Jesus is a lot of things to a lot of people.
Most folks are so biblically ignorant and the culture (and many a church) is so consumer centered that Jesus is made out to be whatever anyone wants him to be.
But there are 4 things that Jesus most definitely is not! (Well, there are actually quite a few more, but I’m gonna milk this meme for a couple more posts!)
1. Jesus is not your friend
Everybody wants to be Jesus’ friend. There’s even a maudlin hymn about it!
But guess what? Very few make the cut because there’s a price to pay if you want to be in Jesus’ circle of friends
“You are my friends if you do what I command you (John 15:4).”
God didn’t count Abraham as a friend just because he believed. It wasn’t until he obeyed that he entered that fairly small, very tight circle.
“Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar?…. Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness – and he was called a friend of God (James 2:21–23).”
So it’s likely that Jesus isn’t your friend. It’s possible, but only if you’ve put every meaningful human relationship, yielded up every personal goal and interest, and given up the right to a life of self-directed comfort.
If you haven’t, then you aren’t Jesus’ friend.
And he’s not yours.
2. Jesus is not your gravy train
Turnaround pastors can learn a lot about leadership from a guy who designs gadgets for a living.
The designer’s relentless focus on form, function and beauty should be part and parcel of every pastor’s philsophy of ministry. These “best practices” are hallmarks of the successful Turnaround pastor.
Case in point: Jony Ive, Senior Vice President of Design at Apple, recently outlined his three key tips for designers during a talk at London’s Design Museum. These three practices – although crafted in product design and development language – are spot on for Turnaround pastors intent on bringing new life to plateaued and declining churches.
Jony Ive’s 3 Leadership Lessons
Do you know the 4 words a pastor should never say during the worship service?
“Stand and greet somebody.”
These four words are the worst part about being a church visitor. They make me shrink down into my seat even though I’m a ministry professional who visits many churches every year.
Frankly, I’m surprised that church growth researchers and highly successful pastors are surprised to learn just how much visitors hate those four words! I guess they’ve forgotten to look at this painful encounter from a church guest’s point of view
Think about it for moment. What’s the last thing you want to hear from a sales clerk when you enter a retail store?
“Can I help you with something?”
Answering that question immediately commits me to a temporary relationship I’d rather not engage: having a sales clerk follow me like a hawk over a field mouse while I browse the store.
I’m a guy – I don’t shop, I buy! I head straight for the aisle that has what I want, I grab whatever and make a beeline for the cashier. If I’m in the mood to browse, look for gift ideas or kill time while the p-wife gets her mani pedi I don’t want to be bothered. I want to come and go through the merch at my own pace.
And I don’t want to be bothered to answer a question.
It’s just creepy being followed around by a clerk when you know what you want or when you don’t!
So, doesn’t it just make sense that the ritual stand-and-greet is dreadful to church visitors?
What purpose does stand-and-greet serve?
The Turnaround pastor’s most effective professional development tool.
More important than biblical languages. More important that seminary education. More important than professional certification.
The only “tool” that surpasses the value of other people is the call to ministry and the anointing of the Holy Spirit.
Consider the following three scenarios.
Scenario 1 – developing assertive leadership
A young Asian seminary student is working as a Youth intern at a West coast megachurch. In his six month evaluation he receives feedback that he’s not assertive enough when dealing with Jr. High kids on field trips. Over lunch he discusses this with his peers in the Youth Department. He evaluates their input and calculates the degree to which his cultural background contributes to the dilemma. He enlists the help of his peers who guide him in developing an effective strategy to be more assertive with the kids.
Scenario 2 – improving homiletics
The senior pastor of a mid-sized Midwestern church receives criticism of his preaching during an annual review. He’s told that since he started his doctoral studies his preaching has become dry, pedantic and disconnected from “where the people really live.” He consults with a two trusted Board members who help him develop preaching guidelines and agree to provide weekly input into the Sunday sermons.
Scenario 3 – enhancing staff relationships
Fair warning: if you’re intrigued by the idea that Turnaround pastors can be identified by a few unique personality components, you’ll want to reference our previous post on this subject. If not, it’s probably best to save yourself from this House of Pain!
For our study of the unique characteristics of Turnaround pastors we settled on the Birkman Method as our measurement tool of choice. We find it ideally suited to our research objective: to identify the behaviors, needs and social skills that distinguish Turnaround pastors from Status Quo pastors.
The Birkman Method is a positive psychology assessment tool that identifies our research subjects’ needs and interests, how they relate to their congregants, and indicates the environment that gives each Turnaround pastor the greatest satisfaction.
On top of that, the Birkman shows how our test subjects experience stress, identifies the causes of friction between them and their staffs, governing boards and church members.
With this kind of information, all pastors can learn how to be more effective in ministry, how to develop stronger staff and board relationships, and how to lead a congregation into significant qualitative and quantitative growth. Used wisely, this information also helps church boards increase retention in the pastoral staff, with positive results for all concerned.
In our research we have focused on two personality domains in our test subjects, both Turnaround pastors and Status Quo pastors: usual behaviors and needs.
Unsuccessful people focus their thinking on survival, average people focus their thinking on maintenance, and successful people focus their thinking on progress.
There’s never enough, is there?
Pick a commodity you need to do your job (or shall we sugar coat it as “perform your ministry”?). No matter what it is – other than God’s grace, the Word’s sufficiency or the Spirit’s power – chances are that you’d agree that there’s not enough.
That’s certainly true of our personal resources.
- Pastors never have enough time to do all that needs doing.
- Pastors never have enough talent to do all things well.
- Who would say they’re always driven by vision and passion?
- All of us have longed for more energy and endurance!
- None of us has enough foresight to see very far ahead.
- We never have enough wisdom to fully understand what’s happening now.
It’s also true of ministry resources.
- It seems like we never have enough volunteers.
- Who among us has an adequate pool of talented leaders?
- Congregations always want for passion for the mission!
- Have you ever said, “We’ve got more than we need in the budget”?
And I’d add one last item we often overlook: sometimes we don’t have sufficient reason for accepting a task, fulfilling a request or submitting to a demand.
It’s never been any different
“Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s pungent observation of the rich can be said of Turnaround pastors.
They are different from their ministry colleagues.
But the differences are deeper, more fundamental than the results of their ministry.
These differences don’t lie in what Turnaround pastors do to bring renewed vigor, refreshed vision and bracing growth to a church. Focusing on results or behaviors leads to the mistaken idea that Status Quo pastors simply need to copy the Turnaround pastor’s techniques to breathe life into a plateaued or stagnant church.
So what distinguishes Turnaround pastors from Status Quo pastors? How and why are they different?
My research partners, Dr. Gordon Penfold and Dr. Gary Westra, and I have conducted psychometric tests, evaluated self-reported data and conducted interviews with Turnaround pastors and Status Quo pastors in North America to answer these questions.
Our research has a two-fold purpose: to confirm the discoveries of other researchers and to produce tools that will help Status Quo pastors achieve greater ministry results.