• Tough questions from a girl who was hurt by adultery

    Last year I sat down with a friend of mine who was at Bible College. A few years ago a mutual friend of ours had committed adultery and was disqualified from ministry. It hit us both very hard but I think it hit her harder because he was her youth minister who led her to Jesus and the girl he cheated on his wife with was her best friend.

    I found myself asking a question that I am not sure I wanted to know the answer to. I asked:

    “What do you think I can learn from this situation?”

    She said I should ask myself these questions:

    Do I think I am above it? She said that no one is above it and to think otherwise shows we are arrogant. But if we think we aren’t above being committing a sin that disqualifies us from ministry we will make every effort to guard against it.

    Do you admit that you are wrong? Her youth Pastor was challenged about the relationship he had with this girl before the scandal came out and yet he never admitted that it was wrong. In fact, he never he admitted he was wrong about anything. Pride does come before the fall.

    What’s in your closet and who knows about it? She said everyone has junk in their closet but what kind of junk is it? A porn addiction? Do you lust after girls/guys in your church or youth group? Who knows about the junk in your closet? If no one knows then no one can hold you accountable and if no one can hold you accountable the sin will overcome you.

    Is your wife involved in your ministry? She said that our friends wife didn’t know what he was doing in his ministry, she didn’t know the relationships that he was forming or where he was most of the time. She said partnering with your wife in ministry is not only helpful to you in ministry but is an added level of accountability.

    If God took away your title as pastor would you still be a Christian? Her ex youth pastor and my friend since the indiscretion has since walked away from Jesus and yet she told me a touching story about seeing him and how he said he still has sermons to preach and  how he loved being a youth pastor. He said that he wished he could all take it back. She reminded him of the gospel and how Jesus loves him and died from him. But he hasn’t come back to church. Maybe it is because of the shame of his sin but she thinks he was more in love with the title of Pastor than Jesus. This is a question of identity. Where do we find our identity? Is it in our Job/title/role or in Jesus? If it is in our job we will want to be needed/wanted by our people if it is in Jesus we will create proper boundaries in our ministry and pastor those people by pointing away from us as their functional saviour to their real saviour Jesus.

    These are very tough and yet timely questions.

     

  • 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.

     

  • What I wish I did when I started Resolved Part 3: Been fine with not keeping people happy

    We want our churches to be filled with happy people. Because happy people are nice, they give money, are involved in ministry and bring their friends to church etc. If we, as church leaders, live by this we will be running around making sure everyone is happy.

    This is not the game we are in and this is not the game we are to be playing.

    But it is exactly the game I was playing up until recently at Resolved.

    If someone was unhappy I worked hard at making sure they were happy. I would spend hours with them listening, talking, debating, praying etc. In order to make sure they were happy with me and Resolved. I didn’t want them to leave and I wanted no needed them to like me.

    Some people who were unhappy with me or Resolved were very open to working things out. They wanted reconciliation and wanted Resolved to flourish more than anything else. These people quickly became the members Resolved needed.

    But a lot of the time it didn’t go like this. It seemed like no matter what we did some people were unhappy with Resolved and my leadership. No matter how much we oiled the squeaky wheel it squeaked. Trying to get some people to be happy caused us to waste time, it threw us off our game, it caused emotional strain and stress to us and to them. It wasn’t loving for us to play this game with them because it helped them focus on all the bad things and I am sure made them more unhappy with Resolved instead of bringing resolution. Now I am not saying we don’t talk about the things that need improvement or that we don’t try to mend relationships we must do this. What we cant do is work hard at keeping some people happy when they probably will never be happy.

    But what I was really doing in trying to keep people happy was really selfish and arrogant.

    I wanted people to be happy with me.

    I wanted people to stay at Resolved so I looked good because I was the pastor of a growing church.

    I wasn’t thinking about them and their wellbeing and to top it all off my self-centredness was throwing the whole church off its game.

    I am convinced that we need to let some squeaky wheels keep squeaking. I am also convinced that sometimes relationships have become so toxic that sometimes the best thing we can do to pastor some people is ask them to go to another church. A church where they can get fully behind the leadership of the church, a church they will enjoy, a church that they can bring their friends to. When they find a church like that everyone wins.

    As a church leader our job is not to make people happy but make disciples.

    We are playing for an audience of one.

     

  • What I wished I did when I planted Resolved part 2: Worked on our culture

    “Culture trumps strategy every time!”

    We were two and a bit years into our church, we had very talented people, we had big visions, catchy graphics and videos and yet people at Resolved were depressed, tired and burnt out and I was one of them.

    Here was the church I dreamed of planting and I was ready to close it down.

    What was the issue?

    Our culture sucked. Not the outside culture of the world but the culture we had created and let grow in our church sucked.

    Did we preach the bible? Yes

    Did we have talented people? Yes

    But we weren’t growing in anything but despondency and our culture was to blame.

    If you are starting a church please work on the culture of your church because no matter how good your people are or your strategy if your culture sucks your church will suck and it won’t grow.

    Here are the things that I want in our culture and a few things we are trying to do to get each one back on track.

    Evangelistically minded

    As a church we are called to make disciples and so this must be part of our DNA. Next year we are stepping up to the plate with a bunch of different events that people can bring their friends who don’t know Jesus to. We are also letting our people know what sermons in each series will be specifically evangelistic so that they can pray and bring their friends to those Sundays. In doing this we will be emphasizing that ever week is a great week to bring a mate to Resolved but on these specific weeks we will be inviting people to come to know Jesus through prayer or a short course.

    Growth in every area

    We want growth all over the map. We want people to come to know Jesus and we want people to grow in their love of Jesus and grow in their leadership abilities. We are starting small with some one to one discipling and we are doing a thing we call Dig which helps people wrestle with theology in a deep and intelligent way. We are also starting Catalyst which is a training program where we will be training future leaders of Resolved and the church at large.

    Loving

    We want to foster loving relationships. I am not sure that there is a strategy that we can employ with this one. But to say that right now as I think about Resolved I know that we have people who deeply love each other and this brings me countless joy.

    Honesty and openness

    I think we have always been honest and open. We have tried to do this by talking about what we struggle with when we preach or lead. If I am not honest when I preach or lead why will anyone be honest with me?

    Encouragement

    Our generation is more likely to tear down then encourage. We have seen this at Resolved also. We are seeking to point out whenever anyone does something (no matter how big or small) that is good and we will be telling them how encouraged we are to see them doing this thing. I have started this already and I am seeing this catch on which is exciting!

    Do what we say we will do

    We want a culture of execution at Resolved. This means I need to be more disciplined in following up deadlines and making sure things get done. This means I and other leaders to have to play a bit of bad cop from time to time. But this is worth it if we want a culture of execution.

    What culture are you seeking to build?

     

  • How to have a pastoral conversation

    When I started Resolved I was thrust deep into people’s lives and what I found was their lives were like mine… very messy! I did have a course called pastoral counselling when I was at Bible College but I found myself having to read and train myself on how to have a pastoral conversation with someone. How do you talk with someone and help someone when they come to you for help. Here are the 5 things that I have figured out and still training myself to do:

    1. Don’t preach listen

    It is so easy to preach at someone especially when the solution is right there. The problem with preaching at the person is most of the time people want a feelings conversation not a solutions conversation (I have my wife to thank for teaching me the difference between the two.) People want to be heard and our job as pastors/friends/fellow Christians must be to allow them to air what is going on. That means that we have to do what I find very hard. I have to listen.

    2. Seek to understand

    But how do I listen? What am I listening for? When I listen to people I am trying to get at why they are doing what they are doing or why they in the trouble they are In. I am asking myself not what is the solution but what is the root cause. I am seeking to understand them and where they are coming from and then I am seeking to sympathise with them. For example, if I have someone who is deciding to go out with their mates and get drunk every weekend and they are feeling guilty I could say “You have to stop getting drunk!” But is that the Issue? Or are their feelings of belonging to a group of people and being accepted by them the real Issue? I want to listen and get at the root of the problem not the surface level problem and I want to ask questions so that the person I am meeting with will figure the root problem out for themselves Instead of me telling them that.

    3. Your only tool Is the gospel

    As a Christian I know that the gospel is the answer to all problems in the end. So I want to bring my friend back to the gospel and let the gospel inform how they are to deal with their situation. I usually ask the question “What is the gospel saying to you in this situation?” If It was my friend who was getting drunk I would be trying to get them to see that their Identity Is In Christ and their community Is the church and that Is what defines them and gives their life meaning not whether they are popular or not. This can take many meetings though.

    4. Pray with and for them

    I always want to pray for them In front of them. I want to show that their heavenly father still loves them and wants to hear from them. I also want to model through prayer that he Is In control and therefore we can trust him.

    5. Follow them up

    In the next few days follow them up. If you see them before you call them or email them ask how they are doing. Make sure you are on the front foot with this. I am bad at remembering to follow stuff up so I have to put It In my IPhone 2Do list app or it doesn’t get done. So remember to follow them up.

    As I said to begin with I am still training myself how to have pastoral conversations. Sometimes I don’t follow these steps/rules and every time I think that I should have.

    What’s your game plan for having pastoral conversations?