People will tune Christians out, if all we do is complain
When it comes to engaging in public policy and challenging today’s culture, some of the least successful strategies are ones built around criticism. The growing number of churches and ministries that are constantly “against something” is a disturbing trend.
Every month, I see an avalanche of direct-mail campaigns and magazine articles by organizations upset about the latest movie, court decision, TV show and cartoon series, or mad at the homosexual community or some other special interest group.
But while a healthy debate is the cornerstone of a vibrant democracy, the truth is, just being critical creates very little change. After all, as Christians, we of all people should be known as being for something.
A successful marriage ministry program needs more than a ‘one size fits all’ approach
Ministering to marriages in the local church for me has been both exhilarating and exasperating. It is exhilarating in that the need is obvious and great in today’s society. It is exasperating because it often feels like swimming upstream, and casualties continue regardless of how many good things are made available to people.
My attitude is let’s keep swimming. Having the right philosophy and elements can make the difference in a successful marriage ministry program.
First, there are two ends of the spectrum when approaching marriage ministry: preventive vs. crisis-oriented. The preventive side attempts to equip individuals and couples with good information, skills and resources that can keep a marriage from ever getting to a crisis stage.
Clear boundaries and expectations are vital for an effective counseling ministry
With more than 20 years’ experience counseling couples, I have learned some things that could help pastors and ministry leaders in this area.
Definitely counsel those who have problems that you feel competent addressing or areas in which you have training. I have a master’s degree in divinity as one of my degrees, which required that I take only one counseling course. I realize some parts of counseling are just common sense, biblical understanding and spiritual discernment. However, if you feel you’re in over your head or the individual or couple isn’t changing under your guidance, it’s time to consider a different strategy.
Have clear hours designated for counseling and stay within those boundaries. Even professional counselors can only do so much. Pastors have so many tasks and time demands that counseling is best when set for a designated time. Clearly define what an emergency is so that others don’t define that for you.
Why you need to stay focused on the dream God has given you
Human beings are mysterious creatures who are powerfully affected by vision. We are designed in such a way that we will move in the direction of what we see. Your vision is your future, and your vision is your imagination. You need an imagination inspired by the promises of God. You need the eye of the eagle. The eagle builds its nest high atop a mountain or tall rock. From there, “it spies out the prey; its eyes observe from afar” (Job 39:27-29).
God has not called you to be a chicken pecking around in the barnyard of the status quo, never seeing anything but the dust of Old MacDonald’s farm. God has called you to mount up on eagles’ wings of faith and soar above the storms (Is. 40:30-31).
I have found that I remain excited about life as long as I hold on to the vision that hope can create. As I live in the realm of hopeful vision, I find I can begin each new day with fresh energy and enthusiasm.
Identifying the kingdom characteristics of a healthy church
There is much discussion about identifying and articulating the culture of our individual local churches. Amid countless innovative trends and strategies, we have to keep a strong grip on the fact that we are carrying out one central mission. Jesus, the head of the church, preached the kingdom of heaven.
As we carry out our mission of building the church He began, there is a “kingdom culture” that must be protected. I love what strategist and author Sam Chand says: “Toxic culture will eat great vision for lunch!” Any senior leader whose great vision has been hijacked by bad attitudes, practices or motives can attest to the fact that a crucial responsibility of leaders is to be guardians of the culture of the ministries we lead.
How to equip the people in your church so they become generous givers
We are living in tough economic times. In many churches, budgets are shrinking, resources are lacking, and downsizing isn’t something reserved just for the marketplace anymore. With a high unemployment rate, mounting national debt and no quick-fix solutions, we’re facing unprecedented economic challenges.
But this isn’t the first time church leaders have faced difficult conditions like these. While attempting to raise funds to aid the struggling believers in Jerusalem, the apostle Paul offered these words: “And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity” (2 Cor. 8:1-2, NIV, emphasis added). Wow, what a statement!