Frequently Asked Questions
In light of the announcement made on Sunday, May 12, 2019, we have put together some more information to elaborate on the decision that has been made to move toward team leadership at the senior level.
Why have we embraced a Team Leadership Model?
One of the beautiful things that happened during Pete’s extended leave of absence was that a more collaborative team leadership culture emerged. While the culture during Pete’s time as senior pastor was certainly not unhealthy, we were intrigued by what God did in this season through a more team-led approach. So we researched many models and church staff structures, from various senior pastor-led models to team-based models, as well as biblical texts regarding leadership in the early church.
Through our research and prayerful process, we realized that a shared leadership model was more the norm than the exception at the dawn of the Church, such as in the collective leadership group of five in Antioch mentioned in Acts 13 and the council of apostles and elders in Jerusalem in Acts 15. Paul, when he wrote to churches, usually addressed a multitude of leaders. A very common picture we see in the New Testament is a group of devoted leaders with a diverse array of gifts who were serving, learning, praying, worshiping, and making decisions together. It’s a beautiful picture, and one we’re excited about replicating at Bent Tree.
The more hierarchical model of the church has had both positive and negative impact on local congregations. In the modern-day mega-church, the senior pastor role has often been elevated to the point where one person has much of the authority, influence, and responsibility. Our view is that this can become an unhealthy dynamic, both for the organization and for the individual. A variety of other churches across the country are also recognizing this and are taking steps to address it. It’s not to say that one person can’t lead a mega-church and be personally healthy, but we have serious questions as to whether or not it is a wise mantle to place on a single person. The church is all of us, indwelled and empowered by Christ, and when the full array of gifts is expressed through a plurality of leadership, we believe the local body of Christ is better for it. Many churches have either been launched with, or have moved to, a team leadership model, with great effectiveness, and we are excited about where this approach will lead us as a church.
Who is leading the church right now?
Nothing has changed in this regard since Pete left. Really. It’s still the Senior Leadership Team (SLT) and the elders. The SLT leads the daily operations and the elders are the spiritual overseers of the church. Collectively and collaboratively, they lead the vision and direction of the church.
Why go with a team of teachers?
This is not a model exclusive to Bent Tree. For at least two decades, many large churches have gone to a team teaching model, usually employing two or three primary teachers. This decreases the load on any one person, which often results in increased quality and variety of teaching. Bent Tree is committed to biblical preaching as one of our distinctives, and our focus on New Covenant teaching, which encompasses our distinctives of “Indwelling Christ” and “Grace Lived Out” is of paramount importance to our church. This focus will be expressed through everyone who teaches from any of our stages.
Historically, our church has been led by one primary lead teacher. While this has worked well for many years, and we are extremely grateful for the teaching Pete provided, we are also at a place in our church where we have several gifted, strong teachers on our staff. Much of that is due to the personal investment Pete made in our teaching team. We believe that it is valuable to our congregation to receive teaching from God’s Word from a fresh variety of perspectives. We also believe in the value of a consistent set of voices from the pulpit, and to this end the elders have decided to create the role of Lead Teaching Pastor. This responsibilities of this role will be shared by Steve Frissell and JoAnn Hummel, and they will join the SLT, effective immediately.
Is the Team Leadership Model permanent?
The SLT and the elders have committed themselves to this process for this next season of the church. We believe in the philosophy of team leadership. We are, however, still in the process of determining the best way to express this philosophy in our particular context, and we'll make adjustments as needed. In unity, we believe that it is what God wants for our church and is therefore in the best interest of Bent Tree.