I’ve been in church all my life. Along the way, I’ve seen and learned a lot. Almost all the insight I have into church has come by experience.
I have observed, for example, that paradigms can often shape a church’s culture. A paradigm, in simple terms, is a mind-set—a way of thinking. In this case, it's a collective mind-set of the church, often programmed into the church’s culture.
If the church is unhealthy, part of the reason could be because it has some wrong paradigms. In that case, it will almost always need a paradigm shift in order to be a healthier church again.
Recently, I’ve been thinking of some of the paradigms that impact a church. I’ll look at some of the negative ones in this post, and in another post I'll share some of the positive paradigms that can impact a church.
Here are 10 dangerous church paradigms:
Our culture says bigger is better. But in the kingdom of God, less is often more.
There’s nothing more disheartening to a preacher than to see empty seats in a church service. I’ll be honest—I like meetings where you have to pull out extra chairs and put people in the aisles. Why? Because I assume if God’s blessing is on a meeting it will be packed. I like numbers because, in my carnal thinking, crowds are more significant.
Our culture puts value on things depending on how popular they are, and we are guilty of applying this rule in the church. We like big. We even rate churches based on size. We know that the three largest churches in America in 2013 are (1) Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church, (2) Andy Stanley’s North Point Ministries and (3) Bill Hybels’ Willow Creek Community Church. The assumption is that these churches are leading the way in making spiritual impact.
Nearly all pastors and ministry staff, volunteer leaders too, lean a little more toward evangelism or discipleship (one or the other) in their personal bent and wiring. According to Matthew 28:19-20 they are both essential and should not be separated, so neither is better than the other.
I believe that the church (in North America for sure), naturally moves toward discipleship on its own; therefore we need to intentionally fight for evangelism. But that’s my personal opinion.
Easter is a good picture of the balance of both. For weeks we build toward Easter Sunday. We run a full-court press for evangelism. Then what? Is it over? What’s your plan? Is it business as usual, or do you take advantage of that great momentum?
Authentic leaders have to be approachable and real. Over the years at Catalyst, we’ve tried to be authentic as an organization and as a leadership movement. We strive to be available, answering e-mails quickly, and even posting our e-mails on our website. We’ve maintained a concierge service since we started Catalyst that made following up with folks and connecting personally a priority. It’s incredibly important to us that we are authentic, humble, and personable. No matter how big our organization gets, we want to maintain this essential trait.
I try my best to be personable, even as Catalyst continues to grow. When you are in a hurry or think someone isn’t worth your time, remember that you were once in that position. One piece of advice I tell leaders all the time is when you’re small, act big. And when you’re big, act small.
Blessed are the flexible! There may not be a greater secret to success in serving another person’s ministry.
In the first chapter of my book The Blessing of Serving Another Man’s Ministry, I shared the dramatic encounter I had with God as a young student at Oral Roberts University—and how He revealed His calling to serve another man’s ministry as I crossed the walking bridge from the student parking lot to the ORU campus. God spoke a few weeks later in our chapel service as Dr. Morris Cerullo ministered—that this was the man He had called me to stand by and serve. (You can read more about this here.
When I left the ORU chapel that spring morning, I was certain that after my experience with God, when I called the Morris Cerullo World Evangelism (MCWE) offices, I would immediately be asked to travel and minister with Dr. Cerullo.
Well, that’s not exactly how it worked out.
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.
Two paths. Robert Frost wrote about them, and Kid President pep talked about them. But what are the two paths?
All leaders have two options, two paths, two choices—faith or fear.
While reading the Book of Joshua recently, I noticed those two paths, and I prayed that I would never do what ten of the twelve leaders (spies) did to the people they were called to lead.