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When The Goal Is To Know Everyone, Instead Of Everyone Knowing Jesus (via Thom Rainer)

Thom Rainer features a post dealing with one of the reservations Christians have about additional church services or congregational growth.
It runs along the line of “We can’t add another service! We won’t know everyone.” or “We’re dividing the church?”

One of the observations about that which Rainer offers is:

There are often unarticulated and underlying meanings to these objections.
It is not uncommon to start a new service with a different worship style. Some of the objectors may not really be concerned as much with the additional service as the style of worship.

It’s a helpful observation to try to unpack whether the presenting concern is the actual concern.
Most Christians want more people to come to Jesus, not to put a size limit on the Kingdom.

There are more points at Rainer’s blog, along with some helpful observations in the comments.

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The Exhausting Rest Of Modern Evangelicalism (via Stephen McAlpine)

Stephen McAlpine seems to have observed some very similar situations in the church circles he moves in to some that I’ve seen in mine. (I think our circles are not that different)
If you’ve been around for a long time nothing is really new, it’s just old things turning back up relabeled.
When evangelical faith reasserted itself in my denomination it took a long time for people to stop trusting in their activity and trust in the righteousness of Jesus. Now in some circles a profession of faith is taken for granted and the reality of people’s salvation seems based on the degree to which they fall in behind the church program.
Church should never be the place that people feel guilty coming to because they don’t feel they’re doing enough.

From McAlpine’s article:

Yet here’s my concern. Just like Israel, God’s people today are struggling with that concept. There’s a relentless push for progress that we are being swept up in, and in an era of what I call “Big Eva” – the large evangelical ministry juggernaut replete with conferences after conference, ministry tool after ministry tool, leadership summit after leadership summit, technique after technique, there seems very little commitment to true rest. Apex leaders atop ministry pyramids are pushing God’s people with a sanctified version of brick making that has no end in sight.
And what does that look like? It looks like no rest. It looks like aping the pyramid/apex leadership and structures of the Pharaohs. And in a land of secular Pharaohs, the easiest thing to do is to mimic them, and create sanctified versions of the same thing.
My concern is that too many church leaders pooh-pooh the busyness of their people and constantly call them out of it, but merely to call them to a sanctified version of that busyness that, at its heart, is simply another version of brick making: “Hey you’re way too busy over there in your office/work/home, how about you come and be way too busy over here instead, for the right thing.
After all, Israel may have left Pharaoh behind, but they were about to enter a land where Sabbath was also unknown. They were going to have to go against the grain to show what true rest looked like. The default would be to fall into a Promised Land version of being too busy.
As I survey the increasing wreckage of “Big Eva” across the Western world, with the scandals and burnouts, the sexual and spiritual abuses, there is a clear pattern -rest – sabbath rest – is glaringly absent. Left behind the now disgraced pharaohs is a trail of burned churches and exhausted sheep, who were told they were doing God’s work, when all too often they were making bricks for a ministry Pharoah.

Read the whole post here. And then relax.

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The Challenge For Pastors Leader In Seasons Of Change – Canoeing The Mountains

I’m trying to work through the notions of leadership, governance, and management in the context of pastoral ministry with a team.
This quote from Tod Bolsinger expresses something of the problem, the need for change that I’m experiencing.

For most leaders I know and especially for pastors, all of this discussion of the different relationships certainly doesn’t sound like good news. While most of us are good at personally relating to people (praying, teaching, counselling), most of us have not been trained in organisational relationship skills. The ways we have been taught to lead are inadequate for this new terrain or circumstance. The skills we have honed (write sermons, visit hospitals, counselling, teach classes) we do independently, even individualistically. When we work with a committee, it is usually as a moderator, not a leader. Typically, we are more concerned about making sure the conversation is orderly than courageous or creative. So, most well-intentioned, even ambitious attempts for a Session or a pastor to bring transformation are doomed because of a lack of capacity more than anything else. A pastor needs to inspire like Kennedy, moderate governance like the Speaker of the House, and establish and lead innovation at NASA — all at the same time.

Tod Bolsinger, Canoeing The Mountains IVP Books, 2015, pg 166.

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The Privilege Of Watching God’s Word At Work (via John Chester)

In this post about preachers and preaching, John Chester remarks about one incredible privilege that preachers have, particularly those who are blessed to preach to congregations where they can pretty much see everyone, and who are able to be free from a manuscript long enough to observe how people are reacting to God’s Word:

There is one other profound blessing that the pastor receives because he is looking into the faces of the congregation. The living and active nature of the Word of God is impressed on him as never before. [Of course this only applies to pastors who actually preach the bible!] From behind the pulpit I have seen people burst in to tears, tears of joy at the thought of heaven and the hope we have in Christ, and tears of conviction in response to a powerful truth of Scripture. I have seen the look cross a visitors face the split second they become offended by the gospel, and I have seen someone sitting with their arms defiantly crossed melt and soften as the Word of God washes over them. It is a unique blessing to be able to see how people respond to the preaching of the Word of God.

Read the whole post here.

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The Best Thing You Can Do For The Kingdom (via Mez Mc Connell)

Mez McConnell writes frankly about a Christian culture that won’t invest in reaching hard places, but encourages people and churches to spend money based on sentiment or experience for little real return.
From his post.

Let’s not think too deeply about the fact that the Western evangelical money machine basically runs the most sophisticated and expensive 4D-real-life-experience/babysitting service in the world and then passes it off as legitimate short term missions and poverty alleviation. Agencies will spend millions on flashy and emotive videos in an effort to persuade people to give their lives to the cause of world missions. I know. At 20schemes we are desperate for gospel workers, male and female, to come to our land and share the good news of Jesus. Desperate. I could quote all the stats showing our need over and against another country’s need or another agency’s work. I could post the links right here to powerful videos of lives transformed by the gospel and then make the ask to join us on our exciting adventure into the future. But I’m tired of that. And you know what…so are you. So, my challenge to you is this—forget the idea, spoon-fed to the younger generations since birth, that you’re the future of your local church and the global church. You’re not. Jesus is. The best thing you can do for the kingdom this year is to knuckle down wherever God has you now. Ask your pastor and the elders how you can better serve them and your local congregation. Go out and find that John in your community. You’ll probably find them in the areas of your town that you would usually avoid, struggling away, invisible among all the bells and whistles of modern evangelicalism. If you’re really wanting to serve the least of these, go and do a free internship there. Serve him and that community in anonymity. Turn your iPhone off. Don’t tweet about it. Keep off Instagram.

Read the whole article at 20schemes.

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Pursuing Average Church Ministry And Celebrating Average Church Growth (via John Stevens)

Like the author of this article I’ve been conscious now of about thirty years or so of strategies that will grow churches. Some have come and gone and returned again in different guises. The majority seem to be expressions of the particular individuals who originated them and aren’t sustainable as systems.
This is a helpful article for those churches whose ministry is a journey of faithful steps, taken steadily together.
From John Stevens:

It is all too easy to assume that there is something special about us, or our church, that will enable it outperforms the average church in the same context. We think that something about our ministry – perhaps the people, age profile or ways we do things – will set us apart. However, the reality is that, unless others in the same context are doing something obviously wrong, there is no reason why we should expect to do better than them. God might choose to bless us extraordinarily, and he is free to do so. But the likelihood is that he will not bless us more than the other faithful churches that are labouring away in similar situations.
Over twenty plus years of ministry I have noticed a succession of models of ministry proposed with the promise that they will produce radically better “growth” results. Sometimes the mere fact that they are new leads to a period of greater growth, but more often than not this effect quickly fades, and the growth returns to normal, or sometimes slips below it.

Read the whole post here.

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The Importance Of The Christian’s Secret Life (via Derek Thomas)

Derek Thomas on the mark of Christian authenticity: our secret life.
For those whose calling involves public expressions of the Christian life, the challenge is to live as a disciple of Jesus when people can’t see us.
From the article:

Six times in the Sermon on the Mount, alluding to three distinct exercises, Jesus employs the term secret:

  • Give “in secret…and your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matt. 6:4).
  • Pray “in secret…and your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (v. 6).
  • Fast “in secret…and your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (v. 18).

The Sermon on the Mount is addressing the issue of authenticity. Just how genuine is our relationship with the Lord Jesus? It is altogether possible to practice an outward display of piety—to “talk the talk”—without demonstrating any inner reality of godliness. This is true of every professing Christian, and it is especially true of those engaged in Christian ministry.

Read the whole post at Ligonier Blog.