Monday, June 29, 2009


Church Growth and Evangelists...

Last week I expressed my concern over the professional ministry model as a way to grow a church. I should make it clear that I believe that model is a great way to maintain a church. If you want to have a growing church, how about supporting evangelists, not ministers. I define ministers as those that minister to the believers. They work to help us. Evangelists make disciples. They work with non-Christians and new Christians. I am convinced this model fits more closely with Scripture.

How would it change the way we do church if we hired, or supported, staff to be evangelists? No more Youth Ministers unless they were working with kids outside our church. Connecting ministers would only be hired if they were busy connecting new converts to small groups and discipling ministries. Preachers would spend their "people time" with non believers.

So who will do the ministry? Members. Maybe we should handle the youth ministry, the children's ministry, and the admin tasks of the church. But members might need to be equipped for ministry. So let the staff spend 25% of their time on equipping members for ministry (not doing ministry -- equipping). What about members in need: addictions, family crisis, illness, etc? Elders will have to really shepherd. Staff will have to let them. Members will have to learn to bear each other's burdens.

So maybe new staff positions would not be about ministry, but about evangelism. Maybe we hire an full time evangelist. 75% of his time in making disciples, 25% in epuipping members to make disciples. And to make sure all our "ministries" have an evangelistic thrust. Maybe we hire a woman to be an evangelist to single Moms in our community. Maybe we hire a community evangelist -- not to do benevolence, but to use benevolence to open doors to share Jesus.

Some members would not like this. Correct. It will be difficult for some to realize that church is not going to be about them. The theory may be an easy sell, but not in practice. Focus would shift from assembly centered churches to life centered churches.

What about staff that is now working under the ministry model? If they are about power and influence, it would be a difficult transition. But I suspect many of our ministers would be liberated and energized to be evangelists.

So what do you think?

Friday, June 26, 2009


Three people died...

Marsha and I drove to Borger yesterday to be with one of my elder buddies, Todd Hooper, while he buried his Dad. I listened to the tributes about Don Hooper. People spoke of his love of family, of his conversion to Christ, of his work with orphans in Children's Homes. Lots of people from the church of Christ at Borger showed up to honor this man and his memory. Lots of talk about living forever. Songs about being with Jesus. Reminders that for a Christian, death here is not the end... but the beginning of life.

And yesterday Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett died. They are more well known than Don Hooper. Most people don't know who Don was. Lots know the other two. I wonder what their funerals will be like. What will be said at their memorial?

I wonder which legacy will make a difference 100 years from now? How about 1000 years from now?

So several things occur to me. One is that we all die. It does not matter how famous, or how much money we have... we all die. Don Hooper has a lasting legacy thru Todd, and thru Todd's children. Don Hooper will be known and loved 1000 years from now. His influence will be felt forever.

So who do I want to be like? I think it's Don Hooper. And you need to know I didn't really know him. Or Michael or Farrah either. Not personally. But I know the fruit of their lives. And I know what I heard about each of them yesterday.

Just made me think about what matters. And what doesn't.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Church Growth and Ministers...

In churches of Christ we have adopted a church model built around professional ministers. I have been thinking quite a bit about whether churches, and especially Southern Hills, can really grow under this model. If so, how do we make it work better? If not, is there a better model? And if so, is it even possible to change it?

I think we need to think about what it means to be a church built around professional ministry. Ministers minister to the body of believers. We have long advocated that every member of the body of Christ is a minister, but we spend an extraordinary amount of our contribution/budget on professional ministers to serve the body of believers. We have ministers of the Word to preach to us (very important if we are going to center our congregation around the worship assembly), Connecting ministers to be sure that Christians get connected and involved (critical as Christians join from other congregations), Youth and Children ministers to provide growth opportunities for our kids (after all, we want our children to grow up faithful). Some places even have Senior ministers (mustn't forget that older saints need attention also).

If we work this model well, we will grow as a congregation. If we do this better than other churches in town, almost every Christian that moves to Abilene will place membership with us. Those frustrated at other congregations will come to be with us. But to do this model effectively, here are some things we must do.

Always keep looking for better ministers. If the youth or children ministers do not serve our kids like we want... then fire them and hire someone with better programs. If the preacher doesn't connect with everyone, get someone more exciting (or more laid back), more tech savvy (or less gimmicky), someone taller (or shorter), etc. You get the idea.

Hire more ministers to serve us. Get a worship minister so our assembly experience will be richer and meet more of our needs. How about a Young Professionals minister to reach the Christians is that demographic? Find the areas where Christians need to be ministered to and hire a pro to do it right.

Give the ministers more responsibility and authority. They are the professionals. If anyone knows how to do church this way, it should be them. Get out of their way and let them help us be better. Be sure they are on top of the latest trends.

I am convinced if we will stick with this model, and really work it right, that Southern Hills could be 3000 members in another 10 years we are just under 2000 now). Get those move-ins, be better, different, stronger, more pleasing than our neighboring congreations.

And don't forget, at our present rate of evangelism, probably 250 of these new members would actually be new Christians (well, not counting our own that we baptize). But the real growth would be meeting the needs of Christians.

Is this really how we want to grow? I don't even think most ministers like this model. Neither do most elders. Or really even most members. It doesn't look like what Jesus did. Doesn't seem much like the church we see in Acts. It seems to be about pleasing disciples, not making disciples.

I think there is a better way and I'll write about it next time. In the meantime, am I way off base? Too harsh? Too out of touch? Let me know.

Friday, June 19, 2009


Being a Good Dad...

Father's Day is the time of year when I often get asked how to be a good Dad. Some ask because they assume anyone as old as me must have learned something. Some know my kids so assume I must have done something right. And some probably think I must know some secret because it just can't be anything I have done.

So here goes my standard response.

Identifying good Dads is done by looking at their kids. The proof is in the pudding. My kids are sure not perfect... but they are faithful Christians and successful in their careers (one nurse, one lawyer). And they have healthy, functional families. So I don't mind sharing what I have learned about being a good Dad.

First, I give God praise and glory. The credit is His. I also give a great deal of credit to the grandparents. The extended family idea really worked for us.

But here is what I did really well.

I married up. Marsha has helped me be a better Christian and helped me learn to be a good husband, Dad, preacher, and elder. Yes, I know it took her some time... but still.

I prayed lots. I prayed for both my kids every day of their life. Still do. Almost every night when they were still at home I prayed with them.

I loved much. The one thing Julie and Joe Don always knew was how much I loved them. They still do.

I told them how proud I was of them. Lots. Still do.

I spent lots of time with them. Family trips, game nights. Lots of hunting and fishing time.

I didn't dwell on mistakes or live in the past. I gave them lots of baggage. I made lots of mistakes. I had to battle sin in my life. But I learned to be big on grace, forgiveness, restoration, and moving on with life. For me and for them.

We were always in church. Lots of brothers and sisters can claim credit for my kids.

Jesus was real at our house and we were honest. Not much on the fake religion or on hiding things. My kids know I'm not perfect, they know that Mom and Dad had fights, and they know Mom and Dad really, really love each other. And love the Lord.

So there it is. Hope it helps.

So thanks God every day for my kids. Thanks for the two you gave me and the two more I got when they married. And thanks for Anna, Jake, Avery, and Andrew. You have blessed me beyond anything I deserve or could imagine.

So to my two Dads (mine and the one I got by marrying Marsha)... thanks and I love you. To Joe Don and Bobby... I love you guys and hope you have as much fun being a Dad as I have had. So to Mimi, Jules and Bobby, JD and Jamie, Anna and Andrew, and Jake and Avery... you make me the happiest Dad and Pops anywhere. Love you all and proud of every one of you.

Happy Father's Day.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Grandkids and SeaWorld...

We just got back from four days with the kids and grandkids in San Antonio. Two of those days were at Sea World. Several things struck me that may be worth sharing.

One of the great joys of life is watching your grown children be parents. Mine are really good at it. Better than I was at their age.

Extended family is important. I am glad all the kids and grandkids get along so well. It was special to see aunts and uncles playing with nieces and nephews just like they did their own kids.

It's funny to realize the kids are watching out for us too. Checking to be sure we have the directions down, wondering if we are too hot, etc.

One day one of the families came early and left early while the other one came later and stayed later. Mimi and Pops stayed all day. Kept wondering who was going to take me back for a nap.

There are lots of dysfunctional families in this world who need Jesus. Lots of them were at Sea World.

Can't wait to see what Anna and Avery want to wear when they are teenagers. Can't wait to see parent's reactions.

Finally, I am so blessed by God. Great wife, great kids, and great grandkids. I guess life could be better... but I am not sure how.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Church Autonomy and Elder Authority...

I worship in a fellowship that has long believed in congregational autonomy -- that is, each congregation is independent and led by it's own elders. I am not saying the premise is inherently wrong but I do have questions that maybe some of you can answer for me.

... if we have autonomous congregations, is it ever appropriate to be concerned with decisions made by elders in other congregations?

...If we are autonomous, what is the basis of fellowship... or brotherhood?

...Am I really only a member of one congregation? For example, I am an elder at Southern Hills in Abilene. But I sorta consider myself a member at Richland Hills in Fort Worth and at the Haskell church of Christ. I worship at both those congregations several times a year and am deeply connected at both.

... What about my "sheep" in other congregations? I am the shepherd for Christians who call me for spiritual counsel and who consider me their elder (in practice if not if theory). I have relationships like this with Christians who worship at Highland, University, Beltway Baptist, and some who are not "members" anywhere. And that's just people I can think of off the top of my head. And it does not count those who live outside of Abilene that I shepherd, including some at Haskell and some at RH. So am I an elder for them?

... What about mission work? Do I really think I can shepherd a flock hundreds, or thousands, of miles away? Can an eldership even oversee a work far away from them?

...Am I still an elder when I leave Abilene? How about when I preach or worship somewhere else? Am I a shepherd for those who visit Southern Hills?

...How did the Jerusalem elders in Acts function? Did each house church have elders? Were there city elders?

Just some of my rambling thoughts. Would love to have some clear answers. Have at it.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009


Too much worship time...

OK. That's misleading. But it does seem like we are consumed with the public assembly. If we are honest, most of our Bible study time is done during the sermon. The second avenue would be Bible class, assuming your class actually spends time in the Word. But even our Bible classes are tied to the assembly.

When I hear preachers -- and others -- talk about radical approaches to Christianity in our culture, it almost always has to do with worship. We will be proved faithful if we keep worship the same. We will reach the lost if we change worship styles. If we really want to be a "faithful" church, or a "growing" church, we must do this or that about public worship.

Most of the complaints I get as an elder have to do with public worship. And that is true of members and ministers both. The reason we are losing our young people is that we are catering to them in worship. Or... the reason we are losing our young people is because we will not change with the times in our assembly. We spend most of our money on buildings so we can "go to church".

What if we have it wrong? what if the center of our lives as Christians is not found in the public assembly? After all, most of spend no more than 4 hours per week in assembly. What if real fellowship is not designed to happen in an assembly? What if that is not the best way to do evangelism? What if real study should occur outside the assembly? What if the assembly is not even supposed to be the main time of worship in our lives?

I wonder... does Satan get giddy watching us make the public assembly the center of our Christianity?

So what do you think?

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?