Ministry for non-ministers

No tengo alma de cura.” Translation: I don’t have the soul of a priest.

That’s how one church member in Argentina explained why he wasn’t more involved at church. He wasn’t a preacher. Wasn’t a song leader. Got too nervous to lead prayers or direct singing. There was nothing for him to do.

Hopefully we can see the folly in this reasoning, but I also hope that we can see that the view isn’t uncommon. We hear it a lot in gender discussions. We should be aware of it in all of our church discussions.

Church members need to see that they can and should have a ministry outside of the Sunday assembly. Here are some suggestions on how to go about that, taken from my book Church Inside Out:

  • Leaders expect to be positive and affirming when faced with ministry proposals. The church needs to develop an atmosphere where members can try new things; that’s the best way for people to discover their gifts.
  • Priority is on “outside the walls” ministries. It’s too easy to fall back into thinking about what is done in Bible class or the worship assembly when we’re thinking about how God has gifted us. We need to see that the ability to feed the hungry and clothe the poor is a spiritual gift, and teaching young kids to read is as much a ministry as teaching Ladies Bible class.
  • When someone describes something that isn’t right, it’s taken as an offer to help. If someone wants to talk to the leaders about something that needs improvement, that person needs to know they will be actively engaged as part of the solution.
  • Members need to be aware of needs in order to meet those needs. Part of the job of being a leader is awareness of needs in the community and in the church. Leaders need a mechanism for communicating those needs to the body.
  • The church will not and can not meet every need. But we can expect God to use members to meet the needs that best fit their gifts, and we can expect him to provide gifts for the needs the church is best able to meet.
  • Ministries have to be given the freedom to die. People need to know that there is no shame in moving on from a ministry that is no longer fruitful or no longer needed. People need to have the opportunity to try something and honestly evaluate the results. If what is tried doesn’t work, the church members must have the freedom to let it go.

What suggestions would you offer? How can we help our members to identify and use community-oriented gifts?

Links To Go (May 17, 2017)

Tim Cook’s refusal to help FBI hack iPhone is validated by ‘WannaCry’ ransomware attack

The proliferation of the WannaCry ransomware last week unequivocally justifies Apple’s steadfast refusal to help the FBI break into an iPhone 5c used by one of the San Bernardino terrorists. As a quick refresher, the FBI last year wanted Apple engineers to create a brand new version of iOS that would allow them to skirt around iOS security measures. As a precaution, a security setting in iOS wipes a device clean after 10 erroneous passcode entry attempts. The FBI, as a result, tried to force Apple to release a specialized version of iOS that would not include this security limitation.
Apple abhorred the very idea from the get-go, with Tim Cook going so far as to say that the FBI wanted Apple to create something that it viewed as “the software equivalent of cancer.” From Apple’s vantage point, creating software capable of circumventing important iOS security mechanisms was a monumental risk as there is no way to guarantee that the customized software wouldn’t eventually fall into the wrong hands.

The WannaCry Ransomware Hackers Made Some Real Amateur Mistakes

An attack of this magnitude involving so many missteps raises plenty of questions while delivering a sobering reminder: If actual cybercriminal professionals improved on the group’s methods, the results could be even graver.

Evangelism is a Four Letter Word

I get it. Culture is changing rapidly and radically. The methods we have used successfully for decades have become ineffective, even counter-productive. Heaven? Spiritual laws? Bible verses? These no longer spark spiritual interest. Evangelism training isn’t what it used to be, but in many cases is uncertain of what it should be.
This frustration is actually good news. Good because it is causing us to reimagine how we think about evangelism… and, whether we like it or not, forcing us to redesign training tools and equipping experiences.

Sometimes You Just Gotta Get the Shot

When they told me all the possible side effects of chemo, I felt kinda like I did as a kid getting that shot. Like bolting out of the recliner before that first bag starts dripping.
But for now, it’s the best option to beat the disease, and it’s so much better than it used to be.

The Traditional Lecture Is Dead. I Would Know — I’m A Professor

The point isn’t to use any one example but to go beyond the traditional lecture by creating an environment in which students actively participate in class. You may experience some difficulty, even reluctance doing this. If so, take baby steps. Do one thing at a time. But do something, because professors who continue giving traditional lectures might just find themselves replaced by a video.

On gender issues, many in Orthodox Christian countries have conservative views

A substantial share of adults in Central and Eastern Europe hold traditional views of the role of women and the family, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey of 18 nations in the region. This is especially true in the 10 countries surveyed with Orthodox Christian majorities.

Meet the critic who panned ‘Sgt. Pepper’ then discovered his speaker was busted. He’s still not sorry.

This may be as a good a time as any to offer Richard Goldstein’s confession. It isn’t anything he has tried to hide, and, in fact, he mentioned it briefly in his 2015 memoir, “Another Little Piece of My Heart.” But the revelation may be startling to Beatles fans, who have devoted their lives to interpreting every lyric, recording flourish and photograph presented by their band.
The stereo Goldstein used for his review was broken.
Repeat. The guy who slammed “Sgt. Pepper” in the New York Times had a busted speaker.

Here’s the history of Zaza Pachulia’s dirty plays that Gregg Popovich was so mad about

This isn’t exactly the first time Pachulia has been accused of dirty play. The “Zaza is dirty” train left the station a long time ago. In fact, this four-minute compilation of his dirty play, which features the plays Popovich mentioned during his rant, was published on YouTube back in February, long before Sunday’s incident.

Ministry is out there

In my last post, I talked about our need to assist Christians in discovering ministries outside of the Sunday morning worship time. Basically, we need to expand our view of what ministry is. The time we spend in corporate worship is such a small percentage of our week; if that’s the only place that ministry takes place, the church will be insignificant in its community.

We have 168 hours in a week. If we take out 8 hours a day for sleep, that still leaves 112. How much time do we spend in corporate worship? Anywhere from one to four hours. That’s a small part of 112 hours; if that’s the focus of our ministry, then we shouldn’t be surprised when our lives are largely unfruitful.

We need vision. We need imagination. We need creativity. We need to continually find ways to serve God outside of the assembly, as well as inside.

Christian leaders should be focused on equipping the saints for works of ministry, on spurring them on to love and good deeds. We need to encourage our people to explore their gifts, to explore different ways of serving and ministering to the people around them.

When all we see is the assembly, we are doomed to a lifestyle of power plays and doctrinal arguments. When we lift our vision and see what the church can do around our community and around our world, we’ll soon be too busy serving to have time to argue over minutiae.

Get up. Get out. Go serve. Come together to worship God and recharge our batteries for another week of service.

Ministry is out there, not in here. Until we learn that, I don’t see anything for us but fussing, fighting, and decline.

By the way, I noticed that the Church Inside Out books are now available on Amazon.

You can buy the main book here:

You can buy the workbook here:

Service and servants, ministry and ministers

I’ve been involved in church leadership to some degree for most of my adult life. So any criticisms I might have toward the church grow out of self-analysis and awareness of my own failures. This is especially true with this post.

One problem I see in the church has to do with helping our members find their place to serve within the body. I was reminded of this when reading what one sister wrote:

I used to lament over not loving to bake casseroles and decorate for baby showers. If I could do those things I would have been more useful in most church settings I have experienced.

This isn’t meant to be a post about gender roles, even though that’s what this sister was writing about. Feel free to discuss that in the comments, but it’s not what I’m getting at.

Her words made me recognize what a poor job we’ve done in helping people see that most of what the church does happens outside of our assembly time. It’s not just women who are frustrated. I think one reason that so many men drop out of church is that they think if they aren’t gifted to serve in a public way, they aren’t useful in the body. For many of them, even baking and hosting aren’t options. If they aren’t talented speakers or skilled song leaders, they feel that they have little or nothing to offer the church.

Much of this boils down to what I call our “edifice complex,” the obsession we have with our Sunday morning assembly. We miss the fact that we are defined by what we do outside of the church building, not inside it. Worshiping God together is crucial; I’m not asking us to take away the importance of our Sunday gatherings. Instead, I’m asking us to sanctify the rest of the week, to see that our acts of ministry outside of the Sunday assembly are as important as what we do when we’re together.

Men and women must learn to value their gifts as administrators. We need them to rejoice at their ability to recognize physical needs and meet them. When we limit ministry to preaching and leading worship, we exclude large percentages of the body, even if we allow women to participate more fully than in the past.

Until we achieve a healthy view of ministry which includes all Christians, we will always have large numbers of men and women who feel frustrated and disengaged. As long as we fail to value the wide variety of gifts within the body, we will struggle to connect with many church members.

Let’s equip the saints for works of service. Let’s spur one another on to love and good works. Let’s learn to serve and minister according to the multifaceted grace of God.

Links To Go (May 12, 2017)

Tech’s Frightful Five: They’ve Got Us

These are all worthy topics for discussion, but they are also fairly cold and abstract. So a better way to appreciate the power of these five might be to take the very small view instead of the very large — to examine the role each of them plays in your own day-to-day activities, and the particular grip each holds on your psyche.
So, last week I came up with a fun game: If an evil, tech-phobic monarch forced you to abandon each of the Frightful Five, in which order would you do so, and how much would your life deteriorate as a result?

The ‘Frightful Five’ Aren’t So Scary, as Long as They’re Competing

Plainly there is no cause to be Pollyannaish. It’s sensible to be wary of acquisitions and potential overreach. And there may be specific cases that cross the line and should be reined in. Over all though, the kind of competition we see among Apple, Amazon, Alphabet, Facebook and Microsoft tends to sort things out naturally and brutally.

On Refusing to Live a Hurried Life

Perhaps it would do them good — perhaps it would do all of us good to take a look at our “anxious driven frantic hearts.” Perhaps what we need is to build the discipline of stillness into our habits each day so that our hearts can rest in the Lord instead of desperately trying to move faster and faster.

Why You Should Learn to Say ‘No’ More Often

One technique is the refusal strategy. A study in the Journal of Consumer Research by Professor Patrick and Henrik Hagtvedt found that saying “I don’t” as opposed to “I can’t” allowed participants to extract themselves from unwanted commitments.
While “I can’t” sounds like an excuse that’s up for debate, “I don’t” implies you’ve established certain rules for yourself, suggesting conviction and stability. And since it’s personal, it also maintains the social connection humans crave.

Why Liberals Aren’t as Tolerant as They Think

But more recent psychological research, some of it presented in January at the annual meeting of the Society of Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP), shows that it’s not so simple. These findings confirm that conservatives, liberals, the religious and the nonreligious are each prejudiced against those with opposing views. But surprisingly, each group is about equally prejudiced. While liberals might like to think of themselves as more open-minded, they are no more tolerant of people unlike them than their conservative counterparts are.

Though still conservative, young evangelicals are more liberal than their elders on some issues

Millennials are more likely than older adults to take liberal positions on social and political issues. This generation gap exists even among evangelical Protestants – who constitute one of the country’s most conservative religious groups – in areas including same-sex marriage, immigration and environmentalism.

Americans Worry About Moral Decline, Can’t Agree on Right and Wrong

Most older Americans say right and wrong never change. Younger Americans—not so much.
A new study from Nashville-based LifeWay Research found a significant generation gap in how Americans view morality.
More than 6 in 10 of those older than 45 say right and wrong do not change. For those 35 and younger, fewer than 4 in 10 make that claim.

Eight Major Changes in Churches the Past Ten Years

  1. Today: Smaller worship gatherings.
    Ten years ago: Larger worship gatherings.
  2. Today: Smaller church facilities
    Ten years ago: Larger church facilities
  3. Today: First priority staff person hired: children’s minister
    Ten years ago: First priority staff person hired: worship leader
  4. Today: Ministry degree optional for church staff members
    Ten years ago: Ministry degree strongly preferred for church staff
  5. Today: Emphasis on congregational singing
    Ten years ago: Emphasis on performance singing
  6. Today: Community focus
    Ten years ago: Community myopia
  7. Today: Vital importance of groups
    Ten years ago: Marginal importance of groups
  8. Today: Church leaders are continuous learners
    Ten years ago: Church leaders were “degree and done”

Key findings about U.S. immigrants

Among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, 82% think immigrants strengthen the country with their hard work and talents, and just 13% say they are a burden. Among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, roughly as many (44%) say immigrants are a burden as say immigrants strengthen the country because of their hard work and talents (39%).

The Cross-Resurrection Contradiction

The cross of Jesus reveals that the experience of suffering is contained within God’s own nature. It reveals a God who is intimately involved in the world, who is moved and affected by all that we experience, and who willingly becomes vulnerable to suffering.

Running Without Legs

This post caught my attention for several reasons – not the least for shaking my perspectives about this world we live in, for contradicting that, “What is the world coming to?” voice. I really think that sometimes we have grown very fixated on negative things to the detriment of our spiritual lives. Hopeless and pessimistic attitudes can impair our spiritual walking in a way this child’s disability fails to impede him.

How to Reach a Child’s Heart for Christ

Moralism and manipulation harden a child’s heart. But the gospel is God’s message of love and grace that transforms the heart of a child.