Monday, June 28, 2010

"Change Your Church for Good" by Brad Powell


In the introduction of his book “Change your church for Good,” Brad Powell offers a glimpse into the future of many churches if they refuse to change their methods and approaches to ministry. While most churches will refuse to have the honesty of the members of Immanuel Lutheran to actually bury their church, they will simply limp along in a death crawl while the world around them goes to hell. The main reason is not a lack of mission or purpose, but stubborn refusal to change with the times.

As a pastor who has been serving a transitioning church for eight years, I see in Powell’s book stories that come from my own life. I have asked the same questions, had the same arguments and struggled with the same barriers that Brad encountered. I only wish I had this book eight years ago. My hair may not be as gray and my eyes not quite as baggy.

When Brad expressed his sense of journey as he explored the reasons the church was not growing, he described all the usual suspects that are accused of church decline. The message, the world, the church itself are all excuses, but not reasons for the death of churches. The main issue that most church leaders will identify with for the lack of growth in the church is the lack of faith that we as leaders and the church body has in the power of God to accomplish something great.

As I wrestle with these issues, often on a Monday morning, I find myself looking through the lens of my own desires, my own passions, and my own measuring stick. What we often find is that we are measuring God’s immeasurable power and goodness with our perceptions of what is success. We measure the infinite with the finite. What is left is frustration, depression and discouragement in the life of the leader and therefore in the life of the church.

What Brad Powell offers is insight into defining the right measurements, asking the right questions and taking steps in the right direction without compromise of the truth of God. As someone who actually has done the hard work of ministry and moved from one paradigm to the other, Powell offers the ethos and the pathos to speak to the heart of church leaders. It is not a simple step by step formula of change in style and ministry that is needed, but rather a heart change in the leader to seek the power of God and the presence of the Spirit to move in the community in which the church exists.

Brad Powell offers hope for all of us who are fighting the same battles. He gives valuable insight into heart issues that reflect the character of God and the passion he has for his body, the church. Many people think church planting is the hardest job in ministry apart from living in a tribe in the middle of a jungle. While giving birth is difficult, adopting and changing cultures that are firmly rooted is no less challenging. The labor is painful, the process exhausting and the growth doesn’t happen overnight. But learning to move in the right direction, with the right heart desire, and moving at the leading of the power of God will “change Your Church for Good.”

Monday, June 7, 2010

"If I hate my life this much..."

“If I hate my life this much, how much must God hate my life?” This was at the bottom of the page as I sorted through the feelings of my heart. The other night around midnight I found myself sitting with my journal at the dining room table. I was writing out words that seemed to fit my feelings and my emotions about my walk with Christ. Here is the list of words I wrote:
• Dissatisfied
• Disappointed
• Depressed

Now I am not talking about my life with my family, my church or life in general. I am just thinking about how I feel about my relationship to God. In this moment, God reminded me of how he feels about me.

“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” John 15:15

“But God demonstrated his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

You did not choose me, but I chose you.” John 15:16

Sometimes we may not feel like we are worthy of God’s love and grace. But that doesn’t change God’s love for us. My sin is that I become focused on me rather than on Christ. When I get my eyes off myself and onto him, I am able to accept that God loves me without condition and nothing can ever change that.

I love my life!!!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Twenty Years Twenty Lesson, Part 2

On Tuesday I started Twenty Lessons from Twenty Years in ministry. I gave you ten, and today I give you ten more. There certainly are thousands I have learned, but these are just to jump start some thinking.

It’s all about people. When we see people as an obstacle instead of an opportunity we are operating in our flesh. Never miss the fact that Jesus changed his plans to minister to people’s needs.

It’s about eternity. So much of what we spend time on in ministry is about our present, urgent needs. But those are all a means to help people meet Jesus for eternity.

Others have paid a greater sacrifice. Millions of people through the centuries have literally given their lives to serve the cause of Christ. My sacrifice is small compared to others.

Mentors make all the difference. Godly men and women in your life keep you moving forward. Never forget those who helped shape you.

Give grace and you will receive grace. Most of the time, when others see us as full of grace they will treat us the same. When they see us as entitled, spoiled and arrogant, they will treat us that way.

Ministry is only as successful as the volunteers that make it happen. I get paid to do my job. Most of the people around me do it simply because they love Christ and his church. Value those people!!!

Respect others. Your title, degree, or status does not give you a free pass on treating others with respect.

It’s your fault. Learn to take the bullet for your team. Never pass off blame to someone else.

Measure God’s work in you, not God’s work in others. There will always be a bigger church, a smaller church and a church that you can discredit. God is mostly concerned with what he has placed in your area of influence.

Keep moving forward and stay put. In twenty years I have had three jobs. My goal is to make my present job my last. In moving forward where I am, God uses the time I have put in to build health in his kingdom.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Twenty Years, Twenty Lessons

Yesterday was Memorial Day and my family and I did the usual activities: slept in, coffee and breakfast, beach, frozen yogurt run, dinner, watch baseball. Along the way we talked a little about the sacrifice of men and women who have died for our freedoms. As I went to bed last night, I realized that yesterday may have been a holiday, but today, June 1, 2010 is an anniversary.

Twenty years ago today, I started working full-time at Redlands Bible Church in Redlands, CA. I was a 21 year-old youth pastor who had no idea what he was doing, but was too dumb to know it. Now, twenty years later, I still at times have no idea what I am doing, but at least I know it. So, I thought that this week would be dedicated to sharing twenty lessons I have learned over twenty years. They may or may not help you, but there is something healthy about looking back at how God has shaped your life.

• Submit to God or you will surrender to the enemy. The most powerful moments in the life of a servant of Christ come in submission to his plan and his purpose.
• Serve your family first. People will come and go in church life, but your family is there forever. Unless you put ministry and status ahead of them. (Seen it happen far too often!!)
• Honor your wife by always speaking well of her in public. How you speak of your wife reflects the reality of your relationship.
• Honor your children by being at their events. There may be emergencies that require immediate attention, but they are few and far between. But your kids remember your presence over your position.
• Give up. Your traditions, your past, your expertise. God will show you new realities and new challenges. Hold on to right doctrine, but lose the baggage as quickly as possible.
• Determine what God has called you to do and zero in on the target. God has equipped us all differently. As much as I would love to speak like Andy Stanley, think like Mark Driscoll, have the passion of Louie Giglio, I am not them. I have to be who God created me to be and nothing else.
• Beware the Pharisee. They will try to tear you apart. And if you are not diligent, you will become one of them.
• Grace does not mean ignoring sin. Jesus never allowed someone he forgave to continue in their sin and claim to follow him. Why should we diminish the grace of the cross?
• Risk rejection. People will hurt you in ministry. They will lie, gossip, and leave. But you cannot live an isolated, safe life and have intimacy at the same time. The reward is worth the risk because some will walk the road with you.
• If you think you are too big to do the work of a servant, you have become arrogant. Jesus washed his disciples feet. Nuf said!!

Tomorrow we will hit a few more lessons learned.