LONG BORING BLOG ENTRY ALERT!!!!!
If you don't want to spend a good amount of time reading a not-so-quick recap of the four speakers I heard today, just skip reading this, and wait for next week's "Ten Things I Think I Think"... or save it for a rainy day when you are bored.
Well, what a day! It's 9pm here in Arlington Heights, Illinois, and we just broke as a group for the day from our experience at Willow Creek, which is a conference now being simulcast/tape delayed to more than 60,000 people all over the world (and I mean all over the world). The entire focus of the event is to look at issues of leadership. Here's my skewed recollection from the day:
Speaker #1 - Bill Hybles (Senior Pastor - Willow Creek Community Church)
Bill's thoughts are always welcomed. This past year he stepped down as the Senior Pastor of the South Barrington Campus, and turned over regular leadership duties for that place to Gene Apple. He talked a bit about the stages of Christian leadership, which were very interesting. In his estimation they are:
- Heart Stage: This is the young pastor/youth leader/pastor/preacher in their twenties who knows little, if anything, but has a burning heart for the Lord. The person makes tons of mistakes, but is able to get people to follow him/her just out of their sheer passion. Of course, they make lots of mistakes, and at some point, the people who are following start wondering where in the heck the ministry is headed. Needless to say, this brought back a lot of good memories of my experience at Shawnee v1.0.
- Heart & Skills Stage: This is the period of time in ministry when you realize that heart alone won't keep a ministry, or minister, afloat, so you start to acquire some skills. You start reading books, experimenting with different strategies and styles, and look for a good mentor. This process begins at some point, but never ends. Personally, I think back to early days with Joseph and Barry when they tried to learn me a thing or two, but the critical learning stage for me happened at Toledo Epworth UMC when lay-person, Bob Knowles, modeled for me a life of personal spiritual devotion and pushed me to learn how to recruit, train, and utilize volunteers. My skill development really took off at Goshen First with Dick's mentoring... just an invaluable experience.
- Leadership Development: At some point, you've got to start raising up people out of the congregation and on your staff to take on some serious ministry. Looking for intelligent, creative, relationally proficient folks who want to "win", you pour yourself in them so that a ministry can grow. You also start targeting lay-people not just for the purpose of growing a church, but for making an impact in the world. My youth ministry, mission, and worship experiences at Goshen were my first real good stab at this.
- Developing a Constellation of Stars: This is the process where by the people who you develop are permitted to shine as brightly as you are. As you release control and let go of power, people take on major areas of ministry. This is a stage that few pastoral leaders or churches experience for a variety of reasons (pastors don't stay long enough, power struggles, pastors run out of time, etc...).
- Era of Influence Beyond Pastoral Ministry: As a pastor develops a reputation as being innovative and fruitful, other pastors within their sphere of influence look to them for mentoring. In this way, a pastoral leader can leave a pulpit/church, but still serve the cause of Christ, even until death. This is a period precious few pastors ever experience. Billy Graham is a good example of this right now.
Closed the day by talking about an experience he just had in Africa where he was carrying a bag of mealy meal to a village with some locals, and realized that the work the church was doing was literally saving lives in a little village in Zambia. Powerful stuff, and reminiscent of Shawnee's work in Haiti.
Speaker #2: Pastor James Meeks (Salem Baptist Church - Chicago)
Described by Christianity Today as "most successful megachurch pastor you've never heard of", James Meeks' church, which he started in 1985 in the Roseland area of Chicago (Epworth and Goshenites might remember than name - that's where we did our mission ministry here in the big city) has grown from 250 to over 20,000 members. The church does more stuff in the community than can be listed here, but its big claim to fame was that they were able to make Roseland a "dry community", effecting closing the hundreds of liquor stores that had once been open for business. Recently, Meeks was elected to the Illinois State Senate as the Representative, challenging the notion of a role of a pastor in the public sphere. His church and Willow Creek have been working together the last year to bring some racial reconciliation to the Chicago area. Pastor Meeks spoke on the "Ten Enemies Of Churches Being Able To Grow". Here they are
1. Lack of faith (don't believe in themselves, their vision, the power of God)
2. Lack of knowledge (bible, principles of church growth)
3. Failure to realize God is no respecter of persons: Most folks think only a few people are chosen to grow churches, but Meeks assertion is that the same principles make all churches grow, just like the laws of physics are applied by God to everyone.
4. Not believing growth is always the goal of the New Testament Church: There's a reason why Jesus compared the Kingdom of Heaven to a seed... they both are expected to grow.
5. The pastor is unsure him/herself: I've got a lot of thoughts on this one, but this blog is getting pretty long, so I'll save it for next week's "Ten Things..."
6. Failure to build on small victories: A crucial aspect of Shawnee's growth in the early days. Nothing was too small that we couldn't use it as a springboard to something else.
7. Failure to preach announcements: Kind of the difference asking for money for mission work, and gearing an entire service, including sermon, to ask for money. Learned this lesson the hard way in Goshen when instead of just doing a Haiti Sunday (which had been plenty effective), lay people spoke four weeks during announcements to ask for cash. It resulted in little cash, and a disconnect from the mission.
8. Lack of Corporate Fasting and Prayer: My day of fasting and prayer for the church last January really stands out now as probably the greatest learning I've had in many, many years, and this just re-enforces it.
9. Not getting started: All plan... no action.
10. Wrong motive for growing a church: There's no point of growing a church if people aren't becoming disciples of Jesus.
Speaker #3: Andy Stanley (Senior Pastor - NorthPoint Community Church, Atlanta)
Probably the most convicting presentation, personally of the day. Stanley said that the most important decision he made as a pastor occurred early on in ministry when he decided that he would reverse his thinking about what "God should take care of". Until that moment, Stanley worked long hours at church while trusting God to fill in the holes he was leaving in his family due to his lack of time with them. In other words, he was afraid that God couldn't grow his church unless he was there, but he trusted God to take care of his family when he wasn't around. Paul commands husbands to "love their wives as Christ loves the church", which implies...
1) God loves the church, and will take care of it
2) Husbands are supposed to do the same thing with their mates and kids
In response to this, Stanley refused to work more than 45 hours a week, and went home at 4pm every day, no matter what. As a result, what he says he learned in the process was...
1) Pastors do too many things they aren't good at, and thus don't play from their strengths
2) Pastors work out of a mode of fear (afraid that if they don't do this, say this, or whatever) that people will get ticked off and (leave, quit giving, call for his head, fill in the blank), which is counter to the command of Jesus that we need not be afraid.
3) All staff people at NorthPoint are required to do this, and as a result, the church is attracting more talented people who want to work and stay there.
4) A more sustainable pace for growth has been set at the church. As an example, NorthPoint, although they worship thousands, haven't added a Saturday night service. Stanley refuses because of what it will do to him and his staff to work a day that is traditionally a day off.
While Joseph is the only SP I've ever had who consistently told me to go home and be with my family, my other experiences as a pastor have set some unhealthy patterns. Let's just say, I heard this, and am tired of working out of a sense of fear.
Speaker #4: Peg Neuhauser (Conflict Resolution Specialist - Consultant)
Talked about active listening and a bunch of other stuff... I wasn't paying attention
(just a little stab at humor)
Without belaboring this talk, Peg talked about a lot of the same things that if you've ever gone through L-E-A-D with Joseph or Charlotte at Shawnee, you'd recognize (difference in communication styles between leaders, analysts, dependables, and expressors). Also talked about the need for developing communication between "tribes" (areas of focus or formal and informal interests groups) in a church, and communication between staff/volunteers that are "specialists" and staff/volunteers that are generalists (which is so true it literally woke me up from a long day of listening).
Great day. More tomorrow.