Are we in the wrong business?

What is the core mission of the local church? I think we can learn something by looking at Peter Drucker’s two pivotal questions for business leaders:

  1. What is your business?
  2. How’s business?

These have always been difficult questions for the church to answer. In the middle ages through the Renascence the church was in the Architecture Business. Cardinals and Popes built larger and more ornate cathedrals culminating in the massive St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. The church was measured by the beauty of the art produced.

The question continued into the Sunday School years when we thought we were in the Education Business. We created classrooms and curriculum and attempted to teach the masses. The measure was knowledge.

Eventually we left the Education Business and moved into the Warehouse Business. The goal shifted from educating the masses to accumulating the masses. We built larger and larger facilities to store more and more members. The answer to question one was, “More!” and the answer to question two was, “Really good (for an ever growing number of mega-churches).

The Warehouse Business morphed into the Entertainment Business. To maximize our storage facilities we had to draw larger crowds with a better product. We created a cottage industry of professional videographers, graphic artists, sound engineers, musicians and lighting technicians around the need for an ever improving show. The artists guilds of the Renascence were reborn as worship schools. Business was now measured by both quantity and quality.

Recently another shift has begun as leaders discover their warehoused and entertained members live lives tragically similar to those outside the church. They are shackled by divorce, addiction and materialism just like their non-church attending neighbors. Architecture, Education, Warehousing and Entertainment have all fallen short of the goal of making biblical disciples, little Christs.

I think all of the past phases have a place in the overall purpose of the church. I believe in education, and artist development, and reaching as many people as possible with the Gospel. I believe that most leaders are sincere in their efforts to make disciples even if the outcome isn’t what they had hoped. I think the fundamental challenge is that we still haven’t answered Drucker’s questions.

  1. I think we are in the Moving Business.
  2. I think business is poor but improving.

I think our fundamental call as church leaders is to assist people in moving from where they are to where God is calling them. Every building, every program, every paid staff member engaged in the Moving Business. “How will this activity, this ministry, this sound system move people from where they are to where God is calling them?”

If we are in the Moving Business, then we probably need to stop simply measuring the beauty of our buildings, the education of our members, the number of people in our warehouses, or the awesomeness of our product. If we are in the Moving Business then our primary measure is movement; are our people moving from where they are to where God is calling them?

How would you answer Drucker’s questions? What business are you in? How’s business?

Starting a revolution

thinkingDo you know Jesus? He died on a cross to forgive every bad thing you’ve done (or ever will do) so that you can know God and live with Him forever in heaven.

Is there anything more to this? Well, yes, there are a few other details, but this is all you need to know. There is more to the story that merely confirms that this is true; there is more to keep theologians busy for the rest of their lives, but this is all you really need to know. Jesus died on a cross to forgive every bad thing you’ve done (or ever will do) so that you can know God and live with Him forever in heaven.

Is God going to fix everything?
Are all your problems going to go away?
Will you have a better life?
Will all your dreams come true?
Will you get rich?
Will you be healthy?
Will nothing bad ever happen to you?

No, not necessarily. Nothing beyond this is a guarantee. But this is definitely a guarantee: Jesus died on a cross to forgive every bad thing you’ve done (or ever will do) so that you can know God and live with Him forever in heaven.

Lots of people try to complicate this and there are disagreements among those who believe it about how to carry on (this is unfortunate), but this is the essence of it. It doesn’t really matter what else you believe, as long as you believe this. This is really all you need to know, and all you need to tell the world about (because once you know it, you’re going to want to tell everybody). Jesus died on a cross to forgive every bad thing you’ve done (or ever will do) so that you can know God and live with Him forever in heaven.

Honestly, it’s enough to start a revolution.

This Year, Stop Leading!

By Lesa Engelthaler

 

As we exited the church building one friend said, “I am done with women’s ministry.” Another one replied, “And I will never attend a book club again.” To say the least, the meeting had not gone well.

For the past decade I had facilitated a successful women’s mentoring ministry for our church. As the church grew, however, my team and I struggled to accommodate the demand. Deeming one woman worthy to impart wisdom over another to the next generation made us uncomfortable. We felt there must be a less top-down model.

The initiative we proposed at the “meeting-from-the-dark-side” that evening was to be the new grand idea. We were mistaken. As I slid my weary soul into the driver’s seat of my Camry, I couldn’t have agreed more with my friends. We decided to shut down the mentoring program.

Two long years later I was given David Benner’s Sacred Companions. “Freeing”does not begin to describe how I felt about Benner’s thoughts. I lent the book to what was left of our program team. They loved it. Wary of anything with “mentoring” in the title, we advertised a gathering for women interested in deeper friendships.

For me, the huge difference between Benner and other philosophies of mentoring were found in two of Benner’s statements:

  1. “Spiritual friends help us most when they make clear that their job is to point the way, not to lead the way. And the Way to which they should point is Jesus.” This had bothered me for years-I can hardly lead myself, much less someone else.
  1. “An equally important temptation for those seeking to offer spiritual friendship is to assume that one’s own route is best for others.” I had done this very thing-advised a young woman that the (I think I said only) way to be with the Almighty was in the morning. . . in a house. . . in a chair. . . with her Bible and prayer journal. Benner argues that to dictate a specific path to God is like giving a map of one’s own creation. He calls it idolatry.

Taking my cue from Benner, I’ve begun to ask two questions which launch deeper conversations: How has God been present for you in recent weeks? When did God seem to be absent?

One woman who participated in our first gathering (and declared she could never ask “those kinds of questions”) stopped me in church a few Sundays ago. She had invited a neighbor to meet with her this coming year. I’m getting together with three gals starting this month.

Care to join us? Ask a coworker or gather a few friends for a cup of coffee and open with Benner’s questions. No predetermined roadmap required. Just point them, and yourself, to Jesus.

2013 might be our best mentoring year ever.

Lesa Engelthaler lives in Dallas, Texas, where she works for Victory Search Group as an executive recruiter for nonprofits. She serves on the board ofSynergy Women’s Network and is a member of theRedbud Writers Guild. Follow her on Twitter at @lengelthaler or friend her on Facebook. Lesa also

A Tool to Measure Discipleship

tape-measureHow do we measure discipleship? It is relatively easy to measure church attendance, giving, or small group participation, but how do we measure church members becoming more like Christ? The Willow Creek Reveal Study pointed out that church activity doesn’t necessarily lead to fully devoted follower of Christ, but are there activities we can measure to help our congregation grow?

I think there are six vital areas that point to a growing disciple:

  • Serving in a local church. Church attendance without service does not grow me as a disciple. To grow I have to serve generously with my time, talent and treasure.
  • Praying consistently. This is so obvious that it seems to get overlooked. A growing disciple follows Jesus’ pattern of consistent, heartfelt prayer.
  • Reading the Bible daily. Separate studies by the Willow Creek Association and Lifeway on discipleship came to the same conclusion; the single biggest factor in growing as a disciple is reading the Bible every day. It’s the magic pill of discipleship.
  • Engaging in biblical community. Discipleship throughout the Bible is always in context of community. Being in a small group does not guarantee discipleship, but not being in biblical community prevents it.
  • Actively involved in missional outreach. Biblical disciples engage in Kingdom transformation in their home, their community and their world.
  • Developing other disciples. Jesus final command was very clear, Go make disciples. Every growing disciple of Christ develops other disciples.

I’d like to suggest the following tool to help determine the temperature of discipleship in your congregation (and in your own life). I have used the acronym SPREAD to make the six areas easier to remember. Your church attenders may need some additional information to understand how you define each area in your context.

Create a simple survey with the following questions. Give the survey and a pen to everyone who attends one weekend, and take time during the service to fill out the survey out together.

As a growing disciple of Jesus I (circle all that apply)

  • Serve my local church generously with my time, talent and resources
  • Pray consistently
  • Read my Bible almost every day
  • Engage regularly in a biblical community (small group)
  • Actively participate in missional outreach
  • Develop other disciples

The first time you take the survey serves as a baseline for discipleship. Use the results to celebrate where the congregation is strong and to focus on helping them grow in areas where they are weak. Choose one area that seems to be weak across the board and focus for the next quarter on growing in that area as a church. Retake the survey every three months for a year to measure progress.

High Altitude Christmas Worship on Skis

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Pastors in blue, dad in white, me in brown.

Rode the Copper MountainAmerican Eagle quad lift up the mountain today in time for mountain top worship. Just down from the lift puts you at the “nature center” (state park speak for “chapel”), an open air viewing structure built by Copper Mountain Community Church members a few years ago. Their goal is to continue providing worship for employees and guests of Copper on the mountain.

I’m not certain, but my impression was about half of those in attendance for worship are employees of Copper in some capacity. The rest of us just happened to be on the mountain at the right time and skied up to sing some hymns and pray.

Prior to building the chapel, the community church used to gather under some trees near a cross (still standing) just down from the lift.

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Worship at 11,000 feet in December is cold, bright, and beautiful. For our prayers, we prayed with eyes open looking out over the Gore Mountain range. I think the service lasted about 30 minutes. We sang simple praise songs from the songbook they distributed. In observance of the 12 days of Christmas, I requested Joy to the World. They sing Go Tell It On the Mountain basically every Sunday, for obvious reasons, but of course it was especially meaningful today on the first Sunday after Christmas. The sermon, very brief, was thoughtful. Considering The Good Samaritan and the Christ Hymn of Philippians, we were offered a glimpse of what it might mean to consider humility as our new year’s resolution for 2013.

The pastor who delivered the message, Dick Jacquin, took the photos above. They update their banner weekly with a photo of the worshiping community. An altogether friendly gathering appropriate to context. We wanted to pray. We also all wanted to ski. This allowed space in the midst of good Sabbath recreation for good Sabbath worship.

Very cool ministry. They especially work to reach the employees of Copper. They hand deliver homemade cookies to every worker at every lift Sunday mornings, and offer two services, one down hill at 8:30, one mountain top at 12:30. In addition to the cookies, they organize a monthly community meal (the day before paychecks are issued), which usually has 300-400 folks in attendance.

I think this is what you call indigenous missional ministry. Great stuff. Meeting the needs of the employees and residence of Copper in a way that builds community and goes to where they are. That it requires skiing all the great slopes of Copper to get to the lifts is, as the pastors say, a small sacrifice.

To learn more about the congregation, and see some great photos of their community, visit: http://coppermountaincommunitychurch.org/