Jul 26, 2013

Burnout and What Leaders Can Do to Prevent It

One of the realities all organizations face is burnout: leaders burnout, your people burnout, burnout happens.

I've been reflecting on my leadership for the past twenty plus years and I know that there were good people - people who love Jesus, who love the church, who appreciated my leadership - who still experienced burnout with my leadership and the church.

I HATE the thought of my actions and my leadership causing people to get frustrated and discouraged.

Life is hard enough, church is hard enough! And the thought that my actions and my leadership caused others to burnout just kills me.

As I consider my ministry one of the areas where my leadership fell short is in helping good people connect what they were doing to the bigger picture.

You see, in leadership and organizational life, there are some things that need to get done that are not fun, glamorous, exciting. There are some things that need to get done that are boring, routine, and difficult.

That's just life. That's organizational reality.

One of the surest way to guarantee burnout and frustration is when people are engaged in activities and responsibilities to which they don't see making a difference.

But here's the thing: there are some activities and responsibilities that don't necessarily produce immediate results that are visible. But if they're not done excellently, the organization crumbles. Accounting, property maintenance, stewardship, fund raising, volunteer coordination, etc., are some examples that come to mind.

If these things don't get done excellently, no organization will function for long.

The key is in reminding and encouraging people that what they are doing absolutely impacts the vitality of the organization. The leader has the capacity to help people see how what they are doing is making a difference.

I can do a better job. I must do a better job of this.

Another way that my leadership has caused burnout is when people are asked to do something that is outside of their giftedness and strengths.

I confess that because certain leadership responsibilities needed to be filled, I've agreed to people being placed in roles that I knew were not their strength or their passion.

That's stupid!

One of the leader's task is to place people in roles and situations where they can thrive.

I can and must not do that to people who love God and love the church. That's a sure way to cause people to be discouraged.

Life is hard enough. Church is difficult enough.

Leaders should do their best to not add extra burden to those who are giving of their time, talents, and finances to see God change the world.

I pray that I am getting better as a leader.

The people of LCOP deserve to have a leader like that.

Jul 24, 2013

No Perfect Church; But Every Church Can Improve

I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow - 1 Corinthians 3:6-7

Reality - Only God can grow churches.

Without God, nothing grows. Without God, nothing happens.

Only God grows churches.

But then how come I stress out so much about church growth? How come pastors and leaders freak out about the lack of growth?

While it is absolutely truth that only God grows churches, it is also absolutely true that churches can do a lot to ensure that their particular church doesn't grow.

God designed the church so that when the church behaves and functions like a church, churches grow.

However, because churches are filled with people, churches are filled with personal agendas. Yes, that includes the pastors and leaders. So when churches get off target from why the church exists and starts playing the personal agenda game, bad stuff happens. And when bad stuff happens, growth...well...it ain't happening.

There are too many examples of how this plays out. I'm sure you can list your own. But here are some from you might have encountered.
  • When a visitor who's been reluctant to try the church thing comes to the church for the first time in a long time is asked to move seats because they are sitting in someone's seat
  • When a person is told that if they would just pray more then they wouldn't be dealing with so much guilt and shame
  • When a person is told that perhaps it was their fault that their spouse beat them senselessly
  • When a person is told that they don't belong because they are _______
The list literally can go on for quite a while.

That's the thing.

God designed the church to grow. God is the only one who can grow churches.


The church can sometimes be its biggest hurdle because the church keeps getting in the way of Jesus.

So what can we do to be better at being the church God wants us to be? I don't know all the answers, but I think these might be a good start.
  • Treat all people with love, respect, and dignity.
  • Being gracious, welcoming, hospitable trumps being right and getting my way. It's not that being right is not important. Being right absolutely matters. But caring must come first. We must earn the right to teach the right things. 
  • Don't just proclaim good news. Be good news in the community.
  • Make difference.
  • Make the world a better place because Jesus is Lord. 
  • Establish God's kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven.
No church is perfect. 

But every church can improve.

Jul 18, 2013

Missional Disciples

There's a lot of conversation in church circles of "missional" churches. I am one who finds the writings and the experiments with the emerging and missional churches quite fascinating and hopeful.

I've come across quite a few attempts at to define what it means to be a missional church.

Bottom line, if a church is missional, I believe there are several characteristics about this church.

  1. The church exists to accomplish its mission
  2. The mission of the church is not to be discovered. God has already given to the church her mission. It is the great commission: "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you."

In order to be a missional church, it needs to be filled with missional disciples.

So what is a missional disciple?

A missional disciple is one who has made the mission of Christ his/her own mission and see themselves as a missionary in a world that needs to know who Christ is.

1 Peter 3:15 says, "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have."

The Bible assumes that when we live as faithful disciples, that our lives would be so distinct, set apart, and attractive that the people around us would ask us about the hope that is in us.

So let me ask you, when's the last time anyone asked you about the hope that is in you? When's the last time anyone asked your church about the hope that your church brings?

That's a problem!!!!!

I want to be asked.

How can we live in such a way that people would ask?

You've got be missional disciples. Whatever else this may mean, it has to mean that the missional disciple see him/herself as a missionary in the world they live.

In order to be a successful missionary, here are several things that successful missionaries must do.

  1. They need to learn the language of the people they are trying to reach. 
  2. If you don't know the language of the people you're trying to reach, you're not going to get anywhere. We must learn the language of the people in our neighborhoods hanging out at Starbucks, at the gyms, at the bars, at our work places. 
  3. They need to learn the culture of the people they are trying to reach. Even if you know the language of the people you're trying to reach, you still need to learn the ethos and the values of the people you're trying to reach. Because until you do, you will find yourself offending the very people you're trying to reach, and you won't even know that you're being offensive. 
  4. They need to certain of Jesus. You need to know what the good news is. You need to know why you're doing what you're doing.
  5. They need to translate the good news of Jesus Christ in a language and values that makes sense to the people they are trying to reach. They need to know how to be good news to the people they are trying to reach. 
This is what successful missionaries do.

This is what missional disciples do.

Missional churches, therefore, are churches that are making and equipping missional disciples.

Ephesians 4:11-12 says, "So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors, and teachers to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up."

The leaders of missional churches will focus their time and energy in making and equipping missional disciples. This is one of the main purposes of leaders in missional congregations.

Is that how your church is functioning? 

Jul 17, 2013

Zimmerman Case and the Good News of the Gathered Church

Every time we gather to worship, I say to the congregation, "You are in the right place! There is no other place God would have us to be than right here in God's house worshiping God!"

I say this same phrase every week.

I know it can become routine but I say it because it reminds me of why I am there...it reminds me of why we are there.

That was never more true that this past Sunday. I shared with my congregation the following thoughts.

You see in a congregation like our's, there were folks who gathered to worship who applauded the decision of the Zimmerman verdict. At the same time, there were folks who were outraged and hurt by the decision of the Trayvon Martin case.

But you see, the most radical thing that was taking place at the Little Church on the Prairie that Sunday and every Sunday that people gather to worship was that people were declaring that the hope of the world was not in the hands of some jury, or court system, or the political system of a country.

The hope for our communities was not in correcting an injustice or celebrating the justice system at work.

Our gathered community was the visible demonstration that the hope of the world is Jesus Christ.

And because of Jesus Christ and all that he had done for us on the cross, we the gathered people who might disagree passionately about what happened with the case and other many important issues were going to treat people we even disagree with with love, respect, dignity, honor, and grace.

We commit to treating all people with love, respect, dignity, honor, and grace because we believe that our calling from Christ is higher than any political or social calling.

We were declaring by our gathering that our hope for the world and our community was in folks who call themselves Christ-followers treating others, regardless of political, social, educational, financial, racial, differences with love, respect, honor, dignity, and grace precisely because Jesus is our Lord.

Our gathering was a visible protest against the ways of the world and against the powers that be, that our only hope is in Christ and Christ alone.

That's what our church proclaims every time we gather to worship the risen One.

Jesus is the hope of the world.

So every time we gather for worship, know this: We are in the right place. There is no other place God would have us to be than right here in God's house worshiping God!

Jul 16, 2013

Why the Church Exists Part 3: Make Faithful Disciples

Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:19-20).

The purpose of the church of Jesus Christ is best expressed in the great commission. There are three parts to the great commission:
1. Go
2. Make new disciples
3. Make faithful disciples

In the last several days we have looked at the first two parts of the great commission. Today we'll look at the third part of the great commission: making faithful disciples.

The church is to go to where people need to see the gospel of Jesus Christ incarnated where they live, work, and play. The church is sent to the people who need Jesus because the church is supposed to make new disciples.

When new disciples are made, then the church's task is to make all disciples into faithful disciples.

I need to make a disclaimer. Faithful disciples is redundant. If you are a disciple, you are faithful.

That being said, the truth is we've created a lot more church gathering attenders than we have made faithful disciples.

What is the definition of a faithful disciple? Jesus tells us. Faithful disciples are those who obey everything that Jesus has commanded. Faithful disciples are obedient disciples.

Discipleship has everything to do with following and obeying. It's not about how much of Bible we know, how long we've been going to church, what titles we might hold in the church.

It's all about following Christ and obeying Christ.

So how are our churches doing in making faithful disciples? How are we doing in the whole following and obeying thing?

The most honest answer I think we can give is that we do this well in parts.

One of the things about most mainline churches is that while we have been doing a fairly decent job of educating our members, we have not been doing as well in helping people become obedient and faithful disciples.

Howard Hendricks once said, "God doesn't reveal truth to us so that we can be smarter sinners. The purpose of revelation is for transformation."

The reason why God reveals truth is to change us. And we are changed when we obey everything that God has commanded us.

Most of our churches have wonderful God-loving people. That's certainly the case in my church. Our people love Jesus and genuinely want to do what God is asking of us...to a point.

I say to a point because in all honesty, this is something I personally wrestle with.

Jesus doesn't merely ask for 10% or a part of my life. Jesus demands my all.

The problem I have with discipleship is the "all" part. If one were to observe my life, most would think that I am doing better than most. But the truth is, there are still parts of my life that I have the hardest time surrendering to Christ. I don't mind giving to God 10%, 50%, heck, most of my life. I think I've done that. But there are parts that I still have trouble giving over to God.

That's the part of discipleship I struggle with.

That's the part of discipleship that I need to keep working on.

That's the part of discipleship that our churches need to work on.

The question we need to ask is, "Is what we're currently doing producing faithful, obedient disciples?"

The answer to this question will be addressed by not how much of the Bible we can recite, or how long we've been going to church. It simply comes down to how much we obey what God has commanded - not just the parts we agree with, not just the parts we like, but simply what God has commanded.

Do we resemble Jesus more and more in our actions and thoughts?

We are a congregation doing our part to pray, discern, and discover better ways to go and make new disciples and make faithful disciples.

What we're certain of is that what we're currently doing is not helping us accomplish our main mission.

Therefore, we are in a season to discern and discover what God wants the church to be about:
1. Go! - go to where people are and be good news to those who don't know Jesus
2. Make new disciples
3. Make faithful disciples

While we don't yet know the "answers" to being this church, we are convinced that it will involve our church changing and becoming something different than what we are currently.

How we can put the resources of people, talents, time, finances, and facilities of LCOP to maximize our ability to go and make new disciples and faithful disciples.

I hope that you too will journey with us in discovering better ways to accomplish the mission given to us by Christ.

This isn't our mission. It's not the pastor's mission. This is the mission which Jesus charged his church with when he ascended into heaven.

So let's get it!

Jul 15, 2013

Why the Church Exists Part 2: Make New Disciples

Go make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:19-20).

The reason why the church is sent and told to "Go" to the people who need Jesus with the good news of Jesus Christ is so that the church can make new disciples of all nations.

Specifically, we are to baptize new disciples.

So how are our churches doing with the whole making new disciples thing?

If your church is anything like your typical mainline churches, it's not doing too well. Actually, most churches are tanking. In fact, in far too many cases we are burying more people than we are baptizing people. In too many of our churches we have way more funerals than adult baptisms.

Not good.

We can point to lots of busy bodies. Lots of programs. Plenty of facilities. Hundreds of millions of dollars spent. But the end result is still the same. We are failing in Christ's main mandate for the church.

Is the way we're currently doing church the best way, the most effective way to reach non-Christians? Is what we're currently doing the best way to make new disciples?

It doesn't take a seminary degree to figure out that what we're currently doing is not the best way to reach people with the gospel of Jesus Christ. You don't have to be a genius to see that what we're currently doing as a church isn't the only way to do and be church. The numbers speak for themselves.

Here's the million dollar question? If this is not the most effective way to reach people with the gospel of Jesus Christ, why do we keep doing what we're doing?

Shouldn't we try something else? Shouldn't we try things that might actually produce better results?

With the exception of very few churches, churches that are growing are not growing because they are making new disciples, but most churches that are growing are growing because other churches are declining. Member transfers, church hoppers are the typical ways that churches are growing.

The thing is, when we get to heaven God will ask us, "Did you accomplish the main mission for which I created the church?"

One of our realities is that most of the churches in the United States are absolutely failing in making new disciples.

But here's the good news. We can change. We can start doing things differently.

In the book of Acts, we come across the burgeoning New Testament church. All the first Christians were Jews. When the first Christians said "church" everyone knew what church looked like. It was the gathered people around the word in the synagogue, and everyone who was part of that community was Jewish.

Just as when we say church, most people think about gathered church in the sanctuary and assume that's what a church looks like without even giving it a second thought, this is how the early church thought about church.

Of course church is the gathered Jewish community in the synagogue.

But in Acts 15, the early church did an amazing thing. They discerned that the new emerging gentile Christians did not have to do church in the way they've always done church in order to be a part of Christ's church. The early church leaders refused to force people to become like them in order for gentiles to be Christ-followers.

Could it be that the greatest gift that our church can offer the emerging church is the recognition that the new emerging church does not have to do church the way we've always done church in order to be a disciple of Jesus Christ?

Take a good look at the new testament church before Constantine. It was not clerically centered. It was not tied to a physical property.

They gathered around the word. They prayed. They shared a common meal. They served one another. They served and ministered in their communities.

Acts 15:19-20 says, "It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood."

The early church leaders made a critical decision. They were going to do whatever it took, do everything in their power to reach those who are turning to God.

This was not a watering down of the gospel. Standards would not be compromised. But they were totally open to doing whatever it took to incarnate the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ.

Everything I have been trained to do is to grow and sustain the institutional church. Most of my time is spent to make sure we have a good Sunday experience.

But this Sunday experience has clearly shown that it is no longer helping us to accomplish our main mission of making new disciples.

So why do we keep doing what we're doing even when we know it no longer works?

Let me tell you a secret.

God loves the people around your church who don't know him. God already knows how best to reach them.

Our task is not to figure out best ways. God already knows.

Our primary task is to pray and ask God how he wants the church to love the people God already loves. And then when God tells us, go do that.

Go and make new disciples.

Go and do whatever it takes to make new disciples. 

Jul 12, 2013

Why the Church Exists Part 1: Go!!!

GO!!! and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded. (Matthew 28:18-20)


What don't we get about "Go"?

That's the first part of the great commission. The church has somehow turned this complete backwards. 

The invitation of the church is "Come". 
  • Come to church with me. 
  • Come to our small group. 
  • Come to VBS.
The church is called to go to the people who don't know that God sent his Son to to die on the cross to pay the debt of sin so that those who believe would have eternal life. That's our calling. We are to go to where the people are. We are to be the good news in the very places where good news is so desperately needed. 

And yet instead of going, we keep staying and inviting folks to come.

Instead of being missionaries - ones who are living out the mission of Christ wherever they are - we ask non-Christian folk to be missionaries to church communities.

You see, missionaries go into areas where people don't know Jesus and learn to speak the language of the target people, learn the culture of the target people, and translate the gospel in a way that the target people can understand.

But when we invite people to church, we are asking those who do not know church language, understand Christian culture, to come into church adapting Christian practices in order to receive grace.

This is totally backwards.


You see, not only is this the opposite of what we have been called to do, but this is highly unproductive in a post-church, post-Christian world. 

When it was the norm for people to go to church, the "come to church" invitation worked. Even if people didn't go to church, there was a generation when people knew they should be at church. In fact, there was a day when people would have felt guilty being outside during church hours.

Those days are long gone.

In today's world, we have to recapture God's call for the church to "Go" to where the people are. 

A while back, I was talking with one of the pastors on staff at my church about our new members classes. I told him that at the end of the class what I wanted every member to commit to were the following: 
1. worshiping at one of the worship services
2. joining one of the small groups
3. giving and serving through our church

I felt pretty good about these things.

And then I got home and began thinking about what I just said. 

In effect, I told our associate pastor that we want our new members who are perfectly situated in life circles where they are surrounded by non-Christians in their work places, gyms, home, starbucks, pubs, etc. - the very places where we want the church to show up - and get our new members so busy with church stuff, doing church things, in church that they have no time for anything or anyone else. 

We were encouraging new members to abandon their mission fields!!!

Instead of equipping and encouraging our new members to be the best missionaries in their existing environments, the church I was creating, the church I had been a member of all my life, encourages people to desert the very place they should be missionaries in and insulate themselves with other Christians.

This is the perfect example of turning God's command for the church to "Go" and internalizing it by making it "Come." 

That's dumb!!!

We want our new members, heck, all our members, to "Go" and be church, be Christ's light, be hope, be an example out there. That's what it means to be church!


My job, the leader's jobs, is to equip and encourage our members to be the church 24/7, 7 days a week, out there.

We are to take the good news of Jesus Christ, and incarnate the good news of Jesus Christ in the multiple settings that the members of the church find themselves in. 

The church gathers to be fed, to be encouraged, to be reminded, to be briefed, and equipped for their main mission so that they can live out that mission out there.


We are praying and discerning how we can do church differently so that we see ourselves primarily as the home base to equip, train, empower, and brief the church for her mission so that our members can be church 24/7, 7 days a week out there.


What would the church look like if the church was organized to primarily to "Go" instead of "Come"?

That's the question we're doing our best to discern.


Jul 11, 2013

Why The Church Exists: Intro

Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:19-20)

The great commission is not merely one of the things that the church is to be about. This is the pinnacle of what the church is to be about. This is our mission. No matter what else we do - Sunday worship, choirs, bands, youth activities, children's ministry, etc. - we are called to accomplish our main mission.

There's nothing wrong with any of the things listed above. They are all good things. But they are not ultimate things. They are all means to accomplish the main mission.

What is the main mission? The great commission.

Here's the thing. God didn't create the church and then sit around wondering about what the church should be about. From the beginning of creation to the end of time, God's desire has been to reconcile the world to himself. And the church was brought into existence because in God's sovereign omnipotence God determined the church to be the best tool and instrument to accomplish his mission.

Jesus completed the mission. The church is now the one who is called to proclaim what God has done for the world.

The great commission is not something we choose to do in our spare time as the church. This is our mission. This is why we exist.

There are three parts to the great commission:
1. Go
2. Make new disciples
3. Make faithful disciples

In the next three days, we will be looking at each of these one at a time.

Jul 10, 2013

What's Your Problem?


Everyone loves a miracle. But I'm not sure everyone really wants a miracle.

Let me explain.

In the Bible, there are three ingredients necessary for a miracle.

The first ingredient necessary for a miracle is a problem or an obstacle.

Not just any ol' problem or miracle, mind you. The type of problem or miracle we're talking about here is a problem and miracle so big, so daunting, so impossible that there is no way you're ever going to overcome it. You need a gigantic problem. A problem of biblical portions.

The second ingredient for a miracle is God. Not just any God but a God who is all powerful and all knowing. But not just a God who is all powerful and all knowing, but a God who is all that and who absolutely loves you.

The third ingredient necessary is a faithful people. But not just any faithful people, but people who are so wonderfully faithful that they actually do what God commands them to do. Even when things don't make sense, even when you don't see the point of it, even if you don't feel like it, even when you don't get it. You do it because God said to do it...faithful.

So here's the miracle principle: No Problems? No Miracles.

So let me ask you?

Are you faced with an impossible situation? a problem of biblical proportions? Awesome!!!

Does God love you and want what's best for you? Of course he does!!!

This brings us to you. Are you faithful? Are you ready to be crazy faithful to do what God asks of you? Are you willing to obey simply because God said so?

If so, let me ask you again, what's your problem?

Give it to God and stay faithful and see what God does with impossible situations.