Friday, September 21, 2007

Down

For many leaders in the CTK story, the way up has been down. Consider these stories. I believe you will see a recurring theme.

He was once pastor of one of the largest churches in his denomination, with a multi-million dollar budget and a large full-time paid staff. He now pastors a CTK Worship Center. His current "staff" is primarily volunteers. His name is unknown in the circles of denominational power. But he told me recently that he has never felt so spiritually alive in his life. He is personally leading fifteen to twenty people to the Lord each year and coaching several pastors who are just starting out in ministry. Whenever I am around him I get the sense he is thoroughly enjoying the Lord and His kingdom.

After having served as a youth pastor in perhaps the largest church in America, one CTK pastor now leads a Worship Center with a smaller combined attendance than the youth staff he once led at the mega church. The population of the entire town in which he now pastors is one-tenth the weekend attendance of his previous church. He reported his excitement to me that nearly a third of his Worship Center attendance is attending small group leader training.

A successful business man and his wife sold their property and holdings in America and moved to a third world country. Over the course of several years they have built a compound that now facilitates a medical clinic and both a spanish speaking and english speaking Worship Center. He has installed a number of water-catchment systems for the natives in the area and helped them develop micro businesses of their own. He takes a one hour boat ride to get to the nearest town. He has limited electricity from solar panels and intermittent cell phone and internet access. I've been to his hut. He is living large in the Lord.

After enjoying the benefits of a sixty million dollar church campus in a previous ministry, one CTK pastor now convenes his Worship Center in the back hall of a local restaurant, and a rented room of the community recreation center. The value of the auditorium lighting system in his previous ministry exceeds his total CTK annual budget by a factor of four. Both he and his wife are working to support themselves financially, but he is thrilled to be driving each week into a neighboring state to start a second CTK Worship Center.

After seeing a CTK Worship Center grow to several hundred, one CTK pastor handed his ministry to another leader and then stepped in to pastor a struggling CTK Center in a neighboring community. In the past year the Center has worked through numerous disappointments and setbacks but has recently launched a second CTK Worship Center in the community that meets on Sunday nights.

In a previous life he was attorney with a large international law firm and a multi-million dollar home. He now lives in a modest home with his large family and for a small monthly stipend develops small group leaders and pastors of various ethnicities and language groups throughout his continent. He is particularly enjoying the CTK small groups that he is helping to form in the prison system.

What do all these stories have in common? The protagonists are all heading down the ladder. From positions of greater prominence, to lesser; from larger budgets to smaller; from big places to little ones; from significant resources to scrapping for resources.

What is going on here?

None of these stories make sense in the "bigger is better" church world. Most church leaders go up the ladder of power, not down. They hoard resources instead of giving them away. The mantra is "see you at the top" not "see you at the bottom." It is most common for a pastor of a traditional church ministry to go from pastoring a hundred to two hundred, five hundred and then a thousand. It is not common in the larger church world for a pastor of a church of thousands to then choose to pastor a church of several dozen. But it is partly because of this counter cultural trend that CTK has the potential to become a world-wide movement, and not just another bloated ministry.

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Where did we get these ideas? They were modeled for us by our Founder and CEO (we also call him Lord and Savior), who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped. Instead, He made himself nothing and took on the form of a servant. Being found in likeness as a man He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death - even death on a cross. This is why God has exalted him to the highest place and why our knees bow and tongues confess that He is Lord. As His life becomes our life, His ways become our ways.

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Christ is not the only prominent New Testament figure that exemplifies "downward mobility." Another great example is Paul. Paul was a learned man and a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Supreme Court, the powerful ruling council of 70 men. But after he got knocked off his high horse, he gave this all up to pursue a greater mission of suffering, shipwreck, imprisonment and service. You got to love that. When you come down the ladder you get closer to the harvest.

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Someone recently asked me my opinion about a prominent "TV evangelist." I told them that I thought he was one of the most gifted platform personalities I have ever seen. Frankly, I admire his talent. But then I said, "But I don't sense the type of disregard for power and prominence coming from him that I sense coming from Christ. This concerns me." If you are truly following someone you will end up going the same direction. And if you choose to follow Christ, you will follow Him down the ladder.

1 comment:

Derek said...

I love this blog.