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Happy Anniversary! November 14, 2012

Posted by worshipconvergence in Christianity.
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One year ago today, after nearly three and a half years of mistreatment, I left the church whose lead pastor:

  • took a sexual joke more seriously than my word;

  • lied to me about expectations for my staff position, causing me to fail so she could make a change without being perceived as the villain;

  • lied to me about my position’s interaction with another staff position and responded to the confrontation of the lie with, to paraphrase, “If you don’t like it, quit;”

  • held me to double standards by telling me I wasn’t the right choice for my staff position because I didn’t do certain things, and then hiring someone who didn’t do those things and informing this person publicly that she didn’t have to do those things and could delegate however she wanted;

  • told multiple people that the, now former, church business manager was responsible for the maintenance department, then on multiple occasions stripped the business manager of authority to fulfill that responsibility to the extent that when the she tried to report the head custodian for consistently not working, the pastor wouldn’t let the manager turn in the report to the church elders;

  • told the, now former, technology coordinator his workload was going to be nearly doubled for no additional pay, then in the same meeting stated that a new staff position could be created (and funds allocated) to pay someone else to do the same work;

  • overloaded, seemingly intentionally, the, now former, hospitality director and refused her the assistance to make the workload more manageable, (kind of a “this is the job, if you can’t do it all maybe you shouldn’t do any of it” kind of mentality) yet less than two months after the director resigned that one staff position had been split into 3 positions and the two new ones were given to people who were already on staff and could have been delegated to;

  • took sides against a staff member when one congregation member accused him of bad-mouthing another staff member, telling the accused – who wasn’t allowed to defend himself, that he was not to mingle with or talk to the congregation anymore;

  • Manipulated another pastor out of applying for a pastoral position by telling him there wasn’t a need for the church to have a third pastor so the church’s anti-nepotism policy wouldn’t have to be enforced on the person the leadership wanted to hire: the husband of a woman who’d been hired ten months earlier.

 

And that’s just the ones who were willing to give their experiences, albeit unofficial in the eyes of the elders. God told Joshua after the battle of Ai that as long as there is sin in your camp, He is not. Trespasses of the leadership are many, repentances are condescending or faked. To those whose exit preceded mine as well as those who’ve left since – well done, good and faithful servants! To those who haven’t followed God out yet, there’s still time! Don’t stay, tethered, to friends or family who won’t leave, the name of the church, a position of power or influence, or anything else. Don’t be afraid to get out. Don’t just pray for the corruption to leave you, you have the power to walk by God. You could be celebrating your anniversary of following the Shepherd instead of staying with the wolves.

Church at the Cellular Level November 13, 2012

Posted by worshipconvergence in Christianity, Church, Leadership, ministry.
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The Church is the Body of Christ. Bodies are made up of cells. Cells reproduce through mitosis. Local assemblies of believers are cells in the Body of Christ. So, why is it so hard for the modern church to accept people splitting off and creating new churches? So many hard and hurt feelings, attendance numbers dropping causes people to try to get those people back or try extra hard to bring in new people to get the statistics up, people feel the need to validate themselves staying where they are by bringing in others.

Mega-churches are the order of the day; and the dream, for small assembly leaders, of being one The dream of leaving a legacy of a giant, thriving organization. But what they leave behind is an impersonal business just as fleeting as the market set inside the Temple. “Do not use [my Father’s temple] as a place [of business.] If you tear this temple down I will rebuild it in three days.” The Body of Christ is a temple that can’t be a business, therefore the Church cannot be a business. As a Youth Director put it a few years ago, we need to build relational ministries because God is a relational God. How relational can you get when you’ve a flock of 1,000 and only two pastors?

In 1992, anthropologist Robin Dunbar hypothesized that the human brain is capable of maintaining a limited number of stable relationships, i.e. the Dunbar Number: 150. Recent studies of social networking sites show that Dunbar was pretty close, as people are only staying connected to and interacting with around 150 contacts. If we apply this research to ministry, what happens is that, factoring pastor’s family and friends, there should be 1 pastor for every 100 to 125 church members. So a 1,000 member relational church should have 8 to 10 pastors. When people don’t have a relationship with someone who knows them and they can call, “my pastor,” they move on.

When a number of people feel unconnected, unrelated to the overall organization, they may mitotically divide under the leadership of a new nucleus from within the assembly. That needs to happen, and it needs to be okay, in our eyes, that it happens. One Body needs many cells. He, who one person calls sheep, may be called shepherd by another. Such is the way of the Royal Priesthood, where we are both, shepherd to some and sheep to others.

Sometimes the split may be assembly-sanctioned, such as a “satellite” campus. Other times, well, let’s just say there are “unfavorable conditions” that cause splitting. The former is easier for the assembly as a whole to deal with, but may still cause hard or hurt feelings, the latter almost always leaves hard and hurt feelings on both sides. But, in the long run, these splits can both generate bigger advances for the Kingdom, so there shouldn’t be hard feelings on either side, for either scenario. We need to step up to the microscope, and peer into it longer than one single generation of cellular reproduction.

Adventures in Sermon Planning, or, The Importance of Mixed Messages November 10, 2012

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(cue voice-over) Last time on Hypocrites and Heretics…

The bane of modern church trends: series preaching. Some people seem to love it, they are probably the same people who love soap operas on TV. Six or seven weeks about relationships, four about missions, seven about attitude, three or four about serving, four about following your dreams, and you’re half way through the year having covered only five topics. Here’s the problem – if you want guests to feel at home, if you want to keep those whose attention span runs out quickly, series preaching only hits a small percentage of people.

A number of years ago, I was intrigued by a TV series called Alias. I stopped watching after one season because every episode ended with a cliffhanger and the following episode started with either a recap of the previous episode or even the last 10 minutes of that episode as the first 10 minutes of the new episode. Too soap opera-esque. Last week…this week…next week. I managed to last about 10 years as a fan of WWF/WWE wrestling, but when characters launched in to the exact same persona and feuding with the same people for the 5th time, I turned it off. Soap opera. I sit through modern church services and get the same feeling.

Stand alone episodes allow newcomers to turn on the show, evaluate without the writers trying to force them into coming back to finish the story, and without the viewer having to know a back story, and they can possibly enjoy what they see and come back of their own free will. Occasionally the show will use a multi-week story arc, but they try to make it easy for guest viewers to feel at home. Coming in during the middle of, or at the end of, a series adds to the feeling of being and outsider. Supposedly, the modern church M.O. – make everyone feel at home, serve coffee, conveniently-stationed friendly hospitality volunteers, etc. Yet sermon series are anything but outsider friendly.

If your vision includes bringing in new people; being an Acts 2 church, which spreads the Word to grow the Body; printing invitations; advertising on radio, in papers, and online; series preaching counteracts those efforts. Mix it up, stand alone sermons (messages) go farther than series, even if you record every sermon to distribute online. Pastors are always telling congregations, “Its not about you!” Yet those same pastors insist on delivering series after series because its more worshipful to them and they feel like they are giving so much more information than they could give in a single sermon. Think of it this way: if the average sermon length in your church is 28 minutes, and you take guests into consideration and give them a recap, you probably spend 7-8 minutes giving the recap, meaning the actual sermon is only 20-21 minutes because you had to backtrack. In a stand alone sermon, you’d actually have the full 28 minutes to deliver a sermon that could speak to people and allow guests to come back of their own free will. During a 4 week series, you’ll lose the equivalent of one week’s sermon time giving recaps and overviews.

The purpose of the sermon is to edify, or strengthen the the people’s resolve to live by the Word in today’s society. That is the continuous battle, and it requires mixed messages to fight the Good Fight. But maybe we’ll talk about that more…

(cue voice-over) Next time on Hypocrites and Heretics.