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Archive for the ‘Personal Growth’ Category

Leadership is a buzz word these days.

You only need to type the word into the search engine at Amazon.co.uk and you will be deluged with enough books to keep even the most veracious reader busy for a decade or two.

It has also become a high-profile issue in the Christian church. There are conferences, seminars, and yes, loads of books.  Today you’re expected to set the strategy, define the values, identify your style, and of course you must have a vision and communicate it. Leadership is the name-of-the-game. Or is it? Do our Baptist Churches need leaders? Do they even want them?

I used to joke that the average Baptist Church liked its Pastor to give a clear, strong lead, so that the Church Members’ Meeting has something definite to disagree with!

An old friend of mine had an even stronger view. He claimed the typical scenario went like this: “when you are called to a church, lots of people will say ‘this place needs strong leadership’. You very soon discover that what they actually mean is ‘this place needs a leader who agrees with me.’ After you’ve been there for a while and start taking the church in the direction you believe is right, those very same people are the first to say ‘this guy’s a total dictator.’”

Interestingly, there isn’t a huge amount about leaders or leadership as such in the New Testament. Yes, obviously there are “leaders” of sorts, but I can’t help but feel that they were very different to what the world today usually means by ‘leaders’. I offer the following brief observations.

1. The main task of leaders in the NT seems to be to preach and teach the Scriptures to people, especially the gospel.

There is virtually nothing about ‘developing the vision’, but huge amounts about proclaiming the Word. As Calvin said, the Pastor leads the church by preaching the Word from the pulpit.

2. Paul’s main concern with choosing new leaders for the churches under his care is character, not gifting.

In today’s church it sometimes seems the other way round. All to often, Christian leaders come off-the-rails because their gifting carries them to places that their character cannot sustain them.

3. Paul’s letters to Timothy are full of advice that Timothy should make his own personal growth as a godly Christian and as a Pastor of integrity, his number one concern.

This is because Pastors are not supposed to model a commitment to endless meetings and ever-busy programs. Rather they are to be examples to the flock of true godliness worked-out in the midst of every day life.

4. Modern leadership is full of talk of ‘servant leaders’, often with a favourable nod towards Jesus of Nazareth.

However, what they mean is if you serve others by helping them get the company’s job done, you will be a successful leader (and get promoted). But Jesus didn’t say that serving was the pathway to greatness; He said serving was greatness. In that little difference of words is all the difference between the World and the Kingdom.

In short, the NT doesn’t seem overly concerned about charismatic leaders sharing the vision and achieving goals. It seems far more focused on godly men and woman who make it their business to help others become godly men and women.

So…do our churches need leaders?

Yes, I believe they do. But we must rethink our understanding of leadership along Biblical lines.

There is far too much today of the ‘christening’ of secular ideas. I am not against learning from the world, but we must be ultra careful in applying the world’s ideas on leadership, to God’s Church, which He purchased with His own blood.

In this series of articles, aimed at young and emerging leaders in the church (whatever their title may or may not be), I want to explore what leadership means from a Biblical perspective, and how we might grow into more godly, effective leaders.

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A heavy cold and cough threatened disaster. My voice nearly gave out during the prayers. So I had to improvise a little. It was the first in a new series on the Book of Jonah, and “stand-up & preach” had to become “sit-down & talk”. Here’s what I think I learned….

1. Sometimes a Change is As Good As a Change!

What do I mean? My church normally gets a change by me being away and a different preacher takes the pulpit. A different voice, a different style, it’s refreshing for them. They appreciate the quest speaker, and they appreciate having me back too. Well it seems that a radical change of presentation by the same preacher can work just as well.

I sat down on a stool, rather than standing behind the pulpit.

I spoke much more conversationally, rather than a preaching/declaration style

I shared something of my thought processes of how I had explored the text, not just the conclusions/points arising from that thinking.

All in all, it made for a very different sermon experience. People found it a refreshing change.

I would not do it every week. But it has made me wonder whether I need to be a bit more deliberate and varied in choosing my preaching style. I have a preferred style. But it is not my only one.  Selecting a different option at least once a month might be a good idea.

2. I Didn’t Preach All My Material

I had four points. The first two seemed to go really well. I had already preached for 25 min. So maybe more is less…and less is more. I stopped at two points. Had I gone on, I may have finished my material, but lessened my impact. As John Maxwell would say, “it’s just a thought…”

3. I Didn’t Mention Jesus.

Wha-? Really? Yes, really. And as someone who believes in a (gentle) Christocentric approach to the interpretation of Scripture, that bothers me. But, Jonah chapter 1 didn’t seem to lead naturally to Jesus. Should I force a link when I honestly can’t see one? That would have bothered me too. My exegesis may have been weak, but is that any excuse for isagesis? Ummm…another post for another day I think.

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What Exactly Do You Do With a Church?

I know it seems like a strange question, but it is one that many of us as Pastors or Elders face. It’s “the vision thing” by another name. We want to do more than just keep the doors open or the wheels well oiled and spinning. We want our churches “to go somewhere”–but where?

Rather than suggest all sorts of spiritual exercises for vision seeking, I want to offer a more direct and Bible-based answer.

Many years ago I had the privilege of hearing Bob Roxborough (then Pastor of the Millmead Centre in Guilford) speak about spiritual renewal in the church. He suggested that leaders needed to ask certain key  questions of their church in order to get a sense of mission and vision for the future. In offering these he was summarizing the Five Essential Questions put forward by Pastor Lloyd J Ogilvie (who went on to become Chaplain of the US Senate.)  I find them helpful and I reproduce them here:

Q1. What Kind of People Does God Want Us to Produce in this Church? (The Discipleship Question)

Can you describe what a healthy, Christ-like disciple should look and sound like in your community?

Interestingly, many of the “successful” mega-churches in the U.S. have a very clear description of the sort of disciples they are seeking to produce. Perhaps this is a lesson we could all usefully learn?

Q2. What Kind of ‘Experiences’ Do People Need to Have In order to Become Those Kinds of People? (The Process Question).

The key word to me in the above question is “experiences”. Note that Ogilvie did not say ‘sermons’ or ‘teaching’.  To be sure, teaching is vitally important, but by itself it is not enough. Experiences is a broad word that covers…well…more or less anything and everything–small groups, mentoring, mission trips, practical hands-on training, seminars, retreats, worship times, friendships…

Q3.  What Kind of Leaders are Needed to Provide Those Kinds of Experiences? (The Leadership Development Question)

It amazes me the number of churches who do not have a leadership development process. At its most basic, such a process should have as its aims to

  • Discern (or Identify)
  • Develop (or Train)
  • Deploy

leaders at every level and in every area of the church. It is as much an attitude and a culture as it is a program.

However, since my own church that I Pastor has no such program, perhaps I ought to eat humble pie, bow my head in shame, and move on to the next question.  (Which, ironically, follows on nicely…)

Q4 What Kind of Pastor is Needed to Train Those Kinds of Leaders? (The Pastor Question)

Obviously a better one than me! But perhaps that is not quite true. Perhaps what is nearer the mark is, a Pastor like me with

  • different priorities (such as training others to do, rather doing ministry myself)
  • a different model of ministry (where my ministry is preparing others for ministry)
  • different skills (in training and mentoring)

This in turn leads to…

Q5. What Kind of ‘Experiences’ Does the Pastor Need to Be(come) That Kind of Pastor? (The Theological Education Question)

For me, this means asking what kinds of training do I need to develop these new priorities, models and skills. What courses are available? What books and tapes? Do I need to design my own study/growth program? What churches or pastors can I visit to learn from? Who could mentor me?

However, one cannot fully answer this question until the church or leadership has developed clear  answers to the first four questions.

 

The process that Pastor Ogilvie outlines may seem less spiritual than holing away in a monastery for a week and seeking a vision from on-high. And yet, if a Church and its leadership were to seriously, prayerfully and with due attention to the Bible, were to work through these questions, the results could be truly transformational.

Question: Do you have any experience of trying to work through questions like these? If so, what were your results? And what difference did it make to your church or your ministry?

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I’m told that in American Football (that’s the one that’s a bit like Rugby) there is a tradition called Monday Morning Quarter-backing. Basically, every Monday morning after a match, the coach and the Quarter-back sit down with a tape of the game and go through every play, every throw, every decision.  It helps the QB, the key player in the team, evaluate his performance and identify areas for improvement.

It’s something we Preachers could do too.

How often do you listen to a copy of your previous Sunday’s sermon? If you’re like me, there are quite a few that you just don’t want to have to listen to ever again! Actually, these are probably the ones we most need to listen to again. It’s from these strike-outs (to mix my American sporting metaphors) that we can learn the most.

My suggestion is that we listen to our previous Sunday’s message, with a notebook in hand, and ask ourselves just a single, key question:

If I was preaching this message again, what one thing would I do differently?

That’s it.

The answer could be anything, of course.

*Sharpen the headings on the points

*Spend more time within the sermon on application

*Use a few more (or less) illustrations

*Have my ending clearly worked out

The one thing you are not allowed to put is “work harder on the sermon”. That’s a no-no for two reasons:-

Reason 1: It’s a rod for your own back . Exactly how hard is enough?

Reason 2: It’s too vague. What would you actually do differently next time? “Work harder”. Yes, but on what? The exegesis? Understanding the background? Structuring the sermon?  You can’t prescribe effectively without exactness in diagnosis.

So, write your one thing down. That’s all.

And do the same next week….

And the week after….

And the week after that….

Fairly soon, if you have a weakness in your preparation or delivery, it will become apparent. If four weeks out of five you find yourself putting down “make sermon structure clearer,” then that is telling you something.  It is also giving you something more helpful to focus on than “try harder”.

(In case you’re wondering, my repetitive mistake is….not working out, and writing down my ending. Sometimes my sermon is like a plane coming in to the runway on a foggy day. You think it’s about to land and then off  it zooms again!)

So get your notebook out, get listening, and start identifying your ‘one thing’.

Oh yes, why Monday Morning Quarter-backing on a Tuesday? Because if you’re at all human, when you’ve preached a real stinker, you”re far too depressed on a Monday to listen to it again objectively! So give yourself a little time to get back on an even keel.

And don’t be too hard on yourself. Remember, even the great Dan Marino threw an occasional bad pass!

So what’s your repeated mistake or weakness in your preaching? Please leave a comment below.

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Misquoting Winston Churchill someone commented about blogging that “Never in the history of human communication has so much been written by so many for so few”.

With that stinging critique in mind, welcome to my blog!

Why another addition to the Blogosphere?

Because I want to write something that it will –

*Be a source of ideas, inspiration and practical help to those in Christian leadership, but especially to Preachers

*Give leaders hope that they are not alone–that there are others who struggle in this thing we call ‘ministry’, and there are at least some answers out there

*Log my own learning as a preacher, pastor and leader

As such I plan to blog around a cluster of related themes —Christian Spirituality, Leadership, Pastoring & Coaching, Theology & the Bible, Personal Growth, and above all, Preaching and Teaching. All things relevant to the life and ministry of the Pastor-preacher.

I hope my journey of learning and reflection might be of blessing to you in yours.

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