Guest assimilation for churches is like helping people out for a stroll in a strange neighborhood.
Imagine it is you walking through the neighborhood after sunset. On the homeward leg a young woman approaches and asks, “Can you tell me how to find East Wilshire Terrace? I’ve walked the neighborhood, but I can’t tell which streets go through and which don’t.”
What do you do?
“You continue south on Alamo until Oak Street. Turn west on Oak until you come to Del Valle. Turn north on Del Valle, and you’ll find East Wilshire Terrace on your left, three blocks to the north.”
What’s the Turnaround Pastor’s greatest challenge, the one that outweighs all others?
Maybe you think it’s one of these:
Getting the church on a solid financial footing
Eliminating unproductive programs and activities
Renewing passion and vision in the church’s leaders
Resolving long running conflicts between members
Initiating church discipline against an errant saint
Discerning God’s vision
Revitalizing stale worship services
Yes, those are challenges. The Turnaround Pastor has to deal with each one of them They have to be resolved before new life will flow into stagnant and dying churches But none of those are “the big one.” You can solve all those problems and still fall short of the mark Jesus set for your ministry and for the church’s mission.
The single greatest challenge facing the Turnaround Pastor is the church’s failure to make disciples. And how do you know if your church and your ministry is getting it done? It’s very simple:
Is your church regularly sending laborers into the harvest? If not, you’re not making disciples.
Is your church engaged in sustained efforts to nurture spiritual maturity? If not, you’re not making disciples.
Do your members routinely, substantially and directly take part in evangelism (corporate and personal) and spiritual formation? If not, they aren’t disciples.
This is so because one indispensable characteristic of Jesus’ disciples is that they lead others to faith and nurture them to spiritual maturity. If they aren’t doing these things then they’re not disciples. If they aren’t doing these things, you’re not making disciples.
Argue with Jesus, not me.
8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciplesâ€¦ 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abideâ€¦ 27 And you also will bear witness… (Jn 15:8,16,27)
The plain meaning of this passage is painfully clear.
Premise 1: Jesus appointed his disciples to a mission.
Premise 2: That mission is to produce more disciples.
Premise 3: Those who don’t produce more disciples aren’t disciples.1
Conclusion: Churches that don’t produce disciples are failing Jesus’ mission.
The point is this: believers who aren’t substantially, directly and regularly involved in producing more disciples aren’t disciples.
Strong medicine. But four data points support this radical assertion.
How Jesus identified his disciples.
The grammar, syntax and semantic fields of John 15:16.
The nature of election.
In this post I’ll develop the first two data points and touch the last two in a later post. I’ll also have a few remarks for the all important question, “What about those who labor in barren fields?”
How do Turnaround Pastors lead God’s people in post-Christian America?
As the headlong slide toward the abyss accelerates, many will look to the past for guidance into the future. They will look to the distant past.
All the way back to 587 B.C.
The prophetic voices of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel model what is needed today: how to prepare God’s people for life in a society sliding toward the brink.
In the centuries before Jerusalem’s destruction (in 587 B.C.) God warned his people time and again that he would abandon them to the consequences of their sins if they did not repent.
When God Abandons
Israel sustained it’s rebellion for centuries. But God remained patient, for a time. Forbearance ended when retributive justice befell Jerusalem in 587 B.C. He forsook them to the hands of the Babylonian invaders.
When God abandoned the nation, its way of life perished.
The walls of Jerusalem were torn down
The temple was burned
The Davidic dynasty was terminated
Leading citizens were enslaved
A way of life they had known for almost 1,000 years ended
Rhythms and rituals of worship burned with the temple
Peace and order disappeared when government and social structures fell
A way of life, a culture, a civilization perished when God abandoned those who abandoned him. (more…)
I was shocked – shocked I tell you! – to learn I was a “Protestant.”
But that’s what my mother told the intake nurse we were.
This startling discovery occurred when the local hospital granted my application for admission. They needed to know should they need to send for the proper chaplain if a sudden urge to pray for deliverance from a hospital food tray were to overtake me.
In 1963 we weren’t much of anything, religion-wise. But nonetheless they duly recorded my religious affiliation as “Protestant.”
Had that happened today I’d likely be one of the “Nones.”
That’s why I think a lot of Christian hand wringing about Millennials is overwrought. Technically the “Nones” and the “Millennials” are overlapping but not identical demographic cohorts. But, since day-to-day Christian literature treats both as pretty much the same, I’ll try to use the term Millennials for both groups. But my interest here centers on those folks who are old enough to drink but not yet old enough to have kids in High School.
Christian concern over both groups seems to boil down to two mistaken conclusions:
Churches by and large do a pretty good job of teaching new believers “the basics” of the Christian life. If you peek beneath the surface you’ll find that most of them establish new believers in a few basic spiritual disciplines.
Walking in the Spirit
After all, pastors and churches want new members of God’s family to thrive spiritually, enjoy God’s blessing and to take part in their mission to bring others to faith in Jesus.
Then why don’t we do a better job of teaching folks how to capitalize on one of the most important spiritual inputs of all – the sermon? You know how to preach, right? So why teach them to listen to your preaching?
These hallmark behaviors distinguish pastors capable of introducing change that results in new life and new growth in stagnant and dying churches from pastors who don’t.
Do you know what’s implicit in these behaviors?
Demand for change.
A pastor’s ability to precipitate change rests directly on the ability to say, “No!” and stand firm. Pastors intent on rescuing stagnant and dying churches don’t enjoy saying no any more than anyone else. But they do it because they must.
There are at least 5 times they must say, “No how. No way. Not gonna happen if we’re gonna work our way out of this mess.” (more…)
Is 2015 the year you start leading like a Turnaround pastor?
If so, it’s time to start implementing those best practices Innovation. Changing it up. Doing things different. Breaking the mold.
These are hallmark behaviors of successful Turnaround pastors. It’s how they lead stagnant and dying churches into new life, time after time in church after church.
Now’s a great time to start leading like a Turnaround pastor. All you have to do is look back on 2014 so you can do 2015 different.
Here are 5 items you should check so you’ll know where to do it different – and better – in 2015.
1. LOOK AT THE BUDGET
If you’re on top of things the 2015 budget is well under way. If business professionals are in leadership positions it may already be set. Wherever you are in the process, take a few minutes this coming week to look at the budget.
Where did we over spend? Were these discretionary or were they surprise expenses over which we had no control?
Where did we underspend and why? If you’ve underspent in these categories for several years in a row, why these line items still in the budget?
Are personnel expenses taking over an unreasonable percentage of our budget? This is often a danger sign so you’d better identify the reasons. Shrinking income? Recent additions to staff?
Back in olden days, between the end of WWII and the end of the War in Vietnam, pastors had a simple goal for themselves and their churches: keep doing what they’ve been doing.
It was a period when an homogenous culture shared was rapidly expanding into new communities around America’s urban centers.
The people who populated these new suburbs shared common values, many of which closely resembled those held in suburban churches that sprouted up to care for the spiritual needs of these new subdivisions. Public schools, local governments and social institutions reinforced those values. Thus, the threshold at the church’s front door was low; there were few cultural and social barriers between those in the church and those without.
Responsible citizenship. Intact families. Respect for authority. Stable career. Protecting children. Sexual restraint. Liberal education. Financial discipline. Reverence for God. Neighborhood friends. These were the values held by all, even if they were honored in the breach.
Visiting church was not a foray into unfamiliar territory. After all, these were the salad days of the social service clubs like the Elks, the Odd Fellows and Rotary. Attending church was pretty much like attending any other voluntary association: the men wore suits and ties, the women wore dresses and hats, and the children were all well behaved. (I’m not crying for a return to those days, merely making observations of what I remember of those days)
The call to faith in Christ and the subsequent call to discipleship – if there was one at all – wasn’t radical or jarring or sacrificial. After all, church people lived pretty much like everyone else in the community. That is, apart from their distinct belief in Jesus as Savior.