Monday, October 27, 2008

Light vs darkness

As part of my current devotional time I am reading through The NIV Commentary: John written by Gary Burge. In today's reading he is looking at Judas' betrayal of Jesus, and he writes:

This story is more than a description of one man's demise. Throughout the Gospel we have been warned about the struggle between the light and darkness. In 1:5 we noted the absolute hostility between the two. As the Gospel unfolds, we hear again and again about those who choose the darkness despite their exposure to the light...In spite of his proximity to the light, [Judas] chooses the darkness. John invites us to reflect on the horror of this.

I immediately thought of those ministers whose frustrations with ministry have caused many to decide to leave the ministry. Some grew angry with God because their ministry wasn't what they thought it would be. Some thought they should have had more prestigious places to serve while others were hurt by the constant complaining and nit-picking of their members. Some simply couldn't see their families hurt any more by a congregation who seemed to not care.

Some who have stayed in the ministry have grown bitter and remain in the ministry only because they know nothing else or they are getting close to retirement. They have no passion for ministry and little interest in the people they serve. They do the minimum necessary to keep their job, but they have distanced themselves from their work, their people, and, often, even from God.

Our call to the ministry is a special gift God has given each of us. We were never promised it would always be easy or enjoyable. None of us can afford to turn away from the light of our calling to the darkness of denying that calling or our God. Yet, it isn't hard to do if we take our eyes off God and begin to focus entirely on the circumstances around us.

I want to encourage each of you today to rejoice in your calling. There will be rough spots, but God will show Himself faithful if we keep our focus on Him. As I look backwards over a 20 year pastorate I can remember a few rough times, but I can also see numerous people who found faith in Jesus Christ and are faithfully serving Him today. Those rough times do not seem nearly as difficult now as they did when I was going through them, and the victories more than make up for them. Stay in the light, and resist every temptation to slip into the darkness that would take you away from the calling God has on your life. When you begin to review your life and ministry you'll be glad you did.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Constitution changes

One of the roadblocks pastors often encounter when they try a new ministry or suggest a new way of doing something is that the church's constitution doesn't provide for the change. Many pastors have learned the hard way the risk associated with ignoring the church constitution or the greater risk of suggesting the constitution be changed!

A number of pastors have found it is easier to ask the church to modify the constitution for a specific period of time (2-3 years) in order to try some new things in the church. Oftentimes a church is more willing to go through a trial period than to just completely change the constitution. If the new methods do not work within that time frame the church automatically reverts to the old constitution. However, if the changes do produce positive results the church will be more apt to make those changes permanent.

If you have tried without success to encourage your church to take a new look at the constitution and begin to revise it, maybe you could suggest that the changes you want to make be tried for a limited period of time and then evaluated. It might just help your church make some changes that it needs to make.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Web sites

Studies have found that a church web site is one of the best ways to reach people under 30 years of age. Larger churches know this. George Barna recently reported that 91% of churches that average 250 adults or more on Sunday morning have web sites. Only 48% of the churches that attract 100 or less adults have a web site. While this number is up substantially from only a few years ago, it still represents less than one-half of the smaller churches.

Web sites do not have to be expensive. In fact, some denominations make a site available to their churches at little or no cost. Even if you purchase a site it doesn't have to cost thousands of dollars to create and maintain. Your church can have a nice site for less than $20.00 a month, and that is very inexpensive outreach.

I would recommend you speak to your denominational leaders and see what they may offer. They may also be able to point you to some companies that would host your site for very little cost. Most smaller and bivocational churches say they want to attract younger people to their churches, and if we are going to seriously attempt to do so then we must use the technology they use. A web site is a good place to start.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

In, Through, or As

I'm currently reading Edward Hammett's book, Spiritual Leadership in a Secular Age: Building Bridges Instead of Barriers. I'm finding it very interesting and wanted to share one paragraph with you.

"Spiritual leadership in the church sees their primary function as preserving the institution and its history. Often these leaders give verbal assent to carrying out the biblical mission, but their behavior and schedule more often than not are dominated by institutional concerns over mission objectives. Spiritual leadership through the church focuses more on mobilizing members for mission rather than pacifying members or maintaining institutional matters. Spiritual leadership as the church dissolves the distinctions between clergy and laity and creates a mission-minded, culture-penetrating partnership for the cause of Christ."

Providing spiritual leadership in the church merely maintains the existing system and is the primary reason 80% of our churches are now plateaued or declining. Unfortunately, this is type of leadership that most churches want from their pastors. When churches say they want a pastor who is a strong leader, they mean they want a pastor to provide strong leadership in the church to ensure its survival.

Real spiritual leadership must happen through the church as the members are encouraged and trained to minister to the surrounding community. This is the leadership required for the church to begin to become a missional church. However, the best spiritual leadership occurs as the church removes the barriers between clergy and laity and truly begins to impact its culture for the Kingdom of God.

The question for each of us is are we providing leadership in our churches, through our churches, or as the church? The answer is important.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

It's been two weeks

I can't believe it's been two weeks since my last blog! Last week we visited our son and his family in Philly and had a great time. Our granddaughter had a soccer game we got to watch, and our grandson had a football game. It's always fun to watch grandchildren play sports, and both are very good. Of course, I may be a little prejudiced.

Next week I will be in Michigan speaking to a gathering of Salvation Army officers and pastors on the healthy small church. I'll speak there on Thursday and Friday. They anticipate 30-40 people will attend the event. Calls are coming in from various judicatories asking about me speaking to their pastors and leaders in 2009, but nothing is scheduled yet.

My publisher sent my manuscript asking for some re-writes. The book Intentional Ministry in a Not-So-Mega-Church is now at the copyeditor, and they need me to do some work on it. My deadline is Oct. 20 so I'll have to work on it this weekend.

I also need to finish my paper for my last DMin class. It's not due until December 1, but I want to get it over with. I've registered for my last two classes, one in January and one in March. All that will be left then is my dissertation.

We have staff meetings today and tomorrow, so I better finish getting ready for that. Now, do you understand why I hadn't written in a couple of weeks? Of course you do, you're a bivocational minister, too!