Category Archives: Church

So many church plants

There is a plethora of church plants occurring in Perth at the moment. It seems like every week on Facebook there is a new shiny church springing up at a community centre or high school near you. The websites look good, the worship team seems fully formed and the pastors are passionate about reaching our city for Jesus.

Studies tell us that percentage wise more people become Christians during the formative years of a church than at any other time. So perhaps this is a good thing.

Some in church leadership have the gifting and the charisma to be effective in church growth. One easy measure of effectiveness in ministry is people on pews. This measure is not to be disregarded. Generally speaking we count what is valuable to us. Indeed the early church was well aware of the number of people who came to know Jesus on a particular day (Acts2.41).

New churches springing up is something we should celebrate, just as we mourn the passing and closing down of churches. Unfortunately  in a dying churches history they have moved from vision and growth to management. Once a church has moved away from the upward scale of mission they plateau and move into the downward cycle of maintenance. Creatives move from such churches and are naturally attracted to the new, the fresh. They take their energy with them. Those who stay in dying churches decry this but only have themselves to blame. For them, the pain of change is too much to bear, so they choose the pain of slow painful death. Without change, a church will die. And the life will go elsewhere.

Likewise though, we cannot only keep moving from the new thing to the next new thing. That is exhausting and a waste of hard gained resource. Instead, somehow, the vision and the mission must be kept in the drivers seat. Creativity and passion must be stoked.

Character is actually the answer for balance. Character will cause you to make decisions which are contextual and yet have the same result. In some case, new life must rise from the ashes. In other cases strength will push new life out in new ways. In other cases the little strength you have will be able to be harnessed through deep painful change.

Ministry with friends

Yesterday was a great day in the life of my church, Inglewood Church.

I had some good friends come and do ministry at both our services. Afterwards we shared some food and laughs together.

It reminds me of a principle another good friend always reiterates. He leads the Mighty Mens Conference in Australia, and I help with promotion and web support. Like me, he is a pastor. One of his favourite sayings is that he chooses speakers and people to minister with on the basis of relationship.

As people we are made for relationship. As a Pastor and leader I choose to minister with friends and people I enjoy being with. I choose those who will come and share the platform I have been given with those I like and know.

So often when you have a platform, people want to come and be given it. With no understanding of the work and trust they are just asking you to give them. Because they have something they feel is important. Often times that ends in disaster.

But when you minister and lead with friends, with those who you know and trust, there can be true joy and trust. Like yesterday.

A good day.

The Pressure on Pastors

Ever since Bill Hybels said that church leadership was the hardest form of leadership the question of how much pressure there is on Pastors has been brought to light.

On Sunday night I was chatting with someone who has been in and around pastoral ministry all her life. She told me the story of how when she was a teenager there was a discussion at a church meeting which revolved around the Pastors salary. One man stood up and said that the pastors salary needed to be low because he could not be allowed to earn any more than anyone in the church. They discussed how the Pastor needed to be a humble servant, like Jesus. If they earnt more than someone else in the church there might be resentment or even worse, pride in the heart of the pastor.

Now this post is not about a pastors salary. It is about the pressure on the pastor. In those days the pastor was expected to visit everyone in the church, to be involved wholeheartedly in their lives. Things have changed. The pressure comes at a different point.

The pressure is now on the pastor is to be overseeing a large growing church. To be, and here is the contentious word, succesful. Along with the wonderful resource that the internet and media has brought us has also come examples world-wide of your pastors failing. How come the worship is not as inspiring as Hillsong? How come the preaching is not as stirring as Furtick or as deep as Ortberg? How come we are not growing like Saddleback or Willow Creek?

Even pressure to be like the church down the road. The worst words a Pastor hears on a Monday is, ‘this church is just not meeting our needs”. As the family you have cared for takes themself off the roster and moves on to the shiny building down the road your heart sinks.

Reality is that success also brings pressure. To continue to grow, to make each year bigger than the last. And more people with more needs and their own desire to be successful are attracted to you. It can also cover up the need for character. All is forgiven if the pastor is successful. We eat on the fat of success and forgive character flaws because of it.

Everyone has pressure in their work. Everyone. And how could I as a pastor know what pressure there is being something else? From the CEO caring for multiple employees to the nurse caring for grumpy patients to the teacher trying to impart knowledge to disinterested teenagers. Perhaps a unique challenge in being a pastor is that everyone who calls themself a Christian really truly deeply care about their faith, their spirituality, their children’s faith.

And  a pastor who is worth their salt will care about that too. There should be pressure on us. We are leading what is meant to be the primary organisation in the world. If Apple corporation does not get the next iPhone right they might fail financially. If the Church does not get its role right, the world will be in even more pain than it is.

So I suppose I am calling for a radical middle. A radical balance. No one wants a pastor who doesn’t care about their church and their community. Who isn’t aiming to be effective, skilled and fruitful. But equally, no one wants a pastor who fails, drops out, burns out and is rendered ineffective. Perhaps what a Pastor needs is grace. Grace to do their ministry, grace when they mess up, grace when they are not as good as the pastor down the road. Grace which resources.

And this is something we can all relate to.

The best leaders get robust feedback

It has been said that the best leaders are followers.

Others have put it this way, that the best leaders surround themselves with people better than them, particularly in certain areas.

In my team I have staff who are better than me at different areas. My worship pastor, young as she is, talks to me about stage transitions and on stage dynamics. I dutifully listen, because she is more than often right. Other staff members bring skill and thoughts to bear which make our church better.

Being a listener as a leader is the biggest skill I can bring. This can only work if I am not insecure. An insecure leader cannot listen because instead they need to control. After a couple of decades in varying stages of leadership I like to think I am not insecure. I know who I am, who God has made me, and more than that, I want to be better.

Sometimes robust feedback might be annoying. But you have to listen and reflect upon this. Is it annoying because it means you need to change? We like to see change, but change in ourselves is difficult.

In a church context we as leaders are not the point. Jesus is the head of the church. And what matters most is the church. Not us. Not our comfort. This is hard to take because if we are honest we generally like to make sure we are looked after. I have seen leaders reduce their church greatly because they have made it about them.

I believe all leaders should be listeners. It makes them better leaders.

This is the future of church lyrics

Recently I came across this video from Cold Chisel.

The lyrics are not edifying. Let me say that first up so please don’t be offended. The video was posted by Cold Chisel themself and is featured in their live concerts.

It is probably the most popular Australian Rock song of all time by a seminal group. Most Australians could sing along to at least part of this song, but getting the lyrics exactly right could be a stretch. Its the highlight of any Cold Chisel concert, and its basically a huge sing a long where the band and Jimmy play lead conductor. Bit like a contemporary worship service actually!

Which brings me to my point. Note how the lyrics are displayed. One or two sentences, moving backgrounds, emotive, warm, encompassing, contemporary. Better than most. An example of how sometimes contemporary culture is doing it better. A challenge for the church would be getting the timing just right in order to use such a medium. So often our lyrics are displayed more statically, and we like to have a sense of freedom, where if we want to do the chorus twice, we will! But I am sure we could get around that somehow.