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Displaying items by tag: ministry

Intentional Ministry

Developing a “Vision Statement” for Your Church (Ugh, the term “Vision” is so annoying)

Introduction:

Imagine this familiar scene: Your church is having a late night leadership meeting. During the meeting one member has a great idea that they can’t wait to share. This person is bubbling up with enthusiasm for their idea. They finally get their chance to tell the whole group and...whoosh, you can feel the life being sucked out of the room. This good-natured person is certain their idea would solve all the problems. But instead it falls flat. It's DOA. Not well-received. Not embraced.

What happened? Often, the root stems from a lack of unity around the mission, objectives, goals and tactics of an organization. More than likely, the person’s “great idea” was actually a “tactic” (more on that below). In their mind, their tactic satisfied the goals of the organization, its objectives, and its mission. But the rest of the committee couldn’t see the connection or didn’t believe it would be effective. Perhaps they had different goals in mind. Perhaps they had different objectives. Perhaps, even, they had a different sense of the mission of the church.

When this occurs, the results can be disastrous. Hopefully the unity of the group absorbs this challenge and handles the moment with kindness and forbearance and manages to press forward. But all too often these disheartened committee members are so discouraged by having their “great idea” rejected that they resign from the committee and perhaps leave the church.

The solution to these problems can often boil down to good, clear leadership. The church needs a clear, objective plan of action. The church needs direction. And the leadership board is tasked with establishing the mission and objectives while working with the ministry leaders to figure out the goals and tactics. Without this formula; the pursuits of the church often end up being driven by expedience, ease, or whoever has the strongest personality and most influence. The church ends up being led by arbitrary forces that can be hit or miss in terms of effectiveness, rather than proceeding according to a prayerful intentional plan of action.

The church needs leadership to develop a plan for intentional ministry. This happens when the leaders prayerfully determine the “right” things to do, and then work with the ministry leaders to fulfill these objectives. This produces unity and joy within the church body.

This essay are my thoughts on how to develop a plan for intentional ministry.

Is this about developing a “Vision”? Below are some of my thoughts about how to unify the church around a common mission statement, set of objectives, measurable goals and specific tactics. However, before I explain each term, you may notice the relative absence of the term “Vision”. This is because the result of the work that follows comprises the “Vision Statement”—I prefer to view this as intentional ministry because I find the term “vision” widely misunderstood and often confused with other elements that comprise well-thought through ministry.

Churches often misunderstand the difference between a “Mission” (and the ensuing objectives, goals, tactics) and “Vision”. Sometimes the church’s mission will even be called its “Vision”. This ends up further confusing the matter. What’s worse, sometimes churches will cast a “Vision” statement though it’s is really a list of tactics—things that the pastor hopes to do one day. It’s not uncommon for a pastor to be considered one who has lots of “Vision” just because he can dream up all kinds of things for the church to do. This is not having vision, it’s a pipe-dream and unless its tied to the church’s mission, objectives and goals, it ends up frustrating the rest of the leadership.

So again, the “Vision” is the overall picture of how to do the ministry of the church. It’s not a single element of the church’s ideas for ministry, it’s everything.

Mission Statements, Objectives, Measurable Goals, Specific Tactics

Mission: Before anything else can happen, the elders need to identify the “mission” of the church. The “mission” speaks to why the church exists. It is the fundamental purpose of the church. A good mission statement is ultra-succinct, not just to make it memorable, but because the mission is, by definition, the foundational purpose of the church.

Church mission statements will probably follow something along the lines that the church exists to obey and glorify God, build disciples, reach the community, etc. Although some churches might add additional thoughts, most mission statements will contain these elements.

Longer mission statements occur (I believe improperly) when they are cluttered with “objectives” and “goals” which we’ll talk about below. Objectives and goals are vital to the process, but they must be kept in their proper place. Likewise, sometimes mission statements are amplified with flowery verbiage. Not only does this make them unnecessarily long, but it decreases the power of the succinct mission statement.

Ideally, the mission can be boiled down to a slogan such as “Exalt, Edify, Engage” or “Connecting _______ (the target community) to the Lord.” The slogan should be stated in a manner that encapsulates the mission statement in a memorable and easily understood phrase. This this is presented in the church publications (print and online) so that each member and visitor understands the mission and can carry it forward in their own lives while telling others about why they should come to that particular church.

Once the mission is framed out, the leaders needs to prayerfully determine what objectives they need to accomplish in order to fulfill their vision.

Objectives: Objectives frame out how the church will fulfill its mission statement. It’s about what the church does. It answers the question: what must we do and be in order to fulfill this mission statement? Sometimes this is called the “purposes” of the church. Objectives (or purposes) of biblical churches consists of things like worship, instruction, fellowship, evangelism, and service. They can also contain affirmations of core principles of the church. They may even contain the kinds of ministries offered, or the manner in which they are offered.

Objectives demonstrate how the church fulfills the mission. The “mission” covers why the church exists, the objectives covers how the church does this.

Goals: Once objectives are established, they need to then be broken down into measurable goals. Goals are the detailed items that need to accomplish the church’s objectives. Goals must be specific, measurable and attainable. A goal that is unmeasurable is at best an “objective”, but more likely just a hope, dream, ambition or desire. Either way, an unmeasurable “goal” is not a goal.

One of the most common ways to establish goals is to do a S.W.O.T. analysis. S.W.O.T. stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. During this phase, the leaders need to list each objective of the church and prayerfully discuss its Strengths: what has the Lord given and blessed? Weaknesses: how can we develop the church to meet this objective? Opportunities: where has the Lord given us solutions that moves us forward in reaching the objective? Threats: are there real-live issues or problems that might threaten our ability to reach this objective?

In working through a SWOT analysis, the leadership can begin to assess the goals needed for the upcoming year. Goals should be those that can truly be attained. Unrealistic goals end up discouraging those in leadership. (In some cases, “unrealistic” goals are actually objectives and can be put in that section).

Along these ideas, when formulating goals, various items ought to be considered. For instance, the elders should have a clear sense of what God expects of a mature Christian. This can include matters of knowledge (e.g theology, Christian living, etc), aspects of personal piety kinds & frequency of prayer, certain passions (for the lost, homeless, widows), etc. The leadership should also discuss what the church wants to accomplish in local and overseas missions. Moreover, when thinking about goals, the elders can (and should) work with the ministry leaders to prayerfully identify what the specific ministry needs to accomplish.

Sometimes goals are too “high”—they might be measurable and attainable, but not likely achievable with the current dynamics of the situation. Perhaps the ministry leaders lack the skill to accomplish these goals. Perhaps the facility simply can’t support these goals. In this case, the goal needs to be pulled from the overall vision statement so as not to needlessly discourage the church and/or leaders. They can, however, be a part of the leadership discussion for forward thinking down the road.

Likewise, goals should be framed keeping spiritual realities in mind. Leaders need to avoid falling into the trap of establishing attendance numbers as goals (e.g. that the Sunday School ministry needs to have 100 people coming out). Ministry is a spiritual endeavor. We must factor in the battle between the work of God and the work of Satan. Faithful ministry infused with God’s grace might not achieve man’s number-driven goals. It might be unwise and impractical to require the youth group to grow by 50 kids next year. If the youth group is actually teaching biblical truth, there may instead be an uprising of students who reject the group. Conversely, it is possible for a youth group to grow (and thereby “succeed”) because it is actually being unfaithful to the church’s overall vision statement. Thus, generally speaking, ministries should avoid using attendance numbers as goals. They can, however, establish goals for the content taught, the number of events offered, or staff training, or the kinds of ministries & programs offered, etc. Therefore, goals need to be framed in terms of spiritual objectives while avoiding attendance goals.

This whole process can be facilitated with a brainstorming session(s). During this session, the mission and objectives are reviewed and potential goals are discussed. Generally they can be added to the list—regardless of their merit in a brainstorming fashion. Then they are discussed in terms of best fulfilling the church’s mission and objectives. Finally, the leadership prayerfully decides which “goals” best become the action plan for that particular ministry during that particular year.

Lastly, as mentioned already, the church board should discuss the ministry goals on an annual basis. Often a leader will want to accomplish a certain “goal” that is not feasible for a variety of reasons. This goal can be tabled, or placed on the long-range planning list, for a future year evaluation. If the leadership board evaluates this vision statement on an annual basis, then the members can have a sense that when God provides, that goal might be revisited. This allows for maturing & developing thoughts to be folded into the action plan of the church. This also preserves unity because one leader’s passion might be put on hold for a year (or more) but then as the other leaders come to see the need, or as the dynamics allow, that tabled goal may one day be put added to the Vision Statement. In some cases, a particular goal may be placed on the goal list not as a “goal” to accomplish, but rather the goal is for the board to come to a unified conclusion as to whether or not that goal should be on the church’s future list of action steps. Following this procedure, Lord willing, unity will be maintained along the way.

Tactics: Next, the board needs to work with the ministry leaders to set in place tactics that can be implemented to accomplish those goals. Tactics are the specific action items that will bring about the goals. They can range from theoretical to ultra-specific. This is where the elder board can meet with the ministry leaders, explain the church’s vision and objectives, and work with the ministry leaders to establish goals and tactics that fulfill the mission and objectives.

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for ministry leaders to skip over objectives and goals and go right to tactics. This is where disunity begins to rear its head. Good leadership is needed—not to control the ministry leader’s thinking, but to affirm the mission and objectives of the church and then help identify tactics to accomplish the goals. Without building on this common ground; tactics can quickly become “this-is-my-favorite-idea” action points that leads to frustration and discouragement for everyone involved.

When leaders lay the groundwork of the church’s mission, objective and goals, working out the tactics becomes fun and exciting; particularly because many levels of leadership can be involved. The elders can give the mission & objectives to the ministry leader. The ministry leader then calls a meeting for his or her ministry team. They go over the mission and objectives (and goals) as given by the elders, but then seek to establish tactics that fulfill the church vision. In this way, each ministry has the freedom and latitude to let their gifts, skills and desires fold into the overall direction of the church.

Evaluation: This final step is as important as all the preceding ones—without it, the above items are a waste of time and energy. Intentional ministry means establishing the direction of the church and then making modifications along the way. Thus, every year the ministry goals and tactics of the church should be evaluated to determine their effectiveness; not to criticize ministries and leaders, but to ensure that the church is actually accomplishing its mission and objectives. Without evaluation, churches get bogged down in sacred cows and the classic “this is how we’ve always done it” kind of thinking. Tactics that don’t work need to be discarded. Goals that have been met need to be celebrated and replaced with new ones. New ideas need to be folded in. New dynamics need to be identified. With each passing year, the church will move the body forward in attaining their mission and objectives.

This is intentional ministry: establishing the mission, identifying the objectives, determining the goals to fulfill the objectives, developing and initiating appropriate tactics, and then evaluating them for their effectiveness.

Communicating with the Church

Once the above areas of development are identified, the leaders can begin to map out the best avenues to teach these principles to the congregation. This instruction needs to take three primary forms.

First, the congregation needs to understand the overall objectives and purpose of the church. They need to understand that there are areas of spiritual development that God expects of them, and that they are accountable to Him to develop.

Second, the congregation needs to be taught on the particular objectives themselves. These items can be taught in venues such as Small Groups, Sunday School, conferences, etc. Each year, the elders should evaluate what was taught in light of what should be taught to confirm that indeed the overall objectives of the church are being furthered.

Third, the congregation needs to be told why the church is doing what it does (and not something else). Some goals for each ministry (probably not all) need to be given to the church and explained. The church needs to understand how that ministry operates in harmony with the overall church mission and objectives. This will help them know how they can support that ministry and keep it before the Lord in prayer. Once they see the intentional design for a particular ministry, some people may even decide to be involved furthering that vision statement. But they won’t likely get involved if they don’t know what the ministry objectives and goals are. Moreover, if they DO want to be involved in a ministry without knowing the church’s vision statement, they might be looking for a place to live out their own “vision” which leads back into the overall problem of disunity.

Communication of the overall mission statement is not just a matter of good organizational dynamics, it’s a matter of being diligent to preserve the bond of unity.

Conclusion:

Does this sound like a lot of work? It doesn’t have to be. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Several books, articles and handouts are already available to help in this process.

God bless you as you seek to closer align God’s church with God’s word.

So those are my thoughts, I’d love to hear yours.

Grace and peace, Russ


Mission, Objectives, Goals, Tactics Worksheet

 

What is the mission of the church?

 

What objectives must be in place to accomplish this mission?

1)

2)

3)

4)

5)

Take each objective and establish specific goals and tactics that need to be accomplished in order for that objective to take place.

Objective #1:

a) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

b) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

c) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

 

Objectives #2

a) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

b) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

c) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

Objectives #3

a) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

b) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

c) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

Objectives #4

a) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

b) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

c) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

Objectives #5

a) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

b) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

c) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

 

(1) Evaluation:

Published in Blog
Saturday, 31 December 2011 10:26

Complaining About Ministry?

Complaining About Ministry

One of the more interesting Old Testament Minor Prophets is Malachi—sometimes known as the “Italian Prophet” (that’s a joke!). The book of Malachi speaks the words of God and calls the people back to pure devotion to the Lord.

Malachi covers a wide variety of topics that are symptomatic of waning devotion and he begins with the heart condition of the priests. The priests were the spiritual leaders of the people. In numerous places, they were called to shepherd the people and feed the people on knowledge and understanding (Jeremiah 3:15, 23:4, etc).

Yet in the first chapter of Malachi, the Lord brings His first condemnation on the priests because as they “go”, so do the people. It’s a case of the proverbial, “Fish rot from the head.”

In chapter 1, verse 6 the Lord calls out the priests for presenting defiled sacrifices to the Lord. According to verse 8, they were offering blind sacrifices. These imperfect sacrifices pointed to a heart condition far more serious than might be otherwise seen. First of all, an imperfect sacrifice communicates the message to God and the public that the Lord does not deserve our best; we can take shortcuts with God because other priorities trump Him. Second, it also communicates God is not concerned with the best; He Himself is sloppy and therefore accepts sloppy service.

Third, it communicates the sins being atoned are not all that bad. To understand this third point, we need to remember the sacrifices in the Old Testament were an ongoing object-lesson of covering over sins with innocent blood. Because of his sins, the worshipper could not be in fellowship with God; the worshipper’s sins were odious in the sight of the Lord and created a separation between them (Isaiah 59:2). However, if these sins were covered over by the righteous, innocent blood (life) of the animal (Leviticus 17:11), then the Lord would be shielded from their offence and once again, the sinner could have a relationship with the Lord (Leviticus 16:30).

But, if the priest was offering imperfect sacrifices, this pointed to the underlying notion that the person’s sins were not that bad, and any old sacrifice would suffice. I’m sure they even reasoned within themselves saying, “Aren’t all animals innocent? This blind goat is just as good.”

So clearly, presenting imperfect sacrifices to the Lord was a terrible action and one that led the people to stray in their hearts.

Another cutting accusation against the priests is found in chapter 1, verse 13. The Lord says the priests were complaining about the burden of their ministry. They were saying, “My, how tiresome it is!” Wow, these are seriously cutting words because who hasn’t made similar statements? Who hasn’t looked at their workload and their competing priorities and felt their particular challenges were daunting and difficult to bear? Have we gone so far as to utter words like these? No doubt, we have all felt this from time to time and felt the temptation to speak what was in our heart.

The Hebrew word in Malachi 1:13 points to a more sinister disdain for the work of God. It’s the word “mtela’a” which speaks to a weariness with a sense of frustration. Its root word (tela’a) contains the implication that the source of the weariness is something objectionable to begin with. In other words, it’s as if the priests were worn out (and telling people as much) from their labors and deep down in their hearts, they didn’t feel they should have to do the work to begin with!

This frightening warning should resound in the ears of God’s servants. From time to time, I hear of God's people who declare their weariness with their work for the Lord. I can understand their heart ache.

For pastors, the preaching regime turns the week into just two days: Sunday and all the other days morphing into one. The phone calls come in constantly—the important ones are okay, it’s the incidental calls late, at home, that exasperate us. There are countless meetings to be attended. People with frustratingly myopic perspectives squander our time on crazy hobby horses. 

For ministry leaders, often they have to deal with difficult people. Often the volunteers take "vacations" without proper notice. Efforts become sloppy, quality suffers.

I agree and understand these challenges are real, but at the heart of this rebuke are these underlying principles that we must remember:

1) The Lord deals patiently with His people 24/7 without rest or break. If there was ever a person legitimately called to complain about the “mtela’a” of His job, it’s the Lord. Yet He is patient with us, ever giving of Himself to us. As His servants, we must reflect this aspect of His nature.

2) The Lord’s work is holy. It’s a serious, solemn, high work. It’s a holy work that endures into eternity. No matter how mundane the task, when done to the Lord, it is holy (Zech 14:21 speaks to this principle).

3) The weary heart betrays a fleshly heart. Philippians 2:13 explains the principle that God is at work in us “both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” The Greek word “work” here is “energios” and it has the idea of “energy”—the heart of the meaning is that God will supply the “energios” for the tasks that He has set before us. If we are surrendered to Him, we will have His grace pumping into our souls, providing the ability and the energy to do His will. Yet the person who is wearied by the work has either a) distanced himself from fellowship with the Lord, or b) taken on tasks and challenges not of God—we can do this in many ways: by demanding an outcome not inline with the Lord, by fearing people and saying “yes” when we should have said “no”, by squandering our time on non-priorities so we must add hours to our work day to finish our real responsibilities. I could go on, but these three cover a lot of territory.

So, in our pastoral ministry, we have many responsibilities. We are to “shepherd the flock of God…exercising oversight…according to the will of God…with eagerness (1 Pet 5:2).” We do this by taking “care of the church of God” (1 Tim 3:5) specifically as we “preach the word…reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction (2 Tim 4:2).” All of this being done with an eye to equip “the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ (Eph 4:12) so the final result is we “present every man complete in Christ (Col 1:28).”

This is a very high calling. This is a high privilege. This is an utterly holy endeavor. No doubt there are seeds of bitterness waiting to take root and grow in our hearts. In each of our ministries, there are challenges and frustrations that tempt us to utter “My, how tiresome it is”. But these words are sinful; they come from the flesh and are rooted in a fleshly perspective. Yet like all sins, they can be crucified by the Holy Spirit as we offer up our idols to God and confess that we would rather serve them that Him. In His mercy and grace, He will accept our confession and cleanse us from this sin (1 John 1:9).

May God’s grace strengthen you and equip you in your service to Him.

Those are some of my thoughts, I’d love to hear yours.

Published in Blog
Friday, 18 November 2011 12:35

Revitalizing a Church

Here's a great article that was emailed to me:


The church I pastor, the Summit Church, was planted in 1962. In 2001, however, the Summit Church (then Homestead Heights Baptist Church) was a plateaued, declining Baptist church. The current pastor had been asked to resign after being caught in immorality. The pastor prior to him had unsuccessfully attempted to impose a Willow Creek model, and the pastor prior to him was a theological moderate. When I arrived, the church was in its fourth straight year of attendance and offering decline, and the outlook was bleak.

FIVE LIFE-GIVING FACTORS

Only God brings life to dead things. But here are five lessons I learned that I believe contributed to our church’s revitalization.

1. Inward transformation drives external change.

Just as external moralistic changes cannot transform the human heart, so external changes to a church’s programs or structures cannot revitalize a church. You might as well try to bending a metal rod without first heating it. It will either resist change altogether, or simply snap in two.

Internal change in the believer happens only through the preaching of the gospel. People become willing to extend themselves to reach others as they learn more about God and what he has done.

There is a time to push change and a time just to preach Jesus. It takes wisdom to know what to do when. A church that has its “first love” (Rev. 2:1–10) is likely to undergo even the most uncomfortable changes to complete the mission.

As the Summit Church developed a love for the lost, changing our structures to reach more people became relatively easy.

2. Do not underestimate the power of momentum.

It is easier to change churches that are growing, just like it is easier to steer a bike that is moving. In any organization, including a church, momentum can provide the capital you need to purchase change. Sun Tzu, author of the 2500 year old military classic Art of War, said that momentum is a general’s most valuable ally. Small armies can win great victories if they know how to build it.

You might consider focusing first on changing those things that are hindering the church from growing. When growth is happening, you’ll find it easier to change the other things. As people experience the joy of new believers being born into their midst, they become more willing to shift away from what is comfortable for them and into what is effective at reaching others.

Further, in most cases I would encourage you to spend more time developing the people who are with you than engaging those who are against you. Momentum and excitement often silence opposition. So instead of spending a lot of time putting out fires, you might want to start one of your own.

When I first got to the Summit, there were a number of problems we chose to ignore, at least for the time being. These included dress code, music style, the length of the services, and an inefficient (and in some ways unbiblical) constitution. We changed a few key things that we knew would signal a new day in the church, and we set a couple of big goals for some upcoming outreaches. When we reached those goals, we made a big deal of celebrating God’s faithfulness in them. After one of these outreaches, we baptized our first African-American believer. An older gentleman who would later become the chairman of our elder board came up to me with tears in his eyes and said, “Son, I’m not crazy about a lot of these changes you are making. But if that is a taste of what we are going to get, count me in.”

During that first year I baptized an exchange student from another country. I happened to speak her native language (having lived in her country for a couple of years), and so I conducted her baptism in that language. After that, I probably could have suggested that we all stand on our heads in church and people would have gone along with it. Within two years, we had changed our dress code, sold our property, and re-written our constitution, all without a dissenting vote. Had I suggested those things during the first year, it would have been a bloodbath. But after we had gained momentum, they changed naturally.

Win a few evangelism “battles,” and then celebrate them. Isn’t that what we see the psalmists doing both to strengthen their own souls and to inspire a vision for the future? In Psalm 48, the sons of Korah tell Israel, “Walk about Zion, go around her, number her towers, consider well her ramparts, go through her citadels, that you may tell the next generation that this is God, our God forever and ever.”

3. Beware of fighting battles that lead you nowhere.

A third lesson is tied to the second. Beware of fighting battles, no matter how worthy, that gain you little strategic ground.

Some battles (often worthy battles!) won’t help you in the bigger “war” of revitalization. Often, if you postpone them, you can win them later without shedding a drop of blood—on either side. Know which battles to fight when.

I’ve noticed that leaders who are perfectionists tend to have trouble with this principle, because they can’t distinguish “the right” from “the expedient.” We sometimes forget it’s not about winning battles, it’s about leading people.

The Apostle Paul seemed to understand this. Sometimes he let people malign his character; other times he defended his apostleship. Sometimes he brought himself into conformity to the law; other times he publicly rebuked those who refused to embrace their freedom. His grid for engagement was what was strategic for the mission (1 Cor. 9:19-27; Gal. 2:11-15).

Of course this does not mean we ever tolerate open sin or substantial doctrinal corruption in the church. It just means that we fight the right battles at the right times.

4. Create a sending culture.

In my opinion, creating a sending culture is essential to revitalizing a church. Churches that are revitalized see themselves as communities on mission with God, not as country clubs for Christians.

One very practical thing you can do to encourage this mentality is to send as many people on short-term mission trips as possible. Few things open our eyes to missional living like spending time with missionaries overseas. The more that mentality gets into the bloodstream of the church, the more church members become willing to apply missional principles to their own context.

During our first two years we sent an inordinate amount of our people and leaders overseas. It cost a lot of money and took up valuable time, but it did two things. First, it raised the level of generosity in our church. Having seen the needs on the field, the people gave. The trips may have cost us a lot of money, but they paid for themselves many times over. Second, it made our people ask themselves if we were laboring to reach our city the same way that missionaries overseas were laboring to reach theirs.

When you create a sending culture in your church, you will likely lose some of your best people to a church plant or a missions assignment. But don’t be afraid; the sending culture creates more leaders to take their place. It has worked for us like the five loaves and two fish: the more we give away, the more is multiplied and given back to us.

5. Lead your people to yearn.

The French mystic Antoine de Saint Exupéry once said, “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” As people yearn for the salvation of the world they will not only put up with the changes you propose, but will probably instigate a few of their own as well. That’s when the church is really revitalized.

Again, it is the preaching of the gospel that creates this yearning. The gospel makes us stand in awe of Jesus, who was rich, yet for our sakes became poor. It moves us to pour ourselves out for others as he has poured himself out for us. The gospel awakens people from their middle class slumber to follow Jesus as he seeks and saves the lost. It moves them to love the poor, the stranger, and the outcast.

The gospel teaches us to see the world through the lens of the compassionate God demonstrated at the cross and revealed in the resurrection. The gospel fills us with audacious faith, making us (in the words of William Carey) “expect great things of God and then attempt great things for God.”

The gospel makes us yearn to see the glory of God cover the earth like the waters cover the sea. It gives us a passion for his kingdom that outweighs our comfort with the status quo. As the gospel has become more of the center of our church, I have seen our people do the most amazing things—from moving from richer neighborhoods into poorer ones, to adopting unwanted children, to loving refugees, to sharing Christ with their neighbors.

So personally dwell on the gospel. Meditate on it until it burns in your breast and you can’t contain it. Then preach it, letting it do the work of revitalization.

J.D. Greear is lead pastor of the Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina and the author of Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary (B&H, 2011).

November/December 2011
© 9Marks

Published in Blog
Monday, 12 September 2011 08:57

Peddling the Word of God

2 Corinthians 1:12 (NASB95) — 12 For our proud confidence is this: the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you.

2 Corinthians 2:17 (NASB95) — 17 For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God. 

2 Corinthians 3:12 (NASB95) — 12 Therefore having such a hope, we use great boldness in our speech,

(Therefore=context=the conviction that they have the message of God) which then produces boldness of speech. 

2 Corinthians 4:2 (NASB95) — 2 but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. 

2 Corinthians 4:5 (NASB95) — 5 For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. 

2 Corinthians 4:7 (NASB95) — 7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves;

2 Corinthians 4:13 (NASB95) — 13 But having the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed, therefore I spoke,” we also believe, therefore we also speak,

2 Corinthians 4:11 (NASB95) — 11 For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

2 Corinthians 4:15 (NASB95) — 15 For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God.




 

Published in Verse Lists
Saturday, 11 December 2010 11:12

Church Resources

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Published in Resources
Saturday, 11 December 2010 11:00

Christmas Skit

Church "Friends and Family" Skit

Here's a short church skit that I wrote for our church Christmas Party. We had searched online and weren't able to find something that spoke of Christ, was humorous, was short, and was simple. So I jotted this down and we gave it a try. Corinne recruited (or more accurately: conscripted) two married couples, did a half-dozen practices, created a living room set on stage, and setup the place with microphones. The skit takes about 12 minutes to go through, depending upon how fast the actors deliver their lines. Overall, it was very well received; the only negative was getting the sound loud enough for 400 people to hear. Feel free to use skit for your church and modify it as needed. Enjoy!

Church Skit













Props: Couch, wireless mics, Christmas tree (decorated), gifts, platter of hors d'oeuvres.

Scene opens with Grace & Renee at the Christmas tree, finishing up decorating. Carols playing softly in the background.

 

Woman 1: I think the tree looks even better than last year! Thanks for having us over again, it is so much more fun decorating a tree together.

(Move to sit on couch, pick up coffee cups, etc.

Woman 2: Why else do you think we had you over? We love having our friends over at Christmas time. Here! This is an early Christmas gift. (Hands a wrapped gift to Woman 1) Open it!

Woman 1 unwraps gift and holds it up looking at it, slightly confused.

Woman 1: What...what is it?

Woman 2: It’s a elephant candle holder! It's from our recent missions trip to India. I had to get it – have you ever seen anything like it?

Woman 1: Well, that’s, um, great. [sets gift on coffee table] Sure beats the time when you gave me that big Bible…

Woman 2: You told me you loved that Bible!

Woman 1: Well, I do. It’s beautiful; I just don’t love reading it.

Woman 2: Wait a minute, so you’ll celebrate Christmas but you won’t read the book that tells you all about it?

Woman 1: Well, what’s there to know? The story is about baby Jesus being surrounded by pigs and stuff…

Woman 2: Well, there’s a lot more to the story than just a baby in a manger, and besides, Jesus was Jewish and there probably weren’t any pigs around the stable where He was born.

Woman 1: Jesus wasn’t Jewish, silly... He was Christian!

Woman 2: No! He was Jewish!

Woman 1: Christian!

Woman 2: Jewish!

Woman 1: Christ--!

Woman 2: Je--!

Woman 1: Okay, okay, well, you don’t have to get all testy and all. Alright, then tell me, Mrs. Bible-know-it-all, how can Jesus, "The Leader of the Christian Church" be Jewish?

Woman 2: Look, Jesus was born a Jew, lived His whole life as a Jew, and never became a Christian. There was no Christian church. It’s those who put their faith in Jesus Christ and follow Him who are Christians.

Woman 1: Okay, now you’re getting too heavy for me. Let’s get back to these gifts. I brought something for you – and it’s not from India. (Starts to hand a wrapped gift to Woman 2)

In comes Man 1 (Woman 1's husband)

Man 1: Hey guys – umm, what’s this? (looks at Woman 1' gift)

Woman 2: Hi there, here, have a hors d'oeuvre.

Man 1: Sure, what do we have here?

Woman 2: Well, here we have gorgonzola with endive palms (Man 1 grimaces), here we have escargot fried in an Indian Lassi batter (Man 1 makes another face), and here we have pigs in a blanket.

Man 1: Oh, I’ll have some of those!

Woman 1: Okay, so Jesus couldn’t have any pigs in his manger, but we can have them here at this Christmas party?

Woman 2: Well, we’re not Jewish.

Woman 1: But Jesus was?

Man 1: Jesus was Jewish?

Woman 1/Woman 2: No!/Yes!

Man 1: I guess I never thought of it, but it sounds right. After all, Joseph and Mary were Jewish right?

Woman 2: Right!

Man 1: I remember it was something like they had to go to Jerusalem to be counted.

Woman 2: Well, it wasn’t Jerusalem it was Bethlehem. But otherwise you’re right.

Woman 1: Hey, how did you get to be such a theologian?

Man 1: Our kids go to Discipletown! [note: our church's children's ministry program]

Woman 1: Theology from Discipletown?

Woman 2: Joe, I didn’t know that!

Man 1: Yep, been dropping them off and going out with (Woman 1) for some coffee. I leave my cell phone number just in case. Hey! It’s a free babysitting hour! And the kids love it!

Woman 2: Um, does Pastor Russ know that?

Man 1: Probably, they go running in every Sunday like two squealing pigs.

Woman 1: Pigs again!

Woman 2: Of course they love it, No, I mean does Pastor Russ know that you’re just dropping them off.

Man 1: Nope, and no one’s telling him you understand? I leave the cell number on the sign in sheet just in case.

Woman 2: What I understand is that you need to get yourself into church some day.

Man 1: Yeah, right. The day I walk into church is the day the roof falls in!

Woman 1 (a little irritated): What’s that supposed to mean?

Man 1: Nothing really, I’m just making an excuse for not going. Besides, I don’t think they really want a guy like me.

Woman 2: And why wouldn’t we want you? Do you smell? (sniff)

Woman 1 (teasingly): You’ve been hanging out with the pigs again?

Man 1: No, I shower every morning and use deodorant. It’s just my personal life that may not smell so good to God.

Woman 2: Alright, (Man 1), here’s my one sentence sermon: the Bible says that all of our righteous deeds are like filthy, stinky rags to God. You’re no worse off than the rest of us. All of us need a savior and that’s why Jesus came as a baby in the first place!

Man 1: Yeah right! You can say that, but I don’t need some cosmic killjoy with a list of rules forcing me to give up all the fun I’ve been having.

Woman 1 (sarcastically): Just a little while ago, you were saying our house is underwater, your job is in jeopardy, the kids are driving you crazy, and you can’t stand my mom coming out for a little visit…Is that the fun you’re talking about or I have missed something?

Woman 2: What fun are you having that you don’t want to give up?

Man 1: Well, you know….!?

Woman 1 /Woman 2: No, I don’t!

Man 1: You church people are always doing super spiritual church stuff. I don’t want to do all that!

Woman 2: You don’t want a life that’s joyful, meaningful and pleasing to God?

Man 1: Sure I would, it’s just that I don’t want to give up all the other stuff that I do that I know that is not pleasing to God.

In comes Man 2 (husband of Wife 2)

Man 2: Ahh, there’s my beautiful wife. Been looking for you. The clover-spiced kumquats are finished on the grill.

Man 1: You’re kidding right?

Man 2: No, they’re really cooked. Blanched, fried and now simmering.

Woman 2: I better take a look at them. Thanks, honey.

(Woman 2 leaves)

Woman 1 to Man 2: Man 1 was just telling us God would blow a gasket if he ever came to church.

Man 2: I don’t think God has any gaskets…

Man 1: Well, not that. It’s just that I don’t want to be like you and (Woman 2).

Man 2: (Man 1), you’ve known me for a long time. What about me don’t you like?

Man 1: Besides the hat? Nothing really, it’s just that you always go to church and you spend your vacations doing church stuff…

Man 2: Oh, like the short term missions trips that we’ve done? All that means is that we love serving God and giving back something to Him. He has done so much for us. And hey, (Woman 2) gets some great recipes out of it!

Man 1: I just don’t think God likes me a whole lot, and I’m not sure I like Him!

Man 2: Well, (Man 1). God does like you, in fact He loves you. The Bible says...

Woman 1: Whoa, your wife already gave Joe a sermon!

Man 2: Well, then here’s Part II, and it’s quick: The Bible says that God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever would believe in Him would inherit eternal life.

Man 1: Isn’t that the verse that the football player, Tim Tebow paints under his eyes?

Man 2: I’m not sure. But I have seen him paint Ephesians 2:8-10 – Hold on, I have it in the Bible, right here. [reaches for Bible and opens it, reading] “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast...”

Man 1: So Tim Tebow really believes in Jesus?

Man 2: Yep. Lots of well known people have believed in Jesus.

Woman 1: And they believe this story about the baby and the pigs and the manger?

Man 2: I don’t know about the pigs, but I’d be surprised if they don’t believe the Bible’s account. You see, Jesus’ birth is not just a cute story about pudgy babies. It’s about God’s love and man’s sin. That our sins were so serious to God, He would have to send every person away from Him. Many people would be separated from God in this reality and the next, which is Hell. So Jesus came, to be our savior, to reconcile us to God. But He had to be fully man first. So He came, lived a perfect life, and died on the cross, and rose again on the third day, fully man and fully God.

Man 1: Well, my kids have been saying something like that to me too.

Man 2: You should listen to them.

Man 1: Maybe I will. Services are the same time as Discipletown, right?

Man 2: Yep. Same as Discipletown - 10:30 every Sunday. We also have some great adult classes and Sunday School for kids at 9:00. We’d love to have you stop by for more than just babysitting.

Woman 2 Returns holding a platter:

Woman 2: Crusted Thai Crickets anyone?

Published in Church Resources
Monday, 06 September 2010 08:28

Side-Stepping Popularity

John chapter 6 contains the well known account of Jesus feeding the 5000. This amazing story demonstrates that Jesus as God has the ability to create something from nothing. In other, more fancy words, Jesus has the power to create ex nihilo. He has the ability to bring atoms into existence and fashion them together to form real objects. All without touching them. His command, His will, His word is enough that nature follows.

Likewise, just after the account of the Feeding of the 5000, John's Gospel then provides the account of Jesus walking on water. This is another example of His divine capabilities as His will causes nature to be rearranged so that normal properties of water are changed and He is able to walk upon it.

While these are amazing feats of awesome command, I want to highlight a side comment made my John in 6:15--"So Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone."

What I find convicting about this verse is the clear principle that not all popularity is good, right or rightly motivated. In this situation, the people wanted to make Jesus their King. To my fleshly mind that sounds like a complete success for His objectives--finally, He's demonstrated His truth and power and the people have seen and believed. They have turned to Him in droves. They are ready for their King Messiah. Quite possibly, His number of supporters has now outweighed His detractors. You would think that Jesus is ready to take Airforce One and land on the aircraft carrier triumphantly declaring "Mission Accomplished!"

But that's not what Jesus did. Instead, He withdrew from them and went to the mountains to be alone. Fascinating. What did He do? Well, we can gather from other passages that at times such as this, Jesus withdrew to be alone to pray. To be alone to seek God, to commune with Him, to maintain fellowship with Him and His divine will. Had Jesus not done this, the whole atonement/redemption of humanity would have been lost. God's divine plan and purpose for the life of Christ did not include of brief hiatus of kingship on that side of the cross.

You see, there are times when popularity is not a good thing. There are times when God's will is not that we are well received or well regarded by the general populous. There are times that accolades and praises are actually put in the hearts and mouths of people as a tool of Satan to tempt and deceive us. There are times that giving into to the will of the people is turning away from the will of God. Yikes, that is shuddering, especially for pastors.

I often wonder why God grants success to some pastors and not to others. I think these principles about popularity have something to do with it. On the one hand, there are charlatans who have so manufactured success that they are far from the will and blessing of God. And on the other hand, there are pastors who have followed Christ so purely that they have kept away from people-pleasing and thus their ministries are relatively small. But in between these two groups is (what I suspect) the largest group. This middle group is full of pastors like me--pastors who are still learning these principles of popularity and success.

I think that the pastorate is rife with men who need to learn when success is valid or when it is invalid and I have a hunch that one of the most pivotal reasons why God has not given them success is because they are still developing the proper wisdom and discernment to know when to walk away from the crowds. Because their own convictions and reasoning is so easily led astray, and not yet fully and steadily trained on the absolute will of God, God has not (indeed CANNOT) grant them success, for success would lead them away from the work He has called them to do. 

Now of course, I'm not saying this as one who has mastered it, but rather one who is still learning to not interpret the applause as synonymous with success, to break away from the people and to meet with God and be sure that His will is being done, rather than the people's will.

Just some thoughts, I'd love to hear some of yours...

Blessings to you!
Published in Blog
As Hurricane Earl looms off the eastern coast, and as we're on top of the fifth year anniversary of Katrina, I'm amazed at how the news coverage omits the huge response from churches around the country for several years following Katrina.
Like so many churches, our church sent a group down to New Orleans in 2007. We were working with a large church in the area that had converted one massive building into a barracks-style housing for churches to use. We all slept in a common area divided by canvass walls, ate in a make-shift cafeteria, and each day lined up to receive our day's assignments.
While we were there, perhaps as many as a half dozen people off the street--people whom we were not helping and people whom were not expressed Christians--people kept on saying to us, "Thank you for coming, we so need you. It's not the government that's rebuilding New Orleans, it's churches like you coming from around the country. Thank you!"

I can remember one morning when we were at that church that served as our base camp. One morning, the senior pastor came and addressed our group. His whole message as to thank us and say how important it was that we and other churches were involved with the relief effort. At the time, I assumed his words were graciously acknowledging our volunteer efforts, but still, just niceties.
But later in the week, as we were shopping in the downtown area, I was amazed at the gratitude expressed by the New Orleans public. On several occasions, people such as vendors and store keepers would ask who we were and what we were doing, and we would explain we were a church group coming down to help.
Now this was in 2007, two full years after the hurricane. Yet, I was amazed at how many were nearly tearful in thanking us for coming down. They all echoed the same thought, almost word for word: "It's not the government that's rebuilding New Orleans, or all these other organizations, it's the churches." They all expressed bitterness and frustration at the system, but gratitude that God's people were above political posturing and were just getting the work done.
Yet, in all the years of coverage, you'd hardly know the churches from around the country even were there. Or that we were there for years following Katrina, helping out, cleaning up, repainting, restoring, renewing. God's people were not flashy, but they were getting the work done.

This reminds me of a great quote I recently came across from Albert Einstein and how the church stood against Hitler and Nazi Germany during World War II:

“When National Socialism came to Germany I looked to the universities to defend freedom, knowing they had always boasted of their devotion of the truth. They were immediately silenced. Then I looked to the great editors of the newspapers whose flaming editorials had proclaimed love of freedom. They were silenced in a few short weeks. I looked to the individual writers who had written much of the place of freedom in modern life. They too were mute. Only the churches stood squarely across Hitler’s campaign to suppress truth. I never had special interest in the church before, but now I feel a great affection and admiration, because the church alone had the courage and persistence to stand for intellectual truth and moral freedom. I am forced thus to confess that what I once despised I now praise unreservedly.”

The church has always stood for what is true, right and just. Maybe not alway super popular, maybe not always with the most articulate sound bite, but God uses us to bring real ministry to a lost world. Praise God it's being done and He sees the labors of His people, even if the news corps do not.
Published in Blog
Monday, 02 August 2010 20:54

Philosophy of Ministry - Introduction

Introduction

 

A Philosophy of Ministry is an organized statement of purpose for why the church exists and how it is to serve the Lord. It is a document that can serve the church in developing a particular vision statement for the church as a whole, as well as for individual ministries. The Philosophy of Ministry helps streamline the activities of the church by presenting a guide which helps determine if a ministry or method appropriately fits into how the Lord is working in His church.

Having said this, we hear talk of the importance of developing “a philosophy of ministry” and certainly every church and every pastor should have an idea of working action plan. A more probing question, however, should be asked and that is: “What is God’s philosophy of ministry?” How does God want His church to run? Since scripture does not command us to write down a philosophy of ministry or to establish a vision or purpose statement, nor are we commanded to pray and find out our specific “vision” for “our church”, the primary goal is to obey what God wants us to do. It would seem then, that any philosophy of ministry should really just distill what God has said to do and how it should be done.

Specific details and their timing will differ from ministry to ministry and setting to setting, but although the environment and circumstances vary, God’s overall purposes and intentions for the church will encompass every ministry situation. Likewise, each pastor and/or church develop their own set of beliefs and values about what is important and how ministry should be conducted. Thus while all philosophy of ministry statements should simply distill and reflect the teaching of scripture, they are to help explain and flesh out how that works in the lives of the church or individual.

The following document consists of several parts. These parts represent my current thinking regarding what God's Word has given regarding the leadership and direction of His church. I'd be glad to hear your feedback and thoughts. They are constantly being updated as I grow in my understanding of God's Word.

Warmest Regards,

Russ Brewer

Published in Ministry