Saturday, April 17, 2010

Seven Sure Fire Ways To Blow Up A Church

Chuck Lawless:

>Begin my ministry as a teacher and refuse to be a learner.
>Assume that the “honeymoon period”... is the time to make as many changes as possible.
>Expect to fix everything overnight.
>Teach a theological system more than the Bible.
>Study always and seldom “hang out” with people.
>Blame undiscipled members for acting like believers who have never been discipled.
>Pray reactively rather than proactively.

Read the whole thing for an explanation of each.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Is It Time You Pulled a Piper?

John Piper recently made an announcement that has produced more than a little buzz. His suspension of personal ministry for an extended sabbatical is framed by Christianity Today's "Building Church Leaders Newsletter" as a question that all ministers should ask themselves.

If the answer is affirmative, then great caution is advised in how to proceed. The article addresses the reality that most congregations are simply unfamiliar with the topic.
Hence, practical wisdom should be demonstrated by addressing three levels of attitude that must be changed before making such an announcement.

I have personally seen this counsel violated and watched as confusion leavened the flock and credibility forefeited. As is always the case, Wisdom really is "justified by her children".

[RGH ]

What about you? Is it time you "pulled a Piper?" To get a sabbatical, I needed to change attitudes on three levels.

The Board
These people weren't for or against sabbaticals. They didn't have an opinion. No pastor before had ever asked for one, nor had they ever thought to offer.
Changing their attitudes was more a matter of educating than convincing. Aided by a pamphlet supplied by my district, I simply informed my board about the nature of sabbaticals.
The pamphlet outlined the unique nature of a pastor's workload (six-day workweeks, no free weekends, weeknights away from family, few free holidays, etc.) and possible effects—such as burnout and stress on the pastor's family.

The pamphlet also listed the benefits: a grateful pastor with a renewed vision, a more grateful pastor's wife, happier pastor's children, a pastor with enhanced training, and a deepened awareness of the love of the congregation for the pastor.

I didn't have to do any selling. I just let them read it and then asked if they would approve two months in the coming year. Aside from concern over details of pulpit supply, there were no objections. My request was passed unanimously.

Two lessons I learned: (1) Get reinforcement from an outside source (such as the pamphlet, or a similar document from your denomination), and (2) make sure you give enough advance notice.

The Congregation

If the elder board knew little about sabbaticals, the congregation knew even less. I learned the hard way that redundancy in communication is as important as back-up systems on an airliner.

After letting the congregation know about the dates of my sabbatical, I paid the matter little attention. That was a mistake. Several months before I was to leave, a congregation member came to an elders' meeting.

"I work two jobs to support my family," he said, "and no one gives me two months paid leave. Pastor Archetype never took a sabbatical. Why should Pastor Jay? I question his work ethic."

I'd have made it easier for myself if I'd communicated better to everyone.

My suggestion: distribute the same material to the congregation that you give to your board. Write about it in your church newsletter. Use informal opportunities to get the message across. Then accept the fact that you'll never have every one's approval.


Boards and congregations can be won over. If they love their shepherd, they'll probably come to support the concept. The most difficult person to convince may be you.

When a fellow pastor heard about my sabbatical, he said, "Either you are really self-confident or just a fool to leave your congregation for two months." He saw the sabbatical as a risk that they might prefer me gone.

As a safeguard for the congregation and me, we built a provision into our sabbatical policy. I agreed not to use the time to look for another church, and they would not look for another pastor. We also agreed to a minimum of two years ministry after my return.

Another fear might be that the church will falter in your absence. We had just started a second service shortly before my original sabbatical dates. In order to insure some equilibrium, I postponed my trip for two months.

When I left it was with the conviction that God would take care of the church in my absence. He not only kept them well. The attendance figures were up when I returned. He proved to me that I'm not as important as I might think.

A sabbatical may seem too good to be true. As pastors, we're used to struggles and weariness. Yet, with a slight change of attitude on these three levels, you can get that needed rest. You, your family, and maybe even the church will appreciate it."

Thursday, April 8, 2010

A Wrong Concept Of Forgiveness!

Dr. Dan Juster is considered to be one of the premier Messianic Theologians of our day. Peacemakers ministry has even posted several chapters from his book"Due Process." I am posting excepts from the introduction and his chapter on forgiveness. Like Peter of old, I am not ashamed to remind us all of what we have been taught. Princple is superior to pragmatism and Truth must rule supreme in every relationship.

"With regards to the American Church...the words of the prophet certainly hold true: "My people do not understand My ways" (Ps. 95:10; Heb. 3:10). Today, most people who claim to be followers of Jesus do not understand God's standards of righteousness and justice. It is not that we are striving toward that standard and falling short. Rather, we do not even know what our Father expects of us. Our shallow, media Christianity has taught aspects of the basic gospel, but most Christians and Messianic Jews are creatures of shallowness. They have not delved into the Scriptures to understand the ways of God. Popular conceptions of God's ways are at war with the teachings of the Bible. Although the believing community is called to be a city on a hill, a light shining in darkness and the salt of the earth, we are instead a laughingstock of fallen clergy and people full of slander, with children in rebellion...."

"A wrong understanding of forgiveness has been major cause of the destruction of justice in the Body the Messiah. Forgiveness basically means to release another from further indebtedness. When a person says, "I was wrong, will you forgive me?" the example of Jesus requires us to forgive. This forgiveness may require that restitution be made by the offending party to prove real repentance (the fruits of repentance). To say "I'm sorry" can be a cheap way for a person to continue in sin and be indulged by others. The manipulator will take full advantage of that. On the other hand, if the person is truly repentant and the issue is not one of a sin pattern, the offended party may release him from restitution. In either case, the motive of the offended party should be love."

"Some will be shocked to read this. It goes against what has recently become popular Christian teaching. The old humanistic indulgence returns under the guise of "You must forgive me." Some unbelievers, like con artists, have claimed to be believers in order to literally "rip off" the saints, secure in the fact that the saints must forgive and take no action. Is that really so? The saints can disfellowship the rogue and take him to court so that society is protected."

"Forgiveness does not mean that we give up our quest for a justice motivated by love and for the good of all."