About the Ministry


Married for over 48 years to his faithful Christian bride, currently serving for 15 years as President for STC and as an elder in his church, Joe has formerly been a college athletic director and coach, staff person for Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and chief development officer for a Christian college.

The Board of Strengthening the Church allows me the wonderful privilege of investing my time into the leaders of like-minded evangelical churches.  We do this because we believe that the health of the local church is very closely tied to the health of its leaders.

Joe Smith, Founder

Vision and Goals


See an increasing number of biblically faithful church leaders who are shepherding and discipling their flock, training other leaders, and planting churches.


  1. See an increasing number of churches who are embracing and practicing a biblical ecclesiology.
  2. See an increasing number of churches whose elders are truly shepherding and discipling their flock.
  3. See an increasing number of men who are growing spiritually, leading at home and in the church, and are discipling others.
  4. Expanding our ability to present to men around the country and the world a concept of growing personally and discipling other men – primarily in the context of the local church.

Ministry Focus

Our desire is to consistently, repeatedly point you and your leaders to the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ, and to His Word that is profitable for “teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”

Our primary desire is to help you in the area of men’s discipleship, which we believe is critical to the health of the church, but we also want to alert you to some thoughts on elder training, and have included them in this website.  Elders are to shepherd God’s flock, not just “manage” the business of the church.  The leaders of the church in Jerusalem “devoted themselves to prayer and the ministry of the word” – a great job description for elders.


Discipleship is helping another person grow in Christ-likeness.

This implies that there is a relationship of trust with the person, which may take weeks or months to build. It might begin with a cup of coffee or a lunch.  It might begin in the foyer at church with you seeking them out. Getting to know about the person – caring enough to ask questions not just about work, but about their life, their family, their hopes, their struggles.  Building the relationship is a critical part of the discipleship process, preceded with prayer. Father, give me favor with this man.  Father, help me express your love for him and his ministry. Father, guide my words as we intersect. Father, open doors for spiritual growth for both of us.

Discipleship can look like many things:

  • Meeting with a brother and asking him how he is doing as an employer or employee, as a roommate or as a husband, as a father, as a friend, as a follower of Christ. Asking him how he is doing in guarding himself from inappropriate content on the internet. Asking him if he is spending regular time in Bible reading and prayer.
  • Meeting with a brother weekly, or every other week and discussing a section of Scripture and praying together.
  • Being a part of a small group with other couples, but then being intentional to get a man, or several men, together apart from the wives – and asking questions about their spiritual walk.
  • Going through a book together, or several books together, and asking how that book is teaching you more about God and yourself.
  • Use some of the materials put out by Center for Church Based Training (CCBT) or Matthias Media – which incorporate good questions.

Are you detecting a pattern here?  Prayer for wisdom followed by time together asking intentional questions that go to the heart, in the pursuit of growth together.  Not just teaching, but observing, being honest and transparent about your life.  This is always a two-way learning process – we should always be learning and growing with the men we intersect with.

You can do this with an individual, or a small group. Remember, the relationship almost always precedes the harder questions. One of the keys to discipling is asking good questions – and not allowing men to give general answers that deflect responsibility for obedience to one of God’s clear directives.  Which implies, of course, that you are a student of God’s Word yourself.

In many cases one of the best ways to proceed (once a relationship has been established) is to ask a question like:  “what area of life is pressing on you the hardest at this point”?  It might be marriage, or parenting, or finances.  If so, ask: “if I give you a book that addresses this issue, would you be willing to read it with me?”

A Key Point – if you wait until you feel that you have “arrived” – you will probably never start.  We will never have all of the answers; not every person will respond well; we will have to be willing to be honest about our failures. This is real life being lived by real, fallen, imperfect people. That is why God gets the glory, He WILL provide for our needs. There are times when our best leading is through exposing our weakness. The Gospel equips us to share because God, through Christ, has declared us a masterpiece.

Brothers, investing in the spiritual health of another person is one of the most rewarding experiences one can have. We are not just impacting the man for Christ, but his wife, his children, his relatives, his friends, his church, his giving, his ability to disciple others. This is what the Gospel does – it empowers us to invest in others for the Glory of God – and also for their good, those they love, and those they influence.

Discipleship, investing in another person for their spiritual growth, is not brain surgery, but it is time-consuming, messy, and at times heartbreaking. We must die to self, out of love for our Savior, and ask for His grace and power to equip us and sustain.  And HE WILL, for His glory and the advance of His Kingdom.


1 John 1:7  “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”

Since the garden of Eden we have been isolationists, intent on protecting ourselves and guarding from self-disclosure. Our pride, selfishness, lust, convict us and we determine to keep our true-self hidden from others. We should not be surprised to know that sin flourishes in the dark.

But, the Good News is that we are cleansed and forgiven by the blood of Christ.  We are free from the mastery of sin, but not the presence of sin. Sin flourishes in the dark, but God has an answer to that dilemma – confession, bringing our sin into the light by speaking them to a brother, thus creating true, biblical fellowship.

There is power in bringing our sin into the light and asking for prayer and accountability to wage war against the enemy of our soul and his strongholds in our life.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves. Seldom do we deceive our wives and children, but sometimes we do. God, however, is never deceived, and He is Holy, and we are to be like him.

Confession is one of God’s most powerful tools to break the power of sin. When we press in with another brother and ask: “Where has Satan been effectively attacking you lately?” we can confess the specific ways sin has been evident in our lives. It allows us to join in battle together, to pray specifically, and ask follow up questions like: “What are the triggers that cause you to act on that temptation?” “How can you guard yourself from those triggers or temptations?”  or, “Please text me when you are feeling tempted and vulnerable so I can pray”

The attachment Accountability Questions is just one of many that are available to you to help you ask good, penetrating questions.

Pray for the right questions to ask. And, follow up. Ideally, you will be keeping a prayer journal where you can keep track of significant issues, people, events, etc. It is a great joy and encouragement to go back and see where God has answered prayer – often later than expected, in a different way than expected – but always better than expected.

God is good, all the time.

Elder Training

The Gospel is preached, God’s Word quickens faith, teaching follows, and these believers need to be shepherded, instructed, encouraged, and at times disciplined.  Who oversees this critical work – elders.  Elders who are first of all men of character, as outlined in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.  Elders who are called to shepherd and manage these fledgling churches. Elders who are called to “guard your life and doctrine” in 1 Timothy 4:16.  The church is to be a pillar and buttress of truth – the truth of Christ and His kingdom.

In many evangelical churches, we have outsourced the role of elders to the paid professionals (vocational pastor/elders), and the non-vocational elders have settled in to managing the business of the church.  Brothers, this is not the New Testament example!

There are several critical passages that must be considered by elders desiring to lead, feed, care and protect God’s flock.


  • We see the church in Jerusalem appointing the first deacons so the leaders “will devote ourselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word.” Acts 6:4. This is a great one-sentence job description for elders. As leaders, we must be committed to prayer and the Word if we are to lead effectively.
  • We read in Acts 20:28 what Paul says to the Ephesian elders: “Pay careful attention to yourselves, and to all the flock in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.” Pay attention to yourselves – this is accountability.  What we model for the flock cannot be underestimated.  Also note that this is not our church, but God’s church – He paid the price.  It is His flock and we need to discern His mind for His sheep, not promote our individual agendas.
  • In Hebrews 13:17  we read: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who have to give an account.”  Our primary role as elders is to shepherd the souls of the flock in our charge. This is the time-consuming, messy, glorious work of elders. How can we pray effectively for them if we have no idea of their strengths, weaknesses, struggles, concerns? An excellent book on this specific topic is “The Shepherd Leader” by Tim Witmer.
  • In 1 Peter 5:1–7, Peter lists what and how elders are to “think” about shepherding God’s flock, with modeling at the very heart of how they are to lead.

Other Resources

  • There are many excellent books on eldering, perhaps the most noted one is by Alexander Strauch, Biblical Eldership.
  • Another outstanding resource is a whole series of books by 9Marks, with the book by that name must reading.
  • To see biblical shepherding in practice, Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., in conjunction with 9Marks hosts their Weekender Conference three times a year.

If you are feeling a desire to engage in training other elders, I recommend two books:

  • Gospel Eldership by Robert Thune. Ten short chapters with questions at the end to foster discussion among the elders. This is an effective book to go through a chapter a month with your leaders, probably spending no less than 30 minutes processing a chapter.
  • The Elders and Leaders Field Manual by Center for Church Based Training are twelve studies with each issue takes about 90 minutes to go through with a group.

Brothers, the job description from the New Testament for leaders is to shepherd the flock and manage the affairs of the Church. Unless we care, as the Bible does, more about their character than their worldly success, we will find ourselves running a religious corporation rather than functioning as the Bride of Christ.

Moving from pure management to shepherding and management is not easy, but essential for the spiritual health of God’s visible witness to the world, which is the Church living out His directives lovingly, clearly, consistently, joyfully.

Affirmation of Key Principles

The Great "Alone's"

  1. Christ alone is the mediator between God and man.
  2. We are saved by grace alone, the gift of God.
  3. We are justified before God by faith alone, apart from works.
  4. Scripture alone is the basis of authority in Christianity. Tradition and practice must yield to the clear teaching of the Bible.
  5. It is grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, on the basis of Scripture alone, for the glory of God alone.

The Church

We believe the church is “a corporate display of God’s glory and wisdom; a corporate dwelling place for God’s Spirit; the organic body of Christ in which He magnifies His glory. At its best, the deliberate church is careful to trust the Word of God. We believe in the sufficiency of Scripture for the life, health, and growth of the local church. Our goal isn’t to see how innovative we can be. Our goal is to see how faithful we can be. As pastors and leaders, then, our first priority is to make sure that the Gospel enjoys functional centrality in the church.” The Deliberate Church, Mark Dever Pgs 26 and 21.

We believe a healthy church is characterized by a church that has largely captured the following nine marks

  1. Expositional preaching – explaining the meaning of a particular passage and applying it to its hearers.
  2. Biblical Theology – teaching what is in accord with sound doctrine. A commitment to know the God of the Bible as he reveals Himself in Scripture.
  3. The Good News – the heart of Christianity is the gospel – that God has sent His Son to save a rebellious people. Only through repentance and faith in Christ can God’s wrath be removed.
  4. Conversion – a spiritual exchange, a new birth, that only God can bring about. The new birth is evidenced by the fruit of repentance and progressive sanctification.
  5. Evangelism – our deepest need is spiritual life, and that new life only comes through repentance and embracing Christ and what He has done on the cross.
  6. Membership – a covenant commitment to a local body of believers.
  7. Church Discipline – a sacred obligation to care for our members and to care enough to lovingly confront inappropriate living.
  8. Discipleship and Growth – taking Christ’s command in Matthew 28:18 – 20 seriously; a teaching that enables a growing in Christ-likeness; accountability.
  9. Leadership – a plurality of male elders identified by spiritual characteristics, not giving capacity. Men committed to shepherd and manage the flock that God has assigned to them with love and intentionality.

Trusted Resources

The books and websites we reference are those that we have viewed or interacted with and have confidence in. Anything apart from God’s Word is to be read discerningly and prayerfully. Certainly, the ones we list are not the only resources that are helpful, but simply ones that we have confidence in. We are especially drawn to the resources of 9Marks Ministry.

Trusted Books

Trusted Websites

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