Most Read Posts of 2018

We just wanted to send out a message to thank everyone for another wonderful year on our blog.  The following lists show the ten most-read posts this year.  Looking forward to another year of serving and writing!

10. Christian Baptist Camp Meeting 2018

9. Three reflections on the Old Testament Tabernacle.

8. Don’t Quit!

7. Get out of the cave!

6. A pre-history of Christian Baptists.

5. Apps for small Churches.

4. But, be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

3. Camp Meeting Time! 

2. New Research Publication

1. Reasons for going to youth camp.

New Research Publication

Thank you, Lord!  One of the requirements for our Ph.D. program is the development of a portfolio that includes a display of scholarship ability.  This requirement could be satisfied in two ways.  The first was a presentation at an academic peer-reviewed conference.  I completed this option in April 2018, at the McDonough Leadership Conference.  The presentation was on “Community Collaboration and Transformation.”

The second option to complete the academic requirement was to have an article published in a scholarly peer-reviewed journal.  Usually meaning that scholars in a discipline read articles in a blind test where they do not know the author and progressively come to a consensus on what pieces to accept.  To make sure I had more chances of meeting the academic requirement.  I also submitted to a few journals.  I am thankful to say that I had an article published.  The Journal of Biblical Perspectives in Leadership (JBPL) out of Regent University has published my article on “Steward Leadership and Paul.”  Out of 45 total submissions, only 23 articles were accepted.

You can find the journal and my article by using the following link and scrolling through the abstracts.

https://www.regent.edu/acad/global/publications/jbpl/vol8no1/

 

Changes that have affected ministry.

The following is a list of major shifts in everyday life that have changed how a large portion of how ministry takes place.  The first list focuses on past changes from the 1950s to 2000.  The second list focuses on changes since 2000 and the trajectory into the future.

Past Changes – 1950’s to Present

  • Shepard to Rancher – Family church minister shifted to larger congregational care.  Pastors are more specialized in their area of care (lead pastor, teaching pastor, executive pastor, worship pastor, youth pastor, etc.).
  • Inclusion – More open and friendly to other faiths/denominations.
  • Community Perception of Pastors – Less respect and use by the community.
  • Communication – Technology has increased ability but apparently disconnected us more.
  • Priority of church vs. family – Church is no longer a priority. 
  • Authenticity – Transparency has increased and generations clash over how much to share.
  • Worship style – In regards to ministry, shorter preaching, more worship arts focus.  
  • Dress – Formal clothing shifted to more casual.
  • Technology – More than just communication, but also travel, audio systems, a/c, and so on.
  • Women in ministry – Women are taking more leadership roles and entering the ministry.
  • Preaching/teaching – Style is more conversational and teaching.  Regularity in times preaching. Not as much “shouting” preaching.
  • More fellowship opportunities – Less time spent together outside of a church.  

 

Future Changes – Present to Future

  • Diversity/Globalization – People are scattered.  Grow diverse or shrink.
  • Age – Baby boomers are moving to old age.
  • Relevant – How much engagement with the culture and changing along with it?
  • Increasing inter-faith – Common ground. Inter-denominationally already accepted.
  • Technology – Continually changing and driving church practice.
  • Family  Dynamics – mixed families focus.
  • Authentic Worship – Experiential (attractional) vs. truth
  • Online Community – Physical church or online church.
  • Diversity – Women and greater ethnicity in leadership.
  • Formal education less valued – Where can I get the training for less debt?
  • No single source of information – Many other opportunities for information and spiritual formation outside of the church.
  • Reverse formation – Younger generations teaching older generations.  
  • Teamwork vs. solo ministry – Greater use of staff in the church.

Leaving a Legacy

A few years ago, I was introduced to a concept called legacy leadership.  This model of leadership is one of many attempts to understand the Biblical perspective on leadership.  What’s funny is there are many people who would try to appear spiritual and say something to the effect, “But the Bible says never uses the word leadership.”  Which is true, but there are many other words that we use to explains concepts in the Bible that still have a strong and clear presence in Scripture (e.g., Trinity).  There is no culture or individual who has not been touched by the principles contained in the theories of leadership.  In this post, I want to introduce you to legacy leadership and then explore how to leave a legacy in your congregation.

Legacy Leadership

Legacy leadership was introduced by researchers Whittington, Pitts, Kageler, and Goodwin (2005) as an exploration of Paul’s approach to leading.  The theory is based on 1 Thessalonians 1:2-2:12.

We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father; Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God. For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake. And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost.So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia. For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing. For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; 10 And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.

For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain: But even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention. For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile: But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts. For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness; God is witness: Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children: So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us. For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God. 10 Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe: 11 As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, 12 That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.

The idea of legacy leadership is that we are perpetuating ourselves through others, but rather the content of our message.  In Paul’s case, this was the method he used to spread the Gospel.  First Thessalonians 1:4b-8 is key to understanding his approach.  He would go into a place where the Gospel was not found and begin to build.  After the Chuch was established in an area, he would ordain elders to lead.  He would leave but would periodically check on the congregations.  As in the case of the Thessalonians, he would find the church not only grew in itself but would spread the Gospel to other areas.  Paul did not have to go to those areas to plant churches because the Gospel was already present.  This was Paul’s legacy.  He was to be a leader worthy of imitation, who would lead others, and in turn, they would lead others.  Paul put it like this in 2 Timothy, 2:2

“And the things that thou has heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.”

The researchers then put together the qualities of legacy leadership.

  1. Worthy of imitation.
  2. Boldness amid opposition.
  3. Pure motive.
  4. Influence without asserting authority.
  5. Affectionate and emotional.
  6. Vulnerable and transparent.
  7. Authentic and sincere.
  8. Active, not passive.
  9. Follower-centered, not self-centered.
  10. Changed lives: The real measure of leader effectiveness (Whittington, 2005, p. 754).

Legacy in the Church

So, how can we promote a legacy culture in congregations?  Especially one that is not centered on an individual person but on the Gospel?  I want to offer three examples from a pastor’s perspective.

A life worth living shared through testimonies.

First, as a pastor, I know and understand the importance of living a life worthy of imitation.  Again, some people trying to act spiritual say that we don’t follow others.  However, Paul, as we read, shared many times to follow Him.  Why?  Because he was following Christ and wanted us all to go to the same place He was going.  We ought to act in a way at all times as an example to believers and unbelievers (1 Tim. 4:12-16).

Still, one of the best ways I see this achieved by everyone in the church is through testimonies.  The testimony of believers shared through living life faithfully and through vocal testimony of God’s grace and goodness.  I can remember many dear saints testimonies, and they make an impact on me daily.  The same is true for others as what we celebrate proliferates.

Intentional discipleship of the next generation and new converts.

We really need to emphasize the importance of discipleship in our congregations.  However, we shouldn’t put all our energy into one method.  Most churches have a Sunday School program, and that’s great. Yet, more can be added.  Connecting the church to formal Bible and ministry classes are essential as well.

Yet, that will all fail if there is no intentional thought given to modeling and being a daily example in front of the next generation of believers and new converts.  It is important that we invite them into our daily lives, homes, and activities.  So many people have a misconception about what a Christian does every day.  The disciples basically lived with Jesus for three and a half years.  They ate what He ate and did so much together.  And, we can say that Jesus never did anything with wasted breath.  Every moment with Jesus was an intentional building block of their discipleship.

Investment in the lives of those in our seats.

This final area is significant to me.  Many times we bring others into our congregations to fill needs.  This often happens in smaller churches because they may not have the talent.  However, I’m not for stealing sheep.  Instead, I think it is more important to invest in the people in your current congregation and equip them to serve.

I want to give an example of how this has happened in our congregation.  When I first started pastoring, we wanted more musicians.  We had a piano player, and I could play guitar, bass, and drums (but not at the same time, ha!).  So, we could have asked for others to come and help, but we didn’t.  Instead, I offered to give free lessons to anyone who wanted to learn the guitar.  Three people in the congregation took up the offer.  Within just a few months, they were learning and taking part during worship service. Eventually, this ability developed in the church spread to them learning the other instruments as well.

What can you take from this example?  Let us say you will need a new piano player in a few years or as soon as possible.  You could bring someone else in from another congregation.  But, entertain two other possibilities that I think is better.  One, if you have a piano player and want to ensure a legacy, have them teach another person in the congregation.  Or, take someone that is willing to learn and pay for their lessons.  I believe these last two approaches will create a longer lasting legacy and a true spirit of discipleship in your congregation.

What are some other ways you have seen a legacy worthy of imitation passed on to others?

References

Whittington, J. L., Pitts. T. M., Kageler, W. V., & Goodwin, V. L. (2005) Legacy leadership: the leadership wisdom of the Apostle Paul.  The Leadership Quarterly. 16. doi:10.1016/j.leaqua.2005.07.006

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).

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.

 

Cross-Organizational Teamwork

I recently gave a presentation on the impact individuals have on cross-organizational teamwork.  The study was based on a group I work with that has members comprised of different community churches and other local organizations.  The study was based on research from Roloff, Wolley, & Edmonson’s (2011) research on team learning (pp. 249-271).  Three areas were addressed: learning curve, task mastery, and group processes.  The step forward is that the original research focused on teams made up of individuals in a single organization.  The study I conducted focused on cross-organizational teamwork.

I believe this is an excellent study for those in Church leadership to apply to their local church work.  It is immediately applicable to those working together in a local church and also the work that is done in unity with other local churches, with denominational efforts, and other groups.  What follows is a summary of each stream of team learning.

The first stream, learning curves, is currently focused on the speed of initial task mastery (Roloff et al., 2011, p. 254). However, the learning curve is impacted by the change in either the task or team membership (Roloff et al., 2011, p. 255).  As the task is modified or a new function is given by the demands of the organization, the team may need to coordinate its members to new roles, seek new members, or training. When groups experience a high volume or member turnover, individuals are not able to move through the early learning curve together, diminishing efficiency.

In the second stream, task mastery is focused on “knowing who knows what” (Roloff et al., 2011, p. 257). In task mastery, the team can efficiently accomplish tasks because members are coordinated in a way to employ their strengths. However, this requires a high level of communication. Steiner (1998) noted the difficulty communication barriers and dilemmas cause to a learning organization (p. 6). It is necessary for an open and safe environment for dialogue in the team and across the organization (Schein, 2010, pp. 305-307).

The last stream in team learning is the group process.Communication, knowledge management, and interpersonal knowledge among the team members can aid or restrain team learning (Roloff et al., 2011, p. 258). Without the presence of psychological safety, team members will disengage from the group and impede total organizational learning (Roloff et al., 2011, pp. 259-260). The research seems to imply promoting psychological safety among teams and the entire organization, along with other team strengthen exercises will help encourage team learning.

References

Roloff, K. S., Woolley, A. W., & Edmonson, A. C. (2011). The contribution of teams to organizational learning. In M. Easterby-Smith & M. A. Lyles (Eds.), Handbook of Organizational Learning and Knowledge Management (pp. 249-271). UK: John Wiley and Sons

Schein, E. H. (2010). Organizational culture and leadership (4th ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Steiner, L. (1998). Organizational dilemmas as barriers to learning. The Learning Organization, 5(4). doi:10.1108/09696479810228577