Wednesday, June 23, 2010

13 Churches (Part 4 of 4)

This is the last installment of 13 different types of churches that are listed in Ed Stetzer's book, "Comeback Churches." Below are the last three. Again, these descriptions come directly from Ed's book, and I'd encourage you to buy a copy and read it.

I'd like to echo what Ed says; "The wrong question is whether your church is "traditional" or "contemporary" and which is better. The real issue is whether your church is biblically faithful, acting as the presence of Christ in the community at large, able to relate Christ to people in culture, and is on mission to reach the lost." I couldn't agree more! There are so many structures and formulas for doing church, traditional, contemporary, pragmatic, transformissional, etc; that we can get so consumed with the "style" that we lose focus on the "purpose."
My hope in posting these from his book is simply to inspire the reading of the book and a healthy self examination of your church. That's the starting point to any healthy change---to confront the reality and lead accordingly by the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

If you haven't read the previous post, you can catch up by clicking the below links.

13 Churches Part 1
13 Churches Part 2
13 Churches Part 3
and now here is the final installment. Enjoy!

Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen

"Chaplaincy" Church. The church hired it's minister (and even staff) and expects the "chaplain" to be busy about meeting the needs and making the church grow. It's not uncommon to hear a statement like, "Preacher, you need to visit Mrs. Gray. She hasn't been feeling well." The members identify the needs and the prospects and expect their pastor to respond. After all, they haven't been to seminary, and that's what he's being paid to do. Despite the fact that the church's ministry impact is limited to the staff's time and abilities, the church body remains committed to an employer/employee model. They want a hired "chaplain," not a leader.

The "Company" Church. This church is more focused on what is handed down from the denomination that how to reach it's community. One after another, the denominational calendar and programs come and the local church seeks to apply them (not realizing that most denominational departments crank out programs like a Ford in the 1970's---too many and not well thought out). So, while denominational departments produce competing materials without communicating with other, the "Company Church" faithfully seeks to staff every one--while pretty much ignoring it's community.

"Play It Safe" Church. Here, there's little faith that God will provide. Rather than enabling ministry and evangelism, it hinders them. The church want's to protect what it has. As much money as possible is placed in a certificate of deposit. But no plan is made to use it to reach others for Christ. It's a safety net that's guarded carefully. Members have little incentive to give. This leads the treasurer and finance committee to conclude that they were wise to protect the "nest egg."

You could probably think of many more, but they all have in common one thing. They have lost the passion for making disciples and the focus of God's glory in His church. Yet, identification is easy. Change is hard.
There are many factors that can contribute to a church decline and even death. One thing we must not forget is the very real and very spiritual nature of church growth.

One reason a church may experience decline is because Jesus is displeased with the way the church has handled past challenges. Another is that the church may have been disobedient at a crucial point. If we believe we are to be "Spirit led" and our churches should be too, then we can't ignore key principles like, "reap what you sow" and "faithful with the small." Repentance may be a spiritual issue, but in many cases it's also a pressing need.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

13 Churches (Part 3 of 4)

We're taking a look at 13 different types of churches that are listed in Ed Stetzer's book, "Comeback Churches." Below are three more types, if you didn't get to see the first three, click here. Again, these descriptions come directly from the Ed's book, and I'd encourage you to buy a copy and read it

I've broken the list of 13 "Dirty Churches" into four different post; as not to make one extra long post. To catch up on the past 7 check out the links below.

13 Churches Part 1
13 Churches Part 2
and now here is the next installment.

Eight, Nine and Ten

"Time-Warp" Church. Somehow these folks have preserved, not just the tenets of the faith, but the positions, practices, and appearance of years gone by. They may still have an "Intermediate" or "Junior" department. They expect others to adapt and accept what they've grown comfortable with doing, and they give no thought at all to change. The church doesn't seem to attract people like it did before, but "If it's good enough for me and my family, it should be good enough for them." This church was probably once very effective , but the community has experienced a major transition, leaving the church perplexed, wondering what it should do.

"Tidy" Church. The members take pride in their church. They've worked hard to get it and keep it in it's present condition. The buildings, furnishings, and equipment are well kept. The materials are meticulously organized. Everything operates smoothly until noisy youth or messy children begin to come. As outreach efforts continue to draw more exuberant kids and their families, a greater sense of unrest develops. The new growth is suddenly viewed as a threat, leading to efforts to contain it and to prevent further disruptions or damage.

"My Way or the Highway" Church. A number of the members in this church know how things ought to be, and are vocal--maybe even vociferous---in expressing it. They like a certain kind of music. Maybe guitars are out; anthems are in. Or, choir robes are more appropriate than "street clothes" for worship. Comments such as the following abound: "I don't like to stand when we sing." "It's always too hot (or too cold) in here." "I like it better when we had announcements in the middle of the service." " The attendance board has always been on that wall." "This is our room and we're not about to move." No matter the issue, these people wont' be satisfied unless it's done their way.
This is stereotypical church wherein the senior adults are given the new van to use on their apple orchard trips while the student ministry is asked to drive the old van because "those teenagers are messy." Young families get the message that their children are unwelcome.

Check in tomorrow for the last three.

Hopefully by now you've read all the post concerning this subject and I don't have to go into great detail to why I'm posting these types of churches.
But to make sure you hear my heart, I want the church to not only survive but to excel! Since 3,500 to 4,000 churches close each year, it's obvious that most churches won't make the turnaround. This is probably due to several reasons, a couple are; first, most churches will not admit how bad it is. Second, most churches will not make the needed changes.
My prayer is that you as a leader, pastor, elder, board member read and see that quite possibly you are heading down the road to being one of these types or churches, or you already are one, that you would aggressively seek God for answers and strategy to turn you church around and be one of the many "comeback churches" in America.

Monday, June 21, 2010

13 Churches (Part 2 of 4)

We're taking a look at 13 different types of churches that are listed in Ed Stetzer's book, "Comeback Churches." Below are four more types, if you didn't get to see the first three, click here. Again, these descriptions come directly from the Ed's book, and I'd encourage you to buy a copy and read it.

Four Through Seven

Voluntary Association Church. The Voluntary Association church has unwittingly modeled it's organization after a democratic government rather than New Testament principles. It is a church of the people, by the people, and most importantly for the people. It's purpose is to make sure it retains as many people as possible and keeps any new people in their place. In order for this to become a reality, the board of the church is a balanced set of people who represent opposing factions in the church. Whenever one group seeks to make a positive change in the church in one direction, the opposing factions begin to whine, complain, and gossip. It's a perfect democracy modeled after our government--which most would say does not always work so well. The board then meets in emergency session, and the point is raised that three of four people might leave if the positive changes become a reality. Then compromises are made and deals are cut to maintain the "status quo." Of course, someone has explained the "status quo" is simply Latin for "the mess we're in." Due to an overwhelming need to keep everyone happy, the Volunteer Association Church ends up bound, at the mercy of a vocal minority, and ineffective. This type of church will not change until they change their value system.

"We Can't Compete" Church. Many "stuck" churches have simply given up. Like a family-owned business next to a new Wal-Mart, they have given up on making a difference. They have decided that they cannot "compete," and they stop trying. Unfortunately, they have bought into the idea that the unchurched are only interested in program-rich megachurches. But the truth churches of all sizes can turn around and reach the unchurched.

"Decently and in Order" Church. These churches have a high regard for processes but lack passion. They run everything by the book; unfortunately, it's not the Bible. As long as matters great and small meet the approval of various committees and are discussed in minute detail at business meetings, all is well. Unfortunately, they've forgotten---if they ever knew--that the business of the church was given by our Lord in the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.

"Square Peg in a Round Hole" Church. In this congregation, people are enlisted for leadership and service, not by their gifts or passions, but by other criteria. You might hear, "We've got to fill this position. Who can you think of that we've not already talked to? Someone else might suggest, "He's here all the time. Let's make him an elder." Bankers automatically go on the finance committee, though they have the gift of evangelism or mercy. People are all in their place, but it might not be the right place to help their church reach those around them. The organization stifles the church's impact.

Check in tomorrow for the next three.

Again my passion is to see the Church become healthy. I believe if you can see what type of church culture you're in, then it will give you the right perspective in how to pray and seek God on how to turn your church around.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

13 Churches (Part 1 of 4)

I've had the chance to devour a few books here in the last couple of weeks. One that I've really enjoyed is called "Comeback Churches" by Ed Stetzer. I got to hear Ed at a church planting conference in Orlando, FL a while back and really loved his thoughts and heart concerning growing healthy churches.

I thought I would share what he calls the "Dirty 13" when it comes to looking at what types of churches need a "comeback." I won't go into huge detail in these post because I think any Pastor or minister would greatly benefit from adding this book to their library. So if you're out and about, I encourage you to pick up a copy.

Your leadership is absolutely essential in guiding your church to be a comeback church. I didn't put under the direction of the Holy Spirit because that is a given and shouldn't have to be explained but alas here I am explaining it because there will always be someone who questions that statement and declare, "you're leaving out being let by the Spirit!" Which is the furthest thing from the truth.
Barna is correct when he writes, "After fifteen years of diligent digging into the world around me, I have reached several conclusions about the future of the Christian church in America. The central conclusion is that the American Church is dying due to lack of strong spiritual leadership. In this time of unprecedented opportunity and plentiful resources, the church is actually losing influence. The primary reason is lack of spiritual leadership. Nothing is more important than leadership."

The first 3 of 13 Churches

Institutionalized Church. Many churches have regressed into a state of merely functioning as an institution. An institutionalized church focuses on and is more committed to the forms and programs of ministry. It no longer sees the purpose for which the church was created, nor what the church is striving to produce. In an institutionalized church, the good has become the enemy of the best, and activity has chocked out productivity. Please take note that an institutionalized church is not necessarily small. Some of the larger churches in America are perfectly plateaued for this very reason.

Unintentional Church. Many churches mean well, they have good intentions, but do not act on those intentions to reach their community. They may even be willing, but ultimately, they never "do" what they "hope." Unintentional churches do not embrace an intentional process for making disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19) The churches naively believe that as long as they included the ingredients for making disciples---worship, nurture, teaching, outreach----disciples will be produced.

"Us Four and No More" Church. Some churches have adopted an "us four and no more" mentality. They have determined that if they get any larger, they will lose their sweet fellowship. They do not intentionally reject "new" people, but their present relationships are so intimate that any new attendee of the church cannot break into the group. They want a family feel, which means a group small enough to relate like a family. Like residents in the suburbs, they don't want anymore people to crowd in once they are there.

Check in tomorrow for the next four.

Please note, that when I read these descriptions; I get motivated. Motivated because it helps me know the potential that is in every person to want to withdraw to one of these systems. If given enough time and poor leadership; any church can do so. It helps me as a leader to understand and to know how to lead accordingly under the direction of the Holy Spirit. I really believe it's in the honest journey of being under poor (or even ungodly) leadership that churches find themselves in these situations. Let's be honest, if I asked the question, "who wants a stagnant church? The answer will be "Nobody!" Yet according to Leadership Journal, 340,000 churches are in need of church revitalization. Because of that, I want to be the type of leader that is lovingly and gracefully helping turn the tide in the Church. Jesus said, "He would build His Church" and he has given us a part in the process. Some of us carry the wood, some hammer the nails, some clear the site. The important part is to know what part He has called you to play.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Learning from a Master

Sports legend John Wooden died at age 99 this week.

To be honest, he was more than just a sports legend, he was really a life legend.
Enthusiasm, just to name a few.

"John Wooden was a very religious man and in some ways he treated the game religiously."--William Nack

Of all the wonderful things that have been said about this great man, there was one thing in particular that stood out to me that I think we all in life, especially those of in ministry, can glean and learn from.

In an article, one of Coach Wooden's former assistant coaches made this statement, "Coach Wooden never talked about winning. Instead he told us (coaching staff) "we must master three things: 1. Get them in shape 2. Teach them the basics 3. Teach them to play together."

I find this amazing, especially when so much strife in the church world has to do with "winning."

Get them in shape.
Teach the basics.
Teach how to play well together.

So many of life's issues, both good and bad, have to do with faith. Can we trust God to get us through? What if He doesn't? Why do bad things happen to good people? Or for that matter, why do good things happen to bad people? You can tell if a person is in spiritual shape not by how much they worship or attend church, but how they handle life when things don't work out the way they thought they should.
Is your faith in shape?

As I watched game two in the Laker's VS Celtics NBA Playoffs I witnessed a classic rebound and point conversion because of knowing the basics. It was so inspiring that the announcers kept going back to it during breaks in the game.

If Jesus was a basketball coach I'm pretty sure He would teach the basics over and over. He would be saying to the team, "take care of the basics and you'll achieve the national championship." Or in KJV, "take care of the small things and you'll be ruler over much".
In youth ministry we tried to teach our teens the simple HABITS: Hang time with God, Accountability, Bible memorization, Involvement in church, Tithe, and Service.
The basics are what keep you healthy and produce unwavering hope.
Is your hope grounded?

Teach them how to play well together. Wow! Need I say more?
I will say this: I, like many others, have experienced a "church breakup" (to use polite terms). And one of the biggest questions that arises in that time of healing is, "did I miss God?" After all I pretty sure every minister--including myself--believes the same thing when they go on staff or start attending a church. And that is "God called me here". I won't dispute that.
So what do you do when man calls you away from there?
My vote: leave. I know that sounds harsh and ungodly, but hear me out. Because if you argue from the standpoint of "God called me to this area and we're staying" then what you might as well be saying is, "God thinks the greatest way to reproduce churches is by the way of dysfunction and church splitting."

It would be as if God is up in heaven saying, "you know we could use more churches in that area, I'm going to send Vince to that church because one day they will kick him out and he'll church plant in that same area and then we'll have more churches there!" God then leans over and gives Jesus a high five.

Here is what I've found out during my short time on planet Earth. God gave us all brains to be able to figure some things out on our own. Some things are just highly probable. It's highly probable that a church split is going to do more lasting damage for many years than it will start to do good. If there is a chance that you two can't play well together, go to a different sandbox. Jesus said "if at all possible live peaceable with everyone." Which tells me for some that just won't be possible.

Now I know that sounds really rough and I've probably offended some, if I haven't offended you, just wait your turn I'll get to you; I'm an equally opportunity offender. *wink and smile*

I in no way am questioning what God did or did not tell you, but I've been around the block enough to know sometimes it can be good and people can play well together and sometimes it's just us wanting our way and using whatever scripture and justification to get it. Because the two are sometimes hard to tell apart, that is where accountability comes into play. Because if you submit to someone and they tell you "no" when you feel God told you "yes" then you are not held accountable, they are. Honestly there are too many scripture references to put in this one because the Bible says it from start to finish.
It's a basic in life that will help you love others and play well.

Oh, and how do you know if you're accountable and doing what you should? A timeless key is, "How do you respond when those over you tell you something you don't want to hear? Defensive or offended or quick to respond with a list of why they are wrong? Or do you do what they say with humility and with honor towards them?
How's your love level?

When I hear Coach Wooden say, "Get them in shape, teach them the basics and train them to play well together", I hear the Apostle Paul echo the heartbeat of God by saying, "Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love." 1 Corinthians 13:13