Is excellence killing the church?

Why we need more good churches and fewer excellent ones.

If you regularly attend church conferences you will no doubt hear the rallying cry for excellence in the church. In some ways this is a good thing. I am all for pastors working hard and doing all they can do to reach people with the greatest message ever told. Where excellence starts to kill the church is when we make our church a polished flawless exhibition that we invite people to be impressed by.

When the church takes its cue from the business world and perfects its processes so that it can extend its reach and solidify its brand we have lost our way.

When excellence drives us to be efficient with people so we can be innovative with problems we are no longer the church we are simply a 501c3.

The Hidden Danger of Leading in a Large Church.

Large church and small churches both have challenges. Small churches are usually struggling to grow large while large churches struggle to find ways to be small. There are leadership challenges in every church of every size. One of the challenges I have found from being on the staff of a church that has grown over the past several years is the danger of overspecialization. When you work in a small church, you are forced to be the jack of all trades. You have to prepare a message for Sunday, do marriage counseling, and perform a funeral all in the same week. In a large church, you often have enough staff that you can focus on what you are best at and learn to do that very well. If the church were a business, this idea of focusing on what you do best would be a great idea, but the church is not a business. One side effect of the church borrowing so heavily from the business world and leadership gurus is that the church now has more middle managers than pastors. When as a Pastor you only do what you are good at you run the risk of building the church but losing your soul.

Leading by doing only the things we are good at most often leads us down the path of unintentional self-reliance. Somewhere along the line, we cross from God-dependence to self-reliance, and when that line is crossed the church starts to die and so do we. The scariest reality is that your church could continue to grow even as it is dying, and we never figure it out until it’s too late. Pastors are not CEO’s and understanding your strengths is important, but the Bible tells us that leading in the way of Christ is different even appear foolish to those who may be looking from the outside in. How does the Bible say we are to lead? I believe the Bible goes out of its way to show us that we are to lead from our weakness. Leading from our strength may make us more effective but I don’t think it makes us more dependent. There is something about leading in an area we are weak in that reminds us of what has always been true we are weak, and he is strong. We see from Scripture and understand from experience that when we feel the strongest that’s when we are the most weak. It is when we feel our weakest that we lean most on the only person who can sustain us. My fear is that in the modern church when we talk of growth, management, and effectiveness, we fail to talk about dependence, hope and peace.

The pastoral obsession with CEO’s

Let me start with this disclaimer. I love Harvard Business Review and have read many books on business and leadership. I also believe that pastors should be good leaders they should strengthen that muscle because leadership matters. How you lead matters.

Here is where I get frustrated. I have talked to many pastors and the lion share of books they read are leadership/business books. I think there is a danger here. I know because I have seen it in myself far more often than I wish. The problem is our goal is not a bottom line that has to be maintained no matter what. The goal of pastoral ministry in my mind is two-fold 1. To train those we lead to do the work of the ministry 2. To make Jesus beautiful to everyone we encounter and grow His kingdom not ours.

When we have an unhealthy obsession with CEO’s we treat people we are called to pastor and lay our lives down for as though they were objects to be used and discarded. When we are CEO obsessed we are more concerned with building our own kingdom at massive cost to Christ’s kingdom. How can we as pastors lead without being led by the holy spirit into a passionate pursuit of knowing Jesus? When things become our treasure we do whatever we can to guard that treasure and people suffer. Tim Keller says it so well when he defines idolatry as being so often “Good things we make ultimate things.” When Christ is our treasure we live for the glory of Jesus. As a pastor, if your reading of books outside of scripture don’t reflect a passion to know Christ, crucified and risen than something is wrong.

We cheapen the gospel by trying to market it and not allowing it to change and transform us. A pastor who has been transformed by the gospel will be driven to know Jesus. As I type this I mourn the years I thought being known by others would bring the fulfillment that can only be found by being hidden in Christ. In 1 Timothy Paul reminds us that “Godliness with contentment is great gain.”

Pastor you are not called to be a brilliant CEO but a broken follower redeemed by grace who longs for eternity, not for the streets of gold but for the joy of sinless worship before a sinless Savior. The thing about the gospel is it will compel you to do things a CEO would never do. The gospel tells me gain comes through loss. If want to keep my life I must lose it. The gospel will demand things of you that defy logic in human terms.

1 Corinthians 1:18

18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

 

Just say NO!

This is something I struggle with given my personality I don’t like to let people down so I always end up doing to much. I have found the more knowledge and giftedness you have in any area of life will always lead to people wanting more and more of your time and energy. I have to be better at knowing my limits and knowing my priories.

Here is a steller blog post from Michael Hyatt the CEO of Thomas Nelson who I am sure has to say no like it’s his job. I always appreciate Michael’s blog posts his leadership stuff is great and I to am an Evernote fanboy. Here are a couple of points he had from his blog post make sure click on over to his site and read the whole thing.

I have now resolved to say “no” to everything unless there is a really, really compelling reason to say “yes.” In other words, I have switched my default response from “yes” to “no.”

Sure enough, I have getting plenty of opportunities to practice!

As I was thinking about this today, I was reminded again of why it is so important—not only for me, but probably for you as well. I wrote down five reasons.

If we don’t get better at saying “no,”

  1. Other peoples’ priorities will take precedence over ours.
  2. Mere acquaintances—people we barely know!—will crowd out time with family and close friends.
  3. We will not have the time we need for rest and recovery.

 

Three Signs of a Miserable Job.

Just finished reading this book had avoided it simply because if you are happy with your job reading a book like this doesn’t look the best to your co-workers. I wish I would have read this book years ago. It was amazing. Patrick Lencioni is an extremely gifted writer. About 2/3 of the book is a fable the last 1/3 he delves into the principles he revealed in the fable. In the book Lencioni outlines the three things that every manager must do to make sure their employees love their work and do their jobs in a way that reflects that fact. I want to break down each sign and talk about how they apply to children’s ministry.  Below is a brief summery of the whole book done by getabstract.com.

Business books take many forms, but seldom are they fables. Patrick Lencioni breaks the mold with this charming book about a manager who turns his workers’ miserable jobs into fulfilling ones. He presents the fictional story of Brian Bailey, a big-hearted CEO who gets bought out, finds retirement dull and tries managing a seedy pizza parlor where the employees hate their jobs. Bailey quickly changes everything by the way he treats the shop’s people. Later he works his magic as the new CEO of a failing retail sporting-goods company with a ruinously high turnover rate, where his humane techniques turn things around again. Lencioni’s book is fun to read; its fable is touching yet credible. He reinforces important lessons all managers should know about getting the best from the people who work for them by providing empathy and recognizing the meaning of their work. If you are up for a parable,getAbstract recommends this engaging book. It spotlights a clear axiom: Treat people humanely and they will do as you wish – a valuable lesson for any manager or, indeed, anyone at all  (Quote taken from getabstract.com)