Saturday, May 05, 2007

Purpose Driven Presbyterians – Report 7: Inward and Outward.

Every church and Christian is faced with a balancing act—balancing “looking inward” and “looking outward.” The Purpose Driven ministry model helps to provide that balance.

Looking inward: The natural tendency of every church is to look “inward.” There are many things involved with this inward focus. Pastoral care is one aspect of an inward focus. We need to be there for people during their times of need. In the past couple of weeks our small church has had three people with surgeries and several others with various medical needs. Another aspect of an inward focus is our gathering for food and coffee following worship. This is a great time to reconnect with people you haven’t seen for a week or two. Discipleship is a component of our inward focus.

Looking outward: Every church needs to be involved in mission and evangelism—the outward focus. Presbyterians are very generous with their $$$ for mission. Presbyterians are not very comfortable with actually “doing” evangelism and mission. Just this week one of the elders at my church said that we do not need to grow larger. I couldn’t believe my ears! But when I calmed down (a day or two later) I realized that the elder was only reacting like most of the rest of my church. Just last Sunday we had visitors stay for the coffee time. They were sitting at a table all by themselves. Not a single long time person from the church was talking with them. Fortunately, some of our newest members went over to talk with them. I am convinced that most churches say they want to be “outward” focused but very few are willing to do what it takes to be outward focused. Here at Evergreen, we have be talking about it (and trying to do it) for two years. We have only taken baby steps, at best. The Purpose Driven model will eventually help our folks to gain an outward mentality.

I look forward to the day when there is a balance between the “inward” and “outward” focus of our church. I just hope that it won’t be too late.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Purpose Driven Presbyterians – Report 5: Empowering the laity for ministry.

In the Presbyterian Church we talk about the “priesthood of the laity.” Good in theory. The problem is that we rarely see it being practiced. The Purpose Driven ministry model has allowed Trinity Presbyterian Church, in Satellite Beach, to put the “priesthood of the laity” into practice.

The Purpose Driven ministry model allows a church train its folks for ministry and then allows them to use that very training. Trinity has hired several part-time folks to lead their various ministries. The folks they have hired are from their church.

There are several advantages to hiring from within:

  • The church knows the gifts and talents of the person who is hired.
  • The church has seen the person in ministry situations as a volunteer.
  • The new hire has “bought in” to the church’s biblical beliefs and core values (the church’s DNA).
  • The new hire already knows the people of the church and community.
  • Several part-time people (or full-time people) can be hired for specific ministries due to the person’s gifts rather than hiring one person with “general” ministry skills.
  • It truly puts into practice the idea of the “priesthood of the laity.”

Once upon a time I serve on a Committee on Ministry (COM for short) -- I even was the moderator of the COM. Never again will I serve on a COM! I digress. While on COM I saw people lie-through-their-teeth to receive a call. Some of these people (actually, I think it was all of them) had been ordained as a Minister of the Word and Sacrament for several years. Some of the folks desperately wanted to move to a particular part of the country. Others wanted to get away from their current church. Still others were having marriage problems and wanted to get away for a new start. The common denominator was that they were not truthful to the churches they were interviewing with. In another Presbytery I am aware of a very conservative/evangelical church that called a conservative/evangelical Associate Pastor and later found out that the person was actually VERY liberal but wanted to move to that part of the country!

A pastor friend in another Presbytery told me that his church would never hire a second ordained pastor because it is almost impossible to fire someone who has lied to get the job.

A church is not going to “hire” someone for every ministry position. In fact, most ministry positions will be staffed by volunteers (I prefer to call them “uncompensated staff). These folks are treated with the same respect and confidence as a paid staff person. The Purpose Driven ministry model provides a trained, tried and tested group of volunteers to lead ministries. These people will be excited about their church. Such excitement is contagious. This excitement will draw new people into the church.

The Purpose Driven ministry model is an excellent tool for training our folks for ministry.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Special Post—Not An April Fools Joke!

I interrupt my blogging on Purpose Driven Presbyterians because the Church has once again made me sick to my stomach!

On Pentecost Sunday, May 27, churches will be celebrating “Pluralism Sunday.” The Center for Progressive Christianity is promoting Pluralism Sunday. Their web site states: “Progressive Christians thank God for religious diversity! We don’t claim that our religion is superior to all others.” They are defiling the day we celebrate as the birth of the church.

As a Presbyterian, why would this bother me? First, Christian churches are going to be participating in Pluralism Sunday. They will be saying that the Christian faith is no better than any other faith—all religions are acceptable to God. Any Presbyterian church that participates in Pluralism Sunday should be brought up on heresy charges before their Presbytery!

Secondly, take a look at The Center for Progressive Christianity’s web site. Do you see who their member organizations are? Who would have guessed? The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), through its Office for Interfaith Relations is one of their member organizations! Our money, staff people and their time are being used to further this heresy. The people in that office should be FIRED! IMMEDIATELY!! It is one thing to build relationships with people of other faiths. It is totally unacceptable to be a part of an organization that says that Jesus isn’t the only way to God.

Maybe the Presbyterian Church is losing so many people and is experiencing such financial difficulties because God’s judgment is being poured out on it.

Purpose Driven Presbyterians – Report 4

I attended last week’s Purpose Driven Presbyterians conference at Trinity Presbyterian Church, Satellite Beach, Florida. There were three seminars for conference attendees:
  • Foundational Seminar: For churches interested in seeing how the Purpose Driven model can work for Presbyterian Churches.
  • Making the Transition Seminar: For churches that have made the commitment to Purpose Driven ministry and have been in the process for less than two years.
  • Breakout Seminar: For churches that have been in the process for more than two years.

I was attending the Breakout Seminar.

The most widespread concern by most participants was the age of their church members (this was discussed in a previous post). Over and over again I heard pastors and elders ask, “How do we go about starting a contemporary worship service?” The hope is that younger families will attend with a change in worship format. The flippant answer was, “Very carefully!” The proper answer is, “There is no single formula for starting a contemporary worship service.” The true answer is, “Don’t expect any help from the PCUSA!”

Changing worship style does not guarantee an increase in worship attendance. However, doing the same old thing for a plateaued or declining church almost guarantees more of the same.

The first step in Purpose Driven ministry is to change the DNA of the church. The DNA of the church is what is at the core of the church. Most churches give very little thought to the church’s DNA—they try to be all things to all people. I use to attend a church like this and it was very frustrating. If the pastor preached a “biblical” sermon the “progressive” side of the church would complain. If the pastor preached on social justice without an evangelistic component then the “biblical” side of the church would complain. A pastor never lasted more than five years at that church—it was too frustrating. At Evergreen we welcome everyone but we are also very clear about our basic beliefs and core values. These are our DNA and WILL NOT change. If a person wants a “progressive/liberal” church experienced then they will be happier at a Presbyterian church about 8 miles away.

Changing worship styles without changing the church’s DNA is like a 95 year old person getting a face lift. The person is still old to the core—even with a face that’s skin is drum tight.

To revitalize a church requires the hard work of looking at what is at the core of the church and its beliefs. This is why it is easier to start a new church than to transform an existing church. It can be done—it just won’t be easy.