Category Archives: Leadership

Promoting Unity: a troubleshooting guide

Welcome to another installment of The Ekklesia in Southern Maine’s How-To Guide to navigating the complicated world of Christianity. Today’s tips are on the subject of promoting unity in your local church.

When you pastor a church it will inevitably happen that you are harassed by dissenting and divisive people that want to rip your little church apart. Just use this handy Troubleshooting guide and before you know it order will be restored and all will be able to bask in the glorious light of unity.

1. I have several people coming up to me after my sermons asking questions.
So you have people questioning your delivery of God’s Holy Word? Well this can be extremely dangerous and destructive to unity. If they are questioning you now, soon they will outright disagree with you and where there is disagreement there cannot be unity. The good news is that most normal people don’t think to question their pastor or his sermons so most likely someone is telling them to question you. You have to find that person and remove them from the congregation. That person is a wolf in sheep’s clothing and is only there to destroy the unity of your church by causing people to question the authority of your sermons, and by extension, the Bible. Finding this person shouldn’t be too hard if you catch on early enough. As soon as people start asking you questions, even if those questions seem harmless, you should find out who told them to ask you. Early on people may have built up the nerve to question you but they are still, at least partially, submissive to your authority so they will most likely feel compelled to answer you truthfully.

2. I have noticed people not attending Wednesday services and Friday youth group.
It is important that your flock come to as many age and gender appropriate gatherings as possible in your church. The more time they spend with you and your leadership staff the more likely they are to see the truthfulness of your church’s position and adopt it as their own, thus promoting unity among the congregation. If you notice they are not coming as often as they could/should they may just need a little encouragement. Newer members may not understand why it is so vital to be at all the services so explain to them gently how good it will be for them and their family, explain the great things the church has to offer when they come to these services/events like games for the kids or nursery during Mommy Quilting Hour. If the person/family has been around for awhile and still isn’t coming to extra services explain to them that the more services they go to the closer to Jesus they will grow and the more maturity in the faith they will demonstrate.

3. I think some people are going to other churches during the week.
If you pastor a small church you may not be able to have events and services seven days a week. Sometimes that may lead people to attend meetings at other churches on these days. This can be EXTREMELY DANGEROUS for the unity of your church. Now one of your flock is out in the dangerous wild being tricked by some other “pastor” to believe things that go against the stated beliefs of your local church. The best way to avoid this very dangerous pitfall is to make sure you are offering something every night of the week. This may be hard on you and your family but it is the best way to keep your people from going somewhere else and getting confused with other ideas and bringing them back like leaven to spread through your whole church. You may be able to get the other leaders in your church to bail on their families a couple extra nights  a week and help you. Their families, and yours, should understand when you ask them if they feel comfortable coming between you and the ministry God has called you to.

4. Somebody new just showed up and WANTS to GET INVOLVED.
A new person can be a huge help or a huge danger to maintaining unity in your church. They can be a help because you can always use more people to help promote the beliefs of the church, but they can be a danger because you don’t know where they came from and they may not be as quick to follow and submit to your God-given authority. When they approach you to ask about helping out, the most important thing to do is test their loyalty. Put them on bathroom cleaning or bulletin folding duty for a while and see how they do. If they respond well and do what you’ve asked you can move them up to nursery. The beauty of the nursery is that the stuff they talk about won’t matter because babies don’t understand anything anyway. Listen in while they teach the little ones and make sure that it all falls in line. After a trial period in nursery they should be ready to move on to important tasks like running the sound board, playing acoustic guitar, or collecting the offering.

5. A change needs to be made.
Whether this change has to do with building maintenance or possibly introducing a new song to Sunday morning service, change can, and is likely to, bring utter disaster to the unity of your church. People don’t agree so once you hit a place where everyone is content, or at least quiet about their disagreements, you don’t want to move a muscle. Unfortunately sometimes you have to. When you have to make changes be prepared for things to get ugly. The most important thing to remember when change hits: damage control. You won’t make everyone happy so there is no point in trying. Just try to keep the casualties to a minimum. During times of stability note who is more willing to go along with changes. If you have to go against someone, go against them. They are the most likely to take it without causing a fuss. Also, find out what the majority opinion is. The more people you satisfy, the more people will be left after the storm. Lastly, find out where the high-rollers are casting their lots. If you can side with them it will be beneficial to keeping the church running smoothly, and, in so doing, promoting unity. If you must side between the majority and the more affluent in your church, go with the more affluent. Even if the majority leaves, the money that the wealthy provide to your ministry will help bring in new people to promote unity among.

NOTE: A good general rule when trying to enforce unity is that you are the pastor, the overseer, the bishop, God’s right-hand-man; God has set you in a role to lead these people and they need to recognize the situation as such, submitting to the authority God has given you, and understanding that you are “God’s man” and that you are simply teaching and directing them to follow what God has told you, and by extension them, to do. Going against you is going against God. Unity is maintained through obedience to God which can only be achieved through listening to you, the head pastor, ordained by God.

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A Career in Ministry

So, as I mentioned on twitter earlier this morning, I got a search yesterday for this string: “how much do christian counselors make.” When I think of this question two motivations for asking it come to the front of my mind:

  1. I want to be a Christian Counselor, but I’m not sure if I will make enough money at it to live off/support my family on.
  2. I think Christian Counseling may be lucrative so maybe I should get into that line of business.

Now, I’m sure there could be a million other motivations behind that question, but, as I see it, those two would be the major ones. While the first motivation seems much more acceptable, I really think they both demonstrate a very inaccurate view of how believers should pastor/counsel their brothers and sisters.

The second motivation is purely selfish, so it can be easily written off. The first motivation is much harder to deal with. The person wants to do the right thing, but he isn’t sure if he can afford to pursue that career. See the assumption there? The very dangerous yet subtle assumption? The assumption is that Christian Counseling is a career. We could just as easily plug pastoring in there or worship leader or youth pastor.

I don’t feel any need to get into the various arguments for or against paying a pastor. There are a million places you can find those arguments. I just want to point out what I feel is a very important opposition between ministry and career:

  • A career’s goal is financial provision.
  • A ministry’s goal is to demonstrate Christ’s love.

These two goals inevitably contradict each other. If I were counseling someone and had to tell them something that upset them I may lose my job. In fear of that, I may not tell them something they need to hear. In that case my goal of financial provision kept me from my goal of demonstrating Christ’s love. On the other side of the coin, if I were to tell them what they needed to hear I may find myself without a job or money to provide for my needs. In that case the goal of demonstrating Christ’s love trumps the goal of financial provision. The point is that these two goals clash.

I’m not telling you what to do in your life and ministry to others. I just think that it may be worth considering the implications if you are considering a career in ministry. How will you deal with the inevitable conflict of these two goals? How will you remain faithful to Christ when it comes into conflict with your ability to provide for your family? Just some things to consider…


Sellouts or Professionals

Scenario 1: When I was a teenager I used to listen to a lot of “underground” music by bands that made livings working at McDonalds or cleaning toilets or whatever they had to do. They worked to make money. They played music because they loved it. Sometimes those bands would break out and start to gain enough popularity to live off their music. I don’t know if it was me or them, but I felt like it changed their music, like they weren’t playing because they loved it anymore, now they were playing to make their fans happy so they could sell CDs and concert tickets. I usually stopped listening to those bands. They had become sellouts.

Scenario 2: If you were planning a wedding and you wanted really nice pictures you would probably want to hire a professional photographer. You may not have anything against your sister’s brother-in-law’s daughter, but, although she loves taking pictures, she only does it as a hobby and you can’t trust that she will be able to provide high-quality photos which are very important to you for remembering your wedding day fondly. It’s simply an inescapable fact that professionals generally produce higher quality results than amateurs.

These two scenarios represent two very different mindsets. The first prefers the person who is unpaid. His work is far superior to the work of the sellout because he does it with love and passion and without the handcuffs of a paycheck holding him back. The second scenario prefers the professional because she has taken the time, gotten the training, and demonstrated the talent necessary to really “succeed” in her field.

Which perspective do you generally lean toward? Does it vary based on the field or discipline? Here’s the real question: does your perspective on this impact your understanding of ministry and professional ministers, pastors, worship leaders and so on? Just a thought.


Preach For Change

This is another installment in my Christian How To series.

I am not a preacher. I have no intention of becoming a preacher. But, I did go to Bible College and I picked up a few tricks about preaching while I was there. Out of the generosity of my heart I will pass those secrets along to you, my readers.

The most important thing about preaching is the ability to not only convince people you are right but to convince them to change based on your good ideas. Although there are lots of things preachers talk about from the pulpit, they mostly all fall under just a few categories. I have created a list of generic topic categories and how, through your preaching,  you can convince people to change in each of these areas. I hope it is helpful!

CATEGORY

APPROACH

MONEY
This category covers a lot, from supporting missionaries, to giving a regular tithe. It just seems that the average churchgoer doesn’t give enough at church and needs a little prodding to get this done.
TIME
Like money, this category is broad. You need the people to give as much of their time as possible for missions, ministries, folding bulletins, or whatever else, but, unfortunately people normally like spending their spare time with family doing fun things.
EVANGELISM
Everyone is supposed to do it. No one seems to want to. Every good pastor knows that it is important to emphasize this requirement for the Christian life. There are literally billions of people who have never heard the gospel.
BIBLE READING
You don’t necessarily want your people reading the Bible all the time or else they may start to question some of your teachings and start to develop their own theological opinions, but for a good showing you have to encourage them to knock the dust off the ‘Good Book’ every once in a while.
PRAYING
Maybe you are reformed and think praying is more about conforming our will to God’s, or maybe you are Pentecostal and need your people to pray with more faith for that jet you need to spread the gospel across beautiful tropical locations. Whatever it is, we all agree prayer is important.
CHURCH ATTENDANCE
This is the end-all be-all of your job. Getting people to come back and fill those seats. If you can’t get them coming back then you are going to be out of work, and how will they know how to live Christian lives if you are not there to hold their hand? Get them coming back, get them to bring their friends, and get them to any and all services you can.

You can read other installments in the ‘How To’ series here:


J.R. Briggs: Conversations w/ Friends

In the fourth installment in the Conversations With Friends series I talk with J.R. Briggs about the upcoming Epic Fail Pastors Conference, what it means to be an expert on failure, and how our failings only serve to demonstrate God’s faithfulness. There are links below which he references during the interview. I would encourage you to check them out.

Epic Fail Pastors Conference

jrbriggs.com

Dear Pastors – Tell Us the Truth


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