Wednesday, November 26, 2008


CTK is a populist movement. The DNA is being carried by real people in real places. This is precisely what we want to see. We want EVERYBODY to embody the values that mean so much to us. But make no mistake. The values will not be carried by EVERYBODY unless SOMEBODY carries them first. If SOMEBODY doesn't embody the values, NOBODY will. Great ministries are always a team effort. But at the point of the spear is one person, the embodiment of what that ministry is about. For instance.

Focus on the Family...James Dobson, the founder, immediately comes to mind when you think of this ministry. But not just because he's the founder. You think of him because he personally represents conservative family values. He embodies what the ministry is about.

Campus Crusade...Well, you can't think about Crusade without thinking about Bill Bright. Bill was the outgoing personality who would go anywhere to anyone to share Christ. Guess what? Crusade is still doing that.

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association...Ok. This one's too easy. But certainly, Billy Graham personally embodies evangelism.

If you show me a group with a strong culture of sacrifice and service, I'll show you someone - a leader - who represents those values, who embodies them, if you will. If you show me a team on a mission, I'll show you a captain or coach on a mission. He doesn't just talk about the mission, he exemplifies missional behavior in what he does, and who he is. We have to hemorrhage if we want our people to bleed.

In the CTK story, the pastor is charged with being the SOMEBODY who embodies the mission, so that EVERYBODY can. If he doesn't, don't expect the body to go beyond their leader. The pace of the leader is the pace of the team. Everything rises and falls with leadership.

As a leader in the CTK story, what should you embody?

1. A life of community. Small groups are the basic building block of our church. Everyone in leadership should be in one, not just so that they can say they are in one, but so that they can be fully immersed in community, just like everyone else. It does us no good to have a leader in our story talk about relationships, and then have none.

2. A life of devotion. We say that we want to have worship be our lifestyle. Are you the person who regularly calls the group to prayer, or redirects folks back to the word? Do you spend time in solitude with Jesus? If you behave like Martha, you won't inspire very many Marys, no matter how hard you preach.

3. A life of mission. Do lost people matter to you? Deeply? People can tell if you are content with "us four, no more." When was the last time you reached out personally to someone who needed Jesus? You can't spend all your time with Christians and have people believe that you are all about lost people. It just won't work.

Vision leaks. The second law of thermodynamics states that things tend to go from order to disorder. This is a tendency that can be bucked, however. It doesn't have to go this way. It just usually does. And it definitely does without the intervention of a leader who says, "No, we're not going there....we're going here." And then (and this is critical) he himself takes off in the stated direction, looks over his shoulder and says, "You guys are coming, right?"

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


How does the kingdom expand? How does a church grow? How do you conduct a staff meeting? How do you share your faith? How do you do youth ministry? The questions are straightforward. The answers not so much. As near as I can tell, the answer is: "It depends."

I was recently at a conference where I and two other pastors of "multi-site" churches told our stories. We were each chosen because we represented slightly different approaches to being one church in many locations. Backstage, prior to one of the sessions, someone commented on how cool it was that three different churches, with three different styles, could come together in one conference. I jokingly quipped, "But aren't we really here to find out which approach is right?" There was nervous laughter because we all knew that much of sordid church history has been in the quest "to find the one right way."

It's about time we realize that there is not "a right way," there are just "right ways." In order to reach people that no one is reaching you may have to do things that no one is doing. In order to do things that no one else is doing, you can’t do what everyone else is doing. God is not formulaic in his approach. One of the reasons we have so many differences in the body of Christ is that God's ways (plural, remember?) are personal and profound, mysterious and multi-faceted. Just when we think we have Him figured out, the pillar of fire and cloud moves. The sooner we get our heads around ways instead of way, the more enjoyment we will find in the way that God is at work in our ministry, and others'.

Just because God is at work in a certain way in someone's story doesn't mean He wants to work that way in yours. Both Joseph and Moses had very similar experiences, with very different conclusions. They both were raised in Egyptian royal households. Both rose to positions of prominence, and had potential for significant power. In Joseph's case, the power was part of the plan that God had for him. In Moses' case, he needed to shun that power to follow God's script. It's a good thing they followed what God had in mind for them, and didn't copy what they had read in a Christian magazine.

Friday, November 14, 2008


A lot of lines are being blurred in our culture today. During the last election cycle in the USA we saw that people were a lot less interested in voting along party lines, for instance. Convenient categories like "Democrat" and "Republican" are giving way to "Independent." When people are asked their ethnicity(Caucasian, Black, Hispanic, Asian, etc.), over 30% now check "other." Even our president is not so easily defined. This has implications for ministry.

1. Scrub your stereotypes. Depending on your upbringing, you may be bringing slight to extreme stereotypes with you into ministry. Check them at the door. If you feel that certain people groups are a certain way, you need to realize the magnificent spectrum that is presented to us in the real world. You cannot tell a book by its cover. Get to know people and their unique stories. Jesus showed us how with the Samaritan woman.

2. Make it personal. It used to be that a pastor spoke primarily to families, and then secondarily to single people. Today, relationships are much more complicated. People have blended families, multiple families, broken families, no family. And single may mean "divorced," or "cohabitating" or "gay." Consequently, effective communicators do not assume that they are talking to Ward, June and Beaver Cleaver. Narrow your focus to the individual.

3. Expand your categories. When we are speaking you need to present a broader and more inclusive list of categories. For instance, you are probably talking in front of people who are suicidal, trapped in drug abuse, white collar criminals, etc. So if you say, "You might be here and be discouraged" you lose credibility, because people are thinking "That's the least of it!" If you don't get a broader list of categories, folks will put you in one: "Out of touch with reality."

4. Diversify your team. Do you have minorities on your leadership team? On your worship team? In your ministry? If not, you won't look very inclusive, even if you are. Do your best to think outside the box, particularly if the box is "people who are a lot like me."

5. Target new audiences. Are you reaching out to the people in your community, or just one variety of people in your community? Strategize about reaching other people groups. As a result of prayer God may place a burden on your heart for people of differing geography, ethnicity or socio-economic status. If you don't know how to reach them, maybe invite them for dinner and go from there.

With spiritual eyes we see that there are not classes of people, there are only people, like you and like me. People who are in need of a savior.

Monday, November 10, 2008


We have a choice. We can either dominate the culture or infiltrate the culture. Over the centuries the church has tried both approaches, with very different results.

After periods in which the church has tried to dominate the culture, the world has experienced dark ages. After periods in which the church has tried to infiltrate the culture, the world has experienced great awakenings.

One of the reasons the church in America has struggled spiritually in the past generation is that we have been the home team, dominating the culture. We haven't transformed the spiritual landscape, we've just gotten our way. We have depended on the government to protect our ability to exist. We may have passed the legislation, or gotten the courts to rule on "our side," but we haven't changed people's hearts on the matter. We have used power to control the culture, instead of influence to create a culture. Meanwhile evil has been seething underneath the surface, and as the old saying goes, "Payback is a bummer."

In all likelihood, American culture is about to get outright hostile toward matters of faith and Christianity. This is only a problem to us if we are trying to maintain our power position. This is only disconcerting if we perceive this to be a game with a winner and a loser. If, on the other hand, our goal is to infiltrate it won't be bad for us to be "underground." Not bad at all.

In the darkest of night even the smallest of lights shines bright. Many modern-day movements of God are taking place in hostile environments. The church in China, for instance, now numbers hundreds of millions. Could it be that the church thrives under persecution precisely because the hostility makes only infiltration possible?

So....we can dominate or infiltrate. I wonder which Jesus wants us to do?

Thursday, November 06, 2008


A friend of mine asked me if I had noticed the difference between the television ads for Macintosh and Microsoft. I told him I hadn't really paid attention, except that I'm a Mac fan and have found their "I'm a Mac....I'm a PC" ads pretty clever. He agreed with me that the Mac ads are killing the PC ads in popularity, and then he asked me a pretty good question. "Which ad is substance, and which ad is style?" I had to admit that the Mac ad is really all about style. A cool looking and acting actor (Mac guy) is pitted against a backward looking and acting actor (PC guy). The Mac guy seems totally relaxed and helpful. The PC guy is never quite at ease, seems scattered, self-absorbed and stupid. But there really isn't much in these ads about the actual difference between using a Macintosh computer or a PC. From watching these Mac ads you just come away with a feeling (not really much in the way of facts) that points you to the Mac as the "better" choice. What does this say about the culture we're in?

Prior to the presidential election a high school teacher I know gave his class a paper with the political positions of the two candidates presented side by side. At the top of the page was simply "Candidate A" and "Candidate B." Based on the positions the men took, the class favored Candidate A. The teacher then asked whether the class was voting for Senator Obama or McCain. This particular group of High Schoolers was overwhelmingly for Obama. Why? They said he was "young" and "has fresh ideas" and they "liked him better." They were shocked to find out that he was Candidate B. They were "for" him, not based on substance, but style.

Also, be aware that if you present a substantive idea, and expect people to get it "based on the merits," you'll be seriously disappointed. As a Christian leader, don't assume the people you're leading are thinking deeply about what really matters. They probably aren't. So for the time being, unless you are politically savvy enough to run a good campaign, you can expect defeat. Most pastors I know have ideas that are good to great. Many times those great ideas are dead on arrival because the pastor has assumed that people will think as deeply about the issue as s/he has, and they have not learned the importance of building a coalition, selling the sizzle, and answering the question that people keep asking (even if we wish they weren't): "What's in it for me?" This is not a Jesus question, of course, and never will be. But who's job is it to get people asking better, more noble, questions? Yup.

There is no question that people today lack critical thinking skills. This can either be extremely discouraging to you (it often is for me), or it can challenge you "get after it" and to teach people to think. Not what to think. How to think.