In my years of church consulting, I have spent hours talking to local church pastors. Much of the conversation revolves around church structure, vision, etc., but seldom does the conversation stay at that level. Pastors, it seems, long for someone to listen to them. They want someone to share their burdens, even if only for a few minutes.
My intent here is not to debate the use of alcohol or to discuss the curse on Canaan. Instead, my goal is help us consider the consequences of one act of sin. Think about these conclusions from this story.
Let me be honest about my qualifications up front, though: I am not a musician or singer; I am a church consultant only reporting what our teams have found in more than 15 years of consulting. It is not my intent to be judgmental or offensive. I have utmost respect for those who lead us in worship. With those caveats in mind, here are ten distractions we've encountered in the music element of worship.
I have previously posted here about what we older leaders need to hear from young church leaders, but I continue to learn from them and about them. They are passionate, energetic, globally minded, committed . . . and concerned. Here are some of their concerns we must consider:
Southeastern Seminary, where I work, challenged all students, staff, and faculty to share the gospel at least once a day during the month of September. Based on my experiences that month, in addition to years of sharing Christ with family members, here are my thoughts about why my family and friends struggle with believing the gospel.
Fasting – not our favorite topic. We don't usually like to talk about not eating. In fact, nobody talked to me about fasting when I was a young believer. I didn't learn about this spiritual discipline until I was already a local church pastor.
Last week, a friend asked me what general advice I would give to young church leaders. I'm sure this list is not complete, but here's a start.
In seventeen years of doing church consulting, no church leader has said to me, "Our church really doesn't want to do the Great Commission." I've worked with many churches, though, that proclaim the Great Commission but never get around to doing it. Here are my conclusions about why churches so often fit this description.
Two weeks ago, I posted my thoughts on "10 Things We Need to Hear from Young Church Leaders." I'm grateful that post gained traction, as I strongly believe my generation needs to listen to younger church leaders. At the same time, I also think we older leaders have something to say to younger leaders. So, here is the other side of that conversation.
I'm writing this post for me as much as for anyone. In the past months, I've re-read Jim Collins' How the Mighty Fall and Tim Irwin's Derailed. Both of these gripping studies review the process of decline in leaders and organizations, especially in leaders who perhaps once thought themselves invincible.
This coming Sunday, Christians around the world will celebrate Easter – perhaps better understood as "Resurrection Sunday." Some believers will celebrate with meals and family get-togethers. Some will gather with the largest church crowds they've seen all year; others will join small groups to rejoice quietly in places where gathering is life threatening.
Maybe you've seen it happen. A new believer joins a local church, and he is thrilled by his changed life. He shows up at every church event. He consumes knowledge of the Bible. But then something happens. The excited new believer slowly wanders away, and few people in the church notice. Listed below are some steps to evaluate your congregation's assimilation strategy. Taking these steps will require some work, but no church should be pleased when new believers disappear.
I was a young pastor, and I was sure everybody in the church was kind, gracious, and Christian. Everybody would treat everybody else with the love of God. Needless to say, it didn't take me long to learn that even in the church are people who don't quite get there. Some people are really hard to love. Here are ten reasons why we must love even unlovable church members.
New Testament writers warn us again and again about the reality of spiritual attack. The apostle Paul, a leader extraordinaire, challenged believers to wear the full armor of God (Eph. 6:11), being ever aware of the enemy's schemes (2 Cor. 2:11). The leader of the church at Jerusalem, James, called followers of Christ to resist the devil (Jms. 4:7). Peter, the leader among Jesus' apostles, warned against the adversary who seeks someone to devour like a roaring lion (1 Pet. 5:8). It is no wonder, then, Paul reminded the church to choose leaders who are not set up for the devil's traps (1 Tim. 3:6-7).
It's been a long time since I became a Christ follower (39 years ago), but I still think about what I wish I had known back then. You see, my first years as a believer were not easy. My family was not a Christian family. I was in my early teens, wanting to be faithful to God but also seeking to fit in with my peers. My church loved me, but discipleship was not intentional. I wish someone had helped prepare me for the journey. If I were writing a new believer's guide today for people like me, I would include a simple "lessons learned" section with at least these lessons:
In the 1990s, Peter Wagner published The Healthy Church, a book describing several diseases that churches sometimes exhibit. Some of his descriptions are quite helpful (e.g., koinonitis = excessive, inward fellowship), and the list itself challenges readers to come up with their own descriptions. Here are ten diseases I see as I consult with unhealthy churches around the country:
Have you ever thought that a guest at your church might, in fact, be a spy? My church consulting company uses church "spies" to help us evaluate how churches respond to guests. Our spies are "good" spies, though, since their goal is to help a church face reality and move toward health. Numerous spies have written us reports for more than a decade. Below are some of the most common findings they have sent us.
I admit the topic of this blogpost might not quickly grab your attention – but I challenge you to keep reading. The world needs us to have this discussion. In fact, our basic Christian obedience is at stake if we ignore this topic.
John, a leader in a church I assisted as a consultant, admitted to me what I'd heard before from seminary students and church leaders alike: "Dr. Lawless, I don't always pray like I should. I know better, but prayer isn't easy." I've heard something similar so many times that I've begun asking for more details. These findings are anecdotal, but here are my general conclusions about why church leaders struggle with prayer.
I am a professor of evangelism, but I admit that most churches are not evangelistically driven. Do you want your church to be evangelistic? Check out these four strategies for moving your church in this direction.
Evangelicals know that theology matters, and we're quick to remind others of this fact. What we're not so quick to acknowledge is the focus of this blogpost: we do a poor job of teaching the very theology we claim is so important. We think that our church members understand and believe our basic doctrine, even while those same members are learning their theology from TV talk show hosts, popular television preachers, or the latest religious novel.
The question didn't surprise me, but I wasn't ready with an answer. I was a young church consultant, and the church's leadership team had several questions. The one for which I had no answer at the time was, "What characteristics have you seen in churches that seemed to be dying, but that experienced growth after a consultation?" After many more years of consulting, here is my answer today.
I am a church consultant who loves helping God's church. The churches I consult, though, aren't always as excited, as a church consultation is sometimes like a medical physical—we know we need it, but we don't like being poked and prodded by an outsider. Nevertheless, a good consultation prods with some important questions. Perhaps these questions will help you analyze your own church.