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gay marriage church christianity

Some Advice on Same-Sex Marriage for US Church Leaders From a Canadian

In June 2015, the US Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples can marry in all 50 states, setting off a flurry of reaction by Christians and virtually everyone else on social media and beyond.

Ed Stetzer wrote a helpful background post to the shift in opinion that led to the decision and included links to a number of other leading articles in his post.

The social media reaction ranged from surprising to predictable to disappointing to occasionally refreshing.

I write from the perspective of a pastor of an evangelical church in a country where same sex-marriage has been the law of the land for a decade.

That does not mean I hold any uniquely deep wisdom, but it does mean we’ve had a decade to process and pray over the issue.

I hope what I offer can help. It’s my perspective. My fingers tremble at the keyboard because my goal is to help in the midst of a dialogue that seems far more divisive than it is uniting or constructive.

There will be many who disagree with me, I’m sure, but I hope it pulls debate away from the “sky is falling/this is the best thing ever” dichotomy that seems to characterize much of the dialogue so far.

The purpose of this post is not to take a position or define matters theologically (for there is so much debate around that). Rather, the purpose of this post is to think through how to respond as a church when the law of the land changes as fundamentally as it’s changing on same-sex marriage and many other issues.

Here are 5 perspectives I hope are helpful as church leaders of various positions on the subject think and pray through a way forward.

gay marriage church christianity

1. The church has always been counter-cultural

Most of us reading this post have been born into a unique season in history in which our culture is moving from a Christian culture to a post-Christian culture before our eyes.

Whatever you think about history, theology or exactly when this shift happened, it’s clear for all of us that the world into which we were born no longer exists.

Viewpoints that were widely embraced by culture just decades ago are no longer embraced. For some this seems like progress. For others, it seems like we’re losing something. Regardless, things have changed fundamentally.

But is that really such a big deal? For most of the last 2000 years, the authentic church has been counter-cultural. The church was certainly counter-cultural in the first century.

Even at the height of ‘Christendom’ (whenever that was), the most conservative historians would agree that Christianity as embraced by the state was different than the authentic Christianity we read about in scripture or that was practiced by many devout followers of Jesus.

Being counter-cultural usually helps the church more than hurts it.

If you think about it, regardless of your theological position, all your views as a Christian are counter-cultural and always will be. If your views are cultural, you’re probably not reading the scriptures closely enough.

We’re at our best when we offer an alternative, not just a reflection of a diluted or hijacked spirituality.

2. It’s actually strange to ask non-Christians to hold Christian values

As the Barna Group has pointed out, a growing number of people in America are best described as post-Christian. The majority of Canadians would certainly qualify as having a post-Christian worldview.

The question Christians in a post-Christian culture have to ask themselves is this:

Why would we expect non-Christians to behave like Christians?

If you believe sex is a gift given by God to be experienced between a man and a woman within marriage, why would you expect people who don’t follow Christ to embrace that?

 Why would we expect people who don’t profess to be Christians to:

Wait until marriage to have sex?

Clean up their language?

Stop smoking weed?

Be faithful to one person for life?

Pass laws like the entire nation was Christian?

Seriously? Why?

Most people today are not pretending to be Christians. So why would they adopt Christian values or morals?

Please don’t get me wrong.

I’m a pastor. I completely believe that the Jesus is not only the Way, but that God’s way is the best way.

When you follow biblical teachings about how to live life, your life simply goes better. It just does. I 100 percent agree.

I do everything I personally can to align my life with the teachings of scripture, and I’m passionate about helping every follower of Christ do the same.

But what’s the logic behind judging people who don’t follow Jesus for behaving like people who don’t follow Jesus?

Why would you hold the world to the same standard you hold the church?

First, non-Christians usually act more consistently with their value system than you do.

It’s difficult for a non-Christian to be a hypocrite because they tend to live out what they believe.

Chances are they are better at living out their values than you or I are. Jesus never blamed pagans for acting like pagans.

But he did speak out against religious people for acting hypocritically. Think about that.

3. You’ve been dealing with sex outside of traditional marriage for a LONG time

If you believe gay sex is sinful, it’s really no morally different than straight sex outside of marriage.

Be honest, pretty much every unmarried person in your church is having sex (yes, even the Christians).

I know you want to believe that’s not true (trust me, I want to believe that’s not true), but why don’t you ask around? You’ll discover that only a few really surrender their sexuality.

Not to mention the married folks that struggle with porn, lust and a long list of other dysfunctions.

If you believe gay marriage is not God’s design, you’re really dealing with the same issue you’ve been dealing with all along—sex outside of its God-given context.

You don’t need to treat it any differently.

By the way, if you don’t deal with straight sex outside of marriage, don’t start being inconsistent and speak out against gay sex.

And you may want to start dealing with gluttony and gossip and greed while you’re at it. (I wrote more here about how to get the hypocrisy out of our sex talk in church.)

At least be consistent…humbly address all forms of sex outside of marriage.

The dialogue is possible. (Andy Stanley offers a great rationale for sex staying inside marriage here.)

We have that dialogue all the time at our church.

And people are grateful for it.

We also talk about our greed, our gluttony, our jealousy and our hypocrisy as Christians. It’s amazing. Jesus brings healing to all these areas of life, including our sex lives.

4. The early church never looked to the government for guidance

Having a government that doesn’t embrace the church’s values line for line actually puts Christians in some great company—the company of the earliest followers of Jesus.

Jesus spent about zero time asking the government to change during his ministry. In fact, people asked him to become the government, and he replied that his Kingdom is not of this world.

The Apostle Paul appeared before government officials regularly. Not once did he ask them to change the laws of the land.

He did, however, invite government officials to have Jesus personally change them. 

Paul constantly suffered at the hands of the authorities, ultimately dying under their power, but like Jesus, didn’t look to them for change.

Rather than asking the government to release him from prison, he wrote letters from prison talking about the love of Jesus Christ.

Instead of looking to the government for help, Paul and Jesus looked to God.

None of us in the West are suffering nearly as radically as Jesus and Paul suffered at the hands of a government. In fact, in Canada and the US, our government protects our freedom to assemble and even disagree with others. Plus, it gives us tax breaks for donations.

We honestly don’t have it that hard.

Maybe the future North American church will be more like the early church, rising early, before dawn, to pray, to encourage, to break bread.

Maybe we will pool our possessions and see the image of God in women. And love our wives radically and deeply with a protective love that will shock the culture. Maybe we will treat others with self-giving love, and even offer our lives in place of theirs.

Maybe we’ll be willing to lose our jobs, our homes, our families and even our lives because we follow Jesus.

That might just touch off a revolution like it did two millennia ago.

Perhaps the government might even take notice, amazed by the love that radical Jesus followers display.

5. Our judgment of LGBT people is destroying any potential relationship

Even the first 72 hour of social media reaction has driven a deeper wedge between Christian leaders and the LGBT community Jesus loves (yes, Jesus died for the world because he loves it).

Judgment is a terrible evangelism strategy.

People don’t line up to be judged.

If you want to keep being ineffective at reaching unchurched people, keep judging them.

Judging outsiders is un-Christian. Paul told us to stop judging people outside the church.

Jesus said God will judge us by the same standard with which we judge others.

Paul also reminds us to drop the uppity-attitude; that none of us were saved by the good we did but by grace.

Take a deep breath. You were saved by grace. Your sins are simply different than many others. And honestly, in many respects, they are the same.

People don’t line up to be judged. But they might line up to be loved.

So love people. Especially the people with whom you disagree.

Those are a few of the things I’ve learned and I’m struggling with.

The dialogue is not easy when culture is changing and people who sincerely love Jesus sincerely disagree.

I think there’s more hope than there is despair for the future. The radical ethic of grace and truth found in Jesus is more desperately needed in our world today than ever before.

Is the path crystal clear? No.

But rather than being a set back, perhaps this can move the church yet another step closer to realizing its true mission.

I was tempted to close comments off on this post, but I will leave them open just to see if we can continue the discussion constructively and humbly.

Rants and abusive viewpoints (on either side) will be deleted.

Show grace.

Respect those with whom you disagree.

If you want to leave a comment that helps, please do so.

But please spend at least as much time praying for the situation and for people you know who have been hurt by this dialogue as you do commenting on this post, on others like it or on your social media channels.

Maybe spend more time praying, actually.

That’s what we all really need. And that’s what will move the mission of the church forward.

————

Caleb’s Story

To help you navigate the issue a little further, I’m adding the interview I did on my Leadership Podcast with Caleb Kaltenbach into this post.

Caleb was born to parents who divorced to both pursue gay relationships. Caleb grew up to become a Christian and a pastor, and has spent his adult life fighting for the relationship with his parents. It’s a fascinating, moving story of grace in the midst of disagreement.

Your can listen here in the browser window below, or click here to listen to Episode 33 on your phone or other device.

You can subscribe to my podcast for free here on iTunes, Stitcher or Tune In Radio.

young leader mistakes

5 Early Leadership Mistakes I Made (That You You Don’t Need To)

I love it when leaders share their success stories. It’s great to pick up transferable principles and try to work them into your life.

But there’s a part of me that likes it even more when leaders share their mistakes.

When someone shares their mistakes, I feel like I can relate to them. It reminds me I’m not alone. And it shows me we’re really all in this together.

People admire your strengths, but they resonate with your weaknesses.

So let me share with you some more of my weaknesses as a leader. Some of these mistakes, I made starting out, while some I still struggle with.

I’ll bet you can relate.

young leader mistakes

For all five mistakes listed below, I’ve had to adjust the sails and learn new behaviours that make me more effective at what I’m called to do.

The best part, of course, is once you’ve noticed the mistakes you naturally make, you can learn new skills to manoeuvre around them. It’s the self-aware who grow the most.

Here are five leadership mistakes I’ve made that (now) you no longer need to:

1. Thinking a leader needs to have all the answers 

As a young leader, I was afraid people would notice that I was young and didn’t know as much as I should. I took me a few years to become comfortable with saying “I don’t know.”

Wish I’d learned that right off the bat.

Ironically, people already know that you don’t know.

And when you say you don’t know, it actually creates empathy and a better sense of team.

Now more than ever, I fully realize how much I have left to learn. If you want to drill down more on finding your confidence as a young leader, listen in on my conversation with Clay Scroggins, who at age 34 recently became the leader pastor of North Point Church in Atlanta working under Andy Stanley.

Clay is tremendously transparent about his struggles as a young leader. That’s one of the reasons I admire Clay so much. And likely one of the reasons why he’s leading so much so young.

2. Trying to be too original 

This characterized my first 7 or 8 years of leadership.

I didn’t know you could take what others have done and simply implement it (I’m not talking about plagiarizing sermons or stealing proprietary ideas here – but about ministry models and strategies that you’re free to use).

I’d go to a conference and feel I’d need to change something enough to put ‘my spin’ or ‘our spin’ on it.

Well, sometimes your spin on a great idea makes it worse. If you really have an original idea that’s going to change things – use it.

But there are smarter people who are further along than you from whom you can borrow.

Sometimes you just need to give yourself permission to borrow. Give credit, and don’t stifle your ALL your creativity in the process, but it’s okay to take the best ideas and put them to work in your context.

You don’t need to be unique. You just need to be effective.

3.  Using people to accomplish tasks

I feel so bad about this one.

I’m a task guy. Early on, sometimes I saw people as a means to an end, not an end in themselves.

It’s a goal of mine to do what great managers do – not use people to get tasks done, but to get ‘people done’ through tasks.

When you use people you lose people. When you value people, they stay. So stop using people.

4. Depending too much on my own strength

Being an A-type personality has strengths and weaknesses. Looking back, I wish I had developed a better sense of team earlier and I wished I had sought out mentors earlier.

I’m still also trying to figure out the balance between Jesus’ teaching that human effort accomplishes nothing and that we need to serve and lead with all diligence.

I love how St. Augustine phrased it over a millennium ago: Work like everything depends on you. Pray like everything depends on God.

5. Pointing out what’s wrong – not what’s right 

This is something I still struggle with daily.

I immediately notice what’s right and wrong, and gravitate toward fixing what’s wrong.

I’m king of this. And ironically, it motivates me to get better.

But it can end up being de-motivating to the people around you. I’ve had to learn to celebrate the wins (there are a ton of them when you look), point out what’s right and high five the team.

It doesn’t take much strength to point out what’s wrong. It always takes strength to point out what’s right when you see what’s wrong.

Only once you’ve celebrated what’s right should you move to what’s wrong. Otherwise you knock the wind out of people.

Honestly, this is still a daily discipline with me. And I don’t always win at it.

What About You?

Those are five leadership mistakes I’ve made. How about you?

What are you struggling with? How are you overcoming?

What are you stuck on? Scroll down and leave a comment.

pastors moral failure

5 Reasons Pastors Fail Morally (And What To Watch For in Your Own Life)

Twice this week so far, I’ve heard of church leaders who are moving out of leadership because they had affairs.

Last weekend, another well known pastor had to step down after admitting to having had an affair. Yesterday I got a call from someone about another leader who had an affair and is stepping back.

It’s heartbreaking.

My heart is broken for the pastors and their families. For the church, for their ministries and for everyone who followed them and was impacted by their leadership. My heart is broken for the Kingdom of God.

I don’t know either person in question well, so I’m in no position to comment on the specific situations let alone judge (we should be so so careful of that anyway).

But I do personally know a few pastors who have had to leave ministry because of some kind of moral failure, and I’ve sat down and had some heartbreaking conversations with people who have experienced a moral failure or been on the other side of a moral breakdown.

I also know my own heart and the strange mix of grace and sin that makes us human.

So, once again, I ask myself

Why does this happen?

Why does it happen so frequently—not just to preachers, but to many business leaders, politicians and other people in the spotlight?

What do I have to watch for in my own life?

I don’t think for the most part pastors and leaders who fail morally set out to fail.

They didn’t begin in leadership by hoping “one day I hope I have an affair/steal money/destroy my family/ruin my church/disillusion many/lose my soul.

In the beginning, most pastors and leaders have excellent motives…and then something happens.

While I’m sure the pattern varies between people and situations, I’ve seen some patterns I’ve learned to check in myself.

I share them in the hopes they can help every leader before they get into an even slightly compromising situation, let alone an affair or other morally tainted situation.

pastors moral failure

5 Signs I Might Be Headed for a Moral Failure

So, as I reflect once again, here are 5 reasons I think pastors fail morally and reasons that might push me or you past the edge.

I write them in the first person (as awkward as it sounds) because this post is intended to help those of us still in leadership, not to judge those who have fallen out of it.

So because the person whose spirit I most need to watch is mine, I phrase things personally. I also realize that even talking about the fact that this could happen to any of us is one more guard rail against it happening in my life. And I pray it never happens.

So with that in mind, here are the conditions that perhaps set up a leader for moral failure.

1. I’ve chosen isolation over community

Sin usually happens in secret. And the only way to keep secrets well is to cut yourself off from true community.

Isolation can be a very natural drift in leadership. But as I’ve argued before, loneliness and isolation are not inevitable; they are choices.

I have to make sure someone in my life knows what’s really going on. And just because not everybody needs to know what’s going on in your life and in your thought life doesn’t mean no one needs to know.

Solitude is a gift from God. Isolation is a tool of the enemy.

To live transparently with handful of people who know who you are, where you are and what you’re inner life is really like is difficult, but it’s far easier than picking up the pieces after your life has fallen apart.

Who really knows what’s going on?

And if you don’t have anyone you’re talking to, you can hire someone. Telling a counsellor is far better than telling no one. And counsellors have helped me so much over the years.

Here is how I’ve developed my inner circle, including a group that knows the ups and downs of what I’m carrying in my life.

Bringing darkness into the light breaks its power.

2. I’ve stopped confessing my sins

I am convinced that confession is a lost art.

As a leader, I have to make sure that I continue to confess my sins before God daily.

When I confess my sins, I need to not only look for the obvious, but for the cracks. For small sins that could become much bigger. For motives that aren’t pure. For thoughts that run off in dangerous directions.

I need to bring it all before God.

If you want more on why we don’t confess our sins, I preached recently about it in Part 3 of the Pursued Series, which you can watch here.

In the meantime, ask yourself: when was the last time you confessed your sin before God?

Admitting your tendencies to God and even weeping over them is much easier than explaining to your wife and kids what happened one day.

Confession is designed to stop what sin starts.

3. I’m not thinking of the consequences

When you sin, you desire the action but not the consequences.

But sin always has consequences. Often horrible consequences.

Keeping the consequences in mind can be so so healthy.

I can’t imagine having to explain to my wife, my kids, our elders, our staff, our team and to the hundreds (maybe thousands) of others who trusted me how I betrayed their trust.

The fear of having to have those conversations can be very healthy and quite motivating. It should be motivating.

I just would never want to betray the trust of the people I love the most and many others who would perhaps lose their faith because of a moral failure on my part.

Thinking about the consequences of a sin is a great way to ultimately avoid committing of a sin.

4. I think the rules don’t apply to me

Perhaps this is why leaders fall more frequently than others.

You begin to think the rules don’t apply to you, or that they shouldn’t apply to you.

So you ignore them, skirt them, rewrite them or spit in their face.

This is so, so dangerous.

Leaders who avoid accountability still eventually have to give account for their actions—when they get caught.

Isn’t it better to give account for your actions daily than to simply give an account for your actions when you get caught one day?

Accountability and transparency are vital in leadership. And if you cultivate a great inner circle (point 1) you will be a far better leader day to day.

5. I see failure as my best escape

When I first started out in ministry, I met with a pastor who had just had to resign because of an affair. He was 20 years my senior, and we met for lunch.

I asked him why he had an affair, and he told me in part it was because he couldn’t handle the pressure of ministry anymore but couldn’t find an easy way to get out. The affair forced him out.

Years later I would discover the pain of burnout personally. Nine years ago I burnt out (a burn out triggered by physical and emotional exhaustion).

I was so burnt out an escape from my life looked appealing. By the grace of God, I knew enough to keep my head in the game even though my heart had stopped working. As a result, during my darkest months, I kept saying to myself “whatever you do, don’t do anything rash—don’t cheat on your wife, don’t quit your job and don’t buy a sports car.”

And again, by the grace of God, I didn’t cheat, quit or buy a sports car. (Although as Perry Noble and I discuss in this interview about how we both burned out, the sports car option still looks attractive….maybe one day.)

The bottom line is this. If you’re burning out, an affair or a rash, irresponsible decision is NOT the only way out.

Nor is it even a good way out. There are many other, healthier options.

If you’re looking for more resources on burnout, Perry Noble and I put this page of free resources together to help church leaders. You can survive, and even thrive, again one day.

What Are You Learning?

What are you learning about temptation, leadership and moral failure?

As to the comments section, just so you know, self-righteous, judgmental comments will be deleted. As I wrote when Mark Driscoll’s controversy broke last year, no one write or prays with clean hands.

No one. Not me. Not you.

But with the aim of helping people and seeking grace before a fall happens, not just after, what are you learning? Scroll down and leave a comment!

8 Ways Church Leaders Can Use Periscope to Aid Your Mission

Today’s guest post on Periscope is by Rich Birch of Unseminary.com and the Unseminary Podcast.  Rich was also a guest on Episode 8 of my podcast. Scroll down the bottom to learn more about Rich and get a free ministry magazine with some of Rich’s best content. 

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Periscope is a live video-streaming app for iOS and Android smartphones.

Twitter purchased the startup behind the app for a reported $100 million in March 2015.

The app empowers users on Twitter to instantly and easily start broadcasting live video from their phone to their followers and the world!

So, how could you use Periscope at your church? Here are 8 ways.

Weekend Warm-Up

Typically you arrive at church before some of your people have even decided if they are going to attend. Use Periscope in the morning to invite them to join you. Reveal some of the behind-the-scenes effort that goes into make the morning great for them. Do quick interviews with team members who are getting ready for the day. Walk through the facility and show teams praying for them. Ask your people to invite others to join you!

Message Prep

Content creation should be a team sport. Ask for help when preparing your message. Give people a sneak peek at what you are talking about and then ask them to help with some key points. Maybe you’re choosing from two different bottom lines for your message … ask for help with choosing which is This will draw in your community, build anticipation for the weekend and give you some great ideas.

For Fun

You do have fun every once and a while … right? Let other people in on it! Is your team doing some goofy? Open up Periscope and laugh along with them. Did you just do something dumb and you’re laughing at yourself? Invite your community to laugh along with you! Humor has a way of drawing in people like nothing else — plus it humanizes you.

Ask for Prayer

Pastoral care starts with showing your needs and weaknesses. As you open up and become transparent with people, they will reciprocate and open up to What if you took some time to ask for prayer for whatever you’re facing as a leader. Let your church community into your world and see where you are trusting God to move. Ask for “hearts” if people are going to pray.

Morning Devotionals

How about leading your church in a devotional through Periscope every morning this week? As you read scripture and pray, just open up your phone and talk them through it. Model a healthy interior life that your people can Imagine dozens of people commuting to work … or at the gym … or at home listening to what God is saying.

Leadership Development

Are you working through some leadership concepts that you think could apply to your broader community? Get in front of a whiteboard and talk through them. Leading a volunteer-driven organization takes passion and clarity. Many of your people would love to tap into that and apply the lessons to their everyday lives.

Get Personal

Do you remember when you were a kid and you saw your teacher at the mall? That sensation of seeing him or her in the normal world was a paradigm shift, right? There was a time that church leaders lived in a similar bubble. We only saw them in “holy places” doing “holy things.” That kind of distance makes it almost impossible for your church community to relate to you. Flip on Periscope when you’re cutting the grass at home and see what people are up to. Or turn it on when you’re making dinner and ask others what they are eating that evening. Trust me, people love that stuff. I know it may seem trivial, but it’s the social part of social media.

Interviews with Leaders

You probably come into the orbit of some amazing leaders. Maybe they’re community leaders in your town or business leaders from your church. Ask them if you could take a few minutes and record a quick video of them. You could take questions from your audience and help them learn. This shows you as a thoughtful leader in your community and helps pass along the lessons you are learning from others!

8 Leaders You Should Follow on Periscope

Mac Lake (@maclake) // Visionary Architect for The , a church-planting network based out of West Ridge Church in the greater Atlanta area. Mac provides some serious leadership development value with great “whiteboard talks.”

Casey Graham (@caseygraham) // Founder of The Rocket Company, which provides great how-to help for church leaders. Casey offers great insights into how The Rocket Company reaches new people and builds the organization.

Miles McPherson (@milesmcpherson) // Pastor at Rock Church in San Diego. Miles shares some great behind-the-scenes footage that other church leaders could also provide through this medium.

Jonathan Pearson (@jonathanpearson) // Pastor at Cornerstone Church in South Carolina as well as blogger and thought leader. Jonathan provides some great insights for using technology within the faith community.

Jon Acuff (@jonacuff) // Blogger, author, interview giver, humorist … Jon does it all. Jon is a gifted communicator who uses Periscope to build his online community. Watch and follow his lead!

Chris Rivers (@chrisrivers) // Chris is founder of CultureBus and navigator with Auxano. He is always on the road helping churches and provides huge value (and fun!) for people who follow him.

Scott Williams (@scottwilliams) // Scott is an author, blogger and church consultant who was a key leader and campus pastor at LifeChurch.tv. Scott is a heavy content producer on Periscope and provides great insights into his learnings and leadership.

Tim Parsons (@_TimParsons_) // Tim is executive pastor at First Assembly in Indiana and founder of The Sunday Punch Team. Tim consistently provides great content and you should be following him!

We’d love to hear from you in the comments about who else is providing great value on Periscope!

About Rich //

Rich Birch is a pastor at Liquid Church which serves the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey.

He blogs & podcasts at unSeminary. [Friends of Carey’s can download a FREE 23 page Digital Magazine about reaching people who aren’t connected to your church yet by clicking here.]

A Response To Christians Who Are Done With Church

You hear it all the time.

I’m done with church.

I don’t really need to go to church…my relationship with God is personal.

I’ve had it with organized religion.

The church is a man-made invention, not God’s idea.

I completely understand why a growing number of people are bailing on church. Even people who used to lead in the church often stop attending (here are 9 reasons why church leaders do that).

We’ve spent a lot of time working through the issue of declining church attendance (and growing disillusionment with the church) on this blog and in my leadership podcast. (For a summary of the issues, here’s a piece on the 10 reasons even committed church attenders are attending church less often).

I get it.

The church is far from perfect. Life is complex. There are growing options. And the post-modern mind distrusts most things organized or institutional.

But as trendy as the idea of writing off the church may be, it’s a mistake.

While writing off the church passes as sophisticated thinking, it’s actually the opposite; what if it’s a simplistic and even reductionistic line of thinking that leads nowhere constructive?

The church isn’t even biblical, is it?

People argue the idea of church isn’t even biblical.

So let’s start with the basics.

First if you’re a Christian, church is not something you go to. It’s something you are.

You can’t disassociate from church as a Christian anymore than you can disassociate from humanity as a person.

You don’t go to church. You are the church.

Second, the church was not a human invention. Half-reading the New Testament with one eye closed will still lead you to the inescapable conclusion that the church was God’s idea.

In fact, most of the New Testament is not about the teachings of Jesus. It’s about the work of the church that Jesus initiated and ordained. I won’t fill this post with scripture verses that prove my point, because, quite frankly, you’d have to get rid of the majority of the New Testament to argue that the church was a parenthetical, made-up organization.

If you want to get rid of the church, you also need to get rid of Jesus.

You can’t have one without the other.

Maybe what bothers you should actually amaze you

I understand that the idea of the church being imperfect makes some people despair.

But rather than making us despair, the fact that Jesus started the church with imperfect people should make us marvel at God’s incredible grace.

That God would use ordinary, broken human beings as vessels of his grace, and delight in it is awe-inspiring. He’s proud of how his grace is beating through your imperfect-but-redeemed life and through the church (have you ever read Ephesians 3: 10-11?).

The idea that God would use you and me is pretty amazing. He had other options.

He could have spoken to the world directly, but instead chose to use broken people to showcase his grace to a world in need of redemption.

For sure, community is messy.

People sin. Leaders are sinful.

Most of the New Testament is not a story of an idealized church where everything worked perfectly all the time (just read 1 Corinthians any time you’re frustrated with your church).

Most of the New Testament is a story of Jesus using his followers to spread his love in spite of themselves and as they overcome obstacle after obstacle.

The fact that Christ uses flawed people to accomplish his work on earth is actually a sign of his grace, not a sign of his absence.

The church’s story, as twisted as it gets at times, is a beautiful story of God’s grace, God’s power and God’s redemption.

So, by the way, is your life, which reflects the story of the church more than you would want to admit.

The church gives the world a front row seat to the grace of God.

The ultimate consumerism isn’t going to church…it’s walking away from it

People criticize the church today as being consumeristic. And to some extent, churches cater to consumerism—often to our detriment. I agree that consumerism is a problem for Christianity.

But ironically, much of the dialogue about why people are done with church pushes people deeper into Christian consumerism than it pushes them into deeper discipleship: Here I am, all alone, worshipping God on my schedule when it’s convenient for me.

Listening to a podcast of your favourite preacher while you’re at the gym or on the back deck and pushing three of your favourite worship songs through your ear buds does not make you a more passionate Christ follower.

It usually makes you a less effective one.

Disconnecting yourself from community is actually less faithful than connecting yourself to a flawed community.

If you think the church today isn’t enough (and arguably, we need to reform it), then do what the early Christians did.

If you want a more biblical church…don’t gather weekly, gather daily. Before dawn.

Get up before the sun rises to pray together with other Christians before you go to work. Pool your possessions. Don’t claim anything as your own.

Be willing to lose your job, your home, your family and even your life because you follow Jesus.

Then you’ll be more authentic.

And notice that the early church did indeed gather. 

Gathering always leads to some form of organizing.

To pretend the church doesn’t need to be organized is as logical arguing that society doesn’t need to be organized.

Because community is inevitable, organization is inevitable.

Our ability to organize and to accomplish more together than we can alone is one of the crowning achievements of humanity, and our ability to work together makes Christian effort far more effective. 

It’s also part of God’s design for how we should interact while we’re on this planet. Come to think of it, heaven is a community too.

The only one who wants us to believe that we are better off alone is our enemy.

If you really think about it, it’s actually a very clever tactic.

The church has helped even those who resent the church

Finally, if you’re reading this article and you have any modicum of faith in Jesus, may I suggest your faith is actually the result of the mission of the church.

Very few people come to know Jesus because he appears to them supernaturally when they are alone and calls them by name.

Does that ever happen? Sure. But not to 99.9% of us.

Almost all of us who follow Jesus have had our lives changed by a flawed body called the church that Jesus so passionately loves and calls his own.

Think about that.

We need more church

Do we need more churches? Yes.

Do we need more humble churches? We do.

Do you we need authentic, transparent leadership? Absolutely.

Does the church need to change? Without a doubt.

The church needs continual reformation and transformation.

So what will the future look like?

Will we gather in quite the way we do today in the future? In some ways yes; in others, no.

Hopefully we gather more frequently and work through our differences at a deeper level and impact our communities more powerfully.

These two posts offer 10 predictions about future church attendance and 11 traits of churches that will impact the future.

But regardless of how the church gathers in the future, we will gather…we need to gather.

We Christians need each other, probably now more than ever.

And even if you don’t think you need other Christians, I promise you you do, and so does our world.

Now, more than ever, the world needs Christian working together humbly under Christ to lead people into a growing relationship with him, in whatever innovate and fresh forms that takes.

The church is not dead.

Far from it.

Maybe it’s just beginning to take shape for a brand new era that desperately needs it.

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7 Practical Leadership Insights From Our Move Into Our New Building

Whether you’re doing a building project or not, building projects can be an opportunity to learn some leadership insights.

You learn a lot about yourself, your church or organization and even the culture during something as tangible and intensive as a building project.

Last month at Connexus Church, a church plant where I serve as Lead Pastor, we moved into our first permanent facility and completely refreshed our portable location. (The pic below is from my opening message. You can see some other photos and highlights here).

I hope what we learned can help you grow your mission.

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1. Distinguish between high pace and high passion

As would be the case with any intense project, our team ran incredibly hard to get into the building. The last two months in particular were a frenzy, and people (both staff and volunteers) worked long days every day to make sure we opened on time and with excellence.

We had some incredibly fun moments in those long hours, but when it was over, everyone was exhilarated but exhausted.

Clearly the pace we were running at is unsustainable.

But what also surfaced in the months leading up to our opening was a passion level we haven’t seen in years. Some volunteers pulled all nighters to meet deadlines. People invited dozens of friends. People were so excited!

I knew I didn’t want the excitement of the project to be lost. But I also knew we were running at an unsustainable pace.

The temptation after a long sprint like that is for everything to go back to ‘normal’—something I didn’t want to see happen.

So in the weeks right after launch, I made a distinction between pace and passion.

The pace needs to return to a sustainable level. People need to take days off again and find a rhythm that allows them to thrive, at work and at home.

BUT…I didn’t want to lose the excitement around launch.

So we started to talk about the passion we’d seen for the project. I’m encouraging our team to keep the passion level high and throw it all into the mission.

Moving forward, we need to maintain a high passion AND we need to return to a sustainable pace.

I think by clearly delineating between the two, we’re able to capture the BEST of what the project offered us and still have some semblance of balance in our lives.

If you keep a high pace and a high passion, you burn people out.

If you keep a sustainable pace and lose the passion, you eventually lose effectiveness.

A high passion and sustainable pace offers the best of both worlds.

You can’t run at a high pace forever. But you should run with high passion forever.

2. Offer multiple jump in points for different kinds of people

When you’re leading a building project, you have to cast vision at different levels.

When we began our capital campaign three years ago (we used Injoy Stewardship Solutions to help us with this, by the way, who were super helpful), we didn’t have an address or even a blue print to show the congregation.

Usually your first donors on a project like that are visionary givers. They are bought into the mission and vision and their trust of the leadership of the church is high.

Different people opt in at different stages of a campaign.

Others jumped in when the location had been secured. Other still when construction began.

Some jumped on board (financially and in terms of their volunteer help) once they actually toured the construction site.

We also ran a countdown to the opening and that helped more people jump on board in terms of serving, giving and inviting their friends to the grand opening.

We also realized that some were still waiting to jump on board until the facility was open. So 30 days after move in we’re calling for more volunteers (realizing some people will want to serve now that they’ve seen it open and fully operational), and we’ll give people the opportunity to jump in financially in the first six months of occupancy.

I’m an early adopter, but Just because I’m an early adopter doesn’t mean everyone is.

The lesson? Offer multiple jump in points on every project.

3. Leverage ‘new’ as an opportunity to invite

Anytime you do something new, it’s an opportunity for momentum.

People will invite to ‘new’ in the same way they invite to Christmas, Easter and other big occasions.

We used the hashtag #EverybodyBringSomebody on our social media for months, and encouraged everybody to bring somebody.

We’ve seen the biggest visitor spike we’ve seen in a while, and opening Sunday at our Barrie location saw 2x the normal attendance.

Whenever you do something new (even a new series!), leverage it as an opportunity to invite.

If you want more, one of my favourite Andy Stanley leadership talks is on momentum. You can find it here for free if you scroll down under video and click ‘more’. It’s the talk called “The Three Components of Momentum.” You’re welcome. :)

4. Keep the why WAY bigger than the what and the how

In a building project (or any project focused on a tangible goal), the temptation will be to gravitate toward the what and the how.

People pepper you with question like

How many square feet are you building? (Answer. 24,000)

How much will this cost? (Answer, total project cost of $2,800,000—it’s the build out of permanent leased space.)

How many people can this building hold? (About 1,500 people per Sunday if we run 3 services…we built what we can afford right now. It’s a hub out of which we can launch future campuses and our online campus). 

What you will naturally forget to communicate…is the why behind the what and the how.

Why are we doing this? Because we’re creating a church unchurched people love to attend. And we’re leading people into a growing relationship with Jesus.

That’s why.

Even as a leader, you will forget to communicate this because the what and the how are so interesting.

But don’t forget.

 

5. Get ready for the ‘Now What?”

The reality is that once you open your facility or finish your project, there’s an inevitable let down that happens.

It’s a post-adrenaline let down…the crash. And then the question “Now what?” emerges.

And often, leaders don’t have a great answer.

If you don’t have a great answer for “Now What?” you won’t like what happens next.

As a result, life returns to normal far too quickly…if you let it.

The best way to prepare for the let down is to take point 6 seriously.

6. See the completion of your project as a start line, not a finish line

My answer for to the Now what? question was this: completing our new facility is the start line, not the finish line.

When you work really hard on a project, everyone’s looking for the finish line. And there needs to be a finish line. You can’t run hard forever.

But leaders need to keep some gas in the tank and be ready to go.

In the months leading up to the completion, I kept reminding myself and my team that completing the building is our start line, not our finish line.

To treat the opening of a building as a finish line would be like buying a sports car only to park in your driveway…forever. Isn’t driving it the point?

Our new facility and your new project provide the chance to take the mission to places and levels it’s never been before. It’s a means to an end, not the end in itself.

If you see whatever project you’re working on as a start line, not a finish line, you’ll be much more effective in accomplishing your mission.

7. Re-evaluate everything in light of your new season

Whenever you enter a new season, it’s important to look at everything through fresh eyes.

Think through your staffing, your strategy, your values, your team, your dreams. Is each of them optimally positioned for what’s ahead?

When our attendance doubled on opening day, it was a chance for us to test our systems. We had added 150 volunteers just a month prior to opening…and are we glad we did. We needed everyone of them.

But our check in system for families worked. Our guest services team could accommodate all the new guests. Our parking team was ready. Our staff was ready.

While we were thankful for that, we started to ask “what if every Sunday was like this?” And then we made more changes, to parking, to guest services, to our check in. And we’re tracking how people are connecting in this new era.

We’re also rethinking our budget and our staff positions and where we need to be in a year on all those fronts.

The point is you could cruise and hope it all works, but change allows you to reevaluate all your approaches and systems to see if they are helping you best steward the opportunities in front of you. If they’re not, change them.

What Do You See?

Those are 7 insights we’ve gleaned over the last month or two.

What are you learning about new seasons, projects and opportunities before you?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

3 Current Cultural Crises That Provide Great Opportunities for Leaders (If You Seize Them)

As a leader you likely seize opportunities many others miss.

But in this particular moment in history, there are opportunities before us that few are seizing well.

I was originally going to write this post for church leaders (that’s my context), but I think it has wider application for all leaders.

Our culture is undergoing radical transformation.

One day when historians write about our moment in time, they’ll refer to the change happening around us as being on a similar scale to the Christianization of the Roman Empire under Constantine, the invention of the printing press, the Protestant Reformation or even the Industrial Revolution.

The change is that significant.

And in the midst of the change, there are 3 opportunities not nearly enough leaders are seizing.

Leaders who seize these opportunities will have a rare and elevated influence in the future that other leaders won’t, because they’ll address three crises in our culture in a way others won’t.

3 Crises Wise Leaders Will Address

So what are the crises smart leaders will address? Here are three I see in front of us:

1. A crisis of meaning, not information

Information used to be rare.

As recently as a few decades ago, information was difficult to find and usually had to be purchased. You had to buy a book, purchase access to a talk (or the talk itself), or pay for access to an expert who would share information with you for a price.

Getting published was difficult and expensive. And access to publishing content of any kind (books, music, video, audio, let alone your thoughts and opinions) was controlled by industry experts who decided who got air time and who didn’t.

The last decade has fundamentally changed that in two ways:

1. You can find almost any information or content you want for free. When was the last time you googled something you couldn’t find an answer to without paying? Exactly.

2. Everbody’s a publisher. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, SnapChat, Instagram and other platforms have turned anyone and everyone into content producers, and self-publishing has turned every half serious writer into an author.

As a result, the crisis in our culture no longer centres on access to information. We have more information than we know how to process.

The crisis in our culture isn’t a crisis of information, it’s a crisis of meaning.

You’ve felt this every time you’ve scrolled through your social media feed and thought “there is nothing of value here at all”.

In fact, on some days, the constant rants, drivel, trivial observations, bragging, self-promotion and complaining has made you think about giving up social media all together.

The challenge for leaders moving forward is not to produce more content. The challenge is to provide meaning. 

I believe the future belongs to leaders who broker meaning in the sea of endless content

It follows, then, that the key to providing meaning isn’t more, it’s better. More content will simply get lost the constant chatter.

More without meaning will make you less relevant. You become yet another unhelpful voice.

Better is not nearly as easy as more. Better requires thought, reflection, digestion and ultimately resonance (it’s resonance that tells you your content is connecting).

This provides a huge opportunity for church leaders. Who better to provide meaning than the leaders called to share timeless truth in an era starved for meaning?

And for business leaders the opportunity to stand out with your customers, your peers and your clients is right in front of you.

Just know that the race to produce more will compete with the need to produce meaning.

Leaders who read widely, digest, think, and above all publish content that actually helps people find meaning will become THE leaders in their field.

2. A crisis of connection, not followers

It’s not that difficult to gain followers, fans or even make ‘friends’ these days.

We subscribe, like and follow dozens, hundreds and even thousands of causes, businesses and people.

As a leader, it’s one thing to be followed.

It is quite another to connect with the people who follow you.

Followers are fickle. They can go as easily as they come. They can unlike as impulsively as they liked.

Whether you’re leading something virtual or something that requires physical presence (I lead in both contexts), it’s easy to focus on gaining followers without realizing they’re losing connection.

Connection will win the future.

There are a lot of lonely people on social media who have 1000 followers and no one to actually connect with.

There are more than a few people who attend whatever gathering you’re hosting who feel completely disconnected from anything and anyone in the room.

We are more networked than ever before, yet we’re more isolated than ever before.

Having a million followers does not produce a million connections.

Ironically, if your goal is to simply gain followers you will eventually lose followers. And even if your followers stay with you as a statistic, you will not have their hearts. Which means you won’t have them.

Our church, for example, is home to over 2000 people. We just moved into a new facility and are experiencing another growth spurt. While it’s exciting to grow, it’s even more critical to connect.

So as we grow larger, we are hyper focusing on personally connecting as many people as possible. Our groups and personal connection points at our church have never been more important.

We’ve also talked to all our communicators in different environments to help us all focus on the more personal, human, and even imperfect sides of our personalities.

As you get bigger and have access to more resources, it’s critical to stay grounded, humble, personal and approachable.

People simply want to connect with people and with God.

Leaders who provide connection will own the future.

3. A crisis of direction, not options

A third crisis before us is a crisis of direction, not options.

As this New York Times piece points out, we have more options than we have ever had in human history. And it’s paralyzing us.

When people have the option to do ten things, they often choose to do nothing.

In the same way that information can be overwhelming, too much choice can be disorienting. The very thing that promises freedom (choice) actually brings bondage.

Smart leaders will stop providing options and instead provide direction.

Leaders who provide direction will still offer choice, but choice among a narrower range of options that leads somewhere meaningful and ultimately beneficial.

Again, you are helping broker meaning in an age of information and choices.

Providing direction can be difficult in leadership. In an age where people are programmed to demand options and endless choices, it takes courage to decide you won’t offer a sea of options just to make people happy.

Leaders who get over their natural desire to be liked will (as I wrote about here), ironically, end up being being far more admired than those who give into the pressure to please.

Deciding ahead of time on a few options that provide the best outcomes for the people you’re leading will result in more traction, not less.

But it also means you have to do the hard work of

1. Determining ahead of time where to lead people.

2. Making mid-course adjustments when your way turns out not to be the best way.

3. Having the humility to admit when you’re wrong.

4. Being willing to withstand the constant criticism you will get for not offering more.

But if you can withstand all of this, you will be far more effective.

Naturally, you need to lead people in a direction that ultimately helps them most…this is not about you moving people through hoops to get to a place that pleases you but helps few.

But if you really lead people to a place that helps them, they’ll be incredibly grateful. And they’ll tell their friends.

Our culture craves direction. Few leaders currently have the courage to offer it.

What Do You See?

These are three cultural crises I see emerging in our generation.

What do you see?

How would you address it?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

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12 Often Overlooked Practices Great Leaders Develop That Poor Leaders Don’t

Ever wonder what separates great leaders from poor leaders?

Ever wonder whether you’re developing the practices and qualities of great leadership?

I’ve met more than a few ineffective leaders who have great intentions, but just haven’t developed the skills and attitudes that separate great leaders from poor leaders.

So what separates great leaders from not-so-great leaders?

There are many things, but these 12 overlooked practices stand out to me as often-missed qualities and characteristics of the best leaders I know.

The good news is none of them are genetic. They mostly consist of attitudes and disciplines.

Change your attitude, gain some discipline, and you can become a far better leader too.

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12 Often Overlooked Practices of Great Leaders

For the sake of helping all of us lead better, here are 12 often overlooked practices great leaders develop.

Great leaders:

1. Make complex matters seem simple

This is much more difficult than you think. As Woody Guthrie is quoted as saying, “Any fool can make something complicated. It takes a genius to make it simple.”

Great leaders stick with a problem or idea long enough and engage it deeply enough to clear away the fog and reduce the concept to its simplest forms so anyone can understand it.

This doesn’t mean they dumb it down. Rather, it means they make the concept accessible. And because it becomes accessible, more people are helped, and more people follow.

For a sermon: If you can’t say it in a sentence, you shouldn’t say it. I realize that’s difficult, but here’s the process I’ve been using for years to reduce complex ideas into single sentence summaries.

And when it comes to something larger than a 30-60 minute talk (like a project or initiative), work on it long enough to develop a 30 second elevator pitch (here are some quick hints at how to develop one). Again, if you can’t say it in 30 seconds, you probably don’t understand the problem clearly enough to proceed.

And even if you don’t, no one else will understand it clearly enough to follow.

2. Fight for clarity

In leadership, confusion reigns until someone makes things clear. Clarity is what great leaders bring to the table.

I find one of the best ways to become clear on issues is to ask questions, pull away to think and pray about it, sometimes for days or weeks and then take the idea back to the team for more discussion. Usually, clarity emerges out of the process.

But clarity doesn’t happen automatically. You have to fight for it.

3. Refuse to make excuses

Ever notice that the best leaders rarely make excuses?

In fact, the leaders who make the most progress make the fewest excuses. And the leaders who make the most excuses make the least progress.

This is one of my pet leadership themes: You can make excuses, or you can make progress, but you can’t make both.

4. Think abundance

A scarcity mindset will kill your organization or church over the long haul.

Yes there are seasons for restraint. Yes, every organization needs a bean counter.

But if you think small you will stay small. If you think it’s not possible, it won’t be.

5. Regularly sift through key priorities

It would be amazing if you could set your priorities once at say, age 22, and just cruise through life without readjusting them.

It just doesn’t work that way.

Great leaders are continually assessing and reassessing how they spend their time, energy and resources.

I realize that every 3-6 months now, I have to rethink who I’m meeting with, how much time I’ll make available for certain activities, and rethinking our organization goals and progress.

6. Think won’t, not can’t

How you speak to yourself matters.

Rather than saying “I can’t” (even internally), great leaders instead say “I won’t”.

That small change moves them from realizing they could do something, but have chosen not to. While you may not always say that out loud in front of people (it’s rude), telling yourself you won’t reminds you that you had a choice and exercised it.

While that might seem like a small difference, it’s the difference between people who let life happen to them and people who make life happen.

7. Master self-discipline

Self-discipline is a fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Self-discipline is simply taking responsibility for your actions, health, attitudes, schedule, words, mistakes and decisions.

To not do so makes you…irresponsible.

8. Think we, not me

Truly great leaders die to themselves.

As Jim Collins has so surprisingly and famously demonstrated, the greatest leaders in the corporate world are…humble. They are determined, but they’re not selfish. Jesus would agree.

They believe in a cause greater than themselves and serve the organization or cause they’re a part of. They don’t expect it to serve them.

If you want to be great, die to yourself.

9. Decide to work for their employees

One day you’ll be such a great leader everyone will serve you, right?

Wrong.

The greatest bosses realize their employees don’t work for them, they work for their employees.

If you show up with a ‘how can I serve you?’ attitude, you be a far more effective leader.

10. Get started early

This one’s simple. Just set your alarm earlier.

For whatever reason, early risers do better in life. They’re happier, healthier and more productive.

Get a jump on your day, and you get a jump on leadership and life.

11. Arrive on time

Great leaders are rarely late. This is another simple leadership discipline that can get you far.

Show up on time. Show up prepared, and you will be ahead of most people.

12. Practice self-care

The best leaders take time off. They don’t work 24/7.

They realize they have limits and they respect them.

As I outlined here, almost every leader will either practice self-care, or will revert to self-medication.

Don’t believe it? Ever notice you eat worse when you’re under stress? That you swap out exercise when your schedule fills up in exchange for more caffeine?

If you answered yes, you’re self-medicating, and it takes down a huge slice of business leaders and church leaders.

What Do You Think?

There are many more characteristics, but these are 12 I think deserve more daylight than they usually get.

What would you add to the list?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

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5 Signs Bad Governance Is Stifling Your Church’s Growth and Mission

You probably almost didn’t open this blog post, did you?

Governance?

Who cares about governance?

Well, if you care about church growth and accomplishing your mission, read on.

I’m convinced bad governance is a key contributing factor as to why many churches don’t grow.

And, conversely, I’m convinced that good governance is a key factor as to why some churches do grow.

In fact, there’s a good chance bad governance is frustrating you right now…and you might not even know it.

Bad governance…or maybe more charitably, unhelpful governanceis pretty much the norm in church world. Even if you have decent people on your board or boards, the system itself is sometimes the obstacle.

I’ve never heard a conference talk on how governance can help a church grow. I’ve never seen a webinar on it. Apart from this really good blog post and this great book, I haven’t seen much at all.

But if you spend 3 minutes going over these 5 issues, I think your church could end up poised for greater growth. Or at least you’ll have better insight into why things aren’t going the way you hoped they’d be going.

Bad governance is the silent killer of many great church missions.

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Don’t Be So Emotional

Before we jump into the signs that bad governance is stifling your church’s growth, a few words.

I realize that many denominations pride themselves on governance as much as they do on theology. I get that.

So as you read through this you might be tempted to think I’m being unbiblical in my critiques or even insensitive to your denomination’s approach. As a former member of a denomination, (I lead a non-denominational church now), I can empathize.

Yet many forms of church governance are not so much biblical as they are historical, which means they should be open to change. Most governance systems were designed to work in an era when churches were smaller, when communities and cities themselves were smaller, and when we were not living in a post-Christian era.

This doesn’t mean all vestiges of historic church governance should be ousted. But I’ve seen many cases where church governances hurts the mission of the church more than it helps the mission of the church. What worked 200 years ago has stopped working today.

Churches that are willing reformulate governance (within the parameters of scripture of course) will do far better than those who don’t.

So as we go through these 5 signs related to bad church governance, try not to get defensive. Stay open. There’s too much at stake not to rethink everything in the church.

5 Signs Bad Church Governance is Stifling Your Church’s Growth and Mission

So how does governance hurt the mission rather than help it? Here are 5 signs your governance is working against your mission, not for it:

1. Your board or congregation loves to micromanage

Small churches are notorious for wanting approval on every decision, from the paint colour in the kids ministry rooms to every hire in the church, to every minute curriculum change.

That’s a recipe for disaster.

Why?

Once you reach a certain size, ministry becomes complex enough that two hours a month or even a monthly congregational meeting isn’t nearly enough time to meaningfully review the issues before the congregation.

Just think about it for a second.

A pastor or staff member will have spent 160 hours working on issues in a month…minimum. A board member might spend two. A congregational member might spend an hour..or, more likely, about 30 seconds, before passing judgment.

How can a board make a decision on every item in the allotted time? How on earth can a congregation?

Yet it’s not that hard to find board members and congregational members who have opinions on everything…no matter how ill-informed those opinions might be.

Boards and congregations that micromanage keep their churches small because of their need to control every decision.

Churches in which boards micromanage rarely grow beyond 200 attenders because the issues facing churches larger than that require boards to stop micromanaging (here are 7 other reasons churches never break the 200 attendance mark).

Micromanaging shrinks the size of the congregation back to the size in which everything can be ‘controlled’.

One more thing on micromanagement.

Great leaders never say “Please micromanage me.”  So if you want to repel great leaders, micromanage them.

2. Your congregation demands consensus

Somewhere along the way someone got the idea that everyone has to agree with every decision.

I think that someone is crazy.

Where on earth did the idea that we need consensus on every decision emerge?

If Moses had waited for consensus before leaving Egypt, the Israelites would still be in slavery.

Consensus kills courage. Churches that look for consensus will never find courage, and churches that find courage will rarely find consensus…at least initially.

When you drive for consensus, decisions get watered down to the point where all the risk is gone, and any boldness evaporates. You get churches that come out in favour of yard sales and Mother’s Day. And that’s about it.

Look, if you and your spouse can’t agree on where to go on vacation, how do you think you’ll get 200, or 2000, people to agree on anything significant as a church?

Almost nothing gets accomplished if everyone has a say.

So should you ever try for consensus? Well, yes, but likely at the board level. John Stickl has a fascinating approach to consensus style leadership in a mega-church context that he explains in Episode 29 of my leadership podcast.

3. Your board or congregation doesn’t trust the staff

This sounds so basic, but it’s so often missed.

For a church to grow and be healthy, there has to be a high level of trust between the staff and the board and congregation.

Naturally, that trust has to be earned by the pastors and staff.

But it’s amazing to me how many people in churches distrust their pastors and staff for no good reason. Churches that cultivate a default assumption of suspicion, not trust, will always pay a price.

The best leader I know on this subject is Andy Stanley, and if you haven’t listened to his 20 minute podcast on trust v. suspicion, you should.

Bottom line?

If you don’t trust the staff, fire the staff. If you trust them, let them lead.

4. Your staff hates the board

I realize hate is a strong word. But I’ve met enough church leaders who loathe their boards to know the problem goes both ways.

Sure. Look. I know you don’t have your ‘dream board’ yet.

You inherited a board when you stepped into leadership. We all did.

When I began in leadership, the three small churches had a total attendance of 45 people (adding all three together), but had 18 elders (I’m not making this up).

The average age of the eldership was about 70, and they had all presided over churches that had been stuck for decades. There were some great people on the board. And there were a few who were not ideally suited for leadership.

That could have been a recipe for disaster.

But why not see it as an opportunity instead?

You have to start cultivating a relationship with the people you have in leadership before you can work with the people you want in leadership.

If there are toxic board members, you can deal with that. And over time you can build a better board.

But if you hate your board after 3 years of leadership, it’s not your board’s fault, it’s yours.

You haven’t done the hard work of cultivating a relationship of trust or moving unhealthy board members off.

So get started. Be a great steward of who you have, not who you don’t have.

5. Your board focuses on complainers

If your church board meetings usually begin with “So and so isn’t happy about X”, you have a problem.

Sometimes boards feel it’s their responsibility to speak up for people who don’t have a voice.

That might be true for widows and orphans. It’s not true for the cranky church member who is opposed to everything.

As my friend Reggie Joiner says, great churches focus on who they’re trying to reach, not who they’re trying to keep.

Why do so many churches struggle with trying to please people?

That’s great question. Here are a few blog posts and a book I’ve written on the subject of handling opposition to your vision:

Leading Change Without Losing It: 5 Strategies That Can Revolutionize How You Lead Change When Facing Opposition

3 Hard But Powerful Truths About Likablity and Leadership

Why You Need to Stop Thinking Your Church Is For Everyone

Boards (and congregations) that focus on who they’re trying to reach will be much healthier and do much better than congregations that focus on complainers.

What Do You See?

I realize this is tough medicine and may come as a shock to some leaders, but I do think bad governance in the silent killer in many churches.

What do you think? What are you seeing?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

Punch someone

7 Ways To Respond When You Want to Punch Someone—And You’re a Christian

Feel like you want to punch someone? Or at least not deal with them anymore?

What do you do when the person in question goes to your church?

How do you handle that tension when you’re a…Christian?

It’s strange, but being a Christian doesn’t automatically make you good at resolving conflict. In fact, many Christians and many churches are terrible at it.

Unresolved—or poorly resolved—conflict sinks a lot of potential in the church. It also causes thousands of staff and volunteers to leave every year. And it makes millions of church goers simply miserable.

Fun isn’t it?

Chances are you already know exactly what I’m talking about. Even better. You know exactly who I’m talking about.

In the United States alone, 70% of the people who will go to work today will tell you they don’t like their jobs. I don’t think that’s just an American issue. It’s a people issue.

So many people I know get frustrated at work. And one of the top frustrations?

The people they work with.

Ditto for church world (no stat…I’ve just visited enough churches to feel comfortable saying that).

Sometimes the people we’re most frustrated with are the people we work with (staff and volunteers) and the people we worship with.

How do you fix that without becoming a jerk or letting the tension simmer unresolved?

Punch someone

Why Do Christians Struggle With Conflict So Much?

Before we jump to how to resolve conflict, let’s understand why we have it.

First, on this side of heaven conflict is inevitable. But that said, here’s why I think Christians often struggle with conflict:

In the name of grace, Christians sacrifice truth.

In the name of truth, Christians sacrifice grace.

We worry about hurting other people’s feelings, when really one of the best things we can do is offer honest feedback.

And in the end, we’re not sure how to support someone we genuinely disagree with, we swing the extremes: we avoid the situation or we blow it up.

None of that needs to be.

7 Healthy Ways to Resolve Tension and Conflict

I have learned (through trial and error), that these 7 strategies below can help me deal with conflict.

I hope they can help you.

They can work with coworkers, with a boss, with a volunteer, with a friend—with anyone you have a relationship with.

Here are 7 ways that I hope can help you resolve conflict with someone you work with:

1. Own your part of the problem

Conflict and even bad chemistry is almost never 100% one person’s fault.

One of the best expressions I’ve heard on how to figure out the extent to which you might be part of the problem is to ask a compelling question: What’s it like to be on the other side of me?

Jeff Henderson asked that question in a great series at North Point Church called Climate Change.

You can listen to the message for free here, and a scroll through the small group questions in and of itself is instructive. Own what you can.

So…what is it like to be on the other side of you? Ask some people.

2. Go direct

Issues in the church are often mishandled because we talk about someone rather than to someone.

Your co-worker at the water cooler isn’t the problem, so why talk to him about it?

Jesus was crystal clear on how to handle conflict, but very few Christians follow his practice.

In the name of being ‘nice’ (I can’t tell her that!), we become ineffective.

Talk to the person you have the problem with. Directly. Or else just be quiet about it.

3. Give them the benefit of the doubt 

The person you’re upset with might not realize how they are coming across. It’s okay to say that out loud.

“Rachel, you might not realize this, but sometimes you emails can come across as demanding or even demeaning. I’m not sure you’re aware of that, but I just wanted to let you know how they leave me feeling sometimes.”

That gives the person an out, and frankly, many times, they probably had no idea they were coming across negatively.

Giving a person an out and the benefit of the doubt preserves their dignity.

4. Explain. Don’t blame

How to talk to the person you’re struggling with is where many people struggle.

And those conversations often go sideways because people begin with blame.

Don’t blame. Explain.

Instead of saying “You always” or “You never” (which might be how you feel like starting), begin by talking about how you experience them.

If you’re dealing with an ‘angry person’ for example, you might frame it this way “Jake, I just want you to know that when you get upset in a meeting, it makes me feel like the discussion is over and I can’t make a contribution.”

If you’re you’re dealing with gossip, try something like:  “Ryan, on Tuesday when you told me what happened to Greg on the weekend, I felt like that was something Greg should have told me directly.”

Do you hear the difference between explaining and blaming?

5. Be specific

Giving one or two specific incidents is much better making general accusations or commenting on personality traits. “The other day in the meeting” or “In your email on the the August numbers yesterday” is much more helpful then “You just always seem so frustrated.”

The more specific you are, the more you de-escalate conflict and move toward a hopeful ending.

6. Tell them you want things to get better

What the person you’re confronting needs is hope.

At this point, they probably feel defensive, ashamed and (hopefully) sorry.

Let them know the gifts they bring to the table and the good they do.

7. Pray for them

I know this sounds trite, but it’s not. Don’t pray about them. Pray for them.

It is almost impossible to stay angry with someone you pray for.

It can also give you empathy for them, and at least in your mind’s eye, it places you both firmly at the foot of the cross in need of forgiveness.

It will take any smirk of superiority out of your attitude, which goes a long way toward solving problems.

What Are You Learning?

Do these seven steps always result in a positive outcome? No.

But I believe they will resolve the majority of cases in front of you in a very healthy way. At least they have for me. (This approach, by the way, is also effective at home and in most relationships in life.)

I don’t get all 7 approaches right every time, but when I can practice them, I find that conflict almost always resolves better.

What would you add to the list? What’s worked for you?

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