Category Archives: Leadership

General thoughts about Christian leadership.

Churches and Marketing

Church Planting Leadership

As a result of reading a couple of blogs on a regular basis, I’m getting increasingly interested in marketing. As a church planter, marketing is something that I will soon have to be dealing with directly, but I’m amazed to see the key points of crossover between the world of marketing today and the church. A few visits to some key marketing sites online will show you what I mean. Here are some quick links.

I don’t read this blogs directly, but I regularly check a blog called Presentation Zen that recently mentioned them again. (I read Presentation Zen because it is an excellent site about how to effectively present information to groups of people through the use of speaking as well as audio/visual media. It’s right up the alley of any pastor who really cares about communicating in a technological age.)

Marketing is Evolving

You see, the introduction of the internet has created not just an “Information Age” but a “Communication Age” and most importantly, the ways people communicate and their expectations in communication have changed dramatically.

The old style of marketing

The basic argument is that marketing is not a one-way street. The old way of doing things was to research your “target audience” or your “demographic” or something like that, identify the key “felt needs” of that demographic, and then promote your product in a way that touched on those key needs.

The church has been struggling with these concepts for years. Some church leaders say that all marketing is playing to the materialistic, humanistic, selfish instincts of sinful people and therefore should be avoided. Some believe that marketing is just the “way of the world” so to speak and that to reach the market-driven culture, you need to become a market-savvy church.

Granted, there is truth on both sides of that fence; however, what both sides are missing is that marketing is no longer this one-way kind of communication whereby the marketer attempts to target an audience and present a product to them.

The new way

According to these blogging guys (who have written a number of books and articles as well), the new kind of marketing is a conversation that is happening on multiple levels all at the same time.

The key concept is called the era of the cluetrain and it has been promoted in a book called The Cluetrain Manifesto.

The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual

Here are a couple of the “95 Theses” that stand out to me.
* Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors.
* Companies need to lighten up and take themselves less seriously. They need to get a sense of humor.
* The inflated self-important jargon you sling around — in the press, at your conferences — what’s that got to do with us?
* If you want us to talk to you, tell us something. Make it something interesting for a change.

If you change “market” to “community” and “company” to church, it’s something to think about.

The Key Question

Of course, the key question is, “What will church leaders be doing in the midst of this changing culture?”

Associated Books

I haven’t read any of these marketing books, but this is a short list of the ones that seem the most interesting to me right now:

All Marketers Are Liars : The Power of Telling Authentic Stories in a Low-Trust World
All Marketers Are Liars

Beyond Bullet Points: Using Microsoft  PowerPoint  to Create Presentations That Inform, Motivate, and Inspire (Bpg-Other)
Beyond Bullet Points: Using Microsoft PowerPoint to Create Presentations That Inform, Motivate, and Inspire.

The Art of the Start : The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything
The Art of the Start: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything

If I get around to reading some of these, I hope to review them here. Do you have any suggestions.

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Consecrate Yourselves

Front Page Lafayette Leadership

Here’s another short post (not having Internet at the home and not having an internet enabled office has really slowed down my blogging). Jen and I are in Peoria, Illinois at the Midwest Baptist Conference’s Leadership Retreat. This is my second year to come to the retreat, and I’m really excited about it. Mostly, I’m excited because this year, I’m here as a church planter. A good number of my friends are here too, and I have the joy of picking their brains to hear what they have been doing in their churches.

It’s amazing to me that when I hear someone else’s story, if it’s good, I want to do it too. If I hear that some program or effort worked for one person, I want to do the same thing (of course, I want to customize it myself). I am addicted to competition and comparisons.

Conferences are good for me because they inspire me. Conferences are bad for me because they make me think about all the things I could/should be doing differently to the point of making me feel either guilty for not doing all of that or depressed that I can’t do it all. Conferences are good for me because I get to meet really great people and network. Conferences are bad for me because I regularly compare myself to all of those people and feel either superior or inferior.

Why can’t I just be the person God is calling me to be and leave it at that?

Because the person God is calling me to be is never perfectly clear.

I’ll get specific.

The theme of this conference and the main message of the evening tonight come from Joshua 3:5. This is what it says in the NIV.

Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you.”
—Joshua 3:5

Tonight, the speaker (Paul Johnson, Executive Vice President of the Baptist General Conference) talked to us about how consecrating something means to set something apart for God, and that often boils down to doing something God’s way rather than doing it our own way. This is where I find a lot of difficulty.

How do I know if I’m doing something “my way” or “God’s way”? Specifically, I’m in the process of starting a brand new church in Lafayette. There are many different methods for doing that. Some plan for a big event “Launch Sunday” and go from there. Some plan for a “soft launch” and build up from that. I have my own strategy for how to go about doing things, but whose to say that my strategy is “my plan” or “God’s plan”?

You might think this is strange coming from a pastor, but I, unlike many others who are in ministry, have very few moments in my life where I would say, “I really sensed God’s leading to do …” I heard a number of those comments tonight from people. However, I don’t get those kind of impressions. God speaks to me in different ways. I’m still learning to discern his voice, but how do I consecrate myself to his service and to do things his way when I don’t really know what “his way” is?

I wonder if others know what I’m talking about. Do other people tend to cringe when they hear someone say, “God told me…” or “I sensed God leading me to …”?

Why do I bring this up?

I bring it up because I think I have a pretty good understanding of what it means to consecrate yourself. Not that I do it perfectly or not, but I think I’m developing a good understanding of it. As I see it, being consecrated to God means that my life is not my own, it belongs to God. Then, when it comes to practical decision making, this is my process.

  1. Where God’s Word is clear on how to behave or think, I will obey.
  2. If God’s Word is not clear on an issue, I will decide based on the promptings of the Spirit, my own intuition, and my understanding of God’s character (based on related issues from Scripture).
  3. If God’s Word is not clear on an issue and I don’t have a “prompting” regarding the decision, I will base my decision on the wisdom of those who have gone before me as filtered through the lens of my understanding of Scripture.
  4. When all else fails, I will decide based on the level of wisdom God has already given me.

The only problem left is to decide how long to stick with stage 2 before moving on to stage 3. How long should I seek the “prompting” before moving to stage 3? According to some, stage 3 and 4 are inappropriate for a spiritual leader. If there is no clear teaching from Scripture or no prompting from the Spirit, then the decision should be postponed.

But isn’t that a little simple-minded? There is no proof that King Solomon spent an hour in prayer before dishing out his great wisdom. Now, he isn’t a great example because he misused a lot of his wisdom, but the point remains. The Bible praised his wisdom even though he didn’t agonize in prayer over his decisions.

So what does this all mean for spiritual leaders today? Well, of course it means that we should be very familiar with the clear teaching of the Bible and also very familiar with the character of God. Most every decision we will make can be decided based on those two things alone. But for the others, perhaps consecrating ourselves means simply to dedicate our decision and the results to God.

Is it just possible that God gave his people brains so that they could use them to make good well-informed decisions? What do you think?

Where should we draw the line between making wise decisions and pridefully following our own plans while ignoring God’s will?

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Make the Right Things Easy

Front Page Leadership VIP

I read
this
article
recently where the author is talking about how to make users
of your product or service happy. The basic premise of the article is
that you should make the right things easy and the
wrong things hard.

A great illustration of this is a three pronged electrical plug. There is
only one way that the plug can go into the wall safely, and the plug is
designed in such a way that the safe way to plug it in is the only
way to plug it in. In that case, the “right” thing is also the “easy”
thing.

However, the author also describes that car dashboards, being long and
flat, are designed to make the wrong thing easy-putting stuff on them. In
an accident, all those things put on dashboards become projectiles ready
to wound anyone in their path not to mention the visibility problems and
distraction problems of things moving around on that dashboard!

I guess the question for church leadership is how to make the right
things easy.

What are the right things?

Despite the popular demands for customized programs and the innumerable
things that churches could be doing, there really are only a few things
that churches should be doing. Here is my (non-exhaustive) list:

  • Spurring people on toward a deeper walk with God.
  • Teaching and coaching people to understand and take their next steps
    of faith.

  • Putting people into healthy, loving, supportive relationships.
  • Commissioning people into ministry to a lost and dying world.

From the standpoint of an individual in the church, the right things
are:

  • A deep walk with God
  • Taking next steps of understanding and faith
  • Supportive, loving relationships
  • Ministering

Make them easy

So if those are the right things to be doing, how can we make them
easier?

Well, churches have for many years been making these very things the most
difficult things to be doing. We have had services of worship that are
based on following traditions more than on helping people to go deeper
with God. We have had classes that focus on learning some truth rather
than changing our lives. We have had programs that put people in
antagonistic relationships (volunteer committees to name but one), and we
have put high restrictions on who is qualified to be in
ministry.

To make these easy, I suggest these things.

Make worship accessible.

the church needs to focus on making worship accessible to people (service
times, styles, locations, etc.) so that everyone can have an experience
that helps them go deeper with God while at the same time making the
practice of personal devotions easier (I’m still working on that). Now,
of course that means that services can’t be all fluff and feel good
stuff. They have to really take people to the deeper realities both
emotionally and intellectually to see the truth of who God really
is.

Make loving relationships cultural.

Churches talk about small groups and whatnot being a part of what they do
as a church. However, small groups don’t work unless they are part of the
underlying culture of the church. Something cultural is something that
everyone knows is expected of them and they are fine with it. It’s
cultural in Brazil for people to speak Portuguese. People in Brazil
expect that other people will speak their language and people who live
there are okay with that.

The thing is that we Christians in North America have lost the sense that
relationships are part of our culture. It isn’t expected of us that we
will have strong relationships with other believers. What is expected in
many cases is that the pastor will meet our needs if we have them
or that the church’s benevolent fund will come to our rescue if
needed.

I advocate churches that require small group relationships instead of
“membership.” In fact, I advocate a church whose membership consists
entirely and only of those who are in a small group of some
kind.

Make change fun.

At the core of Christianity is the concept of “conversion” or being “born
again.” In other words, the fundamental starting point for any individual
believer is radical life change. Beyond that, the Bible consistently
stresses that believers are in a process of continual change to become
more and more like Jesus all the time.

Why is it, then, that the single most unchanging organization in the
world is the church? I’m serious; there are churches that have traditions
going back to the dark ages! Literally. If we are to be people undergoing
constant change, then why can’t we be part of an organization that is
undergoing constant change? Because change is threatening for most of us.
In response, I think we need to change our attitude toward change. We
need to make change fun. Why can’t we rejoice with every change that
happens?

Now, I know that for spiritual growth, there needs to be some kind of
stability in our lives and especially in our churches, but that doesn’t
mean we can’t have parties now and then. I think the church should throw
a party every time something changes.

I recently heard of a church where every time the pastor finishes a
series of messages, they throw a party to celebrate the completion of
that season of learning!

Make ministry earth-shattering.

Aha! You thought I was going to say something like make ministry
available to everyone, huh? Yeah, many churches have limited ministry to
the seminary trained elite or others who have a specific skill set, but
the solution isn’t simply to open up ministry to everyone.

To open up ministry to everyone does nothing more than cheapen what
ministry is all about. Instead, we need to propel ministry into the
position of being absolutely essential to the church. And to do that, we
need to talk about the real, big ministries of the church not the little
tiny ministries of the church.

If your church has a sound team, don’t talk about working on the sound
team. Instead, talk about the incredible impact the worship service has
on people’s hearts and lives and then mention that people who are
interested in sound equipment can serve on the worship sound team or
something like that.

People need to hear that they can make an eternal
difference in someone’s life.

Perhaps there is nothing as important as simply helping people to realize
that they themselves are as qualified as they need to be to share the
truth of Jesus with others they know. A couple weeks ago, I taught my
congregation that Jesus plants a seed in our hearts that he wants to grow
and produce fruit, and though we often think it is our job to produce
fruit, we need to realize that the fruit of our lives is really found in
the spreading of the seed to others. The bottom line is that we need to
take the seed Jesus gave us and pass that to others.

How did Jesus save you? That’s the gospel that someone needs to hear. You
don’t have to take them through a tract or something artificial, you only
need to tell them how Jesus saved you!

Conclusion

We can allow ourselves to get distracted by many things, but at the end
of the day, there are only a few things that Jesus has called the church
to be doing. As church leaders, we can lead and make decisions that make
those things natural and easy for those in our churches. If we do that
well, we won’t just have happy “customers” we will have a church that
consistently brings greater glory to God as people get closer to him, get
closer to each other, take steps of personal growth, and minister to
others.

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Creating and Sustaining Momentum

Front Page Leadership

Tony Morgan on
his
blog
shares from his experience at the recent “Catalyst” conference,
and records some comments made by Andy Stanley on how to create and
sustain momentum in any endeavor.

It’s probably not right to quote his
entire
blog post
, so I’ll just copy the core few key points.

Stanley suggested there are three components of sustained momentum:
new, improved, and improving. Here are some of the key thoughts that
flowed out of his talk:

New triggers momentum.

When evaluating an organization or program that lacks momentum ask,
“Do we need a new leader, a new direction/vision or a new
product/program?”

Momentum is never triggered by tweaking something old. It is
triggered by introducing something new.

The new must be a significant improvement over the old. If not,
you’re wasting your time and your money.

Long-term momentum is sustained through continuous improvement.

Your leadership must maintain an uncompromising commitment to
relevance. You can’t just be “open” to change. You need to be “committed”
to change.

“Success breeds complacency and complacency breeds failure.”

tony
morgan | one of the simply strategic guys: Catalyst |
Eight

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Why shouldn’t everyone plant a church?

Church Planting Front Page Leadership

Well, this is an interesting take on the whole church planting
thing.

According to
this
article
, everyone should plant a church. Bob Hyatt claims that there
are two schools of thought on church planting. In my words, they are
these:

  1. It’s only for the elite and super-gifted because it’s really that
    hard.

  2. It’s really hard, but with God all things are possible.

He claims that no one needs any special “call” or “vision” to plant a
church. They just need a heart to love people and see people come to
faith.

He also claims that failure is to be measured by how loving we were to
the people God brings us and not how long the church survives.

Finally, he claims that following the denominational practices and
methods like raising a lot of money first and all that isn’t worth the
effort.

My Response

Interesting claims, but I have to disagree a little. God’s goal for this
world is to build a family of people committed to his Son, and the
fracturing of this family into innumerable subgroups that don’t talk to
each other has been quite detrimental to the cause of Christ in this
world. If everyone just up and started a new church, this fracturing
would continue.

My feeling is that everyone should consider themselves a minister doing
the work of care, support, and evangelism, but that we don’t need a ton
more churches.

You might think this is strange coming from a church planter, but it is
the truth. I only have two reasons to be church planter:

  1. I’m convinced that God has called me particularly to it.
  2. I’m passionate to use the platform of a new church to develop a
    healthy network among all the Christians in Lafayette.

The people in Lafayette (and elsewhere) don’t need new churches as much
as they need vibrant, healthy Christian communities accessible to them,
caring for them, and welcoming them.

I believe that God should call church planters to the work, and that the
vast majority of believers should be working on enriching the spiritual
health of themselves, their local church, and their
neighborhoods.

We wouldn’t need to start new churches if the existing churches were
doing their job of mobilizing house churches, developing leaders, and
doing ministry in the neighborhoods.

I mostly agree with his definition of failure except that I cannot
believe a healthy church will die unless the community surrounding it
also dies. In other words, church health and church longevity go hand in
hand with church growth and church reproduction. It’s just like an
organism. Health always brings about growth, reproduction and
longevity.

Finally, I am so thoroughly thankful to God for the church association to
which I belong. The leadership in our “denomination” is absolutely rock
solid in line with the Bible and God’s passion for this world, and I love
being a part of it. We can do more together than when we are alone. And,
why not use the basic tactics of marketing, advertisement and big launch
events if you are reaching unbelievers who will respond to
that?

I’m always bothered when someone talks about some “method” as being
better than some other method. Methods are just that. methods for
acheiving an end. Granted, some aspects of some methods are inherently
unethical. But in most cases, the method is only bad if it fails to
accomplish its goal. Set a good goal, maintain good morals, and the
method can be anything you want it to be.

Check out my message on planning in my “Rebuilding” series. It’s called
After We
Say Amen
.

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Jack Hayford doesn’t set goals.

Front Page Leadership

Christianity Today has an interesting article on its website about
setting goals. Particularly, it is Jack Hayford’s own perspective on goal
setting-he doesn’t do it!

Here’s the link to the article:
Why
I Don’t Set Goals

Here’s a quote from the article:

What are your primary goals for the immediate and long-range future?”
The question came from the audience at one of our annual pastors’
seminars.

“I have none,” I replied.

Dubious stares and blank looks everywhere. I continued, “We never set
goals-that is, in the sense of numerical targets, fund-raising drives, or
enlargement campaigns. Our one goal is to build big people. Every effort
goes into developing each believer in the threefold ministry of worship,
fellowship, and stewardship of the gospel.”

Read the rest of the article
here
(make sure to open it in a new window), and then post a comment.

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10 Guiding Financial Principles

Church Planting Front Page Leadership

I saw this over at
kluth.org:

The following 10 church policies and principles were developed by
Brian Kluth and the church elders for use at Harvest Community
Church:

Preamble

At the church leadership meeting on January 6th, the following
written financial policies and principles were approved. Although many of
these guidelines have been informally in place for several years, we felt
it was important for new attendees/members to understand the following
financial principles that provide a solid foundation that guides our
churches attitudes and actions in financial matters.

PRIMARY SOURCE OF CHURCH INCOME: Harvest Community Church is
dependent on God through the faithful and generous tithes and offerings
of God’s people to underwrite the church’s ministry, missions, building
and benevolence needs.

The rest of it can be found
here but I have copied the content below because it’s so good, I don’t want to lose it if the original site ever goes offline.

10 Guiding Financial Principles

The following 10 church policies and principles were developed by Brian Kluth and the church elders for use at Harvest Community Church:

Preamble

At the church leadership meeting on January 6th, the following written financial policies and principles were approved. Although many of these guidelines have been informally in place for several years, we felt it was important for new attendees/members to understand the following financial principles that provide a solid foundation that guides our churches attitudes and actions in financial matters.

1 PRIMARY SOURCE OF CHURCH INCOME

Harvest Community Church is dependent on God through the faithful and generous tithes and offerings of God’s people to underwrite the church’s ministry, missions, building and benevolence needs.

2 MISSIONS GIVING

Harvest Community Church commits a minimum of 10% or more of Sunday offerings to God’s work in our world, country and community. The church has a Missions Committee and formal guidelines to review all mission requests. Harvest will accept designated missions gifts from individuals in the church that can be passed along to any Christian 501©3 non-profit organization.

3 FINANCIAL BIBLE TEACHING & GIVING POLICY

Harvest Community Church will teach Biblical financial and giving principles through Bible studies, seminars, sermons, etc.. The goal of this teaching will be to help people become financially free in their lives in order to serve and honor God more fully and faithfully. To help encourage people to become faithful and generous givers to the Lord’s work (see Malachi 3:8-10), Harvest will offer a 90-day money back guarantee* for anyone who begins to give 10% or more of their income to the Lord’s work and within 90 days regrets this decision.

  • Anyone who begins tithing (giving 10% or more of their income to the Lord’s work) and who within 90 days regrets this decision or feels they have not experienced God’s help in their finances, can request within the 90 days a refund of any monies documented on their church giving statement that were given during this “90 day tithing test period.” Monies given before the 90 days, money given after the 90 days, tangible assets, and undocumented cash gifts cannot be refunded.

4 FUNDRAISING EVENTS

Because Harvest Community Church is dependent on God through the faithful and generous support of God’s people, Harvest discourages the use of fundraising events (banquets, bazaars, carnivals, festivals, bingo, craft sales, candy sales, product sales, raffles, fish fries, etc.) to help meet the church’s financial needs.

5 QUARTERLY GIVING STATEMENTS & FINANCIAL INFORMATION

Harvest Community Church will send quarterly giving statements with church financial, missions, benevolence and/or other financial information and helps to encourage people’s faithful and cheerful giving to the Lord’s work at HCC.

6 METHODS OF GIVING

Harvest Community Church will encourage people’s generous giving by allowing them to faithfully give through whatever means is most helpful to them (examples: Sunday offerings, giving envelopes, mail-in envelopes, stock transfers, gifts of appreciated assets and investments, automatic check withdrawal electronic fund transfers, gifts in kind, etc.). The church will abide by all IRS donation regulations.

7 OVERSIGHT BY A CPA

Harvest Community Church will have a CPA involved in overseeing the church’s financial policies and procedures.

8 BENEVOLENCE GIVING

Harvest Community Church will have a benevolence program that will help people that are attending our church. Help will come in the following ways (depending on available resources, finances and individuals to give financial counsel):

  • One-time financial assistance of up to $100 (must be approved by an HCC pastor).
  • Needs assessment by a financial counselor from the church.
  • Partial assistance with short-term food needs.
  • Financial Bible studies and debt counseling.
  • Vocational and career testing and guidance.
  • Possible greater assistance (dependent on needs assessment, financial counseling, and participation in church financial teaching).

Harvest Community Church will semi-regularly conduct food drives for people in our community who need help. Normally this food will be channeled through an existing ministry that works with the poor and needy in our community.

9 BUILDING PROJECTS & CAPITAL EXPENDITURES

Harvest Community Church will seek to meet its larger financial needs (building projects, equipment, vehicles, land, etc.) through communicating the plans and needs to God’s people and other individuals through letters, presentations, campaigns, visits, etc.. Harvest will accept designated gifts for board-approved building projects or major expenditures. In a desire to experience God’s divine direction and provisions for HCC, the church desires not to use bank mortgages or bonds to meet the church’s capital needs. With board approval, Harvest has accepted financial help of some no-interest loans to help with needed building construction and renovation projects.

10 FINANCIAL RECORDS AND REPORTS

Harvest Community Church will annually communicate its general income and expenses at the congregational meeting in a summary pie chart format. Detailed financial statements will be available at the end of the congregational meeting for anyone who would like a copy. Any individual who would like to review the church’s financial records or would like to ask detailed financial questions is always welcome to schedule an appointment with the church treasurer at anytime.

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CECL Session #5 Day 5

Front Page Leadership

Last Full Day

Today was the last full day of our CECL session. We will have a morning session tomorrow, but that’s it. What made today kinda special was that we had very little in the way of official stuff to do. We didn’t have any sessions until 11AM, so we used the extra morning time to review our final two sermons.

It was my turn.

My Sermon Tape

I showed the message that I preached on August 28, Prepare for God’s Presence. It was a message based on Nehemiah 1:9b where God promises to bring his people out of exile into a land of his choosing where he will place his name.

I really like the message, but I know I could have tightened it up some in the presentation if I had spent more time on it beforehand.

The comments I got were really encouraging for the most part. According to my peer team, I have “zealous energy” that says I’m not just enthusiastic but that I have a passion for what I’m trying to communicate to people. I have a strong knowledge of the Bible and an ability to summarize major themes with a few words. I also have an ability to help people see how the text really applies to their lives.

One person told me that he was listening to my message from the perspective of the “younger” person in the congregation who was really angry and grieving that I will be leaving the church soon to go plant a new church. He said that I was getting getting him all riled up to do something but then I was going to leave him all alone to do it himself.

That really led into an interesting discussion where I was trying to defend the people in my congregation because I have not seen that kind of immaturity playing out. Now, of course, I hope it really isn’t there. It would be a shame if there are a number of people who are really feeling that way but aren’t telling me. It would be a worse shame if people were telling my leadership team and they weren’t telling me.

The most encouraging comment was that held by everyone in the room: I’m clearly called into church planting.

There was one other comment that I took to be incredibly encouraging, and I’m going to have to follow up on it somehow, but one of the pastors in the group (I won’t say who) actually told me that he was ready to leave his church and come with me to Lafayette! Now, we were all doing a little role playing, but if this fellow was actually being serious, that might be a lot of fun!

Now, it’s my job to come up with some kind of goal to go along with my “unique excellence” in sermon communication, and I don’t know what I’m going to come up with. Maybe I’ll let it percolate some more.

Debriefing last night’s worship service

After our morning sermon viewings, we had a session where Michael Quicke took feedback and responded to questions from us all about the service last night and the sermon he preached.

It was pretty interesting. I got to ask for him to explain why he hadn’t read the text and why he hadn’t made any clear application, and he said that usually, he would have the text read at another point during the service and that he preferred to let the Holy Spirit do any specific conviction regarding how the text applies to a person.

Afternoon Worship Planning Session 2

Then, in the afternoon, we had a session where the worship programmer from Ripon Community Church answered questions about the worship planning process they had previously described to us. I was really impressed with their system, so I asked a number of questions aimed at figuring out what they are doing well and what I could take to Lafayette with me.

In the process, I found that Ripon Community Church is a sister church of ours and is a young church planted only three years ago with quite a similar vision to what we will be doing in Lafayette. I also found that Amy, the worship programmer, was hired NOT to lead worship, but to coordinate and administer worship teams, to plan services, and to act as a liason between the lead pastor and the artistic people of the church. She spoke very highly of the wisdom of hiring a staff person for a job like hers.

Evening Worship

The evening worship service was intended to be a full example of what a creative, integrated worship service might look like. I was looking forward to it, but it was clear that others weren’t too interested in it because about half of the CECL class has already left for home.

There are reasons for that, of course. We are pastors and we need to get back to our congregations for Sunday. The main part of the week is over really. I was somewhat disappointed to see so many not there.

The message for the worship service was given by a Aaron who is a “church plant intern” at RCC and is preparing to plant a church himself in a few months. The worship leader was Angela, the sister of Amy, the worship programmer at RCC and Angela’s husband Sam.

The service was a whole event of music woven together with teaching, and the majority of the teaching was done in first-person narrative style as Aaron just had a “conversation with God” about the topic of God’s faithfulness to us no matter what. It was really to explain the point of the book of Hosea.

The most profound part of the service for me was the connection of the theme of the book of Hosea with the song Roxanne by The Police. Before the teaching time began after the first set of music, Roxanne started playing while images hinting of prostitution and the lyrics for the song flashed on the screen. Before tonight, I never knew that Roxanne was a song about a man who is in love with a prostitute and who loves her so much that he wants to get her off the street.

It was an amazing connection of a book of the Bible to the current culture because that is exactly what Hosea went through, and it’s exactly what God goes through every time we look to other things for temporary fulfillment.

The other profound point was the statement that stupid things can offer us temporary fulfillment in life, and that temporary fulfillment often feels like all we need because there is always something else to offer more temporary fulfillment when the fulfillment from the first thing wears out. If we string together enough temporary fulfillment, that will be a full life, won’t it?

Action Steps

  • Get this! My action step is to follow up with Sam and Angela to share with them my dream of a new church in Lafayette, Indiana.
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CECL Session #5 Day 4

Front Page Leadership

Today’s sessions were based on a really interesting concept. The goal was to model for us a tool for increasing the effectiveness of sermons and a method for increasing the effectiveness of worship services and then to have a worship service tonight based on those things.

Pre-Sermon Dialogue Process

The example given for sermon preparation was something they called the pre-sermon dialogue. Michael Quicke was to be our pastor for this worship service and he would be the one presenting the sermon, so he was present. Lori Campbell served as the facilitator for the dialogue process which was a circle of about 10 people including Lori, Michael, and about 8 non-pastors whose purpose was primarily to just talk about their perspectives on issues related to the chosen passage which was for this session Matthew 5:14-16 which is the passage where Jesus says (I’m paraphrasing):

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. No, instead they put it on a lampstand where it gives light to everyone in the house.

In the same way, let your light shine before people so that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

They just sat around and talked about issues of light, darkness, this passage, and personal reflections while Michael just listened.

The dialogue concept is an interesting one and it is something I want to try; however, it was really hard for me today to keep paying attention because I was just watching other people have a conversation, and I wasn’t part of it at all. Also, I have seen Ed Young’s method of group sermon preparation, and I like it a little better because it accomplishes more (creatively speaking) in a shorter period of time.

Worship Planning

The worship planning session was really cool because I have wondered for a long time how other people effectively plan worship services as a group. It was also interesting because instead of bringing in someone to “teach” us a method, they brought in a worship team from a local church to “show” us how they do it. Here’s the gist:

  • They meet twice a month over lunch for about 90 minutes each meeting.
  • At the beginning of each meeting, they review the purpose and goals of the meeting and do a simple activity to do some group building and also to get the creative juices flowing.
  • They have a “storyboard” for each service that is being planned (working about a month ahead).
  • At the bottom of each storyboard, they post brown cards that detail
    • The theme of the service (however much information they have from the teacher for the morning).
    • The targeted service style—A|T, A->T, or ATATA… (A = arts, T = teaching)
    • The “Permission Meter” for that service to set a limit on how creative the team can be when thinking through elements of that service. There is less permission granted when the deadline gets closer.
  • They brainstorm for about 45 minutes:
    • Ideas are written on cards that are color-coded and imprinted with an icon according to type of service element that idea falls under:
    • Verbal: message ideas, teaching points, announcements, “spiritual direction”
    • Music: performance songs, worship songs, prelude/postlude, pre-recorded songs.
    • Drama: drama, dance, demonstrations, etc.
    • Media/video: trailers for the message series, movie/TV clips, other video presentations.
    • Art/images: worship center decor, slide backgrounds, displayed artwork, visual themes.
    • Parsley: anything else that would add color to the series or service.
    • People are limited to 60 seconds to explain their idea.
    • Idea cards are posted on the storyboard in an appropriate column.
  • They vote by using little sticky labels and a point system. Each person gets 20 points to spend on the ideas they like. They write point values on sticky labels and stick them to the cards they vote for.

They did the brainstorm process right then and involved us in it too. That was a lot of fun. I like creative brainstorming!

GOLF!

I played golf all afternoon at an incredibly nice course here owned by the conference center. They gave us one round for FREE! Right on!

I got my money’s worth, though. 114! Wow! It’s a pretty tough course, and I’m a pretty tough player.

Evening worship

Tonight, there was a worship service where Michael preached a message that he had written today based on the dialogue session this morning. It was a pretty good message, but for two things that really bothered me.

  • He never read the text, opened a Bible, or even mentioned the reference to the text. His whole message was based on Matthew 5:14-16, but he never actually read it!
  • He never gave any kind of practical application of what it would look like for ME to be the light of the world. He told me the same stories I heard that morning from the dialogue group (so he had listened and had taken good notes) but he didn’t make any kind of application to me or give me anything emotionally motivating.

However, he did something that was really profound and very meaningful. He took a break in the middle of his sermon (I thought he was finished with his message, but he surprised me with more) and drew our attention to a table of unlit candles. He suggested that if we wanted to make a statement that we were willing to be light in this world, we could come forward and light a candle. Music played, and I did so.

He began to speak again, and drew our attention to the fact that the passage also uses the metaphor of a city on the hill that can’t be hidden. He said that when all the lights get together, it is as obvious a thing as a city right on the top of a hill.

Then, he walked over to the table and he picked up a candle snuffer (I don’t know what it’s really called, but it’s one of those little gold things that looks like a little bell on the end of a stick), and he said, “I’ve seen churches where there was division.” With that, he snuffed out one candle. “I’ve seen churches where people wouldn’t forgive each other.” He snuffed out another candle. “I’ve seen churches that would not care for the needy in their midst.” He snuffed out another one.

He repeated this over and over again and snuffed out over half the candles on the table.

It was such a vivid reminder to me that the church that doesn’t behave like a church is failing to shine the light it should, and the image of Christ in this world is harmed.

He concluded, and the worship team returned to lead us in two more songs.

At that point, I really broke down into tears because I was so aware of a desire to shine out God’s light to a dark world but also to more deeply know God as the source of my light.

Lord, I wasn’t playing games tonight. I really want you to move in me and move through me. Show me your light in powerful ways. Reveal yourself and your light to me. I can’t light myself. I can’t get the light any other way. I need you to ignite me. Set me spiritually on fire, and let me burn so brightly that it’s contagious to those in the darkness and contagious also to those who have been satisfied with weak flames.

On my way back to the house tonight, I prayed that God would help me to find a creative, godly worship team like what Ripon Community Church has. There was such a light shone out by what they did tonight, and that kind of light needs to shine in Chicago and in Lafayette.

God, I’ll ask you again. Send me those who can lead your people in worship like that, and help me to develop those you have already sent me and those you will send me.

My Action Steps

  • By December, I will try one pre-sermon dialogue.
  • By November 1, I will have mapped out my December messages and will do a worship planning session with my worship team.
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Americans want to give more power to religious leaders

Front Page Leadership

According to a report by the BBC, people in the United States would like to give more power to religious leaders! Here’s a brief excerpt from the article:

Forty percent of people in the US would like religious leaders to be given more power, a Gallup International poll commissioned by the BBC World Service suggests.

In the US and Canada, 49% of people said they trusted religious leaders, compared to a global average of 19%.

This would seem to confirm the view of many that religion played a big role in President Bush’s victory, analysts say.

I wonder if the same would be said by church people with regard to their pastors. What do you think? Do people in general want to give religious leaders more authority? Do churches desire pastors and leaders with more authority? Post a comment and let me know what you think.

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CECL Session #5 Day 3

Front Page Leadership My Spiritual Life

Basic elements of a leadership development program

Danny Wallen finished up his sessions yesterday by giving us a couple of different models for developing leaders. I’ll just quote them here:

The Two Track Analogy

There are four parts of leadership development that work together like the components of a train track.

  • Spiritual Formation (experiencing God and becoming Christlike) is the gravel under the train tracks.
  • Input (gaining knowledge, developing values, and learning skills) is one of the rails. One way to do this is by going through a book together.
  • Experience (apply what you are learning through activities) is another one of the rails.
  • Dynamic Reflection (process it all with mentors and peers, accountability and evaluation) is like the railroad ties holding everything together.

Mentoring with the “Constellation” Model

I have no idea why this is called the constellation model, but it basically describes the different kind of mentoring relationships that are possible. I was also unsure about whether we were supposed to encourage ourselves and others to have a balance of these mentoring relationships or not.

  • Upward—those who are mentoring me “from above” and have been where I am.
  • Downward—those I’m mentoring who are either direct reports or less experienced than I.
  • Inside—those peers who are coworkers or somehow within the same circle as me who serve as peer mentors.
  • Outside—those who are peers but are outside my current situation and can offer greater objectivity.

3 Formations Model

This model basically emphasizes the different stages of ministry that people go through as they age and/or mature. Mentoring should be appropriate to the particular stage of each person.

  • Spiritual Formation is the activity that forms the basis of godly character and inner life in the minister. This usually needs to be the focus for people up to their mid 30s.
  • Ministerial Formation is the emphasis on developing leadership skills, experience, and gifts. This is usually the emphasis for people until their mid 50s. Some of the skills to emphasize are these:
    • Word Skills
    • Relational Skills
    • Organizational Skills
    • Group Skills
  • Strategic Formation is really the activity that emphasizes helping people achieve their full potential to reach a God-given destiny. This is sometimes called “convergence” and it usually applies to those in their mid 50s and on.

Just-in-time Training

One final model that Danny showed us was called “just-in-time” training which contrasts to the way we usually go about things. Usually, we do “just-in-case” training that assumes we can adequately prepare people for the experiences they are likely to face. Just-in-time training, however, emphasizes that we give people the specific kind of training that they will need for the specific task at hand.

  • Orient them to the task (talk about it).
  • Involve them in the task (have them do it).
  • Equip them for future tasks by reflecting together.

According to this model, the real teaching and learning take place in the third step which is AFTER the task has taken place.

Creating a Leadership Development Strategy

I was so glad that Danny finally got to this point. It’s one thing to talk about what needs to go into leadership development, but there are so many good models, and I never know what path to follow or if I should be the maverick and blaze my own trail. He gave us six final key points regarding the development of a unique development strategy.

These development strategies might be an overall development strategy, but the idea is to have a specific strategy for each specific type of leader you plan to develop.

  • What do you really want to accomplish? Write out your goal and vision, and be sure to balance task and relationship.
  • How can you instigate a cyclical process? Particularly think about ways to integrate the regular processes of public ministry together with the processes of private ministry (people development).
  • Hammer out your general ideas with specific steps.
  • Get started—select emerging leaders based on character not giftedness.
  • Remember the WIFM principle (What’s in it for me?) and answer it for both you and the leaders you will be developing.
  • Develop leaders as God has developed you—with patience, faithfulness, grace and truth.

Other new things I learned.

I also have to just mentioned one other new thing I learned. Apparently, before the machines were developed to flip donuts in their grease, it was done by hand in a process called “diddling donuts.” Our peer group leader, Larry Faus used to be quite skilled at the process and spent some time tonight telling us about his ability to use a diddling stick to diddle those donuts. You cannot imagine the amount of laughter this generated in our peer group. It has been about a year since I have laughed as hard as I did then.

My Action Steps

  • I will continue to flesh out what my leadership development strategy needs to be for the new church.
  • I will decide on a leadership development “exit strategy” for my transition out of NWBC.
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A Plan for Leadership Development

Front Page Lafayette Leadership

My assignment from yesterday’s CECL session was to write up a preliminary plan for leadership development in a church. Considering that I am preparing to start a new church, I thought in terms of developing leaders from the “ground up” so to speak.

It’s a rough draft, but this is what I have so far. I’d love to see your comments on it.

Creating a leadership development strategy:

What do I really want to accomplish when it comes to leadership development?

When it comes to leadership development, I really want to help people become fully committed followers of Jesus who are capable of using their unique giftedness to lead others in identifying and taking next steps unique to them.

Being a fully committed follower means:

  1. GOD-CONNECTED: Having a deeply intimate personal relationship with God that incorporates key disciplines of spiritual renewal and works out in a desire to proclaim the greatness of God both to him in worship and to others in personal testimony.
  2. COMMUNITY: Having a real sense of love and camaraderie with others in the various levels of interpersonal relationships: a few spiritually intimate relationships, 10-20 spiritually supportive friendships for care, counsel, and fellowship, a sense of unity and love for the 100 or so in my circle of concern, a commitment to the corporate cause of Christ, and a desire for those outside the family of God to join.
  3. GROWTH: Having a strong desire to identify areas of spiritual weakness or sin as well as areas of practical possibility and taking strategic steps to grow: education, training, experiences (risk taking), and even teaching others.
  4. MINISTRY: Eagerly pursuing God’s goals for my life in a way that makes full use of the person he has made me to be to give full expression to God’s love for others.

Full commitment has the upward, inward, and outward components balanced.

The Development Process

The church will be structured around a cyclical process that carries people through the four characteristics of a fully committed disciple according to their gifting and calling by God.

Level one:

  • Taking a class or attending a retreat to introduce the concepts and life transformation associated with each step of character development.
  • Getting into a relationship that builds the character traits into my life.
    • Mentor
    • Small Group
    • Class
    • Ministry Team
  • Developing a core habit / behavior associated with that character trait.
  • Sharing what I’ve learned from this class with someone who hasn’t taken it.

Level two:

  • Convert current mentor relationship to a coaching relationship.
  • Mentor another person all the way through level one

Level three and on:

  • Lead a small group and develop leaders
  • Coach small group leaders
  • Teach a class and develop teachers.
  • Coach teachers
  • Lead a ministry team and develop leaders.
  • Coach ministry team leaders
  • Launch a new work of God
  • Coach other launchers

My hangups with this method so far:

  • It’s too complicated
  • It’s too formalized
  • It covers too much ground
  • I want to retain the simplicity of “next step” thinking.
    • Yes, there should be some standard steps for anyone to take,
    • But, there will also be unique steps.
    • Serious care needs to be taken to track which steps are the essential ones.
  • Should priority be given in the structure to the person’s individual connection with God or to the person’s connection to the Christian community?

My hangups with the purpose driven model:

  • It fails to directly address the centrality of God / worship in the developmental structure.
  • It splits ministry from mission and discipleship from evangelism.
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CECL Session #5 Day 2

Front Page Leadership

I was pretty critical about yesterday’s sessions because I was expecting something different than what was actually delivered. Today’s sessions were much better in the sense that my expectations for the day were actually surpassed by the sessions themselves.

There were two basic things that happened today. Danny Wallen (from Every Man Ministries) came to help us think through some issues of leadership development, and Lori was back again to help us work through a sample in public of the sermon review process that all the peer teams will be doing privately.

Our only assignment for this week was to bring a videotape of a recent sermon of ours, and we will be going through those videotapes in our peer groups to offer each other some constructive comments about our messages.

During the first morning session and during the afternoon session, we went through the process as a whole CECL group (all 80 of us). A lady named Karen was put on the hot seat (“warm” seat, they keep telling us). We watched her sermon from last Sunday’s service, and then we went through the process with her.

The Sermon Review Process

The process they have recommended to us really seems like a good one, and I’m thinking that I need to use this process on a more regular basis to help me get better in my preaching, but in a nutshell, here are the basic steps of the process:

  1. PRAYER—the person in the warm seat is prayed over and the process is prayed over before anything else happens.
  2. CONTEXT—the person on the hot seat is given the opportunity to explain the context of the message, whether it is part of a larger series, what things are going on in the church, etc.
  3. VIEW VIDEO (as a parishioner)—the team views the video attempting as much as possible to put themselves into the position of a member of the congregation just listening to the sermon for personal spiritual growth and not for the purposes of critique.
  4. QUIET REFLECTION—everybody takes some time to reflect on the experience of the video before anything is shared.
  5. SHARE PERSPECTIVES—the person on the warm seat goes first to share his or her perspectives of the sermon, then the team is called upon to share their perspectives particularly with the goal of considering themselves in the role of one of the parishioners responding to the pastor after a sermon but actually saying what people usually only think.
  6. DISCUSSION OF UNIQUE EXCELLENCE—the purpose of all the discussion is to identify the specific unique excellence or strength not of the particular sermon but of the preacher in general. What generalizations could possibly be made based on the viewing of this one message that could be called a unique excellence of the person’s sermon communication?
  7. BRAINSTORM RELATED GOAL POSSIBILITIES—the individual and the team work together to come up with some ideas for goals that the preacher could set for himself or herself to maximize their unique excellence. (Nothing is mentioned about improving a weakness.)
  8. PRAY ABOUT THE GOALS

I’m not going to take the time here to go into the details of the message we heard or the conclusions that were drawn out for Karen (the woman on the warm seat), but I will say that I thought it was pretty fun. In fact, I honestly think this is a really neat model for sermon review and feedback. It is designed to be an affirming experience. I’m actually pretty excited to go through it with my peer team this week.

The Best Peer Team

Incidentally, I am on the best peer team of all. Each time we get together, we laugh until we cry. We eat and talk and share things in our lives and ministries, and it’s really a lot of fun. Lori came up to us at one point today and asked us why it is that we always seem to be having so much fun.

I’ll give you just an example of what our team is like. We aren’t scheduled to actually begin our sermon video reviews until tomorrow afternoon, but because we have seven in our team, we decided that it would be good to get a head start and just do one tonight anyway.

Well, there was just one minor problem with that. During dinnertime tonight, a major storm blew through this area and knocked out the power. It’s still out right now, but I’m typing this into my PowerBook running on battery juice.

Well, we didn’t want to let a little thing like no electricity prevent us from watching our video, and Ron just happened to have a gas generator in his car. He rummaged around the maintenance shed here and found an extension cord, got the generator running, and we had an electric lamp and the TV running for about 15 minutes before the generator died.

We gave the generator a few more tries, and then I pulled my car over because I happen to have a power inverter that can handle 100 watts at 120 volts—far enough to power a TV/VCR if not the lamp too. However, it drew too much power from the car, and I think it blew a fuse in my car.

So Ron, went and found some better gas for the generator and we tried that again, but it wasn’t enough for the TV/VCR, so we just hung out and talked while the little lamp was flickering in the corner.

Leadership Development

Danny Wallen really got the short end of the stick today. He only made it through about half of his material during his first session of the day, but then there was no electricity by the time we got to his second session, so he only had about 45 minutes to cover the rest of Session 1 and Session 2. Needless to say, we didn’t finish Session 2.

(By the way, Danny is a pretty good basketball player. I got out on the court today, and if it weren’t for him, we would have lost both games instead of winning one.)

His sessions were really good, though. During the first session, there were three things that really stuck out to me.

The first thing was a quote from Richard Clinton in his book, Selecting and Developing Leaders.

Effective leaders recognize that leadership selection and development is a priority function.

I would venture to guess that nearly every leader that I have ever met would agree with this statement. However, when asked what they were doing about it, I doubt that very many leaders intentionally set about selecting, training and developing new leaders. Most leaders will set about the task of identifying, training and developing new leaders only when they are pressed to do so by the demands of the ministry around them.

That seems to be true for me.

The second thing that stood out to me from the first session was his description of his experience as camp director at Ponderosa Lodge. He basically said, not in so many words, that if he focused his energies on developing leaders, everything else that needed to happen would happen naturally.

Finally, he said that from the most common perspective, the camp had leaders for the sake of ministering to the kids, but from another perspective, the reason the camp had kids there was so that leaders could be developed.

Then, he also said some profound things in the second session of the day:

  • Potential leaders may be born, but effective leaders are made according to the following formula: (Time + Experience) * Response = Growth, but the only thing that we have any control or influence over is the Response. Therefore, in leadership development, the focus should be on how the potential leader is responding to their time and experiences.
  • Leadership development follows three stages (associated with a person’s leadership maturity and also with a person’s age).
    • Spiritual formation—deals with the leader’s character and inner life.
    • Ministerial formation—learning ministry skills
    • Strategic formation—philosophy and values in the leader’s life and ministry.

Spiritual formation should be the focal point for a leader in the early years of life and/or maturity, Ministerial formation, for the middle years, and Strategic formation for the later years.

There was one more thing that Danny talked about that I thought was really significant, and that is a story of one time when someone invested in his life to develop him as a leader. When he was in Oakland at First Covenant Church, he was working under a youth pastor who was really gifted at developing leaders. That youth pastor intentionally followed this process:

  • I do, you watch.
  • I do, you help.
  • We do together.
  • You do, I help.
  • You do, I coach.
  • You do, somebody else watches.

I’ve heard that framework before, but never with that final piece. “You do, somebody else watches” is the piece that brings it full circle.

So here’s the bottom line, I want to be a pastor who can not only preach effectively, but who can develop other people into leaders.

My Action Points

  • By the end of September, I will select a model for leadership development and begin to implement it in my current situation.
  • Before the end of this week, I will go through the sermon review process with my peer team.
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CECL Session #5 Day 1

Front Page Leadership

The point of this week’s session is to help us pastors develop additional skills in “Transformational Preaching,” so the main presenters for the week are Dr. Michael Quicke, a professor of preaching and communication at Northern Seminary in Lombard, Illinois, and Lori Carrell who is a professor of communication at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.

The point of having the two of them work together in presenting the material for this week is so that we get to think about preaching from both the perspective of the preacher and the listener. It’s an interesting concept especially since Lori has written a book based on her research into what people in churches would say to their pastors if they had the chance.

It sounds like a great combination right?

Well, day #1 hasn’t impressed me. Now, I know that I can’t really make snap judgments about how the whole week is going to go based on the first presentations from the first day, but then again, I’m thinking, “These are supposed to be some of the best communicators who are coming to teach us about communication, and they are boring me to death.”

Ok, it’s not really that bad.

When Mike and Lori got up to begin their presentation tonight, I was encouraged because Mike took out his Bible and said that before they actually got into the material for the evening, he wanted to share with us from one of his favorite passages of Scripture.

Mike’s Sermonette

I was getting really excited by that because I love to hear homiletics professors give brief sermonettes. It is usually so refreshing to hear the briefest of sermons from a person who is a highly skilled preacher. They can generally encapsulate amazing thoughts in a few words, and it usually is quite inspiring to me.

He read from Luke 5:4ff which is the story of Jesus teaching the crowds from Simon Peter’s boat. Then, when he is done teaching, Jesus tells Simon to put out for deeper water and let down his nets for a catch. Simon objects, but complies and brings in such a catch of fish that the nets begin to break. The story ends with Simon falling at Jesus’ feet and Jesus telling Simon that from then on he will be a fisher of men.

It’s a great story of how Jesus has the power to transform a person’s life. It shows how Jesus completely affirms Simon for who he is as a fisherman and how Jesus offers the fulfillment of Simon’s life as a fisherman by giving him the catch of his life, but how Jesus does it for the purpose of moving Simon beyond that life into a life of deeper meaning. Perhaps there is also a foretelling of the success Peter will have as a fisher of men. Jesus is the one who can bring in a great harvest of fish, and Jesus will also empower Simon to become the Preacher Peter who draws 3000 men to be saved on the day of Pentecost just a few years later.

That’s the point of the story. However, Mike made some kind of comment about how when we move into deeper waters, that’s where the happenings of God happen. Mike said that he hoped as we move into deeper waters, we would know the happenings of God.

Whatever.

I’m generally really critical about other people and their preaching because I’m quite critical of my own, but I’m never as critical as I am when it comes to people who completely miss the point of the text. The point of the text is the incredible power Jesus has to fulfill a person’s life, to change a person’s life after fulfilling it, and it points to a future fulfillment in that person’s life too.

Jesus is the one who changes people’s lives. What better beginning for a week on transformational preaching than to begin with a lesson on how real transformation comes from the hand of Jesus himself! But Mike missed the point entirely! He just said that we can look for “God-happenings” when we get into “deep water.” Oh, come on!

The “Conversation”

The next part of the meeting was a “conversation” that took place somewhat between Mike an Lori where they each sat on a stool and shared with us some details of their personal journeys.

That took too long, and I was amazed at how the University professor of communication appeared to have trouble forming her thoughts and stating them out loud. By that, I mean that her tempo of speaking was much slower than I expected, with many pauses and a general sense that she was “rambling” after she had made her point.

Of course, that could have just been my subjective interpretation of it, but that’s that.

The Keynote

After the conversation time, Lori sat down and Mike took the stage to present what they called the “Keynote.”

Leadership and preaching shouldn’t be separated.

His first major point was that there is a dangerous situation going on in our churches these days where we are separating leadership from preaching. We are talking a lot about leadership as if it is the central component of all ministry, when just a few years ago, people were talking about preaching as the central component of ministry.

Further, in his research over the past few years, he has recognized that in all the literature on leadership, no one is talking about what specific role preaching plays in leadership. His claim, though, is that preaching is essential to leadership and they shouldn’t be separated from each other.

He’s writing a book on the topic, and so he spent the rest of the time outlining what he saw as preaching that fails to lead. He called it “thin-blooded preaching.”

10 Traits of Thin-Blooded Preaching

  1. Individualistic — sermons that ignore the corporate nature of the church and focus exclusively instead on the individual person’s response are sermons that cannot lead.
  2. Cerebral OR Emotional — many sermons are one or the other, but to lead people well, you have to do both.
  3. Spineless Theology — many preachers act as if the sermon were 90% human effort either on the part of the preacher or the listener and practically ignore the powerful role of the Holy Spirit to bring understanding and conviction to people.
  4. General Application — too many sermons could have been preached 50 years ago with the kind of generalized application and illustration they contain. Where’s the relevance to today?
  5. Avoiding Conflict — preaching doesn’t lead if it avoids potential conflict.
  6. Low Compliance — thin-blooded preaching has no real expectation that people will actually change as a result.
  7. Absence of process issues — thin-blooded preaching fails to connect with the vision and goals.
  8. Solo Preaching — preachers who prepare and preach without any kind of collaboration preach thin-blooded messages.
  9. Cowardice.
  10. Missionally Defective.

My Reflections.

We were asked then to reflect upon this list to see if we possessed any of the characteristics of thin-blooded preaching, and I can see that I don’t do a whole lot of collaboration in my message preparation, but it is something I have wanted to try for a while now.

I have chosen that as my action step / takeaway for today.

The Evening Session

Lori led the evening session and it was a session to accomplish two things:

  1. She wanted to dispel some myths about communication
  2. She wanted to share with us what listeners are saying about our sermons.

Myths of communication

Here are the myths that she challenged

  1. Communication is the answer.
    • Whenever two human beings are in each other’s presence, they are communicating. They don’t have to be talking to be communicating. We constantly assign meaning to the actions of other people.
    • Therefore, there is never a lack of communication, and more communication is never the answer.
    • It’s not an issue of quantity but quality.
  2. Communication is a good thing.
    • Communication is neither inherently good or bad. It just is.
  3. Communication is “sender to receiver.”
    • If we think that by saying a couple words we can take an idea from our head and put it into the head of another person, we are fooling ourselves. Communication is never one way. Instead, communication is the “co-creation of meaning.”
  4. Some people have the “gift” of communication.
    • Every single human being has been given the “gift” of the ability to communicate in some way or another with other people.
  5. In good communication, it’s all about content.
    • Content alone can never fully represent all that human communication is.
    • Communication is always relational too.
    • Communication is content & relationship, clarity & empathy.
  6. Spoken words don’t have as much power as the written word.
    • Say that to anyone who has ever been deeply hurt by the spoken word of a distant parent or a cruel sibling.
    • Spoken words can stay with a person for life, and the spoken word of the gospel can stay with a person for eternity.

What Listeners Want to Say to Preachers

The second half of Lori’s talk was to present the main findings of her research (recorded in her book). She had surveyed 102 churches (she didn’t tell us which ones) and asked both pastors and congregants to respond.

In the survey, there were a couple remarkable things that came out.

The number one reason people in the surveys attended their church was for the sermon.

Based on that, Lori exhorted us to realize that preaching really matters.

Her survey also asked the question of people, “What one thing would you like to say to the preachers of America?”

Here were the top 3 themes that came up in people’s answers.

  1. Provide a relevant message with clear ties to Scripture.
  2. Foster relationships with your listeners (this was based on how people responded to questions about the preacher’s delivery and topics—“It’s like he doesn’t even care about what’s going on in our lives.”)
  3. Work on your own spiritual life so your sermons will be insightful, deep, and sincere.

My Comments

I’d love to see any of your comments in response to this session, but I’ll just make a few of my own.

  1. Neither of the presenters appeared to be very polished or enthusiastic about their material. I was greatly disappointed that they didn’t try to present their material in a creative or compelling way. Considering the effect a first impression can have on communication, I would have thought they would have done something a little more creative.
  2. The note-taking pages they supplied have been mostly worthless so far. They referred to them a couple of times, but their references to the notes do not coincide with what is actually printed on the notes.
  3. They have not used any technological delivery systems like video, music, or even PowerPoint to present their points. Now, I think some of that is overused especially the PowerPoint stuff, but come on, some of us are visual learners. Give me something to look at.
  4. I was somewhat bothered by the fact that Lori was spending so much time on the myths of communication when she never really dug into the details of what the right perspective on communication should be. She simply said that communication basically is anytime two or more human beings are making conclusions of meaning regarding the other person. However, I think there is a difference between communication and communication. I mean, we all know what it feels like when two people are really connecting with each other over an issue. We call that “real communication.” So what’s that all about? I just wish she had given us some perspective on what is communication and what is the deeper level of understanding that most of us assume when we say communication.
  5. My biggest complaint is that in our evening session, Lori hammered (and I mean hammered repeatedly) the importance of relevant application and how people needed to know not just how it applies to them, but how they can get started in making the changes needed by that application. However, in neither of the sessions today was there made any mention of how we should apply this to our preaching. Now, of course, it’s easy enough for me to draw application out of it, but if they want us to preach messages with relevant application, shouldn’t their communication to us contain some examples of what they mean by that?

Conclusions

I’m always cynical on my first day of a program like this, and I know that there is a good chance I will change my tune by the end of the week. In fact, I’m really excited about a few of the things that are planned for this week, but I’m really hoping that they do a better job of modeling what they are teaching.

My Action Step

At the end of every day of CECL, we are challenged to think about one or two action steps that we can do as “takeaways” from the day’s sessions. Here is one that I came up with for today.

Before December, I will work collaboratively on one sermon at least for its preparation.

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