As I have mentioned in previous posts, I began my ministry career in the Motor City, Detroit. In a museum at Greenfield Village, Detroit, Michigan, there is a massive steam locomotive. Beside this complicated piece of machinery is a sign showing boiler pressure, size and number of wheels, horsepower, lengths, weight, and more. The bottom line shows that 96% of the power generated was used to move the locomotive and only 4% was left to pull the load. Some churches are like that; there are a large number of people in the body of Christ who are disengaged or only partially engaged. With these series of posts, I hope to provide insights to change faithful pew-sitters into engaged mission partners.
A good starting point for this series is identifying what the Factors Driving Engagement are. Many studies have listed hundreds of components influencing engagement. However, according to a Dale Carnegie Active Research June 2017 report, the top three are 1) Pride in the organization, 2) Belief in the senior leadership, and 3) Satisfaction with the immediate manager.
How does this translate in the church and non-profit world? I can see all these factors driving peace and engagement in our context.
1. Pride in the organization.
Often in the Bible, pride is referenced negatively and sinfully. Paul expresses his pride positively. I am acting with great boldness toward you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy.12 Corinthians 7:4. I can recall times as a parish pastor that I was leery about bringing new fragile unbelievers into our fellowship because I was not sure how my people would receive them. Once our culture changed to be more welcoming, I could not have been prouder of the atmosphere God had created. When a member is excited about the ministry and the church they are attending, not only are they sharing and inviting others to come to see what God is doing; these members are often also engaged and aligned with the vision and direction of the leadership. There is a direct correlation between engagement, clear ministry direction, and vision.
2. Trust in Leadership
“To be a leader a man must have followers. And to have followers, a man must have their confidence. Hence the supreme quality of a leader is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, on a football field, in an army, or in an office. If a man’s associates find him guilty of phoniness, if they see he lacks forthright integrity, he will fail. His teachings and actions must square with each other. The first great need, therefore, is integrity and high purpose.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower, Bits & Pieces, September 15, 1994, p. 4.
The Bible clarifies that leaders in the church must have unquestionable integrity. It is vital in business but a prerequisite in the church.
2Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,3not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.4He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive. 1 Timothy 3:2-4
Members are far more willing to serve when they trust and respect their leaders.
3. Relationship with Ministry co-workers.
“The more I get to know people, the more I love my dog.” – Frederick the Great.
One of the most critical lessons I try to impart to congregations is that your elected leaders, the heads of your committees, and ministry leaders are critical to the success of your ministry engagement level. If those (for lack of a better term), middle managers are not people who others desire to work alongside, you will have a difficult time recruiting and keeping volunteers. You may have an awesome pastor, but if the people working more closely with the members are not highly relational, inspiring, enthusiastic, and empower volunteers, but sit on the sidelines and watch the show rather than be engaged and willing participants, no one will follow.
Next week more practical ways to further engage the wealth of talent sitting in your church pews.
As always if you find this post helpful you are encouraged to share it.
In the Service of an Awesome God
1The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 7:4). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
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“There is an end to everything, to good things as well” -Chaucer. I am living this reality now. One the best ministry teams I have ever been blessed to serve with is ending. It was an incredible decade, where God used this team to transform the ministry direction of several congregations. Someone once said, “Ministry is for a season.” As the sun sets on this season, that same sun rises on a new season. As this leadership series sets, I pray the lessons we have covered will be a blessing to you and your ministry. The final post will focus on three things that made this team epic.
You must never be content with the average; you must always strive for the best.
“There is a fine line between being good and crazy. As a leader when you strive for the best, you must balance out the results with allowing for imperfection. Here is a great quote to put on your wall. Edwin Bliss once said, ‘The pursuit of excellence is gratifying and healthy. The pursuit of perfection is frustrating, neurotic, and a terrible waste of time.’” Tim Hansel, Eating Problems for Breakfast, Word Publishing, 1988, p. 39.
Don’t get those two mixed up. We can aim for excellence, but it is a thin line between that and perfection. Don’t cross the line as a leader or you will destroy yourself, your ministry and your people.
Work harder to keep your life in balance than people do who are not leaders.
In my first congregation, I had a member demand I am at church six days a week. I asked him why I should be at church on Saturday when we had no events planned? His response we because “that is what the church expects.” I responded back, but that is not what Scripture supports. And I had him read this passage. “2So the church’s supervisor must be without fault. They should be faithful to their spouse, sober, modest, and honest. They should show hospitality and be skilled at teaching. 3They shouldn’t be addicted to alcohol or be a bully. Instead, they should be gentle, peaceable, and not greedy. 4They should manage their own household well—they should see that their children are obedient with complete respect, 5because if they don’t know how to manage their own household, how can they take care of God’s church?”1 Timothy 3:2-5
When my life is out of balance, I am good to no one. I am failing my family. I am abandoning my leadership and putting my ministry at risk. It is the responsibility of leaders to model balance. I am still working on this one because the first point of striving for the best makes getting life out of balance a natural tendency. Guard your life, protect your family time, and work to keep it all at a healthy level.
People must be more important to you than possessions.
I could give some great examples of this, but Paul says it so well I will let him speak to your heart. “10Love each other like the members of your family. Be the best at showing honor to each other. 11Don’t hesitate to be enthusiastic—be on fire in the Spirit as you serve the Lord! 12Be happy in your hope, stand your ground when you’re in trouble, and devote yourselves to prayer. 13Contribute to the needs of God’s people, and welcome strangers into your home. 14Bless people who harass you—bless and don’t curse them. 15Be happy with those who are happy, and cry with those who are crying. 16Consider everyone as equal, and don’t think that you’re better than anyone else. Instead, associate with people who have no status. Don’t think that you’re so smart.”Romans 12:10-16
I pray this leadership series has been a blessing to you. May God bless you all and may He bless the people you have been called to lead.
I am passionate about Christians sharing their faith with those outside of the family of God. What I am not a big fan of is doing that without forming a relationship with people. I am not a fan of individuals pushing Jesus on those outside of God’s grace because I think that just turns people off to Jesus and paints Jesus and Christians in a negative light. And believe you me we do not need any more negative impressions.
Let me share a real life story with you. I am standing in line with a friend in Glendale, AZ when a person who I have never met, nor a person who ever even took the time to strike up a conversation with me, reaches over and hands me this pamphlet. The question on the form in size 24 font reads: Are you 100% sure you will go to heaven? No soft shoe approach here. Let’s just get right to the heart of the issue. Skip the niceties and attack most people at their most vulnerable core. How sure are you that you are going to heaven?
Honestly, it depends on the day. Some days God and I are rocking and rolling. We are gelling at times. It is like I know exactly what God is thinking and I feel God’s presence clearly. Other days not so much. There are times when God feels distant. It is usually those days when sin gets in the way, and I am wrestling with something I have done to offend Him. Maybe I was rude to my kids because I was stressed by a major decision coming up and there are not clear answers. Or it was just one of those days where everything that could go wrong did and that was all before noon. Things just went downhill from that point on. So, the heaven question just bugged me. Why would you start there? Why plan on my vulnerability? Why not ease into a profound spiritual conversation? Are you trying to scare the Hell out me, literally? That is what the question is all about, how afraid of Hell are you? Enough to follow the seven easy steps to welcome Jesus into your heart on the following pages? Faith is not that easy. If it were, I would encourage every Christian to go to Office Depot and print out thousands of these magical pamphlets, and we can change the world.
Sharing your faith starts with a relationship which this man never wanted to engage in with me. He sat next to me for lunch and never stopped to come over and ask ”do you have any questions about what I gave you?” Just suppose this was a divine appointment set up by the Almighty Himself and I was ready to take that leap of faith. There was no one there to help my jump and provide a soft landing. All I could think in this was, what about me looked lost? What about me look like I needed Jesus? Am I giving off an aura that says, please help me I am lost? As I stepped back from this experience, I realized how angry the entire encounter made me. Upon further review, as I drilled down deeper on that emotion, what hit me was that you know nothing about me and you are making assumptions all of which are erroneous. Why didn’t you start a conversation with me? We could have shared a meaningful moment. Instead, you just made sure by passing out a flyer with your church name and address on it that I will never darken the doors of your building.
Witnessing is all about relationships which take the time to nurture and develop. I love the story of Philip in Acts. As an angel of the God moved him, he went out from Jerusalem to Gaza and ran into an Ethiopian, eunuch. Here is the story.
“And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet, Isaiah. 29 And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” 30 So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him… 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture; he told him the good news about Jesus. 36 And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” Acts 8:27-31, 35-36
Philip shows us that sharing your faith, is about relationships. It is about being willing to walk alongside, to answer tough questions and being open to the Holy Spirit’s leading. My encounter was an opportunity missed. How in your life is God asking you to be a Philip? Pray for the chance to build a relationship and get the chance to be a faith sharing blessing to someone.
I have to admit I have been one who has complained unconnected people only want to be entertained or view the church as a product and themselves as consumers. Often pondering the “what do members want from church discipleship or services question?”
Upon further review and distance, whose fault is that? Are churches sending the wrong message to Christ’s followers and to those we are attracting? Do church leaders have a pathway to make disciples or a strategy to attract customers to improve the ministries bottom line? The answer is not an either/ or, but a both/and when times get tough and dollars tight you will drift toward survival. Survival mode leads to an overemphasis on transactional ministry model.
When I graduated from the Seminary, our commencement speaker made a horrible analogy. He said, “When you get into the parish view your people as cows, not pigs. Cows you can milk for years. Pigs are only useful when they are killed for food.” I was stunned and horrified by that example. This is my flock he is talking about. I am called to care for them provided them with ministry services not milk them and cast them aside. We are called to shepherd. A word of caution of we turn the church into an organization which only provides ministry services, i.e., Sunday school, Bible classes, various affinity groups we risk shifting our congregations into a transactional consumer driven destination.
“The Transactional Mindset is actually an old sales philosophy that has 4 main tenants:
Paul Hiebert makes this observation in his book, “Transforming Worldviews” about the church.
“Modern Christians tend to organize their churches the same way they organize corporate action in other areas of their lives. Consequently, many churches are religious clubs. They focus on a single interest (religious life), have voluntary membership, follow democratic procedures in organization, and have their own symbols, property, and patterns of behavior. There are attempts at building deeper fellowship through small groups and church dinners, but few members are willing to pay the price for real community: involvement in members’ daily lives and willingness to bear one another’s burdens through sharing and financial assistance. When a church organizes itself using the social principles of a club, it soon becomes a club, no matter what it preaches about community.”
When our churches reduce ministry to service-rendered (transactional), budgets become inundated with programs, and we pray these programs are what our members (customers are seeking.) Are these programs changing lives? Do they help make disciples? To be fair some do, but that is not usually what the ministries are created to accomplish. Our focus is on attracting people to our church to get them to buy into joining and being a repeat customer. This must be balanced with creating a culture and space for relationships, or our ministry can become mainly services provided driven.
I am aware the term “transformation” makes people nervous. Allow me to ease your minds, The Biblical concept of transformation flows from a personal relationship with God. It is a Romans 12 concept, “2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Breathe easy, I am not inviting you to go off the deep end spiritually, into some touchy-feeling time of internal soul-searching. A transformation ministry mindset is God working regeneration of our being, our thinking, and changing our families and communities. It God doing a work in the heart and soul of our church community and our church’s community. It is reflected in how we witness and share the truth in the communities that called the church to serve with love and compassion.
I truly believe people want their lives to make a difference. People desire to live lives that are transformed by the power of the Gospel. These converted people ask different questions about their faith journey. It is not what can the church offer me (transactional) but what am I called to do for God (transformational). Imagine your church making this shift in the thinking of its members?
Instead of your members looking to attract more people to fill their pews instead, we are looking for ways to build an authentic community to share the gospel in Jerusalem, Samaria and to the ends of the earth. Here is how that would look.
Not that transactional is wrong, but transformation offers so much more. If you like this share it.
Other posts in the series:
This entire leadership series reflects the work of Myron Rush’s book, “The New Leader.” The two areas we will cover today may be the most robust couple of things a leader must do. They are perhaps the most difficult because they all involve personal sacrifice.
I often wonder if the reason members struggle with Jesus call of “take up your cross and follow me” is because we don’t see sacrifice modeled. It is possible this illustration will be eye-opening.
“I went into church and sat on the velvet pew. I watched as the sun came shining through the stained-glass windows. The minister dressed in a velvet robe opened the golden gilded Bible, marked it with a silk bookmark and said, ‘If any man will be my disciple, said Jesus, let him deny himself, take up his cross, sell what he has, give it to the poor, and follow me.’ “– Soren Kierkegaard, “And I looked Around, and Nobody was Laughing.”
Now I am not suggesting we worship in a plain box, but I wonder if leaders struggle with a similar issue. We want to lead our people, but the qualities we need to model them get lost in the glitz and glamour.
You must sometimes be willing to sacrifice personal interests for the good of the group.
We are critical of Millennials, but Baby Boomers were called the “Me Generation.” The Baby Boomers were nicknamed the “Me Generation” due to their perceived narcissism. I missed falling into the group by one year, but sin makes us a narcissist. As a leader, it is not a natural posture to put the needs of the group above your own needs, your desires, nor your goals. It takes a Christ-like attitude to lay down your interests and do what is best for the group. The Bible verse that comes to mind in this area is from Philippians 2 of course, “3Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves.4Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others. 5Adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus:”
You must be willing to say no at times, even when you’d like to say yes.
“During World War II, Winston Churchill was forced to make a painful choice. The British secret service had broken the Nazi code and informed Churchill that the Germans were going to bomb Coventry. He had two alternatives: (1) evacuate the citizens and save hundreds of lives at the expense of indicating to the Germans that the code was broken; or (2) take no action, which would kill hundreds but keep the information flowing and possibly save many more lives. Churchill had to choose and followed the second course.” Klyne Snodgrass, Between Two Truths – Living with Biblical Tensions, 1990, Zondervan Publishing House, p. 179.
One of the most challenging things about leadership is you can’t explain your actions. You have information others don’t, and they love to judge your decisions based on the limited knowledge they have. As a leader, you need to have the courage of your convictions to say no even when you want to say yes because you know that say to yes will do harm to the body of Christ, or a Christian brother, or sister. Saying yes may save you pain in the short-term but may do damage to the community in the long run. As I have said all along leadership is not for cowards. Leadership is not for those who need to be liked. Leading is tough, thankless, involves profound personal sacrifices, but so rare, and essential to accomplish the most significant mission ever given. We are Christ’s Ambassadors; we are His witnesses, we are His disciples, given the assignment to proclaim the gospel to an unconnected and broken world.
If you like this share it. It is greatly appreciated.
Other posts in this series:
You must abandon your preconceived notions about community.
“To enter into true community, our ideal community must be surrendered.” – “Called Together: A Guide to Forming Missional Communities.” When we think of forming a community, our rose-colored glasses picture a place where everyone gets along, and conflict is absent. While this lack of discord would be lovely, it is unrealistic. As long as we live on this side of heaven, sin will always disrupt the community. Conflict, tension, and disagreements in our relationships do not surprise God in fact, these moments afford, Him the opportunity to point us back to the grace and forgiveness offered through Christ. We should expect even welcome imperfection, as grace moments.
You must embrace imperfection
Remember putting your face above a headless frame painted to represent a muscle man, a clown, or even a bathing beauty? Many of us have had our pictures taken this way, and the photos are humorous because the head doesn’t fit the body. If we could picture Christ as the head of our local body of believers, would the world laugh at the misfit? Or would they stand in awe of a human body so closely related to a divine head? – Dan Bernard.
When we stop and look at the parish, this statement seems fitting. We have the perfect head of Christ on the imperfect body of the church. It seems odd to be a community who carries out our mission and make a kingdom difference we must embrace this imperfection. Believers live with the anxieties this absence of perfection brings. The church’s deficiencies allow for the unbelieving world to see a transparent organization that unlike many organization give and receive grace. Members of this flawed community by God’s grace forgive one another and receive forgiveness all under the work of our head Jesus Christ.
You must embrace brokenness.
So, every single one of you who judge others is without any excuse. You condemn yourself when you judge another person because the one who is judging is doing the same things. Romans 2:1
When I was a parish pastor, I devoted most of my time with church folks. Which is positive but you can get a little too comfortable in that setting and forget there are other people around you whose lives may be less neat and tidy. Not implying that church folks don’t have their issues because we do, which is the point that Paul establishes in the verse above. It is a caution for Christians not to get too high and holy and become judge and jury when we, in fact, are suffering from the same sin condition. To be a part of a transformational community means we embrace brokenness. We are all broken, we all fall short of the standards of God. In a Christian community, we point each other back to the forgiveness of the cross.
Next week: “What is the Leadership structure in Missional Communities?”
Other posts in this series:
Today is about more than a day off and a time to spend with the family. It is also a day to remember those who gave their lives for our countries freedom. It is about the families who today have a hole in their lives that can never be replaced. Today we stop and say a prayer for you and continue to pray for you. We will never forget your sacrifice.
This leadership series has been good therapy for me. It has been awhile since I have had the chance to lead a body of believers, over ten years now. During that hiatus, God has been developing me as a leader. This leadership series is a by-product of what God is teaching me. Today we dive deeper into the heart of leadership. You can have the tools to lead. You may be blessed with the instincts to lead, but I am a big believer in character. Too many leaders have had a great ministry legacy destroyed by finishing poorly. One moral failure will erase an entire lifetime of kingdom accomplishments. Our attention then turns to two essential safeguards for all leaders spiritual and secular.
These come from Myron Rush’s book. “The New Leader.”
You must become master of your emotions.
“Fools show all their anger, but the wise hold it back.” -Proverbs 29:11
Some say of me I wear my emotions on my sleeve. While I try to be transparent, I am cautious not take people around me on an emotional rollercoaster too often. No one wants to take that ride with you. Your people usually care about you, tend to respect you and generally want to support you, but have little desire to journey into your emotional craziness. Leaders can be candid without becoming reactionary messes. I love this quote about Jesus and how he dealt with emotions.
“I am spellbound by the intensity of Jesus’ emotions: Not a twinge of pity, but heartbroken compassion; not a passing irritation, but terrifying anger; not a silent tear, but groans of anguish; not a weak smile, but ecstatic celebration. Jesus’ emotions are like a mountain river cascading with clear water. My feelings are more like a muddy foam or a feeble trickle.” G. Walter Hansenin, Christianity Today.
Our emotions can be an influential force for driving innovation and motivate our communities if we master them. The other side of that coin is our feelings can betray us as unstable and untrustworthy leaders. Insert what whatever example that is running through your mind.
You must strive to remain above reproach.
“So, the church’s supervisor must be without fault. They should be faithful to their spouse, sober, modest, and honest. They should show hospitality and be skilled at teaching.” 1 Timothy 3:2
Scientists now say a series of slits, not a giant gash, sank the Titanic. The opulent, 900-foot cruise ship sank in 1912 on its first voyage, from England to New York. Fifteen hundred people died in the worst maritime disaster of the time.
The most widely held theory was that the ship hit an iceberg, which opened a huge gash in the side of the liner. But an international team of divers and scientists recently used sound waves to probe the wreckage, buried in the mud under two-and-a-half miles of water. Their discovery? The damage was surprisingly small. Instead of the huge gash, they found six relatively narrow slits across the six watertight holds.
Small damage, invisible to most, can sink not only a great ship but a great reputation.
USA Today, April 9, 1997.
It doesn’t take a massive rip in the ship of our character to sink our boat, but small cracks are all the space Satan needs to destroy all that God is doing in our lives and ministry. “Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.” R Zaccharias
All leaders must set up a hedge of support and boundaries to protect the integrity of their lives and ministry teams. Commit to prayer, remain in the word and guard your life and teaching. Have prayer warriors praying for you and with you. The devil would love nothing more than to take you out. Be wise, be on guard be proactive the ministry you save may be your own.
Author of "Thank You For Your Service, Sheep!"
"For God can speak in one way, or in another, Yet man does not perceive it. In a dream, in a vision of the night when deep sleep falls upon men, while slumbering on their beds."
Life in Jesus Ministries, Fear of God and not Religion.
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