Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Quickest Way to Get a New Pastor

Tired of the pastor you have? Ready to get someone new behind the pulpit but that stubborn preacher you've got now just keeps hanging around? Well, have I got the solution for you! There's one surefire way to get that pesky old pastor to move on to other pastures, and it's a tried and true technique that's been working for thousands of years! The answer to your problem? Grumbling. That's it! It's so simple. Just make sure to every day take a few minutes to grumble and complain to another church member about something you dislike, no matter how small or insignificant, just make sure to do it behind your pastor's back. Don't worry, eventually most every negative thing said comes back around to the pastor, but the added bonus is that he won't know who said it!

Okay. I'll stop the sarcasm and melodrama. Obviously, I'm going a bit overboard with this in order to make a point (although, I am a little worried that some one might be really looking for ways to get rid of a pastor) but there's truth behind my joke. I've got pretty thick skin, and so I can fairly easily let a negative criticism role of my back, but over time it does begin to have an effect. I've been in the ministry for thirteen years now, I have never known a season where there's wasn't some form of grumbling going on in the background. What's more is that I know I'm not alone. Almost every friend I have in the ministry shares the same story. Each of us hear whispers and rumors and "he said that she said"'s of things that people don't like and that get's old after awhile. In fact, I watched several dear friends get completely torn up by such issues and leave the ministry all together.

If you are a member of a church, any Bible-believing, Jesus-preaching church, let me tell you a little secret from us pastors. It's not the complaints we can't handle, it's the fact that you won't come and talk to us directly and work together on a solution! The sad fact is, that when a church body gets in the habit of grumbling, instead of coming to the pastor, there will come a time when that leader has had enough, and that will lead to problems.

Think back with me for a moment to the time when the Israelites were wandering in the dessert. What activity does Scripture constantly show them doing? GRUMBLING!!! Over and over again, the Bible records the people as whining and complaining about the tough circumstances they were in. They cried out to go back to Egypt where at least they had food and water (I guess they didn't appreciate God's cooking) and the had home to live in. I laugh when I notice that they never once mentioned in their complaining about how they would be walking back into slavery!

On several occasions, Moses became so frustrated, hurt, angry, and overwhelmed that he lashed out. In fact, his anger would eventually lead to sin, which kept him out of the Promised Land.

However, one particular occasion comes to mind where things happened differently. In Exodus 18, Moses' father-in-law, Jethro comes to the camp. Moses was completely bogged down in the work of leading those complacent, stubborn, and grumbling people. My guess is that Moses was on the verge of a breakdown. Things weren't going well and the number of grumblers was growing. Jethro could have done the easy thing and joined in the complaining and fanned the flames a little bit, nitpicking on every detail that Moses was getting wrong, but instead he chose to do something different. He chose to talk to Moses directly. Read what happens.

13 The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening. 14 When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?” 15 Moses answered him, “Because the people come to me to seek God’s will. 16 Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and instructions.” 17 Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. 18 You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. (Exodus 18:13–18, NIV)

Jethro could see that Moses was doing something wrong, but he was determined to help him see the problem and work in fixing it instead of just complaining to others!

I hope that each of you understand that my intention in writing this is to help foster healthy relationships in your church, especially between you and the ministers in your church. If you really are seeking ways to get rid of your pastor, then let me advise you lovingly but firmly, that you need to find another place of worship. Only God should be the voice in the ear of the man of His choosing to tell him to move somewhere else.

However, if it is your desire to bless your pastor, to encourage him, and make him more effective in his calling, then let's change the title of this article to "The Best Ways to Keep Your Pastor Around" and let me humbly offer a few suggestions.

  1. The next time you have a complaint or issue with something that is happening in the church, fight back that impulse to share it with someone else and commit to pray on it for at least a couple of days. My experience is that most complaints are over small things that are emotionally driven and with time those issues go away. If you choose to say something to someone else, you're only doing damage and you won't be able to take those words back.
  2. If the issues that you're having persists even after a time of prayer, then go straight to your pastor's office (just please do not do this on a Sunday!) and express what's on your heart. I know that it may be hard to say a complaint directly to the person who you believe is causing your complaint, but trust me, your pastor will appreciate you for it and it will only cause your relationship to become stronger. There are many times that we as pastors need to hear exactly what you have to say! I'm certainly not perfect and sometimes I need to be made aware of something I'm doing that is causing pain for others. I'm not saying there won't be bumps along they way, and not every issue will get resolved according to your liking, but more often then not, you will walk away with a peace about you that you didn't have before. 
  3. When someone else around you is dong the grumbling, refuse to let it go any further. No matter how much I speak to issues such as this, I am fully aware that there will always be those who complain. However, just because someone else continues to complain doesn't give you permission to chime in with your grumble. Instead, when you hear those negative words coming from someone else, take action! Be bold enough to simply walk away from conversation, or respond with something like, "Let's take a moment to pray for that person instead of complaining about him." I promise you that doing something like that only a few times will keep the complainers away from you! 

I pray that as you face issues in your church, as we all do, you take the road less traveled and seek ways to make peace, to put yourself aside and think of others first. Don't be a grumbler and you will see a difference in your life and in your church family.

A quick note to my church members: I want each of you who attend Bono Baptist Church to know a few things about what I've written here. Have I at times felt the hurt of negative criticism that wasn't brought to me while I've been the Pastor of our church? Yes. Am I writing this from a place of being totally overwhelmed, hurt, and on the verge of leaving because of such things? No. I am writing this because it's something that every pastor deals with, struggles with, and wishes they could talk about openly and honestly. I hope that pastors and church members from other congregations find this helpful, but I also hope that each of you will take these words to heart and commit to be a church member that is always willing to come and talk with me no matter what you're facing. I love you all - Bro. Greg

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Jesus' Approach to Church Growth

In John, chapter 6, Jesus presents a difficult teaching. Here’s a short sample.

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”
(John 6:53–58 - ESV)

Because of these words, scripture tells us that just about all of Jesus followers left except for the twelve, and even they seem troubled by this teaching.

Put yourself in the sandals of Jesus’ small band of brothers. This event happened right on the heels of Jesus feeding the five thousand. The disciples must of have been saying among themselves, “All right, guys! Looks like this following Jesus thing is finally starting to take off! Now those leaders in Jerusalem will have to listen to us. Now things will really start to happen. Our numbers are growing and maybe we could even have enough money to build a really nice building to meet in every week with beautiful stained glass windows and a nice new pipe organ!” To which Peter replied, “I will only attend if we sing contemporary music!”

And now, in the blink of an eye, the “Jesus crowd” went from several thousand to only a handful. Do you wonder if any of the disciples wanted to say to Jesus that evening around the campfire, “Couldn’t you have just taught more about loving one another? Or maybe, you could have told the crowd another one of your parables. They don’t understand them, but they sure love them. You could have just kept feeding them. I know they would have stayed if you had done that!”

It wasn't that Jesus missed a great opportunity to dramatically increase His number of followers. Instead, He purposefully said these things, knowing it would cause many to fall away, and it wasn’t the only time Jesus did this. Jesus was much more concerned about finding sold-out, on-fire, fully-committed followers, ones who truly abided in Him as He was describing in those verses, then just trying to keep everyone happy.

By today’s standards, Jesus would not have been an effective leader, for every church leader “knows” that once you have a few people following you, you do everything in your power to keep them satisfied. Why would Jesus, on multiple occasions, willingly and purposefully thin his “congregation”?

It’s because Jesus’ approach to growth was not about adding numbers but instead about radically transforming lives. It’s true that each person matters to God, but Jesus wasn’t so concerned about having half committed followers. Jesus knew that things were going to get even harder than they already were. He knew that His Great Commission would push His followers WAY out of their comfort zone, and well beyond the old way of doing things. He sought to have people around Him that wouldn’t get upset when things changed, because there were a lot of big changes ahead. Jesus wanted those who respond with a simple and quick “yes” when called to a new task instead of those who would hem and haw and come up with excuses. Jesus sought men and women’s hearts – all of them, completely dedicated to the Father’s will.

Whether a minister or member, we should all ask ourselves a few question when it comes to trying to grow our churches.
1.    Is our aim just for numbers or for dedicated followers? Let’s take the time to examine our motives concerning how we operate in church. We should not be so worried about getting in the masses that it keeps us from teaching people about what it truly means to follow Christ
2.    Are we avoiding talking about the tough stuff or making the touch choices? I have said to myself before, “If I say this or do this, that family might leave our church, and they tithe!” If we speak the truth of Christ, in love, and are willing to do whatever it takes to bring in and disciple as many dedicated Christians as possible, then we will at times rock the boat and even cause people to leave. It’s never fun, but since it happened even to Jesus, I can be sure that we will still face this today.
3.    Am I fully committed to what Christ asks of me to fulfil the Great Commission? If we can honestly answer yes to this question, then we will stop worrying so much about trying to keep others happy and will simply do whatever it takes to reach others for Christ.

Examine your own heart, and ask yourself this question. “When I go to church, am I hoping just to be kept happy, or do I want and am willing to be challenged to change my own heart and participate in changing the hearts of those who are lost?”

Be blessed!