Six Ways The Church is Missing the Boat

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I hate when I miss an opportunity to do something great. Something that will result in real change. Many times these opportunities will just present themselves and then be gone in an instant. I feel like the Christian church is at a time when She can be a real force for good. The Church has a huge amount of resources and some of the greatest people that the world has ever known. Yet the impact is watered down. I think we are missing the boat. There are many reasons but here are a few:

Division Between Denominations: The continued lack of a cohesive force between all denominations has neutered the impact of the Church worldwide. Do you really think that when you reach heaven that the Father will tell you “well done faithful servant” because your theology/doctrine/way of doing church was correct? We spend way too much time and effort trying to be “right” and miss the boat on what the focus should be. Serving others. Feeding the poor. Helping others. Sharing your faith. Mentoring the next generation. Being a united force for good. Right? Do churches cross over? Rarely. It’s like the Tower of Babel. Churches want to talk- but have a very difficult time listening.

Super Christians: Every church has them. The super spiritual. The ones that have memorized the Bible or can sling the bible darts on command. They do two hours of quiet time each day. Searching out the next great awakening or the latest prophet. This dedication sounds good, but the result is that these distinctions lead to cliques and division in the local church. Are they really better?  The rest of the congregation just doesn’t “get it”. They are lesser Christians. They are just not dedicated enough. They can’t be a leader or have real influence. They are not as close to the Father as the rest of the extra spiritual group. Doesn’t this sound like a Pharisee? Does to me.

Inwardly Focused Churches: Many churches are great at the Sunday morning experience. They have great worship teams, children’s ministry, coffee bar, etc. I get it. The Sunday morning thing takes a lot of resources and the average Christian family expects a pretty high level of service. But aren’t we called to reach others? Aren’t we called to get out of the church? Why do we spend so much of our resources on the Sunday morning experience? We are missing a great opportunity for good instead we are spending huge resources on facilities, staff, utilities, etc. just to do Sunday morning.

Inwardly Focused Christians: Many Christians are very dedicated to intimacy with the Father but they do not get out and serve. If Jesus on earth is the perfect model, Jesus did spend time in prayer and time with the Father, but he spent much more time ministering to the poor and needy. Experiencing God is part of the journey, but the highs can be like a drug. You want more and more and this want is completely focussed on yourself and not on others. We are called to disciple and serve others. You are here, not heaven. You need to get out and serve!

Fractured Community: The most powerful force in joining people together is serving together. When you minister together to help others, you form a strong and powerful bond. The act of serving provides a great opportunity to share your experiences, gifts and passions. This is a very natural way of sharing your story with others. Serving as a church can bring bonding across age groups, genders, cultures and economic differences. Without a way of providing a cohesive bond that crosses these barriers, the church will look like a bunch of distinct groups. New folks will struggle meeting others. The young will not learn from the old. Discipleship will not occur. A sick church.

The 80/20 Rule: Last but not least, the Church is not mobilizing the congregation. The old adage says 20% of the people do 80% of the work in the church. Can you imagine the power of 100% participation? It’s time to mobilize everyone is the church. This means finding the passions and gifts of every member and getting them marching forward in the work of the Kingdom. Everyone is equipped for a special purpose to advance the Kingdom. This might not be your vision.  We need to encourage others to walk into that purpose. Instead we are trying to coax them into whatever the vision is of the church as outlined by the leadership. What about their special calling? Aren’t they uniquely designed for a special purpose from the Father? If you don’t recognize this then where are they? Following your vision????

We have a long way to go. We have been entrusted with the most powerful force on the planet. When will we step into the role we were made for? When can we stop the power games? If we truly believe that He will take care of us, then the rest is our pride our insecurity? Right?  Can we own up to that? What will you do? You tell me! Please! Please!  Please! I want to know what you think!

It’s Just Messy…

We have a local group called Kaleid (short for kaleidoscope) that works to unite ministries, mission organizations and the Church (the big C church).  During our meeting on Monday night, we had an extended discussion about how to keep your ministry team together and strategies to avoid division and problems. 

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I know first hand that managing people is always complicated and often messy.  No matter how homogeneous your group, it’s still comprised of individual people with unique personalities, goals and expectations.  To add to the mix is the fact that these folks are volunteers.  No money or boss to pen you in.  This can be an environment where everyone has an opinion and they are truly convinced that their way is the best way.  A leadership nightmare.  Division in a volunteer environment is a real shame.  The goal gets tarnished.  It’s a cancer that can destroy the beauty of an effort to do some real good.

So what do you do?  You can’t let division ruin your work.  You have to lead.  Inevitably, some people won’t be happy.  You need to provide order and direction.  You can’t have everyone doing their own thing- it would be chaos.

Here are six keys to help steer through these waters:

Clear Goals/Direction:  Make sure that you clearly communicate your goals for the project and the plan to get there.  One trick you can use to make sure that they “get it” is to ask them to repeat your direction.  A head nod doesn’t always equate to understanding.

Humility and Sensitivity:  Volunteers will not tolerate a leader that is full of themselves or a tyrant.  You will look around and quickly be all alone. If you are used to being “The General” at work or home, leading a group of volunteers may be challenge for you.  You must lead with a tender heart and be sensitive to the needs of your group.   

Collaborate:  Seems like the buzzword today is collaboration.  Involving others to help provide engagement to the team and join them together for a common goal.  Sounds good, right?  Yet this can also be a disaster.  You must be skilled in how you manage the collaboration meeting.  Tell the group that this is not “decision by committee”.  You will retain the final decision but you want and need their input.  Let everyone talk but do not let anyone dominate the discussion.  Cut them off, politely, if they try to take over.  Use as much reasonable input from the meeting as possible.  Manage the folks that are sore if you don’t use their ideas.  Get the group buy-in.  It‘s critical.

Skillfully Allocate:  Take great care in dividing up roles, tasks, and resources.  Key in on gifts and passions.  Be on the lookout for overload.  Some folks have a hard time saying no.  Try to level out things as best as you can.

Feedback:  Provide a mechanism for feedback.  An e-mail address is a great way- comments@…  Most people won’t complain to your face, but will unload on an anonymous site.  I have received some great criticism this way.  Also, look for the discontented person- the grumbler.  Go ahead and approach them and hear them out.  Be aware that you may not be able to make everyone happy.  Do your best and let God do the rest.  The tension that the person is having may be God working in them.  Don’t always short circuit the struggle.

Have Fun:  If you are having fun while you are serving, it will help to deflate any tension that arises.  This may be very difficult sometimes.  Some efforts are really tough or emotionally draining.  If the work is exceptionally difficult, then your focus should shift to building a strong bond between the volunteers.  If you can build strong camaraderie, you will help to bridge the difficulty of the work.  Having a fun and rewarding experience will replace the inherent need for the exchange of a payment.  Make it fun and chatter will disappear.

Leading volunteers can be tricky.  Although similar in complexity, I would argue that it is more difficult than managing paid employees.  It’s unlikely that you will be able to make everyone happy.  However, leading with your heart is the key to keeping your group cohesive and effective!

What do you think?  Don’t be a stealth reader!  Click on comments and tell me what you think! 

Light the Path

I believe that there is a desire to make a difference in the world that is woven into us at birth.  To make your mark- to put a “dent in the universe”.  Your choice is to either follow these desires and dreams or suppress them and give up.  The choice to give up is easy when you think it’s impossible.  Our job as leaders is to illuminate the path.  Model doing the impossible or the uncomfortable.  This is a story about lighting the path.

Light for my path

I was sitting beside a small fire on NewYears eve enjoying the company of some good friends and some outrageously large oysters.  Sitting at the fire was a girl named Rebecca who is the daughter of some good friends from church.  Rebecca was home for the holidays and was sharing some ministry stories that occurred while she was away at college in North Carolina.  Rebecca was able to seek out and find an inner-city ministry near her campus where she served on weekends.  She also shared that she had located a street church where service takes place outside in the yard of an abandoned church.  She shared some amazing stories of how she was able to serve and develop relationships with the poor in the community near her campus and also serve a church that tragically lost it’s pastor and continues because of a great effort by the surviving family.  She was beaming as she shared several truly amazing stories of restoration and God’s infinite grace.  This was my highlight of the evening.
 
While she was sharing, I began to connect the dots.  Rebecca had served throughout her high school years nearly every Saturday at an inner-city street ministry that we have at our church.  Rebecca was a regular.  She made a strong connection with the folks in the neighborhood.  When she left for college I was regularly asked where she was.  See- Rebecca made an impact!  Not by giving out surplus food, but through her amazing smile and her way of being genuinely interested in their lives.  Rebecca went deeper.  Yes- Rebecca is special- but there is more.
 
As I considered her impact, it occurred to me that the beginning of the trail actually started with her parents willingness to serve.  If her parents hadn’t modeled this behavior, it is very unlikely that Rebecca would be serving the poor in North Carolina.  It can be a tough decision to take your child downtown to serve in a dangerous neighborhood.  You can easily talk yourself out of it.  Also, to model the behavior, you actually have to get out of bed early each Saturday and drive to the ministry.  I have experienced this one first hand.  Your pillow is a hard thing to give up on the only day each week that you have to sleep in!  Yet, over both of these, they were faithful.  And their faithfulness was rewarded with a daughter that truly “gets it”.
 
Many folks work hard their entire lives trying to make that “dent in the universe”.  They store up money and build empires.  They seek to get their name on a building somewhere.  They work really hard to make their children wealthy, comfortable and self-sufficient.
 
All of these are fleeting.  Wealth will eventually be lost or squandered away.  Buildings will eventually crumble and fall.  And the pursuit of comfort and independence ends unfullfilled.

The secret is often right next to you.  You have to choose to light the path for others.  You can show them how to truly influence lives.  And when you do, it’s contagious.  They will continue on modeling for others and then the multiplication factor kicks in.
 
This is how you can truly change the world!  So, what is your plan?  Will you continue to build an empire based on things that will eventually crumble or will you invest in things that will march on for generations.  Maybe a quick look at your planner might reveal where your heart truly is?  It starts with taking a risk and putting yourself out there.  Are you ready?  Can you break the power of your pillow and the pursuit of comfort to light the path for others? 

What are some easy things that you have done that you have seen repeated by others?  Is success and comfort what your children really need?  Click on comments and let me know what you think!

Empty Cathedrals

I have been watching a mega church construction project while commuting to and from work.  This is a really impressive project- super big building and giant size parking lot.  It really looks like a high school campus more than a church project.  I have heard that it cost 10 million dollars, which I think would be a great price for the facility based on the scale of the project.

Worship Service- Western Zambia 2009

Observing this project has led me to reflect on church construction and the costs associated with building a campus that is bigger and better than the church down the road.  Is bigger really better?  Is it really a wise use of resources to purchase and own a church building?

The purpose of the church building is ministry.  There is no use in the residual value of the investment to build a church.  When the church reaches the end of its effectiveness, they are generally sold at a giant discount and are used for other purposes.  I remember seeing a church in a city that was converted to a nightclub!  I recently saw a church in a magazine that was converted to a residence.  I have heard of isolated instances of reuse through purchasing by another church, however, this seems to be very limited.

There is some amazing architecture in church buildings.  The cathedrals of Europe are examples of this.  If the purpose is to provide really amazing architectural wonders- then go ahead and build them big.  However the cathedrals of Europe are largely empty on Sunday.  Ministry is not happening there.  Just tours to view the amazing buildings and huge costs for maintenance and restoration.

So- why can’t the church rent?  There is typically plenty of existing retail or office buildings that could be rented and remodeled to accomplish the needs of a church.  You may not have the impressive expansive sanctuaries and rows of classrooms but an old retail store or office building can be a practical and efficient alternative.  So, comfort or ministry? 

The costs to build and maintain a church campus is huge.   These costs limit the flexibility of how the church can use its resources.  The more efficient that you are in your facilities costs, the more available funds that you will have to minister to the needs of the community.  The costs to build and own a church often strangles a church budget and severely limits ministry resources.    

The Israelites lived in tents and they were able to move when the Lord moved.  Most churches go through cycles of growth and effectiveness, and yet they are tied to a fixed facility and location.  If a church is renting and struggling to be effective in their particular community and they feel that the Lord has opened the doors to move- they can move.  They are not tied to a permanent location.  When you leave, the building can be easily converted to another use and will not become another empty cathedral.

So I say- it is right for the church to rent!  I also believe that the Lord will provide a building Owner that will bless the church with a favorable rental terms.  Concentrate the resources of the church to reach the lost and minister to the poor. 

The temple is the old covenant.  The veil has been torn.  You have been commanded to go.  Let’s pour our resources into advancing His kingdom for His glory!

 “Every year in the United States, we spend more than $10 billion on church buildings.  In America alone, the amount of real estate owned by institutional churches is worth over $230 billion.  We have money and possessions, and we are building temples everywhere.  Empires, really.  Kingdoms.  We call them houses of worship.  But at the core, aren’t they too often outdated models of religion that wrongfully define worship according to a place and wastefully consume our time and money when God has called us to be a people who spend our lives for the sake of His glory among the needy outside the gates?”  Radical by David Platt.  

Do you agree or do you think that I am full of you know what?  Let me know by clicking on comment below!