Tag Archives: volunteer management

Where Would Jesus Be (WWJB)?

Oct 12, 16
JMorgan
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15 comments

Blog Post 70 - Jesus Feet (with WWJB words)1

Last week, we talked about how a disciple of Jesus takes on His attributes – and that He was first and foremost a servant.

In Jesus’ time, disciples of a rabbi were called Talmudine.  It was considered a great honor to be asked by a rabbi to “come follow me”.  It meant they were deemed worthy, with potential to become exactly like their rabbi one day.  To attain that goal, disciples imitated who they followed in every respect – literally every step of the way.  In fact, a common blessing in Jesus’ day was, “May the dust of your rabbi be upon you.”

Then as now, disciples of Jesus Christ are called not only to…

Do what He does (WWJD)

…but also to

Go where He goes (WWJB)

Where was Jesus then?

On earth, Jesus spent nearly all of his time:

  • Healing the sick – surrounded by the lame and lepers
  • Preaching the gospel – on hillsides, boats, lakeshores and in homes
  • Hanging out with those in greatest need of a “physician” – like prostitutes and tax collectors
  • Not criticizing and opposing those “sinners” – but the “religious” who were judging them
  • Resisting fame – withdrawing from crowds to spend time with the Father in prayer
  • Not trying to build a huge following – but preaching the most difficult messages at the height of his popularity
  • Instead, deeply discipling a small group of close friends
  • Finding those first disciples among poor, uneducated fishermen
  • Gravitating toward children – not pushing them away
  • Frequenting churches – but typically to straighten out and clean up His house

Jesus didn’t kowtow to the religious establishment – and it made them furious.  The Pharisees enjoyed the acclaim their position brought and expected deferential treatment.  They loved rules and money – and made lots of both.  They were served, not servants.  They would have thought the Messiah would align Himself and hang out with them.  However, Jesus did the opposite.  He ran straight to the “lowest of the low” – the most destitute, ill, ignorant and objectionable. On top of that, despite their bottom-rung social status and Christ’s elevated position above even the Pharisees, Jesus did the unthinkable – He actually served them.

“Where Would Jesus Be (WWJB)” now?

Where Jesus was then is exactly where He is today.  For examples of where Jesus can be found right this moment, check out our Facebook page for Vote for Eternity 20:16 (#CastAnEternalVote).  See how far out of their way Christ-followers are going to walk in the footsteps of our Rabbi:

  • Hospitals – visiting and helping those sick and suffering (Luke 7:22)
  • Red-light districts – the worst side of town with notorious “sinners” (Mark 2:17)
  • Remote towns – traveling while preaching, healing and feeding along the way (Mark 1:38)
  • Across the tracks – in the most impoverished areas of the city (Matthew 4:18)
  • Orphanages – showing His great love for helpless, humble children (Matthew 19:14)
  • Assisted Living Facilities – visiting widows in their distress (James 1:27)
  • Homeless shelters – Jesus had no place to lay His head either (Luke 9:58)
  • Homes of friends and acquaintances – teaching and building relationships (Luke 10:38-42)
  • Natural disasters – helping families get back on their feet
  • Schools – serving kids with special needs
  • Laundromats – holding church there on Sunday mornings and putting coins in the machines

All the while, Jesus would be preaching the gospel to any who would listen.  And they would listen because they’d be overwhelmed by His kindness and overcome by His outpouring of love.

Where He wouldn’t be hanging out (because He didn’t then):

  • Wealthy suburbs
  • Inside the 4 walls of big churches, except to remind them that members, not just leaders, are His body
  • Hobnobbing with today’s most “successful” pastors
  • Comfort of his own home

What does that mean for you?

If you’re looking for a deeper relationship with the Lord, then get covered in the dust of the Rabbi.  “Where Would Jesus Be?” is a challenge that involves more risk and discomfort than most Christians are willing to endure: 

  • Where Jesus would be isn’t safe. (Luke 10:3)
  • There are some bad people there. (Matthew 9:10)
  • You’ll need a thorough knowledge and careful study of the scriptures (John 8:31).
  • Real progress will necessitate a lot of prayer (Luke 5:16)
  • The Great Commission doesn’t afford you the luxury of criticizing culture from afar (Matthew 28:19)
  • The journey doesn’t need to be to a foreign land, it can be right there in your city, leaving no excuse for not going. (Matthew 9:35)
  • True discipleship requires a servant’s heart, knowing people don’t care what you know until they know you care. (Mark 10:45)
  • You’ll need to redefine what church is – it’s YOU!  (Acts 2:42-47)

Jesus is kicking up dust right now.  Will you follow Him down this unpaved, rocky road?

It’s your turn…

WWJB?  Now that you know, will you go?  Between now and Election Day NOVEMBER 8th, where can you go to serve and share your faith with those Jesus spent His time pursuing?  Be a part of Vote for Eternity 20:16 and #CastAnEternalVote!

Are You a “Disciple”?…a Surefire Litmus Test

Oct 05, 16
JMorgan
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2 comments

Jesus with a jug of water and a towell

Last week we showed how Powerful Christians aren’t private, passive or pensive.  They don’t rail against all that is wrong with the world, nor are they quiet about what they believe.  They aren’t “pew potatoes” that check the proverbial boxes, showing up on Sundays and doing a few “church chores”.  They see compassion and evangelism as their personal responsibilities, and don’t leave it to the “professionals.”  Powerful Christians recognize that sitting on the sidelines isn’t an option when the consequences facing non-believers are so dire.

Another word for a “Powerful Christian” is a “disciple”.  So…what is a modern-day disciple of Jesus Christ?

Different people give different answers: a fully committed follower; a follower who reproduces more followers; a devoted student; an avid adherent.  All of those are true to a large extent.

There is (at least) one reliable litmus test…how well do our lives align with the attributes of Jesus?

In other words, are we…

  • not able to walk by those hurting and hopeless without helping them?
  • brokenhearted for the lost and bold in pursuing them?
  • selfless to the point of stepping far outside our comfort zones for Jesus?
  • wholly dependent on the Father, living and giving by faith?
  • willing to risk and sacrifice everything for the sake of the gospel?

If you examine the lives of most Christians – for example, those who attend your church – do they look a lot like that?  How could their lives not be transformed if they truly get who Jesus is and what He did for us?  Yet many go to church on Sundays, then look like the rest of the world all week.  Many pray in the morning, then essentially forget about God the rest of the day.  Too many believers stop short of surrender.  They either don’t fully realize what Jesus is like or don’t try hard enough to imitate Him.

Jesus’ Foremost Attribute

To be a disciple of Jesus Christ, we should take on His greatest attribute – that of a humble servant.  In Jesus’ own words, “…the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)

Jesus consistently modeled and stated (as did His disciples) that caring for the helpless and hopeless was the first step toward proving and living out our faith as Christians.  For example:

When the rich young ruler asked Jesus what he still lacked after obeying the commandments, Jesus said, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor.” (Matthew 19:21)

When John’s disciples asked Jesus if He was the Christ, the evidence He provided was how He had served others: “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the deal is raised and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.” (Matthew 11:5)

When Paul and Peter went their separate ways, Paul said “All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.” (Galations 2:10)

James 2:15-16:  “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is that?  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

James 1:27:  “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…”

Our faith is dead without action?  The only flawless religion is caring for orphans and widows? 

Seriously?  Yes.

Jesus showed His compassion first, so people listened to His words.  He demonstrated His love before telling people who He is – and many believed.  As we said last week, Powerful Christians are those who do likewise – Act and then Speak.

Why aren’t more churches and Christians making service and evangelism to the helpless and hopeless their first priority?  How are they not getting that message when the Bible conveys it so clearly?  Look at the Facebook pages and websites of the average church in America – it’s all about Sunday services, classes, new campuses and sermons with little or no mention of serving struggling families in the community.  Churches are no longer the local food bank or the homeless shelter as they were for the better part of 1900 years.

Your Great Commission

Jesus’ disciples acted like Him.  Jesus was loving, selfless and compassionate.  As a result, He attracted a large following – and so did they.

Disciples make disciples.  Christians who aren’t disciples can’t make disciples.

That’s why Jesus spent most of his time discipling 12 men.  Through those first disciples, the Christian faith spread like wildfire.

Nothing has changed.  Disciples are still the key to growing the Kingdom and your church.

Discipleship is the means by which Jesus intends for people to come to Him and get to know Him.  It’s the most critical function of Christians and His Church.  Jesus made that clear in the Great Commission, His final words before His ascension.

Jesus made disciples by serving and teaching.  How can you know if you’re a disciple?  The same barometer applies to you:

  • Living a prayer, care and share lifestyle
  • Always looking for opportunities to serve others
  • Intentional in forming and building relationships that lead people toward Christ
  • Radically changed by what Jesus did for you, and thereby changing those around you
  • Possessing an infectious faith, leading to acts of compassion that catch others off guard
  • Can’t possibly hold the gospel in – just as you talk about the things you love, you love Jesus most
  • Concerned but not worried about where our nation is heading, knowing God is in control
  • Realizing that loving action, not just words, is the best weapon to fight the culture war

Is this you? 

If not, we encourage you to pray for the courage to become a disciple of Jesus Christ.  Courage is required because discipleship is:

  • Hard Work – Much more time consuming than attending Sunday services or small groups
  • Costly – Luke 9 points out how much hardship being a disciple of Jesus entails
  • Risky – “Go and make disciples” may take you far from a predictable, secure existence

A Great Next Step…

Consider participating in Vote for Eternity 20:16.  We’re asking 1 million Christians to follow Jesus’ model of leading with compassion and then telling people who He is by Election Day, NOVEMBER 8th:

  • Perform a simple act of service for someone you know or a perfect stranger in the name of Jesus.
  • Share your story on your Facebook or Twitter page with the hashtag #CastAnEternalVote or #VoteForEternity2016.
  • Challenge 3 of your friends on Facebook or Twitter to “pay it forward”.

Which of These 4 Christian Voters are You?

Sep 28, 16
JMorgan
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3 comments

Blog Post 67 - White House vs God's House

In this Presidential election, it’s hard for Christians to rally around either candidate.  Neither stands solidly in the Christian camp on the issues most of us hold dear.  And even if you do like Trump or Clinton, you can only cast one vote.  However, we can cast countless Eternal Votes, which will last far longer than just the next 4 years. 

You can have a much greater impact on who ends up in God’s House than on who winds up in the White House!

We’ve launched Vote for Eternity 20:16 to encourage 1,000,000 Christians to perform a simple act of kindness in the name of Jesus for a neighbor, coworker or a complete stranger by Election Day, NOVEMBER 8th.  Then share your stories on Facebook or Twitter using the hashtag #CastAnEternalVote, and challenge 3 Christians you know to “pay it forward”!

Jesus didn’t intend for His followers to be complacent or content, attending church on Sunday then doing little to serve the Lord Monday through Saturday.  How many churchgoers realize they’ve stepped into the mission field the second they get back in their cars in the church parking lot?  How many try each and every week to win people to Christ and invest time in making disciples?  Why do so few possess an acute sense of urgency to seek and save the lost?  Why do so many live comfortably while doing little to serve the helpless and hopeless?

Unfortunately, many have come to view church as a “safe” place to worship and fellowship, yet lack the courage to act and speak openly in the light of day.  However, we’re called to live boldly in a world that is becoming increasingly hostile to our faith.  Ironically, it is likely our lack of impetus and preparation to be the hands and feet of Christ that have largely precipitated and fueled the attacks on Christianity that are occurring in our nation.

We’ve identified 4 types of Christian “voters” in this Presidential election.  Which one are you?

1.  Passive Christians

DON’T SPEAK OR ACT

Bill hardly misses a Sunday at church.  He volunteers as a greeter one weekend a month, gives regularly and hosted a small group last year.  By all accounts, Bill’s an active church member.  Considering how busy he is with career and young kids, he does his fair share.  There’s not much time left in his schedule for charity work, nor is that something Bill thinks much about – and it’s not a big emphasis at his church.  However, his pastor does mention inviting people to church pretty frequently and Bill loves his church, so he’s done that a few times.  When it comes to evangelism, that’s about as far as Bill typically goes.  He doesn’t feel comfortable sharing his faith and rarely broaches the topic of “religion” with coworkers or friends.

2.  Pensive Christians

SPEAK BUT DON’T ACT

Rusty is concerned about where America is headed.  Unlike Bill, Rusty is not afraid to talk about religion or politics.  As a Christian since the early 1980s he’s watched the country go downhill, increasingly upset as our moral foundation crumbles under the weight of every secular, liberal court decision.  Rusty’s church recently held a ministry fair inviting members to express interest in local causes like hunger relief, the homeless or foster care.  However, what caught Rusty’s eye was the Christian conservative radio ministry asking for support to continue fighting for the values that made our nation great.  Rusty signs up and notices that over 150 others had done so as well, whereas none of the other compassion ministries had more than 20 on their lists.

3.  Private Christians

ACT BUT DON’T SPEAK

Stephanie is one of the nicest, most compassionate people at her church.  She’s always there for anyone who’s going through a tough time – a family at church, a friend or even someone she barely knows.  In fact, Stephanie is so caring that she would never want to offend anyone.  If she’s sure that person is a Christian, she’ll talk about her faith and offer to pray for them.  Otherwise, she keeps her personal beliefs to herself because they’re just that – personal.  Her husband, Jeff, is just as kind-hearted, frequently donating money to local charities, but equally reluctant to impose his ideals on others.

4.  Powerful Christians

ACT AND THEN SPEAK

Unlike Bill, Rusty, Stephanie and Jeff, Tamara isn’t passive, pensive or private – she’s both personable and public.  She’s a disciple, following Jesus’ model of meeting felt needs to open the door to sharing who He is.  Tamara never misses an opportunity to do both, seeing wherever she happens to be at the time as her designated mission field.  She understands she IS the church between Sundays.  Tamara is deeply concerned not only with each person’s welfare in this life but also their assurance of eternal life.  She knows the Great Commission doesn’t stop at a single good deed or the planting of a “seed” – it’s about investing in longer-term relationships.

Powerful Christians are a rare breed these days, not often sighted in churches that:

  • cater to members, hesitant to challenge them with the reality of what it truly means to live out the Great Commission
  • emphasize serving inside the church continually but offer few chances to reach out to the poor and lost in the community
  • focus more on building an institution than building disciples that “take ground” outside the four walls

Joining a church alone doesn’t make someone a Powerful Christian any more than simply joining a gym makes someone a powerful weightlifter.  Both require hard work and endurance.  Only intensive and extended training will dramatically change their lives.  That’s why a large or growing church isn’t necessarily a healthy church.  Showing up, serving and giving doesn’t mean a churchgoer will make a difference for Christ between Sundays.  Active church members are not necessarily disciples.  Disciples would never stop at being passive, pensive or private.  Disciples are healthy, impactful, forever changed – in other words, powerful.

Cast a Vote for Christ Today!

How much longer can most Christians remain passive, pensive or private?  The road is about to become much more rocky for followers of Jesus Christ.  Only Powerful Christians will be ready for what’s coming next.  We must be willing to take a stand.

YOU CAN MAKE AN ETERNAL DIFFERENCE IN SOMEONE’S LIFE.  CAST A VOTE THAT WILL LAST FAR LONGER THAN THE NEXT 4 YEARS.  BY ELECTION DAY, NOVEMBER 8th

  • Perform a simple act of service for someone you know or a perfect stranger in the name of Jesus.
  • Share your story on your Facebook or Twitter page with the hashtag #CastAnEternalVote.
  • Challenge 3 of your friends on Facebook or Twitter to “pay it forward”.

The More Important Election Few Are Talking About

Sep 21, 16
JMorgan
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one comments

Sign at Boston Immigration rally

“Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.’” (Matthew 20:25-26)

Our high officials occupying and seeking the White House are Gentiles – non-believers.  As Christians, our job is not to imitate them.  Nor should we worry about what they’ve done – or will do.  We can only control what we do.  We are called to action.  Our energy should be directed more toward who ends up in God’s House than in the White House.  Jesus asks us to follow His example – that of a humble servant.  “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)

How can you become that kind of servant?  How can you show that your home is not on Earth but in Heaven?  How can you cast a vote that will last far longer than the next 4 years?

By election day, NOVEMBER 8th

  • Perform a simple act of service for someone you know or a perfect stranger in the name of Jesus.
  • Share your story on your Facebook or Twitter page with the hashtag #CastAnEternalVote or #VoteForEternity2016.
  • Directly challenge 3 of your friends on Facebook or Twitter to “pay it forward”.

YOU are the Church

The Church is the living, breathing body of Christ.  The congregation comprises that body.  Each of us is an important body part.

Church is not a “what” – a place.  It’s a “who” – yes, YOU.  The Church’s power is in the vast number and diverse giftings in the body – fueled by the Holy Spirit.  For centuries, those countless parts of Christ’s body recognized their individual roles in expanding the Kingdom – and created an unstoppable, irresistible movement.

So why isn’t Christianity growing in America today?  The explanation we’ve put forward in this blog series is that most members and attenders no longer see…

  • …themselves as the Church personified.
  • …how they weaken the overall body if they don’t carry out their intended functions.
  • …the need to carefully evaluate their giftings and apply them to ministry outside of their church.
  • …their position in their church as important as the pastor’s.
  • …the community as their “customer”, as Jesus did.
  • …a sense of urgency around their role in bringing the lost to Christ.
  • …the Great Commission as an obligation rather than an option.

Because the individual parts aren’t fulfilling their respective roles in the body, the Church today isn’t healthy.  Your toe may be a small fraction of your total mass, but when it breaks your whole body suffers.  In the case of the Church, few parts are functioning as well as they should at their most urgent responsibility between Sundays – the Great Commission.

Imagine if the early Church hadn’t aggressively “gone out” and made disciples?  What if Christ-followers had relied primarily on pastors to evangelize and educate new believers?  Yet that’s where most of us stop today – at extending invitations to church.  What if the early churchgoers had stayed among themselves – rarely venturing out into Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria to pursue non-believers?  What if they hadn’t followed Jesus’ model of demonstrating His love and compassion before telling them who He is?  The fact that believers took the Great Commission so seriously was a major reason behind the Church’s explosive growth during its first 1900 years.

How few would be in Heaven if Christians throughout history had seen Church as a place, not as themselves?  Yet my fear is that’s how most churchgoers view Church today.

All Hands on Deck

Jesus, His disciples, and churches for centuries treated the community as its target audience – its “customer”.   For us, the collective Church, to function effectively all parts must work together to pursue our intended “customer”.

In management consulting, we saw countless examples of departments not working in a company’s best interests:

  • Sales – not adequately motivated to convert new customers
  • Marketing – targeting the wrong (i.e. least profitable) customers
  • Operations – processes designed around the needs of internal departments and not of customers
  • R&D – product innovation not keeping up with evolving customer needs
  • Finance – not investing adequately in the optimal customers or products

No company can succeed unless all the departments are adequately staffed and aligned around the interests of its best customers.  What the Bible says about churches is no different.  An entire church – pastors, staff, members, elders, deacons, facilities, etc. – should work together seamlessly to prepare and equip everyone to reach “customers” – those outside its 4 walls.  In this analogy, members are essentially employees, not “customers”.  They are “insiders”, not “outsiders”.

So, how should each part of the body be utilized in this “members ARE the Church, NOT the customer” framework?

  • Members/Regular Attenders – Like Sales, evangelize and serve their true target “customers”, not simply invite them to Sunday morning services.
  • Deacons/Elders – Like Marketing, lead everyone in the church into a deeper relationship with Christ so they can have a greater impact in their spheres of influence.
  • Staff/Administration – Like Operations, yet geared toward equipping and sending disciples, not on keeping the “machine” running.
  • Pastors – Like R&D, cast vision for how to leverage the body to reach more people for Christ.
  • Finance/Facilities – Allocate limited resources to the uses that maximize return on investment – which in Kingdom terms is the # of people who come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

What Body Parts have Atrophied?

1 Corinthians 12:27-28 (TLB); “All of you together are the one body of Christ, and each one of you is a separate and necessary part of it.  Here is a list of some of the parts He has placed in His Church, which is His body:

  • Apostles,
  • Prophets—those who preach God’s Word,
  • Teachers,
  • Those who do miracles,
  • Those who have the gift of healing,
  • Those who can help others,
  • Those who can get others to work together,
  • Those who speak in languages they have never learned.”

As for those first three, it’s clear that pastors occupy the lead role within a church.  However, the remaining parts of the body listed could be any one of us – while inside or outside the building.  We are the hands and feet of Christ, yet too few of us are stretching and working out our muscles – so they’ve atrophied.  Unless we exercise the body part we represent, both in how we serve others within our church and out in the community, the overall body becomes weaker.  Unless pastors are willing to risk rocking the boat by challenging members to be stronger body parts, churches will continue to atrophy in size, impact and influence.

What body parts are underutilized today?  Are there any we are overusing?  Have we invented some parts that God did not even intend for churches to have?

How Can You Rebuild Those Muscles?

Come to the stark realization that you are the embodiment of Church!  Understand just how critical of a role you play once you leave the church building.  To be most effective as the Church personified, follow Jesus’ model of demonstrating His love to people and then telling them who He is.

We are asking 1 million Christians across the nation to Cast An Eternal Vote (#CastAnEternalVote) before Election Day, November 8th.  Please share your stories with us!  And don’t forget to challenge 3 Christ-followers you know to “pay it forward” and Vote For Eternity 20:16 (#VoteforEternity2016)!

3 Keys to Winning the Culture War

Sep 14, 16
JMorgan
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2 comments

Iowa City, United States- February 1, 2016: Heavy turnout for the 2016 Democratic Iowa Caucus in Precinct 14 at Mark Twain Elementary School in Iowa City, Iowa with relatively mild for a January Iowa night.

This is not our home.  We should be concerned about the here and now, but not worried.  The Lord has a plan and Hillary nor Donald have any power to alter it.  You and I can’t change God’s will either, but what we can do is help bring as many people as possible with us to our eternal home – in heaven.

Many participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge because they knew someone with ALS.  Others are doing 22 pushups today because they know a veteran with PTSD.  Every one of us has a neighbor, coworker, friend or family member who doesn’t know Jesus.  Isn’t the plight of those lost without Christ far worse than those who suffer from ALS or PTSD?

We only get one vote for President but we can cast countless eternal votes for those we encounter each and every day.  We have far greater ability to impact who’s in God’s House than who’s in the White House.

When you live out Matthew 20:16-28, serving others in Jesus’ name, you’re casting a vote that will endure forever – not just the next 4 years.

To #CastAnEternalVote by election day, November 8th:

  • Perform a simple act of service for someone you know or a perfect stranger in the name of Jesus
  • Tell us your story on our Facebook or Twitter page with the hashtag #CastAnEternalVote or #VoteForEternity2016
  • Directly challenge 3 of your friends on social media to “pay it forward”

Why You Shouldn’t Abstain from Voting

I recently attended my third gathering of Christian leaders from across the U.S. to strategize about ways to reverse the course in America away from Biblical values.  Once again the overwhelming consensus was that the answer lies in Christians recapturing control of the 7 Mountains (government, media, religion, education, entertainment, family and business)In other words, they believe a louder megaphone is the answer to winning the “culture war”.  They are deeply concerned that another 4 years without a Christian in the White House will further undermine the Christian values our nation once held dear. 

Christians have bemoaned, campaigned and lobbied vigorously over recent decades – often in tones that come across as angry.  Yet the louder Christians have yelled, the less we’ve been heard.  We’ve lost our voice in America.  The reason is that we haven’t followed Jesus’ model.  We’ve essentially try to “outpreach” Jesus when we espouse our beliefs without demonstrating His love and compassion – something Jesus rarely did.  Being so often heard yet rarely seen has cost Christianity dearly.  The principle is simple – people don’t care what you know until they know we care.  Turning up the volume will only drive the prevailing view of Christians and churches deeper into the ditch.

Just because a Christian occupies a powerful position at the peak of the governmental mountain top will not necessarily amplify our voice.  If not accompanied by a grass-roots movement of mercy, justice and compassion, more decibels may just solidify the opposition’s resistance to our position on social issues.

Are Christians winning the culture war today?  Name a moral issue that the church and Christians haven’t already lost, or appear likely to lose soon.

A Better Weapon to Fight the Culture War

The air war has failed.  Christianity has suffered tremendous collateral damage from years of dropping verbal bombs.

Jesus waged a ground war first of love and service to non-believers, then swooped in to fight an air war with the gospel message once the ground war had sufficiently weakened their resistance.  A ground war requires the right army – prepared, trained and properly motivated for battle – in other words, Powerful Christians.  Passive, Pensive and Private Christians are unfit for active duty.  Only disciples are ready and willing to head to the front lines – of praying, caring and, only then, sharing.

We’re all called to strap on our boots and sling a rifle over our shoulders, ready to get our hands dirty in the ground war of loving service.  People need to know what Christians are for, not what we’re against.  The more we dig our heels in, the less we can connect with them – and the less they can identify with us.

What Will the Battleground Look Like?

Christians and churches face mounting obstacles in the years to come.  Generating meaningful impact, material influence and positive perception will be more difficult as the following trends further unfold:

  • Considering any reference to Biblical perspectives that run counter to what is viewed as socially acceptable to be hate-speak
  • Inability to mention the name of Jesus in public settings, effectively eliminating His name from the “free speech” lexicon (“Jesus“ is the one word I’ve been specifically asked not to mention during a speech I’m giving later today at a public high school)
  • Preventing pastors from expressing opinions from the pulpit that go against court decisions or liberal views on moral issues
  • Requiring Christians to comply with laws that defy Biblical principles
  • “Coming out of the closet” becoming far more applicable to Christians, particularly for kids in schools, requiring courage in the face of the stigma that label now carries with it
  • Shaming of Christians in the media
  • Companies refusing to hire those who do not disavow Biblical views on particular hot-button issues
  • Even physical persecution of Christians will one day occur in America because Muslim population growth and conversion rates will continue to outstrip Christian birth and conversion rates, eventually giving them popular majorities in localities, cities and states

In essence Christians and churches face relegation to a corner, rarely visible in the mainstream, in the not-too-distant future.  Lest you view that as impossible here in the U.S., look at Western Europe where similar internal-focus on the part of churches and social trends led to that same inevitable outcome.

How Can We Win the Culture War?

Christ’s church will prevail.  With increased persecution will likely come greater resolve.  Churches will begin to produce more Powerful Christians.  Lukewarm, on the fence churchgoers won’t persevere when challenges come their way.  Those conditioned for comfort and “consumption” will have some tough decisions to make.  Many passive, pensive and private Christians will run and hide – too afraid to speak or act.  Only true disciples of Jesus Christ will endure the trials by fire – willing to take a stand, refusing to back down when threats to their faith increase.  Only those whose lives are changed can change lives.  The good news is it took just a few disciples of Jesus to reverse the course of history.

Winning the culture war will require:

  1. Redefining “Church” – Seeing ourselves as the church personified and no longer relying on pastors as the “professionals” responsible for bringing non-believers to Christ
  2. Following Jesus’ model – Realizing the importance of linking actions with words
  3. Taking Ground – Masses of Christians infiltrating their spheres of influence with the love and good news of Jesus Christ

A fully trained and effective army that cares and shares could turn the tide of how Christians are viewed in America.  If society begins to see the love of Jesus through the compassion of Christians, a new generation of believers will emerge from the ground up to one day occupy those mountain-top positions.  However, continued efforts to take over the 7 mountains from the top down will further diminish the influence and perception of the church and Christianity, paving the way for the mounting challenges to our faith.

It’s Your Turn…

Cast your eternal vote before Election Day, November 8th and challenge 3 Christ-followers you know to “pay it forward” and Vote For Eternity 20:16!

Profile of a Church “Shopper”

Aug 31, 16
JMorgan
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6 comments

Famous shopping area in Dublin, Ireland. Grafton Street showing shoppers, shops and church.

Because most churchgoers don’t see themselves AS the church, they’re susceptible to becoming consumers OF the church:

  • “I’m looking for a new church home”
  • “My kids don’t like it there”
  • “I’m not being fed”
  • “The music is too loud”
  • “We don’t feel like we belong”

Americans “shop” because we want more – or something different.  We search for what will make us happy.  We evaluate the available options and choose the one that provides the greatest value.  For many of us today, that also applies when it comes to church.

What do shoppers do at a store?  They find what they want (or not) and then leave.  There are two ways in which “shoppers” leave a church:

…Walk out the door after weekend services

  • and don’t see themselves as the church personified once they’re outside the “4 walls”

…Decide to stop going to a particular church

  • and start looking for another one

Christians shouldn’t stop being the church on the way home.  They may disperse, but that should only serve to permeate the culture with the love of Christ.  Nor should Christians leave a church family because they’re unhappy with it – any more than we can leave the family we’re born into.  God chooses both families for us – and for good reasons.

Chicken or the egg…

Why do so many church goers look for something better?

…Did our advertising-driven culture turn us into consumers of churches as well?

  • and force churches to adapt, catering to rather than challenging members

…Did churches turn us into church consumers?

  • using the latest church growth strategies to drive up attendance

In other words, did churchgoers become finicky on their own or did churches make them that way?  For example, are most church ads today aimed at enticing non-Christians to try out (any) church or convincing Christians to switch over to a new church?  Advertising a “casual environment” or “fun for kids” isn’t going to attract someone who isn’t interested in church.  People can find more relaxing places to go and more fun things for the kids to do elsewhere.  Those kinds of ads would only pull in those who aren’t happy with those aspects of their current churches.

If we’re not careful, church membership can look a little like a country club or health club.  Consumers are accustomed to working within a membership framework.  They pay dues are entitled to certain benefits.  Yet that sort of thinking causes folks to join another “club” when their current church doesn’t meet their expectations.  Too many consumers within churches have turned many from life-saving stations into social clubs with a life-saving motif.  As church has become too comfortable, members have reverted from search-and-rescue squads to partakers of church services.  Intensive life-saving courses have been replaced by small groups.  Churches are no longer first responders when local families are in need, instead resorting to occasional outreach events.   Most church members have lost their sense of sense of urgency for the plight of unbelievers.  They are less cognizant of the dire peril facing those who don’t know Jesus.  Nor do pastors consider obedience to the Great Commission mandate a prerequisite for church membership.

The other way to reach the lost…

Today, instead of “go and make disciples”, we build first-rate facilities, design engaging worship services, post attractive signage and place friendly greeters at the door.  Build it and they will come.  Will they?  Maybe, but when they get there what will they find?  Friends – very likely.  Jesus – hopefully.  The kind of radical life change expected of disciples of Jesus Christ – probably not.  Churches today are producing far too many Pensive, Passive, and Private Christians.

Quick story:  A 3,000 member church hired consultants from one of the country’s largest megachurches to rejuvenate its aging membership.  The prescription:

  • shut down local missions – young families don’t have time to serve the community
  • upgrade the band and raise the decibel level – give it a concert feel
  • gear the sermons toward counseling rather than discipleship
  • more candy and games for the kids – no more boring memory verses
  • fun banners and bulletins
  • get everyone involved in an activity or group inside the church
  • change the “ask” message from Matthew 5:16 to Malachi 3:10

The scary part – it worked!  Smaller churches in the area simply couldn’t provide the same “customer” experience for consumers.  The church grew – in numbers, although not in disciples or impact.  New visitors came, but nearly all were from other churches.  Larger didn’t mean healthier.

Unfortunately there are still many people who won’t dare to darken the door of a church.  They’ve tried church, had a bad experience, and wouldn’t step back into one if their lives depended on it (and they may).

In those cases, the only choice is to “go” to them.

What if we built Powerful disciples who acting as the embodiment of church all week long?  How many more people could we reach with the gospel if members didn’t wait for them to show up at the building?  What if pastors scrapped tightly choreographed “consumer” retention strategies and threw caution to the wind?  What if we turned the table on church consumers?  What if pastors dared do some (or all) of the following?…

…increased service times

…reinstituted Sunday school and expected all to attend

…started an intensive 1-on-1 discipleship program for all congregants

…allocated 40% of the church budget to local outreach and missions

…told members to stop simply inviting non-believers to church and take personal responsibility for bringing people to Christ

…turned small groups into neighborhood groups tasked with BEING the church to the community where they meet

…asked all members to serve in Jesus’ name somewhere in the community at least once every month

Yes, it’s true that nearly all the “consumers” would soon take their business elsewhere.  However, would the church be healthier if disciples were the only ones left in the building?

It’s your turn…

What happened first?  Did most churchgoers become consumers (and then churches adapted to accommodate them), or did churches turn people into church consumers?

Rescue Your Church from the Slippery Slope

Aug 24, 16
JMorgan
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Conyers, GA, USA - August 22, 2015: Competitors carefully make their way down a large slippery dirt mound at the Rugged Maniac Obstacle Course race in Conyers, GA.

After college I spent 2 years on Capitol Hill working for a U.S. Congressman, got an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago, served for 15 years as a management consultant to business executives, and invested the past 13 years running a ministry devoted to serving churches.  Yes, quite a varied career, but the Lord had a plan throughout.  He showed me that there are similar, hard-to-resist forces at work in all three…

Entrepreneurial Life Cycle

  • A company begins with a solid understanding of customer needs
  • Founder sees an opportunity to provide better products and services
  • That commitment to serving target customers leads to success
  • Infrastructure struggles under the weight of the resulting growth
  • Spurring process improvement and restructurings, turning focus inward
  • Becomes more out of touch with evolving customer needs and competitors step in
  • Either refocuses on the market and innovates before it’s too late or goes bankrupt

Political Life Cycle

  • A community activist holds ideals dearly that resonate with other citizens
  • Recognizes an opportunity to seek office and make positive changes in the city, state and country
  • Rallies support for his/her candidacy and gets elected
  • Quickly realizes that powerful party forces are at work that restrain the ability to make those changes
  • Acquiesces for the time being, hoping the party’s promises to one day have real power come to fruition
  • Becomes a “politician”, gradually losing touch with those original ideals and constituency
  • Finally arrives at the point of less restrained power and influence, yet by then has little positive impact

Church Life Cycle

  • A church plants in an area with a vision for reaching and impacting that community for Christ
  • Evaluates local needs and ways to bring help and hope to the lost and needy
  • Starts to grow because of those efforts to engage and reach out to the community
  • Reallocate energy and budget to accommodate that growth, adding buildings and staff to meet the needs of the congregation
  • Interactions with those outside the church become more sporadic and arms-length (e.g. mailers)
  • Slowly loses sight of the needs and issues in the community, feeding perception that the church is busy taking care of its own
  • Must refocus externally at some point or (healthy) growth will cease and impact will diminish

Why Too Much Internal Focus Doesn’t Work

Organizations (and leaders) that retrench into their own confines atrophy until they decide to reconnect with the outside world.  A club closes its doors to new members, enjoying the comforts of exclusivity, while its members age.  A business divides into departmental “silos” and the accompanying politics and posturing ensue.  A charity gets short on funds and begins to compromise its original mission for the sake of raising money.  A church plant grows to the point of realizing it has something to lose, becoming more about attracting and retaining than transforming and releasing.

All of those scenarios involve an inordinate degree of self-absorption.  None of them lead to long term success because they redirect attention to the needs of those on the “inside” and away from target “customers”.  When the Church in America redefined its “customer”, increasingly catering to members rather than equipping them to pursue the real “customer”, it ensured its decline.  It violated the most critical mistake any organization can make – largely ignoring its intended “customers”.

The most common church growth model in America is Invite-Involve-Invest – the “rallying cry” of the internally focused church.  It has been a key catalyst in the shift toward the “member is the customer” mentality:

  • INVITE – Ask members and attenders to invite their friends because invited people “stick”.  Friends want to spend time with friends.
  • INVOLVE – Make the church even more “sticky” by engaging people in deep relationships or entrenched in serving at the church.
  • INVEST – Because where their money goes, their hearts will go also.

Nearly every aspect of the Invite-Involve-Invest model perpetuates an internally focused church.  For example, “Invite” relegates members to “customer” status, asking them to extend invitations and leave conversions to the “professionals” rather than entrusting members with the responsibility to BE the Church.

As churches became increasingly reluctant to challenge members to live up to the Great Commission standard, worrying they may not come back next Sunday, they:

  • Broke a Sacred Trust – Diverted resources away from the community it was established to reach and serve, making the intended “customers” think the Church stopped caring about them
  • Ignored a Time-Tested Adage – “People don’t care what you know unless they know that you care”

The consensus view is that churches tend to “take care of their own”.  Society frequently hears the Church speak out on the social and moral issues of our day, but rarely sees it engaging with those outside the “4 walls”.  An air war fought with a louder megaphone has replaced a ground war of compassion – and we’re therefore losing the culture war.  More talk and less action explains why most now view Christians and churches as more legalistic than loving, more about judgment than justice.  As a result, the Church is on the short end of those moral issues – the courts, schools and public opinion have moved in the opposite direction.  Meanwhile, the number of frequent churchgoers in America is shrinking.  Clearly, the Church’s growth, impact, influence and perception today are diminishing.  No, internal focus rarely works – not in business, politics or in a church.

Tips for Regaining an External Focus

Act More Like Millennials than Boomers – Churches should share the deep concern millennials have for social justice and the welfare of those less fortunate.  Many boomers I know focused on building careers and only began thinking more seriously about addressing social issues upon retirement. The trick is for churches to think about impact throughout their “lives” rather than turning their attention to giving back only when they first plant or after reaching a point where “success” provides disposable time and money.

Reallocate Budget to Community Engagement – It’s difficult today for most churches to cover expenses because average giving per family is dropping.  Yet ironically, clinging to those limited dollars only speeds a church’s demise.  Investing back into the community actually would bring more funds into the church.  Using the business analogy, companies who fail to reinvest in sales, marketing and customer service quickly find themselves in financial straits.  Similarly, churches should invest generously in equipping members to serve and share the gospel within their circles of influence – the real “customer”.  But that’s not the case today with only 2.5.% of the average church’s budget invested in missions and small groups almost entirely replacing more intensive discipleship methods.

Convince Members that they ARE the “Church” – Share the cold hard facts about the costs of discipleship and responsibilities to make disciples.  Expect members and frequent attenders to live out the Great Commission.  Do all that even at the risk of losing church “consumers” to another church down the road.

Use Health, not Growth, as a Barometer – Jesus preached His most challenging sermon near the height of his popularity.  What Jesus was left with were a few disciples who changed the world.  Church growth is not always healthy.  Like people, churches often need to lose some weight to get healthy.  The trajectory of a thriving church is typically down before it follows the hockey stick back up.  Likewise, planting more churches that simply replicate the same flawed growth model doesn’t strengthen the body of Christ.  A few healthy churches full of disciples would have a far greater impact than scores of unhealthy ones.

Stop Thinking “My Church is Ok” – Back on the topic of politics, people often say, “Congress is completely dysfunctional, but my congressman is fine.”  Too many Christians defend their church but don’t blame the “Dones” for walking away from other churches, failing to realize that their own church likely is among the vast majority that in many ways no longer follows Jesus’ model of building Powerful Disciples and challenging them to demonstrate Jesus’ love before telling them who He is.

It’s Your Turn

Have you seen the life cycle mentioned at the start of this blog post play out in a church before?  Did the church regain an external (discipleship and compassion) focus in time to restore it to healthy growth?

4 Keys to Increasing Giving at Your Church

Aug 17, 16
JMorgan
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Red, White, and Blue From American Flag Reflected in God We Trust Motto on Vintage, Retro, 1967 United States Nickel

Redefining members (not pastors and staff) as the “church” and the community (not members) as the “customer” would reverse the lens through which churches evaluate nearly every decision they make today.  The most controversial and challenging aspect of adopting a Biblical definition of the “church” and its “customer” is…yes, Money. 

Church giving per attendee is down substantially – and it’s in large part due to the fact that we’ve flipped those two definitions.  Therefore, restoring giving and maximizing the impact of every dollar will require:

Flipping the Script on…”Church Generosity”

Current Lens – Member Generosity

Member generosity is one of church leadership’s greatest concerns and the lens through which leaders view the generosity of their church.  They see the church as the object of generosity, not the instigator of it.  They ask – “What percentage of our congregation is giving?” and “What’s the average giving per family?”

However, members ARE the church so if pastors are worried about whether they’re giving enough TO the church, they’re missing the point.  It’s not about “them” giving to “us” (the church), they are the “us” (the church).  Pastors who have truly empowered the congregation to BE the church will ask a completely different set of questions.

New Lens – Church Generosity

What leaders should instead be asking is whether their church (the organization itself) is generous.  In other words, how much are we giving out of our church’s budget to our real “customer” – the helpless and hopeless outside the “4 walls”?  And how generous are our members in sharing their time, talents and treasures with the poor and lost around them?  Churches should model the behaviors they want members to imitate.  It’s no coincidence that members today give (to the church) at approximately the same rate that the average church gives (to those outside the church) – 2.5%.  Historically, members gave a much higher percentage to churches back when churches gave a much higher percentage to the community.

Flipping the Script on…”First Fruits”

Current Lens – Member Priorities & Obedience

A common complaint among pastors is how churches wind up getting the “leftovers” after members pay all their bills.  The Bible is clear on this subject – the Lord deserves the first and best of what we have to offer.  Pastors know it’s wrong for churchgoers to lock in so many fixed expenses that they only have a couple cents on the dollar available at the end of the day to give to the church.

New Lens – Church Priorities & Obedience

Yet aren’t nearly all churches today doing the exact same thing?  Buildings, salaries, programs, and other costs that accrue to the benefit of the “insiders” leave little left over to engage and bless the church’s intended “customer” (“outsiders”).  Churches were the food bank and homeless shelter for 1900 years.  They started the schools and hospitals.  They had far few fixed expenses and allocated a much higher percentage of their budgets to sharing the gospel through serving, as Jesus modeled.  If churches were more obedient in giving their first fruits, members likely would follow suit.

Flipping the Script on…”Investing for Growth”

Current Lens – Reinvest Inward

As we discussed earlier, churches budget roughly the same small percentage for external missions that members budget for their church.  New Christians never plan to short-change God – but then life happens.  Likewise, churches plant with a vision of the Biblical model – impacting the community mightily – but then get sidetracked by the demands of running a church.  Gradually, budgets get redirected toward staff and buildings to attract and retain people.  They replace intensive, personal discipleship with small groups and year-round community engagement with occasional service events.  One day they realize they should have never compromised, but by then it’s too late to extricate the organization from its fixed costs and debt.

New Lens – Invest Outward

The same cycle occurs with nearly all entrepreneurs.  The companies that survive refocus outward at some point on the needs of their target customers.  If they persist in serving internal stakeholders and neglect the marketplace, they go under.  Over 90% of today’s churches are not growing because they fall into the latter camp.  They don’t adequately challenge or equip churchgoers to pursue the real “customer”.

Church is not the end but the means.  Its purpose should be to build disciples and take ground for Christ.  Do either of those objectives require an expensive facility or a big staff?  No.  Decentralizing and empowering is not expensive – but centralization and administration is.  Pleasing consumers is costly – equipping disciples isn’t.  For example, raising up and training lay leaders to run home churches and neighborhood groups covering every block in a city involves very little fixed cost.

What if your church budgeted with the goal of maximizing its community impact and footprint for the Kingdom?  Yes, it would dramatically alter the allocation of dollars but would also radically transform the perception of your church in your city.  Imagine what people would say about your church if you decided to invest in mobilizing members to rescue schools, neighborhoods, and families in lieu of expanding facilities and hiring more staff? 

Flipping the Script on…”Give More, Get More”

Current Lens – Catering = More $s

In business, you don’t make profits if you ignore your target “customers”.  Yet in churches, many leaders believe their financial viability hinges largely on catering to members – and wind up ignoring their intended “customers”.  For example, a wealthy family leaving is cause for concern in most small churches.  That mentality is natural and expected, but wrong.  It’s also wrong if pastors would be more inclined to challenge their congregations more directly and preach the gospel more boldly if NONE of the church’s funding came from members/attenders and if everyone HAD to come back the next weekend.

New Lens – Challenging = More $s

It may seem counter-intuitive, but your church would actually bring in more income if it were more focused on disciple building and community engagement.  No doubt the reallocation of funds would be painful at first.  When you start boldly challenging members to BE the church between Sundays, you’ll quickly lose some long-time attenders who weren’t prepared to adopt a Prayer-Care-Share lifestyle.  And some of those folks who are quite content with the status quo could be your church’s biggest givers.  The financial risks of calling them to truly live out the Great Commission seem daunting.

However, in the long run your church’s income would actually increase:

  • Evidence shows that members are more generous with generous churches
  • Donors are more compelled by emotional “causes” like orphans and widows than administration and buildings
  • More disciples translates into greater community impact, which in turn produces more visibility, interactions and attendees

Would you give to a charity that essentially gave back 97.5% of its donations to benefit those same donors?  The beneficiary of a church’s services shouldn’t be those who give to it (e.g. members).  In fact, charitable receipts state that “no goods or services were provided in exchange for that donation”.  Charities and churches both share the same “customer” – the community in which they are planted.  A significant percentage of the dollars given to both churches and charities should flow through to the benefit of those they exist to reach.

It’s Your Turn…

Is your church as generous with its intended “customer” as it should be?  Would your church’s members be more generous in giving (internally and externally) if your church‘s budget better reflected a spirit of generosity?

“Lead Better” is Not the Answer

Aug 10, 16
JMorgan
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6 comments

Blog Post 59 - Pastor1

When the business principles referenced in last week’s post don’t create healthy church growth (and they won’t), many pastors conclude that another business precept is at fault – leadership.  Countless business books, articles and consultants tell company executives how to lead better.  Today, leadership concepts are being pounded into the heads of pastors.  Megachurch pastors are publishing leadership content at a mind-numbing clip.  Many of the largest pastor conferences in America feature leadership as the central theme and advertise prominent church leaders as the main attraction.

The implication is clear – and insulting.  Your church is still small because you’re not a very good leader!

However, rather than view the implication as an insult, pastors gobble up leadership blogs and books.  I’ve seen hundreds of pastors stand in line at conferences for the opportunity to have a megachurch pastor sign their latest book on leadership.  I’ve heard thousands of pastors cheer like fans at a Beatles concert when a “celebrity” pastor steps on the main stage to speak about leadership.

Better leadership isn’t going to fix the Church’s declining growth, impact, influence and perception in America.  A new CEO of a company in the paper industry may make product design, customer service and advertising changes that take market share from competitors, but won’t materially alter its long-term fortunes without adapting the business model to account for market dynamics lowering demand for paper.  A more savvy and eloquent pastor can bring in new attendees and members, but won’t make the church more effective in making disciples and reaching the community for Christ without reverting to the Biblical definition of “church” and its “customers”.

In other words, better leadership of a bad model isn’t the answer.  Identifying the wrong issues has led to the wrong solution.  Churches shouldn’t fix the ineffective application of business principles with more business principles.  Those business principles don’t belong in a church in the first place, but became more prevalent as pastors and staff have assumed greater responsibility for “being” the church and the commitment level of members to act in that role has declined.  That’s the issue.  Leadership is important but it’s not the solution to the challenges facing the Church today.

The Real Issue…

Many large churches got big not because their pastors are more competent leaders, but because they’ve adapted better to the redefinitions of the terms “church” and “customer”.  As a result, some of the fastest growing churches in America place a great deal of emphasis on:

1. LEADERSHIP – positioning pastors and staff as “insiders” (e.g. the embodiment of “church”) and members as “outsiders” (or “customers” to attract and retain).  Therefore, they eagerly consume advice from today’s most renowned experts on church leadership, like:

  • Cast Vision – For the church, its future Growth and expected Impact
  • Track Key Metrics – Emphasizing Growth measures (attendance and giving) rather than Impact measures (# of Disciples Reproducing Disciples or # of Lives Changed by Members)
  • Empower Staff – Delegating responsibilities to staff for enhancing the church experience for select groups of members and visitors (e.g. families with children, men, women, singles, elderly).
  • Leverage Membership – Frequent requests for volunteers to build the institution and serve those inside the “4 walls”, yet few offer intensive (1-on-1 or triad) programs to build disciples who “go” and serve the real “customers” (who are outside the “4 walls”).
  • Deliver Quality – Excellence in communication, worship experience and programs

2. RETENTION – making church leaders more reluctant to challenge members to the level of life change expected of them as the personification of “church” (i.e. treating them as “customers”).

In light of that redefinition of “customers”, leaders of large churches have generally become more adept than small churches at “Customer” Experience DesignSmaller churches are typically slower to innovate, many resisting changes that would attract more attendees.  The new pastor we discussed earlier likely will encounter severe headwinds when trying to change the definitions of “church” and “customers”.  Asking members to take on greater responsibility for “being” the church and reaching out to the community (the intended “customer”) won’t go over well in most small churches.  Rocking the boat could quickly result in dissension or a split, led by a few long-time members who have far too much power and control.  Many small churches have become private clubs where new initiatives (or new faces) aren’t necessarily welcome.  New pastors would need to earn a great deal of trust and credibility before introducing any innovations that could upset the apple cart.

Numerous widely-recognized authorities on “Customer” Experience Design (labeled instead as church leadership coaching) stress:

  • Building staff roles around the needs of particular “customer” types to optimize the church experience for each group – a common practice in business but warranting caution in a church setting
  • Devoting significant staff time to putting on a well-organized, professional-grade event every weekend
  • Choreographing worship services down to the minute, unfortunately leaving little room for the Holy Spirit to shake things up
  • Meticulously planning and scripting emotional build-up from the music crescendo, to the announcements, to the message and all the way through to the closing songs and readings
  • Studying and applying the science of “customer” experience design (e.g. ideal # of parking spaces per attendee, % of seats filled to appear full, decibel level, visual effects, even down to seat spacing and cushioning)

A better “customer” experience may mean more attendees, but doesn’t translate into more disciples or greater Kingdom impact.  It can actually have just the opposite effect.  A goal to Attract and Retain will make church leaders more hesitant to Transform and Release.

The Real Answer…

  • Leading Better = Leading Biblically.  In other words, invoke Servant Leadership principles modeled by Jesus.  Flip the definition of “church” and “customer” by reversing the church hierarchy.  Rather than having staff serve pastors, pastors and staff serve members, and members serve the institution, make sure all hands are on deck preparing members to serve and share the gospel with the actual “customers” (those in need of help and hope).  That’s the path to better leadership of the right (Biblical) model rather than better leadership of the wrong (business) model.
  • Resist the temptation to control of the church’s future.  Subscribing to the philosophy that your church’s success hinges on your leadership is alluring – you can always improve and control your leadership skills.  Yet much like we must all resist the urge to think our actions impact our salvation, pastors should surrender control and distribute knowledge, power and responsibility to members.
  • Pastors and staff should commit themselves fully to discipling, equipping and empowering the congregation.  That doesn’t require fantastic leadership, just a deep abiding in Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, compelling them to disclose the costs of discipleship and to hold members accountable to the Great Commission standard.  That’s when we’ll start to see more people showing up who didn’t simply come from another church down the road.  Personal relationships with members who’ve been challenged to become disciples and evangelists can attract even those who otherwise wouldn’t dare darken the doors of a church.
  • Carefully consider which business practices belong in your church, if any.
  • Overcome resistance to change, even when the risks are great.  Church planters are initially bold and externally-focused, but become more risk averse once there’s something to lose.  Isn’t the opportunity to dramatically increase your footprint by challenging your congregation fervently to live out the Great Commission worth risking the departure of those who view church as a social club?

It’s Your Turn…

Do you agree that leadership is overemphasized in the Church in America today because leaders are overemphasized?  Why or why not?

Small Churches Face Even Greater Temptations to Compromise

Aug 03, 16
JMorgan
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2 comments

"Scenery from Village of Tadoussac in foggy summer morning, Quebec-Canada."

When we talk about treating members as “customers”, people naturally think of prosperity churches or megachurches.  However in many ways the temptations to treat members as “customers” are even greater within a small church.  In other words, defining the wrong “customer” is less about relying on “attractional” models and more about succumbing to pastoral pressures.  Most small churches lack the resources to win an “attraction” battle anyway.  Instead, the dynamics of small church life create a slippery slope, gradually leading pastors to cater to rather than challenge members.

The Urgency: Prospects for Small Churches

As all pastors know and often repeat, members ARE the church.  They also know that Jesus, His disciples and the early church viewed the community as the church’s intended “customer”.  The purpose of gathering together is to worship collectively and prepare hearts to reach a lost and broken world – the Great Commission.  All hands should be on deck, collectively pursuing the real “customer”.  However, most churches today have changed that definition of their “customer” – shifting a disproportionate amount of time and resources to member retention.  As a result, few adequately train and deploy those “insiders” to pursue “outsiders”.  The unchurched – the Church’s Biblical “customer” – largely feels ignored (at best) and judged (at worst).  No organization can define the wrong target customer and succeed.

Churches had the definition of “customers” right for 1900 years.  Churches were the local food bank and homeless shelter.  They started the schools, ministries and even hospitals.  They were the spiritual, educational and charitable “center of town”.  They invested heavily in building and sending disciples.  They plowed tithes back into the welfare of their cities and reaching all with the gospel.

The fact that small churches are no longer on the front lines of compassion corresponds closely to the decline of the church in America.  Reversing course and getting back on the path to growth won’t be easy.  There are powerful forces in place taking focus off the external and shifting the energies of small churches further internally.  A vicious cycle is at work due to the redefinition of “Church” (was members, now leaders) and the Church’s “customer” (was the community, now members):

Higher Expectations of Leaders (to “feed” and care for members)

+ Lower Expectations of Members (e.g. decreasing contributions to church)

= More Responsibilities Passed from Members to Leaders

+ Fewer Resources to Address a Greater Number of Demands

The road ahead for small churches promises to get still rockier.  Church “shoppers” continue to migrate to larger churches, mainline denominations struggle to reach younger generations, and government agencies are considering increasingly unfriendly policies and tax laws.

The temptation to compromise will only grow stronger in the years to come…

The Issue: What Does Compromise Look Like?

None of the following business principles should be in play at any church.  They’re not Biblical, yet are all too prevalent in small churches (and many large ones as well).  Each of them contributes toward defining members as “customers”.  See if you recognize any of these corporate behaviors at your church:

  • “The Pareto Principle” – Also, called the “80/20 Rule” where 20% of the input is responsible for 80% of the outputs.  In small churches, a handful of members typically have an inordinate amount of control.  Pastors worry about the reactions of the most influential families to any decisions, no matter how basic or simple (e.g. worship music).  Therefore small church pastors seek the implicit or explicit approval of those most prominent or vocal, or risk a disgruntled member threatening the peace and stability of the entire church.  Likewise, companies give preferential treatment to “anchor” customers, surveying them to get feedback on product or policy changes before enacting them.
  • “Who Moved My Cheese” – As we’ll discuss more next week, small churches often become complacent, resistant to changes that would disrupt the status quo.  When “if it’s not broken…” entails more concern for retaining long-time members than reaching the lost, it becomes a problem.  Many small churches not only aren’t growing, they don’t want to grow.  In business, engaging new markets requires innovation, but too many pastors remain content to preach to the same (saved) folks every Sunday.  If church leaders and members saw the community as the “customer” their church was planted to reach, then community needs – and not those of current members – would dictate priorities and worship style.  For example, millennials should be target “customers” but largely feel out-of-place at small churches.  They want to be change agents in their communities and world – but churches are too invested in appeasing members to design local missions programs that meet the compassion “needs” of millennials.
  • “Exceed Expectations” – The formula we laid out earlier in this post showed how the onus for operating churches has flipped from church members to church leaders.  Nowhere is that more evident than in small churches.  Members are generally seen as voluntary participants, not as the church personified.  Pastors are careful not to ask too much of them, yet stand ready to jump when asked to do something for them.  Companies can’t require that customers read the owners manual or share the “good news” about new products as prerequisites for making a purchase – but that’s exactly what churches should be doing.  Church leaders shouldn’t be in the business of providing excellent customer service, but members have come to expect that level of performance.  That shift in expectations is the primary source of pastor burnout today.
  • “The Customer is Always Right” – The redefinition of “customers” also makes small church leaders reluctant to hold members accountable for their actions.  Most are hesitant to approach the patriarch of the church or the largest contributor to confront them about sin in their lives.  Yet those same pastors will readily accept criticisms from those same members and make changes to pacify them.
  • “Create Raving Fans” – Pastors find it equally challenging to address inaction – in other words, to raise the bar for members on service and evangelism.  It’s difficult but necessary to ask members to become greater servants and advocates for Jesus in their circles of influence.  However, rather than pushing those with the largest circles to step out of their comfort zones, disrupt their daily lives and become the embodiment of “church” between Sundays, leaders of small churches are more apt to make simple requests – like inviting their friends to church.  Yet we are all called to be raving fans of Jesus, not a church.
  • “Risk Mitigation” – Businesses continually assess and minimize risk factors.  Issue resolution is important in churches as well, but pastors of small churches are particularly quick to snuff out infighting because a single rift could jeopardize the entire church.  A squabble or difference of opinion between two members or even a member and the pastor can readily lead to a split.  Undue attention to putting out internal brush fires can detract from the external mission of the church to engage and serve an entire community.  Ironically, a greater focus on the external, common cause of pursuing the church’s true “customer” would reduce the concerns of members about their own needs and opinions – the source of most spats.

The Solution: Redefine the “Customer”

Transform and Release Disciples – versus retaining and attracting “customers”

Flip Expectations – Challenge rather than cater to members, with less tolerance for complacency or sin

Unite Around a Common Cause – Put aside petty differences and transform your community for Christ

Increase Your Church’s Footprint – Even a small church can have a tremendous impact, but it will require change

It’s Your Turn…

Which of the business principles above have you observed in a church before?  What negative impact did it have on key Biblical imperatives like the Great Commandment and Great Commission?