Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Hurricane Help

If you are thinking about giving to the relief effort to help the victims of hurricane Katrina, I would recommend giving through Samaritan's Purse or the Red Cross.

You can donate to Samaritan's Purse at www.samaritanspurse.com

You can donate to the Red Cross at www.redcross.org

Blessings as you give to those who are need.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Future Trend #5: Focused Missions Work

I think another major trend that will impact the church in the future is the desire that church leaders will have to focus their missions efforts. It seems like to me that churches try to do so many things that they end up doing many things poorly instead of a few things well. This is especially true in the area of missions. Instead of putting lots of resources and manpower into one area, churches tend to give a little of what they have to many different places. I think a future trend (and one that churches are already doing) will be the adoption of a specific city (or region) in the world to do missions work in. Therefore, the church would pour all of its global missions effort into a specific location for a set amount of time. During that time (whether 10, 15, 20 years, etc.), the church would send all of its missions giving, all of its short-term trips, everything into this one area. The lasting relationship would be of profound importance to knowing the community, knowing the people, and therefore knowing the needs. It seems like to me that most short-term mission trips are 98% about the impact on the group going, NOT on the area they are going to. This could be changed, however, if the church had a focused approach to missions that centered everything around a certain location. This way, each short term group, whether families or young people or college students, could build upon the work done by groups that had gone before them. This focused concentration of effort, manpower, energy, and finances would have quicker and longer lasting impact on an area than sporadic missions efforts. If missions is truly about the people in the foreign country and not about us, then this seems like a future trend that is past due in arriving.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Future Trend #4: Meaningful Membership

Before I get to the new post, here's a great thought from Barna on the topic of my last post, team leadership:

"The longer we deny the benefits of team leadership, the less likely it is that we will experience the power of God in the church, in society, or in our personal efforts. There is only one ministry superstar: Jesus Christ. If we persist in seeking to lead churches through the display of talents and abilities resident within only a few unusually capable individuals, rather than allowing the community of believers to use their significant-but-less-inclusive leadership skills in an orchestrated unison to accomplish synergistic outcomes, the church and society will pay the price for such defiance." Amen.

Now on to trend #4...

What in the world does membership mean today in most churches? Specifically in Southern Baptist churches, it takes so little to be a member that I wonder why we even have membership. If someone simply walks the aisle and confesses Christ or promises to transfer from another church or simply makes a statement that they have been saved and baptized, they're in. We really don't know about their conversion. We don't really know what they believe. They don't know anything about our church. It is absolute madness. And what does it take to lose membership? I'm not really sure - I have yet to see it happen.

I think a major trend that will take shape for young leaders in the church is a rethinking about how membership operates in the local church. There are a couple of reasons this will happen. First, there is an awareness among young leaders that the church has the lost the ability to use discipline corporately in any circumstances. There may be multiple explanations for why the church fails to discipline its members for sinful lifestyles (like a lack of seriousness about sin and poor church government structure), but the major cause is a lack of clarity about what it even means to be a member in the church. How can we discipline those who we have allowed to be "members" but that we haven't seen in three years? If the church is going to try and really use its authority to shape the lives of its people, then we have to begin with a healthier understanding of membership.

The second reason that membership will be examined afresh is because of leaders taking a new look at the benefits of membership. Why does someone want to be a member of our community? If there are extended benefits to being a member of a church, then how can the church make sure that it is careful about what it defines a member to be? If members are allowed to vote on major church issues (like elders, budgets, big purchases, etc.), then shouldn't we care about who the members are? The role that leadership decides that lay people play in the direction of the church will make them think again about what membership means. Do we really want someone who is not walking with Christ to shape the direction of a church? Major issues to think about.

The third and final reason that membership will be changed is because membership is not defined in Scripture. Membership is a construct that churches use to help define their church polity. Therefore, it is open for debate and needs to be changed to better facilitate the church successfully completing those tasks that Scripture does command. If membership simply exists to help the church fulfill its calling, then it needs to be updated when it is hurting the church do that very thing.

SO...look for lots of changes to come in what membership means and how it functions in the local church.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Future Trends 3: Social Justice

While the liberal church has always been a champion for social causes, many in conservative, evangelical churches have failed to engage the social issues of their day because of a fear that they would lose their passion for the gospel. I think a third major trend that will shape the future of the evangelical church will be a passion to engage on the major social issues of our day. We have already been hard at work on the social issues of abortion and marriage, but I'm talking about other worldwide social issues. The evangelical church is bound to wake up soon to realize that while around 3500 abortions occur daily in the US, about 30,000 children die each day in the world because malnutrition and preventable diseases. A future trend in the church is going to be a sincere concern for the weakest among us (like the unborn, the handicapped, the elderly, children, etc.). There is going to be an engagement in the world unlike what any previous generation has seen. This will occur for two reasons.

First, the next generation of church leaders will realize the need to have a holistic gospel - a gospel that speaks toward the individual's destiny for eternity and toward the individual's life today. Whereas the church has become complacent to encourage a "personal" faith, the church of the future will challenge followers of Christ to give their whole lives to living as Jesus lived. This will include a new emphasis on what it means to be a follower of Christ in community with other Christians and in community with the world. I believe that post-modernism will drive the church to engage the culture based on biblical values and not to run from it. This engagement will challenge Christ-followers to have a holistic view of the impact of the gospel and not just a personal view.

Second, the worldwide environment we live in will make the distance between countries and peoples increasingly smaller. The time it takes for world events to get from the actual scene to my laptop is now seconds. This type of technological environment makes it hard for Christians to act like they don't know about what is happening to their brothers and sisters around the world. In fact, the new generation of church leaders, having grown up in a web-savvy world, will continue to challenge the church to look at the whole world when talking about the church and not just America.

These two trends - a holistic gospel and a smaller world - will lead the evangelical church to engage the major social justice issues of our days (poverty, racial conflict, ethnic conflict, AIDS, etc.) without losing its passion for the saving message of Christ crucified.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Future Trends 2: Team Leadership

The second trend that I believe will shape the future of the church is team leadership. For too long, all of the leadership responsibility has been placed solely on the senior pastor. Not only are the expectations outrageous for the senior pastor, but the demands of the day to day job are extremely stressful. Many men can thrive in that kind of situation, but my observation is that many cannot. Instead of placing sole leadership responsibility on the shoulders of the senior pastor, I believe that the church of the future will be led by teams. Now, I understand the need for a directional leader. I think that there has to be someone responsible for the vision and direction of the church as a whole. Somebody has to make sure that everyone is playing on the same team and moving the same direction. But how does that person relate and function within the structure of the leadership? Instead of making him the one untouchable, it seems to me that more and more churches will move toward a team leadership model. In this model, each team member should serve according to their natural abilities, their spiritual gifts, and their calling. I think we have a major problem in many churches that I have observed when people serve in positions they are not gifted or called to serve in. How does this happen and how can it be fixed?

First, everyone needs to know their own personal design. How has God put them together? If people could be honest about their own strengths and weaknesses, then we could begin to put teams together that would complementary of each other and not contradictory. We need strong teams of leaders in the local church who know who they are and also know who they are not. "Knowing who I am not" is maybe the most important thing that most people in leadership today struggle with. If I know what I am not good at and what I am not called to do, then I can freely and humbly put people around me who are gifted and called in those areas. These teams of leaders can then function at a level beyond the old 'senior pastor' model.

Second, roles needs to be clearly defined. I think teams struggle because people on the team don't know what their responsibility is on the team. Instead of hoping that everything will fall into place, hard discussions need to happen that will help shape the operation and design of the team. The original team members need to make sure they know where they are lacking and begin to invest in people who can feel those gaps. In fact, it is imperative that people in the team leadership model are continuing to invest in young leaders and train them up for future leadership in the church.

Third, as can clearly be seen above, the team needs to have mutual respect and accountability among itself. The team leadership model will only succeed if team members have enough trust among themselves to really say what needs to be said to each other. The team leadership model will only succeed when team members open up their lives to one another and are truly mutually accountable to one another. This must be modeled first by the directional leader so that all others on the team will understand the need to hold each other to a high standard of morality and excellence in their lives. The leadership team must model among themselves the same behavior they hope to see develop among the lay people.

I believe this team leadership model is powerful and sure to be a future trend in many churches.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Future Trends 1: Blogging in the Church

I've just read a great article in Texas Baptist magazine that contains some thoughts about how the world is changing and what that means for the church. I'm going to use their outline as some talking points for future blogs about leading in the church.

Future Trend #1 = Blogging

Well, I read this article and felt pretty good about trying to use blogging as a tool in our youth ministry at FBO. However, I have not thought through all the ramifications that blogging (& its next-of-kin, pod-casting - more on that later) can have on the ministry of the local church. Here are some thoughts that I am having about how blogging could potentially shape the future of our ministries...

...blogging to do outreach and evangelism. I'm thinking that we might test this out when we do the Back 2 School Bash at the end of this month. I'm wondering if we can't get our teenagers to start blogging about the B2S Bash and get the word out to their friends online. I'm also thinking about doing some work on how to teach about doing evangelism using IM and blogs in the fall. I don't know - what do you think?

...blogging to keep people up to date on prayer needs in the church. We could post information, hospital information, requests from the people in need, pictures of new babies, etc. all on the prayer blog. And then people could post their specific prayers and words of encouragement to people who are needing to hear it. This could keep all of our people informed and praying for one another.

I don't know - do you think this blogging thing could be used any other ways in the church? Could we really begin to teach a "blogging for Jesus" training session? Maybe I'm out of my mind, and we should just stick to face-to-face relationships. Seems most of us have lost the skills to make those happen (but that's another blog topic). What do you think about blogging and future of the church?

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Authenticity

I hope that our generation really engages the people of our culture with authenticity. I can think of nothing that turns a person off more than pretending to be something that you are not. Now, we don't know the extent of Rafael Palmeiro's steroid use at this point, but on the surface it kicks you in the gut because he gave such a spirited defense of his behavior before Congress. I think there would have been repercussions if he had said before that he used steroids, but now he just seems like a cheater and a liar. Everyone who knows him doesn't think that it is possible that he could have lied before Congress (and it may yet turn out that he didn't), but it just destroys his credibility as a person if he did. When someone pretends to be something that they are not, it simply causes everyone around him to question everything he says from that point forward. It is really about a lack of trust.

For those of us in the ministry, nothing could be more important in my mind that our credibility. We want everyone that hears us to put stock into the words that come out of our mouth. And yet, when we stand in the pulpit and present our lives and perfect and flawless, we begin to lose that credibility. I think personally that a major shift is happening in this area between generations. For the previous generation, I think they wanted to hold their pastor on this separate level of holiness that they were turned off by any mention of his own struggles and imperfections. This has definitely changed today - my generation responds positively when a man of God can stand before them and admit his own sins and flaws. This creates credibility with people because it comes from authenticity. We desire authenticity in our leaders. I do anyway. I want to know that those that I follow are human and real and living through the same desires and hurts that I am living through. I want to be that kind of leader. I want to stand so confidently in my identity in Christ that I can show people the real Keith, not pastor Keith.

Have we gotten to the place where we can show this kind of authenticity? I think it will take great humility from us as leaders to be this real. We may have to lay down our desire to be seen as greater than we actually are. Or we may actually have to become what we want people to see. Either way, authentic leaders are crucial for the future of the church if we desire authentic Christ-followers in the church.