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Thursday, September 30, 2004

Paul & Jan Crouch and Accountability

Paul_crouch
By now, I'm sure that most of you have heard of the rumors swirling around about the Trinity Broadcasting Network founder Paul Crouch. Two weeks ago, the Los Angeles Times broke a story saying that a past TBN employee was accusing Paul Crouch of having a homosexual affair with him back in 1996. The story has caused widespread mayhem at TBN and sent shockwaves through the Christian community.

Here are some personal observations and things that came out in the article:

TBN admits to paying the accuser $425,000 back in 1998 to settle a 'wrongful termination' allegation. A key part of this settlement was a secrecy agreement saying that the accuser would not bring up any of the details of the events at any time in the future. Clearly the accuser in this case is far from beyond reproach (with a past criminal record and a list of personal problems longer than most). But also, after the fact disclosure of this pay-off also looks bad for TBN. TBN released this statement:

The consensus viewpoint was that it would be better for TBN and Dr. Crouch to reach a financial settlement rather than to fight the accuser in court. This course of action was deemed less expensive and would avoid the bad publicity, time and effort that it would take to fight the false claims. Dr. Crouch reluctantly agreed to this advice with the understanding that the accuser would go away and leave both he and TBN alone forever. The importance of the settlement does not rest on the money paid, but rather on Dr. Crouch's vehement denial of the allegations made against him as well as the agreement of the accuser to keep confidential and refrain from repeating his false claims and accusations. Most importantly, at no time were ministry funds used in any portion of this settlement.

Personally, I can see both sides of this issue (not knowing which side is actually telling the truth). If you are a successful ministry person, there are many people who would like to see you fail; and there are many people who will want to take advantage of you. It only takes one accuser, whether they are telling the truth or not, to take down your reputation. I have to admit that it seems to me that I would want to do everything in my power to let the truth be known without paying the person off. But, having said that, obviously I have never been in this no-win situation.

But here's where I think the worst of the problem lies for Paul Crouch and TBN: there is an apparent lack of accountability among the leadership at TBN. Here's what I'm talking about:

Wall Watchers (a North Carolina religious watchdog group) has recommended that "TBN revamp its board of directors, which consists of Jan and Paul Crouch and his sister, Ruth Brown, to be independent of the Crouch family." The LA Times article mentioned numerous other Crouch family members serving from executives in TBN to their legal counsel. I'm not saying that family members should not be a part of the ministry, but having all your officers being family members does not provide adequate accountability for yourself or for outside groups. This type of setup makes it hard to dispute allegations and charges when they are made, particularly by the secular press.

For example, in the LA Times article alone, it was disclosed that Paul Crouch and his wife, Jan Crouch, earn more than $750,000 in salaries and have a collection of luxuries at their disposal, including a TBN-owned jet and some 30 homes across the US. TBN's response:

"Regarding the various real properties mentioned, all are owned by TBN, not Dr. and Mrs. Crouch, and they are used for multiple purposes, including program settings, and temporary housing for network guests, contractors and agents. In addition, such properties represent alternative investment vehicles that provide appreciably better returns then bank CDs, savings accounts, and bond funds, etc. Similarly, TBN's corporate aircraft is only utilized in the course of business. It is not unusual for Dr. Crouch, and employees traveling with him, to visit several different cities and stations over the course of a trip. The plane allows flexibility and effective time management, and avoids the impact of Dr. Crouch's status as a public person."

Are 30 homes, private jets and large salaries a good use of ministry funds? It seems to me that this is a hard-sell to the many people who give to a ministry in good faith, thinking their money is going to further the gospel.

How does this happen? (And sadly, it seems to happen again and again in Christianity.) I think it happens when there is a lack of credible accountability. You know... someone (in TBN's case, other than a family member) that says... "You know, this doesn't look above reproach... maybe we should use these resources differently... maybe you shouldn't have a close relationship with this person... perhaps we need to manage this area differently."

You see... here's the thing... this type of problem isn't just the problem with the large TBN and PTL type ministries; it can be found from the largest to the smallest ministries and churches all across the country. Leadership (especially strong leadership) cries out for accountability. Without accountability, the power and influence and success of leadership can cause even the best people to cover-up, shade the truth, and think that they can get away with the biggest of sins because no one will ever find out. And that crosses into very dangerous territory.

Here is the position that I think Paul Crouch finds himself in now... he is flogged by terrible accusations by someone who really is not someone who can be trusted. But because of all the other decisions Crouch has made in the past, including the use of ministry funds for the high salaries, the plane, the 30 homes and the nearly half million dollar payoff; he now has no one, other than family members who can vouch for his integrity. And for a televangelist already known for being flamboyant, this could lead to his ultimate downfall.

What do you think? I look forward to your thoughts. Please click the comments button below and 'let me have it'! I'm ready... I'm wearing my thick skin today!

Todd

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September 30, 2004 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (104) | TrackBack

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Pastor Ed Young on Asking Questions

Ed_young
This month I had the opportunity to attend the Innovative Church Conference held at Granger Community Church in Granger, IN. One of the speakers at the ICC this year was Pastor Ed Young, the founding pastor of Fellowship Church. Ed gave a great talk on the subject of leadership and the importance of always asking questions. According to Ed, asking questions is an essential element of leadership. and that in order to grow and learn through change and creativity, we must be willing to constantly ask the right people the right questions at the right time. As leaders, we should always ASK (Always Seek Knowledge) questions so that we can make good, godly decisions. As Ed says, "Information without interrogation is an abomination!"

Asking the right questions to the right people to get the right answers helps us to know God's desired direction for our lives and ministries.

Ed shared the following formula for leadership and growth in the local church...

CHANGE -----> CONFLICT-----> GROWTH

Whenever change is implemented in the local church, it almost always is followed by conflict. Conflict, when it is dealt with correctly, leads to growth. I found this extremely interesting and true.

Here's my take on all this... If you take the time to ask all the right questions to the right people, and if you take the time to get the right answers, then the conflict that results from change can be more easily converted into growth. After all, at this point, you've asked all the right questions and know the direction God would have you to go. If, however, you failed to ask all the right questions to the right people; and if you didn't get the right answers to those questions; then you're on rocky ground when the conflict occurs, and more times than not, you may succumb to the conflict or the dissenters.

What is your course of action during conflict that comes out of change? Maybe you're changing your worship style. Possibly you're making staff changes, or changing some internal programming and people are ticked. How you deal with this conflict will determine whether you move forward toward growth or fall back to where you were before you made the changes. Remember, growth most often results after a period of conflict. Asking the right questions beforehand can better situate you to deal with your detractors when the conflict occurs, and may very well help you to breakthrough the conflict to the growth you've been looking for.

Do you find this to be true in your church? How do you handle this Change, Conflict, Growth model? What have been the advantages of asking the right questions. How has this maybe backfired? Please share your comments by hitting the comments link below.

If you find this whole concept to be helpful to you, you can order Pastor Ed's talk on asking questions at his CreativePastors.com website by clicking here.

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September 29, 2004 in Leadership Issues | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Is it Time to Leave? Assessing Your Spiritual Appetite

Before_you_move
John R. Cionca has a brand new book out titled "Before You Move: A Guide to Making Transitions in Ministry." I've just started reading it, and it has a ton of great information for anyone who is sensing a move may be in their future. In the book, John identifies twenty significant factors that will help you determine whether the time is right to leave your current ministry or if you should stay where you are at. Cionca describes red lights in each of these areas will remind us of the benefit of staying in our current ministry situation; while greenlights give us the freedom to move on. Today, we'll look at the first area he discusses: Spiritual Appetite.

Overall, life is too short to play church; so John says a bottom line question worth asking is "How spiritually hungry are your people? Are they more indifferent? Are they actively seeking Christian maturity?" He writes, "If after a reasonable tenure of service your congregation still seems apathetic to spiritual growth, you might well consider a reinvestment of service where your efforts can have greater impact. On the other hand, if you find people eager to mature in Christ, then remaining to feed their responsiveness is an appropriate choice.

What is the spiritual temperature of your congregation? Cionca suggests looking in these areas for signs of red lights or green lights in the area of your church's spiritual appetite:

--Enthusiasm in worship
--Participation in Bible studies
--Depth of volunteerism
--Attentiveness to preaching
--Involvement in cell groups
--Assimilation of newcomers
--Caring for one another's needs
--Members sharing their faith
--Personal ministries beyond the congregation

If you've been considering a move, spiritual appetite is one area to consider. How is your church doing? Have you seen an increase in spiritual appetite among your people? Or does apathy run rampant. These are all things to consider as you determine where God would have you minister.

Remember, this is just one of twenty areas that John touches on his book. We'll try to look briefly at one area each week in the coming weeks. I would encourage you to pick up a copy of this book to get the full benefit of the information and ideas that we'll be sharing.

How is your church doing? Has this been an area of frustration for you? Have you ever left a church because of spiritual apathy? Let us know your comments by clicking the comments link below.

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September 28, 2004 in Personnel Issues | Permalink | Comments (6)

Monday, September 27, 2004

I Don't Like My Church Anymore

Depressed_man

When the alarm goes off on Sunday morning, what is your attitude? A sense of excitement or a sense of foreboding?

I came across a very honest, interesting and thought provoking article by Doug Tappan this week at RelevantMagazine.com. Please take a couple minutes this morning to read this... I think it will hit a nerve and challenge you as you start your week. Doug writes:

I’ve decided I don’t like going to church. It’s not that I’m going to stop going. But I came to the conclusion last Sunday, as I was showering before church, that I’ve come to the point where I just don’t feel like it makes a difference in my life. When Sunday morning comes, I find myself wishing it were Saturday where I would have the entire day to do whatever I wanted.

It hasn’t always been this way. I used to love going to church. I would look forward to it every week. I loved the worship time, ate up the preaching and enjoyed the fellowship with the people around me. However, all this has begun to change for me lately. I’ve come to the point where I don’t want to be bothered with talking to people. It’s not that they’re not good people, it’s just that I really don’t want to talk to them. I find that I’m not as interested in the worship and preaching as I used to be. In fact, I usually find every possible way to criticize the songs we sing or the delivery of the message (that’s the effect Bible college can have on some people).

You see, the problem with all this is that I’m in ministry myself. It’s actually my job to be at the service on Sunday morning. Maybe that’s part of the problem. Maybe I’m bitter that I have to go into “work” while other people can go and enjoy the service because they have no obligation.

There’s a larger problem involved, however, and I don’t believe it’s a problem that is uncommon to people (particularly twentysomethings, of which I am one) in the church today. You see, I walk in to the church service, sit down, cross my arms and expect God to do something in me. I expect the worship team to bring me out of my apathy. I wait for something the pastor says to catch my ear. What’s the problem with all this? It’s me. Nothing has changed in my church since the time when I enjoyed coming. I’ve changed. I’ve become more selfish. I’ve become more cynical. In fact, it’s gotten to the point where my girlfriend told me yesterday that maybe she should sit somewhere else during the service because she can sense that I don’t want to be there.

More than all this, I’ve come to expect the church to forge my spiritual development. Instead of working on my own prayer and devotional life, I want the church to do it for me. Please tell me I’m not the only one in the Body of Christ who has this problem. Please tell me there are other lazy people, who come to church on Sunday and expect to be filled up for the week ahead. Meanwhile, they have no expectation of giving anything. (I’m not talking about money either.) We aren’t willing to give of ourselves in worship. We aren’t willing to give of ourselves to each other, to minister to our friends who have hurts too (we’re not the only ones who hurt, even though we’d like to think so sometimes).

I’d like to blame all this on our American culture of selfishness. I’d like to say that I am this way because I’ve been socially conditioned by all the advertising and marketing that I’m encountered with day after day; advertising that says things like “Have it Your Way.” Well, I do want it my way. Don’t we all? Isn’t it true that if we don’t like how things are done at one church we can just go across town (or across the street, for some of us) and find a church that suits our felt needs better? Is that what Jesus intended for His church? Did He want us to forsake our churches just to seek “greener pastures” somewhere else? It’s true that the Church is flawed. No church is exempt from this. But instead of giving up (or becoming total cynics of every last detail) we should be working to change that which is wrong in our churches, but more than that—to change that which is wrong in ourselves. And changing what is wrong in us is probably the harder of the two. Selfishness doesn’t go away easily (trust me, I’ve still got plenty of it). How else can we work to change from selfish people to gracious and generous people other than asking for the help of the Holy Spirit? There is no other way that I know of (and I’m sure I’ve tried many) to deal with sin of every kind.

In the end, I can only blame my own sinful nature that allows me to become like I am. It’s my fault, not my church’s, that I think and act this way. Until I, and those like me, are willing to own up to this, we will continue to be unfulfilled Christians who take up space in the pews on Sunday mornings, but have nothing to contribute to the radical mission that the church is called to.

What are your thoughts? Have you had these same feelings? Did you come to the same conclusion as Doug or something totally different? Please leave your comments by clicking the comments link below.

Oh, and by the way... you can see this whole article at the RelevantMagazine.com website now as well!

Todd

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September 27, 2004 in Leadership Issues | Permalink | Comments (44)

Friday, September 24, 2004

Bill Maher and Comedy Against Christians

Billmaher
What's up with Bill Maher? It seems he's particularly allergic to Christians, especially smart ones (if there is such a thing). Jay Ambrose of the Scripps Howard News Service had an interesting article on comedian Bill Maher. Jay writes,

Forgive him, for Bill Maher could not have known what he was doing the other night on his HBO show, "Real Time," when he said that half the nation thinks "more Jesus" and "more guns" were the answer to everything that ails America...He didn't stop with the "more Jesus" line, which was clearly meant to convey what superstitious boobs many believers are, but went on to mock prayer as moronic. When others with him did not then break out into spasms of laughter, he explained that people, including President Bush, prayed as if seeking gifts from Santa Claus.

He continues...

The only thing wrong with all of this - even as a joke - is everything. But let's grant a few points. There are charlatans among those who preach the faith, just as there are charlatans everywhere. There are puzzling understandings of Christianity among the faithful. Yet, even if Christianity is viewed as only a cultural phenomenon, its richness, accomplishments, depth and reach have been extraordinary.

From it has grown some of the greatest art in the history of humankind - the paintings of Michelangelo, the marvelous gothic cathedrals, the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, the poetry of John Donne. Some of the greatest thinkers ever to have lived have been Christian thinkers, and their influence reaches to this very day. Important institutions have arisen from the faith. Without monks copying the words of the ancients, much of ancient thought would be lost to us. Absolutely profound has been the influence of Christianity on the ethical propositions we hold dear. Even many of the moral arguments people use against the church come from the church. Maher himself is undoubtedly influenced by Christian ethics, whether he recognizes it or not. The accusation that Christians do not always abide by their ethics will win their concurrence; many recognize a sinfulness for which they must repent.

More important than what it has been culturally, Christianity has been a means by which people for 2,000 years believe they have experienced forgiveness and redemption, and have found meaningfulness in a context larger than the here and now.

Among the more than 80 percent of Americans who count themselves as Christians, of course, there are many differences: Some are regular churchgoers, others aren't; some take their Scripture by and large literally, others more figuratively; some are conservative politically, others liberal. But the vast majority of those in all these groupings have a theological understanding that goes well beyond the flip phrase "more Jesus" and a far deeper view of prayer.

I won't go into the issues of guns or Iraq. Rather, what I want to emphasize is that those who express contempt for a huge section of our population and their dearest convictions - especially when doing so based on a stereotype instead of knowledge or reflection - have themselves earned contempt.

Here's a link to the full article in the Courier & Press


What do you think? Please feel free to leave a comment.

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September 24, 2004 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (16)

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Paying People to Attend Church Plan Fails

Bishop Fred Caldwell thought he had a great idea... he figured that if he paid white people $5.00 each to attend his black church that maybe some would come and his church could be somewhat 'multi-racial'. We talked about this last year in MMI when Bishop Caldwell first tried his idea. Here's a follow-up article (written by James Ragland) that appeared recently in the Dallas News.

Lord knows what went wrong.

But Bishop Fred Caldwell's 5,000-member congregation hasn't changed one iota – it's as black as ever.

And neither the pastor nor, he said, the Lord is pleased that Bishop Caldwell's offer last summer to pay white people to attend his church didn't produce lasting change.

Once the novelty wore off, the white guest worshippers weren't faithful to his cause.

"A year later, things are right back where they were," Bishop Caldwell said in a telephone interview last week from his office at Greenwood Acres Full Gospel Baptist Church in Shreveport, La. "They came, they saw, they left and they didn't return.

"And they came from as far away as London and Dallas-Fort Worth," he reminisced. "We had a great time. A lot of white people came, and they went back to their white holes. Because I'll say it again: 11 a.m. on Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in America."

He's right, of course, with the exception of a few places where people from different racial backgrounds worship together.

That's a shame if you ask Bishop Caldwell, and he said the Lord called on him one Sunday to do something about it. "God told me to pay white folks," he said, to lure them to his nearly all-black church.

So he did.

Bishop Caldwell offered white worshippers $5 to visit his church on Sunday mornings in August of last year. And he extended twice as much to those who came on a Thursday night in August "because the middle of the week is a challenge."

At the end of the month, he said, "I ended up paying out of my own pocket $1,045, and I had budgeted either $2,000 or $2,500."

Dozens of people came, he said, and not all of them accepted the cash. I jokingly asked him if anybody tried to "pass," or pretend to be white to get a few bucks.

It was a wisecrack. The response I got surprised me.

"Actually, yes," Bishop Caldwell said. "Some American Indians came, and when it dawned on me they were Indians [and] not white folks, I told them I wouldn't pay them, and they threatened to go to the [newspaper] on me."

I guess the Lord was very specific in his diversity message.

Bishop Caldwell said it wasn't a big deal – he just didn't want to be hustled – and the misguided worshippers went away.

"It was just a couple of people," he said. "They came three times, and the last couple of weeks in August, they didn't show."

Anyway, Bishop Caldwell withstood criticism from some, including a few members of his own church, that his cash offer was just a publicity stunt. The story made headlines around the world, and he's still getting calls about it.

"It was never about the $5. It was about the need to come together," he said. "But after Aug. 31, it went back to where it was.

"And God," he said, ratcheting up his voice like he does in the pulpit, "is angry with us."

I asked him why he thinks his experiment failed to change the makeup of his church, which has the same number of white members – "four or five," he said – that it had a year ago.

"This is the South, and people keep forgetting that. But it's not so much the South as it is a race issue," Bishop Caldwell said. "White preachers aren't going to ever preach it. You show me a white preacher who offers to pay black people to come on Sunday, and he'll be fired on Monday."

The same could be said of some black preachers.

I asked Bishop Caldwell if differing styles of worship were keeping the churches segregated on Sunday mornings. Folks who use that excuse, he said, are "hypocrites."

"First of all, Madonna doesn't care who's in her audience, [and] neither does Usher," he said, referring to two pop culture icons whose music has crossover appeal. "We use 'style' as an excuse when it comes to what people don't want to do."

Maybe the Lord did call on Bishop Caldwell to at least shake things up. After all, he's got one heck of a story to tell. "Thirty-four years ago," the 58-year-old pastor said, "I went home to commit suicide. I was a junkie and drug dealer in this city."

But when he went home to take his own life, he said, a miracle occurred – a white preacher on TV touched his heart.

"I went home to commit suicide" before something told him to turn on the tube. "And Billy Graham was on there preaching. And I accepted Jesus in my life."

These days, he said, he's not afraid to do God's work – even something as difficult as trying to integrate churches. That's a giant hurdle.

"One rock will take care of everything," he said. "And the Lord is our rock."

Here's a link to the whole article (it was still up as of posting time) at the Dallas News.

Any Comments? (Please use the comments link below)

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September 23, 2004 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (17)

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

James Merritt's Leap of Faith

Merritt_2
Pastor James Merritt has a massive vision that is quickly becoming a reality. Merritt, who is the former head of the Southern Baptist Convention recently left a huge traditional Southern Baptist church to start a new, contemporary church. Here's the text of an article about his vision that appeared recently in the Atlanta Journal Constitution (written by Bill Osinski)

The message is still old-time religion, but the medium is new millennium.

On a recent Sunday at the new Cross Pointe Church in Duluth, the preacher wore a lime-green knit shirt. The music was Christian rock, heavy on drums and guitars. The young people were off in another building, listening to the Word in a coffeehouse-style room that could double as a "Friends" set.

Worshippers watch Dr. James Merritt conduct a Sunday morning service on a big TV screen at Cross Pointe Church in Duluth.

In his sermon, the preacher quoted the same Bible he's always used. But now as he spoke, the text of the passage popped up on a large screen.

"It's not your mother's Oldsmobile," the Rev. James Merritt said to a visitor.

What Cross Pointe is, though, is the successful first-stage landing of Merritt's multimillion-dollar leap of faith.

The first Sunday he preached in the new church, Merritt told the congregation, "You're looking at a dream come true."

The dream began about a year-and-a-half ago, when Merritt, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, left a large and thriving church, Snellville First Baptist, to create the new church from an abandoned collection of warehouses and office buildings.

Next Sunday, Cross Pointe will celebrate its official grand opening. The external face of the services will be in keeping with Merritt's desire to reach out to "unchurched" people, who are not comfortable in a traditional church setting. For example, the choir won't be in traditional long robes; instead, they'll wear non-uniform casual dress. The ushers are more likely to wear knit shirts with a Cross Pointe logo than suits.

The grand opening will be the culmination of a process Merritt has called "the Lazarus deal."

The 71-acre tract not far from the Gwinnett Center complex was, Merritt thought, ideal for the expanded ministry he envisioned. His dream, he said, was to build a church where the faithful would be energized and the "unchurched" would be attracted and made to feel welcome.

However, the original $23 million asking price for the property was well out of his reach. Even when the price came down to $9 million, it was still too high.

Merritt said he was left with two options: give up, or pray. He chose the latter, he said, asking God to broker the deal, if that was his will. Then a group of businessmen, including some friends of Merritt's, bought the land and donated it anonymously to the new church.

The congregation for the new church has been meeting in the gyms of two Duluth-area high schools. About 500 people attended in those first weeks, and about 200 of those were people who had attended the Snellville church, Merritt said. Attendance has grown steadily, and the "soft opening" on Sundays at the new church has averaged about 1,600, he said.

The new worship center can seat 1,600. It was formerly a warehouse, but the open, high-ceiling space was relatively easily converted into a sanctuary, Merritt said. State-of-the-art sound and lighting systems were installed.

"God and God's people deserve the very best," Merritt said.

However, Merritt added, it is the unmeasurable qualities that make the new church truly special.

"Cross Pointe has the greatest spirit of any church I've ever pastored," he said.

The people who attended last Sunday's service were a reflection of that sentiment.

"You can just feel the spirit here," said Karlee Myers, who recently started attending church at Cross Pointe. "Everybody's so friendly."

Formerly a member of a small church in her hometown of Jefferson, Myers said this was her first experience at a larger congregation.

Steve and Debby Guelda, of Suwanee, said they have moved with Merritt from the Snellville church to Cross Pointe.

"This is not just a place where you come on Sunday and put in your hour, it's a place where you want to be active," Steve Guelda said, referring in particular to the small groups that meet before and after the regular services.

Steve Barton, of Lawrenceville, said he enjoys the relaxed, welcoming atmosphere at the new church. He and his wife, Beth, also made the transition from Snellville to Cross Pointe.

"This is not a stuffy church," he said. "This is a church where you can come as you are, where God welcomes you as you are."

Merritt said he wants Cross Pointe to become a regional church. A brief survey of license plates of cars in one section of the Cross Pointe parking lot showed that people had come from eight counties: Gwinnett, Hall, Forsyth, Walton, Barrow, Jackson, Cobb and DeKalb.

Within a few years, Merritt said, construction will begin on a permanent worship center for Cross Pointe. It will have space for 6,000 worshippers, and it will feature a 125-foot-high steeple with cross that will be visible from nearby I-85.

Cross Pointe is and will remain a Southern Baptist church, but Merritt said he decided to leave the denominational affiliation out of the church's name, in order to broaden the church's appeal.

"We're not trying to hide anything," he said. "We just want to bring as many people to Christ as possible."

So far, Merritt said, Cross Pointe has more than fulfilled the vision that the Lord resurrected for him.

"I've never been more excited," he said.

Obviously, James Merritt has more resources than the average church planter... ok, he has more resources than any church planter I have ever heard of. But, often times more resources just mean even more risk. How can Merritt's vision and stepping out on faith apply to you in your ministry? Can it at all? I'd love to hear your comments (just click on the comment's link below).

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September 22, 2004 in Visioncasting | Permalink | Comments (25)

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Bell Ringers 'Sacked for Being Too Traditional'

Bells
It seems that a group of bell-ringers in the UK has had enough. They would not play the "silly worship songs" for the new contemporary service. That led to a changing of the locks at the church. They knew it was over when the bells ended up on one of the ringer's doorstep. (You have to admit, that would be hard to do with an organ!) And you thought you had problems...

Here's the article that appeared recently in the News Telegraph:

A team of bell-ringers has been sacked in a row between Anglican traditionalists and modernisers at an 11th century church. The dispute has led to the locks of the tower at St Nicholas Church in Leeds, Kent, being changed and equipment belonging to the ousted bell master being dumped on his doorstep.

Chris Cooper, 25, and his five colleagues were given their marching orders after refusing to ring the bells during modern, family services featuring "silly worship songs" and for demanding the full reintroduction of services based on the Book of Common Prayer.

The Rev Robin Gill, the vicar of a church whose foundations were laid by the Saxons in 1000 and whose oldest bell was cast in 1617, decided to end the dispute by replacing Mr Cooper with Chris Saunders, a church council member at St Nicholas.

Mr Cooper, who is also on the council, said: "I had all of my equipment, including a peal board of great sentimental value dumped, outside my house in the middle of the night.

"I returned to the church with my band to find locks had been changed and I had already been replaced. All of us in the ringers are furious but I am the one who wanted to go public with this because the church want to keep it hushed up. In the end we were dismissed for being too traditional.

"All of this was done behind our backs. It's like living in Soviet Russia. During our last council meeting, Chris Saunders and I had a row about the way everything had happened but his actions were defended by the church council because he supports the modern services, where I have spoken out against them.

"There seems to be a big conspiracy against people like me who want to protect the Book of Common Prayer. The whole thing has been nasty and sneaky. Chris has even modernised the name bell master and called himself tower captain. It's a joke."

Mr Cooper, from Hythe in Kent, became bell master at St Nicholas's five years ago. He is a member of Leeds Youth Ringers, who also play at churches in Ashford, Hothfield and Mersham.

He said problems began at St Nicholas when he aired his views on the importance of maintaining traditional values. "Modernisation goes hand in hand with removing pews, not being silent before services and the introduction of these silly worship songs," he added.

"They didn't like what I had to say about the preservation of the Book of Common Prayer. I would expect better from a Christian church that is supposed to be based on trust and fellowship."

Mr Gill admitted that Mr Cooper's belongings had been dumped outside his home but said that he had condemned it. "That was not the act of the church and I have already expressed my deep distress and anger to the person who did that," he said.

"We have met with Chris Cooper and told him it was not a matter of him being sacked but that we wanted a new leader because he is not prepared to ring the bells for the family services.

"We have four churches - two have the Book of Common Prayer and two have modern services. Chris isn't happy with this but we were doing it when he joined."

The Rev Nigel Fry, an assistant priest, added that the decision to remove Mr Cooper had nothing to do with theological attitudes. "It was nothing more than a practical thing because he couldn't promise to ring the bells every Sunday," he said.

Here's a link to the full article by David Sapsted.

Brings a while new meaning to the term "Worship Wars". Any horror stories or victories you'd care to share about this (or your own) worship wars, personal preference, or how personalities and egos can get in the way in worship? Please click the 'comments' button below!

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September 21, 2004 in For What It's Worth | Permalink | Comments (12)

Monday, September 20, 2004

Help! My Church is Falling!

Wallenda
The following was posted on The Bullard Journal website. George Bullard has some good insights into a problem that many churches face... "The Wallenda Factor".

Monday, March 22, 2004 was the 26th anniversary of the day Karl Wallenda, patriarch of The Flying Wallendas, fell 75 feet to his death while walking a cable strung between two hotels in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

In reflecting on the time around his death, his widow explained that during the months preceding his death Karl transitioned from a life style and attitude of confidence and courage, to one of fear and precaution. He morphed from being an aerialist who lived to fly across the wire, to a hesitant high wire actor who was concerned about the fear of falling.

This fear of falling or failing is today known as The Wallenda Factor. It refers to people and situations where the fear of failure smothers the joy of soaring. It refers to people and situations where problem-solving erases an affirm and build process, where counting the “no” votes is more important than counting the “yes” votes, and negatives are more important than positives.

Congregations who take on challenging spiritual strategic journeys are often subject to The Wallenda Factor. They fear the possibility of failure as they travel along their journey. They focus on fixes rather than solutions. They seek to bring everyone along with them on the journey, and would rather halt the journey than leave anyone behind.

The Wallenda Factor is particularly expressed in congregations when a threat of some type is present. People often are afraid the threat will become a full reality, and that the congregation will be harmed. Much of their dialogue is around the possibility of something negative happening to the congregation, rather than the opportunity to soar that is often also present during a time of threat or challenge.

Does your congregation soar with the collective spiritual gifts, life skills, and personality preferences of the people connected with it? Or, does it focus on not failing, and thus takes few, if any, risks to minister to the people God has placed along the path of their journey; much less to engage in cutting edge discipleship development for people connected with the congregation?

Is it concerned that if it fails that it will possibly lose some of it strengths, capacities, and even members who are necessary to continue the quality and quantity of ministry to which it has become accustomed? Or, is it open to the new thing that God is doing in it, and gladly risks comfort to pioneer new areas of ministry into which God is leading it?

Are the leadership gatherings of your congregation filled with challenging dialogue about the emerging ministry trends of the congregation, and the possibilities for unconditionally sharing the love of God? Or, are their filled with cautious dialogue about the scarcity of finances, the lack of available leaders, and the necessity to not move forward if there is one person not in favor?

What are your thoughts? Please leave your comments by clicking the comments link below. George is doing some research on this subject, and we'll forward any and all replies to him as well.

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September 20, 2004 in Leadership Issues | Permalink | Comments (15)

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

The Pastor and Job Satisfaction

I received an email this morning from a friend passing on an old article written by Eugene Peterson. This first appeared almost ten years ago in Leadership Journal, but its insight and advice is great for a day just like today. Peterson writes...

Being a pastor who satisfies a congregation is one of the easiest jobs on the face of the earth—if we are satisfied with satisfying congregations. The hours are good, the pay is adequate, the prestige considerable. Why don't we find it easy? Why aren't we content with it?

Because we set out to do something quite different. We set out to risk our lives in a venture of faith. We committed ourselves to a life of holiness. At some point we realized the immensity of God and of the great invisibles that socket into our arms and legs, into bread and wine, into our brains and our tools, into mountains and rivers, giving them meaning, destiny, value, joy, beauty, salvation. We responded to a call to convey these realities in Word and sacrament. We offered ourselves to give leadership that connects and coordinates what the people in this community of faith are doing in their work and play with what God is doing in mercy and grace.

In the process, we learned the difference between a profession, a craft, and a job.

A job is what we do to complete an assignment. Its primary requirement is that we give satisfaction to whomever makes the assignment and pays our wage. We learn what is expected, and we do it. There is nothing wrong with doing jobs. To some extent, we all have them; somebody has to wash the dishes and take out the garbage.

But professions and crafts are different. In these, we have an obligation beyond pleasing somebody. We are pursuing or shaping the very nature of reality, convinced that when we carry out our commitments, we benefit people at a far deeper level than if we simply did what they asked of us.

Do you look at your work as a 'job' or a 'profession'? How did you feel when you arrived at the office this morning? Excited and ready to start the day, or already tired?

In a interview in this month's issue of Vision Magazine, Bob Coy, the senior Pastor of Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale tells of when he was about ready to quit his church plant after two years because not much seemed to be happening. Bob said he called one of the people that was overseeing him and said, "Here's what's happening: I have only 40 or 50 people attending, it's been two years here, I am not appreciated or respected for what I have accomplished, and I'm thinking about going back to Las Vegas." The person on the other end of the phone asked him, "Well, do you not want to be there?" Bob's reply was, "Well, ministry is becoming a burden." The response back in his ear was, "If it's a burden, then you need to leave. Representing the work God has given you as a burden is not the Lord; His burden is light. I think you ought to leave. There are some college students here that would love and care for those people." Bob said that this was not really what he was expecting to hear, and it caused him to get a little 'fiesty' in heart. Bob said he thought to himself, "No young college student is going to come here and care for these people. These are my sheep and I'm gonna love them."

Bob Coy continues, "It was a strange thing, because what happened was God was testing me to find out where my heart was at. Was I just looking for a big thing? Was I just looking for the success of a ministry or did I really care about sheep? The beauty of that was that I came back to church the following week, I think, a different man, and I cared more about discipleship, more about love, and cared about taking these people and really investing in their lives." Bob was able to change his mindset from having a 'job' to having a 'profession'.

Where are you at today? Have you had a similar experience (moving from a 'job' to a 'profession')?

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September 14, 2004 in Personnel Issues, Senior Pastors | Permalink | Comments (2)