Wednesday, June 20, 2012

4 Different Perspectives of the Church

This is part two in my reposting OLD thoughts about the church. Part one was posted yesterday (read it here).

People think of church in a lot of different terms. Most of the times, we fixate on one particular concept, and as a result have a less than full understanding or just plain mistaken understanding of what church is.

My contemplation preceding ReNew has led me to note at least four distinct ways we identify the church:

What is Your View of the Church?
This is often associated with place and time. When we were young, we were always taught that "church was not a place", but that teaching was confusing for me because it went something like this:
1) we dress up and act "reverent" when we come to church.
2) church is not a building, it is people
3) stop running in the church.

Many churches identify themselves (even in their names) by associating with the churches that believe the same things as them. for many people, this identity is the most important. I recently has someone say to me in link-up, "we're looking for a good baptist church". what he meant was, "we want a church that believes what we do". this isn't necessarily bad, it's just another way we identify the church.

A lot of churches wear labels based on their primary activities (usually Sunday).They are seeker, contemporary, blended, traditional, etc... I can hear the expression now, "we're a seeker church." in more recent years, this type of identification has grown beyond just Sunday and other lables have been developed (purpose driven, church OF small groups, simple church, yada-yada-yada).

Here's a novel thought. the church isn't an organization at all. It cannot be defined by structures or systems. It is a fluid organism, always in flux because it is nothing more than the relationships holding a community of redeemed people together. It exists to the extent their connectedness allows, and it doesn't exist
where relationships don't exist. This one might need to be chewed on a bit, as there are some very attractive ideas here, yet they don't necessarily mesh with the way things are or how we might interpret Scripture.

so, when you think about church, how do you think about it?

  • is it a building? (the big one on the highway)
  • is it a time? (Sunday morning)
  • is it a belief set? (Baptist; Reformed)
  • is it an activity? (morning service)
  • is it people? (Shawn McPherson, Keith Knapp, Sue Proctor)

But... What if none of these was a full reflection of the church. What if we had a better way of thinking about the church. What if we had new terms to use to better identify the biblical story of God's community of redeemed?

What might that look like?

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...