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How to Shepherd Your Flock in a Politically Charged World

Everything gets politicized these days. It’s never been easier for churches to also get caught up in waves of political enthusiasm and social activism.

So, what should a pastor do when their fellow church members see needs and want to meet them, see injustice and want to stop it, or see a good cause and want to support it?

First, we should rejoice! When a church does a good job equipping people to think and live as Christians in a fallen world, the people become like rivers overflowing the banks of the church gathered (the lake). The landscape changes when there are lakes and rivers. But not all lakes need to be rivers.

So what do you do when one person wants their passion to be the primary passion for the whole church?

There are no easy answers to this question because every church and every community and every activist is a different mix of personalities and passions. But here are some principles to keep in mind.

1. Demote the political sphere while encouraging your politically active members.

For too many in our society, politics is everything. In This Is Our Time, I write about the politicization of everything, where politics has become a religion. Our country is still faith-filled; it is just that today our faith is misplaced. Too often, it’s directed toward government, not God. And many of our frustrations come when we realize government can’t ultimately save us. It was never meant to. Peggy Noonan writes: “When politics becomes a religion, then simple disagreements become apostasies, heresies. And you know what we do with heretics.”

All around us are people who believe the myth that politics is the only real place where you can effect change or transform the world. When you think that laws are the most important factor in changing the world, then every battle must be fought to the end. Otherwise, you’re sacrificing the cause!

The gospel challenges that myth. It tells us that the political sphere is just one area in which change can take place. It helps us put the political in a broader context, to realize that it is not everything. All gains are temporary, but so are all setbacks. Even if we lose a political cause, we can still be faithful. We are called always to witness, not always to win.

With all of this in mind, pastors should demote politics to its proper place, while simultaneously encouraging Christians who are active in their community. Understanding that the political sphere is not ultimate does not mean we should retreat. We cannot be indifferent, hoping to enter our houses of worship or our closets for prayer, as if holiness is all personal and private. No, the apostle Peter calls us to holiness and honor as a way of being on mission in this world. “Holiness is not supposed to be cloaked in the chambers of pious hearts,” says theologian Vince Bacote, “but displayed in the public domains of home, school, culture, and politics.”

2. Be aware of how quickly the uniting factor of a congregation can become a cause rather than the cross.

Once you have demoted the political sphere to its proper place and encouraged your church members to remain active, you should keep an eye on what is at the center of your preaching and teaching. It is easy for the unifying factor of a church to become what we do for others instead of what Christ has done for us.

A church’s unity for a cause can eventually displace the cross. The gospel is still there, but it’s no longer in the center. Something else is uniting the church – a political cause, social work, a community ministry.

Why does this matter? Because we want long-term fruitfulness in our communities.

When you put the gospel at the center, various ministry opportunities will come alongside as demonstrations of the power of Christ’s work on the cross. But when you put a cause at the center, various ministry opportunities may flourish for a time but then wither away, because they are no longer connected to the source of life that can sustain such activism.

3. Guard the platform of your church.

As a pastor, you’ve probably received multiple self-invitations to take “just a few minutes” of precious platform time to give a report or make a congregation aware of a need. Whether it’s people spreading Bibles around the world, missionaries coming home from furlough, medical missionaries providing essential healthcare or pro-life opportunities… everyone wants just a few minutes. Except for the congregation. They expect you to say “no” and protect them from the countless ministry opportunities that could be presented every week.

Do your congregation a favor and guard the platform of your church. Only put activities in the bulletin that correspond to your church’s mission and presence in the community. You can’t be a megaphone for every single thing people in your church want to promote.

4. Observe your church’s particular gifts and passions, and provide opportunities for community involvement.

Right now, our church is involved with tutoring elementary school students down the street. We’re helping plant a church in Cincinnati. We’ve celebrated when families have adopted children from overseas, and we’ve hosted fundraisers to help them offset the cost. We’re assisting refugees being resettled in our area.

These are ways that our church is ministering to the community. Enough people in the congregation were involved in the need for the church to realize it could help facilitate some of this good ministry.

J. D. Greear lays out three approaches to individual ministries – Own, Catalyze, and Bless. He explains it this way:

To “own” a ministry means we staff and resource it directly.

Those we “bless” are those we know our members are engaged in, but as an institution we have little interaction with them other than the occasional encouragement.

But the third category, “catalyze,” is where we put most of our energy. When we catalyze something, we identify members with ideas and ask them to lead us. We come alongside them, adding our resources, networking power, etc. We serve them. And that means sometimes they don’t do things exactly the way I would prefer. But in the long run, an empowered church catalyzed to do ministry will do more gospel-good in the community than if the church owns and staffs all its own ministries.

5. Publicly affirm and bless the kind of activism you want to see.

This is perhaps the most important thing you can do. Lift up examples of people who are the kind of activists you want to see.

When you hear of people in your congregation doing good in the community, don’t be shy in letting the rest of the church know. What you celebrate, you become.

 

Trevin Wax is Bible and Reference Publisher for LifeWay Christian Resources and publisher for the Christian Standard Bible (CSB) Translation. A former missionary to Romania and current pastor, Trevin hosts a blog at The Gospel Coalition and his latest book is This is Our Time: Everyday Myths in the Light of the Gospel (March 2017, B&H Publishing).

 

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Get Ready, Salem Church Products Is Hiring

Salem Church Products is hiring and YOU could be the one to join our team, or you could know the perfect person who could come on board making in impact in tens of thousands of churches on a regular basis. We are looking for the right person who will fit the role as a Web Developer.

Here are some details for you:

1. RVA
If you don’t know what that is quite yet, no worries, I’ll fill you in. It stands for Richmond, VA, and it’s where we are located. So yes, you will be working with us in beautiful, sunny, RVA. It’s the capitol of Virginia, but it just has that small town feel. It’s such a great place to be as a single person, or a married couple with or without children.

2. Fun
Oh my. Let me count the ways.

  • Team lunches.
  • Team building times.
  • Company parties.
  • Ultimate frisbee teams.
  • Ping-Pong tournaments.
  • Free caffeine – Keurig (25+ choices) and soda machine (with La Croix now!).
  • Daily snacks.
  • Random blessings of free donuts, subs, pizzas, chick-fil-a, and more.
  • Don’t get me started on our Christmas party. Whew…it’s good!

3. Team
20 out of 20 people here at SCP agree that this is just the best company to work for. Does it get better than that?

4. Values
I love working for a company that has values such as:

  • We look for ways to encourage each other. We celebrate each other’s wins and have each other’s backs.
  • We are known as people who get things done. We take ownership of our work.
  • We are proactive in confronting challenges. We run towards problems with creative solutions.

5. Work
Alright, now here’s where it gets fun. To be a Web Developer with SCP, we’re not just looking for anyone. We’re looking for someone who can decipher the following:

  • CSS (random letters)
  • HTML (now I know this has to do with the web!)
  • ASP.NET (more random letters)
  • C# (does this mean you have to have a music degree?)
  • PHP (here we go again with the random letters)
  • Coldfusion (Do you need a physics degree)
  • SQL Server (Squool server??? as in crossing guard or cafeteria experience perhaps)
  • TSQL (enough with these letters…who really knows what they mean anyway?)

6. Impact
Get ready to have your mind blown. Do you want your work to make a difference? Everybody wants to have an impact right? Well this job will put you in a position to impact…are you ready for this…hold on…here we go:

  • 30,000+ churches on a weekly basis
  • over 1,000,000 monthly visitors that come to the sites you will be developing!

Come on! That is a significant impact you can be having.

So there you have it. If you think this position is a good fit for you, then click on the link below. You’ll find more details for this position and instructions on how to apply.

Web Developer – Salem Church Products

 

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Top 10 Easter Outreach Ideas (Some Good and Some Bad)

Easter! What a tremendous time to think about different outreach ideas for our friends, families, and communities. Easter, as you probably know, is one of the highest attended services you’ll have this year (Mother’s Day and Christmas are the other two big ones). Therefore, it’s well worth your time to devote energy to this topic. As a side note, my desire is that we love our friends, families, and neighbors throughout the week, throughout the year…not just during Easter. But, Easter is indeed the perfect time to brainstorm outreach ideas for how we can serve/love/share our faith with those around us.

Here is a list for you to present to your church as you consider the best approach for outreach this Easter season. I am, as you will see, opinionated on this matter. Forgive my leanings and see if you agree or disagree with me.

1. Throw an easter egg hunt at your church (Great)
2. Invite a friend (Best)
3. Throw a BBQ at your church the day before Easter (Good)
4. Invite a friend (Best…again)
5. Rent some llamas and have a petting zoo (not bad, but not great)
6. Invite a friend (Still the best)
7. Blindly copy what really big churches are doing and hope for the best (horrible idea)
8. Invite a friend (See what I’m doing?)
9. Cross your fingers and hope someone else invites your friends (Not even going to comment on this one.)
10. Invite a friend (Will always be the best outreach idea for any day of the year.)
There you have it: ten ideas to get you thinking about outreach as you consider what you and your church will do this Easter season.
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4 Steps to Help When You Find Yourself Saying “Yikes! I Have to Fire a Volunteer.”

4 Steps to help when you find yourself saying (1)That dreaded moment is here. That motivated, excited person who loves God that you recruited for your worship team, tech team, sound team, etc. is not doing that well. It’s not that they just aren’t doing that well, they are also pulling others down, and monopolizing time that you don’t have. You love to train, disciple, and build into people, but there comes a time when enough is enough, and yes, you have to fire a volunteer. As a side note, if you have not experienced this before, then stick around in your position long enough, and trust me, you’ll get there. More than anything, this is a reality of working with people, and helping them grow in the Lord. As leaders, this is about learning how to best equip people and place them where they can best use their gifts in the church.

What do you do when you find yourself needing to fire someone who is willing to give their time, energy, and skills to serving the church? The last thing we want to do is to squash their passion for serving the church, right!? How do we tactfully handle these potentially messy situations? Fear not! We have some tips that will help you out:

1. Pray
We know this, but sometimes it’s the last thing we remember to do. We are all in the ministry to serve and to utilize the gifts God has given us to proclaim His glory to everyone, everywhere. No one has a monopoly on the best way to handle a situation or work with people. With humility, we should bathe this entire process in prayer. Let’s drop to our knees and ask God for the following:

– Wisdom (James 1:5)
– Understanding (Proverbs 2:3)
– Humility (Philippians 2:3-4)

2. Assess
Take some time to assess the situation and grab a trusted advisor to join you in this process (Proverbs 11:14). It is during this time that you need to take a 30,000 foot view of the ministry, this person’s role, and their shortcomings. Ask yourself the following questions:

– What are their expectations?
– Are they lacking the necessary equipment?
– Are they lacking the necessary training?

If you can come up with solutions here that could keep you from firing the volunteer, then by all means, create a strategy and implement the plan. If everything has been taken care of and the individual still needs to be fired, then continue on.

3. Meet
Get together with the individual. Don’t send a note. Don’t use sticky notes. Don’t email them. And for all things good, please, please, please do not use social media! Also, be wise: if it’s a person of the opposite sex, don’t meet behind closed doors. When you meet together, understand up front that each of you has a responsibility. You have a responsibility to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), and they have a responsibility to humbly listen to criticism (Proverbs 15:31). With that as the foundation, have a meaningful conversation. Here are a few points to hit on while you are talking:

– Acknowledge their willingness to serve and show your appreciation
– Discuss vision and purpose of their role to ensure clarity
– Show where you are seeing discontinuity between their actions/attitudes and the role
– Acknowledge the gifting you are seeing in that individual
– Offer another way to utilize their talents, or if they do not know, then guide them to resources to help them find their talents

4. Critique
Now that you have fired the individual and helped them to know their strengths and get plugged in where they will thrive, it is time for you to critique your own volunteer management process. Start fresh. If someone volunteers for a position, then set the standard that they are agreeing to be trained, coached, and reviewed regularly to ensure they are utilizing their gifts. This is a structured, well thought out plan versus simply thanking God that you have a warm body to take care of a task. Having that mentality is sure to get you into a world of frustration and firings. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

– Could you have handled the situation better?
– Could you have provided better training/oversight?
– Did you rush to put someone into this position?
– What process will you utilize to place a new volunteer into this role?

It is never fun to fire volunteers, but in leadership, it is a necessary task. Stay encouraged! If you create a fresh, new, structured volunteer management process, then the number of firings will be greatly reduced.

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Don’t Miss the 2017 Worship Together Conference + 25% off Registration Code

Wanderlust (1)
Come on everyone! This is an event to check out! On February 2+3, the Church of the City in Franklin, TN will be hosting an exciting conference you may have heard about: Worship Together. Let me just put a little name drop in here on who will be leading and speaking:

  • Kari Jobe
  • Chris Tomlin
  • Cass Langton
  • Housefires
  • Chris McClarney
  • Brenton Brown
  • Christy Nockels
  • Aaron Keyes
  • Darren Whitehead

Need I say more? If that doesn’t get you pumped up, I don’t know what will. This is a unique conference bound to stretch and encourage your faith. There are no breakouts at this conference. Everyone will go through every moment together, experiencing what God has for everyone together, as one.

BONUS: We’ve got a code for you. When you go to register, be sure to use the code WHM to receive 25% off the conference price!

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