Ministry Leadership Sun, 21 Dec 2014 20:22:52 -0500 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb 10 Troubling Statements Church Leaders and Members Make

If you want your church to move toward a slow yet certain death, make certain your church leadership and membership affirms most of these 10 statements. They are troubling statements. Indeed, they are proclamations that virtually assure your church's decline and probable demise.

What is troubling is that these statements are not uncommon. They are articulated by both staff and lay leaders at times. See if you have ever heard any of these 10:

1. We hire our pastors and staff to do that. "That" can be evangelism. Or discipleship. Or caring for others. Or visiting people in the hospital. Some lay leaders view pastors and staff as hired hands to do ministry they should be doing themselves.

2. We have enough churches in our community. I rarely see a community that is really "overchurched." The number of unchurched people in any one community is typically increasing, not decreasing. This comment usually comes from church leaders who view new churches as competition.

3. We are a discipleship church. Or an evangelism church. Or a ministry church. Church leaders who say their churches are focused on only one area of ministry are offering excuses not to be obedient in other areas.

4. We have never done it that way before. Yes, it's cliché. But it's still a very pervasive attitude among change-resistant people in the church.

5. We don't have the money to do that. More times than not, the church does indeed have the money to focus on necessary priorities. The problem is that some church leaders don't have the courage to reallocate funds toward those priorities.

6. We really don't emphasize small groups. Churches that do not give a priority to small groups or Sunday school classes can count on a big exodus of people out the back door. Those in groups are five times more likely to stay involved in a church than those in worship services alone.

7. We have enough people in our church. This is a tragic statement by leaders of inwardly focused churches. And it is an excuse not to do evangelism and ministry.

8. We aren't a church for those kinds of people. Though similar to number seven, this statement is an appalling declaration made by church members who really believe people of a certain race, ethnic group, income group or other descriptor should be excluded from the congregation.

9. We really shouldn't expect much of our members. Low expectation churches are far too common. Too many church leaders communicate unwisely that it's OK for members to do nothing, give nothing and not be concerned about growing spiritually.

10. We focus only on our members, not guests and others. Many church leaders make this statement either explicitly or implicitly. Sometimes the facilities, the worship services and the small groups shout, "Guests not welcome!"

What do you think of these 10 troubling statements? Are they accurate? Are they fair? What would you add or change?

Thom Rainer is the president of LifeWay Christian Resources. For the original article, visit

]]> (Thom S. Rainer) Vision Fri, 19 Dec 2014 17:00:00 -0500
10 Harsh Realities of Leadership

I love leadership. I feel called to it. I realize the need for good leadership, but the fact is that leadership is hard.

I meet regularly with some high-level, senior leaders to glean from them. We talk about our common challenges in attempting to lead others. One shared discovery we have made in our time together is about the perception of people who haven't served as a senior leader has about people in that role. It's the same one we had before we were in senior leadership. It often looks easier—and maybe even more glamorous—from the outside than it is in reality.

As a student and blogger of leadership, I want to be realistic with people who desire to be senior leaders.

Here are 10 harsh realities of leadership:

1. You will at times be unpopular. Every leader is at some point. Change is hard and people will agree and disagree. You open emotional wounds through change. In fact, they will often blame you for changes happening in their own life because of the change you are making as a leader.

2. You will have to make decisions no one else will make. That's what leaders do. It's what inspires people to follow. It's what challenges the paradigms. It's what leads us to a discovery—and hopefully even a better reality.

3. You have to be able to see farther than today. If you can't, maybe leadership is not your thing. Leaders aren't stuck in today. They are leveraging influence today for something better that may not be realized until some tomorrow.

4. You won't be successful long by making excuses. You'll make mistakes. You'll be more likely to attract followers through your ownership of them. Humility is an admired leadership trait.

5. You can motivate, but you can't mandate. Attempting to control or bully people to produce more won't work long-term. It isn't a sustainable technique. People will either rebel, fail to live up to potential or leave.  

6. You're only as good as your team. No matter how good you are—if you're team is lousy, so will you be as a leader. 

7. Your legacy will mostly be formed by the investment you made in others. Not by the great ideas you had or the success you can personally take credit for producing. People investments always last longest. 

8. You can't avoid conflict indefinitely. You can run, but you can't hide. Eventually little things can become big things. Hidden and unresolved conflict eventually explodes. 

9. You will be misunderstood at times. You can have the best intentions, but you'll still be misunderstood. You'll have to continually get better at communicating, but you'll still keep being misunderstood. It's part of leading people who are different from you.

10. You can't neglect your soul for long. If you do, you'll crash and burn. 

These are only a few of mine. Are there any you would share?

Ron Edmondson is the senior pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. For the original article, visit

]]> (Ron Edmondson) Ministry Leadership Thu, 18 Dec 2014 17:00:00 -0500
Stories of Transformation: A Church Pursues Its Passion for Community

When interim pastor and church consultant Lavern "Bud" Brown was leading Mountain Vista Bible Church in Mesa, Arizona, through a time of transition, he decided it was the best time to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the congregation.

As an experienced church consultant, Brown is familiar with a number of church assessment tools, but this time, in his work with Mountain Vista, he decided to give the Transformational Church Assessment Tool (TCAT) a try after looking for a tool that gave him clearer insight into the congregation than that afforded by other assessment options.

It takes a skilled pastor and it takes a willing church to turn a church around and move out of the swamp.

When Brown led Mountain Vista through TCAT, the church was searching for a new pastor and hoping for a refreshing change.

"It takes a skilled pastor and it takes a willing church to turn a church around and move out of the swamp and into conversion growth," Brown said. "I was able to infer some willingness to change from some of the scores [on the TCAT] when I correlated that with some of the things I was hearing in the personal interviews I was having with church members."

Mountain Vista was facing a significant amount of debt and other related challenges when Brown was invited to consult. Not wanting to interfere with his consulting work, Brown reluctantly agreed when the church asked him to become their intentional interim pastor.

After interviewing a number of church members and reviewing some of the church documents, Brown used TCAT as a way to objectively assess the strengths and weaknesses of the church members. The assessment enabled him and his team to verify the information already gathered and catch any areas of improvement they may have missed. He found that the objective nature of the TCAT assessment reinforced the findings of the interviews and the document review. It forced the church's leaders and the congregation to take a sober if uncomfortable look in the mirror.

Having gifted professional musicians enables the church to produce effective worship services. The TCAT results reflected the strength of the worship experience and the engagement of the congregation.

However, immediately upon receiving the results from the TCAT, Brown realized that much of what the church said they valued was not reflected in the way the church functioned.

There was a slow boil development of a desire for change and a desire to challenge the status quo.

Brown said the congregation reported that small groups are very important and that the church leadership is personally involved in the lives of the congregation. This was interesting to Brown as he disagreed with the congregation based on his observation.

"I slightly disagreed with the congregation on these two points because those are values that were not visible in the life of the church," Brown continued, "I was able to say, 'This is a value that you claim you hold, but when we look at what's happening in small groups, this isn't really where we're at.'"

Over the course of the next year, Brown and his colleagues were about to help Mountain Vista establish a new vision for their discipleship ministry and do the work of recruiting and training new small group leaders.

Taking TCAT, Brown says, helped the church gain a sense of urgency and seek ways in which they could improve their ministry.

"There was a slow boil development of a desire for change and a desire to challenge the status quo," Brown said. "The TCAT helped precipitate action and made it much easier to implement changes needed to prepare the church for growth under its next settled pastor."

More information about the TCAT can be found online at

This post was written by Chris Martin, Social Media Facilitator at LifeWay Christian Resources. For the original article, visit

]]> (Chris Martin/LifeWay Christian Resources) Vision Tue, 16 Dec 2014 20:00:00 -0500
New Research: Americans Want to Keep Christ in Christmas

In recent years there has been some significant discussion and controversy over the de-Christianization of Christmas. With shop workers being told to say "Happy Holidays," the over-emphasis of Santa Claus, Elf on the Shelf, and other such traditions, many have felt as though we've been committing treason against the reason for the season.

New LifeWay Research data released yesterday afternoon suggests that most Americans concur with the Christian idea that Christmas should be more about Jesus.


Here are some key stats from the new data:

  • 63 percent of Americans say people should visit church for Christmas
  • 79 percent agree that Christmas should be more about Jesus
  • 70 percent say Christmas would be better with a Christian focus
  • 39 percent say "X-mas" is offensive
  • 29 percent say "Happy Holidays" is offensive
  • 56 percent say God's Son existed before Jesus was born in Bethlehem

Here's an interesting point on the singing of Christmas songs in school music programs:

  • Most Americans (86 percent) say children in public schools should be allowed to sing religious Christmas songs in school-sponsored musicals. About one in 10 (12 percent) disagree. Two percent are not sure.
  • Nine in 10 women (89 percent) and eight in 10 men (83 percent) agree. So do most Westerners (80 percent) and even more of those in the Northeast (90 percent) and South (88 percent)
  • Most younger Americans—those 18 to 34—(80 percent) agree, as do 9 in 10 of those 35 and older
  • Traditional Christian theology, based on the Gospel of John, teaches Jesus existed with God the Father at the beginning. "He was with God in the beginning," says John 1:2. But Americans aren't so clear about the details of the incarnation and the Trinity.
  • A little over half (56 percent) agree with the statement, "God's Son existed before Jesus was born in Bethlehem." Three in 10 (29 percent) disagree. Fifteen percent are not sure.
  • Those living in the Northeast (64 percent) are more likely to agree than those in the Midwest (44 percent) or West (52 percent).
  • Young Americans are less likely to agree Christ existed prior to His birth. About half (48 percent) of those 18 to 44 agree, but that number jumps to nearly two-thirds (64 percent) for those over 44 years.
  • Evangelicals (70 percent) have the highest agreement. Christians (64 percent) are more likely to agree than those from other faiths (52 percent) and the Nones (31 percent).

Even many Nones—those who claim no religious faith—don't seem to mind religious Christmas songs in school. Three-quarters (73 percent) of Nones agree school kids should be allowed to sing religious songs in Christmas concerts. So do most Christians (92 percent), almost all (96 percent) Evangelicals, and even those from other faiths (71 percent).

I was happy to see that, as prevalent as it may seem at times, not a ton of people are offended by "X-Mas" or "Happy Holidays." I value the "Merry Christmas" greeting as much as anyone, but I've always been a little afraid that our anger toward alternative greetings may be hurting our witness more than helping it.


There was a bit of data that was troubling, and its related to some research we did with Ligonier earlier this year regarding theology. Here's Bob's report of the data:

What struck you about the data? Feel free to share in the comments.

Ed Stetzer is the executive director of LifeWay Research. For the original article, visit edstetzercom.

]]> (Ed Stetzer) Culture Tue, 16 Dec 2014 17:00:00 -0500
Here’s How Leaders Can Birth Movements

The night I found Jesus I was on my way to take my life at a local park. Although I didn't know it, He was waiting for me at a church close to that park. I walked in, sat in the back of the room and didn't let anyone see me.

As I bowed my head out of respect for the prayer going on, I heard an older woman pray for "the young man who was about to take his life." She said, "I know You have a great plan for his life." I returned to church the next morning for prayer, then again on Sunday.

As I walked out of church, I said to the pastor, "I want to be a pastor someday."

God really had a plan for my life, and I had no idea He had probably called me to be a pastor since I was conceived. I'm now the senior pastor of a healthy, growing congregation in Glendale, California, which my wife and I planted in our living room almost nine years ago. It hasn't been easy; it has brought tears, heartaches and disappointments, but it has also brought laughter, amazing rewards and an unexplainable satisfaction.

Many people and experiences have marked my ministry, and many have said I pastor a great church. But I would quickly say that one of the main factors that makes my church great is the leadership I have been honored to raise up.

I have a passion for preaching the Word of God, but a greater passion to see others become great and reach higher ground than I have. I consider myself a trampoline that God uses to place people in higher areas. The leaders I have been honored to raise are almost a mirror image of my heart for others. I believe that we have been called to make disciples, and those disciples can and should be better than we are.

This is how movements are made: one-on-one with people. When we develop disciples and leaders, we also create thriving churches. Developing a group of healthy churches with a common goal of serving others, sharing the gospel and pursuing Jesus—that's how movements gain momentum.

What have I done to raise leaders in our Foursquare movement? How do I go about multiplying myself in others so that the discipleship that starts on an individual level eventually becomes a movement? I try very hard to make the following simple steps part of my leadership skill set. As leaders produce leaders who produce leaders—movements are born.

  • Doing what Jesus did: He taught His disciples that He came to serve, not to be served (John 13:1-17). I have great respect for pastors who remember that their main calling is to serve others, not expect people to serve them. I love serving others, regardless of what they can give me or how I can benefit from them.
  • Guiding by example: People will only follow someone who sets the example for them (Neh. 2:11-15). They will do what I do and will teach others to do the same; that process becomes an endless cycle of producing leaders.
  • Believing in others: We have to see the potential in people and believe that they can do what God has already equipped them to do (Jer. 1:4-5). When people are given the opportunity to see what they're able to do, it changes the way they serve God.
  • Spending time with people one-on-one: When we give undivided attention to disciples, it is easier to mentor and model to them; it is easier to be transparent with them.

Recommended Resource

If you want to learn more about leading a healthy church, I recommend the book Liderazgo con Propósito (Leadership With Purpose) by Rick Warren. This is an inspirational and helpful tool for all pastors who desire to lead and make leaders. It even speaks to those who want to become leaders as well.

Don't read Spanish? Then pick up Rick Warren's The Purpose-Driven Church, and work to develop a healthy church, no matter its size.

Walter Ramos is the senior pastor of Dios Restaura (Glendale Hispanic 2 Foursquare Church) in Glendale, California. This article was used with the permission from The Foursquare Church. For the original article, visit

]]> (Walter Ramos) Vision Mon, 15 Dec 2014 20:00:00 -0500
NICL: ‘The Business Side of Ministry’

Recently, Dr. Mark Rutland, Founder and Director of the National Institute of Christian Leadership (NICL) appeared as a special guest on the Marcus and Joni show on Daystar television network. 

"What I'm teaching is all the things I wish someone would have told me," he said during the interview with Marcus and Joni.

That is the heart of the NICL. With over 45 years of hands on leadership, Dr. Rutland uses the NICL to equip other pastors and leaders to take their organization to the next level. Whether you are a businessman, church planter or seasoned minister, the NICL has something for you. 

Several of the Daystar crew personally went through the program and shared their personal experiences from attending the NICL.

"From a business background, to sit in a class room with someone who has successfully turned around 3 major organizations, this is the best place to learn about the business side of ministry that no one else is talking about," Rachel Lamb said.

Take an inside look and hear from several recent students on how the NICL has impacted their lives by watching the full length show on Daystar here.

About the NICL:

The NICL is a year-long intensive leadership training program with Dr. Mark Rutland, designed to take your ministry and personal leadership to the next level. Students will learn from Dr. Rutland's 40-plus years of ministry and business experience. Over the course of one year, Dr. Rutland walks participants through dealing with management issues, budgeting, staff and volunteers, turnarounds and much more. Click here for more information.

]]> (Ministry Today Staff) Education Fri, 12 Dec 2014 17:00:00 -0500
The Jesus Way: Unshockable Love

Sunni glanced in the rearview mirror. She had mostly stopped stripping for a living since her daughter was born, but kicking the alcohol and drugs did not come as easy—all addictions share a similar root. "My beautiful little girl deserves more than an addicted mom in unhealthy relationships. How do I get out of this?"

"Mommy, when can we go to church again?" Autum's four-year-old voice cut through Sunni's introspection. Sunni had tried church a year earlier. She always left feeling small, dirty, unworthy of God's love, and like there was no way she could ever redeem herself in God's eyes. And she knew if these church people found out her past, they'd surely reject her.

"I don't know, honey," Sunni told Autum. Yet that very day, driving along listening to her favorite rock station, Sunni heard a radio ad from a church we helped start. The ad made her laugh. "It surprised me that it was a church," Sunni recalls, "but what stuck in my mind were the last words: 'Come as you are—no perfect people allowed.'" Two weeks later, Sunday morning found her so hung over her body shook from dehydration.

"'Come as you are' kept filling my mind," Sunni recalls, "so I decided to put them to the test and see if they would push me out"—better sooner than later, she figured. Sean saw her come in, introduced himself as the pastor, and asked how she was doing.

"I have a massive hangover," Sunni blurted out, intending to shock him into a judgmental reaction.

"Oh, then you need some coffee," Sean responded, "Can I get some for you?"

Sunni was shocked. She tried again and again with other people, working hard to get a reaction to her "massive hangover." Instead, she felt like the people there were less concerned about her hangover than they were about her—it blew her away.

"I continued to come to church and began building amazing relationships with people there, and as trust built, I began to say less words for shock value (which was a defense mechanism I used to keep people from getting close enough to hurt me), and I began to allow myself to be ever-so-slightly vulnerable. People brought me into their lives like I was family. No matter what I said or did, the response was, 'I love you for exactly who you are, and exactly where you're at, and so does Jesus. Nine months later, I almost overdosed like my mom had, but I cried out for help—this time to God and my new Christian friends."

Sunni entered recovery to get clean of drugs and alcohol and was baptized. Today Sunni celebrates nearly four years of sobriety. "God led me to an amazing Christian man I've been married to for a year now, I'm back in college, and I know Autumn will have a better life than I did, because God's leading us all."

Jesus offered mercy to people who needed mercy. He brought good news about God's heart for people who felt condemned, judged, thinking God saw no hope for them. He offered people relationship that restored. As followers of Jesus, do we first bring something "good" relationally to people in need of good news, or do we bring a gospel that says, "Until I help them see the 'bad news' about how wrong their sin is, they won't see their need for forgiveness"? Jesus didn't do this, but the Pharisees did.

Jesus did not recoil in shock and disbelief at people's relative "badness." He saw it like mud on a Masterpiece—something that needed to be removed because something of immense value was present underneath. Something worth dying for! Jesus put the spotlight of grace on the Masterpiece, so people could see why the mud needed removing. He identified the person with the Masterpiece rather than the mud (read Eph. 2:8-10).

This doesn't mean Jesus ignored or denied the seriousness of our sins against God or our wrongs against each other. The reason I believe Jesus wants his followers to be unshockable has nothing to do with hating sin or not hating sin. It has to do with seeing sin for what it is—it's foreign matter. Sin is not our true identity—that's the whole problem. We need to help people identify with God's image in them (who God created them to be).

What do you see in yourself or others—the mud or the Masterpiece? What you see determines how you treat yourself and others.

Paul explained it this way: "It is no longer I myself who do [wrong], but it is sin living in me [i.e., sin is not me]" (Romans 7:17). So don't beat yourself up, beat up on sin! When people identify themselves with the mud (which is not them), they act like mud! Feelings of shame and condemnation keep driving them away from the only One who can restore them. When people identify themselves with the Masterpiece God created them to be, they're more willing to allow the Master to do his restoration work.

Jesus didn't make sure the woman at the well, who was shacking up with a guy after having five divorces, understood that sex outside of marriage is wrong (though he taught it was at other times), he offered her living water that made the muddy water distasteful (John 4). Jesus didn't remind the woman caught in adultery that she broke the Ten Commandments—he didn't have to—he set her free from condemnation so that she could "go and sin no more" (John 8:11). He offered a chance to live a new life! Relationship was Jesus' solution to sin.

What would happen if you went into your workplace, your neighborhood, or your home and really started treating people just like Jesus did? What if you were unshocked by mud ... motivated by mercy ... and committed to restoring value—connecting people to the Master Restorer?

John Burke is the pastor of Gateway Church in Austin, Texas and author of Unshockable Love, No Perfect People Allowed, and Soul Revolution ( To purchase Unshockable Love, click here.

]]> (John Burke) Pastor's Heart Fri, 12 Dec 2014 14:00:00 -0500
What to Do When You Exceed Your Leadership Capacity

What is your leadership capacity? Have you found it?

I use the term leadership capacity to describe a leader's maximum potential to effectively lead others to accomplish the vision.

A leader exceeds their leadership capacity when they no longer have the ability to effectively manage or lead the organization to reach its potential. They find themselves on a regular basis not able to handle all the demands placed upon them—and it's beginning to show in the organization.

The leader has exceeded his or her leadership capacity.

You may not know the term, or even agree with my definition of it, but I suspect if you've led very long at all, you have felt the sensation of being over your capacity.

Do you ever feel you are in over your head?

I met with a great businessman and leader once who admitted he was overwhelmed with what was happening around him. He felt the weight of leading. His business had grown larger and faster than he ever anticipated. There were increasing demands—not only on his time, but also on the number of decisions he had to make on a daily basis. He went home everyday feeling he had accomplished so little—even though he was doing a lot—because there was so much that could only be done by him.

He knew he was already beyond his capacity and growing more and more concerned the business could get away from him unless he did something to increase his capacity as a leader.

I know the feeling. Been there and done that—and probably will again.

I appreciate any leader who can recognize this about their leadership. That realization is like an insurance policy against leadership failure.

If you are leading and you feel you are reaching your leadership capacity, consider these steps:

1. Recognize and admit. That's most important. Do not be afraid to admit you are over your head. Humility is actually an attractive leadership quality.

2. Re-evaluate. Are you trying to do too much? Are your standards for yourself too high? Do you need to change your role in the organizational structure? Do you need to lose some of your responsibilities? Have you built too much power or too much dependence on you in the organizational structure?

3. Ask for help. Seek wisdom from those who have led longer than you. Find a mentor. Take a class. Join a network. One of the values of social media for me has been the insight I have learned from other leaders, but I always have a mentor in my life—usually several.

4. Delegate. Ask yourself what responsibility you could give away or what areas others on your team would be better able to handle. If you are a one person "team", seek volunteers or part-time help to help you bridge the gaps between your leadership ability and the demands of the organization. It may end up being an investment that protects everything else in which you've invested.

5. Quit if needed. If you value the vision enough, then be willing to step aside if you are no longer a good fit to lead it. This is not a sign of failure or an indication that you are a bad leader. Sometimes the organization simply grows in another direction from our passion, skills or strengths as a leader. Some people are better suited to lead at one level than another. It takes an act of bold humility to admit this.

Leaders, is your leadership capacity being stretched? What are you going to do about it?

Ron Edmondson is the senior pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. For the original article, visit

]]> (Ron Edmondson) Ministry Leadership Thu, 11 Dec 2014 20:00:00 -0500
5 Common Ways Churches Determine Pastors’ Salaries

There has been considerable interest on my previous posts dealing with pastors' salaries. One of the most common questions that I am asked is: "How do churches determine the salary of a pastor?"

In this article, I offer the five most common ways churches establish the pay level of a pastor. I am offering these five approaches from an informational perspective rather than evaluating them. Also, many churches use some combination of these factors.

1. The pastor's salary at the previous church. By far, more churches use the pastor's previous salary as benchmark to establish the new salary. For example, if a pastor has an income of $50,000 at his current church, his prospective church may offer him $55,000, or a 10 percent increase.

2. The previous pastor's salary. The second most common benchmark to determine a pastor's salary is the previous pastor's salary. Allow me to make an editorial comment here. If you are a pastor who has been declining raises for a few years, you could be hurting your church and the next pastor. There could very well be a big gap between your current salary and the compensation needed for the next pastor.

3. Experience. Simply stated, most pastors' salaries increase with increasing years of ministry experience.

4. Education. I have observed this factor decrease in importance over the past 15 years. I don't see nearly as many churches requiring a doctor's degree as they did in the past. And I am seeing fewer churches require a seminary master's degree, though that degree is still important for many churches.

5. Demographics of church. The specific demographics to which I refer are family income levels. I know one church that used the estimated median family income of its congregation as the base to determine the pastor's salary. They would then adjust by other factors, such as experience and education.

These factors all have their strengths and their weaknesses. I have noted in previous posts some resources that could help your church to offer your pastor a fair salary.

I would love to hear from you about these five most common approaches. I would also appreciate input about other ways your church determines the pastor's salary. Finally, it would be great to get input regarding other church staff positions. Thanks for your feedback. I look forward to hearing from you.

How are salaries determined for ministry leaders in your church?

Thom S. Rainer is the president of LifeWay Christian Resources. For the original article, visit

]]> (Thom S. Rainer) Administration Thu, 11 Dec 2014 14:00:00 -0500
5 Conditions That Lead to Negative Departures of Pastors

I have written rather extensively on this blog regarding the short tenure of pastors in churches. Of course, many pastors leave churches for very positive reasons. They sense a call to another ministry opportunity. Or they retire from a church with a new phase of ministry in mind.

But too many departures of pastors are negative. Sometimes the pastor is fired. On other occasions, the pastor leaves under adverse conditions.

Oftentimes, we look at the immediate precipitating factor of the departure and conclude that to be the reason for the exit. But, in reality, there are certain conditions in the church that increase the likelihood of a departure well before it takes place.

Here are five of those conditions:

1. False promises made prior to the pastor's arrival. Depending on the polity of a church, those promises are made by an individual or a group. Some pastors, for example, are selected by a pastor search committee. Members of that committee may make comments like, "We are ready to change to reach people for Christ." Then the pastor finds out the church is really not ready for change.

2. Lack of clear expectations established. It is astounding to speak with a pastor and leaders of the church and to hear the perceived expectations of the pastor. Those perceptions are often miles apart! I recommend that every prospective pastor ask this question before accepting a call to a church: "What frustrated you the most about your previous pastor?" This one simple question will provide a lot of insights regarding expectations.

3. Lack of accountability of the pastor. Every person in an organization needs some level of real accountability. Sometimes churches have accountability on paper for pastors, but it does not result in real accountability. No leader in any organization should be left alone. It is a formula for failure, if not disaster.

4. No advocacy group for a pastor. Too many churches have no group that is specifically supportive and prayerful for the pastor. In fact, a deacon or elder body often can be an adversarial group rather than an advocacy group. By the way, the best advocacy groups can also be an accountability group. They support and love the pastor, but they are willing to push back if necessary.

5. Lack of full disclosure by the church. I recently spoke with members of a pastor search committee. They shared with me that a power group existed in the church that made life miserable for the previous two pastors. Should they disclose that issue, they asked, to prospective pastors? Absolutely! It is deceptive not to disclose major issues in the church, whether they are positive or negative.

When a pastor leaves a church, whether through firing or voluntary departure for negative reasons, it is rarely a single immediate factor that led to the exit. There are typically negative conditions that created the environment for the departure.

What has been your experience regarding negative pastoral departures? What do you think of these five conditions?

Thom Rainer is the president of LifeWay Christian Resources. For the original article, visit

]]> (Thom S. Rainer ) Adversity Wed, 10 Dec 2014 17:00:00 -0500
How to Keep Your Church Young and Growing

The December 2014 issue of The Progressive Farmer asks whether to "Keep or Cull?" The subtitle of the article was: "High prices have changed the rules about when to cut one loose from the herd."  

Farmers who want to keep their herds young and viable know the importance of culling certain animals that get too old, consume too many resources, are no longer producing or are a detriment in other ways.

Pastors cannot cull.

More's the pity, we say with a wink.

There is a reason certain businesses are dying before our eyes. K-Mart and Shoney's come to mind. The discount store and the restaurant were once all the rage. Today they are fighting to stay alive. (My wife says, "K-Mart is coming back." Okay. Good.) We think of names like Montgomery-Ward, Spiegel, Western Auto, and Rexall—in most cases, only dim memories now. National Shirt Shop. Woolworth. Maison Blanche.

To stay healthy and maintain its mission, any entity must be constantly reinventing itself, tweaking its systems, sloughing off the old and dead, birthing the new.

In most cases, the dying businesses did not get the memo. Some stores and hotels look like they've not had a paint job in years. The hand-dryer in the bathroom does not work, and the personnel all wish they were working somewhere else.

You take your business elsewhere.

Some churches with glorious histories are dying right before our eyes. What happened? Short answer: They grew satisfied with what they had and shut down the renewing process.

Dying churches often share numerous things in common. They reach a point where they like their membership the way it is now and resent newcomers. Their present ministries and worship services become set in concrete, and they resist change. Their mantra becomes "We never did it that way before." (My friend Ralph Neighbour wrote a best-seller a generation ago titled The 7 Last Words of the Church. Yes, those are the 7 words.)

The complacent church—one that resists changes, resents newcomers, and reacts against innovation—has voted to die.

Churches that thrive for the long haul—effectively ministering for decades and beyond–all have these things in common:

1. They welcome newcomers and appreciate great ideas.

2. They are constantly tweaking the program and adapting the ministries to ever-changing conditions.

3. They drop programs that have outlived their usefulness and look for better ways to accomplish the same goals.

4. They put newcomers to work in the church. Members are not required to belong to the church for five years before they are given responsibilities.

5. They honor their ministerial leadership and keep them a long time. (Dying churches tend to have quick turnovers.)

6. The trust level is high between pastors and congregation. When difficult decisions must be made, mature leaders act wisely with the support of the church.

7. They sometimes make radical changes and do so successfully.

In a sentence, successful churches look to the Lord Jesus Christ to show them what He wants done.

Two churches come to mind. Both were diminishing due to the changing makeup of their communities. Church A decided to relocate to a suburb where their members had moved. They sold their facility to a minority congregation and bought 100 acres at the edge of the metro area, and started from scratch. Today, Church A is twice the size of its glory days and has become a great missionary-sending congregation.

Church B, however, decided to stay with their changing neighborhood, but to make whatever changes were necessary to minister there. They brought in a minority pastor and developed innovative outreaches toward their neighbors, many of whom barely spoke English. Today, Church B is multiracial and its numerous services throughout the weekend are overflowing.

There is no model way to do this. No one pattern is right for everyone. Some churches need to relocate and some should stay put. But every congregation must learn the basic lesson of our own bodies: To stay alive and healthy, we must always be sloughing off dead cells and growing new ones.

A healthy body must not run from new challenges but learn from each one and grow from the experience. The hand must trust the leg and the feet must trust the eye. And all must trust the Head.

Trust the Head.

He knows the plans He has for you and for your church. "I will build My church," He promised (Matt. 16:18).

We do well to ask the question of the newly humbled Saul of Tarsus as he stared into the brightest light he'd ever seen. "What will you have me to do, Lord?" (Acts 22:10)

Then, just do it.

Dr. Joe McKeever writes from the vantage point of more than 60 years as a disciple of Jesus, more than 50 years preaching His gospel and more than 40 years of cartooning for every imaginable Christian publication.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Joe McKeever ) Vision Wed, 10 Dec 2014 14:00:00 -0500
5 Ways Emotions Can Help or Hurt a Pastor’s Leadership

I had a blah day earlier this week. Nothing terrible happened. There was no direct trigger. I just didn't feel great emotionally.

Chances are you have more than a few of those days yourself.

Sometimes they're provoked (a nasty email, conflict on your team, a difficult meeting), and sometimes they're not. For me, my blah day wasn't provoked by anything I could see.

Sometimes bad days and seasons just happen. As John Mayer so poignantly puts it:

When autumn comes, it doesn't ask.
It just walks in, where it left you last.
And you never know, when it starts
Until there's fog inside the glass around your summer heart.

So, many leaders I meet live in that space for more than a short season.

I believe misunderstood and unaddressed emotions sink more leadership potential than most of us realize. And I also realize that if I don't jump on a bad day quickly, it can lead to a bad season.

If you don't understand your emotions or know how to manage them, you will never reach your leadership potential. So how do you do that?

There are at least five ways emotions can help you or hurt you in leadership.

Understanding how emotions can work for you or against you is key to becoming a healthy leader and cultivating a healthy culture on your team.

2 Ways Emotions Help You

Emotions can be great friends to any leader. Here are two ways your emotions can make you a better leader:

1. Emotion fuels passion. Who wants to follow an emotionless leader? There is no passion without emotion.

As John Wesley said: Light yourself on fire with passion and people will come from miles to see you burn. That's just true. You are attracted to people who are passionate, or at least you can't easily dismiss them.

When you lead with passion, teach with passion and preach with passion, your leadership becomes far more magnetic.

Plus, passion ends up fueling you. It's what makes you get out of bed in the morning and drives you on.

When your emotions are healthy, passion comes more naturally.

2. A fully alive heart generates powerful leadership. When your heart is engaged and alive, you become a better leader.

When you feel a full range of emotions (both positive and negative) you can empathize with people who are hurting and celebrate with people who are celebrating.

You can walk with a group or congregation through a hard time and celebrate joyfully in the great moments. To do that, you need to keep your heart healthy and in tune.

I wrote about the top 10 habits of leaders who effectively guard their hearts here.

Often, the negative impact of emotions exacts an incredible toll on leaders and the people who follow them.

Here are 3 ways emotions can hurt your leadership:

1. Emotions can distort reality. When you're having a bad day, you convince yourself it's over when it's actually just beginning.

You see negative things more negatively than you should. You take things personally when you shouldn't.

Even positive emotions can hurt you when they are detached from reality. If you're overly positive, you can ignore reality, miss impending dangers and gloss over problems that actually require your attention.

That's why keeping a healthy heart is so important.

2. Negative emotions make everything about you. Bad days or bad seasons are most often fueled by pain. A stinging email triggers a deep hurt. A bad staff situation eats away at your joy. A season without momentum erodes your self-confidence.

You end as a leader in pain. And pain is selfish.

In the same way that stubbing your toe makes you forget about whatever else you were doing until the pain is resolved, your emotional pain (no matter its source) makes you more selfish as a leader.

People in pain:

  •        Don't listen well to others.
  •        Withdraw and sulk.
  •        Blame others.
  •        Eventually turn every conversation to a conversation about themselves and their needs.
  •        Want others to share their misery or sadness.
  •        Seek attention.
  •        You said terrible things.
  •        You fired someone you wish you hadn't.
  •        You hired someone you wish you hadn't.
  •        You lost your temper in a meeting.
  •        You broke up.
  •        You ate too much.
  •        You drove so fast you got a killer ticket.
  •        You almost quit.
  •        You did quit.

All of that behavior is selfish. And selfish leaders are never effective leaders.

The best way to get rid of your selfishness? Get rid of your pain.

Pray about it. See a counselor. Drill down on your issues.

3. Emotions make you do things today that you'll regret tomorrow. When emotions drive decisions, you almost never make great decisions. For sure, great decision-making is a combination of the head and the heart.

But think about all the terrible decisions you've made when you were emotional:

Years ago—largely because I learned not to trust my emotions—I made a decision: Don't base tomorrow's decision on today's emotions.

Now when I'm having a bad day (or one that's unrealistically good), I just don't make decisions. I wait until I'm feeling more healthy. And I've learned to always draw in other voices and decision makers into important decisions (here's how to do that).

That's what I remind myself when I'm having a not-so-good day, or whenever my emotions aren't firing properly.

I've also realized that if that seasons continues for more than a few days, it's probably a sign God has further work to do on my heart or even to go back to a counsellor. I outlined other steps you can take to get off the emotional roller coaster of ministry in this post.

What helps you get through a season when your emotions aren't reliable?

Carey Nieuwhof is Lead Pastor of Connexus Church north of Toronto, Canada, blogs at and is host of The Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast available for free on iTunes. For the original article, visit

]]> (Carey Nieuwhof) Personal Character Tue, 09 Dec 2014 20:00:00 -0500