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Leadership
Max Lucado reminds us, “It all works out in the end. If it hasn’t worked out yet, then it’s not the end.” As Michael Hyatt points out in his post this morning, Romans 8:28 is STILL in the Bible. God has something special for you.  In fact, everything’s happening for a reason. And if you’re in a conflict right now… and if you’re going to take Romans 8:28 as true… then God has something good  for you in the end.  And God has something good for the person you’re in conflict with in the end as well. I think it’s the ‘working’ part of Romans 8:28 that we don’t like.  And many times we don’t get that during the ‘working’ stage. So… don’t worry… if it hasn’t worked out yet, God’s not finished. That may be just the word you need to make it through your day. via Romans 8:28 Still in the Bible. What do YOU think?  
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A great article this past week from Charles Arn on ‘Pastoral Longevity and Church Growth’.  According to studies, there is an undeniable relationship between pastoral tenure and church growth.  Truth is:  Many pastors leave way before the amount of time it will take them to be truly effective.  Here’s a chart showing a recent studies findings on why pastors are leaving their churches: Here are some additional excuses Charles thinks are contributing factors: • More money.  Human nature is always dissatisfied, however much we make. • Conflict.  Another characteristic of human nature: conflict is anywhere there are people. • You’re getting stale.  Commit to being a life-time learner. It will keep you and your church in touch with today’s issues. • Greener pastures.  See Philippians 4:12. • Boredom.  To quote Rick Warren, “It’s not about you.” • Burn-out.  Whether you have reached that point or not, take time to retreat and renew. • An exploratory call.  We all like to be liked. But just because a church is calling doesn’t mean God is. • You’re out of sermons.  If that’s your reason for moving, I suggest you shouldn’t be in the ministry. • Too much pressure.  So your next church will be without pressure?  If your motivation to move is to avoid pressure, see the response above. I like Charles’ summary:
There is an undeniable relationship between pastoral tenure and church growth.  While most growing churches have long-term pastorates, and some non-growing churches have long-term pastorates, it is almost unheard of to find a growing church with many short-term pastorates.  Frequent change of pastors seems to negate all the other complicated ingredients that go into a church’s growth mix.
I’ve heard that it takes a pastor about 6-7 years before real change starts to really happen at a quicker pace. What has been your experience? Read Charles’ entire post here. Todd
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Leadership
Perry Noble shares an important truth that many of us should visit today:  We don’t fight battles with people that claim to be Christian but don’t like us”.  Why… quite simple:  That is not our calling. Have you been criticized by someone who doesn’t know you?  Have you been cut down from someone who has never attended your church?  How about another church in town that doesn’t agree with your style of ministry?  Don’t take on that battle… it’s not your calling. Bottom line:  We can’t control what other people say about us.  But we can control how closely we stick to our calling of preaching the gospel. Take a look: What do you think?
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Controversy
We’ve all had it happen to us.  An irate email.  A nasty comment on our blog.  A Facebook message from someone who’s ticked.  It seems that the internet makes people much more bold when it comes to conflict… people say in emails and online things they wouldn’t ever have the guts to say to your face.  Here’s a helpful article by Toni Birdsong on how to handle online conflict.  I think it could really help the next time you raise the ire of someone. 10 ways to handle an online conflict:
  1. Evaluate objectively. Go back over the dialogue that lead up to the conflict and determine if you are responsible. Get another (objective) person’s opinion.
  2. Cool off before clicking. Rather than firing off a response, chill out and log off. Depending on the level of emotion, this may require a few hours or even a few days as a “cooling off” period. Read Romans 12:2.
  3. Ask forgiveness if needed. If you realize that you mispoke, relayed incorrect information, or responded inappropriately—you need to own it. Ask the person (if digitally possible) if they will forgive the offense.
  4. Maintain a “real” perspective. Match the worry to the relationship. Were you close to the person or were they a stranger prone to spar with anyone? Go read their feed/wall/blog to get a full picture. Cyberspace is huge and words are dangerous. If you angst over every person who disagrees with you, you won’t last long. Pray and determine if the issue is worthy to pursue, if not, let it go and move on. Read 2 Timothy 2:23-25.
  5. Don’t take it personally. Communicating online leaves a lot to be desired. If humans who talk face-to-face have conflict, you can bet that people writing brief posts will run into collassal confusion over written “intent.” It’s rarely about you and often about the deficit in the medium.
There are 5 more here… What’s the worst you’ve ever been attacked online?  What was the nastiest email you ever received? How did you respond to it?
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Controversy
According to the Christian Post, several North Carolina churches have cut their ties with Surry Baptist Association over the group’s decision to expel a church for having a female pastor. First Baptist Church of Mount Airy voted overwhelmingly to withdraw from the association due to the expulsion of nearby Flat Rock Baptist Church for appointing the Rev. Bailey Edwards Nelson as senior pastor. Piney Grove Baptist Church of Mount Airy also decided to leave the association, with an unanimous vote taken last week. “In our congregation, and in several other congregations, there was strong disagreement with the action, the biblical interpretation given for the action, and the way the issue was handled,” said Roger Gilbert, pastor of First Baptist Church, in a statement. “The whole process was open and respectful of all. We now plan to move forward, leaving this behind us, working in partnership with those churches who want to work with us.” The Rev. Bailey Edwards Nelson, the pastor of Flat Rock Baptist Church whose appointment began the controversy, told The Christian Post on Wednesday that the churches leaving the association based their vote on more than the SBA’s decision to expel Flat Rock. “Members of both churches were bothered not only by the SBA’s stance against women serving as pastors, but also by the way in which the matter was handled,” said Nelson. via Christian News. // For these churches, the ‘fellowship test’ was broken because of the woman pastor issue, but in the opposite way you would think. What keeps your church from working with other churches?  Come on… you have a list… and you might be embarrassed to say what’s on it. Do you work with other churches in your city?  If so how? And when do you say no? And when does it get to a point where you say… you just do your own thing and leave us out of it? I’d love to hear your thoughts.      
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Leadership
Recently, Bishop Eddie Long settled out of court with his accusers… young men who accused the Bishop of pressuring them into sexual relationships with them. Long’s friend, Creflo Dollar, recently defended Long, saying that people expect forgiveness but don’t extend it to preachers who also need forgiveness. Dollar said:
Then you become self-righteous and you become judgmental and you’re gonna leave the preacher for his wreck when you done had more wrecks… That preacher’s still anointed to do what he was called to do. He just had a wreck. The blood will take care of his issue just like it will take care of yours.
This has caused Lerone Marti, a professor at Eden Theological Seminary to write an open letter to Creflo Dollar that I found quite interesting. Marti says:
Long’s move from adamant public denial to private settlement left no way for onlookers and members alike to obtain an account of what exactly happened. They have been left in the dark as to whether their shepherd indeed has an ongoing problem… Would you send YOUR kids back to a summer camp where one of the key officials was shrouded in the “wreckage” of sexual abuse? Would you send YOUR kids back to a mentoring program where the leading mentor privately settled his sexual abuse “wreck” out of court … Would YOU continue to unquestionably financially and otherwise support a non-profit organization where the power structure was clouded in a questionable history of inappropriate sexual contact with children? Or would you seek to place your family’s treasures, time, and talents elsewhere?
I think Marti makes a great point.  When someone settles out of court without explaining what happened, without admitting guilt but paying thousands (some estimate millions) of dollars, it does leave a congregation lacking. When the money is paid, everything goes away. Including in this case, many people from Long’s church… they’ve just gone… who knows where… to other churches… or to no church at all. This really is a problem in many churches, I believe.  When there is moral failure of any kind (sexual, integrity issues, financial issues), the leadership of the church does everything it can to control the flow of information rather than just telling the truth. Whenever church leadership decides not to tell the truth to the people, there will be problems. Always. Backpeddling never looks good on a church leader or board. Now, I realize that these situations get difficult and complicated very quickly. In Long’s case, maybe he was completely innocent.  But paying huge sums of money to make the problem go away and acting like nothing ever happened will usually not work.  In Long’s case, it appears it hasn’t.  Attendance is way down from what has been reported. Maybe it was a better financial move to just pay off the accusers than to fight the accusations in court.  If that was the rationale, say that that was the rationale. But if you just pay money, you look guilty as sin, and you’ll have to suffer the consequences of having a reputation that is forever scarred. How long do you stay in a church mired by scandal? When do you decide it’s time to leave? At what point do you lose confidence in your leader/leadership in situations like these? And at what time is the reputation of the leader/church so scarred that it will realistically not be able to be effective any longer in reaching people for Jesus? I’d love to hear your thoughts… Todd More here.  
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Leadership
What do hot dog wieners and ministry have in common? A friend of mine is an elder at his church. The board of elders was planning a church picnic. Everything sounds normal so far. That is until someone wanted to buy one particular brand of hot dog wieners and someone wanted to buy another. For ten minutes they debated on what brand to buy. My friend had to leave the meeting. Now I’m all for church picnics. Really, anything that offers food is pretty much a draw for me. And every event should be thought out and well planned. But is it possible to get too focused on the details and lose the purpose of the event ? How often have you focused so much on the details of something that you forgot the real purpose of what you are doing? Do you focus on your kids having the best and forget what they really want is to know you love them? Do you focus on looking good at work when the purpose of work is to provide for your family? Do you focus on getting an “A” at the cost of a relationship? And do we in the church focus on getting our own way only to forget to send God an invitation to the church picnic? What do hot dog wieners and ministry have in common? Nothing. You might think me mad for saying this but I think it’s time we focused a little less on our wieners and a little more on the purpose of the church. GUEST POST by:  MadPastor.  MadPastor is a normal guy. Grew up in a local church,  went to youth group, got baptized, went to seminary. Now I am a pastor. I’m not an angry pastor. But what goes on in the Church and world today is driving me mad.  You can catch up with him at MadPastor.com. What’s the silliest ministry argument that you’ve ever seen?  Tell us about it!
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Controversy
The pastor of Greater New Zion Baptist addresses a fight that broke out at the church on Sunday. Pastor Levonia Ray was not there yesterday, but says he’s the focus of the controversy. He says a group of people in the congregation have called for his resignation. Pastor Ray says he will abide by the decision of the members, but that a small group of people have blocked the vote three times. The violence at the church required more than 30 deputies and officers to control the crowd. HT:  WLOS.com
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It’s the most telling and honest article about the Ted Haggard scandal to date.  Actually, it was like someone spiked Ted’s drink before he granted an interview with GQ.  I think the drink was spiked with 1/2 truth syrum and 1/2 grain alcohol that provided for a very candid and disturbing article. The candid and disturbing: – What really happened in the scandal that took Haggard down (at least the current version).  Warning:  It goes into some very graphic details. – Haggard’s fall not only included homosexuality, but pornography and the use of crystal meth. – Haggard says that others involved in this scandal (accusers, participants, and his original overseer team) will all end up publicly repenting, just like he already has. – He and wife Gayle refer to the church he founded as “the old Soviet Union” and the Gulag. – Haggard says if he was 21 in this society, he would identify himself as bisexual. – The only question Haggard wouldn’t answer was “Do you watch porn anymore”.  The response:  “Now we’re gettinginto what should happen between me, my wife, and my therapist.” – The picture of Ted kissing his wife in the hot tub, along with his family (and daughter in bikini) was just a little over the top for me. I know I will get emails for even mentioning this article at MMI.  I get no joy out of typing the above.  Actually, it makes me sad… and angry. Sad, because… well… this whole situation sucks.  Sin is so ugly.  And secret sin… when it is hidden (as it was in this instance, for years), has so many levels, becomes so mixed up, and so hypocritical.  Rarely, do we see anyone who has lived a secret sin life for this long, be able to fully come clean, repent, and accept the seriousness of their action.  That is the case with Ted.  Here’s a line in the article that I wish I would have written myself: Ted may be telling the truth, but his peculiar brand of self-victimization and protestation—in which every “I messed up” is followed by a “but… “—makes it hard for people in Colorado Springs to believe that he’s actually sorry for what he did. One former New Life member expressed what seems to be the general sentiment surrounding his resurgence: “I think Ted genuinely loves God, and I think he has a sincere interest in helping people, but I don’t believe a word that comes out of his mouth.” Wow… that sums it up for me.  The repentance seems to take a back seat for me whenever the self-victimization and the ‘but…’s come in. This also makes me angry because I know that this story is in GQ, and it will only reinforce stereotypes of Christians.  Having more details behind what went down with Ted’s fall only show how serious a hypocrite and sinner he was.  I don’t see much redeeming quality in that for Ted or the reader. But there is redeeming quality in it for those of us who work in the church.  We must not allow sin to ravage our lives.  You may not have the popularity and following that Ted Haggard had; but you do have people watching you.  If you work at the church, people expect a higher level of personal integrity and purity from you.  And when you fall, you’ll fall hard… whether you’re in a church of 50 or 10,000. If you’re reading this as a church leader, and your way in over your head in sin and there’s no way out… you’ve got to find a way.  It will be so much easier if you get help for yourself before someone else finds out and mandates that for you. So… take Ted’s story as an example of the need of personal integrity.  As a pastor, you’re honesty, integrity, and personal testimony are all you have.  When you lose them, it’s a slippery path to nowhere.  While none of us may fall as fast and hard as Haggard, it’s an important warning to check our motives, to keep our lives pure, and to not make excuses and allow sin to grab a stronghold in our lives. QUESTION:  What could be your downfall? Take some time today and consider this:  what could be your downfall if you aren’t careful.  Maybe for you it’s not sexual at all… maybe it’s another area:  integrity or honesty.  Maybe it’s financial impropriety.  Maybe it’s drugs or alcohol.  Maybe it’s that you really don’t want to be a pastor but you really don’t know what else to do.  We all have an area that could take us down if we gave in to it.  it’s important that we’re honest with ourselves about what those areas are.  If you need to talk with someone (a friend, your spouse, a counselor) about this one thing… do so today. Todd
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Outreach
When a church is in trouble, the warning signs become apparent and public:  Decreased attendance.  Increased conflict.  Power struggles.  A lack of financial viability.  They all contribute to the point that many churches eventually close.  But what happens when church’s close?  Michael Jinkins writes an interesting piece over at Faith & Leadership that asks the question:  “Who or what is capturingh the hearts of former adherents?” Jinkins gives us three choices: 1.  Galloping secularism 2.  Rampant modernity, or post-modernity, or post-postmodernity 3.  Other faiths 4.  That trendy church on the outkirts of town the campus of which looks like some corporate headquarters and “brands” itself with a non-religious moniker 5.  All of the above 6.  None of the above Actually, Jinkins thinks that the biggest competitor of the church today is henotheism.  Here’s how he describes henotheism:

Officially, henotheism is a sort of tribal worship. The “Oxford English Dictionary” defines it as the belief in a single deity belonging to an individual, a family, a tribe or a nation. Henotheism does not assert that there is only one god, just that this particular person or family or tribe or nation worships this particular god.

Jinkins continues: A generation ago H. Richard Niebuhr argued, “The chief rival to monotheism . . . is henotheism or that social faith which makes a finite society, whether cultural or religious, the object of trust as well as of loyalty and which tends to subvert even officially monotheistic institutions, such as the churches.” In other words, the culture itself (that invisible continuum in which we swim like fish in a water tank) becomes the object of adoration, veneration and worship. If Niebuhr is right, the chief competitor of the church in our times does not challenge the church directly. It does not need to challenge the church head on, but is insinuated into the lives and loyalties of our membership through seemingly benign sources — the many good things which should receive our relative loyalty and that only become bad things when they claim our absolute or ultimate allegiance. Henotheism isn’t a common word, but it may just be the most common faith of many Christians, a faith which converts not its adherents to strange or foreign gods, but that subtly replaces the worship of Jesus Christ with a lesser deity, while retaining all the trappings of Christian worship. The lesser deity is a threat because it is familiar, even homemade. One can find henotheism on the right and on the left, whether in the form of an “America first” mentality that gives narrow national interests the veto power over the radical claims of the gospel; or in the form of a civil religion enshrining certain assumptions of the Enlightenment that seek to ban altogether the vocabulary of faith from the public realm. Household gods tug at the coattails of Christians, demanding “you may go just that far with Jesus of Nazareth, but no farther.” What do you think?  What is the biggest competition for ‘church’ today?  And where do people actually go when churches officially shut their doors.  I’d love to hear your thoughts! Todd You can read more here
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