Category Archives: Leadership

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Ten Commandments for Good Organization:

1. Definite and clean-cut responsibilities should be assigned to each worker.
2. Responsibilities should always be coupled with corresponding authority, so the task can be carried out.
3. No changes to the scope or responsibilities should be made until there is definite understanding on the part of all persons concerned.
4. No one person should be subject to orders from more than one supervisor.
5. Executives should not bypass an immediate supervisor to direct workers.
6. Critiques or criticisms should be made privately whenever possible.
7. No dispute should be considered too trivial to discuss.
8. Promotions, wages changes, and disciplinary action should be approved by an immediate supervisor.
9. No worker should be both an assistant and a critic to someone he/she is assisting.
10. Resources and facilities should be provided, so the worker can inspect and independently check his/her work.

(adapted from M.C. Rorty from the early 1930′s)

levels

When leading congregations, Christian leaders must be aware of both explicit and implicit theologies. What people believe determines how they act, and because of that, church members will continue to act according to the theologies that they hold. Without an awareness of both explicit and implicit theologies, church leaders can waste time, “spinning their wheels” on technical fixes to problems, while ignoring the deeper issues that are involved. Though it can take years, but church leaders need to address the explicit and implicit theologies of their congregants.

To begin with, explicit theology is what a church expressly believes. Explicit theology is usually easier to determine because of its public nature. What a church explicitly believes can be gathered from mission and value statements, doctrinal position papers, sermons, liturgy (including the hymnody), and various other items that express belief. While explicit theology is often accurate, it can sometimes be more of an expression of intent, meaning that not everyone may hold to the same ideal. Even still, explicit theology is usually the starting point for understanding what a congregation believes.

Implicit theology, on the other hand, is underneath the surface per se, and for that reason, it is much more difficult to determine. The term “implicit theology” refers to those beliefs that are held, but may not be fully expressed. Peter Cha, for example, illustrated how difficult it is to interpret implicit theology from merely what is visibly seen (i.e., artifacts), and that church leaders must take time to question what is unseen. In fact, congregants themselves may not even be aware of their underlying beliefs until they are explicitly pointed out. Implicit theology can include anything from “the pastor is the most spiritual man in our congregation” to “real worship means the raising of hands.” In most contexts, neither of the statements would be verbalized, but they can become part of the working assumptions of a congregation.

As Kevin Ford points out in Transforming Church, churches function best when their explicit theology matches their implicit theology and vice versa. If there is any discontinuity between the two, there will be underlying conflict. Such conflict should not be overlooked, but used as an opportunity to change either explicit or implicit theology, so that it better aligns with Scripture. To help encourage spiritual transformation, therefore, church leaders should be aware of both explicit theology and implicit theology, so that churches can be healthier and more apt to grow.

As church leaders help to develop local churches, they must look beyond mere technical fixes and focus on deeper adaptive change. In this effort, however, church leaders must take time to delve into the basic assumptions of a congregation, compare those assumptions with Scripture, and invest time in changing unbiblical assumptions. Simply changing the explicit theology (such as a doctrinal statement) will not change people’s hearts. Ministry needs to go deeper than what is espoused, so that heart issues, including what is assumed, can be sanctified for God’s glory.

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The family was designed by God to be a unique place, the most basic form of community, where much of our spiritual growth can occur.

Because God designed families, churches should support families and minister to them. In this effort, churches need to encourage families to live out their faith outside of Sunday morning. It is during the week, within the natural context of our home, where we make our daily decision to follow Christ.

At a formal level, midweek gatherings help parents, children, and youth to refocus on Christ. At the same time, there needs to be balance. Especially for young families, rather than “over programming” and having families over-commit (which can be counter-productive to spiritual growth), churches should support spiritual growth that can take place within the home. Extra help should be provided for young families who are just starting their journey.

We should never forget that churches need to be a “second family” for dozens, if not hundreds of people. Many do not have families, and others do not have healthy families. Because of this, it is important for the church to be sensitive to these needs and provide a safe place for orphans, singles, divorced, and widows. As the church loves as a family and ministers to those in need, the gospel is supported and enabled to spread (Acts 6).

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If you’ve ever been hurt in your life, you know that the memory doesn’t go away. Whether someone hit you, betrayed you, neglected you, or somehow otherwise injured you, the memory can remain for years. It may even replay in your mind when triggered by a sound or image. Even when forgiving the other person, you do not forget how much it hurt.

In a similar way, Jesus did not get “amnesia” when He ascended into heaven. Jesus still remembers the mockery, the pain, and the sacrifice that he received for me and you. His forgiveness is so much greater because of the fact that he forgives despite the memory of how much he hurt. After all this time, his forgiveness never ends.

1 John 2:1 tells us that Jesus, despite being hurt, is our advocate: “If anyone does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense — Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” He is sitting at the right hand of the Father, pleading for us. Rather than forgetting what happened, he continually reminds the Father of his own righteousness and his sacrifice for us.

This truth can free us to forgive one another. Even when we remember, we can still pray for those who hurt us and ask God to bless them. This is what it means to forgive — not ignoring the past, but loving others in the present.

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How can we honor God in our worship?

Although Exodus 20:22-26 is not frequently quoted in the context of worship, it provides some direction for us. In speaking to Moses, God gives the Israelites four instructions. They are simple and helpful, even for us today:

1. Do not worship anyone else beside me. (v.23)
2. It is absolutely necessary to worship me. (v.24)
3. Where I am worshiped, I will bless. (v.24b)
4. I deserve to be worshiped reverently. (v.26)

These instructions may seem familiar, but they serve as a helpful corrective for us. Does the worship in our lives meet those standards? If not, we should reconsider how we are worshiping God.

Taking this further, this passage also contains another kernel of truth that can set us free from egocentric worship. In these words to Moses, God expresses that He is the one who causes His name to be honored. As He says, “Wherever I cause my name to be honored, I will come to you and bless you.” (v.24b) Incredible!

What is so striking is that this is the opposite attitude of many of us today. We often think that we are the cause of worship — whether it be a talented worship leader, a great hymn that was written, a moving instrumental song, or a passionately singing congregation. Speaking on behalf of worship leaders, it is fair to say that we often feel a burden to “help” worship along. Even if we meet the 4 instructions listed above, this is one area where we often miss the mark — ironically, in the process of worshiping, taking credit for ourselves.

While there is truth in the fact that leaders need to lead, it would be wrong to overlook the powerful truth of this passage. Ultimately, it is not us who cause worship. Rather, it is God who causes His name to be honored. He is the first cause.

In other words, God is glorified for who He is, not because of what we bring. He is the one who inspires worship, and in that sense, our responsibility pales in comparison. Instead of causing, we should think of our responsibility as responding to His glory.

When we worship in a God honoring way, God will come near and bless us. Ultimately, because He is the one who inspires worship, He ends up blessing us because of who He is. What an amazing promise!

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Every disciple of Christ is called to ministry; it is a calling for everyone. Our response to that call, however, usually involves either feelings of inadequacy or self-sufficiency:

(1) Some disciples feel inadequate to be serving on behalf of Christ. Whether because of limited education or lack of experience, these disciples often feel as if someone else could do a better job. They are constantly second guessing themselves.

(2) Other disciples feel fully prepared to be serving. Because of their training, experience, or resume, these disciples know what ministry is all about. They have learned some successful tools of ministry and know what they need to be successful.

We tend towards one extreme or the other, yet both are equally treacherous. In both cases, the minister subtly places confidence in himself. Success (or failure) is dependent on what a person knows or does.

Paul had a strikingly different view of ministry. Our confidence, wrote Paul, “is ours through Christ. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.” (2 Cor. 3:4-5) Unlike many, Paul never boasted about his talents or ministry accomplishments. He gave total credit to God.

Paul’s attitude, although foreign to our entrepreneurial culture, is realistic. We are nothing in ourselves, and we do not deserve to claim anything for ourselves. Our competence comes from God alone.

The idea that God “has made us competent” is more powerful than some of us may like to accept. It means that anyone — anyone — regardless of their background, can be a minister. Ministry has little to do with us, but everything to do with Him. Once we get over our own personal feelings, this powerful truth can elevate us to new heights in ministry.

So in response to His Word, may God grant us the humility that we need for effective ministry — that we would see ourselves as completely incompetent apart from Christ — and may He empower us with unspeakable confidence in Christ to accomplish more than we could ever imagine on our own.

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Although I haven’t read much of Karl Barth’s writings, thanks to Richard Mouw’s blog, I discovered these deeply penetrating ideas in his Prayer and Preaching.  Among many other pieces of advice, Barth offers the following advice regarding preaching:

Do not indulge in allegory; exercising one’s talents on the Word hinders it from sounding out clearly. One should also beware of intruding one’s own individuality or enlarging on one’s personal experience by using illustrations or parables drawn from events in one’s own life.

Barth’s emphasis on the sufficiency of God’s Word is a refreshing reminder that we are messengers of the Good News, but not the authors.  We must remain true to the text without adding a plethora of our own ideas and life experience.  As I would summarize his ideas, in a sermon, people should hear from God, not an entertaining speaker.

His comments also relate to how we view creativity in the Church.   In the midst of illustrations, videos, dramas, songs, PowerPoints, artwork, and so forth, we should always be cautious of “indulging” in those things.  One sign of this is when we are more excited about the medium than the message.  The two should never be confused.

There is a fine balance.  On one hand, we should use all of our talents to communicate God to others, and this includes our creativity; but on the other, we should be careful to distinguish between God’s Words and our words.  Because God’s Words are immensely more valuable, it should not disappoint us that we are merely messengers.  We do not need to make things “more exciting” with what we add to the message.

There is a lot to think about here.  Obviously, Barth’s ideas can be taken too far, and maybe at times they could seem impractical.  However, I think it’s a fair reminder that everything we do — whether preaching, teaching, creating, or serving — should be subservient to God’s Word.  When it comes to the end of the day, our actions should ultimately point others to God rather than ourselves.

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“Tom Beaudoin reveals four themes that shape the theology of many Postmoderns: (1) all institutions are suspect; (2) personal experience is everything; (3) suffering is spiritual; and (4) ambiguity is a central element of faith.”   (source)

To respond to each of these, it would seem that the Church should:  (1) embrace people more than programs; (2) focus on interactive, communal worship; (3) provide more opportunities for service; and (4) explore more gray areas in our teachings and discussions.

What do you think?

To be effective as ministers of the Gospel, we must be contagious.

God’s Truth needs to be something that we breathe, something that we ache with, something that we love. If we don’t feel it within our soul, we desperately need to ask ourselves why.

Whatever our ministry, we need to passionately live out the Gospel. We are not living because of facts about God, we are living because of the love of God. And this can only be communicated through passion. Remember that people rarely fall in love with facts, but they do fall in love with love.

Along these lines, Matt Chandler offers some great advice in this brief Resurgence video.  He shares advice for young preachers, but even if you don’t preach, his suggestions are still valuable.