• Is your church successful?

    “Thus, when we plan our church life and judge its successes, let us not be guided by management technique or modern theories of presentation and influence. The basic principles of church life and practice are laid down in the Bible and are exemplified in the lives of biblical saints. Is the church weak and despised by society at the moment? Well, that is sad; but on another level, who cares? We are not meant to be respectable, to have political influence, to be an organisation that those outside admire for our slickness and savvy. We are meant to be those who preach Christ to the world around us both in our words and deeds. I find it worrying when evangelical success comes to be measured in the categories of worldly success, for precisely this reason: we are not meant to be successful by worldly standards; we are meant to be faithful by biblical standards; and the example of Christ indicates that these two things are, at the end of the day, implacably opposed to each other.”

    Carl Trueman, Reformation: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, 55

    What do you think?

     

  • The Culture of Mediocrity in Churches

    Yesterday I attended an awesome conference called A Dangerous Calling. The speaker was Paul Tripp and I got boatloads out of the conference. I have tweeted some of the things that Tripp said that really impacted me. One of the quotes I tweeted was:

    A lot of pastors are serving up mediocre sermons that are underprepared.

    This hit me because I think it’s sometimes true of my life, and some of my friends in ministry have admitted it’s true of them.

    After I posted the quote I had two comments from brothers on Facebook. Here are the two comments posted in their entirety:

    Commenter 1: On the other hand, more pastors are serving up mediocre sermons because they are only middle of the road preachers. By definition we can’t all be outstanding preachers. Don’t buy into the culture of excellence! God uses the lowly!

    Commenter 2: I’m with [Commenter 1] Hans. Don’t buy into that stuff dude. Paul wrote on this in 1 Cor 1 and it seems our churches still fall into the same mistakes. It’s the word and the spirit that are effective.

    Two issues arise from these quotes:

    1. I am not sure they have got the gist of Tripp’s quote. The issue is not talent but hard work and discipline. The point Tripp was making was that mediocre sermons are served up by lack of preparation, not lack of talent.
    2. I wonder if we have theologised our way into mediocrity. I agree that the Spirit, through His word, does the work, but have we relied so much on that theology that we don’t even try to do our own ministries (music, preaching, pastoral care, etc.) with excellence because we have a theology that says God works even if we suck? Now, I believe that God works even though we suck (in fact I am reminded of this truth every time someone says they found something I did helpful!) but I think we may have used this theology to theologise our way into mediocrity. If God is glorious and we exist for His glory shouldn’t we aim for the best we can do? Isn’t that what excellence is? Isn’t mediocrity doing a job that is less than our best? Excellence is not being as good a preacher as John Piper or Phillip Jensen or William Taylor. Excellence is doing the best we can do for the glory of God. That is what the quote is trying to say and that is what we should be aiming for.

    What do you think?

  • What people need most from their pastors

    Robert Murray M’Cheyne often said to ministers “what your people need most from you is your personal holiness.” This flies in the face of so much church leadership talk. Because holiness doesn’t really get a mention does it?  M’Cheyne is saying  that the most important thing a leader needs is a holy, loving, Christ-like character. M’Cheyne was a Scottish minister who died in the 19th century. His last sermon was preached  on Isaiah 60:1 – “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee”. He went home to bed sick, and died a week later. After his death they found a letter in his bedroom, here is a quote from it:

    “I hope you will pardon a stranger for addressing you a few lines. I heard you preach last Sabbath evening, and your sermon brought me to Christ. It was not anything you said, but it was what you were as you preached. For I saw in you a beauty of holiness that I had never seen before. You were talking about the glory of our God resting on the Savior, and I saw the Savior’s glory resting on you. That brought me to Christ.”

    The life and teaching of M’Cheyne shows that before being skillful, innovative or gifted, we as christian leaders, need to be holy.

  • The Seven things all Christian leaders need to have

    Leadership books sometimes make leadership too complex. Good leadership principles, like any other principles should be easy to digest and understand. With that in mind I have distilled my thoughts on what a good leader is, into seven things that all leaders need to have.

    1. Character. This is a given, if a leader does not have character then they can’t be a leader. If they aren’t people of respect, then you can’t respect them and if you can’t respect them you won’t follow them (1 Timothy 3).
    2. Courage. Just like Jesus we need to have courage to make hard calls, courage to say hard things in love when we need to, and courage to go forward when it is hard.
    3. Passion. We need a passion that springs from the gospel. We know that we are doing the most important work in the world and therefore we should have passion for the people that we minister to and passion for the truth of the gospel itself.
    4. Love. Just as Jesus loved and Paul loved we need to love our people. This is hard as some of the people we serve are quite hard to love. But we need to remember that God loved us even when we were sinners and he demonstrated that love on the cross. This message gives us the energy to love those who are tough to love. 
    5. Energy. Leaders need to have an energy about them that is infectious. They need great energy to do all the things they need to do. Energy is crucial in ministry because ministry is a draining work.
    6. The ability to energize. Our people look to us for inspiration and encouragement and so we need to be able to energize by giving them encouragement and feedback. We also energize them by following them up and giving feedback all the time. But we follow up and give feedback to encourage and spur on, more than to rebuke and correct.
    7. The ability to execute. Leaders need to get things done and this is true of leaders in the church. As church leaders, we need to be able to get things done. We need to be organised and plan things. Most of all, we need to do what we say we will do.

    Would you add anything to this list?

     

  • The Key to Having Great Meetings

    Most meetings are boring and suck. They leave people unengaged and lacking motivation. That is why we hate meetings. What is the key you having great meetings?

    Conflict.

    Yes, conflict

    Not the I hate your guts type conflict or the political type conflict that can plague churches. Healthy conflict is discussion, where disagreements are brought out on the table and these disagreements are talked about passionately, but with respect.

    Patrick Lencioni in his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team says teams that have good conflict:

    • Have lively, interesting meetings
    • Extract and exploit the ideas of all team members
    • Solve real problems quickly
    • Minimize politics
    • Put critical topics on the table for discussion

    So how do you get healthy conflict as a leader?

    You have to mine for it. You have to make sure that you push people to get what they are thinking out on the table. If you see someone’s body language communicating that they are uncomfortable with what is being said, then you need to get them to put that body language into words. But you also have to jump on conflict that is political or attacking a person. Remember, not all conflict is good you want healthy conflict that is to the point and on task.

    I will leave you with Lencioni on why your team needs conflict:

    “Teams that engage in productive conflict know that the only purpose is to produce the best possible solution in the shortest period of time. They discuss and resolve issues more quicklyand completely than others, and they emerge from heated debates with no residual feelings or collateral damage, but with an eagerness and readiness to take on the next important issue.” (p.203)

     

  • What the next Archbishop of Sydney can’t be

    I am not an Anglican, but I have been profoundly influenced by the Anglican Church.  I am so thankful for years of being faithfully taught the bible at Anglican churches and I am thankful for my time at Moore College. The Sydney diocese is a very influential diocese. Not just in the Anglican Communion, its influence stretches to the broader Christian world. That is why the election of the next Archbishop of Sydney is so important. It has been very encouraging to hear of people already praying for and working hard to get the right man for the job. Needless to say, this man is stepping into a job that is too big for him, or anyone else for that matter, so he needs our support in prayer. He obviously needs to be a man of evangelical character as well as a great communicator and leader but is there anything he can’t be?

    I was talking with a mate who I met at Moore College. He is no longer in Sydney but has strong ties to Sydney Evangelicalism about who should be the next Archbishop. He said this:

    “The next Archbishop must not be an egalitarian because every time a diocese or denomination chooses to allow women to be the lead pastors of churches the push to fully accept practicing homosexuals into all spheres of church life is pushed by the next generation. If you capitulate on the women’s issue the next generation will capitulate on the homosexuality issue. If the Sydney Diocese appoints an egalitarian then he will push for women being able to fill any role that a man can and that is one of the paving stones on the road to liberalism”

    We have seen this scenario played out in the Anglican Church but also in other denominations. But what about you, do you think the Sydney Diocese would go down this line if they appointed an Egalitarian as the next Archbishop?

     

  • How to pastor like the Apostle Paul

    One of my greatest heroes is Paul. He was a man who loved
    his people with great passion and intensity and he was a great pastor. In 1 Thessalonians 2 we get a glimpse of ‘Paul the pastor’ as he reminded the Thessalonians of how he cared for them. Therefore 1 Thessalonians 2 is great food for thought and it is a passage that we come back to again and again to learn how Paul did and how we should do our ministry. Here are some of the things Paul did  that wecan do:

    1. Paul cared for and loved his people and shared his life with them. 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8 says “Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.” The question is do we love our people like that? Are we sharing our lives with our people or loving and caring for them like a mother?
    2. Paul had courage. He says he preached in spite of strong opposition (1 Thessalonians 2:2). How could he keep preaching in spite of strong opposition? I think it was his confidence in God and who he is.
    3. Paul’s holiness was apparent to everyone. Paul can say “You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed.” (1 Thessalonians 2:10.) If you got up in front
      of the people you lead could you say that? Are you growing in holiness each day in a way that is obvious to those you lead/pastor?
    4. Paul worked his butt off. Paul says “Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.” 1 Thessalonians 2:9. Pastoral work is very flexible in the hours we can keep. We can coast and cruise through our pastoral ministry and collect a cheque or we can work hard for his glory. We don’t want to be workaholics to be sure but we also don’t want to be lazy. No, we should be like Paul who consistently worked hard for God’s glory for the benefit of those he pastored.
    5. Paul was himself. He didn’t seek to put on a mask so other’s would be more impressed with him (1 Thessalonians 2:5). I have to keep asking myself; is that what I am doing? Or am I trying to be the next Piper, Chandler, Dever, Driscoll etc.
    6. He didn’t seek to please men but God. “For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed —God is our witness.  We were not looking for praise from people,
      not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority.”
      (1 Thessalonians 2:3-6). Paul was all about pleasing God first and foremost, he didn’t fear man nor did he seek to please everyone. He never sucked up to people; he always used straight talk (see Galatians 2 if you don’t believe me!). Pastors, who are you seeking to please?
      Other men or God. Are you withholding confrontational sin just to keep people happy? Are you not going to have the hard conversation just because it will be awkward? Do you not preach on some topics because poor culture will hate them? Do you not lead strongly because you are afraid of people getting their noses bent out of shape? Do you suck up to pastors or leaders so you can be in their inner ring or to be getting a bunch of speaking gigs? Paul didn’t seek to please men but God. And as pastors or leaders we should do the same!

    I Love the apostle Paul and I love 1 Thessalonians 2. It is always a challenging read for me as a pastor. How else do you think we can learn from Paul’s example?

  • Tim Keller on Staying Spiritually Vibrant

    Here is how Tim Keller stays spiritually vibrant:

    1. Private devotions – regular, consistent; morning  (40 mins), lunch-time (5 mins – recap), evening (40 mins), bed-time (pray with Kathy his wife)
    2. Spiritual friendship – Christian brothers & sisters who hold you accountable. Intimate friendship. Hebrews 3.16. Who have you given the right to do that?
    3. Right kind of pastoral counselling – Regular evangelism, discipleship, helping others. Some form of serving.
    4. Study & reading – you’ve got to read your head off!
    5. Corporate worship – do you really worship in your services or are you merely the producer and director?

    I found this really challenging because it seems Keller and other well known pastors spend a lot of time working on their spiritual walk. This is not me and is something I need to change.

    What disciplines are you doing to keep spiritually strong?

    H/T A Faith to Live By

  • Training the next generation of leaders

    “What are you doing to raise the next generation of leaders in the church?”

    This is the question that Mark Dever put to me least year when I was over in Washington. He said that all pastors should be working hard at raising the next generation of leaders of the church because if we don’t who will?

    So what is your church doing to raise the next generation of leaders? Are you doing anything at all?

    This month I read a book called The Leadership Pipeline by Ram Charan, Stephen Drotter and James Noel. In the book they talk about how there is a leadership drought in corporate America. That business leaders havent developed their people to be skilled at the different levels of leadership required of them, as they go up through the corporate ranks. What companies need is a leadership pipeline which is a strategy for developing leaders from the ground level right through corporate management to CEO.

    This had me thinking about Resolved and how we are doing with leadership development and whether we should have a leadership pipeline. I think we should but what stages would be in it?

    What leadership programs have you been in? What do you think?

    What do the leaders of the church need to be trained in?

    How should churches train the next generation of leaders in the church?

     

  • Do you do ministry or empower others to do ministry?

    I have been reading a lot about growing churches of late and one of the major factors in a growing church is getting everyone involved in doing ministry. If people are involved in doing ministry they feel like they have more ownership of the churches ministry and they are more likely to invite their non christian friends to church.

    The problem is that we, as pastors, have been trained to do the ministry but rarely have we been equipped to lead others to do the ministry. What does it take to lead others well? I found this very helpful quote from John C Maxwell:

    “To lead others well, we must help them reach their potential. That means being on their side, encouraging them, giving them power and helping them to succeed. That’s not traditionally what we have been taught about leadership. What were the two leadership games we were taught as kids? King of the Hill and Follow the Leader. What was the object of King of the Hill? To knock other people down so that you can be the leader. And what’s the point in Follow the Leader? You do things that you know the followers can’t do to separate yourself from them and make yourself look powerful. The problem with those games is that to win, you have to make all of the other people lose. The games are based on insecurity and are the opposite way to raise up leaders.”[1]

    Here are five questions I asked the Elders of Resolved church last night as I talked about moving from doing the ministry to empowering others to do the ministry.
    1. Are you doing or enabling others to do the ministry?
    2. What do you find hard about letting others do the ministry that you lead?
    3. List the ministries you are involved with/leading
      1. Who are you training up in those ministries?
      2. Who should you train up?
    4. What steps are you going to take this month to go from a doer to a leader?

    What about you? Are you a doer or a leader? The stats show that the growth of your church depends on you being a leader first and foremost.


    [1] John C Maxwell The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, pg. 145