Are You a Leader for Change?

As I was writing this article, I was warned about using the word – CHANGE! It was originally titled, “Advancement Requires Adjustment.” I received suggestions such as adjustments, alterations, and modifications, but I have come to grips with the truth that unless we accept the horrible consequences of doing nothing, we will die and so will the church we serve! The soldier who is afraid of the prospects of dying will never storm the enemy’s line of defense. We must trust unwaveringly in our God Who is invincible and eternal!

I hear the voices of numerous pastors I have known and to whom I have worked alongside. The questions that grip us over and over are – “Am I the one who is hindering our church’s growth,” or “Do I really want to go through the valley for a change that is not guaranteed?”

Do we really want life-altering change? Of course! Do we expect God to do something amazing if we relinquish our will to His?” Sure! BUT, do we trust ourselves? Do we believe we have the tools, the skills, the stamina to go through what is necessary for change to become a welcome reality in our ministry setting? Rarely! Our own weaknesses knock us down and our lack of strength often pins us to the mat for the “ten count.” So, what can we do to keep our head in the game and our heart in the ministry?

In Paul Nixon’s book, I Refuse to Lead a Dying Church, he gives some great ideas for helping leaders join with their people in becoming a growing, thriving church, but the reality is – Every pastor is leading a dying church! You may say, “Wow, how cynical can you be,” but let’s face it, all our churches are in a world setting our world is passing away. Even Nehemiah’s great rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem only lasted a few decades. After Nehemiah’s great victory, the walls of Jerusalem were almost completely destroyed in 70 A.D. during the Roman siege (First Jewish-Roman War). Once again, they remained in ruins for decades. The walls we see today were rebuilt during the Ottoman Empire (1535-1538). Revitalization or rebuilding can have limitations and restrictions. That is why revitalization is a process, not a program! It is a consistent conduct of living, not a mountain top experience to be attained and forgotten.

What I have experienced is church leaders (I’m not pointing a finger at pastors alone) are excited about the prospects of their church regaining vigor and productivity, but they draw back when the process is presented and they view the lengthy labor of that process. As has been seen for about 3+ decades, we welcome the fast-food version of living, but we steer away from slow, laborious technologies and methodologies.

I think we ought to learn a great phrase by which to serve the Lord, as presented in Star Trek – LET US BOLDLY GO WHERE NO ONE HAS GONE BEFORE! Here are the major points:
1) Let us give our best and die to self, even if no one will go with us.
2) Let us be unstoppable in our quest for finding the new life and helping those who crave a new civilization.
3) Let us remain undeterred in the face of opposition or threat.
4) Let us remember, there is a real hell and real people are going there.
5) Let us focus on the fun of the finish line and not the woes of the journey.
6) Let us be diligent and selfless, not mediocre and lazy in reaching those who are yet to believe.
7) Let us stay true to the Owner’s manual – Man does not live by bread alone!

We cannot help but walk amid the constant degradation of the world around us, but we must not allow the spiritual demise of our planet to overcome the task we have be called to – preparing the Bride for the Bridegroom’s coming. We are to be ever expanding the Kingdom on earth, and we are to be steadfast in our holy trek at the same moment.

True revitalization is indisputably and unequivocally linked to a spiritual catharsis in each of us. Rebuilding walls destroyed by the enemy is a great thing, but the victory of Nehemiah’s time was his people experienced a season of repentance and revival and they were blessed with peace.

So, how can we obtain “the tools and the energy” needed to invite the Spirit of God to bring revitalization? How can we remain steadfast in the work before us while being torn between work, church and family? Would we be willing to labor for 52 days to see our homes and families safe and secure again? We often shy away from any project, meeting or training that takes “too long.”

Here are some thought-tools for your toolbox:
1) There will be resistance. Whether due to fear or loss of status or stability, change can be uncomfortable and unwanted.
2) Change may mean death to something or someone. “A grain of wheat cannot bear much fruit unless it first dies” (John 12:24).
3) Revitalization without spirit-empowered revival is merely a band-aid.
4) Those who appear to be “resistors” may just be wrestling with the change that we have already embraced. Give the congregation time to hear AND receive from the Lord.
5) Help the church to see that the change will help them be successful in meeting their needs and accomplishing their values with less negative impact and with God’s favor.

Are we daily, dying to self so our Lord can use us to bear much fruit? Or, are we striving in our own flesh to produce fruit, only to find we are producing the bitter fruit of this world’s system?

Some pastors, who have requested the revitalization process, quickly change their tune when we unpack the commitment required. I close with some of Paul Nixon’s ideas/tools as well as a few of my own:
1) Keep the Biblical Rationale/Foundation for revitalization always before your people. Help them to be unified (in one accord) and to find joy in regular fellowship and camaraderie.
2) Remind them to always choose what brings life and vitality, not stability and survival. We were called to thrive, not survive. We are to bear much fruit, not protect the fruit basket.
3) Choose to be focused on the yet-to-believe, not on the ninety-nine already in the corral. We spend so much time, money and effort on the structure, rather than on the mission (Acts 1:8).
4) Equip the congregation to be bold witnesses, not fearful followers (Phil. 1:19-21; Prov. 28:1). Consider “How Can I Share My Faith Without an Argument?” by William Fay (https://discoveryseries.org/discovery-series/how-can-i-share-my-faith-without-an-argument/)
5) Intentionally and regularly get the congregation out into the community. Your community needs to see the body serving, once a quarter or even monthly. How will they know you care if you hide inside the walls of the sanctuary?
6) Do what you value! Purpose-driven church has a biblical base, but values-driven churches are usually more passionate and aggressive. When we value something, we tell people about it. We have no qualms promoting what we value to the rest of the world. Ever seen or heard the claims of, “You can make thousands of dollars per week from your own home!” Ever buy a new car and not tell someone about it? I verify my point!
7) Choose your new frontier. Google “revitalization” often and read all you can on the subject. Glean what is helpful for you and your church and discard the rest.
8) Last, but of greatest importance, PRAY! Seek first His plan! Then, ask the Lord to guide your steps and empower your efforts. If we abide in Him and He abides in us, we will ask what we desire (which is also His desire) and it shall be done for you” (John 15:7).

So, I ask one last time – Are you the one to advance your church by making adjustments, both easy and hard? Ask Jesus and then decide!

God-Called and Sold-Out!

One of my greatest desires in ministry is to be a leader with the passion and guts of Nehemiah. He prayed, cared, strategized and led the people of Jerusalem in such effectiveness and productivity that they rebuilt the wall, rehung the gates and reinvigorated the downtrodden inhabitants of the city, AND they completed the entire renovation in only 52 days! In most churches today, during that same timeframe, the project would still be in committee, debating what building materials would be most conducive and arguing who would be the chairperson for the project.

We need Nehemiah-type leaders for revitalization. I’m sure there may be someone who has all the leadership attributes of a Nehemiah, but even having a few would give one a leg-up over most of us!

That being the foundation for the rest of this article, there has been a consistent weakness in EVERY church I have engaged with the revitalization process. Without fail, the two glaring weaknesses have been in the areas of discipleship and evangelism. Jesus’ two parting commands to his followers were “Go, disciple and baptize” – Matthew 28:18-20 and “be faithful witnesses, even unto death” – Acts 1:8. We must be students leading others to Christ and discipling them to become passionate gospel sharers, but this appears to be our greatest weakness.

Yes, we must reach out to our communities. Yes, we must intimately relate to our Lord in spiritual worship. Yes, we must impact our world in missional fervor. Yes, we must spend quality time with our Father, listening and speaking, but we should not be guilty of ignoring His final words to us before bodily leaving planet earth.

So, how can we know if revitalization is being successful? I believe there will be some very defined markers if we are leading congregations to be strong followers of our Savior’s great commission and great commands, immediately and unswervingly. I am also absolutely convinced it takes a strong leader and godly example to help the body of Christ live out our Lord’s commands in this post-Christian world. So here are three markers:

1. Leading others to repent – Acts 20:20,21 “I never shrank back from telling you what you needed to hear, either publicly or in your homes. I have had one message for Jews and Greeks alike—the requirement of repenting from sin and turning to God, and of having faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.

2. Passing on the faith to others – Discipling faithful learners to pass it on as well – 2 Timothy 2:2 “You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.”

3. Being a Persistent Witness – Prov. 11:30 – “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise.” If we are wise and faithful followers, our easiest message is to blabber incessantly about our love for the One Who gave His all for us!

A wet baptistry, worn prayer altars and weekly praise testimonies of new converts and transformed lives are signs of successful renewal, personal revival and corporate revitalization.

So what tools can a leader offer that will position the church body to be poised for a successful revitalization process?

1. Teach them to share their testimony in 90 seconds or less – naturally and confidently!
2. Preach on the reality of hell and grieve with them over the thought of friends, family, neighbors or co-workers ending up in that horrific place.
3. Train them to boldly and lovingly share their faith and the love of Christ with those they engage in their community.
4. Equip them to be faithful stewards, willingly giving quality time to teach new believers what God has instilled in them.

We have forgotten the basics. We need to return to the blocking and tackling of the Christian life. We spend way too much time and energy on events and programs. Yes, they are necessary, and can be a bridge to lost people being willing to listen to the gospel message, but we wear out the body of Christ with a myriad of good things while often running past the best things. These next few paragraphs may make you angry, but I pray you will hear the heart with which I present them.

In our generation, the Sunday morning worship service has become the defining event of Christianity. Yes, we should go to church because Jesus did, and He is our example – Luke 4:16 “So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was (emphasis mine), He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read.” I’m concerned that what happens in most churches on any given Sunday across America has become a liturgical ritual and routine. The worship hour has become our religious idol.

The book of Acts unpacks the lifestyles of a follower of Christ over ten times, yet it never once describes a worship service. If we were composing a book about the twenty-first century church, we would likely spend 90% of the pages describing the Sunday morning services and church events, rather than the life-changing power of the Lord Jesus Christ. The church was designed to be God’s people joyfully displaying the journey to transformation He performed in us!

As a leader of the family of God, how do we change our church’s present mindset to impact the future?
• Encourage your people to choose the center seat in the service and leave the end seats for guests. An initial comfort in the worship venue is vital!
• Present the gospel in the common language of the people. Don’t be vulgar, just be relevant and understandable. Avoid seminary terminology and scholarly phrases. Remember, there are young ears in many worship centers who need to hear and understand.
• Teach your congregation that ministry is the result of proper equipping and spiritual maturity.
• Offer regular opportunities for mission action within your service area. Your community needs your service; that is why He placed you where you are! Don’t take a trip across the country or on the other side of the planet just to entice your people to do what they should be doing at home.
• Live out a lifestyle of constant and consistent mission activity. Avoid missions being a vacation to a place you like to visit or have never been!
• Equip the people to give quality time to digging spiritual wells instead of repainting marred walls. He church is about transformation, not reparation. We are to mentor and coach new believers how to live productively for the Kingdom of God. It is for spiritual oneness that we were reborn.
• Lead with the banner that declares, “Every Member is a Minister.” We are the team, the pastor is the coach, and Jesus is the Owner Who bought us with His blood. We are to run His plays and make touchdowns for Him!
• Develop patterns, not programs. Believers reproducing themselves in new converts, to be examples of the Christ-life.
• EXPECT the laborers to go into the fields that are white unto harvest. If a member does not want to labor, recommend they find a place where they can be satisfied watching people be forever separated from Jesus Christ. The church is not the place to recline! We are saints, not sloths.
• Do something new and outlandish for the glory of God! Jesus was a trendsetter, not a pew sitter.
• Our calling has eternal significance. It is a matter of life and death for eternity. Revitalizing leaders must be concerned with scriptural obedience, rather than social solace or religious rewards.

It is high-time for the church to be the church once again! March, Army of God. Head for the frontlines! That is where we will find our Commander.

Become a Shepherding Revitalizer: Success through Observing the 10 Core Competencies of Jesus Christ, the Lord

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I have been blessed to have many strong mentors. I have been touched and trained by Jack Stanton, Elmer Towns, Luther Williams, B. Gray Allison, E. J. Daniels, Norman Noble, and Ken Bradley just to name a few. These men radiated strong leadership qualities. And then there are the writers that have instilled little nuggets of gold into my leadership vault – Ron Edmonson, Tim Elmore, Rick Curtis and classics like Vance Havner, Andrew Murray, Paul Billheimer and Leonard Ravenhill.
With these in mind and heart, and countless hours of my own study in revitalization, I offer my own rendition of Jesus’ 10 Competencies which every revitalizer ought to strive for to be effective.

First, and these are not in any order of rank, is this: Jesus knew when, where and how to ask the hard questions. His discernment and boldness is crystal clear. When speaking to religious leaders, He knew the correct words to dig into their heart and mind, unearthing the root issues. Jesus did not offer roses and teddy bears to the deception and dishonesty of the Pharisees and Sadducees. He called a lie by its originator – the devil, and He paralleled satan’s schemes with the false religiosity of His day. The religious charlatans were of their father, the devil, and Jesus exposed them. It is imperative for the revitalizer to discern truth from sham, and call leaders and congregations to follow what is true. Sugar-coating the truth will never help fix a church that is declining or dying. Remember, speak the truth in love, but speak the truth!

Second, Jesus was priority-driven. He dealt with what was urgent. In John 17:4, He said He had “accomplished the work which You (the Father) have given Me to do.” He was laser-focused; never distracted from what HAD to be done, but always willing to divert his attention to what needed to be handled immediately. He never failed to stop for those who were sick or grieving before going further. He handled distractions as though they were a part of the plan of the Father (and they are). He never got anxious, never showed disdain for the distraction or the detractor and never shrugged away anyone’s crisis.

Third, Jesus lived what He taught. As my parents used to chide, “Practice what you preach!” And Jesus did. Be genuine when you ask churches to do what you are, and have been, doing. In Luke 7:22, “He (Jesus) answered and said to them (John the Baptist’s followers), “Go and report to John what you have seen and heard: the BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM.” Jesus’ ministry was proof of His message and His authority. He had no problem humbling Himself by washing His pupil’s feet and encouraging them to continue His example. Revitalizers should be known as servant-leaders, not experts. The strategies, processes and plans we present to blemished brides originated from the eternal Bridegroom. Give Him the glory!

Fourth, Jesus took time to refresh Himself. Mark 6:31-32, “And He (Jesus) said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.) They went away in the boat to a secluded place by themselves.” Luke 6:12, “It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God.” Jesus was into self-development. He took time to recharge His physical and spiritual batteries. So must we!

Fifth, relationships must always trump roles. Jesus cared more about people than religious rules, rituals and regulations. John 13:34-35 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Who we are is more important than what we can do. Jesus had no problem breaking the “rules” to care for those who were in need.

Sixth, Jesus replicated Himself in others. Matthew 10:1, Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Mark 3:14-15, And He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him and that He could send them out to preach, and to have authority to cast out the demons. He did not micromanage them, but He did oversee them.
He prepared and trained the apostles to assume His responsibilities. They may have been uneducated and uncouth, but He pushed them to accomplish more than they could have ever imagined. He trained them so well they gladly followed Him to the point of martyrdom. Here is His three-step strategy. 1) He did the ministry and they watched. 2) They did the ministry and reported back to Him for evaluation and advice. 3) He departed, and they took over the ministry and trained others. And it is continuing today through every believer! When the church adheres to this discipleship process, they can’t help but be productive.

Seventh, Jesus expected His followers to be sold-out to His cause. We must gain buy-in to lead in revitalization. Mark 8:34-35, And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.”
When Jesus said, “Follow Me,” He was asking them to relinquish their plans, goals and future for His agenda. We must be willing to lose everything, so He can do the miraculous.

Eighth, Jesus led His followers with an authority beyond Himself. John 12:49, “For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak.” We would do well to:
a) Seek the Lord at the start of every day.
b) Be calm and trust Him when things look bleak.
c) Stand firm in the Word when the enemy attacks.
d) Admit error/sin and seek forgiveness.

Ninth, Jesus perpetuated His ministry in us by leaving us a strengthener and counselor. John 14:12-16, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it. If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever…” Always seek the unction of the Holy Spirit and empower others with the very same Spirit.

Tenth, FINISH WELL! Revitalization is not about us; it is about Him and His Bride being joined in perfect harmony!  (All scriptures are from the New American Standard Bible)

Where are You?

2294096854_cd60c6bb69In Genesis 3 (NASB), God calls to Adam, after he and Eve had eaten of the forbidden tree’s fruit. We pick up the story in verse 9: “Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?’”

This is a question that should be posed to every pastor, and it is painfully apparent that the same question should be directed at the church today. We seem to be focused mostly on where we want to end up. But, you and I know that we can never get where we intend to go unless we first know where we are – where to start!

It is interesting that in the secular world we find the same understanding of this foundational concern. When I go into the mall, there is a directory that maps out the entire mall layout, but it has a star or some other designator to show me where I am. It usually states, “You are Here!” During a college orientation, the student often receives a map of the campus. It shows the new student where everything is located and it has that little designator on the map that says, “You are here!” The university orientation venue is the starting point for the new student to begin their tour of the campus. Even in a retail store, there are aisles with four to five labels disclosing the contents of the aisle and a number designating the aisle. If you are looking for something on aisle 20, you need to know which way to go from your present location. If you are on aisle 2 and you encounter aisle 3 then you are headed the right direction to your destination.

So how can we determine where a church is before we dive headlong into a revitalization process? How can we get headed in the right direction? Let me suggest four exposing tools to help determine where the church is stuck.

First, a pastoral readiness assessment is key to starting the process. It is imperative that the leader struggle with the hard question, “Are you the one who can lead this church into revitalization, renewal and revival?” If that is not clear, then the process is at a standstill. I recently talked with a pastor who said, “I’ve had twenty years of effective ministry, of course I can do this!” But as we analyzed his twenty years of ministry, he realized all he had was four years of good ministry repeated five times. After producing well for four years, he would run out of passion and energy and would move on to a new setting. Or a second pastor who could not answer the previous question. In two subsequent conversations there was still no commitment, but on the third contact, he told me there was no use in pursuing the process with his church. When I probed why, he said he had been terminated. They saw through his lack of leadership and decided for him!

Second, what are the past and present trends of the congregation? Statistics and data from past records and annual church profiles offer a decent look into historical and present trends. Also, there are congregational analyses that offer information by way of the Church Health Survey, staff and personal interviews, demographics, worship service observations, facilities and parking observations, “secret shopper” evaluations, social media assessments, church document reviews and community interviews. These may provide a clearer picture into present trends and the congregation’s reputation in the community.

Third. A weekend congregational workshop encourages members to remember the probable factors that ushered the church into this crisis. They unpack the history of their world, their community and their church. They get to realistically discuss the influencers that have forced both positive and negative impacts on their church. It sheds light on the factors that influenced church strengths and expose areas requiring adjustments and reinforcement, plus they are required to compile possible solutions and suggest concerns that might block the future effectiveness of the renewal process.

Fourth, is inventing the battering rams that can be utilized to knock down the hindrances, barriers and blockades to future success. The Holy Spirit is the greatest revealer and the most powerful bulldozer ever! He must be our source and He must have control over all we think and do and say!

Here are five probing questions and thoughts that can help determine where you are, even as you are reading this article:
1) Ask yourself the hard questions. Are you the one to lead this venture or should you step down and hand it over to more eager and capable hands? Is this the right time? Are these people willing to be moved?
2) Clean up yourself. If you are not confessed up and intentionally seeking the power and presence of the Lord, then maybe no one should be following you at this moment!
3) Run the direction God is going. Make certain you are not demanding the congregation to follow you, if your path does not mirror His. God’s direction is true; it lasts forever and leads to life everlasting.
4) Don’t worry if your friends make fun of you. You may be growing a church that is uncomfortable for them, but if it is sealed with the Father’s approval, who cares what they think! Stand strong, stand up, stand out and live boldly for His glory.
5) Listen to the voice of God first and then go His way! Don’t be a Jonah. Are you looking for Tarshish? Is there a great fish awaiting your disobedient carcass? It has been said of old, “There are few atheists in foxholes,” but for the Christian it is more apropos to say, “There are few happy campers or satisfied inhabitants in a great fish’s belly!” Run with God and you’ll always be running right! Our process is not perfect, but our God is!

Finally, let me warn you about the attacks of the enemy. Nehemiah had the threats of Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem to deal with while trying to rebuild the broken walls of Jerusalem, and the devil will do his best to throw threats and discouragement your way as well. He will mess with mind by saying you are done, washed up, burned out and finished. But the Lord says we are overcomers and victors. I read the back of the Book and WE WIN! Christ has already won the battle, so follow Him.

Where do we start? RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE! RIGHT NOW! If you know where you are and where He is leading you, then you don’t need a GPS or a map. Don’t go it alone. Get help and follow the Holy Spirit’s leadership. Don’t procrastinate, hesitate or make excuses. All you need to succeed is IN Christ! So I’ll ask once more – Where are you?

The Three Pastoral Types that Help or Hinder a Revitalizer

 

Years ago, my mother-in-law gave me a poster. It was a poem entitled, “Don’t You Quit.” It has become a favorite mantra of mine. It keeps my feet to the fire and my nose to the grindstone. She knew I was overworked and my focus had grown dim. I knew she was right, but I surely didn’t want to admit that to my mother-in-law! I had become a discouraged “sitter” and because of a family crisis, I was contemplating the role of the “quitter.” But, God reminded me of this poem. I reached into a file drawer, pulled out the poster, unrolled it and found renewal through its invitation. I offer it here as a motivation to you when you feel like throwing in the towel:

 

Don’t you Quit

 

 

 

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,

 

When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,

 

When the funds are low and the debts are high,

 

And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,

 

When care is pressing you down a bit-

 

Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.

 

 

 

Life is queer with its twists and turns,

 

As every one of us sometimes learns,

 

And many a fellow turns about

 

When he might have won had he stuck it out.

 

Don’t give up though the pace seems slow –

 

You may succeed with another blow.

 

 

 

Often the goal is nearer than

 

It seems to a faint and faltering man;

 

Often the struggler has given up

 

When he might have captured the victor’s cup;

 

And he learned too late when the night came down,

 

How close he was to the golden crown.

 

 

 

Success is failure turned inside out –

 

The silver tint in the clouds of doubt,

 

And you never can tell how close you are,

 

It might be near when it seems afar;

 

So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit –

 

It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.

 

 

 

Since helping facilitate the revitalization process with several churches and walking alongside of pastors who were dejected, discouraged and defeated, I am aware that there are leaders who can help the revitalizer, while others hinder him from being effective, blocking the church from being renewed and stifle the entire process. I pray that this treatise will be received a positive lift and not a negative thrashing.  

 

 

 

Here are three Leadership Attitudes/Actions for our consideration:

 

 

 

1) The “Reluctant Admitter” (previously called by the negative title of “The Quitter”) – This leader allows the revitalizer to move forward and the church to move on without him. He has come to grips with the fact that he is the barricade. He has either accomplished the thing for which God called him to that church, or it is just time for new vision and new leadership. There is a big difference between giving up and knowing when you’ve had enough!

 

 

 

The reluctant admitter may not always be that “reluctant” either! There are times and settings where dissatisfaction and distraction keep us from moving forward and upward. It could be a physical health issue or the distance from ailing parents or precious children and grandchildren that bring us to a driving desire for relocation or reuniting. I do not believe the Lord is resistant to healthy, happy, loving families! Yes, I am fully aware of Luke 14:25-26 (NKJV) – Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. Just remember, this is a Semitic hyperbole. He wants our love for others to be exceeded only by our love for the Father.

 

 

 

If you KNOW you are not the one to lead the revitalization process, then be gutsy enough to admit it and allow someone else to step in and lead the flock to new vistas and new aspirations.

 

 

 

2) The “Satisfied Sitter” – this “leader” holds back the process and the church. He pulls everyone into his rut of worthless activity. This is the pastor who views the church as his place to preach and be part of a group. The flock allows him the resources and location to practice his “gift.” He’s not leading, he’s just absorbing and diffusing.

 

 

 

The congregation is often the first to recognize the “sitter.” They wonder why the church is not growing and healthy. People are dissatisfied and there are as many, or more, exiting as there are joining. Some refer to this as the “back door” being too broad for the continued success of the church. People are often discouraged from beginning new ministries and programs. The prospects of change and extra effort are squelched, and the desire for maintaining outweighs the possibility of creative, innovative service within the church or outside in the community. 

 

 

 

This pastor has become satisfied with his comfort zone and disregarded the commands to go, to disciple and to be witnesses (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8).

 

 

 

3) The “Gritty Go-Gitter” (yes, I know there is no such spelling, but in the south where I was brought up, we pronounce it “gitter” instead of “getter”). This leader lights the way for the followers and drives the process. This leader lets nothing slow his momentum, lets nothing distract him from the goals he has perceived as from the Lord and perseveres until the mission is accomplished. His focus is on God getting the glory and the church walking in unity.

 

 

 

He is often viewed as a workaholic! He is never comfortable with where the church is or the speed at which it moves. He is always looking for a new approach, a new idea, or a more productive resource. I love the “go-gitter!” He may seem like he is ADHD, but he is probably so passionate about his love for the Lord and his calling to serve Jesus Christ that he can’t imagine stopping or even slowing down.

 

 

 

This leader may get frustrated by the process of revitalization. It can be slow and meticulous, but once he receives the strategy, realizes there are clear markers to verify productive movement and comprehends the goals to be achieved, he will get behind it and gladly push toward the finish line.

 

 

 

If you are the “Reluctant Admitter,” ask the Lord whether He expects you to lead the charge to change and revival. If not, get your resume updated and search for the ministry setting where you can have that confidence.  

 

 

 

If you are a “Satisfied-Sitter,” rent a moving truck and relocate. Evaluate God’s calling. If you have no clear response, or you just need some time to find healing and renewal, then take the time in another setting or job that will clarify God’s leading. Ask Him to re-energize you and expand His Kingdom in and through you!

 

 

 

If you are a “Go-Gitter,” put the pedal to the metal and speed on. Just remember to slow down and take the congregation with you! Keep your eye and the goal, equip the saints to do the work and “run” alongside of them as all of you seek to glorify of the Father!

 

Revitalization and Music

 

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Before pastoring I served as a Music Leader for 23 years. I later pastored and continued to lead the music for another 3 years before training others to take up that role. I have always viewed the music portion of worship as preparation for the body to focus on and receive the movement of the Holy Spirit through the proclamation of the Word. Music is an art, and as such, it evokes emotion. Ever wonder why songs from our past bring up good memories and possibly even hurtful ones? Interesting how some of the old songs have been revived and renovated today. Things seem to come back if they are reinvented appropriately!

 

That being said, I hope you hear my experience and my love for the art as it pertains to both the benefits and barriers music may have on revitalization. I have been an avid reader of Dr. Robert Webber (author of Worship is a Verb), and have found great musical insights from men like him and Rick Muchow (former Music Pastor at Saddleback in CA.). Each give both practical and theological bases for the supportive role music can have on the health and renewal of the church.

 

I offer the following list and simple explanations to the benefits and barriers of music in revitalization. First, the barriers:

 

1.     Style above Purpose – Rick Muchow said in a conference years ago – “style was not nearly as important as quality.” Across their campus are numerous musical genres, and all were helpful for evangelism and assimilation, because they demand quality. “We are always to offer the Lord our very best!”

 

2.     Preferences above Culture – I led a worship seminar at a large church that was split over music style. The Music Pastor loved the liturgical, “high-church” style, but his congregation was not supportive of his ministry; they wanted something more “contemporary” (just a side note – what do we mean by contemporary? Yep, as many definitions as definers). During the workshop, we determined that the majority of the church preferred Country and Western music on daily basis. Guess what genre they moved toward, without an argument?

 

3.     Art over Theology – Songs that suggest that we can “come to some dewy garden alone, walking and talking with the Lord, while the moisture is still on the flowers,” does not incite a theological parallel to the life-changing majesty of God. Yes, I love the tune, but the theology is weak at best. Consider songs that help disciples memorize scripture. The Scripture in Song movement of the 80s did this. I’m not suggesting we go back and dig up those relics, but memorizing scripture is invaluable – hiding God’s Word in our heart gives us the resource to resist temptation (Ps. 119:11). Make certain the lyrics match biblical theology.

 

4.     Genre over Harmony – This point has a slight variance to the barrier found in #2. In the church setting above, there were those who said they preferred the “old Southern gospel” style of music, but when it came to their actual responses, given during the workshop, it was revealed that they found daily enjoyment out of a genre that was quite different from their Sunday choice. In a facade of keeping the peace (really desiring to have what they grew up with), the respondents shared that they would love to hear Christian music set to a country or bluegrass style. Some would secretly slip over to the local Cowboy church, now and then, just to hear “the good old gospel songs” accompanied by the banjo, mandolin and washtub. Their reason for remaining in their former dissatisfying worship environment was they didn’t want to dishonor the memory of their ancestors or “cause any waves.” We often choose to stay in our ritual rather than enjoy the freedom of our unity in Christ. It matters not what category of music you sing, as long as it comes from your heart and for His glory. Some of the most exciting worship experiences I ever heard were in a little church in Dacus, TX, where bluegrass Christian music was performed for the Lord with excellence. Those folks always seemed to be free and having fun! And people WANTED to join them.

 

5.     Position over Purpose – I never considered myself “the Worship Pastor.” According to the Old Testament, the priests were the Worship Pastors. My ministry role has always been to be a supportive team member alongside the pastor. The role of all staff members should be to be a team member accomplishing Kingdom work in the local church, under the leadership of the shepherd who is called to that flock. The one thing that was sorely missing in my music education was humility. We should humbly support the direction, vision and goals of the church. Only then can we truly lead the heavenly host in praise. We were trained that our gift, our talent and our abilities were of utmost importance. Being a team player was not taught in Music Theory, Vocal Pedagogy, or Sightsinging and Ear Training. Our Lord needs unified hearts, singleness of direction, and Holy Spirit focus.

 

Second, are benefits of a worship experience that is God-honoring, selfless, and unifying:

 

1.     Music becomes therapeutic. It leads listeners to focus on the One Who is healer, deliverer and savior. It can truly soothe the savage beast. We should plan to immerse the participants mind in the Word. Then, He can cut the bonds that strap us to worry, fear, hopelessness, etc. Music can free the mind! Remember the results of David playing the harp for Saul? (1 Samuel 16:14-23) It works today!

 

2.     Word-centered music stirs the emotions toward the Author! When we sing and play about the One who saved us, who delivered us and healed us, we cannot help but recount His blessings and forget about the petty differences that drain the power of God and plague church unity. Look at David’s response to Nathan’s convicting parable/message (2 Samuel 12:1-14; Psalm 51). Psalm 51 is David’s song of repentance, cleansing and forgiveness. What would our congregations be like if we consistently confessed sin, renewed the sacrifice of our lives daily, and begged God for His washing and restoration?

 

3.     Music becomes the paintbrush of our heart – Spreading the paint of our adoration on the canvas of the world so all may see His greatness. Art is one way we display what is in our soul. We sing in harmony and unite in symphony for the One Who is and was and is to come! We remind EVERYONE that He is coming again and victory will be His AND OURS forevermore. Painting the picture of His love for us will reveal the hope, the peace, and the love we have in Him and for others who receive Him. The Lord adds to the church that sacrifices their all for Him and for others (Acts 1:42-47).

 

4.     Quality becomes the standard. We will cease getting out of bed on Sunday morning and picking 4-5 songs we enjoy, and we will stop “filling” 20-30 minutes on a Sunday morning program. We will be offering our best, our all, for the One Who gave His all (sounds like good lyrics). The church that practices praise with perfection offers a beautiful aroma to the Lord. We must tirelessly prepare so we honor and respect the One Who is the focus of the worship event. We must lift Him up so all people will be drawn to Him (John 12:32).

 

5.     The Father is the Focus. The ego-centric desire to entertain gives way to intimate communion. Revival and renewal flows from God’s throne when we glorify His name/character/ attributes and when we lovingly adhere to His commands. If we love Him, we will keep His commands, and if we keep His commands, we will love others properly (1 John 5:1-5). It is at His feet that we gain what is vital!

 

In summary, weekly reflect on the music ministry of your local congregation. Make certain it is selflessly-anointed, culturally-relevant, emotionally-appropriate, therapeutically-beneficial, theologically-sound, God-focused, unifying, inclusive and stunning in quality.

 

May it be our strategy to utilize music to reinforce the Word, heal the soul and propel the believer toward repentance and daily renewal. What is your heart singing today?

 

Desired Attributes in a Strategic Leadership Team

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            In a revitalization process there are certain leadership attributes that help plug the holes in the ship so she doesn’t sink while sitting in the dock. Nehemiah was a walking example of all these attributes. And while I am sure God can raise up another Nehemiah, I believe He tends to use a team of people who possess the attributes necessary. Jesus used a team of twelve to show us how it’s done! Ask the Lord to provide the best gifted people to be a part of the team and here’s what to look for:

 

 

 

1.     The catalyst. Someone must be the initiator of the process and the plan.

 

 

 

2.     The outsider. Someone new; someone without a long history in the church body; someone distantly removed from any politics or division. Joel Allen Barker asks, “What kind of person is a paradigm shifter?” He states simply, “an outsider”[1] is. An outsider has a clearer perspective on the situation and he/she is not overwhelmed with the grief of the problem. 

 

 

 

3.     The problem-solver. A person who can organize the people to follow the Lord’s leadership. The problem solver sees the probabilities for obstacles and/or barriers and plans a way around them.

 

 

 

4.     The visionary. A visionary sees what others cannot yet see. Even the outsider, mentioned earlier, must be sympathetic to the need for growth and health and envision their part in developing a solution.

 

 

 

5.     The motivator. A team member who can speak with confidence, and rally the troops with his/her words, is likely to find that the team is being followed by an eager crowd.

 

 

 

6.     The persuader. A selfless persuader can influence a church, to press outward toward the world in need, rather than being inwardly–focused. The selfless persuader is a prize to any group or congregation.

 

 

 

7.     The risk-taker. Every great leader will face a certain level of risk to accomplish what they knew was absolutely essential to the cause. Jesus is the ultimate example of this attribute.

 

 

 

8.     An empathizer. A restoration leader who cares deeply for the people, enough to join them in their pain and their struggle back to productivity, and ultimately to restoration and revival is a leader who will endear themself to the people they serve.

 

 

 

9.     A persevering leader. Perseverance is steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success. It is the character trait that compels one to struggle through failures, difficulties or opposition to achieve one’s desired outcome or goals. [2] Leaders of change, innovation, creativity, and vision may be misunderstood by some, but a team leader – who perseveres, refuses to throw in the towel, or run to a greener field – can help a church bounce back from the brink of death.

 

 

 

10.  A planner. Each time a barrier presents itself, the planner prayerfully prepares a plan to keep the work on track and reiterates the goal to be attained.

 

 

 

11.  A recruiter. One who can recruit workers with a vision and a plan to accomplish the goals. Restoration is a team effort. There must be a leader who can recruit the congregation to buy into the renewal plan for the process to be effective and maintainable. Without the team environment, renewal would be similar to a coach without any players on the court or field; the game will never be effective.

 

 

 

12.  The organizer. This team member makes sure all the resources are present, gives specific assignments so the group is confident concerning their task, and observes and evaluates the effectiveness of the assignments. Organization will not eliminate difficulties, but it can provide multiple options to each barrier.

 

 

 

13.  The delegator. He/she does not accomplish the task in his/her own power. Michael McCutcheon speaking wisely in favor of the need for delegation, quotes J. Oswald Sanders by saying, “To insist on doing things oneself because it will be done better is not only a shortsighted policy but may be evidence of an unwarranted conceit.”[3]

 

 

 

14.  A person of prayer. Being a person of prayer demonstrates interdependence on the subject of one’s faith.

 

 

 

            Jesus’ leadership reaction to His followers was: “But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary [harassed] and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd [leader, guide]” (Matthew 9:36).  

 

 

 

            Biblical leadership is absolutely essential to revitalization, restoration and church health.   

 

 

 


[1] Malphurs, Pouring New Wine into Old Wineskins, 71.

 

[2] The New Oxford American Dictionary, s.v. “Perseverance.”

[3] Michael McCutcheon, Rebuilding God’s People: Strategies for Revitalizing Declining Churches (Camp Hill, Christian Publications, 1993), 36.