Links I Like

Links I Like is a collection of blogs, articles and books I’ve come across recently and thought they were worth sharing. Click here for past Links I Like.

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Thom Rainer on 11 things churches can learn from a church that died.

There was no attempt to reach the community. More and more emphasis was placed on the past. When a church loses its passion to reach the lost, the congregation begins to die.

Aubrey Malphurs on Surviving the busiest season of the year.

Psychologist Dr. Richard Blackmon finds pastors to be “the single most occupationally frustrated group in America” resulting in 30 to 40% of them dropping out of ministry altogether.

14 hints on how to add new service times at your church.

Is your church thinking about adding new service times in the future? We recently interviewed a number of church leaders within the unSeminary community who have led their churches through this change to help extract some helpful hints for you.

Kevin DeYoung on 7 thoughts for pastors writing books.

Rewind my life six years and I would tell you that one of my biggest dreams in life is to get a book published. I hoped that someday, somehow, somewhere, for somebody I would be able to write a book. I never dreamt I would have that opportunity so soon and so often. It’s much more than I deserve.

Thomas Kidd on Why homeschool.

Homeschooling is all too often treated as a monolith: Homeschoolers are either fundamentalists or anarchists, religious extremists or hippies. Rarely, if ever, is it explored as a potential educational setting for so-called “gifted” children–those looking for an academic challenge beyond that which their local educational facilities can provide.

The Importance of Organizational Culture

organizational culture, analysis and development concept

What an organizational culture does to a church:

  1. Culture shapes our lives and all our beliefs.
  2. Culture is vital to effective ministry.
  3. Our culture affects the way we conduct our ministries in the church.
  4. Culture helps us understand better the different people we seek to reach for Christ.
  5. Cultural understanding is essential to leaders if they are to lead their established churches well.
  6. Cultural understanding is essential to leaders if they are to lead their planted churches well.
  7. Culture may cannibalize strategic planning.
  8. Understanding culture helps the church cope with changes in its external environment.

From Look Before You Lead: How to Discern & Shape Your Church Culture by Aubrey Malphurs.

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Why Your Worldview Matters

A worldview is a set of assumptions (beliefs) that may be true, partially true, or entirely false, which people hold (consciously or unconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic makeup of our world.

A worldview supplies answers to certain rock-bottom questions that work together to provide what seems to be a coherent frame of reference for all thought and action in regard to the world. James Sire lists seven questions. Your answers to these questions make up your worldview:

  1. What is really real?
  2. What is the nature of the world around us?
  3. What is a human being?
  4. What happens to a person at death?
  5. Why is it possible to know anything at all?
  6. How do we know what is right or wrong?
  7. What is the meaning of human history?

From Look Before You Lead: How to Discern & Shape Your Church Culture by Aubrey Malphurs.

Look Before You Lead: How to Discern & Shape Your Church Culture

bookEvery Tuesday morning, I review a book that I read recently. If you missed any, you can read past reviews here. This week’s book is Look Before You Lead: How to Discern & Shape Your Church Culture (kindle version) by Aubrey Malphurs.

I can’t even begin to describe how good and helpful this book is. The appendixes alone are worth the price of the book as they essentially give you Malphurs consulting toolbox.

The struggle many pastors have when it comes to leadership, making changes, preaching, leading their staff, working with volunteers is that they don’t understand the culture they work in. They are simply trying to put ideas into place, move things forward or make a difference. Until you understand the culture you have as a leader, those you lead, the world around your church and the world inside your church, you won’t be able to move anything. This book is particularly helpful for pastors about to move to a new church as Malphurs has an entire checklist of questions to ask a church board who is interviewing you. I found that extremely helpful from the other angle as it gave me questions I need to know for Revolution and questions I would ask a leader to determine if they fit our culture.

The reality is that every church is different. Every church has a different history, different set of leaders. So what works in California doesn’t work the same way in New York. In the same way that what works in one part of a city doesn’t work in another part of a city.

But what is culture? According to Malphurs, “The church’s congregational culture as the unique expression of the interaction of the church’s shared beliefs and its values, which explain its behavior in general and display its unique identity in particular.” And, “a primary responsibility of today’s strategic church leaders is to create, implement, and re-implement an organizational culture that rewards and encourages movement toward the church’s mission and vision. Every pastor must understand that to a great degree his job is to lead and manage the congregational culture, but if he doesn’t understand that culture as well as his own, he won’t be able to do the job.”

Here are a few other things that jumped out:

  • The organization’s beliefs and values intermingle and are seen in the church’s behavior or outward expression of itself. This is the first layer that is represented by the apple’s skin. Churches express themselves through their behaviors and outward appearance.
  • The behaviors and outward expressions are what an observer, such as a visitor, would see, sense, and hear as he or she encounters a church’s culture. Some examples are the church’s physical presence (facilities), language (multi- or monolingual), clothing, symbols, rituals, ceremonies, ordinances, technology, and so forth.
  • Churches are behavior-expressed but values-driven. The inward values drive and explain the church’s outward behavior. These values explain why the church does what it does at the first behavioral level and why it doesn’t do what it should do. When a church culture acts on its beliefs, they become its actual values. Until then they are aspirational in nature and inconsistent with the church’s actual observed presence and expressed behavior.
  • Churches are behavior-expressed, values-driven, and beliefs-based.
  • These three elements of organizational culture—beliefs, values, and their expression—work together to display the church’s unique identity.
  • Congregational culture as a church’s unique expression of its shared beliefs and values.
  • “The most important single element of any corporate, congregational, or denominational culture . . . is the value system.”
  • A ministry based on clearly articulated core values drives a fixed stake in the ground that says to all, “This is what we stand for; this is what we are all about; this is who we are; this is what we can do for you.”
  • An organization’s core values signal its bottom line. They dictate what it stands for, what truly matters, what is worthwhile and desirous. They determine what is inviolate for it; they define what it believes is God’s heart for its ministry.
  • Core values are the constant, passionate shared core beliefs that drive and guide the culture.
  • The key to understanding what drives you or your ministry culture is not what you would like to value as much as what you do value.
  • To attempt change at the surface level is problematic and disruptive. People persist in their beliefs and resent the change because leaders haven’t addressed it at the beliefs level. Thus the leader or change agent must discover the basic beliefs and address them as the church works through the change process.
  • Every thriving, spiritually directed church is well fed and well led.
  • We cannot do anything we want, because God has designed us in a wonderful way to accomplish his ministry or what he wants. Only as we discover how he has wired us will we be able to understand what specifically he wants us to accomplish for him in this life, whether it’s through pastoring a church or some other important ministry.

As I said, if you are a pastor, this is an incredibly helpful book to work through.

Money Matters in Church

book coverJust finished Money Matters in Church by Aubrey Malphurs and Steve Stroope. I read it for two reasons, one, it was assigned in my lead pastor coaching network and, two, for help in an upcoming series at Revolution.

It is by far the most helpful and thorough book on the topic of money, stewardship and the church I have come across. Malphurs is a professor, so he brings with him a host of knowledge on the theological end of the spectrum when it comes to this topic and Stroope is a pastor of a growing church that is able to help apply the concepts in easy ways for pastors and leaders to use.

The book covers topics like what stewardship is, what the Bible has to say about money, how a church chooses a bank, good banking habits, creating a strategic budget, funding new facilities and ministries, paying staff members, how a church chooses what benefits to pay for, how to deal with debt and how to run a capital campaign from beginning to end.

Like I said, thorough.

They actually leave nothing out when it comes to this topic. What makes the book so helpful is that most pastors, unless they have a business background have very little clue on how to do this aspect of a church. Yet, it is incredibly important. Without money, a church will die very quickly. While most people don’t want to hear that, it is reality and something that more leaders need to think about.

For me, as a lead pastor I have the tension that as the leader of Revolution (along with the staff and elders) I am responsible to God and will be held accountable for how money is used at Revolution. I am held responsible for how we use the resources that God entrusts to us. These resources are not only valuable because of where they come from but also for what they will be used for. They can’t be wasted. Too much is at stake.

I think the parable is not only true for individuals but is also true for churches. God entrusts more to churches who can handle more. It is that simple. When it comes to people, resources, finances, if we will waste them, why would God give us more of them?

This book was a great reminder of some things, as well as something I got a ton out of. I highlighted so much as we are thinking through some of the policies they talked about in the book. Definitely worth picking up and passing off to your financial team (which I’ve done).

Why People Don’t Give Back to God

“Some people lack the motivation to give away their hard-earned money because the church has failed to provide a compelling vision for how the money will make a difference in the world. These are donors who can find other uses for their money and are not excited about simply handing money over to the church. The second group is those who see their giving as leverage on the future. They withhold money from the church because they do not see a sufficient return on their investment. The third segment is comprised of people who do not realize the church needs their money to be effective. Their church has done an inadequate job of asking for money, so people remain oblivious to the church’s expectations and potential. The fourth group is composed of those who are ignorant of what the Bible teaches about our responsibility to apply God’s resources in ways that affect lives. The final category contains those who are just selfish. They figure they worked hard for their money and it’s theirs to use as they please. Their priorities revolve around their personal needs and desires.” – Barna Research quoted in Money Matters in Church

Money Matters in Church: A Practical Guide for Leaders

Money is not something churches deal with a lot. It is seen as a turn off to visitors and too often churches are seen as “all about money.” When was the last time you told a pastor, “you preach too much on prayer or worship or community.” Money and sex seem to be the only things that everyone wants to know about, but don’t want to admit they need help in those areas.

The problem is that most Christians have absolutely no idea what the Bible says about this incredibly important topic. The reason it is important is because we all have questions about it. We all want to know what God has to say about it, we all worry about it, and if we are followers of Jesus, we want to honor God in all aspects of our lives, which include money.

While Jesus was on earth, he spoke about money, wealth, and riches 25% of the time. He taught on it more than he did heaven and hell. No why did he do that? Doesn’t eternity matter? How could money get more “air time” than heaven and hell? We focus a lot on those topics today. Why do we emphasize something more than Jesus did, and de-emphasize something that he emphasized?

Here is something you will hear on Saturday night, what you do with your money is a great indicator of your faith, your view of God and where you are at in your spiritual journey.

I read through Money Matters in Church for my talk this coming Saturday on “Becoming…Generous.” The other reason I read through it is that we want Revolution to be good stewards of our resources, we want to make sure we are honoring God with how money is used, how we encourage people in this area.

Here are a few thoughts from the book:

  • The issue of stewardship is more about the development of the believer than it is about the financial condition of the local church.
  • Giving is a privilege as much as it is a responsibility.

The book is definitely written more to leaders, but is definitely helpful for everyone. One of the most helpful parts was in the appendix where the authors lay out “a theology for financial stewardship.” Really helpful.