Thursday, February 18, 2016

Three People in Your Church

I have discovered there are three types of people in every church—customers, owners, and investors. Your members will be motivated based on the group to which they belong.

1.  Customers – When we think about customers, we first think about a consumer who never wants to contribute. However, a customer is simply a person who comes to church for what is in it for them and their family. When searching for a church, most will be asking questions such as, “Do I fit in? Is the Word being preached? Do I like the music? Can I make friends here? Do they have programs for my children?” We want to know the “value” the church has to our life. If people stay at the customer level, they will never have a commitment to the church or its vision.

An apt illustration is when we go to a restaurant we really enjoy. We notice there is a new menu—and with it price changes. Now the steak you want is more expensive. The value has changed. You don’t complain, you simply eat your meal and don’t go back. 

Like a restaurant customer, the church customer may join and participate in activities. However, he is there because the value is good for him. When the price gets too high (giving, serving) or the perceived value is lowered, he does not usually cause problems—he just leaves.

2.  Owners – I love owners. They are usually committed to the church and have demonstrated loyalty and heart to serve. However, if there are problems in a church, it will usually come from owners. When the value changes for owners, they do not leave graciously, they complain or even revolt. If your favorite restaurant is one where you meet your friends every week, or have been a local patron for many years, you are not immediately going to try somewhere else. You may try to appeal to the manager, but if, in the end, you are not satisfied you will be upset and decide to go elsewhere.

When change occurs, those who are owners will often appeal humbly in the beginning. However, owners are the ones who eventually write the letter to the congregation, sign petitions, and gather followers to their cause. I recall when the music changed at one church, a member approached the worship leader, and with great anger said, “I can’t believe you stole my church!” Owners are motivated by their love for the church and their need to remain at a comfort level with change.

3.  Investors – These are the owners in the church who have bought into the vision and desire the kingdom to grow through the church. They want to invest their lives in the eternal. These investors can be compared to those who have either financially invested in the restaurant or vested in an emotional way. They seek solutions to problems and look to the future welfare of the business.

The investor in the church is usually an owner who sees beyond himself, through the eyes of God. He does not ask how a decision in the church will affect him, but how it will affect reaching the non-believer. The investor is motivated by vision—one that expresses love for God and others.

As pastors, we need to recognize where people are in their journey. Then we need to lead them to step up and become an investor in the kingdom. Only then will they grow to become loyal Christians who truly follow the Lord’s heart.

What do you think?

Friday, February 12, 2016

Leadership by the Pitch

Over my 30 plus years of ministry, God has taught me much about leadership. Life experiences in the pastorate have brought many lessons, some of which I would like to share with you over the next few weeks.

The first is that I need to lead by the pitch. During my pastorate in Atlanta, I had the privilege of planting a church. Even as I look back, I feel my motives were good. I wanted to reach people for Christ and help them grow in their faith. The church grew rapidly the first five years. However, the area where the church was located began to change, and church growth became more difficult. Being a highly driven person, I placed tremendous pressure on myself to top the successes of the previous years. I began to take greater ownership of “my church.” The once godly motives had turned into a pressure to perform. My joy for ministry was waning.

When God convicted my heart of the error of my way, I relinquished that ownership and began to relax my ambitions. I turned the ownership over to God. I was no longer a slave to success, but the pendulum swung too far—there became a leadership void in the church.

Jesus said, "And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it." (Matthew 16:18)  Paul added, "I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth." (I Corinthians 3:6) Realizing I had backed away too far, I asked God to define my role as a pastor/leader.  Since only Christ can grow the church, what was to be my part?

God gave me the answer in a most unusual place.  I was reading a newspaper interview with Atlanta Braves pitcher, Greg Maddox.  Maddox was in the midst of winning four consecutive Cy Young awards, as the league's best pitcher.  At the time, he was pitching well but the Braves were not scoring enough runs for him to win consistently.  The reporter asked, "What is the problem?" Maddox’ response was, "It's not up to me to win the game, but to make the right pitches." That was it!  It's not up to me to grow the church, but to obey God and allow Him to use me in a pastoral leadership role. The pressure is not on me to win the game, but to obey Him in each step He desires me to take. I am to work hard and make the pitch the best one I can throw. God calls the pitch, we make it, but He ultimately wins the game. This has been one of the most liberating leadership lessons of my life.

What are the right pitches? They are different for every leader. In upcoming blogs, I will share some pitches that God has led me to make, and the resulting lessons I learned over the years.

I hope you find these helpful.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Relationship Barriers

Life is about relationships. If your relationships are good, life is good. If your relationships are bad, nothing else can substitute. Many come home to a distant marriage, where every word must be weighed. Parents arrive home to hear their teenager run upstairs to avoid conversation. Others are worried because they are at odds with someone at work.

Jesus says the whole law can be summed up around two relationships. Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:36-40.

All law can be summed up in loving God and loving people. Often our relationship with God is far less complicated than our relationships with others. Repairing our relationship with God is one-sided. God does not need to be fixed. Our relationships with others are more complicated because we deal with weakness, blind spots, stress, and lack of communication on both sides. Why are relationships so difficult? I believe there are at least seven barriers.

1.  We want to love and be loved for own sake. We reach out to others because we need a friend, not to be a friend. There are many self-help books on how to be a more loveable person, but not many on how to be a more loving person.

2. We have blind spots. There are areas in our lives we do not see. Our loved ones may see a weakness in our lives, but we are blind to it.

3. We desire mutual love. It’s very painful to love someone more than they love you.

4. We place others before God. Our happiness depends on someone else’s happiness. This is often seen in our relationship with our children. If they are unhappy, we are unhappy. This is because someone other than God is on the throne of our lives.

5.  We want the same type of love that we give. However we express our love, we want others to express love to us in the same way.

6. We want the same kind of logic that we give. This can cause a breakdown in communication. Either we cannot logically express ourselves, or we cannot see another’s way of thinking.

7.  We hide behind masks. We’re afraid people will find out who we really are.

The beginning step to good relationships is humility. It’s only as we humble ourselves before God and receive His grace that we can give grace and understanding to others.

 What do you think?

For further study on relationships, you can view my series of messages at