Leadership http://ministrytodaymag.com/leadership Tue, 06 Dec 2016 12:53:49 -0500 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Why You Must Build a Kingdom Culture Before Building a Structure http://ministrytodaymag.com/leadership/vision/23353-why-you-must-build-a-kingdom-culture-before-building-a-structure http://ministrytodaymag.com/leadership/vision/23353-why-you-must-build-a-kingdom-culture-before-building-a-structure

After miraculously acquiring a 110-acre property that was not even for sale but whose owners dedicated it to the Lord every day since 1942, we built our first church building in 2005 with a vision that "the hill" (the highest point in the southeast quadrant of the U.S.) would eventually be the home of "a church with a heart for the nations."

On a normal Thursday, after I blurted out on a Sunday morning in our 6,000 square-foot store front on a pothole-ridden street, "I believe God is going to give us 100-plus acres on I-35," a faith-filled couple in our church knocked on a door of a farmhouse and asked if they'd be interested in selling their property. The owner asked, "Who told you we had a family prayer meeting two nights ago and decided to sell the property to a church?"

That day changed our lives forever.

After telling this story countless times, our faith is still stirred by how God supernaturally provided. In January 2017, when we open our new building doors on top of the hill and see that promise come to fruition, we aren't counting on seats to be filled by simply throwing up a "We're Open!" sign. We've come to know a new house is not a home until it feels like a family. Although we may build it and they may come, they won't stay unless we build a vibrant culture where the church becomes a true spiritual family.

So what does that look like? We've been able to maintain our sense of family through establishing four spiritual family components:

1. Family language: Every healthy family is built around having shared core values and language. Some call it DNA; we call it culture. When we started Celebration Church with 54 people on opening Sunday, we knew that as we grew, we wanted our vision to stay the same, no matter how large the church became, and that vision and our values drive every decision. Unclear vision is easily hijacked. 

2. Family gatherings: Although we place an emphasis on excellent weekend experiences, we understand that real ministry happens in circles. Small groups are the way that churches can create a living-room experience for their people to deepen their relationships with each other.

3. Family responsibilities: Just as in any family, there's a point where people move from being served to serving others. Our church is volunteer-driven (we call the volunteers our Dream Team) so that ministry is effective, others feel welcomed and people are encouraged to use their God-given gifts to provide a place for others' lives to be changed. One of the clearest things we do is to have an easy on-boarding process where people understand their next steps in getting on the team, which we do through four classes we call "Connection Point."

4. Family outings: It's easy to build a fortress and refuse to step outside our four walls, but Jesus said to "Go ..." (Matt. 28:19). We must continue to deliver hope to our community, the nation and the world. Local and global outreach isn't something we do; it's who we are.

Creating a strong culture supports everything we do to build, grow and reach a city for Jesus, enabling us to steward what's most important to Him: people.

Joe and Lori Champion are pastors of Celebration Church in Austin, Texas. In January 2017, the church will move into a new 2,700-seat sanctuary at one of the highest points in the region. Joe is currently on the Lead Team of the ARC Network of churches. Find out more at celebration.church. {eoa}

An internationally known writer and speaker, Phil Cooke has produced media programming in nearly 50 countries around the world. In the process, he has been shot at, survived two military coups, fallen out of a helicopter and in Africa, he has been threatened with prison. And during that time—through his company Cooke Pictures in Burbank, California—he's helped some of the largest nonprofit organizations and leaders in the world use the media to tell their story in a changing, disrupted culture.

Please visit Phil Cooke at philcooke.com.

shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Phil Cooke ) Vision Tue, 06 Dec 2016 13:00:00 -0500
12 Ways to Make Your Ministry Leaner and Smarter http://ministrytodaymag.com/leadership/vision/23352-12-ways-to-make-your-ministry-leaner-and-smarter http://ministrytodaymag.com/leadership/vision/23352-12-ways-to-make-your-ministry-leaner-and-smarter

No one local church can do every ministry. The question then becomes which ministries and how many? How do you decide? How many is too many?

It's like a local church to continue to add ministries. It is also like a local church to resist eliminating a ministry, regardless of its effectiveness.

Most churches are busy to the point of significant fatigue. Yet all that activity doesn't necessarily translate to vibrant and healthy growing churches.

So, what is the best leadership move?

Let me offer a frame of reference for the conversation:

1. When your ministries are allowed to follow their own course, (without change and pruning), they will become more complicated and less effective over time.

2. The larger a church becomes, the ratio of energy-to-results yields decreasing returns. Fewer ministries allow you to refocus your energy for greater results.

3. The more complex a church becomes, the less the leaders believe simplicity can be achieved.

4. The larger and/or older a church becomes, increasing pressure is felt from the congregation for the church to provide more ministries.

Assuming we agree that no one local church can or should attempt to do every possible ministry, then the smart approach is one that is spiritually strategic. That is to pray, seek God on the matter and choose only the ministries He has in mind for your church.

Why Fewer Rather Than More?

1. A lean ministry model helps create the margin that allows you to get better at the ministries you do offer. Focused effort on fewer ministries increases the impact of each ministry, and that results in more life change.

2. A lean ministry model approach helps to create margin for your congregation to pursue God personally and build healthier families. By having fewer ministry programs to attend, families can be at home with more time together. Your congregation, in general, has more time to meet and invite new friends to church.

3. A lean ministry model will help you create the margin that increases your ability to respond to Holy-Spirit prompts. Lean ministry does not squelch the Holy Spirit; it creates more space for Him to move. When you are so busy you can barely catch your breath, it's hard to listen and respond to God-prompts. I'll admit in most churches who practice a lean model, it doesn't always feel as though there is much more time, but that's because they work so much harder and deeper making what they do better. But, that in turn, is how they reach more people.

In other words, rather than doing the same things with the same people over and over again, you are more closely connected to the mission of the church to reach more people for Jesus and help them mature in their faith.

The Tension Will Never Go Away

People are passionate for their chosen ministries, and all those ministries are good. That's why the decisions are difficult. But when the well-meaning volunteer decides to move on or change ministries, you now own what they started. You don't have to do that for many years, or even months, to end up with way too much to do, much of which is not truly effective. At least not when you compare energy invested to (life change) results.

When I started out in ministry in the early 1980s, having many ministries was the strategy. The more, the better! It was the way to empower your church and get people connected and involved. The concept of Eph. 4:11-12 hasn't changed (equip your people for ministry), but the culture has. Time compression has squeezed out the ability for people to do more. They are already maxed out in their daily lives. I'm not suggesting the solution is to dumb down the vision of your church. Not at all, but merely to lean out the approach. Less is more.

Let me offer a detailed plan to help you change to a lean approach. This process is in a specific order.

How To Change To A Lean Approach

1. Teach the principle of "The Divine Thumbprint." No one church can do everything. So the decisions should not be based on popularity, size of personality, politics or emotion. Be spiritually strategic. Pray to discover the specific ministries God wants your church to offer.

2. Communicate the role of the Holy Spirit. Lean ministry does not limit the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit breathes life and power into the ministries you do select.

3. Lean into the idea of margin. As I've mentioned, use your time wisely. Lean ministry isn't about doing or working less; it's about getting better. Work on your ministries. Innovate and improve.

4. Get buy-in with your staff and leaders before you cast vision from the platform. It's not wise to read this post and then announce to your church that you are leaning out the ministries. Your leaders will cheer and call you blessed—until you start discussing their ministry. Then things will get messy in a hurry.

5. Stop adding any new ministries. As you teach and discuss the "why" with your leaders and earn buy-in, simply let them know that for a season (a long one), you won't be adding any further ministries. And if you do, for every add, one must be eliminated.

6. Conduct a thorough ministry audit. Make a list of every ministry you do. No matter how big or small. The possibilities are nearly endless, such as: camp, baby dedication, men's ministry, divorce care, recovery groups, student leadership, small groups, foreign missions (in detail), premarital, counseling, a local food co-op. Everything. Then rate the effectiveness of each one. Which ones are working well, and which ones are not? Yes, this can be subjective, but you will intuitively know right away for most. Begin to think about which ministries are less effective and not needed.

7. Identify your irreducible minimums. List the ministries you must have. This is the leanest list of ministries, functions and programs without which your church would not operate. For example, ushers, nursery, children's, worship team, production and tech, etc. Whatever you truly believe you must have for your church to function. Note: The list is surprisingly short. (Think church plant.)

8. Identify the additional ministries that make your church unique. This is the "Divine Thumbprint" idea. What ministries are not absolutely needed, but make your church uniquely you? These are the ministries that contribute to and help inspire the vision. Caution: Add slowly and prayerfully.

9. Eliminate ministries slowly. Now that you know your irreducible minimums and the ministries God purposes uniquely for your church, it's time to make a list of the ministries to eliminate. Go slowly. Honor the leaders who have served well.

10. Remind your people they can do any ministry they desire on their own. There are dozens of great ministries, and again, that doesn't mean your church does them all. But there is no reason two or three people in your church can't do something on their own. But it must be on their own. No announcements from the stage, no meetings, it's not in the bulletin and you don't fund it. Just empower them to go for it.

11. You can add new ministries, but be intentional. Of course you can add new ministries. But be tough in your decision-making. And a great rule of thumb is that every time you start one, eliminate one. This is not a law, but it's a good guideline. For example, we would add very little to nothing internally. Our additions would be outside the church, from local compassion and justice to global endeavors. And in all these cases we create partnerships with organizations already doing it. We don't recreate and own it ourselves.

12. Keep casting vision and tell stories of life-change. Coupled with ongoing evaluation, cast vision and tell stories so your congregation often hears about the lives changed by your ministry efforts. {eoa}

Dan Reiland is the executive pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as executive pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as Vice President of Leadership and Church Development at INJOY.

For the original article, visit danreiland.com.

shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Dan Reiland ) Vision Mon, 05 Dec 2016 22:00:00 -0500
A Forgotten Virtue of Great Leadership http://ministrytodaymag.com/leadership/23350-a-forgotten-virtue-of-great-leadership http://ministrytodaymag.com/leadership/23350-a-forgotten-virtue-of-great-leadership

You don't know it all. There are limits to your knowledge, ability and energy. And while the competitive nature of our culture, which often sneaks into our lives in ministry, would have us to hide all of our weaknesses in fear, there is tremendous power in becoming vulnerable with people.

Deciding to become vulnerable is risky. As church leaders, there will be people in our congregations who don't want us to be human. They would prefer that we wear a halo and pretend we're never tempted to sin in the same ways they are. They feel safer if we, as spiritual leaders, are immune to the crass realities of life.

But when we hide our weaknesses, three big problems arise:

1. Our weaknesses get worse, feeding off the shame and secrecy.

2. We become dishonest and hypocritical.

3. The truth inevitably comes out, and people are disillusioned as a result.

So is bearing our vulnerability worth the risk? Absolutely. Here are some important reasons vulnerability is a forgotten virtue of great leadership:

1. It's emotionally healthy. Maintaining an image of perfection requires enormous amounts of emotional energy. One of the reasons we sometimes get so stressed-out and depressed is because we're working so hard to stay behind the facade and keep everyone convinced that we're strong.

If you are worried about your image, you are heading for burnout. Keeping people happy and impressing others is terribly exhausting, and it's always temporary. Eventually, people get to know our weaknesses all at once.

Being real and vulnerable, on the other hand, is liberating. It's freeing. In fact, it's really the only way to live. James 5:16 says, "Confess your faults to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man accomplishes much." We need to confess our sins to God to be forgiven, but we also need to talk about our weaknesses with others to find healing.

In fact, some faults won't budge until you confess them to others.

2. It's spiritually empowering. James also says, "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6b). It is impossible to lead in ministry without the grace of God. And how do you find the grace you need? You find it by humbling yourself before God and others.

Remember, pride prevents power. 

3. It's relationally attractive. Everybody is wearing a mask, and it's what we expect others to do as well. When we choose to throw our masks away, we surprise people with our authenticity. Being real is the fastest way to endear yourself to others.

We tend to love people who area real, honest, humble and vulnerable, and we tend to despise people who are deceitful, arrogant and hypocritical. Paul told the Thessalonian believers, "So having great love toward you, we were willing to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you were dear to us(1 Thess. 2:8).

When you share your strengths, you create competition. But when you share your weaknesses, you create community. You let people know "We're all in this together."

Pastors are often incredibly lonely people. Why? I believe it's in large part because they're so afraid of the cost of being vulnerable.

4. It's a mark of leadership. We only follow leaders we trust. The first requirement for effective leadership is credibility, and the more honest you are, the more credible you become.

Real leaders lead by example. They go first. If your desire is that the church, group or organization you're leading be a place where people are open, you must be the first to open up.

You must decide whether you want to impress people (which you can do from a distance) or influence people (which you can only do up close).  

5. It increases the impact of your preaching. The concept of preaching from our vulnerability is something I've written about before because it's a really big idea. In the previous generation of great preachers, we usually asked what's the most powerful way to preach this? Now, we should be asking what's the most personal way to preach this?

You will always be more effective as a personal witness and a storyteller than as a skilled orator. As you preach and lead, try to answer these questions:

  • What struggles and weaknesses should I share with others?
  • What progress am I making that others could learn from?
  • What am I currently learning, especially from my failures? {eoa}

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.

For the original article, visit pastors.com.

shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Rick Warren ) Ministry Leadership Mon, 05 Dec 2016 13:00:00 -0500
9 Traits of an Orphan-Spirit Church http://ministrytodaymag.com/leadership/vision/23349-9-traits-of-an-orphan-spirit-church http://ministrytodaymag.com/leadership/vision/23349-9-traits-of-an-orphan-spirit-church

As a lead pastor for more than three decades, I have observed that many people in the church have an orphan spirit. Not only that, but there are organizations and churches that function more like an orphanage than a life-giving community.

By "orphan spirit," I am referring to people who have a sense of alienation from their father and or those who attempt to earn their father's love through success.

The Bible tells us Christians have received the Spirit of adoption whereby we cry, "'Abba, Father'" (Romans 8:15). Hence, an orphan-spirit organization runs counter to the very roots and identity of sonship that come from our heavenly Father. I believe the lack of identity as sons of God is one of the greatest challenges in the local church today. This article is meant to expose it and help ignite a process towards remedying this serious issue.

The following are nine traits of an orphan spirit church/organization:

1. The leadership exhibits an orphan spirit. I have been working closely with both church and marketplace leaders for several decades. I have learned to distinguish between leaders who are driven and leaders who are led by God. Driven leaders are those whose main identity is in their work. In their intense desire to succeed, they often act in presumption and run ahead of God. Often, their walk with God is not deep, and their Bible knowledge is primarily used to create sermons and enhance their ministry. Sadly, orphan-spirit leaders often produce an orphan-spirit culture in their church and or organization, which can produce countless orphan-spirit believers. Unfortunately, driven leaders often crash and burn and do not have long-term sustainability (even if they start off strong the first few years).

2. The focus is solely on church growth. Numerous church models exist only to attract people to the church. Of course I believe in church growth, as long as it is based on winning new people to Christ and not on church transfer growth, but that is not the only aspect of a true church. A church can actually grow numerically using only marketing techniques and style. When people come into the church, they should have the opportunity to be placed in a small group to grow in community, or else they may become just more numbers to add to the church registry. This kind of church often unintentionally promotes an orphan-spirit culture.

3. There is no plan to shepherd the people. Whenever a church intentionally grows numerically beyond its capacity to shepherd and care for the people, an orphan spirit can easily arise in its culture. That is because orphanages typically have more children than they are able to take care of personally, as opposed to children being adopted and specifically placed into a family that loves and provides for them.

4. The focus is on a visceral experiences—not people. Unfortunately, some churches put the most time and effort into presenting an amazing Sunday church experience, replete with video, great music, special effects and preaching but with very little focus on advancing the individual growth and maturity of their members. Some people I know who attend megachurches have to go outside their church to get true mentoring.

5. People are not serving unto the Lord. In an orphan-spirit church, people are serving because they feel obligated to please the leaders. There is a works mentality that can even transcend the biblical injunction of serving the Lord and not men (Col. 3:23). This is not to say Christ-followers should be touchy-feely people who only do what they feel like doing. Mature people fulfill duties because of obligation even against the will of their flesh, such as caring for young children in the middle of the night or getting up every morning to go to school or work. However, mature Christ-followers desire to do everything unto the Lord, even when they don't feel like it.

6. There is no opportunity to build true community. I am convinced there should be an opportunity to do life together with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. In our local church, we encourage much community inside and outside of church functions as well as provide small groups for personal discipleship and shepherding. Whatever the mode or methodology, every local church should provide some avenue of personal interaction with other church attendees that builds community. When the only interaction between members takes place in big gatherings, a sense of alienation can set in that can harbor an orphan spirit.

7. There is a culture of competition. In an orphan-spirit environment, few people get to know each other intimately and build community. When the only purpose for coming together is to perform a task, then the church culture will only celebrate those who accomplish the most. This will invariably produce a competitive spirit, as people will be jockeying for the most affirmation based on their ministry accomplishments. Affirmation can come in the form of titles, promotions or public recognition. This competitive ethos will engender an orphan spirit in the church, as people will embark on a never-ending journey to earn love by works.

8. There is a culture of burnout. Organizations and churches that focus only on tasks without a plan to replenish and care for their members will have a high rate of emotional burnout. Of course, in this stress-filled world, many believers can experience burnout because of the demands of their family and jobs, which has nothing to do with the local church.

9. Believers are not being established in the faith. Jesus never told the church to draw crowds, but to make disciples (Matt. 28:19). As a matter of fact, Jesus attempted to diminish the number of His disciples by admonishing them to count the cost before following Him (Luke 14:25-33). The main focus of Jesus and the apostles was to win people to Christ and then establish them in the faith. Consequently, in evangelism, they never went beyond the leadership and faith capacity of the local church in a particular region (2 Cor. 10:15, 16). Churches that merely attract crowds without implementing a plan to establish members of their congregation in the faith can promote an orphan spirit. Without being equipped and released to their kingdom purpose, people can eventually feel unimportant and valued only because of their financial giving and ministry involvement. {eoa}

Joseph Mattera is an internationally known author, futurist, interpreter of culture and activist/theologian whose mission is to influence leaders who influence nations. He leads several organizations, including The United States Coalition of Apostolic Leaders (uscal.us). He also has a blog on Charisma Magazine called "The Pulse." To order one of his books or to subscribe to his weekly newsletter, go to josephmattera.org.

For the original article, visit josephmattera.com.

shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Bishop Joseph Mattera ) Vision Fri, 02 Dec 2016 22:00:00 -0500
Why You Need a Mentor and How to Find One http://ministrytodaymag.com/leadership/counseling/23342-why-you-need-a-mentor-and-how-to-find-one http://ministrytodaymag.com/leadership/counseling/23342-why-you-need-a-mentor-and-how-to-find-one

I am a professional pastor.

I have been in vocational ministry since I was 19 years old. My undergraduate degree is in Christian Education, my masters is in divinity, and my Ph.D. is in missions and evangelism. I have been educated in institutions and in the laboratory of the local church. And yet I was never able to take a class called "Handling Lawsuits 101," "Managing Building Projects" or "Ministering to Sexual Predators."

I have been in ministry all of my adult life, but try as I might, I've still been blindsided by issues for which I was little prepared. Some of the issues have been extraordinary; others have been mundane. Issues like caring for my family without losing my ministry or managing my time for personal spiritual disciplines or leading a church business meeting. Being a young pastor is not easy. It's tougher if you don't know what you're doing.

Mentors are invaluable when navigating new ministry terrain. I have many mentors, but not all of them even know they are my mentors. I have very few men with whom I have a "traditional" mentoring relationship. Most of the pastors to whom I turn for direction and guidance do not meet with me weekly. Instead, they meet with me as needed and as life permits.

Some of my mentors are former pastors with whom I have met regularly. Some have been seminary professors. Some are men with whom I don't speak more often than eight or 10 times per year. I count their impact in my life in years of relationship, not days or hours. These mentors in my life are the people I call when life is hard and seminary has not prepared me.

You need a mentor. If you are reading this you know you need a mentor, but you may not know how to find one. Here are a few steps I've used to find mentors through the years:

1. Be thankful for who you have. A young pastor sat in my office recently and told me about the kind of man he wanted to mentor him. He wanted a strong leader and an effective pastor. He wanted someone who had made a difference. He wanted a home run mentor. That young pastor needed guidance. Pastors are called to be faithful, not famous. A man who has served faithfully in the same single-staff rural church for the past 20 years has something to teach you. Don't despise the men God has put into your life because you want a megachurch pastor to invest in your life.

2. Be thankful for what you get. Some of my mentors would not think of themselves that way at all. They do not spend excessive amounts of time with me. They have no idea how I value the time they spend with me. These men do not give me two hours a week. I'm OK with that. I'm thankful for what I can learn from them when I get the chance.

3. Be in the right place. I tried cold-call lunches when I moved into my first pastorate. None of them worked out. When I went to meetings with other pastors and got involved in denominational work, I discovered men who could and would help me. Mentors are not going to come find you, go to the meetings that you perceive to be a waste of your time and watch God bring helpful men into your life.

4. Don't be weird. In your romantic view of the world, it may be acceptable to walk up to a man you barely know and ask him to mentor you. You will do better taking him to lunch first. Develop a friendship and see where the relationship goes. Be patient and refer back to point 2. If it doesn't work out for a mentoring relationship, be thankful for what you get out of lunch.

5. Listen more, talk less. If you want a mentor, then act like you need one. Ask questions and take notes when you get answers.

6. Don't abuse the relationship. Even pastors can use others as stepping stones to move up in life. Make sure you see another pastor as a valuable mentor and not as a valuable contact. There is a difference. Look for men who can make you a better pastor, not men you can use to attain a more desirable pastorate.

7. Pray. Pray first. It is last on the list only because I want you to remember it most of all. Pray for God to give you people who will make you more like him and more able to care for His people. Pray that God would give you all kinds of mentors. Those who can help you navigate building programs and lawsuits as well as those who can teach you to do pastoral care well and to love your wife first.

Mentors have proven to be invaluable to me. They fill in the gaps that seminary and college miss. They encourage me and rebuke me when necessary. You need other pastors to shape you. Go find them. {eoa}

Craig Thompson serves as senior pastor of Malvern Hill Baptist Church in Camden, South Carolina. He received his Ph.D. from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where he wrote his dissertation on Worldview Preaching.

For the original article, visit lifeway.com/pastors.

shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Craig Thompson) Counseling Fri, 02 Dec 2016 19:00:00 -0500
The Gift Jesus Wants From You This Christmas http://ministrytodaymag.com/leadership/a-pastor-s-heart/23347-the-gift-jesus-wants-from-you-this-christmas http://ministrytodaymag.com/leadership/a-pastor-s-heart/23347-the-gift-jesus-wants-from-you-this-christmas

The songs of Christmas pronounce the very meaning, the genuine heart and the vivid story of this holy season. The carols that have grown so vibrant throughout the decades embrace the heartfelt message of Christmas in every stanza—in every melody—and in every word.

More than the food of holiday parties, the songs of this season fill all the ravenous places in humanity.

More than the lights on every home on every street, the hymns of Christmas light up the darkness with His presence.

More than the mountain of gifts under the family Christmas tree, the joyful and hopeful anthems of Advent give generously to a world awash with expectation.

"A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices!"

Into our weariness came a Savior. The tired travelers of life are now rejoicing because of hope. The weary ones, the discouraged ones and the empty ones are joining the chorus of the angels because of the song that only hope sings. Do you hear the song of hope? Is hope singing in your world today?

"Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy has walked where angels trod?/When you kiss your little Baby you kissed the face of God?"

Mary—the virgin who was no more than a girl herself—kissed the face of God. Oh! To be there that night when the angels sang and the shepherds danced. Oh! To watch this young mother fall in love with heaven's darling.

"Hallelujah! Oh, how the angels sang! Hallelujah! How it rang!/And the sky was bright with a holy light! 'Twas the birthday of a King!"

His birthday was a night when the darkness of a world in pain exploded with rare and glorious colors. The night Jesus was born was a night when the voices of an angelic choir roared in victory. That night!

"Oh come to my heart, Lord Jesus, there is room in my heart for Thee."

I am my own innkeeper, and I must decide if there is room for Him or not. Will I cast away other interests and distractions in order to make a place in my heart for Him? Or does my heart embarrassingly declare, "No Vacancy"?

And we dare not overlook this triumphant theological treatise that fills the canyons of our frightened world with joy explosive:

"Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace! Hail the Son of Righteousness!/Light and life to all He brings, Risen with healing in His wings./Mild He lays His glory by, Born that man no more may die;/Born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth;/Hark! The herald angels sing, "Glory to the newborn King!"

Jesus, the Son of the Most High God, left the glory of Heaven so that you and I would not have to experience the pains of death. He was born so we could be born again. No wonder the angels sang.

My heart joins in the Christmas anthem that resounds through eternity. I can't stop singing the melodies, the lyrics and the hymns that declare Christmas.

One of the greatest miracles of Christmas is that the entire world joins in the proclamation! Christmas has a singular and dynamic song that cannot be stilled and will not be silent. Christmas awakens each one of our hearts to hope ... to joy ... and to the light of the world.

Don't let the pain of the past year silence your song or stifle your joy. The song of Christmas is a song that resounds over the mountains and the valleys of life. The anthem of this season echoes triumphantly over human pain and in spite of deep disappointment. 

The joyous carols of Christmas have the intensity it takes to boil away the distractions of the season and help us to focus anew on why He came. He came for you. He came for me.

That's what Christmas is all about. He came. 

He came so we could sing. 

He came so we could hope. 

He came so we could live. 

My deepest prayer is when you sing the songs of Christmas this year, you will be reminded of the matchless and glorious miracle of Christmas. This Baby—the little boy in the manger—changed everything for you and for me.

"What can I give Him poor as I am?/If I were a shepherd, I would bring Him a Lamb/If I were a wise man, I'd sure do my part/So what can I give Him? I'll give Him my heart

"I'll give Him my heart, Give Him my heart/What can I can give Him but all of my heart?/I'll give Him my heart, Give Him my heart/What can I give Him but all of my heart?

"What can you give Him? What can you bring?/What can you offer that's fit for a King?/Bow before Jesus that's where you can start/What can you give Him? Just Give Him your heart/Give Him your Heart! Give Him your Heart!

"What can you give Him but all of your heart?/Give Him your heart! Give Him your heart!/What can you give Him? Just give Him your heart!" {eoa}

Carol McLeod is an author and popular speaker at women's conferences and retreats, where she teaches the Word of God with great joy and enthusiasm. Carol encourages and empowers women with passionate and practical biblical messages mixed with her own special brand of hope and humor. She has written five books, including No More Ordinary, Holy Estrogen!, The Rooms of a Woman's Heart and Defiant Joy! Her most recent book, Refined: Finding Joy in the Midst of the Fire, was released last August. Her teaching DVD, The Rooms of a Woman's Heart, won the Telly Award, a prestigious industry award for excellence in religious programming. You can also listen to Carol's "A Jolt of Joy" program daily on the Charisma Podcast Network. Connect with Carol or inquire about her speaking to your group at justjoyministries.com.

shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Carol McLeod ) A Pastor's Heart Fri, 02 Dec 2016 13:00:00 -0500
What People Want From Their Pastor (and Have a Right to Expect) http://ministrytodaymag.com/leadership/pastoring/23345-what-people-want-from-their-pastor-and-have-a-right-to-expect http://ministrytodaymag.com/leadership/pastoring/23345-what-people-want-from-their-pastor-and-have-a-right-to-expect

I hesitate to say one group in the church has a "right" to expect anything of another.

Insisting on our rights will almost invariably result in resistance, frustration, anger and division. And yet in a real sense, believers who support the work of the Lord with their tithes, offerings, time and energy have a right to expect certain things from their shepherd. 

What follows is directed primarily to pastors. Others may listen but shouldn't miss the "they do not have a right" which comes at the end of each section.

If I got what I deserve, I'd be in hell. And so would you.

The Christian life is not about getting our rights or having others meet our demands. Far from it.

We have died with Christ. We are bondservants, instructed to submit to one another. That is a far cry from the so-called catbird seat from which we call the shots.

Much better for us to appreciate anything we receive from the people around us, no matter how small or poorly given.

At the same time, the simple fact is that when people go to the trouble to come to church with their families, often at great inconvenience and even cost, and do so year after year through the good and the bad, it is not unrealistic for them to expect a few basic things.

1. People want to hear a thought-provoking sermon on Sunday. They have a right to this. Therefore, the faithful servant of the Lord will give priority to preparing the sermon and attention to delivering it effectively. The hour of worship is the best opportunity in the week to touch the largest number of members. Therefore, this should receive priority.

However, the people do not have a right to expect the sermons to compete with those of the celebrity television preacher for entertainment value.

2. People want to hear a thoroughly biblical message, consistent with the teachings of the Lord Jesus. And they should. Therefore, the pastor should know the Word and work at knowing it better. Even if the minister has not studied Greek or Hebrew, study helps are available and great commentaries easily accessed. With every seminary offering online courses these days, the minister has almost no excuse for not being a Bible scholar.

However, the people do not have a right to expect every sermon to be at a high level of scholarship. The typical congregation is made up of children, youth, parents and seniors, the highly educated and the less-educated, singles and married, rich and poor. What touches one often misses another. Therefore, not every sermon will be equally relevant to each person.

3. Even if what they are hearing is the traditional message on a subject they are familiar with, worshippers want it fresh and relevant to their lives. They have a right to this. Therefore, pastors do well to stay attuned to incidents, news events, conversations, anything and everything happening around them that could sharpen the impact of the upcoming sermon. A child's off-the-wall comment, a slip-up from a celebrity or an item in today's paper may trigger something in the minister's mind that would enhance the message.

However, people do not have a right to demand this. Some pastors come by it easily and naturally, while others have to work hard to connect the biblical word with the lives of the pew-sitters.

4. People want their pastor to be a person of prayer. They will ask for intercession for their own needs and concerns, but they also need confidence that the preacher is living in the power of the Holy Spirit. They have a right to this. Therefore, pastors will want to pray without ceasing. They will want to set aside time every day for concentrated prayer, but also to send up prayer arrows as they travel, work and play. The wise pastor will find books that help the pray-er and will always be working to learn to pray more effectively.

However, church members do not have a right to check out a pastor's prayer life. This is a matter between the minister and the Lord.

5. People want their pastor to be moral in every way Scripture teaches. If the preacher is single, they expect celibacy; if married, faithfulness. No minister can insist that what he/she does in their private time is their own business. They have no private time not the concern of their flock. Therefore, pastors will want to work to be strong, disciplined and yielded to the Lord. A wise pastor will have a couple of mentors to counsel him and will enlist a few prayer warriors to intercede for him regularly.

However, as a rule, church members do not have a right to inquire about the goings-on in the pastor's home or about the relationship of the pastor to his spouse. (The exception would be when realistic questions arise about the minister's behavior.)

6. People want their pastor to be law-abiding and patriotic. We expect our ministers to pay their taxes and to respect the government. When a pastor is constantly running down the government and its leaders, some in the pew will love it (not everyone in the church has good mental health or is interested in obeying the Word). But humble men and women of God will grow uncomfortable with such antics. Scripture commands us to obey the government, honor the king and pray for those in authority. While it's true we must obey God and not man, our focus should always be on serving the ,Lord and preaching His word. The government is neither our salvation nor our problem.

Therefore, the pastor will work to stay on course, seek professionals to help with taxes and investments and obey the laws. Even if the membership does not inspect his tax records, they should be so well-done he would not hesitate to show them if it should become necessary.

However, the members do not have a right to see the pastor's tax records any more than he has a right to see theirs.

7. The members want their pastor to be a strong leader who leads with confidence and authority, but they also want him to be accountable to a few of the church leaders. They have a right to this. The pastor who is given authority over the entire church but with no accountability to anyone for anything is being set up for trouble. The most loving, responsible and faithful gift for a new pastor is a small body of believers who will stand by his side in good times and bad. And if he is doing wrong in some way, they will be the ones to hold him accountable.

However, the members do not have a right to boss the minister, hold him to a time schedule or expect a report on how he spends his time, whom he visits, etc.

The list is probably endless. Church members want their pastors to be paid well but do not have a right to know what exactly he is receiving. That's why they have a finance, personnel or administrative committee to represent them in making these decisions.

Pray for your ministers. Love them. Support and encourage them. Be faithful in serving the Lord. And that will be more encouraging to them than anything you can do during any time set aside for pastor appreciation. {eoa}

After five years as director of missions for the 100 Southern Baptist churches of metro New Orleans, Joe McKeever retired on June 1, 2009. These days, he has an office at the First Baptist Church of Kenner, where he's working on three books, and he's trying to accept every speaking/preaching invitation that comes his way. 

For the original article, visit joemckeever.com.

shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Joe McKeever ) Pastoring Thu, 01 Dec 2016 13:00:00 -0500
7 Myths About a Pastor's Work Week http://ministrytodaymag.com/leadership/pastoring/23343-7-myths-about-a-pastor-s-work-week http://ministrytodaymag.com/leadership/pastoring/23343-7-myths-about-a-pastor-s-work-week

It is an old joke, one that is still told too often. You go up to your pastor and say, "I wish I had your job; you only have to work one hour each week."

It is likely your pastor will laugh or smile at your comment. In reality, your statement probably hurts your pastor. Indeed, the reality is that too many church members have made wrongful and hurtful comments about the pastor's workweek.

Sadly, some church members really believe some of the myths about a pastor's workweek. And some may point to a lazy pastor they knew. I will readily admit I've known some lazy pastors, but no more so than people in other vocations. The pastorate does lend itself to laziness. To the contrary, there are many more workaholic pastors than lazy pastors.

So what are some of the myths about a pastor's workweek? Let's look at seven of them:

Myth No. 1: The pastor has a short workweek. Nope. The challenge a pastor has is getting enough rest and family time. Sermon preparation, counseling, meetings, home visits, hospital visits, connecting with prospects, community activities, church social functions and many more commitments don't fit into a 40-hour workweek.

Myth No. 2: Because of the flexible schedule, a pastor has lots of uninterrupted family time. Most pastors rarely have uninterrupted family time. It is the nature of the calling. Emergencies don't happen on a preplanned schedule. The call for pastoral ministry comes at all times of the day and night.

Myth No. 3: The pastor is able to spend most of the week in sermon preparation. Frankly, most pastors need to spend more time in sermon preparation. But that time is invisible to church members. They don't realize a pastor is truly working during those hours. Sadly, pastors often yield to the demand of interruptions and rarely have uninterrupted time to work on sermons.

Myth No. 4: Pastors are accountable to no one for their workweek. To the contrary, most pastors are accountable to most everyone in the church. And church members have a plethora and variety of expectations.

Myth No. 5: Pastors can take vacations at any time. Most people like to take some vacation days around Christmas. That is difficult for many pastors since there are so many church functions at Christmas. And almost every pastor has a story of ending a vacation abruptly to do a funeral of a church member.

Myth No. 6: The pastor's workweek is predictable and routine. Absolutely not. I know of few jobs that have the unpredictability and surprises of a pastor's. And few jobs have the wild swings in emotions associated with the pastorate. A pastor may be joyfully sharing the gospel or performing a wedding on one day only to officiate the funeral of a friend and hear from four complainers the next day.

Myth No. 7: The pastor's workweek is low-stress compared to others. I believe pastors have one of the most difficult and stressful jobs on earth. In fact, it is an impossible job outside of the power and call of Christ. Small wonder too many pastors deal with lots of stress and depression.

Pastors and church staff are my heroes. They often have a thankless job with long and stressful workweeks. I want to be their encourager and intercessor. I want to express my love for them openly and enthusiastically.

I thank God for pastors. {eoa}

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

shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Thom S. Rainer ) Pastoring Wed, 30 Nov 2016 22:00:00 -0500
How an Effective Strategic Plan Can Reward Your Church or Ministry http://ministrytodaymag.com/leadership/vision/23341-how-an-effective-strategic-plan-can-reward-your-church-or-ministry http://ministrytodaymag.com/leadership/vision/23341-how-an-effective-strategic-plan-can-reward-your-church-or-ministry

The past week brought several economic positives. For the first time in 17 years, the four major U. S. stock indices (S&P 500, Dow Jones Industrial, NASDAQ and the Russell 2000) established simultaneous all-time highs.

October's new orders for durable goods increased 4.8 percent for the month and 2.1 percent for the year. Existing home sales increased 6.1 percent in the past year. In October, the PMI Manufacturing index increased 0.9 percent.

On the negative side, the U.S. Census Bureau reported the international trade deficit increased 9.6 percent for the month of October; exports were down 2.7 percent and imports were up by 1.1 percent. The Census Bureau also reported that wholesale and retail inventories were both down 0.4 percent. The larger trade deficit and fall in inventories will be negatives for GDP. Interest rates also continued to increase, with the average 30-year mortgage increasing 0.21 percent. New single-family home sales fell 1.9 percent. 

Events on the world stage and a new U.S. presidential administration are increasing economic uncertainty. Details of Brexit are still unknown. Anti-Euro political parties are increasing their power in Italy. The Middle East is becoming increasing volatile. The strong U.S. dollar is causing disruptions throughout the world. Global trade is faltering. Low or even negative interest rates are stressing the banking industry worldwide. Economic risks and uncertainty abound.

Businesses and governments are revising their strategic plans to take advantage of the new environment. Strategies are designed to attain an overall aim, and tactics are plans and actions to achieve a specific end. Strategies tend to be longer-term in nature, while tactics are usually shorter-term. Strategies tend to be the purview of top management, whereas tactics are often developed and/or implemented at lower levels.

The strategic planning process will benefit every church and ministry. The process allows us to:

  • Better understand our current situation
  • Clarify our mission, vision and values
  • Develop strategies or approaches that will be used to accomplish our mission
  • Develop long-term (three-to-five-year) and short-term (typically one-year) objectives
  • Develop Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that will be used to measure progress toward the objectives
  • Ensure resources are available to accomplish the plan
  • Communicate the strategic plan to all

If we truly understand our current situation, many issues and potential solutions become apparent. SWOT Analysis (strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats) can be beneficial. In the SWOT process, we critically and objectively list our organization's strengths and weaknesses. Since we tend to be myopic during self-evaluations, increasing the number of voices providing input and getting outside opinions can be especially important. 

SWOT analysis also requires us to enumerate external opportunities and threats. The external environment is constantly changing. To the extent we can accurately anticipate these changes, we can become more effective while simultaneously reducing problems. Life.Church recognized the opportunity technology was providing to spread the gospel. The online and mobile YouVersion of the Bible was the result. The YouVersion App has currently been downloaded more than 200 million times in more than 1,200 versions and 900 languages.

Taking time to write down our mission, vision and values provides clarity. Communication to others is enhanced. The Lord told Habakkuk to write the vision down and keep it plain so readers could run with it (Hab. 2:2). 

Our strategies, objectives and KPIs keep us on track. A strategic plan allows us to reallocate resources to more productive uses. The strategic plan allows us to recognize deviations quickly. Corrective action can be taken in a timely manner. 

Strategic plans also promote unity. Input provided by stakeholders during the development process is motivating. Communication of the plan allows the entire organization to work toward common objectives. Everyone has more knowledge of, and probably more empathy for, the entire organization. 

Most importantly, effective strategic plans are a result of revelation. By stepping back and asking "What is important? Where do we want to go? How are we going to get there?" gives us the opportunity to more effectively receive counsel of the Lord. {eoa}

Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics and undergraduate chair of the College of Business at Oral Roberts University.

shawn.akers@charismamed.com (James R. Russell ) Vision Wed, 30 Nov 2016 13:00:00 -0500
Why Some Love You and Why Some Do Not http://ministrytodaymag.com/leadership/personal-character/23339-why-some-love-you-and-why-some-do-not http://ministrytodaymag.com/leadership/personal-character/23339-why-some-love-you-and-why-some-do-not

Who was it who said, "I'm not as bad as my worst enemies say, nor as good as my biggest supporters claim"? It goes something like that.

I expect there's a lot more going on as to why some love you, pastor—and others don't—than first meets the eye.

Stella was a senior adult and dear to everyone in our congregation. From time to time, she would drop by the church office with fudge for her pastor. It was as delicious as anything Godiva or Hershey ever hoped to make. I made sure she knew how much I appreciated her thoughtfulness.

Meanwhile, I was having a miserable time trying to get a handle on pastoring that church. A few of the leaders were chronically dissatisfied with anything I did and most of what I said.

I welcomed her kindness.

One evening on my way out the door, I ran into Stella in the hallway. She said, "Pastor, I want you to see something." Opening her purse, she brought out a letter from 10 years earlier written by the pastor at that time, Dr. Carl Bates. He was thanking Stella for the wonderful candy.

I feigned shock. "Stella! I thought I was the only pastor you made fudge for!"

She smiled. "I have always loved all my pastors."

I gave her a hug and said, "Good for you. That's exactly how it should be."

A few minutes later, on the drive home, something occurred to me.

The precious Stella had loved all her pastors. She did so not because of what was in them but because of what was in her.

I thought of William. He was the opposite of Stella. This deacon had, by all reports, always opposed his pastors. He did so, I decided, not because of what was lacking in them, but what was lacking in him.

That little insight was delivered straight from heaven, if I know anything.

Why Do Some People Love You and Some Cannot Stand You?

Every pastor has wondered this.

No sooner had you arrived at that church, pastor, than you heard that some particular person (or group) was organizing against you. They had not given you a chance. It couldn't be said that they found something in you they didn't like. They didn't even know you, and yet they're already opposed to you.

At the same time—and almost as explicably—others in the church began to treat you as the second coming of their saintly grandfather. They adored you, showered you with kindnesses and went out of their way to welcome you.

What's going on? you wondered.

You wonder what you did to deserve the accolades and what you'd done to provoke the opposition.

Answer: In most cases, nothing.

It's not about you.

Now, I am fully aware that making generalizations of this kind is hazardous, and a one-size-fits-all rule is probably unwise. Not all pastors are godly, humble or even called. Some preachers seem to delight in stirring up opposition.

But the people who love their ministers consistently and generously through the years do so not because the pastors are always deserving, but because pastors are human and make mistakes and sometimes should be taken to the woodshed—because the people themselves are wonderful and kind and loving.

And in the same way, the people who find fault with every minister they ever have do so because of what is lacking in themselves, not in the preacher.

See how they treated Jesus? Expect the same for yourself, pastor.

After all, our Lord said, "The disciple is not above his teacher, nor the servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household?" (Matt. 10:24-25).

Here is one tiny sample:

"They watched (Jesus) to see if He would heal (the man with a withered hand) on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. ... (After Jesus healed him) the Pharisees went out and immediately took counsel with the Herodians against Him, how to kill Him" (Mark 3:1-6).

The problem was not with Jesus. All He was doing was blessing, healing and helping. The problem was with the religious leaders and what was lacking in them.

And what was that? What were they missing?

  • Clearly, they were missing love. Jesus was "grieved for the hardness of their hearts" (Mark 3:5).
  • But the failure to love is always a symptom of a larger problem: the absence of the reigning Holy Spirit in their lives. The religious leaders were trying to live for God in the flesh, doing it their way. As a result, they were missing the empowering work of the Holy Spirit.

"The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us" (Rom. 5:5).

Therefore, dear embattled and adored pastor, keep telling yourself, "It's not about me," because it isn't. Some will love you because they love Jesus. And some will despise you because they're resisting Him.

Here are a couple of statements from our Lord you may want to post on the wall of your stronghold, pastor:

"He who receives you receives me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent me" (Matt. 10:40).

"The one who listens to you listens to Me. And the one who rejects you rejects me; and he who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me" (Luke 10:16).

They are treating you the way they treat Jesus.

What they think of Him, they are transferring to you, pastor.

It's the highest honor of your life. And this explains Acts 5:41. After the disciples were arrested, tried and flogged for preaching Jesus, we read: "Then they departed from the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name."

Let us be worthy, dear pastor. God bless and encourage you. {eoa}

After five years as director of missions for the 100 Southern Baptist churches of metro New Orleans, Joe McKeever retired on June 1, 2009. These days, he has an office at the First Baptist Church of Kenner, where he's working on three books, and he's trying to accept every speaking/preaching invitation that comes his way. 

For the original article, visit joemckeever.com.

shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Joe McKeever) Personal Character Tue, 29 Nov 2016 22:00:00 -0500