expectation for the entire Senior Leadership Team is to collaboratively lead the day-to-day operations of the church, and they will report directly to the Board of Elders. Relationally, the Senior Leadership Team and the elders will work in close collaboration, including participating in elder meetings where major decisions take place.
3) So, this leads to the third question: Who is going to lead our church on the Senior Leadership Team? Mike Wiltz, Sheila Buckler, and Scott Dyer, all who currently serve on the existing Senior Leadership Team, will continue in their respective roles. The new Lead Teaching Pastor position will be co-led by JoAnn Hummel and Steve Frissell, and they will now carry the majority of preaching load throughout the year. Both JoAnn and Steve are well prepared, respected, and exceptionally gifted to lead us in this important role. They will continue to invite others to teach occasionally, as well, but JoAnn and Steve will be our lead teachers. We will continue to evaluate the final structure of the Senior Leadership Team and the organization below it, as we go forward, and we reserve the right to make changes as we learn and grow.
We’re incredibly thankful for God’s provisions throughout this transition for our body. We have a good, good Father who loves us in amazing ways. We know God is in control and his hand has an unwavering grip on his bride, the Body of Christ at Bent Tree.
Our prayer is that we will all continue to grow in our trust, love, and devotion to God each day. We ask that you, as a member of this family, continue to stand firm and stay engaged through your prayers, in serving and through your giving.
We firmly believe Bent Tree’s best days are ahead of us.