Depressed

Hope for the Guilty

“A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not quench, until He brings forth justice to victory.” Matthew 12:20 ESV

 

Something that I’ve been deeply struck with afresh lately is compassion for the broken. Lately I’ve had the privilege of walking with some people who’ve seen the dark side of sin from the side of the victim. Sexual abuse, rape, verbal abuse, and the like are, unfortunately, far too common occurrences in the lives of people I know and serve.

Interestingly, the state of Utah is always in the top two or three percent in the nation of states with the most amount of cases of clinical depression and suicide. The county in which I live is the county with the highest depression and suicide rates in our state. People around here know they are guilty. And I believe one reason this is true is because we live under the overarching shadow of a religious system that is heavily performance oriented- the LDS church.

Like all religion outside biblical christianity, Mormonism is all about doing all you can, as much as you can, so that perhaps God might save you by his grace at the end of your life, after all that you can contribute to your self-salvation project. And in our culture many people live under this system knowing they just don’t quite measure up to the expectations laid on their shoulders by “the church” the community, or by the status quo. As a result they feel guilty and self-medicate prescription drug abuse, or they end the pain by committing suicide.

The guilt-conscious culture I live in has really caused me to think hard about how we communicate the gospel in such a context. What I’ve come to believe at this point is that I don’t have to spend much time convincing people they’re sinners who don’t measure up because they know. Instead, while I use the law enough in preaching and talking with people to make sure they’re aware of their guilt, I usually spend most of my time in sermons and conversations emphasizing the hope of Christ for broken, hurting, guilty people. And that message of hope tends to be the drink of water to the soul that depressed, guilty, and broken people need to hear. In a way I think people in my context need more of the Jesus of the gospels who heals, teaches, and touches rather than the Jesus of Revelation who opens a can on His enemies, though both are appropriate and glorious images of Christ.

If you live in a culture that has no conscience such as a liberal culture, you may need to bring the law a bunch so as to help people see their sin. But if you live in a culture crippled by guilt and already aware of their sin, I’d encourage you to emphasize the hope of Jesus in light of the guilt they already feel. But what do you think?

 

A “goer” or a “sender”? Part 2

Are you a sender or a goer?  Or, are you in disobedience?  Those were the two questions that I ended my last post with.  For this post, I’ll begin with just one question and move forward from there.

Is it possible to have a personal, interactive relationship with the God who has revealed Himself in the bible and NOT be interested in what is generally referred to as “missions”?

Me thinks not……and here’s why:

As Matt Kottman so simply and beautifully pointed out in his reply to my last post, God Himself, in the essence of who He is, (a tri-une God), is both a sender, (the Father), a goer, (the Son), and an ongoing sender, (the Holy Spirit), who empowers those that continue to go and those who send them!  Because this is true, anyone, (especially a pastor), with the God-given gift of teaching that is empowered by the Holy Spirit will be challenging God’s people to either go or send those who He does call to go.

As I’ve pointed out before in a previous blog post, those who commandeered the great line from “Field of Dreams” and turned it into “If you teach it, they will come”, were a bit off, in my opinion.  The reality is that, “If you teach it, they will go”!  And obviously the THEY is a reference to God’s people–those who hunger to be taught His word.

And to spin that line one more way, “If you teach it, they will send!”  And they will “send” those who “go” in accordance with the principles that the Apostle John challenged Gaius with in 3 John 6-8.  He basically told Gaius that those who have gone forth for His name’s sake should be sent forward on their journey “in a manner worthy of God” and that by doing so the one who sends them in this way becomes a “fellow worker for the truth”.

The two missionary families that I visited in Mexico a few weeks were great examples of what I’m talking about.  The one family heard the call to “go” 13 years ago.  The other heard that call 26 years ago.  Both of them were sent forward on their journey by their home churches (both of which were Calvary Chapels), in a “manner worthy of God”.  And, as unusual as it is, they have continued to be maintained in various ways by their home churches over all the years they’ve been there in a way that is “worthy of God”.  Their home churches, through the leadership imparted by the senior pastor have truly been “fellow workers for the truth”.

As much as it grieves me to say it, those two missionary families and the care they’ve received from their home churches, (similar to the care I received from my home church when I served on the field), are the miniscule exception and definitely NOT the rule that is the norm within our group of churches.

In my next post I’ll unpackage a few more of the reasons that prompted me to ask the question above (in italics).  But for now, let me leave you with a question based on a different phrase that I heard for the first time at the first CC Senior Pastor’s conference I attended in 1984:

Pastor, are your sheep the “best fed and best loved” even when the Good Shepherd calls them to serve in foreign pastures?

 

 

 

 

 

Large Service

Jesus, Big Church, & Small Church

The Training of the Twelve as Local Church Model?

This morning I listened to an interesting discussion between some pastors and missiologists on whether or not we should emphasize large gatherings or smaller gatherings in seeking to do the best job at discipleship. The conversation intrigued me because I’ve been thinking a lot about how to do a good job with discipleship in the context of the church I lead.

One of the center-pieces of the conversation was the idea that Jesus’ relationship to the twelve disciples as portrayed in the gospels should serve as our template for how we function as the local church. I’ve heard this kind of thinking from people who contend that the local church should operate according to a house church model. The house church model often includes:

  • Little to no emphasis on large gatherings (15 or more)
  • Dialogue learning (discussion) versus monologue (preaching)
  • Informality versus formality
  • Group prayer/spiritual gift manifestation versus worship led by an individual

Support for modeling the local church in such a way is often claimed by pointing to how Jesus related to the twelve. People will note that “Jesus spent most of His time with twelve people.” This is true. He spent lots of time eating with, instructing, and training twelve disciples. And thus, as they say, we shouldn’t have local churches made up of hundreds or thousands, but of tens.

 

 The Real Focus of Jesus’ Small Group: Leadership Training

But can we really look to Jesus’ relationship to the twelve as depicted in the gospels as a template for the local church? Did Jesus really intend for us to do so? I would contend that this is not the case. First of all, the truth is that while the gospels spend much time describing Jesus’ interactions with the twelve, they do not exclusively do so. They also portray Jesus teaching and sending the seventy as well as often speaking to what the Bible calls the multitudes. Jesus is seen in some cases preaching to thousands of people at one time.

 As opposed to serving as a template for how the local church should be organized, I would contend that Jesus’ relationship to the twelve is more of a template for how we should do leadership training for the local church. The men Jesus spent so much time with ultimately became the first pastors and church-planters for the local church. He spent time instructing them formally and allowing them to participate in the ministry He was doing. He would send them out to do ministry and bring them back to the huddle and explain where they needed to grow. And at the end of His physical stay on earth He sent them out in the power of the Spirit to establish and lead local churches.

And yet, the local churches these men led were in many cases anything but small groups or what many have in mind today when they talk about house churches. The church in Jerusalem was thousands strong, and they had no problem with that. The church in Antioch was also a huge church and they saw no problem with that. The early church met both “publically and house to house.” (Acts 2:46; Acts 20:20) It wasn’t just house to house, but publically that they met. They met in the large gathering areas of the temple. (Acts 2:46) What’s more is that archaeological excavation projects have revealed that many of the so-called house churches described in Acts met in huge courtyard and banquet halls of wealthy homes that could seat hundreds of people.

Besides the large numbers of Christians coming together in large gatherings, Acts also shows us the continuation of Jesus’ practice of training leaders of God’s people in smaller apprentice-styled ministry groups. Acts 20 reveals Paul traveling with a group of ministry trainees (verses 2-4) and also gives us a glimpse into how he related to a group of pastors he’d trained according to the pattern of Jesus’ training of the twelve as seen in the gospels (verses 17-38).

We get another clue as to where the apostles stood on having large gatherings by taking a look at the New Testament epistles. It is worth noting that in most cases the epistles are addressed to entire churches, and were intended to be read and taught in the presence of all believers living in the city to which the letter came. In Ephesians 6:1-3 the exhortations addressed directly to children show that even the kids were assumed to be present for the reading and teaching of the New Testament letters when they were originally written and delivered. Also, nowhere do the Pastoral Epistles (1 & 2 Timothy and Titus) exhort pastors to keep the numbers of local churches down to small group sizes for the purpose of discipleship, but rather imply the multiplication of leadership, numbers of believers, and the open preaching of the Word to all under their charge. What’s more, the exhortations to the seven churches of Revelation (Rev. 2-3) are addressed to entire churches.

Conclusion

So what’s the point? Am I against house churches, small groups, community groups, and so on? Absolutely not! They are invaluable. There is a type of discipleship and community that can only be nurtured in a smaller context that happens in smaller groups. The pastors of the church I lead are right now praying with our church about starting ten more house church style fellowships in addition to those we already have going before the end of 2012.

But small gatherings are only one aspect of how we should seek to facilitate discipleship. They are not the template for us to follow in establishing principles for local church size, dynamics, and overall structure. I don’t believe that Jesus’ training of the twelve serves as a template for how we should do church, but how we should train leaders for the broader church. Look to Acts and the epistles for a template for doing church. Look to the gospels as a template for leadership training

 

transfer growth

When Transfer Growth is Healthy

Sometimes we are overly-simplistic in our criticisms and cautions. That’s just part of being human. Still, accuracy and balance (if biblical and true) is something to pursue. And one area in which I think pastors particularly get a little overly-simplistic is that of transfer growth. Transfer growth occurs when someone who is already a follower of Jesus (or at least professes to be so) switches from attending one local church to another.

There is a status quo regarding transfer growth that is understandable, often legitimate, but sometimes overboard. It is frankly taboo to appear to be at peace with Christians coming to your church or church-plant from another local church. As such, pastors who don’t want to be filleted don’t talk openly about it, no matter what the reason someone may have transferred to their church may be. My belief is that, while much of the time (perhaps most) transfer growth is due to unhealthy thinking or behavior, sometime’s it is not. And what I hope to do is shed some light on reasons why sometimes transfer growth can even be a godly, wise, and needed reality.

Let me be clear upfront that I don’t think intentionally pillaging the members of a gospel-centered, God-ordained church is ok. The leaders of the church I serve have, and will continue to tell people at times that they need to return to the church they came from when they desire to come to our fellowship in an unhealthy way, with selfish and sinful motivations. But I’ve also seen people come through our doors from other places who I will never tell to go back to where they came from. Here are some reasons why:

 1. The Gospel must be preached

Not all churches that have the gospel correct on their doctrinal statement actually preach the gospel. Some churches are so focused on speaking to people’s felt needs and emotional struggles that they forget to be clear on the problem of sin and how Jesus solved it for us in His death, burial, and resurrection. And in case we forgot, the gospel is the power of God for salvation (Rom. 1:16-17), nothing else. Sometimes people come to my church from another, maybe visiting with a friend or something, and they hear the gospel clearly proclaimed, and God convicts them of sin, brings them to faith in the gospel and regenerates them. And as we counsel with them we discover that though they’ve been at a church that has the right gospel on paper, they’ve never heard it preached before. But now they understand it, are broken over it, and put their trust in Jesus in light of it.

The deal is, if you don’t understand and believe the true and simple gospel, you are not born-again. You are not saved from hell. So, for me, when I meet this kind of person at Refuge that last thing I’m going to do is tell them, “Well I’m sorry, but you need to go back where you came from.” I’m going to love them and make sure they have the opportunity to get the discipleship they’ve never had.

 2. Heresy is real

This ties in with the last point, but not every church that names Christ actually preaches Christ. Churches get into weird crap. That’s the bottom line. I remember learning that a local Episcopal church in a town where I used to pastor had started encouraging their Moms of Preschoolers (MOPS) group to start using the Quran and Book of Mormon for their studies in addition to the Bible. Because of that kind of thing, I was more than happy to welcome a few transfers to our church who knew there was something wrong with that. They voiced their concerns, called for a change and repentance, and were unheard. So, I was happy to welcome them to a place they could not only be discipled, but invite moms to, knowing that they’d be getting the living water of God’s word instead of the poisonous waters of pluralism.

 3. Seasons in Life Change

We also need to allow for people to grow or transition into different seasons of life. If I were simply looking for a church to plug my family into in a non-vocational ministry sense today, I wouldn’t go to the churches I attended in the past. This isn’t because they are evil or wrong. They’re just not a good fit for where our family is at right now in our relationship with Jesus theologically and philosophically.

4. Sometimes Churches Really do Hurt People

One of the most tragic reasons I’ve seen transfer growth is when people are truly hurt by leaders and churches. A couple years ago a pastor in my area was found to have been having affairs with underage girls in the youth groups he was leading. Part of the fallout from that was that people transferred from that church to other churches, including ours. We welcomed these people to our church as a hospital where they could be cared for and encouraged.

 5. Sharing the lowest theological common denominator isn’t always enough

Generally speaking, if we have the gospel in common with another church I love to promote unity between us. But there are some churches that are involved in things that are just weird enough for me to understand why people would leave them. For instance I know of a church not far from us that began promoting the idea that certain crystals used in worship services can encapsulate the praises of God’s people and project them into the cosmos. This church was encouraging people to give their money and tithes to the people taking these crystals around and doing presentations with them. Then there is the whole prosperity preaching issue that was prevalent. Still other churches who have that “come to us if you don’t want to be held accountable for your sin, in the name of grace” reputation are a problem in our area too. Some of these churches claim (or really do) believe in the same Jesus and gospel we do. But that lowest common denominator isn’t always enough. I would never tell someone they need to go back to that kind of environment because of the way people over-generalize the problem with transfer growth.

I hate unnecessary, flippant, consumeranity, transfer growth. I want people to get saved through Refuge Church. But I also don’t want to be so naïve as to act as if there are no legitimate reasons people may transfer into, or out of the church I lead. So am I saying that all transfer growth is good? No! I’m just saying we need to not be overly-simplistic in the way we talk about the issue.

A Final Exhortation

Having a good relationship with the other pastors in your community is vitally important for handling transfer growth in a way that keeps the gospel witness in tact in your area. If the pastors in your area lob grenades at each other behind one another’s back without having face-to-face interaction, we turn into a bunch of squabbling church people. And most lost people don’t want any part of that. Communicate with the pastors in your community about transfer growth. Ask their advice on how to handle it, and follow-up with each other. The witness of the gospel depends upon it.

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168 Hours

Making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:16

A couple of weeks ago, Kellen posted “Plan or Die” on the Cross Connection Network.  It struck an area in my life that God has been at major work on–time management.  One of the transitions I struggled with as I moved from life as a SEAL to life as a pastor was managing my time.  In the Navy I had no use of a personal calendar.  But as I transitioned to the pastorate, I quickly learned that I needed a calendar to keep straight the many meetings, appointments, and various events I was now juggling to keep.  This was my main struggle that forced me to make the leap from the flip-phone to a smart phone as paper pocket-calendar served me no purpose as I wouldn’t keep it in my possesion.

With my new smart-phone, a Palm Treo (this was before my iPhone conversion), I was now able to fill my schedule and keep up with everything.  It was sweet.  I was living out (misinterpreted and applied) my favorite verse, “…making the most of your time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:16) by filling it packed full.  This went on for years, until (well, it’s still a struggle technically) I preached on the parable of the soil found in Luke 8.  The verse that really convicted me was Luke 8:14, “The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity.”  This verse continued to convict me following the message…which is rare as I am normally convicted during my study time leading up to the message!  I felt like the Lord was telling me to examine my schedule.

That Sunday night I laid my schedule for the upcoming week out on my desk.  I felt like I was to check my hours of the upcoming week to see what things were choking me out.  Although, I felt safe doing this as I thought I had a “light week” ahead and I though it would reveal a reasonable workload.  As I went through my calendar seeking to tally the running hours for the week, I was shocked to discover that this “light week” was really a 50+ hour work week!  The Lord clearly made His point with me–this was not what He expected of me and nor was it good for me or the church.

Kairos, not Chronos Back to Ephesians 5:16, “…making the most of your time.”  Whether or not I misunderstood the Greek here, my life certainly misapplied the intention this verse.  I applied this verse by understanding “time” as chronos meaning to fill up my calendar with as many things as possible.  This is wrong as the word is actually kairos meaning “to take full advantage of every opportunity” (Louw-Nida).  It may just be me, but this changes everything concerning how I view planning out my week because it forces me to prioritize things which, in turn, forces me to eliminate things (from the schedule of course)!

“Plan your dive, dive your plan.”  This was a saying we used in the SEAL teams concerning our dive plans.  The concept is pretty simple.  Plan your dive carefully.  Then carry out the plan.  To deviate from the plan would certainly result in major problems and failures along the way.  How does this apply for me concerning my schedule today?  Did you catch the title of this post?  That’s how many hours we have each week.  No more, no less.  We will never get them back once they pass, but how we use them will play forward in eternity for good or bad.

Coming up with a plan.  First, I confess, I have been slacking on planning my week.  I could give you a bunch of good excuses, but I won’t.  Typically what I try to do is account for every hour of the week.  I plan out things like: a day off, family time, exercise, sermon prep, writing, and people time.  As I plot these out, I am careful to keep a running tally of the work hours that have accumulated.  My goal is to land somewhere between 40-50 hours of work and then as the week plays out I will note unforeseen events in my calendar.

Flexibility of the plan.  If you are a pastor, you must be flexible and available.  As I write out my week, I understand that I have to be flexible.  Crisis’ come every week and I have purposed in my heart to be available as much as possible to my people.  By mapping out my week and the joy of a smart-phone, I can make mid-course corrections as they come.  Simply realizing how much time goes out has caused me to be more careful in saying “yes” to things and guarding things like family time that could so easily be stolen away.  Simply being aware of the running tally has unveiled my ignorance concerning the use of the time God has given to me.

Benefits of the plan.  The first thing I noticed was exactly what Kellen said in his blog, “I have more free time.”  I was shocked!  I simply became more efficient during my appointed times because I knew what the whole week looked like.  I have spent more time with the family on Saturdays than I ever did before.

The second thing I noticed was a clearer conscience.  The pastorate is an odd calling.  It is not like other professions.  We don’t produce a product per se, we are never really finished.  I think because of this many pastors burn the candle at both ends the the expense of their personal health and the health of their family.  We go and go and say “Yes”, “Sure”, and “No problem” (Jesus would, right?) when we are really burning ourselves out.  By keeping a running tally of weekly hours I see how much time I put into things.  Ultimately this helps me not to feel bad to turn off my phone and to play with the family.

I think Kellen’s title, “Plan or Die” is really appropriate when it comes to going the distance in the ministry.  Our families need us to plan our weeks and then to abide by our plan.  How are you utilizing the 168 hours that God is giving you this week?

multi_site

Multi-site churches–what do they reveal about us?

Since my arrival back in the San Diego area I have run into a number of fellow believers that are currently fellowshiping in one of the multi-site churches that exist in the San Diego area.  Each of them told me that when they were first invited to visit this new and different way of “doing church” they were skeptical that they would actually enjoy it and thus they went in with almost no expectation that they would ever desire to actually become a part of that type of church.

But, once they actually did attend, they realized their concerns and the skepticism those concerns produced were unfounded.  In fact, they found many things that struck a chord in their hearts and that just “made sense” to them.

A few weeks after having those conversations I watched a video from the recently held CC Senior Pastor’s conference.  It was a panel session with Greg Laurie, Bob Coy, and Brian Brodersen answering questions lobbed at them by Ricky Ryan. [lightbox title=”2012 CC Senior Pastor’s Conference” href=”#vimeo_lightbox” inline=”true” width=”630″ height=”355″]Click here to watch.[/lightbox]

The first topic discussed had to do with the validity and challenges of multi-site churches.  At first, I questioned the wisdom of beginning with that subject considering that probably 99 percent of the pastors in the room don’t pastor multi-site churches, probably don’t like them, and more than likely will never actually attempt to move to a multi-site type structure for the churches they pastor.

But as the discussion unfolded it became clear to me that this was an amazing window into the minds of these men of God that revealed some important principles they navigate ministry by, along with a small glimpse of American church culture that it would be helpful for all pastors to understand.

Based on what Greg Laurie and Bob Coy said,  (the guys who actually pastor multi-site churches at this time),  my perspective is that they navigate in their pastoral ministry based on the following principles:

1.  If you have been gifted by God with communication skills that can draw large numbers of people to hear you expound truths from God’s Word, you have a responsibility to use that gift to the fullest.  Be creative and use as many vehicles as possible to unleash your gift for expanding God’s kingdom.  Good, Godly stewardship is clearly the motivation.

2.  If God has given you the desire, the people, and the financial resources to expand the influence and impact of your ministry in a church form, rather than just your recorded messages alone, give serious consideration to doing so.  Keep in mind that expanding the seating capacity in your current facility is extremely expensive.  If you’ve already gone to multiple services and are already using available technology to use every square foot of space to its maximum potential, why not take the much less costly step of establishing other, off-site campuses.  This might mean planting the new satellite church from the ground floor up, renting a building, assigning existing staff to be the pastors at that campus, and all that goes along with that.    Again, this too is an example of good stewardship.

3.  Or, if a fellow pastor is struggling with the size of his congregation and the different challenges that presents, especially in the financial realm,  then definitely consider using your gift of drawing people.  Make your gift available to draw people into this church that this brother would then no longer serve as the senior pastor.  He will no longer have to worry about the financial side of things or the fact that his teaching gift isn’t quite ready yet to draw large numbers of people to listen to him.  This will actually free him up to use his other pastoral gifts, especially the relational ones like counseling, personal encouragement and exhortation, and so forth which he is obviously much more gifted for experienced in.  This too is an example of good stewardship, but not just for the gifted communicator and his ministry, but for the pastor of the small church that has been struggling.

4.  (This next principle wasn’t discussed on the video, but is based on my discussions with my friends who attend multi-site churches). Although it isn’t essential that the pastor teaching the congregation at the Sunday services actually be there in person, it IS essential that the worship be done live, preferably by members of the congregation using their gifts. If there aren’t enough people with worship leading gifts from the congregation itself, a worship team from the hub-church can be sent out to lead live worship for the satellite campus.

In other words,  the key element that most Sunday services are built around, the message, can be delivered by the senior pastor on a recorded video or by a live-feed from another site, BUT, leading the congregation in worship must be done live and in-person. This is also good stewardship because it offers the opportunity for actual members of the satellite church to use their gifts to bless the entire body at that satellite location.

And what do multi-site churches reveal about those that attend?

1.  At least initially, they want to hear and SEE someone that can really communicate God’s truth to them, regardless of whether the person is actually present or not.

2.  They understand and act as if the title “pastor” doesn’t necessarily imply anything other than an ability to teach God’s word and they don’t have a problem referring to someone as their “senior pastor” that they have never actually met and probably never will and will certainly never have an actual relationship with.  To them, for all intents and purposes, a person with an ability to communicate God’s word effectively–a bible teacher, is qualified to be referred to as “my” pastor.

3.  But at the same time, they do want a real relationship with a “pastor” from their church, which is why the multi-site churches have campus pastors at each location.  The members of the church desire and need the fullness of pastoral ministry, but it isn’t important that it come from the person they enjoy listening to each week alongside hundreds of others and that they refer to as their “senior pastor”.

4.  The gifted communicator that isn’t actually present is what draws them in, but the majority of the people are kept in the body by the real relationships they build  with the campus pastors and the others that congregate alongside them on Sunday mornings and during the week.

What does all of the above mean?  I’m not sure.

What I am sure of are the many questions that multi-site churches raise in my mind, questions like:

1.  Is there anything required, other than the ability to communicate God’s word effectively in a way that draws large numbers of people to hear you do so, to be given the title of “pastor”.

2.  Is the title “pastor” given, rather than “evangelist”, because there is a teaching element to this communicator’s gift and because most of the people that are drawn to listen to him are already believers and need instruction rather than preaching?

3.  Does good stewardship always require that you expand the impact and scope of your gift to as many people as possible?

4.  Is it possible that what we believe is good, Godly stewardship, might actually be hindering someone else from stewardship lessons that are derived from day in, day out faithfulness?

5.  Although I’m sure it’s happened somewhere, what happens when the gifted, non-present communicator is no longer present on video?  Has the church lost its pastor?  Will the flock scatter and find another place where there’s a gifted, non-present communicator?

Just wondering….

 

 

 

planting

No Correct Church Planting Model

There seems to be a lot of rhetoric out there on the correct way to plant a church. You have the Missional group which tells you that you have to reach those who don’t go to church and if you have transfer growth you are essentially failing. We are to be missionaries in our community. On the other side you have the Atttactional group which comes in with the slick method to appeal to church shopper in hopes of reaching them with a highly polished system. Of course these two groups go by all kinds of names like Organic, Purpose Driven, Seeker, Relevant, etc. When you start to read all of the resources out there it is easy to get confused and try to adapt one of these methods.

In reality most church plants fall squarely in the middle. Most church plants reach those who are unchurched and those who are transferring from other churches. Don’t feel guilty for having a mixed group. Don’t let someone try to tell you who to reach. If God has called you to a specific city then don’t feel guilty having a mixed group. Stick to your guns and minister to your people.

The fact is that you have little control over who walks through the door of your church. If you are a good Bible teacher you are going to have people come to your church because they are looking for deeper teaching. You also may be great at outreach and are able to bring in tons of people who society and the church has rejected. In all honestly most churches are doing very little outreach into their community.

I get a little miffed by the Missional group. Why should I feel guilty that my church sent me out with a sizeable group of people who all stepped up and helped fund the plant before we even started? Am I supposed to turn people away who are desperate to come and learn the Bible if they come from another church? Call me a trust fund church, call me a transfer church, I don’t care. The fact is that we are reaching people, seeing them transformed by the same Gospel that Missional churches teach, and we are sending people and funds all over the world to plant more churches. I am comfortable in that.

There is no right way to plant a church. You go to the city God calls you to. You work your butt off and whatever God blesses you with He blesses. That’s it. There are church planters out there who are timid and insecure because they feel they are not measuring up to a false reality. That is why I am on the board of Calvary Church Planting Network. Our aim is to identify, train, and support church planters within Calvary Chapels. This is the emphasis behind our ReEngage Conference happening in October. To train and inspire church planters to go with God’s word and do the hard work. We aren’t going to burden you with a model or mold you have to fit into. We are going to build you up so that you can go out boldly proclaiming the Gospel.

leadership

The Art of Spiritual Guidance

I have been sharing a series with our staff on spiritual formation. At our staff meeting this week, I spoke about spiritual guidance or spiritual direction. This is a lost art in contemporary evangelicalism. The role of pastor can be spiritual direction in a sense. But classically, spiritual guidance happens in a one on one setting. Spiritual direction is not about Biblical information but about heart transformation. I encouraged our staff to both avail themselves to spiritual guidance as a receiver and as a giver. To seek a mentor and to be a mentor. When I got to ‘be a mentor’ time, I shared six simple principles for the art of spiritual guidance. One of our pastors jotted down some notes about it and then forwarded it to me. So here they are. Obviously this is not exhaustive by any means but it is practical and helpful. Definitely not the final word on the subject but some important ideas just the same.

1) Focus on Gods kingdom and design instead my plans for that person.
What is God’s will for this person? How has he designed them? How
can I help them down that road?

2) Keep your advice founded in the Bible. From the Book outward instead
of the opposite of that. Most of the issues with historical and contemporary spiritual guidance comes when it is divorced from the heart of God in the Word of God.

3) Founded on care and concern. Love them with the concern of Christ. Care and concern will always (with the exception of intercessory prayer) translate into time spent together. So you must figure out how to make time for that person.

4) Have a listening ear. Eugene Peterson said, “Show up an then shut up.”
Let people express their hearts. Where they are at. Do not jump in. Wait
and see where they are coming from before you put in your .02. Give
them an opportunity to express themselves. Then pick your words wisely and
choose carefully what you are going to say.

5) Be humble. The people who walk with the Lord the longest and the
closest recognize their neediness for God the most. Lead with
humility not pride. When you are addressing them, do not forget that you have a plank in your own eye!

6) Lead with the premise that you are going to reproduce yourself
spiritually
, whether good or bad. It is a great responsibility. Is our
own walk where we want it to be? People we disciple will take on many
of our characteristics. Things we do and say will show up in their
lives because we are encouraging them to walk down the road with us.

Stressed

PLAN OR DIE

Life is busy. Ministry life is even busier. Something I figured out in the first six months of being in pastoral ministry was that I was going to have to plan my week well, or die. And as my ministry load has steadily and dramatically increased over the years I’m more convinced than ever that having a “plan or die” mentality is essential to survival and effectiveness in the ministry. I’m so convinced of this that I not only plan out my schedule to the minute as much as possible every few months, but I also require all pastoral trainees at the church I lead to do the same in cooperation with their family when they start the training process. I figure it is better to learn early to plan by instruction than to figure it out through burnout and floundering ministry endeavors.

Below is a copy of one of my old daily schedules:

 

Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
6-7AM: Morning Routine

 

7-8AM: Sermon Prep

 

8:30-2PM: Church

 

2:30- Evening: Family Time

8-9AM:

Morning Routine

 

9AM-Evening:

Family Day/Daddy Date

 

 

6-7AM: Morning Routine

 

7-7:30:

Exercise

 

7:30-8:15AM: Sermon Prep

 

8:15-6PM: Solitude

 

 

 

 

 

6-7AM: Morning Routine

 

7-7:30AM: Worship/Prayer

 

7:30-8AM: Exercise

 

8:15- 10:15: Sermon Prep/Writing

 

10:15-11:45: Admin/Systems

 

12-1PM: Lunch

 

1-6PM: Leader Follow-up

6-7AM: Morning Routine

 

7-7:30AM: Worship/Prayer

 

7:30-8AM: Exercise

 

8:15- 10:15: Sermon Prep/Writing

 

10:15-11:45: Admin/Systems

 

12-1PM: Lunch

 

1-4PM: Counseling Apps

 

4-6PM: Leadership Meeting/Fellowship

 

 

6-7AM: Morning Routine

 

7-7:30AM: Worship/Prayer

 

7:30-8AM: Exercise

 

8:15- 10:15: Sermon Prep/Writing

 

10:15-11:45: Admin/Systems

 

12-1PM: Lunch

 

1-6PM: Counseling Apps

 

7-8AM:

Morning Routine

 

8-10:

Family Time

 

10-12:

House Chores

 

12-1: Lunch

 

1-Evening:

Family Time

 

 

 

Some will look at that schedule and think I’m too loose with planning. Others will think I’m too extreme.

Here are a few benefits I’ve experienced from learning to plan my schedule this way:

 1. Stuff gets done

If I just try to swing at things “when I get around to it” I frequently find that I never really get around to it. I have to plan for the needed stuff to happen, or it won’t happen. But conversely, if most everything has a spot on the schedule, it gets done.

 2. I have more free time

That’s right, MORE free time. The counterintuitive thing I’ve learned about intensely detailed planning is that having a solid plan actually frees you instead of restricting you. The reason for this is that if I work on everything when I’m supposed to, for as long as I’m supposed to, I end up getting things done much quicker and more efficiently than I would if I did those same things when I felt I had a spare moment. For example, I have 7 hours and 45 minutes scheduled for sermon preparation time because that is an extremely important part of my job. But the reality is that it usually only takes me 2 to 4 hours to completely prepare for a sermon. So as I work diligently on my sermon during schedule times I end up getting it done, and the remaining sermon prep slots become free time to do other things. That is how detailed planning gives me more time instead of restricting me.

 3. My family is informed

The last benefit I’ll mention (though there are many more) is that planning this way blesses my family because it makes it easy for us to be on the same page day-to-day. Generally, my wife knows exactly what I’m doing and when I’m doing it if she wants. And my family knows that when dad’s working, he’s working. But they trust me with the busy times because they know I’m making scheduled times in which we invest in our family which are just for us a priority as well.

The truth is that our need/desire to plan comes from our being made in the image of God. Our God is an ordered God of planning. Jesus came to earth when “the fullness of time had come.”[1] God is not the author of confusion and chaos, but peace, rhythm, and harmony.[2] No wonder life is draining and unproductive when we approach it chaotically, without plan or intentionality. If you feel like you’re suffocating under the weight of responsibilities and lack of direction in what to do, that alarm in your mind might be the Holy Spirit exhorting you to plan or die.


[1] Gal. 4:4 NKJV

[2] 1 Cor. 14:33