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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

What I Learned at Summer Camp

Camp One of the blogs I really enjoy reading is by Seth Godin. Seth is a common-sense marketing genius that always has something interesting to say. I read this and immediately thought about the similarities between what he is saying and what many church staff members experience on a daily basis. Read what Seth has to say and see what you think...

"My friend Tim dropped me a note, asking me if I had any tips as to where he might go to improve his public speaking. I was flattered that he asked, and then took a minute to think about where I learned how to speak in public.

Answer? Camp Arowhon.

Wait, there's more. I also learned marketing there.

My summer camp was a marketplace (a loud one). Everyone had to do something, but what you did was up to you. So the canoeing instructor (that was me) was always struggling with the sailing instructor (that was Mike) and the others to get people to come to our dock. If no one came, you were a failure and you didn't get asked back.

I discovered that:

1. No one cared about me. They didn't care about how hard I'd trained, how little I'd slept or how much effort I was putting into my job. [my note: of course people do care about you, but don't you ever get the feeling that there are really few people that understand what it's like to be in your position? Most people feel being a pastor is a 'cush' job... I mean, you 'only work one day a week, right'?]

2. People were rarely willing to try something new. If they'd never done it, they didn't want to start any time soon. [my note: boy, where is this more prevelent than in the church?]

3. Word of mouth was electric. [my note: I've served in both kinds of situations: churches with great word of mouth/momentum; and churches that have had absolutely none. I learned to do whatever you can to try and create positive WOM!]

4. You didn't get many chances to screw up." [my note: take out the obvious moral lapses, which are an instant "strike three" and you still usually have churches that expect close to perfection from their pastors in most cases. Do you serve in a church that where you feel comfortable (and are even encouraged) to fail sometimes?]

You can read Seth's entire post here. It seems you can learn quite a lot at summer camp!

FOR DISCUSSION: What do you think about Seth's observations? Do you find they apply to you in your church situation? Do you deal with apathy, resistance to change, and the consequences of goofing up? Which do you struggle with most? What advice would you have for others if you've overcome any of points 1-4? Please share your thoughts today!

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May 31, 2005 in Leadership Issues | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Friday, May 27, 2005

The Top 10 Churches in the World (by size)

Wolfgang Simson has an interesting post at his SimplyChurch blog that talks about the world's top ten largest churches.  Interestingly enough, not one is in the United States!  Read on...

Agreed: influence in today´s world is far more important than size.
However, looking at the number of people attending some of the world´s largest churches in the year 2004 gives us an understanding of where we are going in the future. Many things are changing: Churches, that have had 300.000 attenders 10 years ago, like the once famous cinema-church "Ondas del Luz y Amor" in Buenos Aires, are almost gone. Completely new models are emerging, like in India´s city Allahabad, where, on Sunday, a University simply changes into a church, with up to 80.000 people attending weekly.

Membership figures are changing strongly, and active participation can be more acurately measured by attendance - "voting with our feet" - than being a name on a membership roll. Yonggi Chos church in Seoul, for example, speaks of 773.000 members, but "only" 253.000 do actually attend the services in the main church and the Seoul satellite churches.

But one of the emerging trends is that clearly "Church" is getting defined in a very different way than we used to. It moves from a denominationally organized setup to organic regionality, from pastoral leadership to apostolic networks, from leaders to elders or parents. Church is no longer just a single organized "Church" with a Senior pastor, a building with a steeple and a programme, but more the organic fellowship and community of Christians in a City or Region - as in NT times. The Body then is the sum total of all members of the interconnected housechurches, cells, groups and interdependent churches. Leadership is no any longer happening through one Senior Pastor, but through regional teams, often functioning acording to apostolic patterns. Connectedness happens through our belonging to Christ and a earthly home: our common region or city. Unity is practically expressed in housechurches that are linked together as well as large Celebrations, or at least regional leadership meeings in areas, where the church is being watched or persecuted. A comparatively small housechurch network in an area in China, for example, would count 400.000 attenders, large ones several millions. The 10 largest regional (not national!) housechurch networks in China, Vietnam or North-India would completely change the list below.

Rank Pastor Church -- average attenders

1. Yonggi Cho Yoido Full Gospel Church, Seoul, Korea

2. Javier Vasquez Yotabeche Methodist P. Church, Santiago, Chile

3. William Kumuyi Deeper Life Bible Church, Lagos, Nigeria

4. Mario Vega Elim Church, San Salvador, El Salvador

5. Cesar Castellanos Mision Carismatica Internacional, Bogota, Kolumbien

6. Omar Cabrera Vision de Futuro, Santa Fe, Argentinien

7. Pastor Oh Young Nak Presbyterian Church, S.Korea

8. David Oyedepa Winners Chapel, Ota, Nigeria

9. R.B. Lal Yesu Darbar, Allahabad Agricultural Institute, Indien

10. V. Choudhrie Chattisgarh/MPradesh Housechurchnet, Indien

FOR DISCUSSION:  Anything here suprise you?

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May 27, 2005 in Church Growth | Permalink | Comments (47) | TrackBack

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Conflict? Ask Ken: Servant Leadership, Church Conflict, and the Hermeneutical Circle

Ken_circle The Problem All Church Leaders Face
A universally understood phenomenon in organizations is that information gets filtered out on the way up the chain of command.  This is especially true of bad news.  In congregations, leaders know less about member's thinking than they realize.  What they do know is overly optimistic.  The downside of this is that because legitimate issues are not addressed in a timely fashion, they become a source of unhappiness for those involved.  And this problem increases as the church grows.  The larger the church, the more its members live in the monologue of its leaders.  Annual or even quarterly meetings are not sufficient return paths of feedback.  There are too many people and not enough time.  In reality, the only ones to whom members can fully express themselves are each other.  In the absence of clear-cut avenues for communicating and processing concerns, members either live in silent frustration, leave the church, or complain to friends causing problems to metastasize.

The Hermeneutical Circle
The hermeneutical circle, a principle of interpretation, states that in order to accurately understand a passage, the interpreter must alternate between examining the most minute detail of the text and the global context in which it exists.  It is a concept that relates to the interplay between the whole and the parts.  A sentence, for example, makes no sense unless the reader knows the meaning of the words.  Yet, the meaning of individual words can only be understood by the context in which they are found.  Murray provides a helpful illustration. Consider the word “line.”

“Get to the back of the line, buddy.

The Bears' defensive line needs a lot of help this year.

And that line drive is going to be caught!

He has always bought into the party line. (Political party)

Thank God they don't have party lines anymore.' (Several households sharing the same phone line.)

The telephone lines are down.

I couldn't draw a straight line if you paid me.

The line of communication between Jordan and Israel has been established.

Would you line up those glasses for me?”

Each sentence makes sense only by knowing the particular use and meaning of the word “line.”  At the same time, the meaning of the word “line” is determined by its larger context. Hence, we see the “circular” relationship between the whole and the part.  That is, it is only an understanding of the whole that gives meaning to the parts and it is only an understanding of the parts that gives meaning to the whole. 

Servant Leadership, Church Conflict, and the Hermeneutical Circle
The concept of the hermeneutical circle nicely dovetails with the Biblical concept of Servant Leadership, that is, with the concept that church leaders both serve (Mark 10:42-45, John 13:12-15) and direct (Acts 20:17, 28-30, I Peter 5:1-4).

Leaders fulfill their mission when they proactively address the  interpersonal concerns and conflicts of the people they serve. Rather than being seen as an aggravation that is best ignored, systematically attending to the squeaky wheels informs the chain of command where adjustments in top-down policies and current practices need to be made.  Such responsiveness is critical to a successful ministry. 

Moses (Exodus 18) and the disciples (Acts 6) each made policy decisions to better meet the needs of those under their care only after existing practices proved to be counter-productive.  Their improved ministries resulted from problems at the bottom reaching the top and then “circling” back down again in the form of new guidelines.

For churches, there is no better way to create a servant leadership "circle" than by formally setting up a problem and conflict resolution system - with feedback to leadership. Leaders can then craft policies to better serve members.  If it is true that without a vision people cast off restraint and create havoc, it is also true that resolving the organizational-related frustrations of the people supports the attainment of the vision.

How effective has the leadership of churches you are or were part of been in pro-actively seeking to address the needs of frustrated members?  What was done right for those of you whose experience has been positive?  What was done wrong or failed to occur for those of you whose experience was less than positive?


Unique_help_1  © 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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May 26, 2005 in Church Conflict | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Why Church Isn't Really a Church

Chad Hall has an interesting article in a recent Leadership Journal entitled, " Why Church Isn't Really a Church"... here are some excerpts... tell me what you think.  [The whole article can be read here].

Anyone familiar with Bill Hybels has heard it: "The hope of the world is the local church." On dozens of occasions, I heard the phrase and nodded in agreement. The phrase led me to commit or recommit myself to serving the local church. The phrase caused me to weep. The phrase gave orientation to my life and to my work.

But lately when I hear it, my response is different. No commitment. No tears. No direction. Just a one-word question filled with doubt: "Really?"

I'm starting to believe the hope of the world cannot possibly rest with the 501(c)3 not-for-profit religious organizations dotting our landscape and holding themselves out to be "churches." It just can't be true.

It's not that I doubt God or the unique and saving nature of Jesus; I truly believe Jesus is the hope of the world. I do not doubt that God's plan is to empower and inspire ordinary people to carry the life-giving message of salvation. I do not even doubt that communities of believers are the God-ordained means for carrying out this grand plan. What I doubt is that what passes for "church" these days is the manifestation of Jesus in our world. I even doubt that my own church is a church.

Jesus died for this?
Why all the doubt? Like other congregations, the one I serve strives to be an authentic church, but we get in our own way. Simply put, our chief aim is not to connect people to God, each other, and the world, but to build an organization that does so. The distinction is subtle but significant.

Building an organization isn't an inherently evil thing to do, nor is it necessarily counterproductive to spiritual aims. Indeed, modernity gifted humans to become more efficient and effective in building organizations. Businesses, governments, and charities give us meaningful and productive work when they are better organized. There's nothing wrong with that. But building an organization is not the same as being a church, even if the aim of the organization is to do the work of Jesus.

Building an organization is an intoxicating substitute for being a church, because it allows us to work toward being a church without really being a church.

Whatever your definition of authentic church is, you know the congregation you serve is not there. Nor will it ever get there.

If not church, what is it?
So what are these organizations we call "churches?" I have come to believe that there are three possible answers.

(1) Barriers. These organizations are barriers to church. The Bible is clear that all humans are created for the purpose being in communion with their Creator and fellow creatures. So when some hapless creature goes looking for communion in the most obvious of places (a church) and finds a group of people committed to building their religious organization on the backs and souls of spiritual seekers, the hapless creature goes away disappointed and disillusioned. Or worse, the creature assimilates and adopts the values and vision of the organization being built. Either way, the organization stands in the place and in the way of church.

(2) Non-players. These organizations are non-players, having little to do (positively or negatively) with church. Jesus is doing His work in and through people all around, and these so-called churches are not uniquely related to this work any more than are the public library, Little League, or Sears. The fact that some organization members are also participants in true church is merely coincidental.

(3) Catalysts. These organizations are catalysts for church. However, let us not mistake the catalyst for the community. At best, an organization can create communities of faith in which people live out Jesus-like lives and extend the reign of God. Organizations can equip these communities, can gather potential communicants together, and can facilitate the formation of authentic Christian community. But the organization is not the thing it is trying to form. It is a means, not the end.

The organization many of us have joined and even led is not really a church, but the organization might lead to "church."

Any thoughts?

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May 25, 2005 in Leadership Issues | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Taking the Pain Out of Pastoral Transitions

Pain Have you ever been part of a church that been rocked by a devastating change of pastors? It can shake a church’s foundation to the core. Here’s a typical example adapted from "The Elephant in the Boardroom: Speaking the Unspoken about Pastoral Transitions" by Carolyn Weese and J. Russell Crabtree. Can you relate to this fictional scenario?

Pastor Pete was a great pastor. He was well-loved by most everyone in the church, but Pete felt that God was calling him to another church. After much prayer and soul searching, Pete scheduled a meeting with the church board, announcing that he'd be leaving in three weeks. One party, five speeches and 10 boxes of Kleenex later, Pete was gone.

One week after Pastor Pete left, the church board met to try to figure out what to do next. No one had a clue where to find a person to provide temporary pastoral services, so they ended up hiring a retired minister just to fill the pulpit during the search process. Three weeks later, the board continued to try to understand the process for finding a new minister and learned that it would take about 18 months. Eight weeks later, the board received the resignation of the youth minister. Ten weeks later, the board received the resignation letter of the associate pastor, who was afraid that she would not fit in with a new pastor. Eight months later, the board heard that the search committee had a candidate ready to meet with the board. Nine months later, the board was informed that the candidate had changed his mind and wanted a larger church. Ten months later, board members started receiving angry phone calls from members that the process was taking too long.

Finally, a year and a half after Pastor Pete left, Pastor John began at the church. The board gave a collective sigh of relief. But when the new pastor arrived, he wanted to do things his own way. So he changed Sunday worship times and added a guitar. No one told him that the top three givers in the church didn't believe in pledging so when he preached a stewardship sermon about the evils of uncommitted members who refuse to pledge, he promptly lost about $60,000 of income in the church. The church started to get phone calls from members wondering why the new pastor was so out of touch with his members.

Does any of this church’s story sound painfully familiar? It’s a chain of events that happens over and over again in churches across America. There has to be a better way.

The announcement: "I'm leaving."
The announcement that a pastor or staff member is leaving is the start of this journey. The manner and timing of how you announce that a pastor is leaving is important and it must be handled with much care.

First, communicate with the church leadership confidentially. It is best to share with them as a group rather than leaking your decision to one or two key players. Your entire leadership team will appreciate hearing the decision directly from the pastor.

After the leadership team has heard the news, then communicate the announcement to the church. While there will be temptation to tell people individually, try to keep the decision confidential until shared with the entire congregation. People will have many different reactions; some will have a sense of disbelief, some may cry, there may even be a few subdued cheers. But one thing you want to avoid is having an entire group of people who knew of the decision before it was made public. This will just make people who weren't in the know angry--and they will find out.

Finally, set the departure date sooner rather than later. Tim Stevens, in his book "Simply Strategic Stuff ," writes, "Even in the best of situations, it’s very tough to end a staff relationship. We've developed friendships and experienced life together for years and years. But for some reason, God has taken our paths in two separate directions. It is always a temptation to draw out the goodbye process." A good plan would be to try to keep the timeframe from resignation to departure to between three to five weeks.

Before the search begins: define your plan
"We have to find a new pastor right away." That’s usually the first thing the leadership of a church thinks when their pastor resigns But before you even begin your search, there are a few things that you should consider as a board or search committee. First, if you have no one person (like an associate pastor, for example) that can help lead your church through this transition, you may want to consider hiring an "intentional interim" pastor. According to Paul Strahan, a pastoral ministry specialist with Lifeway Christian Resources, "Many churches without pastors need transitional pastors with experience, training and ministry gifts that assure high-quality transitional leadership. Transitional pastors are prepared to lead churches through smooth transitions, rough transitions and crisis transitions. They may serve effectively as a preacher, pastor and consultant."

There are online resources to help determine if an intentional interim pastor would benefit your church. Visit www.healthychurch.org, www.interimpastorsearch.org and www.lifeway.com (search for the transitional pastors program).

Second, consider some type of congregational evaluation tool to be sure that the pastor you look for is the pastor your church needs and expects. There are a few surveys that will help you find what your church needs in its next pastor. Visit www.covenantseminary.edu/PhilDouglass/ChurchPersonalityReport2.asp and www.churchcentral.com/nw/s/template/ChurchHealthSurvey.html.

The search: stick to your plan
Before you start your search, put in writing the exact things you are looking for in your next pastor. Much of this profile can be written from the findings of your congregational evaluation survey. The profile should be a clear and attainable description of the qualities and leadership style of your next pastor.

Make it your goal to get to know as much about each candidate as possible. Find out about their theological and church background. Meet their families. Get to know their personality. And most of all, measure them against your completed profile.

Check references thoroughly. Conduct a pre-employment background check. There is no excuse for not fully investigating your candidate’s past.

Don’t introduce your congregation to two or three choices and have them vote. A much better approach is to find the candidate your leadership thinks is the best choice and present that one person for approval. If that person doesn't work out, you can start the process over with another candidate.

Whatever you do, don't make a quick decision. Many times, tired search committees make a hire more to end the process than to hire a good pastor. Ask yourself, "Would we have hired this person six months ago?" If the answer is no, then you should probably keep looking.

As webmaster of Churchstaffing.com in Bryan, Ohio, Todd Rhoades has helped thousands of churches and individuals with their ministry employment search.

Recommended Resources

"The Elephant in the Boardroom: Speaking the Unspoken about Pastoral Transitions" by Carolyn Weese and J. Russell Crabtree,
"Church Staff Handbook" by Harold J. Westing,
"The Big Book of Job Descriptions for Ministry" by Larry Gilbert and Cindy Spear

This article can be seen in full at The Church Report Magazine. (Check out all the other GREAT content while you're there!)

FOR DISCUSSION:  How has your church done in this area?  Are transitions smooth or are they a mess.  Would having a pre-set plan helped in any areas in your opinion?  Please share...

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May 24, 2005 in Leadership Issues | Permalink | Comments (24) | TrackBack

Monday, May 23, 2005

Are You An Abusive Leader or a Servant Leader?

Angry_1 What kind of leader are you? In his latest Leadership Letter, Malcolm Webber describes the personal characteristics that differentiate between a true servant leader and an abusive leader. Malcolm writes:

Servant leaders are secure in Christ. Consequently, their focus is not themselves but others. Abusive leaders, however, are insecure. Because of their insecurity, their agendas revolve around themselves. They are characterized by self-absorption, self-protection and self-interest.

Because they are secure in Christ, servant leaders exercise power in constructive ways to serve others. They are more concerned about genuinely contributing to the welfare of their followers than they are about promoting their own dominance, status or prestige.

In contrast, abusive leaders exercise power in dominant and authoritarian ways to serve their own interests, to manipulate others for their own purposes and to win at all costs. Although they know how to mouth the right religious slogans related to servanthood, in reality they are preoccupied with "looking out for number one." They use power for personal gain and exercise it in a dominant and controlling manner. The life of the organization revolves around them – not their visions but their persons.

The two kinds of leaders also differ in their moral standards, which influence their decisions. Servant leaders follow biblical principles of truth, which may go against the majority opinion. Such leaders are not swayed by popular opinion unless it is in line with biblical principles. They are internally consistent, acting in concert with their values and beliefs. Moreover, they promote a vision that inspires followers to accomplish collective objectives that will help the organization and promote Kingdom agendas. Their vision is driven by "doing what is right" as opposed to "doing the right thing" for the moment. Through their example of high moral standards, they develop the moral principles, standards and conduct of their followers.

Abusive leaders, however, follow standards if they satisfy their immediate self-interests. They are skilled at managing an impression that what they are doing conforms to what others consider "the right thing to do." They are often excellent communicators and are able to manipulate others to support their personal agendas.

Servant leaders are realistic in appraising their own abilities and limitations. They learn from criticism rather than being fearful of it, welcoming both positive and negative feedback. They are open to advice, seek accountability, and are willing to have their initial judgments challenged. Leaders who are secure in Christ have the confidence to encourage contrary opinions and can enhance themselves through the strengths of others.

Abusive leaders, however, have an inflated sense of their own importance, thrive on attention and admiration from others and shun contrary opinions. They attract and gravitate towards followers who are loyal, affectionate and uncritical. They seek to create loyal supporters and eliminate all dissenters. They are unwilling to have their strategies questioned and expect and even demand that their decisions be accepted without question. Moreover, they will avoid genuine accountability, feeling personally threatened by it.

To succeed in such an organization, followers soon learn to offer the leader only the information he wants to hear, whether or not it is correct. In extreme cases, even critical information may be withheld because of the leader’s intolerance and intimidation, resulting in organizational disaster.

When an abusive leader succeeds in some organizational endeavor, he is often further confirmed in his central abusive tendencies by the accolades that accompany his accomplishments. If he believes the praises heaped on him, he will be further seduced by delusions of greatness. Each time the admiring crowd shouts its approval of him, the leader’s façade of invincibility is strengthened. There is a mutually-reassuring intoxication as the followers are mesmerized by the leader’s success and the leader is mesmerized by the enraptured adoration of his followers. Rather than focusing on the next challenge, he becomes preoccupied with maintaining an aura of greatness. Image management replaces active, meaningful leadership of the organization.

Servant leaders, however, are secure in Christ and so do not need the praises of men. Instead, they deliberately avoid the trappings of success, choosing to stay little in their own eyes. Moreover, their followers who have been strengthened in their capacities for responsible thought and initiative, provide critical input to their leader – balancing encouragement with reality (in contrast to the flattery that the abusive leader surrounds himself with) – which may keep him from straying down the wrong path.

Personal Qualities of Leaders

Servant Leader

Abusive Leader

Secure in Christ. Personally insecure.
Is considerate and concerned for others. Is concerned primarily with himself.
Studies the stress that others are under to help alleviate it if possible. Constantly elicits sympathy for himself over his own stress and hardships.
Willing to discuss his decisions and the reasons for them, unless circumstances do not allow. Interprets questions as personal criticism or disloyalty.
Tries to work with the initially uncooperative, seeing their positive potential. Quickly discards individuals who he perceives will not embrace his vision or conform to his agenda.
Trusting toward people; thinks the best. Suspicious toward people, sometimes to the point of paranoia.
Vulnerability is power. Knowledge is power.
Communicates freely and openly. Withholds or conceals information when it does not suit his purposes.
Responds to problems with prayer and investigation. Responds to problems with anger and accusation.
Responds to failure by taking personal responsibility. Responds to failure by blaming others.
Knows he must earn the support of his followers. Demands unchallenged support.
Welcomes appropriate accountability. Threatened by any attempts at real accountability.

FOR DISCUSSION: What kind of leader are you? Have you ever in your ministry life had abusive tendencies? Have you ever work with an abusive leader? Tell us your experiences today at the Monday Morning Insight blog website.

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May 23, 2005 in Leadership Issues | Permalink | Comments (48) | TrackBack

Friday, May 20, 2005

For What It's Worth: Actual Church Stolen

Steal According to ChurchMarketingSucks.com, Point Hope United Methodist Church in Mount Pleasant, S.C. faced a unique challenge when their church was stolen. Their church was housed in a trailer which they parked and locked up until Sunday morning. Come last Sunday when church member Bill Yaeger went to pick up the church, it was gone.

The story on the theft on WCBD-TV's website says...

"We found the lock shattered on the ground and the simply took the trailer away." Said Jeremy Howell Pastor of Point Hope United Methodist Church.

Standing in an empty parking lot minister Jeremy Howell describes what he saw Sunday, after one of his church members told him that their church, which was housed in a trailer, was gone.

"Our Alter was in that trailer, our hymnals were inside the trailer we had a lot that were close to our hearts, > said Howell.

Pastor Howell calls the trailer was their church on wheels.

When it was not in use it was parked at Mount Pleasant's Tire and Auto specialist next to Highway 17 in plain view.

Every Sunday church members would pick it up and tow it to Jennie Moore Elementary where they would worship.

Church member Bill Yaeger was supposed to pick up the church on Sunday but when he arrived all he saw were tire tracks.

"It was kind of shocking, at first were as a congregation were mad, but then we realize that we just have to pull through," said Yaeger.

Now that would be a bummer... showing up for church on Sunday only to find it wasn't there.  Hope the crooks are enjoying all the Bibles and hymnals!

Have a great weekend!


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May 20, 2005 in For What It's Worth | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Pornography, Guilt and the Ministry (Part 3 of 3)

  Todd asked me to write on the subject of “dealing with pastors involved with pornography.”  This is outside my area of professional expertise.  However, years ago, when I worked as a writer and editor, I did tackle this subject.  The major source for that article came from Leadership Journal, the Fall 1982 and Winter 1988 issues.  Because of the length, I divided the story into two sections.  The postings of the last two week’s are an edited reprint of an article I wrote a decade ago.  This week, I conclude the series by asking the question,.

What is a Church Leader to Do?

The true story highlighted in the last two weeks centered around a person fictitiously named Tom.  Tom, a church leader, was confined to a living hell because of his private sin involving pornography.  The account also raises a related issue concerning church leaders, and pastors in particular.  In this posting, I will raise a question for which I offer no pat answers.

For most of us, the idea of someone coming to Christ and confessing a self-gratifying lifestyle is a happy occasion and well-received.  The repentant person freely acknowledges the error of his or her way.  The community of faith welcomes that individual into their fellowship.  Indeed, past actions become part of one’s testimony and are called upon to demonstrate the marvelous grace of Jesus which is greater than all our sins – a truth which we must never lose sight of.

However, a change of attitude typically occurs regarding the confession of a sin committed after a person comes to Christ, especially as it pertains to church leaders.  Public confession becomes very hard, if seemingly impossible, to do.  How can a leader acknowledge any but the most superficial of sins or misdeeds without threatening his or her position.  For pastors, it’s a matter of their livelihood.

Without question, being shamed before others is something that we instinctively resist.  We can trace this pattern back to Gen. 3.  The truth is, to have one's public identity unmasked for a dramatically less flattering image is to be threatened at the core of one's existence

So what is a church leader to do who privately realizes he or she is falling far short of the mark?  Are Christian leaders today consigned to take on the position as the religious leaders in Jesus’ day?  In Matthew 23:27-28 Jesus stated, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”

FOR DISCUSSION:  Should church leaders step down from their positions of leadership, and/or leave the ministry altogether, at least for a season?  Should they seek spousal, pastoral, or professional help and work out the matter privately?  Should they publicly confess?  What is a church leader to do?


Unique_help_1  © 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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May 19, 2005 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Meet Willow's Newest Teaching Pastor: Randy Frazee

Frazee2 Willow Creek Church has just hired their newest teaching pastor.  Since Willow Creek's ministry affects many churches across the country, I thought you might enjoy this artice from the Star Telegram about Randy Frazee...

Randy Frazee's spiritual neighborhood just got a lot larger.

Frazee is leaving his post as senior pastor at Pantego Bible Church for a pastoral teaching position at the huge Willow Creek Community Church in suburban Chicago.

Frazee's last service at Pantego Bible Church will be May 22.

Frazee, 44, has been at Pantego Bible Church for 20 years and has served as senior pastor for 15 years. He has pioneered the concept of close-knit small groups within large congregations to restore a sense of community.

"When I came in 1989 to serve, the church was struggling for no real reason," Frazee said. The congregation had lost two-thirds of its 1,200 members, and the 28-year-old pastor knew that his main goal had to be renewal.

Ed Frazier, an elder at the church, has been a congregation member for 30 years and remembers those times.

"We'd been without a pastor for two years when Randy was tapped to become the senior pastor," Frazier said. "He had good energy and good communication ideas."

Within five years, the situation had stabilized and Frazee began to formulate the philosophies that would bring the church to its current 2,000 worship service attendance and a beautiful new campus in Fort Worth.

His exploration of community in the midst of the church's struggles inspired his first book, The Comeback Congregation: New Life for a Troubled Ministry, and later The Connecting Church: Beyond Small Groups to Authentic Community.

A third book, Making Room for Life: Trading Chaotic Lifestyles for Connected Relationships, is written for the individual.

"With the business, the discontinuity and the fragmentation of people's lives, we thought, How can a church experience a real sense of community?" he asked.

Frazee's answer began outside his own front door: creating community groups of 30 to 50 people within the larger church membership, and then "home" groups of 10 to 12 neighbors, some of whom weren't even in the church, but who lived near one another. He and wife Rozanne and their four children routinely set out lawn chairs twice a month in their Lake Arlington neighborhood to connect.

"It's pretty informal, just burgers on the grill during the summer and Rozanne makes a big pot of soup in the winter," said Tammy McNulty, a neighbor and longtime friend.

She and her husband, Gary, don't attend Pantego Bible Church, but they find fellowship with the neighbors.

"He will usually pull us together in the living room to see what's going on with everybody, and how we can all help each other," McNulty said. "It's 10 to 15 minutes of caring and connecting. It's really opened our eyes to the place this can have in a community."

Frazee will be preaching the small-group gospel to one of the largest Protestant congregations in the country.

Willow Creek's 155-acre main campus draws 17,500 people to weekend services in a 404,000-square-foot sanctuary. Three other Willow Creek locations and the Willow Creek Association, with a network of 10,000 affiliate churches worldwide, help spread its influence.

Frazee said it is a church of "intense bureaucracy."

He has given seminars there for 10 years and said he did not actively seek the job.

Last year, Willow Creek adopted Frazee's Connecting Church plan as its own new direction and then offered him the task of implementing his concept.

Greg Hawkins, Willow Creek's executive pastor, said the church's decision to adopt the Connecting Church model was largely influenced by Frazee's thinking and writing.

"When we decided we wanted to do this, we said to ourselves, 'Gee, wouldn't it be great if we could bring Randy aboard to institute this,' but we didn't think he'd come," Hawkins said.

The idea is catching on at Willow Creek as it did in Pantego.

"It's really resonating very strongly with our congregation," Hawkins said. "It hasn't been that hard to get it started. We already had thousands of our members in our communities, working with people on their own and having small Bible study groups themselves, and we just didn't leverage that."

Now that Pantego Bible Church is active and flourishing, Frazee feels it will carry on fine without him, and Frazier said he too is optimistic.

Frazee said: "I watched this church decline and suffer. I feel God is going to use all of my experiences, and he has a bigger plan.

"It's not like I'm leaving Pantego -- it's like they're 'sending' me, not 'losing' me.

FOR DISCUSSION:  What impact has Willow Creek Community Church had on your local ministry?  What stengths do you think Randy brings to the Willow team?

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May 18, 2005 in Leadership Issues | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Defining Your Staff/Leadership Values

Values Have you thought about what your staff and leadership really values? Recently, Gary Lamb shared the staff values that they have gathered and published for his church, Ridge Stone Church in Canton, GA.  I think it's a great start... Take a look:

1.) Authentic Relationships

· We commit ourselves to the Principle of 10%
· We value watching each other’s back
· We commit to honest and integrity In communication
· We will not talk about each other until we have talked to each other, and then we will only talk in love.

2.) Professionalism and Excellence

· We will value accountability in time management, financial management, and programming.
· We will value each other’s privacy and schedules in the office and at home.
· We will not start ministries or programs without clear direction from God and proper resources.
· We will safeguard ourselves against inappropriate relationships with the opposite sex.

3.) T.E.A.M. Ministry

· Together Everyone Accomplishes More
· We will value the opinions and ideas of all team members.
· We will work together for the sake of the overall church, instead of individual ministries or interests.
· We commit to growing in leadership and giftedness.

4.) 4 E Focused

· We will be held accountable for Enlisting, Equipping, Empowering, Encouraging workers and leaders.

5.) Prayer Driven

· We hold that nothing of eternal significance happens apart from prayer.
· We will become strategic and innovative in our pursuit of God.

6.) Right Priorities

· We will cheat ministry and church, before we cheat God and our families
· Being a workaholic is not a good thing and WILL NOT be valued or tolerated at Ridge Stone.

7.) Retreat and Relax

· We will retreat once a year as a staff.
· We will retreat twice a year by ourselves.
· We will commit to taking our vacations and conferences.
· We will play and relax together throughout the year.

8.) People Matter

· Before programs, before budgets, but not before principles and purposes.
· We will use Ridge Stone to build our people, not our people to build Ridge Stone.

9.) No Fear

· We will not allow fear to stand in the way of God’s direction.
· We will not allow fear to stop us from doing the right thing.

10.) Pure Communication

· We commit to building each other up.
· We commit to purity and edification in our speech.

11.) Reckless Abandon

· We value the principle of meeting with God early, first, or expecting nothing.
· We commit to meet with God early and first in our day, realizing we are powerless apart from His strength.
· We commit to growing in the disciplines necessary for further spiritual growth.

12.) Maximum Quality

· We will shoot for the highest level of performance possible.
· We will hold our positions at Ridge Stone in highest regard.

You can read a lot of other great stuff from Gary and Ridge Stone Church at Gary's Blog here

FOR DISCUSSION:  What do you think?  What would you add (or leave out).  Do you think it's important to have a written set of staff/leadership values?  Share what your church is doing in this area or discuss staff values today right here!  I'd love to hear your comments and ideas!

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May 17, 2005 in Leadership Issues | Permalink | Comments (20) | TrackBack