Monday, January 28, 2008

Bivocational certification

A denominational leader recently contacted me asking my advice about a plan he was developing about establishing a certification process for bivocational ministers in his denomination. His process would require a couple of interviews, letters of recommendation, and the completion of a number of courses prior to being certified. Those persons who went through that process would then be listed on a register in that denomination and would be recommended as potential ministers to churches who were seeking bivocational leadership.

I would be very interested in hearing from the readers of this blog how you feel about such a process. Is this something you would support? Would you be willing to go through this process? What would happen if the church the denomination recommended you to was four states away? Would you be willing to relocate as a bivocational minister?

This individual is seeking to put some struture to bivocational ministry, but I think he needs to hear from those who are currently involved in this type of ministry. What advice would you give him?

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Canadian conference confirmed

The seminar on "Healthy Small Churches" I was tentatively scheduled to lead in New Brunswick, Canada has been finalized. I will be leading four seminars at four different sites from May 20-23, 2008. You will soon be able to access information about the cost and sites at This will be a great opportunity for pastors and lay leaders of smaller churches in that area to learn how they can identify issues in their churches that may be keeping them from being healthy which may also prevent them from growing. I hope to meet the readers of this blog from that area at these seminars.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Updating this blog has been a challenge this year. I am preaching a series of five messages in one of the churches I serve in addition to all my other responsibilities, and I haven't had much time to spend on the computer. The series of messages is to encourage the church to look into ways they can become more missional in their approach to ministry. Following the first two messages we had a light lunch with a Q&A time which has been a great follow-up to the messages. It gives people an opportunity to ask questions about the message while they are fresh in their minds.

This Sunday I am talking about the need to remove the idea of SuperPastor from everyone's minds. A church cannot wait for the pastor to touch everything before something happens. This is true in all size churches, and it is certainly true in bivocational churches. Our churches have to learn to be more permission-giving and allow ministry to happen without the pastor always being personally involved.

For some pastors that will be difficult. Some of us went into the ministry with a huge desire to be needed by other people. We may complain about the SuperPastor expectations people put on us, but the truth is some of us have put those expectations on ourselves. Many of us have never been trained in how to give people permission to go forward with their ministry ideas nor have we learned how to equip our congregation so they can use the gifts God has given them. Frankly, many of us have also learned that it is often easier to do it ourselves rather than train others to do ministry. At least it will be done right... according to our standards.

Yet, our churches will never have the impact on our communities as long as pastors have to personally be involved in every ministry that our church is involved in. According to Ephesians 4 our job is to train and equip the laity to do the work of ministry, and we we do that we will help turn those members into missionaries to our communities. That is when our churches will begin to have their maximum impact on those communities.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Evangelism or discipleship

This past Sunday the church in which I preached had a light lunch and a time of Q&A. I was there preaching on transformation issues, and the church leadership invited people to stay and ask questions regarding things they heard in the message or some questions they might have about church transformation. Over half the congregation stayed, and several of them asked some excellent questions.

One of the final questions was which was most important for them to focus on: evangelism or discipleship. My response was both. The Great Commission includes both outreach and discipleship, and we make a mistake if we focus on one without the other. Some churches do a good job reaching out to the unchurched in their communitites, but they do not encourage the ones they reach to become disciples. In our area most churches will have Sunday school attendance that is about half of the number attending the worship service. Few churches in my area offer small groups.

Recently I was speaking to a judicatory leader in another denomination who said they are having the same problem in their churches. He mentioned a rapidly growing church in his denomination that is getting good recognition for their outreach efforts, but he said that their Sunday school numbers are declining almost as fast as their church is growing. He said that in about 10 years when these new members take over much of the leadership in that church they will not be spiritually qualified to do so, and he noted that is the situation in many of our churches today.

One of the key needs in our bivocational churches is trained, spiritual leadership. We need to make discipleship a priority in our churches. People must be challenged to go deeper in their walk with Christ and given the tools to enable them to do so. If we fail to do this we will have failed to obey half of the Great Commission regardless of how large our churches may become.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Walking with Jesus

I've been away for awhile for the holidays, but it feels good to get back in a normal routine again. I do hope your Christmas and New Year's holidays went well.

A new emphasis we have in our Region this year is called Walking with Jesus. It is an effort to help our churches and their members begin a deeper walk with God in 2008. Briefly, we ask them to identify one or two spiritual practices they will do in 2008 in three areas of their lives to help them experience a deeper relationship with God. These three areas are spiritual practices, missional practices, and leadership practices.

Going deeper with God doesn't just happen. Like anything else in life, it requires commitment and specific practices. Many of us may have made new year's resolutions, but they won't come to pass unless we take specific steps to make them happen. A new year's resolution to lose 30 pounds won't happen if we continue to eat poorly and do not exercise. The same thing is true of our spiritual lives. Many people say they want to experience a deeper relationship with God, but it never happens because they take no action that will enable that to happen. Walking with Jesus is an attempt to help people covenant with one another to take specific actions that will enable them to experience a deeper relationship with God.

Have you made some definite decisions about how you might grow deeper in your walk with God this year? At the start of a new year you might begin reading through the Bible. You only have to read about three chapters a day to read through the entire Bible in a year. I did it again last year. If the entire Bible seems a bit much maybe you can make the decision to read through the New Testament this year. That is one of the spiritual practices I've identified for myself in 2008. Maybe you want to read one of the classic devotional books this year.

Another spiritual practice I've identified for this year is to pray the Lord's Prayer when I lay down at night and again when I wake up in the morning. That is not the only praying I do each day, but it is a good way to end a day and begin a new one. I usually spend a few minutes thinking about some aspect of the Lord's Prayer as I pray about it. This morning the phrase "Hallowed be thy name" stuck in my mind, and I lay in the bed for a few minutes just worshiping God before getting up.

If you decide to identify some practices in the areas of leadership, missional, and spiritual please let me know. If you need help identifying resources to help you in those practices, contact me and I will direct you to some of the resources we have identified for our churches. Let's be intentional about our Walk with Jesus in 2008.