Over the past several years, beginning long before I was here, our elders have set aside time in our bimonthly meetings to discuss the content and pastoral implications of one chapter in a book. We've worked our way through Grudem's Systematic Theology, and we're about to finish Believer's Baptism. Lord willing, in a few week's we'll start a new study. These books are theological enough to offer some real meat to chew on, but the pastoral implications are pretty obvious in most of the chapters. And at some point we may also work through some of the dialogues on sanctification that have emerged in the blogosphere in recent weeks.
These conversations have been fruitful in three ways. First, we've each grown in our understanding of Scripture and how various texts relate to each other. Second, we've identified areas in which we still don't agree completely and considered what we really do and don't need to agree on in order to function together as a church—even as elders. And finally, we've wrestled with some practical pastoral questions outside the context and pressure of a real-life situation.
Let me encourage you to create these sorts of conversations among your elders. And, of course, if you don't like the historically Baptist ecclesiology of elder-led congregationalism, you might even find this sort of thing helpful among your pastoral staff. Or even with the deacons.