leading off the map

Leaders who are curious about new ideas will lead us into the future.

Curiosity as a child is a fantastic thing.  Last night at dinner, our family question was, “what is your earliest memory as a child.”  One of the kids said they remembered being born, which was frightening and funny at the same time.  Some of my earliest memories are filled with curiosity.  I asked question after question.  One day I was asking my dad so many questions that it appeared I had frustrated him. It was a series of never-ending “why” questions. As I grew a little older, my curiosity began to die off. Isn’t this typical for teenagers and young adults?  We go through the stage where we now know the answers; what more could someone else possibly tell us?

 

Pastors and leaders can come to the same place in their life.  They have the training, some experience, maybe a few victories under their belt in life and ministry.  Curiosity begins to fade away and we stop searching for answers, ideas, and a new way forward.  

 

But what if yesterday’s answers are today’s problems?  I am not speaking theology here, but methodology.  I am speaking of the vehicles that we use to transport truth and ministry.  We are in a new environment, a new era.  We have found ourselves as rookie missionaries learning a new culture in a new world.  

 

When you find yourself in a new environment with no map, curiosity is your best friend and leads you to new ideas. When Lewis and Clark headed west with orders from Thomas Jefferson to find a water route across the continent to the Pacific, they realized that the maps and ideas of the landscape available to them had to be set aside. Lewis and Clark had to become curious to lead into unchartered territory.

 

Here are Five Reasons why leaders who are curious about new ideas will lead us into the future.

1. Curiosity fights cynicism, and no one wants to follow a cynic.

 

2. Leaders filled with curiosity eventually break the cycle of insanity, doing the same things repeatedly with the same results.

 

3. Leaders who live in curiosity realize the 1980’s are not coming back, except for 80’s cartoons and toys to market to parents. Callabunga!

 

4. Leaders who live with curiosity are not afraid to go off the map and explore.

 

5. Leaders who live with curiosity are on a journey and refuse to stay back at camp.

When we have a curiosity gridlock, it keeps us stuck in old systems, using old maps and outdated strategies.  A leader filled with curiosity learns to see things from a new perspective.

 

Leaders who strive for curiosity are expert experimenters. When was the last time you tried something new? Grab your compass, put on your hiking boots, and lead us into the future!

goal setting church

Do you remember the last time you launched an initiative, and it died? It may have been an outreach ministry, new discipleship initiative, or a shepherding routine, but the result was the same.  Maybe it was a quick and sudden death or dragged out over time until no one realized the thing died.  Most of our goals go by the wayside. Statistics show that 80% of us that make a new year’s resolution have abandoned ship by mid-February. That’s six weeks into the goal!  Well, what happened?  For most of us, any new goal gets lost in the whirlwind of life.  In the book 4DX, 4 Disciplines of Execution, we are challenged to follow four steps on how to choose one wildly important goal for your church.

I know what you are thinking, another formula, another strategy, here we go again.  But these disciplines are proven and tested in business, in personal life, and the church.  I have followed these disciplines in my personal life to get things done, and it works.  Here is a summary of the process: 

Focus on the wildly important for your Church.

Narrow it down to one or two wildly important goals at the most; this part is huge.  Most goals fail because they are one of many goals, and we always think we can focus on multiple things at once. The truth is, we cannot.  Not everything is wildly important. Do the hard work and wrestle over what truly deserves this kind of discipline to get something done.  What is the one goal that will impact your church the most?  The one goal that will impact your church the most is called the “WIG.” Once you find your “WIG,” wildly important goal, put it on and wear it.  You should only wear one wig at a time.

Act on lead measures for your Church goals.

Second, you need to act on lead measures.  Lead measures are those specific things that you will do now and in the near future to reach your goal.  Lead measures are different from lag measures.  Lag measures are what we usually keep track of in a church, and they are always in the past. A lag measure might be attendance, offering, number of volunteers, etc.  Lead measures are those specific activities that you will do this week to reach your goal.  Once you determine your lead measures, you must put them on your calendar and execute them weekly.  If it is not a daily or weekly activity, the lead measure will eventually fade away into the future.

Keep a compelling scoreboard for your Church goals.

The third discipline is “keeping a compelling scoreboard.” What you measure is what gets done.  You need to measure not only your lag measure but also your lead measures.  For example, if you were trying to increase your attendance (a lag measure), you would also need to measure your lead measure. Let’s say your lead measure was to invite people to church personally.  You would need to measure that as well.  Over time, you would see if your predictive lead measure is increasing your lag measure.  If it is not, you will adjust it until you get it right. But if you do not measure your lead measure, those specific activities you do weekly, then how will you know if you ever get it right?

Create a cadence of accountability in your Church.

The final discipline is “creating a cadence of accountability.”  If you have a goal, you need to share it out loud with others.  Sharing the goal out loud is where I struggle the most with this process.  I like to keep my goals inward.  There is something powerful about accountability that keeps us committed to the goal. Most “WIGs” are so significant that they cannot be accomplished by one person anyway, so you should have others working on the goal.  Accountability should be kept up weekly where those working on the goal share what they have done on their lead measure activities. How many people did you invite? Who did you ask? The more specific, the better.  

   

For more info or training on identifying your WIG and implementing 4DX, contact us at Develop My Ministry!

April fools proverbs

Your Top Ten List on How to Be Fool on April 1st

This morning I woke up early and began thinking of some perfect practical jokes for the 1st of April.  I thought of covering the sensor on the remote control with a sticker or putting google eyes on every item in the fridge.  I almost ran to the store to get plain donuts and cover them with baking soda to appear like those white powdered donuts, but I just couldn’t justify wasting delicious donuts.  The ideas I had coming were getting a little too elaborate, and I really couldn’t afford the time to invest in a joke.   But my mind wandered over to Proverbs with a word search for “fool.” “Fool” appears well over 50 times.  

So if you want to be a fool, here is the top 10 list on being a fool according to the book of proverbs.

  1. Hate it when someone tries to share with you some wisdom and knowledge. Proverbs 1:7,22
  2.   If you hear something bad about someone, share it.   Proverbs 10:18
  3. Think everything you do is right.  Proverbs 12:15
  4. Laugh when you sin, when others sin or when someone tells a joke about sin. Proverbs 14:9
  5. Think what your dad tells you is stupid. Proverbs 15:5
  6. Talk like a pervert. Proverbs 19:1
  7. Start a fight by just being “real.”  Proverbs 20:3
  8. Eat up your vomit like a dog, or just keep committing the same sin. Proverbs 26:11
  9. Follow your own heart.  Proverbs 28:26
  10. Let it go, vent all your feelings. Proverbs 29:11
wanda vision and the church have in common

The wildly popular Marvel Universe launched the short series of shows called Wanda Vision earlier this year.  If you don’t know these characters’ backstory from the Avenger films, you may not understand this blog entirely, but I think you will get the idea.

In the series Wanda Vision, Wanda, the main character, is still grieving over her love, Vision.  Vision, an android creation, died in an earlier movie.  Wanda Vision is essentially a fantasy land that Wanda creates where she brings her love Vision back to life.  She has taken over an entire little town, surrounded it by an almost impenetrable force field, and controls everyone in that town to play along with her script.

So what do the church and Wanda Vision have in common?

They don’t live in reality.

As the church moves into a post-quarantine world, we must understand that the world is not the same as it once was.  The world the church thinks we are in and the world we are actually in are two different spaces.  But this was probably true pre-covid.  The church of recent years has had a gap between where they think the culture is and where it is.

 

It’s like the one pastor said,  “if the 1980’s ever come back, we will be ready.”

 

Let me state the obvious, it’s not 1980 anymore, nor is it 1950 or any other year. It is now 2021.  Some churches think when we get back to normal in a post-quarantine world, we will be going back to 2019.  But we are not in “Back to the Future” or any other time travel movie.  

 

When we pretend that we are in another time, it hinders our ministry. How can we relate and connect with a community that we are trying to reach if we don’t even know who the people are and how they think?  

They force a script on others.

In the series Wanda Vision, Wanda forces a script on all the people of Westview, New Jersey. She has taken them all hostage, enclosed in a forcefield of some kind.  Somehow, Wanda controls their minds, telling them what to wear, how to act, and what to say. She wants them to all walk along to her cultural script. She recreates different decades of the 1900s and pretends as if it is reality.

 

Be honest for a moment. Is the church doing the same thing in many instances? Do we pretend as if it is 1950, 1960, 1970, 1980, or even 2010?  Thankfully by the end of the show, Wanda comes to her senses and realizes that she is not operating in the present.  Church, will we recognize the era and time that God has placed us? It’s 2021 at this writing.  I know this comparison may seem harsh, but 9 of 10 churches have plateaued or are shrinking. The present is the time God has placed us.  Let’s recognize it, thank God for it, and impact our communities for Christ.

Response-ability photo

Response-Ability, Avoiding the Victim Mindset

 

One of the top life-changing disciplines that I worked into my life is that I can choose my response to a situation 100% of the time. Yes, every single time. I had a false belief that my circumstances determined my reaction and feelings. Most of us tend to pick up little false beliefs here and there throughout life and ministry.

False Beliefs help us Cope. 

These false beliefs help us cope with situations, make us feel better but usually keep us trapped in what we think is a comfortable and safe space. One false belief many Christian leaders and pastors hold onto is that we are where we are because of our circumstances. In other words, we have given up our ability to respond to some degree.

For example, we may tell ourselves and others that our ministry is not where it should be because of a particular circumstance or person. It would be effortless to claim that the economy, government regulations, the COVID19 crisis, or any other events are the blame for where we find ourselves.

Theology, if not careful, excuses Responsibility

 If we are not careful, we rule out our ability to respond to the circumstances. Sometimes we allow our theology of God’s Sovereignty to be an excuse for our responsibility to respond to a situation and take ownership. Of course, others like to blame the devil or others. 

In his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People,” David Covey tells us there is a space between stimulus and response. Stimulus or our circumstances do not force us or make us respond a certain way. We can control our reactions and choose to do so in a thoughtful, positive, Christ-centered way. We can make these choices for leading ourselves and for how to lead our ministries.

One of the great definitions of manhood is found in the book “Raising Modern Day Knights.” They define manhood as the ability to 

“reject passivity, take responsibility, lead courageously, and expect the greater reward.” 

This definition is an excellent challenge for church leaders. We need to take responsibility and be proactive with our attitudes and actions in our personal lives and ministries. Some of this plays into the more recent topic these days on emotional intelligence. Too often, we react based on the mood of our emotions or the conditions surrounding us. We believe that our actions and mindset are based on our genetics, education or upbringing, or other external factors. As Christian leaders, we must begin to take full responsibility for our mindset, attitudes, emotions, and actions.

Focus on What You Can Control

To be more proactive with our response to what is taking place around us, we need to focus on the words we use, our feelings, and the things we can control. We need to throw out those phrases like “there is nothing I can do,” or “It won’t work,” or “that’s just the way I am.” We must recognize our feelings don’t control us, but we can manage them. We must choose again and again to master them, or they will master us. 

Sometimes this means stopping the negative self-talk, and sometimes it means creating boundaries so that others don’t have constant access to us with these false beliefs. Of course, there are things that we honestly can’t control, things that are beyond our circle of influence, but we can always control our response to those things. Before we chalk this idea up to modern-day pop psychology, consider the passages at those ends and their explicit instruction for us to reject passivity and control our ability to respond.

If I can help you understand or implement this life-changing discipline or the other three life-changing disciplines that we cover in our Leading Self-coaching sessions, don’t hesitate to contact me.

Your Brother in the Battle,

Ryan Flanders

Ephesians 6:14-17

14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God

1 Corinthians 10:31

13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

Ephesians 4:22-23

22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind

Leveraging the Power of Story in your ministry

 

I like to think in the realm of numbers.  I am not sure if that is a guy thing or what? Stories are hard for me to wrap my brain around.  They take too long to unfold and often could have been stripped down to a few numbers to quickly get the point across.  But that’s the problem.  I am often in a hurry and struggle to slow down and enjoy the story.

 

The other night we were watching a family movie together.  The movie was about Togo and the amazing dog sledding crew that traveled several hundred strenuous miles through the beautiful Alaska terrain in a storm of the century.  Their little village was being devastated by illness and many of the children were dying without a cure.  The cure could not be flown in because of the weather. It was unsafe and deadly, with winds over 50 miles per hour, snow falling rapidly.  Their only option to go and fetch the cure and bring it back quickly was this misfit dog, Togo, and his sled team.  

 

It was a captivating story and even went perfectly with our family devotions that night about going all out in something for God. (Thanks to Tim Tebow and Right Now Media.)  It was a story about perseverance, pushing yourself, doing the impossible.  It was just long, 2 hours to be exact.  My 9-year-old son, Drew, echoed my thoughts when he asked a few times, “how much longer is this going to be?”  

 

Couldn’t we have just popped up some compelling statistics on the tv to show our family that only 8% of people complete their new year’s resolutions? Boom. Done. Just like that we know going all out is hard.  Did we really need to have a two-hour story about the dog sled team in Alaska?  Did we really have to know that Togo was this pain in the neck dog that no one wanted? (spoiler alert) Did we really have to see the Dog die? 

Numbers are easily forgotten but the story lives on forever.

 

That 8% statistic I just shared….you had already forgotten it until I brought it up again.  If you have seen the Togo movie or knew the story from history, you may never forget it. The story is almost 100 years old, it took place in 1925 and it is still alive and memorable.  

“numbers are easily forgotten but the story lives on forever.”

The next time you are tempted to share a bird’s eye perspective of numbers that you think gives the BIG picture about your mission…..STOP.  Ask yourself, what is one story that represents these numbers.  Then share that story.  They will remember the story and forget the numbers before they leave the service.  This could be a story about how giving has reached someone in your community, blessed a member, or empowered a mission overseas. Tell the story and leave the numbers for the spreadsheets.

 

 As another year rolls by on the calendar, I try to forget about the numbers and remember the stories I have experienced.  After all, I really don’t have to try to forget the numbers, it happens easily.  I am trying to slow down and enjoy the story.  Our lives are not composed of numbers, no matter our age.  

Our lives are stitched together with one story after another. 

 

The great thing about our life story is it is still being written.  We are the co-authors with God.  If you didn’t like the last chapter, pick up your pen and change the script.

 

Here’s to hoping for a happy ending to your story!

 

Your Brother in the Battle,

 

Ryan Flanders.

The Day I took Jesus out of the Church

Taking Jesus out of the church Is not something that I would have ever expected I would do. 

After all, I loved Jesus or at least thought I did. 

I came to know Him as a teenager, followed Him to Bible College and Seminary, and desired to serve Him.  I’m told that some things just creep up on you and then hit you hard out of nowhere.  Others may look at what happened at our church and say that I was on a slippery slope.  

I have always feared that one day I would wake up and ask myself “what have I done? Where am I? Who I am? Who would do this?”  

Nonetheless, I took Jesus out of the church.

To be honest, seminary did not prepare me for the day I had to make this decision.  I was a very young twenty-five-year-old pastor at a new ministry, trying to revitalize an old church.  The church had a lot of issues.  

 

One of my mentors accompanied me to the first Sunday I preached at the church. They followed the service with an hour-long business meeting with 8 people, debating on voting me in as their pastor (that’s another story for another time.) 

 

They did eventually vote me in with an underwhelming 4 to 3 vote. When my mentor, a retired pastor friend, David Green walked out after the service he simply said two times with his Texas-sized and Texas-style voice, “snakes in the grass, there are snakes in the grass.”  

 

Yep, it was that obvious from a first-time visitor that there were problems.  Another pastor and mentor of mine, Mike Reid, sent over his Deacons to speak each Sunday until my family could arrive and begin the work.  His comments were, “We just tried to keep it dead until you got here.”

 

The problems with the building were just as obvious.  While the original church was built in the mid-1800s, it burned down sometime after the civil war. The current building was believed to be built in the late 1800s. Let’s see, there was red carpet from the ’70s, wood paneling covering the old plaster walls, a nasty sagging drop ceiling installed, cables that ran from one wall to other keeping the building together, a deck out front (seriously, who builds a deck on the front of a church?), handmade pews to small to sit in, an outhouse out back (yes, a real outhouse), overcrowded and awkwardly designed royal furniture on the platform and grandma styled figurines everywhere.  

 

The crown jewel was a 1970’s styled photo of Jesus with blue eyes, flowing hair, looking off into the distance.  

 

As you would expect in an old Southern Baptist Church, Jesus took a place of prominence. He hung front and center in a larger-than-life-like picture above the pulpit.  After all, Jesus should be prominent in His Church…..right? That’s definitely what the few senior citizens in our church thought.  It wasn’t just a thought for one lady, in particular, it seemed to be the bedrock belief in her life.  

 

We had slowly begun to clean up and remodel the church, to bring it from its strange mix of the 1800s and 1970s into the 21st century, it was 2005.  We got rid of spiritual figurines or graven images as I thought of them.  We took the 97 boxes of tissues and consolidated them.  We removed the open rat poison boxes that probably sat there undisturbed for 20 or more years.  We did this in preparation for our new nursery and our expected daughter to arrive in just a few months. 

 

 It wasn’t going well, but it was going…..until I did the unthinkable.

 

I took Jesus out of the church.  Yes, literally.  I grabbed a ladder, climbed up and took Him off of His prominent position, and set Him in the office.  I don’t know if I was possessed as some people claimed or if I skipped my devotions that day, but it happened. 

 

I still remember the call that I received from the former pastor.  You know it’s bad when a member calls the former pastor to rat you out.  I could tell it was awkward for him, but I did something even he was unwilling to do.  I told him there was a new sheriff in town and we never spoke again. I’m kidding, but it was strange.

 

Next, I received a call and a request to meet with the local representative from our Southern Baptist regional association.  I got a free breakfast from McDonald’s out of it, but even he said it was a little awkward that a lady in our church called him and made him promise to do something about this.  She was persuasive and put pressure on others to get Jesus back to his rightful place in the church.  

 

To protect me, I’ll change just one letter in her name and just call this….person, Lola.  Lola had been in the church for over 50 years. She told me the story of how she moved to the area when the church was boarded up and closed down.  Her father came and fixed it up and they found a pastor and reopened the church. That’s pretty amazing stuff.  However, she came to feel a sense of ownership over the place.  At one point she told me,

 

         “When you’re gone I’m turning this place into a museum.”   

 

In my quest to try to figure where Lola was coming from I stumbled across some old church minutes where she had single-handedly run off a few other pastors that attempted to threaten her control.  She called her own business meetings, rounded up the troops, and voted them out.  It was then that I realized I wasn’t just dealing with a grandma-like figure.  

 

Most of the pastors at the church over the years were retired or bi-vocational.  When aggression was made towards them they usually left, probably thinking to themselves, “this is not worth the headache.”  But I was young, stubborn, and realized that Lola didn’t have the backing she used to. She tried.  

 

She called all of the former people and family members she could think of, but somehow they had lost interest like the good old days.’  For a few Sunday’s Lola and a family member or two, that she convinced to come with her, came and tried to stir up controversy.  But by this time there were a few dozen new people.  She told visitors “this pastor is destroying the church,” and “he took Jesus out of the church.” She wrote messages in the hymnals, “pastor Flanders leave this church.”  I even got anonymous phone calls, I believe from a family member, telling me “to go back to Florida.”  We considered it.

 

I really felt Lola needed Jesus in her life, so I extended the olive branch so to speak.  I offered to give her this incredible gift.  She gladly received Jesus, I wondered to myself in arrogance, “is this the first time this has happened.” 

 

I’d love to say that picture changed her life, but we continued to deal with challenges from Lola until she eventually grew tired and departed. Strangely, even after leaving, she would drive by the church every Thursday morning to see what was changing.  

 

Normally with a story like this, I would try to weave in some kind of life lesson, spiritual application, or leadership principle. To be honest, this time it’s really just about self-therapy.  This was Therapeutic. But there is one major lesson I am reminded of.

 

We must take Jesus out of the church to give Him to others!

 

Oh, and if you have a similar story on church revitalization, I’d love to hear it.  Misery loves company!

bi-vocational ministry

4 benefits of bi-vocational and co-vocational ministry

The majority of all ministries in the world are led by bi-vocational or co-vocational pastors and leaders.  

Think about that for a minute.  

It is a modern-day phenomenon in America over the last 100 years or so to think of most ministries or at least the ideal ministry having a “full-time” pastor or leader. Pastoring has definitely been seen in America and some other affluent places that have a Christian culture, as a profession.  But remember, the vast majority of the world, and now even the majority of Baptist pastors in America serve as bi-vocational or co-vocational.  

Often we think of the benefits of “full-time” ministry, and there certainly are some obvious ones.  However, we need to view bi-vo and co-vo ministry as beneficial.  I believe it is the future!  Here are 5 Benefits of this kind of ministry:

#1 Ministry Happens Faster.  

This is true for those that are looking to plant a church, replant or revitalize a ministry.  Often a missionary or church planter can spend a lot of time raising support to just get to the point where they can start the ministry. This is especially true for ministries that are not a part of a denomination that handles their support.  Without the need to raise support for a full-time salary you can begin ministry more quickly.  Of course, there are some ministry opportunities overseas where there is not a viable option to serve bi-vocationally.  Pastors should also view the support raising stage as a ministry opportunity to strengthen relationships and support, regardless of vocational status.

#2 Credibility. 

Credibility can go one of two ways for those that are serving in a bi-vo or co-vo ministry.  If you are bi-vo, it is temporary, but still respected. The church knows that you are helping them get through a tough point financially until they can support you in a greater way.  They learn that you are not afraid of work and are willing to sacrifice.  If you are serving in a co-vo capacity, this is not a short-term or temporary deal.  

Those that serve co-vocationally, do so intentionally. It is a part of their calling.  

God has called them to that other vocation outside of ministry, just as much as He has called them to the pastor.  

This also gives you respect in the marketplace and in the church. People can identify with a person more easily that works in a field they understand.  The accusation “they are in it for the money” doesn’t really stick as much and hinders your ministry when you serve bi-vo or co-vo.

#3 Financial Stability.  

One of the leading reasons pastors want to leave the ministry is over financial instability.  Most pastors are overworked, underpaid, and then over criticized.  It’s not a good combination.  

Pastors are very aware of the accusation, that they may be in it for the money.  In return, they are very reluctant to communicate their financial struggles to the church. Often their income is much less than those in the church and in the community.  

There are ministries that desire to pay their pastor a fair and livable wage, but sometimes they put the church itself in a place of financial instability when they do so.  Essentially the church goes broke attempting to bless the pastor financially.  

The bi-vo or co-vo pastor not only eliminates this financial burden for the church but also brings financial security to their own family.  

They no longer have to fully depend on the ups and downs of the offering for their livelihood.  I believe this also improves the length of tenure for the pastor at a ministry when there is some financial security for the pastor.  

#4 Connect with the Community.  

A pastor who works in the community connects with the community.  

He does so at a different level than a pastor who may not work in the community, even though he attempts to be engaged in the community.  Those that work in the community get a greater feel for the people, their lives, their struggles, and their culture. They know what their co-workers are doing this weekend, and they know what community events and organizations they are involved in.  The pastor at the local church is not mysterious, un-relatable, or unknown, he works with them.  

There you have it, 4 benefits of bi-vocational and co-vocational ministry!  Do you know of some other benefits?  Please send them my way.

6 Things Relationally Healthy Pastors Know that Lead for Transformation

Relationships in life can be one of the most challenging things we navigate in the ministry.  Now, consider a pastor leading people through change and transformation…..off the map, in new territory.  There are some real landmines to navigate.  This is where many pastors find themselves right now.  

Consider these 6 things that relationally healthy pastors know who are leading people off the map through transformation.

 

1. They must stay connected relationally with those they are in conflict with.

 

For a pastor, the focus can easily be drawn to the individualist responsibilities of study, prayer, teaching, preaching, vision, and planning. Personally, I loved my sermon prep and studying part of my schedule, too much probably.  I would spend time in the text, pray, and read through dozens of commentaries and articles. This was often at the expense of connecting with others.  

One particular Saturday evening we hosted a funeral at our church.  I had preached at the funeral and retreated to my study at the church to prepare for Sunday.  One of our dear deacons respectfully sought me out and asked me what I was doing.  I thought he would be impressed when I told him I was preparing to proclaim the Word of God for the next Lord’s day.  He wasn’t impressed.  He said, “there is a family in there that needs a pastor.”  He was right.

I had substituted the pulpit ministry for a relational ministry.  

I always thought I would lead merely through preaching. I thought “I will preach my way there.”  After all, that is what I was trained to do. Ultimately, that only gets you so far in the local church context.  Relationships are required.

As I examined my ministry I realized that I was too busy for relationships, especially with people that I sensed conflict.  I still remember applying what I learned from John Maxwell.  He spoke of walking through the crowd slowly, looking people in the eye and listening.  I was the exact opposite. Each Sunday I was running around like a crazy man. People said, “wow, the pastor sure is busy, we better not interrupt him.”  

A focus and prioritization on relationships have to be intentional.  We lean away from relationships because they are messy, cannot be controlled and we like to be efficient with our time as busy leaders. We cannot be efficient with people, hopefully effective, but never efficient.  

Many guys in the ministry struggle with healthy relationships.  We struggle to have personal close friends inside and outside of the ministry.  When you add in the stress of interpersonal relationships for a pastor who is attempting to lead a church through change or transformation of some kind, the relational stress skyrockets.  

The temptation is to flee, flight or freeze.  We naturally avoid conflict and distance ourselves from those that we have disharmony. 

Avoidance sends the message “this is personal.” The reality is, the conflict when leading a church through change is not typically personal, even though they feel that way based on the emotional and relational stress it causes.  

Stay connected relationally.

 

2. They don’t mistake support from their base for transformational leadership

 

Support from others makes us feel good, especially when we are riding out conflict over a change in the church.  It is helpful to distinguish if this support is from your “base” or if the support includes others. While preaching to the choir still feels good, it is not the end game.  

If you are only gaining support from people who already think like you and look like you, you may be struggling with survivorship bias. Survivorship bias is where your previously held beliefs, practices, and thoughts are continually supported and never challenged because you have insulated yourself from differing thinking. Unconsciously you may have kept people with differing thoughts at arms distance, adding to the relational conflict you are experiencing. 

When I was teaching college courses at VBC.edu we learned that the accreditation process values a few key things among the faculty. First, they want to see higher degrees of learning through advanced education.   Second, they want to see diversity in educational degrees.  You don’t want everyone on your faculty and staff to have degrees from the same institution.  Pastors need to value learning and have diversity among the sources they learn from.

In World War II many bombers were being shot down.  The engineers decided to study the bullet patterns on those bombers that returned and reinforced them with steel. However, one engineer protested. He argued that they were paying attention to the wrong bombers. They needed to learn from the planes who never made it back to base. 

 

3. They must move at a pace most of the church can handle

 

If you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far, go together.  

Many pastors are driven leaders and we want things done yesterday.   Add in youth and we compound the problem with a lack of patience….though some older people seem to be even more impatient!  Remember, that if you get so far ahead in your leadership that you are all by yourself, you are not actually leading anyone at that point.  You are just taking a walk by yourself. 

Leaders must regulate the heat.  If you turn the heat of transformation and change up too high and too fast people will get burned. If the heat is too low, then there is no meal to enjoy and everyone struggles with malnutrition or they eat it and get sick. The leader’s job is to regulate the heat as they move the church forward at a pace most can handle. 

 

4. That conflict is expected and par for the course.

 

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.  Ephesians 6:12

If you came into the ministry so everyone would like you, you chose the wrong vocation.

Know that conflict is par for the course.  Conflict is expected.  I wish someone told me this.  They probably did tell me, I just wasn’t paying attention. Somehow I got the vibes that walking with God, doing things right, great leadership, and so on will help you avoid conflict. I was under the impression that something was always wrong if a conflict occurred. I was wrong, dead wrong. If you believe something is wrong with you or your ministry because you experience conflict, you may have a false belief that needs to be changed.  

Fight the temptation to become a peace-monger.  

Becoming a peace-monger is when peace and unity become your goal rather than transformation.  Unity should be sought and prayed for. Unity should not be at the expense of true transformation.

When people experience loss and change because of transformation in the church they will get angry, very angry. They will lash out against the pastor, the leaders, and others.  I have worked with dozens of pastors and the pattern is very repeatable.  

Change. Loss. Fear. Anger. Disconnection. 

 

5. They learn from those that are marginalized

 

Some people in the church will feel marginalized because they have a differing opinion from the pastor or church leaders.  Seek them out, stay connected, and learn.  

People that have different perspectives are not wrong, just unique. 

Read that again and believe it.  

Avoid the temptation to discard the relationship. Believe that they have something you need to know. Be inquisitive.  Why do they think differently? How many others think this way? Could we be missing something?  Be honest.  Are they marginalized because of a bias in your leadership? Are you seeking to learn from women, minorities, people who are different?  Are you willing to learn from liberals, conservatives, democrats, republicans, young, old, white, black, minorities, male, female, blue-collar, white-collar, introverts, extroverts, and Redskin fans?  (that last one is the most difficult)

 

6. They must develop emotionally

 

Perhaps the greatest thing holding us back relationally is our underdeveloped emotional IQ.  Emotional IQ has become somewhat of a buzzword and trendy topic over the last few years…..for good reason. Many experts have claimed it is the single greatest factor in determining professional success in the work environment that requires high interaction with others.  

Pastors need to grow their emotional stamina.  This is the ability to stay connected relationally while dealing with their emotions.  I’m not speaking of stuffing our emotions. In fact, the opposite. We need to explore them with curiosity.  Write them down, consider them and ask ourselves questions like, “why do I feel this way?” “Should I feel this way?” “Is how I feel congruent with Scripture?”

Once we have identified our emotions, we should ask God to reveal to us what is triggering these emotions.  We should work with replacing the mental and emotional ruts we dig ourselves into with Scripture. Then we must replace these intrusive and negative emotions with truth.  

No doubt, to remain relationally healthy in the ministry requires intentional effort, personal growth, and constant learning.  It is a journey well worth it. I pray that you are able to pursue healthy relationships in your ministry as you lead the people around you for life transformation.

If I can help you in any way, please contact me at DevelopMyMinistry.org

Your Brother in the Battle,

Ryan Flanders

3 Biblical images that remind us of the role of a Parachurch ministry


Early in my Christian walk as a teenager I was introduced to parachurch ministries, I just didn’t know they were parachurch ministries.  It was a very positive experience, as I enjoyed Christian camps and even went to a Christian school for a few years. I was being taught from Christian curriculums in church and school, and reading Christian books published by parachurch ministries.  After high school, I went to a Christian college, another parachurch ministry.  This was an amazing time in my life where I grew spiritually and met lifelong friends.  During college, I met my wife at a Christian camp that was a parachurch ministry and even worked in a para-church ministry between college and seminary traveling the country helping churches do outreach.  

 

When we look across the religious landscape today we see many parachurch ministries.  “Para” means `’to come alongside.”  These ministries are to come alongside the church to help the church fulfill her mission. Jerry White defines a parachurch ministry as

“any spiritual ministry whose organization is not under the control or authority of a local congregation.”  Parachurch ministries can be anything from a soup kitchen to a mission board, or even an educational institution.  

Some pastors today, especially in conservative or fundamental circles, look suspiciously and negatively on parachurch ministries.  Some do so with good reason.  A few decades ago the Christian world was rocked by scandal when parachurch broadcast ministries like PTL, with the Bakers or Jimmy Swaggert, came tumbling down in scandals.  This cast a dark cloud over other parachurch ministries, and even over the church as a whole.  The culture lost confidence in ministries and mocked them openly for their scandals.  

 

Parachurch ministries, like churches and pastors, often lack accountability.  A lack of accountability can easily lead to a lack of integrity.  However, parachurch ministries with accountability that stay on a mission can have a positive impact on the work of the church.

 

Almost every Christian has benefited from a parachurch ministry, even if they do not realize it. But there are many examples of parachurch ministries doing their own thing, existing to serve themselves, rather than the church.  With that in mind, here are 3 reminders for a parachurch ministry:

 

#1 A Parachurch Ministry is the Bridesmaid, not the Bride

 

This is good for the parachurch ministry to remember.  They are not the church. They do not compete with the church.  As a good pastor friend of mine, Adam Colson, often says about our parachurch ministry, “you are a bridesmaid, not the bride.”  The parachurch ministry is there to come alongside the church and help them accomplish their mission of the Great Commission.

 

#2 A Parachurch Ministry is the Good Samaritan, not the man left half dead.

 

Too often parachurch ministries are the beggars.  They believe that the church and the people of the church are there to support their mission and endeavors. The opposite is true and needs to be remembered.  The parachurch, like the good samaritan, is the one that needs to come alongside the church, protect the church, support the church and do everything we can to restore the church to health.

 

#3  A Parachurch Ministry is the ministry of the Deacon, not the Elder or Widow.

 

In Acts 6, we are introduced to a problem in the early church.  The windows were being neglected.  Quickly, a plan was drawn up to select 7 men filled with the Holy Spirit to help meet this need.  Many believe these men were the forerunners to the office of the deacon in the church.  The reason that they selected these men to take this work was twofold.  First, to minister to the widows. Second, to allow those teaching, preaching, and praying to continue to focus on that.  The word deacon means servant.  The parachurch ministry is here to serve the church.  We are not dependent on the church, nor do we lead the church.

 

If our ministry can serve you in some way, do not hesitate to reach out to us!