Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Pastor/Church Planter - Beware

I was thinking the other day about what types of people I would warn a pastor/church planter about. Hang on -- here goes ...

#1 - The “I’m Going To Leave If” Person

Pastors, you are going to have people threaten to leave your church – period. And 999 times out of 1,000 the best thing you can do is let them go.

I remember once in the early years of my ministry, being on the telephone for over an hour, begging a young lady in our church not to leave. Why was she wanting to leave? A group of singles had gotten together and forgot to call her.

You are going to have people who don’t like the music, your wife/husband, you talking about your kids, the way you dress, the kind of car you drive, the version of the Bible you use, your hairstyle, your zodiac sign, your staff, and your belief on the end times.

You can’t please everyone … and, to be honest, that BOTHERS me! But, the reality is, according to Hebrews 13:17, you and I will stand before God one day and be held accountable for how we led the church … and I would much rather a disgruntled person walk out than for God’s presence to go instead!

Don’t ever be held captive by a person who keeps threatening to leave.

#2 - The “Let Me Tell You How Much Money I Have” Person.

Pastors, you've GOT to make a choice early - are you going to be motivated by money OR are you going to resign to the fact that Jesus purchased you, thus making you not for sale? Will you be a prostitute or a prophet?

I remember a guy calling my wife and demanding that we come to his house for dinner. He told her where he worked, where he lived (a NICE neighborhood), the company he owned, the kind of car he drove and also told her he wanted to get more financially involved in the church … all I had to do was come to his house for dinner that night. I already had plans, but I also sensed in my Spirit that something was not right.

I didn't go. I don’t play that game. When people begin to dangle money in front of you … it is ALWAYS attached to an agenda.

I have served some incredibly generous congregations who gave faithfully every single week. Some of the most generous people I have served never asked me for one second of my time. They gave with a pure heart and with pure motives.

When people threaten to stop giving, that is an issue they will have to work out with God. Don’t let a person who has a lot of money keep you from doing what God has called you to do.

When a person begins telling you how much money they have … trust me, they ultimately desire to either buy you or control you. Don’t let it happen. Tell them you are excited they have money, ask them to give generously, challenge them to be faithful in their giving … but don’t EVER begin to let them dangle money in front of you, thus becoming your source of motivation.

3 - The “Feed Me” Person

I have never been able to keep one of these people around … ever!

You know the drill … they always come from another church (they weren't being fed there either) and they want you to know that they are sincerely seeking a church that teaches the Bible (and they will stay as long as you teach THEIR VERSION of the Bible.) They are experienced at this "not being fed" thing. They have used it to get their pastor moved (when the overseer would buy it), and when they can't get the pastor moved, they move.

Even at a new church, if they become displeased with the sermon direction … or dissatisfied with your particular view on a theological issue … or convicted of not doing what they know they should be doing – they will say you are not feeding them and try to get you removed, or they will leave.

Pastor, being honest here … I've NEVER encountered a person who claimed they weren't being fed that also had a dynamic personal walk with Jesus. If that were true then they would show up to the church FULL and not need to latch on to the breast!

It’s not our job to feed – but to lead to places where food can be found (shepherd).

#4 - The “At My Other Church” Person

I'm sorry, but I have ZERO tolerance for this guy/girl.

They come into your church and begin to say, “Well, this is nice, but at my other church we used to (FILL IN THE BLANK.)”

I say, without apology, to these people that we are not “your other church,” and … if you liked your other church so much – GO BACK!

Enough about them …

#5 - The “This Is Too Big” Person

These people amaze me. A church will begin growing, lives will begin to change … literally the Bible begins to come to life … and because a person finally has to face the fact that the church is not about them … they take off, saying that the church is TOO BIG.

Now, that same person will go to a college football game the day before with between 80,000 to 100,000 fans (99% of whom they do not know) and be absolutely PUMPED that the stadium is packed. (Usually a sign that the team is winning!)

BUT … they want to go to “God’s house” the next day and desire for it to be small and “intimate.” Hmm, they want the football crowd to grow and the church crowd to be small … sounds like some very messed-up priorities to me.

Bottom line … the church is SUPPOSED to grow – period! And if it gets “too big” for someone, I would say it’s because their heart is “too small.” Seriously, ask yourself, what spiritual force would motivate someone to get angry when large numbers of people are coming to Christ and being taught to walk in an intimate relationship with Him? Jesus … or Satan? Seriously – it’s NOT rocket science.

Let the “this is too big” person go … and don’t argue with them!

#6 - The “I Want To Know The Pastor If I’m Going To Be Here” Person

Most churches never break the 200 barrier because of the belief that the Pastor must have a personal relationship with every member. At some point, that becomes an impossibility.

Here’s the deal, pastor, you and I are called by God to lead His church. BUT … before that, is an even greater call on our lives to love Jesus, love our wife and love and disciple our children … and there is no way that you can do all of that and also grill hot dogs with everyone in your church!

For too long pastors have been manipulated by church people into a “a pastor ought to know his church people” mentality. A thought that sounds good on the surface … EXCEPT for the fact that it is COMPLETELY un-Biblical! (Acts 6:1-7 is just one example. Exodus 18 is another!)

If a person comes in claiming they need to know you – TRUST ME ON THIS ONE – they have an agenda a mile long!

Yes, we should have relationships with the people we serve … but those should be led by the Holy Spirit and should NEVER take away from the first four priorities that I mentioned earlier. Nothing wrong with the pastor leading a home group who are not currently on staff. Nothing wrong with the pastor going to lunch with lots of people in the church – but never allow yourself to be “guilted’ into doing so.

Pastor, let me warn you – there are church people out there who will allow you to spend all your time with them … and then when your marriage falls apart or your kid turns out to be a hellion or you begin to fall apart spiritually, they will turn on you so fast it isn't funny! I've seen it … so have you – that is why you must prioritize your life … and if you don’t have time for every social in the church … so be it!

#7 - The “This Place Is Too Judgmental” Person

I was reading the other morning in the OT that if a prophet doesn't preach repentance then he isn't a true prophet.

Pastor, any time you begin to call people out in their sin, you will be labeled as an intolerant, judgmental preacher.


The only people who get angry when you preach on giving are those who bow before money.
The only people who get angry when you preach on sexual immorality are the sexual immoral.
The only people who get angry when you preach on adultery are those who are committing adultery … or those who really want to.
The only people who get angry when you preach on gossip are the people on the prayer chain … uh … I mean those who are gossiping.

Pastors, speaking about sin isn't easy … but it’s right. We are called to call for confession and repentance … and offer hope for those who are willing to follow Christ.

If someone isn't angry at you, then pray for God to set you on fire and lead you to preach a message that will hit the majority of your church between the eyes … and then HANG ON!

[Based on Perry Noble]

Four Rules of Influence

John Maxwell says that leadership is influence. You can't lead without it. You can drive people without it, but that won't work for long. Leadership by fear or intimidation is doomed for failure.

Chris Widner’s new book, The Art of Influence, gives the proper emphasis regarding the topic of influence. He says in this entertaining short story, that influence is a gift followers give you because you have become the kind of person they want to follow and be influenced by. He provides four rules of influence:
  • Living a Life of Undivided Integrity. Notwithstanding that integrity is in fact being undivided, he writes that while leaders do make mistakes, followers “do expect their leaders to admit and correct their mistakes, mend the cracks in their integrity, if you will. Left unchecked, eventually a lack of integrity erodes the trust that is needed between a leader and a follower.”
  • Always Demonstrate a Positive Attitude. People respond to optimism. Bad things happen. And when they do, you need to ask not “Why did this happen to me?” but “What’s next?” or “What good can come from this?” “You are choosing to believe that something good can come from negative circumstances and that the future will be better than the present.”
  • Consider Other People’s Interests as More Important Than Your Own. “Even more important than being interesting, is being interested.”
  • Don’t Settle For Anything Less Than Excellence. Widner encourages us to grow our influence by improving ourselves around seven areas of excellence: physical appearance, emotional health, intellectual growth, spiritual depth, relationships, financial success, and charitable giving. Excellence is in the details.