Saturday, April 14, 2007

The Disciple-Making Change Monger

Last night in an informal gathering (in a living room and not in the office) our leadership team, the topic of change came up. No, to be perfectly honest, I brought it up. I used a quote from the Disciple-Making Church by Bill Hull to draw the topic out.

"Denominations that change their methods and cast off unproductive tradition will flourish and experience God's power, while those
who insist on the status quo will die a slow, unpleasant death."
The D-M Church, p.11

The immediate reaction was against the idea that change is a good thing. We shouldn't simply change because we're guessing -- i.e. the old shooting in the dark method or fling it up against the wall and see if any sticks. But we must be changing. We must be matching ministries to real needs, not just our shortened list of approved needs. We are not supposed to meet the needs of people that are already well; we must listen, evaluate, and respond to the cries for help going on around us all of the time.

The second response was against the word unproductive. We must not continue to pour resources into a ministry that is not effectively reaching our goals. Underproduction (or even worse non-production) is not just measured by the number of people attending -- unless that is our stated goal. The goal of number of people gathered is too simple a goal; even the world, without divine empowerment, can draw a crowd and hit "numbers in attendance" goals. Our goal is life change or discipleship!

Therefore, our goal might be "number of first time visitors who could hear the gospel message" or "number of gospels of John handed out by the counselling staff in one-on-one conversations" or "number of young people responding to the call for full-time ministry" or "number of verses [truly] memorized". Ultimately it comes down to number of people changed by God through our efforts. These goals are daunting because they are totally out of our hands. But we must never shy away from trying to be the best planters and waterers that we can be.

I am not just preaching to the choir. I have led this type of change already in our Sr Hi Youth ministry. We no longer attend an all-night teen evangelism rally, for example, not because it wasn't enjoyed by our teens, but because they were no longer inviting unsaved teens to come with them. We must not change things so often that it becomes chaotic, but we must evaluate and adjust, adapt, rework, revise and cast off the ministries that do not meet very specific discipleship goals. We eliminated an annual fall event because the schedule was too full. We attend another camp in Western NY for winter camp instead of the one that we support in the summer, because it has a better snow camp program (not just fun either).

We must be innovative and creative and purposeful in our decision-making. We should not let "we've always done it this way" or even "we like it the way that it is" come off our lips until we have given the change a fair discussion. [Please note I am not saying that you may not like something that we do or it is sinful! :) ] The reason for keeping a program, ministry of element must only be that it is the only means whereby we may be effective in the discipling of another believer. We should not let "We haven't ever done it that way before" be any more than an observation of teh totally obvious! It must not stall our attempts at fresh, doctrinally conservative methodology. The church is too important to God to give Him second rate, half-baked left-overs! We must serve with passion and zeal that draws others to hear about the One that drives us on in our growth and service.

"Leaders are disciples you are in touch with God... The discipling church is a community of disciples and their leaders seeking to know God and do His will."
The D-M Church, p. 38-39

That is the call of leadership. It is a call to evaluation and change. It is a call to personal growth and stretching. It is a call to fully functioning discipleship at the feet of Jesus Christ. Be committed to growth!

With my deepest affection,
The Disciple-Making Change Monger
(aka Pastor Mike)

Friday, April 13, 2007

Life is Short... Evangelize!

Life is too short and the world too compassion-starved for you to keep subsisting in situations that drag you down and curtail your potential to help advance the Kingdom. There's just too much at stake.
Hybels, Becoming A Contagious Christian
p. 73

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A Great Set of Quotes

Two quotes that have made me stop and think today:

The proof that I have experienced crucifixion with Jesus is that I have a definite likeness to Him.
Oswald Chambers

We enter the mission field every day we step out of the door of our homes, whether we live in North America or Africa.... As those called by the Lord, we are always on mission. We are living testimonies to Him.
Gary Fallesen

God's Learning Objectives

This morning in Bible Study, I had an interesting thought that formed the structure for the discussion of Exodus 6 & 7. I noticed that God's stated purpose for both sides (Israel and Egypt) of the plagues was almost identical:

"...Then you will know that I am the LORD your God..." 6:7

"... By this you will know that I am the LORD."

God's learning objectives for Moses, Israel, Pharaoh and Egypt were all starting at the same spot. As a result of experiencing this 10-part lesson, the student will:
  • KNOW that God is LORD (YeHoVaH).

The FEEL or emotional response for each character is slightly different. God desired a heart change in each case.
  • For Moses; FEEL confident in YHVH's ability to use him in spite of limitations (I needed to hear that one myself!).
  • For Pharaoh; FEEL hardened by the rejection of YHVH's specific 10-fold call to repentance.
  • For Israelites; FEEL protected by the hand of YHVH or FEEL valuable in YHVH's eyes (we are His people!).
  • For the Egyptians; FEEL convinced that YHVH is a better alternative to the pantheon that we are currently serving.

The DO or action items are also somewhat varied according to person involved, but the bottom line result is always the same: to glorify God. All of the parties involved, eventually, whether they accept or reject YHVH's personal involvement in their lives, will bring glory to God (YHVH).

"Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father." Phil 2:15

God has some pretty specific goal for my education today too. The situations that come into my life are for the intention of bringing me to the knowledge (experientially and first hand) of Him. YHVH is so sovereign and omniscient that He has even sometimes planned the same event to affect different people in different ways. This is the stuff of personal application! But ultimately all of the decisions whether for or against obedience to God's directions, whether right or wrong, wise or foolish, all will bring glory to God! (yes that is to suggest that sin glorifies God)

Think about this some more and post a response! I am in a very humble teachable mood today! :)

Thursday, April 05, 2007

They Are Not Listening

The story of Moses is fascinating on a number of different levels. One of them is the leadership angle. Moses is counted in the top ten great leaders that Israel ever had. He is in the Leadership Hall of fame if you will. Had he been born a few thousand years later, there would probably be an award named after him: the Moses Award for Excellence in Large Group Leadership.

I do not have a group the size that Moses led. The flock that God has given me for now is considerably smaller. Yet, Mo' faced the same sorts of problems that I face on occasion.

"So Moses spoke thus to the sons of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses on account of their despondency and cruel bondage."
Exodus 6:9, NASB

There are times that people just don't listen to me either. I try to lead and they just don't respond. I have been in this situation and thought about the leadership proverb recorded by John Maxwell (Developing the Leader Within You), "A leader without followers is simply out for a walk". I don't like walking off by myself any more than I like staying with resistant sheep.

The key I believe in this passage is that people didn't respond because they were too consumed with the stuff of everyday life. They were so loaded up that they couldn't hear Moses. They thought they heard him in chapter 4, only to be loaded up even more in chapter 5! It was too much! When this hearing/listening stoppage occurs, there are four encouragements for the discouraged leader.

1. They didn't listen to Moses either. I am not alone; this is not a new development that is targeting me. I have the record of Moses' leadership, even in the face of resistance or outright rebellion, to challenge me to do what I have been called to do -- with or without followers. This epsiode of non-listening did not cost him the leadership trophy!

2. They may not be ready, willing or able to hear me. I may need to help lift their load, or help them rest a while, or plan on carrying them for a distance. More good news! I can be the most eloquent speaker or even the faltering lipped leader and still not be heard.

3. I am not responsible for their response. I only need to take the message to them. I cannot answer for them or make them hear it. I cannot wait to speak the message when I can get the response that I want. I cannot wait to get a message that I like to speak (one that heeded).

4. I must not become short of spirit because of their responsiveness (or lack thereof). The people couldn't hear because they were "short spirited" or discouraged or despondent. If I take on their same attitude (sink to the level of the bleating sheep) then I may also become unable, unwilling, or unready to hear the voice of God through another messenger. Leaders lead by example.

I don't like to be not listened to or ignored. I love it when people are responsive (positively). But God may have me leading a group of people that, for whatever reason, can't or won't listen. Moses was. Oh how much I need a shot in the arm from God to get through the discouragement of non-responsiveness. God gave Moses Aaron to bear his load. God has given me key men to turn to as well. Who has God given to you? Be encouraged to lead in the face of non-response.

Leading whether they're listening or not,
And striving to hear myself,

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Brothers, Keep Away From the Idols

I would never worship an idol. I am too smart for that. I would pick up the fact that I was praying to a piece of hay, wood or stubble. I would never serve a piece of metal, wood, stone or plastic. There will never come a day when I prostrate myself before a grotesque statue or a foreign/strange shrine. It just won't happen. I'm not falling for that obvious a trick of the adversary.

But Oswald Chambers ask the question(s) in this way, today:

What is it that blinds me in this "my day"? Have I a strange god - not a disgusting monster, but a disposition that rules me? More than once God has brought me face to face with the strange god and I thought I should have to yield, but I did not do it. I got through the crisis by the skin of my teeth and I find myself in the possession of the strange god still; I am blind to the things which belong to my peace. It is an appalling thing that we can be in the place where the Spirit of God should be getting at us unhinderedly, and yet increase our condemnation in God's sight.

I was especially pulled up short by the statement Chambers makes about getting through the crisis and going right back to my old ways. My old ways are often the idolatry -- the things that steal my energy and excitement rightfully belonging to the God. I choose to be in control of my life instead of yielding. I desire my own comfort and pleasure over ministering selflessly. I rush into the temple of my heart, the sanctuary of my life, and brush the Holy Spirit aside so that I can put my own old man statuette on display. Sometimes when my mind is not being renewed, I even ask the Holy Spirit to hold the statuette. I think that since He is holding it I am really worshipping Him. My own hands/mind have fashioned this weak shadow of the real desirable object of my affection -- God.

I am so grateful that I no longer have permanent condemnation with God (Rom 8:1) -- even when I am stupid about avoiding the idols!

My prayer this morning is based on the words of the great hymn, "Whiter Than Snow"

Verse 1
Lord Jesus I long
To be perfectly whole
I want Thee forever
To live in my soul
Break down every idol
Cast out every foe
Now wash me and I shall be
Whiter than snow


Whiter than snow

Yes whiter than snow

Now wash me and I shall be
Whiter than snow

Verse 2
Lord Jesus look down
From Thy throne in the skies
And help me to make
A complete sacrifice
I give up myself
And whatever I know
Now wash me and I shall be
Whiter than snow

Verse 4
Lord Jesus before You
I patiently wait
Come now and within me
A new heart create
To those who have sought You
You never said no
Now wash me and I shall be
Whiter than snow

Amen. Brothers keep yourselves from idols (1 John 5:21).