You will never lead anyone who isn’t willing to be led by you. And you can only lead them where they already want to go.
Jesus said it this way: “How can two walk together, except they be agreed?”
This is a powerful, liberating truth for pastors and Christian leaders who are willing to abandon cultural assumptions about leadership and, instead, practice Jesus’ kind of leadership.
Consider: How much positional authority did Jesus use to obtain follower-ship?
How often did He invite disciples to choose: “in” or “out”? When did He coerce? Manipulate? When they faced an impasse, how frequently did he grasp control, disempowering those around Him?
From the calling of Andrew to the provision He made for Mary when He was on the cross, Jesus seems to have consistently led by invitation.
When Jesus’ vision “overlapped” with those who heard Him, they followed.
The same is true for you.
You will only effectively lead others in the area where your vision and theirs coincide.
In the diagram below, your vision for your congregation’s impact is represented by the yellow zone. Anna, a gifted lay leader’s vision, is in the red zone. The area where you and Anna get to collaborate is the orange area.
I spend the majority of my time coaching and equipping ministers. They give me permission to influence them in the zone where their vision and mine overlap, where we’re agreed.
You and I get to “play” together where our visions coincide... and no two leader's visions ever coincide completely. That’s OK. Each person the Holy Spirit has placed in your congregation has been singularly shaped and prepared to touch lives and to embody the Christ distinctively.
When God makes something, He makes each unique. But, when humans make so many things, we labor to make them all the same. Cults labor for uniformity and conformity...
This is not so in the freedom for which Christ died.
We thrive together in that space, passionately pursuing what Christ has called each of us to... and most powerfully when it aligns.
Everywhere you look, pastors are rolling out their “vision messages." “We’ll launch this ministry.” “Expand that program.” “Enlarge this other thing.” “Attract this many more people…” I want us to become “A”, to have “B”, to enjoy “C”, to be known for “D”.
A puny vision is focused on ourselves.
To have a vision clear and compelling enough to capture the hearts of courageous world-changers, it can’t be focused on us.
The locus of vision is the impact we’re trusting God to make in society because of the influence of His Kingdom.
The first question is this: Who has your congregation been assembled to bless, heal, liberate, rescue, strengthen or lift as God encounters their lives?
A friend’s congregation has several working in law enforcement... so they bring God’s Kingdom to prison guards and Sheriffs. Another’s congregation is elderly... so they’ve adopted a senior center where they bring the Gospel of Christ almost every day. Others have young families... so they regularly serve at a preschool.
The second question: When God’s Kingdom comes, what wrongs will be made right, what oppression will be relieved, what bonds will be broken in their lives?
For the correctional officers, it’s appreciation, kindness, value and hope. For residents and staff at the care center, it's connection, love, companionship and meaning. For preschool parents, it’s practical assistance, a listening ear, kindness and concern.
It’s often said: people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.
Churches across America are discovering how true this is. People respond to genuine love with surprise, gratitude, curiosity and finally openness... an openness to the One who motivates people to love and serve with no strings attached.
My CRM Team observes this transformation in hundreds of lives as congregations traverse the Missional Pathway. The Pathway is the “how”. A big, bold, community-impacting vision is the “why”.
“Have a vision that can call you through the pain of transformation.”
Eyesight. It’s something we take for granted… until we find we’re losing it.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, 7,000,000 people go blind every year.
Imagine being unable to see.
Working with pastors and churches across the country, I've learned that many have a vision problem... and few are even aware. “What the heck am I doing?” pastors ask.
Now, that’s the question. The vision question.
What are you doing? What’s the reason you’re breathing? Why is your church in this community? What changes do you want to see?
It’s not arrogant to ask, and answer, these questions. It’s essential!
“Have a vision that can call you through the pain of transformation.”
One reason there's so little courage in American churches is that there’s so little vision.
If there isn't a compelling reason to invest deeply, passionately, even dangerously... the courageous won’t stay. They’ll go find a cause to champion, a wrong to right, an injustice to surmount, a greater good to establish—and go after that.
Somehow, between the church that Jesus founded and the mess we have today, pastors have assumed their job is to soothe, comfort, encourage and appease the religious.
Pastor, your job is to make Christ-like disciples of Jesus.
People who radically transform their neighborhoods, workplaces and schools like Jesus commissioned us to.
“Have a vision that can call you through the pain of transformation.”
I heard that quote at a character development training God used to change my life over a decade ago. It acknowledges that transformation induces pain... always does. You have to choose to embrace that pain in pursuit of a vision so good, so important, so noble that it calls you through it, and into what awaits you on the other side...
This is Part 3 of a 3-part series on dealing with conflict:
- Dealing With Conflict - Part 1
- Dealing With Conflict - Part 2
- Dealing With Conflict - Part 3 [You Are Here]
How Do You Become Great In Conflict?
Ever met a powerfully influential person who’s great in conflict?
They're a rare breed.
Christian leaders can benefit greatly from skillfully navigating situations of conflict.
We’ve already pointed out that conflict is common to the Christian experience. The ministry of reconciliation, to which every believer is called, demands it.
So how can you become great at being in conflict?
You have to get neutral.
Let's think about a transmission...
With your car in drive, you’re “in gear” and ready to move. You’re ready to either charge your opponent… or to flee the scene.
In contrast, putting your car in reverse is like trying to back-pedal, to load all of the blame on yourself. You're ready to cave in to escape the discomfort that conflict brings.
We have trained ourselves to choose “drive” or “reverse” when conflict arises.
There will be a time to take action, but this isn’t it. Not yet.
When you get yourself to neutral, you’re resisting the impulse to move.
If You Pick A Side Too Fast, You've Lost Objectivity
Here’s where it gets tricky. In conflict, a healthy person will immediately side with themselves.
The unhealthy person will automatically knee-jerk to side with his accuser.
Sounds odd, but it happens.
As soon as you lock in on one outcome, you narrow your focus.
You've lost objectivity.
You begin collecting evidence in support of the side you're pulling for, and find evidence to oppose the other side.
Test this the next time you watch a sporting event involving a favorite team. You’ll identify un-flagged fouls against your team, and scarcely notice those against the opponent!
Getting to neutral means choosing to embrace AMBIGUITY. Entering into the discomfort of not deciding who’s right and wrong—even when you're the one “on trial”.
Getting to neutral allows you to stay open, and return to a posture of learning.
And, in any conflict, learning is the key to an honorable and rewarding resolution.
Here is the church, here is the steeple, open it up... where are all the people?
“The number of churchless adults in the US has grown by nearly one-third in the past decade.” The Barna Group, 2014
Barna Group President David Kinnaman shares, "The gap between the churched and the churchless is growing, and it appears that Christian communities of faith will struggle more than ever to engage church outsiders in their neighborhood, town or city."
The stats speak for themselves in Barna’s recent release “Churchless: Understanding Today's Unchurched and How to Connect with Them.” Churchelessness In America:
- 1990’s 30%
- 2000’s 33%
- 2014 43%
Sensationalism aside, the trend is disturbing at the very least, especially considering we are only half way through the 2010’s. While the research does not point to an exact cause of the growing divide between churches and their communities, Kinnaman asserts "monumental cultural changes" have made Christians seem "increasingly alien and difficult to understand." (Christian Post, Oct 2014)
Why this matters to pastors and what you can do about it:
That being said, one of the fundamental problems of the Church in North America are the antiquated ways we continue to show up in culture and society, if we show up at all. Rather than adopting the posture of missionaries that are sent to learn and love our surrounding culture, we continue to perpetuate a “come to us” ministry model that simply holds little value to those outside our congregations.
Compounding the problem, our methods of “outreach” and “evangelism” often come across as impersonal and self-serving. They extend little relational value to the people in our cities and, in the end, expect those we serve to “come join us” if they like what they have experienced.
Little surprise, the Barna Group concludes, “loving, genuine relationships are the only remaining currency readily exchanged between the churched and the churchless.”
Here are a couple questions for every local church to ask themselves:
“What are the ways in which God is inviting you to redemptively engage your community toward genuine, loving, and lasting relationship?”
“What are the measures you have in place to know if you are actually doing that?”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German pastor, theologian and Nazi resister, stated “The church is the church only when it exists for others...” That must be central to our worldview if we want to see the “churchless” experience the transformation Christ intends.
Love to hear your take on this article. Please post your comments below.
This is Part 2 of a 3 part series on dealing with conflict:
- Dealing with Conflict - Part 1
- Dealing with Conflict - Part 2 [You Are Here]
- Dealing with Conflict - Part 3
It's Time To Shift Your Perspective...
The way you handle conflict says a lot about you.
Handling conflict successfully says even more.
Many careers have been ruined by executives mishandling themselves in important disagreements.
As a coach, I’m frequently invited to help pastors when they’re in conflict. One of the most effective techniques I use with them is shifting their perspective.
When you’re caught in a conflict, it’s natural to get tunnel vision. All you can see is your opponent, their claims, and your defenses. And, because you’re human, you’re probably focused on your defenses the most… or the fastest way out of the room!
What you don’t see is what’s going on between you, inside you, and what’s driving both of you.
Imagine the two of you, standing toe-to-toe, in boxer’s stance, locked in conflict. Just a few feet away is a staircase, leading to a balcony. From the balcony, you can see in way that you can't from the floor…
This is the shift in perspective.
On this balcony, you are immediately able to access resources (discernment, objectivity, clarity) that were otherwise out of reach.
I invite you to climb the stairs, get to a higher vantage point, and look down… observe the two of you.
What exactly got both of you into this mess?
Break down the situation by asking yourself these 3 sets of questions:
- From up there, what is provoking your opponent? Apart from their tone, method, or manner, what did they actually say? What could be behind their words?
- From up there, what do you notice about your contribution to the breakdown? Notice I didn’t say you caused the breakdown, but that you do have a contribution.
- From up there, how have you responded to the accusation so far? Don’t resist considering your mood, tone of voice, and posture-of-heart. What might your response have communicated that you did not intend?
Give yourself permission to actually do this. Stop defending yourself, pleading your innocence, or attacking the other person long enough to get up to the balcony… pause, and look. Allow the balcony to resource you.
This isn’t just theory. I use the balcony when coaching myself. I encourage you to do the same.
Let me know how it goes!
This is part 1 of a 3 part series on dealing with conflict:
- Dealing With Conflict - Part 1 [You Are Here]
- Dealing With Conflict - Part 2
- Dealing With Conflict - Part 3
Pastors And Church Leaders Are Familiar With Conflict
There may be no more important life skill than successfully handling conflict.
For a leader, it’s essential that you govern yourself well in conflict. More than anything else, this can affect how you’ll be keeping good, healthy people on your team. And, every leader knows that the best determinant of the quality of what your organization gets done is the caliber of the people you have around you.
If you’re in Christian ministry, as I am, you’re very familiar with conflict. You may be a person with an abnormally robust commitment to harmony, (some consider you a “peace at any price” sellout!) yet conflict seems to dog your path.
See, like it or not, conflict is a staple in the Christian diet.
Because it’s in conflict that we get to do our best ministry! There are very few things Jesus claims to have given his disciples. But, one of the things he’s given is the ministry of reconciliation [2 Cor 5:18].
The thing about reconciliation is it’s only needed where there is conflict, enmity, discord, and strife. So, if you’re a Christian, conflict is as normal as a kitchen is to a chef.
Let that sink in a little.
Conflict for the Christian is as normal as the operating room is to a surgeon. It is where we get to do what we do!
For the next several weeks, we’ll look at principles and practices that will serve you well in conflict. Let’s get started.
Principle #1 When Dealing With Conflict:
For once, focus on you. Good leaders are great at setting up the people around them to win, and stepping back just as the spotlight comes on and confetti fills the air. Your ministry leaders get the lion’s share of your focus and attention; you make sure they’re recognized, appreciated, and honored. Yet, when you’re embroiled in a conflict, this is a time to lock your focus on yourself.
I know this flies in the face of our natural, human tendency to fixate on the role the other person has had in creating or embellishing the conflict you both are in. It takes almost no effort to uncover the contribution another has had to a mess you and they are in.
Recognizing your contribution to the breakdown, articulating it honestly, and owning your part (and just your part) is much more challenging for most of us. I’ll let you in on a secret: if you’re in a conflict with anyone, you have a contribution! Small or great, you have played a part in the breakdown.
Several years ago, I was in a conflict with a couple with whom I worked. From my perspective, I had been victimized by an avalanche of unwarranted distrust. Over and over in my mind I rehearsed the selfless and faithful ways I’d served the ministry. Then a friend challenged me to discover how I had planted the seeds of distrust in this relationship [based on Gal 6:7]. To my surprise, I remembered that even before joining the ministry I had judged them as un-trustworthy! This I compounded by repeatedly ignoring the Lord’s urging to pursue relationship with one of them, in particular. My contribution: at minimum, I’d entered the relationship distrusting them and I allowed the distance between two of us to grow unabated.
Your contribution may be something you’ve said or done. It may be a judgment you have of that person or a less-than-charitable attitude you’ve indulged. Your judgments and attitudes always find a way to leak out. People can tell when you judge them—even when you’ve never mentioned it! Your contribution might’ve been something you left undone, something you failed to do, something you might have done, but didn’t.
Allow yourself to consider how your attitudes, actions, or inactions have contributed to the breakdown. This will prepare you for principle # 2, next time.
“I’m too busy to take a day a month to meet with God.” - Me, 10 years into being a pastor. There were places to go, people to see... Then there were administrative meetings, sermon preps, problem solving, budget discussions, and of course marriage and family concerns — I was a slave to “the tyranny of the urgent.”
But, I was “called” and what I did mattered. My calendar filled quickly each month with necessary things. I thought, “I’m busy, so I must be important.”
When I was a pastor, worship, reflection, prayer, and alone time with the Creator were luxuries I didn’t think I could afford.
I wasn’t taking my day off either… I mean, what would people think if they found out I wasn’t in the church office?
My soul craved communion and conversation with God, but scheduling “that appointment” pushed back my time with God almost daily.
Don’t Make The Same Mistake I Did... Don't Be A Pastor That's Too Busy For God
I now realize how mismanaged my life became and what it cost me in terms of personal, soul care. I felt like I was an injured professional athlete who didn’t remember how to compete as a healthy player.
Over time, the neglecting of my time alone with God affected my ability to lead, minister, parent, and love my spouse.
One day, a close friend I respected said, “the big difference between good leadership and great leadership is ‘perspective.” Then he offered the suggestion that “great leaders can’t afford NOT to spend time alone, listening to God.”
He gave me a suggestion... to try a new rhythm.
Pastors: I Dare You To Try This...
My close friend shared with me a guide to make every day rewarding and life-giving.
I’m happy to share some suggestions that will help you dedicate one day each month to spend with God.
I dare you to try this.
OK, if that’s an inappropriate motivation, how about, “I really want you to try this?” My sincere hope and prayer for you is that you will love the time so much that you’ll make it a regular monthly practice… I coach all of the pastors I work with to use this guide.
Feel free to email me what happens. I read all my emails. Or you can comment on this blog and tell us how it’s helped you…
A Day Alone With God Guide (Use Once A Month Or More):
1. Encounter And Enjoy The Presence of Christ
The most challenging part for me with a day alone with God is to NOT over plan or schedule our time together. I try to let God speak. I want my posture to be responsive. Think about the times you experienced God’s presence... What tools helped you connect? Beautiful surroundings, worship aids, music and singing? What helps you connect most quickly and deeply? Start with those things.
2. Slow Down And Breath Deeply
My toughest assignment is to clear my mind and adjust my heart to be with God. For me, I like to visit beautiful places like nearby parks... Once there, I begin to acknowledge God’s presence in silence. Weather permitting, I walk slowly and carefully observe the Creator’s handiwork in creation... Then I write down (in a non-rushed way) my thoughts and feelings. Sometimes I write prayers, “Dear Lord, I invite you to invade my life today . . .
3. Take A Personal Soul Audit
Answer honestly the question about the status of your soul: How well is your soul in this season? What’s the current status? Give a rating to your response: on a scale of 1-10 with ten being the best, deepest, and most satisfied. Or rate your soul with the traffic light metaphor: Red light means I need to stop. Yellow light means I need to slow down. Green light means I am good to go. Another common metaphor is a fuel gauge: what’s in my spiritual tank?
4. Reflect On The Big Picture Perspective And Your Personal Calling Statement
If you have completed a tool we call the Post It Note Timeline, taught in our Free Video Leadership Course, then update it using yellow, pink, and blue post it notes. Pray through your statements. Revise where necessary. Ask God to increase your capacity to trust and rely on Him. Ask God for the courage to live for his approval rather than the applause of the crowd.
If you are not familiar with this tool then consider answering four simple questions:
What’s working well? What can I celebrate?
What’s not working well? What needs to change?
What in my life is missing? What gaps do I see or sense must be addressed?
What’s confusing? What needs to be clarified and why?
5. Take Decisive Actions And Address Questions, Issues, and Concerns
Spend some unhurried time writing down your responses to whatever arises in the above exercise. Celebrate the positive. Admit the blockages. Identify your emotion. Surrender everything to God. Schedule time in your calendar to do more refining work of answers to your questions, issues and concerns... Treat these times as any other non-negotiable appointment and follow through on keeping your appointment. Be sure to schedule your next day alone with God.
6. Update Your Roles And Goals
What are your primary life and ministry roles? For example: Family Member, Disciple, Friend, Husband, Shepherd, Teacher, etc. How does each role help you live out God’s unique calling in your life and ministry?
Take out your computer or tablet and ruthlessly examine how you spent your time last month in each role. What role needs more attention this month? Look for patterns to emerge. Set at least one goal for each role. Look back at last month’s calendar: How does your assessment from last month need to influence your plans for this this month? The integration of roles to goals to calendar means the most important assignments gets built into your calendar each month.
7. More Miscellaneous Tips:
- Get out of the office for the Day Alone With God. Go to a friend’s lake house, library, monastery, park, etc.
- Schedule your Day Alone With God a year at a time.
- Consider going with another person for accountability. Do lunch together to break up the day. Share prayer concerns when you return from the time spent alone with God.
- Avoid coming to the day with a “to do” list. These are simply suggestions of possible ways to encounter God and appreciate deeper intimacy.
- Write personal intercessors, asking them to pray for your time alone with God each month. Drop them a note of thanks before leaving the time alone with God.
- Be free to relax. Take a short nap. Walk. Do simple breathing exercises. Remember the beauty of this time alone with God is to be with God and enjoy God’s company.
I talk with Christian leaders almost everyday, and many times they are in the midst of a transition. A transition can be defined as “a period of time of changing from one state or condition to another.”
During a transition, there are feelings of uncertainty and loss of control… followed by fear and anxiety because who wants to follow a pastor or church leader who is struggling? (At least, that’s what we tell ourselves.)
Figuring out how God is at work during transitions can require the help of someone else...
Who helps pastors and church leaders with transition? Who helps the person who is supposed to have it all together when crisis or change happens?
A Tool That Has Helped Me
Few individuals understand how God develops leaders over their lifetime more than Dr. J. Robert Clinton. His masterful work, The Making Of A Leader, helped me pass throughout the greatest transition of my ministry career a decade ago.
What surprised me most about this tool were the predictable phases God works in throughout our lives, which Clinton explains in his 6 Phases of Leadership Development.
The book goes on to answer: Which phase are you currently experiencing? What will it mean to pass into the next phase of leader development? When difficult things happen to those you serve and care about, how might God be at work? How might your support and encouragement be more focused and resourceful knowing these patterns? Will not knowing these patterns cause you to work against God’s Spirit?
I believe this book is one of the top five books every church leader should read. I use it with ministers to help them reinterpret how God is at work when life or ministry isn’t going as expected.
I use this tool in conversations I have with pastors when they want to blame the elder board, church member, or staff members because an agreed upon outcome doesn’t materialize.
Clinton’s contribution to our reFocusing team has been inestimable. Using his ideas, training, and research, we help develop Christian leaders, particularly pastors, across America every week.
Want More Tools To Become A Better Leader?
We have some very effective turnkey processes that inform and inspire leadership development. We’d love to become a go-to resource for you, especially in transition. There is hope. There is help available. You will get through. Don’t go it alone. And please don’t miss the way God works in you during the journey.
A lot of pastors struggle with leadership. I was a pastor for 21 years before moving into a role of coaching church leaders, and I experienced issues daily that challenged my leadership.
Oftentimes, I found myself pretending to be in charge, attempting to control circumstances and manipulating people.
Sound familiar? I hope not... but I've worked with enough pastors to know that struggles in leadership are VERY common.
Why do pastors struggle to lead?
Errors in leadership usually attempt to hide inadequacy, immaturity, or overcompensate for a character flaw or weakness. After a while, insecure leaders question their ability to lead — ministry feels mundane and burdensome — and burnout can’t be far behind.
How do we avoid errors in leadership? What’s underneath a leader’s true effectiveness and influence?
There are four types of authority that confident, secure, and effective pastors use appropriately.
- Positional Authority: Authority based on one’s place in the organization. People respond to a pastor because of the nature of the office and title.
- Expertise-based Authority: Authority derived by one’s competence or experience. People respond because of what the leader knows about a particular subject.
- Relational Authority: Authority built on a leader’s relationship of respect and trust. People respond because they believe in the leader’s relationship and predictable behaviors.
- Spiritual Authority: Authority granted by God, cultivated out of deep intimacy with Christ and character authenticity. People respond to a supernatural sense, anointing, and favor evidenced by a leader’s non-anxious attitude and servant’s heart.
A CRM colleague, Mike Crow, defines spiritual authority as, “the activity of God which occurs in and through a person’s life, not simply because of his or her position or competency. It is the operation of the Spirit of God which emanates out of a leader’s personality, gifting, character, and intimacy before God, and influences others toward a similar commitment to the purposes of God.”
As a pastor, I was familiar with the first three types. However, when I first met leaders like Mike Crow, something struck me about their leadership that I could not pin point...
They functioned effectively — without pressure. They listened more than they talked. They cared more about MY discoveries than THEIR content. They asked good questions and refused to give unsolicited advice. I felt valued and respected.
I later came to understand the value and impact of leaders operating from a place of spiritual authority, much like the examples seen in the disciples in the book of Acts.
Another big breakthrough in my leadership occurred as I began to look below the surface of my leadership. An article by Dr. Gary Mayes helped: “4 Postures of Spiritual Authority.”
To this day, these 4 tools and Gary’s article keeps me centered and adjusted to the type of leader God uses to accomplish His purposes. I hope it rescues you from leadership abuse and ushers in a new capacity to influence others — the way Christ did.
Here are six short tips that every church can consider to increase their impact in the community right away.
1. Lead By Example.
Become a leader of change by being a leader in change. Nothing means more to followers than a great example. Choose to connect to a group or organization in your community:
Stop by the Boys and Girls Club. Inquire about the PTA. Visit the Salvation Army or YMCA. Reconnect with alumni groups or local Chamber of Commerce.
Need some more examples? Checkout:
How My Church Became Missional And How Yours Can Too
2. Prioritize The Community's Needs.
No church has unlimited resources and the needs around your church can be overwhelming.
Answer two questions:
- Who are the people most like us who live near us?
- What is the difference we want to make in their lives if we are faithful and obedient?
Avoid the temptation to do too much too soon — remember church activity is not synonymous with community impact.
Do less so it can mean more.
What is one thing, one activity, meeting or program, that you could stop doing for yourself in order to have more time to love and serve others. And remember, do what you do on their turf!
For more guidance, checkout our free ebook:
4 Steps To Help Your Church Impact The Community
3. Explore Your City.
- Get real curious and ask a lot of questions.
- Interview other leaders.
- Schedule appointments with representatives, business, and community leaders.
- Ask people, “What would make your life better?” "What is our greatest need from your vantage point, and what would our community be like if that need was met?"
- Then ask your church, ”What can we do about that?” “What has God given to us so that we can give to others?
4. Observe Those Around You.
We have certain talents, abilities, experiences and resources that combine as gifts to bring to those living outside the faith.
When people experience love and kindness with no strings attached they are shocked and grateful.
Ask God to help you notice what others beyond the walls of your church bring to you, too. Consider ways to make connecting and loving more mutual and never disdainful.
5. Decide To Be Intentional.
Regular interaction helps others test your commitments.
- Expect suspicion to fade as they “taste and see that the Lord is good,” through your consistency.
- Schedule encore encounters.
- See the same people so they can learn to trust you.
- Don’t merely gesture, take committed, tangible action.
- Don’t over promise.
- Engage honestly and repeatedly.
- Show up enough to deliver quality goods or services.
Make doing meaningful things for others a lot of fun. Remember when it is full of fun, the behavior is likely to be repeated.
- Take time to honor what others are doing.
- Tell stories.
- Talk about what it means to make someone smile and how it feels.
- Be creative. Imagine having people outside the church bragging on your church because your people are so useful and helpful.
“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect . . .” 1 Peter 3:15
Praying for the pastors reading this blog.
P.S. Shoot me an email if you need someone to talk to today... remember, "No Man Is An Island," and that means no pastor is one either.
Bunting is important in baseball. But, it requires a particular posture, a stance. Being "squared off" to bunt. From that posture, you have fewer options. And, from that stance, it is impossible to take a full swing at the ball.
Pastors who lead well do so because of who they are.
The most effective have developed the capacity to rely on God in their own crises and to stand with others in theirs. The more faithful they are, the greater the tests.
Christian Leaders who’ve been given great responsibility have developed the capacity to rely on God in their own crises and to stand with others in theirs. The more faithful they are, the greater the tests.
Have you noticed?
A pastor marveled at the intense off-season regimen of an NFL player who trains at his gym. “Do you need all that muscle development to play your position in football?” he asked in disbelief. “No. I need it to survive the physical beating I take every Sunday.” Every day, he strengthens muscle fibers in anticipation of the opposition his body will encounter.
I invite you to consider the posture of your life.
Whether the challenges you now face are intense or mild, are you training yourself to take big, commanding cuts at the ball?
Or, are you crouched to bunt?
6 Questions Pastors Should Ask Themselves:
1. How clear are you about where God has you leading your congregation?
2. How compelling is the vision you’re calling your people to?
3. How great is the sacrifice you challenge your members to, as apprentices of Jesus?
4. How bold is your trust in Christ for the miraculous in your ministry?
5. How desperately do you cry out for the power of God’s Kingdom to break in on your city?
6. How diligently are you training yourself to recognize the voice of God, then unflinchingly obey?
Should the political and cultural opposition to Biblical Christianity continue to strengthen, we may find ourselves ministering in a far more challenging climate.
In Lystra, as Paul is preaching Christ a mob stones him, drags his body outside the city, and leaves him for dead. Believers gather around, he rises up, and goes right back into Lystra.
Paul is “...strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith.” [Acts 14:22]
Who lives like that?
Someone who’s not postured to bunt.
Imagine the impact on the United States if Christians here were known — first of all —for being people of action.
Caution: people of action does not equal more action in the church.
Many Christians and churches are busy, busy, busy: elders meetings, fellowships, teas, seminars, bible studies, retreats, revivals, accountability groups, small groups, home groups, growth groups, recovery groups...
Are Christians true people of action? Are we being effective?
Is the Kingdom of God advancing, in our lives and in our cities?
The Willow Creek Association’s groundbreaking Reveal Survey said “no”. Church activity does not correlate to maturity in Christ, or the effective evangelization of our cities.
To test the religious activities for your congregation’s attention, consider two questions:
1. Who is this for?
Most church activity benefits only Christians. Yet, Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple, famously said: “The church is the only organization that exists primarily for the benefit of its non-members.”
We may say our meetings, groups, classes, and retreats are primarily for guests. With frighteningly few exceptions, they are not.
2. How does this advance God’s Kingdom?
By “God’s Kingdom” we mean the unencumbered reign and rule of Christ. Consider how much of what we do, has so little to do with that.
Study your church calendar. For every class, gathering, service, and meeting, see if you can determine any specific Kingdom-advancing outcomes that were achieved.
You might consider:
- Was good news preached to the poor?
- Did the imprisoned find freedom?
- Was sight restored to the blind?
- Were the oppressed freed?
- Was the Lord’s favor proclaimed and actualized?
These [Luke 4:18] are among the things Christ did as the Kingdom of God was advanced.
Consider the kinds of activity common in church today:
If pie was eaten while Christian women gossiped and church-going men griped about politics, as churched kids played kickball in the fellowship hall, be honest enough to admit that no maturity-inducing discipleship took place.
No one grew in Christ.
Nobody outside the church was ministered to.
Compare that to a team from Westside Christian Church. They regularly minister to people who’ve been forced by the brutal Southern California economy to live in RV’s, campers, or other temporary accommodations. The Westside team throws BBQ’s (called “RVQ’s”), serves, loves, shares, feeds, helps, prays with, and encourages these amazingly resilient folks... who do not attend their church. And, lives are changing.
Another team, from Chino’s New Hope Christian Fellowship, routinely dedicates time at a mobile home retirement community. Intentionally, they are building redemptive relationships, forging friendships, demonstrating what it is to be good news to people who would otherwise have no contact with people devoted to love and serve them as Jesus might. Several times a month, team members serve residents, share their joys, fears, anticipations, and sorrows, honor them, and meet practical needs. Their objective is not to bring these people into their church so much as it is to bring Jesus to them.
The truly missional church...
1. loves Jesus and as a result, loves the people that Jesus loves.
1 John 4 is taken seriously: “He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another...if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us.”
2. has members who are aware of and tangibly living out their unique missional calling.
What if Ephesians 2.10 is really true? What if God really has prepared each of us in advance for good works? In the missional church, the vast majority (not merely the top-tier “super” Christians) of men, women, and children are powerfully living out their unique calling in the world, so that not-yet-believers are blessed and cared for.
3. spends a significant portion of its budget outside the walls of the church building.
Whether this is investment in overseas mission or community development, significant financial resources are committed to Kingdom activities outside the church building.
4. is welcoming.
Throughout the pages of the New Testament, there was never a hint of a person who was uncomfortable approaching Jesus. Some dismissed him. Others opposed his message. However, Scripture tells of a Messiah who was approachable and welcoming of all. Likewise, the missional church is one where all feel welcome.
5. has apostolic leaders with an eye towards movement.
The word “mission” in and of itself connotes forward movement. Furthermore, the mission of God is global in scale and eternal in scope. The missional church has apostolic leaders who have an eye not towards merely building an organization, but rather building a movement which seeks to join with God and His purposes of redemption.
6. tells stories of what God is doing amongst not-yet-believers.
The internal conversation and narratives is ripe with powerful stories of God’s movement in the community and around the world, amongst people who are far from Him.
7. has a plan for moving people into faith in Jesus and along the path of spiritual formation.
There is a recognition that salvation is neither the starting point, nor the end goal.
Furthermore, there are intentional processes and structures to support the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church’s mission of making disciples.
8. has a high view of the role and activity of the Holy Spirit.
God’s global strategy is at work. The mission of God is fully activated, and God’s Spirit is the One who calls, gifts, empowers, and enables the mission of God to be carried out. Our response is to say, “YES” to what God has called and prepared us to do.
9. spends the majority of its time with and for those who are far from God.
There is a recognition that the process of discipleship is messy and time-consuming. There is a willingness to commit leadership and people-resources to goal of seeing the surrounding community blessed.
10. is made up of men and women who are deeply aware of their own brokenness.
This awareness brings about two things: 1) a deep gratitude for the work of forgiveness and redemption at the Cross; 2) an understanding of and deep compassion for the brokenness of others. This is what makes for safe places and safe relationships.
11. has leaders who are people-developers.
Rather than being event-planners, there are pastors and leaders who understand and embrace their role as people-developers...equipping and releasing missionaries out into the community and the world.
12. believes and hopes for big things for the community.
The missional church is such an ingrained part of the surrounding community, that there is a genuine and heartfelt desire to see good things come about in the community. Furthermore, as people of faith, the dreams are big, God- sized ones, which will only come about with His favor and blessing.
13. is recognized and loved for its contribution in the neighborhood.
Tim Keller asks the question, “If your church closed its doors tomorrow, who outside the congregation would know or care?” In the missional church, their presence in the community is so consistent and so generous that they truly are known and celebrated for the love that they have.
What other signs does your church have?
You Won't Believe This Example Of A Missional Church
The Bridge Foursquare Church chose to “adopt their city”, offering to provide volunteers to help the City of Rancho Santa Margarita in any way, at any time it was needed. The city, citing ‘separation of church and state’, said “No”. So, the church kept offering.
Months went by with members of the Bridge continuing to drop in on the city offices and offer their help—no strings attached. Eventually, the City had a need for volunteers and asked the Bridge to help. All 35 adult members of the church showed up and served (I think it was a building dedication), without wearing The Bridge t-shirts, without passing out Come Worship with Us! cards, without hanging a banner with the church location and service times.
Members of the Bridge did nothing to promote themselves. They came to serve their city -- with no strings attached – and they did.
Several weeks later, the city had another need and contacted the Bridge for help. In the years that have passed, the Bridge (now several hundred strong) is an integral part of every community event in Rancho Santa Margarita.
A few years after completing the reFocusing process, I attended the city’s Fourth of July celebration. The Bridge provided live music (mostly secular), handed out bottles of water, and served in a multitude of ways.
A City Councilmember told me (essentially): “I don’t know where our city would be without the Bridge. They have contributed massively to this community in ways we can never repay.”
Serving the Community
One year, the elders decided to give a financial gift to their city. They prayed and mailed a check to City Hall. It was returned. The city cited ‘separation of church and state’ and remarked that no church had ever given financially to their city.
Undeterred, church leaders inquired about how they might give to the city. An employee suggested that if they were put on the agenda at a City Counsel meeting and explained their motivations maybe the city would accept the gift.
They arrived to find the normally empty City Council Chambers packed with hundreds of angry residents who were berating the Council about something that had taken place at a local school. In the midst of the vitriol, the Bridge was invited to speak. Humbly, they asked the City to receive the check as an expression of the church’s gratitude for the city —nothing more. Against the backdrop of residents rage the offer was stunning. You could hear a pin drop, I was told. Within moments someone clapped, then another, until the crown gave a standing ovation to the joy of Council members. Only God could have set this up!
Oh, by the way, many city employees have come to faith in Christ and attend the Bridge today.
I drove through the streets of the city alone last night. I looked at lights, at people, at cars and at buildings. I appreciate cities. I remember a text in the Scripture that recounts how Jesus looked at the city and was moved with compassion. In fact, Matthew, one of Jesus’ close followers penned these words to describe Jesus’ activity, passion, compassion and future vision… Then Jesus made a circuit of all the towns and villages. He taught in their meeting places, reported kingdom news, and healed their diseased bodies, healed their bruised and hurt lives. When he looked out over the crowds, his heart broke. So confused and aimless they were, like sheep with no shepherd. “What a huge harvest!” he said to his disciples. “How few workers! On your knees and pray for harvest hands!”
As I drive through the city I watch and wonder about the people. I wonder what my life will mean in reflection of the human condition. People tell me all the time, because of my position as a church leader, what a great thing I do. Well, as I look at, it is outside my position that matters most. How do I do there? I was having a conversation earlier today with a friend and they asked this question, “Aren’t we alive to touch people and show love?” Yes, is the answer. We are alive to touch people and show love.
How can I love driving through the city? For me it is similar to Jesus’ love. Those I connect with, I touch. I touch them with a message – God wants to rule in your life by love. I touch them with comfort. The word disease tells me that the people around me are at dis-ease. Some of their dis-ease is physical, some is emotional, some is relational and some is spiritual. I am to heal disease. I have that capacity…it is the capacity to replace the dis-ease with comfort. Some have bruised and hurt lives. Circumstances, influences, decisions, people, other factors, have conditioned them to a way of life that is cautious, protective, fearful, isolated and alone. For those I must bring whatever is necessary for wholeness – spirit, soul and body. Now, how do I shape my mission and my leadership to reflect this?
Sometimes I feel selfish; I feel like a failure; I feel overwhelmed. It is in those times that I take the next step in making a difference – I ask for help! From around me and from above. I realize that I am not only a pray-er of that prayer, but I am the answer to that prayer. As someone else is praying for help, I am praying for help to be a help. I am not alone in this mission, but the mission might not happen if I, alone, do not lead. As Richard Seel said, “Unless the paradigm at the heart of an organization is changed, there will be no lasting change.
So, why do I write this? Because you might just be my help and I might just be yours. We are potential partners in touching lives, healing hurts, sharing love and making a difference. We are also smart enough to know we cannot do it alone. That is the essence of community mission. It is the primary reason every local church exists – to be the cumulative presence of Jesus in the city. But, most churches, unlike Jesus whose presence they are there to manifest, just stay home. We clean our toilets, manicure our lawn, paint our walls and make our beds.
When we do go up or down the street, we will see the people…confused, aimless, without a leader or anyone to care. We are moved with compassion, a passion to extend to these beautiful, wonderful, creations of God a community of love, a kingdom of grace and a relationship of care. We are the Jesus in this picture. The Spirit of God inspired the words that said, “You are the body of Christ,” “You have the mind of Christ,” “Heal the sick, raise the dead, freely you have received, freely give.”
Jesus said, “What I do you will do and even greater things will you do.”
So, next time you are alone on a drive, or a walk, look around. You are not there by accident. See the need right there on the surface of the street. Touch the people outside your doors and windows. Pray for help. Plan for love.
It’s time…go for a drive.