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February 27, 2014

The Profound Nature of Spiritual Influence


The greatest power on earth

The 19th century Cardinal John Henry Newman once said that the greatest power on earth is the power of personal influence. I can testify that I am a different person because of the personal influence of an elder, Rachel Johnson. My husband, Jim Singleton, affirms the same thing of Rachel’s husband, Bill Johnson, who was also an elder in the church.

What made this couple so influential? These elders loved Jesus and trusted Him in ways we had never before seen. They were full of wisdom; they knew the Word of God and allowed it to shape their worldview. They loved the Church, the lost, the mission of God in the world, and, most influential of all, the Johnsons loved us.

They invested themselves in our lives in ways that shaped who we are today. Before Bill’s death, he and Rachel asked Jim, me, and Jerry Sittser (professor at Whitworth University and author) to develop a means for other elders to grow as spiritual leaders within their church.

That is how Elder Leadership Institute (ELI) began; by the desire of real people who impacted our lives and wanted to help future elders grow into people of love, wisdom, knowledge, and faith.


What is ELI?

ELI is a unique model for catalytic growth for elders. It provides a three-month phase of reading and conversations that prepare participants for an Immersion Week in exploring God’s call to read all of life redemptively, to walk with God individually, examining the elements of leadership and functional maturity, exploring the contemporary context and understanding the mission of the church and leading so that change can occur.

Following Immersion Week, there is a yearlong follow-up for pastors and elders with mentoring/spiritual direction/coaching along with reading and practical applications of the learning. ELI models and depends upon the active presence of the Holy Spirit to enliven, encourage, guide, and empower every participant and every church represented. We experienced this last summer, and we believe that you will experience this for yourself.

There are two cohorts offered in 2014: July 6-11 in Spokane, WA at Whitworth University, and July 13-18 in Greenville, SC at First Presbyterian Church. Click here for details and registration information. Please note ELI in Spokane registration or confirmation of intent is required by March 1, 2014! If you plan on attending, please contact

I hope to see you at one of these cohorts – the church is waiting for people of profound spiritual influence.

Have you attended an ELI cohort? What was your experience like? Share your thoughts in the comments below; our ECO community will be grateful to hear your perspective.


Rev. Dr. Sara Singleton | Director of Elder Leadership Institute

Sara is the founding director of ELI and was formerly an associate pastor in spiritual formation and marriage ministries in in Colorado Springs. She now serves as a stated pastor in Londonderry, New Hampshire. She authored the two audio-devotional series published by Oasis Audio, Hearts On Pilgrimage and Continuing the Journey. Upcoming works include A Simple Walk: Following God Beyond Fear, to be published in 2014 by InterVarsity Press.

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