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Posts Tagged ‘church leadership’

Years ago, I was a church leader in an ill church, and I really didn’t even know it! Certainly I had my concerns about different issues and challenges that we were facing, and I threw my influence as far as it would go to help enliven the church, but never did I think that the church might be in a death spiral!

Now, many years later, I ask myself why I did not recognize the very obvious signs of terminal decline. As I have searched my own soul, the following seem to me to be some of the reasons why church leaders do not even sniff the rottenness that is corrupting the Body!

1.     Too inexperienced. Few of our church leaders are trained church leaders. They are usually excellent volunteers, but how many would let an excellent hospital volunteer examine and diagnose you?  What if they couldn’t tell a mole from melanoma?

2. Too busy leading the church! The more rapid the decline, the more work there is for those trying to keep it alive! Hard to see imminent danger because of all the people needing your immediate attention.

3.     Too optimistic! Optimism–trust in God’s victory—is a highly desirable quality, but look at how difficult it was for Jesus to convince His closest disciples that He was going to die! Facing reality is also highly desirable.

4.     Too invested! Your family is in this church; your life-long friends are in this church; you grew up in this church! Unfortunately, none of these investments will save a declining church!

5.     Too satisfied. You have a great group! The building is paid for. Sure, you are a little smaller, but it is still alive for you!

6.     Too comfortable. It takes a lot of time and energy to change things. It is MUCH easier to just keep on doing what we have always done—and maybe it will work out!

7.     Too fearful. You can’t even go to the idea that this church might go away—too much pain involved!  Too many unanswerable questions about the unknown future.

8.     Too proud. After all, you are one of the leaders and things don’t fail that you are a part of! Not on your watch!

9.     Too tradition-bound. We’ve always done things this way and we’ve had rough days in the past, so if we just keep on course and not mess with the formula, we’ll be OK!

10.   Too much ownership! Granddaddy was an elder, Dad was an elder, and now I’m an elder. This is my church and my family’s church, and we will never let it fail!

11.    Too influenced by others. We’ve talked it over at the elders’ meeting, and the consensus is that  we are OK.  The members aren’t complaining.

12.    Too short-sighted. Even if it were true, what can anyone do about it. Might as well just ride to the end of the road.

13.    Too power-oriented. I’m one of the leaders. I can’t imagine not being a leader, so I think I’ll just keep on being a leader!

Rarely is leadership blindness the result of just one of the above Such lists are always an oversimplification of complex bundles of ideas and emotions, but no item on the list above allows church leaders to see clearly the plan of God for the people entrusted into their care.

I’ll end by just challenging church leaders to search their hearts and look for symptoms of reality blindness.  It’s not a fatal disease. Leaders can discover their vision and wisdom in time to take responsible action.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt.”   James 1:5-6

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Last evening, I went to one of our regular restaurants to pick up supper and take it home.  I had to ask for the menu, even though we have eaten there dozens of times over the last decade, and I thought to myself: shouldn’t I know the menu by now?

But the fact is that the menu has changed several times over the last ten years. I don’t mean just a new item or two replacing something that no one ever ate; rather, I’m talking about new menus that mean you can’t even remember what the old menu was anymore!

The latest iteration, however, was not about new items, but about combinations of items. For just $20 you can have your choice of appetizers from a pre-selected list, plus any two entrées, again from a selected list. That’s the combination package that I chose, but there were other groupings as well. Lots of choices!

Have you walked down the cereal aisle lately at the grocery store? And it is a whole aisle—because there are so many different brands and kinds of breakfast cereal. I’m a Cheerios person myself, but now I have to choose between original, Honey Nut, Multi Grain, Apple Cinnamon, Banana Nut, Chocolate, Dulce de Leche, Multi Grain Peanut Butter, Cinnamon Burst, Frosted, Fruity, Oat Cluster Crunch, and Yogurt Burst Cheerios.

Choices—lots of choices—are inherent in the mentality of our culture.  It wasn’t always so.  I remember when we only had three TV channels, not hundreds, and  most people drove either a Chevrolet or Ford.

The Keurig Brewing System is a great example of how we function today.  Keurig advertises its machines as “single cup” brewers of coffee, tea, and other hot drinks.  From what I can gather, Keurig offers about a dozen different versions of its machines from which to choose, both residential and commercial, as well as over 250 different flavors of beverages.

So instead of making a pot of coffee which you drink out of your favorite mug each morning, you get to walk into the kitchen just barely awake and decide whether you want coffee, tea, or hot chocolate, then decide whether you want a breakfast blend of coffee or a real man’s roast, then decide whether you want an expresso-size or mug-size coffee, then punch a button and all your dreams come true! After that cup,  you decide whether you want another cup—and your decision tree starts all over again.

And people love having all those choices every time they want a cup of coffee! 

Church leaders tend to resist lots of choices.  Many, many choices mean messy organization, messy vision, messy budgets, messy theology.  Church leaders want simple church, single purpose, focused activities, and unified vision.

If you have tension in your church between elders and ministers and/or leaders and members, chances are good that it has to do with those who want choices and those who don’t.

If you are a church leader, think about these things:

  • The Apostle Paul had only seven points of unity in his letter to the Ephesians: One body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God.  If we insist on unity on these points, we have apostolic backing.  If we go beyond this list, we are on our own!
  • This need for lots of choice is a generational difference—and the younger generation always wins because they live longer than you do!  When you are gone, they are going to sing the songs of their choice, meet when they want to, in the groups they like.  If it is not in defiance of Paul’s unities, don’t try to force everyone to eat Original Cheerios just because it is your favorite!
  • Allow yourself to see choices at church as something positive. I bet you don’t just watch network TV anymore—if you watch TV at all. When we got our first “other” channel in the DFW area, they showed the same movie in prime time for three nights in a row. Now you have your choice of around 75 thousand movies on Netflix at any time of the day or night. So many choices allow us to choose good movies now, not just the ones some program director wants us to see.  And that’s good!

Sherrylee’s Grandmother Blackman is famous in our family for saying when asked about raising teenagers, “If it’s not a sin, let them do it!”

That’s not bad advice for church leaders.  

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Sherrylee’s parents were in ministry all fifty years that they were married. When her mother died, her father remarried a woman who had been married to a minister, now deceased.  Sherrylee’s family was the center of the church’s attention; she would tell you that as a young child she felt like the princess of the church—and I’m sure she was.

But Sherrylee knew which deacon was beating his wife, which elder had children in trouble; she did not grow up ignorant of the hypocrisy and facades in her churches—but she grew up loving the church—because it loved her and her family.

When I met Sherrylee and started visiting her family in Fort Walton Beach, Florida—I know, tough place to go to visit your girlfriend!—I remember clearly an early conversation about her family’s friends.  She told me how well-loved her parents were at all the churches where they had worked, but that her parents did not believe it possible to really have close friends and do their ministry well.  In fact, that seemed to be the common wisdom at the time for all ministers.

Being a young campus minister at the time and with firm plans for mission work, I listened to what my future in-laws said about a life in ministry—and it frightened me a little bit to think of a life without close friends.

Over forty years of ministry later, I understand where the idea came from that ministers could not have close friends.  We’ve had our own share of disappointment with people who were our closest friends.  Our closest friends from our early years in Germany divorced and gave up big chunks of faith. Several of our closest friends in Oklahoma would certainly not call us close friends any more. We have not been sheltered from some of the severest pains between friends in ministry.

But ministers still need friends! And families in ministries still need friends—close friends!

Sherrylee and I have now been in Fort Worth for almost eleven years. We are part of a great church, have been in three good small groups, had our own Bible class for a couple of years—as you can see, plenty of opportunity to make new friends!

Our closest friends, however, have come from our LST family—from ministry! We just spent a weekend in Nashville with some of our closest friends.  Some are former students that did LST with us twenty—even thirty–years ago. Some of these friends are members of our home church who have done LST now for 10-15 years.  Some of these people we have known for less than ten years, but who have invested themselves so heavily in LST that we have seen them several times a year at LST events , and sometimes have even traveled with them.

Yesterday, we had a meeting of our board of directors. Those directors who serve with us fit into this special group of closest friends in our lives. A CPA, a lawyer, a professor, a minister, and a retired journalist are currently on the board. Other close friends have retired from the board in the past few years.

With all of the inherent turbulence that may surround board meetings—hard questions regarding finances, church issues, staff personalities, loyalty to the mission and vision—with all of these pitfalls–serving together and ministering to one another create bonds of love like no other.

So my conclusion is this and my advice is the same for ministers: Don’t be afraid to make friends.  Sure you are vulnerable and people can easily hurt you!  Nevertheless, keep giving yourself away! But don’t be surprised if you find your closest friends coming from among those with whom you share ministry most closely!

If you are without close friends in your ministry, check these things:

  • Are you sharing your ministry or only leading your ministry?
  • Do you care about the people who share your ministry—or only about the ministry itself?
  • Are you being a friend first or are you a minister first? (Tricky question!)
  • Are you afraid of having close friends?

God never thought it was good for man to be alone! Jesus had his friends and his closer friends. Paul surrounded himself with fellow servants.

You need close friends! You will find them among those who will serve beside you! 

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Apparently I got so excited about blowing up silos that I forgot to address adequately two of the main areas for avoiding silos, that is, transparency and distribution of information. 

Real-life silos exist because different kinds of grains need to be stored and they need to be stored separately.  So the best functioning silos offer secure and appropriate storage to conserve the grains, and they isolate their grain and protect it from contact with any other grain.

Mission committees (or any other committee or subgroup) which protect, conserve, isolate, and/or separate are dangerous to the health of the church!  I hope that message has come through loudly and clearly in all of posts.

Let me offer you some suggestions for opening up your committee or your processes to avoid dangerous isolation.

  • Diversify your committee. I’ve already mentioned the possibility of establishing a rotating pattern of leadership in committees, so that no single person sits in first chair forever. Terms for committee members is also something to think about. The reason most committees don’t like new members is that they bring in new ideas. The reason committees need to add new members is for new  ideas!
  • Include members who will sync you with the whole church. You want to make sure that the mission committee’s goals and actions are in sync with the whole church, so why not invite one of the vision casters to be a part of the group. This might be an elder, a minister, or a member of a special committee.
  • Announce both your meetings and the agenda for the meetings publicly.  I understand that occasionally some delicate matters might need to be discussed privately, but 98% of all the committee meetings I have ever been in were not those kinds of meetings.  Why should they not be open meetings?  (I would challenge elders with the same question!)
  • Provide the most public platforms possible for your missionaries when they are with you! I know there was a time when missionaries reported by showing thousands of slides—but unless you are 55+, you don’t remember those days!  Most missionaries are barely acknowledged publicly in our churches, both when they are there and when they aren’t.  Sherrylee and I were sponsored by a very good church and supported by several other good churches—but even when we were in the states, if we did not ask for a meeting with the elders, if we did not fit the regular schedule of the mission committee, or if we were only able to visit a certain church on a non-church meeting day, then we would not even get a chance to talk to those directly involved with us, much less the other members of that congregation.
  • Publish both the goals of your committee as well as how you are working to meet those goals. At least yearly, the whole church should be included in your committee’s work through published information that they can study or refer back to later.
  • Encourage members to participate in the work at your mission sites! Short-term missions give members firsthand experience with the missions of the congregation.  Especially elders and ministers need that personal experience if they are to participate at home in promoting  missions as part of the vision of the church.

Keeping the members ignorant is a way of controlling them. Silo committees are afraid of new ideas and transparency.  Your mission committee needs to be as open, as transparent, as receptive to input, and as cooperative with all areas of the church as is possible for you!

 

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Blowing up silos is dangerous work! Relationships are threatened, church revenues may be threatened, and serious discontentment among certain subgroups of a congregation may result.  Let’s talk about ways to get rid of silos and try to avoid stepping on any landmines.

If you as a church leader see silos, if you as a member see silos, what can be done?

  • Decide if the fallout is worth it or not. I once heard about a deacon who would not give up the keys to the sound board at church—because he ran the sound board. That was his kingdom.  So is this little kingdom here worth the destruction that comes from blowing it up?  Good question! And there is no single right answer. In this particular case, the worship minister could not practice and the praise team could not rehearse unless it was convenient for this deacon with the keys to the sound board. So, very concretely, the effective worship of the entire congregation was held hostage by the sound board deacon.  The damage to the whole church was greater than the damage of losing this one family, so he was forced to give the keys up! 
  • Don’t destroy without having something better to replace it with.  I know of one congregation where one brother has been in charge of foreign missions for decades! He has done a very good job and served the church well, but his vision has not grown with the congregation, so now he is sometimes out of step with the whole church—but he doesn’t know it.  When someone has enough courage to tell him to give up control, there certainly needs to be a plan and people in place that will serve the church better than the good brother alone was doing! Blowing up silos is not the conclusion of the matter, just the means to a better end.
  • Know the difference between a battle and a war. Leading a rebellion against the elders because you can’t understand why they meet privately and you believe them to have silo mentality might succeed in forcing them out, but the damage done could destroy the whole congregation.  Breaking up the foreign mission committee because they refuse to give up their kingdom  might cost the church a family or two, but probably will not destroy the congregation—especially if there is something better to replace it with.  Destroying the congregation is losing the war; losing a couple of families is painful, but probably only losing a battle.
  • Address the challenges holistically, rather than particularly. Instead of announcing that the foreign missions committee is ruining the whole church because they dominate the church budgeting process, perhaps stepping back and looking at the whole budgeting process and addressing its inadequacies would be more productive.  Instead of painting a bull’s eye on one silo, why not look at the vision of the church as a whole and ask all subgroups to define themselves within that vision. Those that resist or have a hard time will be addressed by all those groups who define themselves or successfully re-defined themselves within the vision of the whole church. 
  • Take a long-term view.  So you think the long-term chair of the missions committee has too much control and not enough accountability. It is reasonable to think that it will not be a quick fix! You are going to have to be patient, working for peace as well as change. God is longsuffering, not willing any should perish but that all chairmen should come to repentance.  You can be longsuffering and patient as well.
  • Relieve fears. We said some people can’t give up control because they are afraid of what they will lose, for instance, like prestige, control, respect, and relationships.  Try alleviating some of those fears as part of the process. Honor people for what they have done. Assure them of relationships and respect. Celebrate the change in status, rather than the demise of the little king.
  • Act in love. If you sense hard feelings or disrespect in yourself towards that person or that subgroup, stop and examine your own heart before you do one more thing.
  • Don’t be afraid.

Christians are called to be peacemakers, so I do believe in living at peace with all people as much as it depends on me. I do know, though, that little kings and little queens of church territories are sitting on little thrones that don’t belong to them and that diminish the ability of the church to function fully and gloriously as the family of God or the body of Christ.

We must never allow other thrones inside the church than the throne of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! 

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Never building silos is easier than removing silos! I have heard preachers who tell about the first two years at their new congregation, all they did was break down the doors to silos and little kingdoms that had grown up over the years in that particular congregation.  My fear is that they are only the surviving preachers, i.e., the ones who can still talk about it;  the others who are not talking were not victorious in their battles with silos.

If you are planting a church, or if you have had a catastrophic event or truly phenomenal leadership that allows your church to reorganize completely, then here are a few suggestions for you to avoid building a missions silo:

  • Work on the mission and vision for the whole church before you start parsing that vision into sub-visions.  Discovering the big picture for a church is the result of lots of people praying together, talking together, praying together, searching the word together—and praying together.  Beware at this stage of the individuals who seem to have a single agenda or a single focus with no real interest in the other areas.  Help them either come back to working as part of the whole body or ask them to wait to speak until the vision for the whole is received.
  • Use a non-corporate metaphor for building your congregation’s organization.  I myself love the family metaphor, but there are others you might choose like the physical body or the tree and branches.  Using a different metaphor opens the conversation to different possibilities.
  • Build rotation into your model.  Nobody gets to be appointed to any position or becomes a member of any committee for life! Everybody understands that they are serving a defined term as elder, chairman, ministry leader, or committee member.  The term is not based on performance. You can’t run for re-election and get another term. Everybody steps down or away for some specified period of time before they can perform those same duties again for another term.
  • Build accountability into your model.  Nobody gets to be anything without being accountable to someone!  The hardest question here is to whom the elders will be accountable, both individually and collectively.  Without too much explanation, let me suggest that individually the elders need to be accountable to one another; collectively, they should be accountable to the flock they serve. 
  • Do budgets as representatives of the whole church, not as representatives of particular subgroups!  Try to remove any sense of competition for funds.
  • Do not idolize efficiency!  God did not call us to efficiency, but to faithfulness.  He is patient and longsuffering.  He tells us to wait on Him. Those are not instructions for efficiency, but rather for following in His steps. That’s where we want to be.
  • Don’t be afraid.  It’s God’s church, not yours! He is very much in control; you are not! Trust Him!

Tomorrow, look for the last post in this series on what to do if you find silos all around you!

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One of my favorite heroes of faith is the Thai minister of a church in Bangkok, who truly understands that there is not a distinction between mission field churches who are “receivers” of missions and churches who are “doers” of missions.  Although working in Thailand, itself a Buddhist country and the object of mission work, the Thai churches that he has planted are reaching out in Laos and Myanmar—and he has plans and dreams for preaching to the 40 million Thai-language Chinese people.

We know a church in Moscow, less than twenty years old itself, who is launching a mission effort into Istanbul, Turkey. Singaporean Christians are sending missionaries into Cambodia and China, while Christians from Ghana have planted large congregations in Western Europe.

One of the most impressive examples of great churches focusing outside, not in, is the Back To Jerusalem movement among Chinese Christians.  Christians from Mainland China have committed to send each other into ALL the countries of the countries, where 90% of the non-Christians of the world live.

If you go to the question and answer pages for mission efforts like Back To Jerusalem, the first question is always: why are you sending people other places; don’t you have enough to do at home? Every missionary and every mission-minded church has been confronted with the same question.  Here is my answer: Of course, the Great Commission includes home, but who will share the Good News with the billions who have never heard of Jesus, if the biggest churches with the most Christians in every country all stay home??

Great churches—wherever they are and whatever size they may be—understand that they are a part of the call to the Body of Christ to “go into the entire world.” Here are some practical suggestions for leading your church to go into the entire world:

  1. Put the whole world on display. What do your members really know about your own mission work? What do they know about the persecuted church? What do they know about the inspiring mission efforts of Christians around the world?  If your members are ill-informed, then they are uninspired. What can you do to change this?
  2. Talk about world Christians. Many of my personal heroes of faith are men and women that are virtually unknown in the United States. They do not make the lectureship circuits, they are not widely published, they are not center page spreads for Christian newspapers. If you are a church leader, you should get out, meet these unknown heroes, then come home and talk about them!
  3. Avoid protectionism. The era of allowing foreign evangelists and missionaries to talk, to preach, to show their slides in our assemblies has been over for decades. Most leaders decided their members needed protecting, although it may have been more motivated by efforts to keep their contributions at home.  Don’t be afraid. Raise the vision for global work by providing platforms—often—for those who are going out from among us!! Don’t be afraid. The local work will grow as people’s vision for the world grows.
  4. Abandon the idea of “mine” and “God’s”: Our members travel. We fly, we cruise, we RV, we camp, we hike, we backpack, we tour.  How can we give this part of our lives more to the Will of God instead of thinking of it as OUR special time?  At LST, we hear constantly from adult Christians who take their two-week vacation and go somewhere to share their faith that it was work, BUT it was the most re-creational activity they have ever done.  Great churches help their members give all of their life in God’s work.
  5. Great churches have leaders who GO! I really believe that every preacher/minister, every church leader would be a greater leader and better able to inspire if he/she would regularly be personally involved in evangelistic mission efforts—preferably outside of their own culture.

Great churches understand that they are not exempt from going into the entire world.

 

Next:  Great churches understand the relationship between benevolence and evangelism!

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A couple of nights ago, Sherrylee and I watched Keys To The Kingdom (1944) with Gregory Peck playing the role of Father Francis Chisholm, a Catholic priest who serves as a missionary to China for 40 years in the early 1900s. The film is quite inspirational in a black-and-white way, but one scene jumped out at me as we were watching. After struggling for decades with very poor facilities and limited resources, the priest learns that the Methodists have just sent new missionaries to the same city, but with a big new church building and lots of money. The first question everyone asks the priest is if he is resentful of the new workers. A good fifteen minutes of the film is spent showing the priest reaching out to the new missionaries, finding common ground, encouraging them, and making friends instead of enemies. At one point Father Chisholm says he can’t imagine what the Chinese would think about Christianity if all the Christian groups fought with each other.

Great churches focus on the unity of the body of Christ. Most religious movements have a long tradition of settling disputes by first contending, then condemning, and then eventually separating from each other, resulting in new churches, but always at the expense of the reputation of the kingdom of God. Jesus did say that “a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand.”  The Kingdom of God will stand, but will our expression of the Kingdom of God survive disunity?

Here are my suggestions for churches who would seek the unity of the body of Christ:

 

 

  • Celebrate and acknowledge all faith in Jesus as Lord. Is their faith in Jesus not a gift of God just the same as your faith? And if the particulars of the expression of that faith are different from yours, must you ignore what you have in common?
  • Let mercy triumph over judgment! If you have been forgiven of your sins, is it possible that God might forgive even the sins of Others? If you have grown and matured in your faith since you first believed, is it possible that God allows Others the same process?
  • Seek relationships with Others. It can’t really be love to acknowledge that Others might be children of God, but intentionally avoid contact with them. Separate but equal has never worked in the Kingdom of God.
  • Believe that Good will triumph over evil. Have confidence that the Kingdom is eternal and if Hell cannot prevail against it, misunderstandings of God’s Will cannot destroy His Body.  Jesus was not afraid to eat with sinners—after all, who else could he have eaten with?
  • Don’t think greater of yourself than you should. If reading about the attitudes of the Pharisees begins to sound like your congregation, if the prayers are anything but “Lord, be merciful to me a sinner,” then you need to search for the seeds of self-righteousness.
  • Be a peacemaker and be blessed. Some churches, some church leaders see themselves mounted on white horses, leading the armies of God, but that role is reserved for the resurrected Jesus.
  • Encourage those who facilitate peace.  We were in Thailand and met with a good church attempting to mediate a national dispute between churches and Christians. Unfortunately, the result of their attempts to make peace only resulted in rancor and mistrust towards them from both polarities.  Jesus said that peacemakers are blessed!
  • Turn the other cheek. You are not greater than your Master. Others will malign and mistreat you—as they did Jesus. It is at that very moment that our prayer must be, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they do.”  Neither defensiveness nor counterattack is appropriate.
  • Don’t be afraid! Fear is the enemy of love.
  • Pray for unity, long for it as Jesus did. “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”(Jn. 17:23)

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Fifth in Guest Series by Tim Spivey, senior minister of New Vantage Church (San Diego, CA)

It’s one of the most frustrating things in the world to have a deep passion for something and not be able to get leadership to care much or embrace it. Few places have I seen this frustration more common or misunderstood than when it comes to global evangelism. When you meet resistance proposing something to church leaders, it isn’t typically because they hate ministry or people or they want to be frustrating. The resistance you face is often based on stuff under the surface. Everything below is a generalization. However, if you are meeting resistance, some of these attitudes may be in play. Let the generalizations begin 🙂

In general, elders tend to fear conflict, ministers tend to fear failure. Church members tend to feel like the church is overstaffed and spends too much money on themselves. The minister feels like the church is under-staffed and under-resourced. None of this makes for easy persuasion or full buy-in from leadership.

If it were me, I would focus on getting the preacher on board first. Preachers tend to me more open to new initiatives and they know how to get the elders on board. Like it or not, they are also usually the functional leader of the church by virtue of having high visibility and an open mic for 30 minutes every Sunday. Some will disagree with this…but without the preacher’s support a ministry will have about half the octane it could have otherwise. The good news is that most preachers don’t know they have the power they have…and tend to care more about ministry than power-brokering anyways. However, when you propose something new, or want to go to the “next level” in global missions (or anything else), here are:

5 Things Your Preacher Won’t Tell You He’s Thinking (Some are reasonable, some aren’t)

  • “I think you might pitch the idea, and leave me with the workload.” Create a ministry that requires little more than vision-casting and cheerleading from him. Preachers enjoy these and do them well.
  • “I think you might blame me and the elders if it doesn’t work.” If it doesn’t work, don’t blame them.
  • “I think this will mean less money and human resources to carry out the work of the local church.” Most churches actually drastically underfund local ministry. I would recommend finding ways to get the job done without pulling additional funds out of local ministry. I would also find ways for the missions ministry to add value to the whole life of the Body…not silo itself.
  • “I need you to help me understand how this works, because people will judge the ministry’s success by the numbers.” This is sad but true. A ministry that doesn’t “work” will hurt credibility for all involved. Have a clear way to measure “success,” even if not by numbers–though numbers matter. Just make it clear.
  • “I’m always looking for new ministries that will work and bless the church, but ending ministries is nearly impossible. Offer to try it as a pilot or experiment, and have a concrete end game in mind.

If you can find a way to put these concerns (many of which are shared by elders) at ease…odds are…you’ll not only get leadership on board–you’ll have real champions for your area of ministry.

 

 

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Fourth in a Guest series by Tim Spivey, senior minister at New Vantage Church (San Diego, CA)

No-silosBuilding on the three previous posts, here are a couple of introductory steps you can take that will help your church more effectively embrace God’s call to global mission:

Seek alignment. Understand the church is like a mobile. Everything is connected, and this is a great blessing. Look at your existing ministries and see how your missions ministry can be properly aligned with what the church is already doing. In some churches, church planting, short-term missions, benevolence, long-term missions, etc. are all very separate ministries with independent objectives and marked territory. For the purposes of involvement perhaps this feels good. However, if ministries are organizationally, strategically and philosophically siloed, it will take twice the money and publicity to achieve half of the results with half of the joy.

“Alignment” means riding the wave of where the church is already going rather than charting your own course. It means building missions ministry around the broader objectives of the church, and with all church ministries in mind. This will not only bring the blessing and support of church leadership to missions more quickly, it will relieve “sideways energy” in the church system that creates a tug of war effect–lots of effort, little movement. If everyone heads in their own directions, the church will stuggle to make progress of any kind. With alignment, forward progress is much easier and results exponentially enhanced.

Here are some steps to this effect:

  • Seek a firm grasp on the mission and vision of the church. Ask, how can we build a missions ministry that affirms and accentuates that vision? If missions becomes a para-church ministry in the church, it will never soar, and those involved in it will find themselves wondering why leadership and the congregation don’t seem to care much about it.
  • Have those who lead ministries in the “externally-focused” areas meet together. Relationships are everything in the church. Knowing one another better and communicating what’s going on will help coordination and make it easier for people to give to one another when necessary down the road. Tomorrow’s post will talk more about the importance of relationships in global missions ministry.
  • Integrate those ministries by choosing to do things together. Could a short-term missions team be sent to build up and encourage your long-term missionaries instead of going to countries that aren’t a part of what the church is already involved in? Could some of the church’s benevolence money go to support the poor overseas? Here’s another one–can the global missions team play a part in helping further the cause of the poor and and reaching the international community around the building through a ministry like Friendspeak?
  • Trade out traditional “mission reports” for storytelling opportunities in sermons, giving time, communion, and other things that weave the narrative of what God is doing globally through all of church life. Consider having one of your missionaries video a communion thought or a brief thank-you for the morning and stream it to the screen. Now they aren’t a visitor from a faraway land. They are part of the church.

Those are just a few possibilities. There are many more. There are two more posts in this series. One with more practical ideas–and one talking about getting leadership on board.

How have you seen partnership between ministries rather than “siloing” pay dividends in furthering God’s mission in the church?

 

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