This morning I received an early morning call from a mom who wanted to know if the stuffed animal her daughter received from me last night was a keeper or just on loan… Wow. Yup. Remember my recent blog post about giving stuffed animals to kids? Check it out here if you haven’t read it yet… And yes, it was a keeper!
Now, back to the show!
Hello Pastors. We like you. Yes, even Jonny. Even Jonny likes you! He told me.
I have just two more things to tell you on this Friday:
1. You are a pastor who is loved by God!
That’s right. God loves you as His child, but also as a shepherd to his sheep. Jesus said, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” He loves you. Pure love. True love. LOVE love. Know his love today Pastor.
God knows what you are struggling with today. He knows your weaknesses, and he chose you anyway. He knows your heartache and your joy, your insecurities and your slam-dunks, your silly fears and your inexplicable courage.
God loves you pastor. He doesn’t expect you to be Superwoman or Superman, but he has filled you with his Spirit of power and ability. Do you think he’s disappointed with you because you’re not better than you are? No, you’re actually the only disappointed one. He knows you and stands with you.
C’mon now Rev, just take this one day off from beating yourself up! In fact, take the whole weekend off!
God. Loves. You.
Yes, God loves the pastor. Just sit in that for a while.
Then, when the people come around this weekend, you can share some of that love with them.
2. Your people love you more than you realize!
You know God loves you, but your people love you too. And, they really enjoy it when you love on them, brag on them, affirm them, honestly care about how they are doing, visit them, and even when you might need to have a difficult conversation with them.
People love, and need, to be cared for, encouraged, supported, cheered on, affirmed, equipped, and even confronted when they are wrong… in LOVE of course. Remember, love is not weak, it is strong and confident – always working for the best of the one loved.
When do the people realize how much they love their pastor? When he or she…
In the flow and course of ministry, sometimes our people do take us for granted – and sometimes we take them for granted. But in the important, critical times of life, people need their pastor and realize just how much they are loved by him or her, and just how much they love their pastor!
So, my dear pastor friend – you are loved. Not mushy, gushy, meaningless, Valentine candy kind of love. No, real love, from God and from your people.
This weekend, be loved… and love.
In this episode, Jonny and I discuss the challenge of speaking truth into each other's lives. We specifically talk about one of the many times we have had to challenge each other - and in this instance, Jonny comes to me to talk about a couple of my recent messages...
He has some "concerns".
We hope that this episode encourages you to redouble your efforts to create an environment in your small church ministry where the truth is spoken in love, even when it hurts!
Episode 110 of the 200churches Podcast is, we believe, a foundational episode regarding leadership relationships. Last week on Friday (02/20/2015) I wrote a blog post about getting better, if you intend to remain in your church for the foreseeable future – and I told the story of Jonny talking to me about what he thought were my less than stellar messages over the couple weeks previous to a conversation he had with me in January.
On tomorrow’s podcast episode, I ask Jonny to tell the story from his perspective – what it is like to speak to your boss about something difficult that you believe he would want to hear. The angst goes both ways when you commit to speaking difficult truth.
There are two realities that we believe have to be present if you desire to experience successful, and God-honoring leadership relationships – those two realities are love, and truth.
How much do you really love the people you serve with in your 200church? We think that part of the answer to that question involves how much truth you are willing to share with them. And, are you more committed to the Triune God and his Kingdom that you are to your “comfort” in your relationships?
It doesn’t matter if you pastor a church of 10 or 1,000, if you’re a man or a woman, or if you’re a Vineyard pastor or an Anglican priest – love and truth are the predominant drivers in healthy leadership relationships.
When was the last time you had a difficult conversation with another leader in your church? When was the last time you should have had one? How was their reaction to you? What was your motivation going into the talk? Did you speak truth in love?
Let’s flip it – when was the last time another leader in your 200church had a difficult conversation with you? How was your reaction? What did you perceive as their motivation going into the talk? Did they speak truth to you, in love?
Hey Pastors – this is an important, fundamental issue in leadership in the Body of Christ! We believe that most church leaders shy away from loving the other leaders in their church enough to have the tough conversations. This is one of those things that really does keep small churches small! If we don’t get this one right, we’re shooting ourselves in the foot.
You will hear in episode 110 how Jonny and I both fumble at times for words to express how we felt about that day – the day Jonny had “the talk” with me. We get very personal and transparent about it, and honestly, it got a little uncomfortable for me to talk about – but we wanted to share this with you on the podcast – because we believe it is so important!
Initiatives die when silence reigns where conversation should triumph. Growth is prevented when comfort is chosen over what might be a tense interaction. Relationships are stunted when love and truth shrivel on the vine of fear and avoidance. The borders of our ministries are not expanded when we don’t love enough to confront with truth, but instead chose false peace over true conflict resolution.
So, Pastor. Listen to episode 110. It pops up at midnight Tuesday night – on, you know, technically, Wednesday. Listen, and then ask yourself if there is someone you need to invite to lunch, or out for coffee, or even to your home or office. Who do you need to love so much with the love of Jesus that you are willing to tell them the truth in order to set your ministry free?
When we speak truth in love, putting the Kingdom and lost people ahead of our comfort and security – we find a freedom in leadership that we never want to stop experiencing!
Love. Truth. The two most powerful realities in all the world. They are what God is made of. They should define our leadership relationships… and again, no matter the size of our church – none of us gets a pass.
I don’t say it in episode 110 explicitly, but since Jonny cranked up the courage to speak with me, my messages have taken on a new edge, and last week – on February 15, I was more consumed with the message God allowed me to give than I have been in a long, long time. I was up during the night with it, and it just burned within me.
Nothing magical or mystical, but in our leadership relationships, there is freedom and power in love and truth. We will keep having those conversations whenever they are necessary, either on my part or his. It’s what ministry leaders do with each other.
Enjoy episode 110.
We love you women and men who listen every week to the 200churches Podcast!
I have a short story for you, that includes Jonny. But first…
Pastor, do you plan on staying at your current church for a while? Planning on continuing in your present pastorate? If the answer is yes, then read on…
JUST ONE THING
If you plan to stay, please just do one thing for your church leadership, and your church membership, and for your future visitors, guests, and members. Just one thing, that’s all we ask. Just one.
What is the one thing we are asking of you, for the sake of your leadership and your congregation? In one word…
Or, two words…
Okay, back to one word…
That’s what we expect from ourselves – both me and Jonny. If we expect our people to want us to stick around, we’d better keep improving, keep growing, and keep getting better at what we do. After all, what’s the alternative?!
Stall? Circle? Coast? Glide? Fake it? Or worse, deteriorate? Worsen? Spoil? Rot?! Oh, sorry. Too far! Too far! You get our drift… no pun intended. Well, maybe a little.
As a pastor, what are you doing that is causing growth in your life, and in your ministry capacity? Surely there’s something you are already doing to grow, or you wouldn’t be reading this blog right now! We know our readers pretty well. You want to develop yourself. You want to grow.
But, sometimes, especially for us older pastors, there is a danger that we might think we are entitled to the position, the calling, just because of our tenure. No, no, no. We are called by God to serve our people with open hands and humble hearts. Every week we have to come with a message from our walk/talk with God from that week.
Every week we must remember the hurting people, and call or visit them. Every week we have to develop leaders and volunteers. Every week we must not forget the widow, the orphan, the CEO, the teacher, the shift supervisor, the single mom, the wayward teen, the successful high school star, the maintenance worker, the children’s volunteer, and any other person God puts in our path.
Our work doesn’t just happen on Sunday mornings. A lot of it shows up then, (hopefully we’ve been working hard all week prior, to deliver a meaningful message) but other work happens at any given time of the week, 24/7.
We have to keep getting better. We have never earned the right to stay, we are always earning it. Now, our salvation? Yeah, that’s a gift, ours to keep! Our position? Not the same. The role of the pastor is too vital in any local church to think we could coast, or that we’ve invested enough to drift our last few years into retirement.
THE JONNY STORY...
Hard transition. Back to the Jonny story. Who does he think he is anyway?! Does he even know that I am his boss? It was about five or six weeks ago. On a Thursday morning.
So he walks into my office kind of tentative like, you see? And he says something like, “permission to speak freely?” I replied, “Of course. Always. You know that.”
Then he asks me… “the question.”
“How much time did you spend on your sermon last week?”
Now, I’ll have all of our readers know, right here, right now, that I was complimented plenty on that sermon! Both in person, through email, and even in a phone message!
I had to work through a fairly lengthy passage in a book we’re preaching through. It did not lend itself to three points and a poem, or a cute outline.
But he knew. He knows me.
And I knew too. I knew I hadn’t nailed it. I knew it wasn’t my best work. I was tired. Just after the holidays. Just after the crisis with my son and his car accident. Hey, I had bona fide excuses. Wasn’t I allowed to be a human being just one Sunday?
But it was Jonny. He loves me. He wouldn’t ever want to hurt me, wouldn’t ever purposely want to add an ounce of stress to my life. Unless the wound of a friend would be faithful. Unless it was what I needed to hear. Unless the only person who had the true moral authority to tell me, was him.
Hey, I’m the 200churches guy getting called out by the other, younger, longer-haired 200churches guy! Ouch, man. It hurt! I’m not gonna lie.
I was a big boy though. I thanked him for the honest feedback (I won’t recount the entire conversation, especially since I couldn’t remember it), and was sincerely glad for it. But it stung. It caused a little lack of confidence. A little insecurity to well up inside of me. Was I loosing a little of my edge? Was I passing my prime? Was I… getting old??!
That was on a Thursday. I was running scared now. Sunday’s a comin’ right?! I worked and prayed like I normally would, but I just added a little edge to my prep. Fear? I don’t think so. I’d like to think it was determination and edge.
By the time I got up on the platform Sunday morning, I was confident, and I was determined to face down the person, who because of one loving, innocent, caring question – was now my harshest critic!! :-)
After the service I stepped into the lobby and he ran up to me with the biggest high five – my best-est message, he said. My heart rallied. My confidence might yet return. The past several weeks I have kept the edge, just that “extra mile” of preparation to make sure that I leave it all on the field on Sunday mornings.
This past weekend God visited me on Saturday night in a way I cannot recall ever happening before. My message this past Sunday was more for me than anyone. My heart burned with it, and I could not give it fast enough or passionately enough. God brought tears to my eyes, and to some others. I was overcome by the greatness of Jesus.
I think I just needed that little comment from Jonny, that one question. It was not easy for Jonny to speak to me about my message, but I want to publicly thank him for fulfilling his responsibility to me, to God, and to our church.
Our mission is authentic relationships with God and others 24/7. Part of authentic relationships is truthfulness even when it hurts. And for Jonny, looking out for our church people by challenging me to be my best not just most Sundays, but every Sunday!
I know, we can’t hit a home run every Sunday, but if we strike out, we’d better strike out swinging!
My commitment has always been to keep improving at my church. That’s why I pursued my M.Div. at 47, and made the necessary sacrifices in my life to complete it. That’s why Jonny and I started 200churches, so that we could get better by serving other small church pastors. We’ve been blessed the most, out of anybody!
So in your small church, if you’re going to stay…
Have a phenomenal weekend with your church family! We will.
Dan Reiland is the Executive Pastor of 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, GA, an Atlanta suburb. Dan spent twenty years working with John Maxwell first at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, and then at Injoy, John's leadership training company, in Atlanta. Dan coaches his large staff, speaks to and coaches ministry teams around the country, and is the author of Amplified Leadership.
Our conversation with Dan was motivated by a post he wrote in 2010 titled Why Smaller Churches Don't Grow. We really tried to fight with Dan about this, but instead, we decided to learn from his wisdom, understanding that only God decides the growth potential of each church. This means that we should do our very best to reach our communities for Christ.
Dan gives us five questions that help us to evaluate how we are doing, and catch ourselves on possible mindsets as leaders that might prevent us from growth.
Those Five Questions Are:
For sure check out Dan's actual post, read it and see if there is something there for you to consider about your leadership, or the leadership capacity of your ministry team.
NEXT WEEK: We talk with Bill Thrall, one of the pastors of Open Door Fellowship Church in Phoenix, AZ, and a co-author of the books, TrueFaced, and The Cure - along with John Lynch and Bruce McNicol. John Lynch joined us last spring, and now we have his mentor and partner, Bill Thrall, joining us for episode 110, next week!
I have to admit, I don’t think I have ever done this with a 200churches post, but maybe I just don’t remember, which would of course fit. However, I think this might be the first post I’ve written for 200churches while under the influence.
I put it off last night, as I was in a similar predicament. I thought maybe tonight might be better, but it’s not. I’ve drank way more than usual this afternoon and tonight. I’ve been wondering what to write about, but things look different and seem different when you’re “impaired”, right?
The things I would normally be excited about, just seem sort of bland to me right now. And, the stuff (subject matter) that needs brains behind it isn’t working tonight – things are too fuzzy.
So, fuzziness and negativity do not bode well for ministry motivation. Then there is the fatigue and listlessness, and the slight headache. I thought drinking a little more might take the headache away, but not yet. Maybe I need just a couple more glasses.
Maybe I won’t post this, since it may reflect negatively on me in some pastors’ estimation. Not the women pastors of course, they’re okay, but it would be the men pastors. They’re probably the ones who wouldn’t think of taking a sip after 6:00pm. Oh no, they avoid all cold beverages after supper, for fear they’ll be up a half dozen times in the night.
Well, the doc told me today that it’s probably a less than severe case of influenza. Not enough to keep me down (I’m probably the really strong or really stupid type!) but just enough to keep me impaired, under the weather… under what I call, “the inFLUence”.
I can hear Jonny now, moaning and groaning about how corny this post is shaping up to be! “There goes Jeff again, trying to be the cool shock-jock, and just pulling a ‘bait ‘n switch’ on our faithful readers.” I know Jonny, but just indulge me for a couple more paragraphs of constructive FLUency.
We all do ministry while under the influence, it’s just what we’re under the influence OF! While we can make choices to be around positive influences and situations, sometimes it’s not always possible. One of those times is when we are sick.
Right now I have been sporting a low-grade fever for over a week. It’s getting old. Come to think of it, so am I! So I’m tired. I’m not depressed or discouraged – I’m just frustrated that I’m so tired and under the weat… influence that I can’t attack all the great opportunities ahead of us here at our church. They are just waiting for me to get better. My body’s willingness is not matching my spirit’s eagerness!
The doctor told me I am really not contagious anymore, and I should be out of the woods at any moment. Here is what I am doing while staying in the ministry while under the inFLUence:
1. Trying to rest.
2. Drinking lots of “cold beverages.” (did you really think I meant alcohol earlier??)
3. Trying to not get too close to people.
4. Talking to God.
5. Holding onto HOPE. Being sick can be discouraging, so I keep reminding myself how wonderful it will be when I get back to 100%.
6. Doing what I can do, just at a slower pace.
7. Trying to be patient and enjoy a slower pace.
8. Mustering more empathy for those who really suffer.
9. Appreciating the great life God has given me.
10. Constantly thinking about how I can be both a better pastor, and a better encourager, with Jonny, of other pastors.
11. Finally, appreciating the wonderful, fantastic wife I have – and the encouraging #3 son who still lives with us and is generous with hugs.
What are YOU under the influence of today? Is it something good? Or something bad? And, how are you handling it?
Whether it’s a tough board member, a negative health or financial situation, a supportive team of volunteers, or the best ministry scenario of your life – take a moment and assess how you think you are handling it.
Are you leveraging the great things and mitigating the negative influence of the bad? Are you taking solid, even if slow – steps to improve things, and harnessing the power of your blessings?
You’re doing ministry under the influence – I hope it’s going well for you!
Tomorrow's podcast, episode 109 - Dan "the Enforcer" Reiland is back!!
If you haven't already received it, subscribe here to get a free PDF outlining Jeff & Jonny's 7 Favorite Ministry Resources!
This week’s podcast episode, #108, addressed the subject of church health, from our (Jeff and Jonny) perspective in our local 200church.
In October 1997 my wife and I attended the Purpose Driven Church Conference at Saddleback Church. Rick Warren and his team regaled us with stories and principles that described a fantastic way for us to think about the organization of our local churches. Rick laid out what he views as the five purposes of the church: worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry, and evangelism.
Rick’s pragmatic and principled approach to ministry was extremely helpful as it organized everything in the local church ministry world into five columns. So helpful, practical, and encouraging – it was!
Rick wrote the book of course, The Purpose Driven Church book. However, the five purposes, and several others, have been in the New Testament for 2,000 years. They are not new, and Rick only discovered a way to organize, collate, and present them – helpful to the ministry culture at the time.
There was something missing for me though in the presentation. And years later I would say it like this: You have to see and engage the five purposes through the shades and activity of the Great Commandment. The purposes are deadening when the active ingredient of love is not present.
The previous paragraph may sound elementary, but it’s not, not at all, it’s critical! The proclivity to perform is commonplace for religious leaders. The penchant to do, finish, and check off is epidemic in church leadership. If you doubt for a moment this truth, just read Matthew 23 – yeah, the whole chapter! I said whole.
The Pharisees would travel over hill and dale just to find a convert to make twice as much a child of HELL as they were! Yes, this was the message of Jesus condemning the religious leaders, the shepherds, of his beloved sheep.
So when they approached him in Matthew 22:34-36, just prior of course to Matthew 23, they were all concerned with the letter of the law and the pecking order of the commandments. Jesus laid it out plainly, saying that these two commands are what all the law and prophets hang on.
And the five purposes. And every other activity in Kingdom ministry – everything, all of it, hangs on:
‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
So this is the beginning of our conversation about church health – the purposes of the church and the activity of ministry must all be viewed through the shades of LOVE.
When you approach a ministry in your church, whether to evaluate it or to change it, make the first consideration LOVE. How is love informing this ministry? How is this ministry encouraging the church family in actually loving others?
Do this, put a pair of sunglasses in the lap drawer of your office desk. Take a sharpie marker and write “love” on them. Before you make any considerations regarding programs, people, properties, or finances – put them on and view them through the shades of the Great Commandment – LOVE. I know, it’s corny, but if you do it you just might remember better what Jesus considered primary.
This conversation is TBC – to be continued…
Next week the “Enforcer” returns to the 200churches Podcast – Dr. Dan Reiland – on episode 109!
In this episode, Jonny and I begin a very important conversation about church health. And we do say, "begin".
Church health is so important and yet so often very elusive, and we want to begin with a very quick, deep dive into the very basics, the very foundation, the very fundamentals of what we believe church health is.
Enjoy the episode, and listen twice if you need to. :-) Below is a helpful graphic to understanding this episode...
For the 94% of churches in America under 500, their goal should not be to grow to be a church of 10,000. Churches of 10,000 comprise the top .5% of all churches in the United States. In other words, 99.5% of all churches do not reach 10,000; and 94% of churches never top 500.
Take a look at those numbers again. That’s right, 94% of churches are under 500 people. That qualifies as “most” churches, right? About 75% of all American churches are under 200 people. So when we (Jeff and Jonny) chose the domain name, 200churches.com, we wanted to refer to all the churches of about 200 and under, which are the vast majority in the nation, and in fact, in the world.
When we talk about goals for our churches, very few churches should be setting “numbers of people” goals. Some can and should, but we believe that most churches, because of the nature of their community and setting, as well as the purpose and structure of their church, should not.
What is a good goal for a church of, say, 200, or 100, or 50? What is a great goal for a smaller church, any church around 200 or under? We want to suggest that church health is a great goal!
But what is meant by a “healthy church”? We hear a lot about church health, but what specifically does it look like? On this week’s podcast, we unpack exactly what we mean by a healthy church, and it really has nothing to do with packing people in the pews or dollars in the church checking account.
Somehow, in the latter half of the 20th century, American Christianity began to consider increased attendance and offerings as the major marks of success. Thankfully, the current generation of millennial believers has not experienced that phenomenon and is generally more impressed with relationships, service, and justice.
To be a healthy church is to be a growing church yes – perhaps growing in numbers, but certainly in care, in service, in selflessness, in relationships, in equipping believers, and in worship, among other areas.
To be a healthy church also means understanding what makes a church unhealthy. Prioritizing programs over people, popularity over principles, or administrative structure over relationships bring dis-ease and un-health. A healthy church must maintain the proper priorities and minimize the institutionalization that inevitably creeps into all organizations.
To be a healthy, a church must practice certain biblical habits and be powered by the right motivational fuel. In this week’s podcast, episode 108, we lay out those habits and motivation. In fact, in today’s blog post, we have purposely left out the greatest cause of church health. The one thing that is an instant and constant game-changer for every church to be healthy, we have intentionally not mentioned.
When a church is healthy, it will grow to its Kingdom potential. Jesus said, “I will build my church”, and it certainly is his church, and he is the one growing it. He has different sizes for different churches, and there is certainly not a “one size fits all” number that we should expect a church to grow to. We are going to share with you our thoughts on a healthy church this week.
So don’t miss Episode 108, A Deep Dive Into The Fundamentals Of A Healthy Church! We hope that it encourages and motivates you toward greater health in your 200church!
This week on episode 107, Karl Vaters said that there is a very definite step to take to become a healthy small church – which sure beats closing your church! That step is this: Stop assuming that smallness is a problem to be fixed!
For many pastors, and perhaps for you, this is not as easy as it looks. Success and growth are baked into our culture, and tradition and habit die hard! Can I offer a few suggestions to help you stop believing that a small church is a problem to be fixed?
A New Perspective On Your Small Church
First, take out a blank sheet of paper and hand write the first and last names of every person, both members and attenders, in your small church. Write them ALL down. (What, you can’t remember them all? Then your church is not that small!)
Second, take a look at the list, and jot just two words down next to each name, two words that remind you of a memory or interaction you’ve had with them.
For instance, near Tom’s name, I would write: “little” and “trust”. I’m the only pastor he has ever known. I’ve known him since he was very little. I have developed an enormous amount of trust with him. When Tom ran into some serious problems as a teenager, I was able to step right into that place of trust and relationship and have a real ministry to him.
That’s just one name. That’s one person who needs a pastor. Am I too good to be his pastor? Hmmm…
Third, divide the names into two columns. The first column would be the ones with whom you interact on a somewhat regular basis. You have a good ministry in their lives because of your relationship with them.
The second column would be people that you know you need to connect with more. You need to spend a little more time with them. These are the ones who need more development, more ministry.
So now you have a bunch of first and last names. Real people. I’m curious, which column has more names in it?
Have you done really well building a good relationship of love and trust with a majority of the people who attend your church? Or does the second column have more names? You’ve still got work to do?
Are these people a problem to be fixed? When you think “small church” you can think negatively of it. But when you look at a list of twenty, thirty, or sixty people – you realize you have that many opportunities to build the Kingdom of God.
So many times I’ve driven by my church building and thought – “hey, these people need a pastor too, am I too good to be their pastor?”
Am I too important, too smart, too spiritual, too high and mighty to be their pastor, because they are such a small church?
We all know the answers to those questions. A small church is not a problem to be fixed. Rather, a group of people to be loved.
NEXT WEEK: On episode 108, Jonny and I take a deep dive into the answer to this question: “Just what exactly defines health in a church?” We talked with Karl about working to build a healthy small church – but what does that mean? Blah blah blah? Or does health + church really mean something.
That’s next week: Episode 108 - A Deep Dive Into the Fundamentals of a Healthy Church.
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