LEADERSHIP FOR BRIDGEBUILDING CHURCHES

25 06 2015

church1_editedIn cooperation with the School of Evangelism, Bridgebuilders is planning two “graduate seminars” that build on what we have been learning these past five years. Each school will have two 2 ½-3 hour sessions on either consecutive Thursday evenings or Saturday mornings. The overall topic is: Leadership for Healthy, Outreaching, Disciplemaking Churches.

Individual topics will include: The Stewardship of Leadership, Helping the Church to Mature to Match Its Mission, Managing Change and Resolving Conflict, Measuring Your Health and Fruitfulness.

If you would be willing to host, or if you have interest in participating in such a training experience, please contact Dr.Steve Dunn at 717-471-3018 or sdunnpastor@gmail.com

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CLUELESS OR WILLFULLY IGNORANT?

11 06 2015

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BY STEVE DUNN

I am often astounded when talking to church people who don’t seem to have a clue about the people living in the community around their facility. If they “see” people at all, it is to recognize the persons who are most like them and be reassured – or to see the ones unlike them and to move on down the road as quickly as possible. John Stott’s challenge for all churches to exegete their culture proves difficult because in their blindness, these people rarely see enough to gather the facts about the true nature of their community.

Bill Hybels is famous for his statement, “You have never locked eyes on someone for whom Christ has not died.”  But what motivation is that if our eyes are constantly averted from our neighbor and their condition.

I am reminded of the great premise of the American judicial system that “ignorance is no excuse.”  But in a higher court, one that we all face one day, the same premise holds true.  We read in Matthew 25:

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Isn’t it time we opened our eyes?

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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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THE CHURCH ON MISSION WITH JESUS

12 02 2013

ON MISSIONby Steve Dunn

We are all familiar with the Great Commission-“Go and make disciples …” It was something we were taught from the earliest days that Churches of God were called into being.

Evangelism and making authentic disciples was at the heart of the movement John Winebrenner and others began in 1825 when the Holy Spirit told them the Church in America needed renewal and revival.

The Great Commission reminds us that the Church has always been intended to be a missionary movement, a group of people on mission with Jesus to bring the Good News of the Kingdom to the world.

It is an identity that has largely been lost as so many of our churches have slipped into a maintenance mentality–keeping a program going, a building function, and providing services those who are already disciples of Jesus Christ.

It is time again to become a missionary organization.

How do we do this?

It begins with prayer, prayer that God will give you eyes to see and for the mission field that begins right outside your front door.

This first step helps your church become receptive to the leadership of the Holy Spirit.

Next you examine God’s Word, to become aware of the dynamics of the Great Commission to become Christ’s respectful ambassadors. Remember, you are not going out to fight a culture war, you are going out to share the Good News of the Kingdom by developing redemptive relationships with your un-churched neighbors. Suggested scriptures: 1 Peter 3.8-13, 2 Corinthians 5:14-21,Matthew 9:35-38.

Thirdly, start listening to the culture. What do people in the prevailing culture value? what do they struggle with? who do they respect? what are their dreams? And think locally as much as possible.

Then identify points of contact where you may be able to do an act of kindness in Jesus name, so you can begin to create opportunities to get connected with them and start building redemptive relationships with them. We call this BUILDING BRIDGES TO THE BRIDGE.

Make a simple plan, prepare for action – and then SIMPLY DO IT!





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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FRUITFUL CONGREGATIONS – FIVE PRACTICES

8 10 2012


This post was written by Robert Schnase and is an excellent checklist of DNA of fruitful congregations. -steve

The purpose of the church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. But how do we do that? The most visible way God knits people into the community of Christ and draws people into the relationship with God is through congregations that fulfill the ministry of Christ in the world. Fruitful congregations repeat and improve on these five basic practices: Radical Hospitality, Passionate Worship, Intentional Faith Development, Risk-Taking Mission and Service and Extravagant Generosity.

The practices are basic and fundamental. But it’s the adjectives that make these words come alive, because they stretch us and cause us to ask ourselves, “How are we doing in practicing these qualities of ministry in our congregation? How might we do better?”

These are practices—they’re not qualities that some churches have and some don’t. They’re not phases that, once we get them done, we can move on to something else. These are practices that we have to learn and improve upon constantly. These are the activities that are so critical to the mission of the church that failure to perform them in an exemplary way leads to congregational decline and deterioration.

Here’s a look at the five practices used in fruitful congregations.

Radical Hospitality
(Romans 12:9-21)
Congregations offer the invitation and embrace of Jesus Christ, the gracious welcome that creates genuine belonging that brings people together in the Christian community. Churches characterized by Radical Hospitality are not just friendly and courteous. Instead, they exhibit restlessness because they realize so many people do not have a relationship to a faith community. They sense a calling and responsibility to pray and work to invite others and to help them feel welcome and supported in their faith journeys. Congregations surprise newcomers with a glimpse of the unmerited gracious love of God that they see in Christ. Our Radical Hospitality goes to the extremes, and we do it joyfully, not superficially, because we know our invitation is the invitation of Christ.

Passionate Worship
(John 4:21-24)
In Passionate Worship, people are honest before God and one another, and they are open to God’s presence and will for their lives. People so eagerly desire such worship that they will reorder their lives to attend. Passionate worship motivates pastors not only to improve their preaching but also to learn continually how to enhance content and technique for effective worship. Worship is something alive that requires continuing care, cultivation, and effort to keep it fresh. Pastors should willingly review and evaluate their own work and invite feedback. The motivation for enhancing the quality of worship is not only about deepening our own faith but also about allowing God to use us and our congregations to offer hope, life, and love to others. Worship is God’s gift and task, a sacred trust that requires our utmost and highest

Intentional Faith Development
(1 Corinthians 9:19-24)
Transformation comes through learning in community. Congregational leaders that practice Intentional Faith Development carefully consider the full life cycle of members and look for ways the church forms faith at every age. They look for gaps, opportunities, and unmet needs to round out their ministries and ask how they can do better. They train laypeople to lead small groups, teach Bible studies, and coordinate support groups. They realize the power of special topics and interests to attract unchurched people, and they advertise and invite beyond the walls of the church. They form affiliation groups such as grief or divorce recovery, substance abuse, parenting, and more. They explore new ways of forming learning communities–blogs, chat rooms, e-mail Bible studies, and downloadable materials. These pastors also participate in forms of community with other pastors or laypersons to help deepen their own relationship with God

Risk-Taking Mission and Service
(Matthew 25:14-30)
This involves work that stretches people, causing them to do something for the good of others that they would never have considered doing if it were not for their relationship with Christ and their desire to serve Him. These churches not only solicit and encourage ordinary service to support the work of the congregation, but they also consciously seek to motivate people to more extraordinary service. They lift examples in preaching and teaching. Risk-Taking Missions and Service is also part of the formation of children and youth. All youth and children ministries include teaching and experiential components that stretch compassion outward beyond the walls of the church. Faith mapped in childhood provides pathways that shape lifelong commitments. These churches collaborate with other churches, other denominations, civic organizations, social agencies, and non-profit groups. They actively invite and welcome newcomers, visitors, and the unchurched to help them in making a difference in the lives of others. As congregations move beyond their comfort zones and follow Christ into more adventurous encounters with people, God’s Spirit changes them, changes others, and changes churches.

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SIX REASONS YOUNG CHRISTIANS LEAVE THE CHURCH

29 09 2011

One of the most effective means of evangelism is to reach young people while they are still young and part of the church.  Reconnecting with those who you have lost is one of the most important mission fields.  The Barna Group shares with the church some counsel for this:

Six Reasons Young Christians Leave Church

no-churchMany parents and church leaders wonder how to most effectively cultivate durable faith in the lives of young people. A five-year project headed by Barna Group president David Kinnaman explores the opportunities and challenges of faith development among teens and young adults within a rapidly shifting culture. The findings of the research are included in a new book by Kinnaman titled, You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving Church and Rethinking Church.

The research project was comprised of eight national studies, including interviews with teenagers, young adults, parents, youth pastors, and senior pastors. The study of young adults focused on those who were regular churchgoers Christian church during their teen years and explored their reasons for disconnection from church life after age 15.

No single reason dominated the break-up between church and young adults. Instead, a variety of reasons emerged. Overall, the research uncovered six significant themes why nearly three out of every five young Christians (59%) disconnect either permanently or for an extended period of time from church life after age 15.

Reason #1 – Churches seem overprotective.
A few of the defining characteristics of today’s teens and young adults are their unprecedented access to ideas and worldviews as well as their prodigious consumption of popular culture. As Christians, they express the desire for their faith in Christ to connect to the world they live in. However, much of their experience of Christianity feels stifling, fear-based and risk-averse. One-quarter of 18- to 29-year-olds said “Christians demonize everything outside of the church” (23% indicated this “completely” or “mostly” describes their experience). Other perceptions in this category include “church ignoring the problems of the real world” (22%) and “my church is too concerned that movies, music, and video games are harmful” (18%).

Reason #2 – Teens’ and twentysomethings’ experience of Christianity is shallow.
A second reason that young people depart church as young adults is that something is lacking in their experience of church. One-third said “church is boring” (31%). One-quarter of these young adults said that “faith is not relevant to my career or interests” (24%) or that “the Bible is not taught clearly or often enough” (23%). Sadly, one-fifth of these young adults who attended a church as a teenager said that “God seems missing from my experience of church” (20%).

Reason #3 – Churches come across as antagonistic to science.
One of the reasons young adults feel disconnected from church or from faith is the tension they feel between Christianity and science. The most common of the perceptions in this arena is “Christians are too confident they know all the answers” (35%). Three out of ten young adults with a Christian background feel that “churches are out of step with the scientific world we live in” (29%). Another one-quarter embrace the perception that “Christianity is anti-science” (25%). And nearly the same proportion (23%) said they have “been turned off by the creation-versus-evolution debate.” Furthermore, the research shows that many science-minded young Christians are struggling to find ways of staying faithful to their beliefs and to their professional calling in science-related industries…

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The Barna Group – Six Reasons Young Christians Leave Church