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Home page: http://www.KirlinCoaching.com
Posts by Kirk Kirlin
The compulsion for the Church to retreat to the margins of society is ever present, especially now. For Christians and churches to bring a clear, distinctive, restorative, and visibly beneficial dynamism to society, our leaders will be heroic, God-trusting activists who live like those in Scripture whose example has inspired millions across history.– Kirk Kirlin, Leadership Courage
When those who hold the keys to power in our churches attempt to minimize the discomfort our members associate with change they reinforce the juvenility that causes the Church to fail at just about everything God has called it to be and do. Change doesn’t have to be a threat, but an adventure that God calls Christian leaders to step into.– Kirk Kirlin, Leadership Courage
American society thinks they’ve heard enough Christians—people they’ve decided are rigid, judgmental, hypocritical bigots. And, since we’ve reduced Christian ministry to explanation and oration, we keep trying to teachthem the right way to think, believe, and act.
Did Jesus do it this way?Consider the Campaign of Nain[Luke 7:11-17] Jesus approaches the town and sees a funeral procession. A widow is broken over the death of her child. People are in despair.What does Jesus do?As he sizes up the situation, his heart goes out to her. He walks up, touches the casket, raises the boy to life, and hands him to his mother.
That’s it!No altar call.No self-promotion.No advertisement about next Sunday’s meeting. Jesus doesn’t tell them to do anything. Jesus brings the Kingdom and because he does, people are blessed. He is a messenger of good. An “ev-angel.”
Because of the preponderance of the teaching grace in American churches, you get a dysfunctional over-emphasis on teaching as the means of evangelism. Whenever you are with anyone, you create an experience in that person. When you keep trying to teach those who are not postured to learn, what do they experience? It’s like scratching someone where they don’t itch. It is irritating. Trying to teach those who don’t want to learn creates the experience of annoyance, condescension, and frustration—not openness. And, worst of all we do this in the name of Jesus. -Kirk Kirlin, from my upcoming book: Leadership Courage
Go First! (part three)
We’re looking at a ninth characteristic of courageous Christian leadership.
Rather than taking a straw poll to see what the prevailing opinions are, a leader will go first.
And sometimes this means going alone… for a while.
It’s nothing special.
It what leaders do.
As we investigate going first, we’re reminded that Christ gave three distinct ministry gifts to the church: apostle, prophet, and evangelist to compliment that of the pastor-teacher [Eph 4:11]. Yet, since the Reformation, pastor-teachers have been leading in a vacuum.
The over-emphasis on shepherding and teaching has produced both the Church and the society that we have today.
Going first, I assert, includes restoring the apostolic, prophetic, and evangelistic graces to Christian leadership. Last time we considered the apostolic; what it brings to leadership and what’s lost when it’s absent.
So, what becomes of the Church when the prophetic is marginalized?
You get an indistinct, mushy, shallow, and disingenuously “nice” message week after week.
The trumpet blows an uncertain sound. [I Cor 14:8]
And where there’s no prophetic voice, there’s no distinctively Christian lifestyle either. Sin can thrive in an atmosphere like that.
And, it does.
The prophetic grace brings clarity when the church and her leaders wobble and wander.
The prophetic brings courageous correction. It is the scalpel that cuts between the diseased and the healthy tissue around it. It provides a clear word from God (or from God’s Word) when the Church is blurring the lines of biblical acuity.
Think about Nathan’s role in the life of King David [2 Sam 12:1-14]. Where might David’s arrogance, selfishness, and entitlement have taken him were it not for the timeliness, the clarity and the strength of the prophet’s rebuke? When you mix the kind of power that many ministry leaders have with their human frailty disaster often results. When it does, innocents are hurt and the veracity of the Christian faith is undermined.
What if the prophetic voice was just as visible, authoritative, and influential in the Church in North America as the pastor-teacher has been?
Imagine if they stood side-by-side to mature the Church and to improve her efficacy in society.
More imperative, how much more mature, godly, and authentically Christian might the Church be today?
Allow yourself to consider the moral, spiritual, and ethical condition of American society if the prophetic had been as influential as the shepherd-teacher has for the last couple hundred years.
“Christ gave some to be apostles and some to be prophets, etc…”
Since Christ has given them to the Church, don’t you wonder where they are?
Go First! (part two)
To the Church at Ephesus, Paul wrote: So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up… Yet, since the Reformation, the Church in the West has been dominated almost exclusively by those with the pastor-teacher gift.
An apostle is a “sent-one”. Walk into the dozen churches closest to your home and send the members out into the community to minister there. Call them to establish the Kingdom reign and rule of God out there. Challenge them to pioneer fresh and meaningful expressions of ministry that make sense to the prevailing culture — outside their walls.
The Christians in those churches will look at you like you’re nuts!
And the longer they’ve been “churched” the more aghast they will be. If they’ve been in church their entire lives, their incredulity will be nearly insurmountable.
The religious culture in which they’ve been steeping has been training them to be scandalized by the assertion that they’re supposed to minister regularly, routinely, naturally, and passionately among those who are not followers of the Christian way. The culture believes that’s what ministers are paid for. “Ministers minister. We come and sit and listen and sort of tithe…”
Trust me on this.
I’m close to a few Senior Pastors who challenged their people in just this way — and the power brokers who control their elder boards — ran the pastors out. Out of the church. Out of town. Out of pastoral ministry.
It is heartbreaking for the pastors. It’s far more disastrous for the congregations left behind, mired in meaningless maintenance of impotent programs and life-sapping control. The greatest catastrophe, however, is for those the Church continues ignore, insulating them from what would have been provocative demonstrations of Christ’s transformative presence in their midst.
They just go to Hell.
Does this remind you, at all, of Jesus’ words: “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. You won’t go in yourselves, and you don’t let others enter either. [Mt 23:13 NLT]
See, the apostolic impetus ignites action.
It generates ground-breaking innovation. It leads change. It is consumed with whatever could expand the reach and impact of the Kingdom of God. The apostolic is risk-taking, not safety-centered. Its orientation is forward.
Christ gave the apostolic to the Church for her effectiveness.
And, where it’s missing, minimized, or marginalized, you get, well… you get what we have today.
Go First! (part one)
Could you imagine the impact of a largely leaderless Church for, say, 400 years?
Well, look around…
We’re heading for the home stretch on this examination of courageous Christian leadership. The impetus for my challenges and observations is Edwin Friedman’s wonderful book: A Failure of Nerve. Thus far, we’ve made eight observations about leadership amidst a culture of cowardice:
One: Courageous leadership is not about skill, technique, or knowledge. It is, most of all, about the presence of the leader as he or she moves through life.
Two: Take full responsibility for your own emotional being and destiny.
Three: Promote healthy differentiation within the church or system you lead.
Four: Stand, as an exemplar, in the sabotage and backlash that must come.
Five: Don’t “push on the rope”: the unmotivated are invulnerable to insight.
Six: Undermine the 80/20 Rule.
Seven: Reintroduce yourself to the adventurous life.
Eight: Disengage an unreasonable faith in reasonableness.
This brings us to the ninth principle: Go first.
Ever wonder what happened to the Church the Apostle Paul envisioned in Ephesians chapter four? A Church in which the saints are the “ministers.”
Paul is clear:
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up… and become mature… Then we will no longer be infants… Instead… we will grow to become in every respect the mature body… the whole body… grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. [Ephesians 4:11-16]
In Paul’s conception, Christ gives ministers to the church to train, develop, and equip the members to minister, to mature in every respect, and to w-o-r-k.
Religious educators who teach, and teach, and teach the saints who sit, and sit, and sit while they learn, and learn, and learn.
The saints serving.
The body maturing.
Every part working.
What if the culprit is not so much the laziness and lethargy of the saints but the focus and function of the clergy?
See, Christ himself gave apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, pastoral, and teaching gifts to equip his Church for maturity and ministry.
An overwhelming super-abundance of pastor-teachers.
Imagine a softball team in which all nine positions are played by catchers. Very well equipped catchers.
Can you see it?
Catcher’s glove. Catcher’s mask. Shin pads. The whole get-up.
Now, put that catcher on the mound and ask her to pitch… Put her in left to run down a deep fly ball… Or, at shortstop to turn a ground ball into a double play.
This is the Church in the West today.
People who learn lots of things, important things, and not much else.
I’m not denigrating the teaching gift. I’m denigrating the notion of the teaching-only ministry.
I’m inviting you to look at the results of recurring generations of pastor/teacher-dominant ministry in the West.
Are you impressed by what you see?
The Unreasonableness of Being Reasonable (part five)
Within a larger conversation concerning courageous leadership we’ve been examining the outworking of placing “an unreasonable faith in reasonableness” – a central tenet of much of post-Enlightenment Christendom in the West. I am indebted to Edwin Freidman’s A Failure on Nerve for illuminating this characteristic of the anxious, shallow, quick-fix orientation to leadership.
This kind of leadership is ruining the Church in North America in our time.
We’ve pointed out that when you preach what you don’t practice, the dissonance repels people – not just from your sanctuary – but from Christianity and Christ. The implications for a society are deeply profound and can infect it for generations.
And, men leave the church in droves.
Or haven’t you noticed?
I subscribe to an excellent book reading service called Leader’s Book Summaries [www.StudyLeadership.com].
I highly recommend it. In a summary of David Murrow’s Why Men Hate Going to Church I learned that only one third of church attendees are men—and most of them are over 50. It’s almost impossible to find adults – of either gender — under age 30 in church.
Consider these two lists of values: The first list: Love, communication, beauty, relationships, support, help, nurture, feelings, sharing, harmony, community, and cooperation.
And, the second list: Competence, power, efficiency, achievement, skills, results, accomplishment, technology, goals, success, and competition.
Which list of values are most consistent with the culture that predominates the North American Church today?
The two lists come from John Gray’s Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus and distinguish culturally “masculine” from “feminine” values.
In our commitment to be reasonable, among other major shifts, the Church in the west has been emasculated. Neutered. It’s been feminized.
The Leaders Book Summary points out that numerous studies reveal “there is widespread agreement among both the religious and the secular that to be a Christian is to embrace feminine values.”
Consider this: those most absent from church (men and young adults) value challenge over security. Again, taken from the Summary, the key values of this missing population include adventure, risk, daring, independence, variety, and reward.
as core values.
Since values are revealed in behavior, not belief systems, what does your lifestyle reveal, pastor?
When the time has come to take a courageous stand, what does your behavior reveal?
- When the opportunity came to stand up to that manipulative, obstructionist power-wielding elder, what did you do?
- When you thought to lead your parish out into the city to serve and love those outside your tight-knit congregation – and push-back came, as it always does – did you lead courageously or cave under pressure?
- When a clear biblical injunction has become as unpopular in your denomination as in the culture at large, have you censored your own voice?
- When the Holy Spirit stirred you to put your hand to the plow in pursuit of some great, challenging work for God’s glory, did the fearful complaints of the cowards prevail in the end?
As leaders, we get to champion our people to become who they always wanted to be, by taking them where they never wanted to go.
And, since life is always lived from now on, your past behavior is no predictor of the greatness you’ll accomplish before you breathe your last.
So, before you see Jesus face to face, what great, rewarding, daring adventure will you and your people give yourselves to?
What’ll it be?
You get to choose.