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
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.
The Unreasonableness of Being Reasonable (part three)
In this series, we’re examining a distinct type of leadership that is essential when anxiety is afoot—as is certainly the case in the Church in North America. You may attend a strong, confident church: one that is largely free from disquiet and emotional volatility.
Good for you.
But the Church as a whole is a dreadful mess. Hemorrhaging people and funds, closing buildings and selling off property, many once-dominant denominations in the US are failing. Even more troubling, her leaders, destabilized and evacuated of courage, are fearfully and fretfully overseeing the demise.
It’s in this context that clear, decisive, non-anxious leadership is non-negotiable.
We’re looking at nine characteristics of such leadership. Each one modeled for us by Jesus. Currently we’re looking at the seventh: Disengage an unreasonable faith in reasonableness.
Realize that there was nothing “reasonable” in Jesus’ call to be his disciple. His standards were unmistakable. Like this one: No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other… [Lk 16:13]
As a leader, who you are is more important than anything you say.
In fact, who you are is more important than everything you say.
But talk that’s not backed by a life has a hollow ring. And that hollowness drives people away… away from church… away from the Church.
“Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never–in nothing, great or small, large or petty–never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”
His words, then as now, ring true.
Because Churchill didn’t give in.
And if he had, it would never have been remembered.
The words didn’t match his life.
Undermine the 80/20 Rule (part four)
Here’s another look at the 80/20 Rule and its connection to the culture of cowardice in the North American Church. And, it may be hard to hear.
Could it be that a distorted substitute for biblical grace has taken the Church?
Consider how little the Church asks of Christians… in the name of “grace”.
And, consider the abundance of resources we make available to Christians who are expected to contribute next to nothing in return. Churches, in general, are so transfixed with providing for their own that they have little time, energy, and resources with which to serve those outside.
Think about it:
Baby dedications. Baptisms. Child care. Mom’s nights out. Children’s ministry. Youth group. Relationship counseling. College and career ministry. Pre-marital classes. Weddings. Marriage counseling. Divorce recovery. Grief counseling. Financial management seminars. Debt counseling. Bereavement care. Memorial services.
Our churches provide cradle-to-grave services to the saved— most of which are free of any call that the recipients contribute their time, energy, or money to the community of faith from which they take, take, take.
Is it any wonder that fewer than 10% of church-dwellers tithe?
Ever attended a church while it undertook a major capital campaign?
For a capital campaign to succeed, two things have to occur: those who already give must dig deep and give more—usually a lot more—and they often do. And also, those who rarely give and who only gesture at giving are called upon to sacrifice as well—and that’s where the commotion commences…
A capital campaign–like the claims of Lordship that Jesus so clearly articulates–calls each of us to painful sacrifice. In Matthew 10:38, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23, and 14:27 the gospels record Jesus’ clearly: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
Yet, in our commitment to be visitor-sensitive, we communicate in dozens of ways that cross-bearing is optional. Not expected. And, certainly not insisted upon. And then, when we finally call our people – all of them – to get in the game in a sacrificial way, many of them pack up and leave for another church. Or, no church at all.
And, look where all this visitor-sensitivity has got us.
Do you see maturing disciples all around you?
Yesterday I had the privilege to be interviewed on the radio. CUTV News, an NBC affiliate in New York City ran a 30-minute interview about my work coaching pastors on BlogTalkRadio.com.
If you’d like to hear it, here’s the link: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/closeuptalkradio/2016/11/04/cutv-news-radio-spotlights-kirk-kirlin-of-kirlin-coaching.