Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Favorite books of 2011

As this year winds down I thought I would share my favorite books of 2011.  For whatever reason, I felt somewhat frustrated by my reading this year.  Several books I read left me rather empty, and as I finished them I wondered why I had even bothered to read them.  I usually judge a book by how many nuggets I highlighted, and some, quite frankly, had very few highlights.  But, these ten are not in that category.  These were books that were enjoyable, informative, and gave me much to think about.  That is why I want to share them with you.  In true Dave Letterman fashion I'll start with number ten and work my way to the top.

#10 - Muzzled: The Assault on Honest Debate by Juan Williams.  Williams was the news analyst who was fired by NPR for comments he made on Bill O'Reilly's program.  The outcry after his termination led to the removal of those who made the decision to fire him.  Williams is an African-American who, in my opinion, is one of most honest analysts on TV.  On some issues he takes a more liberal approach, and on other issues he is more conservative.  The thesis of this book is that it is increasingly more difficult today to have a debate on any issue without it leading to a personal attack.  Discussions too often turn into shouting matches that seldom lead to any positive outcome.  Sound like any church business meetings you've attended?  I really enjoyed this book and found Williams' honest comments about this problem refreshing. 

#9 - Practicing Greatness: 7 Disciplines of Extraordinary Spiritual Leaders by Reggie McNeal.  McNeal acknowledges that we have many good leaders in the church, but he believes one of our greatest needs is for great leaders.  He also believes greatness is not accidental but is experienced by those leaders who seek to be great, and this book is to help leaders develop themselves into great leaders.  I agree with McNeal and often quote John Maxwell in my workshops:  "Everything rises and falls on leadership."  If that is true, then our churches will never rise above the level of the persons leading them, and this is why every pastor and lay leader should aspire to become a great leader.  This book will help you achieve that.

#8 - Steering Through Chaos by Scott Wilson.  Everything today is changing at a rapid rate.  Everything that is except many of our churches.  We are living in a time of chaos as change is impacting everything we have known for years, and if we are going to lead our churches to have any kind of effective ministry in our communities we will have to embrace change.  Wilson gives the reader some tools to help them to do and to lead through the chaos that will result.  He admits there will be pain involved in leading churches through times of transition and growth, but the pain will be worth it for the difference you will make in the Kingdom of God. 

#7 - Has Christianity Failed You? by Ravi Zacharias.  This year I re-read several of Zacharias' books as part of my devotional reading.  While I enjoyed all of them I found this one especially helpful.  There comes a time in every Christian's life when he or she feels that somehow their faith has not produced the results they were hoping for.  Some become bitter and turn away from God; others simply decide that perhaps they can't trust Him as they thought they could or perhaps something is wrong with them and they are being punished for their misdeeds.  With great sensitivity Zacharias addresses this issue in this book.  This will be a book that will help you during those times of questioning in your life, and it will be a valuable resource when you are ministering to others who are going through dark times in their lives and wondering where God is in the midst of their suffering.

#6 - Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink.  What things motivate you?  How do you attempt to motivate others?  How can we move from extrinsic (external) motivations to intrinsic (internal) motivations, and does it matter?  If Pink is right and external motivations can become entitlements in some people's minds, we cannot continue to dangle the carrot out there as our primary means of motivation.  I found this book to be a very interesting read about motivation and how a lot of what we thought we knew about motivation simply isn't true.  I will caution you that this is not a quick read, but I think you will find it helpful as you lead volunteers in your church.

#5 - Recapture the Wonder by Ravi Zacharias.  As many of Zacharias' books as I read this year it is not surprising that two of them made my favorite's list.  Let me ask you a personal question...are you as on fire for God as you were when you were first saved?  Does your call to ministry continue to burn within you, or are there days you wish you were doing anything but ministry?  In time, most believers lose that initial sense of wonder and excitement of being a child of God and serving Him.  In this book the author challenges us to recapture that wonder and gives us some means by which we can do that.

#4 - Weird: Because Normal Isn't Working by Craig Groeschel.  I've heard from some pastors that this book became the foundation for a sermon series they preached this year, and I can understand why.  Most Christians are content to live normal lives that look much like the way everyone else is living, and we wonder why so few people are attracted to the Christian life.  Groeschel challenges us to begin to live differently than the world.  I know you may be thinking about some really weird people who attend your church, and you might be thinking you don't want to become those people.  You're right...no one wants to become those people, but that isn't what Groeschel is talking about.  He is challenging us to begin to live our lives according to the the red letters in our Bibles, the words Jesus spoke.  If we just starting living like Jesus taught, that would be weird, and it would give us opportunities to share our faith with others.  I think you'll like this book.

#3 - On the Verge by Alan Hirsch and Dave Ferguson.  The authors challenge us to begin to think of the church as an apostolic movement rather than as an organization.  This will require a paradigm shift that will not come easily to many people, but they believe as I do that such a shift is necessary.  While many churches still struggle with introducing change into their church, such as music styles, the authors believe that such changes really won't amount to much.  They view such changes as cosmetic and insist that only deep changes in the culture of the church will bring about signficant change.  One comment I especially enjoyed was "In the church Jesus built, conversion was commission or baptism is ordination, take your pick."  In other words, God has called each believer to ministry; there are no spectators.  If we could introduce only that shift in our thinking into our churches it would revolutionize many of them.

#2 - Dangerous Church: Risking Everything to Reach Everyone by John Bishop.  Why do many church members not invite their friends to attend church with them?  This is only one of the questions Bishop asks in this book that is both uncomfortable but necessary.  Another one is how much is your church willing to risk to reach the unchurched?  In this book the author is calling the church back to becoming the church Christ called it to be, a church that is willing to risk everything to reach the world for Him.  This book will help you look at your church through new eyes.

#1 - EntreLeadership by Dave Ramsey.  Ramsey built a highly successful business from a table in his dining room after going bankrupt.  Best known for his books on financial principles, his radio program, and Financial Peace University Ramsey released this book in 2011 to help develop entrepreneurial leaders.  Although it is written primarily for business owners and leaders, many of the principles you find in this book are easily transferrable to church leaders.  I believe most bivocational ministers are entrepreneurs so I think you'll find this book to be especially helpful to you.  This was easily my favorite book of 2011.

There's my top 10.  I realized as I was compiling the list that all but two of these books were read on my NOOK.  The two Zacharias books have been on my bookshelf for a few years and had been previously read, but the other eight were downloaded and read as e-books.  That certainly represents a paradigm shift for me!  The Ramsey book came with embedded videos with him briefly commenting on some item he had written which made for an interesting change in reading.  I have downloaded several new books on the NOOK and have purchased some "real" books that are sitting on my shelf, so I'm ready to start my reading adventure in 2012.  I hope you will find some books in this new year that will inspire you to grow and think.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas

Our home is filled with the wonderful smells of recently baked cookes and bread.  Presents for the grandchildren are wrapped and ready for delivery.  Christmas music has been playing in the house all day.  This has been a challenging year in many ways for our family, but this morning during my devotions I couldn't do anything but thank God for the blessings we've enjoyed this year.  Regardless of the situations, we have enjoyed a sense of His presence throughout the year.  All I could do this morning was to give Him thanks.

I also thank God for all who follow me on this blog, on Twitter, and my Facebook friends as well as the hundreds who now receive my monthly e-newsletter.  Each of you are a blessing to me, and I pray that I have been to you as well this year.  May you and your families have a very Merry Christmas and a most blessed 2012!

Friday, December 23, 2011

2nd book published in Korean

I was excited to learn today that my publisher has signed an agreement with a publisher in Korea who wants to publish Intentional Ministry in a Not-So-Mega Church.  This will be my second book produced and sold in Korea and my third foreign language book.  In addition, I've been asked this year if I would be willing to lead workshops for bivocational ministers in Scotland, India, and Canada.  There have been no invitations as yet to do that, but at least there is some interest.

Not only is bivocational ministry growing in the US, but it is very common in many parts of the world.  I feel privileged to have the opportunity to develop resources that are not only helpful to bivocational ministers in this country but are seen as important to bivocational ministers around the world.

My next book, The Healthy Community: Moving Your Church Beyond Tunnel Vision, is now available for pre-order on amazon.com with a scheduled release of March 1, 2012.  Pastors of all size churches will find this book helpful as they consider what they need to do in the coming years to enable their churches to have more of an impact on their communities.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Light and salt

We hear much talk today of the need for the church to adapt itself to the world if it is to effectively impact society.  In fact, we hear it so much that it has almost become a mantra to many church leaders.  In my devotional reading I am reading the classic, The Christiam Mind, by Harry Blamires.  Published in 1963 this book still has much to say to Christians and to the church today.  Here is an except from the book that speaks to today's post.

There is a limited, specialized sense in which it is true that the Church must adapt itself to the modern world.  But over a whole range of controversial issues - and in the deepest and most controversial sense - it is rather true that, far from the Church adapting itself to the modern world, the modern world must adapt itself to the Church...For if the Christian faith is true, and the Christian Church the authoritative vehicle of salvation in time, then it is the most urgent, inescapable need of the modern world to adapt itself to the Church.

 As I say in my workshops, one of the primary reasons unchurched people avoid church is that they consider it irrelevant to the time.  In some ways, they are correct.  We often spend time answering questions that no one is asking, and we do not spend enough time addressing the needs of the day.  However, ultimately, the church can never be irrelevant because at its best it is answering the timeless questions that all people ask at some time in their lives.  It also cannot be irrelevant because the morals, ethics, and values it teaches are timeless as well.  Critics of the church say that the church must adapt to the realities of the age, but I believe that Blamires is correct when he insists that the greatest need is for the world to adapt itself to the Church.

How much more evidence do we need that the values, morals, and ethical systems of the world do not work?  Read the headlines and listen to the news.  As a society we are morally bankrupt, and that bankruptcy is having a much more devastating effect on society than the financial bankruptcies that are so common today.  In fact, the financial meltdown of today can largely be traced back to the moral and ethical failures of those who led the various financial institutions.  Millions of Americans and people around the world have been financially destroyed because of the greed and utter lack of moral consciousness of many of the leaders of financial institutions, corporations, and our government.  Even worse are the stories of child abuse that are currently in the headlines.  How many more children will come forward to tell of abuse at the hands of adults in whom they trusted?  Even more haunting, how many will remain silent while their untold stories continue to eat away at their insides?

There is no such thing as a values-free society.  The question is whose values will prevail?  On the one side we have the values that have been taught by the church and on the other side are those taught by a society that opposes the church's teachings.  Which values bring decency and order to society?  An even greater question is which ones come from the highest authority?  The values taught by the church come from God while those promoted by society come from fallen individuals.  I know that those who deny God exists will reject my last statement, but that rejection is immaterial to me.  It is not my job to appease non-believers; it is my job to shine light into the darkness in which they live and speak truth to them.  It is my job to be salt, to live my life in such a way that people become thirsty for God in their own lives.  This is the task of all of us who call ourselves Christians, and we cannot succeed at this task if we merely adapt ourselves to the world.

In 2012 how will your church be light and salt to your community?  I believe that if we are going to be successful at this we will have to speak truth to our communities.  We must boldly proclaim that God's Word is true and that what He has taught us about morals and values must be followed if we are to live in a society that will protect its weakest citizens and enjoy the blessings of God.  It is time that the church stop worrying about what society might think or what the media might say and determine to once again become the light and salt God called us to be.  Jesus said if the salt loses its savor it is useless and fit only to be cast aside.  This should serve as a warning to every church that refuses to be salt and light to its community.  We have spent too much time in recent years trying to adapt ourselves to the world in an attempt to be more acceptable to them.  It is time that we tell the world that it needs to adapt itself to the church if it has any hope of surviving.  

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The power of coaching

Next month I am scheduled to train some UM pastors who will be coaching bivocational ministers in their district.  I'm really excited about this for a couple of reasons.  One, it's exciting to see judicatory leaders looking for new ways to resource their bivocational ministers.  Two, I know how helpful it can be to a bivocational minister to have a coach.  This will be a win for both the pastors and the district plus those who are serving as coaches are going to be blessed in ways they do not yet understand.

Over the past 3-4 years I have become convinced that there are few things more powerful in a leader's life than having a coach.  I benefitted from a coach who helped me through some decisions I had to make about my life and ministry, and I've been privileged to coach a number of other ministers.  We all get stuck sometimes in our lives.  We all have those times when we just aren't sure of the best direction to take.  Every minister has those seasons in his or her life when there is more doubt and frustration than faith.  Often, in our most challenging moments, we aren't sure who to turn to or talk to about the issues facing us.  In those times, having a coach come alongside to walk with you can be quite powerful.

Coaches don't give advice; they ask questions.  They challenge the person being coached (PBC) to think deeply about the issues facing them and to consider possible solutions.  Coaches encourage and at the same time hold the PBC accountable.  They speak directly to the PBC, sometimes saying things the PBC would prefer not to hear, but it is always with the desire to help the PBC move forward in his or her life.  Coaches don't dwell on the past; they help the PBC move forward in life.  The best coaches want the PBC to experience everything God has planned for his or her life and is committed to helping them achieve that.

As you think about 2012, are there goals you would like to accomplish but are uncertain how to best do that?  Do you see some decisions that you will have to make next year that have you really concerned?  Are you fearful that 2012 will be a repeat of 2011, 2010, 2009, etc, and the thought of that bothers you more than you would like to admit?  Does your life and ministry feel like a wheel in a hamster's cage, and despite all your activity you feel like you're going nowhere?  If you answered yes to any of these questions you might be ready for a coach to help you move forward.

With my other responsibilities, I can only coach up to five people at a time, and I currently have openings.  Virtually all my coaching is done over the telephone so it doesn't matter where you live.  I've coached people from several states and Canada.  Most of the people I've coached have been bivocational ministers, but I've also coached fully-funded pastors, and I am open to coaching persons who are not in the ministry but want help with some aspect of their lives.  I am a charter member of the International Christian Coaching Association.

If you want to move forward in your life and ministry in 2012 I encourage you to consider having a coach assist you in that process.  If you feel that I may be able to assist I would be honored to discuss that with you.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Growth in the small church

In my files I have a cartoon of a church business meeting.  There are three people at the meeting.  Behind the pastor/moderator is an attendance board that shows attendance for this Sunday at 2, attendance the previous Sunday was 2, and attendance a year ago was 2.  The moderator is addressing one of the attendees and saying, "So you believe we should become a mega-church.  Would you like to elaborate on that?"

I think of this cartoon every time I hear of a small church pastor who tries to copy a model that they learn from one of the mega-churches.  Let me say upfront that I have absolutely nothing against mega-churches, and I believe that smaller churches can learn from the larger churches.  I used to attend a quarterly prayer meeting in a nearby mega-church, and I always made sure that I took a member of our church with me.  I wanted to expose them to the excellence in everything this church did.  But, I never once wanted to pattern our church after this mega-church.

Some members of a small, rural church recently told me that all their new pastor did was talk about what the mega-churches do.  He took several church leaders to meet with the pastor and other leaders of a mega-church in their state.  This mega-church church averages between 1/3 and 1/2 of the total population of the entire county where the smaller church is located, and yet this pastor has a vision of duplicating their growth and numbers.  While trying to become a mega-church pastor he is driving away several of the long-term members of the church who have become totally frustrated with this pastor's unrealistic obsession.

One of the qualities of a good goal is that while it should be challenging it must also be realistic.  I applaud this pastor's desire to have a growing church.  He has a passion for unchurched people and a deep desire to see people commit their lives to Christ.  I have no doubt that any church he leads will grow, but it is foolish to believe that the church he now serves will become the next mega-church.  His goals needs to be smaller, and as those goals are met he can begin to expand them.  Unfortunately, instead of doing that he is alienating the people who have been in that church for years and rapidly losing their support.  The minor growth their church has experienced is in danger of being lost.

If you are the pastor or a lay leader of a smaller church I encourage you to set some challenging goals for 2012.  Those goals should include reaching new people with the gospel.  However, at the same time it is important to remember those who are already part of your church family.  To ignore these people or to insinuate their needs are not important is poor pastoral ministry.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Worship in a small church

This past Sunday I visited a small, rural church pastored by a bivocational minister.  I always enjoy the opportunities I have to visit this church because I am blessed every time I'm there.  So much is written today about everything a church needs to do to attract people that it is easy for one to assume if a church isn't doing these things it can't grow.  That simply isn't the case.  Yes, in some churches there is a need for innovative worship, but there is also a need for those churches who continue to worship as they have for years.  And...these churches can grow.  The church I visited has more than doubled in size since this pastor began there about 4 years ago.

The pastor isn't seminary trained.  The church has no choir or video equipment.  Congregational singing is led by the pianist.  There are no worship bulletins.  During the pastoral prayer people shared various prayer needs they knew about and mentioned those who were doing better since the previous Sunday.  After the congregational singing ended the pianist asked if anyone had special music they wanted to do.  When no one volunteered, the pastor picked up his guitar and sang a beautiful song.  The message was simple but challenging.  No bells, no whistles, no frills.

Some may wonder why the church has grown.  I believe there are several reasons for such growth.  One, the pastor is a humble man who has told me several times how surprised he is that God had called him to pastor a church.  He loves the people, and they know it.  Two, the people there love God and one another.  One can feel the warmth as soon as you walk in the building, and at the end of the service no one is in a hurry to leave.  Three, the people who attend there are willing to work hard to serve others.  Several from that church recently joined other churches in their association to provide a Christmas party to a group of patients at a hospital.  Because of work their pastor couldn't be there this year, but that didn't stop them.  They spent an afternoon with some people who probably won't have much of a Christmas except for what these churches brought them.

There is a need for those churches who are able to offer a more modern worship experience, but there is also a need for those churches who continue to offer a more traditional experience.  The most important thing about the worship in your church is not that it is modeled after the latest book but that it allows the people who attend your church to experience God in a meaningful way.  I believe such services honor God, and the service I attended this week did that. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011


My current devotional reading is the 1963 classic The Christian Mind by Harry Blamires.  It's not an easy read because Blamires is British and writes in a manner not typically found in much of today's literature.  The good news is this forces me to slow down my reading and really concentrate on what is being said, and that forced concentration has revealed some wonderful nuggets of understanding.

In today's reading he writes, "The marks of truth as christianly conceived, then, are: that it is supernaturally grounded, not developed within nature; that it is objective and not subjective; that it is a revelation and not a construction; that it is discovered by inquiry and not elected by a majority vote; that it is authoritative and not a matter of personal choice."  He goes on to write, "The sense of an objective truth existing within the sphere of religion has been lost.  Religious conviction is, for the secular mind, a matter of individual preference related, not to objective truth, but to personal need and predilection."

Remember, he wrote this in 1963.  How much more true is this today than then?  Since he wrote these words two generations have grown up being taught that there is no such thing as objective truth, that truth is subjective and determined by how one feels or believes about a particular thing.  Even in the church the idea of an objective truth  has largely been ignored which is one reason we have such difficulties in many of our churches today.  Entire denominations struggle to speak with a clear voice on many issues because the idea of a supernatural truth established by God has to be approved by a majority vote.  And even if the majority does vote to agree with God, the minority has to be given its politically correct option to loudly disagree and continue to push its agenda.  If the church struggles with this how much more will the unchurched population struggle to accept supernatural truth?

This is why one student in a school whose parents do not believe in Christ can cause the entire school to abandon its Christmas program in favor of a holiday program.  This is why it is not politically correct to speak of Christ in the public arena.  Talk about God all you want, but expect trouble if you bring Jesus Christ into the conversation.  This is why it is nearly impossible to bring any kind of moral teaching into any discussion of the major issues facing our nation and the world today.  Let's work to eradicate AIDS, but we musn't talk about the moral issues that have brought about this horrible disease.  Let's pour money into assisting children who live in poverty, but we must not mention why so many are living in such conditions: the rising number of children born to unwed mothers, the absence of fathers in the home, no-fault divorce, the rising epidemic of drug addiction, the failure of our educational system to properly educate young people so they will have the skills to provide for themselves and their families, etc.  We can measure the rising crime rates, but we must be careful to not offer any biblical insights into why people commit crime or we might offend someone.  We can continue to pour money into supporting those without jobs until we bankrupt the nation, but we must not point out the immorality of the greed of those who send jobs overseas or the immorality of laws that make such action profitable for those companies who do send those jobs overseas.

A few years ago a movie was made about Al Gore's efforts to promote the concept of global warming.  The film was called An Inconvenient Truth.  Truth as found in Scripture is an inconvenient truth for most of our population today.  Until we in the church recognize that the teaching of Scripture are true and begin to structure our lives accordingly we will never be able to have the impact on society that we should have.  Until we are willing to proclaim that truth regardless of the outcry that will be heard against it, we will continue to live on the periphery of society.  Until we are willing to confront people with the truth about who Jesus Christ is and why He came to earth we will not see their lives changed through a personal encounter with the living Savior.  Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no one comes to the Father except through Me."  That may be an inconvenient truth to many in today's society, but it is the only truth that will change lives, and it is the truth the church must proclaim this Christmas season and throughout the coming year.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Why no vision?

Last week I met with a small church that is ready to seek to new pastor.  One of the questions I always ask the committees charged with this task is to tell me the vision of the church.  As usual, no one could answer.  They all looked at one another, looked down to the table, and admitted the church really didn't have a vision for its future.  I then rephrased it a little and asked, "Tell me where you see the church five years from now."  Still no answer.  I then asked, "How do you know what gifts you need in your next pastor if you don't know where God is wanting to take your church?"  Unfortunately, this is a conversation I have with almost every church I assist in their search for a pastor and most churches I consult with.

Like the old western song, most churches are drifting along like a tumbling tumbleweed.  They have no sense of purpose and no direction because they have no sense of a God-given vision.  They have given little thought, if any, of where they want to be five years from now.  Many of them are just hoping to have enough income this year to pay their bills and hoping that in their drifting along that something good might happen in the life of their congregation.  Well...hope is not a strategy.  Hope is a wonderful thing but it cannot take the place of a God-given vision, and it will not take you to the place where God wants you to be.

Discerning God's vision is not always an easy thing to do.  In fact, it can be quite messy at times.  I wish I could give you a three step process that would give you God's vision for your church at the conclusion of the process, but I don't know of such a process.  There are things that a congregation can do to assist the process, and I've worked with a number of churches to help them with their seeking a fresh vision from God for their church.  Unfortunately, not all of those churches had a better sense of a vision than before we started.

I've thought about why it is so hard for churches to identify God's vision for their church.  I always begin with the assumption that God still has a vision for each church, so why is it so difficult for some churches to discern what that vision might be?  One of the conclusions I've made is that although some churches seem to be seeking that vision, they really don't want it.

Most of the time, a fresh vision from God will require that something has to change for that vision to be fulfilled, and the churches are unwilling to change.  Such a vision might require specific demands upon the church's resources, and the congregation is unwilling to make those resources available.  It might require different leadership, and persons currently in leadership are unwilling to step aside.  Because God knows that heart of each person, He knows whether or not a church is serious about wanting to know His vision for its ministry, and if a congregation is not willing to move forward with that vision He doesn't provide it.

Where will your church be at the end of 2012?  What impact will it have made in  the lives of the congregation and those who live in your community?  Is there a single vision your church is seeking to fulfill in the next year?  If your church closes its doors in 2012 will anyone from the community even know, or as we approach this time next year will your community rejoice for the impact your church made it people's lives?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Growth can lead to problems

This week I met with a pastor and had a conversation with a church leader from another church.  Both conversations centered around pastor problems.  The pastor I met with had recently been confronted by a member who was very unhappy with something the pastor had recently done.  The lay leader asked if I could meet with a contingent from their church who were also upset with their pastor.  An interesting fact about each church is that each pastor has been there for four years or less, and each church has grown by at least double since the pastor arrived.  My hunch is that in each case the problems are due to changes the pastor has made that led to the growth but upset the long-time members.  I'll know if my guess is right in the next week or so.  But, history has taught me that just because small churches say they want to grow that doesn't mean they will be happy about the changes such growth will require.

Virtually every small church I work with tells me they want to grow and reach new people.  Few of them are happy when I tell them that if what they have been doing would grow their church, the church would already be growing.  If they are serious about wanting to reach new people they will have to be willing to do some new things that might reach those people.  Even fewer are happy when I tell them that such change might mean that some of the long-time members might leave, and the church might actually get smaller before it begins to grow.  A woman in one church told me that there wasn't anyone in their church she was willing to lose as that church decided to not implement the recommendations I might make even before hearing them.

Of course, we can't always blame church members who simply don't want any change in their churches.  Sometimes the way a pastor presents possible changes almost assures their rejection.  There is an art to recommending changes in a small church that every small church pastor needs to learn and follow.  The worst thing such pastors can do is to try to force change on a small church or rush it.  It's also a mistake to propose signficant changes without first running them past the lay leadership for their input.  BTW - each church member will decide which changes are significant and which are not so it helps to have been around for a while to know what's important to each member before trying too many new things.

There is another aspect to such problems.  As I mentioned to the pastor, his church is growing so he should expect that Satan will try to find a way to stop their growth.  Because much of their growth is from new believers, Satan is even more committed to stopping this church from reaching into his territory and helping people find freedom in Christ.  I find the only churches the devil doesn't bother are those that are not doing anything.  They are not a threat to him so why should he waste his time on them.  But in the case of a church that is reaching new people, it seems he can always find some button to push to try to disrupt everything.  If your church is growing, and you are starting to sense resistance, just know you are involved in spiritual warfare, and the only effective weapons will not be flesh and blood but spiritual.

At this time, I don't know if the pastor will remain at his church or not.  I'm scheduled to meet with the other congregation next week so I'll know more about their situation then.  What I do know is that two churches that have enjoyed some exciting growth in the past couple of years have been slowed down in their efforts because of problems.  I would call upon each of you to continually be in prayer for all churches as they seek to represent Christ to the world and reach people for the Kingdom of God.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Social media

I will soon qualify for my personal pocket protector.  It seems I become more of a geek every day.  A few months ago I joined Facebook, and this past week I got on Twitter.  I'm now a Twit that Tweets or is that a Tweet that Twits?  Anyway, I'm now posting and reading messages on both.  Besides that, I finally convinced my wife to get her a cell phone which she had resisted doing.  She wanted a less expensive phone, but after sending 2-3 text messages to grandkids she asked if she could get an upgrade.  I THINK she was joking. 

The day after Thanksgiving I noticed that while I was checking e-mails on my I-Phone, our son who was in for the holiday was responding to an e-mail on his I-Pad and my wife was sending a text to our daughter who had returned home earlier that day.  Everyone was communicating, but none of us were talking to one another.  That bothered me.

Social media, cell phones, and computers are all great tools to increase personal productivity, and I believe they can be very helpful to promote church activity, but the danger is that they can take the place of human touch.  Smaller churches, in particular, are all about relationships, and while electronic tools can help communicate they cannot develop the kind of relationships that are most needed in the small church.  That still requires the human touch, the sound of a human voice, and the assurance that you are loved by someone who walks with you in both good times and bad.  If we lose the human touch we will have lost something very important to the community of faith, so I urge you to not let that happen.

In the meantime, feel free to follow me on Facebook and Twitter.  At Twitter you'll find me at DennisBickers.  If you are not receiving the free monthly e-newsletter that goes out to bivocational and small church leaders, send me an e-mail letting me know you want to start receiving that.  I just sent out December's newsletter to over 600 people, and I would love to add you to the mailing list.