And We Wonder Why We’re Drifting

6 02 2014

Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” And while some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, he said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”  Luke 21:1-6

What is it about this story that is sad and ridiculous and oh, so appropriate to us today?

While Jesus was watching the stuff of eternal significance, we were all watching the stuff that was just temporal and would be gone in the blink of an eye.

[sigh]

© Blake Coffee
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.  Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com




Compelling Vision

28 01 2014

Tuesday Re-mix:

Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember?  Mark 8:17-18

Where there is no vision, the people perish… Proverbs 29:18

I sometimes wonder if we in the church are guilty at times of confusing “leadership vision” with “ambition”?

It seems to me we place a great deal of pressure on our shepherds with regard to “vision”. We expect even our newest pastor to have a 5-year plan for where we are headed just as soon as we get him in the office.  I have even heard of one pastor search team asking a prospective candidate what his “five-year vision” is for their church.  Oh my!  How would he know that?  In fact, I would be wary of anyone who claimed to know before he had even set foot among the congregation.

Pastoral vision (i.e., leadership vision for the church), it seems to me, has much less to do with entrepreneurial foresight and ambitious goals and much more to do with actually seeing what God has been doing and what He is doing right now in the life of a congregation.  It is not so much casting my eyes out on the vast horizon before us as it is casting my eyes across the lives of the people I am leading and understanding what God is doing there.

Jesus did not shame his disciples for not being smarter venture capitalists or for not having keen insights into the trends of the day.  He did not rebuke them for failing to see what was coming or even for not anticipating the needs of the crowds.  Jesus expressed his disappointment in his disciples for not paying attention to what he had already done…for what he had already shown them. He did not expect them to be watching the horizon for the next big social trend…rather, he held them accountable to the simple task of keeping their eyes on him, staying connected to him, and placing their faith in him.  That was his expectation.

So, if your New Year’s resolution as a church leader has anything at all to do with vision or with vision casting, may I make a suggestion?  Don’t stress nearly so much about the next great book or the next amazing conference or the economic trends in your community.  Instead, fix your eyes on Jesus and on the work of the Spirit going on right now among the very people you have been called to lead.  Sit with them in their hospital room or their living room or their office and pay attention to what’s going on in their lives right now.  Listen to their stories, their triumphs and their failures, their dreams and expectations, and remember that He who is working in their lives and He in whom you place your faith are One and the same.

THAT, my friend, is leadership vision I will follow all day long.

© Blake Coffee
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.  Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com




Walking Slowly Through the Crowd

7 01 2014

Tuesday Re-mix:

A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask,‘Who touched me?’ ” Mark 5:25-31


I have listened to so many John Maxwell talks and have read so many of his books, I do not even remember now where I heard or read some of the best leadership advice I’ve ever heard/read from him: “walk slowly through the crowds”.  It is outstanding leadership counsel because genuine leadership is, after all, entirely dependent upon relationships and people skills.  It is perfect for ME, because I get so narrowly focused sometimes (maybe especially on Sunday mornings) that I can walk right past hundreds of friends without even smiling or acknowledging them!  I am still working on this.  :)

It is a challenge, isn’t it?  It is especially challenging when we get focused on the task at hand, on the ministry ahead, even on the relationships in front of us…but there are still people all around us who are hoping for our attention as well.  It is a delicate balance between competency for the task at hand and caring for everyone else in the meantime.  In this passage from Mark 5, Jesus demonstrated just how extreme that balance can become.  I have never raised anyone from the dead, so I have no experience with what kind of focus it requires, but I am going to take a stab in the dark here and surmise that it requires some extraordinary single-mindedness.  That is the focus Jesus surely had as he walked through the crowd toward Jairus’ house.  And yet, he walked slowly enough to have permitted and felt the touch by one woman in the crowd.  Unbelievable balance, wouldn’t you say?  Even the disciples who were with him thought so.

So there is a great lesson here for each of us as leaders.  But I wonder if there is an even more important lesson here for the church corporately?  What does this balance teach us about being the Body of Christ in the communities our churches serve?  How can a church “walk slowly through the crowd” so that it doesn’t miss important ministry assignments?  Here are some ideas…

First, it’s regular weekly rhythm should include a vibrant corporate prayer time.  That gathered prayer, after all, is how a church develops the kind of extraordinary focus Jesus showed.  There are lots of promises in God’s word for a people who pray…but none for a people who do not pray.

Second, it can develop a regular, systematic approach to strategic planning.  Keeping God-ordained mission and vision ever before us, and practical, measurable objectives always on our radar screen will help keep us from getting “lost” in the busy-ness of church.  On this note, evaluation and assessment becomes a critical skill.  We need processes to help us know when a program or ministry is succeeding and when it is not.  Andy Stanley calls this “clearly defining the win”.  By the way, it is just as important to know why something succeeds as it is to know why something fails.

Third, we can be ever watching and paying close attention to whom God is bringing us in our newest attenders.  One of the easiest ways of knowing what God is doing in a church is to understand whom he has brought to us recently…what is their background and their passion?  What are their gifts and their abilities?

Fourth (and I realize I am meddling with this one), a church can unify its small group curriculum, so that the entire church is studying the same Biblical passages at that same time all year long.  I cannot even begin to tell you how much that has helped my own church in getting us on the same page on various issues.  Such a benefit!

These are just a few ways a church can “walk slowly through the crowd”.  I’d be interested in hearing any additional ideas you might have.

© Blake Coffee
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.  Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com







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