Previous month:
October 2008
Next month:
December 2008

Changing the Way We Do Church 3

I have posted two entries in my seven-part series that addresses our need to change the thinking and methods of modern church work.  If you want to read the first two, you can go here.  Rather than gripe about what is happening, I thought I would put out some of my own thoughts about changes we can make that would bring positive change, maybe even reformation to the Lord's body. My third point is this:

3. Help leaders be productive in their purpose as they oversee Holy Spirit chaos created by people pursuing and fulfilling their purpose.

The current crisis, and I believe there is a crisis, is mostly a crisis of leadership.  Either leaders are so hands on that they are stifling those around them or they are so hands off that committees and boards are running the church, and some of them are not spiritually equipped to do so.  I can remember meeting a group of elders, whose church was half the size and half the budget it had been five years earlier.

They sat in our meeting and pointed fingers at each other in blame, while some wanted to know why they had not been informed by the pastor of some things that had happened.  They asked me what they should do and I said, "You should all resign."  Needless to say, they were shocked.  I went on to explain: "You are the board of directors and this all happened on your watch.  It's time to at least be willing to relinquish control."

I asked a business man present what he would recommend if this were a business.  He said, "I would shake up the board while there was still something to shake!"  Sad to say, the elders did not resign and that church no longer exists.  At least the building was bought by another church.

When people pursue their purpose, the leaders lose control in a manner of speaking, and that is a good thing.  If a faithful member's purpose is to go to Africa, the elders and church must help that person get on the field, whether that is part of their vision or not.  As soon as they get one on the field, someone else may step forward and state that they are called to go, too.  That is the "chaos" to which I refer.  The Holy Spirit is not limited to operate in an orderly manner where purpose is concerned.

What's more, leaders need to focus on their own productivity, which must go beyond preaching on Sunday morning and Wednesday evening.  Each leader must know his or her purpose and then they must hold themselves accountable for results.  It is not enough to judge the job that others are doing.  Leaders must produce and be subject to others in their own work.

We will further discuss the attitude that leaders must have if they are to fulfill this third step.  If anything is going to change in the church world, the leaders in that world must learn new ways of thinking and behaving, and that will not be an easy thing to achieve. 

I am attaching an article I wrote for Charisma Magazine a few years ago that addresses the leadership issue, called Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Leader.  It will prepare you for my next post, the fourth in my seven-part series.

    Feel free to write your comments to this entry on the site where it is posted.

Download Sinners in the Hands Charisma

Changing the Way We Do Church 2

I started offering some thoughts last week on what needs to happen for the body of Christ to snap out of the funk it seems to be in.  Yes, we can do Sundays pretty well, but what about the rest of the week. Is the church providing opportunities for people to live and apply their beliefs?  If not providing opportunities, is the church at least equipping the saints for their purpose work?  In my humble and limited estimation, we are not doing either particularly well.  So rather than just gripe, I have always tried to provide options and ideas.  You can read my first post here.

The second recommendation I have for changing the emphasis for local churches is:

2.  Equip people to perform missions (both domestic and foreign), to launch business ventures and to carry out any other activity their purpose dictates and faith allows.

Since we are so focused on Sunday morning, we need people to help carry out that venture.  If you can usher, sing in the choir, do nursery or serve cookies to visitors, you will find opportunities abound for you to be "involved,"  But what if you can't do those things?  First, you will face enormous pressure at times to be involved in one of those Sunday activities.  If you cannot, then there isn't much else to do around church. 

Yet churches should be proactively seeking to equip people for whatever it is that God wants them to do instead of trying to squeeze people into the few limited options available for ministry in most churches.  Here's an example.  I was speaking at a church once and stopped in the middle of my message to ask a question:  How many of you here have ever thought about writing a children's book?  Of the 250 people there, I would say that 20 hands went up!  I was surprised.  I then turned to the pastor and said, "We need to host a seminar here on how to write, illustrate and publish children's books."  To my knowledge, that seminar never took place. 

Churches should host a stream of missions trips to foreign lands or equip people for domestic missions in their own back yard.  We should be creative in equipping people for successful work and ministry by providing a host of cutting-edge programs with follow up to help people take the next steps on their road to purpose. 

For example, I often tell pastors that just because someone's purpose is to be a swimming coach, we don't have to build them a pool.  But if God sends nine swimming coaches to one church, then the leadership has at least to consider building a pool, whether it is part of the pastor's "vision" or not.  If the Holy Spirit saw fit to send that many with that particular gift, He must be up to something and the church should be flexible enough to cooperate. 

When the focus of the church is on the denominational doctrine, the pastor or the leader's vision, the people then become useful only to the extent that they can help advance any of those three.  I would argue that the Church, under the Lordship of Jesus, is about the people and His will for them.  That is why purpose is such an important issue. One's purpose represents orders from headquarters and it is the church's job to make sure those orders are carried out.

When I first started teaching purpose, I thought it was a nice emphasis and didn't realize it was so life-changing and all-encompassing.  Yet the church has been slow to respond.  The issue isn't going away, and I believe there is still plenty of time and incentive for churches to "retool" and get on board the purpose bandwagon.  Business has done so and I am working to see the Church follow as well.  It's an issue worth giving one's time and effort and I want to help bring purpose renewal and revival to the Church in my lifetime and beyond.

    Feel free to write your comments to this entry on the site where it is posted.

President Bush on Africa

The situation in Zimbabwe is still deteriorating and here is a statement that President Bush released on the subject the past few days:

As released by the White House.

Nearly eight months have passed since the Zimbabwean people voted for a new president, yet they still are governed by an illegitimate regime that continues to suppress democratic voices and basic human rights. In addition to its disastrous economic policies which have forced half the population to rely on food assistance, the Mugabe regime is now assaulting doctors and nurses, denying citizens access to basic medical services, and stealing donor funds intended for HIV/AIDS patients.

In October alone, independent organizations documented some 1,300 incidents of politically-motivated violence and harassment by the regime. We call for an end to the Mugabe regime’s brutal repression of basic freedoms and for the formation of a legitimate government that represents the will of the people as expressed in the March 2008 elections. 

In spite of the regime’s aggressive actions against its own people, the United States will continue to honor its commitment to provide emergency humanitarian assistance, already totaling $186 million in 2008, and stands ready to provide other forms of assistance pending the formation of a legitimate government that represents the will of the Zimbabwean people.

May God grant Zimbabwe mercy as the powers that be maintain their stranglehold on the people, their health and welfare, and the economy.

I found it interesting that President Bush recently received the 2008 Bishop John T. Walker Distinguished Humanitarian Service Award for his programs as president that impacted the African continent. You can read about his award and qualifications for the same at this site.  

Changing the Way We Do Church 1

I have now spent 35 years in church work and will celebrate the 30th anniversary of my ordination this coming January. I heard someone say once that when you get older, you become more reflective and that's certainly true in my life.  I guess you simply have more things to reflect on when you have more life experience and many of those topics for reflection are your own mistakes!

In my workshop The Purpose Craze, I outline seven steps that I believe churches must take if they are to recover from the malaise and "funk" that many are in.  I maintain that we know how to do "church" -- and I can feel some of my blogger friends cringing when I say "do church."  I know we are to "be church" but please permit me to use this phrase to indicate more of a shift in how we think than what we do.  If our thinking changes, our actions will change, so I want to address the need for a mind renewal in the body of Christ the world over. 

At any rate, we know how to do church on Sunday. We have that down pat.  We can lift an offering, sing five songs, take care of the kids, deliver the message and be out in time for the Sunday football kickoff.  We can do that whether or not God "shows up."  But do we really understand how to equip the saints for ministry, as Paul described in Ephesians 4?

So permit me to share those seven steps one step at a time over the next few weeks. The first step is:

1. Raise up an army of purpose-led men and women who have faith to do the impossible, freed from tying to be who they are not and released to be the fullest, best expression of who God created them to be.

There is a lot in this first step, so let's quickly unpack the contents.  Notice that I said purpose-led, not purpose-driven as the title of Rick Warren's phenomenal book indicated. When I think of someone being "driven," I think of someone behind them with a whip or stick driving them on as they both run -- one to escape and one to catch the escapee.  I rather think of purpose as something that leads from the front rather than pushes from the rear.

Too often in church we are content to watch the faith of someone else in action.  It's often easier and less risky to judge the job that person is doing rather than try to do something.  That is why it is critical that you be challenged to find a faith project that is beyond your ability to accomplish and apply your faith to see it come to pass.  Notice also that I said "men and women."  The Church is the only army in the universe that insists on fighting its battles with half its army inactive and one hand tied behind its back.  We need women to be fully engaged in the purpose revolution. 

Then there's the strong pressure in many church settings for you to be who you are not.  We make it a matter of "common sense" and willpower to work in the nursery, be an usher or count money.  And really, we don't offer very many opportunities for work and ministry beyond the basics of ushers, choir, children and hospitality.  If your gifts fit into those areas, you will do well.  If not, there is subtle pressure for you to adapt your gifts to work in those areas.

What's more, churches need to improve their ability to release people and make room for new people.  If you have been sitting in church for 20 years, what are you doing with what you have learned?  Have you become spiritually fat and sassy, sitting in judgment of what is or is not going on, while you are responsible for absolutely nothing?  Are you content as a pastor to have people sit for 20 years or be an usher for 17 years and that be the sum total of their Christian experience?

Millions of people and 30,000 churches went through the Purpose-Driven Life program. Are we the better for it?  Is the church more purposeful?  Has there been a groundswell of creative ministry that has swept the world?  It may be out there, but I haven't seen it.  Yet that is what it will take -- a purpose revolution of the masses -- to change the way we do church.  Until that happens, we will have business as usual and, unfortunately, we will conduct that business for less and less people.

The Gay Community is Riled

I see that there is a national protest this Saturday in 175 cities as gays and their supporters demand "civil rights" for gays, which include the right to marry.  I had predicted that the last election would trigger public demands and outcries from liberal groups. I just didn't think it would happen this quickly.  There is still sketchy reporting on this movement, but I am glad to see that some are giving more coverage to this attack on heterosexual marriage. I saw a picture last night of the "wedding" picture of two men in tuxedos, one holding a bouquet of flowers.  There was another of two women, one in a wedding gown and one doing her best to look like a man in a tuxedo.  It was pretty strange.

I found it interesting that in those two pictures, even though the marriage was between people of the same sex, one party tried to act like a man and one like a women.  Doesn't this tell us that marriage is to be just that, and that even gay unions attempt to replicate the natural difference between two people that marriage was designed by God to include? And if gays want the right to adopt chldren, isn't that an expression of what marriage was intended to produce (children), which can only take place through the union of a man and woman? 

I think the strategy is shrewd to try and connect gay rights to civil rights. I think it is also "smart" but deceptive to portray anyone who opposes gay rights as hateful.  Don't get me wrong, I am not a supporter in any way, shape or form of gay marriage, but I am just commenting on their attempts to piggyback their agenda onto more acceptable terminology and strategies. I don't hate gays; I just don't agree with them or their lifestyle.

Stay tuned, there will be a lot more of this type of thing in the coming months and years. We are in a battle many are calling a culture war, and it will get nasty before it's all over -- if it ever is over.

Measuring Spiritual Things

I am in Florida for a conference called The Gathering sponsored by ChurchSmart Resources.  I first got involved with ChurchSmart about 10 years ago when I was given a book that introduced me to the concept of Natural Church Development (NCD) by Christian Schwarz. A group of Mennonite church planters gave me this book and at first I thought, "Yeah right, what do the Mennonites have that I need?"  That arrogance gave way to excitement as I read the book and was captured by its content.

Basically, NCD is a philosophy of church growth that believes there are eight key areas essential to church health and growth, no matter the theology, liturgy or worship style of the church.  NCD not only offers the book outlining the research done on these eight areas, but also a profile that a church can take with 30 of its members that renders an evaluation score for each of the eight areas.  The strategy is to then work only on the minimum factor, the area with the lowest score, for six months to a year, at which time a new profile is taken and a new minimum factor is identified. 

I have conducted about 50 of the profiles over the years and the results are so accurate its scary, which is why so many pastors reject the results.  They refuse to accept that a profile can measure what they believe they know better than the profile, and most refuse to let go of their "pet" areas to work on the church's weakness.  ChurchSmart has now profiled about 30,000 churches in the U.S. and 85% of the churches who have gone through two surveys have grown numerically and spiritually in the eight areas.  Those churches that have not followed through with the results (especially those who have not enlisted the services of a coach to come alongside the church team to address the minimum factor) have not grown much.  It's as simple as that.

Many pastors don't believe that spiritual things can or should be measured, which is one bias against the NCD survey.  I would agree with them that measuring church health is difficult, but just because what we do in churches is almost impossible to measure doesn't mean we should not try to measure it.  If we treat the measurement tool carefully and ask the Lord the right questions, then we can gain God's insight into the state of the church.  We see in the first four chapters of Revelation that Jesus knows the condition of the church and is reay and willing to reveal it to those who are listening. 

I am a profiling junkie, I admit. I am passionate about getting input on who I am, how I am doing and how I can accomplish more.  I am always looking for things God can use to get my attention, so that I can address areas of blindness and deficiency, in the power of the Spirit.  For instance, I took a profile the other day that said that I am not giving like I once did.  That is a correct assessment.  So the other day, I had a chance to give and before the profile I would have passed up the opportunity.  Because I had taken the profile, I was more conscious of an area of deficiency.  If I continue to do that, how can it be a bad thing?

The other reason I like the NCD profile is that it helps the whole church focus its efforts so that everyone is moving in one direction.  Without a measuring tool, peole have opinions as to why a church isn't growing and what it needs to do to get back to health.  Usually that opinion focuses on the person's favorite spiritual gift or practice.  "This church needs to pray more,"  "We need to take care of the poor," "We need a children's pastor," or "This church should do more missions."  The results is a group of fragmented believers who are not focused and who often argue over the way forward.

I have great respect for those who are hesitant to submit spiritual, biblical things to what seems like a secular measuring instrument.  Yet I also know that most churches are not growing as they should and some don't even want to grow.  I would rather do what I can to promote growth and see the church reach the lost and fulfill its mission than sit back and wait.  When that happens, a "strong" leader comes in, gets people united and moving and then ten years down the road we wonder why we have problems with authoritarianism or what to do when that "strong leader" resigns or leaves.

So I head home later today more convinced than ever that we as church folk need to be more accountable for the results that are present or absent in our midst.  I am convinced that the NCD tool is a spiritual tool, among others, that can be used to help build the Church.  If you would like more information about the NCD profile, don't hesitate to write me.  If you only want to do the profile, however, and aren't serious about applying the results, then do us both a favor and don't write.  It will only be a waste of time if you are committed to doing what seems right to you.  Research shows that you are only intuitively correct  about what your church needs 30% of the time, and that is an "F" grade in anyone's school, including God's.

    Feel free to write your comments to this entry on the site where it is posted.

Getting the Facts Straight on Prop 8

I had thought that Proposition 8 was in favor of gay marriage; it was not.  The Proposition was to uphold marriage between one man and one woman and it was approved as worded.  And I did not mean to imply that money was only spent by its opponents, those who were gay rights activists.  The supporters of the Proposition also spent a lot of money.  Sorry for the confusion on my part.

Here is today's post in Wikipedia about Proposition 8:

Proposition 8 is a California State ballot proposition that would amend the state Constitution to restrict the definition of marriage to a union between a man and a woman. It would overturn a recent California Supreme Court decision that had recognized same-sex marriage in California as a fundamental right. The official ballot title language for Proposition 8 is "Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry." The entirety of the text to be added to the constitution is: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."

The campaigns for and against Proposition 8 raised $35.8 million and $37.6 million, respectively, becoming the highest-funded campaign on any state ballot that day and surpassing every campaign in the country in spending except the presidential contest. The proponents argued for exclusively heterosexual marriage while claiming that failure to change the constitution would require changes to school curriculum and threaten church tax benefits. The opponents argued that eliminating the rights of any Californian and mandating that one group of people be treated differently from everyone else was unfair and wrong.

An Expensive Campaign

Do you know what the second most expensive campaign was in the United States after the presidential election?  It was Proposition 8, which attempted to legalize gay marriage in California.  The Proposition was defeated, even though Barack Obama easily won the state by a large margin.  Gay rights activists are furious and are attempting to march on Washington demanding the rights of gays to marry.  They have already launched three court actions to overturn the results of the proposition vote.  In the land of the free, protesters are picketing the Mormon Church headquarters in Utah, since the Mormons funded a large part of the opposition to the Proposition.

I wonder where the gay movement got their funding?  Who was and is so concerned about this issue that they would put large sums of money into the campaign around the Proposition?  And why isn't the mainstream press, so gaga for news in this election year, reporting much on this issue (even the conservative Fox News network has said precious little about this controversy)? 

At any rate, it is something that I will continue to watch and monitor, for as California goes, so goes the nation.  It will be interesting to see how far Mr. Obama goes in support of gay rights and how quickly they try to force his hand for support.  The march on Washington will be positioned for civil rights, not for gay rights. For now, you can read a little about the issue here.

I Voted

On Tuesday, I joined 120 million Americans who went to the polls to vote in the presidential election. What a great turnout it was, with so many young voters included in the mix for the first time. This was the tenth presidential election in my adult life and today the winners and losers are all either basking in the glory or wringing their hands. It is either the start of a new day or the end of the free world as we know it, depending on which candidate one supported.

The most disturbing trend for me was the contention that arose in the church over the two candidates. I felt the Lord reminding me of Ephesians 4:3: " Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace."  I felt like I was able to do that because people supporting both candidates talked to me as if they knew I was supporting their man.  I listened and kept my mouth closed, and will continue to do so.  That's because my most important point of reference is the cross of Christ and not the White House.  Yes, this election was important, just as every one is. I did my civic duty; now I must get on with the assignment that God has given me, no matter who controls the Senate or State House.

I was thinking last night of what Abraham Lincoln said in his second inaugural address and how it applied in some sense to this election:

Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes.

And then he closed with these famous lines, which I urge every American and Christian to embrace as their demeanor over the coming weeks and months:

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

And to those lines, I can only say, "Amen" and "God bless America."