Q & A with Brandon Levering

Answers to Key Ministry Questions:

Q: What is your approach to teaching the Bible? Do you build messages that are topical or expositional? Do you concentrate on a specific book of the bible? What tools do you use to ensure your message is consistent with God’s intent?

A: I am committed to biblical exposition in the pulpit, by which I mean the kind of sermon where the message and aim of the sermon are controlled by the message and aim of the biblical passage being preached. I make it my aim to preach from the whole counsel of God, both Old and New Testaments, working primarily through books of the Bible (though topical series certainly have their place on occasion). As a minister of the Word, my goal is for every sermon to be faithful to Scripture, centered on Christ, and brought to bear on daily life in a clear and compelling way.

In terms of ensuring the consistency of each message with God’s intent, I typically spend 12-15 hours each week in sermon preparation, which involves praying, reading the passage over and over while paying careful attention to context, structure, and literary features, working in the original languages, consulting reference materials, discussing the passage with my staff, and writing the sermon. Regarding specific tools, beyond language-based software and reference works, I try to consult at least 3-4 commentaries for each passage (both technical and preaching commentaries), as well as any other books that might be helpful in applying the text. I also make a priority of seeking continuing education in preaching. Right now, this means regular participation in the Charles Simeon Trust Workshops on Biblical Exposition (of which I am also an instructor and small group leader), as well as a monthly conference call with other area pastors during which we offer feedback on each other’s sermons.

For further thoughts on my convictions regarding exposition, please use the links to the following blog posts:
What is Biblical Exposition?
Why Biblical Exposition? It reflects a healthy doctrine of Scripture
Why Biblical Exposition? It respects the God-given shape of Scripture
Why Biblical Exposition? It’s essential to the pastoral calling

Q: The leadership structure of Stonebridge is a team approach that utilizes staff leadership and elder leadership. Describe how you have implemented the vision of your church through staff culture and leadership.

A: I believe a team approach to church leadership is critical, not only because it accords with the biblical model of a plurality of elders (cf. 1 Tim. 3:1-7; Tit. 1:5-9), but because no single pastor, elder, or staff member has all the answers or all the gifts necessary to lead a congregation.

For that reason, through my various experiences with implementing vision at Westgate, I’ve sought to cultivate and prioritize a team environment marked by the following values:

Shared Ownership: It’s impossible to operate as a team if the vision is not shared by everyone involved, whether elders, deacons, or staff members. For us, this meant involving our various leaders not just in the implementation and execution of the vision, but in identifying and articulating that vision as we developed it. Not only did it truly help us as we learned from each person, it generated real ownership beyond the elders and pastors. And we applied this to the congregation as well, since we believe every member is called to live on mission, with each sphere of their daily life as part of their mission field. Everyone was invited to participate in identifying our vision; many have a shared ownership of that vision as a result.

Unique Contributions: While we seek to cultivate shared ownership, we recognize not everyone will play the same role. As 1 Corinthians 12 reminds us, that’s part of the beauty of the Body of Christ. And so one of my goals it to understand and appreciate the unique gifts, skills, insights, and passions of our leaders, and encourage them in using those gifts, whether by providing training to develop them and/or opportunities to use them. For some of our elders, that’s meant coaching them in preaching and teaching and giving them opportunities to serve (e.g. Raudo, mentioned above). For some of our staff, it has meant including them in drafting or revising their job description, to ensure their gifts and passions are being utilized even as their unique role is being fulfilled.

True Delegation: There are few things more frustrating or ineffective for leaders than being given a responsibility to accomplish something without the authority to actually carry it out. For that reason, when we task a person or team with a responsibility, we try to truly vest them the authority necessary to accomplish it, rather than micromanaging them. This can feel risky, but it’s essential if we really do believe in shared ownership and unique contributions. And we’ve seen it bear good fruit at Westgate in aligning and revitalizing several ministries for gospel growth.

Culture of Trust: Shared ownership and true delegation cannot happen without a culture of trust, where we guard unity and healthy relationships, and really believe that we are for each other and that God wants to use each of us. Nurturing this kind of culture at Westgate has freed us to have lively conversations and even disagreements about how to implement vision, since we are convinced, even in our disagreements, that we are for each other and for the gospel (rather than suspecting each other of ulterior motives or competing agendas and reading that into each question or suggestion). It has also meant that when relationships do break down in leadership, we put whatever process we’re in on hold to address the relational conflict. It’s important not just to get stuff done, but to do so in a godly, healthy, unified way.

Accountability and Support: Without providing direction, coaching, support, and accountability to leaders, delegation devolves quickly into abdication. Leaders feel isolated and unappreciated in their work, relationships suffer, responsibilities get left undone, and vision falters. This is so critical to effective leadership, and something I have specifically been trying to grow in and develop more over the past year.

Q: After reviewing the church’s statement of faith as well as any other related material, how do your theological/doctrinal convictions compare?

A: My sense is that my doctrinal convictions line up very well with Stonebridge. I currently pastor a church in the same denomination, so we uphold the same 2008 EFCA Statement of Faith. I also ascribe to a Reformed view of sovereignty, salvation, and grace, which I understand is in concert with the current pastoral leadership.