Discipleship

43 Spectators

Leadership Courage (part forty three)

1
Undermine the 80/20 Rule (part three)

We’re looking at another characteristic of the culture of cowardice that’s become normative in North American Christianity: the 80/20 Rule is flourishing!

As senior pastor, elder, or lay leader, what can you do to Undermine the 80/20 Rule in your congregation?

Last time, we proposed that you and your staff think like people-developers, not gatherers of passive spectators.

43 SpectatorsTo that we add: Stop counting the numbers of spectators who amass at your weekend events.

Instead, fix your attention on those who are making a difference for Christ.

Decide what maturing in Christ looks like in your context: serving the un-churched, giving sacrificially of one’s money, time, and talents, etc. Count those who live this way. Those who contribute, who serve, who minister outside as well as inside the church.

Count only those who do.

Focus on their progress. Use them as examples when you teach and train. Make them your ministry’s visible heroes.

Pay attention to their growth. Who among them is God stretching, growing, maturing, and strengthening?

What are the experiences that seem to contribute to the development of their character, confidence in ministry, trust in Christ, and tenderness of heart?

43 ProvokeWhat can you, as a senior leadership team, do to provoke your people to love and good works? [Hebrews 10:24]

And, while you’re doing that, wean yourself off your fixation with how many attend this or that. To undermine the 80/20 rule, stop yourself from caring about how many come and listen… to you. Stop asking about how many came and sat and took and left.

Three: Innovate ways to involve everyone, every time.

A lot of people come to my church, several services a weekend. So …

  • What if, routinely in our services, we formed groups and asked them to find someone with whom they discover they have something in common, then turn that common ground into prayer?
  • What if our greeters grabbed the first ten strangers who walked in, and asked them to help?
  • What if our ushers randomly asked people to help them?
  • What if our trained prayer team folks picked a handful of people who they quickly trained to pray then had them come alongside and assist them when praying for others?
  • What if every ministry team, the weekend before they do some local ministry, randomly ask people in the service to come and do it with them? What if the service was suspended until 15 people agreed to come and help?

What if you made it clear that this is a community where everyone gives. From day one.

Where everyone contributes.

Where everyone plays. 

What if giving, and contributing, and playing is how maturing disciples are made?

42 trainer

Leadership Courage (part forty two)

0

Undermine the 80/20 Rule (part two)

We’re looking at another characteristic of the culture of cowardice that’s become normative in North American Christianity: the 80/20 Rule is flourishing!

As senior pastor, elder, or lay leader, what can you do to Undermine the 80/20 Rule in your congregation?

42 trainerOne: Think like a people-developer, not a gatherer of passive spectators.

In other words, re-think why you’re in Christian ministry.

Decide to jettison the notion—promoted by almost three hundred years of post-enlightenment Church culture—that your role primarily is to educate and entertain church dwellers. Instead, become primarily a disciple-maker and maturity-provoker. When your purpose is to catalyze people to live like Jesus, so much of the activity that fills and frustrates your workweek will change.

Think about it.

What if your senior staff took 80% of the hours it devotes to preparing for and pulling off a slick service –- an education and entertainment event – and dedicated that time to imagining ways to provoke Christ-likeness in your people?

42 street ministryWhat if you became trainers, coaches, and equippers rather than event planners and producers? What experiences would support your people’s growth into maturity?

  • What skills would you be sure to have them practice? Let me propose a few: discerning God’s voice, praying for others effectively, listening well, succinctly sharing the story of their introduction to Christ.
  • What would you have them role play? Communicating parts of their Christ-story so as to connect with a variety of people in any number of typical life situations, responding biblically to universal ethical and moral challenges, selecting appropriate scriptures to support people facing common difficulties, life experiences, and perplexities.
  • What field trip experiences would be core to your disciple-making process? Serving those outside the church who are culturally similar to your trainee, volunteering with secular service organizations, interviewing community leaders about the true needs of neighboring residents [police officials, mayor’s office, school administrators, YWCA director, city council members], meeting and befriending their actual neighbors.
  • How would you insure that your people apply whatever is taught when you do an education event? Pave pathways in advance of your weekend education events so that every person can take action in line with their new learning.
In the people-development business the options and opportunities available to you are virtually unlimited. Challenging your people to trust God in real-time and to discover God’s goodness as, and after, they do, can become central to your congregation’s experience.

It’s up to you.

41-come-back

Leadership Courage (part forty one)

0
Leadership in a Culture of Cowardice (part twenty seven)

We’re unpacking the sixth leadership principle for pastors who find themselves immersed in a culture of cowardice that in my observation has taken over the Church in North America.

UNDERMINE THE 80/20 RULE!

Consider this: what expectations are communicated to those who gather at your weekend services?

Park here.

Don’t smoke in the building.

Sign in your kids. Take a pager.

Leave your coffee outside the sanctuary.

Give something, if you want to.

Take part in this class, that event, the other small group experience.

And… please come back!41-come-back

You can boil down the “contract” you make with most of your folks this way: “Just come back and we’ll take care of everything else.“

And, if they come back, they do exactly what you’ve asked: nothing.

And you’re relieved if they do this this for years…

Now consider: how frequently and how clearly do you teach your congregation about giving?

Jesus spoke more about money than any subject other than the Kingdom of God. Why? Because what you treasure reveals your character. [Mt 6:21]

Yet, most pastors dread speaking about finances. “People will think that all we care about is money” some of you say. So, you rarely teach the topic and how closely allied it is to all issues of the heart of your people.

And, here’s the irony. Pastor, if you’re honest, you think about money all the time!

Don’t you?

See, if you’re in the business of packing the pews and parking lot [what I call the “religious education and entertainment business”], you’ll avoid all the topics that invite people to take offense (and reveal their values).

Strange that Jesus wasn’t smart enough to remember this, since he addressed the topic so very, very often? In fact, of you study his behavior, you’ll conclude that keeping the crowds coming back for more wasn’t nearly as important to Jesus as it is to us.

What was Jesus’ priority?

Why did Jesus say what he said? Why did he teach, tell the stories he told, and live among people the way he did? 41-woodenI assert that Jesus was in the people-development business. Jesus was making Kingdom citizens of people. And, when it happened, these people lived in very distinct ways.

“Discipleship”, to Jesus, had everything to do with how people live, and why they do what they do. The heart-posture and motivation of one’s actions. Discipleship began with the renovation of the heart… and that heart-posture expressed itself in a way-of-being in the world that was…well, remarkable. [Acts 16:7]

Yet, in North America, church dwellers’ way-of-being in society seems anything but remarkable.

Doesn’t it?

Funny, too, that when pastors teach about finances, giving almost always increases… at least for a while.

Ever wondered why cults get a following? I offer that one reason is that they communicate clear expectations of their members. Very rigorous expectations. Often misguided. Theologically corrupt as well. Yet, people by the thousands “pony up” whatever is required. Maybe the cult leaders abuse the scriptures that you avoid

Still, Jesus said: “If anyone will come after me, he (or she) must take up their cross daily and follow me.” [Mt 16:24, Mk 8:34] Yet, such preaching is rarely heard in the seeker-sensitive, politically-correct Church of our day.

I wonder what prices we pay, as a result.

I wonder what prices American society is paying, too.

choose 13

Being in Conflict (part thirteen)

2

While there is much for a Christian leader to learn when in conflict — today’s principle will keep you from falling into conflict, much of the time.

So, if you’d prefer to minimize your participation in conflicts from now on, listen up!

As with each of the articles in this series, this principle will make a lot of sense to you… and I bet you rarely apply it. And you do this to your own relational and leadership peril.

Principle #8- Who gets to choose?

choose 13Who chooses your choices?

Who decides your decisions?

Who determines your attitudes: whether and when you forgive, when and why you finally get off some offense or other?

The answer is ridiculously apparent: You do.

“So what?” you say.

Here’s what: most of your conflicts erupt when you forget this simple, obvious reality:

You don’t get to choose anybody else’s choices.

Now now.

Not ever.

You never have and you never will.

And yet, in your most challenging relationships, you behave as if you do.

Don’t you?

Think about it.

You imagine that you choose how much your daughter is online. How much your wife spends on shoes. How and when your son does his homework. Right? You say: “We have strict guidelines in our home about how much time Sophia gets to be online. Susan has a strict budget—including shoes. Ben knows he has to do all his homework before TV.” And, you think that because these things are true, that Sophia, and Susan, and Ben are not deciding every single day whether and to what extent they live within these carefully-defined parameters?

I assert that they choose. Every time. Just like you did when you were a kid.

Their choice is always theirs—just as your choices are yours.

Most of your conflicts erupt when you forget that you only get to choose your choices. An autonomous human being does what every single human being does every single moment of every single day: she chooses. And you go berserk because you think somehow you’re entitled to choose other people’s choices. Don’t you?

Think about it.

Small things.

Big things.

Dumb things.

Important things.

Eternal things.

God, who is omnipotent, who knows everything, who is eternal and sovereign set it up that way. We get to choose all our choices. And, sometimes (maybe much of the time) God weeps over the choices we make.

free 13Consider just how different your life could be if you lived as if everyone around you makes their own decisions—every time. Imagine your life when you no longer manipulate, press, challenge, shame, and guilt others. Imagine never again being “so disappointed” in the decisions of those near you.

Imagine the impact on those you love.

Consider how they might live when out from under the crushing weight of your expectations, disappointments, and judgments.

Freedom?

What if you trusted people to make their own decisions and to live into whatever reality those decisions open up and close down for them?

You could sorrow with them, without being ashamed. The confidence you display in those near you might invite them to make great choices—surprising both you and them!

 

63 fortress

Impact, not Intention (part five)

0

63 SaintsIn most sports, scoring happens on offense.

In football, when your opponent has the ball, you want to get the ball back so your team can score.

Get your defense off the field as fast as possible.

The same is true in a relational breakdown. Get your defense off fast!

Let me take you on a quick detour, before returning to this sports analogy.

Recently, I invited you to consider that you’re always causing an experience for those you’re with. I challenged you to decide in advance the experience you’re committed to cause: before you preach, facilitate a board meeting, vacation with your spouse, or take your staff on retreat.

What experience are you committed to cause?

As I type this, Annie and I are flying to our daughter’s commencement at Texas Tech. 63 Texas TechWe’ll commemorate her monumental accomplishment—the result of many years of discipline and sacrifice: late night studying after working full time to support herself and her education. And, we’ll meet her boyfriend for the first time.

I am committed to cause them to experience love, gratitude, and acceptance.

As the weekend progresses, I’ll watch them to see if these experiences are occurring. I expect to continually adjust how I’m being to cause these experiences with them. It may take all weekend to have my commitment happen…I can’t know until we’re in it. But, my commitment is clear.

If I find myself embroiled in a relationship “breakdown”, my natural human 

63 fortress

tendency will be to “put my defense on the field”. 

To lock down on the ‘rightness’ of my position—to build a fortress around the virtue of my view, behavior, or stance—and defend it.

As I do, any hope of causing the experience to which I’m committed will go out the window.

To have my commitment happen, I have to get off defense and back on offense.

I described it last time… during my conversation with the sem

inar participant who worked in the MLM business. I pulled my defense off the field and began to cause the experience to which I was committed…in mid-sentence.

The more deeply entrenched you are in your own defense, the more diligent and intentional you’ll have to be on “offense”.

So, quick as you can, get your defense off the field and have the impact you’re committed to cause.

 

Coaching distinctions #63.doc

 

46 sand

Which Will? (part five)

0

You don’t hear much about one’s will in preaching these days.  There’s plenty about God’s love, God’s mercy, and how God thinks each of us is so very wonderful. There’s lots about our allowing God to do this or that— be the center, be in charge, be on the throne, take my life, let it be this or that for Thee.

46 waitingListening to all of this, it’s easy to get the idea that the Christian life is lived passively. The inference is that you just sit and wait, yielded and surrendered until God decides to act upon your life … then suddenly, you do great things for God.

In my observation, people pretty much do what they’ve trained themselves to do. If you’ve trained yourself to live your faith passively, you’re not likely to spring into action when God makes an opening that requires fast obedience and involves risk.

When we sing “Lord take my life and let it be fully pleasing unto thee” I imagine God asking us: “Well, what do you want?

Do you want your life to please God?

Then, tell your boyfriend you’ll sleep with him when he marries you. Not again ‘till then.

Insist that your employer pays you “above the table”.

Gather some friends and help someone who’s needy.  Keep doing it until they ask you why.

Each is an action.

It requires your will to do it.

To drift through the years, living an indistinctive life also takes your will. The will to live like everyone else.

Your friends.

Your comfort.

Your routine.

Your stuff is paramount.

All this, Martin Buber calls our “little will”. He says it’s “ruled by things and drives”. Like our emotions and preferences. The little will never accomplishes anything great.

46 sandAnd, in the US in this hour, so pitifully little seems to be getting done that honors Christ and blesses those outside the Church, that we’d be wise to engage our “great wills” and get after it.

If not, I fear Christianity could be within a few decades of extinction.

Recently I heard an interview with the founder of a Freedom from Religion group. Their purpose is to educate the United States in “nontheism” –ridding society of all worship. 46 GodlessHe relished the amazing progress of their cause in the US and points to Scandinavia where he said fewer than 4% have any religious faith.

A secular utopia.

You can bet this man’s will is fully engaged in its pursuit.

Where’s yours?

Coaching distinctions #46.doc

45 good

Which Will? (part four)

0

In I and Thou Martin Buber writes of the freedom each of us has to pursue our destiny.

If you’re paying attention, the longer you live the better you understand the unique contribution you are. I say, “if you’re paying attention” because God is communicating. Those endeavors where you’ve had success, failure, frustration, satisfaction, the aspirations that ignite your passion, the injustices that make your blood boil, the people you’re drawn to, and those you find repellant. All these point to the unique ways you get to contribute to advance God’s agenda.

God’s agenda?

Jesus did it pretty well.  “He did good and healed all who were oppressed…”.

So, do good.

Just start there. Do good, lots and lots of good. If you’re not sure what constitutes “good”, avoid the fringes and lock-in to what almost every moral person will agree is good.

45 homerIn the war between your great will and little will, how do you determine which wins?

The one you feed.

So, feed your great will.  Give yourself permission to dream. Big, huge, God-honoring dreams.

Imagine that your life’s been set up. That God’s been preparing you to impact people in clearly beneficial ways. Consider this: you live where you do, have the occupation you’re in, and are connected to the people you are because God set it up this way. It’s all been set up for you to bring good to. Your unique brand of good.

45 mandelaEphesians 2:10 calls them “good works”.  You are God’s masterpiece, God’s “poema”, created in Christ Jesus to do good works that God prepared in advance for you. For this to be true, it’s not just the “works” that’ve been prepared.

You have, too.

All your life, God’s been shaping, crafting, honing, and refining the masterpiece God calls ‘you’. And, God’s placed you in a setting that needs the good you bring.

Watch some people and you might think God’s done all this just so they can be enslaved by their puny, obnoxious, comfort-obsessed, self-serving ‘little will’.

Uh, NO!

So, let’s experiment. For the next month, live as if you’ve been prepared to bring good to those within reach. Try “doing good and healing all who are oppressed…”

Drop the lawsuit.

Do good.

Quit stonewalling your mom.

Do good.

Forgive the jerk who betrayed you.

Do good.

Spend a couple hours with that lonely person you barely know.

45 goodDo good.

Help somebody.

Do good.

Offer to pray for the next sick person you see… and five more after that.

Do good.

Get a freakin’ job and quit filching off your family members.

Do good.

Stop feeding your ‘little will’ and its insatiable entitlements.

Then, in a month, decide if you want to ‘re-up’.

I bet you will.

Coaching distinctions #45.doc

44 rhetoric

Which Will? (part three)

2

We’re examining destiny. You have one. Waiting for you. As Buber says, you must pursue it with your whole being, not knowing where it waits. You have a ‘great will’ that wants to live a noble, heroic, God-honoring, and history-impacting life.

44 looking goodAnd, you have a ‘little will’ that above all desires to:

Look good. 

Feel good. 

Be right. 

Be in control.

These motivations I callThe Formidable Four”.

They show up everywhere.

They undermine a pastors’ resolve to lead clearly, consistently, and courageously. They invite congregations to focus inwardly, even while the community—where they’ve been placed as God’s provision—drifts further from Christ. They motivate elders to gesture at change rather than do the hard work of maturing disciples who bear fruit as a way of life.

In my life, the “little will” dissuades me from initiating conversations about financial support for the ministry to which I’m called. It presses me to downplay the urgency to enroll pastors in new reFocusing Networks, when my momentum begins to wane. It cautions me to play safe in coaching, rather than offend a client by illuminating a character flaw that is undercutting her leadership.  And after an unusually intense week (like last week), it tempts me to blow off writing this blog! 

Buber’s ‘great will’ and ‘little will’ wrestle within us.

Save or spend.

Walk or take the car.

Stand up for what you know is right or compromise to keep peace.

Pander to the preferences of your congregation or lead them to serve others selflessly.

Develop the character of around you or settle for being liked.

We see the conflict between great and little will played out in US politics.

44 rhetoricWhile campaigning, candidates’ towering rhetoric calls to our ‘great will’.

It extols the virtue of selflessness, challenging us to forfeit our petty comforts in the short run to establish or protect or defend something noble and honorable and necessary and good for the generations that follow. It speaks of great accomplishments and great sacrifice and uniting for the benefit of the nation.

Then, post-election, the ‘little will’ takes over.

Its priority is whatever will please the most people now. Minimize pain, discomfort, and anxiety immediately—no matter how it infantilizes the population, rips apart our social fabric, and devastates those who’ll inherit the mess.

This blog is not about politics.

It’s about you.

Which will wins?

Coaching distinctions #44.doc

rF 41

The Long View (part three)

1

How does a minister develop tenacity … particularly when the surrounding culture is increasingly committed to relieving tension—in the short run—without regard to the long term consequences?

Tenacity is defined as the capacity to stick—like super glue—to one’s commitments.  The word comes from the Latin tenere which means “to hold”.

In a culture that, over the last fifty years has elevated feelings to the top of the decision-making hierarchy, Americans seem to hold to whatever might satiate their momentary emotional anxieties.

This isn’t new.

The collapse of just about every great empire has been presaged by a similar shift.  These once-great societies collapsed from within. Like tall trees hollowed by pine beetles, when opposing winds came, they lacked the fiber to stand.

I’m reminded of a moment early in the “Battle of Carthage” scene in Gladiator when Maximus draws his fellow gladiators into a tight circle, shields surrounding them. As well-armed chariots approach—and their every impulse is to run—he urges them to “Hold!…Hold!…Hold!” ‘till the charioteers are almost upon them. As a result, they overthrow their attackers and win a most improbable victory.

It is this act of holding that is essential to pastoral leadership in our day.

With my CRM teammates, I facilitate a leadership development and change process with Senior Pastors and their churches. Our goal is to strengthen the leadership character of pastors so they can lead their congregations through a massive cultural change: from consuming religious education and entertainment to ministering influentially to the un-churched in their communities. It’s been my privilege to work with dozens of churches all across the denominational spectrum. Initially, almost everyone agrees to become a missionally-effective church.

Yet, saboteurs abound!

Like the pine beetle, their largely covert opposition eats away at the church’s commitment to what it knows it must become.

Quick-fix fantasies emerge and gain a ready following. People take sides.

The lead pastor’s tenacity is essential.

So, from the outset, we work to strengthen the pastors’ capacity to hold

How?

By creating scenarios that invite opposition on a small level while monitoring, via coaching, the pastor’s responses to it. Over many months of facing gradually-increasing resistance, reFocusing pastors increase their capacity to tolerate anxiety—first in themselves; then in their congregations.

Walking with a coach and several other senior pastors who are encountering the same challenges in their congregations, the pastor develops the fiber to Hold!…Hold!…Hold! to what God has called them.

 

Coaching distinctions #41.doc

ministry 35

The Invitation (part two)

1

I’ve invited you to consider that, regardless of your personality, you are an invitation. All day every day, you invite … something.

To discover what you invite, notice what keeps coming your way.

Why would you want to know?  If you’re not intentional about it, you’re likely inviting what you don’t even want.

I coach pastors. Lots of them. Last month a client lamented that his office door is like a turnstile – bringing a never-ending string of parishioners and staff members to him, eating his time and keeping him from what’s most important.

“What do they want?”

Thinking for several moments he answered: “They want me to do something to either ease their distress, change someone else, or make their lives better.”

“Why do they come to you for that?”

He didn’t know.

I do. It’s an occupational hazard for ministers. Somebody re-wrote the playbook generations ago. Rather than equipping God’s people to live mature, influential lives, clergy became an invitation to calm member’s fears, quell their disquiet, relieve their suffering, and ease their distress.

I call it: “THE MINISTRY OF THE KLEENEX BOX”. 

Instead of provoking mature faith—like Jesus did—ministers run with Kleenex and band-aids, wiping noses and bandaging boo-boos… of Christians who’ve been called by God to be wiping the noses and bandaging the knees of the people who aren’t yet following Christ. [Eph 4:11-13]

Stand as an interruption to this popular and unscriptural notion or you will be conscripted into the ministry of the Kleenex box to the religious.The best way to interrupt it is to get very clear about what you are inviting people to.

Ministry, fundamentally, is about people-development and Kingdom-advance.

Jesus developed people into mature disciples and advanced God’s reign: healing, delivering, liberating, and forgiving … mostly for those outside his circle of disciples. Jesus invited people to give their lives away in the service of the King. To surrender self-interest and follow him into ministry … to benefit those outside the commonwealth of faith.

What if you invited people to that?

With his disciples, Jesus provoked them to get off themselves and onto advancing God’s Kingdom. He frustrated them when they wanted him to minister to them.  He directed them into challenges so they’d grow strong trusting God.

Pastor, I invite you into the game Jesus modeled.

Call people to that.

Without apology.

Like he did.

 

Coaching Distinctions 35.doc

Go to Top