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Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 361

November 30, 2016 Leave a comment
  1. You will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:5).

Here is the promise Jesus has been pointing to for weeks. Some see transition in these words as Jesus is “handing off” the revelation baton to the 3rd of the Trinity’s persons. Of course, we can’t draw such distinct lines as such a moment will also provide the necessary power for completing the mission Jesus, himself, has assigned. Regardless of how we might characterize this promise, it is clearly marked by the command to “wait” until the promise is fulfilled. “You will” is not “You can” as though such a moment would be optional. “Be baptized” is not “get baptized” as though the moment is yours to obtain. Our only role is to demonstrate our desire for such a moment and we do that by waiting with the expectation that His promise will be fulfilled in us, just as it was in a few days for them.

Out My Window…

November 28, 2016 Leave a comment

A few weeks back I spent the weekend with a congregation that has endured catastrophe. It’s the second such congregation I’ve been privileged to work with over the last several years. Now, you may think your church is one of those (and I suppose it could be), but when I say “catastrophe” I’m talking about a reality that leaves one shaking his head. I shook mine a lot.

Gory details aren’t really necessary, but when you combine leadership immorality, financial shenanigans, media scrutiny, hidden sin, and a long-term leader that simply won’t let go, well, you wonder how the church could possibly ever recover.

The good news, is that both calamitous churches are rebounding in great strength. Separated by the full width of the North American continent, these two congregations managed to merge very similar ingredients in order to generate the future they are now finding.

What are those ingredients? I’m glad you asked.

First, both groups found quality leadership. When a congregation has lost confidence in the trustworthiness, not just of their pastor, but of all pastors, a leader known for integrity is absolutely critical. Only a truly trustworthy person can penetrate justified high levels of distrust. A church in catastrophe can’t preach its way out, no matter how good the preaching. You must make integrity job #1.

Second, both groups were blessed with committed lay leaders. Elders, deacons, and others who cared deeply for their churches gave both congregations a chance for recovery. Frankly, it’s easier to leave when you’re hurt and a bit disillusioned–when the leader who brought you to Christ proves to have size 22 feet of clay. But both churches had key people who wouldn’t let the days of tragedy write their church’s final chapter.

Third, both groups sought outside counsel. As a consultant, this may seem self-serving, but a struggling church really needs an extra set of eyes, someone who will see and say what is needed. That person is usually more easy to find among those who haven’t lived the painful realities.

Fourth, both groups looked outside themselves for answers. It would have been easy to become inward focused. After all, there was a lot to fix within both churches. But a bunker mentality would have only caused the pain to drive deeper. Because of their outward focus, the congregation found some meaningful purpose and the congregational energy they needed to address their trouble.

Finally, both churches built a plan and continue to patiently work their plans. Long-term, deep trouble isn’t eradicated in a weekend or even in a year. This is a journey that demands commitment of time and energy. From the summit of leadership to the simplest servant, a commitment to process is essential. Fortunately, with the help of those outsider-eyes, both congregations were able to build a path toward a new day and both demonstrated the leadership commitment to see their plans through to success.

Obviously, there are a few more ingredients that each church found in pursuit of its vision, but these are the foundation stones that made building that new future a possibility–and now, a miraculous reality.

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 360

November 16, 2016 Leave a comment
  1. “In a few days…” (Acts 1:5).

A few days…

The idea seems to fit a slower moving culture, doesn’t it. We seldom want to wait a few days for anything…and we seldom do. What can be done can always be done faster. The reasons we must wait on something seem fewer and fewer and money can usually solve them. To wait, especially if it feels unnecessary, is unacceptable for those who succeed. While Jesus promised the Holy Spirit, He also promised a wait. And for many, that wait feels unnecessary. Of course, Jesus himself is the Baptizer in this case, so He is the One who determines the duration of the wait and the necessity of a different timing to our request. He does tell us that our good Father wants to give His Spirit to His children, but there’s a wait. And its purpose is often found in hunger. Waiting on God has two possible results–either we grow in our passion to receive from Him as we wait or we abandon our pursuit in favor of shortcuts or other means to achieve our goals. Hunger is the only acceptable path and the only one that leads to the promise of the Spirit. So, a few days it must be.

Categories: Leadership Journeys

Out my window…

November 14, 2016 Leave a comment

After a steady flow of weekend consulting trip and an ever-increasing number of conversations with pastors and church leaders and just “regular-ole” church folks, I’m offering a couple of observations that hopefully make the frequent flyer miles worthwhile. First, I’ve decided to never again be surprised by an airlines ability to mangle my travel plans…but that’s not really helpful.

A better first point is to note the connection between community growth and potential local church growth. While we consultants may not want to acknowledge community population trends as a key factor in our work, the truth is that if the town’s not growing, the church will, at least, struggle in its own efforts to grow. Many small towns are stagnant pools when it comes to church attendance. When a family has once attended each of the community’s congregations, they are seldom prime targets for committed involvement.

Growing churches in dying towns are quite rare.

So, it would seem to make sense that praying for the success of your town, its businesses, and its development plans would be a good idea. Getting your congregation involved in the community in ways that contribute to the mayor’s agenda or the city council’s plans could also help. After all, if your town begins drawing more people into its neighborhoods, you’ll find that success is a great partner for your own dreams of reaching more people.

My second observation is even more compelling. There’s nothing like people who are excited about their church. While I generally hope for a smaller person to sit next to me on an airplane (I’ll share the armrest, but prefer my seatmates fully fit into their own seats), the last several flights have allowed me to meet excited church attenders of all sizes (both waist sizes and church sizes). To listen to their upbeat portrayal of their discipleship journey inside what seems to be an amazing community of local believers is quite the pleasure. Often makes me wish my travel plans could accommodate the opportunity to join their friends for worship.

All the promotional campaigns in the world aren’t nearly as effective as one person who is excited about his local church. I’ve concluded that people want to talk about the good things in their lives, even when that good thing is their local church experience. Here’s to hoping that your church is the one they’re talking about on my next flight.

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 359

November 11, 2016 Leave a comment
  1. “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait…” (Acts 1:4).

His is a worldwide mission, one that is already beating in their somewhat confused hearts. Somehow, this small band of brothers, who’ve known little but the walking paths of their countryside, are destined for distant places. But first, there is a wait. The time to move is not yet. There is an order to their destiny and the stage of departure is not yet. How clear did this seem to them? Perhaps they are fearful of this unknown future so the command to wait sounded like sweet music to their troubled hearts. Perhaps some were determined and ready and these words forced a halt to their aggressive steps. But the directive is clear. There’s something yet–and that something will prove critical to the road ahead. We can charge forward in our confident selves and with our strategic genius, but can we wait?

Categories: Leadership Journeys

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 358

November 9, 2016 Leave a comment
  1. He showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive (Acts 1:3).

This He continues to do. The evidence of a living Savior dominates the lives of those who trust in Him. His forgiveness and promise of new life demonstrate the miraculous power of His cleansing. His provision of peace in response to their faith demonstrates His ongoing desire for relationship. His promise and provision of the Spirit empowers those who step beyond their own levels of ability and experience. His guidance whispers strategic turns to those who long to chase His purpose. Though none can place their fingers inside the scars that mark His hands, none who have encountered His love and power deny that their Master lives.

Categories: Leadership Journeys

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 357

November 4, 2016 Leave a comment
  1. “Jesus did many other things as well” (John 21:25).

While this verse states clearly that John only used selected stories to provide his Gospel account, one wonders at the other things Jesus did. Surely none of the Gospels can provide an exhaustive list. In fact, this verse goes on to suggest that all the books of the world could not contain all that He did. In truth, that’s a fact when considering all that He continues to do today. Who among us is even aware of all God’s acts on our behalf, even in a single day? When you consider the depth of His love, the expanse of His power, and the frequency with which He combines those two in actions on our behalf, what place remains for anxiety or stress? Ours is an active God, always at work for the good of those who trust in Him. Perhaps our level of trust is then revealed by our ability to rest in His faithfulness.

Categories: Leadership Journeys