Come & See, Go & Be.

For the last several years (that I’ve noticed anyway), an argument has been raging among Christians (and ministry leaders) about whether our churches should be “attractional” or “missional”.  The attractional camp throws their stage lights at the missional camp and the missional camp throws their Toms shoes at the attractional camp.  We’ve been shaking our fists at each other for far too long.

Can we stop now?  Please?!?

Church-on-wheelsWhat neither camp seems to recognize (or admit) is that Jesus’ ministry was (in keeping with current terminology) both “attractional” and “missional”.  In other words Jesus ABSOLUTELY drew a crowd, and Jesus ABSOLUTELY sent people out in His name, for His Kingdom, and on His mission.  Another, more succinct way to put it is that as followers of Jesus, we need to recognize the invitation Jesus gives today to “come and see”; see what Jesus is about, see how people worship Him, see (and taste) the goodness of God and fellowship with those who call Him Lord.   And we need to equally recognize the call for His followers to “go and be”; be the agents of grace He has shown us how and told us to be.  Be the unashamed lovers of God and love those around you with His kind of love.  Be the salt of your community and the light of your world.  Come & See, Go & Be.

So if you’re part of a group that snubs its nose at traditional churches, and you meet in an open meadow thinking that churches like Northpoint and Saddleback and LifeChurch shouldn’t be doing what they’re doing, then quite honestly you need to check your heart.  And likewise if you think that people are just clawing at the church building doors to get in and that’s how it should be, then you need to check the current stats (no claw marks on church doors) and then re-read the Gospels and especially the book of Acts.


Whatever you do, please STOP arguing over “Attractional vs. Missional”.  You’re actually hurting the work we’re called to do for the Kingdom.

Dangerous Thoughts on Leadership

I’m gonna just throw it out there:

I don’t believe in leadership.

I believe in influence.

I believe in humility.

I believe in serving.

I believe in selflessness.

I believe in inspiring.

I believe in decisiveness.

I believe in emboldening.

I believe in convictions.

I believe in vision.

I believe in passion.

I believe in lots of things, but I think the concept of leadership needs a makeover…at least for me.

Jesus never seemed to talk in terms of leadership the way that most people today do. To Him, leaders weren’t the “movers and shakers”. They were the “lovers and givers”. They weren’t the “up and coming”, they were the “down and dirty”. Thinking leadership has to do with prestige, progress, productivity, or power is a big mistake. That is, if you take Jesus seriously.

If “Jesus Christ” is what comes out only when you stub your toe, then you might not know what I’m talking about.

Jesus never taught about leadership. Go ahead. Look for yourself. And yet “Leadership” has been a buzz-word for quite some time among Christian “leaders” and how we view discipleship and training. We often associate “success” with the number of “leaders” it produces or at least the number of people it attracts.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure: the student ministry I help to *gulp* lead has a vibrant and active *gulp* “Student Leadership Team”. But we’re crystal clear that being part of that team is by no means a “step up”, but rather a “stoop down” as we put it. Those called to lead are those willing to love, serve, and lose themselves in selfless sacrifice so that others are blessed. A “leader” isn’t a favorite of God because the last time I checked God doesn’t have any favorites as much as He has ALL favorites.

So, what did Jesus say about leadership? Simply put: nothing. What did He say about servanthood? Simply put: tons. That’s why while removing the word “leader” from my vocabulary might be nothing more than semantics, I do firmly believe that those who serve/love/shape people would do well to follow Jesus non-struction on leadership and His clear INstruction on servanthood, humility, and selflessness.

(This is one of those posts where I have tons more to say, but I recognize a long blog post is often an unread blog post. So…)

What have you been taught about leadership and how to attain it? What can the ministry world learn from the corporate world in this regard? And what can the corporate world learn from the ministry world?

Ministry Happens Here.

As a very young boy, I vividly recall standing on a step-stool next to a rickety wooden table on which a mimeograph machine sat.  My task? Crank that handle like nobody’s business while my Dad (a step or two away) fed the blank bulletin sheets into the end of the machine.  So like a circus monkey paid with peanuts and applause (minus the peanuts and applause), I’d stand and crank the handle, turning the inky drum as it churned out bulletin after bulletin after bulletin in preparation for the upcoming Sunday’s worship service.  This was my first memory of my introduction to ministry.

I grew up in the shadow of a church.  And I mean that literally.  It wasn’t until my early 30’s that I didn’t live in a house or apartment that wasn’t directly next to or across the street from the church building I worked in and worshiped in.  For most of my life, I’ve been a mere stone’s throw away from a church building.  Where I sit now, typing these words is as far as where I live has ever been away from my church, where I work/serve/minister/worship; not more than 15 minutes.

I had lunch with my senior pastor yesterday.  I’ll start off by saying I LOVE this guy.  Jerome is someone who is as sincere as they come and a genuine lover of God and people.  He is immediately embracable and approachable and has an uncanny ability to remember your name even after only meeting you once.  He has a heart for leading with integrity, vision, passion, and fruitfulness.  He’s been the senior pastor at Southside for nearly 25 years.  You’d be hard pressed to find a pastor who lasts much longer than 25 months at a church, let alone 25 years.  I love Jerome and in every conversation we have, I become more and more convinced that Jerome loves me and my family.  So naturally I love any time I get to spend with Jerome, especially when its one-on-one.

We were discussing ministry-related issues among other things and through our conversation, I began to think about where and how ministry happens.  And just to have a common understanding, let me explain what I mean by “ministry”.  Ministry is any forward movement of God’s Kingdom, to put it one way.  Ministry happens in a wide variety of ways, not the least of which is at weekend worship gatherings.  Ministry happens not through pastors alone, but through every person who names Jesus as Lord and allows His Lordship to flow through their life into the life of another.  Ministry is me listening to a grieving friend as he tells of the end of his marriage, despite his uttermost efforts to save it.  Ministry is you taking food, clothes, or other supplies to the homeless of your area.  Ministry  is the teaching and preaching of God’s Word to God’s people.  Ministry is two Christians sitting in a cafe’ discussing and encouraging one another with Scripture.  Ministry happens when I’m present in your pain.  Ministry is you visiting someone in the hospital or nursing home.  Ministry is walking next door to your neighbors who just had a baby, carrying a casserole and package of diapers.  Ministry is you speaking to God on someone else’s behalf.  Ministry is bringing food to the hungry, clothes to the needy, water to the thirsty, compassion to the hurting, and God’s love in God’s name to any other human being in any context.  THAT’S ministry.

But I’ve got to make a confession.  Like my early days as a mimeograph handle cranker, I can sometimes view pastoral ministry as happening predominantly inside the four walls of an office, and sitting behind a desk.  And I wonder how many other pastors feel and do the same.  But here’s the thing that stings:  Jesus didn’t even have an office.  Or a desk.  And by all Scriptural evidence, I don’t even see anything about a chair.

Of course I realize that Jesus was in an extremely different ministry context.  Of course I realize that things were different then, some 2,000 years ago.  And of course, I realize that HE’S JESUS.  But still, Jesus spent way more time in the fields than in the temple.  An honest look at Jesus’ ministry approach reveals He focused more on reaching than preaching.  After all, if you haven’t reached out, then who exactly are you preaching to?  I know they’re not mutually exclusive, but I also see that in most situations, there’s a natural progression of one to the other.

But I’m awfully comfortable at my desk.  Not physically really, but in a personal security sense.  At my desk, I have a sense of domain.  I know what I’m doing and I’m good at those things.  I can email like a banshee and get replies from people within minutes and a have a sense of progression.  I can stand up, walk to the whiteboard, and plan out a year’s worth of sermons and socials.  I can sit down at my computer and pound out a spreadsheet, a devotional book, or a flyer promoting our next event.  But when I walk out the door, any one at all is liable to come up to me with a question, or a request, or some other need that I might not know how to handle.

And the longer I’ve grown in ministry, the more I believe that the vast majority of real ministry often happens far from the church building, from my office, and from my desk chair.  It happens in conversations with teens via text or social network while I’m sitting in a restaurant booth somewhere, it happens in homes where small groups meet, laugh, share, cry, and love God by loving each other.  It happens downtown where physical needs are met before spiritual needs are broached.  It happens suddenly when I get a message from someone asking “Can we talk?”.  It happens just as often in the unplanned chaos as it does in the planned routine of daily life.  As a pastor, I recognize that life in ministry seldom (if ever) leaves the trenches.

So God help me (a measly pastor) to live a life that prioritizes people over projects, “out there” more than “in here”, adventure over security, cold water in your hand over hot coffee on my desk, serving over being served, and Christ-like sacrifice over me-like comfort.