Monday, March 16, 2009

A prayer for the nation

This morning during my prayer time I prayed for America and for the leadership of our President and Congress. I asked God to guide them in decisions that would honor Him and bless our nation. As I have said before, God doesn't ride on Air Force One. There is One higher than the President, Supreme Court judges, and members of Congress, and He has the power to send a spiritual revival to our nation that would turn us upside down. He has the power to bless or curse any nation (Dt. 30: 19). However, He also gives us the power to choose which we will receive (Dt.30: 15-17).

The problems of our nation today are many. We are in two wars, our economy is in shambles, millions of people have lost their jobs and their homes, every day there is a new report of a government, business, or religious leader who has failed in his leadership responsibilities, and violence continues to escalate throughout our land. Isn't it ironic that a report was issued last week that showed that the number of people who are involved in religious activities has declined to its lowest level in our nation's history? I would suggest that our problems are not the economic problems and the others mentioned above; these are simply symptoms of our real problem. Our real problem is that we have turned away from God over the past 5 decades, and we are now reaping the fruit of that choice. When we chose to remove God from the public arena we chose the curse God warned us about in Deuteronomy.

Although I pray regularly for our President and other government leaders, they cannot bring us out of this mess. Political decisions cannot solve a spiritual crisis. Our economy is in shambles because we have turned our back on God. Haggai 1:6 reads, "You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it." As you continue reading this little Old Testament book God explains this has occurred because the people had turned their backs on Him. We can identify the same reason for all the other problems our nation faces.

We cannot look to political answers to solve these problems. The only solution is a spiritual revival in this nation that restores God to His rightful place. The liberals, the atheists, and the persons of other religions will oppose this solution, but spiritual renewal doesn't depend upon them. Spiritual renewal comes from God and the ACLU, Nancy Pelosi, Barney Frank, and the leaders of every non-Christian religion cannot stop it. Only you and I can prevent such a revival from occurring.

2 Chronicles 7:14 says, "If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land." It is the people of God who must humble themselves and seek God, not the unbelievers, that will bring spiritual renewal and healing for our nation. Every pastor needs to be challenging his or her congregation to begin repenting of their sins and to seek spiritual renewal in their lives. Renewal will begin in the life of the individual, spread to the church, then to the community, and finally across the nation, but it must begin in the life of the individual. Without turning this nation back to God we will not ultimately survive, and such turning must be the result of a spiritual revival.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

What congregations want

In the past eight years I've had the opportunity to assist a number of churches in my Area as they sought new pastoral leadership. One of my first questions to them is "What do you want or need in your next pastor?" Almost always I am told they want a pastor who can grow their church, reach out to the youth in the community, and help them become a strong, healthy church. That's what they say, but then I have the search committee distribute a survey to the congregation that will identify the ministry giftedness they believe their next pastor will need. Virtually every time they identify gifts and skills that are designed to maintain the church as it is. They may claim they want a pastor who can grow the church, but the reality is they do not want that growth to come at the expense of the current membership. They want a pastor who will maintain their current status quo. It is not surprising that I recently ran across this assessment of a research into what churches want from their pastor.

"What the churches want in a minister is essentially a successful salesman for their enterprise. A striking feature of the analysis of the ministerial qualifications desired, is the virtual absence from them of any doctrinal specifications. Still more significant is the fact that the actual demand for ministers virtually assumes the maintenance of the status quo. It is leadership in things as they are, an adaptability to conditions as they stand, rather than innovative or prophetic leadership that is demanded."

This report does not surprise me at all. What does surprise me is that it was written in 1935! Is it any wonder the church today is in the shape it is when the church has spent the last 74 years looking for pastoral leadership who will not rock the boat, introduce any changes, or do anything that will threaten the current status of the church? Oh yeah, plus the churches are not concerned about doctrinal integrity either, so we should not be surprised at the lack of biblical and doctrinal knowledge of those within the churches. They don't want to hear that stuff; they just want a pastor to keep things as they are and tend to their personal needs.

Is this the church Jesus Christ died for? We must find ways to help churches demand more from their pastors, and we must do a better job of preparing ministers to provide more. Maintenance ministry is killing our churches and destroying any opportunity we may have to influence our world for Jesus Christ. Pastor, what will be the legacy you leave behind when you leave your current position? What will your legacy be when you finish your life? Lay leaders, what legacy are you creating in your church? What needs to change?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Leadership development

How many readers have a personal growth plan? What about a personal ministry plan or a personal vision statement? Many of us are willing to go through life without any intentional plan to grow or develop as leaders. We may read an occasional book or attend a workshop, but most of us don't even do that. We claim we're too busy. I'm not sure we can ever be too busy to grow to our full potential, and without a plan for such growth it will not happen. Let me encourage you to develop each of these plans.

Start by listing 6-7 things you want to do to grow as a person. These should include growing as a husband/wife, a parent, a minister, a leader, etc. List 6-7 areas of growth you would like to experience in 2009. Then select one or two that you will specifically focus on.

You identify your personal ministry plan by first identifying two of your primary spiritual gifts and deciding what ministry areas you can use those gifts in. Write down both the gifts and specific ministry areas in which those gifts can be used.

By using each of the first two items you can write out your personal vision statement. "I will bring glory to God by __________________________."

Now, how do you need to grow to accomplish these plans? Just writing them down isn't enough. You have to intentionally do something to accomplish them. Are there workshops or classes you can take to achieve your plans? Who will serve as your accountability partner to help you stay focused on your plans? If you have created these three plans and answered the questions in this paragraph you have done more to experience personal growth than at least 90% of pastors.

One more question...what could happen in your church if you led each of your lay leaders to go through this same process?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

At school again

This week I am back at school taking my last DMin class. With a class in January and another one this week I have been covered up trying to complete all my assignments as well as trying to serve my churches. I'm behind on my assignments, but I'm working hard to catch up. The best news is that this is my last class! Once I complete the assignments for the class I can focus my attention on the thesis. The subject for my thesis has been approved, and I have started coaching those individuals who volunteered for the project. One of my goals for 2009 is to complete everything by the end of 2009 and graduate in May 2010.

My class this week is "Developing Leaders." It's been a great class so far, and we're only completed the second day. So few church leaders have any intentional plan to develop leaders in their churches. Most of us operate like I did during most of my pastoral ministry. We think if we are faithful in preaching and teaching that leaders will just naturally develop. Leadership is more caught than taught. It is only when we are personally investing our lives in potential leaders than we can expect to develop leaders, and only when we are developing leaders are we preparing our churches for growth.

One of the questions we've been asked this week is, "Are you a leader if you are not developing leaders?" Our class was divided on that question. I would be interested in hearing your response to this question.