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Ministry Innovation

Famous last words for any organization:  “That’s not how we’ve always done it.”  These are famous, and yet still so often repeated throughout the business world, and especially in the church world.  Unfortunately, over the span of the 2000 years of the church’s existence, we have slowly allowed ‘tradition’ to supersede ‘innovation.’  And I’m not saying that tradition is wrong, bad, or should be thrown out all together.  Tradition communicates longevity and history, which are good, but when the Church, the very expression of Christ’s love and power, allows itself to comfortably lean back into tradition because innovation would take too much effort, we’ve missed our mark.  If we are called to reach a lost and hurting world, we owe to the lost of this world to do whatever we can to reach them.  I love what Craig Groeschel says, “To reach those who aren’t being reached, you have to be willing to do what isn’t being done.”  Innovation must take place if we’re going to reach those that have yet to be impacted by the gospel.

As the lead pastor of a church that celebrates its 42nd Birthday this year, I enjoy looking back at our own church’s history and all the traditions that have been present over the years.  It’s exciting to see the practices that have stood the test of time, and the traditions that continue to impact lives for Christ.  

But on the other side, it’s just as exciting to see the different expressions of ministry that were present throughout the different seasons of our church.  Like many churches in America, we had our booming bus ministry during one season…we had a season where Sunday School was actually bigger than the Sunday morning service…we even had a time where we had a thriving Christian School.  These were all effective ways of reaching and discipling people for Christ during that time period, but aren’t necessarily effective today.  That doesn’t make them bad in any way, but they were for a certain period in our nation and region’s history.

The problem arrises when we allow ‘innovation’ to become ‘tradition’, and we no longer are listening to the creativity of the Holy Spirit to reach an ever-changing world.  With that said, here are a few thoughts when it comes to innovation and ministry:

  • Don’t allow innovation to overshadow ministry.  It’s easy to get wrapped up in doing ministry in a more modern/updated way, and miss the point of it all.  The point isn’t innovation for the sake of innovation – it’s communicating a timeless message to a changing culture.
  • Identify your goals of ministry.  Who is your target?  What are their needs?  Why are you doing ministry?  Identifying these are crucial to making sure the ministry you’re doing is actually meeting a perceived need of those your ministering to.  This also allows you to evaluate to make sure you’re reaching your goals of ministry, not just doing activity that you call ministry.
  • Hold your ideas lightly.  Your innovations of yesterday, may not be effective today.  Be willing to hold those past victories lightly, and allow the next generation behind you to innovate.  I love reading the Book of Acts and seeing how the disciples didn’t do ministry exactly like Jesus did.  They continued to innovate, just as Jesus had.  They didn’t just speak to thousands, but they wrote letters, which enabled them to speak to millions.  They didn’t gather a group of disciples, but established churches full of disciples.  Don’t get so stuck on what you did in the past that you stand in the way of what God is doing now, and how He’s continuing to reach those furthest from Him.

As a pastor, I feel strongly that innovation should always be present in the church.  We serve a creative God, and I believe He’s gifted us to reflect His creativity.  Whether you’re a pastor, a leader in the church, or simply attending a church, I challenge you to ask God, “What are new ways of doing ministry that people haven’t even dreamed of yet?”   Then get ready to step out in faith, and watch God do amazing things through you, as you allow the timeless message of Christ, impact the time in which you live!

Everyone can admit that we live in a media-heavy culture.  We have entire news channels dedicated not just to news, but just to financial news, sports news, even 24 hours of just weather.  Needless to say, there’s a lot of time to do a lot of talking.  And through all of this talking, hype resonates…actually it doesn’t just resonate, it explodes.

And in such a ‘big hype’ culture, as wars, diseases, and other stories dominate the headlines, there’s a new spiritual discipline that is becoming more and more necessary for followers of Christ…peace.  Yes, peace.  It’s so easy to allow the reports, blog posts, Facebook links, Twitter feeds and Instagram pics of Ebola to cause us to go to a very dangerous place spiritually…a place where our entire perspective changes because of a disease…or because of evil in the world…or because of the next major storm that hits the U.S.  When we allow this to happen, our faith is no longer our foundation, but we become slaves to the world’s circumstances.

Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

With this verse in mind, here are a few things to remember when the next disease, war, or catastrophe happens in the world:

  • Present the issue to God.  I know this sounds really basic, but before you share that link, RT that post, or begin a rant about what’s wrong with the world, our President, our some other global issue, present it to God first.  Believe it or not, prayer actually can make a difference.  In fact, I would argue that our world needs more prayer warriors than Facebook posters…more people committed to praying for the issues of the world than spreading the news about them.
  • How would Jesus have responded to this issue? (or would he have responded at all?)  So often we can get worked up about something that Jesus said was going to happen.  In Matthew 24:6 Jesus says, “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed.”  If Jesus said it was going to happen, and that we don’t need to be alarmed, than we shouldn’t be alarmed.  Respond as Jesus would have responded…love as Jesus would have loved.
  • Be part of a solution, don’t become part of the hype.  When our actions and words as followers of Christ cause more fear than faith, there’s something wrong.  Allow your response to the issues of our world be a reflection of your faith in a never-changing, all-powerful God.  If you’re going to do anything, work toward a God-glorifying solution.

 

I don’t know if you’ve ever been there before.  You’re doing something good…you’re serving on a ministry team…you’re making a difference in someone’s life…you’re leading a group of leaders, and through all the good you are doing, and the impact you are making, you find yourself losing the passion for what you’re doing.  The very thing you once loved has become the thing that you dread.  What happens when the very ministry God has placed within us becomes drudgery?

Before we answer that question, though, I want to explore a number of reasons why leaders hit this “Brick Wall of Ministry.”:

  • They are in the wrong role.  There are times that the reason ministry has become more of an obligation is because a leader is trying to do what they’re not equipped to do, and they aren’t able to break out of the rut of their limited ability.  This can be frustrating and discouraging, but the good news is, identifying you are in the wrong role allows you to find that ‘right role’ made just for you.
  • They are overextended in their current role.  This happens often with very driven leaders that want to accomplish a lot with not a lot of time.  The motive is right, it’s the long-term expression that can become damaging.  For a leader that overextends, they will eventually lose the drive and ability to lead.  In other words, if you run too long on empty, your engine will eventually lock-up and could cause long-term damage.
  • They are leading alone.  Oftentimes, the source of a lack of passion is not found in what a leader is doing, but who they are doing ministry with.  We are created as relational beings by God, and when we try to go it alone, we can quickly lose passion and drive toward the ministry we’re leading.

So the question still is, What happens when the very ministry God has placed within us becomes drudgery?  Here are three questions to ask when overcoming the drudgery and recapturing the passion:

  • Step back from what you’re doing and evaluate, Is what I’m doing match what I’m gifted for?”  If not, initiate a discussion with  your pastor, supervisor, or those you’re doing ministry with.  When you find your ‘sweet spot in ministry’ you’ll discover your passion and drive return.
  • Look at all you’re doing, and ask yourself this question: “Is there something I’m currently doing that can be delegated to someone else?”  I know someone else will never do that one thing just like you do it, but even if they’re close that’s better than the alternative.  A healthy, passionate you will always be more valuable than an exhausted version of yourself that gets everything done perfectly.
  • Stop for a moment and look around you.  “Who are you doing ministry with?”  Are they simply cogs in your wheel of ministry?  Are they simply tools that you use to get something accomplished?  Or are they friends?  Are they people you enjoy doing ministry with?  If you can’t find any valuable relationships around you in ministry, you may be in the wrong place, or serving with the wrong focus.  Where you find relationships, you’ll find passion.  The places we find relational value, we’ll also find emotional value.

My prayer for you, and I believe God’s desire for you as well, isn’t that you just ‘do ministry’, but that you find the joy, excitement and fulfillment in being Christ’s hands and feet to this hurting world.  As you do that, you’ll find drudgery dissipate and passion return!

Let me here from you.  What have you found to be helpful in recapturing passion in ministry?

The Voices

As a leader, there is such value in the people that speak into our lives.  We can oftentimes miss this value, and easily allow the wrong voices to influence what we do, and how we lead.  And if we’re not careful, we will find ourselves (and our team) miles off track from where we originally wanted to be, simply because we were allowing the wrong voices to influence us.  With that said, below are three voices that I believe it is imperative as leaders that we listen to:

The Voice of the Holy Spirit

This isn’t to sound super spiritual, but if you want to be effective as a leader it is so important to listen to the sometimes still, small voice of the Holy Spirit.  What that means is that leaders shouldn’t just lead simply with ideas and intuition, but through prayer and listening to where God is leading them and their team.  So many leaders unfortunately dig a mile deep into leadership principles and practices, which are all very valuable & beneficial, but yet their prayer life is an inch deep.  Don’t neglect this important voice.  The first voice that’s necessary to listen to is the voice of the Holy Spirit.

The Voice of Reason

I believe God gave us all a sound mind for a reason.  Often, as we’re making a decision, or about to lead in a certain direction, something just doesn’t seem right.  In those moments, sometimes we ignore it because everything else seems to be in place.  Listen to the voice of reason, both in your own mind, and from the wise council around you.  Don’t neglect the great gift that is around you in the people on your team.  Their wisdom, experience and perspective, can oftentimes be exactly what you need when making a decision and determining direction.  Listen to the Holy Spirit, and listen to the voice of reason….the last voice that’s important to listen to is…

The Voice of Your Critics

This is the toughest one.  I know the saying goes, “Don’t listen to your critics”, and while I’d agree with the intention of that, I don’t necessarily agree with the practice of it.  You see, while a critic’s heart can, at times, be in the wrong place, there may be some ounce of truth in their words.  The person that can listen to the voice of their critics, and filter out the truth in their words, will always find themselves better off for it.  As a leader, it’s easy to ignore critics because they’re painful.  But to become a better leader, and to have a more accurate picture of reality, it’s valuable to listen to your critics.  Don’t take everything they say as fact, but filter out the truth, and allow what you learn to help you become a better leader!

 

As you lead, remember listen…listen to the Holy Spirit…listen to reason…listen to your critics.  And as you listen, you’ll find yourself gaining wisdom just as Proverbs 19:20 says, Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.”

This week I’m finishing out the series we’ve going through on ‘Biblical Communication’ looking at the importance of allowing communication to be “Toward Redemption.”  If you’ve missed any of the previous posts, you can read them here.

Communication is such a key part of our humanity, and is essential to leadership.  When it comes to our communication, we’ve talked about communicating with love, truth, and last week, with wisdom.  And while all of these deal ‘how’ we communicate, for this final post, I’d like to look at what is our intention and ultimate goal of communication should be as a follower of Christ…redemption.

In Proverbs 18:21, the author of this proverb writes: The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”

There is no denying the power of our words.  And as is true with any power, it can be used for good or bad.  As followers of Christ, we understand that God has given us a voice to use to build up, not tear down.  This doesn’t there aren’t times we don’t correct or point out errors.  But what it does mean is that we are working toward the same thing the whole scope of scripture is…redemption.

It’s a shame the destruction and pain that is caused so often within the church because of someone’s communication.  From gossip to damaging words, followers of Christ, should always be working to redeem, not condemn or destroy.  This applies to those within the church, as well as our communication with those outside the family of God.

Just because someone has a different view, or lifestyle, or approach to life, doesn’t give any of us an excuse to tear down.  Christ’s words were always toward redemption, and as follower of Christ, our words should be as well.

So how does our communication work toward redemption?  Here are a few questions to answer:

  • What is the emotion behind what I’m saying?  Is it anger, or genuine love and concern for this person’s future?
  • Are my words being used as weapons to tear down, or tools to build up?
  • Would God agree with what I’m about to say to this person?
  • Is Christ going to be honored with my tone, my words and my intentions?

Next time you have a difficult conversation with someone, just remember: Christ’s words toward us have always been toward redemption, and our words toward others should do the same.

 

Looking at a ‘Biblical View of Communication’ can be a broad spectrum, but as I’ve mentioned in past weeks, taking a scriptural approach to communication means that it should be “With Love” and “With Truth”, and this week I’d like to look at a third component to Biblical communication, which is “With Wisdom.”

The definition of wisdom is: the quality or state of being wise; knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action.”   My simple definition would be:  the balance of truth and love, with a little common sense.

Watching how people who claim to be ‘followers of Christ’ communicate with one another and to those outside of the family of God online, and sometimes even in person, can be incredibly troubling.  There is at times a lack of truth, sometimes a lack of love, but most often a lack of common sense.

The above definition states that wisdom is geared toward “just judgment as to action”, which essentially means that wisdom isn’t wisdom unless action is involved.  So as followers of Christ, what is the purpose of our communication?  Or in other words, what is the goal of our actions?  Our goal, according to Christ, is to “make disciples”, meaning to help people become the men and women they were created by God to be.

So communicating with wisdom is less about what we say (truth), or how we say it (love), but more to do with when we say it.  Wisdom is recognizing the right moments to say the right things. 

As followers of Christ, it’s not just saying things with the right tone, and the right amount of truth, but also at the right time.  Isn’t this true for how God interacts with us?  Romans 5:6 says that “…at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.”  God’s timing in your life has probably been just as perfect as it has been in my life.  As followers of Christ, it’s important that we aren’t just truthful, that we don’t just speak with love, but also that we use wisdom as to when we speak, or don’t speak for that matter.

Here are a few questions that can help in fleshing out wisdom in your communication:

  • Is now the best time to tell this person what I’m about to say?  
  • Is Facebook/email/a text message the best way to say this?
  • If I say this now, will that help them become more like Christ, or turn them away from Christ?

Communication is an innate part of being human, and yet communication comes with complications.  That’s because through communication things happen…life happens…change happens.

  • One “You look nice today” can completely change a person’s outlook.
  • A simple “We’ve missed you” can bring such incredible value to a relationship.

These simple words of encouragement can brighten a person’s day and remind them of the value that they possess as a human being.  But the opposite is true as well.  We’ve all heard the saying as kids, “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”  While that’s a nice saying, it isn’t really accurate.  Words can bring great pain and sorrow.

  • To hear from your father “You’re worthless” or “You’ll never amount to anything” could devastate a person.
  • Being told by your child “You’re a terrible mother” could send a person spiraling out of control emotionally.

The words of Proverbs 18 are so true: “The tongue has the power of life and death…”

So our communication can both build up or tear down.  As I discussed in my last post, the issue isn’t in your words, but your heart.  But as a follow-up your words still do matter.  And that brings us to this next aspect of biblical communication:  Truth.

I know.  Of course truth should be part of our communication.  But in reality, is it always?  Part of our wiring as human beings is the desired to be loved, liked and pleasing to those around you.  Except for a few angry souls out there, most of us generally enjoy it when people have a fond view of us.  So deep down inside, a lot of us are naturally ‘people pleasers.’  There’s nothing wrong with that – in fact, it’s this basic wiring that keeps many of us from being jerks (which is a really good thing!).  But the problem with being a ‘people pleaser’ is we often withhold the truth when it could actually do a lot of good.

You see, while words can build up or tear down, sometimes our lack of words can do that same thing.  There are moments when our truthful words can actually help us out.  If I walk out of the bathroom in the morning with a completely mismatched outfit that screams, “This guy has to be color-blind!”, I would hope my wife would tell me the truth and tell me a I look like a clown.  That’s not a hurtful thing, but those words of truth will help me avoid a long, embarrassing day.

Words carry the power of life and death, but so do our lack of words.  Don’t withhold the truth, because your words could be the difference between growth and transformation in someone’s life, or mediocrity.  Your ability to speak the truth with love, could literally change a person’s future.  Iron sharpens iron, not by appeasing, but by helping, encouraging, and speaking with truth.

With that said, here are a few thoughts on communicating with truth:

  • The goal is building up, not tearing down.  Truth should always be covered in love.
  • Don’t use truth as a weapon, but rather as a tool to encourage and strengthen.
  • When you create an environment around you that combines both truth and love, you’ll find healthy relationships and healthier self-awareness.
  • Love is not communicated through flowery words, but through truth that helps another grow into the man or woman God created them to be.
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