Normal is gone! Things won’t get back to normal. The world is changing and the only constant is that it is continuing to change! We can’t protect the status quo, but what we can do is invent new ideas that will work in the changing environment. In the Christian Leadership world that means finding new ways to share the gospel with others. Parts of evangelism never change. We must have a relationship with the person on some level so that they will listen to our testimony. We must share how Jesus changes lives with them. How we do that is what is changing. Is your church/organization/business using all the innovation available to you?
Archive for the 'Direction' Category
As a teacher, I make a lot of copies. Sometimes, when in a hurry, I don’t print off a new master sheet to make the copies from, I just grab an old copy, stick it in the machine and presto, out comes the worksheets I needed. The problem is that the copy of the copy is just a little less clear than the original or even the first copy.
It is easy to follow the leader, but it is hard to step out on our own and do something revolutionary. Sometimes, even in ministry it is easy to try to have a ministry just like _______________. He or she has a great ministry that is doing incredible things for the Kingdom of God and since we of course also want to do our part for HIS Kingdom, we figure well, if I just do what _______________ does, then God will bless my ministry the same way. The problem is that sometimes, it almost works. However, when we take our eyes off of God and put it on someone else, no matter how godly that someone else may be, then we aren’t fulfilling God’s mission for our lives, we are just being a copy of a copy and that is never as good as the original!
Seth Godin brought the idea of Tribes in marketing to the forefront. As we lead our churches in the 21st century, is the idea of a tribal church a good or bad thing? I am raising the question as one who hasn’t made up my mind yet. We have had denominations for the last 1,700 years or so with a huge bonanza of individualism in the church in the last 500 years. Now, even within denominations, there are huge differences in the way people go about “doing church”. I am not referring to churches that are dead or alive, we can go with churches that are thriving and leading people to God. Even within that group, there is a huge variance in how the service is structured, how the music is played, the order of service etc. Some are blatantly tribal. For example, there are “Cowboy Churches” or “Hip Hop Churches”. These put their tribe right in the name. Others are less blatant. “Independent Baptist” sounds independent with congregational leadership; but there is a certain sort of look that almost all “Independent Baptist” churches have. It is an identity as much as a theology. I am only picking on them because I used to be a member of one and know their idiosyncrasies better than those of many other denominations. Other denominations like the “Southern Baptists” or the “Assemblies of God” seem to be almost splitting over the fact that there are such a wide variety of styles under their umbrella. Many churches are identifying more with a movement than the denomination. For example: Elevation Church in Charlotte, NC is probably more like NewSpring Church in Anderson, SC , James River Assembly in Ozark, MO or North Point Community Church north of Atlanta, GA than any of them would be like the average church in their respective denominations. As our world grows smaller with technology, we can find people who are “like us” very easily. If you are looking for left handed Haiku poets, you can probably find them. It can be tempting to steer our churches in directions that meet people who are like us. Using the tribal mentality of this generation to reach people for Jesus Christ isn’t wrong, but let us be sure that in using the tool, we don’t forget to reach out to those who aren’t like us.
I just had one of my advisees, Jarrick Lee, stop by my office. He is studying to be a pastor and feels that God is calling him to plant a church. It is incredible to spend time with young leaders who are so full of passion for our Savior! If you have been hanging out with a bunch of Christians who were Christians when Kennedy was shot or even when the Challenger blew up, it is time to make a conscious effort to get out of your box and spend time with some baby Christians and young leaders who are challenging the status quo! I love teaching on a college campus where there are so many young people who are on fire for God!
In the church world, there are so many great programs/events/studies/classes that can help your church. At what point do they become a detriment? One question to ask is, “How many staff and volunteers do we have?” and then secondly, “What is the very best use for these people?” If we try to do everything, we will accomplish nothing well. There are traditional programs like Choir, Vacation Bible School, Sunday School, Special Music, Men’s & Women’s ministries…each of these take someone to lead them and people to be involved in them. Each of these serve a purpose and can be good for the church. Sometimes though, it is important to choose between them so that a smaller number of programs can be done with the excellence that is due worship presented to the King of kings and Lord of lords! If you are having trouble getting volunteers for an area of ministry in your church, you could berate the congregation about why they aren’t serving the Lord…OR you might take another look at that area of ministry and ask if it is really vital to the core mission of the church? It might be time to kill it before it dies a long painful death.
Henry Ford may not have invented the automobile, but he was quite successful in his creative “new” way of building them. He had an idea to have men specialize in one part of building a car and then pushing it down the line to the next guy to do his part. Back in 1913, it was a brand new idea! Think if car companies hadn’t updated at all since then what we would be driving! The model T was a great car for its day, but most of us would be quite disappointed with going 20 miles per hour on the open road now! In the church, we must be constantly begging God to give us new creativity! We don’t change the message that God has given us! We do change the method in which that message is conveyed. Just as I am sure Henry wouldn’t be content with still cranking out the model T in 2010, we shouldn’t be content to just do things the way they have always been done. I heard a quote recently, “Your organization is perfectly suited to get the results you are getting.” If you don’t like the results your church is getting, then something needs to change, or you will keep getting the same results. Change is scary! Some people won’t like it! Even a model T can be changed to be a hot rod!
Today, my wife left for Seattle. The house hasn’t changed any. Life around me is more or less the same, but there is a little something missing. She is only one person, but in my life, she is a VERY important person! Are you a part of someone’s life enough that you would be missed if you disappeared for a while? Someone other than your spouse/kids? In church leadership we can ask that question both of ourselves and our church. If I disappeared from this ministry, would anyone care? Would it affect anything? The same with our church! If my church disappeared off the face of the earth today, would anyone outside of the staff & maybe the members even notice? Are we making a difference in the community? Do people outside see the life change that is going on in people’s lives because we are here? Or are we just that building on a hill that has a few cars outside it on Sunday mornings for an hour or so? Tough question to ask, but one we should be asking regularly. Just because you would be missed today, doesn’t mean you have that status forever. We must constantly be seeking the Lord and HIS vision and direction for our churches. When we step outside of HIS will, we are just a community club that will soon lose members and die off. Seek God’s grace that your church will be one that would be missed if you weren’t there!
There is a statistic I have heard thrown around in business that the average millionaire in America reads at least one non-fiction book a month. They are constantly learning and improving by finding mentors in people who may not be in their area or even still alive, but by reading what they wrote they can learn from them. In the church world, we should be spending time improving our ability to connect to people with the gospel of Jesus Christ! Of course we must be reading the Bible! What else are we filling our time with though? Are we reading books that can help us be better leaders? Better teachers? Better communicators? Better managers? If millionaires can spend time reading a minimum of a book a month just to make a few more dollars, how much more should we be willing to continue our education to be able to more effectively engage this world in a conversation that leads it toward Jesus? For sake of transparency, Last week, I finished reading Can we do that? by Andy Stanley and Ed Young and Trevayne by Robert Ludlum. I am also reading Promotion Strategies for the Local Church by Wayne Kiser and re-reading It by Craig Groeschel. Some of you are thinking, Wait, Trevayne isn’t about the church?? It isn’t – Robert Ludlum writes fiction…and I enjoyed it. Also, he wrote it in 1973 during Watergate, but many of the truths in the book apply equally to the corruption of our current administration. Read for fun, but also to be better at what we do!
Some people feel that not planning out their sermons is somehow more spiritual. You confuse that pit in your stomach on Saturday night because you don’t know what you are going to preach in the morning with the work of the Holy Spirit. Try this and see if it works for you. Take a day or two away from the church. Sit down with a calendar and a Bible somewhere that will not distract you. Pray over the dates in the calendar. You might get ambitious and give a rough plan to the entire year. If not, try for at least a quarter. Note that there may be certain holidays like Christmas, Easter/Passover, Ascension Sunday etc. for which you may want to plan a special service. You will also want to plan sermons that remind the congregation of the vision that is particular to your church at least once a quarter. Having a plan allows you to tackle jobs in bite size pieces. It allows you to have more creativity. Like if you want a prop for a sermon, it is much easier to acquire if you have a few months to get it than if you have from midnight Saturday evening until Sunday morning to get it. If you have a staff, it gives them a heads up about what they need to be doing as well. If you are worried about too much planning and not enough Holy Spirit, remember, HE can still change the plans at the last minute just like before…but there is a plan for HIM to change. HE can and should be part of the planning. If you have never tried this before, you might do something basic like dusting off one of those systematic theology books from bible college or seminary and work through the table of contents in a year or two. That way, you don’t preach on your pet doctrines every week while leaving your congregation ignorant of others. Have fun! I hope you will find that this approach relieves stress from your work. If not, after a quarter, go back to agonizing on Saturday night for a Sunday morning sermon.
As pastors and church leaders, we hear about “successful ministries”. How do we define what is successful? In the corporate world, there are the number of products manufactured or shipped and of course the net and gross profit can be easily measured to see if a company is successful or not. In the church world, looking at a bank account is no sign of success. If we look at the vast sums of cash that Jesus had in order to quantify the success of His ministry, we would say that He wasn’t even a real pastor. He filled the pulpit occasionally at the local church/synagogue, and He had a ragtag bunch of men that followed him around. He never built a building or presided over a board meeting. We would be ludicrous to say that His ministry was unsuccessful though. HE changed the whole world! HE established a way for us to have communion with God! HE gave us forgiveness of sins! …so where does that leave us?
Traditionally, pastors and church leaders have looked at two numbers to establish if a church is successful. The first is: How many members/attenders/Sunday worshipers do you have in “your” church? The second is: How much did you take up in the offering? I would like to propose a new way to define success! Are you making a difference in someone’s life in regards to their coming to Jesus or growing in their relationship with Christ? Yes/No? If the answer is “No” then it doesn’t matter how many butts are planted in a pew on Sunday or how many millions are in the building fund, then that entity isn’t really a church at all and would be unsuccessful using this new definition. If the answer is “Yes” then it doesn’t matter if your ministry is to only that one person, if that is what God has called you to do, then you are successfully carrying out that ministry! Great work! I applaud you! If you can say “Yes, I/we are leading people to a relationship with Jesus Christ and we are helping them grow in that relationship AND we have lots of people attending AND there are big offerings being used to help more people come to know Christ, then fret not, you are still successful if that is the ministry God has given you. I don’t want anyone mistaking my words to say that big churches aren’t successful ministries. They may or may not be…just like small churches and medium size churches. Have an awesome day! I wish you great success in the ministry God has given you!