Archives For March 2013

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Logo Transparent jpeg without wordsI wish every Christian would read Neil Cole’s book, Organic Church. Neil tells us how to connect with the unchurched, introduce them to Jesus Christ, and help them grow into mature discipleship. And he doesn’t just offer theory; he has been busy doing it himself.

 

There are two important features of his work. One is his commitment to going where the people are, coffeehouses, parks, bars, restaurants,  homes, etc. The second is his emphasis on accountability.  

I had emphasized small groups for most of my ministry, believing that a Christian would experience her or his greatest growth in these small groups. However, over the years I came to realize I could not get the kind of accountability in these groups that was needed for maximum growth. (Click on Personal Spiritual Development for more blog posts on the subject of accountability.) Neil Cole has discovered the key is not small groups of 8-12, like most people think. The key is groups of “two or three,” as mentioned in Matthew 18:20. “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” 

In Organic Church Neil Cole gives seven reasons why he believes a group of two or three is the ideal size for spiritual growth: 

  1. Community is stronger with two or three. Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12 tells us, Continue Reading…

Logo Transparent jpeg without words“Christ-centered pastors don’t make disciples, much less take care of people.” –Bill Easum

 

Yesterday I mentioned Bill Easum’s book, Sacred Cows Make Gourmet Burgers. I once attended a seminar where Bill was the main speaker. He insisted effective churches have a clear vision of their mission; that mission is to make disciples of Jesus Christ. I agree with Bill, just as I’ve written here so many times. I was also very interested in what Easum had to say about the role of the pastor. It was here he spoke with the most assurance. He said, “Christ-centered pastors don’t make disciples, much less take care of people.” At first this sounds almost like heresy. Bill went on to explain that the pastor’s job is to train and equip others to make disciples and to take care of people. He said, “Pastors of growing, effective churches would rather equip ten people to make disciples than to make disciples themselves.”

I have always seen myself as a player-coach. My job is to Continue Reading…

Logo Transparent jpeg without wordsOne of my all-time favorite book titles is William M. (Bill) Easum’s book, Sacred Cows Make Gourmet Burgers: Ministry Anytime Anywhere by Anyone (Abingdon Press, 1995). He began the book by insisting “Established churches worship at the feet of the sacred cow of CONTROL.”

My own experience confirms Bill’s claim. I spent most of my “career” as a pastor leading churches who had been experiencing decline for many years before I arrived. However, any effort to change things in order to get different results was always ( and I do mean always) met with great resistance by some in the congregation. There were multiple reasons for this, but I discovered quite early on that the greatest issue was one of control. Certain people were threatened by any kind of change because change might have led to their loss of control.

Many years ago I heard someone suggest the seven last words of the church are “We’ve never done it that way before.” Easum also lists other cries often heard in declining churches: Continue Reading…

 

Logo Transparent jpeg without words“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”   Matthew 6:19-21

 

Gladys Aylward was a missionary to China in the first half of the twentieth century. Forced to flee when the Japanese invaded Yangcheng she set out to take more than one hundred orphans over the mountains to freedom. The book The Hidden Price of Greatness by Ray Besson and Ranelda Mack Hunsicker tells the story:

“During Gladys’s harrowing journey out of war-torn Yangcheng. . . she grappled with despair as never before. After passing a sleepless night, she faced the morning with no hope of reaching safety. A thirteen year old girl in the group reminded her of their much-loved story of Moses and the Israelites crossing the Red Sea. “But I am not Moses,” Gladys cried in desperation. “Of course you aren’t,” the girl said, “but Jehovah is still God!” With determination and God’s blessings Gladys and the orphans Continue Reading…

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“Hey, mister, would you stop being a minister long enough to give us a hand?”

 

In the Foreword to Neil Cole’s wonderful book Organic Church Leonard Sweet relates a great story. Jerry Middleton is the pastor of the parish kirk in a small Scottish village about three miles northwest of Edinburgh. One day while walking down the street in his clerical attire a couple of youth called from across the street. “Hey, mister, would you stop being a minister long enough to give us a hand?”

Jerry strolled over to where the two boys were working on one of their bicycles. He took a look at the disabled bike and discovered Continue Reading…

Logo Transparent jpeg without wordsThe word “happy” comes from the same root word as the word “happenstance” which means “a change occurrence or event.” The first definition for the word “happy” in Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary  is “favored by luck or fortune.” This is not what God promises those who follow Jesus.

 

The Preamble to the United States’ Declaration of Independence begins, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienabe Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” This document insists we have the right to pursuit happiness. However, the question remains whether this is what we should be pursuing.

Viktor Frankl was one who thought Continue Reading…

Logo Transparent jpeg without wordsPerhaps there were good reasons “giving a witness” fell out of favor in most churches. A cold and stale testimony has little justification to recommend itself. However, I wonder if we didn’t get the wrong idea about the power of a genuine witness.

 

The little country church my family attended when I was growing up had several traditions most churches no longer practice. One of these was “testimony time.” These took place most often during the Wednesday evening prayer service and during annual “revivals.” Individuals would stand up and tell “what the Lord had done for them.” God “saving them from their sins” was most often mentioned. Sometimes a person would tell how God had healed them from disease or miraculously delivered them from some catastrophe.

These testimonies were often hackneyed and trite. I remember thinking Continue Reading…

Logo Transparent jpeg without wordsI’ve written before about the importance of accountability in disciple making. I’m thoroughly convinced this is the crucial missing ingredient in most of our attempts to develop mature followers of Jesus Christ.

I recently came across a great book on the subject written by Brian Cole Miller (Keeping Employees Accountable For Results: Quick Tips For Busy Managers, Amacom, 2006). Even though this book is written for the business world, it contains a lot of useful information that can help us in the church.

Brian outlines a process with six accountability principles that build on the previous principle. These principles form the acronym SIMPLE:

S–Set Expectations. If you don’t know where you are going, you probably won’t get there. This principle emphasizes the need for any organization or business to have a clear mission, vision, values, and goals. It is vital that everyone involved is headed in the same direction and share the same purpose. Not only does this principle apply to organizations, it also works for individuals. I encourage every person to write a personal life plan, including a list of values, mission and vision statements, goals, and strategies.

I–Invite Commitment. I’ve seen many churches develop long-range plans that simply sat on a shelf and Continue Reading…

Logo Transparent jpeg without wordsThe clock measures time; the compass measures direction. In the game of life, your direction is more important than your speed; your destination is more important than the time of your arrival.

In his book First Things First popular author Stephen Covey talks about the clock and the compass. For Covey the clock represents how we manage our time. The clock has to do with our time commitments, including how we schedule our day-to-day activities. On the other hand, he suggests that “the compass represents our vision, values, principles, mission, conscience, direction—what we feel is important and how we lead our lives.”

Covey wisely points out that the problem for most of us lies with the gap between the clock and the compass. The gap grows out of our hectic, chaotic lives. We live with the tyranny of the urgent. Even those who are Continue Reading…

Logo Transparent jpeg without wordsWhere does Jesus outline a “plan of salvation and sanctification?” Is there any place in scripture where such an outline exists? I believe there is, and it is found in Jesus’ Sermon On the Mount.

The Beatitudes are part of what is commonly referred to as Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. This “sermon” begins with these eight principles or steps in the Christian life as posited by Jesus in Matthew 5:3-12.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. The first step for any person is to recognize our own inadequacy. We must come to understand that our life is out of control. Relationships with God and others are broken. We must come to recognize our sinful nature.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Having recognized how sin is controlling our lives Continue Reading…