Monday, March 23, 2009

No Uptick in Americans’ Religiosity

I've heard a ton of pastors expressing that a recession might be a really good thing for the American Church. Here's an interesting article on a recent Gallup Pole taken on the topic:
"Despite suggestions that the economic recession might cause religiosity among Americans to increase, there has been no evident change over the past 15 months in either Americans' self-reported church attendance or the importance of religion in their daily lives. Forty-two percent on average have reported attending church every week or nearly every week during that time, and 65% have reported that religion is important in their daily lives. These results are based on an analysis of more than 425,000 interviews Gallup has conducted since January 2008."

For the full article click HERE.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Learning from Europe

Several Global Church leaders have challenged American church leaders to keep their eye on and learn from what has happened and is happening in the European Church. Their fear, if we don’t change, that we won’t be far behind.

With that in mind, I’ve tried to educate myself. Along the way, I found the following 2008 article from the Christian Culture Journal. I contemplated whether or not to post all of it, thinking that we might get so distracted with the discussion of discrimination, that we'd miss some of the other significant thoughts on the division of church and the massive decline of professing Christians. Although some of the conclusions feel like a bit of a stretch, I thought I’d share it in its entirety as written. I found it interesting for many reasons.

"The divisibility of the Church is the cardinal document of Anglicanism, and its most fundamental heresy." Abbott Chapman (20th cent)

According to a recent study conducted by the U.N., two-thirds of British citizenry claim no religious affiliation. The 23-page report by a special rapporteur of the U.N. claims that the 2001 census which found that nearly 72 per cent of the population is Christian is no longer accurate.

Excerpts from TIMESONLINE: "The report calls for the disestablishment of the Church of England. It says that the role and privileges of the Church do not reflect “the religious demography of the country and the rising proportion of other Christian denominations”.

"The report says that there is an “overall respect for human rights and their value” but it gives warning of discrimination against Muslims.

"Citing research that 80 percent of Muslims in Britain feel that they have been discriminated against, the report singles out the Terrorism Act 2000 for particular criticism. Under the Act police in some areas can stop and search people without having to show reasonable suspicion.

The report’s author also criticizes terms in the Terrorism Act 2006 for being “overly broad and vaguely worded”.

Certainly, if a church is founded upon the notion that Christ's Church can be divided, then this same church therefore becomes subject to division, disestablishment and even elimination itself. The curse of the Reformation may well be the Islamization of Britain.

"And so the stage is set for the chastisement which the prophecies say will be very severe for England." Catholic Prophesy, Yves Dupont.

For the sake of maintaining the article's "integrity", I posted all of it. I don't believe that the Reformation will cause the Islamization of Britain. So please don't read that into why I posted it. And while any bit of discrimination certainly bothers me, my greatest concerns from the article are two fold: (1) The shrinking church and (2) the divided church.

"Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand." Mt 12:25

Friday, March 13, 2009

Tony Morgan - Are you really the leader?

Great post from Tony Morgan on Positional Leadership in the Church Today. Completely worth the read. To read the whole thing click HERE. In the meantime, here's just a glimpse:
The days are behind us for those situations when someone gets out of line and the head-honcho just takes their subordinate out to the woodshed for a reminder of who’s the boss. Leadership is no longer a title on a business card. (Do people still carry those things?)

Leadership looks a lot different these days.

-It doesn’t necessarily reside in the corner office.
-It’s something that’s earned rather than bestowed.
-It rarely tells people what to do, but rather asks how can I serve?
-It can’t be bought, because most people ultimately care very little about the money.
-It’s focused more on the mission than the tasks.
-It’s concerned more about fostering influence instead of wielding power.
-It recognizes the next new idea will come from someone else.
-It doesn’t necessarily require words

Monday, March 9, 2009

Reality of Legacy

"When it's all said and done, what do you want to be known for?"

That's a great question. One that I'm hearing more and more regularly from men whom I respect. It's one that, if we'll allow it, can really shape how we do things as leaders. I've heard that Ed Stetzer and Mark Driscoll had this conversation. It's rumored that someone had the same conversation with Rob Bell. While I cannot substantiate either conversation, there has always seemed to be this common chasm for Pastors between how we think others perceive us and how we're actually perceived. So when we consider our "legacy" (if you will), or even our "Kingdom" reputation, it's a question certainly worth exploring.

Below are some thoughts I read recently from a minister of 57 years. He was asked the question, "If you had the opportunity to do it again, what would you change?" It's kind of like the same question but from the other perspective. I decided not to give the name of the Pastor, it's really irrelevant to whether or not we should or could identify with his statements. I'd just challenge each of us to let the statements stand on their own. Take 'em or leave 'em.
Question: If you had the opportunity to do it again, what would you change? What would you do differently?

1. First of all, I would do nothing until I had been filled with the Holy Spirit. I would lock myself in with God and not come out until I was absolutely sure that His anointing and empowering were upon me. As a young pastor, I knew nothing about the baptism and filling of the Holy Spirit. That loss was tragic to me and my congregations.

2. I would develop a life-style of prayer that was unrelenting. My "closet" would become more important than my pulpit; my private devotion more prized than my public preaching. My meditation more valued than my ministry. My continuous conversion to Christ and death-of-self would become my greatest pursuit. I would be more concerned about "glowing" than showing.

3. I would zealously commit more Scripture to memory and seek its deepest meaning. I would let the Bible speak for itself rather than listen to others' claims about it.

4. I would seek to love everyone more eagerly, more generously, more obviously.

5. At the same time, I would waste no effort on insincere Christians and "false brethren." While I would cultivate a merciful spirit, I would confront and expose religious tradition, falsehood, abuse, without hesitation. I did not always know to do that. Everyone suffered because of it.

6. I would focus on a "Kingdom" ministry and nothing on denominationalism. In my later years I came to see the hypocrisy of denominational division; it is a delusion for which truth and integrity are needlessly sacrificed. Good men reject each other for the sake of a false, sectarian identity. Being "orthodox" for the sake of protecting myself or others would never again be a consideration. I would become radical for God rather than remain a decoy for the devil.

7. I would more boldly preach against pride, self-centeredness, false piety, and egotism in my church and leaders; instead, I would expect genuine humility, godliness, sincerity, in all who worked with me. I would absolutely stop the "elitist" spirit in deacons, elders, etc. Everyone holding church authority would submit to deliverance ministry and discerning of spirits or not function.

8. I would fight church politics as a deadly disease.

9. I would never again allow church leaders to usurp a God-given vision for the sake of protecting their own appearance and self-esteem.

10. In many ways I was naive; too trusting. I would never do that again; instead, I would base my trust on people's verified integrity and not on my assumptions about them. Were I to repeat my ministry, I would seek to be "wise as a serpent, harmless as a dove." --- But, I would definitely be more wise.

11. I would seize every opportunity to learn from older ministers, to explore their hearts and minds, and learn from their successes and failures. In my youth I traveled with men who preached in the 1800's. I would devour as much information as possible from every stream of church history and intensify my education in those areas that directly benefitted the Kingdom of God.

12. In my personal life, I would more carefully expose everything to the investigation of the Holy Spirit, to Scripture, godly advisors, and my heart-conviction. A God-given ministry is too valuable to be wasted on self-deception, religious hobby-horses, or the previous generation's prejudices. I would want to hear what "the Spirit is saying to the churches" and move forward with that alone.

13. Theologically, I had to escape my Calvinism long enough to quit blaming God's sovereignty for all the negative circumstances in life, exercise the spiritual gifts and authority Jesus gave me, and take full responsibility for my ministerial success or failure. I did not do that soon enough.