As a Boomer, I thought I was part of the generation that ushered in the sexual revolution. But I had no idea that views on sexuality would change so dramatically with the generation of my three sons. The implications for local congregations are staggering. Allow me at this juncture to offer five of those implications. I will expand on them later.
When I was a pastor, I had many couples asked me to perform their wedding ceremonies. In fact, one year I officiated at 40 weddings. In case you are wondering, I was really stupid to accept so many invitations. I am pretty conservative about doing weddings. I see the role of the Christian minister to be narrowly defined regarding when he says "yes" to such opportunities. As a result, I often found myself in some awkward positions when I had to decline to perform the ceremony.
I've heard it countless times from pastors: "I quit my job almost every Monday." Of course, it's typically a tongue-in-cheek statement regarding the letdown many pastors feel after Sunday. But most pastors say these words with a little bit of truth. They really do feel the struggles and challenges of being pastor more on Monday than most other days.
Narcissism should not be said in the same breath as Christian. The former is love of self; the latter is love of God in Jesus Christ. But the sad reality is that narcissism can and often does creep into the lives of many Christian leaders.
Most Millennials don't think in the old worship war paradigm. In that regard, "style" of worship is not their primary focus. Instead they seek worship services and music that have three major elements.
I conducted an informal survey of over 30 persons, simply asking them to name the most influential evangelicals in America today. Though my choice of the respondents was subjective, I do have confidence that the men and women who gave me these names are very knowledgeable about the evangelical scene in the United States.
Unhealthy churches have numbers of leaders and/or members who do not practice 1 Corinthians 13 in their local congregations. These persons tend to seek their picture of an ideal church rather than loving their current church, her leaders, and her members. They are thus constantly comparing some aspect of the church with some other church or members or leaders.
Criticism and conflict is one. I do have a few observations about this number one issue. First, it seems to be growing, and pastors seem to be experiencing greater challenges. Second, most of the issues of conflict are not doctrinal issues.
The issue of mental health and Christians is finally getting some attention. Among the Christians who have challenges, many pastors struggle with depression. We hear too frequently about a pastor committing suicide. And many wonder how such a tragedy could happen to someone whose life was committed to serving the Lord.
The "digital church attendees" likely view the worship services online. Some churches now view these persons as integral participants in the life of the church. A small but growing number are willing to grant them membership.
Pastors' wives have shared a common plight: they are very lonely. Some of the most common reasons pastors' wives have offered to explain their loneliness: superficial relationships in the church and mean church members.
The conversation is always sad, always tragic. The pastor who left his church after a two-year affair with another church member. The student pastor who has been out of vocational ministry since he had a brief sexual encounter with his assistant. I have spoken with countless numbers of these men and women. And each time I am reminded of how much I need to love God with all my heart, and to be totally devoted to my wife.
During my 25 plus years of church consultations, I have interviewed a number of these active-to-inactive persons. Most of them shared freely and openly with me what took place in their lives, and how it impacted their ultimate decision to stop attending church.
Yet the topic of church discipline seems to be primarily reserved for the theologians and a few pastors. Those of us who write about practical ministry and church health rarely mention this topic, even though it is a clear biblical practice. Allow me to note seven observations about church discipline.
For many years I served as a consultant to churches and denominations, a role I relinquished when I became president of LifeWay over eight years ago. Part of our consultative process was interviewing church members. Inevitably I would hear issues of concern and issues among church members over which arguments took place.
Why are pastors no longer held in high esteem? What is behind the precipitous drop in favorable ratings almost every year? Allow me to offer eleven possible reasons. As you will see, they are not mutually exclusive.
I know I'm not smart enough to have predicted all of these major changes in churches the past decade or so. The changes have been profound in many churches, and they seem to be lasting changes. For clarity, please understand I am not making qualitative assessments of these paradigm shifts; I am merely noting them. And I understand fully that all of them are not operational in all churches. Nevertheless, they are pervasive on the congregational landscape of American.
Several months ago, I wrote a post about pastors' wives. The responses and comments were numerous and incredible. One of the greatest blessings about this blog for me is how much I learn from others. As I read the comments and the interactions, I came away with a greater appreciation for pastors' wives, as well as a greater concern for these ladies. I have attempted to summarize the primary issues the pastors' wives discussed. I am sure I've missed something. For now, here are eleven things I learned from pastors' wives.
I just received a letter from a delightful lady. She was a member of a church where I was ordained in the ministry. What I remember most about her was the way she offered encouragement to the pastors of that church. The letter reminded me of so many good laypersons who served sacrificially in churches where I have been. With that in mind, I asked several pastors to recall something very positive said to them by church members. I asked them to try to summarize it in one sentence. Though I shouldn't be surprised, each of the pastors did not hesitate to offer one "joyful sentence."
Dear Southern Baptists: Please hear me clearly. I am not writing out of any sense of superiority. Indeed, many of you could put me to shame. But my heart is breaking with what I perceive to be a loss of passion for those who do not know Christ. Many of you have seen the numbers. We are reaching fewer people for the gospel today than we did decades ago when we were a much smaller group.
It was not the response to a blog post I expected. Back in June of 2013, I wrote a post speaking on behalf of pastors for their kids. I summarized seven major things pastors wanted you to know about their children. The article had a big response when it was first posted. But, for reasons I have not completely fathomed, the post went viral a few weeks ago. Now almost 200,000 views and hundreds of comments later, we can see a pretty clear picture.
The order of the trends is random. They are not ranked in any particular priority. On Wednesday, I shared the first seven predictions. I conclude today with the final seven.
Predicting is as much of an art as it is a science. And if any prognosticator is honest, he or she will tell you that they don't always get it right. I know. I certainly don't always get it right. But I don't pull my predictions out of thin air. To the contrary, each of them has a reasonable explanation. For these fourteen predictions, I gleaned from several sources:
A seismic shift is taking place in American church facilities, a shift that will become even more noticeable in the years to come. Church worship centers or sanctuaries will become smaller than they were the past 40 years. As church leaders decide to build, a large number of them will decide to build smaller than most of their predecessors have in previous years.
I love pastors. I love affirming pastors. I love speaking positively for pastors. That's why this article is a bit different for me. Pastors, I want to talk frankly and, hopefully, with a spirit of love, about one of the biggest mistakes I see many of you make. Most pastors have little emphasis, or sometimes, even knowledge about the content that is taught in groups in their churches.