Rss

  • twitter

MOBILIZE YOUR CHURCH

Mobilize

The word mobilization describes the act of assembling and making both troops and supplies ready for war.  The word was first used in military conflict in order to depict the Russian army of the 1850s and 1860s.  Its definition is, “to marshal, bring together, prepare for action especially of a vigorous nature.”  Mobilization is about preparation and then moving into action so that we can make an impact for the Kingdom of God.  It goes beyond planning and strategy and moves us into action.

Mobilization is moving the church into action.  It is activating the body of Christ to actually live out the values we say we hold on to and believe.  The book of James makes it clear that we demonstrate a genuine faith, not by what we say, but by what we do and how we live our lives.  The best measurement of what we really value is not what we say but how we behave.  Values are those guiding principles, convictions, and assumptions that we have about ministry.  They are enduring beliefs that determine how we act.

Where does your church need to mobilize?  Are there things that you say you value that are lacking proof of that value in your daily actions?  Most churches and Christians would say that they value evangelism but there’s really no action to say it genuinely is a value.  We spend all of our time with Christians, we have minimal contact with unbelievers, and we are not actively cultivating relationships with people far from God.  How can we say we really value evangelism when there is no behavior in our lives that says we love the lost?

Mobilization is a call to awaken and activate your church to plan, prepare, and then move into action.  There are three areas to consider determining where your church is and where your church needs to begin.  First, maybe you need to mobilize to become healthy.  You must face the reality that your church is not well, sick, or maybe even on life support waiting for the plug to be pulled.  Some churches are even faced with the decision of closing and reinvesting somewhere through replanting. Getting healthy could also involve casting a new vision of simplified ministry right where you are.

Second, your church may need to mobilize your ministry.  Your church is not on the downward side of the life cycle but it does need some kind of intervention to refocus on making disciples, reproducing leaders, and multiplying churches.   The church is so busy with doing church that it has become inwardly focused and the scorecard needs to change from not only measuring what happens on the church campus to what impact the church is having in its city and community.  James 4:17 says, “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”

Third, your church is healthy and you need to mobilize to multiply.  The time has come to focus on your sending capacity and develop a culture of multiplication.  Your focus is to equip, empower, and release leaders to multiply through missional engagement in new cities and communities.  Your church is not only interested in ministry but living on mission and developing leaders to live as missionaries in their zip code.

The temptation is to always default to what we know instead of what we actually do.  When churches think on their core values they will talk about how strongly they stand for the teaching and preaching of the word of God.  But it is interesting that as churches stress teaching and preaching the truth, and you should, that you are actually flipping the biblical order of the Great Commission.  It does not say teach first but rather says “go” and make disciples.  They must be taught and they must be taught correctly but if we never reach them there is no new believers who need to be taught.

Healthy churches do not just talk about what they believe but mobilize to action!  For the most part we behave in a manner consistent with our values, so if we value God’s word He says in Matthew 4:19, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

Holy Desperation

bedesperate

     “Holy Desperation” has been defined as when a congregation humbles themselves before God and realizes they can no longer keep doing ministry the same way and expecting a different result.  Holy desperation describes a church that is honest about its critical condition and need for a fresh vision and strategy.  Holy desperation means that a church is no longer satisfied with preservation over productivity.  Holy desperation characterizes a mentality where it is no longer acceptable to go through the motions without truly living on mission!

     “Doing” church on Sunday can lead to becoming an incredibly well-oiled machine that chugs along and gives us a false sense of accomplishment.  Steve Ogne says this about Holy Desperation, “Desperation becomes holy when we humble ourselves, release control and desperately seek God for a new future (not a restoration of the past).”  It is when a church desires a fresh wind from God, a new beginning, and is eager to do whatever God asks of them.  It is a willingness to focus on what needs to be done not on what has been done in the past.

     First, we must humble ourselves!  We must stop making excuses and rationalizing away our ineffectiveness in reaching our communities for Christ.  Humility is about self-abandonment and demands self-denial in acknowledging that Christ is above all and greater than all, especially ourselves.  When we see God for who He is we then can see who we are not; in charge!  John 12:24 describes the humility necessary, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.”  A church must be willing to die to some of the old ways of doing things before they will be able to embrace a new vision and fresh start!   

     Second, we must release our control!  Churches have members who are more interested in their own personal preferences, desires, and in being served.  Releasing control gives rightful ownership of the church back to God and makes our pursuits secondary to His will.  One example of this is in the area of traditions.  There are good and bad traditions.  Good traditions are never equal to the scriptures and are always subservient to the Bible.  Bad tradition becomes equal to the word of God and in some churches even above the scriptures.  We must stop reading the Bible through the lens of our own personal preferences, desires, and traditions.  The form or structure of our church must bow to the functions of the church.  Are we obeying Christ’s commands and are we fulfilling the Great Commission in our Jerusalem?

     Third, we must seek God for a new future!  All too often we are so absorbed with facilitating the people we do have that we forget about those we are striving to reach.  Jesus commanded us to leave the ninety-nine and pursue the one lost sheep.  We must be willing to make decisions based on the next one hundred people we haven’t reached rather than the strong opinions and personal preferences of those already there.  We must dream and imagine what kind of new things God might want us to do in our community and city.  Seeking God on this is the key as we begin to pray and prepare for a new beginning with a multiplication DNA.  Many do not like any kind of change but we must ask ourselves if we like being unfruitful any better?

      Holy desperation is when a church realizes it is on the downside of the lifecycle, some are on life-support, and is in desperate need of a fresh vision and recommitment to the Great Commission.  Your churches willingness to make some changes will determine its ability to survive.   Holy desperation comes about because of a lack of vision, lack of effectiveness, and the reality that disciples are not being reproduced.  How can we not have a holy desperation when we cannot remember the last time someone in our ministry gave their heart to Christ and was gloriously transformed by the gospel?  How long will it take for us to finally admit that something has to be done in our church or it will not survive?

     In order to get healthy a church must first have a holy desperation!        

OLD VERSUS NEW

OLD VS NEW

     Newer churches usually see more growth than older churches.  It has been estimated that it takes 88 members in a church over 15 years old to being one person to Christ.  Yet, in a church 5 years or younger it only takes 8 members to bring a person to Christ.  Why are new churches more effective? Why are newer churches so much more evangelistically inclined?  Here are some possible answers to these questions from Dynamic Church Planting International Training, Churches Planting Churches:

     First, it could be because of FOCUS!  “Established churches tend to focus on ministering to those already present.  The older a church gets, the easier it is to concentrate on nurturing and satisfying those who are already involved.  This tendency is very difficult to fight, even among people with the best of intentions.  In many new churches, the core group is small and those people know they must focus on winning the lost, or else the church will not survive.  New churches tend to concentrate on evangelism and the goal of establishing a new congregation.”

     But an older church can refocus on evangelism and pursuing the lost as Jesus did.  Luke 19:10, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”  Begin living as missionaries in your zip code.  Churches should approach every day as if they are headed out on a short term mission trip because they live and minister in the third largest mission field in the world.

     Second, it could be because of STYLE!  Dynamic Church Planting International puts it this way.  “Established churches tend to prefer to use the style of ministry that was relevant and

effective when the church was started. Such traditions are usually very hard to change.  Style includes issues such as: music—old style or new, dress—traditional formal clothing or come-as-you-are, vocabulary—words and phrases that are not understood in today’s culture referred to by some as “Christianeze.”   Christians in established churches often resist changing with the times.”

     But older churches can take steps to change their approach to ministry in order to reach more people with the gospel.  You can remain Biblically sound while also remaining culturally relevant.  Truth never changes but methodology can.  Remember, form follows function!  Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:22, “To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.”

   Thirdly, it could be because of a lack of VISION!  DCPI Churches Planting Churches says, “New churches begin because of a vision of starting a church to reach the lost. Established churches tend to become comfortable and satisfied with the status quo and lose their vision for reaching lost people.  Proverbs 29:18a says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”  Over time most churches lose their vision and passion for reaching the lost.  Instead of fishers of men they become keepers of an aquarium!”

     Once again, an “older” church can regain a vision for the mission of God.  If a church is not living on mission for God to reach the lost, disciple them, and reproduce themselves then they have lost the reason for their existence.  Jesus made it clear in Acts 1:8, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”

     DCPI Churches Planting Churches training reminds us that, “From 1800 to 1960 the number of Baptists grew from 100,000 members to twenty million!  Lyle Schaller estimates that 60-80% of the people in a new church become Christians through that church, therefore it is likely that 12 to 16 million came to Christ through these new Baptist churches.  The facts are clear: Associations that aggressively plant churches reach people for Christ and grow. The more aggressive they are, the greater the evangelism and growth.”

      Do we need to plant more churches?  Most definitely, but we also need all churches to return to a passionate desire to do whatever they have to do to make sure their church is fulfilling the Great Commission in their Jerusalem!  

 

6 MYTHS ABOUT CHURCH HEALTH

imgres

Growing up there were many superstitions, wives’ tales, and myths that as you got older you realized, as much as you believed it then, they were not true.  Some were harmless and innocent but others caused fear because if you broke a mirror you believed you would have seven years bad luck.  Even intelligent people will knock on wood, wish on a falling star, and become visibly upset if a black cat crosses their path.  As a child, I remember carefully walking down a sidewalk and avoiding every crack because, “step on a crack break your mother’s back.” 

There are many church “myths” today that are spoken as if they are factual.  A myth is defined as, “an idea or story that is believed by many people but that is not true.”  Remember, a myth is called a myth because it has not been proven true.  The problem is that we hear myths, believe them, and then allow them to control our thinking and our behavior.  When churches believe myths rather than the truth it causes fear and can paralyze their ministries.  Things like, “If we build it they will come!” or “All we need is a really cool vision statement and then we will grow!”  Here are some other church “MYTHS:”

#1  Large churches have compromised the truth!  The size of a church, small or big, does not guarantee that the truth of the gospel is being handled correctly or that it is being compromised.  Church size – large, medium, or small does not guarantee depth any more than owning a Bible, going to church, and tithing means you are a Christian.  The size of a church and how healthy it actually is are independent characteristics.  Large churches are not a bad thing.  The church in Jerusalem was a large church. 

#2  Small churches cannot make an impact for God.  It is not how many attend a church that dictates a church’s ability to be used of God but the size of the church’s heart to bring glory to God.  Scott Attebery said it well,I’m afraid that some may have the mistaken impression that ‘small’ means a lack of mission or purpose. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth. Some of the most passionate missional churches are relatively small congregations. Make no mistake about it, ‘small’ does not mean inferior.”

#3  Large churches are cold and unfriendly.  Actually, size does not dictate whether a church is friendly or unfriendly.  You can attend a small church where no one speaks to you or welcomes you.  The truth is that you don’t have to know everyone closely.  In U Turn Church Bob Bouwer says, “You need to know the One who does know everyone in your church.  Jesus is the common bond.  Outreach cannot be compromised because a church doesn’t want to stretch its comfort zone.”  Make sure that if you say you are a friendly church that you are!

#4  We are too small to do that!  The truth is that no matter what size you are, faith is required.  Faith requires risk because God is the only one who can accomplish the task to which He has called us.  When we stop being risk-takers, we soon become caretakers and before long you will be the undertaker.  What is happening in your church that can only be explained by God?  Actually, we can’t do it, but with His help we can.  Mark 10:27, “And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.”

#5  Large churches don’t care about smaller churches.  Actually, I have found the exact opposite to be true.  Pastors, staff, and members of “bigger” churches always seem ready to do anything they can help to help other churches and ministries.  Many of them have come along side of struggling congregations and shared with humility what they thought might help that church.  If you were to approach them you would find a support team ready to listen, pray with you, and share whatever they have that might help you.  Don’t be bashful, ask!

#6  We are too small to compete with the larger churches.  It is not a competition anyway.  If God has called you to that church then be faithful and strive to be fruitful.  There is a need for all kinds of churches and all sizes of churches.  We love to criticize what is different, mega-churches to house churches, but it they are scripturally sound and reaching people with the Gospel they have a unique place in God’s plan.  In the same way Paul told Timothy, “Let no man despise your youth” allow me to say, “Let no one despise your size!”

Healthy churches refuse to believe the “myths” and are always driven by the truth!

TURNING THE SHIP AROUND

Aircraft Carrier

When I was teenager my brother, Gary, was in the Navy.  He joined the military with a vision to see the world but ended up stationed in Pensacola, FL, just one hour from our home.  Twice my parents and I had the privilege of going on his aircraft carrier, the USS Lexington, for a dependents’ day cruise.  I will never forget the jets being catapulted off of the deck, disappearing for a second, and then roaring off into the sky.  We were warned about getting too close to the edge and falling off because, “you can’t turn an aircraft carrier around overnight!”    

Good advice to churches also!  You may have a clear vision of the necessary changes needed in your church to become healthy, but it’s like turning around an aircraft carrier; it takes time.  The task of leading a church to where the members are living out biblical values every day is not an easy task.  Leading a church to be healthy will require endless energy and an unrelenting determination to be the church God wants it to be!  The journey is difficult and full of challenges but make no mistake about it, well worth it!

Here are five steps when trying to consider leading in healthy change in your church:

First, you must see the need to change!  There has to be a reality check where hard questions are being asked.  Are we maintaining the programs and machinery of the church or are we seeing people’s lives transformed?  The pain of remaining the same must be greater than the perceived pain of changing.  Some churches prefer the pain of a slow death over revitalizing their church to be what God intended.  You must be willing to pay the price for the necessary change to occur! Winston Churchill said, “There is nothing wrong with change, if it is in the right direction!” 

Second, we must know why we are changing!  All churches at some point need a reassessment of who they are, what they are doing, and why they are doing it.  You need to realign your values with Christ’s values and make sure you are living out those values every single day.  Because we live in a sinful world we tend to drift from God, not towards Him.  Reassessment can lead to realignment and when churches do realign themselves to God’s mission and purpose for their existence, revival often comes.  Change just for change’s sake is not the right motivation but when our desire is to please Christ He blesses that effort!

Third, begin by building trusting relationships!  Change in churches begins with trust.  Kevin Ford, a church health consultant, in Transforming Church says, “In church after church, I have seen leaders fail because their passion for change far exceeded the trust they had earned.”  Some leaders introduce change too quickly and sacrifice trust while others wait for that magical moment of no resistance and move far too slowly.  Trust is earned by fulfilling the expectations of the church that are realistic and biblical.  It begins by loving them and then over time will allow a leader to move from meeting expectations to challenging them. 

Fourth, change does not happen overnight!  Remember, you are not guiding a jet ski and effective leaders understand that change is usually best introduced incrementally, one step at a time.  You will never remove all stress and conflict but they can be greatly reduced by a careful and prayerful approach.  Some think that all they have to do is come up with the coolest vision statement and core values and the ship will turn.  The reality is that most “vision” statements do not bring about actual change.  Most leaders overestimate what they can accomplish in one year and underestimate what God can do in five years. 

Fifth, remember that no matter how hard you might try, you will not please everyone!  My favorite story here is of a man going to his pastor and telling him that if Jesus ever saw those drums on the stage He would roll over in His grave.  In an interview on effective leadership Ron Heifitz said, “Many people have a ‘smiley face’ view of what it means to lead.  They get a rude awakening when they find themselves with a leadership opportunity.  Exercising leadership generates resistance—and pain.  People are afraid that they will lose something that’s worthwhile.  They’re afraid that they’re going to have to give up something they’re comfortable with.”

There will always be some resistance to change and that is an indicator that biblical leadership is being exercised.  Churches must make the necessary changes to align themselves with the mission of God!

Viruses in the Church

Viruses

   The flu season comes and goes.  This year it was reported that even if you had received the flu shot there was a strain you could still get that the vaccination would not protect you from.  Even when a Christian prays, studies God’s word, and strives to serve Him it is still easy to fall prey to the viruses of the devil.  There are many different strains such as the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.  Churches are also susceptible to sickness in their local body.

 

     Three viruses churches need to be inoculated against are Celebrity, Consumerism, and Competiveness.  They are very cunning and can slip up on us before we even realize.  Because of the culture and society we live in they can be hard to diagnose.  Sometimes we are carriers of the virus and do not even realize we have been infected.  Here are eight excellent questions from church planter Brandon Cox for churches at a life and death cultural crossroads:

 

  •  Are we really all about Jesus? Is He the head? Does He have preeminence? Are we clear with people that it is to Jesus, and not to a consumer-oriented experience that we are inviting them? Attraction is good. Jesus was attractive. But are we honest about to Whom we are inviting people?
  • Will we hold tightly to our historical, biblical theology? Will biblical inerrancy, which has survived a tough struggle in some circles, continue to thrive among evangelical leaders? Will we be faithful to the word of Him who is the one and only Way, Truth, and Life?
  • Will we place our need to control, which is based on fear, on the altar as a sacrifice and begin to rely on the Holy Spirit? Will we trust His under-shepherds without the red tape of boards, committees, and votes? Will we listen to Hebrews 13:17?
  • Will we embrace people from other cultures and backgrounds? Will we finally put to death the idea of the “white church,” “black church,” “hispanic church,” etc.? Can we value our cultural heritage without the competitive idea that my culture is better than your culture?
  • Will we create a safe place for people to deal with their hurts, habits, and hang-ups in the light of the gospel? Can we ever assure people that we won’t use their past against them and handcuff them to their shame?
  • Can we grow up and get over our demand for our own preferences to be met? Will we be able to adapt our communication to the language of humanity instead of church-ese? Will we welcome newcomers with love and wisdom, and listen and learn from them rather than leaving the responsibility of adaptation to them?
  • Will we make prayer and submission to God the priority over polished productions and performances?
  • Will we take risks, spend money, change names, re-constitute, re-launch, help the new church plant down the street, and venture into new mission fields by faith rather than remaining safe and comfortable? Not all of these apply to everyone, of course, but will we take the necessary risks?

 

     The virus of Celebrity can only be contained with a humble spirit.  James is very clear that God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble.  Here is good vaccination from Howard Hendricks, “When God measures a man he puts the tape around the heart, not the head.”  Shawn Lovejoy in his book The Measure of Success says offers this advice, “Too many of us are simply climbing ladders that don’t matter.”

 

     The second virus of Consumerism can blindside us and rob of us of all our spiritual power and energy.  David Platt challenges churches to inoculate themselves by realizing that, “A materialistic world will not be won to Christ by a materialistic church.”  Eric Geiger warns us that, “We cannot confront idolatry on a deep level if our systems are reinforcing consumerism.”  Remember, Jesus said that when we decide to follow Him, we must deny ourselves!

 

     Lastly, the virus of Competiveness needs a good injection of cooperation.  The Christian musical artist Lecrae puts it this way, “Stop comparing yourself to others.  You have your own race to run.  Finish well.”  Jeff Christopherson in Kingdom Matrix says, “Individualism is much too self-centered of an aspiration to be fanned by a Kingdom Source.”

 

DEAD HORSE STRATEGY

Insanity has been defined as “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”  Recently, I saw some dead horse strategies shared on Twitter.  I did a little investigating and found various lists on a couple of different web sites.  Honestly, I am not sure who should get the credit but this list is my compilation of what I felt were the top 21.   

One site shared Dakota tribal wisdom which says when you discover you’re riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.  Sometimes in the church we “beat dead horses” (doing the same thing over and over expecting different results).  Here are some Dead Horse Truths that will probably make you laugh but I pray will also cause us to do some soul-searching:

  • Buy a Stronger Whip.
  • Change Riders.
  • Threaten the horse with termination.
  • Name the dead horse “Paradigm Shift” and keep riding it.
  • Ride the dead horse “outside the box.”
  • Ride the dead horse “smarter” not harder.
  • Do a time management study to see if the lighter riders would improve productivity.
  • Keep saying, “This is the way we have always ridden this horse.”
  • Appoint a committee to study the horse.
  • Increase the standards to ride dead horses.
  • Appoint team to revive the dead horse.
  • Create training to increase riding ability.
  • Pass a resolution stating, “This horse is not dead.”
  • Arrange visits to other sites to see how they ride dead horses.
  • Harness several dead horses together for increased speed.
  • Declare ‘this horse is not too dead to beat.”
  • Provide additional funding to increase dead horse’s performance.
  • Form a commission to find uses for dead horses.
  • Re-classify the dead horse as “living-impaired.”
  • Get the horse a Web site.
  • Promote the horse to a supervisory position.

I imagine that a few of these sounded familiar to you as they did to me.    Hopefully, this will cause you to do some evaluation by asking two questions:

            1.  What is God saying to you through this humorous comparison?

            2.  What are you going to do about it? 

If even a couple of these are a part of your strategy you need to consider a new strategy! 

Shepherding Shepherds

Coaching, shepherding 

Who is shepherding the shepherds?  The reality for many is no one!  Church members need to be cared for by compassionate godly shepherds.  Acts 20:28 says, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.”  1 Peter 5:2 continues with the shepherding theme, “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;”  Maybe the most neglected and uncared for members of the local church are the ministry leaders?     

According to Scott Thomas and Tom Wood, “Every church leader needs a coach.  And every church leader needs to be coaching others!”  In their book Gospel Coach they say, “Coaching ministry leaders is a key aspect to their ongoing effectiveness as shepherds of the Lord’s flock.  We believe coaching is necessary because it is a process of imparting encouragement and skills to a leader in order to fulfill their ministry role—something every leader needs—but it is done in the context of a gospel relationship…the entire flock suffers when its shepherds are not healthy.”

My good friend Danny Kirk says, Everybody needs a coach…that’s a bold statement!  Everybody?  Well, if you are someone who believes that God has created you for His purpose and your desire is to move forward and complete God’s plan and goals for your life, then a Christian coach can help you get there. The term “coach” comes from the transportation era of stagecoaches and rail coaches in which the “coach” literally transported a person from one place to another. In today’s context, a coach is a person who initiates an ongoing conversation that benefits the other person and moves them forward through discovery, learning, and creating a doable action plan.”  

Robert E. Logan defines coaching as: “The process of coming alongside a person or team to help them discover God’s agenda for their life and ministry, and then cooperating with the Holy Spirit to see that agenda become a reality.”   Steve Ogne and Tim Roehl in Transformissional Coaching define coaching this way, “Coaching, as we see it, enables transformation, which in turn leads to missional ministry.  Great coaches come alongside leaders so that leaders can be transformed into the image of Christ and join Him on His redemptive mission.”  Coaching can make a huge difference in anyone’s life, especially leaders, because it is shepherding as directed by the scriptures.  

Felling alone and separated from others is one of the greatest dangers to leaders.  Studies have shown that the aloneness factor can lead to arrogance (I’m the only one that has figured this out), which can lead to addiction (I have to find something to feel my void of relationships), and then even on to adultery (the acceptance of a cheap substitute for satisfaction).  The other side of the equation is Ecc 4:10, “For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.”  From a recent study on church planter survivability Ed Stetzer said, “Planters who met weekly with a mentor…led churches that were almost twice the size of those who had no mentor.”

Coaching is a biblically based way to encourage one another in the ministry that has also proven to be very effective in keeping leaders on track.  More importantly though is the fact that it helps the one being coached to remain spiritually healthy.   You can be coached and you can be trained to be a better coach.  Feel free to contact me (larry@bmaam.com), Danny Kirk (www.youneedcoaching.com) or Kirk Shelton (www.2-46coaching.com).  Remember that every leader needs a coach and every leader needs to be coaching others.  A coach helps you to remain healthy through accountability in your personal, spiritual, and missional life.

Healthy churches shepherd and care for their shepherds and their sheep!