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The Difference Between Complacency And Other Causes Of Slow Pace In Church Culture (via Sam Rainer)

Sam Rainer offers some observations about church culture: whether the pace of change can be attributed to complacency or other elements of culture that mean that change does not take place at the same pace as other places.
Wise pastoral leadership will take the time to learn what is behind the church’s culture, and also not expect change to take place at the same pace everywhere on the basis of superficial similarities.
From Rainer:

Every church has a pace built into the culture of its people. Some churches move more slowly. Some move more quickly. While most established churches likely need to pick up the pace, a slow pace does not necessarily mean the church is complacent.
Complacent churches are self-satisfied and are unwilling to address problems. Unfortunately, far too many churches are complacent. But don’t confuse complacency with a slow pace. Some congregations are willing to move forward; it just takes them a little longer. A few factors may influence the slow pace of a church.
The community may move at a slower pace. The church is simply reflecting the greater culture of the community. For example, rural communities tend to change less quickly. A church that moves too quickly in a slow-moving farming community may actually become less relevant.
A slow pace may point to stability, not entrenchment. It’s hard to move rapidly and also be stable. Slow-moving stability can be better for some church cultures. The downside of this pattern is it can create ruts of entrenchment, but it doesn’t have to be the case. When used strategically, stability can advance discipleship, sacrificial giving, and equipping—none of which point to complacency.
Leaders may guide the church methodically. Not every leader is designed to push forward with intensity. Not every church needs a hard-charging pastor full of ambition and ideas. Some church leaders plod thoughtfully, with intention and strategy. Plodding leaders are not complacent leaders.
The season of a church may necessitate a slower pace. When a church needs to heal, it almost always needs to slow down. A church may go through months, if not years, of a slower pace. This intentional slowdown may be the opposite of complacency. It could be the problem is the fast pace.
Passion is not always fast. Restoring an antique car takes time. It’s a painstaking process. The slowness of the restoration process is a sign of passion, not complacency or apathy. The same principle applies to the church. Pastors who revitalize churches may move slowly, but it’s an indicator of their passion and love for the church, not a mark of complacency.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming all slow-moving churches are complacent. In fact, many established churches require plodding leaders who are willing to take the time to revitalize them. These pastors are passionate, not complacent.


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Can Multi-Site Work In A Rural Context? (via Jon Sanders at The Exchange)

Since I’m currently overseeing three neighboring churches the question “Can Mulit-Site Work In A Rural Context” is on my mind a fair bit.
Realistically, the be only option for outside ministry to come and work with those three locations would involve one person, maybe in two of them.
Jon Sanders, who is bi-vocational, also works in multi-site rural contexts.

He offers some counsel, including:

You need a commitment to excellence.
I realize the term excellence is kind of a buzzword that came out of the church growth movement and some people are beginning to grow weary of it. But I still believe we serve an excellent God who is worthy of our very best. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing to the best of our ability. I believe excellence is simply giving God our very best with what he has given us to work with.
Therefore, excellence doesn’t have to be synonymous with expensive. It’s holding a high standard to take what resources we do have to create the best product we possibly can. The way a rural church will do multi-site (especially when it comes to staffing and technology) will look very different from how a mega-church does it. But that doesn’t mean a rural church has to come off looking sloppy and unprepared. It’s totally possible for a small church with limited resources to produce an excellent worship experience in multiple locations.

Read the rest of the post here.

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Two Ways To Die

Thinking about John 12:24-26 “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.”

There’s a reference to Jesus’ own death and resurrection and the profound change that represents.

He likens it to a seed that ceases to be a seed (dies) in order to bring life (fruit).

There’s also a reference to the effects that change has on the life of Jesus’ disciples.

We too, are a people who will die (forsake our own lives) in order to bring forth fruit (live for the kingdom).

There’s really two ways to die.

You can die by living for yourself and trying to get out of life what you want for yourself. The destiny of that choice is eternal destruction

You can die by turning to Jesus and choosing to live for him, forsaking yourself and your own desires and making the kingdom your focus. It is a death, in that your life no longer is your own. But the destiny of that choice is eternal life.

Churches are dying in one of two ways.

A church that exists for itself and the desires of its members will die, because it will fail to share the faith and grow. It will eventually die by ceasing to exist.

A church that exists for the kingdom will constantly be changing as it seeks to express the Gospel and share it well with the changing world around it. The earlier forms in which it existed will cease (die), but it will continue to exist and go on living in ever changing forms.

Every church is dying in one of two ways, but only one of those ways follows the footsteps of Jesus.

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Seven Reasons Why Church Is Difficult For Those Touched By Mental Illness (via Stephen Grcevich)

Church is meant to be the one place on earth where people can come just as themselves and feel welcome and at home.
But it’s not always the case.
I found these seven reasons provided by Stephen Grcevich to make sense.
It’s helpful to read what is obvious when made plain, but is so easy to forget in practice.
Some of these are focused on parents whose children have a mental illness, others are relevant to people who are enduring various conditions whatever their age.

A couple of examples:

Anxiety: One in 15 American adults experience social anxiety disorder—a condition resulting in significant fear and distress in situations where their words or actions may be exposed to the scrutiny of others. How many social interactions might a first-time visitor to a weekend worship service need to navigate at your church? Persons with agoraphobia frequently experience intense fear, heart palpitations, breathing difficulties, excessive perspiration, and nausea in public places where their ability to leave unobtrusively is limited. How might they feel if there are no seats available near an exit at a worship service, or if a well-meaning usher directs them to a middle seat near the front of the church?

Expectations for self-discipline: The Bible clearly equates self-control with spiritual maturity. Most mental health conditions can negatively impact executive functioning—the cognitive capacities through which we establish priorities, plan for the future, manage time, delay gratification, and exercise conscious control over our thoughts, words, and actions. When children struggle with self-control in the absence of obvious signs of disability, we’re often quick to make assumptions about their parents. One mother in describing her family’s experience in looking for a church with two school-age boys with ADHD observed that, “People in the church think they can tell when a disability ends and bad parenting begins.”

Read the whole article here.

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Something Even Better Than The Good News (via Fred Sanders)

It’s a privilege and a blessing to worship with God’s people and celebrate the good news of the Gospel week by week.
But there’s something even better than the good news for us as we gather.
It’s God himself.

From Fred Sanders:

There is something even better than the good news, and that something is God. The good news of the gospel is that God has opened up the dynamics of his triune life and given us a share in that fellowship. But all of that good news only makes sense against the background of something even better than the good news: the goodness that is the perfection of God himself. The doctrine of the Trinity is first and foremost a teaching about who God is, and God the Trinity would have been God the Trinity whether he had revealed himself to us or not, whether he had redeemed us or not, whether he had created us or not.

Read the whole post here.

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Broken And Beautiful (via Glenna Marshall)

The hopes of pastoral life can spill over into frustration with God’s people, often because the pastor longs to see people experience the freedom Christ gives.
But a focus on the wonder of what God is doing in the lives of his people brings perspective, joy, and hope.

Glenna Marshall writes about an experience of seeing the body being the body, and the beauty that there is to behold in that:

Church ministry is hard stuff, and it is easy to become embittered toward the people God has placed in your spiritual family. But that’s the heart of the issue: these are the people God has placed in your spiritual family. And the call in 1 Corinthians 13, after all the instructions about serving and using our gifts both individually and corporately, is to love the spiritual family serving with you. Love is patient and kind and forgetful when it comes to past wrongs. Love forgives quickly and seeks humility. Love endures. Love is the impetus for grieving with a sister, for washing dishes, for making sure the heat is working.
Beneath the practical outworking of our individual gifts is that enduring affection for the family of God.  And when we get tired of serving or impatient with one another, we dig down a little deeper for the ultimate motivating factor: love for our Father, the One who is knitting us all together with His unfailing, unbreakable love.
The Church is broken because she is made of broken people. But she is also beautiful because she has been healed by a beautiful Savior. I find pieces of my sanctification in serving alongside the members of the broken and beautiful Bride of Christ. He will surely present her pure and spotless before the Father one bright, glorious day.

Read the whole post here.

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Barriers To Becoming A Simple Church (via Thom Rainer)

Through the beginning of the year Thom Rainer has been posting about churches becoming simple or zero sum.
In practice this involves concluding groups and activities that no longer have a vital purpose.
Put another way: if the church was starting fresh which groups activities would they actually start because they’re needed or serve a purpose?
It is meant to differentiate from effort invested in mission purpose and effort invested in that which exists only to be maintained.
Here he lists five reasons why this process of evaluation doesn’t take place.

  1. Traditionalism. We do the same things we’ve always done because we’ve always done them that way before. If that sounds redundant, it is. We just can’t get out of our boxes of comfort and false security.
  2. Lack of clear vision. We pile on program after program and meeting after meeting because we have no clear plan or vision. A good vision will lead the church to say “yes” or “no” in a healthy fashion.
  3. Fear. Many leaders fear the consequences of even suggesting the elimination of some programs, ministries, or activities. I know of no simple church without courageous leaders.
  4. Coasting. This barrier is similar to fear. Some leaders don’t want to rock the boat. They just want to hang on to their jobs or their peaceful existence. But the courageous leader is never a coasting leader.
  5. Failure to evaluate. I have encouraged churches to consider a zero-based ministry every year. Ask the question: What ministries, programs, and meetings would we have if we had a clean slate? How would it look differently than our current schedule? Too many churches are eager to add but fearful to subtract.

Read the whole post at Rainer’s site, and then look for related posts on the subject.