Thursday, September 25, 2003

Observations from a Reader

Duke, as I was reading your blogs, I feel the Lord showed me something. It's really no big deal, but it might shed some light on a "problem" we sometimes have as far as being spiritually ready on Sunday morning when we are ministering in music. I think, I know me, I go to church on that particular morning, not as a minister, but as a MUSICIAN. I'm acting like a musician, thinking like a musician, and getting prepared to perform as a musican, not as a MINISTER. If we can make that transition, after all these years, and try to THINK like a minister of the Gospel, which we are, and not as a musician, I think it would make a big difference. Just a thought..................Jerry

Reply from Duke........
I think you're exactly right...
Think about what we practice... music... production...
All of those things are important and we have to focus on them... but we should also practice the presence of God and the art of preparation. We don't prepare spiritually very well. As a preacher I would never have considered stepping on the platform without preparing myself spiritually, emotionally... nor would I have preached without rehearsing my message to some degree... but with music its easy to think I can "wing it"... Step up, show me a chord chart, and lets go... but your observation is correct, we are ministers before we are musicians... or at least we are both integrated into one function... music minister... and both aspects must be consciously nurtured.
Good thoughts....

Monday, September 22, 2003

Small Churches

I ministered this weekend in a small church in central Louisiana. How small? Sunday morning there were a dozen people in service. What struck me about the group, however, was not how small they were... but how serious they were about quality. This small group had a church building in which they had spent some time and money on presentation. Their outside facade was clean and inviting, giving the appearance of a more expensive facility... their foyer was beautiful... the sanctuary was small but well done... nice chairs... neat, clean... stage was well done... sound was good. Obviously these descriptions are somewhat relative to the church size and style but it was impressive for that body in that community.

I have been in so many small churches (and have pastored a few) where the lack of size seemed to give an excuse for sloppiness. I mean, if we're just a big (or small) happy family then we don't really have to focus on things like preparation, childcare, nice chairs, trimmed stages, quality lighting, starting time... since we all know each other we don't 'put on airs' and try to impress. We don't try to be something we're not.

The fact is that we will almost guarantee our church will remain small by adopting this type of attitude. There are, of course, many reasons a church doesn't grow... but chief among those reasons is the lack of expectation or commitment to growth... and that is going to be reflected in the way you prepare yourself and your church for newcomers.

I am a firm believer that you get a vision of the kind of church you want to be... or, better yet, that God wants you to be... and then you begin to act like that kind of church. If that means you're to be a small body that ministers to a finite group then start doing that. If you see a large body impacting the community in grand ways... then begin doing the things you see in that vision. Expectations for growth facilitate growth... do the things from the beginning that you want to be doing in the end. If you see 500 people with a powerful children's ministry then you need to start focusing on children's ministry while you're still 50 people. If ministry to the poor is a major piece of your plan then you need to start ministry to the poor the day you open your doors. It may not have the full scope you want to get to but you must begin building it into the DNA of your church.

I even believe that a church that believes in planting other churches needs to plan to do so even when they themselves aren't fully planted... it begins creating an expectation... this is what we do and its not so much at our convenience as it is our commitment to the ideal.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

More on Vision

I have heard well known speakers recently indicate that an articulated vision is not as important as many other things with regard to growing a church (or other organization). Other areas of more importance might be community and relationship or personal growth & discipleship. Although I definitely agree that other things are very important and their absence would cripple growth and health I do not believe there is any one thing that cements a group and all of its activities together as well as an articulate vision.

What do I mean by articulate vision? I mean 1.) a vision of the future for the group that each member can put into words... 2.) a vision they can share with others outside of the group... and 3.) a vision that everyone in the group says in essentially the same language.

If the vision is not defined in such a way that it can be easily communicated then the chances of it being miscommunicated are high. I've heard leaders share their vision in so many different ways that the vision often sounded in opposition to previous versions. This isn't really because the vision had changed, more likely because the words used were not rehearsed in such a way as to insure a consistency in the message.

As a church we are nothing without our message. I believe in community and totally agree that it is the life and purpose of the church, but our message is our heartbeat. We must have a message and we must deliver that message. We must teach that message so we can reproduce that message.

I went to a small church in Northwest Arkansas for several years that excelled at this. As simple as it was they always defined themselves as "The Church that Love is Building". I tend to think more elaborately than this but in its simplicity this phrase was not looked upon as a slogan but as a mission. Every member in the church and many nonmembers thoughout the community could tell you what that church was about. As the church grew from a couple of hundred to near 1000 it never changed the filter by which it viewed its mission.

What is your vision for the future? Can you share it? Can you plant it in someone else? John Maxwell says we should paint our picture on the heart of someone else... Not just show them our picture but help them integrate it with their own. Give it language..

Years ago when I was first entering the ministry I asked one of my mentor's how to go about planting a church. His reply... "Tell your story to everyone you meet" Your story is your vision... where are you going? Know how to tell it and teach others to tell it with you.