Leading the Church in a Polarized Era


Yesterday, I published an essay on InfluenceMagazine.com entitled, “Leading the Church in a Polarized Era.” Here is the introduction:

Regardless of who wins the presidential election on November 8, you can be sure of one thing: Half of America will be disappointed with, if not outraged by, the results. In nearly 30 years of voting, I have never seen the electorate so polarized about candidates and issues. It has been said that war is the continuation of politics by other means. This year, reversing the terms of that statement seems truer: Politics is the continuation of war by other means.

I mention this not because I want to talk about politics per se but because I want to talk about leading a church in the current political environment. It would be naïve to think that we can avoid polarization entirely. After all, even Jesus said, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). Sometimes, controversy is unavoidable.

By the same token, however, it would be presumptuous to think that we are always right in any given controversy. After all, when Jesus said, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns” (Matthew 16:23), He was speaking to neither the devil nor the Pharisees. He was speaking to Peter, His own disciple, chief among the Apostles. Sometimes, we meet the enemy only to discover that it is us.

So, as ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ, how do we lead our congregations—neither naively nor presumptuously—in this era of American polarization? Let me suggest that we need to pay attention to four things…

Read the whole thing at InfluenceMagazine.com.

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The Best Is Yet to Come: Why Credentialed Women Ministers Matter to the Assemblies of God


From Enrichment Journal:

That’s a critical point for young women who are very sincere and see this servant model of leadership in Christ and are not comfortable with a rights issue. This has nothing to do with rights for men or women in ministry. That’s not the rationale for following Jesus in leadership in ministry. Don’t we cripple ourselves in the Kingdom by not empowering both men and women to use their God-given gifts?

Wood: I’ll tell you a sad story. Just a few months ago, a very competent, young, ordained, seminary-trained, female graduate interviewed for a pastoral position of a church of about 100 to 150 people. At the end of a process, the board said they were not going to recommend her election to the membership of the church. Two of the board members came to her privately and said, “You know, we all realize you’re the most qualified person to be pastor. But two of the board members are opposed to having a woman as pastor. Therefore, the person we’re going to recommend is not as qualified as you.”

My heart just sank at that. I thought, That is not right.

I feel passionate about changing the situation at the local level. Now, if the woman candidate had been less qualified than the male candidate, I would feel equally upset if they said, “We’re going to choose you because you’re a woman even though you’re less qualified.”

Either way, that has to be taken off the table. The bottom line is: Is this person qualified? Is she gifted? And what’s the Spirit saying? Let’s not use artificial, secular means for making decisions in the body of Christ.

George Barna & David Kinnaman on the Rise of the Churchless – Barna Group


From the article at Barna.org:

In Churchless, their first collaborative effort, Barna Group founder and former president, George Barna, and current Barna president and owner, David Kinnaman, take a look at the rising population of adults who do not attend church.

Based on two decades of Barna Group interviews with thousands of churchless men and women, the book outlines a profile of the unchurched and the cultural context that has led to the trend away from church.

“It’s critical to recognize these trends have a huge impact on how our churches and faith organizations work,” says David Kinnaman in a joint interview with George Barna. “It is harder today—based on this data—to go out and say ‘invite your friends to church.’ So recognizing the context in which these trends play out is very important for church leaders, and for us as researchers.”

According to the Churchless data, in the 1990s, 30% of the American population was unchurched. Today, two decades later, that percentage has risen to more than four in 10 Americans (43%).

“If we want to turn that trend around,” says George Barna, “we’ve got to understand what these people are thinking, what they’re doing, why they are making these particular choices, what we could do to actually serve them better, to understand them, to love them, to do everything we can to help them get closer to God. . . . Armed with this kind of information, it’s a lot more likely that you’ll come up with a strategy that enables you to have positive impact on the lives of such people.”

Kinnaman agrees, “Jesus asks us to be faithful wherever we are, in whatever context we are. So good information helps us to learn how to be faithful.”

George Barna & David Kinnaman on the Rise of the Churchless – Barna Group.

`When Weakness Becomes Sinfulness’ by Michael Goldsmith


I’m at a conference for Assemblies of God district leaders. I just heard Michael Goldsmith talk about how God deals with our weakness and sinfulness. He had a lot of good things to say, especially to ministers, so I thought I’d share what he said. Here are my notes:

**********

Proverbs 4:23, 1 Timothy 4:16, 1 Corinthians 10:12

Pastors often operate on the principle of never let them see you sweat, but everybody sees you when you fall.

8 OBSERVATIONS:

1. We all have weaknesses that can become sinful.

Matthew 26:41, Acts 10:26, Genesis 4:7, Luke 4:13

See Jack Hayford, The Anatomy of Seduction: Defending Your Heart for God

Areas to Guard with the Opposite Sex

a. Attractiveness
b. Familiarity
c. Ego strokes
d. Emotional attachment
e. Personality congruence

2. Our weaknesses are controlled by our best self, but our sinfulness is vulnerable to our worst self.

James 1:14, Daniel 7:25, Revelation 12:12, Romans 13:14

3. God will strengthen weaknesses, but He will expose sinfulness.

Romans 8:26, 1 Corinthians 10:13, Numbers 32:33, Psalm 90:8

Accountability works if it is asked for and offered.

Secrecy is a warning sign that weakness is on the verge of sinfulness.

4. Our strengthened weaknesses become useful ministry while our ignored weaknesses will become our downfall.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Relationally, when we share our ministry weaknesses, competition with other ministers decreases and cooperation with them increases.

Nobody can help somebody like somebody who’s been there.

5. God will send warnings when weakness is on the verge of sinfulness.

6. In our weaknesses God works for us; in sinfulness God works against us.

This does not mean that God is out to get us. It means that God is “against you” to the degree that he must oppose your sin to get you back into fellowship with him. His judgment is rehabilitative.

Difference between Relationship and Fellowship

a. Relationship = defines your connection to another person
b. Fellowship = defines the quality of the relationship

Fellowship always falls apart before relationship does. That’s true whether we’re talking about our relationship with God or other people.

7. The cost of unconfessed sinfulness is enormous.

Consider the costs in your relationship with God, your spouse, your children, your friends, your congregation.

It costs in terms of self-respect, an accusing conscience, etc.

It costs money as your are moved out of ministry in the disciplinary process.

The costs of sinfulness and its effects on your life and ministry are too high.

When you know a minister who has failed morally, don’t withdraw from them. People who have caught in sin need encouragement. They need to know they’re valued as a human being, not merely as a producer of ministry.

8. The grace of confessed and forgiven sinfulness is greater still.

Job 8:6

‘I wish every church said what this church says in their bulletin …’ Jon Acuff


He’s talking about the bulletin of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Community in Dunedin, Florida. Here’s what the bulletin says:

We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, gay, filthy rich, dirt poor, yo no habla Ingles. We extend a special welcome to those who are crying new-borns, skinny as a rail or could afford to lose a few pounds.

We welcome you if you can sing like Andrea Bocelli or like our pastor who can’t carry a note in a bucket. You’re welcome here if you’re “just browsing,” just woke up or just got out of jail. We don’t care if you’re more Catholic than the Pope, or haven’t been in church since little Joey’s Baptism.

We extend a special welcome to those who are over 60 but not grown up yet, and to teenagers who are growing up too fast. We welcome soccer moms, NASCAR dads, starving artists, tree-huggers, latte-sippers, vegetarians, junk-food eaters. We welcome those who are in recovery or still addicted. We welcome you if you’re having problems or you’re down in the dumps or if you don’t like “organized religion,” we’ve been there too.

If you blew all your offering money at the dog track, you’re welcome here. We offer a special welcome to those who think the earth is flat, work too hard, don’t work, can’t spell, or because grandma is in town and wanted to go to church.

We welcome those who are inked, pierced or both. We offer a special welcome to those who could use a prayer right now, had religion shoved down your throat as a kid or got lost in traffic and wound up here by mistake. We welcome tourists, seekers and doubters, bleeding hearts … and you!

What do you think?

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