Monthly Archives: May 2009
my wife has long enjoyed watching the tlc program jon and kate plus eight. it follows a couple who had twins and then 2 or 3 years later had sextuplets. as you have probably heard, both jon and kate have been accused of having affairs. the other night, while i kept an eye online as the cubs lost their 8th game in a row, my wife and i watched the season premier of the show, which filmed the aftermath of the allegations, as well as the sextuplets 5th birthday.
towards the end of the episode, the cameraman asked each of them a question about the future, in particular their relationship. they both spoke of the importance of what they do individually for their kids and the importance of their kids in their lives. i really hope that they stay together and work through the issues that have come up for them.
it’s easy to look at others and point out flaws and blindspots. i have been a dad for less than two years and now have a second son in the mix. i love kate but sometimes find it easier to spend time and love jack (our 21 month-old) than kate. i don’t know why that is. i have heard, and tried to keep in the forefront of my mind, the parenting advice of – the best thing you can do as a parent is focus on your marriage.
how do keep your marriage in the front seat of your “family car”?
when i was associate pastor in a little church in northern california i focused primarily on the youth – jr high through college age. in one six-month period i was needed to preach a half-dozen times. i needed some great material that would really touch the lives of the small congregation. i had just finished reading a couple of john ortberg’s first books and aside from adding my own illustrations, used love beyond reason as the content of my messages.
geoff surratt admits his tendency to do this early on in his ministry in a rural texas church in chapter 7 of ten stupid things that keep churches from growing. this chapter looks at copying another successful church. “the problem i ran into was that unchurches harry and saddleback sam didn’t live in huffman, texas; we were surrounded by redneck bubba and unemployed eddie.” he says “the challenge is when we stop learning and start leaning; when we try to simply copy what we’ve seen in another successful ministry.”
geoff asks 4 questions to his readers to help find the unique niche that God has created you to fill:
- who are you?
- what can’t you stand?
- where is your church?
- who’s not going to your church?
God calls us to lead the specific ministry in the way he has wired us to lead. who are you called to lead and how do you lead them? comment below on how you figured out these two questions; i’ll randomly select one commentor and send them a free copy of ten stupid things and a journal with the cartoon of this chapter on the cover.
bill robinson is president of whitworth university and author of incarnate leadership. the book looks into 5 leadership lessons from the life of Jesus focusing in on john 1.14, “…and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…”. you can find out more about him at his website, incarnateleadership.com. he writes below asking how we as leaders are curved:
I’ve heard a lot of Christian leaders describe their leadership style as incarnational. It sounds good, quite spiritual, actually. But it takes a good bit of nerve when you think about it.
“What’s your leadership style?”
“Incarnational, of course.
“You mean like God becoming man?
“Yeah, that’s how I lead. I lead like God.”
Okay, “leading like God” is probably not what we mean, but we do long to pattern our lives and our leadership after Jesus. I’m sure that attaching the adjective “incarnational” to our leadership symbolizes our desire to lead from up close, the way Jesus did. But it’s not easy. As much as we try to narrow the gap between our positions and the people we lead, the anti-gravitational pull upward is powerful. Being Christians does not exempt us from the tug.
When John introduced Jesus to the world, the first thing he said about his leader was, “…and he dwelt among us.” John could have started with Christ’s love or with his salvation or with a lot of other virtues. But he didn’t. He started with Jesus’ address… “with us.”
It is clear. From John’s affectionate introduction to his affection in the upper room, we see how close he was to his leader. As leaders, we like John’s devotion. And it makes sense when we see how Jesus positioned himself among his followers. We’re amazed that the one at whose name every knee will bow, bowed at the feet of his followers. We know we should be like Jesus. We know we should curve toward the people we lead. We know being with them is better than hovering above them. But curving toward their midst does not represent the natural curvature of our falleness. Martin Luther was fond of quoting St. Augustine in describing the human condition as “curved in on ourselves.” I’m pretty sure the average leader’s inward curvature well exceeds that of the general population. Mine does. I’m president of a small university. People are interested in me. My wife says I am especially interested in me. Ouch. I want to be curved outward. I love the people I have been entrusted to lead, but sometimes my needs blind me to their needs. I forget how good it is to be in the midst of my co-workers. I’m busy thinking about me.
I think Christians in leadership know we should give our positions back to the God who chose to stoop, to the God who chose to dwell with his followers. We should do this because it is Christ-like. But we should also do this because it empowers those we lead. When my board chair steps out of his busy life simply to be with me, it inspires me. I learn from him. I realize he cares about me, and not just about my job performance. I become more aggressive in my work, because I know he is with me. We are all image descendents of a God who valued incarnation above all other redemption strategies. Our spiritual DNA moves us toward the magnetic force of leaders who chose to dwell among us.
Our greatest enemy in trying to dwell among those we lead is not our busy schedules; it is ourselves. Not long ago I encountered a faculty member who had just returned with 25 students from a life-changing experience in Africa. Somehow I failed to remember to ask about his trip. I did not, however, fail to remember to talk about my stuff and how I was doing. The grace with which he accepted my apology the next day reminded me that the people we lead are often too kind to tell us which way we are curved. If our focus keeps curving in on ourselves, then even when we are in the presence of those we lead, we will not really know them. We need to ask ourselves the questions that curve us toward our people. How much time do we spend with them? Are we eager to be in their presence? Do we make warm inquiries about their lives? What does our “me-them” conversational balance sheet look like? What opportunities are we missing simply to be in the presence of those whom we hope will have confidence in our leadership? I fear too often we fail to look very far beyond ourselves and our to do lists.
If we really want to lead like Jesus, we need to pray for his curvature – outward and downward. And if John is any indication, our people will love following a down and out leader.
we have been going through each chapter in geoff surratt’s new book, ten stupid things that keep churches from growing. chapter 6 looks into “clinging to a bad location.” each chapter has wisdom and advice from a well-respected pastor who knows of what he speaks. in this chapter, geoff interviews his brother greg, founding pastor of seacoast church. below is the profile in its entirety.
I am often asked what it is like working for my brother Greg Surratt. On the one hand, he is a good boss, a talented leader, and a visionary. On the other hand, he used to put me in painful wrestling holds until Mom would make him let me go. Since Mom made him start being nice to me a couple of years ago, working together at Seacoast has been a great experience. We try to keep the ministry and family stuff separate, but we are also able to cut through some of the communication barriers quicker than others because we are brothers. (Let’s just say we occasionally have intense fellowship.) Nepotism seems to work, at least for us.
Greg started Seacoast in 1988 with a group of about sixty people out of Northwood Assembly in Charleston, South Carolina. Each year for the first three years, the church averaged fewer people on the weekends than the year before, but in 1991 the church began to grow and never stopped. Today more than nine thousand people attend each weekend in thirteen locations across three states. During the growth Greg has become a student of what will and will not lead a church to grow, and he has had the opportunity to share that knowledge with hundreds of church planters and pastors. I knew he would have insight into finding the right location for your church.
What is the worst church location you have seen?
A church planter came to ask my advice one time about a location he was looking at in his community. He said that it was easy to find, had good visibility, ample parking, a great auditorium, some side rooms for kids, the price was right, and to top it all off it was nearly new and immediately available.
I asked him where one might find such a choice piece of real estate, to which he replied that it was actually a funeral home. “Not good,” I thought. “No wonder it’s available.”
How do you explain to a well-meaning, naive, amped-up church planter that a place so closely associated with death is probably not the best choice of locations to plant a “life-giving” church? I have friends who won’t even go to their friends’ funerals because the thought of being where dead people are creeps them out. How are you going to get them to come to a place like that weekly? Sounds like a marketer’s nightmare. Let’s use common sense here. He didn’t listen, and within a few months they wrote the obituary for the once promising vision.
How important is a good location to the growth of a church?
In retail it is location, location, location. In church work I would argue that it is Spirit of God, Spirit of God, Spirit of God. But, that said, location is pretty high on the rest of the list. I think that God primarily draws people to himself and to our churches, but part of our job as leaders is to remove potential barriers that stand in the way of people finding their way to God. Location is definitely a biggie when it comes to barriers. If you can’t find it, or wouldn’t want to go there if you could find it, that poses a pretty big barrier. So I’d say location is pretty important.
How important was Seacoast’s location to the growth in the early days?
When we were looking for a permanent location for Seacoast, we wanted something that would allow us to be both local and regional. Pretty presumptuous for a group of two hundred people, but they don’t charge extra for big dreams. Local meant that there were neighborhoods close by; we could actually be a part of the community. If it was too local, though, buried too deep in a neighborhood and not close to major traffic routes, we would have a hard time reaching beyond it. Regional meant that it was accessible to more than just the local neighborhoods. People could easily drive from other communities, so we weren’t limited to just the few blocks around us. If it was too regional, it would be easy to get to, but no one would live there. Think airports, factory areas, and coliseums. Unless you are Joel Osteen, and you are not, it still might not be the ideal location until your attendance is about ten thousand or so. We’ve made mistakes being too regional with new campus plants. Easy to get to, but nobody lived there.
I think our choice of location definitely made an impact on both early growth and future growth. We researched where we thought traffic patterns and housing starts would trend toward. It is still a great location that is easily accessible to most of the Charleston area.
What makes a bad location?
Lots of factors make a bad location: you can’t find it, you wouldn’t want to go there if you could find it, no one lives there (and probably won’t anytime soon), the neighborhood doesn’t match the vision of the church trying to minister to it.
What advice would you give to pastors whose churches are “stuck” in a bad location? What practical steps can they take?
Move on. Sometimes the best thing you can do is throw in the towel and go somewhere else. About ten years into the Seacoast experience, I had the bright idea of doing church in a larger auditorium that happened to be a Masonic Temple. At the risk of sounding disparaging to both Masons and temples, it turned out to be a very scary place. Being a visionary, I saw only the potential — more room, better parking, easy accessibility — and ignored the huge downsides — children’s ministry would be done in a bar, frightening pictures in the foyer, occasional raffles and events that would supersede church services. I even brought in Peter Wagner to pray over the temple, and then I declared it a perfect fit for Seacoast. After six months of pushing a rope uphill, I finally admitted that the “temple of doom” experiment was less than successful. I ate some Southern-fried crow and we moved on. If you are in a bad location and you can do it, move on, but if you can’t . . .
Get God’s heart. If you are truly stuck, then it is possible that God has a plan for you and your place of ministry that you are not aware of yet. It will probably involve a change in the way you are doing things. We seldom change just because it is a good idea, so part of the “stuckness” may be a nudge toward being open to something different. I know a pastor who felt stuck. He didn’t feel fulfilled in that he was doing nor very fruitful in ministry; very few people were coming, and he felt like he couldn’t move somewhere else. So, as a last resort, he sought God — what a novel idea — and got a fresh vision for his community. The vision involved changing the way they did ministry and reaching out to a segment of the community they had previously ignored. Now they’ve had to move a few blocks away to a public school because the numbers of people they are reaching won’t fit into their previous location. Always remember your ministry location is never a surprise to God. He may very well have you where you are because he desperately cares about the people who live there and he wants to recommission you to reach them. But it probably won’t be with the same old, same old. Sometimes the best thing you can do with a bad location is to get a fresh vision.
16 times in deuteronomy moses tells the israelites to remember all that the Lord has done for them. moses passes on and joshua leads the israelites. after joshua dies, however, one of the first things that is written is:
“the israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord; they forgot the Lord their God and served the baals and the asherahs.”
they did not remember all that the Lord had done for them, and they chased after false gods. how often do i do this? after all that Jesus has done – not only through salvation, but through blessing in my lfe – i sometimes forget and chase after something false. the other issue here is that as a father i should be passing down these rememberances to my boys, so they don’t forget.
what do you want your kids to remember about Jesus? as for me, i will pass down that he has sustained us through 3 periods of unemployment in 7 years; blessed me with a career i love at a fantastic company; delevered me from an addiction to pornography; and kept kate and i together during a rocky first 2 years of marriage. there are a host of other blessings and deliverances, but those are the major ones.
the prophet samuel recognized the value of remembering all that the Lord had done for israel. in 1 samuel 7, “samuel took a stone and set it up between mizpah and shen. he named it ebenezer, saying, “thus far has the Lord helped us.” what do you have in your life or home that helps you remember how the Lord has helped you?
what do you not want yourself or your children to forget about how God has worked in the life of your and your family?
recently larry osborne answered some questions about his book, sticky church. you can see his answers below.
1. Your new book has an engaging title! Explain it.
Sticky Church is all about finding a way to keep people long enough to fulfill the second half of the Great Commission, “Teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
That can’t be done in a revolving door ministry. We’ve focused on how to open the front door wider. But we’ve paid scant attention to the backdoor – to the point the some of the best front door churches are unaware of their huge back door. Sticky Church is a proven strategy to slam the back door shut and keep it shut.
2. What works best in your own church when it comes to recruiting and training leaders?
Ministry is addictive. There’s nothing like seeing God work through you. That’s why we always recruit leaders by asking for a small, doable, bite-sized step of leadership rather than a big assignment that scares people off. Once someone takes the first small step of leadership, the Holy Spirit takes it from there.
The same holds true for our training of leaders. We find bite-sized training in the midst of their task (an apprentice model) works best. It gives them what they need when they need it rather than overloading new leaders with too much information on the front end of their service.
3. Tell us about the Holy Man myth.
The Holy Man myth is the antithesis of the priesthood of the believers. It’s the idea that the mantle of leadership means that a leader’s prayers and access to God are greater than everyone else’s’. It kills lay ministry and turns the church into a spectator sport.
4. As you interact with pastors and small group leaders, what are they saying about the Small Group Covenant?
Leaders love the covenant because it gives them something to hold people accountable to. Without a group covenant it’s hard to hold the group member who always arrives late, unprepared or otherwise wrecks the group accountable for their actions. The covenant acts as a reminder of what’s expected around here.
5. What other insights would you like to share with pastors and churchgoers?
Sticky Church is call to start measuring retention rates as carefully as we measure signup rates. Ultimately, retention is one of the simplest and best measurements of organizational health – without it, it’s hard to really change people and bring them to full maturity in Christ.
today is the blog tour for dino rizzo’s new book servolution which is part of the leadership network innovation series. you can visit dino’s blog for a list of all the blogs that are participating in the tour. anne jackson is giving away copies of the book on her blog, and you can also win copies here. i’ll give away 6 copies each to 4 random people who comment below on how they have reached out with their small group to their community. you can then use the book within your small group and glean new insights on how to reach out and continue a servolution within your community.
for taste, here’s a sampler for the leadership network innovation series with full sample chapter from each of the 8 books. servolution is the final chapter in this sampler:
[scribd id=13670956 key=key-ucdru5930b1tt2yag7e]
last night my small group started a new study. we will be going through the dvd curriculum of philip yancey’s what’s so amazing about grace? we read a familiar story and one that philip tells in the book:
a prostitute came to me in wretched straits, homeless, sick, unable to buy food for her two-year old daughter. through sobs and tears, she told me she had been renting out her daughter – two-years old! – to men…and made more renting out her daughter for an hour than she could earn on her own in a night. she had to do it, she said, to support her own drug habit. i could hardly bear hearing her sordid story….i had no idea what to say to this women.
at last i asked if she had ever thought of going to a church for help. i will never forget the look of pure, naive shock that crossed her face. ”church!” she cried. ”why would i ever go there? i was already feeling terrible about myself. they’d just make me feel worse.”
the question in the study guide immediately following this asked: why is it so hard to extend grace in this situation?
the problem arises for me in the minor annoyances. for instance, our neighbors are incredibly noisy. people are always coming and going, honking their horns, kids screaming and being screamed at. sometimes they have been loud enough to wake up our kids from their naps (which is always pleasant). this is a minor and common problem, yet i feel more apt to show grace to the child protituter than my neighbor.
my question is, why is it so hard to extend grace? and how have you learned to be grace-full?
Jesus exuded grace – to children, disciples, prostitutes, and executioners. for me, it’s not the fantastically awful people i have difficulty extending grace to, it’s those people who annoy me, or rub me the wrong way.
what practices do you have that help you live more graciously? how have you learned to extend grace like Jesus?