Join our pastors, the Ministry Model Committee, and our Board of Trustees as we embrace renewal within The Chapel! We envision a future of multiplying fruitful churches in pursuit of seeing the Great Commission fulfilled - a future that is deeply rooted in our rich history as an evangelical non-denominational church. For 88 years, our steadfast commitment to take hold of the gospel of Jesus Christ and share Him with the world has both bolstered us in seasons of trial and emboldened us in new endeavors with self-sacrifice and generosity.
A change like this inevitably raises many excellent questions. We want to invite you into the process of seeking answers to all of them, as openly, honestly, and efficiently as possible. The truth is that we don't have all the answers yet. Because we are still very much "in the process," many of the answers we're seeking are still yet to be uncovered in the future.
We want to step into the future that God has for us with hope, joy, and excitement, and we know that, realistically, there are many, many complex issues that we will need to navigate along the way. There will be many decisions to make, and a significant percentage of these decisions will be best made by the future local elder boards that each local church assembles, after an official member vote takes place. That means we likely won't be able to answer all of your questions until later in this process.
For now, here is what we do know, and what we can confidently tell you. Click through these tabs to see all of the available information about what you can expect through this transitional phase. At the end of the day, we have great confidence in how the Spirit is leading and moving in our midst, and it is our prayer that He will strengthen and embolden each of us to face change with great fortitude and trust.
Q: Help me understand what is being proposed. What is the new ministry model you envision?
A: Truly, there is much that will remain the same. The Chapel's longstanding commitment to strong Bible preaching, our confidence in Scripture, our focus on evangelism, our priorities of grace and truth - these remain in place, as always. The core of The Chapel remains unchanged.
What we propose, in essence, can be compared to pouring water from a 7-gallon barrel into many single-gallon buckets. Though the vessels now holding the water are a different size and shape, the contents inside have not changed. We propose a shift to a model of ministry that allows each of our 7 churches to operate locally and independently, receiving oversight and authority from a local elder board, rather than from a single trustee board or a single Senior Pastor at the top of a larger organization.
Q: Why is this proposed model better than what exists within The Chapel's structure now?
A: One of the primary ways that we believe this model will serve our congregations better is that we are introducing a more robust plurality of leadership, where there is too often a singularity now. Put simply, while now there is only one man who oversees the entire church structure, we are replacing this position with a group in each location that can best identify and work to meet the specific needs of that location. No longer will an abundance of power or authority rest on the shoulders of one man alone. While Lead Pastors will still exist in each location, the heavy burden of responsibility will now be shared in a healthier way among many.
We will recreate our constitution(s) for each church to align with who we are as a family of churches moving forward. This model places all of the ability and responsibility to make decisions for the church within that church. This will afford each church an even greater opportunity to be contextualized within their community. (For example, people in Medina will be the ones making decisions that will have an impact in Medina.) Churches in local communities can more effectively position themselves to reach people in their area.
This model also strengthens our commitment to godly leadership. A model of independent local churches creates additional opportunities for men to serve in church leadership locally. Right now, there are 12 trustees on our trustee board—this model allows for multiplication by a factor of seven as we appoint local elder boards for each church. A model that prioritizes more godly leaders lends itself to more wise decision-making and more accountability.
Q: What is the biblical basis or rationale for a new model that includes local elder oversight?
A: The Biblical norm for church leadership is a plurality of God-ordained elders. It is the primary pattern for church leadership given in the New Testament. Nowhere in Scripture do we find a local assembly ruled by majority opinion, or by one pastor/elder. Biblically, the focal point of all church leadership is local eldership. It is the elders who are charged with ruling, teaching, feeding, and protecting the church, and it is the elders who are accountable to God on behalf of the church. (See Acts 11:29-30, 14:23; 1st Timothy 1:3, 3:1-7, 4:7, 6:3-5; Titus 1:6-9, 1:13, 3:2, 3:9; 1st Peter 5:1-2)
Q: What was the biblical basis or rationale for the former/existing model? Are you saying that it’s no longer biblical?
A: At times in The Chapel's history, some Senior Pastors have interacted with the trustees in a way that affirms their responsibility as overseers for the church beyond just a fiduciary role. In these moments, The Chapel has functioned very much like a church with a “plurality of elders.” However, the language of our constitution has never explicitly mandated such a relationship between the Senior Pastor and the trustees, and so there was much room for interpretation here. This vulnerability enabled Senior Pastors to hold more positional authority than was wise, if they chose to interpret the constitution's vagueness here in a different way.
A healthy church is regularly re-examining itself and its practices in light of the Scriptures. While our existing church model is not operating explicitly outside of the guidelines we have in Scripture, we acknowledge the opportunity before us to become even more consistent with what we understand the Bible to say, by writing an explicit plurality of authority into our church constitution(s).
Q: How do we ease the transition into becoming multiple independent churches that are spiritually and qualitatively healthy?
A: We discern together. We have many conversations. We gain input from one another. We pray. We’re not in a hurry to rush this through. We anticipate the entire process taking years, not weeks or months. Lead pastors from each campus will begin joining the monthly Trustee Board meetings to act as local representatives of each church and to offer aid and input as the process continues to unfold.
Q: When will members be asked to vote?
A: We plan to hold a formal member vote to affirm these five statements in September 2022. Our church constitution requires that we give 90 days’ notice to Chapel members, prior to a vote, when changes to the constitution are posed. While this vote may not result in an immediate change to the constitution, an affirmative member vote of these statements will eventually result in future constitutional changes. Thus, we deem it wise and appropriate to offer the same 90-day period in this circumstance.
Q: What are we voting on?
A: The September 2022 vote offers members of The Chapel an avenue to formally declare their own affirmation of the five statements recommended by the Ministry Model Committee and the Board of Trustees, dealing with the role of elders and the realignment of Chapel campuses as seven independent local churches, governed by seven local elder boards. Every month, additional clarity on the future is emerging. Any additional items ready for a vote in September, or requiring a subsequent vote, will be communicated with the appropriate notice.
Q: How soon after the member vote will the results be shared with the congregation?
A: It is our intention to share the results of the vote with all of our congregations as expediently as possible following the casting, counting, and verification of ballots.
Q: If we agree that local elder oversight is the right model, won’t we need to wait for these elders to be appointed before any other decisions can be made?
A: We agree that there are some decisions best left to the future elder boards.
Q: How long will the full transition take?
A: Some implications of this decision can be implemented relatively soon after an affirming vote from the members. Others may take 2-3 years to be fully implemented. Some of the complexities to navigate will include installing local elder boards, apportioning assets and properties, and addressing questions pertaining to Camp Carl, Global Outreach, and other shared central services.
Q: What do elders do?
A: We desire to see church elders hold a robust function of authority within their local churches, offering oversight to church vision, pastoral accountability, doctrine, church health, and more. We are still working through the specifics of term lengths/limits, the right number of elders for each board, and more.
Q: How is a trustee different from an elder?
A: The difference isn’t in the name; it is in the robustness of function. It becomes a matter of what the trustees are responsible for. In very recent history, the trustees were responsible for fiduciary matters almost exclusively. In the future, we desire to see elders carry more responsibility over a wider variety of processes and ministry outcomes.
Q: What happens to the existing trustee board if/when the new model takes effect?
A: The highest body of oversight and authority for our churches will be held by the newly-established local elders. There will no longer be one board that is responsible for the entire family of Chapel churches.
Q: Will any of the existing trustees transition into an elder role at their church / campus?
A: Perhaps. However, no current trustees will automatically become an elder of their local church; rather, an appropriate selection process will be followed.
Q: Will members vote for elders, or will they be appointed by the lead pastor in each location?
A: The Chapel’s pastors, ministry leaders, and trustees are now considering the process by which elders will be selected. While we have not arrived at a firm decision regarding the selection process, we begin with a wealth of Biblical insight regarding selection criteria. Because we desire high levels of accountability, we are evaluating the appropriate makeup of each church's local elder board, seeking to include both Chapel pastors and qualified men of the congregation.
Q: Can women serve as elders? Why or why not?
A: No, women cannot serve as elders. Our biblical conviction has always been that the highest level of responsibility and authority for the church is reserved for qualified men. For more on this, see our document on complementarianism.
Q: Will The Chapel still have a senior pastor who leads over all campuses?
A. Because there will be no higher governing authority than the local elder boards, this means that The Chapel, organizationally, will no longer require a Senior Pastor. Instead, we anticipate each local church will need its own Lead Pastor. However, at this time, Chapel members are being asked to vote only on the foundational principle of becoming seven independent local churches.
Q: Is the vote limited to formal members of The Chapel? If so, why? How is “member” defined?
A: According to our church constitution, only formal members of The Chapel may participate in an official church vote. We define a "member" as anyone who has completed our formal steps to membership and signed our membership covenant.
Q: If I’m not a member, but I want to vote, can I become a member before the vote takes place?
A: Yes, there will be opportunities to become a member before the September vote. If you are unsure whether or not you're listed as a formal member in our church database, please contact your campus directly and we will be glad to verify your membership status.
Q: How much information will be disclosed to members prior to the vote?
A: We desire to include you in this process and will make a consistent effort to bring you in as it is unfolding. Right now, we don’t have all the answers, but we will give you as much information as we have available, knowing that some decisions will be best left to the local elder boards after their installation.
Q: It sounds like the vote will be for an agreement in principle only. Who will oversee the business decisions needed to execute the new model after the September vote?
A: Existing trustees, in partnership with existing pastors, will form work groups and subcommittees as necessary. These will allow us to make the smoothest transition possible to firmly launch each campus into their future as an independent local church when the time is right. Lead pastors from each campus will begin joining the monthly Trustee Board meetings to act as local representatives of each church and to offer aid and input as the process continues to unfold.
Q: What role, if any, will members play in establishing the new churches?
A: One of the greatest strengths of The Chapel has always rested in our people, who use their God-given strengths and gifts for the benefit of others. Will you prayerfully consider how you might use your gifts to help strengthen your campus during the transition into becoming an independent church? Many hands make light work.
Q: Some campuses will feel the effects of a change more than others. Will the likely impacts to each campus be a matter of open discussion before the vote?
A: Absolutely. We will offer many opportunities for conversation and questions through the summer.
The Chapel has a rich, long-standing history of planting and assisting independent churches that are launched into health and autonomy. Over a dozen vibrant, growing churches exist today because of these efforts. This is multiplication for the sake of the Kingdom, and it is this legacy that inspires our vision for The Chapel's future.
We are evaluating the various aspects of a voluntary collective network, including the possibility of our seven independent local churches using some shared services. Potentially, future elder boards would help shape this network, whether formal or informal, making decisions together to determine and coordinate any future details. Participation in such a network would be voluntary and at the discretion of each local church.
We understand that each independent local church will require its own church constitution. We are having good discussions about the wisdom of writing those collectively now, or the benefits of waiting until local elder boards are installed and allowing those men to have a hand in writing their own constitution. Mission statements and core values may vary by church, but at the heart of our ministry, our theological convictions remain unchanged.
Should we arrive at a point in time where it becomes necessary to call a constitution committee, we will do so by following the appropriate steps.
Many ministries of The Chapel stand to be impacted by this decision. While we do not yet have a full picture of how these recommendations will impact Camp Carl, global outreach, Saturate, and others, you can be assured that we are doing the necessary research and asking the right questions to discern what is right and good for each ministry.
We can assure you that any offerings previously given and designated for a specific purpose, including funds given as part of the Saturate campaign, will continue to be utilized in ways that are consistent with the purposes for which they were originally given.
We understand that there will be many complex legal and fiduciary issues to navigate in the coming months and years. Subcommittees and work groups are being formed to address questions of assets, properties, debt, legacy costs, fiscal management, tax exemption, and more. It is because of the Lord's provision and your generosity to The Chapel over many years that we are even in a position to grapple with these things, and we are grateful.
We give thanks, too, for the financial health that all seven Chapel locations presently enjoy. It is our desire to position every campus to launch into independence on the surest financial footing that we can provide, and we are confident that we will be able to do this, despite the many questions ahead, because all of our campuses are already, or are not far from being, financially self-supporting. The Chapel is financially very healthy and strong.
We desire to be sensitive to the needs of our employees through this period of transition. Our central support staff members understand that this decision does introduce a degree of uncertainty surrounding their employment, and we know that they have many questions that remain unanswered for now. We continue to encourage open discussion about these issues with them, and we would encourage the church to pray for these staff members, being mindful of the unique temptations to be anxious in which we can all come alongside in support.
Get to know the Ministry Model Committee and familiarize yourself with the goals, objectives, and considerations they worked with throughout their process.
Read through The Chapel's current church constitution and familiarize yourself with the voting process and other important information for members.
We may not have all the answers yet, but we’re compiling a master list of questions and would gratefully add yours! Add your voice - we’re listening.