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Since I follow Marty’s blog I was aware that he had been writing on the sayings, teachings, and philosophy of ministry of John Wimber, the founder of the Association of Vineyard Churches. Because of this, I was excited when I heard that he intended to put all of this down in one easy to read book. The Wisdom of Wimber is finally out.

There are three things that Boller has done that make The Wisdom of Wimber both helpful and enjoyable. First of all, he has identified what Wimber had to say about almost every aspect of church life. I don’t know how someone sets out to do something like that but Marty did. Second, each topic, or chapter, is short. This will encourage the reader to take things in little bites as time allows rather than looking for a large chunk of time to sit down and read one or two chapters. Third, at the end of each chapter Marty has provided a model prayer and questions for reflection. I could not help but think how easy it would be to put this book in the hands of your leadership team and then have them discuss some of the questions.

But coming back to these “Questions for you to ponder” as Marty puts it, this book was not written to be read through but to be meditated through. Don’t just read The Wisdom of Wimber but let the wisdom of Wimber read you!

Whether you are part of the Vineyard movement or not, whether you consider yourself part of the Charismatic stream of Christianity or not, there is plenty in The Wisdom of Wimber to inspire, instruct, and challenge your ministry and personal life.

Order your copy today!

 

 

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So here it is, the first day of December. Some of you pastors ill focus on the Christmas story each Sunday this month. Some of you will wait to focus on Christmas until the 21st. But all of you might be struggling to come up with something new to say about Christmas.

The same thing happens with Easter and Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. What to say, what to say? What to say that hasn’t already been said?

Maybe I’m just sentimental but I never get tired of the same old simple Christmas message. I like the baby in the manger, the angels in the sky, the shepherds checking things out, wise men from the East traveling far just to get a glimpse of this special child. I like it all. Over and over and over again…I like it. I never grow weary of it. Jesus taking the form of a helpless little child. The baby will grow up, tell us what the Father is like, and die on a cross to open the way to God. l like it. I don’t need a new twist on the Christmas message. I want the same old thing…again and again and again and again. And I’m betting that your people are the same.

Might I suggest that this year you don’t rack your brain trying to figure out a new was to present the old story. Just tell the old story. Tell them that God is with us. With all that is happening in the world we need to stare into the face of the Christ-child. With all the change occurring all around us we need to come back to that same old story that never changes. For unto us a child has been born.

insane

Your church is perfectly designed to get the results it’s currently getting. If you want something different you’ll probably need to do something different. Albert Einstein is reported to have said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

I’m sorry to say this but there are a lot of insane small churches out there…and, to be fair, there are a lot of insane larger churches out there. There are a lot of insane small church pastors and insane large church pastors. There are a lot of insane small church pastor boards/leaders and there are a lot of insane church boards/leaders of larger churches. There’s a lot of insanity happening out there in our churches.

There are three type of churches: those that are growing, those that have plateaued, and those in decline. Regardless of what we’ve been told, there are no simple answers for why one church grows over another. There are no simple answers for why a church has plateaued. There are no simple answers for why a church is experiencing decline. Anyone who offers simplistic answers to these dynamics is being…well, simplistic, maybe even naive.

Just because a church is growing is no guarantee that the church is healthy. Just because a church has plateaued is no guarantee that the church is unhealthy. Sometimes (not very often but sometimes) a church can be in decline and be healthy.

Again, your church is perfectly designed to get the results it’s currently getting. If you want something different you’ll probably need to do something different.

If your church is growing you might be pleased with your results but if your church has plateaued or is in decline you might not be pleased. If you want something different you’ll probably need to do something different and the change needed to turn things around might be significant. And herein lies the greatest challenge we face when trying to move our congregations in a new or different direction…people don’t want to change. People want to keep doing what they’ve always done. People might be interested in change as long as you’re not asking them to change something that is important to them.

This morning I was reflecting upon Luke chapter 5 when verse 39 stood out to me.

“And no one after drinking the old wine wants the new for he says, ‘The old is better.’”

It is so common for pastors, or congregants, or church boards to want their church to grow but are reluctant to embrace the significant change that is often required to bring about said change. Doing the same things but expecting different outcomes is insanity.

If you pastor a church that has been plateued for the past three years (and this bothers you, it might not bother you and that might be ok) or has been in decline for the past three years I suggest the following steps:

1. Form a team of ‘prayers’ who see what you see and feel what you feel and begin to pray for guidance from God as to what you should or could do.

2. Begin the process of reeducating your church in regards to the dynamics of change. Don’t begin by listing all the areas that need to change, this will probably scare many of your people away. Start with your board or key leaders. Teach on the topic of change. Once you feel that your most influential people are on board then, begin to reeducate your congregation about the importance of embracing change.

3. Be patient. Selling ‘change’ takes time. Never underestimate how much ‘change’ freaks people out. Take things slowly.

4. Form a team of spiritually mature good thinkers who will partner with you to prayerfully identify the significant areas that will need to change in order for your church to turn and go in a new direction.

5. Prayerfully prioritize your list, begin at the top and work your way down.

If you’d like a free, no obligation one hour phone consult to learn how I might be able to help you with this process email me and we can set something up.

 ***

My new book: ‘Mile Wide, Inch Deep: Experiencing God Beyond the Shallows, Soul Care For Busy Pators, and the Rest of Us’ can be ordered here.

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I know Paul said that our God is not a God of confusion but it seems that just means God isn’t confused.

In order to have a productive and meaningful leadership team meeting you might need to train your leaders how to have a productive and meaningful leadership team meeting.

Don’t run from culture. Don’t attack culture. Create culture.

We will never achieve a proper ‘outward focus’ if we hope for a balance (50/50) between outward focus and inward focus. We must lean more into an outward focus. May be 60/40 or 70/30.

Bullies don’t only hang out at playgrounds. Churches can have bullies as well. Bullies won’t stop until someone stops them. You get what you tolerate. Do you have a church-bully who needs to hear, “STOP IT”?

If I can’t hit a home run or a triple with a 15 minute sermon the problem wasn’t I didn’t have enough time.

Sometimes the supernatural word from God comes disguised as something natural. If we are only expecting God to speak in one certain way we just might miss the way He chooses to speak.

Small churches make a big impact when they focus on doing a few things well. You can’t do everything but you can do something. Find out what that is and do it well.

Why is it that we think a church is suppose to live forever? Could it be God’s purpose to call a church into existence for a season, maybe even a short season and then ask it to close down for reasons that might be unclear to us?

Touch, talk, listen, laugh = meaningful marriage.

All churches experience people leaving. People leave for different reasons, some legit, some lame. Some departures reflect a problem with the church. Some departures create a problem for the church, i.e. lost revenue, lost leaders/volunteers, etc. Some departures are a departure of the problem.

When we think of ‘outreach’ we tend to think in terms of programs instead of people. All your people know people who do not know Jesus or are not associated with a church. How will we turn our people into inviters and includers of their people?

Some of our frustrations in attempting to pastor people is that they do not think of us as their pastor. Not everyone who comes to your church regards you as their pastor. “Pastor” is a place in the hearts of people they have to choose to give you.

The first step in effective personal evangelism is to be a nice person who is kind, friendly, and polite.

***

Mile Wide, Inch Deep: Experiencing God Beyond the Shallows, Soul Care for Busy Pastors and the Rest of Us. Get your copy here.

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In 2015 I will enter into my ninth year of coaching pastors and church leaders. At any given time I coach about fifty pastors and leaders a month. That’s a lot of coaching! Once in a while someone says to me,

“Dave, with all the pastors you talk to is there something you’ve seen that they all have in common?”

I always answer the same.

“For the most part, pastors, regardless of the size of their church or denominational affiliation, are over-worked, underpaid, and are not taking care of their souls.”

Over-worked

I was a pastor for twenty eight years before transitioning into full time coaching. I know the demands on the pastor of a smaller church. But the truth of the matter is that most pastor are putting in too many hours for their church and this means that other more important things are suffering. Whoa! What could possibly be more important than the church?

You and your personal relationship with Jesus is more important than the church.

You and your spouse are more important than the church.

You and your children are more important than the church.

Is the church important? Of course. But the church is not first, not second, not even third…the church is forth.

My experience in working with pastors has proven that when a pastor consistently works more than fifty hours a week other more important things begin to suffer. One thing I do is help pastors be better pastors in less time.

Underpaid

I think that with all the pressures on a pastor one of them should not be financial pressure. I think pastors should be paid well, at least as well as their congregation can pay them. I’m not talking about extravagant but well enough that they and their family are comfortable. Some church boards are very generous with their pastor’s salary, and many are not. Some churches simply do not have any more money to pay their pastors, but many do yet don’t.

Sometimes I’m brought in to help a church board determine what the spending priorities of their church should be. This is what I counsel them.

First, money must be set aside to pay the general operating expenses of the church, rent, mortgage, utilities, etc.

Second, money must be set aside to provide a comfortable living for your pastor and his/her family.

Third, whatever is left is open for prayerful debate.

Lack of soul care

Would you be surprised to hear me say that most pastors (that’s right, I said most) do not have a consistent and meaningful devotional life? Their lives are stretched a mile wide but their souls are only an inch deep. Hey…I wrote a book on that!

When your day is spent doing spiritual things (preparing sermons, counseling, planning church events) you can fool yourself into thinking that you are spiritual because of the spiritual things that you do. Some nutrients are derived from our ministry duties but not enough for us to maintain the vibrancy of intimacy with Jesus that we all want and that our people need from us.

Which of these three can you relate to the most? Over worked? Underpaid? Neglecting your soul? I can help. Contact me: dave@smallchurchpastor.com

hold on

In case you haven’t noticed it’s hard to be a pastor, it’s even harder to be the pastor of a smaller church, it’s even harder to be a bivocational pastor of a small church. The ‘It’s hard’ factor in pastoring has to be accepted and embraced or you’ll never make it. Accepting this, however, doesn’t necessarily make it any easier because…well, it’s hard.

The other day I was talking to a pastor who finds himself in a very difficult, not to mention unpleasant, situation in his church. Before we began to explore options for navigating the turbulent waters ahead I asked,

“Are you absolutely convinced that God has called you to this church and that, at least for now, God wants you to stay and face this challenge in your church?”

He answered, “Yes.”

“And what about your wife?”

“Yes.”

“Okay then, because that’s really, really important.”

Sometimes the only thing that keeps you going is the conviction you have that God has called you. Now I think it’s very important to realize that there can be a difference between being call to the ministry and the current church you are pastoring. I do believe that one can leave their church and it not be an abandonment to their calling. Some churches are toxic and dysfunctional and continuing to pastor there would be abusive to both the pastor and their family. But this will have to wait for another post.

If your sense of ‘call’ is all you have then hold on to that with all you have. It’s hard even with the sense of call. It’s almost guaranteed suicide to stay without the sense call.

Hold on. Hold on. Hold on.

 ***

Mile Wide, Inch Deep: experiencing God beyond the shallows, soul care for busy pastors can be purchased here.

 

 

Awake

Have you ever had a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep? Have you ever lain in your bed with thoughts and worries swirling around in your head? I have.

I don’t sleep well, and although I don’t stay up at night worrying about the same things I did when I was a pastor I can still lay there staring up at the ceiling for what seems like hours until I finally somehow manage to drift off.

Now some pastors who are more spiritual than me…or maybe you, don’t seem to worry about anything, let alone worry about things in the night. But I think this is an exception to the rule. Here are some things and thoughts that keep pastors awake at night:

Why are our numbers shrinking?

What are we doing wrong?

What am I doing wrong?

If we continue to drop in our numbers I might be out of a job.

Why are our offerings down?

If offerings continue to drop I’m going to have take a cut in pay or get a job outside of the church.

Bill and Sandy said they wanted to meet with me tomorrow. I wonder what that’s about?

I hope they’re not leaving the church?

What if there are more who are thinking the same?

What’s that pain in my chest?

I guess I should go see a doctor but how will I pay for that?

I’m not sure I’m a good father/mother.

Am I giving my spouse the time and focus they need and deserve?

Why am I doing this?

If something doesn’t change I don’t know how much longer we can continue.

I wonder what’s going on with deacon Bob. Lately he’s seemed distant to me.

I hope the board meeting goes well tonight.

Why do our board meetings never seem to go well?

I could go on and on.

If you are not a pastor I wanted you to see into what might be keeping your pastor awake at night. If you are a pastor I want you to know that you are not alone. Most pastors worry about the same things you do. Maybe it’s just because ‘misery loves company’ but find a safe group of pastors or a mentor or a coach that you can keep company with, someone who will understand and encourage you and pray for you. And speaking of prayer, remember to bring to the Father what keeps you awake at night. In fact, one thing I try to practice is to turn the things that keep me awake at night into prayers in the night. Believe me, it helps.

***

‘Mile Wide, Inch Deep: Experiencing God Beyond the Shallows, Soul Care for Busy Pastors’ is available here.

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  1. Offer to pay their way to a conference on church growth.
  2. Give them a book on church growth for pastor appreciation month.
  3. Ask them, “Why isn’t our church growing?”
  4. Ask them, “Why is that other church growing?”
  5. Tell them on Sunday morning, “Looks like a small crowd today.”
  6. Ask them on Sunday morning, “Where is everybody?”
  7. When you sense that your pastor might be discouraged about the size of your church remind them that whenever two or more come together, Jesus is there.
  8. Assure your pastor that you love the fact that the church is small.
  9. Sit down with them and share some ideas you have as to why the church isn’t growing.

 If you are a denominational supervisor…

  1. Make sure they attend your national conference but have all the speakers be pastors of large churches.
  2. Give them great ideas and resources that won’t really work in a church their size.
  3. Ask them, “So…how are your numbers?”
  4. Require them to fill out reports on attendance, conversions, baptisms, etc.
  5. Schedule your pastor’s meetings during the week so that the bivocational pastors can’t attend.
  6. Ask the bivocational pastors, “So…when are you going to be able to go full time?”
  7. Invite them to your building and give them a tour.
  8. Instead of following up with them personally have your assistant do it.

 

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On Twitter this morning one of the guys I follow tweeted “60% of all churches in American have under 99 members.” Different people will respond to this differently.

For some this evokes pity, sympathy, and condolences: “Those poor small churches, isn’t it sad? I wish there was something we could do to help them. Maybe if we offered to pay for their pastor to go to our conference then could could learn how to really do church and how to effectively reach people for Jesus like we have. Those poor, struggling, dysfunctional churches…it make me so sad for them.”

For others this ‘60%’ thing stirs up an indictment against the organized church: “See, I told you. The church in America is failing, people are leaving in droves. Sure you’ve got those mega churches, but they’re run by celebrity pastors who are just after your money. We need to blow the whole thing up and start over.”

And then there are people like Karl Vaters, Terry Dorsett, Jeff & JonnyMarty Boller, and me…who think differently.

We see the 60% as the backbone of the church in America, the norm. We see the 60% as congregations that offer people things that it’s almost impossible for really large churches to offer. We see the 60% as an opportunity to have a personal pastor, get involved in meaningful ministries, belong to a faith-family where you are known. We see the 60% as a place where if you are hurting there is someone who will come and sit with you. We see the 60% as a family that will help you move, watch your kids, visit and pray with you in the hospital.

The 60% is not perfect, but neither are the larger churches. Small churches don’t need our pity, sympathy, condolences or indictment.

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Have you picked up a copy of my latest book: Mile Wide, Inch Deep: Experiencing God Beyond the Shallows, Soul Care for Busy Pastors and the Rest of Us? Here’s where to find it.

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Never underestimate your ability to take on the values of your culture that are in conflict with God’s.

I sometimes wonder if the church is moving forward or backward? Oh I know that every generation has complained about the secularization of Christianity. I became a Christian in 1973. It took about fortyfive minutes after having prayed to receive Christ I that learned about the liberals (both political and religious) who were leading America towards the judgment of God. But America is still here along with the church.

Vast segments of Christians in the west have become comfortable with things that used to be off-limits. Our opinions about slavery, drinking, smoking, dancing, going to the movies, the role of women in the home and in the church, divorce and remarriage, tattoos, and occasional swearing, (I still don’t get the swearing thing) have changed. Is this progress or regress, evolution or devolution? It’s not always clear to me.

The boiling frog story is a widespread anecdote for many things, and the condition of the church is no exception. They say that if you want to boil a frog (which is a dumb way to cook a frog. Everyone knows to use a frying pan.) don’t put it directly into boiling water because it will jump out. Instead, put it in cool water, slowly turn up the heat and eventually the frog will be cooked to death.

I worry sometimes that I’ve been cooked by my culture, and like that frog, I’m completely unaware of it.

I don’t want to underestimate my ability to take on the values of my culture that are in conflict with God’s values. Notice that I said, “that are in conflict with God’s values?”

Our secular, non-Christian culture is not all bad. Mankind has done some amazing things apart from the church and Christianity. There’s a lot of good non-Christians out there shaping our culture in positive ways. But most would agree that with the good has come a fair share of bad. By ‘bad’ I mean values that are in opposition to God’s values. We Christians don’t always agree on what specifically are God’s values. What are clear God-values to some believers are not clear God-values to other believers. However, we all agree that our society embraces things that displease God. And it is these things that I think about and worry about.

Am I being cooked and I don’t know it? Am I progressing or regressing? Am I evolving or devolving? And what about the church?

I bet it’s a mixture. I want to believe it’s more ‘two steps forward, one step back’ than the other way around.

Questions for reflection:

1. How have your beliefs and behavior changed over the years?

2. Are there things you once believed were sin but now don’t?

3. How might one know whether or not their culture has rubbed off on them in a negative way?

(Excerpt from ‘Never Underestimate’ by Dave Jacobs)

To pick up your copy of my book: Mile Wide, Inch Deep: Experiencing God Beyond the Shallows, Soul Care for Busy Pastor and the Rest of Usgo here.

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