THE DREADED E-WORD

14 06 2017

Several years ago I was asked by my regional conference to help establish a commission on evangelism. The purpose was to help develop a ministry of evangelism throughout our conference to help us live out the Great Commission. It was a challenge I gladly accepted because (1) I believe that is our primary calling as the church (2) evangelism is my personal life passion.

Not too long after it was announced that I had taken on this assignment, I received a communication from a good friend and pastor of one of our thriving congregations. “Congratulations and thank you.  This is something we have needed for some time. Just one thought. Could you call it something besides evangelism. People get really turned off or frightened by that word.”

Considering the source of that comment, and possessing the overall belief in the importance of what we would be doing–I was dumbfounded. It had never crossed my mind to call it anything but evangelism. (For reasons I will share in a later post, we chose to keep using the word.)

Most Christians care about the eternal destiny of their neighbors and families. Most believe the church should be doing evangelism. Most understand that they are the church.  So why don’t more Christians engage in evangelism?

Here are the top two reasons:

1. The fear of offending someone or being rejected.  Many of us buy into the cultural idea that religion is a personal matter. We tend to want to belong, to fit in.

2. They don’t know how.

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TIRED OF HERDING CATS?

28 10 2014

Getting a church to take on an outward-focus is tough. William Tenny-Brittian gives some powerful advice-STEVE

 

BY WILLIAM TENNY-BRITTIAN

Tired of Herding Cats?

Herding Cats

You probably hear it as often as I do. “Trying to get them organized is like herding cats.” Whether it’s being applied to the stewardship committee, the congregational council, or the local minister’s alliance, it’s an apt simile whenever you come across a pack of individuals who are more interested in getting what they want than they are getting where they need to go.

This is never more true than when working with a local congregations. Recently I spent thirty minutes coaching a pastor and board chair in the fine art of conflict resolution and herd-culling (it’s pretty clear there will be no conflict reconciliation in this congregation). The issue facing the congregation is that multiple groups (cats) want to “lead” the church in different directions. And the biggest problem is that there has been no clearly defined, unifying mission or vision. And without a unifying mission and vision, every cat has their own idea about why the church exists and what it’s trying to accomplish.

The church wouldn’t be in this fix if it had started with a compelling, God-given mission and an awe-inspiring vision. So take a lesson: if you’re tired of herding cats, get a bigger, more tasty, succulent mouse.
If you’re tired of herding cats, get a bigger mouse. – Bill Tenny-Brittian

Too many churches reflect a misguided mission mindset that puts member care above all else – and especially above the only Jesus-mandated reason a church exists: to make disciples.

And too many churches have adopted an uninspiring vision that’s either too safe or one that’s so heavenly minded it’s no earthly good.

Jim Collins suggested every organization needs a BHAG – a big, hairy, audacious goal. Your congregation needs a BHAG … a reason to move as one in a single direction. If it doesn’t then competing missions and visions and good ideas and some not-so-good ideas will fragment your church and at best you’ll have cats to herd. At worst you’ll have a cat fight.

So, if herding cats isn’t your primary calling, then:

Read the Gospels until Jesus makes it clear to you exactly why he created the church
And then hit your knees and stay there until you’ve caught God’s vision for your congregation.

Get a Mouse Worth Chasing

Set a mouse like that loose in your congregation and your cats will chase it ’til the cows come home. 😉
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ANOTHER WAY TO LOOK AT THE BRIDGEBUILDERS PRINCIPLE

27 09 2013

This presentation by Pastor Dwight Lefever and his wife Heather at the Churches of God, General Conference triennial sessions in July is a perfect synopsis of “The Bridgebuilders Principle.” Stick with it through some of the beginning.





WITHOUT FAITH YOU CANNOT BUILD BRIDGES

7 02 2013

BY STEVE DUNN

“And without faith it is impossible to please God…” – Hebrews 11:6a

I cannot tell you how many times I have this conversation in some form with a pastor.  “Steve, I weep for the people of my community who need Jesus. My heart breaks as I see the unrealized potential of the church I am leading.  There is so much that needs to be done and yet we cannot seem to break free of doing church as we have always done it.  People are afraid to take a risk and it is easier to just try and perpetuate what makes us comfortable instead of helping people find salvation.”

Our desire to be safe and comfortable often makes us resistant to the change needed to follow the leading of God.  Some of that is fear–fear that we will lose something precious to us in the process of giving ourselves away to others.  Some of that is a lack of vision.  We see a church as a building, or as organization that meets our needs, or as a closed fellowship that insulates us from the troubles of others.  Some of that is our image of God.  And to quote JB Phillips, (Our) God is too small.”

God is intimately concerned about the smallest portion of His creation.  All people great and small matter to Him.  As Bill Hybels says, “You have never locked eyes on someone for whom Christ did not die.”

But God always has a Big Picture.  For God so loved the WORLD not just our small corner of it.  And God commands us to join Him in the work of making disciples of the whole world–starting with our small family circle, but never limited to it.

God does great work in our comfortable surroundings, but He does His beat work in the zone of the unknown.  But you and your church will never go there with Him if you are afraid or if you try to ignore Big Picture. Without faith you cannot build bridges to the Bridge because those who need to cross over are always beyond the place where we feel safe.

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THE BRAIN AND SUCCESSFUL CHURCH CHANGE

15 11 2012

Charles Stone has an excellent blog on church leadership. I would urge you to go to it and consider subscribing if you are serious about being a Bridgebuilding Church.

Wise leaders carefully manage church change. Healthy church management includes not just the bird’s eye view (big picture implications) but also considers the individual view, what’s going on inside the individual church member or leader when you, as the leader, present change. Neuroscience offers helpful insight about unconscious processes that go on inside our brains when people face change. Consider these insights and suggestions the next time you plan change for your church.

People appreciate certainty and autonomy because the brain craves both. David Rock, one of the leader proponents of applying neuroscience to leadership (neuroleadership) suggests an acrostic called SCARF that represents five essential brain processes that influence motivation and change management. See my blog here that explains SCARF. The ‘c’ and the ‘a’ stand for certainty and autonomy. I’ve listed 5 insights below that relate these two components to change management.

  1. People naturally assume the worst. Our brain is actually wired to pick up threats and negative possibilities around us more than the positive. 2/3 of our brain cells in the flight-fight part of our brain, the amygdala, are wired to pick up on the negative.
  2. People naturally fill in knowledge gaps with fear. Uncertainty about the future (and change) breeds this fear.
  3. Ambiguity creates more fear than measured risk. That is, the more people have to fill in the knowledge gaps, the greater the fear about and resistance to change. Measured risk, however, fills in some of those gaps and lessens anxiety.
  4. Undoing a wrong impression is harder than creating a good impression. It’s the old adage “you don’t have a second chance to make a good first impression.” That’s not just a quaint saying. Neuroscientists have shown it to be true.
  5. People understate their ability to ride out difficult future events. Uncertainty causes us to poorly forecast how well we can face difficulty. The term is “affective forecasting.” When you present change, people will initially assume that the church will come out worse than expected, although the opposite is often true.
  6. Emotions play a very important part in decision making. Just presenting the facts is seldom enough to move people forward.

So, in light of these insights, what are some positive steps you can take to most effectively manage church change?

  1. Build in small, short-term wins along the way. These wins will give a greater sense of certainty. Remember, people (and their brains) love certainty.
  2. Fill in the knowledge gaps with truth. In other words, communicate, communicate, communicate. Keep people in the loop about your progress with the change initiative.
  3. Provide a feedback loop. Give people in your church a real, tangible way they can give feedback to you about the process. Simply knowing they have that ability to communicate to you and that you are really listening will decrease their anxiety about the future.
  4. Within reason, provide people small ways they can choose about how the change will look. Although the leadership will have decided the big picture change, providing options and opportunity for people to hone what those changes within the big change will look like increases autonomy. Remember, people love autonomy.
  5. Fill in knowledge gaps with Faith. Preach and teach on faith. Keep verses like Hebrews 11.1 often before the people.

Heb. 11.1 Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. (NLT)

What have you done that has helped smooth church change?


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GRACE OVER KARMA

3 11 2011

Bono, the lead singer of U2 is not a Christian by his statement. He is, however, a friendly critic of Christianity and an admirer of the best elements of our faith. Here is an excerpt from his recent book (written along with Michka Assayas:

Assayas: I think I am beginning to understand religion because I have started acting and thinking like a father. What do you make of that?

Bono: Yes, I think that’s normal. It’s a mind-blowing concept that the God who created the universe might be looking for company, a real relationship with people, but the thing that keeps me on my knees is the difference between Grace and Karma.

Assayas: I haven’t heard you talk about that.

Bono: I really believe we’ve moved out of the realm of Karma into one of Grace.

Assayas: Well, that doesn’t make it clearer for me.

Bono: You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics; in physical laws every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It’s clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I’m absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that “as you reap, so you will sow” stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff.

TO READ MORE GO TO …





KEEPING THE FOCUS OUTWARD

27 02 2011

The Church is not to be a haven until heaven, nor a refuge until the rapture. It’s an army whose focus is outward, whose soldiers are deployed in the malls, businesses, and neighborhoods where the lost live, play, and work. – Jim Newsom