Am I Called? is a ministry of Dave Harvey and friends, based in Four Oaks Church, in Tallahassee, Florida. We want to help men find their call to gospel ministry and to help churches find called men.
Through articles, regular blog posts, podcasts, and other resources, Am I Called? will help men evaluate whether or not they are called to pastoral ministry, as well as help churches find men who are called to pastoral ministry.

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Q&A: Bob Thune on Gospel Eldership

By on May 3, 2016

Bob Thune is the founding pastor of Coram Deo Church in Omaha, Nebraska.  We took some time to catch up with Bob about the motives for writing his new book Gospel Eldership, gave some deeper prodding to some of the book’s themes, and discussed what gospel eldership look like in the life of Coram Deo.
You can visit Bob’s site at or follow him on Twitter (@bobthune).

Purchase Gospel Eldership from the New Growth Press website.

First, would you mind telling us a little bit about Coram Deo, where you are the founding pastor?
I planted Coram Deo in the Fall of 2005 and have been leading it ever since. Our simple self-description is that we are “a gospel-centered, missional church”—though I realize those terms are sometimes used in malleable ways. What we mean is this: the gospel is the center of our church life, and we exist to live on mission with Jesus. We’ve sought to emphasize not just gospel doctrine but also gospel culture, and it’s been beautiful to watch the Lord bring fruit from that. Many of our leaders are people who have come to faith and been discipled within our church, which I think is the real barometer of a “missional” church.  We are also a church-planting church, having planted two healthy daughter churches and having helped to fund and resource about a dozen other church planting efforts in our state and region. Right now, we’re a church of about 500 adults and 200 kids. And those numbers reflect people in meaningful gospel community, not just worship attendance.

What motivated you to write Gospel Eldership?
When we were seeking to develop our first group of elders, I looked around for some good resources to use in the process. I found lots of books on ecclesiology, lots of books on governance and polity, lots of books on theology… but I couldn’t find anything that sought to develop elders at the level of heart, character, and spiritual formation. That’s how Gospel Eldership came into existence. I started writing supplemental content to help us get down into the heart and soul and character of potential elders. That content was refined and developed over the course of years and was finally released as the book Gospel Eldership.

You say this in your introduction, but what’s the best way to use the book?
It’s best used in a sort of “mentorship” fashion where a current elder or church planter leads a handful of potential elders through the material. This small-group, conversational, interactive format creates the best context for learning and helps everyone involved get the most out of the material. It can also be used as an “independent study” sort of format by aspiring leaders who want to prepare for future leadership in the church.

At the end of the book, you talk about functional and formative eldership. Tell us what you mean when you’re writing about those categories.
Functional eldership means we have eldership in our church – our eldership is functioning. Formative eldership means eldership is a context for the ongoing formation of the men who serve as elders.

The gospel compels us to shape a culture where the shepherds can still receive shepherding.

To say it another way, eldership is not seen as a “destination,” but as part of God’s means to continue to sanctify and shape those men whom he calls to be elders. I’m arguing that it’s not enough to have a functional eldership (though that’s certainly a good start). The gospel compels us to shape a culture where the shepherds can still receive shepherding—a culture where leading others isn’t only about where I’m taking them, but where God is taking me, where the day-in, day-out realities of shepherding are the raw materials for confronting my own idolatry, leaning into my weakness, and growing in grace. Obviously Gospel Eldership can’t create this culture; but it can be a helpful resource.

Have you been able to put the principles from Gospel Eldership in place at Coram Deo, and if so, have they been fruitful?
Yes. This material has been the baseline for our leadership development process at Coram Deo, and by God’s grace, we’ve seen tremendous fruit! We’ve had our share of challenges and struggles along the way. But I routinely thank God for the men he’s raised up as elders, the men we’ve sent out as church planters, and more importantly, the culture that He’s allowed us to create in our church. Coram Deo isn’t a perfect church; but it’s a healthy church with a healthy gospel culture. We routinely hear people say things like, “This is the healthiest church I’ve ever been a part of.” I realize sometimes people are prone to flattery, and maybe we’re only hearing what we want to hear! But since the glory is all God’s anyway, I think it’s okay to be excited about our church. I’m jealous for many more churches to reflect the renewing, redemptive beauty of the gospel at the level of their culture—and that all starts with the elders.

We’re giving away three copies of Gospel Eldership.
Use the Google Form below to enter your name in the drawing before 5/10.


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