Thinking Out Loud

May 8, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Juxtaposed Advertising

This is the link list that the other blogs get their links from after we got them from them in the first place.

It’s a safe bet that neither party purchasing space on the above billboards were aware of the other’s presence.  Or is it?

  • Ravi Zacharias responds to the Boston tragedy and all the issues it raises.
  • And did you read about the Boston Marathon Saint; the guy who gave away his medal?
  • In New Zealand you can name your baby girl Faith, Hope, or Charity, but not Justice. It’s one of a number of banned names.
  • It’s got endorsements from Eric Metaxas, Ann Voskamp, Paul Young and Russell D. Moore. But is The Little Way of Ruthie Leming a title that would be considered a Christian book?
  • It’s not every day that a Christian school science test makes the pages of snopes.com, but then again you haven’t seen a test like this one.
  • Wanna know more about the Apocrypha, those extra books in the Roman Catholic Bible? Check out this podcast. (Click the link that says “Play in Pop-Up.) (Technically these are the deuterocanonical books, the term apocrypha can include other writings.)
  • And after adding that I found an article of a type that many of us would never see: A Roman Catholic blogger’s apologetic for the Catholic canon of scripture. (Which is by default very anti-Protestant canon.) 
  • If you read Christian blogs, you know the word ‘missional.’ Now here’s a reading list of the top 40 books on the subject.
  • Usually writers have to push their publishers for cool book trailers. This 2-minute video for Jon Stuff Christians Like Acuff’s book Start was a gift from a reader.
  • Quote of the week: “I knew what abortion was before I knew where babies came from. ” ~ Rachel Held Evans writing about a prominent US news story about an abortion doctor that isn’t playing much here in Canada or on the news elsewhere.
  • Also at RHE, Jennifer Knapp responds to some great questions from readers with some great answers. Sample: “I think it’s often overlooked, is that CCM’s genre is not a style of music, but rather it is a very specific message.” Quotation of the type you’re probably more interest in: “‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ can be an acceptable working environment for some, but has also been used as legitimate financial weapon at times to enforce individual silence in exchange for job security.”  (Also, JK previously here at Thinking…)
  • And going three-for-three with RHE (it rhymes, too) here’s an interview she did with Christianity Today.
  • And for something much shorter than those articles on Rachel’s blog: Greg Atkinson on what pastors can learn from country music.
  • Here’s a pastor’s nightmare: When your small church is essentially a one man show.
  • Is your church looking for a pastor? Here’s ten signs your search isn’t going well.  Sample: Average time between sending in application and receiving rejection notice: 5-7 minutes.
  • Catholics are borrowing a page from Mormons, JWs and Evangelicals and doing door-to-door ministry. Advice to participants: Trying to provide too many facts about the Church may cause misunderstandings.
  • Here’s a fun 5-minute video for pastors wanting to develop their homiletic skills using a technique called preaching by ear. (A sales pitch follows.)
  • And wrapping up our ministry links, should a pastor know how much individuals give financially?
  • At a certain point (i.e. after the second chorus) this Eddie Kirkland song always reminds me of Coldplay.
  • Going to a summer wedding? You might want to look around at a critical moment so you don’t miss the best part of the processional.
  • Tony Jones loves Greg Boyd (no, not that way) and thinks you should also.
  • From the people who brought you the Top 200 Christian Blogs list, The Top 200 Christian Seminaries.
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June 11, 2012

Church Governance Issues: Succession Plans

On the weekend I linked to the stories concerning the impeding departure of Darren Whitehead from Willow Creek in northwest Chicago and Shane Hipps from Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids.

When the subject of pastoral succession comes up, I usually dodge the question and instead discuss my personal pet peeve: Transition times.  I believe that churches of all sizes suffer greatly during the time between the moment the senior pastor leaves and his (it’s usually a ‘he’) replacement arrives; which can be a span of months or even years.

At the time I concluded,

Something; anything, has got to be better than the status quo way of doing things.

This time around I want to again somewhat dodge the question and look beyond the relatively simple  — or seemingly simple — task of choosing a successor to the present pastor; and look at the underlying cause of problems instead of the symptom.

My guess, and this is complete speculation on my point, is that somewhere in the back of his mind Rob Bell knew that some restlessness was stirring in his spirit when he invited Shane Hipps to join the staff.  Shane’s letter to his church family indicated that he inherited a role that was in part, customized to shape Rob Bell’s unique giftings and outside ministry to the larger Christian community. But when the church decided to retrench and return the pastoral role to something more traditional — albeit absent the actual sense of control that many pastors enjoy — Shane decided that this wasn’t the trip he signed up for.

Less speculative is that Bill Hybels — possibly the number one American pastor on the subject of leadership issues — had a clear sense of succession in mind when Gene Appel was hired as teaching pastor. But that didn’t quite work out. Then, out of the land down under, came Darren Whitehead.  I listened to podcasts of both men, and enjoyed the teaching ministry of both. But now Bill and the Creekers are back to square one where the role of teaching pastor — which is really one step away from being senior pastor — is concerned.

While I don’t know all the nuances of Mars Hill, I do know that Willow is not going to miss a beat as long as Bill Hybels keeps showing up for work on Monday morning. (Actually, he says he does his best writing in a nearby coffee shop.) He’s still there. There are lots of good people on staff. There are probably dozens of people in the church’s ‘farm team,’ (the Willow Creek Associates ministry network) that they are aware of. There are good men leading the satellite campuses.  And they — and to a similar extent Mars Hill — can call up just about anybody to speak on Sunday morning; people who would be thrilled to honor the invitation.

But what does your church do when there is no heir apparent?

Here’s how I would armchair quarterback this:

First, most of our local churches are far too personality oriented. We want to see the back corner church office — the one with the extra window and the larger desk — occupied. We need to get past the idea that church life revolves around a single individual. And I include myself in this; I need to think of North Point as North Point, not “Andy Stanley’s church;” I need to refer to Saddleback as Saddleback, not as “Rick Warren’s church.”

Second, we need to see succession as an ongoing process; not something that surfaces in urgency at the moment a resignation letter is issued. I alluded to the ‘farm team’ earlier, and certainly any professional sports team is always scanning the horizon to see who is upcoming through the ranks and who is setting records on other teams. So also local church leadership needs to have in view the people who God is using.

Third, especially in medium and smaller churches, we need to empower the laity.  I don’t care how small your church is; right now there’s a layperson in your church who is capable of doing a sermon next Sunday, and it would actually be a pretty good sermon, too.  This means that a pastoral vacancy, when it happens, is just that, a vacancy, not a crisis of national emergency proportions.

Fourth, we need to periodically do some teaching ministry cross-pollination among our churches. The notion of a “pulpit exchange” has become all but antiquated, but we need to allow congregations — from the largest megachurches to the smallest chapels — the privilege of hearing different voices.  Many pastors are afraid to surrender their pulpit on Sunday morning; instead, the exchange notion should be ritualized; and I hold up  the 5th Sunday of every third month as a possible day for it to take place.

Finally, we need to look at our own scriptures and borrow a chapter or two from Israel’s history and consider the possibility of co-regency.  Many of our Bible timelines are messed up, and our apparent “Bible contradictions” exist because of a failure to understand how some of the Jewish nation’s kings actually ruled as co-regents.  The idea of a “senior pastor,” “teaching pastor,” and “executive pastor,” is an attempt to divide the pastoral role in a larger church so that the absence of a single individual doesn’t cause a collapse of sustained ministry or future visioning.

Too many churches are weakened by not having a vision of what the church is going to look like in two years; in five years; in a decade. These are critical times for the church in the western world, and we do ourselves and God’s Kingdom a great disservice when we don’t bring our best to the church leadership table.

Personnel will change; God will call people to new fields; we need to allow the same Holy Spirit that is leading pastors to also lead local church leaders.

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