Tuesday, August 18, 2015

How Do I Smell To Others?

I happened upon a new reality TV show the other night while channel surfing. I admit I gravitate to the competition reality shows the most and this was a competition to see who would be the next weather personality. Don't laugh, this one episode actually was pretty entertaining for me because one of the contestants was a young pastor.  I was curious to see how he performed and how others perceived him. 
It turned out that the young pastor was the central figure of the show as his over-the-top personality irritated all of the other contestants. The contestants were divided into two teams for a competition and this young pastor just took over the team acting as self appointed leader. It was as if he had taken an intense course in leadership the day before and he was going to use every leadership quote, inspirational charge and team building concept he learned all in one setting. But his manner was way too contrived and he ended up looking like some sort of a cartoon character.

I could understand his motive but the way he went about it was akin to what the apostle Paul described in 1 Corinthians 13:1if I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or clanging cymbal.  This is a great description of how the pastor sounded to his team members and sure enough when they lost the team competition, the pastor was chosen as one of two competing to see who was going to be sent home.

In an interesting twist, the pastor chose not to compete, actually volunteering to go home and sacrificing his opportunity so that the person he was competing against could keep his dream of becoming a weather personality alive. It was an admirable decision but left everyone scratching their heads. Because the pastor seemed to try so hard, it came across as contrived and insincere and he lost whatever he was trying to accomplish.

The Bible tells us in 2 Corinthians 2:15 that we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.  Verse 17 says, Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God.  

I've always thought that the most important self check is to take a sniff of our own aroma from time to time. Unfortunately, too often Christians' odor is more of a stench than the fragrance of Christ. How do you smell to other non-believers? Am I giving off a sweet aroma of sincerity and love or do I come across as a self-serving jerk, sounding like a loud gong or a clanging cymbal to others?  It's hard to know unless you ask your friends or fellow believers to give you a true assessment. You probably will never get a chance to see yourself on television and make that assessment yourself like this pastor.  
We may all be taken more seriously if we lived our lives with sincerity and love. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Big Kingdom vs little kingdom vision

Joe is a young adult pastor of a large church overseeing small groups and discipleship of adults. He has been on staff for five years and seen steady growth in his ministry in numbers of new members and numbers of small groups. He has felt God's calling to pastor a church since he gave his life to Christ and the desire to plant has been percolating for a couple of years. 
He decides he needs to share his feelings about planting with his senior pastor. Joe is exited and nervous about the meeting. He believes the pastor will be glad to hear that he will be starting a new congregation and believes the pastor will support his decision because he has often preached on the great commission.
However, when told, the pastor is very disappointed that Joe is considering leaving the church to plant another church. The pastor begins to distance himself from Joe and then tells Joe he must be gone by the end of the week saying the elders had come to this decision. He gives Joe no support to start another church, either money or emotional.  Joe now is heartbroken, angry and feels guilty about leaving and taking any close ministry friends with him.  So he starts one of the most difficult tasks there is, planting a church, somewhat disillusioned with the church and having little to no support.  

As a coach for church planters I have had numerous pastors share experiences much like this.  What is behind this attitude of pastors?  Why would a pastor or elder board not support someone on their staff that feels God calling them to grow the kingdom outside their own church?  It boils down to a little kingdom vision instead of having a vision to grow God's Kingdom.  When a pastor has a limited vision it leads to several negative traits.
  • Possessiveness  (My church is all that matters, so we must not let anything distract us from growing our church)
  • Control (We don't want our members going outside of our church for information or inspiration because we have all the answers)
  • Limits spiritual growth of the pastor, staff, leadership and members of the church.  
  • Limits numeric growth of the church (It's God's economy, the more you give the greater you will grow)
  • Limits mission involvement outside of the mother church (The cost is too great to send people and do missions overseas)
  • Limits opportunity to multiply 
When everything in your world is only about your church, losing a staff member hurts, especially one that is popular and does a good job. It is natural to want to keep good talent, just like any business would hate to lose a good employee. But if we have an interest in the individual and a big kingdom mindset, we will encourage our staff to grow and expand wherever they feel God calling them to serve.  

Even some businesses have a less possessive attitude about their employees than many churches. The San Antonio Spurs are a great example of an organization that is not possessive and only concerned about their team. They consistently encourage their best and most talented coaches to step up to better coaching positions on other teams. I blogged about the Spurs management style here. It should not be all about my church. It's about God's Kingdom and helping people become all they can be in Christ. If that means you have to search for a new staff member, so be it. Our purpose is to grow people and thus grow God's Kingdom to glorify Him.  

All it takes is a change in one's perspective from small kingdom to large Kingdom. When your purpose is enlarged, you can start to intentionally train church planters and start churches. You can train missionaries and celebrate when church members move away to serve on the mission field, start a new church or serve another church.  You'll be able to unburden yourself with "closing the back door", and not be so disappointed and hurt over families that leave your church.  Yes, when you start giving your members away instead of controlling and holding on to them, you will be surprised at how your church will grow people, your church and the Kingdom of God.

Monday, August 3, 2015

The life cycle of a church: Is your church a movement, monument, museum, or morgue?

James Shupp has recently published an interesting and informative novel, Who Killed My Church, about a dying church and its pastor's last efforts to turn it around. This is a fictional story yet you'll recognize the problems as the plight of hundreds of churches across the country.  And Shupp writes from his own experience as a pastor of a once mega church trying to reclaim its glory and significance in the community. 

With humor and great storytelling, Shupp takes the reader through the fictional Green Street Baptist's struggle to reclaim its purpose and mission.  If you have been involved in a church for any time at all, you'll probably swear Shupp used members of your church as his characters and just changed their names. 

In the story, the church hires a consultant to help the leadership come up with a plan to revive their church.  Shupp lays out the seasons of a church, starting as a movement, slipping into a monument, then becoming a museum and finally dying at the morgue stage. As the consultant cleverly explains this to the leadership of Green Street Baptist,
"All churches that began as a movement have a way of getting stuck in a moment.  When this occurs, they transform into monuments that do little more than honor the past.  Nostalgia can roll through a house of worship like a heat wave on a summer day.  A church that collects too many of these monuments ultimately becomes a museum.  There are pastors and staff all across America who feel more like curators of a museum than men and women of God with a fire in their bones.  If this trend isn’t reversed, these churches will ultimately become morgues.  The frozen chosen are always the last ones to turn out the lights.  Don’t let this happen to you.”

I've experienced the slow transition from movement to monument while on staff of churches and have coached churches that were in the museum stage. So I can attest that although the book is fictional, the the story is relevant, compelling and inspirational.

Check out the chart from the book, Who Killed My Church? See if you can identify which season your church is in.  If your church is a monument or museum can you return to being a movement?  If so, how?  See how it's done in this wonderful book, Who Killed My Church?

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