Over the past few years, I've heard the phrase "courageous leadership" used to describe the trait of those leaders who are making a difference today. Unfortunately, we also know many who are in leadership positions where that courage is not apparent. Indeed, they demonstrate leadership that is fearful.
I have used these lines many times in speaking venues. I ask the audience if they know how Baptists count weekly worship attendance. The knowing smiles break forth on most faces. I then began counting each person in the conference by saying 2, 4, 6, 8 . . . As the audience waits for the punch line, I say that every believer is indwelled by the Holy Spirit, so each person counts as two.
My recent blogpost on pastors' salaries drew a lot of attention. There are indeed some heated emotions on both sides of the issue. Much of the concern expressed about the pay of ministers seems to focus on those cases of real indulgence and abuse. But it's those cases that get the most attention and, sadly, hurt the vast majority of ministers who are faithful stewards of God's money.
Worship leader: your pastor is the single most important professional relationship you have. You may be the primary facilitator of music and media, but he's ultimately in charge—and he's usually the one taking the fallout when things go awry. You absolutely want a healthy, dynamic relationship with your pastor.
I must say from a pure statistical perspective, most churches with the symptoms I noted will die within a matter of a few years. Though I don't have hard data, I would be comfortable suggesting that the percentage exceeds 99 percent. In the midst of the gloomy news of terminal churches, I took a look at a few churches that had all the signs of impending death and then turned around to life.
Almost a decade ago, I led a major study on churches that had reversed negative trends and become positive breakout churches. I established the criterion that the breakout had to take place without changing pastors. I knew from previous research that most breakout churches had new pastors. I wanted to see if it was likely for a church to turnaround without getting a new pastor.
Preachers are also too familiar with distractions. While it's the way of life of someone who gets in front of people to speak, it is no less annoying. I asked a number of pastors to share with me the most frequent distractions they experience while preaching. Here are there responses in order of frequency. I also took a representative quote from one of the respondents for each item.
The first "test" consists of three questions. Though the church member may not ask these questions specifically, he or she is evaluating three critical issues to determine if it's time to move or stay. These are the issues around the six-month point.
Of all the members who drop out of church, 82 percent leave in the first year of their membership. Retention efforts are thus critical in the first twelve months after a member joins a church.
The exercise was simple. I made a list of over 30 of the most unified churches I know. Some of them have been my clients in the past. I then made a list of over 40 fragmented churches (they were easier to find). From that point I began to answer my own questions: What makes this church look like it's unified? What makes this other church look like it's fragmented?
I am especially grateful to have the opportunity to hear from pastors' wives since much of my focus is on pastors. Our recent, informal survey simply asked the open-ended question: "What do you wish you had been told before you became a minister's wife?"
I travel a lot and spend a lot of time in different churches. I have had a church consulting firm that did "guest" visits as part of our services. Sadly, many times I do not feel welcome as a guest when I visit churches.
The Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches assembles various data on churches and denominations across North America. I recently gleaned the top 15 denominations by membership in the United States from their reports:
Many years ago I was serving as pastor of a church where I was an avid supporter of door-to-door outreach. But I struggled with leading people to be involved in the ministry. We kept decent records, so I got the old "outreach cards" for the previous year. My brief research shocked me.
The Christian Booksellers Association has published its list of bestselling Bible translations in 2012 for the United States.
I have informally counseled hundreds of ministers about financial matters. My background lends itself to such interaction. I have a business degree with a double major in finance and economics. I served as a corporate banker before answering the call to vocational ministry. undreds of ministers have sought my advice. I am humbled and happy to share my knowledge with these servants of God.
Someone made a comment that, above all, he needed people praying for him. So I wrote in response, "I'm praying for you. I really mean it." Then I paused. Why did I write "I really mean it"? Wasn't my promise of prayer sufficient? Why did I have to add a child-like "cross my heart" promise?
In an informal survey of pastors, I asked a simple question: What do you wish you had been told before you became a pastor? Some of the responses were obvious. For me, a few were surprises. "I wish someone had taught me basic leadership skills." "I wish I had been given advice on how to deal with power groups and power people in the church."
This issue is not new, but it does seem to be one gaining more attention. A new church is started in a community with many members of an existing church. Unfortunately, the existing church has not blessed the new church start, nor has it been consulted about it.
"Happy" is a nebulous term. It is usually understood better than defined. So I know I am taking a risk when I used such a subjective word. Please allow me to explain. For almost twenty years, I served as a consultant to churches in the United States and Canada. After working with hundreds of churches, I saw several patterns develop.
My generation was the largest generation. And now we are the dying generation. But here is the harshest reality about my generation. We estimate that only about one-third of Baby Boomers are Christians.
But the lack of unity in many churches is a serious manner. Church splits, congregational infighting, and church divisiveness are more common than we often like to admit. Not too long ago, I heard my co-worker at LifeWay, Eric Geiger, make a presentation on church unity. Actually, he largely dealt with training and equipping the saints to do the work of ministry in his presentation, but he beautifully tied that issue with church unity.
I recently asked a few hundred laypersons to write down what they desired of a pastor. Their responses were open-ended, and there was no limitation on the number of items they could list. Among the top 10 responses was "love of congregation."
Is it fair to suggest any relationship between the decline of the malls and the future of the church buildings? I think so. To be sure, most malls are adversely affected by the growth of online shopping. There are not too many brick and mortar stores that don't feel the impact of the Internet.
I am stating the obvious. Indeed I am mirroring the emotions of tens of millions of Americans. My statement? I am fed up with politicians. I am fed up with a congress and executive branch that fails to lead. I am fed up with last minute and dramatic decision-making. I am fed up with "kicking the can down the road" on major decisions. I am fed up with the lack of courage obvious at so many levels.