Tuesday, November 23, 2010

It takes the right vision - Church and Big Decisions

In what today seems like years ago I learned a lesson that I have never forgotten. Vision is easy. But the right vision is never easy! In leading a church this may be the most difficult lesson of all to apply. And I am still learning this lesson with every day that passes. Vision in itself is exciting and prioritizing. But Vision can also be the downfall of one's ministry; personally and corporately.

Getting the right vision and seeing the vision realized requires many smaller visions to complete. Beginning with implementation one's vision can can either shine or go bust. This has become one the BIG stumbling blocks in our day. When a leader and team begin to understand the vision that God gives, excitement often leads to a premature roll out and careless neglect of time for growth among the people. We force when we ought to grow. We forget that it took time for God to get His vision in our hearts and thus time for others to grasp from the Lord is equally required.

Odd to me is the growing and promoted idea that I often hear from Pastors that church members need to follow the vision of the leadership. Little emphasis is given to the sharing of the vision and the depth needed in the sharing process. A leader must lead. Forcing and pushing is NOT leadership. In our recent events, we actually were forced to go slow due to negotiations and availability of land. Yet when the time came, much effort was placed and time was further extended to allow for the sharing and grasping of the vision by the people. No one on our staff but me had ever been involved in this type of presentation and I will be the first to admit that I humanly struggled with the idea of taking more time. I was eager. My staff was eager. Three years of hunting and working had passed. The lay leaders where chomping at the bit. Two votes by the church had already occurred to allow the search and to spend the funds for due diligence. It was easy to jump to the conclusion that there had been enough time and enough talk. Just get it done was often the thought running through my head! But that approach could have (would have) killed what God desired.

I listened a few weeks ago to Dr. Ronnie Floyd share the story of how the name change occurred in Springdale to Cross Church. In his presentation to the church he stated the fact that he himself was the one to slow the change down. That was refreshing. Timing and roll out must never be over looked. Lay leaders may be on board (as ours were - all 54) but still the whole of the congregation needs time. The vision must be refined and often the laity are Gods tool for refinement.

Transparency and understanding require work and patience. I wonder why we in leadership so easily skip over the multiple verses in the Bible that explain these traits. Even Galatians makes it clear that long suffering is one quadrant of the Fruit of the Spirit. I learned during this latest process that patience just might be one of the biggest issues we Pastors face. The battle within me waged daily over moving quickly. Discussions with leaders and all laity were almost redundant to me. The pull of Satan to trip me up at this point was for me a major struggle. It helped to refresh my spirit in the area of spiritual warfare and it reminded me that as a leader, it really does rise and fall at the top.

We took the time to make sure all were included and had ample opportunity to hear, experience, pray and seek the Will of God. We knew we could accomplish what was needed. But more important to us as a staff and key lay leaders was the understanding that a church is all about God and His work in the lives of people. We had no choice but to give Him time to work. The result was an incredible move of God that no man could produce. Is that not what it is suppose to be like?

Our smaller visions in presentations, time to absorb, question and answer sessions, and most of all prayer times bore a peaceful, spiritual atmosphere that resulted in the big vision being overwhelming approved with little negative. No one has left the church mad. No one has been cut out. No one has been told to "trust us". God is working and as a result we are seeing people saved and joining His church during a time that many hide out in fear waiting for the implosion.

Remember, this church had built nothing, done upkeep on little, and had little hope of survival for over 57 years. There was history of "bad" meetings over smaller things. This church is what many young Pastors speak of in ultra negative tones and descriptions. I was even told NOT to take the position. Yet in the last 4 years it has now begun a new contemporary service, leased and shared the old facilities with another church of another denomination, over hauled the Children's Ministry and now voted to relocate - none of which were on the radar at all 4 1/2 years ago. Only God could do what has occurred here. And for that I more than thankful!

Next post: God's Vision is People!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Transparency, Church, and Big Decisions

For over 20 years I have ministered in great churches with great people. From being a Pastor to serving as an adviser, I have witnessed many situations and many challenges in churches attempting to do major things in the kingdom. I have watched as some of these situations have been peaceful and some have been NOT so peaceful. I have read all I could find on "how to" and what to do". Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that what I am about to share would occur.

Recently, our church finished a 6 year journey (that began before my arrival) dealing with a building issue. The church has not done anything building wise etc. for more than 57 years. Very few of the church family have ever been through a building program - much less a Capital Campaign. The whole idea was scary for most if not all. The possibilities of Satan creating a huge mess were very real and easy to see. At risk was the very fact that though buildings etc. had not occurred (nor much upkeep due to expense), missions and ministry had flowed freely and generously for years. Multiple nations have been touched by the church family with money and actual people on the ground. Nine have surrendered to ministry within the past 15 months. Indeed much was at stake with this journey. The reality that time was running out and no examples of similar situations succeeding made this journey an adventure.

The study and conclusions that were reached over the 6 years called for the purchase of property and relocation of the ministry. The task was not easy and the project is long from completion. But the first few steps have been one to write about. Over the course of the next few posts I plan to share some insight into common thought applied to this particular situation. Remember, for over 57 years this church has not built anything in regard to buildings. Important to note is that this church is currently in the inner city. Also revealing is that less than 10 couples can be found in the age bracket range of 40 to 60. This church should not be doing what it is indeed doing. This church should be closing down shop. It is not a church that many young Pastors would consider worthy of their interest. But what this church has accomplished to date and how it accomplished it speaks loud and clear in a day of perception oriented reality that is often very off base.

While many are writing these churches off, I believe this church is actually a pace setter for what can and should be occurring all over America with the right spirit, approach and patience. Maybe the greatest reality of this situation is that others will be inspired by it. Many of our churches today are identical to this one. Many of our churches today lack encouragement to do what this church found the courage to do even while others said "NO WAY!"

I pray this story will be an encouragement!

Next Post: It takes the right vision!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

How far can we run away or ...

The more I read and the more I listen to some of today's top promoted speakers and preachers the more I hear the issues being promoted or addressed from a very strange position. It appears that people are desiring to see just how far they can go and still be "holy". This is a strange thing to me. Are we not taught that each of us is to pursue maturity in our spiritual life?

In fact the words of Romans 12: 1 keep coming back to me;

"present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God..."

Why are we leaving this command out of our teaching and pursuits spiritually? Is it an accident or is it more? From discussions of alcohol to anything else people love to claim their freedoms. There is no doubt that we are free in Christ. We must not forget the following words of our Lord;

John 8:36 Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed .

The problem is that this freedom does not grant nor allow for sinful practices. I think Paul made it clear when he wrote to the Romans;

Romans 6:1 "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?
2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?"

In my last post I mentioned some questions that we should ask each day relating to our decisions and choices. I post them again:

1. What would Jesus do?
2. Is my life clean before the Lord?
3. Do I base right and wrong on my opinions and preferences or ...?
4. Do I base right and wrong solely on the Word of God?
5. Do my actions cause people to stumble?
6. Is Christ being lived out in all I think, say and do?
7. Am I being honest with God?

If only more of today's promoted speakers and preachers would remember these when writing and teaching. If only our Seminary Professors would teach from this foundation instead of the thought of seeing how far I can go and not get into trouble. Maybe I am not in touch with modern thought. Come to think of it, I would pray that I care more about being in tune with the Holy God above all else including modern thought. I pray a couple of our seminaries and their personnel will find this same heart in their writings and topics used in their speaking.

How far will run before someone says "let's get back to the Word of God and living it?