Category Archives: Small Church

Where does the money go?

On the FaceBook newsfeed I’ve seen several articles and videos about where the money goes in mega-churches.  It must be part of a capital campaign, or trying to answer questions since Mars Hill in Seattle is having cutbacks take place, and etc.  It is a great question because even though I’m a pastor, I can imagine having the same question if I was a member in the church too.

First I want to applaud some of the mega-churches for giving the statistics about where the money goes.  Openness is paramount in my opinion when dealing with money.  Many of these churches have been secretive in the past, but some are being transparent and that helps when ministry is being performed in a suspicious climate.

I would like to offer another idea about where the money goes from a small church pastor’s perspective.  I have been in ministry for a while now and I’ve seen various moves, or fads, within The Church.  I’ve learned that people are a bit fickle when it comes to commitment to a particular Body of Christ.  In fact, people are very migratory.  In other words, people seem to only commit to 2 to 3 years in one church.  Then, something better comes along and they are gone.

This really isn’t an article about church attendance as much as it is about commitment.  After all, there are consequences when commitments are broken.  While poor church attendance is frustrating, it simply just keeps things from moving quicker.  Therefore, I would like to share some of these consequences to leaving the small local community church.

For starters, when Christians become migratory by leaving their community church because of age on the facility, preferred style of music, because of problems with the people in the church, or because the pastor is not someone they want to follow, there is impact to the church that has been left.  In addition, there is impact on the community that the church is in.  Plus, it is helpful to remember that relationships and problems are easily worked out by those who love Jesus; but that is another article.

Consider that for whatever reason, someone simply leaves a local congregation and attends a church out of town.  When this happens they take their financial resources with them; not to mention their manpower.  Furthermore, they take their influence with them too.  In fact, they join the vision of the pastor who may be in another community that has nothing to do with the community they live in.  This causes the local church, when enough people un-commit, to go into a type of survival mode.  I am aware that many “super leaders” in The Church would say that this is poor leadership.  Yet, it will take time to re-calibrate the vision he had for the community; if he or she had one.  Besides, the people the pastor believed were behind him or her are now no longer available.  It takes time to for a small church to replace them.

This matters because we could assume that God has that church planted in its particular community so that church could be a blessing to the people in that community.  For instance, their ministries cannot be accomplished within the community that God has placed these local churches.  This leaves people to wonder, “Where does the money go?”  After all, the money shortfall stalls the ministry to the community from moving forward.  The answer may be that the money that God gave His people who live in their community to bless and finance ministries that meet needs of people has gone into the large productions of mega-churches that are in other communities.

I should note that often I talk to believers from the community who tell me how they desire to see God do something in the community that they used to attend church.  These people will encourage me and still have the expectation that I have an assignment, but these continue to be non-participants in God’s redemptive purpose for their community.  Yet, they will travel out of town on Sundays.

Recently, a non-denominational ministry that is designed to reach kids before they are 14, ran out of money because the churches within Liberty, my local community, were not able to give enough financially for the ministry to operate.  As of now, it is operating; thank The Lord.  Yet, why is it so hard to finance that ministry?  It seems it could be argued that God’s people refuse to remain committed to the Body of Christ, that likely, The Holy Spirit placed them in.  What is worse, the local Body of Christ that they left is now stumbling and cannot move forward in a way that benefits the community.  The resources were there to meet those needs until many Christians became migratory and went to a comfortable environment that was more pleasing.

Obviously, there are “experts,” or expert debaters out there who  may be able to dispute my observations.  Yet, the fact remains, as a small church pastor, I ask, “Where does the money go?”  Once I begin the process of speculating, as I am now, I can’t help but come to this type of conclusion.  Once I reach this conclusion my next question is, “Why do people blow off the local church for the mega-church setting so readily?”  Guess who is usually contacted to go see the sick and dying.  You guessed it.  The pastors who are left in survival mode.  Many do not realize that one day this service won’t be readily available if the migrations continue; but that is another article too.

I think what is amazing is that Christians have not stopped to ask, once they are part of their new churches, a couple of questions: “Where does the money I give go?”  And, “How does my giving at this new church help my community 15-30 miles away?”  It’s amazing how much vision a local community pastor can have.  It’s also amazing how little is accomplished in the community because the manpower and finances have left the community.

In my community it is not just my small church that experiences the consequences of migration from one church to another.  It actually is close to the same from church to church.  If my opinion is close to right.  then, what type of answer will many of these Christians have to the question Jesus will likely as about faithfulness with what He gave to so that they could bless their community?  Or, does it really matter?

This was not a scientific approach and very well may be mere opinion.  Yet, in the local church that desires to serve the community, one has to ask, “What is the motive for the exodus from small churches to mega-churches outside of the community?”  Somehow it seems Christians have an agenda and God has one too.  They don’t seem the same.

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Filed under Church Attendance, Church Health, Giving, Leadership, Megachurch, Pastor, Small Church, tithing, Vision

Why I am hardcore about listing salvtions

For years I’ve struggled with churches who list salvations and “celebrate,” their victories.  As a pastor, I know that I already seem awful for writing this sentence.  Yet, it really isn’t my intention to take away joy.  My purpose is to question whether or not we, as pastors, are capturing the truth of the Bible.

Consider repentance.  Most agree that repentance is a requirement for salvation.  There are two different types of repentance in the Bible.  One type of repentance is worldly.  This repentance is illustrated by someone who is sorrowful about his or her situation.  This is much like Judas Iscariot who betrayed Christ.  He was sorry because he had betrayed an innocent man.  So to escape his situation he was sorry enough to hang himself.  We may assume that he likely did not receive salvation since he did not adequately repent; and since Jesus said it was going to be bad for the person who betrayed him.

In the Bible, the repentance that leads to eternal life is known by many to be Godly repentance.  This repentance occurs when someone is sorry for his or her sin.  In fact, they are sorry enough to change his or her life from living a life of disobedience to a life of obedience.  This is foundational for salvation.  Paul, also known as Saul before his conversion, is a great example of this type of repentance since his life was completely changed on the Damascus Road.

Many pastors and theologians are now questioning “The Sinner’s Prayer.”  The concern is that many are simply hanging their hats on simply believing in Jesus and that phrase itself as if there is nothing left to do.  While I continue to use this phrase, since it helps me to explain to someone what salvation looks like, I also realize that many pray this prayer and do not really commit to the Lord.  Herein lies the problem for listing, or counting, salvations for everyone to see.  If these people never bear fruit and have nothing more to do with church, then they cannot be counted.  They are still in their old lives and not new life in Christ.

Let’s look at confession now.  Yes, I said confession.  It is biblical and not solely Catholic (Roman), but it is catholic (universal).  In fact, in the Bible we are told to confess our sins to each other (James 5:16).  But, in today’s modern church, we simply ask people to raise their hands if they want to receive Christ as their Savior.  I see reports on Facebook sometimes where members of a church talk about people receiving Christ in services and use numbers anywhere from 10-3000!  This is great news!  Yet, when you investigate what this might have looked like, these salvations were seen by a show of hands.  What about confession?

Consider John the Baptist for a moment.  When he called on Israel to repent, he did not ask for a show of hands.  He asked them to come forward to be baptized.  What of confession?  Who did those who “received” Christ confess their sins too?  I guess we could say to Jesus, but what of “to each other?”  Who will hold them accountable so that it can be measurable, really, whether or not they were actually saved?

Consider the idea of believing.  Belief is a multi-use word in our society.  For example, I believe The Statue of Liberty exists; though I have not experienced it.  I have not shaped my life after it; but I do give it patriotic praise during wartime.  Again, I believe in air which has impacted my life because I can’t stay underwater long if I should choose and I know that I am sustained by it.  Yet, while on dry land I think nothing of it.  However, believing in Jesus goes beyond that of the demons since He does have my respect.  I now use the term believe to reveal that I have staked my entire being on Him and His ability to save me physically and spiritually.  When I use that term in that way it dwarfs when I use the word believe in the context of The Statue of Liberty.  Same word, but two different intentions and outcomes.

Do those who are counted as salvations really understand what it means to believe, and how it impacts your whole life with a simple hand-raise?  We haven’t talked about Vacation Bible School yet.

What about receiving?  Reception seems to look like transformation as the result of receiving.  I am amazed on a regular basis that fruit never seems to be measurable from those who raise their hands to be saved; except in attendance at church on Sundays.  Transformation often does not take place in such a way that fruit can be measured outside of a church setting.  I likely sound judgmental.  Yet, Paul and Jesus seemed to believe that we could see the results of someone’s salvation easily.

I write this so that we can get a discussion going about what real salvation looks like.  In fact, if my concerns are valid, then people need to reexamine whether or not they received Christ.  Further, this could mean that The Church in America is worse off than we realize since numbers may be skewed.  Again, I will say that if everyone, who we like to claim is really saved is really saved, then the impact of The Church in America would not have to resort to politics to change the country, but the country would be changed by transformed lives.

I feel more comfortable to say that my church had a certain amount of salvations when people are conquering evil in their lives.  I feel comfortable when these people are active in church, and out of church.  Often churches will record many salvations, yet their attendance numbers do not change.  My fear is that we are creating manipulative excitement in order to make our churches look wonderful.  And that we are competing church with church through these possibly skewed numbers.  This is why I’m hardcore about salvations listing.

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Filed under Church Attendance, Church Health, Discipleship, Salvation, Small Church

A Pastor in a Duck Dynasty impacted world

Evidently Phil Robertson shared what he believes with GQ Magazine.  I read the story on CNN’s website and was a little concerned for some of the colorful language about body parts he used.  In fact, I was struck with his presentation of his beliefs and felt that he could have been gentler about it.  Nevertheless, he quoted Scripture and what was quoted is what the Bible said.  In my opinion, Scripture is truth.

While reading through some posts on blogs and Facebook, I continue to notice that each Christian has an opinion.  In fact, as I read through what each Christian post I found myself agreeing and disagreeing.  Sometimes I just didn’t like how they presented their view even if it was, in the end, right.  As a Protestant, I am reminded that our basic background is that we believe we can read our Bible and develop our view point of Scripture.  In other words, we do not have someone setting doctrine for us because we, as individuals, do that for ourselves.

As a result, I listen to other Protestant pastors from time to time and I think that they are just wrong on their interpretation of different passages. Yet, in Protestant churches this is what makes us unique as groups.  I always caution my congregation where I serve about my sermons too.  I encourage them to read the Bible themselves to hold me accountable.

As a pastor in the United States, I also hold Constitutional rights.  My dilemma is that I’m a citizen of Heaven while a citizen of the US at the same time.  This means that I am accountable to be as civil to others as expected by God first, then by the Constitution. The problem for me, as a pastor, is that I am supposed to share biblical truth when asked.  This is where those in The Church and those outside of The Church need to give a little understanding to Phil in my opinion.  As a minister, he was asked a very touchy, because of our political climate and culture, question.  As a pastor I have been asked these very tough questions.  Questions much like Phil was asked so I can imagine the tension that was in the interview because I feel it too.

As a Christian I am called by God to love Him and others.  In fact, that is what I want to do.  I think the possible result of my answers can be abrasive from another pastor’s, Christian’s, or citizen’s point of view too.  While my answer would have been hopefully less colorful, it would have had to be the same if I want to stay true to Scripture.

Another concern that I have right now, and it seems to be a big one,  is that many Christians and non-believers are saying that this is not a freedom of speech issue, but a contractual issue between Phil and A&E; in other words, a business issue.  My thought is that if true, then a small church pastor like me who is bi-vocational may be at risk to lose his job too.  After all, I may be under contract with my other employers who hold a different point of view of sin than I do.  Unlike Phil, I and many other pastors, have to work another job to provide for my family.  I’m not a millionaire like Phil.  I’m just trying to make ends meat.

Now I’m protected, for now, by the Constitution to have free speech.  Yet, the bigger issue seems to be that the government isn’t going to protect me from losing my job for practicing my rights as a citizen of the US if people I’m employed by do not like what I say.  So now do we as Americans want to introduce this type of discrimination into the conversation?  The LGBT’s say that this is who they are.  Can I not say that a Protestant Christian is who I am?  Thankfully, homosexuals have been able to make Americans aware of discrimination that happens to them.

So can we really say that this is not an issue of free speech?  I find it alarming that CNN ran a story about a sermon that Phil preached.  A lot of the terms he used came out of the Bible.  CNN interpreted it as a type of hate speech and wondered if A&E, Phil’s employer, heard this before he was hired.  Just consider what I just said for a moment; especially in this digital age where we find ourselves as pastors on Internet media.  As a Protestant he can preach his interpretation how he wants; or can he in the US?  So what is next?  Are the news agencies going to start pointing to those who preach against certain types of sin as hate mongerers and fight to have our employment taken from us?  If so, how dangerous is that for America?  Is it okay for what happened to Phil to happen to me and others?

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Filed under Duck Dynasty, Homosexuality, Ministry, Pastor, Phil Robertson, Small Church

Right church, wrong church and division

Small churches become aggravated at megachurches because many leave the small church for the megachurch.  On the other hand, megachurches have a way of defending themselves that seems to lash out at small churches who criticize them.  Both groups have stereotyped the other side.  One side will say that the other only entertains, while the other side will say that the other is old and is not a church that people want to attend. This is counterproductive to the Kingdom building that is supposed to be taking place.  After all, people leaving one for the other is not an increase in God’s Kingdom.  In fact, this back and forth between these two sisters has brought much confusion to many believers.  What is more, it has brought confusion to those who find themselves in a place where they are not committed to a church, but may actually be in the process of  looking for a church.  What I mean is that they have heard the echo from those in both camps of this issue.  So this means that they are hearing this discussion between the two sisters, and I would argue it is a negative discussion, which is aiding people who are not committed to Christ choose the church in which they worship and serve at that may not be the Spirit’s leading.  With one side pointing out the imperfections of the other, it seems appropriate to outline those characteristics of what aright church looks like.  There are four universally, historically, marks that someone should look for in a church so that he or she may decide whether or not they have found a right church or a wrong church.

Those who are looking for a church should be looking for distinctive marks that seem to help define church on whether or not it is a right church, or wrong church.  Of course this type of discussion is nothing new.  In fact the Early Church set forth The Marks of The Church, which can be observed from the book of Acts.  You may recall that the book of Acts is a book that describes the birth of The Church as a result of the Holy Spirit coming to indwell those who receive and follow Christ.  According to H. Ray Dunning, in 381 B.C., The Marks of The Church were stated formally for the first time in the Creed of Constantinople” (529).  Four Marks were named in the Creed, Unity, Holiness, Catholicity (which means universal), and Apostolicity.  Dunning further pointed out that these marks are produced by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  “They are not the result of organization or administration but are the creation of the Spirit” (529).  This last statement is another discussion for later, but it certainly should cause one to pause at the role of leadership, and administration, in many Protestant churches today.  Since these marks are understood to be the creation of the Spirit, this means that people, both inside and outside, of the Church, should be able to see these traits as reality.  If these traits are not seen as reality in regard to a group, then it is possible that group may not be a right church.  Here is a little more clarification to aid understanding these marks.

The first mark in our list of four is Unity.  This mark is one that both small churches and megachurches need to consider again.  Remember the discussion in my intro of this article.  Each side tends to point out what the other side believes to be wrong with the other.  Jesus’ teaching to His followers should be applied in this situation, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, Let me take the speck out your eye, when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:3-5).  If both sides rightly understood this, then each could be beneficial to the other which would glorify Christ.  Consider a statement that makes a great point, and should be a rule that is kept in mind,  James B. Chapman said, “The Christ in me will never be at variance with the Christ in you” (Dunning 531).  This obviously should demonstrate the unity of Christ’s Church.  These two statements are important for each side to consider because these were made in reference to what leads to disunity, and what should help to create unity.  Christ is not divided against Himself.  The Holy Spirit should be aiding to keep this from happening.  Our goal as those who are part of The Universal Church is that we be united as part of, and by taking part in, God’s Kingdom.  When we work against each other it creates disunity and this means there is no benefit to the Kingdom.

The second mark is Catholicity.  This term is not about being a geographical location, or part of any particular tradition of doing church.  It means that it is universal by embracing Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you (Christians who have been saved by the Blood of Christ and have the Holy Spirit dwelling within them) are all one in Christ Jesus.”  This again seems to be another way of saying unity too (532).  Clearly, this is what Paul had in mind here, and in his other epistles.  The indwelling of the Holy Spirit ties us to all who are in Christ.  This means that those who have the Spirit are part of The Universal Church.  This is important because this means that there isn’t a worship style, or a particular way of being the church.  Instead, it is an outer reality, that exists on the basis of the inward reality of the Spirit that makes the church be the church.   After all, there is only one Savior; and He is not divided in Himself.  We are “doing” church right, when we are being the Church through the aid of the Spirit.

The third mark is Holiness.  Holiness, unfortunately, sometimes is understood in a variety of ways.  For example, does one become Holy simply because Jesus automatically gives it to those who He calls His?  Or does Jesus offer Holiness to those who surrender themselves totally to Him so that He they can receive another helping of Grace?  This is a debate without end.  Yet, as a Wesleyan, I believe that Holiness is imparted by Christ.  From John Wesley’s point of view, “Holiness of the Church is attributable because of a real, rather than imputed, holiness” (532).  It should be pointed out that the Church does have within her those who are babes in Christ.  In fact, we are becoming Holy by allowing the Spirit within to mold and shape us.  We also are learning from the Great Teacher, Christ.   This means that each person is walking in the light they are given at that particular point of their new life in Christ.  If this be so, there will be issues each church will have to deal with because of the universal impact of sin in our world.  Further, corporate Holiness also involves accountability within the church.  I recognize that writing this some might say that this leads to judgment and condemnation and more legalism in the church.  By the way, both sides of this discussion have this element to contend with.  On the contrary, I believe it is about motivation.  Holiness that comes from the Spirit is centered on love for God and others.  It is not involved in lording over other people.  Instead it is driven by the heartfelt need to keep a brother or sister from sinning.  This in turn helps to keep the purity of the Church’s witness.  In fact, this is why Covenant Memberships exist in many churches.  This, too, will be a topic for another discussion.  Holiness, as Dunning puts it, is “the conscience of the church” (533).  Moreover, it is time that we Christians understand that we are Saints; and that we should no longer be sinners.  This is the common cry of many Christians today.  It is important that we remember that God still has expectations of us.  Therefore, right churches will remain aware of this.

The final mark in this list is Apostolicity.  This is not to be understood as an office what one can seek.  Instead it is what should be present within the Church through her members.  Members who are empowered by the Holy Spirit who dwells within.  This is the same Holy Spirit who dwelt within the Apostles.  In other words, in regard to Apostolicity, “It is the truth of the gospel proclaimed in the power of the Spirit” (534).  In fact, this is why each person receives spiritual gifts.  These gifts are meant to build up the Church.  If we localize this by saying build up the church, which is part of The Church, then we realize that it is not about one person, or a few, who have the ability to attract.  It is about the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit who dwells within the corporate Body, and in individuals who make up the Body.  Therefore, it is not really about the greatness of the speaker, singer, or leader.  It is more likely that it is about the greatness of God who is present in His believers and among them as well.  With this type of understanding it easy to see that each person has a gift, or gifts, which they bring to the local church so that they too can help build up that particular church.  In turn, if the church being built up has these marks, then the Kingdom is being built up.  In fact, The Bible said that the Holy Spirit places in you in a church to do just that.

The purpose of writing this is to help those who may wonder whether or not their church is a right church.  At some point, All churches who claim Christ as their Savior must stop acting as if they are the only church who is really right.  Beware of that type of rhetoric, whether it comes from large or small.  It seems more likely that God uses both megachurches and small churches.  As a small church pastor, I want people to know that I understand these marks.  In fact, I wanted to write this because my church is small and can easily be labeled as a church that doesn’t get it.  Therefore, if Christ is in me and in those who attend my church, then it is dangerous when other pastors make blanket statements about churches who are not right or productive, in their opinion, because of a certain tradition that may seem to be out of touch with this new age.  Likewise, it is dangerous when smaller church pastors preach against what God is doing in larger churches.  The damage that is being caused is only to the mission of Christ to make disciples by using His Church.

There are more developed Marks of The Church, for example Mark Dever wrote a book called The Nine Marks of  a Healthy Church.  I have looked though this book, and it looks to be a good read and teaching tool.  However, I elected to stick with what I see as the earliest work on this subject.  I say this because I am aware that there are other variations of The Marks, but each should be developed from The Creed of Constantinople in my opinion.  I believe Dever’s is.  But his is a book, and this is only article that is meant to be basic.

Once one establishes whether or not a church is a right church, and there doesn’t seem to be division of Christ taking place, he or she needs to seek and hear from God whether or not that is the place to serve.  This should be helpful for those who are wondering what a good church looks like.

Works Cited

 

Dunning, H. Ray.  Grace Faith and Holiness.  Kansas City,

MO: Beacon Hill Press, 1988.

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Filed under Church bashing??, Church Health, Ecclesiology, Holiness, Leadership, Megachurch, Pastor, Small Church, Unity?, Worship

A minister’s path to success in the 21st Century

Here is a list of characteristics, skills, requirements, and yadda yadda yadda,  that are needed to be successful in as a Christian pastor; or at least to feel successful.

  1. You must study leadership, over and over, so that you can play the part of a professional.  After all, you are the leader of the church and possibly Jesus wants you to become very successful so that one day you can write a book.  You need to know how to exercise “power” among people to hold them accountable toward reaching your goals.  What you will learn is that you are a good leader when you are successful, but when you are not successful, you don’t have good followers.  You will learn how to get rid of those who are standing between you and reaching your, I mean, God’s goal.
  2. You must move on from the CB and Ham radio to Twitter.  Once you are on Twitter, you have to tweet simple sayings about leadership.  Preferably, you must let others know that you are a person of vision and they must develop one too.  Never Mind the vision that Jesus already gave His followers.  A great tweet to consider might be something like, “Leaders lead from influence.”  Or, “Leader, let the people see you sweat.”  These are short enough to likely get retweeted by those you followed, and after they followed you, you dropped them, so that you can have it listed on your Twitter account that you have 6,000 followers.  Plus, it is great to show that you are only following 60 people who are worthy enough to gain your followership.  With 6,000 followers, you have now become a person of influence even though you might be pastoring a church of 45-100.
  3. You must have an attractive appearance.  It would be helpful if you could attract the same type of attention that King Saul did when he was not king.  Looking hip is a big help in the 21st Century.  A gym membership is a must, along with hair coloring and very intellectual eyeglasses.  How you dress will help keep the undesirables away too.  A classy wardrobe simply lets people know that you only hang out with a certain group.  This way you will gain an audience that may have enough money that you won’t have to get bogged down in their problems.
  4. You must travel back and forth to major conferences routinely so that you can mingle with other professionals.  Successful ministers budget for the top conferences.  These are a must even though many conferences are centered around the same topics.  The point is that you are traveling, and this helps to maintain your professional appearance.  What is more, you can possibly squeeze in some golf during one of these conferences too.  Hanging out with professionals will build your network that will bring you clout for leadership.  This was where the Apostles went wrong, they caught peoples’ attention, but at the end of the day the people realized that they were uneducated men and were not professionals.
  5. Your vision must include reminiscing about your awful experiences with church growing up.  This will help to communicate to everyone that your church has finally developed the formula that will keep humanity from ruining the experience.  The experience has to outweigh the disappointment every week, even though God seems to mold and shape His people through disappointment with church experience and others.  In addition, you will help to eliminate the competition of those smaller churches that have to make use of their older facilities.  Likely, these were the churches that messed you up when you were younger, before you found the right formula.
  6. You must attach yourself to every new trend that comes around in the Christian world.  Warning, this may require a new wardrobe and younger look if you have been around for a while.  You never know when something new will make a splash sent in from the Christian writer’s world of thought.  For example, those who went for the attraction movement may now have to jump into the missional movement.  Be warned though, poverty is beginning to gain traction in the Christian world.  If so, this will change the path to success dramatically.
  7. You must be able to recite the Starbucks menu by heart.  Even if you are not a coffee drinker, it is in your best interest that you begin acquiring the taste for it.  After all, whoever heard of an up and coming minister that did not have meetings with potential white middle-class church attendees anywhere else?  It gives a sense of an artsy appearance and intellectualism to those who frequent the coffee house.  While there, don’t forget to tweet about it.  Something like, “Working while at Starbucks, love the private atmosphere, it keeps me close to the real people.”  This will help remove any guilt you might feel while your lay people are working; because they now know you are working too.
  8. You must have the newest Apple technology on the market.  You cannot run around with a flip-phone, or just a regular PC.  You have to have a Mac.  You need an awesome IPhone too (I have an IPhone also).  I keep mine in case I have a trendy Twitter thought about leadership that I would need to post.  This will simply give the appearance that you are on the cutting-edge of things.  We all know how important that is for ministers who are successful to blaze a trail before others.
  9. You must woo people by talking about their potential.  I mean, never mind talking about them decreasing so that Jesus can increase; that is outdated.  Instead, talk about how they too can become a great leader like you.  Further, talk about how God wants them to be happy  and that life is not supposed to be hard, especially once you teach them how manage properly their sin.    After all, Dr. Phil has been successful with doing this too.  I wonder if going to conferences regularly helped him.
  10. You must have trendy clothing that goes well with the Christian culture of today.  I prefer special caps along with this piece of the success puzzle.  Shirts with the Phoenix are slipping as I type, but it appears that shirts with patches and jeans with holes are sticking right now.  Shoes . . . that is a huge statement about the character of the successful minister.  Try to live with flip-flops and hiking shoes.  These demonstrate your oneness with nature.  You know going Green is a great trend to attach yourself to also.

Now this post has been written in fun.  Nevertheless, there are still truths in this post.  I won’t say which of these 10 I struggle with, but be assured that many do struggle with these.  It is time that ministers start distancing themselves from CEO role playing and consider people as those whom God treasures and not buildings or the work they feel called to.

My battle is to make sure that I’m not role-playing with a motive that is really more about me than it is the church that Jesus has entrusted to me.  If nothing else, this list could be a way for lay people and ministers to hold each other accountable so that we can be re-aligned with the purpose that Jesus has for His Church; the Kingdom of Heaven is near.

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Filed under Christianity, Leadership, Ministry, Pastor, Small Church

Measuring success for the ‘regular’ pastor

I follow a lot pastors on Twitter.  Many of these people who I follow have multiple staff under them.  According to the statuses that post, they are flying all over the country, and often, out of the country.  They are in many meetings that seem to demonstrate that they are busy being used by God to reach, teach, preach, and give counsel to many people.  These ministers have set the standard that the rest of us ‘regular’ pastors feel, or have been told, we must measure up to.

As a pastor, it is often a struggle to find significance God’s Kingdom while trying to attract, yes attract, people to come to church.  The problem is that not many can measure up to these more famous, and gifted, pastors who have resources that are unavailable to most ministers.  This can leave a minister chasing his or her tail sifting through many different thought processes.  Some are, but not limited to, “Am I supposed to be in ministry?”  “Am I in the right place?”  “Does God want me to struggle?”  “Why is this not working?”  I think you get the picture.

Yet, a pastor has to feel that he or she is making a difference.  The minister needs to feel that God is still  with him or her even though there may not be numerical growth.  Or, small growth; even a decline.  Many of the ‘regular’ pastors wrestle with how know if they have been successful on a daily basis.  Yet, because of today’s media services, these people are constantly reminded that they are not measuring up to the ‘others’ who are nationally known as leaders.

The short answer that I am considering right now is that we are not supposed to feel like we have become successful.  This is not a motivational statement that someone who is struggling is trying to hang on to.  Instead, it seems that if one looks in Scripture for enlightenment, then it could be argued that there were prophets, priests, and Apostles.  There were also kings, but I want to put that aside for now.

If you are prophet, then how often were these people disappointed with the results of their efforts on speaking in behalf of God?  These people were lonely, and often abused, along with being made fun of.  Yet, God continued to ask them to continue to proclaim even though many were not listening to them.  These measured success in their hopes for the future redemption brought by God.  And they would never see it.

If you are a priest, then how did he measure success while working in the Temple?  This person was simply asked to oversee offerings and make sacrifices to God.  These men would give spiritual guidance to people who gave sacrifices more easily than obedience.  These too were ignored for the most part.  Plus, there were times that the people did not even bring in their sacrifices and offerings.  Yet, their job was to remain faithful in their service to God.  These measured success by getting to continue to do what they were created for, worshipping God.

If you are an Apostle, these people were persecuted.  Every local church they built up did not last.  When they finally had a crowd, it was blown up by someone or something.  These people did not just get fired, but they were beaten and killed.  Yet, God continued to move them forward to where they were unwanted by most.  They measured success in being worthy to suffer for the cause of the Gospel.

By measuring success with these thoughts in mind, then we must consider whether most of the American Church has got it wrong.  Or, is this just a ‘regular’ pastor who is trying to find comfort?  What is it to be a successful pastor?  Numbers?  Salvations?  Baptisms?

If you consider that Jesus said only a few will make it to Heaven because many followed the wide road, then unless those numbers, salvations, and baptisms, really resulted in transformation, then the way we measure success is ultimately wrong.  If ministers are being held accountable for what they cannot control, numbers, salvations, and baptisms, then who really is the Lord of the Harvest?

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Filed under Discouragement, Leadership, Small Church

A reminder to pastors (attendees)

The end of the conference year is coming in The Wesleyan Church.  This is when we audit our books and post the results of our church’s ministry for the year.  For a few, this will be a time of joy because they have experienced much fruit as a result of their church ministries. 

For others, this will be a time of doubt, dread, frustration, and mourning, because they will not have the fruit to show as a result of their ministries.  For many of these ministers they will be challenged to continue on in ministry.  Some will feel a sense of jealousy and their pride will be wounded deeply.  After all, no matter what denomination that you are in, when you see other churches doing well it is easy to feel discouraged.   

Some examples of discouragement are things that are felt indirectly.  There seems to be an undercurrent that is heard, felt, or imagined that they have not performed their duties well enough.  Yet, maybe they have performed their duties as they should. 

The good news that should encourage ministers, from all denominations and church sizes, is that Dr. Joe Dongell reminded us once that we (ministers) are not the Lord of Harvest.  Our duty is to plant and water the seeds.  When God and the people are ready, He will be the One who harvests them.   

Here is more good news from the book of John.  I’ve been spending some time in this book lately and found something that seemed to be a good reminder to all pastors who are not seeing the results they desire.  So I want to share some Scriptures that might remind us that we are taking too much upon ourselves as ministers of the gospel.  Let’s be for real.  Sometimes ministers fight the battle of taking things personal because the church’s ministry success has been tied to them, either by their choice or others’, instead of to Jesus Christ. 

In John 3:22-30, Jesus has become greater than John the Baptist.  This means that if you John the Baptist that you realize that you really are becoming less in your community.  John knew what his mission was; point people to the One who came after him though He is before him.  Also, Jesus’ disciples are baptizing more people than John.  For ministers, this means that the people of your congregation are leaving to go to another church because it is new or there is more action. 

First striking reaction from Pastor John the Baptist when he is alerted to the growth of Jesus’ ministry was that he has joy over it.  Yes, I said that the John felt joy over it.  Now, this is in contrast to the long introduction that I just gave.  Why?  Verse 29a, “The bride belongs to the bridegroom.”  Kind of what Dongell said.  The Church (the people of Christ) belongs to Christ.  This means that if ministers feel discouraged it is time to check our motives for success.  Is about us or Him?  The people in the congregation are not yours.  They have been Ransomed by Someone else.

Second, verse 29b, “The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice.”  Ministers are attendees of the Church.  We are friends that Christ has placed trust in to care for His Church (the Bride).  The mark of a true friend is the demonstration of the joy felt when the Jesus does with His people as He sees fit. 

Finally, in verse 29c John said, “That joy is mine, and it is now complete.”  Then He ends with verse 30, “He must become greater; I must become less.”  To be a true friend, we must become faithful.  Yet, not just faithful out of duty, but because we want to be faithful; a faithful friend to Christ.  This means that we are supposed to be attached to success of Jesus connecting with people instead of attached to the success of us connecting to people and receiving accolades for it. 

Discouragement, frustration, and etc, are felt when we ministers do not understand who is responsible for church growth/fruit.  When we feel this way, we need to consider that John the Baptist was just before prison and in the midst of his decline in ministry, but still felt joy and complete at the success of another. 

You might be a small church pastor who needs to verbally say out loud that your joy is complete because another minister is doing well.  After all, we are just attendees who point the bride to the groom.

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Filed under Christianity, Church Attendance, Church Health, Church planting, Discouragement, Holiness, Leadership, Mental Health, Small Church, The Wesleyan Church