Pastoral Placement – FIT!

December 24, 2018 by  
Filed under Leadership

FIT is one of the most significant and crucial aspects of Staffing in the local church. The Church must fit the man and the man fit the church. What constitutes FIT?

Each local church is unique. FIT is comprised of theological, cultural, educational, economic, ethnic, denominational and spiritual maturity issues just to name a few of the components. Optimal compatibility in each area is the ideal but is often not realized. The greater the correspondence and the greater number of areas where FIT is realized, the higher the probability of harmonious and effective ministry. As the number of FIT issues declines, the dysfunction and ineffectiveness increases. This article is primarily addressing Pastoral Staff, Elders so I begin with a brief examination of the 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 passages dealing with the requirements for an Elder.

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. (1Tim. 3:1)

The first operative verb is ‘aspire’. This literally means to ‘stretch out the hand or to take hold of’. In the first century it was clearly and irrefutably understood that to serve as an Elder required sacrifice. Intense, costly, and perpetual sacrifice. Persecution was often the reward for fulfilling the duties of this office in the church. This speaks to the motivation of one entering this office.

The second operative verb is ‘desire’. This speaks of an intense and continuous passion for the office and all that is required to fulfill this function effectively. The root word speaks of a swelling. In the book of Revelation (Rev. 12:12; 14:8) this word describes wrath. It clearly speaks of an intensity that transcends the mundane and casual. An Elder must be a man of high intensity and robust energy. He approaches ministry with a ‘peddle to the metal’ mentality. He understands that the things he does have eternal significance. If either of these qualities is absent, it is reasonable to conclude that the man seeking to function as an Elder without them is unqualified to do so.

FIT and Initial Calling

Churches have a dismal track record on calling Pastors. The process is truncated and often driven by expedience. They seldom examine the factors that matter most. The profile is often a weekend visit, preach a sermon or two and meet the family. No one preaches their worst sermon, not even an average sermon. Further, preaching is merely one factor. Character is first and foremost. Leadership is ever more critical in our rapidly morphing culture. The church checks a couple first level references (the man gives you those most favorable to his securing the position). There should always be at least three (3) levels of reference checks completed. The most accurate predictor of future leadership behavior is – – – past leadership behavior. What this man has done in the past is very probably what he will do in the future. Count on it. Preaching and Leadership are not synonyms. Verbal skill does not necessarily make a man a good leader. A flawed call process is failure number 1.

FIT and Ministry Descriptions

 Churches call men to fulfill specific ministry roles. Both the man and the ministry change over the years. What emerges is a mismatch. Ministry is not completed with excellence and the man finds himself intensely unhappy and unfulfilled in the role he must now occupy. What he came to do is no longer the profile he must fill. If he has not grown and expanded his horizons, that is a problem. If he has and the ministry profile has not changed, that is a problem. Whichever scenario emerges, it constitutes a problem.

FIT and Numerical Growth

 A healthy and effective ministry attracts new people. The size of the congregation changes and the number of ministry venues expands. Quite often men are assigned roles as a result of this growth for which they are unqualified or have no desire to fill. Their attitude is less than noble. This bad attitude seeps into the transaction of ministry tasks. There simply must be a more strategic and intentional approach to staffing than ‘warm bodies to fill open positions’.

FIT and Accountability

 Many statisticians claim that the number one cause of decline in the church in America is the absence of clear operative purpose. When there is a lack of clarity as to what is expected there is simply no effective way to exercise accountability. What is not clearly defined cannot be accurately measured. This factor makes accountability impossible. For effective accountability to be consistently applied there must be clear definition of task, a systematic metric and timely application of these principles. Accountability should be the examination of ministry effectiveness that leads to celebration of a task performed well. This is seldom the case.

FIT and 360 Evaluation

 Evaluation is almost non-existent in most churches. If it is done at all it is an annual event and usually associated with compensation issues. Evaluation should be accomplished quarterly if not monthly. This is done using a well crafted ministry description with a Likerd Scale metric process. The results provide a clear portrait of performance for both the one being evaluated and the church at large. When done with greater frequency the adjustments that are necessary are minimal and have not caused a year long decline in ministry effectiveness.

FIT and Applied Leadership

 Leadership in the NT is a Team. There is not a single NT church that has solo leadership Polity. With that said, there must be an individual that exercises comprehensive and consistent oversight of ministry. This means that when there are deficiencies they are addressed in a timely and equitable manner. There is abundant affirmation for task performed well and there is appropriate adjustments incorporated when there is ineffectiveness. If the ineffectiveness persists, there is action taken to remove the offending Team member from ministry. This requires emotional intelligence, courage and skill. It also requires a larger Leadership Team that will support and stand with the “executioner”. Failure to engage in this comprehensive oversight and action tells all parties that malfeasance and mediocrity is acceptable here. That is lethal to the future of any ministry.

FIT Summary

 FIT means that the individual is capable of and desires to fulfill the ministry tasks they are assigned. If no individual exists with that body, then a search must be undertaken to secure such a person. This requires resources and a clear ministry profile complete with a metric that permits both the organization and the individual Staff members to know they are fulfilling their role(s). When this is true the organization has every reason to accomplish all aspects of the Great Commission. When this is not true there is no rational basis to expect this to be true.

Men outgrow the ministry and ministry may outgrow the man. Both are possibilities. What was a FIT 6-8 years ago may not be today. John Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, Chapter 1 The Law of The Lid provides helpful insight on this matter. Vigilance and frequent assessment and evaluation prevent the reality of either eventuality from ‘surprising’ the organization or the individual staff members serving within that organization.

What kind of FIT do you have?

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Transcendent Authority & The Public Square

April 20, 2014 by  
Filed under Leadership

When any community of people loses a Transcendent and Authoritative “Center” that governs all morality and institutions, it has then embarked on the road to disintegration.

When the USA launched a deliberate and intentional campaign to rid the Public Square of God and His Truth, the seeds of our destruction had been sown. No prayer in the schools. The elevation of the individual over the community. The persistent elevation of man with unlimited ‘freedom’ to make rather than abide by any transcendent Law doomed us to fragmentation of the loss of community.

The onslaught persists. The Freedom From Religion folks are now trying to tell the football coach at Clemson University that he may not guide his players, albeit voluntarily to engage in Christian worship and activities.

The FFR folks tried that here in Cullman. The community response, we still have community here, was 5,000+ turned out for an impromptu Prayer Meeting.

Ask yourself this question – – ‘Are we better off today than we were in 1950?’

That deeper issue was the vogue of moral relativism specifically, Lippmann was concerned that there were no longer any transcendent moral standards to which to appeal in guiding either the government or the people. In the first half of the 20th century, there had been a trend to separate the law from reference to any higher moral system. Lippmann had now come to see that as a dangerous innovation. Institutions of free societies, the observed, had been founded “on the postulate that there was a universal order on which all reasonable men were agreed.” In the era of the America’s founding, even if the more secular thinkers and the traditional Christians may have differed on the exact source of that order and its content, “they did agree that there was a valid law which, whether it was the commandment of God or the reason of things, was transcendent.” Speaking of such essential principles as “freedom of religion and of thought and of speech,” Lippmann affirmed that “the middle of the seventeenth and eighteenth century who established these great salutatory rules would certainly have denied that a community could do without a general public philosophy.” But the idea, so essential to establishing democratic institutions, that there was such a higher moral order had not survived modern pluralism,” and “with the disappearance of the public philosophy–and a consensus on the first and last things–there was opened up a great vacuum in the public mind, yawning to be filled.” (George Marsden, The Twilight Of The American Enlightenment, p. 46 quoting Walter Lippmann in Essays In The Public Philosophy, 1955).

I vote NO! What about you?

Carousels & Leadership 04/20/2010

April 20, 2010 by  
Filed under Leadership

Stock Photography: Carousel on Brighton Seafront

Yesterday I had lunch at a Mall with my Board of Directors – – Food Court Quisine. Directly behind us was a Carousel. I thought of the many Pastors who speak with me about their deep seated frustration with ministry. Round and Round they go. The same weary tunes playing over and over. The Carousel was empty as we dined. Not a single occupant. Empty!

Are you tired of the Carousel Pastor?

Get off. Contact us. There is a better way.

You can Lead with confidence. You can see God bring effectiveness to ministy!

The Pastoral Trilogy – P L C

July 30, 2009 by  
Filed under Leadership

Recently I discussed the challenge of balancing the vital aspects of pastoring with a friend. He shared with me that one of his mentors once shared with them the following paradigm for success in this delicate challenge. P = Proclamation. L = Leadership. C = Caring. The mentor told the class that most of them would do quite well on the “P” and the “C” aspects of ministry. He also said most of them would struggle with the “L”.

In April of 2005 George Barna wrote what he called a ‘transition letter’. After 25 years of diligent research and writing to bring assistance to the local church pastors of America, he concluded that his effort were almost totally futile. Why? LEADERSHIP. There simply is a devastating lack of competence in this realm among evangelical pastors. His comments taken from that letter confirm the accuracy of that professors challenge to his class.Here is a quote from Barna’s letter.

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.

In the opportunities that God has given me working with churches this issue is validated over and over again. The “Good News”  is this. Leadership skills may be learned, acquired, mastered. Maxwell uses a scale of 1-10 in rating leaders. If you are a “4”you can with diligence, perseverance and the abundant grace of God and enabling power of the Holy Spirit, become a more effective leader. You may never become a 10 but a 7 or an 8 is much more effective than a 4. You will find much greater satisfaction in serving and the people you lead will benefit from the skills God adds to your leadership ability. Everyone benefits.

So Pastor, as you read this and are immersed in the reality that your “L” is weak, take courage. Draw near to God. Give yourself to Him and seek His favor in this area. He delights to pour His favor and Grace upon those leaders whose single desire is to honor Him. Call us. We will take this journey with you. Eternity will be so much more blessed if you simply find the courage to begin.

John Bingham was a 35 year old out of shape, non-athletic couch potato. He decided to try running. His ‘style’ earned him the nick-name “The Penguin” because of his awkward shuffle/running style. In conjunction with his ‘running’ he began to write humorous articles about his efforts. He is now a multi-millionaire because of his writing. He serves as the MC at pre-race banquets for such Marathons as Boston, New York, Chicago, Marine Corp, etc.

His statement when he finished his first marathon – – “The miracle is not that I finished, but, that I had the courage to begin”. When will you begin pastor?

Because I Say SO!!

June 9, 2009 by  
Filed under Leadership

I appeal to the reader to consider and respond to the issue I am addressing. That issue is, in the language of Theology and Apologetics, “Empirical Adequacy”. Empirical Adequacy is the content, validity, organization and compelling substance of the data presented in representing an issue.  For a Theologian that substance must include a solid exegetical demonstration that supports the premise being set forth and defended. I make this appeal because the historical incident which precipitated my writing this article evokes much ‘heat’ and so far,  not much ‘light’. Thanks for digesting this introductory material as it is vital to my purpose in writing.

I am not going to identify people. I do so because I am asking my reader to consider the issue, not personalities. I will be more than happy to identify the players in this drama if you choose to contact me. I also want to add that the particular issue under consideration is NOT my primary focus. The issue of which I speak is the offering of Imprecatory Prayer directed at the current occupant of the White House by a Denominational personage. In response, the current President of that Denomination posted a BLOG article saying the individual offering such prayers is simply wrong.

That is the essence of the history shaping my appeal in this article. Neither individual to my knowledge offered any evidence or data to support their case. The media latches on to the “heat” and fans the flames. This kind of tripe sells. Controversy sizzles! People love a good fight. I have been called by the Editors of our newspaper to comment on issues they are writing about (Video Poker, Public Education, etc.). I have adopted the posture of not providing comment. The reason – – they are not interested in the Truth. They are only interested in controversy. They refuse to grant an editorial review prior to publication. They simply want to take a sentence or two from here or there and the result is often far from the true substance of my response to them in discussing the issue. It demeans Christ and the Gospel.

I am well aware that not every venue lends itself to the editorial space required to provide a full-orbed perspective. In that case, we would do well to opt for silence. Jesus found it quite acceptable to remain silent in the face of scurrilous and vicious attacks on His person and positions on a variety of topics.

Turning to the specific case at hand. There are Imprecatory Psalms. There are in fact ‘enemies of God’ today just as there were at the time the Psalmist recorded those Psalms. Consider the introduction to the Dissertation written by John Day at Dallas Theological Seminary (2001).

In this dissertation, I attempt plausibly to demonstrate that the utterance of imprecations (including the appeal for divine vengeance) against the recalcitrant enemies of God and his people—as is found in the Imprecatory Psalms—is consistent with the ethics of the Old Testament and finds corresponding (albeit somewhat lessened) echo in the New. This thesis is rooted (1) in the establishment of the psalms’ theology of imprecation in the very essence of the Torah—especially seen in the promise of divine vengeance expressed in the Song of Moses, the principle of divine justice outlined in the lex talionis, and the assurance of divine cursing as well as blessing articulated in the inaugural covenant of God with his people; and (2) in the presence of this theology carried, in essence, unchanged through to the end of the Christian Canon, and likewise utilized as the foundation for the infrequent imprecations in the New Testament. There is indeed a degree of difference in the progress of the testaments, but it is a difference in degree not a difference in kind. Thus, it is argued that whereas “love and blessing” is the dominant tone and characteristic ethic of the believer of both testaments, “cursing and calling for divine vengeance” is the believer’s extreme ethic—legitimately utilized in extreme circumstances, against sustained injustice, hardened enmity, and gross oppression.

I offer this simply to demonstrate that a credible author writing in a recognized Doctoral program at an Evangelical Seminary of significant historical impact in Evangelical circles states that there is legitimacy in praying Imprecatory Psalms. Therefore, what justifies the response by individual #2 that individual #1 is simply “wrong” in offering such prayers?  It is this kind of bravado and less than credible exegesis and apologetic that gives the serious representation of Truth in the marketplace a bad name.

I appeal to my fellow Pastor/Leaders to improve on this profile. We are called to proclaim and defend the Truth (Acts 20:28-30). If the case you make lacks substance, be silent. If the case you make has substance but the venue for presentation denies adequate expression of all the facts, be silent.

One of the greatest needs of the hour is the restoration in the Marketplace of the Authority of Scripture. Presenting a compelling and exegetically sound profile on any given issue aids in that restoration. Polemics without exegesis is often entertaining but grossly inadequate. Heat without light is counter-productive, sophmoric and detrimental to the promotion of Truth in the Marketplace.

So my conclusion is this – – “Because I Say SO” is a travesty that does harm and not good for the cause of Christ. Speak with compelling exegetical substance, grace and dignity or remain silent. The ultimate resolution of each and every cause or case must be – “What does the text say?”

If Not Now – When?

May 27, 2009 by  
Filed under Leadership

The following data is taken from an email I received from one of our Transformation Partner Pastors. The situation was this. A local church in the area where he pastors has been watching the transformation that is taking place in the lives of the people in that assembly and the lives of the leaders themselves (this church is 18 months through a 36 month process). They are intrigued by what they see. They know that what they are witnessing is precisely what the NT describes as ‘church’. They want to see this same process take place where they gather.

However, they also want this to be at no cost to them in  terms of sacrifice, risk or just plain hard work. They have the delusional idea that somewhere there is a ‘little blue pill‘ that when taken produces instant and painless transformation. Suddenly all is well. People are transformed. The lost are saved. The saints are transformed. The community is reached with the good news of the gospel. Wow, this is what we all desire. But, this does not fall out of the sky and hit you in the head. It takes Leadership, someone needs to step up and act, and diligent persistent effort, everyone needs to do their part!

Here is a portion of what I received in that email.

I met with XXX last night.  The question they had was ‘Why we went with IUS?’ I answered this question by using my journal entries from 2007 to our half way evaluation. This took about 20 minutes or so. It was an interesting response to say the least. I have a great appreciation for what you and your team go through in helping churches who really need the help but just can’t come to terms with one another and or have no energy to apply in the process that might get them out of the mess they are in. My assessment of the situation is they are overwhelmed with the responsibilities they have, fearful of making a mistake, so they are not making any decisions, haven’t spent time wrestling the big issues down and are either too busy or don’t want to take the time necessary to do it. . . .You could tell he was waiting for the messiah to come in and do the work of the ministry for them. Looking around the room I could tell this was the direction and with the lack of a key team leader in the group who would be able to carry this kind of an initiative, this will probably be the path they follow.

I remembered your motto – “Do no harm”, so I tried to be encouraging and hopeful. Their last survey/ assessment came to light. It has been one full year since its completion. XXXXX and the other person were the only ones who had a copy of it and not one of them could remember last time they had looked at it! The room got really quiet when I asked who was responsible for implementing the recommendations. Coming back to the revitalization question earlier I asked what the deacons were doing ? Ouch! To me this was the key moment of the hour! Sorry to say it was the chair of the (XXXXX) committee who dove into the deep end of the pool to rescue the deacon’s, they were silent! I left them with the article Beauty Contest and encouraged them to contact IUS. I assured them you would be willing to talk with them. I don’t think this will happen real soon BUT it may happen sooner than we think!

So I return to the question that is the title of this post – – If not Now – When? The church in America needs Transformation. The church in America needs Leadership. The church in America needs courage to trust God and engage in becoming what He calls us to be. The church in America needs to act!! If you are a Pastor reading this BLOG I pray that you will be moved by the Spirit of God to do just that. Pray – Meditate – and take steps to see God bring Transformation to the people you Shepherd by using you as a courageous and humble servant-leader. God’s best as you lead! NOW really is the time for you to act!

Deaf & Defiant

May 12, 2009 by  
Filed under Leadership

Stiff-Necked – Rebellious – Hard-Hearted – Arrogant – Presumptuous – Corrupt.   Quite a collection of adjectives. This is only a partial list of descriptive terms the OT Prophets used concerning Israel and Judah.

To Jeremiah the religious establishment said: So come, let’s attack him with our tongues and pay no attention to anything he says; Jer. 18:18b (NIV).

Come, let us strike him with our tongue, and let us not pay attention to any of his words; Jer. 18:18b (ESV).

King Amaziah said to Amos, “Get out you seer! Go back to the land of Judah. Earn your bread there and do your prophesying there. Don’t prophesy anymore at Bethel, because this is the king’s sanctuary and the temple of the kingdom; Amos 7:12-13 (NIV). Turf wars have been part and parcel of the leadership challenge from the beginning of time.

I was recently attacked on Face Book for suggesting that the church in America needs Reformation & Renewal and that we desired to play a role in that effort. My attacker was not suggesting that the church was ok as is. He was appealing for the total abandonment of the institutional church. He was throwing the baby out with the bath.

As we read the record of the OT Prophets, God always had His remnant. They were interspersed with those who were arrogant rebels. There were from the very beginning, from the deliverance from Egypt, only two (2) leaders who trusted and obeyed God completely – – Joshua and Caleb. The other ten were impostors. They had the title of leader. They had the challenge and task of leadership. But, they were phonies. When the chips were down, they folded like a cheap accordion. Sad!

There are undeniable parallels between Israel of old and the church in America in terms of the adjectival descriptors used by the OT Prophets. They certainly fit the church to a “T”. OT Israel was Deaf & Defiant. The church in America is Deaf & Defiant. However, there are also those people, saints to the core, who love God and live to honor Him. We will continue to seek that remnant. They have a readiness to embrace Truth and lead others to do the same. When God leads us to them, we will pour ourselves and the resources He has graciously given us into equipping them and seek to bring genuine and lasting transformation to all those who walk in His light!

Do you need a good portrait  in the words of Peterson “A Long Obedience in The Same Direction?” Read Jeremiah 35. This is the record of the Recabites. They honored the covenant their forefathers made with Jehovah God for hundreds of years. They are a true portrait of a Faithful Remnant.

If you are in this category, stay by the stuff. Let the critics wail. Let them attack you with their tongues. Let them ignore every word you say. Being true to God and His Word in both conviction and conduct always brings His blessing.Let me share a quote from the life of Abraham Kuyper:

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.

There is no greater joy than to know you are giving your all to honor and glorify the King of Kings. What a great way to live, and perhaps die!

Leadership – Hard Hearts & Influence

April 22, 2009 by  
Filed under Leadership

Leadership is the very heart of the ministry of Jesus. He selected 12 men to develop as Leaders. He  invested most of his earthly ministry in shaping them as his agents to fulfill the Great Commission. Following their development is a fascinating study. Judas was a traitor. James and John were intoxicated with the concept of status or position. This pathetic syndrome is still with us today. It matters in some places “where you sit”. Peter issued a foul mouthed denial that he even knew the LORD (most if not all have been there).

There are at least two categories of leadership. One is very prevalent in the evangelical church of America. The other is rare, seldom seen in robust and perpetual operation. Do you remember Thom Rainer’s research (Simple Church)? He identified 13 churches out of thousands studied that practiced this rare form of leadership – genuine measurable transformation of God’s people. What are these two categories?  Consider the following:

  • Transactional Leadership – This type is based on transactions or exchanges between leaders and their followers. The followers express a variety of basic self-interests like physical and emotional security. Leaders shape situations in which the followers accomplish the actions desired by the leaders in exchange for rewards that meet the followers’ needs. The transactions might include money, flattery for loyalty, or votes for favors once in office. Transactional leaders tend to set up rules and standards to check for noncompliance and to maintain the status quo. These leaders rely on reactive tactics as they focus on power and politics.
  • Transformational Leadership – The transformational leader helps followers embrace a vision of a preferred future. Leaders inspire and empower followers to achieve new levels of personal and corporate performance. They encourage individuals and support innovative ventures. Followers gladly commit to a future they help create. Because transformational leaders are trusted and respected, followers tend to internalize the spirit and goals of the organization. (Leading Congregational Change, Herrington, Bonem, and Furr, p. 96).

Transactional Leadership is all about one dimensional issues; how many, how much, how often etc. The focus is on taking out the pews and putting in chairs. It is about singing off of a Power Point screen rather than out of the hymnal. There is no valid Metric by which ministry is evaluated. There is no attempt to validate the transformation of God’s people into the fullness of the Image of Christ. In fact, there is a hardy resistance to introduce such a process. Why? Because the introduction of such a Metric Process will expose the bankruptcy of this system. It is all about numbers not about mature disciples. Jesus will ask ‘what kind’ not ‘how many’!

Transformational Leadership addresses the question of “what kind?”. The purpose of Leadership as Jesus defined ministry in the Great Commission is to make disciples. He did not call us to merely make converts. Conversion is the initiation of becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ, not the terminal point. Transactional Leadership has settled for Activity and ignored Transformation. Making disciples is a difficult, messy and often disappointing task. It does however remain the clear challenge for Leaders in the church of Jesus Christ.

Pastors shape the others who lead with them. What they model is a key factor in the leadership Philosophy of each church. If the supreme value is numbers, that very quickly becomes the focus and goal of ministry. These guys will wear you out with activity. They will have you out 5 nights a week. When you inquire about the effectiveness of ministry they will provide a litany of activities that they engage every week. They will tell you how ‘busy’ they are. They will probably tell you they need additional staffing to cope with the tasks at hand. Pharaoh repeatedly told Moses ‘No’ to his demands that God’s people be released from the bondage of Egypt. When we get to Exodus 9:34 we read that “He and his officials hardened their hearts”. The example of Pharaoh imprinted the other officials in his cabinet. So too Pastors and those who serve with them.

What are you modeling Pastor? Does the ministry you shepherd focus on How Many or What Kind? There is a day coming, perhaps very soon, when Jesus will inquire of all Shepherds concerning this matter (Heb. 13:17). My prayer for us is that we are preparing now by embracing a Philosophy of Ministry that has Transformation as the heart of the matter. ‘Who’ you are and ‘How’ you lead shapes the entire dynamics of ministry in the church in which you serve Pastor. God’s best to you as you find the courage and resources to practice and develop Transformational Leadership.

Your Middle Name

April 9, 2009 by  
Filed under Leadership

What is your middle name? When did you most frequently hear this name when being addressed, usually by your mother? What was the decibel level she achieved when calling you? Do you remember the knot in your gut when you heard this? And the ultimate indignity – – ‘wait till your father gets home’!!

By now, brilliant as you are, you have figured out the paradigm I am using. You heard your middle name when you were in BIG trouble. Every resident of the county could hear your mother calling you. Almost always at this juncture, there was no redemption, only judgment and the corresponding consequence(s).

Several weeks ago a report titled the America Religious Involvement Survey was published. The data in this report provides a decadal assessment of the general health/condition of the church in America viewed from a metric that focused on numbers. There is decline on virtually all fronts. The percentage of self-identified Christians has fallen 10 points in the past two decades. David Olsen’s book, published in February 2008, documents this decline in precise and accurate detail (The American Church in Crisis, Zondervan).

This past week, News Week published a synopsis of this report. The report includes portions of a conversation with Dr. Al Mohler, President of Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY. Dr. Mohler reads well and widely. He is certainly one of the most competent spokespersons on Christian culture in the evangelical world. Read thoughtfully and prayerfully his comments.

A remarkable culture-shift has taken place around us… The most basic contours of American culture have been radically altered. The so-called Judeo-Christian consensus of American culture of the last millenium has given way to a post-modern, post-Christian, post-Western cultural crisis which threatens the very heart of our culture…. Clearly, there is a new narrative, a post-Christian narrative, that is animating large portions of this society.

Notice the verb tense – – “has/have been”. This is not a tsunami that is coming. We are already swimming in the flood. This is now. The luxury of casual analysis is long past. The warnings have been posted for decades. Those of us who stood on the wall and sounded the trumpet of alarm have been viewed as twits (not tweets on Twitter, but ‘twits’) as in whacko alarmist. The Old Testament Prophets were ignored with impunity. The results are recorded in the pages of our OT.

My case is irrefutable. The evangelical church in America is suffering a decline of unprecedented dimensions for our nation. The question now is ‘what is required if we expect our God to reverse this precipitous slide to oblivion’? There are no quick fixes, no simple program(s) applied with formulaic arrogance that will solve this mess (cf. 1 Sam. 15:23 concerning arrogance). At the very least, there must be:

1.  Courage – This is not bravado. It is not reckless or presumptive. Biblical courage is a commodity given by God in His grace and mercy. He delights to bless those with a humble and contrite spirit, those who tremble at his word (Isa. 63:2). Courage includes tenacity for the long haul. We did not arrive at this juncture overnight and we will not be swiftly removed from the devastation caused by abandoning the Authority of Scripture and embracing the culture. Courage is ministry grounded in passionate, accurate and compassionate exegesis. It is Integrated Theology. We must always ask the ‘So What?’ question of application in context. Now that we know what God’s word is saying, what must we do?

2.  Leadership – Leadership is not a title. It is not a position. It is not political power. Leadership is the capacity to inform, challenge and resource people to pursue a path that honors God and is suited to the ministry context in which those people serve. It looks different in each setting even though there are many common dimensions that apply in every circumstance. It is always the initiative of an individual. If Moses had a committee, Israel would still be in Egypt. Leadership sets direction and captures God’s clear purpose. It is NOT a ‘Lone Ranger’ activity. Leadership builds a Team of people who embrace the purpose and direction and all together pursue the objectives essential to see the gospel rooted in the lives of people and guiding their every endeavor in life. Leadership effectiveness is measured by the Transformation of God’s people into the Image of Christ.

3. Action – The Paralysis of Analysis. This is where the proverbial rubber meets the asphalt. This is where most give up. We do not need more studies. We do not need more reports. We need action, systematic bold action that is focused on honoring what God has called us to do. We are called to MAKE DISCIPLES, not converts. When ‘stadium evangelism’ became a substitute for the difficult, messy and costly endeavor of making disciples, we stepped on the slippery slope and have been sliding ever since. The church boasts of the number of baptisms each year. A year later most of those people who entered the waters cannot even be found let alone measure their Transformation into the image of Christ. Set specific objectives, monitor them each month with total integrity and honesty, and PRAY without ceasing. God honors those who honor Him. He is close to those who are close to Him.

Well, the Father is not coming home at the end of the day – BUT – He is going to send His Son, perhaps very soon. Are you prepared to give an account for your efforts as a Shepherd (Heb. 13:17)? Do you hear the call? Do you hear your “Middle Name”? It is not your mother calling, it is Christ Who is LORD and Head of the church.

We are clearly ‘in BIG trouble’. The consequences of our disobedience are upon us. We are at a crucial moment in our spiritual history as a nation. Will you STOP the ‘numbers racket’ = how many, how much, how often and focus on Transformation? Will you find Courage, exercise Leadership, and ACT? You will either continue to be part of the problem, or, you will repent and become part of the glorious Reformation that only our God can produce. He will use YOU. Surrender – Confess – Repent – ACT!

The Future of Evangelicalism

March 30, 2009 by  
Filed under Leadership

Michael Spencer (he calls himself the “internet monk”) recently (March 24) put a match to dry tinder. He wrote a BLOG in which he predicted the collapse of Evangelicalism in the next ten years.  Given the current climate in Evangelicalism, it is tempting to agree with Spencer. Here are the primary issues he cites as causal factors. The Evangelical church in America will:

1. Continue to confuse the true gospel with the culture war.
2. Lose the ability to pass on the importance of the faith and “a vital evangelical confidence” in the Bible to our children.
3. Lose financial strength.
4. Falter in aggressive evangelism.

 Spencer has identified some salient and substantive issues. However, he also assumes that there is no remedial process to stem the tide. Has the church to this juncture been ready and willing to address these factors? Absolutely not! Does this therefore mean that she will not? Absolutely not! The church is the Bride of Christ and our God will preserve those who persevere (1Tim. 4:16; Heb. 10:36).  The faithful remnant will show fidelity to their LORD regardless of the difficulties they encoutner. Church history is populated with such stalwarts of  the faith.

Since we do not labor under the umbrella of Deut. 18:14-22, such bold predicitons abound. If the prophet still faced stoning for his erroneous prognostication, there would be far fewer prophecies issued.

Harry Jackson responded with a much different perspective (posted on Church Report Daily, March 30). His perspective, while not classified as a view through the proverbial ‘rose colored glasses’ is much different and probably much closer to reality. Consider his summary.

“Evangelical church attendance is dropping at a very slow rate. Evangelicals have to do some major house cleaning in order to remain a thriving force in the world today. Currently, however, the evangelical brand remains strong. . . .

In conclusion, let me remind every evangelical that there is a need for the 21st century church to preach the word. The apostle Paul said it this way in 2 Timothy 4:2-3 “…be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage — with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear” (NIV).

If we are faithful to the Word of God, God will be faithful to the nation! Let’s take on the mental posture of spiritual marines. Let’s shout we our loudest voice, “Semper Fi!” – “Always Faithful!”

Like the Marines looking for a “Few Good Men”, our ministry exists to enlist Leaders like those who responded to Earnest Shackleford’s appeal for explorers in the 1914 Antarctic expedition.  His ad read as follows:

“MEN WANTED for Hazordous Journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success.”

He only needed 27 men. 5,000 applied. Why? Because they wanted to do something with their lives that could make a difference.

YOU can make a difference Pastor. Engage the Transformation process IgniteUS provides and be one of those who make a difference. The wages here are indeed small. There will be times of bitter darkness. There is no doubt about a safe return. And finally, the reward is a new heaven and a new earth dwelling with the people God used you to Transform. Sound like a difference YOU want to make? Join those God will use to shout with Harry Jackson – “Semper Fi!” – “Always Faithful!”

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