Leadership

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Sheep

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2019

Sheep are stupid. Get one sheep running and they will all run. If one plunges to its death, the others will follow.  Is it any wonder then, why a shepherd was so important for a flock? Not in my mind.

Sheep are stupid. But as a pastor and as a leader I HAVE to be careful how and why I say that. They do, after all, consider me their leader and will (generally) follow.  🙂  If I say they are stupid…okay let’s say “not so smart”  to be kinder…what does that say about me?  See my point? 🙂 🙂

But this is not a post about the sanity of sheep or the insanity of the leader/pastor.  I want to consider something else. Scripture often compares God’s people to sheep. That ought to humble us. We need godly shepherds to lead us. Luke 15 tells us the story of the lost sheep. Jesus tells us He is the “Good Shepherd.” So that definitely puts us in the sheep category.

When it comes to the local church, I believe the “office” of pastor is a Scriptural term. Some refer to that as an elder in the church. Others, like me, take the passage in Ephesians 4:11 as one of the ministries of leadership in the church. (I do not believe in the “five-fold ministry” that some teach. The Greek language shows pastor-teacher as the same person not a separate entity. For those who care it is called Granville-Sharps Rule. You can look it up for an explanation of you care to.)

But my thoughts this morning are not geared toward that aspect of being a shepherd. I’m concerned about the reports I hear from local people, and on blogs, about the “heavy-handedness” of pastors. Lords. Dictators. Abusers with words.  Iron-fisted. Those who use their legalism as a hammer. I remember hearing Charles Stanley saying once, “Shepherds don’t beat sheep; they feed sheep.”  I cringe, and it is all I can do to stay quiet, when I hear someone local talk about being beat into submission by words from the pulpit.  “If you divorce you will go to hell.”  “If you don’t tithe you are not a real Christian.” “I’m the pastor and since I’m in charge I have the say-so around here.” Say what?  Since when is the church “his church” anyway? The last time I looked it said Jesus was the head of the church. Nowhere in the Bible does it give any shepherd the right to beat the sheep.

Case in point: When I was struggling with the whole Church, Inc concept, I was told the pastor had the vision. God gave him that vision. He cast the vision and the leaders and the people followed. This principle sets the pastor up for a huge fall or a huge success, depending on his influence. Corporate America may work that way, but the last time I looked the Bible calls for plurality of leadership. I personally believe that the temptation to become controlling and to overstep our reach is one every shepherd must fight. IMHO it is outside my role as a shepherd to manipulate and control the sheep God has given me to shepherd.  I believe God has given me the sheep He has to love, nourish and care for…not beat them into subjection.

What are your thoughts?

Effectiveness#3

Wednesday, April 10th, 2019

This is my last post on the idea of Effectiveness as the church’s moniker and guiding principle. I’d encourage you to read Effectiveness #1 & #2 to see what my stream of thought has been.

Skye minces no words when we says,

We have replaced the love of the living God with sacrifices to the Idol of Effectiveness. When we bow to this idol, it steals our joy and replaces it with an unbearable burden. (P.24)

Because I was enamored with Church, Inc for awhile, I not only agree but also have to add something else. When I was pursuing this false idol the words which came out of my mouth quite a bit were “Excellence,” “Relevant,” ‘Impactful,” and others. All things were to be done with excellence and if not, I was embarrassed. Relevance is still around today. I dress casual but trust me when I say I DON’T wear the latest fashions (including $1000 shoes); sport a sleeve of tattoos (not that it is immoral but I just choose not to); nor do I globe trot the country because I have the latest “hot” thing. I prefer my local church and being a shepherd.

Here is what I finally learned (and Skye backs it up…not that he needed me to say that! 🙂 ): God does not judge whether I am relevant, or doing things with excellence or am making a global impact. He is more interested in me being faithful to the calling He has placed on my life. At the end of the day, that is all I need to concern myself with. Have I been faithful to Him? I don’t think He really cares about HOW I did them (excellently, etc) but whether I DID THEM for His glory.

Effective or Faithful? I cast my vote for Faithful.  How about you>

Effectiveness

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2019

I’m going to steal from my other blog for this week. I have been reading through (for a second time) and writing about a book by Skye Jethani called Immeasurable. I thought I would take this week here to write some thoughts about a chapter he titles Effectiveness. For today, here is a test:

Leader A. Lifted an entire nation in a time of despair. He mobilized his people against unimaginable odds with a clear vision and inspiring passion. He launched a movement that has impacted literally everyone alive today. He set in motion an industrial and scientific revolution that produced the first computer, the first jet airplane, began human exploration of space, and unlocked the mystery of nuclear energy.  Almost every aspect of the modern world has, in one way or another, been influenced by this man. By the time he died at the age of only 56, everyone on the planet knew his name. Without a doubt, Leader A changed the world.

Leader B. Lived during the same era. In fact, he died just 21 days before Leader A, but his life was very different. At the height of his influence, Leader B ran a school with just a hundred students. He wrote a few books but was not widely regarded.  He was beloved by his friends and family and had a reputation for being both intelligent and faithful, but at the time of his death almost no one knew his name, and most considered his life’s work unfulfilled-including Leader B himself.

So, given the choice, which leader’s strategies would you rather study? Which man’s life would you rather emulate? Which leadership conference would you rather attend-the one featuring a keynote address by Leader A, or the one with a small workshop in a back hall facilitated by Leader B?  GIVE YOUR ANSWER NOW (before I give the punch line).

If you are inspired by the world-changing effectiveness of Leader A, congratulations! You’ve chosen Adolf Hitler. Leader B was Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor who was executed by the Nazis for his relentless opposition to Hitler.

So…how did you do? Whom did you pick? You see, simple effectiveness is not enough.  We often equate effectiveness with success. I once heard someone say, “It is not success that matter; it is faithfulness that matters.” I agree. To be “successful” is not wrong; it’s okay. But it is far better to be faithful to what we have been called to do.  I want to pursue this line of thought this week. Hope you will join me.

Appreciation

Sunday, March 24th, 2019

Tonight is one of my favorite nights of the year.

IT IS VOLUNTEER APPRECIATION NIGHT!

Once a year Ryan, Diana and I give a night to honor our volunteers.  In the past we have done skits; shown videos of Tim Hawkins and other Christian comedians; provided a full-course mean (catered not cooked by either of us); given away prizes and just had a general all-around good night. I like to spend the night personally thanking each volunteer for making things go this past year.

Last year we switched things up a bit by renting our local Tivoli theater and showed The Incredibles. We gave each volunteer a ticket for free popcorn and a drink, gave away prizes, and had a great time. We decided to do the same thing this year. Good thing because all three of us have been swamped with life and this takes a bit less effort than doing skits, finding and paying for a catered meal, setting up tables and chairs and clean-up. This year we will be giving each volunteer a ticket for a free popcorn and drink and also have some door prizes to give away. What are we showing this year? The movie I consider one of, if not THE best animated movie ever made. CARS. A movie with a message about cooperation, pride, teamwork and getting along. All essentials for any team-volunteer or paid- to be successful.

If you are from OVCF and have volunteered and happen to be reading this, strap on your seat belt, grab some popcorn and a drink, and enjoy the ride with us! By the way, we never turn anyone away who wants to join us. I’d like to invite you to come join us if you are reading this from somewhere else on the planet but you may find that hard to do. Come virtually. About 6:00 pop in CARS in your DVD player, make some popcorn and grab a pop or water and join us. Sorry we can’t share our door prizes with you. The M&Ms might get melted or old (or eaten) by the time they reach you. 🙂

Update

Tuesday, February 19th, 2019

In yesterday’s post I told of the opportunity to pray at the Indiana State House of Representatives and I asked for prayer. I thought I would share an update with you since I know some of you prayed. It will also save me from responding to each comment (even though I normally do).  First, a picture.

That is me with Representative Bob Heaton. I’m the one in the tie. Oops…the one without a jacket. 🙂 Yeah…that tie is an anomaly. When I asked about apparel the lady I spoke to bust out laughing when my comment to me wearing a tie was “Bummer! I don’t even wear one of those on Sunday morning.”  When I was joking with Rep Heaton on Saturday morning about the tie, he said, “Yeah. They are kind of sticklers about that.” No way was I going to be a rebel. However, it is a cycling tie!  Bob is a super nice guy, one who truly cares for his constituents. He played ball at Indiana State University as a teammate to Larry Bird.  He is 6’5″ so I guess my doctor was right about my height. In college I was listed as 6’3″.

They wanted it brief (3 minutes or less) and even without knowing that, I was already there.  I thought I would let you see what I said and prayed:

“In the OT book of I Kings there is a story told of Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived. Two woman had a baby and came to him because one of the babies died and was switched with the other. They came to Solomon and his test was to divide the baby in half. The one mother said, “Oh no don’t do that!” while the other said, “Go ahead. He shall be neither of ours.” Solomon wisely knew who the real mother was. My prayer for you is a prayer for wisdom. On that note, let’s pray.

“Father, you are the giver of wisdom. We thank you for this day you have given us. We thank you for the opportunity to meet on this day which honors two of our greatest presidents. I thank you for each man and woman present in this room today. I pray for wisdom in their conversations which must take place. And I pray for wisdom for the decisions which must be made today. Give each of these men and women a heart of discernment for right and wrong. And help them to make decisions which will benefit the citizens of this great state of Indiana. I pray this in the name of Jesus, Amen.”

There you have it. Why not take a moment and pray for your legislators and senators and the leaders of our country right now?

Two insider pictures of the “floor.”

 

Aftereffect

Tuesday, November 6th, 2018

I remember watching MacGyver years ago and one of the scientific principles he used several times was “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” I didn’t post yesterday (Monday) because I can attest to that.

This past Sunday we had our Day of Service (DoS). You can read about it here. But it was so much more than just an afternoon of serving. In my case, it was several months leading up to the day.  For the last few years I enlisted the help of another church since it was getting way too big just for me/us. My friend, James, an Associate Pastor of another church in town, came on board and has been invaluable. Last Spring the Owen County Chamber of Commerce joined us, as they did this time. (I am a board member of the Chamber also).  The Fall DoS entails a bit more since we not only rake leaves, clean gutters, and help get people ready for winter, we also do free oil changes for those who need them but can’t afford them. Invariably, there is one or two who need a bit more. So OVCF paid for 10 oil changes; a set of wiper blades and rear set of brakes for the same car; and an extensive look trying to fix a speedometer cable. Along with that we raked, cleaned gutters, etc for over 30 people. And trust me when I say there were plenty of leaves! Sycamore trees and maple trees abound in our town. Jo and I were going around encouraging and thanking people, but ended up staying at one place as we bagged and emptied huge contractor bags full of leaves 4 times! As it was I took 2 of the bags to put on the garden we have on the church property (one of our ladies started it). Then it started raining about 3:00 and I heard some of the folks were raking in the rain.

Here it is Tuesday and I’m still not done. Still some debriefing to do with James and Cassandra. Still some notes of thanks to be sent to some local folks (Babbs grocery and AutoZone) for their help. Oh yeah…rest. I was dead on my feet Sunday night and even dragged yesterday some. But its a good tired. A tired that comes from helping others. From knowing you were doing what Jesus would do (although I’m thinking He didn’t have gutters, leaves, air conditioners to move, weather stripping to install, or gardens to clean out). Then again…

Tired but satisfied. Tired but fulfilled. Tired but knowing we served as our Master would.

ReturningtoReclaim

Friday, October 26th, 2018

Every year the church I pastor, Owen Valley Christian Fellowship, has an anniversary. (I’m sure that is news. But it is good news!)

Every year Ryan (our youth pastor) and I give a “State of the Church” address. We reiterate our Mission and Vision to the people in order to keep it in front of them.

Every year we follow that with a celebration. A Pitch-in dinner and some good old laughing and talking…and, of course, good old eating some good old food.

This year is no different. Only this year there is a twist…or two. About 2-3 months ago, at the request of the other leaders,  I was asked to keep the growth of the church in front of the people. So I developed what I called FIT. No, it is not a fitness group. FIT stands for Future Initiative Team. We have met twice now and have pinpointed some future ideas of what we need/should/could possibly do down the road. We then delineated them into “Big Ticket Items”; “Items which need our attention but in time”; and “Items which require immediate attention.”  We brainstormed quite an extensive list and this past meeting I “assigned” and asked for volunteers to follow up on the items, especially the immediate ones.  Long story short: following the message this Sunday, I’ll be giving a brief presentation of what we have come up with.

The other twist is the Dedication of our new Youth Addition. I’m excited the Chamber of Commerce is coming to have a ribbon-cutting for us, along with Ryan talking (briefly) about what all is going on in the addition and I’ll close in prayer.

It will make for an exciting day. I’d certainly appreciate your prayers for us. Please ask God to put His hand on our young people and that we be wise in how our building is used. It was never intended to be used for us alone. Twice a week, for example, WRE (Weekly Religious Education), a totally voluntary program for the local school kids uses our building. The kids give up a free class time to attend. Ryan is heavily involved in it.

And lest I forget: Our Mission and Vision is as follows:

Mission: To Connect People to Jesus

Vision:

  • To be Passionate Pursuers of Jesus
  • To be models of Truth and Love
  • To be involved in our Community

I would appreciate your prayers for us this Sunday. A lot of people have had a hand in making this addition a reality. Youth Addition or not, the church (OVCF and as a whole) needs to do more celebrating. We intend to do just that.

Flashback2

Monday, August 13th, 2018

In a previous post I wrote about having a flashback. I’m not going to recap it. You can go here and read it for yourself. To continue my thoughts:

Skye’s definition/description of “Church, Inc.” is this:

It is shorthand for ministry devoid of mystery, for pastors who assume that the exercise of their calling is a matter of skill more than the gravity of their soul. It represents the exchange of the transcendent calling of Christian ministry with mere management of religious institutions and services. If ministry is encountering the heat and light of an uncontrollable sun, Church, Inc is the tanning salon in the local strip mall.

Skye goes on to ask a very complex question: the attraction to religious consumers is easy enough to grasp, but what is the appeal for pastors? The answer is not an easy one and I suspect he will spend the book dissecting it.  I’m only in chapter 6 and I think I’ve gone through a pen while highlighting!! To top it off he includes this quote by Richard Halverson, former chaplain of the United States Senate:

In the beginning the church was a fellowship of men and woman centered on the living Christ. Then the church moved to Greece, where it became a philosophy. Then it moved to Rome, where it became an institution. Next, it moved to Europe, where it became a culture. And, finally, it moved to America, where it became an enterprise.

BINGO!

Jesus didn’t set up an enterprise. He established his church. He didn’t tell the disciples to “Go, learn the business principles of the world, then take the message to others, and I will be with you to the end of the age.” I think it high time pastors get back to being pastors (shepherds), and churches get back to being churches not small businesses.

There is so much more to say but…

So…

OFF SOAPBOX (for now).

More to come.

Flashback

Wednesday, August 8th, 2018

Flashbacks are bad…usually. I guess it depends on what you flash back to.

Several years ago I was the pastor of a church when there was a major shift in a pastor’s responsibility. I was always used to seeing myself as a shepherd, as one responsible for the care and feeding of the sheep. Then along came a shift. The shift involved the pastor taking on more of a CEO position and the church being run like more of a business model. I attended John Maxwell’s seminars. Bought his and others’ books. Tried to implement the whole paradigm shift to the church.

I. FAILED…BIG. TIME.

Yep. I failed. Miserably. I knew when that happened that my time was limited in that current pastorate. I couldn’t make the shift to the CEO/business model.

MY. TIME. WAS. INDEED. LIMITED.

I moved on to another church…one that didn’t have or want that model. Good thing. I would have failed there too. My tenure there was not as long as the previous one, and definitely not as long as this one. But that was for other reasons completely.  In the meantime, I read several books which helped me tremendously. Two books by E. Glenn Wagner: The Church You’ve Always Wanted and Escape from Church, Inc cemented my decision.  Another was Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome by Kent & Barb Hughes. Two books on preaching which helped were Famine in the Land by Steve Lawson and The Passion-Driven Sermon by Jim Shaddix. They helped convince me of my purpose: preach the Word and quit worrying about modeling the business world.

FLASHBACK TIME

Why? I started reading a new book today: Immeasurable by Skye Jethani. It is subtitled Reflections on the Soul of Ministry in the Age of Church, Inc. Sounds like it would be right up my alley. Two quotes hit me hard  The prelude to the Introduction:

There are no measures which can set forth the immeasurable greatness of Jehovah…If we cannot measure we can marvel. Charles Spurgeon

The wrong approach put a premium on numbers and results.  You measure success by numbers. They were the qualifiers. When I was entertaining the whole idea of Church, Inc I was losing my focus on people as people and seeing them as numbers to be counted. Chairs to be filled (we didn’t have pews).  🙂

This post is getting long-much longer than I like to go- so I will continue it with another.

Think

Sunday, July 8th, 2018

Paul says in Philippians 4:8- “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on these things.”

Over the past week or so I have been reading God of Tomorrow, Caleb Kaltenbach’s new book.  A normal review will give the pros and cons , good points and bad points, and whether it is worth your while to read it.  I’m going to take a different approach in this post. I want to highlight several of his included quotes and thoughts. Then let you decide at the end if it is a book you want to invest your time in.

God of Tomorrow: How to Overcome the Fears of Today and Renew Your Hope for the Future

First, an explanation. Caleb’s book’s premise is focused around hope for tomorrow being the solution to the fears of today. He analyzes the culture pretty well and what should be the Christ-follower’s approach to the people who are the culture. Change is inevitable. It is how we react to that change which gives us our approach to people.  (My comments appear after)

“Combativeness without compassion is always going to be counterproductive.”  We need to have our beliefs but we don’t have to cram them down someone’s throat nor do we need to be militant.

“Our differences with people should drive us to them, not from them.” This is sure opposite of our “hunker down” attitude.

“Our fear is no match for the unlimited power and uncontested reign of God.  When will we learn this? Instead of fearing change, let’s hold to our beliefs but not shy away in fear.

“Hope reminds us that our best days are ahead, not behind us.”  And I might add not right now either. No apologies to Joel for that.

“Out-of-place people always have a place with God.”  I seem to remember someone telling a story about going to the highways and bi-ways to bring people into a meal. Hmmmm.  Maybe this would change our approach toward “unlovely” and “unacceptable, despicable” people we often have.

There are plenty more and I plan to use them during the next week as I post some thoughts. But the coup de grace for me was this one:

When people look at your (my) life, it should be so easy for them to see Jesus in how you (I) treat them, love them, and share truth with them. (p.201)

What do you think of those quotes? Think you might get this book?