Archive for March, 2018

People That Hunger – A Requirement for a Healthy Church

Sunday is a day like no other, for many of us. On this first day of the week, we do things quite differently than on other days. We start our day, not at work, play, or with a honey-do list, but gathering with others we don’t see all week to worship. Then it’s off to lunch and perhaps an afternoon nap. The day’s events look nothing like what is awaiting us on Monday.

And maybe that’s why it happens.

Somehow what we do on Sunday tends to be left to Sundays. We compartmentalize Sundays. We allow the unique activities and unique group of friends to be, well…unique. By Sunday’s end, when we’ve left the events and people of the day behind for another week, it’s easy to leave the rest of Sunday behind too–Sunday’s sermon is forgotten by Monday, Sunday’s heart of worship is abandoned for job pressures and the more dominating assignments of the week.

Pastors know the frustrated feeling that Sundays don’t often leak into the six days that follow. But our recent emphasis on extraordinary Sunday experiences only magnifies the issue. Pastor puts most of his energy into his one-day opportunity, while the congregation grows beyond his ability or energy to encounter through the week. Sundays are just Sundays, and increasingly they are only for Sundays.

Somebody has to halt this path–and it’s usually the people who can. Every time they open a Bible rf bow to pray for something other than food, they open a door for God to impact one of their six days. Each time they pause to worship, to reflect in God’s goodness or engage His presence near them, they strike a blow against Sunday-only faith.

Now Sundays matter, but it seems that in the Early Church, Mondays and Thursdays (and their four other friends) mattered more. The work of ministry (the stuff pastors are supposed to equip us for) is supposed to happen mostly on those days we’re not with the Sunday crowd. That’s why Jesus’ command was to “Go,” not “y’all come.”

How do we worship God on Mondays? Doesn’t it boil down to a hunger to really know Him? Isn’t it really all about wanting His powerful hand stirring up my Fridays? A real relationship with God can’t be contained in a single day each week, and those who want more know it.

When people truly hunger for God, they realize that loving Him takes all week… 

Pastor can’t do a lot to affect that change. Yes, he can slow the Sunday-only focus a bit and seek to equip people for what comes next. He can stop tying Sunday’s message into a neat little bow, and leave some stuff to be done on Tuesday. But ultimately it’s the people who have to want more…not more church services but more of God in their lives off campus.

People who hunger for God don’t quarrel easily. They manage to keep their pride and self-focus in check as well. They tend to lift others up while they look for ways to serve the God they love. In fact, the more they are loving God, the more likely they are to love people–since you can’t really separate the two.

Spiritually-hungry people drive everything that’s healthy about a congregation. So if you want to see God working more powerfully among your own faith community, start letting Him work more powerfully in your own life. Pastor, you can join the hunger as well. Remember that God will always grow His Church by growing His people.  No other strategy can be healthy.

Deacons Who Serve – A Requirement for a Healthy Church

March 5, 2018 1 comment

Over the past seven years, I’ve posted more than 300 blogs on the subject of church health. I’ll confess that sometimes I struggle with what to write. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there’s enough to say about the church to fill a few more years of Mondays, but this form of communication doesn’t allow us to meet eye-to-eye so you can see the passion of these thoughts or even hear the force with which I type them.

You see, there’s some things that I can’t type loudly enough–and today’s theme is one of those. I want you to hear my heart as I tell you that no church can be healthy unless its deacons (elders, or whatever your structure identifies as key lay leadership roles) are servants.

In my work, I get to encounter some unhealthy churches, and one of the common threads that connect them to other unhealthy places is the presence of at least one deacon who thinks he’s a board member. He shows up for the monthly meeting and usually can be found in one of the main services, but that’s about it. His job is to make decisions, and he usually has no idea how bad the decisions he makes really are.

By definition, deacons are to be servants. They are not simply to have a servant attitude–they are to be serving. As a pastor, one of the greatest reasons for the health our church enjoyed was the active involvement of every deacon. My “board room” was filled with the most involved people in the entire church. I didn’t have to describe our latest outreach or bring them up to speed with the results of our ministry efforts because they were as close to the action as I was. Thanks Ron, Del, Bill, Mick, Warren, Adam, Dennie, Kevin, Jeff, Larry, Tate, Thom, Todd, Dean, David, Bill, Dave, Kevin, and Gail. The church was so blessed by you and your ladies. (If I forgot someone, please forgive me and add them to the front of the list, ’cause everyone of these proved what a servant is truly designed to be.)

Some have the idea that if I’m chosen to serve, then I’ll serve. Guess again. Deacons are to be chosen from among those already serving. If you need a title to serve, well, what kind of servant is that?

Deacons who don’t actively serve in the church cannot be equipped to make ministry decisions. Only through serving do we develop the heart of Christ. Without serving regularly, we slip into unhealthy management modes that actually undermine what the Church is designed to become. If you’re not serving, then you’re not growing. And if you’re not growing, you’re becoming the leader who’s blocking your Church from the path it’s intended to walk.

Some may say, well, I’m older and my day of doing all that is passed. It’s time for the younger to step up. I’d probably agree with you on that last part, but if you think you’re too old to serve, then let someone younger fill that deacon slot too. The office of deacon isn’t intended to be a title of honor. In fact, personal honor is never the goal of a servant.

Some may say, well, isn’t sacrificing a night every month for meetings a type of serving? I would suggest that unless your serving brings you into direct contact with people and their needs, it’s not the kind of serving that will equip you to lead. Don’t just serve people on paper, but rub elbows with reality.

The first deacons were chosen to serve–to manage the daily distribution of food to the widows in the Jerusalem church. That’s the healthy paradigm. So, if you’re a deacon–keep serving, stay active in the ministries of your church. That’s the only way you’ll be able to serve that role in a healthy way.

There’s really no way to soften this truth. There are too many sickly churches who’ll die unless they are infused with the shot in the arm that serving deacons bring. Yes, this is but one of the factors in helping a church to health, and there are other issues to address as well. But be sure that your deacons and all your key lay leaders demonstrate their commitment to Christ’s mission with their hands and feet.