Revitalization and Music

 

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Before pastoring I served as a Music Leader for 23 years. I later pastored and continued to lead the music for another 3 years before training others to take up that role. I have always viewed the music portion of worship as preparation for the body to focus on and receive the movement of the Holy Spirit through the proclamation of the Word. Music is an art, and as such, it evokes emotion. Ever wonder why songs from our past bring up good memories and possibly even hurtful ones? Interesting how some of the old songs have been revived and renovated today. Things seem to come back if they are reinvented appropriately!

 

That being said, I hope you hear my experience and my love for the art as it pertains to both the benefits and barriers music may have on revitalization. I have been an avid reader of Dr. Robert Webber (author of Worship is a Verb), and have found great musical insights from men like him and Rick Muchow (former Music Pastor at Saddleback in CA.). Each give both practical and theological bases for the supportive role music can have on the health and renewal of the church.

 

I offer the following list and simple explanations to the benefits and barriers of music in revitalization. First, the barriers:

 

1.     Style above Purpose – Rick Muchow said in a conference years ago – “style was not nearly as important as quality.” Across their campus are numerous musical genres, and all were helpful for evangelism and assimilation, because they demand quality. “We are always to offer the Lord our very best!”

 

2.     Preferences above Culture – I led a worship seminar at a large church that was split over music style. The Music Pastor loved the liturgical, “high-church” style, but his congregation was not supportive of his ministry; they wanted something more “contemporary” (just a side note – what do we mean by contemporary? Yep, as many definitions as definers). During the workshop, we determined that the majority of the church preferred Country and Western music on daily basis. Guess what genre they moved toward, without an argument?

 

3.     Art over Theology – Songs that suggest that we can “come to some dewy garden alone, walking and talking with the Lord, while the moisture is still on the flowers,” does not incite a theological parallel to the life-changing majesty of God. Yes, I love the tune, but the theology is weak at best. Consider songs that help disciples memorize scripture. The Scripture in Song movement of the 80s did this. I’m not suggesting we go back and dig up those relics, but memorizing scripture is invaluable – hiding God’s Word in our heart gives us the resource to resist temptation (Ps. 119:11). Make certain the lyrics match biblical theology.

 

4.     Genre over Harmony – This point has a slight variance to the barrier found in #2. In the church setting above, there were those who said they preferred the “old Southern gospel” style of music, but when it came to their actual responses, given during the workshop, it was revealed that they found daily enjoyment out of a genre that was quite different from their Sunday choice. In a facade of keeping the peace (really desiring to have what they grew up with), the respondents shared that they would love to hear Christian music set to a country or bluegrass style. Some would secretly slip over to the local Cowboy church, now and then, just to hear “the good old gospel songs” accompanied by the banjo, mandolin and washtub. Their reason for remaining in their former dissatisfying worship environment was they didn’t want to dishonor the memory of their ancestors or “cause any waves.” We often choose to stay in our ritual rather than enjoy the freedom of our unity in Christ. It matters not what category of music you sing, as long as it comes from your heart and for His glory. Some of the most exciting worship experiences I ever heard were in a little church in Dacus, TX, where bluegrass Christian music was performed for the Lord with excellence. Those folks always seemed to be free and having fun! And people WANTED to join them.

 

5.     Position over Purpose – I never considered myself “the Worship Pastor.” According to the Old Testament, the priests were the Worship Pastors. My ministry role has always been to be a supportive team member alongside the pastor. The role of all staff members should be to be a team member accomplishing Kingdom work in the local church, under the leadership of the shepherd who is called to that flock. The one thing that was sorely missing in my music education was humility. We should humbly support the direction, vision and goals of the church. Only then can we truly lead the heavenly host in praise. We were trained that our gift, our talent and our abilities were of utmost importance. Being a team player was not taught in Music Theory, Vocal Pedagogy, or Sightsinging and Ear Training. Our Lord needs unified hearts, singleness of direction, and Holy Spirit focus.

 

Second, are benefits of a worship experience that is God-honoring, selfless, and unifying:

 

1.     Music becomes therapeutic. It leads listeners to focus on the One Who is healer, deliverer and savior. It can truly soothe the savage beast. We should plan to immerse the participants mind in the Word. Then, He can cut the bonds that strap us to worry, fear, hopelessness, etc. Music can free the mind! Remember the results of David playing the harp for Saul? (1 Samuel 16:14-23) It works today!

 

2.     Word-centered music stirs the emotions toward the Author! When we sing and play about the One who saved us, who delivered us and healed us, we cannot help but recount His blessings and forget about the petty differences that drain the power of God and plague church unity. Look at David’s response to Nathan’s convicting parable/message (2 Samuel 12:1-14; Psalm 51). Psalm 51 is David’s song of repentance, cleansing and forgiveness. What would our congregations be like if we consistently confessed sin, renewed the sacrifice of our lives daily, and begged God for His washing and restoration?

 

3.     Music becomes the paintbrush of our heart – Spreading the paint of our adoration on the canvas of the world so all may see His greatness. Art is one way we display what is in our soul. We sing in harmony and unite in symphony for the One Who is and was and is to come! We remind EVERYONE that He is coming again and victory will be His AND OURS forevermore. Painting the picture of His love for us will reveal the hope, the peace, and the love we have in Him and for others who receive Him. The Lord adds to the church that sacrifices their all for Him and for others (Acts 1:42-47).

 

4.     Quality becomes the standard. We will cease getting out of bed on Sunday morning and picking 4-5 songs we enjoy, and we will stop “filling” 20-30 minutes on a Sunday morning program. We will be offering our best, our all, for the One Who gave His all (sounds like good lyrics). The church that practices praise with perfection offers a beautiful aroma to the Lord. We must tirelessly prepare so we honor and respect the One Who is the focus of the worship event. We must lift Him up so all people will be drawn to Him (John 12:32).

 

5.     The Father is the Focus. The ego-centric desire to entertain gives way to intimate communion. Revival and renewal flows from God’s throne when we glorify His name/character/ attributes and when we lovingly adhere to His commands. If we love Him, we will keep His commands, and if we keep His commands, we will love others properly (1 John 5:1-5). It is at His feet that we gain what is vital!

 

In summary, weekly reflect on the music ministry of your local congregation. Make certain it is selflessly-anointed, culturally-relevant, emotionally-appropriate, therapeutically-beneficial, theologically-sound, God-focused, unifying, inclusive and stunning in quality.

 

May it be our strategy to utilize music to reinforce the Word, heal the soul and propel the believer toward repentance and daily renewal. What is your heart singing today?

 

Desired Attributes in a Strategic Leadership Team

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            In a revitalization process there are certain leadership attributes that help plug the holes in the ship so she doesn’t sink while sitting in the dock. Nehemiah was a walking example of all these attributes. And while I am sure God can raise up another Nehemiah, I believe He tends to use a team of people who possess the attributes necessary. Jesus used a team of twelve to show us how it’s done! Ask the Lord to provide the best gifted people to be a part of the team and here’s what to look for:

 

 

 

1.     The catalyst. Someone must be the initiator of the process and the plan.

 

 

 

2.     The outsider. Someone new; someone without a long history in the church body; someone distantly removed from any politics or division. Joel Allen Barker asks, “What kind of person is a paradigm shifter?” He states simply, “an outsider”[1] is. An outsider has a clearer perspective on the situation and he/she is not overwhelmed with the grief of the problem. 

 

 

 

3.     The problem-solver. A person who can organize the people to follow the Lord’s leadership. The problem solver sees the probabilities for obstacles and/or barriers and plans a way around them.

 

 

 

4.     The visionary. A visionary sees what others cannot yet see. Even the outsider, mentioned earlier, must be sympathetic to the need for growth and health and envision their part in developing a solution.

 

 

 

5.     The motivator. A team member who can speak with confidence, and rally the troops with his/her words, is likely to find that the team is being followed by an eager crowd.

 

 

 

6.     The persuader. A selfless persuader can influence a church, to press outward toward the world in need, rather than being inwardly–focused. The selfless persuader is a prize to any group or congregation.

 

 

 

7.     The risk-taker. Every great leader will face a certain level of risk to accomplish what they knew was absolutely essential to the cause. Jesus is the ultimate example of this attribute.

 

 

 

8.     An empathizer. A restoration leader who cares deeply for the people, enough to join them in their pain and their struggle back to productivity, and ultimately to restoration and revival is a leader who will endear themself to the people they serve.

 

 

 

9.     A persevering leader. Perseverance is steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success. It is the character trait that compels one to struggle through failures, difficulties or opposition to achieve one’s desired outcome or goals. [2] Leaders of change, innovation, creativity, and vision may be misunderstood by some, but a team leader – who perseveres, refuses to throw in the towel, or run to a greener field – can help a church bounce back from the brink of death.

 

 

 

10.  A planner. Each time a barrier presents itself, the planner prayerfully prepares a plan to keep the work on track and reiterates the goal to be attained.

 

 

 

11.  A recruiter. One who can recruit workers with a vision and a plan to accomplish the goals. Restoration is a team effort. There must be a leader who can recruit the congregation to buy into the renewal plan for the process to be effective and maintainable. Without the team environment, renewal would be similar to a coach without any players on the court or field; the game will never be effective.

 

 

 

12.  The organizer. This team member makes sure all the resources are present, gives specific assignments so the group is confident concerning their task, and observes and evaluates the effectiveness of the assignments. Organization will not eliminate difficulties, but it can provide multiple options to each barrier.

 

 

 

13.  The delegator. He/she does not accomplish the task in his/her own power. Michael McCutcheon speaking wisely in favor of the need for delegation, quotes J. Oswald Sanders by saying, “To insist on doing things oneself because it will be done better is not only a shortsighted policy but may be evidence of an unwarranted conceit.”[3]

 

 

 

14.  A person of prayer. Being a person of prayer demonstrates interdependence on the subject of one’s faith.

 

 

 

            Jesus’ leadership reaction to His followers was: “But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary [harassed] and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd [leader, guide]” (Matthew 9:36).  

 

 

 

            Biblical leadership is absolutely essential to revitalization, restoration and church health.   

 

 

 


[1] Malphurs, Pouring New Wine into Old Wineskins, 71.

 

[2] The New Oxford American Dictionary, s.v. “Perseverance.”

[3] Michael McCutcheon, Rebuilding God’s People: Strategies for Revitalizing Declining Churches (Camp Hill, Christian Publications, 1993), 36.

 

Do You have the Guts to Take on a Fixer Upper?

My wife and I love to watch HGTV and The History Channel. One night a week we rush to the basement to watch Chip and Joanna Gaines from Waco, TX on Fixer Upper. Their catch phrase/question, at the beginning of each episode, is the title of this article. I realized one night how this home renovation series parallels revitalization. It is a risky proposal. It is a process besieged with many difficult decisions! It is amazing how each week the stark reality of the original structure determines the cost of the renovation and the subsequent timeline required for the transformation. This is true of revitalization.

So what is required to be a fixer upper? You will need to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly…. oops, sorry! That’s the Boy Scout motto! Here’s the list:

  • Everything must be evaluated. Nothing can be left to chance. The initial inspection reveals whether the bones are good enough for revitalization to proceed. A renovation without a full inspection can easily start with a faulty foundation. Some projects need to be “bulldozed” and started again from ground zero. In our process, we scrutinize every ministry, committee, team, program, event, system and all the documents of the church. No rock can be unturned. Everything the church does must adhere to the values and mission of the church! I have even seen Constitution and Bylaws that keep a church from moving forward. Start with a strong evaluation and a solid foundation. Get a good inspector. You can find several in this magazine.
  • It requires a variety of tools. The revitalization process should start with a sharp tool – say the Sword. The Word of God provides the biblical basis for evaluation, church health, transformation, teamwork, strategic planning, etc. Take a long look at the book of Nehemiah for the steps to revitalization. Second, a hammer/sledge is helpful when something needs to be broken or demolished – and some things should be done away with, especially if they dilute the vision and direction of the church. In some cases, the past needs to be buried for the new foundation to be laid. Could dynamite be considered a tool? Probably not! The detail tools must never be overlooked. A finish-nailer makes a tiny hole and yet holds with more than adequate strength. Revitalizing is best performed when the gaps are filled and the wounds or scars are dealt with and conflict gives way to unity and harmony! My favorite tool is the pliers! I love putting the squeeze on those who don’t want to go along with me! Yes, that is a toolbox hyperbole! You can add your own tools to the box or contact a revitalizer who has already put together a toolbox based on previous experience and expertise gleaned from other wise rebuilders.
  • Know the Materials needed for restructuring. Some building materials and decorating items don’t appeal to me, but my wife loves them. Our preferences don’t always coincide. This is also true of revitalization, but it is the opportunity to strive for unity and compromise. The most important material is PRAYER. Prayer helps people find the mind of Christ and settle on a resolution to which all can harmoniously accept. Wallpaper the entire process with prayer as you restructure and rebuild and move forward. Also, revitalization leaders need to recognize that we will not make everyone happy all the time. What is required to gut and renovate the body may disappoint or anger some. It hurts to tear down that structurally unsound wall that was built by someone’s relatives many years ago, but the renewal will not be safe and beautiful unless it is dealt with.
  • Be willing to count the cost – The Gaines have faced many set-backs in fixing up homes for their clients. At times they were over-budget and other times way beyond the renovation timeline. The process of revitalization is not a perfect process, but we have a perfect God Who joins us in the task of making His Bride ready for His return. The Gaines chose to sacrifice TV time to be on TV. Ironic! But we, like they, must be willing to offer normalcy and comfort to become relevant, innovative and productive for the Kingdom of God. The time and discomfort is worth the renovation. “DO YOU have the guts to be a fixer upper?”

Am I a Leader Who Retains Great Workers?

(Adapted from an article written by Luke Landes in Career and Work)

 by Tracy W. Jaggers

One quality of great leadership is the ability of delegate. Visionary leaders know this, and delegate to move the organization forward productively. Delegation reveals trust. The leader who delegates declares, “You are here because you are a vital part of the process in accomplishing our shared vision, and I trust you to do the work God gifted you to do.” This leader has no problems getting or keeping workers!

 

Visionary leaders often stop there. As a result, a big piece of the puzzle is obscure. While the leader may say they trust the workers, if they fail to allow the worker to make decisions because they believe they must maintain control of the vision, they are actually saying, “I do not trust you.”

A lack of authority prevents the organization from moving forward. Processes come to a halt, waiting for the visionary to make the next decision. Therefore a trusted worker/volunteer may lose heart and choose to go to a setting where they can use their gifts and talents in a role in which they are trusted and valued.

 

Leaders must give both the responsibility for the task and the decision-making authority to do it within the worker’s gifts and talents!

 

What can I do if I find myself working a task where I have been given responsibility but no authority? This can be a frustrating and debilitating! You want to do a great job because you are sold on the organization’s vision, but your creativity and decisions are discounted, impeded and distrusted. You’ve been given the responsibility to accomplish a task, but you keep being blocked from doing your task by the very leader who gave you the task in the first place. Also, you may even be reprimanded and held accountable for a task’s failure because of the decisions you were prevented from making.

First, don’t be that type of leader. Second, be faithful to the task and the vision. Finally, pray for God’s wisdom and guidance as you serve faithfully.

Responsibility – involving personal ability to act without superior authority.

 Authority – the right and power to command, enforce laws, exact obedience, determine,                                              influence or judge.

 Accountability – answerable to a superior authority.

 

Responsibility without Authority = Distrust/Impotence

Responsibility without Accountability = Anarchy/Chaos

Authority without Accountability = Tyranny/Dictatorship

Accountability without Authority or Responsibility = Oppression

Responsibility + Authority + Accountability = Freedom/Peace

Tearing Down the Barriers to Successful Revitalization

 

by Tracy W. Jaggers

My first exposure to Church Revitalization (which was a term I was unaware of during those days), I found that attempting to “fix” a church that was dwindling and broken, had all the complexities of building a super-computer with a pair of needle-nose pliers and a roll of Duct tape.

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For me, it was because I was inundated with pastoring my family through a crisis. I was just too physically and mentally drained to expend any more energy, even on the needs of the flock. We had hemorrhaged by 21% before I was cognizant of any bleeding at all. With an unplanned revival, that included me, my family, my deacons and some key leaders, we not only saw rejuvenation, but we surpassed our former status by 37% and began to experience real, unified ministry inside and outside the church. It was not because of an intentional process. It was because of brokenness, confession, prayer and shared responsibility.

 

Immediately following this revival, I read “Breakout Churches” by Thom S. Rainer. That was us! We were a breakout church by the grace and power of the Lord. I am so glad I didn’t know to lean on any processes or procedures at that time, because God got all the glory.

 

I am now convinced, through the life of men like Nehemiah, that there is a place and time for an outsider to come into a local congregation and help them rebuild the “walls” of their struggling and declining assembly. Just like Nehemiah, I am blessed to be in a position where we come alongside church leadership and walk with them through a process that has been tested and verified numerous times in the past few years. We do not claim to be experts, just research and development ministers. There are two things we have experienced, that have attempted to stifle the possibility of success in the renewal process; conflicts and cantankerous individuals. Allow me to offer ten hindrances that can become obstacles to a successful revitalization.

 

1) Misrepresentation of a Willingness/Readiness to Change – change is uncomfortable for many. Mark Twain is quoted as saying, “The only person who likes change is a baby with a wet diaper.” I wonder if he ever changed a diaper. It is not always pleasant – for the changee or the changer. But, when a church is in an “awful mess,” change is the only workable solution to the discomfort. Change may seem like a universally-accepted part of the process, but knowing we need to change, and actually making the change, can be in definite opposition.

 

2) Leaders who are not totally committed to the process and the duration – pastors can give the impression that they are aggressively for the revitalization process, when in reality; they don’t want one more alligator to wrestle with while they are draining their swamp. They are tackling lots of impressive daily projects, while omitting the things that result in real renewal and health for the church. Some are fearful that the process will reveal their inadequacies or inactivity, and others are simply unwilling to surrender the time it takes to encounter true revival.

 

3) Fear of losing influence/leadership – this can be true of leaders, or of members who formerly were movers and shakers; when they spoke, people listened. They refuse, aggressively or passively, to lose their perceived power. They don’t care about moving forward, as much as they desire things to remain the same.

 

4) A presupposition of what the change will look like and how far it will take us from our sacred programs, plans, event, ministries and methods – I have seen situations when there was a barrier of rigidity against any change. It was concerning the perceived outcome to their specific ministry area. The leader(s) and/or the congregation want assurances that the final results of the process will not draw them too far from their comfort zone. They can also be fearful that it will cause conflict to which they are resistant.

 

5) Expecting the process to fix ALL the struggles – The demise of any church is most likely multi-faceted and complex and the problems and the struggles of the congregation did not happen overnight. Few home repairs happen without numerous trips to the hardware store. We don’t always have the proper tools in our toolbox, or we break something else while we are trying to fix the first problem. Partnership is a vital asset here! Working together as a team is indispensable. Revitalization may not fix everything in the church. It does offer the expertise of numerous laborers, and the tools they have tested, to help facilitate healing, growth and conflict resolution.

 

6) Holding on to our pet programs or externally-offered events – Would you give up VBS? Probably not; but a church cannot allot all the annual finances and the entire church calendar to VBS. What would the church accomplish the other 51 weeks of the year with no resources and no time? All committees, ministry teams, events, programs and activities must be held with a loose grasp so an accurate evaluation and adjustment may be accomplished.

 

7) Revering meetings over ministry – Is corporate worship more valuable than the salvation of the lost and the healing of the hurting? Before you say no, take a look at your church’s budget and see where the bulk of the money is spent. Today we tend to build, program, and staff for the weekly worship event over everything else. Sure, it is important, but is that what Jesus emphasized as the focus of His ministry? (Matthew 18:11; Isaiah 61:1-3)

 

8) Underemphasizing discipleship – Sunday School/small groups/Bible study and the pulpit offer a certain level of equipping. The key to church health is personal growth. The task of the minister is to mature the saints of God into the fullness of Christ by equipping, edifying, unifying and instructing in the knowledge of God (Ephesians 4:11-13). It is every member’s responsibility to dive deep into the Word of God (Psalm 1:1-3; 119:11). No one can physically thrive on one meal a week, served every Sunday morning at 10:45! Each and every day we must personally feed our hungry souls.

 

9) Leadership “trust issues” – if church members are not following, where can you lead them? I heard John Maxell say, “If you turn around and no one is following, you are not a leader.” It is extremely hard to lead when you have lost the empowerment of others to be led by you – it is kind of like trying to push a garden hose around your yard instead of dragging it behind you – it’s probably not going to end up where you need it to be. We must present a clear and compelling vision and a strategy to reach the vision that includes the majority of the congregation. If they sense the leader is committed, they are more likely to join the venture.

 

10) Micromanagement vs. membership empowerment – Can you accept different outcomes than what you have in your own mind? Can you accept team members taking a different route to the same goal? Can you even accept temporary set-backs and/or failures? Or, do you demand every member use YOUR terminology and follow YOUR template? Leaders must give both the responsibility for the task and the decision-making authority to do it within the worker’s creativity, gifts and talents! One quality of great leadership is the ability to delegate without micromanaging. Visionary leaders know this, and delegate to move the organization forward to productivity. Delegation reveals trust. The leader who delegates and empowers declares, “You are here because you are a vital part of the process in accomplishing our shared vision, and I trust you to do the work to which God has gifted you.

 

Always attempt strategies that build bridges to a bright, new future, and be careful not to allow barriers and hindrances that keep the church body from realizing God’s goals of restoration and revival. The Lord needs loving, barrier-busters!

 

I conclude with nine possible barrier-busters: (not ordered by importance)

 

1) Perform a change/readiness assessment to determine resistance to or reception of a revitalization process.

2) Unpack the entire revitalization process and the timeline to secure a commitment to the evaluation, assessment and training phases.

3) Reveal the tools that will be utilized to perform the observation and evaluation phases and show how the tools will be measured.

4) Utilize the surveys, interviews, observations and evaluations to give a possible scenario concerning the level that change and conflict may be expected.

5) Train the leadership group in the necessity of teamwork, unifying factors and conflict resolution.

6) Develop a discipleship strategy for small groups, coaching, and one-on-one mentoring. All plans must emphasize biblical advancement with spiritual maturity as its measurement tool.

7) Work with the natural leaders (person(s) of peace) of the church to obtain the strongest positive reaction from the congregation.

8) Prayer! This is not the final straw, but rather the vital conduit for inviting the presence and power of God into the revitalization process. This communication should be a dialogue with God. It should be no more than 50% vocal expression from us and at least 50% listening for the heart and mind of God.

9) Confession – confessing to one another so that we may be healed (James 5:16). Many revivals have been conceived in the confession of one person or a group of people. Confession gets the attention of the Holy Spirit, since He is the one who convicts us of sin, of righteousness and of judgment (John 6:8).

The Task of Church Revitalization (Part 1)

by Dr. Terry Rials

The church in America is in big trouble – that’s what all the experts are saying. The church has been in a serious decline for a long time. Scholars cannot even agree upon when the decline began, but Southern Baptist Churches have experienced a steady decline in baptismal rates since 1956, its banner year. It has been sliding downhill since. In the last decade, Southern Baptist Churches have seen church membership decline by 10%, Sunday School decrease by 15%, baptisms drop over 30%, and the number of people joining Baptist churches plummet by nearly 50%! It’s easy to talk about the churches somewhere else who are experiencing this, but this phenomenon is hitting too close to home. We have this problem right here in our Association. As I look at the statistics, it’s happening to nearly ninety percent of the churches in the Association, maybe even to the one to which you belong.

What are we doing about this steady decline? Some sit around and talk about the ‘good old days’ and do nothing because they don’t agree with what is happening. Some ascribe blame and we’ve seen plenty of that. Some blame those who hold to an old, outmoded traditionalism, which isn’t working anymore. Some blame the mega churches of stealing members from smaller churches. Some blame their pastor or denominational leaders for the decline. Some blame the lack of door-to-door evangelism, the lack of churches holding revivals, the lack of discipleship training programs, or failure of the church to keep up with culture. The truth is – there is enough blame to go around. For many of you, this is the first time you’ve heard of this problem.

As in the days of Nehemiah, we need to look around at our crumbling walls and discover that we are a reproach to the name of our Lord (see Neh1:3). A reproach is a condition of shame, an occasion given to the enemy for him to exult in our defeat. Every Sunday with an empty parking lot, an empty building, and empty altar is a reproach to his name. We need earnest repentance, honest admission, and public confession (Neh 2:17). The problem is with us, all of us.

The good news is that leaders are addressing this problem like never before. We learned that it doesn’t come from a national movement; we’ve seen plenty of those in the past fifty years. The Church Growth Movement, the Church Health Movement, the Missional Church Movement, and the Emerging Church Movement have each tried to turn-around the church, so far with very limited success. The real pattern for success is the biblical one, alluded to by famed preacher G. Campbell Morgan, who metaphorically challenged young preachers to put their sailboats out into the water, put up the sail and wait for the wind to blow. We need a movement of God, but the wind of God isn’t blowing.

In the next five articles, I would like to explore the journey of leading churches back to vitality and life. We’ll explore how to set the sails and wait for the wind of God to blow.

Giving Our Best and Our All!

by Tracy Jaggers

I just finished perusing a 60 page article entitled, Effective Leadership in the Church. I was disappointed to see that it reiterated the same old list of managerial requirements I have seen proposed for years that fits almost every type of business.

The church is not a business. It is a family! But, it pains me to say, I am seeing more and more “leaders” that are treating their church as though the flock owes them everything. Some have an attitude of a sheep-shearer, rather than a shepherd! They give only as much passion and energy as they would an hourly position at the local Chick-fil-A (as a matter of observation – I think most employees at Chick-fil-A are more committed to the mission of that restaurant than some pastors are to the Master of the church).

You may say, wow Tracy that seems a bit harsh. I challenge you to look at the ineffectiveness of Southern Baptist churches nationwide and convince me I am wrong. 70-80% of our churches (nationwide) are plateaued to dying. God, forgive us for ceasing to be a hospital to a hurting and dying world, much less the struggling and impotent church.

Let’s look at what effective leadership IS! Is it:

  • Great oration of the Bible?
  • Teaching lectures with no thought of transforming the lives of those who “listen?”
  • Moderating “peaceable” meetings?
  • Directing fun and/or labor-intensive mission events?
  • Printing and sending out slick-looking communications?
  • Striving to maintain a happy flock?

OR, is it:

  • Instilling the Word of God in such a way that people are compelled to respond with new thinking and holy living?
  • Discipling followers so they disciple others? [If we expect little, we get little!]
  • Revealing to the family – the anointing, direction and goals the Holy Spirit has birthed in you through penetrating prayer?
  • Painting a vision of hope and victory by joyfully sharing and modeling the gospel?
  • Being a person of integrity?
  • Keeping the vision of the Lord in front of the family at all times?
  • Working alongside your flock in local and worldwide evangelistic efforts? [BEWARE: You may get some sheep smell on you!]
  • Protecting the flock from the enemy’s schemes and exhorting them to consistently stay unspotted from the world?

What do you want for your family? I pray you want the best! I desire all to be saved by the Lord and eventually, all of us enjoying heaven together. I have heard pastors admit they give only 60-70% effort – no wonder there are 70-80% of the churches that claim to be plateaued to dying.

Lord, may we never be guilty of just giving a little when you gave Your all! Help us to be grateful children, and sold-out shepherds until we see You face to face!

Healthy Teamwork

Team-work

Unified Focus and Commitment to the Core Values of the Church

The Key to teamwork is having a common goal and loyalty to the values and direction of the church. Who sets the goals may differ from church to church but the principle is universal. An effective team is committed to accomplishing the goals. Team does not have the letter “I” in it. We must work as a single unit to complete a common goal.

Mutual Involvement

In order for a team to be successful, every member must pull their own weight and no one must bear the burden alone.

Effective Communication

A team must dialogue. Dialoguing means, in a group of two, two people must talk and two people must listen. God gave us two ears and one mouth for a “ratio” reason! Issues within a team should be handled through face-to-face communication. There is no sure proof of correct understanding in emails or text messages alone.

Decision-Making with Mutual Appreciation

A team should have a defined hierarchy with mutual interaction and appreciation. Teams have a coach, but not a lord or king! Joint decision-making is healthy (“In the multitude of counselors there is safety” – Proverb 11:14; 15:22; 24:6) Members of the group should be respected for their ideas and areas of expertise.

Efficient Search for Ideas

Brainstorming is one way that groups come up with possible solutions and new processes. An effective team determines problems and needs; investigates the cause/source; offers possible solutions; synthesizes the ideas and determines healthy options for the good of the body.

A Positive Attitude

Negativity is like a black hole sucking the life out of a group, but a positive attitude gives hope and passion to the situation. There are stacks of evidence revealing the benefits and motivation found in pep rallies, cheerleaders and home-field advantage. We flourish when we are cheered on, given a word of encouragement, or a simple pat on the back for a job well done.

Remember, no one man can take the place of an entire team, except maybe Peyton Manning!

 

 

Does God Expect Every Church to Grow?

by Tracy Jaggers

 

I just completed speaking for two Church Revitalization Labs with the Southern Baptst of Texas Convention. During the first lab I was asked by a pastor, “Do you believe God expects every church to grow numerically?” My first response was to thoughtlessly blurt out, “Yes,” but I restrained myself and responded cautiously by asking if I could get back to him during the next break. Between that question and the lunch break, I researched for the biblical response, and here is how I answered: I firmly believe….

1)    Every God-called pastor sincerely wants his church to grow.

2)    The Great Commission verifies that this is the mission of the church.

3)    A lack of growth is not natural – someone who is mentally and/or physically challenged is known to be abnormal and is diagnosed with a type of disorder.

But What May Be Hindering a Rebound in your Church?

1)    A pastor who wants to be the sole care-giver – the church is a body that is expected to work TOGETHER. You and I are not to be Lone Rangers.

2)    A Lack of Vision on the part of the leader and/or congregation.

3)    A Lack of Planning, Strategy, Process, Systems, etc.

4)    Workers who are untrained and/or unempowered to do the work of the ministry.

5)    A leader who Micromanages – nothing happens without his approval and therefore, nothing happens!

6)    Too many meetings, or worthless, unproductive meetings.

7)    A lack of adherence to the mission, values, vision and purpose of the church.

8)    An Internal focus rather than an external, community-centered focus.

We usually falter and fail because we’re not growing in maturity and unity. In a speech given to the Presbyterians for Renewal, Mark D. Roberts, Executive Director of the Max De Pree Center for Leadership at Fuller Seminary, pastor and author, said, “One cannot read Ephesians with an open mind and not conclude that the church of Jesus Christ is supposed to be growing in size as well as strength.” I concur!

Ephesians 4:14-16 says, As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

Even Jesus, in Luke 2:52, “kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and favor with men (italics mine).” As our perfect example, we see that He grew in all aspects as well.

Growth is not confined to one dimension of the Body of Christ, just as it is not confined to one dimension of our own individual life. If we grow physically, but not mentally, we are abnormal. If we are not growing physically, mentally, socially, relationally, etc. we are looked upon as abnormal. We, as the Body of Christ, are to be maturing/growing spiritually, socially, relationally, evangelistically, economically, numerically, etc. in unified effort.  The church that is not growing in every aspect is abnormal and has a problem that must be diagnosed and corrected.

The Bride who is maturing and unified in obedience to Christ WILL GROW in all aspects into Him Who is the Head. Let’s get GOING and GROWING for the Kingdom.

Blowing Your Church Off the Plateau

by Tracy Jaggers and Dr. Gary L. McIntosh

Many churches in the US are listed as declining or stagnant (plateaued). The declining church is easy to recognize – the parking lot is empty and the pews or chairs are vacant. But how is plateaued defined and how does a church blow themselves off the plateaued status?

Plateaued is defined as: reaching a level, period, or condition of stability or maximum attainment. Should the body of Christ ever allow this definition to be used of a local church? Of course not! The church must never allow herself to be known as “plateaued;” if this is actually a real position. The church must always be growing, yet about 29.9% of the churches around us affirm that they are declining and another 44.3% say they are plateaued or stagnant *. This is alarming! Here are a few possible causes for churches plateauing and ways to blow your church off its plateaued status.

REASONS:    1) Plateaued churches usually have high leadership turnover.

2) Plateaued churches normally emphasize fellowship over evangelism.

3) Plateaued churches rely on older programs and events, and lack creativity.

4) Plateaued churches are committee or congregation-driven rather than

leadership-driven. Those with the vision should usually lead.

WAYS TO BLOW YOUR CHURCH OFF THE PLATEAU:

1) Churches must commit to trust and follow growth-minded leadership.

2) Think, act, react and live like you want to grow!

3) Start or do something new; think outside the box!

4) Publicize using various methods – websites, blogs, mailers, twitter, email…

5) Focus on those outside the church (on the lost); “for such were some of you.”

6) Get every member involved somewhere. No excuses!

7) Expand, remodel, put out more chairs–plan/prepare for/expect them to come.

8) Be a Great Commandment and Great Commission church.

9) Light the fuse and run with the explosion!

*http://www.ronniefloyd.com/blog/8105/southern-baptist-convention/fewer-sbc-churches-growing-more-sbc-churches-declining/