What Does Your Church Need God For?

16 12 2014

Tuesday Re-mix:

Sell your possessions, and give to the needy… For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.  Luke 12:33-34

wealthy churchThe parable of the rich fool is, I think, a difficult lesson for the American church…a bit like teaching personal hygiene to a rodent…where do you even begin?  Let’s be honest here, the American church has taken material wealth to levels never even dreamed by the founders of the New Testament church.  “Give us this day our daily bread” was a genuine, heart-felt prayer reflective of a deep-seated daily need by the early church.  My church, on the other hand, raised $1.5 Million last year for a new air conditioner in our Sanctuary.  I’m not saying God wasn’t in that…I absolutely believe it will bring honor to Him…I’m just saying there is a bit of a cultural divide between the American church today and the early church in matters of material wealth.

There are a lot of benefits which come with that wealth.  Churches all over the world pray every day for some of that kind of wealth.  It has its perks.  But there are some pretty clear downsides as well.  And, at one level or another, the biggest downside is its impact on our faith in God.  The sad truth is, we just do not need God to meet daily needs when we have material wealth.  And when people outside the church look in at us and at our huge buildings and large staffs and extravagant Christmas pageants and decorations, one inescapable question arises:

What, exactly, does our church need God for?

If your church’s answer to that question is not plain…if it is somehow hidden or illusive…then you are not yet finished with your church’s communications strategy.  I certainly believe this is true on the individual level as well, but it is especially true about the church corporately during the Christmas season, when so many eyes are turned toward the church as a matter of course.

What does your church need God for?

Would your answer to that question be apparent to me if I visited your church this Christmas season?  I wonder if “where your treasure is” tells the story you want your church to tell?  I wonder whether your church’s current “brand” clearly illustrates your total and deep-seated dependence on the Lord?  I wonder if your church’s Christmas image says, “Come Lord Jesus!”, or whether it says, “We’ve got this, Lord…check back with us later.”

Maybe another way to think about this question is this: What kind of Christ-followers are we trying to grow?  Are we trying to raise up an army of disciples who rely on the Lord for every victory, or are we rather teaching our people that the keys to success are strategic planning and wealth management?

These are some hard questions, right?  Jesus was like that.

© Blake Coffee
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.  Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com




“The Lord Always Before Me”

11 03 2014

Tuesday Re-mix:

I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Psalm 16:8

I recently read a blog post by a prominent leader in the evangelical world.  It was a post about “Rules of Thumb” for healthy churches.  The rules were all about the proper acreage for church property, the number of parking spaces per attendance, the maximum occupancy for buildings, maximum debt payment budgeted, and so on.  You get the picture.  It broke my heart.

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image15608205I know this leader/blogger to be a godly man and a well-respected leader.  I absolutely do not question that.  To his credit, his own comments to that post state that he regrets using the words “healthy churches” in his title, as if these various metrics have anything to do with church health.  I respect that, and am so glad he made that correction.  I had actually written my own comment to the effect that he should have entitled the post “Ten Things You as a Church Leader Should NOT be Obsessing About”.  I refrained.  Maybe I shouldn’t have refrained.

Two observations here:

1. I believe our pastors and ministers and rectors and priests often do obsess about the wrong things…I believe church leaders today are easily swayed from “setting the Lord always before us”;

2.  I believe that is our own fault for allowing them, even encouraging them, to do that.

Don’t you think “I have set the Lord always before me” is a comment about focus?  I do.  I think it means always, always, always helping us stay focused on the Head of the church (Jesus) and what He desires and what Honors Him and what His kingdom requires.  I think it means, when the rest of the world is focused on money or buildings or programs or processes or legalities or metrics of one kind or another, or counting noses or measuring parking spaces, somebody somewhere in a leadership role is helping us stay focused on Jesus…helping us see all of these issues (and others) through the lens of scripture and through God’s eyes.  It means seeing EVERYTHING against the backdrop of the cross.  That is what spiritual leadership does.

It seriously breaks my heart to see so very many pastors and church leaders spending their precious energies and their sacred calling to gain the world’s wisdom about parking spaces and seat bottoms.  I think we should expect more from them…and as a leader myself, I think those whom I lead should expect more from me.  I think we should stop pressing our pastors to know those things and should start pressing them to press us!

When I teach the Principle of Focus in churches overseas, I am sorry to report that I have a seemingly endless supply of illustrations of LACK of focus from the church in America.  Sadly, that is our reputation.  Even more sadly, we have earned it.

But be encouraged…because, no matter how badly we fail, and no matter how out-of-whack our focus becomes, it is still His church…and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.  I am so glad for that!

© Blake Coffee
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.  Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com




Preparing for the Wind

16 07 2013

Tuesday Re-mix –

Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.  1 Corinthians 16:1-2

wind-in-the-sailsI am not a sailor.  Maybe you are.  So, forgive my ignorance of the whole experience, and please forgive my stealing of this illustration…but it seems to me that sailing involves a whole lot of hard work and attention to details, on the one hand, and a lot of being still and waiting on the wind to blow, on the other hand.  In that way, it is a lot like the church.

I once heard one of the important spiritual mentors in my life say: “I don’t like 5-year strategic plans for the church…I am always afraid we will reach the 5-year goal and have missed out on what God wanted for us.”  When I was a young leader in the church, that truly spoke to me.  It pretty much rocked my world.  I learned that God  does want God-sized things for His people.  He does want to show us great and amazing things of which we cannot even conceive.  We really do get so wrapped up in our planning and our business-like approach to spiritual things that we end up missing God completely…sometimes.  I think those were valuable lessons for me to learn as a young leader.  I definitely needed to expand my vision of God and of His sovereignty.

But there is another side to scripture.  There is a very practical side to it.  There is Jesus asking the question, “What kind of man sets out to build a building without first counting the costs?”  There are the apostle-fishermen who were asked to do the very practical part of tossing their nets onto the other side of the boat before they would experience the impractical, God-sized results.  And there is Paul’s instruction above to the Corinthian church about systematically and methodically implementing a savings plan in order to join God in His work in Jerusalem.  Being a “more seasoned” leader in the church now (at least more so than I was 20 years ago), I am quickly developing an appreciation for the balance between the hard work of planning and detailed implementation and the important vision for what God is doing.

It seems to me to be a lot like sailing a ship.  There is so very much planning to do and so very much hard work to do…so much cleaning and scrubbing and trimming and tying and storing and lots and lots of communication all along the way.  We all have important jobs to do, important tasks to fulfill.  But in the end, what we are really doing is just preparing to wait…for the wind to blow.  You see, once the wind of the Spirit begins to blow through our church, it is too late to do all that planning and that work.  The wind blows and it is wasted on us, because we have not planned for it.  We are not ready for it.  But, by the same token, we can work and work and work and plan and plan and plan…but until the wind blows, none of it amounts to much.  “Apart from Me, you can do nothing.”  John 15:5  There are points in time, seasons in the church, when we really are just making preparations without any real knowledge of when God will show up or even how He will show, for that matter.  We toil away with great faith that His winds will blow…and then we be still and listen and wait.  And maybe we work some more and then wait some more.  Both “modes” are important…the working and the waiting.  Never grow weary of either.

When the wind does eventually blow, it is a life-changing, unforgettable experience.  But if we have not planned and worked and prepared, it is an experience we miss completely…we are not ready for the wind.

Which mode is your church in today?  Feeling the rush of the wind or doing the hard work to prepare?

© Blake Coffee
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.  Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com




Three Easy Steps to a Church Implosion

13 03 2012

Tuesday Re-mix – 

I remember a couple of years back when First Baptist Church, Dallas, made the news with its simultaneous implosion of several buildings on its campus in preparation for a major building program.  The videos were all over YouTube.  Here is one of them.

I’m not sure what the psychology is behind this, but I am fascinated by imploding buildings.  Feel free to comment about how twisted I am.  But even as I watched this video, I thought to myself, “There are easier ways to implode a church.”  I’ve seen it happen too many times.  So, for those who are interested in imploding your church but cannot afford the actual dynamite, here is a fairly quick and easy formula…three easy steps, and you won’t even need a fund-raising campaign to pull it off:

1.  Hold onto your pain and encourage others to do the same. This is not difficult.  In fact, it is very human.  Anytime anyone does something or fails to do something and it hurts your feelings (especially if it is a church leader…extra points for that pain), DO NOT go to them and DO NOT commit it to prayer…in fact, do not do anything at all which might actually cause you to forgive and let go of that pain.  Rather, hold onto to it with every ounce of energy you have.  Stir it regularly, just to keep it festering.  Use it however you can.  It makes a wonderful excuse for just about any kind of bad behavior in which you might care to engage.

2.  Talk to as many other people about your pain as possible. Never underestimate the value of gossip for the whole implosion process.  If you share your pain with enough people (NOT with the person who actually caused the pain, but with everyone else), it can actually go “viral”.  If you are lucky enough for that to happen, your job is probably done.  The implosion is almost sure to follow.

3.  Stay out of people’s way as they implement steps 1 and 2. It is, after all, none of your business what they do with the relationships in their lives.  Leave them alone.  Do not try to hold them accountable.  Just step back and watch the implosion that eventually happens.

Final warnings: Even if you complete all three steps, your implosion could still fail, so here are a couple of extra words of advice to help your implosion…

Leave God out of it. Do not look for Him to help you with this.  In fact, He may work against you.  Of course, if He does, you will  fail.  But if you are lucky, He will step back and allow the implosion (in order to accomplish some greater good, which of course is not your problem…you still get your implosion).

Leave scripture out of it. There is way, way too much scripture about all three of these steps that will trip you up if you pay too much attention to it.  Just keep telling yourself that it was all written 2,000 years ago and has no relevance to our culture today.  That should buy you some time.

Good luck with your implosion.  I hope it brings you all the satisfaction you are seeking…but if it does not, please do not call me.  I’m pretty much in the business of putting churches back together, not tearing them down.  I may not be much help to you.

© Blake Coffee
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.  Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com




Careful How We Build

15 09 2009

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

Ozymandias

By Percy Shelley

I met a traveler from an antique land,

Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,

Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown

And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command,

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read,

Which yet survive stamped on these lifeless things,

The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;

And on the pedestal these words appear:

‘My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;

Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.

OzymandiasBy the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.  If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames. I Corinthians 3:10-15

Whatever your church is building right now…beautiful buildings, innovative programs, inspiring worship, exciting children’s ministries, enduring teaching… whatever you are building, be careful to build with humility as before the Lord.  One day what you are building will be tested, and then everyone will know the true heart of the builders.

© Blake Coffee

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com