Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Pastoring Isn't Always Easy...

As I've been preparing for our next sermon series, I've been reading through a bunch of my old writings on the church. Some things I read and I wince because I'm not really comfortable with where I was and some things I read and I wince because I recognize I was right then and not now...

Anyway, I'm going to post some of my old stuff this week, just to get the juices flowing as we prepare for this four week RENEW series.

Sometimes pastors get grumpy...
Pastoring is hard work. Seriously. All "working one-day-a-week" jokes aside, I really do believe this is one of the most difficult "occupations" in existence. I'm not saying that because the actual labor is intensive. I don't mind that. In fact, often I love the tangible things I do. It is a great joy to be paid for studying, teaching, and implementing the Bible. Even in my seventy-hours-a-week youth days, I never disliked the labor side of the job.

The thing that makes pastoring hard is the never-ending push-me-pull-you between pragmatic ministry and spirit led ministry. I've invested a ton of time reading the top secular authors on leadership, business, marketing, etc. I have a pretty good idea on what the experts are currently saying in all these arenas. I am aware of how we could implement these truths into our church and make it function much more efficiently. Sometimes, I wish we would.

I also have invested a good amount of time reading about emergence theory, organic growth, third places, and other social sciences. Much of this material flies in the face of things I wrote about in the first paragraph. When I read these things, I find them resonating far more deeply with the church and the Christianity I find in the Bible. (admittedly, this is because I now read the Bible more as a comprehensive revelation from God as opposed to a series of formulations designed to be dissected for our increased knowledge)

This creates a vicious tension for me, and i think for those who are willing to truly be honest with themselves.

We could build a megachurch. The formulas exist. If you are "driven" by the right things, use the right tools, become innovative enough, and drop eggs from helicopters at Easter you'll grow. Really. You will... and that isn't necessarily bad.

But it isn't necessarily good.

Because as a pastor, I have to sit down at my desk every morning and ask my real boss if I'm pleasing him. I have to close the door of my office every evening and wonder if my day's work built Christ's church, or Calvary's church, or "my" church. When I write out my todo list at the beginning of the day, I have to wonder if my next action is "purpose driven" or "spirit driven" (not that it can't be both, it can).

Sometimes, in our culture, we can't be considered successful or important or significant if we decide to build the church God's way.

Andy Stanley doesn't have to be the yin to Joe Myer's yang. But sometimes he is.

John Maxwell doesn't have to be pitted against Neil Cole. But sometimes he is.

Patrick Lencioni gets a lot of things right. But maybe not everything.

Barry Schwartz and Rick Warren seem to have mutually exclusive philosophies. But I like both.

I read an article today that highlighted this tension for me. So much of the American church is built around Western polity. Our church governance resembles congress. our pastors resemble CEOs. Our program guides look like OCB. Our congregants are like Webkinz crazed parents, racing from store to store to find the koala...

Read some of the highlights:
  • it is the entrepreneurial church (congregations of roughly one thousand and above) that seems particularly clueless about the shift from the passive to the reflexive.
  • Large-church leaders have been trained in the modern, command-and-control paradigm for thirty years.
  • The mechanical paradigm of organization largely explains why modern church leaders are trained as CEOs, not shepherds.
  • Sheep have their own ideas of what, where, and when they want to eat. They may not want to lie down by quiet waters and go to sleep at eight. They just might want to check out the watercress down by the streambed. Or they might want to head out over the next ridge to see if there are any other flocks out there. Conveniently, machine parts don’t get ideas. They just get to work, and they work according to specification.
  • One doesn’t have to be on the pastors’ conference circuit long to figure out that prime-time clergy (ages forty to fifty-five), are marinated in this kind of thinking. They have been told repeatedly that this is the only leadership model that will ensure success. (And make no mistake: in new millennium America, success equals the greatest number of seats filled on Sunday morning.)
  • if there is anything the entrepreneurial church is good at creating, it is compliant cultures—those Stepford-like minicities populated with otherwise savvy, creative human beings. Is it any wonder that megachurches proliferate in areas of the country where the church attendance percentages are well above the national norm?7 This is not quantum physics. It’s the law of supply and demand. They know who their real target market is: it is hothoused Christians.
Sure, some of this is harsh. And, no, i wouldn't want to do anything else (and honestly, i don't want you to feel sorry for me). And if you're wondering, i've had a pretty good week, with minimal complaining (but perhaps too much reflection).

However, next time you are thinking about your pastor(s), remember Hebrews 13:17:

They keep watch over you as men who must give an account.

and believe me, sometimes that is a tall order in a society that has such a warped view of success.

Monday, June 18, 2012

6 Keys for Successful Evaluations

Just finished a difficult two days of making phone calls to soccer players and their parents who didn't make the West Michigan Storm team. I love coaching, and I love coaching kids; but this is the absolute worst part of the job. Although it doesn't make it any easier for me, the parents, or the kids; I try to follow these rules about evaluations so that the entire process can be long-term helpful even if it is short-term painful:

  • Criticism without relationship or context is deflating
  • The only bad evaluation is a dishonest evaluation
  • A poor review in a loving culture is an opportunity for growth
  • An evaluation tied to job security is a reason to be nervous
  • An evaluation tied to growth potential is a reason to be excited
  • Team evaluations lessen the potential for interference by personal agendas
These same rules are useful for any part of life which requires evaluation. Whether you're a teacher, a boss, a parent, or a coach; you can consider adopting these (or similar) guidelines to enable you to create and engage in a more healthy process.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Would You Rather Be Obedient or Wealthy?

I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. (Psalm 119:14 NIV) 

At first glance, this verse seems fairly normal for Psalm 119. Much of this chapter is dedicated to extolling the virtues of God’s Word, and this verse is no exception.

Most of us would not quibble with the sentiment of this verse: God’s Word is valuable.  Don't we all believe that?

But do you really value obedience to God’s Word as much as you value wealth? Do you rejoice in opportunities to follow God’s Word the same way you would rejoice in great riches?

How would you respond if you won the lottery? How did you respond the last time you had an opportunity to obey Scripture? Were the two responses comparable?

Do you rejoice when you get the opportunity to obey passages like James 1:2-4?

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4 NIV) 

Why would anyone choose trials and suffering over wealth? If I am honest with myself, I know that I would rather be rich than in pain. Is that okay? How am I to understand Psalm 119:14?

Quite simply, I think it should look like this: Our response to all circumstances should be the same. We should always rejoice, because we are confident that whether we are becoming rich or whether we are heading into a trial, God is in control.

The situation that is happening to us is far less important than who we are becoming through the situation. Are we becoming anxious, embittered, or apathetic? Or are we learning to rejoice?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Should we All Wear Name Tags at Church?

A long time ago, Seth Godin blogged about name tags. Here's why he argued that name tags should be a part of most meetings:

I think doing name tags properly transforms a meeting. Here's why:
a. people don't really know everyone, even if they think they do.
b. if you don't know someone's name, you are hesitant to talk to them.
c. if you don't talk to them, you never get to know them and you both lose.
d. if you are wearing a name tag, it's an invitation to start a conversation.
One summer, I led 90 people, some strangers to each other, through a three-day training. Every single person had to wear a hat with his or her name on it until every person in the group knew every other person's name and could prove it. It took two days. Worth it.
so this raises two questions in my mind:

1) should we all wear name tags at church?
2) if we can't because we're too big, are we too big?

just asking....

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Creating a Culture of Accomplishment

A team rarely accomplishes its goals without a great deal of effort. That effort begins with those who are responsible to "lead" or to coach. Without effective coaching a team may end up going many different directions.Below are three simple ways you can help your team get on the same page and create a culture of accomplishment.
Keep team members informed
  • Focus your communication on the essential details 
  • Repeat your communication more than you think you should 
  • Find fresh methods to communicate “old essentials” 
  • Always provide open lines for feedback 
Equip team members for success 
  • Clarify your expectations for each team member 
  • Provide an adequate allotment of time and resources for accomplishing each task 
  • Continue to provide open lines for feedback 
Unleash team members to act 
  • Clarify the evaluation criteria for each team member 
  • Define each team members' role for the other team members 
  • Allow room for failure 
  • Relentlessly seek feedback

Creating a Culture of Accomplishment

View more PowerPoint from David Rudd

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

10 Awesome Things That Aren't Really Awesome For Us

Top Ten Lists are Fun.
Instant gratification is a problem in our world. People often choose (unwittingly) to endure long-term consequences simply so they can enjoy short term pleasure.  This is not healthy.

To be clear, I'm not opposed to gratification. God desires us to enjoy his world, to be joyful, to find pleasure in the things He has created... However, we need to do so with balance.

This list is not so much about things we should avoid, but things we should be careful about. Here are 10 awesome things that aren't really awesome for us:

10. French Fries
9. Contact Sports
8. Cheese
7. Money
6. Couches
5. TV
4. Cola
3. Automobiles
2. Dollar Stores
1. Bacon

It's so easy for us to get out of balance because we're pursuing "good" things. Our career, and money, and entertainment, and toys, and houses, and stuff, and popularity can all cause us to get out of balance and neglect the things that are really important. We need to be willing to GIVE AWAY some of these good things so that we can pursue the greatest things...

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


Have you ever heard someone say something like:

"I just need some time alone to re-charge.
I've been giving out way too much and not taking in enough."

Sabbath IS important...
Now, I don't want to minimize the need we all have to budget our time. And it is important to rest. The sabbath is for man, not man for the sabbath. I often take time on Monday or Thursday to sit in Panera and just read or write because i'm taking a morning off to have some "David Time".

BUT... (and this is a big but) (snicker)

This idea of "re-charging" gets WAY OVERBLOWN. We are not cars, we don't require a fill-up on gas every 300 miles. We are not droids who need to be plugged in to the wall every night... I think we're way off base when we begin to live as if there is a formula that we can only "give" so much before we need to "take." It seems to me that the Bible talks VERY LITTLE about taking, and an awful lot about giving.

Service is not a scarce commodity. Consider the following biblical teachings and examples:

  • Jesus, when his disciples were exhausted made them feed the 5000. An interesting part of that story is that the disciples originally felt like their ability to "give" was limited to a few pieces of bread and some fish. Jesus showed them that when He is in it, their ability to give is far greater than they think.
  • Remember the widow at Zaraphath? The prophet Elijah went to her (on God's instructions) and asked her to feed him. She objected, thinking she only had enough to make one final meal for her and her son. She obeyed, and as long as she kept giving, she never ran out of food!
  • Jesus invested a lot into the lives of the disciples... Who invested into Jesus?
  • Paul compared himself to being poured out like a drink offering. For him, it was an honor to give away his life.
  • According to Philippians 1, Paul wanted to die so he could be with God. (the ultimate re-charging!) But he realized it was better to stay alive so he could give to others. He was willing to put off the thing that was good for him, so that he could do good for others.
  • Jesus said we are to wash each other's feet.
  • In the ultimate good act, Jesus EMPTIED himself.

What we give away is a demonstration of what we love.

If we truly love God, we will be willing to give ourselves away for the good of His Kingdom and for the benefit of those around us.

...and sometimes...

We won't get recharged. That's why it's called sacrifice.

"Greater love has no man than this, that he give his life for his friends."

Monday, May 7, 2012

What You Give Away is a Demonstration of what You Love

Actually, the statement in the title is a very loose paraphrase of Jesus' words:

"Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."

This morning I was thinking about some other ways I might say the same thing to help me focus a little bit on what this truth means for me today.  Some of the thoughts I had were:
- If you want to know what you love, look at what you accumulate
- The words "I love you" only go as far as the action "I sacrifice for you"
- Jesus said the greatest love is that of giving one's life away. Then He did just that.
- If you don't keep track of it, you don't love it.
- Your calendar, your checkbook, and your GPS history are the best record of what you love.
Of course, the greatest challenge is learning to love God more than all things.  Jesus said to love Him with all our HEART, SOUL, MIND, and STRENGTH.  So, my question for myself today is this:

In each of these areas, what can I give up as a demonstration of my love for God?

  • Heart --> Do I let relationships with other people hamper my spritual growth?
  • Soul --> Do my emotions keep me from living a God-honoring life?
  • Mind --> Am I reading (surfing websites) that are detrimental to my relationship with God?
  • Strength --> Do I have health habits that prevent me from living as God desires?

Remember: What you give away is a demonstration of what you love.

Who do you love?

What are you giving away?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

22 Ways You Can Respond to God's Word

Psalm 119 is not just the longest chapter in the Bible, it is also one of the greatest pieces of writing ever to be solely focused on the Word of God. If we claim that the Bible is the inspired Word of God (and I do), then we ought to be very concerned with how it impacts our life.

From Psalm 119, here are 22 responses to God's Word we can exhibit in our life:

  1. Obey God's Word
  2. Know God's Word
  3. Seek Understanding of God's Word
  4. Choose God's Word
  5. Desire God's Word
  6. Rely on God's Word
  7. Find Comfort in God's Word
  8. Remember God's Word
  9. Return to God's Word
  10. Rest in God's Word
  11. Long for God's Word
  12. Trust God's Word
  13. Meditate on God's Word
  14. Live by God's Word
  15. Depend on God's Word
  16. Value God's Word
  17. Keep God's Word
  18. Be Zealous for God's Word
  19. Prioritize God's Word
  20. Draw Life from God's Word
  21. Rejoice in God's Word
  22. Be Thankful fo God's Word
If you picked 3 of these to work on in your life, which ones would you pick?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Your Life is Boring Because You Aren't on a Quest!

Do you have a life quest? Why not?

Quests not only bring to mind thoughts of swords, armor, dragons, and battles; they also are part of an "epic" way of living. If you want to spice up your life, stop running errands and start going on quests. In a few minutes this morning, I'm headed out on a quest. If my quest is successful, I will have accomplished several important goals for this week.

Quest-thinking can make mundane tasks more exciting, but it can also help us think through important things in new ways.

We can approach our jobs with a quest perspective. We can approach family goals with a quest perspective. We can even approach discipleship with a quest perspective.

Consider the following 7 steps of a successful quest and think about how you might be able to implement them into your life today.  Particularly think about how you might walk through these steps together with your friends!

The 7 Steps of a Successful Quest:

  • determine a life-virtue to be developed
  • craft an impossible quest toward that virtue
  • observe someone else who is modelling a similar quest
  • assist someone else in their completion of a similar quest
  • attempt and fail at the quest
  • complete and memorialize the quest
  • determine a life-virtue to be developed

Monday, April 30, 2012

Traffic Lessons: Responding to the Roadblocks of Life

What do you do when the road is closed?

  • Do you sit at the sign waiting for the workers to finish up and re-open the road?
  • Do you turn around and go home, since you can't go where you had planned?
  • Do you call friends and tell them how frustrated you are that someone closed the road?
  • Do you pray that God would miraculously open the road?

Probably, you do none of the above. You probably take the detour.

While detours are often inconvenient, they are also very helpful. Even though we don't think of it this way, they often keep us from harm and prevent us from destroying our vehicles on roads that are not safe for driving.

What do you do when life's road is closed?

Everyone has experienced the frustration of  a good plan stalling because of an unexpected roadblock. How do you respond when life doesn't go the direction you thought it might.

  • Some people just stop. They refuse to move on with life until they can do it the way they had planned.
  • Some people quit and retreat to the safety of doing nothing.
  • Some people just talk about their frustration, but never take another step forward.
  • Some people pray that God would intervene even though they aren't doing anything to change the situation.

Some people, though, choose to take the detour.

Do you believe that the Bible speaks truly when it says, "No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it."?

God always provides a way out! He always provides a detour!

Even if you don't know where the detour is going, you know that it will take you around the unexpected roadblock.

So next time you find yourself blocked from your planned route in life. Don't stop. Look around to see what new route God has provided and just take that first step. Let him reveal the route to you as you go.