I was in a committee meeting for a social cause I’m starting, and oen of the members started talking about her church.  She’s part of one of the ministries that’s trying to do more than the church is comfortable doing.  I think she’s honoring the Gospel with the activity, but it’s at cross purposes with the overall strategy of the pastoral staff.  It’s fine to do so long as it doesn’t interfere or take attention away from what the they have planned to do.

So why doesn’t she get on their agenda and show the value?  Seems that church is run by paid staff and self-elected deacon board.  The only whole-church meetings are tightly scripted without option for questions in the open forum.  Votes are taking in the middle of the sermon, where peer pressure gains the assent from the majority comfortable to “sit and soak”.

The frustration for that one activity is poisoning her response to the rest of the church’s activities.  She’s not coming to church as often.  She’s more likely to miss the Sunday small group Bible study.  I don’t know for sure, but I’d bet she’s diverting at least some of her tithe to the outside ministry directly.

What can you do to first prevent this and second restore the one drifting away?

Start by having a culture of listening.  In my church, one of the largest in the area, the pastor makes an effort to circulate in the lobby after serices, and is one of the last to leave on Sunday.   He acts like the pastor of a church of 150 (rather than 3000).It doesn’t make the church less large, but makes it more personable.

Second, I feel that the job of a deacon includes listening to the congregation and hearing the grumblings, to deal with them before they get out of hand.  In one church, we had two strains of discontent circulating just under the surface.  Few knew of both, but they fed off the negative attitudes of the other.  When I discovered the first, adn then the second, I took action to hear the frustrations, and was able to diffuse the one, and then the second, and although the root problem (lack of a pastor) didn’t immediately go away, the congregational attitude shifted.

In most cases, it’s a misunderstanding, or someone didn’t get the word in time.  If you have active listening systems in place, those will be taken care of early before they discontent takes root and poisons the congregational atmosphere.


In yesterday’s post, I wondered how small a church could be and still function.  Today, I went to class with guest lecturer David Garrison, teaching about Church Planting Movements.

According to Dr Garrison (actually, he goes by David), it’s not the size that matters, but the intentionality of being a functioning church.  You can do all five purposes of the church (Worship, Fellowship, Ministry, Discipleship, and Evangelism/Missions) as a group that gathers occasionally in a holy huddle, but not really be a fully functioning church.  

Garrison says the church becomes church when key leaders are chosen.  He says there should be a pastor/overseer, deacons and a treasurer.

The deacons should be the minsitry leaders of the five purposes.  Remember that the original seven were chosen to minister with food distribution, and Steven was an evangelist.  One person may do multiple jobs in this arrangement, but there must be an acknowledgement that they are doing the jobs of a church and that they should hand off the extra duties as soon as practically possible.

Garrison says the actions of the deacons are coordinated by an overseer or a spiritually mature elder.  This is the job normally held by the senior pastor. 

The third key position is the treasurer.  Having a  treasurer who is unrelated to the senior pastor / overseer will help keep scandal away.  Note that while Jesus was accused of many things, misappropriation of money was not one of them.  He had a treasurer (Judas).  And when the early church failed to use a treasurer and instead gifts were given to the Apostles, it caused jealousy and the death of Annias and Sophira.

When a church has these seven positions functioning, led by people gifted and trained for those positions, they will be functioning as a church should.  And if the doing is properly done, it should cause a growth in both maturity and numbers.

On a facebook post today, pastor/teacher/student leader Alvin Reid quoted Jim Elliff’s call to worship leaders to “Raise the believers’ understanding of the beauty & power of God, & let emotions follow, not lead.”

In reply John Guetterman wrote:

Amen! singers singing the beauty and power of God from the place of divine revelation. This is the glory of corporate worship when we see Him as He is and we are invited into the realm if the spirit through the open door. We need singers who sing from encounter! We need preachers who preach from encounter! This is our hope for our nation to change… Read More… That God would raise up burning and shining lamps leading many to Jesus in this hour! People who have stood in the council of the Lord who speak from the place of knowledge that transcends understanding… We need the Spirit of Revelation. We need the Spirit of Prayer… We NEED GOD!!!

I remember attending a church that led our denomination in baptisms, a supposed indication of the power of their preacher as an evangelist.  However, when I got to know some of the members, I learned there was little followup, little understanding of what the Christian life was all about.  They were led by the emotion of the moment, and a number of those were rebaptisms (“The first 3 times weren’t real, but this time I know I’m saved!”)

You can’t sustain a church on emotion.  People wear out and quit if they live on the evangelism sugar high.  Teaching the congregation the truth of God, leading them to full understanding of their salvation, helping them see the beauty & power of God is what will set them afire and send them out as witnesses.  Their worship will remain beyond the benediction, their testimony will resonate at the restaurant, and their service will be sustainable, because it is all for the glory of God.

Thom Rainer, currently President of Lifeway, the Baptist resource publishing house, took time this week to reflect on how to be a better pastor.  He’s pastored 4 churches, and is a student of what makes a healthy church.

In the post titled If I Were a Pastor Again, Rainer lists five thing he would do differently:

  1. Pray more
  2. More time reading the Bible
  3. More time loving the critics than worrrying about what they said
  4. More time “hanging out” with church members
  5. More time getting to know the unchurched

These look like no-brainers, but we need to remind ourselves of the basics our the job from time to time.  We forget that “prayer is the work” instead of a prelude to the job.  We get so pressured to prepare the sermons and do the rest of the job that we forget to take time to read the Bible for our own benefit.

The other 3 points deal with our relationships with others.  We are to be shepherd of the church, not just the hired help to speak and administrate.  We are to have our ears open to the hurt behind the accusations (think of the kids who “act out” jsut to get attention).  And we need to know people to witness to, and lead our people by example.

This is not an all-inclusive list, of course, but it’s a good start.  As I’ve said before, you start where you are and move forward, no matter where that starting place happens to be.

(See the article here.)

I watched a great video on “10 stupid things that keep churches from growing” with Geoff Surratt.  It includes many of the same simple ideas I identified in Chapter 7 of Hope for Struggling Churches.  However, in our visual culture, it sometimes helps to hear someone talk about it.

Geoff Surratt on THE SHOW from Todd Rhoades on Vimeo.

Geoff Surratt on THE SHOW

What do you think?  Is he right?

In an earlier post, called “Complainers Care“, I dealt with the issue of a pastor ousting a member who won’t “fall in line” with their “spiritual authority.” I suggested the church should have a method for hearing the input of the members.  Not that the church needs to follow everything suggested, but there needs to be a process that those with honest suggestions are listened to.


There is a movement called Simple Church, a neo-Reformationist removal of the structures of the modern Western church, in hopes of being relevant.  But others, such as Rick Warren, say you don’t have to toss aside the form of church to be effective.  Warren has said (here) that people always need to find meaning and purpose in life, to have the grand mysteries of the universe explained in terms they can understand, and to be part of something important.  Simply that.

Simple church is a movement of community.  Most are house churches.  There is  no altar, no baptistery, no pews.  The nursery is one of the bedrooms, the fellowship hall is the kitchen.   Services are usually conducted in the living room.

I call them “neo-Reformationist” based on practices in many Reformation churches, especially in Switzerland, where the statuary and stained glass were removed.  Originally installed as teaching aids to illiterate parishioners, the people had come to revere the icons instead of the principles they stood for.  The reformers chose plain white unornamented clapboard buildings with clear glass to keep the  focus on the scripture and not the facility.

Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger describe Simple Church as an organizing principle to move people toward spiritual growth, saying that anything that gets in the way of that organizing principle should be discarded.  Church becomes decluttered from the programs and ministries that take away from that core function.  As Collins (Good to Great) would say, the good things are removed so the right things can be done. (see their notes here.)

But what Rick Warren was saying in his 18-minute “Q-Talk” is that the only organizing principle, the only purpose of a church is to be effective at sharing the Gospel and leading people to maturity in their faith.  It doesn’t so much matter what strategy or program you use so long as it matches the people you are trying to reach and it gets results for the Kingdom of God.  What matters is if you can connect with people.

Warren quotes Einstein as saying, “You can be brilliant but if you can’t say it in simple ways, it doesn’t, its not worth anything.”  You have to speak the language of the people.  Not that you can’t describe theology.  Not that you have to use all their words.  But you do need to address their needs.

If you want a vibrant church, don’t worry about this program or that improvement.  Worry about what you say and how you’re involved in the lives of the people of the congregation.  Help them deal with the core issues of life. That’s enough.

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