The Scariest Thing About Ministry

Post By: Chris Brown, Co-Senior Pastor and Teaching Pastor, North Coast Church

The last bit of candlelight cast long shadows across the cobblestone floor, while the artistry of brass and gold reflected the rhythmic movement of the flame.  It was the darkest hours of night, and outside the only slight movement was from the corner of the shade canopy when a random breeze would creep through camp.  It was in that hour that the whisper came.  The call was faint, yet deliberate enough to wake him from his sleep.  He lay frozen in silence somewhere between the land of dreams and reality trying to figure out where the voice had originated.  A church at night can be a scary place for anyone, but sleeping in one when your name is whispered down the corridors is a completely different story.  The young man jumped to his feet and ran to the old priest to see why he had called, only to find that the whisper hadn’t come from him at all.

In a way that only the Bible can, the lens of scripture has taken us into the first five verses of first Samuel chapter three, and yet the scariest part of the story is still two verses away.  In the midst of God calling Samuel in the temple, there lays one of the most chilling statements in the Bible.  And if we aren’t careful, it could be our story.  Surrounded in the text by suspense and mystery, verse seven simply states that “Samuel did not know the Lord, the Word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him”.  What?  Are you kidding me?  How did I miss that for so many years?  Or better yet, how are we still missing that today?

Remember the context of the story.  These events are taking place in the very epicenter of all things spiritual.  The boy is sleeping in the Temple of God, next to the ark of God, and his roommate is God’s high priest of the chosen nation of Israel.  Can you really find a more spiritual location than that?  On top of all this, Samuel’s daily routine is to take care of the temple, and to help with all of the religious services and sacrifices that would happen there.  Are you starting to see why verse seven is such a shocker?  How can someone be in that place, at that time, surrounded by those things, and not yet know the Word of the Lord?  But then again, how can we?

There is a chilling warning here for those of us who busy ourselves on a daily basis with the things of God, the people of God, the work of God…and yet can still completely miss the Word of God.  We can easily get caught up in so much hurry, busyness, and noise that we fail to hear that deliberate whisper of Yahweh yearning for relationship.  All too often, we rely on our own gifts, rather than on the Giver.

Let me ask you a simple question: If the Holy Spirit left your ministry today, how long would it take for you to find out?   

A pastor, passionate about developing communication skills in young leaders, who has the unique ability to bring biblical passages to life through narrative storytelling. As a 2013 Summit Faculty, Chris will share insights on a biblical leader in a way that is both fresh and compelling. Follow him on Twitter: @_chris_brown

When The Church Is Working Right

A letter from Gary Schwammlein, WCA Executive Vice President, International Ministries

Dear Friends,

As I continue my journey through India, let me share with you what I have experienced since I left Mumbai.  

Out next stop was Kolkata, or as it used to be called, Calcutta.  Coming in from the airport I thought I was in China or Dubai because of the endless construction going on and buildings going up everywhere.  India is one of the BRIC countries where economic growth is strong and it is certainly apparent on the road from the airport to the city.

However, it does not take long to be made aware of the huge needs this country is facing.  We met with Compassion International (CI) staff and witnessed once again the tremendous work they are doing.  I heard many heartbreaking stories about families and children that face incredible odds to ever escape the cycle of poverty, and how through child sponsorship their lives are dramatically changed for the better.  I, for one, am so deeply grateful that God led our family many years ago to support several children who are helped by CI.

Our next stop was a church in the heart of Kolkata that is such a perfect example of a church working right.  Not only do they have a hospital with several hundred beds and a school for 3,000 pupils, they also feed 10,000 children one nutritious meal a day, every day.

Think about it – 10,000 meals a day provided by one church that is not well off by any standard.  

They are truly living out the gospel, and do many other things to help spread the gospel and make a difference in a city where less than 1% of the population are Christians.  The pastor of this church also pledged his unequivocal support for the GLS and will do everything he can to make it happen, and in a way that will impact this city.  He assured us he will make all the resources of the church available because he considers the GLS so important for the churches in this city.

We then stopped in the city of Chennai and met with a group representing most of the key pastors in this city.  One of the highlights for me was to have Pranitha Timothy, a speaker at last year’s GLS, attend our GLS planning meeting.  What a joy to meet this brave woman and to hear more about the ministry of IJM.

Sunday morning reminded me once again of the incredible beauty of a church when it’s working right.  The church I attended, among other things, looks after 80 widows who have been abandoned by their families after their husbands died.  I can’t tell you the anger that welled up in me when I heard a story of a son who kicked out his mother from the home that she and her deceased husband had built, and that he, through deception, had taken ownership of.  Many of the women there asked me to pray for them, and I was glad to oblige and commit them into the loving care of Jesus.

In Chennai as well, the committee voted to host the GLS later this year.
 
In closing, one more brief report from the neighboring country of Pakistan.  310 people attended the GLS in Lahore in late April, a city where only a few months earlier an angry mob burned down over 130 homes of Christians in a Christian enclave in that city.  The GLS was an amazing experience in many ways, as this short report shows:  

The GLS provided an opportunity to the Leaders of Punjab Province to experience the Holy Spirit move in their unity…they say it was never experienced before, some testified that they have never ever sat with other denomination leaders, GLS-Lahore created an atmosphere for National Heads of different Missions and Organizations and Christian Secular Professionals to sit together for 2 days and experience God’s Special blessings.



Thank you Lord for allowing your Church to prevail, even in the midst of great persecution, opposition and poverty.  And thank you for allowing us to be a part of it through the teachings offered through the GLS.

My next stops are Hyderabad, Goa and Bangalore, before heading to Myanmar.

Blessings,

Gary

Gary Schwammlein will be traveling for the next 4-5 weeks working with leaders around the world. Please be praying with our team for safe travels, intentional conversation, divine appointment, and for world leaders will capture the vision for the GLS in their country. 

Mark Your Calendar

WCA works year-round alongside 7,000 member churches and is privileged to serve pioneering pastors and leaders around the world by curating inspirational leadership, intentional skill development and experiences. 2013 has been off to a great start, and as we continue to serve you, your team and your church, be sure to mark your calendar with these important dates:

Tuesday, May 21st: Super Early Bird Deadline for The Global Leadership Summit: Register for the Best Rates of the year!

May 23rd – June 1st: Pray for John Burke and his team as they put on events in 4 South African cities: East London, Cape Town, Durban, and Johannesburg, (If you are in the area, you can register HERE)

May 31st – June 2nd: Pray as 2,500+ Student Ministry Leaders gather in Germany (If you are in the area, you can register HERE)

Tuesday, June 25th: Early Bird Deadline for The Global Leadership Summit

Thursday – Friday, August 8-9th: Reaching 70,000+ leaders in the U.S., The Global Leadership Summit launches live near Chicago

Friday, August 9th: Registration for Summit 2014 opens

September 2013-January 2014: The Global Leadership Summit is taken to 300+ cities in 90 countries and translated into 42 languages. Want to help make the Summit happen globally? Find out how you can help HERE

Looking forward to what God will do in the year ahead!

12 Reasons Why Your Church Doesn’t Produce Spiritual Growth

Re-post by Tony Morgan

Several weeks ago I read Move: What 1,000 Churches Reveal about Spiritual Growth by Greg Hawkins and Cally Parkinson. Greg is the executive pastor at Willow Creek Community Church. Cally is Willow’s director of communication services. The book is based on their research of over 1,000 churches. It takes a hard look at spiritual formation in our churches with a focus on best-practice ministries.

This book is by far the book that has most challenged my thinking regarding spiritual formation in the church. My Kindle version has highlights throughout. This morning I went through all those highlights and tried to narrow them down to the twelve that I found most challenging to current church practices. Unfortunately, these statements only provide a snippet of the findings and best practices outlined in the book.

12 REASONS WHY YOUR CHURCH DOESN’T PRODUCE SPIRITUAL GROWTH

  1. You focus more on Bible teaching than Bible engagement. – “We learned that the most effective strategy for moving people forward in their journey of faith is biblical engagement. Not just getting people into the Bible when they’re in church—which we do quite well—but helping them engage the Bible on their own outside of church.”
  2. You haven’t developed a pathway of focused first steps. – “Instead of offering up a wide-ranging menu of ministry opportunities to newcomers, best-practice churches promote and provide a high-impact, nonnegotiable pathway of focused first steps—a pathway designed specifically to jumpstart a spiritual experience that gets people moving toward a Christ-centered life.”
  3. You’re more concerned about activity than growth. – “Increased church activity does not lead to spiritual growth.”
  4. You haven’t clarified the church’s role. – “Because—whether inadvertently or intentionally—these churches have communicated to their people that, no matter where they are on their spiritual journey, the role of the church is to be their central source of spiritual expertise and experience. As a result, even as people mature in their beliefs and embrace personal spiritual practices as part of their daily routines, their expectation is that it will be the church, not their own initiative, that will feed their spiritual hunger.”
  5. You’re focused more on small groups than serving. – “Serving experiences appear to be even more significant to spiritual development than organized small groups.”
  6. You’re not challenging people to reflect on Scripture – “If they could do only one thing to help people at all levels of spiritual maturity grow in their relationship with Christ, their choice would be equally clear. They would inspire, encourage, and equip their people to read the Bible—specifically, to reflect on Scripture for meaning in their lives.”
  7. You’re unwilling to admit that more is not better. – “Based on findings from the most effective churches, however, this ‘more is better’ way of thinking is not the best route for people who are new to a church, and it is particularly unsuitable for people who are taking their first steps to explore the Christian faith… Instead of offering a ministry buffet with multiple tempting choices of activities and studies, these churches make one singular pathway a virtual prerequisite for membership and full engagement with the church.”
  8. You haven’t raised the bar. – “Too many churches are satisfied to have congregations filled with people who say they ‘belong’ to their church—who attend faithfully and are willing to serve or make a donation now and then. But that belonging bar is not high enough; simply belonging doesn’t get the job done for Jesus.”
  9. You’ve created a church staff dependency. – “Taking too much responsibility for others’ spiritual growth fostered an unhealthy dependence of congregants on the church staff.”
  10. You believe that small groups are the solution to spiritual formation. – “Based on the churches we have studied, including our own, there is no evidence that getting 100 percent of a congregation into small groups is an effective spiritual formation strategy.”
  11. You focus on what people should do rather than who people should become. – “Unfortunately, churches often make things harder still by obscuring the goal—to become more like Christ—with a complicated assortment of activities. For instance, encouraging people to: Attend teaching and worship services every week. Meet frequently with small community and Bible study groups (often requiring follow-up communications and homework). Serve the church a couple times a month. Serve those who are underresourced on a regular basis. Invite friends, coworkers, and family to church, special events, support groups, etc. When the church incessantly promotes all the things people should do, it’s very easy for them to lose sight of the real goal—which is who they should become.”
  12. You aren’t helping people surrender their lives to Jesus. – “Spiritual growth is not driven or determined by activities; it is defined by a growing relationship with Christ. So the goal is not to launch people into an assortment of ministry activities; it is to launch them on a quest to embrace and surrender their lives to Jesus.”

Here’s my Amazon link if you’d like to read the book. I strongly encourage you to do that and wrestle through what you read with your ministry leadership team. If you are honest with yourselves, this book will shift the way you do ministry in your church.

Tony is the Chief Strategic Officer and founder of TonyMorganLive.com. He’s a consultant, leadership coach and writer who helps churches get unstuck and have a bigger impact.

Dallas Willard: A Call To Leaders

Words from Mindy Caliguire, Executive Team Member at WCA and friend of Dallas Willard.

As we mourn the loss of visionary, mentor, and friend Dallas Willard this week, I’d like to share one of the many gifts he gave to leaders through the Willow Creek Association: Encouragement.

In this video excerpt, Dallas speaks directly to pastors and leaders about how you too can live as a disciple of Jesus, immersed in grace, right in the midst of ministry. We all know how elusive this experience can be.

Dallas tirelessly alerted us to the reality of life in the Kingdom of God—in this very moment, right here and right now. We are forever grateful, and forever changed.

He freely gave of himself on behalf of the WCA, so that in turn, we might bless you.

So give yourself the next five minutes, turn off your phone, settle into a comfortable seat, and allow these words to speak to your soul.

WCA is humbled and thankful for the work Dallas Willard contributed to the Kingdom of God. His words of wisdom and teachings left a legacy that will live on forever.

 

Saying No to Fear

Post by Nancy Grisham, Thriving: Trusting God for Life to the Fullest | From Chapter 8: Saying No to Fear

We’ve all got a fear radar. It blips with the doctor’s report, a dreaded meeting, the late night phone call, the monthly bills, and at the onslaught of difficult circumstances.

There was a time when fear seldom registered on my radar. But the more I moved forward to trust God, the more I was taunted by it. One day I realized that fear had gradually colored my thinking a murky gray.

Suddenly, part of a Scripture popped into my mind, “…I was afraid, and went out and ______.”[1] However, I drew a total blank on what the man did in response to fear. The phrase fraidy-blanks popped into my mind for the wrong things we’re tempted to do in response to fear. When I got home I read the rest of the verse.

“And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground…”[2]

Fraidy-blanks lure us away from confidence in God.

The What Ifs of Fear

We’ve all heard the droning of the fraidy-blank giant. He taunts us with doubts.  “What if something happens to your…kids, marriage, health, parents, finances, job, ministry or you fail? What if God doesn’t come through for you? What if (fill in your fear)?”

Whenever we allow negative what if scenarios to hold us back from God’s best there’s a fraidy-blank lumbering through our minds.

God wants our fraidy-blanks filled with faith.

We Choose Our Focus

We can’t choose our fears, but we can choose where we focus and how we respond. There’s a story in Numbers 13 and 14 that gives us insight into conquering the fear giant. It’s about the reconnaissance troop that scouted the Promised Land. All twelve scouts experienced the same circumstances but…

Ten Men Saw…Problems…Giants and the land devours…Grasshoppers – self’s inability…Defeat… Two Men Saw…Opportunity…Promised Land…God’s faithfulness…Success…

 

Ten men chose to focus on the problems and themselves. As a result, they became negative, buried their hope, and were paralyzed by fear. Two men kept their eyes on God and planted their confidence in Him. Eventually, those two, Joshua and Caleb led a new generation into the Promised Land.

Like the twelve spies our perspective greatly influences our response. In this story, and in life, there are three primary grids of focus.

1.  GIANT GRID—focus on people, problems, and circumstances

2.  GRASSHOPPER GRID—focus on ourselves, inabilities (or abilities)

3.  GOD GRID—focus on God, His promises and greatness

We can choose where we focus. Seeing difficulties through the God Grid gives us true perspective – God is always greater.

We Choose Confidence in God

When you face the fear giant what’s your default grid? Is your focus usually on the problem, on yourself, or on God? In every circumstance, you and I can choose to lock our focus on Christ and on His Word. Only then can we see clearly to fill our fraidy-blanks with faith and plant our confidence in God and His faithfulness.


[1] Mat 25:25 (NASB)

[2] Mat 25:25 (NASB)

Nancy Grisham is the author of Thriving: Trusting God for Life to the Fullest. Through the speaking ministry of Livin’ Ignited she helps people to live to the fullest in Christ and equips churches in outreach. She has a PhD from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, has been a faculty member at Wheaton College, and an evangelism pastor in a church of 6,500. She left a business career that included executive-level management to enter full-time ministry. Contact her through www.livinignited.com.

Vision Leaks

Excerpt from Leadership Axioms by Bill Hybels. Download a FREE chapter HERE.

Vision Leaks. -Bill Hybels

Ask key staff, “How full is your vision bucket these days?” Ask volunteers, Do you sense progress around here toward our vision?” Ask members of your congregation, Which part of our church’s vision is the most meaningful to you?”

Get a gauge on how full buckets are around you, leader, and then get busy topping them off. 

Be challenged, equipped and inspired. Register for The Global Leadership Summit 2013. 

When Home Lead

As the Sr. Pastor of a large church and large staff I found myself consumed with being the very best leader I could be for my staff and people. I attended leadership conferences, read leadership books and even met with other leaders in my community so I could continue to grow as a leader. Yet, being completely honest with you, there were many times during my Sr. Pastor years that I would come home completely exhausted and empty and I would have nothing to give to my wife or daughter. By the time I would get home I didn’t have the capacity to pray, read the Bible, listen or engage in any form of faith talk with them as all I wanted to do was collapse in the recliner and let some sort of ball game on TV take me away!

How many times have we seen pastors, who are seemingly doing a very successful job leading their churches, have marriages and families that fall apart? Could it be that in our zeal to be good leaders we are forgetting that the foundation of our leadership begins at home?

Research from the Barna Group brought us face to face with a harsh reality that less than 10% of church going households engage in prayer (other than a mealtime prayer) Bible reading, devotions or worship in the home. It is clear for many people today, faith is something you do at church or outsource to the church. This reality is concluding in severe consequences that can be seen through;

  • the number of Christian leaders consistently having moral failures
  • a divorce rate that is equal for Christian couples and non Christian couples
  • the fact that 60-90% of our children, who are participating in church programs today, walk away from Christianity as young adults because they believe it is hypocritical   

I refuse to be one of those statistics and I refuse to lead my staff into these realities. So something had to change. I had to seek out where the root of my leadership began…in my very own home. I needed to place a higher value on my faith and leadership at home for my family, my church and myself. In fact, it needed to become my highest priority.

What good is it if we are great leaders at church but not within the walls of our home? 

That is hypocrisy in its truest form and I didn’t want to perpetuate hypocrisy within the team and congregation. So I rallied my team and our vision changed…our focus changed and we committed ourselves to being faith at home focused church. Our strategy changed from starting within the church to starting within the home and we wanted to lead people to do the same. The truth is, I am only a successful leader if I am successfully leading my family at home.

Mark Holmen is a husband, father, pastor, coach, speaker and author of numerous books including Church + Home – A Simple Faith@Home Strategy for Churches, Faith Begins at Home, and his newly released book Impress Faith on Your Kids. Mark, his wife Maria and daughter Malyn currently live in Ventura, california where the now serve as full-time Missionaries for the Faith@Home movement: www.faithathome.com.

 

You’re Not Done…Empowering the Next Generation

Nothing so dates a man as to decry the younger generation. -Adlai E. Stevenson

Young people…they have more and expect more than any previous generation. It’s easy to dismiss them as entitled or just plain immature. But let’s not forget they’re the future of the church and hold an incredible capacity for changing the world. As the current generation of leaders, it’s our job to empower and inspire this generation to make a difference.

Our Leadership Summit in Zimbabwe gave us a glimpse into the power of this inter-generational exchange of leadership.  Craig Groeschel, Geoffrey Canada and Mark Kielburger spoke powerfully on the importance of building into this generation. These talks were so impactful, one of the Zimbabwean business leaders in attendance immediately gathered a group of 150 young adults aged 18-30 and challenged them to get involved in community programs. This gathering took place just two days after the Summit and was attended by the Deputy Prime Minister who personally addressed the young adults using materials from the Summit. The response was so positive, local leaders plan to make this a regular component of their local Summit experience.

Craig Groeschel gives this advice to the leaders of tomorrow:

  • Honor those who have come before you
  • Don’t be afraid to lead up
  • Learn to be under authority with integrity
  • Serve those over you faithfully
  • Create ongoing feedback loops
  • Seek out mentoring from those you respect

As a leader in your church or community, you need to respond to young leaders following this advice. You need to support them, mentor them and provide an example of integrity and faithfulness worth following. As you think about your own leadership legacy, consider the following:

  • Who will you hand the baton to?
  • What opportunities have you created for upcoming leaders?
  • Is a young leader in your community inspired by your long-term vision, or are they more likely to try something new?

Identify 4-5 leaders in your community. Build into them. Encourage them. Equip them for impact. The future of the church depends on it.