Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Our relationship with our wallets

During Lyndon Johnson’s tenure as President of the USA, on the wall of the Oval Office in the White House office hung a framed letter written by General Sam Houston to Johnson’s great-grandfather Baines, more than a hundred years earlier. Baines had led Sam Houston to Christ and Houston was a changed man – no longer coarse and belligerent but peaceful and content. The day came for Sam Houston to be baptised, an incredible event in the eyes of those who knew his previous life-style and attitude. After his baptism Houston stated that he would like to pay half of the local minister’s salary. When someone asked him why, his simple response was, ‘My pocket book (wallet) was baptised too.’

What we are talking about here is a discipleship issue. It is a Lordship issue, ‘Thank you, Lord for saving me - but you want to be Lord of my money, too?’ Well, yes! That’s what the Bible says. It is an obedience issue and it’s not secondary. It’s of primary importance, particularly in our culture which is dominated by the God of money - which is why Jesus said, ‘You cannot serve money and God’. It gets right to the heart of where we put our priorities.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Money, money, money...

There has never been a more important time for us as the people of God to look at our money and how we should rightly think about it, plan with it and handle it...

I am not a financial advisor, I am a pastor and all I intend to do through this series is to tell you how I handle my money. This came into clearer focus for me some years ago when I went from a big salary to a smaller one. When I worked in business I had a BMW company car along with other perks that went with the job. And then I became a pastor with a pastor’s salary – a different matter entirely. As a result I had to learn to look after every pound and every penny, especially in those early days.

At King’s, our aim is to equip people to handle money wisely and we look to the Scriptures to establish the biblical principle of stewardship – what I will give you in this series of blogs is our emphasis when we teach at King’s around the subject of money. We know that other churches might major on other aspects but whether we are dealing with £50 or £50,000 the issue is how we steward that. In Matthew 25, Jesus tells the story of the parable of the talents and this story sets the scene for us – servants commended or condemned for the way in which they looked after what they were given.

Firstly, we establish the principle that what we have we have been given! We may have earned the money by the sweat of our brow or the power of our brains but ultimately all we have we have received from the hand of a loving and faithful Father who has promised to provide for us. We acknowledge first of all that it all belongs to Him and we are using it and looking after it on His behalf.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Keller on Church Size - final suggestions for very large churches

Change the senior pastor’s role This is a key and highly visible part of the church’s large-size culture. The ‘normal’ functions of the pastor must be delegated to others so that the senior pastor can concentrate on the tasks of vision-casting and preaching. This is a difficult transition for many to navigate – both senior pastor and church can see this as an error in redirection but the reality is that the senior pastor must overcome any guilt feelings over this issue and relinquish teaching, pastoral care and administration to others with the time and energy for it (and greater experience and qualification?) or the result will be personal burnout. Senior pastor, ministry leaders and wider church must accept this change is inevitable and allow it to take place.

Build trustThe very large church is more accessible and capable of reaching young people, singles, the unchurched and seekers (Schaller). This being the case – why are there so few? It requires:

- Allowing the senior pastor to be less accessible
- Allowing the staff to have more power than the board
- Allowing a small group of executive staff to have more decision-making power than the wider staff or congregation
- Allowing directors more power to hire competent specialists and release generalists

The key is trust. In smaller churches, people with a tendency to be suspicious feel happier, consensus is required for decisions and any minority that is unhappy can block a decision. The larger the church, the more trust is required from the congregation in the staff - and especially in the senior pastor. Though the staff and senior pastor must be open to criticism and be relationally available, communicating in a way that helps people to feel included and informed, ultimately a very large church runs on trust.

Steve: Wherever our church appears on the size range, as leaders we need to take time to consider these insights from Dr Keller. If we are to see a greater number of larger churches in the UK I believe that grappling with the issues that he so clearly puts before us will be essential. Leaders and their teams need to come together in honest appraisal of their situation and be prepared to make what are sometimes hard decisions – and then see them through. And it goes without saying that those same leaders and teams need to be together in prayer to the Lord God who gives the growth that they earnestly seek. Meanwhile, as Bill Hybels puts it so well, ‘the Kingdom of God advances - one life at a time’.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Keller on Church Size - further suggestions for very large churches

Allow the decentralisation of power
A church that has grown to 1800 members will see the ‘hub and spokes’ structure, with the senior pastor as the hub and the staff as the spokes, become obsolete. No longer one team under the senior pastor, the staff become a team of teams. Power is shifted to specific departments, each under a director and the senior pastor can no longer supervise those directors closely. Two major consequences come from this – staff leaders have more responsibility for their own area since others in the team have insufficient information and ability to question decisions. Secondly staff cannot expect the same level of mentoring, instruction and supervision - or rescuing - from the executive staff as they previously received.

Bring on more specialised, competent staff workers who understand the vision
Fact: churches of less than 800 members are staffed primarily with theological college trained ministers but the larger the church becomes, the less of these there are on staff. Why?
- The very large church needs specialists in counselling, music, finance, social work, children’s development, while theological colleges produce generalists. The need is for specialists who can be theologically trained - not vice versa.
- The very large church can’t afford to hire people who aren’t already experienced and competent in a particular ministry – a young person straight from seminary may be able to run a youth work of 30 but won’t be able to deal with a group of 300. For all staff, the larger a church becomes the greater the competence required and the requirement that they ‘make things happen’ is a large one. Resourcefulness and creativity are of prime importance at this stage, with staff needing to be able to inspire followers and to move to be leaders of leaders
- The very large church will have a distinctive vision – with a highly defined and carefully balanced set of emphases and styles (its ‘voice’). Those trained in seminaries prior to coming on staff invariably bring a set of attitudes and assumptions to the task, perhaps even a superior attitude and an underestimation/ignorance of that church’s specific context, so it becomes more important for a large church to train and recruit leaders from within. The result of this is that those from within require heavy support for continued theological education and those recruited from outside the church need thorough training in the church’s history, values and culture.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Keller on Church size - suggestions for very large churches

Be non-judgmental

Keller states that attaching moral significance to a particular church size can be an issue with moving to becoming a very large church. People view their preferred church size (often the smaller size, as that is likely to be all they may have known to that point) as the ideal and see the very large church not as ‘different’ but as ‘bad’. If your definition of an uncaring or unfriendly church is one where you can’t get the senior pastor on the phone as a matter of course, then you will not have a positive view of a very large church. For a church of 3000 it would be a disaster for the senior pastor to be available to everyone in this way – and at the same time if the pastor of a church of 150 tries to impose a larger church culture then that will also end in disaster.

A very large church is marked by:

     - change – the overall vision may stay the same but few of the programmes and practices are sacrosanct.
     - complexity – it is not immediately obvious who to talk to or involve in any given issue or decision and
        new events may have unforeseen consequences for other ministries.
     - formality – this is needed in greater measure, so plans have to be written and carefully executed rather
       than face-to-face and ‘on the hoof’.

These elements are the inevitable cost of ministry and should bring no moral aspersions with them.

Form smaller decision-making bodies

In general the larger the church, the fewer people should be involved in decision-making, because of the diversity of views likely to be present and the inevitability of a lengthening decision-making process with watered-down outcomes and compromises as a result. To maintain the same level of progress, decisiveness and intentionality from previous days the decision-making must be entrusted to fewer and fewer people. A very large church can be seen by some as undemocratic or unaccountable – a prime reason why many churches never grow to this size, or shrink again when they do.