Saturday, July 20, 2019

“SUPERMAN” NEEDED FOR CHURCH REVITALIZATION

I read this post today about 'what it takes to lead a successful church revitalization" and thought, "We may want to put him in a red, yellow, black, and blue, suit and stitch a HUGE "S" in the middle of his chest."   This is from Thom Rainer.  My thoughts are: “If it takes all of this in one person, no wonder we have such difficulty in “Revitalizing God’s Church.”  Now, don’t get me wrong, I find nothing wrong with any one of these and admittedly each of these is an integral part of Church Revitalization.  To see these written in one article is a bit overwhelming.

While I believe these need to be seen by anyone who senses the Spirit’s leading to do the arduous and difficult work of Revitalization, I must add that some of the most needed personalities might not be on this list.  These might include:

  • Pray-er
  • Witness-er
  • Love-er of God
  • Love-er of People
  • Love-er of the community

While I could offer several more, I’m not really the professional, hear from Dr. Rainer:


INTRODUCING THE REVITALIZER PROFILE: LEADING A CHURCH FROM ONE OF 12 LEADERSHIP PERSONALITIES

If I write with too much enthusiasm, please forgive me. But I am unabashedly excited about this tool.

It is called the Revitalizer Profile. It is the first step in the Revitalize Bundle, or it can be used as a standalone tool.

As we have coached pastors in revitalization for many years, the most successful path has been helping pastors discover their leadership strengths and learn to lead from those strengths. Too many pastors are told what they are doing wrong; with the Revitalizer Profile we work on celebrating how God has wired them positively.

It has been transformational!

Once pastors have taken this inventory, they are immediately provided their leadership personality. It helps them to know how to lead the church best. Here are the twelve different personalities, including the strength for each and a potential challenge.

Instructor – leads revitalization best through teaching, the source of greatest ministry fulfillment. An instructor may be challenged to balance priorities and time.

Thinker – loves to spend hours in study. Thinkers are best used for revitalization by devising and articulating biblical mandates to move forward. A thinker can be prone to neglect pastoral needs.

Detailer – makes certain nothing falls through the cracks, a great need and strength for revitalization. Detailers must be cautious lest they fail to see the big picture.

Visionary – has the God-given ability to see a future path for revitalization. Visionaries may struggle to be good listeners.

Strategist – can see a path forward for revitalization plus the steps to get there. Strategists, though, should be careful lest they see people as a means to an end.

Loyalist – leaders with a deep love for both the members and the institution, needed traits in a revitalization. A loyalist, however, may struggle to be a good listener.

Responder – has a heart and desire to meet needs quickly, a valuable trait in revitalization. But the Responder may neglect leading the church evangelistically toward growth.

Provider –very good at working one-on-one, particularly across generational lines. The Provider, however, may neglect preparation time for preaching and teaching.

Idealist – is able to provide hope and encouragement even in the stresses revitalization can bring. But the Idealist can get frustrated easily, especially when hopes and goals are not realized according to their own expectations.

Systematizer – highly adept in organizing and prioritizing for revitalization. But the Systematizer can be prone to neglect pastoral needs in their enthusiasm for the pursuit of processes.

Equipper – adept at training and motivating members, particularly in the area of evangelism in a revitalization. But the Equipper may have difficulty communicating how the congregation can balance both an outward focus and an internal spiritual growth emphasis.

Counselor – loves to be around and help people, a vital trait in the process of revitalization. The Counselor, however, can neglect key aspects of church leadership, particularly those that lead the church to growth and an outward focus.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Lessons From the “Prodigals”

Most of us know the story from Luke 15 known as the “Prodigal Son.” The title of this post will confuse some while others will smile and understand it completely

Simply stated, a Father had two sons and the younger of two sons approaches dad asking for his inheritance which his dad gives. A few days later the young man took his money, his inheritance and went to a distant place where he wasted all he had in ‘wild living.’ When the money was gone, so were his friends. Broke, the boy wound up in a pigpen eating the same slop as the pigs.

The Bible says that when he ‘came to his senses’ (that phrase is a sermon unto itself), he got up and went home to his father because he knew that His father’s servants had better living conditions than what he was enduring. Arriving at home, he asked to be received as a servant. Yet his dad, who had been and was still watching for this rebellious boy to come home, received him as a son. A ring, a robe, and shoes were brought and placed on the boy as symbols of sonship. By the way, dad threw a party! All was well until the older son, the one who had never left, came in from the field.

The attributes, attitudes, and actions, of the older brother are seen in stark contrast to that of the Father. Quite likely, the older son didn’t care if his young brother ever returned or not. At the same time, dad was watching, waiting, and praying for his boy to come home. The older brother was possibly relieved to have his younger brother out of the house, while the father couldn’t rest knowing his boy was “out there.”

This is a story which Dr. Luke recorded in what we know as the 15th chapter of the gospel that bears his name. It is a story, some call it ‘a parable’, told by our Lord and the lessons we can learn or the meanings we can extract from this story are endless. Consider a few truths and let them be branded into your spirit because in our ‘spirit’ is where ’life change’ happens.

First, we discover, the Spirit of the Younger brother (SYB) which is indeed prideful and rebellious. When he asked his Father for ‘his’ inheritance, he was exposing his deep-seated attitude of pride, conceit, and arrogance. An inheritance is not granted until someone is dead. So, the attitude he communicated was, “In my eyes you are dead.” The SYB is exposed in us when we become rebellious against our Heavenly Father through our disobedience or when we commandeer His church to achieve our wants, or even when we decide we know better than Him. We do this when we think we serve Him and are faithful to Him, but we do it on OUR terms. Like the Younger Son, this may work for a season, but generally, when we go our own way and do our own thing, we, like the younger son, find ourselves in a proverbial pigpen.

Not to be missed, the Spirit of the Older Brother (SPOB) is also prideful and calloused. Though he had never left home, though he never asked for his inheritance, and though he gave the appearance of being the ‘faithful & honorable’ son, deep inside he harbored bitterness and resentment against his brother who had left home. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught that this was tantamount to murder. The SPOB is content to dismiss the wayward and is okay with letting the younger brother stay in the pigpen. The SPOB makes it ‘all about me and my friends.’ Could this be what is going on inside of many institutional and generational churches today? I am not intending to be mean-spirited, just asking needed questions. Could the reason be that so many churches spend most of their time and energy on ‘taking care of us’ that we have unwittingly, unknowingly, and unsuspectedly embraced the Spirit of the Older Brother? Is it possible that this is why the prevailing notion, inside the church, seems to be, “What’s in it for me?” One thing we should be warned about; “The Spirit of the Older Brother” is more contagious than the pandemic flu and causes greater destruction. The SPOF is just as much about pride and rebellion as is the SYB.

Contrast both of those with the Spirit of the Father (SOF) which is a spirit of love, concern, and above all, forgiveness. He is concerned about people being in the far country, whether they journeyed there in open rebellion, whether they fell into sin, or whether from ignorance. The Father is lovingly watching for them to return and deeply desires to draw them back into His house. Wherever they have been and whatever they have done, He offers enough forgiveness through His mercy and grace, to fully restore them into His household. My second grade teacher (who was also my Sunday School teacher), MS Hannah Dobson, gave to me a great picture of the Father looking for the prodigal by taking her right hand and placing it over both eyes as if shielding out the sunlight to see a long way down the road to catch a glimpse of the wayward finally coming home. Painting that picture, she taught us that, “When the Father caught a glimpse of the wayward son coming home, He didn’t wait for the boy to get inside the yard, rather He ran to meet the boy because of His joy that the lost son was found and coming home.”

The SOF has been felt by any parent who has gone through the agony of having a wayward child. Tears flow when that lost soul comes home. We do not wait for them to walk in the door, we meet them in the driveway with tears of joy. This is the SOF when a lost soul comes home.

HOW ABOUT ONE FINAL CONTEMPORARY APPLICATION: The Father always throws a party when a lost person comes home. God, our Heavenly Father, doesn not get too excited about ‘they style of music’ we sing, the ‘style of worship’ we experience, whether our buildings are air conditioned (or not), whether our church is the ‘coolest in the area’ or is known to be the ‘cutting edge’ church, or even whether our congregation is the ‘biggest & best;’ what the Father gets excited about is when a “lost person finds his way home.” The Bible says, “Even the Angels in heaven rejoice.” The reason they rejoice is that the Father is rejoicing. He rejoices when the lost is found and the dead is given life. To the younger brother or to the older brother the message is the same, “Come Home.”

Monday, July 01, 2019

“Thus Says The Lord”–Preacher “PREACH!”

Not long ago I was eating breakfast where I eat a couple times each week and heard some men talking about ‘preaching’.  Listening to people talk about ‘preaching’ is always a little humorous and sad at the same time.  It is a dichotomy to me.  (Sorry Bob C). 

The humorous part is this; many if not most people (particularly those my age and older) tend to think of preaching in terms of style.  In the deep south no self-respecting preacher would finish preaching until his hankie was in his hand, his clothes were wet with sweat, and his voice was hoarse from speaking so loud, long, and forceful.  As my friends said on this particular morning, “Now, that’s preaching!!”  Admittedly and as a confession, I can get ‘wound up’ and ‘passionate’ about the message and have moments that are like this, so perhaps I am a ‘throw-back’.  But from the preacher side of the pulpit, it is rarely, if ever, a plan to speak loudly or softly.  Rather, it is (to use a modern-day word) organic.  Again, the humorous part to me is that to so many, preaching is defined by ‘style’ and not ‘substance.’  This brings us to the sad part.

As I sat and heard these guys talking about ‘preachers’ and ‘preaching’, this thought occurred to me; in all my years of hearing these types of discussion, I have rarely heard anything said about the ‘message given’, it is always about the ‘manner in which it is given.’  This, it seems to me, is a tragic disconnect from the heart of Jesus.  I dare say that Jesus is not nearly as concerned about  style as He is about substance, not so concerned about the type of delivery as He is about the truth contained therein , and not so concerned about the method as He is about the message.  Having said that and knowing people have preferred styles of preaching, please don’t lose sight of two truths: We will never bore people into the Kingdom or Kingdom Living any more that we can intimidate people into the Kingdom or to Kingdom living.

Today, I read a tweet from my friend, Dr. Randy Davis, which said, “America needs Godly men in the pulpit that will preach God’s Word. People don’t need cute stories or 20-minute “sermonettes.” The world has taken the gloves off. They’re throwing knockout punches. It’s time for God’s preachers to stand up & declare, THUS SAYS THE LORD GOD!”   What a great statement and needed call!! 

I’ll suggest that many good things are done today, as a church in corporate worship.  At the same time we should recognize that  the two most important things a church does corporately is to ‘pray’ and then ‘preach’.  These two have the potential and power to affect eternity.  As a professional church musician for almost 50 years, I possess a deep love for worship through music, and music of all styles (Ok, rap leaves me cold, but that’s another discussion).  However, it is missing the mark when musical worship becomes the center piece of our corporate experience and leaves little time for corporate prayer and gospel preaching. 

It is commonly reported that St. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the gospel at all times, when necessary use words.”  While this neither sounds like him nor can it be found in his historical records where he said this, these words have seemingly been used in an to attempt to minimize preaching and maximize godly living and discipleship. Today a pastor said to me, “The devil isn’t bothered if we clothes or feed people around the world, but he gets up in arms when we read the Bible, pray, and share our faith.”  This type of life grows out of Biblical preaching.  Yes we need to be involved in social ministries, but absent the ministry of the word, we are missing the mark.

Never forget the words of Apostle Paul in his last letter to Timothy.  As he was facing the end of his earthly life, to his young preacher body, he boldly proclaimed, “Preach the word!  Be Ready (diligent) at ALL TIMES.  Rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching.”  What a call!  What a command!  What a challenge!

For a pastor to preach a “Thus Says The Lord” message, he must be “studied up’ and  “prayed up” being spiritually, mentally,and emotionally prepared.  The confidence to speak this way only comes when God’s man has spent enough time with God to be confident in the empowerment by the Holy Spirit.  Here are a few suggestion which might help your pastor or a pastor to be or become everything which God has called him to be and that he desires to be:

  1. Allow your pastor to have  the needed time for Spiritual and Study preparation (if you are a pastor, make the needed time).  No pastor I know  wants to stand in front of their congregation ‘ill-prepared’, but oftentimes their other responsibilities do not allow them enough time to prepare.  By the way, for many or most, it takes HOURS of prayer and study to adequately prepare a message.  Much more than anyone knows goes into the ‘rightly dividing the word of truth ’ for the hearers.
  2. Pray regularly for your pastor and his family.  This big ‘miss’ today among church leaders is the difference in the weight of their job and weight of a pastor’s job.  When a church leader experiences a family or other personal problem, they seek out their pastor and they should, and their pastor gladly shares their burden with them.  Most people are grateful for their pastor giving his time, effort, and energy to assisting them.  BUT PLEASE DON’T MISS THIS: When the pastor experiences family problems, often times, he has no one to personally bear or share his load, so he carries not only the weight of his struggle, but at the same time, carries the weight of his entire congregation.  It is a heavy load and is probably one of the reasons for ‘burn-out’ among pastors. 
  3. Offer Him Time Away (with pay) -  There are times that a pastor gets so overwhelmed that, if honest, he needs to take a step back and recharge.  What I have discovered from my many friends and acquaintances who pastor large or mega-churches is that those congregations seem to be open to allowing their pastor not only vacation time to spend with his family, but they also allow time ‘out of the pulpit’ to recharge their spiritual batteries.  I know one church where every July their pastor is afforded time to do just this.  Other people fill the pulpit in his absence.  Then other churches, offer a ‘sabbatical’ every five or ten years.  A sabbatical is a highly Biblical concept which is found in the teaching of the “Sabbath Rest”.  (As an aside, pastors may last 5 or 10 years, if churches come to understand the load that they carry and offer time for a spiritual recharge and refreshing.) I’ll offer one more note: Pastors today deal with more weighty issues than at any time in the history of this nation.  It’s not that they are lazy or trying to get ‘out of work’, most of the time they are weighted down by the situation and issues they are called on to deal with on a daily basis.
  4. Become a Servant-Helper to the Pastor – There is indeed a ministry that can be done by members becoming ministers which can lighten the load of a pastor.  Men and women can assist greatly by offering to visit hospital, nursing homes, and homebound, in place of or as an emissary of the pastor.  All it takes is a little time to visit with the pastor or on  a visiting team with the pastor to become trained and comfortable in some of those  situations. Some have never walked immediately after a family has experienced a death, received word of a terminal disease, or lost a job.  Most have never been the first response minister to one who has been told that their spouse wants a divorce or that their kids have announced they were homosexual.   Most pastors would welcome help and be willing to train Pastoral Ministry helpers who would visit and report to the pastor any situation that required HIS presence. This is a ministry which, by experience, I know strengthens a church, especially in the eyes of the community.

As I have written these words, they are intended to help our men who God has called to the pulpit to have the needed time to prepared to preach a “Thus Says the Lord” message.  But one of the outcomes of these suggestions could well be that the church would become healthy and productive, thus reproducing.  This could happen when members become ministers and preachers have the time to prepare to preach!! 

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