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.
Don't be afraid of what you are about to suffer. The devil will throw some of you into prison to test you. You will suffer for ten days. But if you remain faithful even when facing death, I will give you the crown of life.— Revelation 2:10
Faithfulness is not a word we hear often these days. Sometimes we hear it at retirement parties: "After twenty-five years of faithful service, we give you this gold watch." Or we use it to describe our dog: "My dog may be old and ugly, but he's faithful." The word is employed to describe the most famous geyser in America, Old Faithful, at Yellowstone National Park. Old Faithful is not the biggest geyser in America. And it's not the most powerful geyser in America. What makes it famous is its faithfulness! It's like clockwork. Dependable. People appreciate constancy, even in a geyser.
It's not easy to find someone who can be counted on. One who will be faithful to the end. One who is dependable through thick and thin. The fact is that not everyone who volunteers actually comes through. Not everyone who says they will perform a task actually does it. Not everyone who makes a commitment can be counted on.
Faithfulness is not just a religious duty that we employ on Sundays or when we are supposed to be Christian. When we tire of our roles and responsibilities, it helps to remember that God has planted us in a certain place and told us to be a dependable and reliable accountant or teacher or parent or engineer. Christ expects us to be faithful where he puts us.
In the eleventh century, King Henry III of Bavaria grew tired of court life and the pressures of being a monarch. He made application to Prior Richard at a local monastery, asking to be accepted as a contemplative and spend the rest of his life in the monastery.
"Your Majesty," said Prior Richard, "Do you understand that the pledge here is one of obedience? That will be hard because you have been a king."
"I understand," said Henry. "The rest of my life I will be obedient to you, as Christ leads you."
"Then I will tell you what to do," said Prior Richard. "Go back to your throne and serve faithfully in the place where God has put you." (Steve Brown, Key Biscayne, Florida)
Not bad counsel. Go forth and do likewise faithfully.
The shepherds saw a babe in a manger. The wise men, arriving later, also saw a young child. But the one who emerged from Mary’s womb that cold winter night in Bethlehem of Judea was much more than what was discernible with human eyes.
He was God. The sacred record is clear: “Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.
“Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.’
Being a pastor is a fulfilling privilege--but it can be demanding, too. Here's what every pastor wishes his sheep knew about their shepherd.
I just want to go to a place where nobody knows us!" my wife, Kelly, lamented. As I looked into her tender eyes, I identified with her frustration. A myriad of interruptions had sidetracked us from the date we had planned.
First we had to extinguish a rumor that our marriage was in trouble. Then we discovered that the new Igloo cooler we had loaned to a friend from church the week before would not be coming back. Next we had to explain to our two boys why they had gotten in trouble for playing on the church platform when other children hadn't.
And just when we were about to leave on our night out, the phone rang. Expecting a family member, I picked it up--only to find a talkative saint instead. Not just any saint, but a needy one who could not be put off.
God is increasingly bringing His government upon the earth to quicken mankind toward His image and intentions. It is time to assess and discuss the complex aspect of human behavior from a Kingdom perspective.
I pray we ask the Lord often to reveal to us what needs to be known—that which may be hidden—and help us to receive it and implement it in our lives for His glory. He desires us to be free and empowers us to act against the very nature of self.
The Gospel of the Kingdom is the redemptive manner in which God intends for His will to be accomplished in the earth. This, in itself, should alert us to the misappropriation of prevailing messages of the “preparing us for Heaven” Gospel. Yes, thankfully, Heaven is in the mix, but the place called Heaven is for later, while the work of spreading Heaven on earth is present and ongoing.
At daybreak he called together all of his disciples and chose twelve of them to be apostles.— Luke 6:13
A popular business book states that effective organizations get the right people on the bus, meaning the right people in places of leadership. When the right people are in the strategic roles, the company can ascend to any height. But, if the wrong people are on the bus, the organization is doomed to flounder regardless of the vision, values, strategies, marketing, and management of the leadership.
Putting the right people in the right place at the right time is a critical need for an effective leader. Select the right people, and churches, business, and organizations thrive. Select the wrong people, and the door swings open for problems that stifle growth and productivity and hurt credibility.
The concern of Jesus was not about programs or structure or organization but about people. Jesus selected his disciples before he ever organized an evangelistic campaign or even preached a sermon in public. People were to be his method of reaching the world. It was just that simple.
No evidence of haste is apparent in Jesus' selection process, only determination. Initially one might wonder if Jesus selected the right people for the right job. They lacked the professional training, academic training, and sophistication of their day. One might wonder how Jesus could ever use them. They were not the kind of people one would expect to turn the world upside down. But as it turned out, these men became the leaders of the early church. Their influence can be felt throughout the pages of history. Jesus got the right people on the bus.
As a leader you would do well to select people that display these qualities:
Calling–They are motivated by something deep within themselves, not by the accomplishments of outward adornments.
Character–They possess a high standard of living based on a personal code of morality that doesn't succumb to the whim of the moment or the dictates of the majority.
Commitment–They display spiritual authenticity over time.
Compatibility–They show a job fit, a relational fit, a skill fit, and a passion fit.
Contribution–They function as a part of a team.
Coachability–They are trainable and teachable.
Get the right people on the bus, and it makes all the difference in the world.
The following are eight of the most important leadership principles I have learned as a senior leader over the past three decades. I have found that each of these leadership principles is vital to the success of any organization, whether it be faith-based or not.
1. They Continually Cast a Compelling Vision The Bible teaches us that without a vision the people perish (Prov. 29). This means that people are like sheep and will scatter and/or lose focus if they are not continually motivated and guided as to the mission and purpose of the organization or church they belong to.
Every executive leader must be personally empowered and full of passion so he can continually remind the people of the vision and purpose of their existence. An organization without a compelling vision is going to lose momentum and membership. Leader without a compelling vision don’t know why they are leading, which will result in their organization experiencing a lack of cohesion and power.
But I am trusting you, O LORD, saying, "You are my God!" My future is in your hands. Rescue me from those who hunt me down relentlessly.— Psalm 31:14-15
A friend said, "My problem is that I have surrendered my time to work, to other people, and to bad habits."
That truly is the problem, not only for my friend but also for many of us. We should first surrender our time to God. God owns it anyway. Unfortunately, we often ask God to wait in line for leftover time. No wonder life seems out of sync! We need help with our task to manage properly what has been entrusted to us until Christ returns or wants it back, and that includes our time.
Think about a compass and a clock. Two very important tools with two very different purposes. One would be wise not to confuse the two. To surrender our time to God is to be governed by a compass rather than to be controlled by a clock. A compass provides a sense of direction, purpose, vision, perspective, and balance. A clock measures duration, the expenditure of time. A compass determines effectiveness--doing the right tasks. A clock determines efficiency--how long it takes to accomplish a task. Each has its place. But, the compass must come before the clock; therefore, effectiveness before efficiency. The "mega priorities" of the compass subordinate the "mini priorities" of the clock.
A compass, therefore, becomes a symbol of an internal guidance system that provides us with our values and convictions based on God's Word. This non-negotiable governs our lives. In the same manner that the magnetic force pulls the compass needle, it is God who governs the drive of our lives. We surrender to his force.
Our time should be surrendered to God daily. I asked a friend who is engaged in many pursuits successfully how he managed it all. He said, "I give my first minutes to God, then I commit the remainder of the day to his Lordship. And amazingly I work more effectively and efficiently."
Have you surrendered your time to God? Is your future in his hands?
Recently Verna Linzey, a “daughter” of the Azusa Street Revival, was ministering in the Los Angeles Mission in Torrance when revival unexpectedly broke out with ecstatic utterances, prophecy, shaking and salvations, and this has continued at that mission.
This weekend Linzey, author of The Baptism of the Holy Spirit, was invited to the Azusa Street Revival Commemoration called "Honoring the Holy Spirit for the Past and Seeking God for the Future," an event coordinated by the Rev. Fred Berry. This event took place on Friday in the sanctuary at Union Church, which is on the back side of the square block shared by Azusa Street.
Linzey was invited to greet the audience since the Holy Spirit had recently ignited the revival at the Los Angeles Mission in Torrance through Verna Linzey. When she greeted the audience she gave this word from the Lord: "The Holy Spirit is working mightily in Los Angeles and we have begun to see greater manifestations of revival in the Los Angeles basin. We are honoring the Holy Spirit for the past and seeking God for the future. What we are seeking is now happening. So let us pray that the flames of revival that have been ignited in the Los Angeles basin recently sweep across Los Angeles and the world once again."
I was on an airplane between Louisville, Ky., and Dallas, trying to relax between speaking engagements, in the first week of October 2006. As I looked at the Arkansas countryside below, an inward voice suddenly spoke to me: “I am about to shake this nation.”
Within weeks the shaking began. My phone rang on a Thursday morning in November. A serious media firestorm was erupting at a church in Colorado, and one of my dear pastor friends was at the center of the controversy.
The church I have pastored for 25 years (Bethany World Prayer Center in Baton Rouge, La.) had helped plant that church 21 years earlier, and I had served as an overseer from the beginning. I knew I had to respond immediately. Within hours I found myself in an office in Colorado, surrounded by media and confused church members.
The recent chaos in Egypt has the raised eyebrows of most of us. President Mohammed Mursi’s decision to grant himself sweeping powers and place himself above the courts has triggered sweeping negative reactions.
Mursi’s grab for power has left Egypt destabilized; some have been killed and many wounded. His new nickname is “The Pharaoh President,” after the manner in which the Pharaohs claimed they were the incarnation of the ancient Egyptian gods.
I don’t know Mursi’s motives for desiring absolute authority. He may be but a pawn in a larger plot, having been coerced by his advisors so that the Egypt would shift its alignment from being a U.S. ally to a U.S. enemy. He may have even caught the Pharaoh spirit of believing his own press to the point of dictatorship.
On Wednesday Christians United for Israel (CUFI) reached 1 million “likes” on Facebook. That makes CUFI the most “liked” U.S. based pro-Israel Facebook page.
“As the recent conflict in Gaza proved, social media has emerged as the most dynamic new front in the battle for public opinion. As this milestone shows, CUFI is leading the charge for Israel on social media. And we've only just begun,” said CUFI executive director David Brog.
In addition to having crossed this important threshold, CUFI’s Facebook users are among the most active on the social networking site; CUFI is the 31st most talked about page in the nonprofit category.
I can still remember prophecy teachers who tacked rows of charts and diagrams on the church wall and explained spell-binding details of the past, present and future. I cut my spiritual teeth on the Scofield Bible and devoured Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth. My seminary professors instructed me in pre-tribulationism and premillenialism. I quickly categorized anyone who disagreed as a “liberal.”
Now I look back on those days with a strange combination of regret and amusement. How is it that I was so wrong for so long? As I analyze my change, I can sum it up by admitting that I simply did not understand the kingdom of God.
Let me explain what I mean by starting with the Great Commission. The Great Commission has been central to my life. I committed myself to missions the night I was saved when I was 19. I spent my first 16 years of ministry as a field missionary and the next 30 as a professor of missions.
It's almost 2013! Many great things happened during 2012, and even though we faced hardships and trials, which are to be expected in life, we survived and even laughed a lot more than we had in previous years. How can we smile, have joy, and even get excited when we are faced with so much evil and darkness? Well, let's look at a few things before we travel together to the mountain in Israel and hear the Word of the Lord on Dec. 31.
We are NOT going to enter 2013 with one negative word on our lips, but rather the word "CONQUER" will resonate and prepare our path to many victories. You may be saying, "Kim, you're just too positive! How can we truly believe this?"
Sir Winston Churchill was once asked to give the qualifications of a person needed in order to succeed in politics, and he replied: "It is the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year. And to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn't happen." That is what is required for politicians, not God's prophets and messengers. Look at Isaiah as an example.
If you aspire to ministry, don’t be stupid. Decide now to avoid these obvious pitfalls.
I had the privilege of sharing a pulpit with Dr. Mary Ann Brown two times. She was bold, prophetic and painfully blunt. People who hate women preachers hated her even more because of her no-nonsense sermons—always delivered in her Texas twang. She would get her audience laughing and then skewer them with a hot blade of truth.
When this spiritual giant died last month at age 73, I remembered the last words she said to me when we were together at a conference in Chicago in 2011. After lamenting the fact that so many ministers in the United States were failing, Mary Ann locked eyes with me and said with stern, motherly authority: “Lee, please don’t ever get stupid.”
I knew exactly what she meant—and I’ve pondered her words often, especially since her death. I don’t want to be stupid; I want to finish well. So how can we avoid spiritual stupidity? We can start by avoiding these 10 mistakes that have become common in our movement during the past decade. If you are a minister, or if you aspire to be one, please decide now that you will never copy these behaviors.
God loves us enough to make our path straight, but it is so much better to get on the right path first.
We are all living in a fast-paced, hard driven, “make it happen” world. I have operated in this world for most of my life outside of a Kingdom worldview, even as a Christ follower. By the grace of God, the Lord took me out of the Matrix several years ago and I was able to see the world’s systems for what they were, the good, the bad, and the ugly within them.
Through continued trials and errors, Father firmly establishes my faith and my view in Him alone. I desire to see what He sees, hear the sound of His voice, and love and serve by the power of His Spirit within me.
As I travel, I see common patterns that limit the effectiveness of Gods people as being the salt, light, and love in the world as His Kingdom ambassadors. If we do not pause, reflect and hear correctly, we will often look back and say, “Wow, so much time has passed and very little of what we had intended to do ever got in motion.” We may realize that a long period of time has gone by, sometimes years, where we have been stuck in unfruitful patterns in our minds, hearts, and in our ways.
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Have you ever wondered what is happening to churches today? Many have lost their sense of purpose, floundering for identity, in a sea of hundreds of other churches competing for the same people. Approximately 80 percent of “church growth” numbers can be attributed to people transferring from one church to another rather than new converts. As many as 3,000-4,000 churches close their doors every year—unable to stay open due to financial burdens, infrastructural turmoil and apathy.
In this discouraging environment, day in and day out, pastors and church leaders toil for the kingdom of God. Often overworked, underpaid and unappreciated, they deny themselves the luxury of time for rest and spiritual renewal. Is it any wonder that more than 1,500 pastors leave their churches every month due to spiritual burn-out, moral failure or contention within their congregation?
For decades, maybe centuries, the church has gathered weekly around a sermon. Our reasons are noble: We value the Scriptures and know that our lives are to be anchored in truth. But the study of the Scriptures is meant to launch us into an encounter with the person of Jesus Christ.
In that moment of connection, we obtain life. Without encountering the One to whom Scriptures point, we are a people to be pitied. As Jesus told the Pharisees, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life” (John 5:39-40).
Nearly every leader wants revival in one way or another, and many want healings, deliverances and miracles. But it’s hard to have the same fruit as the early church when we value a book they didn’t have above the Holy Spirit they did have.
I’m sure most Ministry Today readers are very aware that year-end giving campaigns are perhaps the most important fund-raising time for non-profit organizations. With 41 percent of all donations occurring in the last few weeks of December, the year-end campaign is a make or break proposition for many churches and most non-profits.
While you are crafting your year-end campaign I wanted to make sure you didn’t neglect the fastest growing way to connect with new givers—your online presence.
First, lets examine the facts. According to Charity Navigator’s survey, 93 percent of those surveyed said they gave during the 2010 year-end giving season. Of those who donated in 2010, 91 percent said they planned to give during the same period in 2011.