The Deadly Duo

Over the years I’ve noticed that, if the devil can’t get you to leave the ministry, he’ll use tactics to render you completely ineffective.  The evidence of this is great, just look around and you’ll see many churches stagnant, dying, and irrelevant.  Or they simply implode.  In the driver’s seat of the majority of these ministries there is a common thread.  It’s like these leaders have been bitten by the same bug.  This nasty malady can be difficult to detect and almost impossible for the infected to recognize, let alone do anything about it.  They have been bitten by the double-headed snake of pride and insecurity.

I know you might be thinking, “Aren’t pride and insecurity opposites?”  The answer is “Nope.  They’re not.”  In fact pride feeds off of insecurity and insecurity is fueled by pride.  This demonic duo just keeps on going and it’s a hard cycle to break.  Let me give you a few examples:

Insecurity whispers inferiority and discouragement when attendance is consistently low.  Pride comes along and says, “I don’t know why we’re not growing.  I’m just as good of a preacher as the guy at the mega-church.”  Instead of evaluating and making course corrections, we assure ourselves that we are not the problem and nothing changes.

We really need to keep growing and reading, but pride convinces us that “all we need is the Word” and those authors don’t really know what they’re talking about anyway.  Then insecurity makes us believe that we have to prove that we have nothing to learn by acting like a know-it-all idiot.

Our group starts growing and making a difference, then pride kicks in and we start drinking our own cool aid.  Suddenly, our spiritual leadership doesn’t seem to know anything.  Eventually things fall apart and insecurity drives us to manipulate the people we used to inspire and lead.

What ever the case, we’re all susceptible to this wicked pair.  We all have to make a deliberate effort to stay humble and teachable. How?  Here are a few tips:

1. Have people in your life that will shoot straight with you.  Ask them to critique you as a leader and let them be brutally honest.

2. Don’t defend.  When criticism comes, let Jesus be your defense attorney.  Always ask God to show you what you need to learn from each criticism.

3. Pray, pray, and pray some more.  A lifestyle of prayer is conducive to humility because it reminds us of our true power source.

4. Stay teachable.  Keep reading a diverse selection of books.  Don’t just stick to your favorite authors.  Listen to those who have gone before you even if your ministry has the outward appearance of greater success.

Remember pride and insecurity may not get you out of ministry, but it will severely limit your ability to produce true, Godly fruit.

Proverbs 11:2 says, “Pride leads to disgrace,but with humility comes wisdom.

A Gated Community Known as Church

Next month I’m putting on a free workshop for pastors and ministry leaders on how to use social networking in ministry.  I believe that Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogs, etc. can be great free resources for churches wanting to strengthen community and communications.  I’m so excited about this workshop that I even spent a few bucks on print materials that I can hand out to pastors when I invite them.

Last Monday I decided to drive around town and personally invite pastors to the event.  You know, hand them a flier, shake their hand, meet some of our community’s spiritual leaders.  It sounded like fun and my son, Hudson, decided to get dressed up and go with me.  It was going to be a great father and son time and we were both looking forward to it.  However, the afternoon ended up quite a disappointment.

I have to admit how surprised I was by how nay churches were totally inaccessible.  Some were empty and lifeless.  Empty parking lots, lights off, nobody home.  Even worse, some had cars and lights but all the doors were locked!  No bell and no answer to knocks on the door.  As bad as that was, there was a far worse scenario.

We walked up to one large church in a fine part of town.  Hudson had his shoulder bag of invitations and I was looking forward to meeting this pastor because I had driven past his church so many times.  The first door was unlocked, great!  The second door, however, was locked.  I had to push a button to get someone’s attention.  One of the office staff peered out at us through bullet-proof glass and asked why we were there.  I told her we wanted to invite their pastor to a free workshop.  She buzzed us in and we stepped into an area where there was another window and more bullet-proof glass.  There was an office area and multiple staff were working diligently behind the safety of the glass.

I honestly can’t remember the last time I felt that uncomfortable.  They looked at us like we had lobsters coming out of our ears! It was obvious that unfamiliar faces weren’t welcome there outside the context of church services.  The woman opened a small part of the window so I could slide her an invitation, then immediately closed it back up again.  She had no interest in what I had to say and couldn’t even spare a smile for Hudson.  If they treated us that way, I don’t even want to think about how a homeless person or a refugee would be treated.

The hardest part of our outing?  When my six-year-old son asked me why no pastors would talk to us.  When he asked why the ladies weren’t very nice, and why all the doors were locked.  Even a child knows that a church should be a warm place.  It should be a place where people are welcomed and accepted.  It should be that way every day, not just Sunday!  And now I found myself in the position of explaining that the church really is good and does mean well.  Not an easy task when I had the same taste in my mouth that he did.

Unfortunately, many churches have become more like gated communities than churches.  Security is in place to keep out the undesirables, the needy, the solicitors, and the just plain unfamiliar.  Suspicious of unknown faces, they’re treated with a cold reception and a short response.  Heaven forbid someone should come in and interrupt the pastor’s sermon preparation or keep the secretary from getting the bulletin together.  Am I wrong to believe that the church is about people everyday (not just Sunday)?

Defined core values have been a big part of church leadership these days.  Often times, they’re posted on web sites and printed in bulletins.  Statements like “Prayer, Evangelism, God’s Word, and Worship are our core values” are made.  I’ve got a suggestion because I’ve yet to see this as a posted core value.  How about “People”? How about “People are important to us because they bare the image of God, because they are dearly loved by God, and because Jesus didn’t die for a building, a sermon, a program, or a ministry.  He died for people.  Not just people who attend our church or share our beliefs, but all people.  Because “People” is one of Jesus’ core values, then “People” will be one of our core values too.  Even on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.

I know it feels like a risk, but let’s get rid of the gated community mentality and be the church every day.  Open the doors.  Welcome the stranger.  See love spread.

Not Welcomed

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