Month: September 2009

Monday Confessions from a Pastor

Dear God,

It’s  the Monday after Easter Sunday, but I am sure you’re already aware of that fact.  I hope you were pleased with what happened at church yesterday. By the way, thanks for being there. Church is always better when you attend. I hope you felt honored and I did not hinder people from meeting you personally.  I realize I am already rambling here, but you know how tanked I feel on Sunday afternoons and on most Mondays.  Why can’t I be one of those pastors who are hyped after a service instead of one who feels like a can of Spam?

It was great to see 102 people baptized last night and hundreds more praying to follow you during the morning gatherings. I hope you felt honored and trust that the spotlight was on you more than those of us on the stage.

Lord, help me not to notice the empty seats more than I see the faces of people sitting in the occupied chairs. I do want to pray for new people to attend New Life and fill the empty seats, but I also want to be a good shepherd to those who are there.

Lord, help me to not be so aggravated when people give me immediate criticism about the Sunday talk or wait for me off the stage to point out one minor detail I got wrong. They should wait a day or so to give me their opinion but they don’t and probably never will. Forgive them Lord, because they have no idea how vulnerable and tired I feel right after a service. They have never been on a stage in front of people talking about life and death issues. When you give them that chance, I am sure they will then be more considerate about when to give their feedback.

Lord, help me not feel like every Sunday has to be “the best Sunday ever, in all of church history.” Not every talk has to be epic and not every worship service has to be “off the chain.” Remind all of my pastor friends on Twitter not to hype every weekend like it is the Super Bowl of all church weekends, every single week.  You know that every Sunday service is not that great, because you attend their churches, too.  Help us to build disciples with our weekend gatherings and not to create consumers who expect a new and improved product every weekend.

Lord, thanks again for allowing me to pastor New Life.  Keep me focused on the important things and help me to ignore my own carnality. Thanks for the time. I hope to talk to you again real soon.

Love,

Brady

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When should we say “yes”?

How do you decide to do something or not? Should I go to a meeting? Should I go on a trip? Should I serve on a board?  Is your decision based on how you feel at the moment, or is there a reason for your answer? I find most people do not know how to say “no” to unnecessary things because they have not discovered what to say “yes” to.  How should we spend our time, since time is really valuable and there is only 24 hours in one day?

  1.       Discover your assignment

What is your purpose? What has God uniquely called you to accomplish right now in your life? Most of us bog down right here. Before we can plan our day we must discover the plan for our day.  My assignment is to love Pam, be a dad to Abram and Callie and to lead New Life Church. These three are priorities and get the first and the best of my time. I am writing a book and I am praying about serving on the board for a national ministry, but neither can interfere with my primary assignments.

 2.       Say “yes” to your assignment

When our assignment is clear, our schedule should reflect our priorities. If marriage and children are primary, they will get a lot of our time.  Then I say “yes” to anything that is strategic at work. For me, I must have time to study and pray because I speak and teach every week. That time is set aside in the mornings. In the afternoons, I have meetings with pastors, leaders and elders.  I also have time set aside during the week to meet with members of New Life and I have time set aside to meet with other pastors and leaders in the city.  Also, I have time set aside to rest and enjoy the Sabbath.  If we do not prioritize our schedule, the strategic things that we should be doing will be choked by meetings that are not necessary in the first place.

 3.       Say “no” to distractions

I say “no” to some meetings for one of these three reasons:

a.       If they are not strategic or do not build key relationships.  I love all the people at New Life, but most of my time is spent with established leaders or emerging leaders.

b.      If guilt is a motivator. If I am saying “yes” to a meeting because I will feel guilty for not attending, I say “no” and get over the false guilt later.

c.       If fear of man is a motivator. People expect me to attend everything and I simply cannot, even if it means that people will be upset or disappointed.

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Why should I participate in your gatherings?

 

Cynics of the church, both young and old, want to know why they should come to our meetings and why they should give their money to the church. Both are valid questions and we must be able to answer them. If we were truthful, most of us attend church and give our money because of tradition, ritual or to ease our guilt or shame.  These are lousy reasons for sure so I think it is time to re-evaluate our answers.

 

Why should I come to your meetings?

Church in its purest form is a gathering of Christ followers where right doctrine is taught and the sacraments are rightly administered.  The Greek word for church is ekklesia – which means “a meeting of the called out ones.”  Jesus is the head of this meeting and Jesus should be the main focus. There should be recognized leaders at the meeting who are responsible for the welfare of the people and who are responsible for what is taught and how the sacraments are administered. These meetings are meant to strengthen the people with sound teaching, worship God through the sacraments and for each of us to come alongside each other for encouragement.  While the church has become corrupt at times and leaders have misbehaved, church is still important to Jesus.  Church is His bride and only those who love the bride will be allowed to participate in her healing and her redemption. Cynics need not apply.

I have been hurt by church, but I have also been strengthened and matured by church.  So, I choose to love the bride and help the bride get healthy instead of walking away from her in her time of greatest need. If we love Jesus, we must love the church because He still does.  We cannot say “yes” to Jesus and “no” to church. The two are forever connected and to forsake one is to forsake the other.

 

Why should I give my money to the church?

The church in America has done a great deal to tarnish the pure idea of church.  We have reduced church to steeples and buildings while ignoring the urgent needs of our cities. Pastors have used church to fund their lavish lifestyles and to sell their products instead of using the resources to meet the needs of people. Church was supposed to be a fellowship. The Greek word for fellowship is koinonia which is a covenantal word that means everyone’s resources are available to meet any need among the people. If our neighbor has a need we can meet, we meet the need. If someone is without a home, they can stay in ours. If someone does not have food, we share our food. If someone needs clothes, we give them some of ours. Simply put, we believe we are blessed by God to be a blessing to others.  When church is really working well, there are no needs among the people and the needs of the city are being met with the surplus.

My prayer is that cynics of the church or those who have been hurt by the church would come to New Life and discover a tribe of people who are living in ekklesia and koinonia.  Let’s be a church where our love for one another is proof to the world we are His disciples.  I am falling in love with the bride again and I hope you are as well.

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Why should churches plant churches?

Church planting is an ancient idea that needs to be rediscovered by the modern church. Imagine if the first church in Jerusalem had decided one church was enough for the entire world.  What if the early church had refused to obey the Holy Spirit and had held onto to its best leaders instead of sending them out to build local gatherings throughout Asia, India and Europe?

Local churches must rediscover the mission and mandate of church planting. This is a critical hour in world history and we must be aggressive in taking the message of Jesus to every corner of the earth. What happens to a local church that embraces church planting as a core ministry?

 

1.       Church planting builds the Kingdom not an empire

Most leaders make it difficult for young leaders to leave their team to plant churches of their own. If the church is like a family, then the family should celebrate leaders who are ready to leave the church family to start a family of their own.  For sure, there is a process that leaders and potential church planters should follow for the transition to be blessed. Young leaders should not leave prematurely, without the covering of their local church and the local church should allow young leaders to dream openly about church planting without being made to feel disloyal for having the thought.  Leaders should have the faith that God will send them new leaders if they will not hold on tightly to the ones they have. This is when the church becomes a river and stops being a reservoir.  To get serious about church planting, we must be serious about building His Kingdom and repent for only building our personal empire.

 

2.       Leaders get to lead

Church planting is a great adventure and a huge challenge. It requires an enormous amount of prayer, wisdom and coaching. Even then, success is not guaranteed.  But that is the point. It is mysterious, risky and dangerous which is exactly what leaders crave.  On a recent visit to a New Life church plant in Denver, I watched a group of young leaders leading with great passion and realized that planting a church was the next step in their development as Christ followers. Sure, they could have learned some of the same lessons if they had stayed at New Life, but it would not have been nearly as difficult and not nearly as exciting for them. They are walking the tight wire without a net. They are getting to lead their own church and I am proud they were willing to take the risk.

 

3.       New ideas surface

Sometimes a church plant is the best soil for new ideas to emerge. Church planters get to start from scratch and examine every tradition and idea with a new set of lenses.  Church planters get to take the best ideas from their sending church, but also get to experiment with new paradigms. The ancient message of the Gospel can then be communicated with the fresh ideas of today and we are all the better for it. Some of the best ideas for church in the past 20 years have emerged from young pioneer church planters who had the courage to ask, “Is this really the best way to do church?” We all benefit in the end.

I am committed to planting as many churches as God allows New Life to plant. I want to send out our best leaders to plant churches around the world. It will be sad to see such great leaders leave our church, but all weddings have a bit of sadness. But weddings also mean the start of new families and future grandchildren.  I believe that is the point of the Great Commission – to make disciples.

I have a challenge for New Lifers – let’s be a church that builds His Kingdom, sends leaders to lead so the best new ideas can surface. Let’s celebrate the weddings that are coming and let’s give all we have to plant churches around the world.

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Why don’t they trust me?

This is the lament of many leaders after they realize that goals, objectives and required results were not met. Somewhere in the leadership process, trust was broken, commitment waned and nothing was accomplished. This is the pattern at many churches and certainly in many businesses.  What happened that trust was broken between the leader and the team?

 

Many of you are listing things like integrity, expertise or experience. It is true that if any of those things are missing, the team will stop trusting a leader. Let me add one more to the list. Have you ever considered that people may have lost trust in us as leaders because we are completely unpredictable? Can they depend on us as leaders to respond in a consistently healthy way to stress, challenges or even success? Do we have the emotional maturity as leaders to harness our irrational behavior during times of testing? If we don’t, our teams will stop trusting us.

 

I am not advocating the mundane or the boring.  I believe there should be room for spontaneous thoughts and ideas. I also believe we should be able to quickly respond to opportunities before they pass. While those things are fine, compulsive, unpredictable behavior is not cute and can ultimately sabotage your influence with other people. People need leaders with mature emotions or what some experts are calling emotional intelligence, which the ability to connect and tame your impulsive feelings with the rational side of your brain.

 

When people find a leader who is predictable, they feel safe. It is in this safe environment of predictability that the healthiest conflict happens and the best ideas surface. Predictable means a leader “says what he means and means what he says.” There is no code of double speak. While people around us may not agree with what we say, they will trust that we were genuine and sincere in what we said. They know that debate and conflict will not cause one reaction from us one day and another tomorrow.

 

How predictable are you as a leader? Do you typically respond in a healthy way to stress or success? If so, you are on your way to earning the trust of your team and great ideas and great success will soon follow.

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