Six Responses to Mission Resistance

Every great movement of God invites a challenge from sinful people. I wrote about this recently in a post entitled How to Stop a Church from Growing, and Pastor Titus S. Olorunnisola, who is planting Bethel Gospel Centre near Melbourne, Australia, asked the magic question in the comments – how, then, do we handle the legalists?

In the case of the early Jerusalem church, the problem was complex. Non-Jewish people all over the region were coming to know Christ, but some very legalistic Jews known as the Judaizers were demanding that all of these new believers go through the rite of circumcision and keep the ceremonial law in order to be both Jewish and Christian.

Paul, Peter, James, and others were of the viewpoint that salvation for these newcomers was by grace alone through faith alone, but the vocal minority raised enough of an issue that the elders had to gather for a closed discussion. They finally emerged from this first church council with some wisdom for churches everywhere.

Their decision was rendered as follows:

“And so my judgment is that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead, we should write and tell them to abstain from eating food offered to idols, from sexual immorality, from eating the meat of strangled animals, and from consuming blood. For these laws of Moses have been preached in Jewish synagogues in every city on every Sabbath for many generations.” Then the apostles and elders together with the whole church in Jerusalem chose delegates, and they sent them to Antioch of Syria with Paul and Barnabas to report on this decision. (Acts 15:19-22 NLT)

As I walk through this passage, I think there is some key wisdom to be applied all these centuries later in a more modern context.

We are charged to defend not only the faith of the gospel, but also its fruit. That is, we must uphold the content of the gospel as well as protect its ability to reach new people. To claim to hold to an orthodox view of Scripture while allowing non-scriptural viewpoints to be interposed in our doctrine, resulting in the alienation of those who need Jesus most, isn’t faithfulness to the gospel.

Let me put it more practically. Our role as pastors is to protect the flock from wolves and from false teachers. But it’s also to remind our flock that there are sheep who haven’t joined the fold yet and we must do everything in our power to take the gospel to every last one of them.

There are battles that aren’t worth fighting. When it comes to our preferences over style and approach, we are called to make allowance for differences of opinion.

And then there are battles that absolutely are worth fighting. In fact, there are battles worth risking everything over. The vision, the mission, and the purposes of God for his people are worth being stubborn about. The cause of evangelism and the pathway to discipleship are well worth working for and defending from error.

But how? How do we handle the Judaizers and joysuckers and complainers who would rather keep their preferred religious systems to the detriment of evangelism? I think we handle people the way the early apostles did.

  1. Get godly counsel. The elders consult with one another. James probably could have handled it himself, but he chose to invite input from other godly leaders.
  2. Be bold in your calling. The elders stand with confidence, believing God had called them to lead through this particular moment with clarity and conviction.
  3. Stand with and for the lost. They made it clear that we should not make it any more difficult than it already naturally was for non-Jewish people to come to know Jesus.
  4. Show them what grace is like. Nobody got kicked out. Everyone was still welcome and the apostles set an example of grace for everyone to observe.
  5. Fight against anything that competes with discipleship. They kept the pathway clear and asked people to make voluntary sacrifices for the benefit of others.
  6. Point to Jesus. The pointed people back to the gospel – the good news that Jesus Christ alone saves by grace alone through faith alone.

So, when confronting legalists and traditionalists who would ultimately stand in the way of lost people coming into God’s family to protect their own preferences, always choose to stand on the side of the Great Commission and Great Commandment.

I often pray for God to give me the boldness of a lion. Granted, sometimes I choose to have the boldness of an angry chinchilla, but I’m a work in progress. I’m still learning to love everyone – even the legalists and traditionalists – while being mean about the vision.


Connect with an Auxano Navigator to learn more about dealing with resistance to your vision and mission.


> Read more from Brandon.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brandon Cox

Brandon Cox has been a Pastor for fifteen years and is currently planting a church in northwest Arkansas, a Saddleback-sponsored church. He also serves as Editor of Pastors.com and Rick Warren's Pastors' Toolbox, and authors a top 100 blog for church leaders (brandonacox.com). He's also the author of Rewired: Using Technology to Share God's Love.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
Great work!!!!
 
— Kate Harel
 
After 47 years of ministry experience, I found this easy to agree with, and very hard to live by. All sorts of pressure applied. Eric Gieger's "Simple Church" was a big help!
 
— Jon Breshears
 
Many thanks Jeff. The American church must rediscover her roots in relational discipleship driven by her leaders. I intend to use your set of questions with our supported missionaries challenging each of them to go deeper and wider as disciples who make disciples. I appreciate you stoking my fire.
 
— Kim William Coutts
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

The “One-Anothers” of Social Media

How can we avoid the potential distraction of social media and use it to really advance our mission?

 

As a leader, you can only influence those whom you can reach (Rick Warren). The social media platforms in use today – and the ones that will be developed tomorrow – allow you to extend your reach and listen to the people God is calling you to serve and disciple.

The danger is that a beginning trickle of social media communication can become a flood of unfiltered information that will wash you away unless you channel it into a useful tool for the irrigation and growth of your message. What are some of the solutions to do keep all of your social media focused?

Solution – See social media through the lens of “one another.”

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Rewired, by Brandon Cox

There’s no going back. Our world is changing at an unprecedented rate. We are connected with people all over the planet with technology that didn’t even exist ten years ago. The world around us is having a conversation about life, meaning, culture, and eternity, and we have an amazing opportunity not just to join the conversation but also to lead it.

Brandon Cox demonstrates the real, connecting power in online social networks, showing you how to connect and tell God’s story relationally and creatively in our social, digital age. He encourages leaders to dedicate their lives to telling the Good News using every means possible, and to be the relational bridge that brings someone into a right relationship with Jesus – even if it does mean jumping on the social media train.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

God approaches us, seeks us, and searches for us. He offered His Son so that we might be reconciled to Him. In turn, God expects us to reconcile others. From one relationship to another, God wants us to reach others.

Social media isn’t an escape from the real world. It is the real world, whether we are ready for it or not.

God is the great designer who has masterminded a plan to put people in relationships with each other. “Viral” isn’t a concept the inventors of YouTube conjured up—God has always determined to utilize the viral nature of human relationships.

God knew we would struggle with this relational thing, even inside the church, so He gave some rather helpful suggestions and guidelines that we often call the “one anothers” of the New Testament.

These may or may not be familiar to you, but try to hear them with the ear of one who is engaging the culture via social media:

  • “Be at peace with each other” (Mark 9:50, NIV).
  • “Love one another” (John 13:34, NIV).
  • “Be devoted to one another. . . . Honor one another” (Rom. 12:10, NIV).
  • “Live in harmony with one another” (v. 16, NIV).
  • “Accept one another” (Rom. 15:7, NIV).
  • “Agree with one another” (1 Cor. 1:10, NIV).
  • “Serve one another” (Gal. 5:13, NIV).
  • “[Forgive] each other” (Eph. 4:32, NIV).
  • “Submit to one another” (Eph. 5:21, NIV).
  • “Encourage each other” (1 Thess. 5:11, NIV).
  • “Spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Heb. 10:24, NIV).
  • “Pray for each other” (James 5:16, NIV).

This list is only partial, but it’s a good starting checklist as we answer the question, Am I being relational? Part of the redemption story is the beautiful benefit of our being able to relate to one another within the body in a new way.

Brandon Cox, Rewired

A NEXT STEP

It’s never been more important to produce quality social media content that people actually want to interact with. How can you use social media to practice the one-another commands at your church?

  • Are your social media platforms an integral part of your ministry strategy?
  • Do you use social media platforms to tell the stories of God’s work in your people’s lives?
  • Do you connect with staff and volunteer teams through the use of social media?
  • Do you lead your teams to connect with others through social media?
  • What social media content are you producing that people most want to share with others?

Using social media is just the latest extension of the New Testament’s one-another ministry. When you as a leader understand and practice social media as a one another ministry, you are well on the way to living out the presence of Christ within your congregation– and it becomes very obvious to those who are connecting to others.

 


This is part of a weekly series posting content from one of the most innovative content sources in the church world: SUMS Remix Book Summaries for church leaders. SUMS Remix takes a practical problem in the church and looks at it with three solutions; and each solution is taken from a different book. As a church leader you get to scan relevant books based on practical tools and solutions to real ministry problems, not just by the cover of the book. Each post will have the edition number which shows the year and what number it is in the overall sequence. (SUMS provides 26 issues per year, delivered every other week to your inbox). 

> Subscribe to SUMS Remix <<

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

VRcurator

Bob Adams is Auxano's Vision Room Curator. His background includes over 23 years as an associate/executive pastor as well as 8 years as the Lead Consultant for a church design build company.

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COMMENTS

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Recent Comments
Great work!!!!
 
— Kate Harel
 
After 47 years of ministry experience, I found this easy to agree with, and very hard to live by. All sorts of pressure applied. Eric Gieger's "Simple Church" was a big help!
 
— Jon Breshears
 
Many thanks Jeff. The American church must rediscover her roots in relational discipleship driven by her leaders. I intend to use your set of questions with our supported missionaries challenging each of them to go deeper and wider as disciples who make disciples. I appreciate you stoking my fire.
 
— Kim William Coutts
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Make Your Sunday Bulletin Simple AND Effective

How many announcements should you include in your church bulletin?

Pretty much… none.

My philosophy about church bulletins (i.e. worship folders, programs, brochures, handouts, etc.) has changed a lot over the years. A decade and a half ago, I wanted it to be as large and stuffed with information as possible. It was my way of thinking bigger than our church was at the time.

Now, I want our weekly bulletin to be as small as possible, with as few announcements as possible. In fact, here’s a photo of our current bulletin.

Bulletin161009

And in case you’d like to have the printable or editable version:

 

Download a PDF

Download an Apple Pages Version

That’s it. NO actual “announcements” are included. At least, not the kind you’d normally think of. We print this on an 8.5″ x 11″ sheet of card stock, both sides, cut them in half, and hand them out. It’s a single half-sheet, sturdy enough to take notes on. And, we print one bulletin per sermon series and only change it during the series if something drastically changes and needs to be communicated.

Why is it so slim on information?

It’s all about who it’s for!

We print a Sunday bulletin with one person in mind – the guest. We want our guests to know that they belong, that we have next steps for them, that we don’t want their money and that we want them to know what to expect.

The weekend bulletin is really just an excuse to greet people with something printed. It offers the basic next steps, how to find out more, and how to stay in the loop.

We’re also very aware that every announcement is a “signal” that gets sent to the minds of those who are reading or listening. Our minds only have room for so many signals. So if you want people to remember two or three things, in particular, don’t tell them to remember five or eight or thirty things.

In fact, if you’ll notice, every piece of information in the bulletin actually has a short hyperlink that leads to an information page online that is mobile-friendly. Sometimes, that short link forwards to a Facebook Event so people can RSVP and share. Sometimes, it leads to a page of our website dedicated to a certain ministry. But our goal is to get people to engage with us online, beyond Sunday, so that we can communicate throughout the week with everyone.

So where do we announce stuff?

Here’s how we see it.

There are announcements that everyone needs to hear, and those are included in the bulletin, which everyone gets. Then, there are announcements only pertinent to regular attenders, which we communicate through various other means, including:

  • Our email list.
  • Our open Facebook group (not our main Facebook page).
  • Our mobile app (including one push notification per week).
  • Our website, especially the events page and the blog.
  • Some slides that cycle as people are coming in.
  • Our various Facebook “sub”-pages (men, women, students, kids, etc.).
  • Word-of-mouth, especially through small groups.

Does it work?

Not perfectly. Sometimes, someone is unaware of something happening. But we rarely hear about it. We’ve spent a long time creating a culture where people don’t expect to be spoon-fed and taken by the hand and personally led through every event.

We’re always learning and tweaking. I may have to scrap this blog post a few months from now when we flip our strategy on its head. But for now, we’re confident that growth is happening because we’re able to communicate the big signals to the many and the smaller signals to the few.


Learn more about effective communication with your Sunday bulletin by connecting with an Auxano Navigator.


> Read more from Brandon.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brandon Cox

Brandon Cox has been a Pastor for fifteen years and is currently planting a church in northwest Arkansas, a Saddleback-sponsored church. He also serves as Editor of Pastors.com and Rick Warren's Pastors' Toolbox, and authors a top 100 blog for church leaders (brandonacox.com). He's also the author of Rewired: Using Technology to Share God's Love.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
Great work!!!!
 
— Kate Harel
 
After 47 years of ministry experience, I found this easy to agree with, and very hard to live by. All sorts of pressure applied. Eric Gieger's "Simple Church" was a big help!
 
— Jon Breshears
 
Many thanks Jeff. The American church must rediscover her roots in relational discipleship driven by her leaders. I intend to use your set of questions with our supported missionaries challenging each of them to go deeper and wider as disciples who make disciples. I appreciate you stoking my fire.
 
— Kim William Coutts
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Six Keys for Whole-Church Discipleship

I grew up attending church a lot. I was in a church classroom a lot. When I was a kid, my family attended Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night preaching and prayer services, plus Sunday school, plus missions education programs and Vacation Bible Schools. But… I didn’t grow spiritually, didn’t really experience spiritual depth, and didn’t really learn what following Jesus looked like outside the walls of the church.

When I hit adulthood, I started to grow spiritually, but I would say it was still rather slow going. I started attending church with my wife and soaking up biblical knowledge like a sponge. I entered ministry and attended Bible college and developed the spiritual disciplines. But something was still missing.

Finally, several things happened that prompted a complete perspective change in me and kickstarted my journey toward being more like Jesus. In particular…

  • I walked through pain – depression, specifically.
  • I began to repent of pride, self-centeredness, and other sins.
  • My wife and I began to have tough conversations.
  • I went on staff at a church with a strong culture of discipleship.
  • We joined a small group of people who cared a lot about doing life together.

After a year in that atmosphere, God led us to Northwest Arkansas to plant a church and gave us a passion for creating a place where people could truly grow. We started planting Grace Hills with some particular convictions about the role of the local church in discipleship, such as…

  • The local church, as a community of believers, was always integral to Jesus’ plan for discipleship.
  • The local church should balance the five purposes of worship, evangelism, discipleship, fellowship, and ministry.
  • The local church should also be balanced in ministering to the community, the crowd, the congregation, the committed, and the core.
  • If the local church is going to facilitate discipleship, it has to be more than a classroom. It has to be a community of people who are coming to know Jesus together and serving one another for God’s glory.

In the last few years, we haven’t gotten everything right. In fact, I think it would be easier to write about our mistakes than our success. But I’ve watched our staff and volunteer team make disciples well, and I can point to at least six specific ways we’ve been setting the table for discipleship to happen.

1. From the pulpit, a vision is cast and an example is shared about the role of spiritual disciplines.

It’s not just about conveying information in a “deep” sermon format. It’s about creating a hunger and getting practical in terms of how each message should be lived out, and how every person can go deeper beyond Sunday. I spent 15 years doing deep, expositional preaching, but failed to call people to really develop their own faith at home. One of my newer goals is to help people, through my preaching, to become self-feeders by talking about the value of the disciplines as well as the how of them.

2. Lay counseling and counseling-as-discipleship is utilized to disciple people through crises.

We must develop a culture and a system for involving people in the messes of other people. The broken-and-healing need to be pouring into the broken-in-need-of-healing. And the most effective counseling we can do is essential discipleship. Some of the best marriage counseling we can do is having a man disciple a husband and a woman disciple a wife. I’ve learned to lean heavily on my wife, Angie Cox, an LCSW and a master at empowering lay people for counseling.

3. The importance of micro-groups or groups-within-groups is talked about.

It’s usually when a group gets smaller that real discussion happens. This happens when men and women divide during group time. It also happens when two or three from a group grab coffee to get more personal. So we encourage group leaders to encourage group members to get together beyond the weekly meeting to dive deeper into specific struggles.

4. Everybody is challenged to join a ministry team.

A ministry team is like a cohort of people who are in proximity to each other as they serve. This creates an atmosphere for on-the-job discipleship. People sharpen one another in the trenches together, so we let ministry teams function a little bit like small groups. It’s been thrilling to watch people sharing their stories and challenging one another while serving together.

5. Schedules are simplified and families are encouraged to do discipleship at home.

Some of the most important discipleship work that a church can do is by empowering fathers, mothers, and guardians to make disciples of their kids, as well as their neighbors’ kids. We fight against busyness so that families have time away from church together.

6. Pastoral ministry becomes personal ministry carried out within small groups.

Groups are challenged to provide care for one another. People pray over fellow group members before or during crises, deliver meals, and keep tabs on one another. No promises are ever made that the church staff will be doing “pastoral ministry,” even though we often do.

We don’t do any of these perfectly, but where we see them happen, we see them working. And we hope to do more of each of them. Jesus never intended us to try to carry out the work of disciple-making while ignoring his primary engine for the task – the local church.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brandon Cox

Brandon Cox has been a Pastor for fifteen years and is currently planting a church in northwest Arkansas, a Saddleback-sponsored church. He also serves as Editor of Pastors.com and Rick Warren's Pastors' Toolbox, and authors a top 100 blog for church leaders (brandonacox.com). He's also the author of Rewired: Using Technology to Share God's Love.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
Great work!!!!
 
— Kate Harel
 
After 47 years of ministry experience, I found this easy to agree with, and very hard to live by. All sorts of pressure applied. Eric Gieger's "Simple Church" was a big help!
 
— Jon Breshears
 
Many thanks Jeff. The American church must rediscover her roots in relational discipleship driven by her leaders. I intend to use your set of questions with our supported missionaries challenging each of them to go deeper and wider as disciples who make disciples. I appreciate you stoking my fire.
 
— Kim William Coutts
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

How 30 Seconds Can Change the World

There are often crucial moments when we have an opportunity to be vision-casters with people, one-on-one. It may be a car ride making a visit, coffee with a fellow member, or a staff meeting with five extra minutes at the end. It begs the question, could I state my vision for my church if I only had a few floors to travel in an elevator with someone?

You see, vision is great, but it needs to be transferrable. Members of a church should be able to share their church’s vision with their friends, relatives, associates, and neighbors, but they can only share a vision that has been concisely articulated from their leadership. And a vision isn’t “reaching people” or “glorifying God.” Those are eternal purposes, universal to every church. A vision (in an elevator speech format) would be more like…

We’re going to be a church that wraps our arms around the broken with an abundance of both truth and grace. We’ll have a multiplying network of small groups where people can really bear each other’s burdens. And we’ll gather in the middle of the marketplace for passionate worship and relevant teaching each week. The community will be better because we’re here – marriages will be fixed, education will improve, and people with all kinds of hurts, habits, and hang-ups will find healing and recovery in a new life with Jesus.

That’s my elevator pitch. What’s yours?

Read more from Brandon.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brandon Cox

Brandon Cox has been a Pastor for fifteen years and is currently planting a church in northwest Arkansas, a Saddleback-sponsored church. He also serves as Editor of Pastors.com and Rick Warren's Pastors' Toolbox, and authors a top 100 blog for church leaders (brandonacox.com). He's also the author of Rewired: Using Technology to Share God's Love.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
Great work!!!!
 
— Kate Harel
 
After 47 years of ministry experience, I found this easy to agree with, and very hard to live by. All sorts of pressure applied. Eric Gieger's "Simple Church" was a big help!
 
— Jon Breshears
 
Many thanks Jeff. The American church must rediscover her roots in relational discipleship driven by her leaders. I intend to use your set of questions with our supported missionaries challenging each of them to go deeper and wider as disciples who make disciples. I appreciate you stoking my fire.
 
— Kim William Coutts
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

5 Investment Strategies for Leadership Equity

When you walk into a leadership opportunity, you go with a little bit of equity by virtue of your position and the inevitable honeymoon period during which those you lead will let you get by with just a bit more than they will a decade later, but you have to be very careful with that equity. Every decision you make, and every risk you lead your organization to take will require an investment of some of your leadership equity (the trust people place in you).

Make good decisions – your equity grows. Make poor ones, you lose and it’s nearly impossible to lead when you’re bankrupt of influence. As a Pastor put it whom I was recently listening to, “Choose the right color carpet today, the congregation may let you relocate them tomorrow.”

So how do you handle the equity you have?

Risk It, Don’t Horde It

Jesus told a parable about three investors, one of whom buried his lent wealth instead of risking it – he got in big trouble! The two who earned a return were entrusted with greater opportunities. You can’t walk by faith without taking risks.

Calculate, then Calculate Again

I used to apologize for making decisions slowly. I dont’ anymore because I remember my grandfather’s great carpentry wisdom, “Measure once, cut twice; measure twice, cut once.” When you think you’ve prayed it through and thought of all the possible outcomes, think it through one more time. In short: take risks, but don’t do anything dumb.

When You Decide, Decide Fully

Remember in the movies when they would ask, “which wire should I cut?” The bomb squad expert never says, “Well, I’m kinda thinkin’ the red one, but I’m not so sure, let’s give it a shot.” If you are leading in the right direction, lead with confidence and strength, otherwise stay put, but don’t balk. There’s always a penalty for balking.

Always Be Personally Invested

Don’t ask those you lead to take risks in situations where you don’t have to do so. Put something on the line. Make it personal.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Words “I Was Wrong.”

Those are tough to say, but sometimes we have to back up and ask forgiveness. Never proceed with a terrible decision if it becomes evident you should have led otherwise. Instead, use the recovery as a time to demonstrate strength the best you can.

Respect people who trust you. It takes a lot for people to trust you, so treat their trust like precious porcelain. It’s part of being a good shepherd.

> Read more from Brandon.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brandon Cox

Brandon Cox has been a Pastor for fifteen years and is currently planting a church in northwest Arkansas, a Saddleback-sponsored church. He also serves as Editor of Pastors.com and Rick Warren's Pastors' Toolbox, and authors a top 100 blog for church leaders (brandonacox.com). He's also the author of Rewired: Using Technology to Share God's Love.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
Great work!!!!
 
— Kate Harel
 
After 47 years of ministry experience, I found this easy to agree with, and very hard to live by. All sorts of pressure applied. Eric Gieger's "Simple Church" was a big help!
 
— Jon Breshears
 
Many thanks Jeff. The American church must rediscover her roots in relational discipleship driven by her leaders. I intend to use your set of questions with our supported missionaries challenging each of them to go deeper and wider as disciples who make disciples. I appreciate you stoking my fire.
 
— Kim William Coutts
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

5 Calculated Risks to Build a Healthy Structure

Let’s face it. The way we manage churches usually makes absolutely no sense whatsoever to the outside world. And before we quickly write off this statement with a “well, that’s because churches shouldn’t be businesses,” consider this.

You can have a structure that works, but isn’t biblical. That’s bad. Some examples?

  • Having powerful marketing machinery but no discipleship process.
  • Firing people over inefficiency with no concern for their soul or their family.
  • Prioritizing results over relationships and numerical growth over spiritual health.

You can also have a structure that seems biblical, but doesn’t really work. For example…

  • Worship that honors traditional liturgical approaches but makes no sense to outsiders.
  • Giving everyone an equal voice in every decision the church makes.
  • Keeping leaders under control so they don’t do anything that scares anyone.

I spent a lot of years serving wonderful people in wonderful church families that had a poor and unhealthy structure. And I was partly to blame for not getting to the root of our issues, or knowing what to do and not having the guts to make people uncomfortable enough to change the status quo.

Now that I’m serving a newer church plant (we’re currently just over four years old), things work very differently because we’ve been able to organize and manage our growth in ways that are both biblical and effective. What surprises many people who come from traditional churches is that we don’t have any committees or business meetings. The congregation has never voted on anything, and won’t until we get ready to buy land, build a building, or hire a new Lead Pastor.

You may assume that we have, then, either a dictatorship or all out chaos. But to clarify, we also don’t have power struggles, fights over the death of traditions, or clamoring for positions of influence. I wrote about a similar subject recently and someone on Facebook asked a great question.

How do you get things done without voting on anything?

I’d like to answer the question, but I’d also like to expand on it. The problem isn’t voting, or not voting, necessarily, even though I did write about 19 reasons Baptist should just stop voting on stuff. The problem is a faulty ecclesiology that assumes a democratic form of church polity – an Americanized, or at least westernized take on the New Testament. And it’s also a psychological problem. We fear losing our share of the control as a group grows, so we create structures to keep it small.

So… how do you create and sustain a biblical, healthy church structure that enables a church to move forward without the red tape of committees and business meetings? Here are at least five things I’ve seen working well.

1. Create a healthy, unified culture.

Peter Drucker famously said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” True. Here’s what that means for pastors and church leaders…

You can attend conferences, read books, write vision statements, preach missional messages, offer training, and pass along all the rules and policies your heart desires. But you won’t see forward momentum until you create a healthy culture.

And how do you create a healthy, positive, visionary, forward-leaning culture within a congregation? You write out your core values, make sure they’re framed positively with a bent toward action, boil them down to six or eight phrases, and then repeat those phrases over and over to your staff, your leaders, your church, and your community.

In other words, as the leader, you model a this is who we are set of core values as you lead, preach, relate to people, and make decisions.

Most of the long term attenders at Grace Hills can tell you something like…

We’re a church that welcomes everybody, that’s heavy on grace and light on judgment, where everybody matters, everybody belongs, and everybody has a part to play. We’re flexible. There are no sacred cows. This is who we are.

Why is that? Because we’ve based our core values in the content of the New Testament, we’ve articulated them and repeated them, and we’ve lived by them consistently.

2. Fight FOR people rather than fighting against them.

You’re the leader, right? So don’t be a baby, or a whiner, or a fit-thrower, or a conniver, or a manipulator. Be mature. Be positive. Be visionary. Paint a bright picture of the future. Value and listen to everyone. And refuse to get into a firefight.

Too many Pastors have chosen hills to die on that weren’t worth people getting hurt over in the first place. Pick your battles, and try to do everything you can not to let it become a battle. Do everything you can to stave off walk-out’s, uprisings, splits, and schisms.

Obviously, sometimes this is beyond your control as the leader. Sometimes you inherit a fight. But as much as is in your power, be intentional about what culture you’re not going to create. It’s important to remind people of the culture you’re trying to create with both a this is who we ARE as well as a this is NOT who we are… now put down the rocks...

3. Teach leadership, and set leaders free.

The Bible has a TON to say about good leadership. It’s filled with stories of great leaders, mediocre leaders, and terrible leaders. There are also proverbs and principles sprinkled throughout the wisdom literature of Scripture. And then there is the amazingly effective leadership approach of Jesus, and later, his well-trained and Spirit-filled apostles.

So look to the Bible as the basis for structuring your church. Point out Acts 20, 1 Timothy 3, 1 Peter 5 and other passages that spell out the leadership responsibilities of Pastors (which is twofold: to lead and to feed the flock). Teach what Ephesians 4 has to say about Pastors being equippers of leaders who carry out the ministry as a healthy body. Remind the congregation of Acts 6, where great leaders were hand-selected to take ownership of major areas of ministry.

At some point, you may need to re-write your church’s by-laws and articulate publicly and in writing your intended leadership structure. (Here’s a link to a page on Grace Hills’ site where you can find our versions of these documents, and more.)

4. Make decisions at the lowest possible level.

Every church body needs to have a clear understanding that leaders are empowered to lead with confidence, not to constantly beg for permission. The ability to make decisions should be handed down to the lowest possible level. If you’re unfamiliar with this organizational style, let me illustrate with some examples…

  • The youth leader should be able to plan an event and order pizza without having to call a meeting with a youth committee.
  • The maintenance leader should be able to replace or upgrade broken equipment without waiting for next month’s business meeting and an hour long church-wide discussion and vote.
  • The preschool leader should be able to make a preschool classroom look amazing to preschoolers without the feedback or approval of a committee of people who don’t even volunteer to help lead the preschool class.

I love it when leaders and volunteers ask me the question, as the Lead Pastor, what do you want us to do next? Most of the time the next words that come out of my mouth are what do YOU think we should do next? See how empowering that is? To grant freedom? To invite people to create, to dream, to have a vision and pursue it is one of the greatest blessings you can have as a Pastor.

So cut the red tape. Stop making people feel afraid that they’re going to be scrutinized, shut down, cut off, or removed from leadership over preferences and issues that should never have been discussed by a bunch of people with no vested interest in the particular issue at hand.

5. Be transparent and protect the integrity of the organization.

If we stop having business meetings and votes and committees, won’t people get suspicious and fearful? Possibly. And that’s why you need to work extra hard to build trust, which is the currency of all effective leadership.

The more often you make good, wise, biblically-informed, Spirit-filled, and elder-blessed decisions that produce fruit and positive results, the more people will trust and follow your leadership. And the more transparent you can be about how and why you’re leading the way you are, the better.

The only reason to keep people in the dark about why and how you’re leading is to keep them distant and prevent them from being a threat. We do that, usually, because we’re insecure. Pastors who get labeled as “dictators” usually aren’t arrogant. They’re insecure. And in their insecurity, they refuse to be transparent, to share leadership, to give away ministry, to be held accountable for their personal and spiritual health.

At Grace Hills, we publish an annual report showing how much money we spent, and what areas we spent it on. Further, all of our bookkeeping is outsourced to MAG Bookkeeping so that as much as possible is out of our hands and double-audited. And we invite volunteers to lead, leaders to get close, and teams of people to do ministry together in the trenches.

Let’s be honest. We invented the idea of voting long after the early New Testament era of the church. We decided “deacons” should be a board of decision-makers and pastor-evaluators pretty recently in church history. And business meetings – one of the church’s most awful of human inventions – are pretty much the last place where disciples are going to be made.

Good leaders, leading good people, can remain stagnant and die on the vine all because of a poor, unbiblical, and ineffective structure. If your church has been plateaued or declining for long, there is a high likelihood this is a big part of the problem.

To lead forward, you’re going to have to take some risks. Are you up to it?

> Read more from Brandon.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brandon Cox

Brandon Cox has been a Pastor for fifteen years and is currently planting a church in northwest Arkansas, a Saddleback-sponsored church. He also serves as Editor of Pastors.com and Rick Warren's Pastors' Toolbox, and authors a top 100 blog for church leaders (brandonacox.com). He's also the author of Rewired: Using Technology to Share God's Love.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
Great work!!!!
 
— Kate Harel
 
After 47 years of ministry experience, I found this easy to agree with, and very hard to live by. All sorts of pressure applied. Eric Gieger's "Simple Church" was a big help!
 
— Jon Breshears
 
Many thanks Jeff. The American church must rediscover her roots in relational discipleship driven by her leaders. I intend to use your set of questions with our supported missionaries challenging each of them to go deeper and wider as disciples who make disciples. I appreciate you stoking my fire.
 
— Kim William Coutts
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

5 Lenses to Clarity of Your Ministry Calling

Is God calling you to serve Him in ministry?

First of all, it’s a big YES.

God draws lost people to himself to save them, and his desire is that all saved people serve people. So, if you’re a believer, you are called! Obviously, however, there is a kind of “calling” that sets certain individuals apart for positions of ministry leadership. The New Testament refers to some people as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. And they are given to the church to teach, preach, shepherd, equip, and instruct.

It should be noted before moving any further that everyone within the body of Christ is of equal worth and importance. We may serve different functions, but the gap between “clergy” and “laity” is an imagined one. All believers are “ministers” even though a few may receive a special calling to lead and to take responsibility for the health and welfare of the flock as undershepherds who follow Jesus.

Some of these leaders are paid and some are not. Some work for churches full-time, some part-time, and others on a volunteer basis. Regardless of their formal relationship with a particular church body, they are called to a higher level of responsibility for the maturing of the body of Christ. So they preach, they lead, they counsel, they give oversight, and they cast a vision for the fulfillment of the Great Commission.

Here’s the million dollar question among those who grapple with this subject: Is the call of God to ministry leadership discerned mystically? Or practically? Is God’s call heard supernaturally? Or naturally?

And again, the answer is YES.

I have friends who testify that God showed up in a moment of their lives in an unusual way and made his presence known to them in the moment of their calling. But this isn’t always the case.

Personally, I would describe my own experience of God’s calling in three phases:

I was hungry. I couldn’t get enough of the Bible, and I couldn’t seem to read enough about ministry or ask enough questions of my mentors. This hunger grew over several months as I found my way back into a local church. (As an aside, we ought to pursue this calling in the context of a local church community and under the mentorship of our pastors and leaders.)

I was convinced. I came to a moment when I simply knew that God wanted me to spend the rest of my life in full-time, vocational ministry leadership. It was on a bus ride to Louisville, Kentucky when I was a senior in high school. I jotted in the margin of my Bible the phrase, “3-1-95 Called to Preach”. I wrote it next to Jeremiah 1:5, which I was reading that day…

Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.

I became confident. Once I knew God was calling me, sadly, it took another seven months for me to find the guts to go public. In October of 1995, I preached my first, rather pitiful eighteen-minute sermon. But that experience lit a fire under me that burns to this day, and I still can’t hold it in.

While I believe God can and does often speak his calling into our lives in precise and unique ways, I believe that there should be some practical confirmation of that calling. After spending twenty years talking to younger leaders just getting started, I’ve developed a sense for those who are serious and those who aren’t – those who will go far because they lean into God’s grace and launch out in faith, and those who squander their time and energy on the sidelines.

When someone expresses an interest in ministry or talks of a calling, there are several questions that are quite appropriate to be asked, and through which a prospective leader can and should be screened, and I would divide them into five areas.

1. YOUR SPIRITUAL LIFE

Are you presently walking in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit? Are you soaking in God’s Word, praying regularly, and growing in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus? And does it show in your closest relationships? Would those nearest you (especially a spouse) describe you as Spirit-filled?

2. YOUR HEART

Do you WANT to lead the church? Do you crave it? Hunger for it? Is your appetite insatiable enough that you cannot be stopped? Do you desire to do the work of a Pastor?

3. YOUR ABILITY

Obviously we should never attempt to serve merely in the power of our own flesh, but to be effective, we must be sharpening our skills and abilities. This is why teachability is one of the most vital characteristics of ministry leaders. When you stop learning, you will stop leading.

4. YOUR PERSONALITY

Your unique personality doesn’t really determine whether or not you’re ready to lead in ministry. Rather, it relates to HOW you should lead. One of the most beneficial exercises I’ve ever gone through is the DISC profile (or one of dozens of similar personality and temperament assessments). I’m laid back (a high “I”), so I have to work at communicating clear expectations. I hate conflict, so I have to be intentional about confrontation. And I’m an introvert, so owning this and being at peace with it is important.

5. YOUR EXPERIENCES

A decade and a half ago, Angie and I started to go plant a church, and had we done so, it would have been disastrous. I only know that because of all that we’ve encountered in the last five years that I would have been totally unprepared for back then. All of your past experiences – the good, the bad, and the ugly – prepare you for what is next in your life.

If you’ve come to a place in your Christian walk where your hunger to serve and your conviction that God wants you to serve line up, and you have the maturity, the desire, the ability, the personality, and the experience necessary to prepare you, then GO FOR IT!

Every believer is “called.” We’re all called to serve others, to share the gospel, and to glorify God. And we’re all called to do these things “full time.” But thank God for granting the special opportunity for some to be fully immersed in the life of leading the body of Christ forward for the gospel’s sake!

> Read more from Brandon.

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| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Leadership >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brandon Cox

Brandon Cox has been a Pastor for fifteen years and is currently planting a church in northwest Arkansas, a Saddleback-sponsored church. He also serves as Editor of Pastors.com and Rick Warren's Pastors' Toolbox, and authors a top 100 blog for church leaders (brandonacox.com). He's also the author of Rewired: Using Technology to Share God's Love.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
Great work!!!!
 
— Kate Harel
 
After 47 years of ministry experience, I found this easy to agree with, and very hard to live by. All sorts of pressure applied. Eric Gieger's "Simple Church" was a big help!
 
— Jon Breshears
 
Many thanks Jeff. The American church must rediscover her roots in relational discipleship driven by her leaders. I intend to use your set of questions with our supported missionaries challenging each of them to go deeper and wider as disciples who make disciples. I appreciate you stoking my fire.
 
— Kim William Coutts
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Real Leaders Risk Messing Up

Having an ambition to lead is great, but it doesn’t produce actual leadership. Taking risks does. The best leader in the room isn’t the one with all the answers. The leader is the one who volunteers to go first and show the way. Every great leader I know has been scorched by the pain of making the hard, and sometimes wrong, decisions.

But the only way to change the world is to take the risks of leadership, such as the risk of:

  • Casting a bold, impossible vision.
  • Writing the first check.
  • Releasing people before they’re quite ready to fly.
  • Opening up and getting nothing back.
  • Opening up and getting slammed.
  • Losing consensus.
  • Praying the bold, public prayer.
  • Choosing a conviction over compromise.
  • Confessing a wrong turn.
  • Wasting time on a failed endeavor.

Real success stories are never built out of an unbroken chain of successes. They’re pieced together with wins and losses, tough seasons, temporary setbacks, and half-dead dreams.

Successful leaders push through. They keep going. They trust one more time. They try one more time. They take the risk, embrace the pain, and celebrate recovery along the way.

Stop thinking of leadership as synonymous with continual victory. As long as you define leadership this way, you’ll do whatever it takes to not mess up. And if you can’t mess up, if you can’t bear to take the risk of messing up, don’t bother volunteering to go first.

> Read more by Brandon.


 Want to know more ideas about how to develop as a leader? Connect with an Auxano Navigator and start a conversation with our team.

Download PDF

Tags: , , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Leadership >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brandon Cox

Brandon Cox has been a Pastor for fifteen years and is currently planting a church in northwest Arkansas, a Saddleback-sponsored church. He also serves as Editor of Pastors.com and Rick Warren's Pastors' Toolbox, and authors a top 100 blog for church leaders (brandonacox.com). He's also the author of Rewired: Using Technology to Share God's Love.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
Great work!!!!
 
— Kate Harel
 
After 47 years of ministry experience, I found this easy to agree with, and very hard to live by. All sorts of pressure applied. Eric Gieger's "Simple Church" was a big help!
 
— Jon Breshears
 
Many thanks Jeff. The American church must rediscover her roots in relational discipleship driven by her leaders. I intend to use your set of questions with our supported missionaries challenging each of them to go deeper and wider as disciples who make disciples. I appreciate you stoking my fire.
 
— Kim William Coutts
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Good Doctrine Demands We Teach About Money

As a Pastor, I’m well aware of how many people have the assumption that “all Pastors want to talk about is money.” The funny thing is, after twenty years in ministry and communicating regularly with thousands of pastors, I can firmly assert that talking about money is one of our least favorite things to do, especially in our culture where personal finances are very… personal.

But the Apostle Paul wrote to a younger Pastor in Ephesus named Timothy once and told him to “Teach and urge these things… there is great gain in godliness with contentment… but those who desire to be rich fall into temptation… for the love of money is the root of all evil… As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches.” (1 Timothy 5:2-17 ESV)

In other words, good doctrine (which literally means “teaching”) demands that we address the issue of money. Here are several reasons why the church NEEDS to talk about finances…

  • Money is a gift from God to be managed for a season, not an earned commodity to be consumed for pleasure alone.
  • How we use money is a matter of worship – it demonstrates our values and what is important to us.
  • It’s pretty obvious people NEED help in this area – we’re strapped and stressed because of terrible management.
  • Generosity is a key value of the Christian life, for the church and for the individual Christian.
  • Money needs to serve the needs of man and the causes of justice, rather than man serving under the tyranny of money.
  • Money makes missions happen, which is God’s chief business and area of concern – the spread of the gospel deserves to be resourced.

If you don’t want the church to teach about money because it’s “none of their business,” you should change the way you see it. Nobody in the church (at least not my church) wants to see your budget or bank statements. We simply want to help people get healthy financially and become generous with our resources so that everyone experiences God’s blessings. In other words, my church doesn’t want something from you, we want something for you.

I’m really just scratching the surface here. There is much more to be said about the role of giving and stewardship in discipleship. What did I miss?

> Read more from Brandon.

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| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Resourcing >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brandon Cox

Brandon Cox has been a Pastor for fifteen years and is currently planting a church in northwest Arkansas, a Saddleback-sponsored church. He also serves as Editor of Pastors.com and Rick Warren's Pastors' Toolbox, and authors a top 100 blog for church leaders (brandonacox.com). He's also the author of Rewired: Using Technology to Share God's Love.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
Great work!!!!
 
— Kate Harel
 
After 47 years of ministry experience, I found this easy to agree with, and very hard to live by. All sorts of pressure applied. Eric Gieger's "Simple Church" was a big help!
 
— Jon Breshears
 
Many thanks Jeff. The American church must rediscover her roots in relational discipleship driven by her leaders. I intend to use your set of questions with our supported missionaries challenging each of them to go deeper and wider as disciples who make disciples. I appreciate you stoking my fire.
 
— Kim William Coutts
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.