Page 49

Siburt

positions, including patriarch of its popular ElderLink ministry, the late Dr. Charles Siburt Jr. (’68) had a way of seeing things church leaders in the midst of crises couldn’t. Driven by his own experience as a preacher and elder and his deep love for people in those roles, Siburt’s knack for correctly diagnosing congregational concerns and his willingness to put all involved parties on the chopping block earned him two widely used nicknames: The Church Doctor and Chainsaw Charlie. A rare eye condition limiting his vision seemed only to sharpen his insight. “He had the remarkable ability to size up a situation in a sentence or two to get to the crux,” remembers ACU chancellor Dr. Royce Money (’64), who in 1988 brought Siburt onto ACU’s full-time Bible faculty. “But it was always couched in love and concern.” Dr. John Knox (D.Min. ’03), preaching minister for Granbury (Texas) Church of Christ and a former student of Siburt’s, was one of the countless church leaders who benefited both from his mentor’s gentle bedside manner and his sawtooth’s sting. “He could make you feel like you were the best minister God ever created,” recalls Knox, “yet at the same time had no tolerance for self-pity. Charlie could tell church leaders things about themselves that were very painful to hear. I quietly cringed more than once during meetings with Charlie and my leaders. But in response, those leaders would thank him and ask when he could come back. They intuitively sensed he had the health of the church in mind.”

Siburt’s personal conversations and consultations with leadership teams helped to make him aware of unique needs and challenges faced by elders, and in 2000 he responded by launching ElderLink. Now celebrating its 15th anniversary, the program brings church leaders from across the country for a series of conferences to equip and encourage them as they shepherd their flocks. “Ministers often get a chance to do continuing education work, but a lot of times elders and lay leaders in congregations are invited to do things for which they haven’t really had any basic training. ElderLink really fits that bill,” says Dr. Carson Reed (’95 D.Min.), ACU vice president for church relations, assistant professor in the Graduate School of Theology and executive director of the Siburt Institute for Church Ministry. Steve Watkins, a program manager for an IT company, attended his first ElderLink conference in 2011, a year after becoming a shepherd at Fairfax (Va.) Church of Christ. “Stepping into this role, I thought I understood what I was getting into,” Watkins says. “It’s almost like getting married. All of a sudden you think, ‘I wish someone had told me this beforehand!’ So many unexpected things. To go to ElderLink and hear an elder from North Carolina, one from Georgia and one from Mississippi struggling with some of the same issues, it was a relief to know it’s not just us in northern Virginia.” Steve Rogers, an elder at Central Church of Christ in Amarillo, Texas, and a frequent ElderLink participant, takes it a step further. “I believe the greatest challenge to church leaders is the absence of a pastoral guidance source,” Rogers says. “Church leaders are expected to be strong, wise and

BOBBY GOMBERT

ne of the keenest observers and trusted guides in Churches of Christ was legally blind. But in a quarter century at ACU and from a variety of

ACU TODAY

Winter-Spring 2016

35

Profile for Abilene Christian University

ACU Today Winter/Spring 2016  

Alumni magazine for Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas

ACU Today Winter/Spring 2016  

Alumni magazine for Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas