• What are you looking for in a church?

    At Resolved we have many people coming through looking for a new church. When I ask them what are they looking for in a church there are a lot of different responses. Some are legitimate some are selfish. Most Christians these days change churches every 5-7 years so we need to know what to look for when we are finding a new church.

    Here are the things you should look for when finding a new church:

    1. Expository preaching – Expository preaching is where the sermon is derived from a text of scripture. Expository preaching is not where we take a verse from Habakkuk and verse from Romans and then a verse from Colossians and make points from each passage. The main job of an expository preacher is to help you see what the biblical text says and apply it to your life. Expositional preaching is key to a good church because the expository preaching is the best kind of preaching if you want to hear God speak in his scriptures.
    2. Biblical theology – Biblical theology is where every scripture is seen as part of the rest of the Bible and so every story, verse, and word is meant to be interpreted as part of the whole Bible. This helps us interpret the Bible rightly because we see the Bible as one whole big story that reveals who God is and what he has done and not a collection of stories or sayings in which we find a hero to model our lives on or a verse to inspire us. The Bible is primarily about God not us and biblical theology helps us see this.
    3. The gospel – The gospel is the message that we have been created in the image of God but we have sinfully rejected God. In his great love, God sent his son to die on the cross in our place, taking our punishment so that through faith in Jesus we could be forgiven. This is the gospel. This is the thing that should be emphasized in the pulpit every week, in fact this is the thing that should drive the church. If you go to a church that consistently muddies up the gospel, either by preaching a message which sounds like an Anthony Robbins talk or denying an aspect of the gospel, you need to find another church because this is not a church which is teaching you about God.
    4. Leadership – Leadership is important and the Bible is very clear on what biblical leadership is and isn’t. If you are unsure of what biblical leadership looks like, read 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus. If the leadership in the church you are checking out doesn’t reflect the leadership that is modelled in the scriptures then it is not the church for you.
    5. Discipleship – Discipleship is the process where you grow in your knowledge and love of God. If you are looking for a new church you have to ask if this new church has a discipleship program or process. Of course expository preaching is central to any discipleship strategy but there are many other ways where discipleship can take place.  Make sure you are going to grow in your love of Jesus at the church you join.
    6. Service – Have you got avenues to serve? This doesn’t mean that they will ask me to serve in the way that I want to serve. For example you shouldn’t just go to a church if you want to play guitar and they need a guitarist but you should be going to a church where you can pitch in and help.

    Is there anything you would add to this list?

     

  • Starving pastors can’t feed their sheep

    Last year was a dark year for me. My father passed away from cancer, the culture at my church was toxic and to top it all off I was going through a very dry time spiritually. I wasn’t making an effort to read my bible and pray. I wasn’t speaking with people who encourage me.

    I was dry.

    Now dry times happen to all Christians but it seems like so many of the stats I read say that pastors feel spiritually dry more of the time than they feel spiritually vibrant. Therefore, it is no surprise that a lot of pastors don’t spend quality time caring for their own souls. This is where I was at for a significant time last year and my church took a hit. My preaching lacked power and depth and was largely ineffective. Sure God did move but I could discern that my preaching didn’t have the power it should have.

    I realised this year that I was starving. I hadn’t been feeding on God’s word and when I did read it I read it either to tick a box saying I had done it or I was reading it to prepare for something. The thing is starving pastors can’t feed their sheep. As pastors we are to be people who watch our life and doctrine (1 Tim 4:16). Carson says about this verse says that there should be a discernible growth in life and doctrine because of our feeding and meditating on the word. Whenever I think about that I am always challenged.

    I want to feed my sheep. I want to be able to preach with passion and vitality. Therefore I need to be feeding on God’s word in a way where I am satisfied in it.

    Are you a starving pastor?

    When was the last time you had a satisfying time in God’s word?

    What steps do you need to take so you are refreshed by Gods word?

     

  • Deny inerrancy and you will kill your church

    Okay it is a provocative title I know. But read this paragraph from Thom Rainers blog on Twelve trends for healthy churches

    A number of research projects over the past four decades point to this trend. Healthy churches have leaders and members who believe the totality of the Bible, often expressed as a view called inerrancy.

    Now I think a lot of people who call themselves Evangelicals deny a parody of inerrancy not the inerrancy that is expressed by The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. I would say for those of us who have never read anything on inerrancy and yet still denies it you should read the statement.  I think you will find you believe in true inerrancy not the parody of it that gets derided in some Evangelical circles.

    But my concern is that those of us who call ourselves Evangelicals and yet argue against the historicity of the scriptures realize that they are not doing the service to the church that they might think they are but they are actually destroying the church. One of the saddest things I have seen is Christians who are confused because their pastor or a theological college lecturer will say something like “Exodus didn’t really happen exactly like that” and yet say in the next breath “But the Bible is trustworthy”. Or when a pastor or lecturer makes a lot of so called contradictions in the Bible and yet say “But the Bible is historically reliable”. What the pastor or lecturer is generally doing is trying to argue against a parody of inerrancy but what they are really doing is undermining their listeners confidence in the scriptures. With this kind of teaching the chickens don’t come to roost for a few generations when no one holds to anything like an Evangelical doctrine of scripture.[1] But by this time it is too late. The scriptures wont be preached and the gospel will be denied and the church is dead and it all started with some of us trying putting intellectual respectability above faithfulness.

    If you deny true inerrancy you will kill the church. But you probably won’t be around to see it.

     


    [1] For more on the issue of inerrancy and Evangelicalism read the chapter ‘Intellectual Respectability and Scripture’ (pg. 173-214) in Ian Murrays book Evangelicalism Divided

     

     

  • The Clergification of the church

    “Most Protestant churches today resemble pre Reformation Roman Catholic churches” – Ed Stetzer

    As I said in my last blog I had the privilege of sitting down and asking Tim Sims and Ed Stetzer a bunch of questions about church growth and leadership. They both said is that most churches have an underutilized laity. If there is something important in our churches to be done we get a paid member of the clergy to do it. This is why Ed thinks that “Most Protestant churches today resemble pre Reformation Roman Catholic churches” because we have an unbiblical clergy/laity divide where we only trust those with a theological degree and they have to have attended the right theological college!

    The issue here is that we have not only been unbiblical because we, as evangelicals, believe that every Christian is has gifts to bring to the church (1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, Romans 12:1-8). But keeping important ministry to the paid clergy disempowers the laity. It is says that you aren’t good/smart/godly enough to do these things but please be on the supper roster!

    While I was on holidays I had the revelation that we at Resolved have been bad at asking people who aren’t elders to be joining in discipling each other and leading ministries. Since then we have started to be on the front foot with asking people to be involved in ministries and discipling each other.

    What has been the result?

    I have seen people more enthusiastic about Resolved, people getting together to read the bible and pray together, people encouraging each other to tell their friends and family about Jesus and invite them to church. I have heard people say how they feel more valued now and how they feel like Resolved is more their church than ever before!

    I was arrogant. I thought if I preached well and we had a good service in a cool location people would be enthusiastic about church and they would invite their friends to church.

    I was wrong.

    Let’s not have our people spectate let’s have them participate!

    Not only is it biblical but it will empower them and they be more enthusiastic about Jesus, our churches and reaching the lost!

     

  • Church culture is more important than strategy or vision.

    “Culture eats strategy for Breakfast!” – Peter Drucker

    It seems like so many churches and pastors go on about strategy and vision. These are good things which, if used right, will help churches to impact people, cultures and cities with the gospel. But I do know of a bunch of churches who have a clear strategy and a compelling vision and yet people are leaving their church or the church is not growing.

    Why is this?

    It may be that their culture is wrong.

    Culture is the way your organization or church operates. Culture incorporates your customs, attitudes, etiquette, what you value and do not value, what you reward and what you put up with, what behaviour you tolerate and what behaviour you don’t.

    Sometimes our culture does not match our vision or strategy. Say we have a vision to see a church grow to three hundred from two hundred. What a great vision! Can you imagine another 100 people coming to know Jesus? That would be awesome! But if you don’t have a church culture of evangelism and inviting friends to church/ evangelistic events/ evangelistic bible studies it will never happen. Or maybe you have a vision of a vibrant creative church that finds its identity in the gospel and the joy that it gives. Once again a great vision! But if you have a culture where people shut ideas down before they start and are overly critical the culture will squelch the creativity and will suck the joy and fun out of church.

    Your culture needs to match your vision and your strategy. In fact Culture is far more important than strategy or vision. Last year I went to a church with no vision statement and no discernible strategy but the culture was upbeat and very evangelistic. This church was seeing people come to know Jesus all the time and it was planting churches.

    Why was it growing?

    Why was it planting churches?

    Because it had the right culture

    And church culture is more important than strategy or vision

     

  • How to forgive your Pastor

    Pastors can be the most disappointing people in the world. I know because I am one. We disappoint ourselves; we let down people in our congregation sometimes by forgetting something and sometimes by a hasty word or action.

    We all can recount times when we have been hurt or at least frustrated by a pastor. This hurt or frustration if left unchecked can fester and destroy our respect and love for our pastors and can even destroy our faith

    What is the solution?

    The Gospel is our solution. Nothing more nothing less.

    Sorry to disappoint you that I didn’t come up with something new and hip but the Gospel is the solution for the following three reasons:

    1. The Gospel teaches us that all people are sinful. Pastors are called to a different standard of Character (e.g. 1 Timothy 3). But we pastors are still sinners, we do make mistakes and we will do in the future. The gospel teaches us to expect this and not to subscribe to some wrongheaded notion of “Pastor Perfect”. Now this can’t be an excuse for pastors and if there is sin your pastor’s life he, just like you, needs to be made aware of it and helped with it in loving and helpful ways. If we recognise that our pastors, just like us, are sinful then we would be more able to forgive them. It also gives us pause to think about what sin I have brought into the relationship that I have with my pastor.

    2. The Gospel teaches us that we have been forgiven. You have been forgiven for everything, how amazing is that? Have you ever thought about how much your God loves you and how much he has forgiven you? When we compare what we have been forgiven to what we need to forgive the two are incomparable. We have been forgiven infinitely more than anything we should forgive. When you pastor sins, upsets you, disappoints you remember forgiveness and how much you have been forgiven and see your pastors sin in this light.

    3. The Gospel teaches us that God is in control. God wasn’t surprised by what happened between you and your pastor. God is not in heaven thinking “I didn’t see that one coming!!” No, God works all things for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28) and so God is working what just happened for your good and his glory. If you knew this would it be easier to forgive your pastor?

    The answer is always the gospel nothing more nothing less.

     

  • Pastor Fashion?

    Pastor Ed Young Jr. has a new website for Pastors it is called Pastor Fashion.com. (No I am not lying click the link!)

    Here is the first blog on the site:

    “Pastors aren’t typically known for their fashion. Most people don’t think of the runway leading up to the pulpit. But why not?! Why can’t the men and women of God set the standard for the rest of the world in fashion as well as faith? That’s why we’re launching PastorFashion.com. We want to set the trends.

    Check back with us regularly, as we’ll be posting things like what not to wear, fashion tips, the latest trends and so much more!

    We’re not trying to be like the world…we just want to be fashionable while we try to change it! Have fashion tips, things you’ve seen done (whether right or wrong)? This is the place we’ll keep the conversation going and the trends growing!”

     

    Now a couple of reflections are worth considering:

    1. There is really nothing inherently wrong about pastors wanting to look good or giving each other advice about what to wear or not wear if that is what floats their boat and as long as looking good doesn’t define them. In fact I have seen in some churches Pastors dress down as much as possible in reaction to a tradition where pastors have to wear a dress and a collar. This is an overreaction which communicates more than dressed down pastor wants to communicate.

    2. What we look like communicates a hell of a lot. If I go to church in my daggiest clothes what is communicating? If I rock to church in a suit or robes or a footy Jersey what is it communicating? What I wear communicates how I want people to treat me, what I think of myself and in some sense what I think of God. If drag some clothes off the floor and sniff them to make sure they don’t smell too bad and then put them on and go to church I may be seen to be saying “I don’t care about how I look” Or “I have no self confidence” or “Meeting with God and his people isn’t a big deal”. Conversely, if I wear a really expensive suit I may seem to be saying “I care a lot about what you think of me” Or “My God is a blingy God who will bless you!” What we look like communicates a hell of a lot.

    3. In the Bible women are told that they shouldn’t be known by what they wear but their inner character (1 Peter 3:3, 1 Timothy 2:9). This command surely has to be applicable to men also. What a website like pastor fashion does is take our attention off what the bible says should define us as pastors (godliness, theology, love for people etc) and put the attention onto the very thing that shouldn’t define us i.e. what we look like. So even though we have to be careful that what we wear communicates the right things about us we cannot fall into the trap of making something that should be far on the periphery come to centre stage.

    4. It is a sad day when one of the most well known pastors in the world launches a new website for pastors and it is not about theology, joy in God, pastoral skills or something else that God is concerned about but fashion, which is something that the world is deeply concerned about but which God doesn’t care about. But this gives us pause to reflect on our own lives. If one very intelligent pastor who wants to reach people for Jesus is spending his time talking about periphery are we doing the same?

    What do you think?

     

     

  • What makes a great leader, a great church or a great organisation?

    I have been reading Jim Collins’ latest book called Great by Choice. In it, he looks at a group of companies that have made returns ten to fifteen percent greater than their competition at least ten times over a fifteen year period.

    Now one of the things we must ask when reading a book tailored for the business world is “How much of this is transferable?” How much of this can I take to my church, youth group, band or sporting team? How much of this should be just left in the business arena? These are very important questions to ask and you will have to read the book to find out how much of it is transferable to your context. But here is one thing that is universally applicable.

    Collins noticed two things about the leaders who ran these companies:

    They were:

    1. More ambitious for the company than themselves.
    2. They practiced maniacal discipline.

    More ambitious for the company than themselves:

    It is very easy to want to build your name rather than the team, company, church or band you are working with. I think we see this all the time because it is hard to be ambitious about anything but ourselves, but if we want our organisation or team or church to be successful we need to put our ambitions in the back seat which allows the goals of the organisation to remain number one.

    They practiced maniacal discipline:

    Everyone knows the things they need to do to be great. If you are a musician you practice, are prepared and rock up on time with great gear and a great attitude. If you are a part of a sports team you work hard in practice, are an awesome friend and teammate and work your butt off on the court. But how much of us practice the things we do with maniacal discipline? What are the 5 things that if you did everyday would make the most difference to your organisation/ church/ band/ career? If you did those things every day with maniacal discipline what would change?

     

  • What I Wish I Did When I Planted Resolved Part 5: Worked on my Preaching and Prayer Life More

    “That was a lazy way to make that point!”

    This was one thing an older brother in Christ told me over and over as he critiqued my sermon. But his next comment hit harder.

    “Hans, you have potential but if you just rely on your gifts and don’t work hard that potential will be wasted!”

    Cutting words but true words. They were spoken to me a few years before I planted Resolved. But what I found when I started Resolved is that I didn’t work on my preaching and prayer like I should have. I was happy to arrogantly rely and rest on my gifts instead of putting the hard work in. This meant that my sermons weren’t as good as they should have been and that I haven’t improved as a preacher as much as I should have. It also meant that my prayer life sucked and I now am working hard to get it back on track.

    As a pastor my primary job is to be a man of the word and prayer and so I need to give adequate time to these pursuits.  A great sermon doesn’t just happen, it comes about through work and sweat and prayer and reading and thinking and practicing and….well you get my drift.

    It is easy when you plant a church to neglect the things that don’t seem urgent like preaching and prayer. But these things are vital if we want churches to grow and flourish.

    How are you organising your days and weeks so that you can adequately prepare your sermons and you can spend good time in prayer for yourself, your family, your church and your city?

    Let’s not be lazy in these things. Let’s be disciplined!

     

  • Things I wish I did when I planted Resolved: Worried about church government later

    I believe that Elder government is the biblical model of church government. But the question is do you need to kick off a church plant with it in place? Does a church plant need some kind of specific church governance structure?

    When I was at bible college I read a bunch of stuff on church governance and I was convinced that the bible dictated church government and so when I dreamt about my church I dreamed of a church with a strong elder board and a strong system of church leadership.  So this is what I started. The only problem with church government is that you need a clear plan of directing people and leading this structure because structure can turn toxic very quickly and they can stagnate the church. Looking back this is what happened. I didn’t know exactly how to lead these groups so I didn’t lead them well and so people got frustrated, things didn’t get done and the church stagnated.

    We are now at a place where we asking some big questions of what an elder board should do in a church our size. One of the most helpful books I have read on this is Sticky Teams by Larry Osborne.

    All this being said I do think that the elder and elder governed model is the biblical model of church government. But I wish I worried about church government later.

    If you are planting a church you do need to think hard about church government. Because church government is biblical but also because getting it wrong can stunt growth and can hurt people. But you also need to think about when to implement the structure. If you get this worng it can also stunt growth and hurt people.

    Don’t implement your church government until you know exactly how it will function and what that looks like for your church.