Saturday, February 26, 2011

Expect the Best (of People)

Before reading below, please understand that, although we do deal with these issues from time to time, this post does not stem from anything that is currently taking place in my own church.

Maybe it's just because I am and for nearly all my life have been a pastor's kid (PK). Maybe it's simply because my parents taught me, through word and example, to defend the unity of the church at all costs. Maybe it's just because I'm just a trusting guy...

There are very few things I despise more than the idea that somebody is even suspicious that I've lied to them when I haven't. Partly because of that, I do my best to trust others, unless I have proof otherwise. People who are not trustworthy tend to be the first to be distrusting. I deeply desire others to have the confidence in me to trust me.

A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret. (Proverbs 11:13)

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. (I Timothy 1:12)

Maybe, it's because my parents taught me what a New Testament church was really meant to be. A NT church is the bride of Christ, the body of Christ. God says he'll protect His church, and He commands us to do the same.

I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.“I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. (John 17:21-23)

It's not a coincidence that I have continued to love the church since I was a teenager. My parents not only taught me to love the church, but they raise me in a church that I could love among people who loved me. The same church I grew up in is the church I now serve full-time. The same pastors who led me as a child now lead me as a 29 year old man, and I consider each of them a close friend. My pastors have taught me and the rest of my church by example what it means to protect the unity of our church. Nothing cripples the church more or more quickly than false or unproven accusations.

And, maybe it's because I grew up in a pastor's house. Many pastors have lost all credibility and reputation because of false accusations. To be a leader, especially a leader who is willing to speak the truth and ignore "political correctness", is to set oneself in the crosshairs of all sorts of accusations. My father has never shied away from the truth, and it's only by God's grace that he has weathered the storms brought about by those who hate the truth and hate him for it.

To accuse another believer of heresy or sin is a very, very serious thing. To accuse a pastor of heresy or sin is even more serious. The Bible is extremely clear about this...

Be sure never to charge anyone falsely with evil. Never sentence an innocent or blameless person to death, for I never declare a guilty person to be innocent. (Exodus 23:7)

Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. (I Timothy 5:19)

My parents did what they could to protect me and my sisters from the ugly side of full-time ministry, but I was still aware at a young age of how hard the life of a pastor can be. I've heard horror stories from other PKs about things their fathers went through, and although I am certain I don't know the half of it, I'm thankful my dad and our family was protected from much of what could have been. When I see other pastors (those I know, and those I might not know) being accused without proof, it hurts my heart because I know experientially the damage a false accusation of a pastor threaten to do.

Here's the bottom line. Expect the best of people, especially those who have proven to be of godly character. Whether it's your best friend, an "enemy" or the hottest televangelist. Even those who have suspicion clouding around them should be given the grace that God has extended to us.


As a footnote, if somebody has been proven to be a heretic, to be living in sin, etc., then yes, the Bible also speaks clearly about how to address those situations. I'd suggest reading Matthew 18 and Titus 3:10,11.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Auditions Are Not Just For The Band

They might not call them "auditions", but every ministry team in our church has a process/system in place to literally give people an audition for ministry. Our Kids Church Team, our First Impressions Team, our Hospitality Team, our Youth Team...every single team has an audition of some kind to allow people to determine if their ministry is a good fit.

There are a few great reasons why your church should also have an audition process/system for everyone who wants to get involved in serving, but it all boils down to one thing...people.

People should be our priority. Beyond bringing glory to God (worshiping Him in everything we do) our number one priority should be people. The church isn't a's people. Our mission isn't to do good's to invest spiritually in people (what the Bible calls "making disciples"). We serve in ministry because of people, we reach out in missions because of people, we learn to love like Jesus loved because of people. If you can't agree with this point, don't bother reading further.

So, if our priority is people (or perhaps more defined, helping people grow as followers of Christ), then our priority in ministry must be to help people find the specific ministry(s) that God has uniquely gifted them for. At Nags Head Church, we believe that God has given each of our partners a unique SHAPE to serve the church as well as or better than anyone else in the church.

S - Spiritual Gifts. God has supernaturally given every believer at least one (often more) spiritual gift to use in serving the body of Christ. Read 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12 and Ephesians 4.
H - Heart. God has given every believer a heart (or passion) for specific things. Music, children, food, cleanliness, education, art, etc. He wants us to use our passions to serve Him because He knows ministry is fun when we're doing something we love.
A - Abilities. God has created each of us with natural abilities, whether we're good with our hands, good with our heads, or a jack of all trades. He wants us to use those natural abilities to serve others.
P - Personality. God has given each person a unique personality. He wants us to find ways to use our personalities, whether outgoing or quiet, to make a difference in the lives of others.
E - Experience. Every believer's life is full of unique experiences, both good and bad, all orchestrated by God. He wants us to serve in areas of ministry that will allow us to use those experiences to relate to and help others better understand Who He is.

Once people understand how God has SHAPEd them, they can then begin to explore which ministries in the church might be a great fit for their unique gifts. Unfortunately, too many churches simply check for a pulse before plugging the latest ministry hole with the next available warm body. As a result, too many people walk away from serving altogether because they got "stuck" doing something they either didn't enjoy or were told they were not doing well, simply because those of us in charge don't use just a little bit of wisdom to create a process/system for bringing them slowly into a ministry position.

You can't run before you walk, and you can't walk before you crawl. Just step outside the walls of your church building and look around...every successful restaurant, every successful gas station, every successful business of any kind in your town is almost certain to understand this principle and to have a system in place for bringing on new team members (employees). I'm not saying operate your church exactly like the night club down the street, but there are some organizational truths that are universal and can easily be adapted by the church. Yet, again, too many churches believe that auditions of any kind for any ministry don't have any place in their church.

But, by giving people a process for joining a team, you communicate a few important things to the people you lead:

1) "We care more about you than we do about filling a hole in ministry."

2) "We do care about excellence in ministry."

3) "We are OK with the fact that this might not be the right ministry for you, and we're willing to let you audition with other ministries to help you find the right fit."

By taking the time to properly explain what the ministry is all about, give people a chance to observe the ministry behind the scenes, and train people how to do the ministry correctly, you're putting people first, raising the bar of excellence, and giving people an easy out should the ministry not be a good fit.

Bottom line...God has called us to be good stewards of ever resource He has given to us, starting with the people we are leading. Give God your best by desiring the best for those you lead.


Monday, February 7, 2011

Review - Worship Leader Boot Camp, Southern Baptist Convention of North Carolina

Many people don't realize it, but Nags Head Church is a Southern Baptist Church. In fact, most of our first time guests think we're non-denominational based on how we do things. But, while we might appear very non-traditional in our methodology, we are very traditionally baptist in our beliefs. Having said all of that, it's always a bit of a risk for us when we attend events put on by our regional and state conventions. We always seem to be the odd man out.

This past Saturday, I traveled with four of my band mates from NHC to the Worship Leader Boot Camp, a training event for worship leaders put on by our Southern Baptist Convention of North Carolina. I try to take advantage of any event like this...if nothing else, it's great to get away from our normal routine and spend some time together learning.

The kind of teaching and training that is being offered with these boot camps is something that is greatly needed. Far too many worship leaders do not have a solid Biblical foundation of worship, nor do they have the tools to be able to lead with vision and growth. Just in our area in rural Northeastern NC, it's evident through my interaction with other worship leaders that very few churches recognize the importance of equipping their leaders (who are mostly unpaid/volunteers) to lead well.

We really appreciated the tools that were given to help with organization. The examples of how to create and organize song lists and set lists, and how to create flow in worship were a great reminder that God has called us to our best. The theology that was taught toward the beginning was dead on, and literally identical to part of what I teach in a similar worship class I created for NHC.

I am certain that most of the churches represented were given a great picture of what could be. We sat with a group of 4 from another church at lunch, and it was obvious that they were very hungry for what was being taught, and that many of the concepts being presented were new territory for them. Having said that, the boot camp, for the four of us, while a great reminder of things, did not offer many new ideas or tools. Again, I think it was a great event for the target group, but my feeling is our church wasn't in that target group. My hope is that one day we'll be able to attend an SBC event like this that can challenge our church in the same way it will challenge many other SBC churches.

I would highly recommend this event for any church that is...
1) Wanting to transition from from traditional to blended in their worship style.
2) Wanting to provide a solid foundation of Biblical worship for their worship leaders.