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Three purposes of service:
1. Profess that Christ is the head of this congregation and that He appoints leaders for the church.
2. Praise God for providing leaders for the sake of the church.
3. Petition God for His blessing on the relationship of the new shepherds and the congregation.

"Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing"
1 Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me ever to adore Thee,
May I still Thy goodness prove,
While the hope of endless glory
Fills my heart with joy and love.
2 Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Hither by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope by Thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wand'ring from the fold of God;
He to rescue me from danger
Interposed His precious blood.
3 O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness like a fetter
Bind my wand'ring heart to Thee.
Never let me wander from Thee,
Never leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

An Ebenezer Moment: Witnessing to God’s Help and Guidance
      “Thus far with your help, O Lord, we have come!” It seems we have been building to this moment for quite some time. I can recall meetings and gatherings over a year ago that were preparing us for today. Perhaps it is right to say that God was guiding us to this day. We began the year by studying God’s word and immersing this congregation in the spirit of God’s teaching about leaders, elders, overseers, and shepherds. We have paid careful attention to the example of Christ Jesus; and even as we affirm additional leaders we also affirm that Christ is the only Lord of this congregation and ultimately it is Christ who bestows upon all leaders the privilege of serving.
      Our process of identifying and naming new leaders began on Jan. 28. This congregation was asked to serve as God’s instrument for recognizing men who could lead as shepherds. I am a witness to the fact that our elders gave serious consideration to your input. With much prayer and discussion they continued the process of discerning what God intends. On Feb. 18 the elders offered the names of four men whom you named and who were willing and able to accept this sacred trust: Ron Belote, Russ McConnell, Larry Todd, and Jim Wilson. The elders again invited us to be a part of this process of discernment and the pledge of support for these four men was a resounding yes.
      We believe that God has been our guide and help in this process. We believe that he has graciously spoken through the church to identify leaders full of the Holy Spirit and Wisdom. We affirm this mystery: that this was done through the church, but it is all by God. God worked through the church openly, through members and elders, to lift up new leaders. This has been his way with his people and we are blessed in that way when we humbly submit ourselves to it.

A Pledge of Servant Leadership: Commitment of the Elder Candidates
[Benjamin will ask the four candidates to step up on the lower stage and face the congregation]

God has spoken graciously through his church calling you to tend his sheep. You are being asked to assume the responsibilities of shepherd, overseer, and elder.

Response: With God’s help we will.

Read aloud John 13:1-17

[The current elders will now join them and present them with the “servant towels”]

As a reminder of the Lord’s example of servant leadership, we offer you this small symbolic token of this day for your encouragement. This is a towel embroidered with the words of Jesus. We hope it serves as a reminder of Christ’s grace to you, your commitment before God and our support of your oversight.

A current elder will lead a Prayer of Blessing and offering additional comments (something that affirms that they are indeed shepherds, elders, and overseers for this congregation)

During the prayer, the “current elders” will be laying their hands on the “candidates” as a gesture that demonstrates the sharing of God’s spirit and their affirmation as elders.

[After the prayer, the men assembled on the lower stage may return to their seats.]

A Pledge of Support: The Commitment of the Congregation

Church, our worship today confesses our belief that God has called these men to shepherd our congregation. Our actions from this point forward ought to reflect that belief and it requires commitment on our part.
So, I will remind all of us of these instructions from the preacher to the Hebrews (13:7, 17) - “Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith ... Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls and will give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy and not a burden — for that would be of no benefit to you

Brothers and sisters ...

If you so agree and pledge, then I ask you to affirm by saying “With God’s help we will!”

Prayer of blessing for the church:
[A representative of the congregation will ask God to help the church live up to this commitment.]

Invitation to Life in Christ
[Followed by Song for Responses]

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 4 March 2007

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