chchchchanges

bowie

I have a list of 5 people I’d like to see perform before I die…David Bowie is one of them…but that’s beside the point. This post is about CHANGE. Ahh yes…my favorite subject. I love change in the context of church life, because it’s an essential part of effective ministry, yet our ministries are centered around a God who NEVER changes. I don’t know about you, but I find that fascinating.

If God never changes, then why should we? If God is perfection, shouldn’t we strive to be just as perfectly unchanging as He is? There’s the key…God IS perfection…and we ARE NOT. Ministry must change and move at a constant in order to effectively and consistently engage an imperfect and shifting culture. Churches are dying by the thousands in an attempt to hold on to an unchanging philosophy. Communities are looking everywhere BUT the church to find hope and real answers in troubling times. God hasn’t changed. His love, mercy, compassion and heart for His people is as intense and alive as ever, the problem is, the church hasn’t changed much either.

I came to Christ in 1980 because of a week at camp where God became real to me. I had a counselor who invested consistent one on one time with me over the week. He told me about God in a way that made sense to a 10 year old boy. He didn’t speak “christianese” or lay down a bunch of legalistic rules and regulations. He didn’t make me take communion, or memorize 100 verses or sit through a years worth of flannel-graph driven Sunday school classes. He simply formed a relationship, molded his approach and shared how God had changed his life. If I had been a 20 year old, He would have approached things differently, but I wasn’t. I was just a kid. A kid who needed Jesus and He made sure I could understand that.

It seems so simple doesn’t it? If the church could change from religion to relationships…from rules to relevancy…from Christianese to real language, amazing things would happen. There are so many churches that are doing just that and hitting it out of the park right now. Lives are being transformed all over the planet, but there are many more that are continuing to swing and miss over and over again. I have a hard time believing that God designed His church to be so small minded.

Maybe that’s the problem right there. When the church is run by our thinking, vision, strategy and purpose, it lives and dies with us. Think what would happen if God’s church as a whole got over itself. Now THAT would be a change!

What’s Your Strategy?

strategy

Momentum in ministry is a really big deal. All it takes is one wrong turn and the sails deflate, the vision blurs and you and your team find yourselves in search of direction. This past week has been a strategy check for me. Even though I have 4 incredible music teams, a flourishing tech team, a great creative team, a new Music Director and a Partridge in a pear tree, I know that we are one mis-step away from losing all of this forward motion.

I’ve spent the last several days rethinking everything we do creatively at Sunnybrook. Even though we seem to be firing on all cylinders at the moment, what we do now may not be what’s best around the corner. Ministry, environment, technology, culture, perception…everything is changing and changing constantly. If we fail to strategize, we may fail on a much larger scale down the road.

For us, this kind of planning will take shape in specific ways…for you, it may flesh itself out differently. The important thing is that we strive to be ahead of the curve. We need to be leading the change instead of catching up to it all the time. More details coming soon.

10 Things I’m Convinced Are True

10

Straight talk is better than beating around the bush.

Ministries falter when they become more concerned with popularity than their God given mission.

Insisting on having all original ideas is a pride issue. There’s a wealth of knowledge out there…use it!

Creativity is a gift from a creative God. Leveraging that creativity for the gospel is putting the arm of God in motion.

God doesn’t give fuzzy vision. If you’re not clear where God is leading your organization, you’re probably missing the obvious.

Offering anything but our all is short changing God.

Striving towards your God given vision is going to make some people unhappy…count on it!

People will disappoint you…and you will disappoint people.

If you don’t care about what’s happening outside the 4 walls of your church, I can promise you…you’re missing the call of God.

You can’t lose momentum if you’re striving passionately towards the vision.

Decisions, Decisions…

decision

Decision aren’t always easy to make. Sometimes we waffle back and forth for days just trying to come to some kind of conclusion. Ministry decisions can be even harder. Every decision you make needs to line up with the vision of your organization. That, along with the knowledge that the decisions you make could effect your team, your congregation and ultimately the community you’re called to reach, can render decision making an exhausting exercise. Here are a few things that have always helped me out along the way…

Pray – This seems like the obvious“Christianese” thing to say, but how often do we forget to bring our decision making process before the throne of God? How often do we make “shot in the dark” choices without seeking His guidance?

Counsel – Don’t make the tough decisions alone. Get with your team and weigh your options together. More often than not, the right choice is found in the midst of fellowship.

Go Slow – Don’t rush a decision simply because you don’t want to look like you can’t figure out what to do. Sometimes God needs us to slow down and work through the finer nuances of a situation before we move forward.

Consider the Cost – Weigh out what this decision means in regards to your team, congregation and ministry target. Sometimes the answer you’re looking for is found in considering it’s impact on those you serve.

Humility – Sometimes we simply get it wrong. We make a decision and somewhere down the road realize we blew it. Be humble enough to admit you made the wrong choice and work hard to find an alternative.

Choose – In the end, if you’re a leader, people are looking to you for direction, vision and decision making. You don’t have the luxury of sitting back and choosing to do nothing. Seek God and make a choice…to decide nothing is not an option.

It’s not always easy to lead a ministry. We’re all human and we will all fall short as leaders, you can count on it. However, if you seek God, surround yourself with a great team and strive towards the vision God has given you, you’ll find that your decisions hit the target consistently.

Knock It Off!

stop

Are you trying to please everyone? Are you trying to create worship environments that yield absolutely NO complaints from anyone within a 100 mile radius? Are you trying to hit every style, taste,  look and sound possible week in and week out? Are you trying to avoid the dreaded comment card (that generally isn’t very complimentary) with your name on it? – Well…KNOCK IT OFF!

Ministry isn’t about keeping everyone happy all the time. It’s about striving towards the vision that God has laid out for your organization. Ministry isn’t about catering to the court of public opinion…it’s about meeting the needs of the community God has placed on your heart. Ministry isn’t about making half hearted decisions in an effort to keep people off your back, it’s about making gutsy calls and difficult choices that line up with the will of God…even if there may be “fall out” to deal with down the road.

When God called you into ministry, He NEVER promised it would be easy. He NEVER promised there wouldn’t be struggles…and He NEVER promised that everything He asks of you would be “popular” with the people you are called to serve. Ministry is a challenging and often difficult journey, that isn’t for the faint of heart. If you find yourself making decisions based on a “popularity meter”, you’re missing the whole point of what God has called you to do. The bible is filled with story after story of people who became “unpopular” for the cause of Christ…and we are certainly called to do no less when it is asked of us.

Questions

question

If I’ve learned anything over my years in ministry, it’s to not be afraid to ask questions. There are a lot of benefits to understanding the “why” behind the “what”. I’ve also learned that there are no stupid questions. Sometimes, we’re simply not on the same wavelength as everyone else and we need to ask our way towards understanding.

We had a great example of this here at Sunnybrook last week. We’re launching a series later this fall centered around 3 facets of God (Father, Forgiver and Friend). My creative team jumped all over this one and we had some great ideas right off the bat…but we just couldn’t make it all fit together. As we read through the series outline from our Sr. Pastor, we realized we were missing some of the pieces…we didn’t quite get where he was wanting to take the series. So…we asked. We had him sit in with us at the next creative team meeting and within 30 minutes had a total understanding of the vision behind this series. If we hadn’t of asked, we would have fell short. The creative pieces wouldn’t have matched the vision and the effectiveness of the message would have been muted.

As leaders, not only do we need to willingly ask questions, we also need to be receptive to questions being asked of us. The same principle applies. If your team doesn’t have a clear understanding of the vision behind the mission, then your success as a ministry will be muted.

There’s one simple rule to follow: When in doubt…ask.

Understanding Passion

passion

If there’s one thing ministries need more of it’s passion. Passion for their calling, passion for their art, passion for their people and passion for God. Try to lead towards a vision without passion. Try to invest in relationships without passion. Try to seek God without passion. I’m telling you…it can’t be done. Without passion, we end up relying on our own abilities to make things happen, which eventually leaves us falling short.

Granted, passion isn’t something you wake up and decide to have. True passion is found when we dive into God’s story and play the part He has chosen for us. True passion is found when we walk down the center of His will and calling on our lives. True passion is found when we lose ourselves in the pursuit of God. If you’ve lost your passion for ministry (or if you’ve never had much of it to begin with), it’s time for a perspective change. I can almost guarantee if you’re not passionate in your ministry, then your ministry has become about you. I’ve been here before, more times than I care to admit. We get tired, run down and frustrated. It’s in those moments that we begin to shift our focus off our calling and on to the miserable state we find ourselves in. It’s an easy trap to fall into.

The key is to dive in even harder. Allow your frustration to be leveraged into action. Allow your tiredness to be leveraged into a deeper time with God. Take your eyes off of you and allow them to catch a glimpse of what it is God is asking of you.

There…you will find passion!