Know What You Cannot Do – Fence Post #4

By Ed Stetzer

This is the fifth and final blog post in a series regarding pastors developing healthy boundaries in their ministry. I’m sharing four key points in the process, thinking of them as four fence posts around a healthy ministry.

I have already shared the first three “posts:” recognize your role in the church, pursue personal health, and guard your flock even from other Christians.

In a church I planted a few years ago, I knew going into it that boundaries were going to be vital as I was going to continue to work full-time at LifeWay Research. So, from the very beginning, my leadership team and I created my job description around those boundaries.

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Know Your Boundaries

The fourth post supporting a healthy ministry is knowing what you can and cannot do.

At that church plant there were three things and ONLY three things that I did: I met with the staff/apprentices, I preached about 70% of the time, and I led a small group in my home.

One of the benefits this boundary had brought to the church is that we were very clearly not a pastor-centered church. I was very upfront with my role in that church. I explained I could not do funerals, visits, phone calls, or meetings. This left the door wide open for our congregation to see areas of leadership where they were needed, and to respond accordingly.

Choose Boundaries Based on Your Situation, Church, and Gifting.

The question arises: why are those the three things? Because they were the three things that only I could do. My boundary may not look like your boundary. But, God called me to teach and preach and that is part of what I do.

Leading the small group was a really important component of my job description. It was mission-driven and it included several of my neighbors.

My small group gave me a personal, front-line connection with the people that we needed to reach. It prevented me from developing tunnel vision from just preaching and talking with the staff each week, while reminding me that I could not lead what I did not live.

The other major component that my small group brought me was regular personal interaction. As your church grows, you need to sacrifice some personal interaction. That can be tough because a lot of people go into pastoral ministry because they are passionate and good at gifts like serving, providing personal care, etc.

A person can’t care for people like this for a group much over 100. It’s why the typical median church size in America is under 100 people. Growing a church past that size means being willing to allow some of those close relationships to change and shift along the way.

A small group is a perfect venue to meet that need for pastoral care when your church has grown beyond your ability to provide that for the entire congregation. It’s where real shepherding and friendships can happen.

Being a pastor is a lonely business. You see a lot of people, but you aren’t in community with a lot of people. A small group is an integral part to solving this problem.

Be Clear and Consistent on What You Can and Cannot Do

The key to establishing this boundary is knowing what you can and cannot do. Churches will want you to do everything. You should do something, but you should do the right thing.

Typically, your “right thing” will line up with your gifts. Other areas are where you should bring others alongside you, and build a team. This team is what will truly help you to accomplish what God has called you to do as a leader.

When you establish these four fence posts – recognizing your role in the church, pursuing personal health, guarding your flock, and knowing what you can and cannot do – you will enable and encourage growth in yourself and your church. Without these four, you will more than likely experience ministry burn out and hinder the development of those under your care and the church as a whole.

You must be intentional about the long term viability of you, your family, your ministry and your church. If you are not, your boundaries will be compromised and your schedule will be full, but your body and spirit will be exhausted.

As you seek to lead a multiplying church, we’ve created some Mission Group tools to help you grow as a leader, break through growth barriers, and build rhythms of outreach. We love to serve pastors and church leaders.

This series of articles was originally published at: EdStetzer.com

Guard Your Flock, Even From Other Christians – Fence Post #3

By Ed Stetzer

This is the fourth blog post in a series (intro, fence post 1, fence post 2) regarding pastors developing healthy boundaries in their ministry. I’m sharing four key points in the process, thinking of them as four fence posts around a healthy ministry.

I have already shared the first two “posts:” recognize your role in the church and pursue personal emotional health.

The next may be the hardest to implement in our culture. Also, I imagine it will generate the most disagreement. However, I think it demonstrates a biblical approach to shepherding of a congregation, rather than turning the church into a place where a group of customers demand that their area of interest is paramount.

The third post supporting a healthy ministry is guarding your flock, even if it is from other Christians.

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It may seem ironic, but some of the people from whom you have to most tenaciously guard your church are other believers. If you don’t, the focus of the ministry is to respond to the special interests of customer Christians. And, that means your ministry (and its boundaries) will be focused on keeping customers happy—and no boundaries will exist.

I wrote about this in another blog post entitled, “Why I Have No Problem Helping Issue-Christians to Move On.”

The inspiration for the post came from an incident after a service at Grace Church, the church I planted and pastored while I worked full-time at LifeWay Research (something, by the way, that I could only do with a lot of boundaries).

I basically encouraged a first-time visitor who was clearly well-versed in Revelation prophecies (and enjoyed sharing his interpretations with everyone he met) to move on from our church and find another that was going to best meet his passions and beliefs.

Now, let me clarify my thinking behind my actions. If someone in my congregation came up to me after the service saying, “I’ve been doing some reading and I have some questions about prophecy. Could we talk about it?” I would take some time right there for discussion. But that clearly wasn’t the case.

This guy was obviously a pro. He actually told me that his friends call him the “Prophecy Terrorist.” This was his introduction—The Prophecy Terrorist. He didn’t have questions. He wanted to get inside my church to find someone who would give him the attention he desired. He wanted me to meet with him so he could debate me—and convince me.

And, I have boundaries. I don’t do that. And, I shepherded a congregation at that time that also had boundaries. We did not need the “Prophecy Terrorist” distracting us from our mission.

You may not have met the “Prophecy Terrorist,” but I bet you’ve met other issue-driven Christians. There are “issue Calvinists,” “issue Charismatics,” “issue homeschoolers,” “issue political Christians,” and the list goes on and on.

Your church is not a public square for people to debate and opine. It’s a place that you are to guard and shepherd. You create boundaries—both personally and congregationally.

People won’t like that, but if you allow your church to be a gathering of special interest groups, then your ministry will be built around keeping them happy. Or, keeping them apart. And, promising them attention that you then spend your life trying to fulfill.

There is a better way, though not everyone will like it.

Creating a healthy boundary for your church means knowing who you are as a church, where you are, where you’re going, and what that means for people who are outside of that. Your church is not the place for issue Christians who want to dominate your time to be given the freedom to do so. Save that time for counseling the hurting, not arguing with the agenda-driven.

On the other hand, I will welcome and talk to “issue non-Christians” all day long. If someone came up to me and said, “I’ve been reading Deepak Chopra and thinking about some deep thoughts.” I would sit down and talk with them in a heartbeat about what Jesus has to say about Deepak.

There is a big difference between the two.

Issue Christians want to get inside so they’ll have someone to give them attention, and it destroys the boundary. Issue non-Christians need to be brought inside so that they can hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The most important reality is that “Prophecy Terrorists” and other issue Christians are not going to stop walking with Jesus because they’re not in my church. They will find a place—probably a church (and a pastor) without boundaries.

If it is in your church, however, I’m guessing there are a lot of people who are going to be driven out, including some who need Jesus.

Boundaries are set up by shepherds. That’s the term that the Bible uses several places in Scripture. You must be a shepherd. Your church is not a voluntary society of opinion givers and special interest groups. It’s a body that needs to be in community with one another—served and led by shepherds, pastors, and leaders, focused on a common mission.

So, this is a touchy ministry fencepost, but an essential one. You and your church must recognize that the mission is more important than special interest groups. Your church needs boundaries so that it is focused on its mission and won’t be distracted from that. You need boundaries so that you won’t spend your time trying to keep “issue Christians” happy and placated.

Those boundaries will cost you a few people, but they will focus your church in powerful ways and free you to do ministry about the hurting that otherwise will be overlooked.

In the conclusion of this series, I will explain the fourth and final ministry fence post: know what you can and cannot do.

This series of articles was originally published at: EdStetzer.com

Pursuing Emotionally Healthy Boundaries – Fence Post #2

By Ed Stetzer

In the introduction to this series, I talked about how your schedule is not the primary problem that leads to burn out, rather it was not setting healthy boundaries in your ministry. Last time, I said the first “post” in your ministry boundary fence is to recognize your role in the church.

For the second post, we have to understand that unhealthy pastors create unhealthy boundaries.

Look, it’s nice to be needed. When people in the church look to you for everything and you do it, they’ll think you’re awesome. Wanting others to think you are awesome isn’t necessarily bad. It can be perfectly normal. The enjoyment of deserved praise, however, can quickly snowball to an unhealthy dependency upon praise.

Your congregation is not naturally going to help you with this. In most church contexts, many look to the pastor as a “distributor of religious goods and services.”

The congregation feels that they have chosen you, and that they are regularly “paying” for you. As a result, they have certain expectations of what you should do. Those expectations can include things like personal visits to every sick person. If it is not done, people may get mad or claim their spiritual walk has been compromised.

The second post supporting a healthy ministry is to pursue emotionally healthy boundaries.

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In order to create proper boundaries, pastors must be healthy and confident enough to be able to say, “No,” when other people want you to say, “Yes,” even when they don’t understand why you have to say, “No.”

Once when I was serving as an interim pastor, a long-time family in the church asked if I could talk to little “Johnny” so that he could receive Christ. I very calmly and kindly answered, “No.” The parents were confused as to why I would not meet with them, but I explained that I did not want to take that opportunity from them.

They protested again, explaining that he had questions. Really, he was eight. Was he struggling with the ontological argument for the existence of God? I expressed that I was confident the questions would be basic, which they should be able to answer since they had been sitting in a great church for fifteen years.

If people need to go through you, as the pastor, to meet Jesus, their understanding of the Gospel is rather limited.

Unfortunately, Johnny’s parents didn’t see it that way. Actually, they saw it in a way that resulted in calling two small groups worth of people explaining that the interim was the, well, a yankee devil.

Within two weeks, however, they found me after church and thanked me for not robbing them of the opportunity of praying with their son. It doesn’t always work out that way, but in this case, the boundaries created a really special moment for this family– but they never called back the families they complained to two weeks before.

Creating boundaries is hard for everyone, but necessary for longevity in ministry.

At the end of the day, pastors must not allow the people in their congregation to bring cultural expectations to their boundaries. Instead, they must allow the Bible to inform their implementation of healthy boundaries. The Bible does command and describe what pastors should do, and most boundary making is unrelated to those biblical commands, but is rather driven by church-culture expectations.

The properly established boundaries create a much healthier pastor and church. Part of the health of the church comes from the third post, which we will examine next – guard your flock … even from other Christians.

This series of articles was originally published at: EdStetzer.com

Recognize Your Role in the Church – Fence Post #1

By Ed Stetzer

In the first post of this series, I began a discussion on the importance of pastors establishing healthy boundaries in ministry.

As it’s an area in which I have personally struggled, and one in which I continue to grow, I’m passionate about sharing what I have learned in order to help others not make the same mistakes that I did.

In the next four blog posts, I will share keys to establishing these boundaries. Think of them as four fence posts surrounding a healthy ministry.

The first “fence post” supporting a healthy ministry is to recognize your role in the church.

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You, as the pastor, are not ultimately responsible for the church. While you do have some, only King Jesus bears the final responsibility.

When this boundary is ignored, the church ends up being built around the pastor, who then actually becomes part of the problem rather than the solution.

At my second church plant, we had grown to a congregation of about 125 after 18 months. While this might seem like a positive development, it became a bit of an Achilles heel for me. The attendance numbers became my driving force from week to week.

I would actually take time every Saturday to personally call all of our regular and occasional attendees and encourage them to be at church the next day. I was convinced that if I didn’t call everyone, the church would fall apart the next day. Because my identity was so wrapped up in our weekly attendance, if the church numbers collapsed the next day, my life, in effect, would collapse with it.

When pastors misunderstand their role like I did, they tend to put all their focus on some predetermined view of success rather than those things they are biblically called to, such as shepherding and equipping.

Thankfully, a combination of my wife and a pastor friend in another town lovingly pointed out to me that I needed to make some changes. It resulted in my resignation. Well, sort of.

I actually got up one Sunday and “resigned.” (Yep, I used air quotes.) I told my congregation that I was going to resign as the sole shepherd and caregiver of the church.

I apologized for not creating proper boundaries and explained that I was restructuring. Using some very 90’s language (which wasn’t too terrible because it was the 90’s), I explained that I was going to move into a “rancher” role, while appointing “shepherds” who worked there. It was a big step of growth, both for the church and myself.

Although moving to a decentralized ministry model was a good step, it was a hard step. The next boundary “post” we will examine speaks to the difficulty of creating healthy boundaries: the pastor has to be healthy enough to create the boundary.

This series of articles was originally published at: EdStetzer.com

Don’t Blame Your Schedule for Your Burnout

By Ed Stetzer

We live in a world that is defined by boundaries. Our roads are painted with them, our sports games are designed around them, and our psychologists tell us that we need to expand them around that codependent crazy aunt of ours.

While it may be true that the term “boundaries” has been “Oprahfied” in the last few years, I think it’s an area that is vital in the lives of church planters and pastors.

People often point to too much activity as the inherent culprit of fatigue and early departure from ministry. The problem, however, transcends a busy schedule.

Pastors and ministry leaders who experience burnout tend to exhibit lifestyles that neglect the discipline to handle their activities. Without properly set and upheld boundaries, individuals will more likely experience exhaustion of both body and spirit.

When I planted my first church in the inner city of Buffalo along with all of those duties, I was husband to Donna, blowing insulation to support myself, and a seminary student in Pittsburgh, driving myself four hours, in the snow, uphill both ways. I may have made that last part up, but it was Buffalo after all.

Surprisingly, I was actually able to maintain all of those roles until I failed to create strong boundaries. That was what finally got to me. If a car hits a dog, the dog isn’t injured because he was running at it too quickly. He’s hurt because he didn’t abide by the boundaries that were set for him.

Similarly, it wasn’t the rapidity of my activity that hurt me, but rather my lack of solid boundaries around my schedule, particularly at church. I became the focal point for the entire ministry that took place. I was the one everybody needed to talk to if they wanted to follow Christ, receive counseling, or have visit them after their toenail surgery.

I had a congregation full of people who would lean on me from all directions for their spiritual growth. It was these lack of boundaries that disabled any effective ministry and led to burnout.

The fact that I’m still in ministry today should tell you that I have learned some lessons along the way. I’m passionate about sharing the four guidelines I gleaned from my own experience with other pastors and leaders.

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Think of them as four fence posts that set up a defined boundary around a healthy ministry. Four posts coming in the days ahead.

As you seek to lead a multiplying church, we’ve created some Mission Group tools to help you grow as a leader, break through growth barriers, and build rhythms of outreach. We love to serve pastors and church leaders.

This series of articles was originally published at: EdStetzer.com

Towards Missional Effectiveness: Analogizing and Applying Missional Effectiveness – Part 7 of 7

By Ed Stetzer

Yo-Yos, newer churches, and established churches

Missional effectiveness begins with a biblical understanding of the message and movement of the missio Dei, which hopefully leads a church to become a missional people who embrace a missional posture and who enact a missional program.

So, how does this series about missional effectiveness apply to the local church today? My goal in this post is to answer this question with an analogy and application.

Analogy of a Fully-Orbed Mission

When we think of becoming a missionally effective church—whether we are a newer or established church—picture a yo-yo in motion.

  • The string is the mission (since it is the string being advanced).
  • The yo-yo (circular ball) is the church that has a centripetal and centrifugal movement (weight) that moves outward and inward.
  • The finger within the circular string represents a church held and captivated by mission. [Note: A church outside the string, not captivated and held by the mission, is a church that exists as a monument and not a movement, and according to many missiologists like Lesslie Newbigin isn’t really a church.]

[To get a visual of what a master “yo-yoer” looks like, see this TED video]

Here’s how the analogy works. In a non-movement state, the yo-yo exists as a missional community (people) captivated by mission in its local environment. In this state, it has a strong community held tight by the string (mission).

As the yo-yo is put into motion and begins extending, it manifests the missional mark of sentness (posture). Thus, it signifies a church sent on mission. When the yo-yo reaches its extended state, the yo-yo exhibits the missional mark of multiplication (program), for it becomes a church extending mission to the ends of the earth.

By centrifugally ‘going out,’ the yo-yo has a centripetal force of ‘coming back’ to its established position.

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Application of a Fully Orbed Mission

How do newer and established churches fare in being missionally effective? What follows is a list of the strengths and weaknesses newer and older churches possess with regard to missional effectiveness.

Newer churches tend to have the following strengths:

  • A strong missional program of evangelism and an acute awareness of living sent.
  • A mentality of ‘Go and Tell’ rather than ‘Come and See.’ The reality is that newer churches will not survive if they do not reach people.
  • A passion and vision to reach out to unbelievers and the unchurched. For example, in one study of established churches, there are 3.4 baptisms per one hundred resident members, but new churches average 11.7 baptisms per year. In short, new churches reach new people.
  • A desire to become part of the rhythms of the local community and find ways to serve the community.
  • A flexibility to contextualize to the present culture rather than the culture of two or three decades ago.

However, newer churches tend to have the following weaknesses:

  • A lack of structure and organization. In other words, they tend to have weak community. I have found that many new churches struggle with developing teams, leaders, systems, and processes that help facilitate ministry and mission. They struggle with foundation, and therefore are in need of creating centered-set primary theological boundaries, as well as a solid structure that includes governance, systems, and processes.
  • A lack of macro multiplication. In other words, they tend to never parent another church. While it seems newer churches are better at multiplying in a micro way (making disciples), I would like to see more of them multiply in a macro way (church plants).

Established churches tend to have the following strengths:

  • A strong centripetal pull through the foundation they have laid—usually through their programs, systems, processes, and structures.
  • A solid financial base with resources to fund mission acvity and global missions.
  • A stable, consistent presence in the community. In some cases, the church has become an anchor in the community.

However, established churches tend to have the following weaknesses:

  • A difficulty to multiply in both micro and macro ways. There’s no denying that the majority of established churches in the West are in trouble. Thousands close each year, while others struggle to maintain or slow down the decline. Typically, the longer a church has been established, the more mission drift occurs. Based on research, churches that are not involved in multiplication, especially in church planting, are unhealthier than those who are. Thus, they could use more intentionality in their missional posturing and programming.
  • An inward focus. Many established churches typically have lost sight of the mission. Rather than being motivated by mission, often they are motivated to maintain their traditions, preferences, culture, and systems. They fall into the same trap as the church in Jerusalem; they go overboard on their foundation and end up protecting and preserving their culture and homogeneity at the expense of mission. (Unfortunately, churches often choose maintenance over mission.)
  • Allow a clergification to set in where the paid clergy does all the work while the members sit by consuming and watching.
  • Prohibitive leadership. Although there may be a solid foundation with strong leadership, in some cases, established churches are controlled by what Mark DeVine calls “lay cartels” that act as the powerbrokers of the church that prohibit leadership and mission advancement.

Why do I share all of this? My goal is to show areas where churches exhibit strength while noting areas where churches can improve. My intention in listing the weaknesses isn’t shame, but brutal honesty. If you are a pastor or church leader, it may be helpful to talk through these posts and discuss your church’s strengths and weaknesses.

We live in changing times.

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My goal in this series was to outline how churches today can be missionally effective.

Missional effectiveness begins with an understanding of the message and movement of the missio Dei, which should result in enacting the marks of becoming part of a missional people (community), embodying a missional posture (sentness), and enacting a missional program (multiplication).

In doing so, churches become the effective vehicle of God’s mission, the vehicle that He purchased with the blood of Christ over two thousand years ago.

 

This article was originally posted at: http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2017/january/towards-missional-effectiveness-analogizing-and-applying-mi.html

 

Towards Missional Effectiveness: The Mark of Multiplication – Part 6 of 7

By Ed Stetzer

Go where people are, make disciples, plant churches.

I’m in a series covering the topic of missional effectiveness. In the previous two posts, I have explained the marks of God’s mission. What I have sought to do is stress the major foci of each mark in an effort to build a visual of the enactment of the message and movement of mission. Today, I’ll cover the missional mark of multiplication.

The Missional Mark of Multiplication Explained 

Thus far, I have attempted to outline the missional marks of community and sentness when the missio Dei is enacted in a local church. But there is one more missional mark that is enacted when the church embraces the totality of God’s mission, and that mark is multiplication.

Multiplication is used by God to advance His mission throughout the world. While the impulse of multiplication is hinted at in the OT in places like Genesis 1:28 (“be fruitful and multiply”), Genesis 15:5 (Abraham’s infinite number of offspring), and Jeremiah 29:6, it becomes very clear in the New Testament.

The missional mark of multiplication, particularly in the New Testament, rests upon Matthew 28:18–20, Acts 1:8, Acts 9:15, and Romans 15:20. In these passages, it is clear that God’s mission extends outward to the nations—to those who have not heard the gospel.

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The Apostle Paul clearly understood this. In fact, Paul saw God’s global mission connected to an aspect of God’s covenant with Abraham. Paul writes to the churches of Galatia, “Now the Scripture saw in advance that God would justify the Gentiles by faith and told the good news ahead of time to Abraham, saying, all the nations will be blessed through you” (Gal. 3:8). 

By understanding the mission of God as being directed towards the nations, Paul implemented a missions strategy that included targeting populated urban centers, evangelizing the city (micro multiplication), and planting and establishing churches (macro multiplication).

According to Eckhard Schnabel, there are [at least] fifteen phases or locations of Paul’s missionary work that took place in 35 years between his conversion (31/32 AD) and his death in Rome (67 AD). During those years, Paul had three missionary journeys.  As Paul went to the nations, he would go to their cities.

Tim Keller asserts that part of Paul’s mission strategy included going to the largest cities of the region. Very seldom do we see Paul navigating away from cities. It seems Paul believed that cities were where the potential for gospel impact and gospel multiplication would be greatest. Alvin Reid expresses that if churches reach the cities, they’ll reach the world. 

It seems that Paul thought that as well.

Once in the city Paul did at least two things: evangelized people and planted churches. Paul evangelized through preaching at the local synagogues, participating in small group Bible studies, meeting people in the marketplaces, renting halls and lecturing, and engaging people in his profession (tent-making). As he made disciples, he would then plant and establish churches.

Keller summarizes Paul’s missional engagement with the cities in this way:

When Paul began meeting with them [converts], they were called ‘disciples’ (Acts 14:22), but when he left them, they were known as ‘churches’ (see Acts 14:23). To put it simply, the multiplication of churches is as natural in the book of Acts as the multiplication of individuals. 

As seen in the life of Paul, multiplication requires intentionality. It requires going to where people are, sharing the good news of Jesus, and planting and establishing self-supported, self-governing, and self-propagating churches.

The Missional Mark of Multiplication Exemplified

The church in Antioch exemplifies the missional mark of multiplication. They multiplied exponentially in Antioch—reaching both Jews and Gentiles. Not only did they multiply in Antioch, but they also reached beyond their city. Antioch became the first sending church by sending the first missionaries and becoming the first church-planting church (Acts 13:1–3). Simply put, they became a multiplying church.

The missional mark of multiplication is really the missional program of the Early Church. The end result of the missional program of the church is found in Revelation 5:9 and 7:9, where John sees a vision of God’s people being from every tribe and language and people and nation. Thus, for a church to be missionally effective, it must become a multiplying church—going to where people are, making disciples (micro multiplication), and planting churches (macro multiplication).

 

This article was originally posted at: http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2017/january/towards-missional-effectiveness-mark-of-multiplication-part.html