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Overcommitted Churches (via Thom Rainer)

Thom Rainer writes about how churches can find themselves with so many programs and activities that they become ineffective at discipling Christians and sharing the Gospel.

From Rainer’s post:

So how did our churches get in this predicament? The causes are many, but here are seven of them:

  1. Our churches equate activity with value. Thus busy churches are deemed to be churches of value. And busy, exhausted, and frustrated church members are deemed to be Christians of value.
  2. Programs and ministries became ends instead of means. I recently asked a pastor why he continued a ministry that had dwindled from 220 participants to 23 participants. “Because,” he said, “this program is a part of the history and heritage that defines our church.” Warning: If a program defines your church, your church is in trouble.
  3. Failure of churches to have a clear purpose. Even the best of churches can only do so many things well. Once a church has no clear and defining purpose, it has no reason to start or discontinue a program or ministry. That issue then leads to the next two reasons.
  4. Church leaders have failed to say “no.” Some church leaders can’t say “no” to new programs and ministries because they have no clear or defining purpose on what they should do. Others leaders simply lack courage to say “no.”
  5. Fear of eliminating. Once a program, ministry, or activity has begun, it can be exceedingly difficult to let it die. Sometimes leaders lack courage to kill programs. Sometimes they are blinded to the need to kill programs. Sometimes they hesitate to kill a program because they don’t know a better alternative. We need more churches in the program killing business.
  6. Church is often defined as an address. As long as we think “church” means a physical location, we will try to load up that address with all kinds of busyness. Many churches are ineffective at reaching their communities because their members are so busy at the building they call the church. That’s both bad ecclesiology and bad missiology.
  7. Churches often try to compete with culture rather than reach culture. A church in the deep South had a dynamic basketball ministry where they fielded community basketball teams comprised of church members and non-believers. But once the church built its own gym and recreation center, the church members started spending all their time playing at their new facility. In an attempt to have a gym as good as those in the community, the church ironically became less effective reaching those in the community.

Read the whole post at Rainer’s blog, which also promises a follow-up which deals with churches that have de-programmed and become more effective.


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Growth Requires Connection (via Dan Rockwell at Leadership Freak)

Dan Rockwell observes that: “Building an environment of growth is one of leadership’s greatest challenges and opportunities.”
From his post:

Community:
Growth requires community. We stagnate and die in isolation. Everyone needs seclusion to refresh and reflect. But growth requires connection.

  1. Who knowingly participates in your growth?
  2. Whose growth are you actively encouraging?
  3. Who knows your growth goals? Whose goals do you know?
  4. How might you establish and nurture growth-connections between team members?

Confrontation:
Growth is a myth in environments that tolerate deceit, backstabbing, malevolence, and hypocrisy. Leaders who tolerate offenses against community – in the name of delivering results – destroy growth and limit results.

  1. Never tolerate a high performer who destroys community.
  2. Eliminate hypocrisy by practicing transparency regarding strengths, weaknesses, and development. Teams can’t pull for each other if they don’t know each other’s growth-goals.
  3. Remove people who work to undermine others.

Source


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Why Tradition Is Good And Why Traditionalism Is Not Good (via Chuck Swindoll)

Chuck Lawless quotes Chuck Swindoll:

Why tradition is good:

  1. It honors God for what He has done. Tradition, by definition, is tied to the past. Ideally, though, it focuses on God and what He has done, not on what we used to do in the church. Healthy tradition is concerned about glorifying God only.
  2. It celebrates the past while pressing toward the future. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating yesterday as long as that rejoicing encourages us to move into the future. My first church had an annual homecoming service that retold God’s work to encourage us to capture God’s vision for tomorrow—and that’s a good kind of tradition.
  3. It grounds next generations in the work of God. Tradition is good when it helps next generations appreciate what God has done through His people in the past. For example, the Hebrews marked places where God worked so their children and grandchildren could know His care and guidance (e.g., Joshua 4).
  4. It offers wisdom when making change. Sometimes, the traditions of a church cause leaders to carefully and prayerfully consider options before making a change. That’s not a bad thing.
  5. It evokes gratitude and unity. Because it celebrates God’s work in the past as a means of faith for the future, our response ought to be thanksgiving as the family of God.

Why traditionalism is not good:

  1. It emphasizes what we (or others) have done more than what God has done. Traditionalism fights to save traditions, but the traditions are what we’ve done . . . what our forefathers did . . . what our denomination has “always” done. It assumes that our preferences are God’s commands.
  2. It elevates the past over the future. Traditionalism is protective and reactive. It guards yesterday’s turf at the expense of making a difference today and tomorrow. It fears the future more than it influences it.
  3. It hinders reaching the next generations. Traditionalism assumes that almost anything new is a threat to the gospel, even if the gospel itself is never compromised. It requires young generations to become us if they want to follow God.
  4. It blocks making necessary change. Traditionalism fights change, often without honest consideration of the options. It doesn’t inform change like tradition does; it obstructs it.
  5. It leads to division. Traditionalism is elevating tradition to the level of commandment as if it equals the gospel. The emotion behind such a position usually creates conflict and disunity.

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Immeasurable Joy Resides In Small Places (via Stephen Witmer)

Stephen Witmer writes about pastoring in smaller towns.

The upper limit of your joy in ministry will never be the size of the place in which you minister, but the size of your heart for God. God spreads a banquet of delight before you in your small place, always more than enough, and he invites you to feast. The sweet triumphs of ministry — a gospel conversation, a new step of obedience to Jesus, an experience of Christian community — are precious wherever they occur. The angels in heaven celebrate equally over the conversion of city and country souls.
Your town may be small, but there will always be some who have not yet heard or embraced the gospel, and God himself has sent you to speak to them. Your congregation may be tiny, but you will never exhaust the possibilities of knowing them deeply and loving them well. God will provide special joys in your small place. There will be the uniquely soul-enlarging beauties of the countryside and the pleasures of life in a community where you are known. He will also strengthen you in the challenges that are unique to working in small places. Remember, you’re not there by accident. He has placed you there for his glory and your joy.

Read the whole post at Desiring God.


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Seven Leadership Pitfalls (via Ron Edmondson)

Ron Edmondson looks to his own experience and provides seven warnings for aspiring leaders.
These are all ongoing to leadership life. There’s never a time when they don’t apply.

From Edmondson’s post.

What you “settle for” eventually becomes the culture. And, then it is much more difficult to change. In fact, you’re probably settling because you’re fighting against culture now. Leadership involves challenging people beyond their current comfort level.
Mediocrity isn’t created. It’s accepted. Oh, how I’ve learned this one the hard way. People will be average if you allow them to be. It’s easier. In most jobs, they get paid the same. That’s not even to say it’s what they prefer. Most people prefer excellence, but it often takes leadership – or coaching – to pull out the best in people.
Your actions determine other people’s reactions. During stressful times the leader’s response dictates the level of stress on the team. When it’s time to celebrate, the team will seldom celebrate more than the leader. The leader sets the bar of expectations in how the team reacts to life as a team.
Don’t assume they agree because they haven’t said anything. I actually wrote about a whole chapter about this one in my book The Mythical Leader. But, silence doesn’t equate to agreement.
You’ll never get there just “thinking about it”. And, we do more of that as a team sometimes – it seems – than we do getting work done. Every good idea isn’t even something the team should do. But, if it is, there needs to be a plan. Who’s in charge? When are we doing it? And, how will we know when we are successful?
If you’re the leader, they are likely waiting on you to lead or release the right to lead. People seldom take initiative unless you lead – or unless you create the culture which gives them permission, freedom and encouragement to do so.
What the team values becomes apparent by your actions, more than your words. And, it doesn’t matter how well spoken you might be. People follow what the leader does.

Read the whole post here.


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Seven Rules for Keeping Pastoral Sanity (via Chris Hefner)

All seven of these are helpful.

Here’s a couple:

Don’t take yourself too seriously. Ministry is serious business—the gospel, life and death ministry situations, leadership expectations, and all the rest. But the seriousness of our ministry should not lead to become coldly sober or overtly austere. Pastors should be accessible and authentic. Laughing at yourself and even sharing your faults with your congregation gives a healthy dose of reality and even levity to your ministry.
+++
Don’t think you’re indispensable. Your church existed before you and will exist after you. You are important, but not irreplaceable. Accept your leadership responsibility with humility and prayer. Remember, it’s not about you.

Read the rest at Lifeway | Pastors


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Three Snares For Leaders (via Eric Geiger)

Eric Geiger aims these points at younger leaders who have tasted affirmation or success early in life or ministry.
They are applicable in every season of life, I think.

1. Skills can outpace sanctification.
When a leader has been continually affirmed for his or her skills, the leader can obsess over development of those skills more than the development of integrity. If the leader starts to believe that what really put him or her in the current position is skill, and not the Lord’s choosing, then the leader can easily care more intensely about perfecting those skills while caring very little about integrity and character. When skills outpace sanctification, a leader is headed toward a downfall. When the pressures of the position outweigh one’s character, self-destruction is inevitable.

2. Focus can be on work for Christ instead of the work of Christ.
All of us, because we are prone to drift from God’s grace and focus on ourselves, experience the temptation to look at what we do rather than what He has done. Perhaps driven and achievement-oriented people feel the temptation even stronger…

3. Identity can be found in the role instead of in the Lord.
Everyone struggles with finding worth and identity in something less than the Lord, and leaders who are given accolades for their work are easily susceptible to finding their worth in their performance instead of in His.

Read the whole post here.