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Thursday, March 31, 2005

Conflict? Ask Ken: Is Bibilical Forgiveness Conditional? Yes!

Ken1This week, Church Conflict Resolution Specialist Ken Newberger continues his series on the tough topic of forgiveness. 

“One of the most practical questions relating to forgiveness is this: according to the Bible, is forgiveness dependent upon the repentance of the offender?  My exposure to popular books and articles, on balance, suggest that the answer is “no.”  My study of Scripture, however, yields an answer of “yes.” 

One of the key concepts and texts that guides my thinking is Ephesians 4:32.  It reads, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

The critical question that needs to be answered here is, “how does God forgive us?”  Let’s answer this question in two ways.  First, how does God forgive us as Christians, His children, those born-again?  The answer is found in 1 John 1:9.  “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  Is God willing to enter into full fellowship with us in our daily lives when we refuse to acknowledge our sins against Him?  According to this verse, the answer is no.  God’s forgiveness toward us in our walk with Him, those who are destined to spend eternity with Him, occurs only when we acknowledge our sins.  Until then, His sweet fellowship in our daily lives is withheld.

Second, how does God forgive those who have never entered into a relationship with Him?  Consider three passages:  “And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 3:3).  “Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:45-47).  “And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). 

These and other verses make it clear that God’s forgiveness is conditional on a person’s repentant heart.  To argue otherwise, of course, would be to undercut the gospel and preach a universalism (everyone’s saved no matter what) which the Scriptures know nothing of.  Accordingly, since we are to forgive others as God in Christ forgives us, repentance must precede forgiveness.

 A different line of Biblical evidence that indicates that forgiveness is conditional on repentance comes from Luke 17:3-4.  Jesus is speaking and says, “Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”  When does forgiveness come, according to Jesus, before repentance of after?   The answer is after.  In other words, there is no limit on the number of times a person is to be forgiven.  But in Jesus’ teaching, no such grace is extended to the unrepentant.”

DISCUSSION:   More can be said and will be said in a future posting.  There are numerous related issues that need to be addressed, and will be.  My immediate goal in this article is to present a position, held by other Christians (including John Schlaack, March 21, 2005 12:09 pm, Are Some Offenses Unforgivable?) but probably not heard as often.  What are your thoughts on this critically important and emotional issue, and why?

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© 2005 Kenneth C. Newberger
Ken Newberger, an experienced church conflict resolution specialist, earned his Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary, has ten years senior pastoral experience, and is in the dissertation phase for his Ph.D. in Conflict Analysis and Resolution at Nova Southeastern University, one of only two accredited doctoral programs of its kind in the United States. If your church needs help resolving conflict, if you need individual coaching, or if you would like to introduce a proactive conflict management system into your church, please visit Ken's website at
www.ResolveChurchConflict.com  or call 301-253-8877.

 

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March 31, 2005 in Church Conflict | Permalink | Comments (19) | TrackBack

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Is the Emergent Church Movement a Threat to the Gospel?

EmergeThis is the first part of a two series blog entry (Check Friday for the next entry and a response)…

Here is an interesting article on “The Emerging Church” written by David Roach at BPNews.net:

In a book entitled "Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church," which is scheduled to be published in June by Zondervan, theologian D.A. Carson defines the Emerging Church Movement as a group of people who believe the church must use new modes of expressing the Gospel as western culture adopts a postmodern mindset.

"At the heart of the 'movement' ... lies the conviction that changes in the culture signal that a new church is 'emerging,'" writes Carson, who serves as research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Ill. "Christian leaders must therefore adapt to this emerging church. Those who fail to do so are blind to the cultural accretions that hide the gospel behind forms of thought and modes of expression that no longer communicate with the new generation."

According to Carson, the movement arose as a protest against the institutional church, modernism and seeker-sensitive churches.

At times it is difficult to identify with precision the participants and parameters of the movement, he writes.

Carson acknowledges that the Emerging Church Movement has encouraged evangelicals to take note of cultural trends and has emphasized authenticity among believers.

He criticizes the movement, however, for a reductionistic understanding of modernism and an inappropriate dismissal of confessional Christianity.

Carson asserts that some Emerging Church leaders are "painfully reductionistic about modernism and the confessional Christianity that forged its way through the modernist period" and that they "give the impression of dismissing" Christianity.

Carson argues that many thinkers in the movement shy away from asserting that Christianity is true and authoritative.

He also argues that the Emerging Church Movement frequently fails to use Scripture as the normative standard of truth and instead appeals to tradition.

In response to Carson, McLaren told Baptist Press that "Dr. Carson doesn't understand us."

McLaren, who is the founding pastor of Cedar Ridge Community Church near Baltimore, Md., and was listed as one of 25 influential evangelicals by TIME magazine, said that he rejects the label "movement" to describe the Emerging Church.

"I generally don't even use the term movement at this point," he said. "I think it's more of a conversation. It's a group of people who are talking about the Gospel and church and mission, especially in terms of changes going on in our culture that some people call a shift from modern to postmodern culture."

In contrast to the cultural imperialism demonstrated by believers in the past, McLaren believes Christians should present Christianity through loving attitudes rather than logical arguments.

"Those of us in the west now ... realize that there were a lot of bad consequences of European and American people trying to tell everybody else how things are," he said. "We feel that there's got to be a lot more humility and a lot more gentleness and that the Gospel is made credible not by how we argue and make truth claims. But it's made credible by the love and the good deeds that flow from our lives and our community."

R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., questions McLaren's claim to be giving a credible witness for the Gospel. In an Internet commentary posted on crosswalk.com Mohler argues that McLaren's claim to uphold historic Christian faith and simultaneously avoid articulating truth in propositional form is self-contradictory.

Responding to McLaren's book, "A Generous Orthodoxy," Mohler writes, "Embracing the worldview of the postmodern age, he embraces relativism at the cost of clarity in matters of truth and intends to redefine Christianity for this new age, largely in terms of an eccentric mixture of elements he would take from virtually every theological position and variant."

"... As a postmodernist, he considers himself free from any concern for propositional truthfulness, and simply wants the Christian community to embrace a pluriform understanding of truth as a way out of doctrinal conflict and impasse."

Mohler charges McLaren with speaking about clear-cut issues in an unbiblical and ambiguous manner.

"When it comes to issues such as the exclusivity of the gospel, the identity of Jesus Christ as both fully human and fully divine, the authoritative character of Scripture as written revelation, and the clear teaching of Scripture concerning issues such as homosexuality, this movement simply refuses to answer the questions," Mohler writes.

"A responsible theological argument must acknowledge that difficult questions demand to be answered. We are not faced with an endless array of doctrinal variants from which we can pick and choose.

"Homosexuality either will or will not be embraced as normative. The church either will or will not accept a radical revisioning of the missionary task. We will either see those who have not come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as persons to whom we should extend a clear gospel message and a call for decision, or we will simply come alongside them to tell our story as they tell their own."

McLaren answers Mohler by saying that he is seeking to contextualize the Gospel as many Southern Baptists do. At times contextualizing the Gospel may mean encouraging people to become followers of Jesus without encouraging them to become a part of the institutional church, McLaren added.

"Dr. Albert Mohler is one of the people who have talked about this," McLaren said. "But yet there are many Southern Baptists who are doing this very thing. ... Many missionaries are ... realizing that the issue isn't whether a person identifies with a religion that now is seen as a western European religion. But the important thing is to help people identify with Jesus and become followers of Jesus."

When asked whether a person must trust Christ as dying to make atonement for sin in order to be a Christian, McLaren replied, "I want to help people understand everything they can about the cross. ... I wouldn't say that having that understanding (Jesus dying as a substitute for sinful humanity) is all that it means to be a Christian. I think that some people might have that understanding and not be interested in following Jesus. They want Jesus' blood to pay for their sins so they can go to heaven, but they aren't really interested in following Jesus in this life."

McLaren declined to give his opinion on the morality of homosexuality, saying that the issue has become inappropriately political.

"I have my own opinions, but I don't believe that the smartest thing for me to do is to go around and make those varying opinions a reason to separate myself from other Christians," he said. "I fellowship with Christians who have a diversity of opinion of this (homosexuality)."

Because of his views on salvation and other issues, the Kentucky Baptist Convention recently withdrew an invitation for McLaren to speak at the convention's evangelism conference Feb. 28-March 1.

"I respect Dr. McLaren greatly and have appreciated his insight on reaching people in today's culture," KBC executive director Bill Mackey said. "We try to bring dynamic speakers to the Evangelism Conference who will challenge and inspire their listeners. I felt that in this instance, however, Dr. McLaren's position diverges too greatly to be appropriate for this conference."

Mohler concludes that McLaren and other leaders in the Emergent Church represent "a significant challenge to biblical Christianity."

"Unwilling to affirm that the Bible contains propositional truths that form the framework for Christian belief, this movement argues that we can have Christian symbolism and substance without those thorny questions of truthfulness that have so vexed the modern mind," Mohler writes.

"The worldview of postmodernism -- complete with an epistemology that denies the possibility of or need for propositional truth -- affords the movement an opportunity to hop, skip and jump throughout the Bible and the history Christian thought in order to take whatever pieces they want from one theology and attach them, like doctrinal post-it notes, to whatever picture they would want to draw."

What do you think?

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March 30, 2005 in Leadership Issues | Permalink | Comments (22) | TrackBack

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Elephant in the Boardroom: A Crisis Transition Plan For Your Church

Elephant_boardroomThis is our last look at the book "The Elephant in the Boardroom:  Speaking the Unspoken about Pastoral Transitions."  (Please see below how you can get a copy).  Today's topic:  Crisis Transition...


"Church folks would be the first to admit that ultimately only God is in control. Unexpected events happen to all of us, and humility requires us to acknowledge our frailty in the face of forces larger than ourselves. Yet church leaders often operate without the slightest idea of what they will do if their pastor is suddenly taken from them.

 

We cope with the unexpected by devising crisis and contingency plans. Every time we get into a car and snap a seatbelt around our waist, we are establishing a crisis plan. We are not in control of every other driver on the road, let alone large animals, weather, landslides, earthquakes, pedestrians, or mechanical failure in our vehicle or someone else's. Nor are we fully in control of ourselves, sudden distractions, health emergencies, or people within our vehicle. A seat belt is a crisis plan that says, "If something unexpected happens and this car hits a large object, I have a plan for protecting my body from severe injury."

It is sobering to realize that most churches do not have a plan in place that will manage the risk of a sudden pastoral departure. The reasons why a pastor might suddenly leave generate a substantial list:

• Sudden onset of a debilitating physical illness

• Mental illness, emotional collapse

• Traumatic event in the life of a family member

• Death by accident, catastrophic health problem, or violence

• Family problem such as divorce

• Personal problems that necessitate dismissal

• An unexpected, but desirable ministry opportunity for the pastor, with a short time line

Some of these events are more likely than others and all are things we would rather not think about; nevertheless, real-life examples come to mind in every case. Taken together, the possibility of a sudden pastoral departure is real and worthy of attention.

Elements of a Crisis Plan

The critical elements of any crisis plan are safety, command structure, continuity of service, communication, and restoration of normalcy. When a pastor departs suddenly, each is an issue; a crisis plan should address them all.

Safety — The plan should provide a way to ensure the physical, emotional, and spiritual safety of members. If the pastor has died suddenly, critical incident debriefing may be necessary for the church staff and lay leadership, and perhaps for the entire church. Since the sudden death of a role model can be traumatic, prompt attention should be given to the entire congregation. The crisis transition plan should contain a list of mental health care providers, with contact names and phone numbers.

Command Structure — In the emergency phase of a crisis (generally the first twenty-four hours but as long as one week), there is often insufficient time for collaborative or group decision making. Trusted individuals have to be given the authority to act. These individuals should be identified in the crisis plan.

Continuity of Service — Since the primary mission of the church is to provide service in the name of Christ, it is important that the plan feature a way for quality services to be continued wherever possible. Critical. Pastoral Resource. We call this person your "CPR" (for critical pastoral resource). The purpose of a CPR is to offer worship leadership during those first two critical weeks when the right tone can have long-term benefits. This provision for a CPR in a crisis plan has a number of advantages. It gives the congregation a worship experience under the leadership of someone they know and trust. It brings a person with the right gifts to the situ¬ation that can promote healing and inspire confidence. It sends a clear signal to the congregation that the church is in capable and compassionate hands. Finally, it gives leaders who are work¬ing to provide interim worship leadership more time to do that task well.

Communication — One critical function in a crisis is communication. Generally, it is advisable that one person be given the responsibility for managing communication. There are a number of levels of communication that must be managed:

• Staff

• Lay leaders

• Congregation

• Area pastors

• Denominational bodies

• Friends of the church

• Geographical communities (local, regional, national)

• Media communities (radio, television, Internet)

 Restoration of Normalcy -- Once the emergency phase of the crisis is past, work can be resumed on restoring the church to normalcy. This requires an orderly, focused process to recruit and orient a new pastor."

I Highly Recommend…

The Elephant in the Boardroom: Speaking the Unspoken Truth about Pastoral Transitions -- Carolyn Weese and J. Russell Crabtree—experts in the field of church leadership—have written a nuts-and-bolts guide to developing a succession plan for smoothing pastoral transitions. Filled with strategies and solid advice, this handy resource is based in solid research and the authors’ many years of experience working with churches in a wide variety of denominations. Weese and Crabtree clearly show that leadership succession should be part of every church’s planning process. Hardcover. 240 pages from Leadership Network Publications. More Information...

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March 29, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Monday, March 28, 2005

Beating the "After Easter Sunday Blues"

Easter_lilyYou know the feeling you have when you're hosting a party and the last person leaves to go home? Or when you've been looking forward to a certain event for months and it's finally over? Or maybe the superficial feeling you have deep down when you find you've opened the last Christmas present?

My wife has a favorite aunt and uncle that live a few hours away. She gets to see them (maybe) once or twice a year, and she always looks forward to visiting with them. When they finally leave to go home, she naturally feels very let-down. In our house, we call this feeling the "Aunt Ellen and Uncle Norris just went home" mood. It's the kind of depressed and let down feeling you have when something you've looked forward to for a long time has just come and past (and you don't have it to look forward to any more).

Easter is one of those days for me. I love Easter. It's my favorite holiday. Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas when we celebrate Christ's birth... but what can be better than celebrating his rising from the dead? Many Christians anticipate Easter and look forward to Easter services. But for pastors and church staff, Easter is 'lived' and prepared for for literally weeks and months. It's a day that's much anticipated... a day when many new people, many faithless people, many people who NEVER come to church actually do. It's a day as a pastor you live for. You live for the excitement, the crowd, and the opportunity to proclaim God's Word in the best way you know how.

And now it's over. The crowds are gone. The music has silenced. Aunt Ellen and Uncle Norris just went home.

How are you feeling this morning, the morning after Easter? If you feel a little let down, that's ok... it's normal. But we have some great things to be thankful for today that should lift our spirits and get us pumped for next Sunday, the Sunday AFTER Easter:

1. Christ is STILL risen! Even if we selfishly feel a little let down this morning, let's not forget the big picture. The very thing we proclaimed yesterday has tremendous impact in the way we start our week today. Christ is STILL alive; and that makes all the difference in our job; and also gives us a reason to be motivated.

2. If you were faithful yesterday, the seed of God's Word was planted and is surely growing ever so slowly in someone's heart today! Even if you know of no heart that was changed or life that was dedicated to Christ yesterday, you can count on the fact that God used your faithfulness in some way... quite possibly in a way that you'll never realize this side of heaven.

3. Next week ISN'T Easter! That's good news! The pressure is off. That means a little less stress, and the ability to concentrate on what needs to be done without all the added 'pressure to perform'.

After last Easter's services, Pastor Mark Roberts (who pastors at Irvine Presbyterian Church in Irvine, CA) wrote this:

"It’s the Monday after Easter. I preached at four services yesterday. These came on the heels of one service on Saturday and two on Good Friday. For a pastor, this past weekend is rather like my Super Bowl. Today I feel exhausted, but happy, grateful, and reflective."

Do you feel like this today? Exhausted, but happy? Grateful and reflective? It's natural.

Pastor Mark continues, "The services are over, but the reality of Easter continues on today, and tomorrow, and each day ahead forever. Thus we can live with confidence, knowing that Christ has won the decisive battle. Though the mop-up aspect of the war remains, Christ is the victor, and therefore we share in his victory."

That gives us reason to be excited!

Have a GREAT Monday!
Todd A. Rhoades
Todd A. Rhoades
Webmaster -
ChurchStaffing.com

FOR DISCUSSION:  How are you feeling this morning? What exceptional happened in your Easter services? Let's discuss this today.  Please leave your input now!

BY THE WAY... Pastor Mark Roberts has a great minute-by-minute, blow-by-blow recall of his experience as a pastor last Easter that I know you would enjoy... It's entitled "Easter from the Other Side of the Pulpit". I'm sure you can relate and would enjoy reading this!

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March 28, 2005 in Leadership Issues | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Friday, March 25, 2005

20 Financial & Generosity Fast Facts Impacting Churches

Brian Kluth offers these 20 Financial Facts that most definitely impact your church…

1. Average credit card debt per U.S. household is $8400.Source: Cardweb.com

2. Americans spent more on legalized gambling ($2500 for every American) than on groceries. Source: Focus on the Family article on the 1997 US abstract reports

3. Requests for emergency shelter assistance grew an average of 19% from 2001 to 2002 in 18 major cities - the steepest rise in a decade. Of these requests, 41% were families, 41% single men, 13% single women, 5% minors. USA Today 2003

4. 70% of employees are retiring BEFORE they are 65. And 33% of retirees indicated that 90% of their income came from their Social Security retirement check of $895/month in 2002.Washington Post 2003

5. 20% of Americans have items stored in the U.S.'s 40,000 storage facilities. USA Today 2003

6. Many U.S. families (and churches) are 1 to 2 months away from $$$ crisis.

7. Record 1.5 million bankruptcies in 2002 (more than the ENTIRE decade of the 1960's).US Courts

8. Financial problems are the largest contributing cause of marital stress and divorce.

9. Average college student carries 4 credit cards (with UNPAID balances of $2327).Washington Post 2003

10. 50% of new college graduates owe $10,000-$40,000 in student loans (and 1/3rd were unable to make their first monthly payment 6 months after graduation). Source: Wall Street Journal 2003

11. $10-13 trillion dollars in inheritances will be transferred to the baby boomer generation within the next 10-20 years. Yet, 70+% of the elderly today have NO will or trust ($0 for church/non-profits) Source: Chronicle of Philanthropy

12. 95% of Christian Educational Institutions (colleges, universities, seminaries and Bible colleges) offer NO personal or ministry financial curriculum. Lilly Foundation Studies

13. 90% of Denominations offer no available (or limited) financial teaching resources to their pastors or churches. CSA research

14. 85% of Pastors feel unequipped and uncomfortable teaching on finances and giving. Lilly Foundation Studies

15. 90% of Churches have no active plan for teaching Biblical financial principles. CSA seminar research

16. In 2000, 12% of all born again adults tithed to their local church. The percentage rose to 14% in 2001, but dropped to only 6% in 2002. This represents a 62% drop! Barna.org May 2003

17. There has been a 30+ year decline in the % Christians give (depending on the denomination, the average giving is 1% – 3½ %) Source: Empty Tomb Research

18. 20-35% of church attendee giving records are blank ($0 of recorded offerings given). Source: CSA

19. In 1999, ~$3 billion was given to 600 Christian mission agencies. Compare this to $58 billion for soda products, $24 billion in jewelry store sales, $8 billion for movies theaters, $13 billion for chocolate products, $38 billion in vending machine sales, $11 billion for comp/video games, $7 billion greeting cards, $23 billion for toys, $91 billion in lawn/garden industry, $23 billion for pets. Source: Empty Tomb Research

20. In the Bible, there are 40 verses on "baptism", 275 verses on "prayer", 350 verses on "faith", 650 verses on "love" -- and 2,350 verses that relate specifically to finances and material possessions

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Brian Kluth is a senior pastor, founder of www.MAXIMUMgenerosity.org, generosity speaker/trainer for denomination and pastors conferences, and the author of a FREE monthly email newsletter on generosity for pastors, church leaders, and denominational leaders.

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March 25, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Conflict? Ask Ken? Issues Relating to Forgiveness

Forgiveness plays an instrumental role in the rehabilitation of interpersonal relations. Consequently, it is important to view forgiveness from many different perspectives to best appreciate it for what it is and is not. In this posting, let’s consider three.

Bob’s Question
First, Bob wrote
[Conflict? Ask Ken: March 14, 2005 02:10 pm], “Our church is dealing with issues involving reconciliation and forgiveness. This impacts me personally because there is a difference of opinion on whether I have committed an offense. Some contend I have, and that I should ask forgiveness for that offense, but I contend otherwise. I believe that I have done something they disagree with, but which is not offensive. (I could give you details, but it would take too much space.) Here's my question: let's assume that I have, in fact, done nothing wrong or offensive. Am I wrong in not seeking their forgiveness anyway as a path to possible reconciliation? (I should also tell you that it is my personal assessment that, were I to ask for forgiveness, no reconciliation would actually occur; that my apology would actually be used against me.) I genuinely seek reconciliation, however I consider it an unattainable goal.”

Bob, given the assumption that you “have, in fact, done nothing wrong or offensive,” for what would you be apologizing? To do so would not only be dishonest, but would pervert the process. It would become a demonstration of forced subservience instead of a true reconnection of relations. Such a symbolic act not based on truth will likely make more permanent the existing alienation. The fact that you feel that the apology would be used “against” you, speaks to me not only of a highly charged environment, but of larger, unresolved matters. If this assumption is correct, the question becomes, have you attempted to address the real problem behind the “presenting” problem? I would recommend that you call upon the services of a mediator/peacemaker to uncover the real issues that need to be faced for a true reconciliation. Such matters left unaddressed will likely lead to a further deterioration of relations.

Forgiveness: In Concept
At this juncture, let’s establish a working definition of forgiveness. At its core, forgiveness is a relational act between the wrongdoer and the one who is wronged. It is the way for people to restore a relationship which has been strained or broken because of one person’s offense against the other.

When forgiveness has been bestowed, it means that we will not call to mind the other person’s sins to use them against that person. In this, we can look to God’s pattern with people. The Bible teaches that when God forgives, He remembers people’s sins no more (Isaiah 43:25, Jeremiah 31:34). He removes their transgressions from them as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:10-12). He buries people’s sins in the deepest seas (Micah 7:18-19). This figurative language clearly communicates that after forgiveness has been bestowed, there is no more condemnation. With this understanding, we are better able to tackle the next
issue relating to forgiveness.

Forgiveness by an Unauthorized Proxy?
[Those of you who are new to this discussion, you may want to read the
Wiesenthal story and his response to a dying Nazi soldier, and then last’s week’s follow-up discussion]. Since all sin against others is also sin against God (Gen. 39:6-9, Lev. 6:1-3, Psalm 51:4, Luke 15:17-19, Acts 5:1-4), I fully understand how Jesus could forgive someone who didn’t directly sin against Him. We read, in Mark 2, Jesus said to a paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” When the religious leaders heard this they were astounded and said, “why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?” Jesus did not deny that assertion. Rather, He went on to demonstrate that He had such authority by enabling the man to walk, and hence evidence of His divinity and ability to forgive.

I can also see how a minister, speaking as God’s representative, could assure a person that God forgives those who come to Him in repentance.

However, these are a far cry from saying that someone other than the offended has the authority and standing to forgive the offender. If, for example, Bob viciously insults Sue, can Mary forgive Bob a week later for his outburst against Sue? Hypothetically speaking, if Bob could truly be forgiven by Mary, then the matter is closed, and Sue is left out in the cold with the insult but no means by which to rectify her relationship with Bob.

Jesus said in Mat. 5:23-24, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”

In light of Jesus’ words, Mary’s bestowing of forgiveness is meaningless because she was not offended. Nor did anyone appoint her as the representative of all women that she could stand in Sue’s place.

“Apology” and “forgiveness” are relational terms between two very specific people who are connected by an offense. To introduce unauthorized “strangers” into the mix, is to devalue the meaning and transformational power of forgiveness.

Should the Bestowal of Forgiveness be Conditional, Based on the Repentance of the Offender?

Lord willing, this will be the focus on next week’s posting. Until then, feel free to get an early jump on sharing your perspective regarding this most critical question.

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© 2005 Kenneth C. Newberger
Ken Newberger, an experienced church conflict resolution specialist, earned his Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary, has ten years senior pastoral experience, and is in the dissertation phase for his Ph.D. in Conflict Analysis and Resolution at Nova Southeastern University, one of only two accredited doctoral programs of its kind in the United States. If your church needs help resolving conflict, if you need individual coaching, or if you would like to introduce a proactive conflict management system into your church, please visit Ken's website at
www.ResolveChurchConflict.com  or call 301-253-8877.

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March 24, 2005 in Church Conflict | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Grasping the Needs of Your Community... Thinking like a Pastorpreneur

John Jackson writes…

The difference you make in the world relates to your ability to take your best and put it into practice each day.

After you have Gripped God’s calling on your life, the next step to thinking like a PastorPreneur is to “Grasp the Needs of Your Community”. Since Jesus called us to “Love God with all our heart and our neighbor as ourselves” and He told us that our neighbors are those in need, how should we then live? Here are some exciting challenges to help develop your Grasp on the Needs of your Community:

Robert Schuller says “find a need and fill it, find a hurt and heal it…and you’ll never lack for ministry opportunity”. He’s right

Bill Hybels says that it is a tragedy that the average McDonalds owner knows more about our communities than do the Pastors….and all they want to do is sell a burger and fries

You can go to “Anytown USA” and attend Chamber of Commerce meetings, community forums, school gatherings and ask 3 simple questions: 1) What do you think is the greatest need in our community?, 2) If you were to go to a church, what would you suggest that church focus on in order to meet the needs in our community?, 3) What one factor might make you consider attending church?

According to George Barna, about 2/3 of the unchurched people in the United States call themselves Christians! But, when drilling deeper, their worldview is not at all consistent with Scripture. How can you reach your community and understand what they believe?

Meeting needs in the name of Christ opens the door to community impact. Christian business leaders and entrepreneurial pastors can transform a community with the power of God through need-meeting and innovative impact strategies.

When we see the needs of the people in our community, our heart should break. Not just because of the needs, but the reality that so many are seeking to have those needs met outside a relationship with Christ. We in the church know that the only complete answer to the questions of life is a vital union with Jesus Christ. PastorPreneurs learn to think like Christ by seeing the needs of people as an opportunity to extend love and grace and open doors to conversations with neighbors who don't yet know God in a personal way.

Todd

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For Further Reading

Pastorpreneur: Pastors and Entrepreneurs Answer the Call (by John Jackson) The author mines the depths of God's calling and provides five creative strategies to help fulfill the Great Commission in your community. More Information...

 

 

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Dr. John Jackson is the Founding and Senior Pastor of Carson Valley Christian Center in Minden, Nevada. He is also the author of Pastorpreneur, High Impact Church Planting and a host of other helpful leadership resources. More information and resources can be seen at www.pastorpreneur.com.

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March 23, 2005 in Leadership Issues | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The Elephant in the Boardroom: Starting a Pastoral Transition Plan for Your Church

For the past few Tuesdays we’ve been taking a close look at the book, “The Elephant in the Boardroom:  Speaking the Unspoken Truth about Pastoral Transitions.”  We’re almost done with our series on this book, and today we’ll begin to look at how you can start to implement a pastoral transition plan in your church.  Carolyn Weese and J. Russell Crabtree write…

“There is an elephant in the board room. How do we begin to talk about it? A good starting point is to explore why we have not been talking about it all along...

It makes sense to avoid the issue of pastoral transition if the benefits are small and the penalties imposed by avoidance are not significant. In what kind of context does a surprise announcement from a departing pastor to a church with no transition plan have a relatively minor impact? Here are some descriptors:

• There is a surplus of pastors, and a high-quality successor will be readily available.

• The culture is favorably disposed to church involvement, and church membership is a standard expectation. The culture pushes people into the religious institution, and the church pulls people toward itself. In times when the church is not functioning optimally (as in a transition), the push of the culture keeps people involved.

• There is a high degree of denominational loyalty. People stay with a church even when it is not performing at a high level.

• Off-the-shelf denominational programs are effective without significant localization or customization.

• The culture has low expectations related to the quality or scope of religious programming.

• The culture has few competitors to the church for people's time and resources.

In this environment, the downside of a pastoral transition is relatively small...

But things have changed. Today, the elephant is large, ignoring it has major consequences, and talking about it holds out hope for a better church by sustaining the excellence that has been hard won over years of learning. A new wisdom is now needed...

All the research is clear. A different cognitive understanding of an issue does not produce change. Only when a person or group of people are able to explore their fears in a safe environment does change become possible. In other words, change is first a spiritual issue before it is an informational one...

However you choose to address this issue, it is important that you do something as a starting point. A crisis transition plan (or a generic transition plan) can be a good first step. It does not require a timetable or negotiated planning. It does get leaders thinking about what a good transition might look like. After that step is taken, more comprehensive planning can take place that is more strategic and less contingency-driven...

This is the way of Jesus. The Great Shepherd protects what He has brought into light from the womb of the Spirit. At its best, this is what transition planning is all about.”

FOR DISCUSSION:  Does your church have any kind of pastoral transition plan?  Do you see the need for one?  Please share the specifics of your church’s plan.

Todd

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I Highly Recommend… 

The Elephant in the Boardroom: Speaking the Unspoken Truth about Pastoral Transitions -- Carolyn Weese and J. Russell Crabtree—experts in the field of church leadership—have written a nuts-and-bolts guide to developing a succession plan for smoothing pastoral transitions. Filled with strategies and solid advice, this handy resource is based in solid research and the authors’ many years of experience working with churches in a wide variety of denominations. Weese and Crabtree clearly show that leadership succession should be part of every church’s planning process. Hardcover. 240 pages from Leadership Network Publications. More Information...

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March 22, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Monday, March 21, 2005

The Stages of a Pastor's Ministry

StepsHenry Webb has an insightful new article just posted over at Lifeway.com.  According to Henry, there are at least four stages that you can expect to journey through as a pastor or church staff member.  Here's some of what Henry has to say...

As a pastor, God is leading you on a journey through stages of ministry. From thousands of conversations with pastors through the years, my co-workers and I have identified the following four stages that can provide helpful understanding and guidance throughout your life as a pastor. As you travel the road with our Lord, you will not experience the stages as neatly separated but as overlapping phases.

You are a pastor because God has called you to that role. The tendency is to focus only on your initial call to ministry. However, God guides you to renew that calling in fresh ways throughout your ministry. The journey is not easy. The path includes educational challenges, major concerns, significant personal issues, and dangers to navigate along the way. God wants you to stay on course. In addition to the presence of His Spirit, He provides you different people as sources of help as you move through the stages.

1. Foundation Stage

The foundation stage focuses on responding to God’s call and becoming oriented to pastoral ministry. For some the call to “the ministry” may come as early as the teen years. For others it comes later in life. Laying an adequate foundation for a lifetime of ministry may take five years or twenty. Look for God to send you encouragers/teachers like Barnabas as a source of help during this crucial stage.

A base for a long ministry requires completing as much formal education as possible. The major concern is to get off to a good start. This includes the personal issues of laying a foundation for spiritual, marital, and family health. Watch out for career-ending mistakes and attacks.

2. Maturing Stage

The maturing stage focuses on developing your pastoral ministry skills to accomplish God’s work. God’s call is now more specific to “this ministry” that He has set before you. This period is often during the twenties through the forties. Watch for a mentor or several mentors like Paul that God will send as your source of help during this stage. Educationally, it is essential to develop the study skills to be a life-long learner.

The major concern is developing and enhancing your skills for ministry. Personally, continue to strengthen your spiritual, marital, and family health. Your primary dangers are failing to grow and not developing strong people skills.

3. Multiplying Stage

The multiplying stage focuses on executing effective ministry and reproducing yourself through others. God can use this stage from the thirties through the sixties to reaffirm and refine your calling. In this stage, God provides a support network/team like Paul’s missionary friends.

A part of the reproducing God accomplishes is your influence on others through your networks. A challenge is to participate in continuing education as a part of being a life-long learner. A significant concern during this time of life is finding a good fit where your unique ministry blossoms. This involves maintaining your spiritual maturity, launching your children, and refocusing your marriage. Be vigilant to the dangers of growing weary and dropping out.

4. Legacy Stage

The legacy stage is your opportunity to leave a spiritual legacy by finishing well and investing in others. This stage may start in the fifties and can continue beyond retirement until death. God’s call to invest in a spiritual legacy is a gift from Him. Be alert for protégés like Timothy.

Training others will influence future generations. This means you will be able to finish strong with continued fruitfulness, peace, and joy. Rather than finishing tired, bitter, and alone, continue to walk close to God, celebrate your marriage, and enjoy your grandchildren.

Remember that God alone determines if you are navigating the journey with effectiveness. Thus, ultimately you are not looking for the approval and applause of the congregation or your peers. Rather you are looking for the words of your Master: “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Enjoy the journey.

[You can read the whole article at Lifeway.com now]

FOR DISCUSSION:  What stage are you in?  Do you find Henry's stages to be true in your ministry journey?  Which stage has been the most enjoyable for you?  How about the most frustrating?  Let's discuss this!

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March 21, 2005 in Leadership Issues | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Friday, March 18, 2005

Getting a Grip on Pastoral Rage

RageEd Rowell has a great article posted over at LeadershipJournal.net on pastoral rage.  Ed writes...

During a recent baptism, I paraphrased a passage of Scripture to fit the situation: "If anyone is in Christ, he or she (I was baptizing a young woman) is a new creature in Christ."

The next morning, I was going through the cards we use for guest registration, prayer requests, and miscellaneous information. Suddenly one of them nailed me, by name, for "daring to change the infallible, inerrant, unchangeable Word of God. When the Bible says 'he,' it means 'he' … to change it to fit your rampant feminist agenda is the worst kind of heresy."

Most days I would have tossed it in the trash with the hope that he buy a better laxative. But that particular Monday, that note really scorched me. I wasted an hour writing a scathing reply, even though the note was unsigned. (We've since adopted the policy of trashing unsigned critiques without reading them.)

At lunch I told a buddy about it, and he asked, "Why did that one make you so angry?"

[You can read the whole article here.]

FOR DISCUSSION:  Do you ever get to the point that you feel like Ed?  How do you deal with that stress?  What did you think of Ed's suggestions?

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March 18, 2005 in Leadership Issues | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack