A Strong Message to the Church

This passage spoke to me this week. Pastor, imagine if God had you stand on the front steps of your church and deliver this message as people entered your church Sunday morning…

This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD : “Stand at the gate of the LORD’s house and there proclaim this message:

” ‘Hear the word of the LORD, all you people of Judah who come through these gates to worship the LORD. This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place.

Do not trust in deceptive words and say, “This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD!” If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your forefathers for ever and ever. But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless.

” ‘Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, “We are safe”-safe to do all these detestable things? Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you?

But I have been watching! declares the LORD. Jeremiah 7:1-11 NIV

How would your people respond to that message?

Friday Discussion: Racial Diversity in the Church

I’m curious about something. I’ve been curious a long time.

This is not a new subject for me. Over the years my wife and I have visited dozens of churches. We’ve visited in most of the mainline denominations with varied music and preaching styles. We’ve visited predominantly white churches and predominantly black churches. I’m white (in case you didn’t know…and depending on the season, the whiter I become 🙂 ), but some of my very best friends are black. I’ve even been privileged to speak in predominately black churches. I’ve never really understood the whole racial division thing. I love people. I think our culture is, at least in some ways, getting more accepting of other cultures and colors of skin. I know my boy’s generation doesn’t even seem to think as much about this issue as my generation did or certainly my parent’s generation did. I won’t pretend racial prejudice has ended, because I know it hasn’t, especially in some parts of the country and world, but things appear better today than they once were in my lifetime.

But, that’s where my curiosity begins. I see improvement everywhere except in the church. Why is that? Our churches remain segregated for the most part. Recently at Catalyst Conference I spoke with a couple black friends of mine.  I expressed in honesty that many times I don’t know what to say or how to say it when talking about the issue of racial diversity…so I say nothing. They shared they feel the same way. (One of them even took our frank conversation to ask me why white people where long-sleeve shirts with shorts. He said he doesn’t get it. Ha! Love it!) Another friend Scott Williams wrote a book about the subject, because he too sees this divide in the church. Since I first wrote this post, Church Diversity has become a wide influencer of this discussion.

So, today, for Friday discussions, let’s talk about it. Why do you believe the church is still so divided racially? Is it music style, preaching styles, attitudes, culture…what? What can be done about it? What steps can a church take?

Discuss…comment…engage…it’s Friday discussion time!

(It should be noted that some churches are making a difference. Our church is at least seeing some changes and I know our people are open to change in this area. Still there is much work to be done and we know it. We are at least having the discussions. Another friend of mine, Artie Davis, has a church that’s done this well in Orangeburg, South Carolina. Scott’s book engages a dozen or so churches who are doing a good job bridging the racial divide. If you know of a church he should talk to, leave it in the comments and I’ll make sure he gets their name.)

7 Essentials for Personal Success in Today’s World

In case you haven’t been keeping up, the world has changed. To be successful today in any profession takes new tools and skills. I am asked frequently by young leaders what advice I have for those just starting their career. Obviously, if you are a believer desiring to do ministry (which describes many of my readers) then you first need to work through your relationship with Christ to be obedient to God’s call on your life, but even Christian leaders need to think how best to succeed in a changing world.

Here are some “must haves” I would advise young leaders to seek to possess in order to achieve personal success:

Personal branding – I have always kept my resume up-to-date and encouraged others I work with to do the same, but today requires far more than a resume. Today it is easy and therefore important to develop your own identity…your own brand. (I wrote a post about personal branding HERE.)

Connectedness – Social media is not an option, anymore. The use of Twitter, Facebook, blogging and other social media sites is the way networks are built these days. People once traded email addresses to build professional relationships. Now they trade social mediums.

Action plan – You will never reach your dreams without a plan. Those who achieve great things develop a system to implement their ideas. This is not new to today’s world, but it is perhaps even more important now. (Read a post about achieving your dreams HERE.)

Self-initiative – No one is going to script life for you. The days when the organization writes the rules for you are over. The ones who achieve success today are those who are willing to take the initiative to do something without anyone forcing them to do so.

Original thought – Uniqueness sets you apart from the crowd and today that’s more important than ever. There are thousands of ideas in the world and yours is just one of them, but you better have some of your own.

Team spirit – Most healthy environments these days frown on lone rangers. Be willing to humbly submit to others and participate in a team environment. Be likable and work well with others. Collaboration is a key function of today’s successful organizations.

Flexibility – Change is the only guarantee in all this. Today’s leader must remain flexible to a changing environment and wiling to adapt quickly as necessary.

What else would you add to my list (or take away)?

Leader, Strategically Keep Thy Mouth Shut

Leadership is influence, so the words a leader says are powerful…

Therefore, leaders must choose their words carefully…

I see leaders get excited, underestimate the power of their influence. fail to realize the heaviness of the moment…forget that what they are saying is being listened to closely…

and is always subject to interpretation…

So they say things they wouldn’t say if they had time to think about it.

(I must admit, I’ve been there…stuck my foot in my mouth…and regretted what I said many times.)

The real problem is that some leaders don’t think beyond the moment…they don’t think about the moments after the moment…

Great leaders train and discipline themselves to strategically think in the moment…

Sometimes that means they learn to not say anything at all until they’ve had time to plan their response.

It’s even okay to say “Let me get back to you on that”…or “I don’t know yet”…

Great leaders, learn to control their tongue in the moments…

Leader, have you had this problem before? Do you need to learn this principle?

Iron Sharpens Iron – Learn From Your Team

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17

This verse has inspired me over the years, but recently I saw it in a different context for my life.  I’ve often seen this verse helpful to remind me to build accountability and mentoring into my life, which I have consistently done.  I am a wisdom seeker, so I am continually looking for nuggets of advice to help me be a better person, leader, father, husband and friend.  I think it may have even another application for me today.

One of the biggest mistakes I see leaders make is failing to learn from the people on their team.  We tend to think the best ideas are outside our organization, so we learn from many sources, but many times the best ideas for the organization are already with us.  I love to attend conferences, I read tons of books, I follow numerous blogs of great leaders, but the fact is God has surrounded me with great leaders with whom I work. I need to make sure I’m learning from them.

Here’s a gentle reminder.  If your organization hires sharp people, which I hope it does, learn from them. Allow their “iron” to sharpen your iron.

What have you learned from the people on your team?

Church Growth: When Size Matters

Prior to entering ministry, my wife and I owned a small business.  It was small in the sense of how economists measure businesses, but it was a big business to us. Whenever you have to make payroll for almost 40 people (including yourself)…that seems big.  This was my second venture as an entrepreneur.  The first was extremely successful, but this one was not. An opportunity came to sell and we quickly accepted.  We learned tons of principles from that negative experience that still help us today, but it was a very challenging time for us personally.

Looking back on that experience, I realize one of the major problems we had being successful.  There were hundreds of issues, including some of our own mistakes, but one aspect of our company and where we were in the market worked against us most. I discovered that:

We were often too large to be responsive but too small to be competitive.

Have you ever been there?

We were too large to change quickly. Our processes were too set in stone.  We couldn’t react to the changing markets fast enough. We didn’t have teams that could quickly adapt.  Our pricing structure was more inflexible because of our fixed costs.

We were too small to be competitive. We couldn’t compete with the really big guys.  They could eat our lunch at the bargaining table.  We could never match their price.  They could deliver on large projects so much quicker than we could.

My guess is that this scenario can happen at several growth points in the life of a business.  Successful businesses learn to navigate through these times to protect the company and continue to grow. Had we continue as owners we would have had to figure out survival at this critical stage in the life of the business.

My question now, as a church planter/leader is: How does this principle translate to church growth?  Are there certain times during the growth process of a church where this dynamic comes into play?

Are there times the church is too large to adapt quickly to the changing needs of the community and people it is attempting to reach? Could the church be too small to meet all it needs to do, because the church can’t afford the facilities and staff to meet the opportunities?

Could it be that church leadership needs to recognize when this dynamic is in play and figure out ways to navigate through it, so the church can continue to thrive?

For those that hate applying business principles to the church world, please forgive me, but I’m just asking questions to stir discussion.  Sometimes understanding the nature of a problem is the hardest part in addressing it.  What do you think?  Have you experienced either of these scenarios?

Beth Moore – Dealing with Insecurity in Church Leadership #Cat10

Beth Moore started by reminding us how quickly life changes but how much the Gospel stays the same.  Then she had us stand, while she knelt to pray.  (I know that because I peaked.)  What a picture of humility on her behalf.

Beth then stated that she felt awkward talking to so many men about insecurity in leadership, but that was where she was asked and felt led to share.  (Thank you for being obedient!)

She began by taking us to Proverbs.

For the Lord is your security and He will keep your foot from being caught in a trap. Proverbs 3:26

Insecurity is a snare we are usually not prepared to face.  Insecurity means, “inordinate self-consciousness, positive or negative.”  Anything that causes us to be caught up in ourselves will keep us from fully honoring God.

There has never been a time when we were more susceptible to insecurity.  We live with instant scrutiny as church leaders.  Even before we finish a message, what we said is already put to the world on Twitter or in a blog.  Everyone has an opinion and everyone has a voice.  We have all become published authors. People are passing on information before they have a chance to absorb it. All this makes us prone to insecurity.

Somewhere along the way, if we don’t deal with insecurity, we begin to rely on our own abilities and forget the things of our first love.  Many leaders come to the destruction of their ministry because of their personal insecurities and their failure to rely on the Spirit of God for security.

Thanks Beth for reminding me to place my complete trust and dependence on the person of Jesus Christ!

Reflect on this:

Do you struggle with insecurity?  Could it be a reliance problem?  Are you relying more on your own abilities than the sufficiency of Christ?

Positional Versus Relational Authority

I was sitting with a staff member recently who presented me an idea. I had reservations about the idea instantly. It was actually a “red flag” idea and I knew it. I love ideas, however, and I’m consistently encouraging our staff to dream, take risks, and improve upon what we are doing. So I listened intently and we discussed the pros and cons of the idea. The next day this staff member came back to tell me and he had thought about our discussion, had changed his mind and was going a different direction. I was thrilled with “his” decision.

This story illustrates an important leadership principle difference between positional versus relational authority.  The wise leader knows the difference is huge.

In that instance I used relational authority. I had the ability because of my position to squelch the idea instantly. I could have stopped his plan. I could have killed a dream. In doing so, however, I would have also risked injuring a relationship and stalling someone’s personal growth. He may never have brought me another idea. He may have quit trying. He may have even decided I no longer supported him. Coming to the decision on his own gave him confidence in the direction he was going and allowed him to see me as a mentor not a detractor of his leadership.

Many times I could demand something because of my position, but most times the issue is better resolved if I encourage something because of my relationship. In my experience, there are times for both types of authority to be used, but the majority of the time relational authority works better in creating healthy organizations, healthy teams, and healthy team members. The wise leader learns which is best at the time.

Do you see the difference? Which are you providing most to your organization: Positional or Relational Authority? Which are you receiving?

Top 10 Questions about Multi-Site Announcement

Yesterday we announced that Grace Community Church is going multi-site. We will be one church that meets in two locations, adding our second location at Kenwood High School. (I wrote more about it HERE.)

As expected, we couldn’t answer all the questions in the time we had yesterday. This post addresses some of the most common questions I or members of the staff have received since yesterday’s announcement.

Will we still meet at Rossview?

Absolutely, this change is to allow us to continue to grow so we can fulfill the mission to “encourage growing followers of Jesus Christ”, so we will continue to offer three services at Rossview and we will be adding a fourth service at Kenwood.

Does this mean we are not building a building on our property near Rossview?

Not at all, it means that right now, because a building is not an option financially, that we are finding another way to create more room to reach people for Christ. We want to be financial responsible and not acquire debt beyond our means, while continuing the level of ministry God has called us to do. The plan remains to build on our property when the timing is right and the proper finances are in order.

When we build a building, will we close the Kenwood campus?

The plan is not to close what we feel God wants to do in that community. Anyone who has lived in Clarksville long knows that geographically we are spread out from each other. About 600 people pass Kenwood every Sunday to get to Rossview. There are approximately 75,000 people within a 5-mile radius of Kenwood. We think that’s enough to support a campus.

Will there be additional staff hires?

At this time, no staff hires are planned to be specifically assigned to either campus, but growth at Kenwood could allow for that eventually. We certainly want to minister effectively to the people in that area. We launched the church five years ago with volunteer leadership in many areas and we still empower many volunteers to lead. Kenwood will require even more volunteers to assume key positions, partnering with the existing staff we have.  Due to our co-pastor strategy from the beginning, our staff is accustomed to working in a team environment and is working a plan to share the responsibility of two campuses.

Have we considered a Saturday night service?

There probably aren’t too many options we haven’t considered, but this one would be hard to do in our setting. Every time we use the school, it requires a school custodian to be there. Sundays are a stretch on their schedules, but Saturday would be even more so and are not an option at this time. Additionally, school activities would consistently conflict with church schedules on Saturdays.

Why don’t we just build a smaller building than originally planned?

While that sounds logical, it isn’t practical. The size of a building with only the square footage we are using at Rossview is still a very large building and right now would be outside of our comfortable reach financially speaking. We can’t justify building something less in size (or even the same size) when our growth rate is what it is today and we are already maxing out the space we have at Rossview.

Will the same things be offered at each campus?

Yes, the Kenwood campus, other than some changes in color schemes due to school colors, should look almost identical to the Rossview campus. There will be excellence in Grace Acres (preschool), Cross Street (children’s) and worship.

Is each campus going to have it’s own pastor?

No, both campuses will continue to see the same faces that are seen at Rossview. Thankfully, the distances are close enough to easily commute between the two. On a typical Sunday, some of the staff (including the pastors) will be at each location.

What will a “launch team” for the new campus do?

That’s a great question. The launch team for Grace Community Church when we began the church five years ago did everything that was required to make a Sunday work. That included greeting at the doors, set up and tear down, working the parking lots, working in all areas with children, and giving up prime seats and parking spots to be as visitor friendly as possible. The Kenwood launch team will cover the needs of that campus. It will be exhausting, but rewarding, just as the original launch of the church was for that launch team.

What can I do to help?

Right now, the biggest needs are to raise the additional $150,000 needed to buy everything for the Kenwood campus and pray for the launch and all the details that still need to be completed. This Sunday (October 10), you will be able to sign up for the launch team. There will be launch team meetings and trainings in the near future.

Any more questions? Thanks for loving people enough to step outside your comfort zones and think outside the box. God is getting some tremendous glory from your hearts to serve this community.