Monday, June 27, 2011

Leadership 222

I just read a stat that over 1800 pastors in one denomination in this country left the ministry last year. They didn't just change churches or go to work for other ministries, but they LEFT the ministry to seek something in the private sector. That's a bunch of folks. If we dig a bit deeper it seems to stem from burnout, but why? What is happening that keeps allowing ministry leaders to burnout? We have a great many resources (books, web, conferences, retreats, training, etc.) that are supposed to accomplish three things for them; refresh, re-energize, and retool. Unfortunately there is one aspect that is not being addressed; the paradigm of the church is broken.

There have been a vast number of books written lately that address this broken paradigm. Radical, Crazy Love, Hole in our Gospel, UnChristian, etc. have all addressed the idea that we are stuck in a mind-set that allows me to sit in the pews (or whatever your seating set up is), write a check, and let the staff do the work of the church. In our consumeristic culture that paradigm makes total sense. It is based on the postmodern idea that it is all about MY experience that matters. Jean Twenge in a book called, Generation Me, even addresses how the ideas have shifted in our call to missions. She points out that church messages used to be, "go on a mission trip and bless others." Then it shifted to, "go on a mission trip, bless others and you will be blessed." Finally it became, "go on a mission trip, be blessed and by the way others will be blessed." That demonstrates a radical shift in thinking. Seems so subtle doesn't it?

So how does this impact ministry leaders? What we appear to be doing, is lifting them out of their mild burnout, patching them up, and sending them back into the same old paradigm that continues to burn them out. Scriptures don't point to that model in any way, shape or form. 2 Timothy 2:2 reflects upon the fact that it is essential to equip leaders to be facilitators of those in the church to DO the work of the church. "...and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also" (vs. 2).

Rest and recovery is an important aspect of leadership, no doubt. But in the work of the church, I contend that we must find a better way to equip the leaders to lead us, not do the work for us. Leads must find ways to be trained in how to help the church change that paradigm. We need to find those that are doing it well and let them coach the rest of us.

Changing paradigms is tough work. Let us encourage those that lead us, by allowing them to change our paradigms. Jesus didn't do the work of the church. He did His part (to be read, uniquely qualified to do those things alone) but then sent others to lead, facilitate and equip others. Leadership 222 - the next course we all should sign up for!


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Finding balance in the tension

I have not posted for some time (you can see that clearly from the last date posted on the side over there) and mainly because there has been so little time. I was busy leading up a a college Institute and trying to keep its head above water during the last two years (and it has). I was busy trying to be a dad to my four boys (one of which turns 18 today - and I'm having some issues with that...) :) I was busy speaking to churches, college campuses and audiences who would listen about the importance of maintaining a civil Christian worldview in a culture that is hostile to some of our ways of thinking. I have more time on my hands now, but more on that later...

Until recently I was working as Vice President for College Student Ministries with the Focus Leadership Institute (a division of Focus on the Family) and while there had to opportunity to watch the transition from our found Dr. James Dobson to the new CEO Jim Daly. I have been a huge supporter of both men for very different reasons. I respect a great deal the standards by which Dr. Dobson set up the ministry and helped found the Institute. When Jim Daly came on, I used to introduce him to the students of the Institute as the right guy for the right time. I meant it. Still do. I have appreciated his willingness to reach out into the culture and talk with those that most in the conservative Christian culture have never reached out to. As human beings we DO share a great deal of the same conclusions about how to treat others.

However, Jim is walking a very thin line that creates a tension from time to time. In this morning's Colorado Springs Independent ( there was one of those lines that worries me a bit. The article is about (if you haven't clicked over and read it already) how those in all circles agree that foster kids should find homes with loving families. In the middle of the article, there is a line where Daly says, (on the question of gay adoption) "So in the context of same-sex marriage, or adoption by same-sex couples, the culture will go in the direction its going to go.We [the church] can't control that. But for the Christian in the Christian community, we want to do our job..."

But isn't that the point of the Gospel is that it is for everyone? As a "worldview guy" I worry that in the midst of this tension we perhaps make rhetorical statements that seem as if we are throwing our hands up about where the culture is headed and essentially say, we can only influence our own house. I don't think that is Jim's heart, but again we have to be careful with that line of tension. There is a design for marriage and family that isn't just for the church or Christians it is for all people, at all times, across cultures. That is the nature of God's Truth and Design for things. Follow the path of research on the strength of communities as it relates to the strength of traditional families (defined as a husband/wife and children). Over years and across cultures the message has been (and not just for the Church) that when you have cultures built on that model, they have any number of advantages (educationally, socially, economically, etc). When you have cultures based on non-traditional families, there isn't evidence that horrible things occur but that you don't have those advantages. Where do you want to live? Which type of culture? That transcendent truth about God's design isn't because some organization said it was so or some political approach claimed it was good, but because He designed it that way.

Be careful when walking the line. Sometimes the tension pulls too far away from the Truth.