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Posted on Apr 22, 2015 in Blog, Church, Dear Leader, Leadership, repost

Dear Leader: Coaching vs. Catering

Dear Leader: Coaching vs. Catering

Dear-LeaderDear Leader,

We live in an interesting tension don’t we? Especially in the church world. I know how you feel. It can be a really big scale to try to balance. On the one hand we’re supposed to be leading people. Yet, at the same time, if we push to hard or offend people, they’ll stop following us.

More often than not, we end up playing it safe. Instead of getting out in front a little farther and working to get our people to follow us, it’s easier to just let them stay where they are.

We imagine ourselves out in front of the pack, blazing the trail that those who come behind us will walk on. But are we doing that? Are we blazing a new trail, coaching our people to come behind us? Or are we standing in the midst of the people, trying to keep them where they are and from taking steps backwards?

I know where most of us end up, because I’ve been there too. It’s so much more comfortable in the middle of the pack. It’s easier to feel like we’re successful when we’re surrounded with the people who have followed us to this point. And if we take that step toward something new, we’ll have to step out of the comfortable spot inside the pack and put ourselves out there in front of the pack.

It’s risky out there in front. It’s dangerous out there, maybe even a little scary. Everyone thinks we know exactly where to go and what to do, but the reality is we’re figuring it out too. We may know a little more than those who are supposed to follow, but we don’t have a crystal ball to use to read the future.

So, every once in a while we get out in front. But, as happens when we start prodding most people to move, there’s a little resistance. And when you add the frustration of resistance to the uncertainty of the future, the sum is a load that can be hard to carry. Too hard.

And it doesn’t get any easier. We think it will get easier if we can get a few more people on board. But the reality is, the more people who follow us just means the more people who can choose to stop following us. And the more people who are following us, the more people who are relying on us to lead them well.

So we retreat to where we have already been. Back into the middle of the pack we go. At least there, we’re relatively safe and the risk is relatively low.

But is it?

What exactly have we been called to do? If we are supposed to be leaders, can we really call ourselves that if we aren’t actually leading our people anywhere? If we’re just trying to keep everyone around us, is that really leading?

Have you ever thought about this? It’s much harder to get a group of people moving than it is to keep them moving. Once a group is in motion, it’s easier to lead. When a group hasn’t moved in a while, it takes an enormous amount of effort and energy to get it moving. The longer it’s been sitting still, the harder it will be.

At the end of the day, what’s need of us most is to lead. We won’t always do it right, we don’t always do it well. But, that’s our job. Yes, we do it in the best way we can so that those who are following us are being cared for. But, we must drop this myth that we can’t lead people and care for people at the same time. In fact, if we really care for people we will really lead people. Forward motion is what’s best for everyone. When is it better to sit without moving? Is it better to sit on the couch or to go on a walk?

So, will you join me in leading? Our job is not to cater to the people around us in the hope that we will keep them. Our job is to coach people as we lead the charge. Our job is to get out in front and figure out where we need to go, and then coach those we are leading on how to take that next step, giving them the helping hand up on the way.

Leaders don’t cater, leaders coach,
David

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Posted on Jan 30, 2015 in Blog, Church, Culture, Dear Leader, Featured, Leadership, Lost Virtues, repost, Truth

How Do We Save The Church?

How Do We Save The Church?

There’s a great blog/podcast for church leaders that I love to follow, Carey Nieuwhof. One of the posts he wrote just before Christmas (http://careynieuwhof.com/2014/12/impending-death-rebirth-cool-church/) really resonated with me. As I’ve been involved with the discussion, I have also realized that I have a lot to say about this particular subject.

So, I thought I’d share it with you.

But, before I begin, let me be clear. I believe in the church. And I don’t like it when Christians tear down other Christians…when churches tear down other churches. This is not going to be that kind of a post. There’s plenty of content like that out there. It won’t take you long to find it.

With that said, I also think we need to be honest about the current state of the church. I don’t think we are doing ourselves any favors by trying to hide what is going on. The church is in decline.

Fighting for our former position in society will do us no good. It will not help if our interest is in “being seen as a Christian nation again.” I understand the desire. I do. But it is sideways energy.

And it is not the way for us to gain influence in our society. But, we’ll get to that in a bit.

Fighting for the former means. 

I have always thought it should be the job of the older and wiser members of a church community who have the depth of understanding to be able to set preference aside. Never setting aside mission. But, set aside their personal preference because they understand the means are the vehicle for connecting with the next generation. I have no problem with a fight to keep the church on mission.

But too often the fight has nothing to do with mission.

too-often-the-fightToo often the fight is centered around personal preference, and it is mission that gets sacrificed. And when mission is the thing that gets put on the back burner, there is a whole pressure cooker of preference that it just waiting to blow beans all over the ceiling. (I may or may not have experienced first hand what happens when the pressure regulator comes off while pressure cooking beans…just as I may or may not have seen someone mop the ceiling.)

When preference takes over, we forget that the point of the church is the fulfillment of the great commission. This is our function. This is what we are designed for. When the means with which we accomplish that mission become more important than the mission itself, there will inevitably be fights, bickering, backlash, power grabbing and eventually division, strive, discord and ultimately the loss of influence in society.

Yes, there are other functions and activities that the church is supposed to do besides the great commission. But, if you’ll read Paul’s words carefully, you’ll also notice that the point of those functions is for the building up of the body. Those are the things we do to prepare us to do what we have been built to do.

This is where my concern for the church is exacerbated. This isn’t just a bump in the road for us. There is potential massive decline ahead of us. The baby boomer generation has begun to retire. Generation X is a smaller generation, by number, and have, in large part already left the church. And if we thought the church was struggling now, just imagine how it will be in 10-20 years when many of the boomers are gone. Now is the time to sound the alarm.

This means that our hope (as it has always been) lies solely is in reaching the next generations.

Too many churches have caused too much pain and sent a lot of people away from the church. For those who left because their preferences weren’t being met, I’m not that concerned. But for those who left because they didn’t want to be around those fighting for preference, I am greatly concerned. And as long as we’re focused on fighting to preserve what was relevant for us, we make the gospel and the church all about the preferences of those who are already in. And I don’t see that anywhere in scripture.

May I be frank for a moment and speak to my fellow Christians who are clinging to a means instead of mission? For the sake of the next generation, please let go. Please find it in yourself to become the support for the leaders of today’s church who are trying to reach the church of tomorrow. Don’t make their life miserable by clinging to your means. Make their life joyous by fighting for mission.

And if you’re a leader who is clinging to the means of of the past, for the sake of the mission that you once believed in – the mission that was at one time the passion that drove you to pursue ministry – please either get back on mission or get out of the way. (That may sound a little harsh, but I’m a pastor so I feel a little more freedom to speak sternly to my co-laborers.)

But, the pendulum has swung too far.

Just as the church has been greatly sidetracked by an outdated means of ministry, there is a completely separate faction that has swung to the opposite extreme. The extreme of cool.

Relevance is important. But cool does not equal relevant. Sometimes those are the methods that are relevant. But if the end goal is to be cool and hip, then we’ve lost track of mission too.

All the lights and video in the world will not necessarily make you relevant. If you don’t focus on mission, it doesn’t matter how cool your church is because you won’t be changing lives. You’ll just be attracting a crowd.

And there have been just as many casualties of cool as there were of outdated means. The church has sacrificed a great many souls on the altar of cool. If you are pursuing the coolest thing because that’s what’s cool, you’re not doing much better. And we will drive off just as many people.

What is the answer? How do we regain our influence?

It’s really quite simple. If we want to be heard, if we want to have influence, if we want to see a move of God, all we have to do is what we’ve been told to do. The mission.

We’ve lost our influence because we have exchanged mission for preference. We’ve lost our influence because we’ve sacrificed mission for our own selfish pursuits and pleasures. We are no longer credible because we’ve elevated ourselves over the work that Jesus did. I don’t know about you, but I’m so far from perfect and have made far too many mistakes to be the one who decides what the mission should be. We cannot allow ourselves in our imperfections to overthrow the mission. And if we can’t get back to that, we will never be heard.

Is relevance important? Yes. Is it more important than mission? I don’t think that’s the right question.

The question is, does the great commission require relevance?

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

At first, my answer to that question was, “no.” But upon further study I have found that I was wrong. It’s not explicit in the text, but it is implicit. In a few ways.

1. All authority in heaven and on earth. 

If Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and on earth, aside from the apparent, could it not also imply that Jesus’ authority coupled with Jesus presence empowers us to accomplish the mission in whatever method is necessary?

I’m not talking sinful methods. I’m not talking manipulative methods. But, within what is useful for building the kingdom, doesn’t Jesus’ authority cover all manner of preference?

2. Make Disciples

What is necessary if you’re going to make disciples? You have to have people to disciple. If the people who are available for us to disciple can only be reached through a method that is different than our own preference, doesn’t that mean we need to change our method to even have the opportunity to disciple them?

Our most important task as followers of Jesus Christ is to make disciples. It is not to make ourselves comfortable. If making disciples requires us to be a little uncomfortable, then our job is set comfort aside so that we may receive the title of “good and faithful servant.”

3. Teach them to obey. 

A part of making disciples is teaching. We have to teach people to obey Jesus’ commands. Does this require relevance? Well, have you ever tried to get children to listen to a long lecture? Have you ever tried to teach adults using sock puppets? I have. And because of that, I know that relevance is a requirement of teaching. Even more so if we are teaching for the purpose of obedience. It’s one thing to teach to dispense information. It’s something else entirely to teach for obedience.

I think the gospel is the most relevant message of all time. Its relevance transcends time. Christ died to save sinners. It doesn’t matter where you live, it doesn’t matter what language you speak. It doesn’t matter how old you are. If you’re a sinner, Christ died to save you.

If the gospel is the most relevant message of all time, why have we worked so hard to disguise it beneath to many layers of personal preference?

How do we save the church?

I hope that’s an alarming statement. It should be alarming because the church technically shouldn’t need to be saved. And yet it does. It needs to be saved from its continued pursuit of tarnishing the gospel of grace with things that have nothing to do with it.

But, the church needs some help.

I could be wrong. Definitely been wrong before. But it just seems that the trend is intensifying and with people not feeling societal pressure to be religious, they wont’ put up with irrelevance for much longer. They’ll just be done.

With the decline we have seen in the church’s influence, we don’t have the luxury of being irrelevant. We coasted for a long time because we had influence. But, those days are gone.

If we are going to change the world we live in, we have to live as those who are different. We have to have been changed by grace. We have to believe in the mission and give our lives for it. Our lukewarmness is what has made us unpalatable to the unbelieving world around us.

I guess the question is, do we believe enough to put mission first? If not, we have some repentance ahead of us.

And if we’re not willing to repent of our preferential ways, we should neither be surprised when our churches shut down.

We don’t get to forsake the mission. The mission is the most important thing. And we must do everything we can to fulfill it. Even if that means giving up things that are precious to us. Even if that means putting our preferences aside. Because, is it really worth holding on to your preference if it keeps someone from hearing the most relevant message of all time?

If we saw the mission of being the church as the most important thing, I don’t think we would care what the means are that we use to share that message. But by either fighting to retain what was relevant to us when we found Christ, but is no longer relevant to current and future generations or by dismissing the need for relevance as worldly we silence our own voice.

The saving grace for the church is to speak up. But not with protests and preferences. The way we speak up is to live out the mission. The way we speak up is to make the great commission the most important thing for us and our churches. Setting preference aside, let us press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of us.

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Posted on Jan 21, 2015 in Church, Culture, Featured, Humility, Leadership, Lost Virtues, repost, Unity

Believing the Bible Does Not Make You A Fundamentalist

Believing the Bible Does Not Make You A Fundamentalist

There’s a group of idiots out there. Most of us know who they are. They’re known as Westboro Baptist. They protest everything. They first got their bad rap because they protested the funerals of fallen soldiers. Seems like a great idea right? Let’s protest the people who fight for the right for us to protest.

Now, it seems they protest everything. They’d probably protest Jesus if He was walking on the earth today.

Between their protesting of funerals and LGBT rallies and events, they’ve become pretty disliked amongst a lot of groups of people. They probably argue that Christians aren’t supposed to be liked. They probably think they’re being persecuted for their faith. The reality is, they’re being persecuted for being idiots.

Bible-ThumperBut, that’s not really the reason I’m writing this post. I’m writing this post out of a bit of frustration.

“Why are you frustrated, bro?” (I like to call myself bro, it makes me feel relevant.)

The reason I’m frustrated is that I, as a Christ follower and Bible believer often get lumped into the same category as the Westboro Bigots. And it’s unfair. And inaccurate.

The fact that I believe in the Bible does not make me a fundamentalist. It does not mean I want to thump those who don’t agree with me over the head with my bible. It doesn’t mean I want to protest Gay pride parades and shout hate speech.

But, too often, those of us who believe what the Bible ACTUALLY says are lumped into the category with those who distort its message.

Do I disagree with those who say I must condone beliefs and practices that are counter to what the Bible teaches? Yes. Do I hate them? No. Will I treat those I disagree with in an ungodly and unChristlike fashion? No. In fact, I will do my best to love those who disagree with me as Christ would love them. I may fall short from time to time, just as I fall short at loving those with whom I agree. But, will do my best to love.

So, to lump me in with haters just isn’t fair.

Because of this practice, we have silenced the voices of those who probably understand best what the Bible teaches. And so, those would approach the conversation with love are left in this weird middle place. We don’t agree with the radical Westboro idiots. But, neither do we agree with those who say we must compromise on what the Bible teaches.

I can believe the Bible without being a fundamentalist. In fact, I tend to think there are a lot of problems with fundamentalism. I think there are problems with any view of Christianity that minimizes loving your neighbor to elevate proving your stance.

We cannot form doctrine in response to cultural pressures. We should seek to discover what the Bible says when we are presented with cultural issues, but our aim should seek to discover the truth of God’s word not to react to what we think is wrong because the voices of culture around us are so loud. We should have a passion to know God that drives us to discover every possible way we can apply His truth to our lives and our world. 

We must always form doctrine out of the truth the Bible actually speaks. If the Bible doesn’t say it, we cannot infer it. Where the Bible isn’t clear, we cannot insert a definitive statement. We can use our best judgement to say, “The Bible doesn’t make this clear, but my best answer in light of God’s word is…”

And we must be lovers of God and his word so that we can rightfully form a belief system that represents the entirety of God’s thought. Our desire for perfectly logical systems cannot trump what the Bible says and doesn’t say. We cannot approach the Bible to find proof for our way of thinking. We cannot approach the Bible to prove our theoLOGICAL system is the right one. If the bible contradicts our theology, our theology must change.

My hope and aim is to start being a voice of humility, honesty and authenticity in this dialog. And I hope more of us will find the courage to add our voice to this discussion and others like it. Just because we disagree does not mean we are released from our command to love.

And a word to my fellow, non-fundamentalist, Bible believing Christian brothers and sisters. We must first be known by our love. This is how the world will know that we follow Christ, by our love for one another. There is no room for us to begin with hatred and slander. It’s just not an option. Let your life prove wrong those who claim we are haters simply because we disagree. But, we must learn to bring a much needed voice of reason to these crucial conversations. Especially when they are happening within the church. To be silent is not an option. But if we approach our disagreements with humility, honesty and authenticity, we will be able to be a part of the crucial conversations that are going to shape the next generation of Christianity.

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Posted on Oct 23, 2014 in Blog, Church, Creativity, Culture, Encouragement, Fathering, Leadership, Pain and Suffering, repost

No More Cookie Cutter Pastors, No More Cookie Cutter Churches. (Why you’re not a failure even though it feels like it.)

No More Cookie Cutter Pastors, No More Cookie Cutter Churches. (Why you’re not a failure even though it feels like it.)

(Intro: This is a post I wrote in Sept of 2012, when I was fairly upset about some stuff, so I wrote this article and never published it. I just reread it and wanted to share it with you.)

Sometimes when it feels like we’ve failed at something, I think the basis of what we’re feeling is based on someone else’s imposed definition of who they think you should be – and you’re not living up to it.

You know what I’m talking about. People see a pastor at another church while they’re visiting on a weekend, and they instantly start comparing you (their pastor) to them. They notice all the little things they do that you don’t do. They notice their style and their voice. They notice all the things that make them who they are, and compare them to you.

What they don’t realize is that, they are experiencing them in a vacuum. For one, it’s not a fair, side by side comparison. It’s not like they’re in a Best Buy, looking at the TV’s where they can see the same movie on a hundred TV’s. Can you imagine that store? A hundred different worship leaders singing the same song or a hundred different pastors preaching the same sermon so you can pick the one you like best?

When they take the TV home, they begin to notice the flaws.

You’ve been there. You buy the TV, get home and realize it doesn’t have enough connections, or doesn’t look as big as you thought it did, or it looks bigger. You buy a used car, and on the way home you hear a noise you didn’t hear. You go to a new church, and then the pastor says something you don’t think is funny, he’s kind of a nerd, the worship leader is a little pitchy or sings a song you don’t like every weekend. Then they start to remember all the things they liked about their old pastor, forget all the things they didn’t like and long for the days when they were at their previous church.

I know I’ve been there before. I’ve had, in my life and ministry on a regular basis, people who judge me and how I do ministry against how they think I should be doing ministry. They have an image of what they think I should be in their head, and when I don’t live up to it, I am failing.

I’ve had people judge me against a flawed perception of themselves. They believe they are great at my job (even though they may have no training or experience) and that I should be doing my job as good as they think they could do my job.

Maybe they can do my job better, but the bottom line is, we shouldn’t judge anyone based on what we think they should be. But, you know how you work at a job for 40+ hours a week? You do this thing for 40+ hours a week that I don’t claim to know all about. There are things about your job that I don’t understand. Things that can’t be understood unless you’re in it all the time. The reverse is also true, but it’s not real PC to say. But I will. Unless you are a Pastor and you make your living pastoring a church and work in the church 7 days a week, you just don’t have an understanding of what it really means to lead a church.

The other bottom line, you shouldn’t let people judge you based on who they think you should be.

I know you can’t control them, but you can control how much you let them in your head. Don’t let their judgement of you drive you to try to be someone you’re not.

You are awesome just how God created you. The other guy they are comparing you to is awesome how God created him. When you try to be like him, you are being an imitation of a creation, not being the creation God created. When you’re trying to be someone else, that’s idolatry. We are made in God’s image, and our only pursuit can be the image the designer put in us since before we were born.

One thing I’m not saying is that we shouldn’t try to improve ourselves. But only if that improvement is based on principle and truth, not comparison. If the improvement is to keep up with someone else, or because we are under pressure from people around us to be something we’re not, we shouldn’t do it.

As we shape who we are and the people we lead, we need to build into them the ability to think and appreciate people for who they are. Don’t let your people get caught up in the comparison game. Don’t let them talk negatively about your pastor, don’t let them talk negatively about your subordinates. Teach them to learn to appreciate the good things and find ways they can step in and fill in the perceived gaps.

One final note: with the highly connected world we live in, it’s very easy to see what every other church on the planet is doing. Whether it’s worship styles or songs, programs or ministries, videos, graphics, stage designs or sermons. We need to be careful to be sure that we aren’t comparing what we do to what the rest of the world is doing. God has a plan and design for your church body, just as he as a plan and design for you.

Just as God created you uniquely, he created your church body uniquely. If he wanted us to all be the same and act the same, he would have prescribed it for us. And in the areas we do have such prescriptions, I do think we should strive to live up that prescription. However, just as each of us are unique, he wants your church body to represent him uniquely.

So, no more cookie cutter pastors, no more cookie cutter churches.

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Posted on Sep 4, 2011 in Church, Values

Core Values

Over the next few weeks I’m going to be covering what are our Mission & Core Values as a church. I want to share them with us, because they drive us too. No matter what ministry you come across in the church they will be guided by these principles. And since they guide our church, they guide us.

Here’s a start for us:

COME, GROW, GO – Taken from the Great Commission, our mission as a church is threefold. Come together to worship and bring glory to God. Grow closer to one another and more like Jesus. Go and serve and share and love in Jesus name.

In order to accomplish this mission we strive to be an attractional church. Our goal is to get people to come and then come back by providing an exciting, authentic, passionate worship experience. The target is to the disconnected, that they might find a home.

We also want to be a discipling church. There are all kind of age groups represented at VFCOG. We want the people who come to connect together that they may grow more Christ-like. It is together, learning and living the Word that helps us to grow. We are convinced we grow larger by growing smaller. Small groups become a key to growing the church God calls us to be.

We are a missional church. Go means we are all on mission. Simply put we want to get people “to do.” As we teach, train and lead our people to share and serve and minister our prayer is that they are active throughout the week to do what they have come to experience and grown to learn. They might in turn be inviting others to come and grow and go.

Come, Grow, Go. It’s that simple. We come together to worship and bring glory to God. We want our worship to be exciting, authentic & passionate. We want to grow closer to God and to one another. We have to continue to grow in our relationship with God, and build deep, meaningful relationships with other members of VFCOG. And we have to Go. We have to serve the body, serve the lost and share the Gospel with the world.

That’s what we’re about. How do you think that might guide us as a Worship Arts Ministry? (Please respond here or on facebook.)

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