According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Three Good Questions Every Church Leader Should Ask

One Question Every Church Leader Should Ask

by Jim Martin on February 15, 2012

What is it like to be someone else in your church?

I’m convinced that some people never wonder. These are the people who sometimes make awkward statements to others. These are the people who sometimes sound smug as they talk about people who have various problems. They seem to have no appreciation for how tough life has become for some people.

My friend sat in an assembly one Sunday morning. The minister began his sermon by referring to his “extraordinarily difficult week.” Then he explained that he had a fender-bender in a car last week. He went on to talk about trials and tribulations that people face.

Meanwhile, my friend listened, amazed that he would talk about a fender-bender using language like “trial and tribulation.” After all, for the last several months, my friend had spent his days sitting beside his wife’s hospital bed while she was dying of cancer. That morning, he left her bedside to be a part of this assembly. My friend decided this preacher really had no idea what it was like to sit beside the bed of a loved one and watch her die.

John Killinger, in one of his books, suggested that ministers need to realize that people in churches find themselves in a variety of circumstances on any given Sunday morning. He suggested an exercise in which a minister reflects on some of these situations. (Actually, this exercise would probably be useful for anyone.

What would it be like to:

  • Have just experienced divorce?
  • Have an adult child in jail?

  • Be living on government assistance?

  • Be a new parent for the first time?

  • Have just learned you have cancer?

  • Know you are having major surgery tomorrow?

  • Be told by your wife, “I’m moving out. I’ve found someone else I love.”

  • Be told by your employer, “We won’t be needing you anymore.”

  • Live alone for many years?

  • Live in an abusive home?

  • Be single?

  • Want children and yet be unable to have children?

  • Face a move to a new community in a state where you’ve never been?

  • Experience severe depression?

  • Realize you are in serious trouble financially?

  • Grieve over your mother’s death?

  • Feel old and useless?

  • Care for aged parents while you try to be attentive to your children and grandchildren?

What thoughts, feelings, experiences, names, situations, places, etc. come to mind? There are times when I ask myself as I prepare to teach or preach, “How would a person in one of these situations hear this message?”

Far too often, we see life only from our point of view.

Perhaps there are some people whom I will never totally be able to identify with. However, I can try. I can at least ask the questions. I can consider what it might be like to be another.


What can church leaders do that might help them better understand the experiences of the people they interact with?

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Leadership development that substitutes dazzling events for developmental equipping is not a short cut — it is short sighted. We make a series of terrible tradeoffs. We exchange transformation for information, mentoring for meetings, and mobilization for communication.

What is your method for developing leaders and empowering teams? Here is a comparison.
  •  Event-driven vs. Development-focused
  • Satisfied with Inspiration vs. Committed to Transformation
  • Moves people with Emotion vs. Moves People into the Mission
  • People Watch Performers vs. People Become Performers
  • Relies on a Program vs. Begins with a Relationship
 Your people will FEEL great when you focus on events; your people will BE great when you focus on development.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


The Cycles of Pastoral Ministry

I made a presentation at a Fuller DMIN alumni event in suburban Chicago last week. I built the presentation around some work done by my Evangelical Covenant Church friend and colleague Dan Pietryzyk published in Faith & Leadership. It was well received and seemed to resonate with most in the room. See if this rings true for you.

Ministry is never static. With Paul in Philippians 3 we “press on.” Ministry is always fluid and challenging. We ask four questions in our ministry journey.

First, we ask, Lord, how might I serve? We sense the call to ministry on our lives. We can’t imagine doing anything else. We are excited about ministry. And sometimes we get paid, and feel guilty for being paid for something we love to do.

Second, after just a few years in ministry we ask, What am I doing? The idealism of ministry fades. Ministry becomes harder. People are hard. The word is hard. We realize that we don’t know as much as we thought we did. Many drop out of ministry at around years 5-8. It is not easy.

Third, a bit later in ministry we ask, Do I want to do this for the rest of my life? Mid-career we get tired. The work is rewarding, but exhausting. The rewards don’t always outweigh the costs personally and to one’s family. So we ask the hard question around years 13-15: Do I want to keep doing this?

This is another period of walking away from ministry. I am convinced that lifelong learning is so critical at years 5-8 and years 13-15. We need good supportive people around us, a place to vent and to pray. We need to engage our minds with new thinking. We need to develop new skills. We need encouragement to refresh our own walk with the Lord. This is why I am such a strong advocate for Doctor of Ministry programs (especially Fuller’s!), and other programs and conferences Fuller and others develop to keep us fresh.

Those who make it through enter into a wonderful season of ministry. They are wiser. They are able to discern better between what is important and what is not. They know the difference between fads and gimmicks and paradigms that are generative and transforming. These can be the very best years of ministry characterized by personal humility and professional will (Jim Collins).

Fourth, later in ministry–if we hang in–we ask, How do I finish well? With greater degrees of wisdom and maturity, we are able to minister to others and mentor. We pour into the lives of others, watching them succeed and flourish, helping them to avoid some of the mistakes we made along the way. This is a period of significant impact.

What stage are you at? What question are you asking? At each stage, we all need: to gather with community of support, a commitment to lifelong learning, and a determination to cultivate our walk with the Lord.

So we press on!

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