The unwritten rules.

In every group or organization, there are unwritten rules.   Even in church organizations. I am reminded of this daily through observances and conversations.  It is something that most know, but very few pay attention to unless they are directly affected by it.  In this post, I want to point out a few categories that these unwritten and sometimes unspoken rules fall into.  For the pastor of the small church which may not have much in the way of formal organization, leading through these unwritten rules is a challenge that needs to be addressed.

Culture

First up is the foundation that all the unwritten rules create.  Culture is probably the most explicit way for people to understand and discuss the unwritten rules.  Peter Drucker is attributed with the saying, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”  Many pastors and church leaders are often frustrated with a lack of progress when they implement their big plans.  Basically, the unwritten rule of “How we do things around here” undermines any strategy.  If your plan does not account for the culture of your church or group, it most likely will fail.

Expectations

While unattentiveness to culture may frustrate a pastor’s plans for whatever, unwritten expectations are destructive.  A church may or may not have a written list of expectations or duties for the pastor, but they all have expectations that are not articulated.  These range from attendance at events, evangelistic efforts, pastoral care, preaching ministry and more.  These rules become highly problematic as they tend to become unrealistic demands.  When a person is then held accountable in the person’s mind or publicly, they are blindsided and left confused as to what happened.

How do you change the unwritten rules?

  1. You have to become aware of them.
  2. They need to be addressed humbly and candidly discussed.
  3. Solutions presented, accepted, and implemented.
  4. Accountability and reflection.
What unwritten and unspoken rules have you come across?

 

F.A.S.T. Church Leadership

What is leadership?  Some understand leadership is Influence – Every person is an influencer.  Good leaders motivate others for the others right.  Bad leaders manipulate others for the leaders good.  Another way of understanding leadership is through the actions of a person during stressful situations.  In either stream, local churches are in need of godly leadership.  Sometimes pastors go into churches, and there are few to no leaders, and they need help to share the ministry with others fast.  Selecting and further development of these leaders are essential where there is lack.  This is a model that I have been implementing.

F.A.S.T Church Leadership

  • This model is about identifying leaders in the congregation.  The four areas are essential qualities of each leaders quality that help you see future growth.
  • This model is about equipping people.  It’s not enough to identify leaders.  They need to grow, and you need to provide them with help for that growth.
  • This model is about shared leadership.  Each quality is more than a personal pursuit.  Leaders work in tandem with other people, not alone.  No one is a leader without anyone willing to follow.
  • This model is about Christian leadership.  FAST reminds us of the spiritual discipline of fasting.  Fasting is about mental fitness, not physical (Mt. 17:21; Mk 9:29).  Ultimately, the unnamed requirement is the person has an obvious relationship with the Lord.  Don’t make the mistake of being desperate enough to just put warm bodies into positions of leadership.  Especially if they have not repented of their sin and professed faith in Christ.

 

Faithful

As implied by the previous section, leaders need to have a personal relationship with God.  This means they are faithful to God (Pro. 3:5; 1 Cor. 4:1-2; Heb. 10:23) and committed to the Church (Acts 2:42, 20:28; Heb. 10:25, 13:17).  It also implies they are available to answer the call to lead in the local church (Is. 6:8; Mk 1:17-18).  

 

Accountable

As stewards of the Gospel and church, leaders need to be held accountable.  They are responsible for honesty (Pro. 11:3; 1 Jn 1:6, 3:18), responsibility (Rom. 12:6-8; Gal. 6:5; 1 Cor. 3:8), accountable to the church (Pro. 17:17; Gal. 6:1-2; James 5:16).  

 

Servanthood

Servant leadership is a great model to follow for further development.  However, in identifying your next leader, there should be some hints of servanthood already.  They should be a servant first, leader second (Mark 10:45; John 13:1-17) They need charisma, but not by the typical definition of an outgoing personality.  Instead, charisma in that they are other-centered (1 Cor. 10:24)  Finally, they need to be content in knowing their identity is found in Christ (Titus 1:1; James 1:1; 2 Pet. 1:1; Jude 1)

 

Teachable

The final quality is that this person has a holy discontent with their current state and want to be taught and developed further.  They learn to listen (Pro. 1:5, 19:20, 25:12; James 1:19).  Learn the learning process of action, reflecting, and changing,  (Pro. 1:7, 9:9; 10:17).  They pursue learning opportunities intentionally (James 5:12; 1 Pet. 2:2).  Leaders are open to not only instruction but also correction (Pro. 18:13; John 8:32, 16:13; 2 Tim. 2:15, 3:16-17).

Four Hindrances to Worshipping in Spirit and in Truth.

When Jesus spoke to the women at Jacobs well in the fourth chapter of the Gospel according to John, He spoke on worship.  Jesus stated that God the Father searches for those that will worship in Spirit and in truth (John 4:23).  The conversation basically boils down to the point that true worship does not depend on the physical location of the person but their spiritual position before God.

So what hinders our worship from being in Spirit and in Truth?  Here are a few issues impacting our personal and gathered worship.

An unrepentant and deceitful heart (Acts 5:4-5 & 8:9-25)

In these two passages, we see the damage caused by unrepentant and dishonest hearts.  Highlighting the necessity of a personal relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ, made into a reality by the transforming presence of the Holy Spirit.  God is not pleased by anything that is not done by faith (Heb. 11:6).  The activation of faith begins with repentance of sin and belief in God.  If there is unconfessed sin in our life, we are deceiving ourselves and hindering our worship.  We need to come clean with God and allow Him to do the full work of Grace in our life.

Lack of prayer (Mt. 21:13)

When Jesus made his way into the temple at Jerusalem, He was disturbed at the marketing chaos and lack of respect for prayer.  He turned over tables and drove the moneychangers out.  Now, we might say this is a location but let us cross-reference with the Scriptural teaching that our bodies are the temple of God as well (1 Cor. 6:19).  We are to be a people of prayer.  Prayer marks our lives because it is more than a ritual of obedience.  It is intentional dialoguing with God.  If we do not have a habit of speaking with God through prayer, how can we also talk, sing, and serve Him in worship?  Prayer is a part of worshipping and can’t be separated from it.

Limited Biblical knowledge (Hos. 4:6 & Col. 1:9)

Despite those with an attitude of intellectual snobbery, Scripture has much to say about the need for Biblical knowledge.  Knowledge of God’s Word and His Ways in the world have a significant impact on our worship.  Worship is more than emotional outburst and your feelings.  A limited Biblical knowledge leads to shallow worship.  C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity noted a conversation that demonstrates this.  The individual he witnessed to said they did not need the Bible because they thought it restricted what they had already experienced with God through personal observations and feelings.  However, Lewis noted that there is a difference between standing on the beach and going out on a ship into the ocean.  You can only experience so much in the shallows.  But, to go out deeper and experience the totality, you need a map, or you will get lost.  The Bible is our map, and it helps us navigate deeper into our relationship with the Lord.  The more we know of God, the more we can honestly know God.

Toxic attitudes (Phil. 4:8-9 & Eph. 4:32)

Attitudes of ungratefulness, dishonesty, irreverence, pride, jealousy, cynicism, and more also hinder our worship.  We are challenged to think about things that are pleasant and good in the sight of God.  We are challenged to have a spirit of forgiveness and preference of others instead of self.  If we harbor this ill-feelings and negative thoughts, without ever giving them to God, we will find our souls drifting farther and farther from God.

Not willing that any should perish.

Last evening in service we had one of our directors of a foreign mission field.  It was great to hear of the work being done, challenged by devotion despite oppositions, and the significant needs across the world.   The greatest need of all is the salvation that only comes through faith in Jesus Christ.  The Lord is currently providing the opportunity if people would only receive him.  In Scripture, we see that is a free choice of individuals to make.

2 Peter 3:3-10,

“Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.”

Christ will set all things right (vs. 3-7, 10)

One of the oldest positions of skeptics is that the return of Christ has taken far to long.  Peter was acquainted with this critique and provided his response.  He noted that the flood took place as part of God’s previous judgment.  With the certainty of the flood, Peter assures his audience that God’s next judgment was ready at any moment.  Christ will return but it will not be expected.  It will arrive like a thief in the night.  However, instead of a flood, the judgment would be an intense fire.

The Lord is not willing that any should perish (vs. 8-9)

In the meantime, Peter provides an answer as to why the coming of the Lord has not happened yet.  He first remarked in verse eight that time does not impact God as it does with creation.  Many take this to be a literal understanding of time with God, but the truth is that whether a day or a thousand years takes place, God is not affected.  He is eternal.  Peter paraphrased Psalm 90:4 which stated, “For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.”  Again, the notion is that the Lord is eternal and exists outside of time.

Peter associates the eternal nature of God with incredible patience when it comes to acting in time.  Especially concerning the return of Jesus Christ.  The reason for God’s patience toward us is that He is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”  God desires all to be saved.  However, we also understand that not all are not saved.  To understand this dilemma, two solutions are considered.  First, the Calvinist redefines the words “any” and “all” to only mean the elect.  Or, the second, is to understand that God has given free will and does not force salvation on any or all people.  Instead, he receives any, and all that will freely choose His Son, Jesus Christ.

God is waiting patiently to send His Son to set all things right because He longs for people to repent and receive His salvation.  If you are not saved, the time you have right now is a gift of mercy because the Lord is patiently waiting.  If you are saved, then be busy about the Father’s business, not wanting any to perish, but working to help all come to repentance.

Push-Through

“Push-Through” is a saying that I grew up hearing.  It was immensely valuable and still is today.   To me, it carries encouragement and challenge.  Let me ask you a question.  How do you approach God? If the Old Testament teaches us anything, it is that there is a right way to approach God.  And, the New Testament echoes it.  Clearly, in the OT this would seem to happen by purity laws and sacrifices, but what we know the New Testament does not focus on these works?  Instead, a connecting theme to both testament, and the through behind the idiom to push-through, is faith.  Faith is the thread, from Abraham to Christ today.  

Let’s look at two individuals who had to approach Christ in faith in their most desperate hour.  In Luke chapter, a man comes to Jesus to heal his sick daughter.  Moved by the humility and hope of this man, Jesus follows him.  However, a woman pushed through the crowd that surrounded these men.  She was there for her own healing.  Read the next passage to see what took place:

And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me. And when the woman saw that she was not hid, she came trembling, and falling down before him, she declared unto him before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately.  And he said unto her, Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.  While he yet spake, there cometh one from the ruler of the synagogue’s house, saying to him, Thy daughter is dead; trouble not the Master.  But when Jesus heard it, he answered him, saying, Fear not: believe only, and she shall be made whole.

Luke 8:46-50

 

Did you notice that both of these people are exhorted to have faith?  Verse 49, “Daughter be of Good comfort, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.  Verse 50, “Fear not: believe only and she shall be made whole.”  Faith from the Greek word πίστις (pistis), and believe from πιστεύω (pistoue) are connected foundational.

The woman with the issue of blood, who was healed, had to push through a crowd to get to Jesus.  It is a picture of what it is like to have faith.  The man, Jairus, found out that his daughter died while he and Jesus were on their way.  No doubt, the advice to not trouble Jesus seemed sound.  But, the Lord said to him to basically push through the grief, shock, and fear.  To keep believing and as we read on, she really was made whole.

 

 

You need to push through.  Keep your faith in Christ. Romans 10:9-14 talks about salvation and makes the statement, “whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.”  Hebrews 11:1 reminds us, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Even during the most challenging situations, we need to keep the faith and push through.  Living as though Scripture is true and God is really real.

Foundational and Functional Values

There are many ways to describe the culture of a church.  But, what about the values of a congregation?  An organization’s values are those underlying assumptions that guide the decision-making and actions taken.  Many times values are put into competition with one another.  As though one category is more desirable than another.  Terms such as maintenance vs. mission or traditional vs. contemporary are used to note these distinctions.

In a pastoral leadership course I took in undergrad, we discussed this dichotomy and the group created two lists of values.  I recently came across it.  The list looked at the values of churches but focused on a healthier set of categories.  The terms used were foundational and functional.   If memory serves me correctly, there were ten students in the class and the professor.  We had students from different denominations and pastoral experience.  This is the list we made during a single class meeting.

Screen Shot 2018-07-08 at 4.09.34 PM

The table itself brings back good memories of that class.  However, it also reminds me of the need for good teachers who help students get past misconceptions and see things at a deeper level.

While there are indeed some issues on both sides of the table, reasonable thinking would see both sides having desirable values.  We certainly need the timeless foundational values that center around doctrine and the Christian faith.  At the same time, the functional or operational values note that while the message does not change, the method does.  Our local churches would benefit from a healthy dose of excellence.  If we continually pursue mediocrity or worse, our ability to lead people to Christ and disciple them is severely impacted.

Are there other foundational or functional values you would add?

Camp Meeting Time! 5 Reasons for going to Camp Meeting.

Last month, I posted a blog that shared the top responses of why people go to youth camp (check it out here and my reasons here).  This month is our annual camp meeting.  I love camp meeting personally. In 2017, I wrote on how to pray and get involved (click here and find the 2018 schedule here).

This time around, I am sharing the 5 top reasons shared for going to camp.  In order of least to most:

Staying at Camp

Why do we go camping in any form, really?  To get away from it all.  Several responses noted that staying in the dorms and campers was a highlight of their year.  There is no better safe space than a sacred space like the Church campgrounds.

The Food

Yeah, this is a typical activity for us.  Where Christians meet, Christians eat.  There is actually some scriptural background to this thought in that Jesus ate his regular meals is the same pattern He shared the Last Supper.  But, I that’s not what I’m writing about.  Instead, the food at Church camp is fantastic.  And, my favorite dish is the ribs that they make.  Yum!

Physical and Emotional Healing

These comments focused on the truth that getting away from discouraging environment allows for spiritual healing.  The atmosphere at camp is transformational and healing.  Not only have I seen broken lives healed, but I have also seen broken bodies healed at camp.

Seeing People Saved

The greatest type of healing is when a person receives salvation.  Camp meetings have always been evangelistically geared.  This reason and the next were mentioned by every person.

The Services

In some form or fashion, the services or at least parts of the worship gatherings were brought up.  The preaching, singing, and everything else in between was central to each respondent.    I have to agree.  There is nothing like camp meeting services.  Believers from different churches and even denominations gathering together to worship Jesus Christ through word, testimony, song, and more.  Nothing can beat it.

Reasons for going to Youth Camp

It’s beginning to look a lot like camp meeting time!  A few years ago I wrote a blog sharing my reasons for going to youth camp as a teen (check it out here).  Now I am going to share the reasons others have given to me in an informal survey.  The following list is a general summary of the responses received.  Check out these eight reasons for going to youth camp.

8. Staying in the Cabins

Oh yes, the cabins.  When I think of the cabins, I think of my years of supervising the camps, and the thing about the cabins was the smells.  Anyways, the responses that talked about getting to stay in the cabins loved the rustic feeling of getting to feel like they were camping.

7. Healing

I love these responses.  Several responses talked about the spiritual and mental healing they received while at camp.  The camp that our church supports, Peace Valley, really has earned its name.

6. Activities

The games, crafts, and Bible lessons really struck many as a favorite reason for going to camp.  This is an area that takes a lot of planning and preparation.  When you hear these types of comments, it is very encouraging.

5. Saved

These responses were either about the person being saved at a youth camp or the joy of seeing others come to faith in Jesus Christ while at camp.  I can attest to this, my fondest memory of youth happened when around 70 youth and adults came to Christ in faith during an evening service at a youth camp in Morehead, Ky.

4. Worship

Several talked about the worship, which includes statements about the services and music/singing.  I know the personal impact it made on me to play in the worship bands.  The responses noted how they love the full groups that come together at camp and how the young people are able to share their gifts in music and voice.

3. Get away

Let’s face it, going to youth camp is a great getaway.  In the responses and other conversations, so many people enjoy a week or two disconnected from the spiritual darkness encountered in the world.

2. Learn

I love that this response was mentioned so frequently.  Teaching and preaching were given as a huge reason for going to youth camp.  Again, I know that camp meeting preaching was very formative in my own experience.

1. Fellowship

The number one reason given for going to youth was fellowship.  I grouped this with those that mentioned a love for the feeling of belonging.  The camaraderie that develops between the youth from the beginning to the end of camp is fantastic to watch.  The relationships formed at youth last and make a significant impact in their walk with Christ.  It is encouraging to our youth to fellowship with other young believers from different churches.  They light up when they know there are others following Jesus just like them.

I hope this article encourages you and the youth are your local church to get ready for camp.  Feel free to share it with your kids and let us know how it has helped you.

 

Apps for Small Churches

The following list of apps is the “go to” helps for Bible study, communications and social media, and overall productivity.  Some of these tools are a daily part of my ministry.   Most of these apps come with options at different prices, and most have free levels.  Which is great for small budgets.  However, if there was one common theme about all of these apps that I absolutely love is they allow me to be mobile.  Whether at my desk with a laptop or in a waiting room on my phone or tablet, I can enjoy not being tethered to just my office.  Taking my Bible study with me wherever I am, along with all the other techier points of ministry, is a wonderful opportunity.

 

Bible Study

Blue Letter Bible

Blue letter bible has an app to accompanying its website.  I primarily use this site for looking up verses and original language studies.  However, they do have commentaries as well.

E-Sword

When I need to use the computer for a broader period of study, e-sword is the way to go.  I have Logos, but it can be very slow at times.  However, e-sword delivers everything needed for taking those deep dives into Scripture.  There are apps for phones and tablets, along with a software program for computers.

Communications and Social Media

Facebook pages

When it comes to communication, social media is essential, and Facebook is still king of the hill here.  The feed is directly linked to our website, and what is updated on the page is automatically updated on the site.  Facebook pages also make it simple to still manage our churches facebook account without being distracted by my own account and getting them confused.  🙂

Twitter

Twitter is another social media platform that we use for the church and ministry.  Primarily this is for engagement with a different demographic group, usually younger.

Instagram

Instagram is quickly becoming the most engaging social media platform for our church.  It’s fun and centers around pictures and short movie clips.  It can also be linked directly to our churches website in a way to make an instant photo gallery.

HootSuite & Buffer

With so many different social media accounts, it can become tedious to post the same thing, or even different things, to each account at a time.  HootSuite and Buffer both do the same thing, scheduling out your posts so that you don’t have to sit in front of the screen all day.  You can schedule way in advance and find even more metrics to evaluate the effectiveness of your posts.  I’ve used both and really can’t say there is much difference except interface.  HootSuite is my preference, but I have nothing against using Buffer again.

MailChimp

Sometimes, using email is the way to go.  For that I use MailChimp.  With this website (and app) you can build your mailing list through sign-ups.  Then you can either use a template or create your own email layout.  When you send the email, you are provided with real-time metrics of engagement.  Also, you add your personal email to the sender, which helps avoid junk mail.

Click2Mail

There are also times when snail mail is most beneficial still.  For mass mailers, Click2Mail is a great option.  I upload my letter or flyer, the address list, and the printing and mailing are done for a small fee.  Its great and the quality has been high.  It saves my ink, paper, stamps, and time.

One Call now

One Call Now is a mass calling line.  Previous to finding this gem, our church had a prayer chain.  It was a pass it on to the next person on the list.  The horror stories of playing the telephone game and the message being lost in transition are real.  However, we can record our message, text-to-voice, mass text, or even email to our entire congregation.  We can also create thousands of sub-group combination.  This tool alone has saved us thousands of hours.

Zoom

I have used Zoom interface for both board meetings, conferences, and classes.  It is amazing.  Being able to see and hear every participant at the same time in a “facetime-like” technology is a great way to save time and miles.  I am able to share my screen and for teaching and planning sessions is a great addition.

Productivity

Google Drive

I use Google drive every day.  Whether it’s creating a document, spreadsheet, or slideshow, every tool I need for ministry is here.  This is the essential tool.  In fact, if I wanted, I could do everything in Google Drive that we also have in Planning Center.  It would be a little more work to get everything transferred over, but it really is this good.  It does not have as much capability as Word, Excel, and Powerpoint, but there is very little that I can’t do with Drive.  Also, it is one of the ways that I have access to all my files wherever I am.

Planning Center

Planning Center is a great website and app that we use for Church Management.  It is a record keeping hub.  There are a few options you need to pay to use, but the basic people management (contact information) is free and secure.  We utilize this with our online giving options at church and is highly recommended.

Switcher Studio

We put the Sunday morning sermons on Facebook Live from the Church.  To do this, we are now using switcher studio instead of directly through facebook live.  There is a free trial period and then becomes a monthly fee.  However, I am able to use up to ten cameras from iPhones, iPads, and Apple Computers.  The app allows seamless switching and overlays to provide a very professional touch.  The app also includes interaction with those on the Facebook feed.

Wix

I am recommending two website hosting and builder options.  I use both of these hosts because of different needs.  Wix is excellent at building a professional website quickly and easily.  They have very affordable pricing, state of the art software, and can be linked to Google Drive and Email to give you a complete online solution.

WordPress

I use WordPress for my personal website.  Mostly, because of the blogging capabilities that are associated with it.  It is another excellent and affordable option for blogs or websites in general.

WordSwag

This final app is a lifesaver.  With so many copyright issues, the easiest way to stay clear this is to create your own media.  Wordswag is an excellent app that allows you to create captioned pictures.  Whether it is inspirational or informational, WordSwag is a quick and easy tool to create professional looking media for your website and social media posts.