Player or Coach?

I read and recommend Jim Putman’s book called, “Church is a Team Sport.” As followers of Jesus, we know that the community of faith is important but we often forget that the goal of a team is to win. What is winning in the church, it is not making converts, it is actually making disciples who in turn make other disciples. Here are a few quotes from the book…

PLAYER OR COACH? When I was a player, I had a player’s mind-set. I wanted to compete at the highest level, so I concentrated on acquiring and honing the skills and stamina that I would need to win on the mat or field. My focus was on my position, and I hoped everyone else would carry their own weight. If each part of the team did their job, we would win. When I became a coach, my job was no longer about what position I was going to play; I was no longer going to play a position. My job was to develop people so that they could play their positions or wrestle their weights. It was no longer about what I would do on the mat or field. It was about what I could train the athletes to do in their moment of decision.

There is nothing worse than having a player in a coach’s position.

WHAT IS A COACH? Just as a coach can hurt the team by not understanding his role, a pastor can hurt the church for the same reason. God has given His coaches a job description in Ephesians 4:11–13.

This passage tells us that the job of a pastor has two parts. First, they are to prepare or equip God’s players to play, or in biblical terminology, to serve one another and reach out to the world. Secondly, pastors are to lead their people to become unified. No team, no matter how great the players, can win if they are not unified. The team must have the same goal, the same language; they must have a common understanding of the part they play; and they must work together to achieve that goal.

The Scriptures tell us that we are to be part of a team that works together to achieve God’s purposes. We don’t go to church; we are the church. In a church you are invited to volunteer; on a team you are expected to play a part.

However, a good coach develops a way to turn those he gathers and leads into great players. He creates a way to guide them into their position on the team. Every person is a player. Success is creating a team that can work together. Success is finding and developing players who will later become coaches themselves.

When I look at churches filled with people who have come to watch the show and I don’t see any intentional attempt to move people into the discipleship process, it saddens me. A congregation that is informed about the game is not the same as a congregation that is committed to learning how to play the game.

Related Images:

A Summary of Logotherapy

I received my BS from the University of Montevallo in 1981, and my major professor was Dr. Sanford Colley. He introduced me to most of the major theories of counseling and psychotherapy, and I found Existential Analysis (or logotherapy) to be the most intriguing. Upon recently rediscovering the writings of Dr. Viktor Frankl, I wish I had paid more attention in school!

This information is a compilation of my recent reading of three books:

Logotherapy was developed by neurologist, psychiatrist, and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl. It is considered the “Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy” along with Freud’s psychoanalysis and Adler’s individual psychology.

The theory is based on an existential analysis focusing on Kierkegaard’s “will to meaning” as opposed to Adler’s emphasis of “will to power” or Freud’s focusing on man’s “will to pleasure.” Logotherapy is based on the belief that it is the striving to find a meaning in life that is the primary, most powerful motivating factor in life.

The name “logotherapy” was created based on the Greek word logos (biblically, this means “word” but Frankl emphasizes the word referring to “meaning”). Frankl’s concept is based on the premise that the primary motivational force of an individual is to find meaning in life. These statements are the basic principles of logotherapy:

  1. Freedom of Will: Life has meaning under all circumstances, even the most miserable ones.
  2. Will to Meaning: Our main motivation for living is our will to find meaning in life.
  3. Meaning of Life: We have freedom to find meaning in what we do, and what we experience, or at least in the stance we take when faced with a situation of unchangeable suffering.

In Frankl’s view, the spirit is the will of the human being. The emphasis is on the search for meaning, which is not necessarily the search for God.

Frankl wrote that it may be psychologically damaging when a person’s search for meaning is blocked. Positive life purpose and meaning was associated with strong religious beliefs, membership in groups, dedication to a cause, life values, and clear goals.

According to logotherapy, meaning is experienced on two levels: ultimate meaning and meaning of the moment.

  1. Ultimate Meaning, is found through participation in a universal order of being in which every person has a place. This type of meaning deals with questions, such as, “Who am I?” Ultimate meaning can never be comprehended in its entirety, only pursued to the best of one’s ability.
  2. Meaning of the Moment, is much easier to grasp. In most situations it is nothing spectacular, just the daily tasks awaiting us. Some moments offer bigger choices than others; some moments are subtler than others; none are repeatable.

According to Frankl, people discover meaning in life in three different ways:

  1. Work: by creating a work or accomplishing a task.
  2. Love: by experiencing something in life or encountering someone, through the quality of love.
  3. Attitude: by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering” and that “everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.

On the meaning of suffering, Frankl gives the following example:

Once, an elderly general practitioner consulted me because of his severe depression. He could not overcome the loss of his wife who had died two years before and whom he had loved above all else. Now how could I help him? What should I tell him? I refrained from telling him anything, but instead confronted him with a question, “What would have happened, Doctor, if you had died first, and your wife would have had to survive without you?:” “Oh,” he said, “for her this would have been terrible; how she would have suffered!” Whereupon I replied, “You see, Doctor, such a suffering has been spared her, and it is you who have spared her this suffering; but now, you have to pay for it by surviving and mourning her.” He said no word but shook my hand and calmly left the office.

Frankl emphasized that realizing the value of suffering is meaningful only when the first two creative possibilities are not available (for example, in a concentration camp) and only when such suffering is unavoidable – he was not proposing that people suffer unnecessarily.

Frankl developed a unique view of determinism to coexist with the three basic pillars of Logotherapy. Though Frankl admitted that man can never be free from every condition, such as, biological, sociological, or psychological determinants, based on his experience during his life in the Nazi concentration camps, he believed that man is “capable of resisting and braving even the worst conditions.” In doing such, man can detach from situations, himself, choose an attitude about himself, determine his own determinants, therefore, shaping his own character and becoming responsible for himself.

Within the domain which belongs such human sufferings, these conditions are in effect:

  • Despondency: Expressed in pain, guilt, and death, which comprises the tragic triad.
  • Despair: Giving rise to depression, aggression, and addiction, which constitutes the the neurotic triad.
  • Doubt and Confusion: Often caused by an inner emptiness when access to one’s spiritual core is blocked, is experienced as existential vacuum.

This existential vacuum is a general sense of meaninglessness and emptiness, an “inner void,” an “abyss-experience.” It manifests itself mainly in a state of boredom. No instinct tells him what he has to do, and no tradition tells him what he ought to do: soon he will not know what he wants to do. More and more he will be governed by what others want him to do, thus increasingly falling prey to conformism.

There are various tools the counselor may use in helping people using logotherapy. The major established techniques for intervention described in logotherapy are:

Self-distancing or Self-detachment – When clients present us with their problems or symptoms, the first step—after hearing their story—is to help them gain some distance from the burden they carry, and through which they often identify themselves. This distancing will provide a clearer vision for courses of action open to them or reveal areas of freedom still available to take a stand toward their conditions. Man is capable of detaching himself not only from a situation but also from himself. He is capable of choosing his attitude toward himself. Self-distancing is the capacity to step away from ourselves and to look at ourselves from the “outside,” possibly with humor.

Paradoxical Intention – The means that the patient is encouraged to do, or wish to happen, the very things he fears. It lends itself to the short-term treatment of obsessive-compulsive and phobic clients. Paradoxical Intention is a wish turned upside down. Patients are guided to wish exactly what as phobics and obsessives they have so frantically feared and so desperately tried to avoid. What we flee from tends to catch up with us, and the more we fight a fear the more we become its victims. On the other hand, if we wish to have happen what we fear and support our paradoxical wish with humoristically exaggerated formulations, the fear dissolves.

Socratic Dialogue – This technique is used to help persons use questioning to discover for themselves the meanings of life. Frankl believes it is the task of the logotherapist, not to tell clients what the meaning in their life is, but to elicit the wisdom that is hidden within the spirit of each person. One of the basic assumptions of logotherapy is that, in the depth of our spiritual dimension, we know what kind of person we are, what our potentials are, and what is important and meaningful to us. He states that ultimate questions of human existence are on the lips of every man.

Dereflection – Focusing attention away from the situation. It rests on two essential qualities of human existence, namely, man’s capacities of self-transcendence and self-detachment. The essence of dereflection is substituting something positive for something negative. When turning toward a new interest is successful or is rewarded, turning from intense self-observation is more likely to succeed. Dereflection is intended to counteract compulsive inclination to self-observation. Through paradoxical intention the person tries to ridicule his symptoms, while he learns to “ignore” them through dereflection.

I challenge the reader to find the above referenced books, which bring much clarity to the task of pastoral counseling and guidance.

Related Images:

What We Need From Pastors

Today, I was reading Brian Dodd on Leadership. A good word for pastors…

We want our pastors to work on their craft, to be prepared, to think of new and creative ways to communicate the timeless message of Jesus Christ. But because of the over-abundance of pastoral talent and our access to it, we no longer need slickness and craftiness.

Here are a Few Things we Need:

  1. When you stand up on Sunday, we do not need you to impress us with your brilliance and insight. We just need to know you have been with alone with God and he has marked your life.
  2. We do not need a talk. We need you to have a message for us from the Ancient of Days addressing the issues we face at this point and time in human history.
  3. We need you to have calloused knees on our behalf.
  4. We need you to elevate the importance of the Bible. It is God’s Word on paper and we want to know what it says.
  5. We need you to preach the truth of Scripture, the virgin birth, the sinless life of Jesus, and Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection.
  6. We need you to tell people there is a heaven and a hell and everyone will go to one or the other.
  7. We need you to challenge us to live righteous and holy lives.
  8. We need you to prioritize the pursuit of personal holiness over the pursuit of personal freedoms.
  9. We need you to be a picture of the desired destination at which you wish for us to arrive.
  10. We need you to put your relationship with God above all else and your family second.

Here are a Few Things we Need for You to Know:

  1. We need you to know how much we love and admire you.
  2. We need you to know how often we pray for you.
  3. We need you to know how much we appreciate the fact you could make far more money consulting or in corporate America but you choose to pastor sheep like us.
  4. We need you to know how much we look forward to hearing you each Sunday.
  5. We need you to know we have you and your family’s back.
  6. We need you to know we were glad you were there at our most defining moments – weddings, funerals, baptisms and baby dedications.
  7. We need you to know how sorry we are for saying stupid, uneducated, and ill-advised things we deeply regretted later on.
  8. We need you to know we should have paid you more.
  9. We need you to know that if you need anything, all you have to do is ask.
  10. We need you to know how glad we are you did not resign this past Monday but decided to come back for another Sunday.

[print_link] [email_link] [ Brian Dodd on Leadership ]

Related Images:

The Shepherd’s Staff

The Shepherd’s Staff – Ezekiel 34:7-16

This is a difficult and ambiguous time at King’s Grant Baptist Church. It is hard to take in that the person who has shepherded us for all these years has decided to leave us. Many couples have been married, many family members have been buried. A pastor goes through life with us, we were a family.

On the other side, now we feel alone, vulnerable, anxious, and to some degree we feel betrayed by the simple fact that our pastor is going to shepherd other people instead of us. Yes, we recognize God’s calling on his life, and sometimes following that call moves our ministers in a different direction, but we grieve the loss none the less.

There is no doubt that losing a pastor can be a time of upheaval for a church. When a pastor simply retires after long and faithful service (like Jerry), or if he moves on to another area of service in response to God’s leading (like Skip), it can be a time of sweet sorrow. We can, and should lift him up in prayer and encourage him in his new adventure.

But there is also a flip side. We grieve the loss, the ambiguity, and the anxiety, the uncertainty: who will faithfully teach us the Bible? Who will do our wedding? Who will preach my funeral? Who will train me to be all that God wants me to be for his kingdom’s sake?

Then there is the inevitable posturing for leadership by various members of a congregation. This is generally done because some people sense a vacuum of leadership now that the CEO is gone. The thought is that WE need to gain control of the situation, perhaps others feel that no one can better lead during this time than so and so, and during this election year, we can tend to campaign for taking on such leadership. After all this potential tension, it comes down to trusting the body of Christ, and in the Holy Spirit who is leading the people of King’s Grant Baptist Church.

In order to help us through this difficult time, we must first begin with an understanding of exactly whom the church belongs to. The church does not belong to the pastor or to the leadership or even to the congregation. While we embrace congregational rule and autonomy in a Baptist church, we cannot lose sight of the fact of whose church this really is.

The church belongs to Christ. The Bible says that Christ is the Head of the church. The word church (ekklesia) literally means the “assembly of the called-out ones.” These called-out ones gather together to worship the head of the church, our Savior, our Lord, our True Shepherd.

The church (all those who profess faith in Jesus Christ) is committed to following the leadership of Christ in all that we do; by obeying Him, and even presenting an accurate image of Christ to a lost world who is constantly watching. The church is the body of Christ. He died for His body, and His body dies daily in order to live for Him. Until and unless church leadership is committed to this biblical model and the congregation comes to grips with this truth, no pastor can really be successful.

So the first step in surviving the loss of a pastor is to understand the definition of the church. Additionally, we should be united in our understanding of and our commitment to the church, both the local church and the universal church. A lot of church conflict comes from a lack of unity in the beliefs of the church and the commitments of the church to its mission and purpose. The church is not about US, the church is about and FOR him. So, before beginning to seek a new pastor, the church, the body, must agree on the true leader of the church.

It is amazing that when we have a proper Christology, other issues become very clear. As an example, our understanding of Christ will determine our understanding of our mission; which in turn determines our understanding of church. We cannot get this out of order. For the visually inspired, it looks something like this:

Christology-Missiology-EcclesiologySecond, the church must understand and be committed to the sovereignty of God in all things. Nothing that happens is a surprise to God, God allowed this to accomplish his will and his purposes, for US and for HIM. God has assured us that, all things work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). The church can take comfort in the knowledge that we are being led by the sovereign God who is involved in the details of everyday life and the ministry of his church.

Third, the departure of a pastor is a good time to reevaluate and/or redefine the mission and work of the church. There are obvious commands from Scripture—teaching and preaching the Word of God, being a people of prayer, worshipping and glorifying our heavenly Father, and fulfilling the Great Commission to make disciples. But we have to ask ourselves if we have moved from our original calling to be on mission; living with purpose and intentionality. Have we embraced a more comfortable lifestyle and do we emphasize our own worship preferences? We must ask the question, as John says in the Revelation, “Have we lost our first love, and left the mission and vision that Jesus has for us?” Leaving our first love can manifest itself by promoting our own desires and preferences over Jesus and his mission, the lost, and God’s calling us to be on mission with him.

All this is to say, God is in charge, so we don’t have to take control of the situation. He knew that we would be going this long before the announcement was ever made. Nothing catches God off guard, and we don’t have to worry. Cast all your cares on him because he cares for you, Peter tells us (1 Peter 5:7). I believe that God is going to teach us something during this time. While our local shepherd has left us, the Good Shepherd will never leave us nor forsake us. We are NOT lost sheep and we are NOT left as orphans. God has a plan for us and we must simply trust that he is looking out for us!

This church has gathered under the leadership of the Holy Spirit; we have among us a fine group of servant leaders. You have a capable and faithful staff that is in place to care for the needs of this congregation and offer leadership during this interim time. It is my desire that the congregation have confidence in your current staff to guide us through this time of change and uncertainty.

Ok, so let’s get to this passage about shepherds in Ezekiel 34.

This passage begins with a look at the ungodly leaders of Israel, and the apostasy of the kings of Israel. When ungodly leaders lead God’s people, everyone suffers. While they are called “shepherds,” they are actually political leaders, perhaps kings. Of Israel’s 20 kings, ALL of them were weak, unspiritual, and evil leaders. Of the 20 kings of Judah, only six were good. Godliness was missing from every aspect of community life, just take a look at Ezekiel 22. Leaders used their strength to shed blood (Ezekiel 22:4, 6), prophets devoured people and seized their valuables, they multiplied widows (Ezekiel 22:25), the priests did violence and profaned the holy things of God (Ezekiel 22:26). So, with leaders like this, who will blame the people for practicing extortion, robbery, oppression of the poor, or exploitation of the foreigners, (Ezekiel 22:29). There is a great and sober truth at play here: people learn by example.

There was an absence of leadership in every way possible. And because if it, the Lord counted them all guilty of violating his trust and he announced their destruction. As a result, God’s lament over the situation is recorded in Ezekiel 22:30, “I searched for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, so that I would not destroy it; but I found no one.” The people needed a leader who would challenge them toward personal holiness and embrace God’s global purpose.

This verse of Scripture, Ezekiel 22:30, reminds me of a song years ago by Al Denson, called “Be the One”

In a world full of broken dreams, Where the truth is hard to find
For every promise that is kept, There are many left behind
Though it seems that nobody cares, It still matters what you do
Cause there’s a difference you can make, But the choice is up to you

Will you be the one, To answer to His call
Will you stand, When those around you fall
To take His light, Into a darkened world
Tell me will you be the one?

Instead of having leaders who were consumed by God’s glory, God’s mission, and leading the people for their own good, Israel’s shepherds were concerned with themselves, (Ezekiel 34:2). Look at some of the issues revealed in Ezekiel 34:1-8…

The False Shepherds (Ezekiel 34:1-8)

  1. They feed and water themselves (Ezekiel 34:1-3)
  2. They refuse to care for the weak, sick, injured (Ezekiel 34:4)
  3. They allow wild animals to devour them (Ezekiel 34:5-8)

It was the responsibility of the shepherds, the leaders, to care for the people, to protect them, and to see to it that their needs were met. But these selfish leaders of the kingdom of Israel had abused and exploited the people because they thought only of themselves.

The leaders not only exploited the sheep but they also abused them by neglecting to meet their needs. Sheep require constant care, but the leaders didn’t manage the nation’s affairs for the sake of the sheep, but for their own profit. They didn’t care for the sheep at all, but only for themselves. As I put this together, I thought, any resemblance to those in DC is purely coincidental.

False shepherds of the Old Testament had led the nation to ruin, yet God will come to rescue his people. True leaders don’t exploit their people—they sacrifice for them. Jesus, the true shepherd, set the example by laying down His life for His flock (John 10:10). I’ll talk more about this on Mother’s Day May 8.

Rather than focus on the ungodly shepherds of their day, I want to focus on that which God expects of US today, for the leaders of his sheep.

When I was a kid, one of my favorite shows was called, “the Dukes of Hazard.” At least once each week Uncle Jessie would get on the CB radio and call out, “Shepherd to lost sheep, shepherd to lost sheep, y’all got your ears on?” So, in this passage, while God has stern words for the shepherds, he will also comfort his people, because he has a message for his lost sheep.

God may have been chastising the shepherds, but he never gave up on his sheep. Check out what he expected the shepherd to do.

The Faithful Shepherd (Ezekiel 34:11-16)

  1. He seeks the sheep (Ezekiel 34:11)
  2. He cares for his sheep (Ezekiel 34:12a)
  3. He delivers or rescues his sheep (Ezekiel 34:12b)
  4. He gathers his sheep (Ezekiel 34:13)
  5. He feeds his sheep (Ezekiel 34:14-15a)
  6. He leads his sheep (Ezekiel 34:15b)
  7. He pastors his sheep (Ezekiel 34:16)
    1. Positive: seeks the lost, brings back the scattered, binds the broken, strengthens the sick (Ezekiel 34:16a)
    2. Negative: destroys the fat and strong, feeding them with judgment

I want you to notice the personal pronouns used in this section, Ezekiel 34:11-16. These are first person promises, some 25 promises in all. These promises include judgment as well as deliverance. When we read about all of the exploitation of the kings, these “I will” statements in Ezekiel 34 suggest God’s determination to be involved in the lives and destinies of his people. No longer will there be a human mediator between God and his people. The Messiah was to be the shepherd of God’s people.

God was leading the sheep for their own good, not as Israel’s shepherds had done, who were in it for themselves. After reading this list of what the faithful shepherd is going to do, why would the people of God want a different kind of king over them, other than God?

What about us? God wants to have authority over us, but we often feel that his authority is NOT in our best interest. Is he really looking out for us? Don’t I get a say in this? I have all of my life goals and plans, or the vision for this church, all set and they’re beginning to unfold, so don’t come in a make me change anything. Let me tell you, immediate obedience to God is always in our best interest; disobedience always brings vulnerability and downfall.

God wants to lead us for our own good. He is not a tyrant; he is one who wants to relate to us and carefully lead his sheep.

What I see here is actually pretty staggering; but the truth is that we DO NOT deserve this type of leadership. In case we are viewing ourselves as defenseless, fluffy, innocent sheep who are worthy of a sacrificial leader, we should always remember that just like Israel, we have often rejected God’s leadership. Perhaps we have even hated God’s leadership. In fact, every sin that we commit is actually a profession that WE are really in charge. Each sin is a reminder of our OWN reign in our lives, and a demotion of God’s reign. And we are ALL guilty, “All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way;” (Isaiah 53:6).

In spite of our rebellion, God has never wavered from his desire to reconcile sinners to himself. No one has ever sacrificed so much, his own Son, to bring an ungrateful people into his presence.

So during this time of uncertainty of not having a senior pastor, I trust that you will have confidence in God’s direction and leadership, and in the earthly shepherds that our heavenly father has provided. We need, and have, shepherds (your staff members) who are looking out for your best interests. We are here to love you, care for you. We are here to challenge you to strive for God’s best, and to take risks for the kingdom’s sake. You are not left as orphans because our pastor is gone. This time in the life of our church is cause to embrace the True Shepherd who cares for us more than any earthly human being is ever able to do. Don’t fret, don’t worry, but have confidence in God, in our Savior, and in his timing. Anticipate and expect much greater things in our future. For his glory and his honor! Amen.

Next Steps:

  1. Will you commit yourself to prayer during this time, as we seek a new pastor?
  2. Will you commit yourself to others in this church through faithful participation and active service?
  3. Will you put your own desires and personal preferences aside as we seek to become a church focused on God’s mission and global purpose?
  4. In what ways will you seek the lost? Bring back the scattered? Bind the broken? Strengthen the sick? Feed or lead the sheep?
  5. In what ways will you meet the needs of others during this time of uncertainty?

Related Images:

Choosing a New Pastor

Choosing a new pastor HAS to be different than an episode of The Bachelor, and let me tell you why.

It was disturbing to recently see a handout that takes the reader through the pastor search committee process. While much was in order and took the reader through the logical and practical steps in the process, there was a disturbing and concerning section that I want to address. Perhaps just writing this is therapy for me, because once the committee begins its work, I have no influence whatsoever on how they conduct their business.

One block in the process is to “narrow the field down to 6-10 potential candidates.” Certainly this is all well and good. But the next step was to “check all references” which is not so good. I am a fan of checking references, but at the proper time. After checking references, then the field is “narrowed to 3-4 top candidates,” and then visiting and interviews take place. As I read this, all I could think about was The Bachelor TV show.

While I have only seen commercials and never the show, the premise is for a room full of women to be wooed and seduced by a handsome eligible bachelor. The process involves a series of dates, conversations, and decisions. The show is known for its famous scene of giving a rose to the ones that move forward in the process, eliminating those who don’t make the cut.

Point of clarification: the following is written in general masculine for simplicity in language. I do not want to write him/her for every pronoun used.

Doing this to a potential pastor is simply not right. Contacting references before the candidate is in serious consideration is premature. The candidate is now vulnerable to those in his current position, should they find out a search committee is considering him. Everyone in the candidate’s circles of influence begin thinking he is perhaps on his way out, asking questions, and damaging his current ministry, especially if he does not “get the rose” eliminating him from the competition.

The simple fact that he is in a “competition” is humiliating enough; imagine yourself being courted my someone. You’re interested and think this could lead to something like a life-long commitment, only to discover down the road he has been dating other people all this time and chose someone else over you. Besides, a potential pastor wants to know that God has led you to him, rather than you’re throwing the dice hoping for the best.

So, how should this pastor search be done? After all of the preliminary stuff like congregational survey and church profile, when the time comes to get to the business of looking at candidates, I suggest this process (beginning with much prayer and seeking God’s direction).

  1. Gather resumes from multiple sources: local association or state convention; recommendations from people you trust; sites like, etc. Beware of resumes that come from churches, groups, or individuals whose theology, methodology, or ecclesiology is not a good fit for our church.
  2. Copies of these confidential resumes are distributed to committee members to read and review. Messages on tape or mp3 are distributed as well.
  3. Each member picks out their top ten candidates based on the criteria for which they are seeking.
  4. In committee, everyone explains their selections to the rest of the group, and perhaps narrowing the field by pooling the candidates that many of the members have in common.
  5. Once you get to the top five choices, the committee puts these in priority order, and agree that candidate number one is the first to pursue.
  6. A visit is made to that pastor’s church to hear him preach live; no official committee contact is made. Make sure to call the church (like any guest might) to make sure the pastor is preaching that Sunday, and ask the time of the service. And don’t sit together as a group; don’t be obvious.
  7. The committee then decides if they want to contact him for an in-person interview.
  8. If all is satisfactory after the interview, then the committee requests confidential references. These reference should be called, not sent a reference form.
  9. If there are NO red flags at this point, the committee decides whether to extend and invitation for the candidate to visit the church, in private with the committee rather than publicly. The candidate and spouse visit the church and see the community to get a sense of who we are, and get a little of our history and the flavor of the church. The candidate may decide at this point to continue in the process or feel led that this is not the place.
  10. If there ARE red flags in the references or the interview, the committee may decide to move toward candidate number two. We thank candidate number one for his time and consideration but communicate that the committee decided it is not a good fit for the congregation.
  11. My recommendation is to work with one person at a time until such a time that God closes that door.

Once a candidate is unanimously selected, the committee is responsible to organize a “visit weekend,” in public, gathering with various groups within the congregation at various times for meeting, greeting, and questioning. Sunday is preaching day at the church. Then at a called business meeting, perhaps later that evening, the church would decide whether or not to extend a call that the candidate.

This is not The Bachelor, and these are solid reasons why we should employ a different method to select a new pastor.

[print_link] [email_link]

Related Images:

Why People Resist Change

Change is hard, people will fight to keep things the same, but why? Why is change so difficult? I was reading an article by Lynn Hardaway (with The Bridge Network of Churches) that brings a few key insights.

What can be done when your church’s core values have drifted away from what makes a church healthy? How can a pastor lead people back to Great Commission values? The first step is to understand why people in an established congregation resist change.

1. They do not feel a need to change.
Unless the church is in crisis, most members believe “all is well” and will not be responsive to the pastor’s pleas to adopt different values. An old adage from the farm says, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink; you can, however, mix a little salt with its oats!” Show them the benefits of change and the danger of refusing to change.

2. People prefer the status quo.
It is safe, comfortable and familiar; moving out of that safe zone to a new place risks giving up control and feeling vulnerable. You should lead them to stop looking at what “is” and to start looking at “what can be” and “what should be.”

3. They have vested interests.
Because some people have been resident members of the congregation for an extended period of time, they have accrued positions of power and influence. You and your ideas for change are new on the scene and, in many churches, you are merely the current pastor who will probably leave within a few years; why should they change their values for a temporary leader? This leads to the next reason people resist change:

4. They do not trust you, yet.
You will need some time and successes to build your credibility in their eyes before they will let you make organizational and behavioral changes. People want to know if you can be trusted, if you know where you are going, and if you are capable of leading them there.

5. Old values and traditions have become sacred to them.
Whether those traditions are grounded in the Scripture or not is irrelevant; they are closely tied to how your people understand and relate to God. We all know pastors who found themselves ostracized because they dared to challenge the “sacred cows” in a congregation. Preach the Word of God compassionately, carefully lead the people to understand the difference between biblical values and cultural forms of worship, and you may be able to lead them away from this unhealthy mindset.

6. People prefer the simple over the complex.
When you introduce healthy systems, such as assimilation and evangelism, it can create confusion and frustration in the minds of your members, and they will naturally resist what they do not understand. They do not have the time or expertise to grasp novel concepts, so you must go the extra mile in clarifying and simplifying the process for them.

7. All human beings are basically self-centered.
While Christian people aspire to selflessness, most of us will react to a new value or idea with the question, “How will this affect my life?” You must remind your people regularly that life is not about them; life is about God’s great passion to see lost people become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.

Once you understand these seven reasons people resist change, you can begin the process of moving them from unhealthy values to healthy values.

[print_link] [email_link]

Related Images:

Church Leadership Assumptions

I discovered a wealth of information from the leadership seminar notes of the Norfolk Area Baptist Association Minister’s Conference on May 13, 2010. This is pretty intriguing information about the relevance of the church in today’s culture.

The Church in America is in desperate need of a new model for the local church. We currently develop churches based on a model of ministry that was developed several hundred years ago, rejecting the fact that the society for which that model was designed no longer exists.

“The constant cry of the unchurched, ‘The church is irrelevant to the way I live’ cannot be addressed until the model itself is renewed to acknowledge that the times have changed. Our approach to meeting people’s needs with the unchanging truths of the gospel must reflect our sensitivity to that change.” — George Barna

Why don’t you go to church?

  1. Churches are always asking for money
  2. Services are boring and lifeless
  3. Services are predictable and repetitive
  4. Sermons are irrelevant to daily life as it’s lived in the real world
  5. The pastor makes me feel guilty and ignorant, so I leave church feeling worse than when I came

“There is much to be said for people feeling that they are part of a winning team. Adults these days are too busy and under too much pressure to cheerfully and willingly offer their free time to activities that continually fail.” – George Barna

False Assumptions in Church Leadership

Here is an excerpt from an article by Dave Travis. The article challenges us on several fronts and I think it merits your attention. Travis writes, “These false assumptions lead to misguided ministry, out of touch with those who need to be reached.” He shares the false assumptions and then contrasts them with his view of reality:

Assumption – We live in a church culture.
Reality – There are far more people out there with no connection to the church than we care to admit. Kennon Callahan said it best in his book, Effective Church Leadership, “The day of the churched culture is over. The day of the mission field has come.” Leaders need to do a gut check in order to see the persons in their neighborhoods as persons that we can reach. Leaders should represent the unchurched to the churches’ teams and committees, helping to keep focused on the need to reach them for Christ.

Assumption – People will be committed to a cause or a group.
Reality – In days like these, you can’t count on anything. Too often, the members of church leadership teams don’t show up. Some of our leaders are committed to too many ways of making a difference. When congregations have too many focus points, everything looks diluted. What are the one or two ministries where you can have an impact?

Assumption – People know reality is not what they see on TV or movies.
Reality – The media is defining what is real for many people. Frequent stories of violence and decay distort reality for many. In the movies and on TV we see sin without consequences leading many persons to believe that there should be no consequences in real life. Church leaders need to be able to communicate both sides of reality. No, there is not as much crime as some media portray but yes there are consequences to bad choices.

Assumption – We assume that our culture is word-oriented.
Reality – It is visual. Computers have revived writing as a skill but it is not a pen-and-paper effect. It is actually a visual effect. Bookstores are expanding, but profits are found in readers over 40 who buy for themselves and their children. The emerging generations respond to visual stimulation. We need to consider our communication styles and media within the church and to the larger community.

Assumption – We assumed the solutions to our life situations and problems are passed from an older generation to a younger.
Reality – The present culture is extremely mosaic and eclectic. With the half-life of technical and specialized education now lasting under five years, older generations are learning from younger people, not vice versa. We must be willing as individuals, in our committees and teams, and as a larger organization to seek out solutions from the best providers.

Assumption – We need to bring people into the church to make disciples.
Reality – We need to equip people to go out to make disciples in the world. It’s not what happens inside the four walls, but what happens outside that counts. We must equip leaders to be equippers of others who minister in the marketplace, in the neighborhood, and on the mission field.

Assumption – Eventually we will learn what we need and return to a stable state.
Reality – There is no stable state, and there probably never was one. Everyone, church leaders and church members, must be constantly learning to handle the changes in our culture. Change will only increase in the next decade. We must not build hope for a false utopia. A life lesson for all of us: when you find yourself in white water you’d better learn to row and keep on rowing.

Related Images:

New Year’s Resolutions

The beginning of a new year is traditionally a time for examining the past and resolving to make improvements in the coming year. Being involved in the ministry full time, I find that my evaluation of the previous year always finds me lacking. There is always more that I could have done, opportunities that I did not take, people to whom I did not serve. My assignment on staff at King’s Grant has three main areas: small groups, assimilation and leadership development. With the worthiest of intentions, I resolve to do this better in 2010:

I will be more of an equipper and less of a doer. Ephesians 4:11-12 says that the purpose of leaders in the church is to equip the people to do the ministry of the church–not for the leaders to be the ministers themselves. So I will seek to spend more time consciously empowering others in ministry. My first chance in 2010 is a meeting on January 3 with my Sunday School Director, Adult Department Director and Outreach Director to go over a proposed strategy for outreach, guest assimilation and member involvement in the church.

I will stop treating Christian service as optional. Jesus called his followers to complete life change, which is total spiritual transformation. In fact, he went out of his way to make sure people understood how much he demanded of them before they became his followers. Jesus made it clear that he expected people to be actively serving him. I like what Paul wrote in Romans 12:1, 2 and Ephesians 2:10. We are created to be different and to do good works. My Bible study beginning on Wednesday January 6 is on the sermon on the mount, which is probably the best “Jesus Manifesto” on what the Master wanted His followers to be and to do. For Christ-followers and church members, giving time to serve in ministry is not optional.

I will be an encourager. In a world full of negative attitudes and criticism, I will demonstrate Christ’s love by celebrating the accomplishments of others. I will give personal, meaningful affirmation. If someone fails to show up, my first reaction won’t be frustration that he or she let me down; it will be concern that something might be wrong. I will take more pleasure from their successes than my own. I will seek ways to publicly praise them. My goal will be to be an example of Barnabas, the one who was called the “son of encouragement” (Acts 4:36, 9:27).

I will challenge people to serve with boldness. Rather than fill slots with people, I will boldly invite them to contribute their time, energy and efforts to the most significant cause in the universe. In John 6, Jesus called people to radical commitment and many turned back and no longer followed him. He then turned to the disciples and asked if they too will be leaving. I love Peter’s answer, “To whom shall we go? You alone have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). If Jesus’ focus was on the level of commitment people were willing to make, rather than the number of people who followed, then I will not be shy in asking people to give more of themselves.

I will devote resources to developing leaders. Equipping people for ministry is more than just giving encouragement. I will give people constructive feedback. I will pay their way to appropriate training events. I will purchase the tools needed for them to flourish. God has blessed this church financially, and we can find the appropriate seminars and training that people need to be successful in their service.

I will forgive myself for last year. Because I take ministry so seriously, it is easy to pile on guilt for the things I have failed to do or did wrong. But God chose to do this ministry through me, knowing that I’m a broken vessel. I will spend time now consciously determining what I need to learn from my mistakes, and then I will join God in casting them into the Sea of Forgetfulness.

I will remember the one thing. In Luke 10:38-42, Jesus reminded Martha that while all her attempts to serve him were good, the one thing most important was developing a growing relationship with Jesus. I will remember that ultimately it is not about my ministry or my church. It is about me and all those around me developing a growing relationship with Jesus. With the Bible in 90 Days Challenge, I hope that I meet with God through the pages of His Word, more than accomplishing a goal of finishing the Bible in three months.

And perhaps I should add one more: I will keep these resolutions longer than the ones about dieting and exercise.

[print_link]  [email_link]

Related Images:

Appointed or Anointed?

We have been studying the life of David in our Sunday morning Bible study and something struck me the other day. It’s no secret that Kim and I have been called by God to minister to the Lord through a local congregation, but if we are not careful, we can lose focus on how we got into the ministry in the first place. Let’s take a look at Saul for a moment…

In 1 Samuel 18:7, 8, 9, Saul is imploding as a leader. He’s got anger issues. He’s got jealousy issues. He’s got evil spirit issues. He’s a madman who’s got fear issues (1 Samuel 18:10, 11). I believe it is all because Saul forgot who had called him in the first place. He was more concerned about his popularity ratings with people than pleasing God. The people praised David more than the king (1 Samuel 18:7), “Saul has killed his thousands, and David his tens of thousands!”

This made Saul very angry. “What’s this?” he said. “The people credit David with ten thousands and me with only thousands. Next they’ll be making him their king!” So from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David.” Saul forgot who had made him king! Saul was afraid of the people appointing David, but Saul wasn’t appointed by people. He was anointed by God.

If you forget who called you, you’ll run into trouble. You’ll become a people pleaser. You’ll feel threatened because of your insecurities. And the fear of man will be your downfall. David was Saul’s greatest asset, but Saul was threatened because of his insecurities.

Mark Batterson at National Community Church in DC writes:

Can I offer this simple reminder to pastors? You weren’t appointed by a denomination or elected by a congregation or ratified by a board. You were anointed by God. And if you forget, you’ll leadership will implode. I’m not saying you aren’t accountable to a denomination or congregation or board. But never forget your ultimate accountability is to the one who anointed you in the first place.

For David, he understood the anointing (1 Samuel 15:17), “The Lord has anointed you king of Israel.”


Related Images: