We're just 3 days from Christmas Eve Sunday, pastors and ministry leaders can I give some last minute words as you pray and prepare for hosting services with members, family, friends, guests & visitors?
1. Don't Out-Think The Room - I get it. It's hard to stay fresh when you preach 45-50 Sundays a year to keep things fresh and innovative. This isn't the time for that. Kevin DeYoung had a really good post on avoiding being cute at Christmas. We'd be wise to pause and keep the main thing the main thing - that Christ was born and good news had come for all mankind.
2. Sing the Carols - A couple radio stations in our area for the month of December have gone 24/7 Christmas music. In half an hour you'll likely hear a handful of solid, Christ-focused, Kingdom-announcing carols. Sing those. Christmas provides you a wonderful time to exalt the Christ Child while singing what's familiar. There's richness in those carols, and we can never tire of singing "Joy to the World, the Lord has come..."
3. Keep Christ the Focus - Rudolph, Frosty, and yes even Santa have a place and are fun elements to the Christmas season. Bake cookies, sing Jingle Bells, watch the Christmas specials on TV, cringe when Cousin Eddie shows up in the RV, and if your family does Santa totally enjoy those cookies left out! But for our worship, leave that out. Focus all your attention and gaze and wonder on Christ. The shepherds dropped everything to worship, the Wise Men travelled for maybe 2 years to fix their eyes on the Savior, and Simeon waited his whole life to hold the hands that would be pierced for our sin.
4. Follow up with your guests - It's so easy for us to look down on the "CEOs" who attend this weekend, the Christmas and Easter Only crowd. But they are visitors, guests, prospects. Follow up with them. Don't make a stupid remark about "well it's nice to see some of you from last year again" or something like that. Be grateful they're at your church. And give them a phone call after Christmas thanking them for visiting.
5. Have fun! - This is a special season, so make the most of it. Enjoy your service this weekend. Worship with your family. One of my greatest joys last Christmas Eve during our service was holding my then 2 year old and singing Christmas songs to him. It really does only come once a year, so enjoy it!
Most of us who serve in ministry find ourselves in a typical church in a typical community. Our Sunday attendance is less than 200. We may be the only full-time (or only paid!) staff member. We may find ourselves peeking slowly at our giving totals. We may even have a "Megachurch Next Door" that has all the bells and whistles, brings in nationally known speakers, whose children's ministry is on a giant rocket ship, and whose choir lofts can hold our entire congregation.
Can I be honest? Sometimes I think we find ourselves jealous of the apparent success of these large churches in our community. I think we feel on some level a sense of "competition" or a concern that the larger churches will take over our communities.
But the Megachurch isn't your enemy. It never has been. It never will be.
1. No Megachurch can reach everyone - I heard once from someone that their church needed to be aggressive in the community because "XYZ Community Church was building a campus in the area." No matter the size of the church, it cannot permeate lostness everywhere. Depending on where you live, the surrounding area of your church is anywhere from 50%-90% unengaged with the Gospel. Our county alone has over 300,000 people in it. That's at least 150,000 (but closer to 220,000) people who have no engagement with a local church.
2. Not everyone fits at a Megachurch - One of the strengths of a Megachurch is their size (they're able to do incredible community ministry, host nationally recognized events, and provide an anchor for their surrounding community). But not everyone is comfortable with the size of a Megachurch. Sometimes they're too imposing--my wife was on staff at one Megachurch the truckers affectionately called "Fort God" when their CB signals would get mixed up, and one in my hometown we called Six Flags Over Jesus. There can be too many people, the parking lot may be too big, people get lost, or people genuinely crave a more intimate setting. That's ok. Not everyone needs to be a Megachurch member.
3. Most Megachurches are Kingdom Effective - I've had the pleasure of bumping elbows (literally sometimes) with several megachurch pastors and their staffs. And the overwhelming impression from those guys was that they were sold out to the Kingdom, passionate teachers of the Word, they were committed to missions, and they had a heart for both the Lord and the lost. We shouldn't find ourselves jealous. We should find ourselves thankful for these partners in ministry who can do things others can't. I'll never forget being invited to a networking lunch at a Megachurch in a previous ministry stop. Our host, the Student Pastor, said it best "We want to host this and make it available and make it free, because we can. And we want you to know we love you and are here for you."
4. Bigger ≠Better - It can be easy to look at bigger churches and think that's where we should be, to admire the platform God has given those guys. One lesson I learned early was that the only reason the grass is greener on the other side is because it's been well fertilized. Bigger ministries are a bigger grind, come with a bigger target (look at all the "watchdog" blogs written about Megachurches), and carry expectations other churches don't. Bigger budgets, bigger staffs, bigger impact often come with bigger headaches.
5. Megachurch Pastors are Pastors Like You - They're faithful. They're committed to the Word. They love their family. They care about their church. They long for revival. And they genuinely love pastors. Many will give you an hour of their time to invest in you, to pray for you, and to mentor you. They may have bigger congregations and lead more through their staff than you do, but there's still a connection between you built on a shared calling and commitment to serving the Lord. During my doctoral studies the most helpful and considerate people for my dissertation research were larger church pastors, who wanted to help someone who was where they were before. I'll never forget their kindness and willingness to share with me their insights in ministry.
So pray for the fellow churches in your area, and be committed to seeing your neighbors and the nations brought to Christ and impacted for eternity.
Leaders, Stop Being Enablers
For some reason, we're fascinated with train wrecks. In sports, no train wreck has captured our attention more in the last year than the Ball family. Just in case you've been in a cave, the Ball family is headed by outspoken (understatement) dad Lavar, and sons Lonzo, LaMelo, and LiAngelo. The best way I've described them is "The Kardashians of basketball."
It'd be too long to list everything that Lavar has said, but to list his "Top 5":
1. He could have beaten Michael Jordan 1-on-1
2. He admonished a female journalist to "stay in her lane" when questioned about his previous sexist comments
3. He pulled his AAU team off the floor over a female referee and refused to play again until she was removed
4. He demanded a $1 billion shoe deal for Lonzo before he was drafted
5. He claimed his 18 year old son was better than Steph Curry ever could dream of being
The most recent headline was his ongoing critique of the Lakers and their coach. To Walton's credit, he's remained above the circus around him and his team. And Lonzo, the rookie point guard for the Lakers, seems to have his head on straight and is focused on basketball. But we can't miss the disruption and enabling of a constant problem that won't go away.
When leaders enable, they create a dysfunctional and chaotic environment. When it happens in the church, we see decisions, ministries, and leadership roles filled by those who lack the biblical and character qualifications to lead. So it's imperative for those called to lead in the church to lead well and to stop enabling.
Enabling allows bullies to reign - One of the most difficult times in ministry for me was when I had a church bully after me. In fact he made it clear to his circle of friends (and to anyone who'd listen) that his reason for being on the personnel team was to have me fired. At a number of points, someone could have done something. But no one did, even though his intentions were known. By God's grace, he didn't get his wish, and he left mad to another church where the same problems are happening.
Enabling defaults to the squeaky wheel - The reason why people continue to cover Lavar Ball is that he keeps having a microphone put in his face. Much like a toddler throwing a temper tantrum, the way to fix enabling is to simply ignore. When leaders focus on the squeaky wheel, they're diverting time and energy and attention away from their calling and their leadership.
Enabling leads to an endless cycle of appeasement - One of the most important lessons you can learn in leadership is that you can't please everyone. Appeasement is where a leader tries to keep everyone happy, but in the end can't keep anyone happy. Conflict isn't resolved. Necessary changes aren't made. People's feelings, rather than clear vision, becomes the driving force for action.
Enabling is distracting - You can never focus on what God has called you to as a leader when you or others are enabling malcontents. It's killing cockroaches. Every time you stomp on one, two more show up. And so you spend all your time distracted, focusing on stuff that doesn't matter and ignoring matters of eternity.
Enabling opens patterns of sinful behavior - Whenever we enable people, we're letting them know that they can get what they want how they want. Because there's no checks, no boundaries, no accountability, and no one stopping it, there's no backbone to stop bad behavior. Last night I read an article about a Christian college who fired a journalist for exposing a pattern of enabling. A prominent trustee, who was a nationally known author, was known to have a gambling problem. In response, the college chose to remove gambling as a barrier for serving. Instead of holding to convictions, the school enabled and opened a door for sinful behavior to be condoned.
Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.