Wise Leaders – Tough Times

February 24, 2009 by  
Filed under Leadership

Who watches the Dow Jones Averages these days and just gets a positive rush? NOT!!

These are the most traumatic times in my lifetime. There is turmoil on a global scale. The economy is in the tank. The messiah complex reigns in Wash DC. Remember, salvation never has and never will come out of DC. I am from the government and I am here to help you. Right!

I am suggesting that each of our readers develop a “Plan B” strategy for their own family and for the assembly they worship and serve with. It consists of four (4) simple factors. Here they are.

1. Celebration – Where & When will you gather for Worship if there is a disruption in the supply of gas or other factors that may prevent the continuation of your current routines? Corporate Praise & Worship should not be dictated by circumstance.

2. Transportation - What if you cannot purchase gasoline? Is there a way to car pool, meet in homes in geographic regions, simply walk. You won’t even need to get on the treadmill if you walk.

3. Communication – What if your cell phone, Blackberry, etc. does not function? I think all the Carrier Pigeons are dead. So, how will we connect if the current means are not available?

4. Preservation – What will you drink if the water supply is contaminated? What will you eat if Wal Mart suddenly has no stuff on the shelves because the delivery trucks did not arrive? A rubber maid tub containing a few thoughtfully chosen items may be a wise addition to one of your closets.

I live in SC. We have Hurricanes. There are always those people who ignore all the warnings until the disaster strikes. We had a former Governor who botched an evacuation and he got to retire early as a result of the lack of planning. Perhaps just a little prudent action and preparation will prove beneficial in the days ahead.

He who gathers crops in summer is a wise son,

but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son. (Prov. 10:5)

The Courage to Lead

February 12, 2009 by  
Filed under Leadership

The Courage to Lead

Courage, real godly courage, is a rare commodity. But then, we don’t need a multitude – - just a small band of COURAGEOUS and dedicated servant leaders. They understand the task, the difficulty and the challenges. Seeing all of this they say, “What are we waiting for?”

God and a man or a band of men with courage is the most significant majority the world has ever known. Courage is neither reckless nor foolish. It is bold and guided by Scripture and the Holy Spirit. That guidance almost always puts you in a counter-culture posture. God always delights to identify men who in times of darkness trust the light of special revelation. Trust God and press on.

A sad commentary on the church in America is that she has been co-opted by a pseudo democratic process. She votes on everything. Majority rules. Robert’s Rules etc. It is a wise and prudent Leader who leads and does not endeavor to dictate or, as Scripture posits, ‘Lord it over God’s people’. However, no Leader should ever permit a “vote” to be taken concerning the clear and unambiguous statements of Scripture.

As I communicate with Pastors around the country, much of their consternation is a direct result of their failure to engage in careful, accurate and precise exegesis of the Scripture. When we know with certainty what God has said, ours is to do, not vote or negotiate. Opposition is a classic response to revelation because of sin. Trust God. Honor Him. Lead from a posture of obedience and let those who would rebel suffer the consequences of their rebellion. That men is COURAGE!

Israel, under the guidance of Moses sent twelve spies into the land. Only two of those men were true leaders. Ten of them were imposters. (Read this history in Numbers 14. Notice God’s response to cowardice expressed in Num. 14:36-38). The church needs a legion of Leaders whose character is that of Joshua and Caleb. Read Rev. 21:7-8 for a perspective on the end result of cowardice – - not a happy thought!

So where are you in this vital arena of Courage? Well worth evaluating.

1 Chron. 28:20 Then David said to his son Solomon, “Be strong and courageous, and act; do not fear nor be dismayed for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you nor forsake you until all the work for the service of the house of the LORD is finished.

2 Chron. 15:2,8 – Asa But you, be strong and do not lose courage, for there is reward for your work.” Now when Asa heard these words and the prophecy which Azariah the son of Oded the prophet spoke, he took courage and removed the abominable idols from all the land of Judah and Benjamin and from the cities which he had captured in the hill country of Ephraim. He then restored the altar of the LORD which was in front of the porch of the LORD.

Ezra 10:4 “Arise! For this matter is your responsibility, but we will be with you; be courageous and act.”

Haggai 2:4 But now take courage, Zerubbabel,’ declares the LORD, ‘take courage also, Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and all you people of the land take courage,’ declares the LORD, ‘and work; for I am with you,’ declares the LORD of hosts.

Acts 23:11 But on the night immediately following, the Lord stood at his side and said, ‘Take courage; for as you have solemnly witnessed to My cause at Jerusalem, so you must witness at Rome also.”

Sell The Problem, Not The Solution

December 31, 2008 by  
Filed under Leadership

William Bridges, in his most helpful title, Managing Transitions, offers the sagacious wisdom – - “Sell The Problem, Not The Solution”. There is a persistent mad scramble to “fix” the problem. Bridges states the obvious, but almost always ignored wisdom, essential to Transformation. There are no quick fixes. There is ‘death in that pot’ my brothers. The declension from passionate orthodoxy did not come upon us quickly and it will not be extricated by the application of simplistic “outside in” programs, a new method. If there is not an ethos and pathos, an emotitonal conviction that there is a problem, NO SOLUTION WILL EVER BE EMBRACED!!

When IgniteUS was founded, our Purpose was and is singular, clear and urgent. We seek the power of the Spirit of God to bring Transformation to the church in America. The need for this is obvious even to a casual observer. The decline in the institutional church is precipitous, accelerating and dramatic. So, churches will readily accept the need to change with a sense of urgency, right? WRONG!!

There is a pervasive numbness among men charged with leadership responsibilities. Notice I did not grant them the noble title “Leaders”. Leadership is about effectivenss not titles. They are ‘at ease in Zion’. They are much like the Scribes & Pharisees. There is most certainly a problem, but, not with us! The sense of urgency that the church in America is on the fast track to spiritual disaster is absent. Facts alone will never change values. We present data ad naseum, by volume. It has little or no impact. Their eyes glaze. They look at their watches and wonder – - ‘when will this be over?’

So, we are giving humble and passionate effort to “Sell The Problem”. The Problem is real, immediate and urgent. When you read this, fall to your knees and cry out to the Living God. Implore Him to awaken the church. Plead with Him to come upon us.

Transformation is an “inside out” process over time. It requires Transparency and Vulnerability. It requires repentance and humility that comes through brokeness. It begins with Leadership. It ripples out through the Leaders and makes its way through the body person by person.

So Pastor, have you “Sold the Problem”? We exist to equip and walk with you through that difficult but ever so glorious process. Where can we go Lord. You have the words of life. Bring Your Power and Grace to the church. We wait upon You with hope and anticipation.

“Mother May I?”

December 11, 2008 by  
Filed under Leadership

When I was a child we played a game called “Mother May I”. The trick was to execute certain commands always prefaced by the statement “Mother May I”. If you failed to make that request in conjunction with the action, you were disqualified.

What does that have to do with Leadership in the local church? Much indeed.

Leadership is about change, not managing ‘status quo’. Exhibit A could well be the current melt down among the Big Three US Auto Makers. They have clung to an antiquated business model that is now sinking their collective ship. They were not unaware of the issues. They were unwilling to find the courage and apply the wisdom to change that model before we arrived at this “Mother May I” groveling routine being played out on the Hill.

Status Quo is always the preferred ‘modus operandi’ by the majority. This requires little change and a minimum of sacrifice, at least for a time. This same mentality permeates the church. Boards, made up of people who generally recognize the cost of change, hold the assembly to ‘status quo’. They offer reasons ad naseum for doing so. If those reasons are examined under the light of Scripture and an accurate and hermeneutically sound exegesis of the text, there is usually not a shred of legitimacy in their appeal.

This is where the game of ‘Mother May I’ begins. Rather than gathering the biblical rationale through careful exegesis and setting that before the body, Pastors engage the MMI mantra. They come with a timid and often ill-crafted proposal as to why change must take place. Their initial appeal is rejected. They retreat to their study and cry out to God about “how lonely it is at the top”! How sad.

I am not suggesting a high handed ruthlessness that would be correctly labeled ‘lording it over’ their people. I am stating without hesitation that Shepherds must develop and implement ministry structures that consitently result in the Transformation of the people of God into the fulness of the Image of Christ. That is Leadership. Anything less is managing status quo. This process begins with a careful and objective assessment of current reality. It requires courage and tenacity in the implementation of the changes necessary and revealed through that assessment. That is the easy portion. The real challenge is keeping the focus on our purpose – - MAKE DISCIPLES. This is a process that requires wisdom, courage and time – lots and lots of time. It is as Churck Swindoll said, Three Steps Forward & Two Steps Back.

Once this process is operative, we must measure our effectiveness. This is best accomplished in a ’360′ mode. Get feed back from all angles. Listen. Evaluate. Modify. Press on.

So Pastor, are you operating in the “Mother May I” mode or are you a Leader? It really does matter. I invite your response. Also, celebrate the Incarnation with the enthusiasm and passion it rightly deserves.

In Grace,
Tom

An Outside Voice

July 29, 2008 by  
Filed under Leadership

Why do most attempts at genuine Transformation in the church fail? Lack of effort – No. Lack of desire – No. Lack of energy expended – No. Lack of authenticity – No.

They fail because the message is not delivered by an Outside Voice. In the OT this individual wore the mantle of Prophet. He came from a perspective that was not beholden to the system. He spoke for God and was undeterred by the usual arguments designed to preserve ‘status quo’. He was in the system but in a very real way not ‘of the system’. He was truly an Outside Voice. His message was exactly what was needed even though it was clearly not popular and most assuredly not well received (Acts 7:51-52).

He was God’s spokesman. His message was from God. This is confirmed in the NT – -

And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2Peter 1:19-21).

There are no Prophets today who are the equivalent of the OT Prophet. Having offered that caveat, let me provide some observations concerning the message of the OT Prophet and the message necessary to bring genuine Reformation to the church in America today.

The Prophet’s message was supported in every facet by the Word of the LORD.
The Prophet’s message was primarily Theological not Methodological.
The Prophet did not attend an episodic event, a conference at which he received a notebook.
The Prophet did not call for a ‘vote of confidence’ to ‘approve’ his message.
The Prophet was spiritually and emotionally immersed in the lives of those to whom he spoke. They were his people and he loved them as did the LORD for whom he spoke. His message was not just a ‘process to be checked off’. It was not the most recent popular fad to sweep across Israel. It was the very substance of God’s prescription for blessing His people. Jeremiah said the message was a virtual ‘fire in his bones’ (Jer. 20:9).
The Prophet spoke with persistence and weeping that covered decades. There are no quick fixes.

Pastor, lay leader, does your church need that “Outside Voice?” Are you being that man like the prophet of old? Do you need help? IgniteUS is here to help you.

Leadership and Reformation

July 13, 2008 by  
Filed under Leadership

History is punctuated with incidents of dark days, tough times and uncompromising courageous leaders. We will briefly examine several of them. Their courage and effectiveness will establish two principles; (1) God always has a remnant faithful to Him, and, (2) God always accomplishes His purposes through leaders who live and serve to honor Him. Do you meet this profile? Are you a leader who is capable of bringing Reformation?

Gideon faced his struggle in dark times with 32,000 men. Too many God said. 22,000 departed, 10,000 remained. Too many God said. Take them down to the water. 300 lapped like a dog. Now I will deliver Israel (Judges 7).

Hezekiah faced the incessant taunts and bellicose threats of Sennacherib. He was given the option of making a bargain. He chose rather to pray and trust His God (2 Kings 19:15). 185,000 Assyrian soldiers “woke up dead” (2 Kings 19:35)!

Asa served when Israel had been a long time without the true God, without a priest to teach and without the law (2 Chron. 15:3). He heard the voice of the prophet and ‘took courage’. He removed the detestable idols and God gave them rest on every side (2 Chron. 15:15).

When principles that run against your deepest convictions begin to win the day, then battle is your calling, and peace has become sin; you must, at the price of dearest peace, lay your convictions bare before friend and enemy, with all the fire of your faith” (Abraham Kuyper, Dutch Theologian and Prime Minister, 1837 – 1920).

Does the church in America need Reformation? 2% are growing numerically by conversion growth. 14% are growing numerically by transfer growth ( sheep (sic) swapping). That means that 84 % are ????? Further, how many churches/ministries even make any attempt to measure Transformation (Rom. 12:2)? This is the principle focus of ministry = make disciples fully formed in the image of Christ!

What qualities are required to lead in this fashion? I will mention three that are essential.

Courage – the capacity to trust God unconditionally and serve with Kingdom priorities.
Compassion – truly love God’s people as He does and lead as He would. Lead not lord.
Perseverance – stay on course regardless of the odds (Gideon), the threats (Hezekiah) or the apparent impossibility of the task (Asa).

Pastor, do you see the urgent need for reformation? What would you share with your fellow servants as we fight the good fight?

Integrity in Communications

June 15, 2008 by  
Filed under Leadership

The Psalmists asks in Psalm 15 – - Who may dwell in your sanctuary? . . . who keeps his oath even when it hurts (v.4).

This is not an article that seeks to conform everyone to a single communicaiton profile. This is an article calling people who are leaders at various levels in the body of Christ to honor Him. Let me elaborate for just a moment.

If your Voice Mail message tells the caller that you will call them back and you do not, you have just lied. You are not obligated to return calls unless – - you tell the caller you will. If you tell the caller you will, then you must or you bring shame to the LORD you claim to serve. Further, most callers are not served in any meaningful way by a return call 9 days later! Another stinker is your secretary asking if she can transfer the call to your Vocie Mail. The caller then hears a message that says – - ‘Sorry, this message box is full’. How many months has it been since this task was completed? Further, what does this say about you as a Leader?

Leadership is largely a matter of trust. Failure to honor communication protocol is a violation of trust and thus a significant detriment to your ability to lead. If your Voice Mail message tells the caller you will return their call then do it. Do it within 3 hours. If you do not intend to respond to emails in any timely manner, send those who serve with you a message telling them that you simply do not correspond via email. What you cannot do is keep people hanging. They don’t know if you received their message. They don’t know if you did receive it but are not willing to respond for whatever reason. They don’t know if you died!

Bottom line is this. Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’. Have a communication protocol that honors Christ and abide by the parameters you used to shape that profile. If you do not return calls, put that on your Voice Mail message. At least the caller knows what to expect. Ministry will be much more satisfying if everyone has and applies good ethics in the realm of communicaitons.

Is The Medium The Message??

August 4, 2007 by  
Filed under Leadership

Think on these things!

The recent Summer edition of Leadership Journal is focused upon the “Visual Dynamics” of Preaching; Power Point, Technology, etc. There is an attempt to trace the use of visual ehancements to preaching through church history. I suspect that Martin Luther’s use of visual aids was NOT the primary causal dynamic that produced the glorious Reformation!

A Brief History of Communication

What prophetic utterance that was! McLuhan voiced this perspective in the 1960′s. His observation is now being validated once more by the virtual craze to acquire and utilize with often obnoxious ostentatious splendor the latest & greatest techno gadgets.

Being current and conversant with the culture and essence of our times is valid. The church is typically 20-25 years behind the culture in many areas. Shame on us. Technology is an amoral commodity. The value or benefit is found in our motive and method of application, not, the gadgets themselves. We should be current. We must be conversant. What we must NOT do is worship at the altars of “those who live around us” per the Israelites as they entered the land. Has the church become MTV lite?

PremiseThe purpose of preaching and ministry is the Transformation of people created in the image of God into the fullness of the Image of Christ. This is the focus of the Great Commission. It is repeated in various forms in the Epistles; Rom. 12:2; 2 Cor. 4:16; Col. 3;12-14.

We have endured twenty years of what I label “Worship Wars”. Do we sing from a screen with Power Point or do we sing out of a hymnal? Do we preach from a wooden pulpit or must it be Lexan? Do we use candles and incense? Here is a ‘biggie’ – - do you have to wear a tie when you preach? (I once baptized 6 people one morning, four of which were adult converts to Christ, two were children of regular attenders. One ‘not so sanctified critic’ offered the following affirmation – - “at least some of our men know how to dress for the Lord’s Table”).

My point is simply this: almost ALL churches are lost in one dimensional ministry = how many, how much, how often, etc. Our focus should be, must be, TRANSFORMATION. That must be measured with an objective and legitimate metric. God rejoices when the elements we incorporate in ministry serve as the instruments of transformation. A sermon must be evaluated by the allegiance and correspondence the content demonstrates to the text of Scripture, not, by what material the pulpit is made of. When we sing, what is the focus and condition of our hearts? Whether we sing from memory (a good thing) or from a hymnal or Power Point is tertiary compared to coming before the True & Living Holy God of the ages with humble, joyful, celebratory & submissive hearts. Did we listen to the sermon with a passion to obey all that Christ has commanded, or, to run a quick and brutal critque on the speaker?

A blind man is not benefitted by visual aids. A deaf man must ‘hear’ the message through other means. Both will be Transformed. By what? The TRUTH of the unadulterated gospel. So whether you utilize all of the above is indeed tertiary when compared to the real issue -

Are people TRANSFORMED into the fullness of the Image of Christ?

Tom Fillinger

A leader Is –

August 3, 2007 by  
Filed under Leadership

Heb. 13:17 is often cited by frustrated Pastors. Their angst is caused by the fact that while they think they are leading, no one is following. In this verse the words that we read in our English Bibles “your leaders” is in fact a participle that is accurately translated ‘the ones leading you’. Could it be – - if no one is following, you are not leading?

Barna said in his “New Directions Letter” of April 2005:

My concern has always been whether or not our assistance really made any difference in people’s lives. The most discouraging study we ever conducted was one in which we attempted to identify churches in the U.S. that consistently and intelligently evaluate life transformation among the people to whom they minister. We found that very few churches – emphasis on very – measure anything beyond attendance, donations, square footage, number of programs and size of staff. None of that necessarily reflects life transformation. Further, our on-going research continued to show that churches do not act strategically because of a paucity of leadership. My objective had always been to get good information into the hands of leaders so they would convert those insights into great strategic decisions about how to minister more obediently and effectively. Not having the leaders in place to utilize such information was an obstacle I had not foreseen.

We do well to avoid the egregious error of offering simplistic answers to complex questions. The fact that many do not submit to pastoral Leadership is attributable to the fact that they are simply unregenerate. The churches of America are populated by people who “know not the LORD”. They DO NOT acknowledge the authority of Scripture nor are they able to in this lost condition.

On the other side of this chasm are those who have the position or title of “Leader” but exercise none of the essential qualities of a Leader.

So Pastor, the next time you lament the fact that no one is following, look in the mirror and not out the window. You may discover the cause. If in fact you suspect you are the problem, call us. We will walk with you on the journey required to become a more effective and transformational leader. God promised Asa (2 Chron. 15) that God is with those who are with Him. You can become a better Leader. It makes an eternal difference.

Because it matters,
Tom

Ready Aim, Aim, Aim Aim

July 31, 2007 by  
Filed under Leadership

I recently read a tribute to Jerry Falwell. The writer confessed (like most of us) that he did NOT agree with EVERYTHING that Jerry did or said.

However, what he did appreciate about Jerry was his READY – - AIM – - FIRE!!!! approach to Leadership and Ministry. AMEN. History is yet to reveal just how significant his contribution to ministry and to America has been or will be.

So many so called Leaders are READY – - AIM – - AIM – - AIM – - and AIM some more pseudo Leaders. Wisdom & Prudence are always in order. The Paralysis of Analysis is NOT Leadership. The most frequently cited justification for this syndrome is “we will pray about it.” The translation of that is – - this one is DOA = dead on arrival, NOTHING of significance that brings biblical Transformation will ever be done. We must protect our “ism” above all else and at all costs including grieving the Holy Spirit who is God. Paul wrote something about not putting out the Spirit’s fire (1 Thess. 5:19).

There are several “isms” that profoundly hinder ministry. Traditional – ism. Denominational – ism. etc. etc. When a legitimate and valid ministry initiative becomes an “ism” that initiative is doomed. God does not establish and bless such lukewarm cowardice (Rev. 3:16-18).

So, what is your approach to ministry initiatives? Are you are a READY – - AIM – - FIRE!!! kind of Leader, or, are you guilty of putting out the Spirit’s fire? That is a profile worth examining.

READY – - AIM – - FIRE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tom Fillinger

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