church

Three Myths about Ministry

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I have just finished a tremendous book on pastoral ministry called “The Pastor’s Justification” by Jared Wilson. Over the next few weeks I will reflect on the ways this book has challenged my view of ministry and leadership.

Wilson has put into words ideas which have burned strongly in my mind for the past few years.

“Books and podcasts and conferences from the leadership cult bid us to believe that pastoral ministry is a technology, that our churches are businesses, and that our flocks are customers.” – Jared Wilson

Let’s break down the three failures of the “leadership cult” mentioned by Wilson in the quote above.

1. Pastoral ministry is NOT a technology!
Granted, many of the “creative” leaders who emphasize secrets to growth would not claim ministry is a technology. Nevertheless, their practical theology is evident in their strategies for success. These leaders boldly proclaim that God wants all churches to grow… the problem (they claim) is we have not discovered the secret to breaking through the next “growth barrier.”

There is not a magic formula that can cause churches to grow. Sure healthy things DO grow… but so does cancer!

Pastors – labor faithfully, pray fervently, minister lovingly – but trust the growth of your church (numerical & spiritual) into the hands of God. He alone gives the growth (1 Cor. 3:7).

2. The Church is NOT a business!
Is there a business aspect to a church? Definitely. My undergraduate degree is business administration. I believe pastors would be greatly helped through a better understanding of the business side of the church. That being said, the church is NOT a business!

Successful business are led by CEOs that often domineer over those in their charge. The Church should be led by self-denying and sacrificial leaders modeling their leadership on the Great Shepherd – Jesus himself. The Kingdom of God does not emphasize CEO-style leadership… rather it is a call to die daily for the good of others. It is the responsibility of every pastor to become the servant of those under his care.

3. The flock are NOT customers!
Many church growth gurus emphasize studying our communities and then offering a product that meets a felt-need. Here’s the problem – the Scriptures teach that all outside of Christ are spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1).

Let’s be real – it would be a little insane to go to a cemetery and take a poll to determine what the rotting corpses would enjoy for entertainment!

If we seek to serve felt-needs we will subvert the Gospel by elevating attractional models of ministry over the blood-splattered Messiah. The Gospel itself is INCREDIBLY offensive. The cross of Jesus implies the following about everyone on earth:
— We are wicked beyond imagination.
— We are unable to respond to God in our own power.
— We are not special; matter of fact, we are objects of God’s wrath.
— The Son of God was brutally murdered because of us.


Even if you are not in formal leadership in a church, I highly encourage you to spend some time praying through 1 Corinthians 1:18-25. Pay attention to the paradoxical nature of the cross. 

What are some other “ministry myths” you would add to this list? Let me know by leaving a comment!

Sue Jensen had this to share in the comments and it was TOO good for me not place on the main post!
“I know we call a lot of people volunteers at our church but I think the belief that the church is a volunteer organization is a myth. As volunteers, people believe they can do as little as possible and say they are part of the church. However, the attitude in scripture calls us to be soldiers and servants and we should take our roles in ministry seriously.”

The Problem with “Individual” Religion

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The Christian faith has been deeply wounded by the individualism paraded by capitalistic society. Everything around us urges Christians to seek self-help and improve their personal lives. This has formed a church culture based on will-power and self-realization apart from Christ.

Pragmatism has trumped biblical truth.

The belief that Christianity is ONLY an individual decision made at the beckoning of a preacher or “spiritual experience” has been prominent in Western Christianity for centuries.

Nathan O. Hatch describes the religious attitude of the early 19th century, “Christians should shun all institutions, soon to topple around them, and allow the Spirit to work within. It was the disappearance of the church and the unmediated operation of the Spirit upon the individual soul that would mark the advent of the millennium.”

The dangerous thing about false teaching is that it is almost true. This attitude has been practiced by evangelicals for hundreds of years… to our own ruin. Let’s break this statement down and discern what is actually true:

CLAIM: Christian should shun all institutions.
TRUTH: Some institutions are evil. The institution of slavery, the practice of chauvinism, and a variety of other institutional abuse should be shunned. This does NOT mean ALL institutions should be rejected… even the institution of government has been established by God (Romans 13:1). An institution is simply an organization that is established for a specific purpose. Many religious leaders encourage Christians to “shun” the church in pursuit of purely seeking Jesus. This sounds spiritual… really it’s demonic (we’ll get to that in a second).

CLAIM: Christians should allow the Spirit to work within.
TRUTH: Yes, Christians SHOULD allow the Spirit to work within. Nevertheless, Christians should also allow the Spirit to work outside of them as well. The Holy Spirit often speaks through human mediums – pastors, authority figures, parents, friends, small groups – just to name a few. The Holy Spirit does not wait for a Christian to seek a mystical experience before speaking… the Spirit of God is constantly communicating with us; the real question is whether or not we are listening.

CLAIM: The Church is going to disappear.
TRUTH: This is what makes the belief so dangerous. Jesus is clear that not even Hell can overcome HIS Church (Matthew 16:18). The United States will cease to exist. Your job which you sacrifice countless hours and anxiety to will cease to exist. Yet the Church will outlast EVERYTHING!

Jesus Christ established the church and it will exist into eternity. This does not mean the church is perfect! Rather, we should believe in the Reformation principle of “Semper Reformanda” or ALWAYS REFORMING! You cannot reform the church by rejecting it; you can only reform the church by faithfully discerning whether the present practices align with Scripture.

Friends, there really is an enemy and he wants to destroy your soul. He cloaks demonic teaching in the veil of religion in order to distort the true faith delivered to the saints. Christianity is not an individual faith. It is vital to have a group of people around you – the local church – to support you in this tremendous pilgrimage.

There is no such thing as a lone-wolf Christian.

If you try to live the Christian life on your own, you will be torn apart by Satan. He prowls around like a lion looking for arrogant evangelicals to devour. Lions pounce on those separated from the pack; there is no living faith apart from being involved in a church.

Do YOU agree or disagree? Let me know by leaving a comment!

The Truth Will Make You… Odd?

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I have recently finished reading a few excellent and thought-provoking short stories by Flannery O’Connor. O’Connor lived from 1925 – 1964. Her writing attacked the popular ideas of racism held in honor by many in the United States (especially in the south).

The following reflections come from her story “Why Do The Heathen Rage.” Rather than summarizing the story, below is one big idea that stuck out to me:

Truth will make you odd!

One of the characters in the book, Walter, is not supportive of racism. Instead, he immerses himself in classic Christian literature and finds comfort in the wrath of God which will be revealed against the wickedness and evil of this world. This causes him to be disrespected and even hated by members of his own family. Rather than exercising “polite” racism – as many in the south did at this time – he bucks against the system and comes across as awkward and strange.

This is true for our lives as well.

“In fact, all those who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” – 2 Timothy 3:12

If you desire to lead a life which honors God and loves people, you will appear strange in at least three ways!

1. You won’t fit in with family.
Jesus has a tendency to divide people (Luke 12:51). As soon as you begin to take Jesus seriously, other people will be offended. You can be as gentle as possible about your faith and people will still get mad.

Your family will not understand your new priorities.

  • Rather than participating in the rat race of the American dream, you begin to practice generosity which doesn’t make sense.
  • Instead of joining in the family gossip, you intentionally speak life about others – even people your family doesn’t like.
  • Instead of sleeping in on Sundays and splurging your free time on self-gratification, you will spend hours in fellowship with other believers and service to your community.

In essence, you will be weird… even to your family!

2. You won’t fit in with culture.
Every culture has gods which demand worship. It is easy for us to observe this in the pagan world. We see pictures of shrines splashed in blood and are appalled that a people can sacrifice animals to appease the spirits.

As you take Jesus seriously, you will begin to understand that your own culture has a plethora of gods which demand worship.

In the United States, you will be called to worship:
Sport teams
Financial security
Personal comfort
Autonomy
Celebrities (including “celebrity pastors”)
Careers
Technology
…and a variety of other gods we sacrifice our time, family, and talents to.

As you begin to buck against this cultural standard, the culture will find you odd!

3. You won’t fit in with religious people. 
Many churches are content with people who claim to know Jesus because their family grew up in the church basement doing potlucks. As long as you check religion off your list every Sunday morning and attend the monthly business meeting, you are basically a saint.

Unfortunately, if you begin to take Jesus seriously the church is sometimes the last place you will find him. Many churches are obsessed with keeping the status quo and preserving the 1950s to the best of their ability. These churches do not foster outreach-focused, self-sacrificing, sin-killing, radical followers of Jesus.

As soon as you rip off the facade of cold religion for the Living God, you will be rejected by churches condemned to dead orthodoxy… and grandma might be mad you don’t attend the “family church” anymore (sorry… but it’s true).


What are some ways the truth has made YOU odd? Let me know by leaving a comment!

Hiring Church Staff with No Money

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This post is the third of a series posts of my reflections on the Small Town, Big Church Roundtable event I attended at The Rescue Church. I encourage you to read the first two:
It Takes ALL Kinds of Churches…
Three Reasons Your Church is Struggling Financially


The pastorate can be incredibly lonely. This feeling is multiplied by the pastor having no team around him to help lead the church. Many pastors are the “savior” of their congregation. The pastor is required to be at every hospital bed, preach every sermon, and fix every technology issue.

This is a toxic system of ministry which will bring death into your church.

Pastors in small churches tend to envy pastors who have multiple staff members. Many small church pastors dream of having a team of people around them helping propel the ministry forward. This is why many pastors see small, rural churches as a stepping stone to a larger ministry.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Everything you need in order to take your church to the next level is already in your church!

One of the concepts that has revolutionized The Rescue Church is volunteer staff. Volunteer staff are church members empowered to help lead the mission of the church. There are many people in your church who would be honored to put their hands to the plow (for free!) but you need to call it out of them!

So how can you do this? I’m glad you asked!

1. Have a clear vision!
Everybody wants to be part of something bigger than themselves. Unfortunately, many churches are content with preserving the 1950s to the best of their ability. No one is going to want to serve for free under an organization that has no vision for the future and is stagnant in its growth.

If you want men and women to step into leadership at your church, you need to have a vision that is clear, compelling, and simple!

2. Call people to HIGH commitment!
Often we try to fill volunteer roles by convincing people of how easy it will be. This is bad leadership! If you do not hold a high standard for the people you place in leadership, they will only do enough to get by.

You need to find dynamic leaders who are willing to pry open doors and wrestle with the impossible.

At The Rescue Church, we call all of our volunteer staff leaders to commit to 5 hours a week outside of their weekend duties. This is a BIG commitment for people! If you recognize leadership in people, call them to a HIGH commitment so that they can grow in their faith and impact the community!

3. Show them the exit ramp!
No one wants to get signed on to a volunteer position which requires them to give up every Tuesday night until Jesus comes back. You need to understand that the people who are going to be leading in your church are probably leading outside of the church as well. They are BUSY people and you do not want to risk burning them out.

We require our volunteer staff members to sign a commitment which says they will serve for one year. At the end of the year, we always give our staff members the option of stepping down. We value our volunteer staff members greatly and want to be sure they are spiritually, emotionally, and physical healthy; this means rest is vital!


Have you ever hired volunteer staff members? What are some things you would add to this list? Let me know by leaving a comment!

 

Five Benefits of Multi-site Churches

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In this season of life, God has called me to be a Campus Pastor in an incredible church called The Rescue Church. The Rescue Church is a multi-site church which simply means we are one church that meets in multiple locations. Every Sunday morning, The Rescue Church meets in Garretson, SD; Flandreau, SD; Colman, SD; Deeside, Jamaica; and Online.

Our vision is to plant healthy campuses in small communities that otherwise lack a strong evangelical presence. Multi-site churches are gaining in popularity all over the world but it is still a brand new concept in rural communities. Because of this, I am asked repeatedly why we begin campuses instead of planting autonomous churches (which I believe should be both/and not either/or!)

Since I pastor in a multi-site church, I want to share with you five benefits I have personally experienced:

1. An incredibly strong support network.
In October of 2015, my wife and I launched The Rescue Church in Garretson, SD. I honestly do not think we would still be around if it was not for the encouragement and wisdom shared by the other campuses. We have an incredible support network since we are part of a larger church.

When it comes to rural churches, pastors tend to suffer from crippling isolation and loneliness. As a multi-site pastor, I meet with the other pastors of The Rescue Church at least twice every week. In these meetings we are able to encourage and pray for one another as we strive to be faithful pastors in our congregations.

2. The ability to reach more people.
Statistically, new churches/campuses reach more non-Christians than established churches (Enrichment Journal). A very high percentage of those in the Garretson Campus are people who recently committed their lives to Jesus. It has been incredible to see the different lives God has impacted through our ministry.

One of the best ways to reach lost people is through church planting. Being part of a multi-site church allows you to plant new campuses of an existing church. This greatly increases the effectiveness and fruitfulness of the campus since it is already part of a healthy church structure.

3. The opportunity to truly shepherd people.
As a campus pastor, I am paid a very part-time salary from the church. The majority of rural churches are not able to provide a pastor with a full-time salary. Since I am not the primary teaching pastor, I am able to devote the majority of my time to actually being a shepherd. I can use my time to be involved in the community, disciple new believers, evangelize the lost, and fulfill my ministry in a multitude of ways outside of the church office!

4. Growing larger by growing smaller.
A multi-site church allows you to have the benefits of a larger church with the close community of a small church. Many people, especially in rural communities, prefer the feel of a smaller church over a very large church. Both have advantages and disadvantages but multi-site allows you to capitalize on the benefits of a large church while retaining the community of a small church.

5. Intentional leadership development.
Unfortunately, leadership development is something that is lacking in many churches. Since multi-site churches are focused on launching new campuses on a regular basis, they are forced to develop leaders. At The Rescue Church, we are intentionally looking for people to develop into qualified and competent leaders. This means raising up young people and shaping them to lead churches!


Have you ever attended or worked in a multi-site church? What are some of the advantages you have experienced? Let me know by leaving a comment!

Holy Preparation: Three Ways to Prepare for Worship

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I can vividly remember the preparation that went into taking the ACT College Assessment test when I was in high school. This was a grueling, four hour test which I had prepared for months ahead of time. Leading up to the testing day, I dedicated hours studying the material, taking practice tests, and preparing myself mentally. The night before the test, I forced myself to fall asleep early so I could perform to the best of my ability on test day.

If we spend this much time preparing for a test, which is of no eternal significance, how much more then should we prepare our hearts to hear from God on Sunday mornings?

Many of us forget the incredible opportunity we have on a weekly basis to gather with God’s people for worship, fellowship, and teaching. We tend to oversleep on Sunday morning and when we DO make it to church it is after spewing verbal vomit on our family members due to being woken up early. Once we arrive, we are consistently distracted by the endless barrage of thoughts that assault our minds at any given time. We leave in anger and frustration due to the hardness of our hearts and the deceitfulness of sin.

In order for corporate gatherings of worship to bear fruit in our lives, we need to practice holy preparation:

1. Go to sleep EARLY on Saturday night.
Thousand of studies have shown the averse effect sleep deprivation has on our bodies. Specifically, lack of sleep is a serious detriment to the healthy functioning of our minds –

“Lack of sleep interferes with your ability to concentrate and learn new things. It can negatively impact both short-term and long-term memory. It gets in the way of your decision-making process and stifles creativity. Your emotions are also affected, making you more likely to have a short temper and mood swings. Overall cognitive function is impaired.” (HeathLine)

When you come to church with your only energy coming from the coffee you hurriedly grab, you are setting yourself up for disaster. If you get a healthy amount of sleep, I can promise you will find church far more fulfilling and effective in making war against your sin.

2. Meditate on the passage or concept that will be shared.
In most churches (if not all of them) you at least have a general idea of what the pastor will be speaking on. Use this information to your advantage! If it is a specific section of Scripture, spend Friday and Saturday memorizing and meditating upon the verses. If your church is in a certain series, use a topical Bible (or Google!) and study the concept on your own.

If you do not know this information, give your pastor a call a few days before Sunday. Pastors LOVE to talk and I can GUARANTEE he will be excited to share with you what he is preaching on. This will greatly encourage your pastor as he spends time studying the passage!

3. Wake up EARLY on Sunday morning to pray.
Wait… You are telling me that I need to go to sleep early AND wake up early? Yup. I understand this can be incredibly difficult. With that being said, if you had an important job interview or test to take, you would do just that so quit with the excuses!

I recommend waking up and giving yourself thirty extra minutes (at the very least) in order to allow God’s Spirit to prepare your heart for church. In this time, I recommend confessing any known sin for it is the “pure in heart who will see God.” You can also lay down all of your burdens, anxieties, and worries in God’s presence – Trusting that He cares for you and is FAR more powerful than you could ever imagine. This will enable you to have a still heart and quiet mind to receive from the Holy Spirit during the worship gathering.


I can assure you that if you practice these three disciplines on a weekly basis, God will speak powerfully into your life through corporate worship.

What would YOU add to this list? Is there anything specific you do in order to get your mind and heart ready for church? Leave a comment and let me know!