Finding good governance in Ephesians 4

The invitation to speak to a gathering of pastors and lay leaders about the link between smooth functioning governance and a congregation’s mission effectiveness came with a suggested text for my “sermons.” It was Ephesians 4:16.

“From whom the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, AS EACH PART DOES ITS WORK.”

The final words of the verse sent me scurrying to read again the familiar chapter from the book of Ephesians, where what to my wondering eyes appeared but the outline of an introductory workshop on governance within the context of a faith-based organization.

Regular readers of Generous Matters know I’m not a fan of proof-texting or otherwise re-purposing the Bible as a how-to handbook for whatever we’re into on a given day. Yet there are times when the words of one of the ancient writers are simply too on-point not to use to make my point.

This is such a time.

Okay, that I’m preparing this week for a board retreat focused on shared governance likely has something to do with my reading of Ephesians 4. However, it doesn’t take much imagination to pull principles for smooth functioning governance from the Apostle Paul’s exhortation to the squabbling bunch in Ephesus.

Communication, trust, integrity, and transparency – the four pillars of exemplary governance – they’re all here.

In thirty-two verses, Paul provides a primer (albeit, accidentally) for those who’ve been called by God as executive directors/pastors, senior staff, and board members.

Be worthy of the calling you’ve received (v.1).

Be humble, gentle, patient, loving (v.2).

Keep the unity (v.3).

Act like grown-ups (v.14).

Speak the truth (v.15 and 25).

Don’t hold grudges (v. 26).

Work hard (v. 28).

Mind your words (v.29).

Be kind to each other (v. 31)

Forgive (v.32).

In a book chapter titled “Practicing Governance in the Light of Faith,” author David Hester asked

How can the practice of governance be taught and learned in ways that are appropriate to understanding it as a sacred calling, in which the purpose served is, first and last, God’s purpose?

My response: Begin board meetings/congregational councils with a responsive reading of Ephesians 4. Then act accordingly.

Everything that follows will come easier and more peaceably with the text firmly in minds.




  1. Thank you for sharing this excellent guidance, Rebekah. I’m so thankful the Lord speaks through you in this way.

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