Why Some Ministries Will Die At The End Of 2020


dominoes

Some “church ministries” are going to disappear in 2021 because of 2020.  The reasons for the demise of some “church ministries” are several, and probably caused by more than these three triggers.

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√  Seemingly, its absence has shown it to be relatively unimportant.
√  Ministry has been a lot easier without it.
√  There is no longer any congregational interest in it.

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#1 — Seemingly Unimportant:  This-or-that ministry has been, and still is, out of operation for months, and none of the vital church metrics have changed.  That ministry has not been restarted as people have slowly filtered back to a “Brick &-Mortar” service.  Yet, it seems like Sunday attendance, support, new membership, and response to the Gospel remain steady.

#2 — Easier Ministry:  Not running VBS, AWANA, Visitation, Outreach, Sunday School, Multiple Sunday Morning Services, Evangelistic Outreach Programs, Church Fellowships, and/or Youth Events has really lightened the load — ” Let’s not restart that ministry, or at least not as “intensely” as we have in the past.”

#3 — Lost Interest:  The congregation interested in this-or-that ministry has seriously waned and withered over these past several months.  The church members are not asking about it.  Actually, they may indeed welcome its demise for good or poor reasons — It was ineffective, and they knew that, or their lives are easier without it (see point #2 — like pastors like people).

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Some Pushback:
#1 — Seemingly Unimportant: 
There will always be ministries that do not change the church metrics of attendance, support, new membership, and/or response to the Gospel. There might be other church ministries, which were they to die would not affect those metrics as well.

As you may be already thinking, no church ministries should be metric related or driven!  Obviously, that is not true.  “Effectiveness” is a metric decision — getting the best response out of the effort, time and money expended.

Yes, some ministries ought to be put out of their misery!  They are not effective and ought to die!  But not to die without a fresh attempt to birth a more effective ministry, reaching out to people within and without the church.

Nevertheless,  we do engage in some ministries because it is good and right to minister in this-or-that way, regardless of how it affects attendance, money, response to the Gospel, or new membership.  In fact, some ministries draw down some of those metrics, but we accept that reality because that church ministry matters!

Let me also add that some ministries feed into other ministries.  While they do not seemingly contribute to the effective outreach of a local church ministry directly, they provide part of the flow into the main currents of local church growth and outreach!

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#2 — Easier Ministry:  Fewer “church ministries” do make it easier! WOW — some ministries took an immense amount of time. A member once remarked that if a ministry takes more time to arrange and set up, than to run, we should drop it. I suggested that his wife stop cooking meals or serving a family Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. [1]

hot dog cart corner“Church ministries” do take time, hard work, money, energy, apprehension, tension, etc.!  Nevertheless, as I have often stated, we in ministry ought not be less passionate than the owner of that stainless steel food wagon on the corner of New York City who is selling hotdogs and sausage.  Up early – no matter the weather — hoping to sell more today than yesterday — wrapping it all up in the evening — and going at it again tomorrow.

Some pastors should work on a NYC street corner for a few weeks and come to appreciate the call to Gospel ministry!  The ministry is far too rampant with lazy and self-serving pastors who care more about their ease than evangelism and/or strengthening the saints.

Everything Rises Or Falls On Leadership!
— Dr. Lee Roberson — 

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#3 — Lost Interest:  There is always the prospect of “lost interest” on the local church’s horizon.  How many times has a ministry begun with great interest and anticipation, only to dwindle down to a few sympathetic members who feel for the few others who will turn out?

Sometimes, the lost interest should be a red flag as to its effectiveness — or lack thereof.  God’s people may well recognize that there are more effective uses of money and time, and other avenues should be pursued — i.e. evening home visitation may have passed its effectiveness.

However, it is also the responsibility of a pastor to cast and recast, and recast, and recast a vision.  The “church ministry” is good and is needed, but God’s people need to hear and understand why it is important, how it fits into the overall approach to ministry, and to hear about its effectiveness as it has evolved and changed.

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Sadly — and it is sad — There are “church ministries” which have died in 2020, others which will die in the closing months of this year, and other which will be pronounced dead in 2021.

Some will die this Thanksgiving and/or Christmas season.  “Less” will mark the end of the 2020 “holiday season.”  Instead of creatively planning and designing some different and unique opportunities, innovation and new ideas will die on the bed of preferred comfort.  They will take too much planning, work, money, time, energy, effort to seriously consider.  “Maybe next year?”  Just thinking about doing ???  turns some away from doing much of anything!

Some “church ministries” will die, not because they should have died, or could not have been redesigned to be more effective [2], but because those in leadership are “the children of our age” — Luke 7:31-35; Matthew 11:15-19 —  “wisdom is justified of all her children.” They die because leaders make decisions that do not strengthen the church, but which contribute to the darkness of this world, and which transparently deepen the coldness of hearts.

While such leaders speak about the coldness of the saints and/or the Great Commission given to the church, the truth of the matter  — It is the failure of leadership that kills church ministries!  They don’t die without pastoral instigation and/or approval!

Proverbs 27:16 — The shameful truth is obvious because it smells so loudly!

The reality is, church leaders are responsible for the “church ministry mortality rate,” and the lack of creatively birthing new attempts to reach out to a lost world.  “Saul” can say it was the people, but God knows, it was the leadership.  The Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons will only substantiate that reality when yet other ministries disappear, and/or creative alternatives [3] are smothered by ease, disinterest, and/or laziness.

The death of some church ministries is due to . . . .

#1 — a shallow grasp of the need and value of that “church ministry.”
#2 — a dispassionate or lazy leadership.
#3 — an inability to keep the vision alive among God’s people.

It will be the leaders who grasp the opportunities during these closing two months of 2020 which will prove that they have the leadership mentality to thrive and grow as a local church after this all passes. [2]. They will grab the advantage of some really creative ideas in outreach — and there are some really good ones!

The men of this world work wiser
than the children of light!

Tampa Bay Concession TDM

Taken on the entrance of Tampa Bay, 2020, by Ted Martens.

Everything Rises Or Falls On Leadership!
— Dr. Lee Roberson — 

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1. The work involved in planning and setting up a “Harvest Hayride” for decades at Faith Baptist Church was at times exhausting!  Two weeks of 10-12 hour cold October days before, and a full week after to take it all down, as well as the actual Friday and Saturday evenings, alongside hundreds of other fellow co-workers, was hard physical work!  But seeing 2,500 people come out on those two Fall evenings always reminded us that we had tried again to reach out to our community.  I know what the answer to outreach is not — “Drop Ministry,” or Do Less,” or worse yet — “Do Nothing!”

2.  As a local church, what are you going to do in church ministry during the Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s “holidays?”

  • People are going to do something over these next two months.  If the church has no plans, the world has.
  • What can you do?
    What would work?
    How can you still reach out to those families around you in a meaningful way?
    What would be some novel, unique, effective, creative ways to minister to those who need to hear a message of Thankfulness, about the birth of Christ, and/or the start of a new year?

3. Drive Determines Creativity:  When you are driven, creativity kicks in!  When you have little-to-no interest, your mind shows no interest in thinking about options.

4. “78% Of Church Leaders Are Moderately Or Significantly Concerned About Their Christmas Plans.’  — https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?zx=cfgvawsigey6#inbox/FMfcgxwKjKnfsJrKsxwmTHdJDFGBltlW

I am only one,
but I am one.
I cannot do everything,
but I can do something.
And I will not let what I cannot do
interfere with what I can do.

I am only one,
But still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something;
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.

I am only one, but I am one.
I can’t do everything, but I can do something.
The something I ought to do, I can do.
And by the grace of God, I will.

— Edward Everett Hale

Pastors Gossip!

Gossip-megaphone pastors

There needs to be a fair and honest discussion
as to what constitutes “GOSSIP.”

If it merely means the communication of information that may be embarrassing to another, pastors are guilty of GOSSIP!

Anyone who has attended a pastoral staff or deacon’s meeting knows that is what happens when discussing the local church ministry and its operations.  Ministry involves people, all kinds, at all different levels of spiritual growth, coming into the faith and a local church with all kinds of baggage.  But does that mean that discussions involving the members and friends of the ministry fall into the category of GOSSIP?

Please do not take the position that pastors do not have feet of clay when it comes to what is deemed by them, and preached against, as GOSSIP!

Pastors Do GOSSIP!

Pastors GOSSIP — inadvertently or advertently — for several reasons . . . .

#1 — Relationships — To establish and/or solidify a relationship: When you share private information with another individual, you are communicating a secondary message as well. You are non-verbally telling them that they are trusted and exclusive. That they are a person you trust, and are part of a circle to which others do not belong.

What such “pastors” may not understand is that the GOSSIP can undermine their credibility and integrity.  Worse yet, their relating of such information may come back to bit them when it becomes known what they have said, and/or said about others.

Over the years I have been told by various pastors what I considered to be rather personal information about others under their ministry and I have been taken back by the fact that it was shared with me — a person who had no absolutely need to know that information.   The information was irrelevant to my relationship with that individual or family.   Some church members would have been shocked that this-or-that was shared with me, but apparently not the pastor.

I repeatedly thought to myself . . . .

“If he is sharing that about them, he will find no reluctance to share things about me with others as well!”

Seeking to establish or solidify a relationship by breaking faith with other church fellowship members is not only wrong-headed but manipulative. A pastor may think that he is drawing others closer to him, but actually, he is laying the groundwork for a “cumulative-reasons-movement-away-from-him” or even eventual departure.

One criterion for defining GOSSIP . . . .  

Sharing information which has no relevance to the person with whom it is being shared.

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#2 — Defensive — To defend their decisions, actions, and behavior:  At times, pastors may share GOSSIP because it is used as a weapon, a means of defending a decision, action, or behavior.

When an individual questions a decision, action, or behavior, the easiest way to defend oneself is by employing an ad hominem defense. Attack the person who is questioning or challenging the pastor. That can be done by either bringing up facts and details about them that others might not know. Or by injecting information into the discussion which questions their right to be even asking or addressing this-or-that issue!

The information being shared is to divert attention from the issue at hand, to the person who has challenged, called-out, or questioned the pastor!  While it is done all the time in the political world, it seems like it has also become part of some pastor’s toolbox for avoiding the real issues at hand.

Another criterion for defining GOSSIP . . . .  

Sharing information which is motivated by defense. 

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#3 — Self-promotion — To exalt or promote themselves by contrast:  As I John states, “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” all draw us away as believers. The flesh and the desire to be a significant someone causes some pastors to contrast themselves with others.

It is the same spirit that says — “Thank God I am not like this man, a tax collector.” All of us are drawn by that temptation and are marked by repeated failure when it comes to pride and ego. However, as a pastor, GOSSIPING about others in order to draw a comparison that exalts or promotes is heinous. Heinous? Yes, I think I will stay with that word!

Why heinous — because the pastor comes to know, and knows, information about people which far exceeds common awareness! That information is not merely personal or private to some circles, but is secretive. As we all know, there is information that only our families know. We have said to our children, “This is family information. It stays within the family.” It is “inside information!” No one has the right to use it to “trade off of” and personally profit, no less a pastor!

That is the kind of information that many a pastor is privy to due to counseling situations, family crises, and spiritual guidance.  To share highly confidential family and personal information with others, in order to self-promote is — yes — heinous! — to garner respect or enhance one’s power at the expense of others

Another criterion for defining GOSSIP . . . .  

Sharing information which is promotes one’s righteousness and/or self-importance

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#4 — Sermonic Value — To make a great illustration:  I think any pastor would agree that various people and situations do not come to mind as one works on a sermon —   “Wow, that situation really illustrates the point I want to make!”

In fact, as we think back about this-or-that illustrative situation, it may even help one understand the elements or dynamics operating regarding that biblical truth or principle.  That only increases the temptation to share privy and personal information through an illustration,  to GOSSIP about a person — publicly!

Pastors can be tempted to share an account, that they believe is unknown to those listening, but still share privy and personal information which would embarrass others were they present.  Merely because someone has died, moved away, is in the distant memory of but a few, or unknown to all, does not mean a pastor has a right to GOSSIP about him-her-them in an illustration.

Some information that is personal and privy to you, needs to go to the grave with you! — “I know that many do not know, but he struggled with pornography since he was a kid.”

Some information that is personal and privy to you is not for use in an illustration; it is not yours to share for interesting and informational sermonic use or consumption! — i.e. “I walked in on them, and he was stark naked when I opened the door.”

Some information privy to you need not be used in an illustration to prove how important and/or wise you are!  — “They told me that they had tried to commit suicide / wanted to commit suicide and I was able to talk them off the ledge.”

There needs to be great care exercised when calling up past people-events-situations to illustrate a point. I claim no innocence, but I am willing to acknowledge that it can easily and quickly be GOSSIP in the form of an illustration without diligent care and concern.

Don’t feel an unrestrained freedom to add weight to your words by calling up an illustration based on private and personal information known only to you as a pastor.  What you know as a pastor is not for advantaging you sermonicly.  Don’t illustrate at the expense of others.

Without trying to cover all possibilities, perhaps it is best to take the effort of keeping it in the “hypothetical” rather than making a specific reference to a person . . . .

“Could you imagine a situation where someone who teaches the Bible in the local church, ends up leaving his wife — and children?  That even the pastor or other church leaders could not persuade him otherwise — that he would knowingly violate the Scriptures.  I know it hard to imagine — but it happens and it happens in Bible-believing and teaching local churches!

Note: The reason for sharing such GOSSIP may also fall into one of the above categories as well.

Note: Let me add, that whether or not anyone knows who a pastor is referencing in the illustration, those listening are thinking  — “Will I become an illustration some day?  That is the end of me sharing personal, private, or family information with the pastor!”

Another criterion for defining GOSSIP . . . .  

Sharing private and personal information which costs others; it is used at their expense

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#5 — Credibility — To counsel others: What we know about others’ lives should not be used to bolster or prove to others that we are qualified to be heard. Speaking in general terms, without breaking the trust relationship of other counselees, is simply ethical! To open up the windows of the lives of others will not only chill the atmosphere of those being counseled, but when it is “reshared” (and it will be), the source will become revealed as “the pastor.”

If you have to bolster your counsel and prove your words are wise, then you have little-to-no hope for effective counseling anyway.

Note: Part of your pastoral credentials are your “confidence” and “trust-worthiness.”

Another criterion for defining GOSSIP . . . .  

Sharing private and personal information to bolster our credentials

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#6 — Offload — To offload burdens: One of the stresses and strains of pastoral ministry is the shared and felt weight of life situations carried by the members and friends of a local church ministry.  No, don’t call that weight into play to excite some kind of sympathy for how difficult it is to be a pastor — to provide proof at your personal pity party.  That weight comes with the territory!

Nevertheless, some pastoral GOSSIP is an offloading of that burden. The offloading may lighten the teller’s shoulders, but it is now on the shoulders of others. While we are called upon to share each other’s burdens, I am not sure that the burden that a pastor bears in knowing what he uniquely knows and has been entrusted with is what others should also be bearing!

Note:  This interacts with “relationships” in that others who have a relationship with a pastor may feel offended when a pastor refuses to share the information with them.

Such downloading of personal or private information, or information that another need not know to pray and/or encourage others, is selfishly motivated. In the end, you may feel a lot better, but those who just heard this-or-that now carry the weight.

Yes, been there — Done it!   When asked about a situation I have even said, I am not sure that my cargo needs to be loaded onto your truck. [1]. I left those situations feeling better (temporarily), and others felt worse.

Another criteria for defining GOSSIP . . . .  

Sharing private and personal information
to unload your burdens onto the shoulders of others

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#7 — Sway — To provide personal commentary and opinions: Making or repeating comments about Christian institutions, other churches and church ministries, or secular leaders (such as the President or past presidents), with little-to-no knowledge about a situation is GOSSIP.  Whatever GOSSIP is, no one would question that the truthfulness of a comment plays into the definition.

Surely, GOSSIP is GOSSIP when we do not know the truthfulness of what we are sharing.  Pastors (and God’s people) across America have slandered ministries, ministry leaders, presidents, and political leaders.  While we believe in “freedom of speech,” we do not believe that pastors have the freedom to propagate or perpetuate lies and half-truths.  Disclaimers don’t wash as an excuse . . .  “I have heard it reported.  Don’t know if it is true.” [2]

“Do unto others . . . .” — Let’s follow that same standard when it comes to your actions and name! Truth matters, and there are enough lies floating around without being complicit. Let’s make sure that what we are repeating or saying is true, and that we are willing to stand behind what we say to others.

Another criterion for defining GOSSIP . . . .  

Stating opinions and viewpoints which may or may not even be true or accurate.

What is GOSSIP? [3]
Whatever it is, much of what defines it involves. . . .

√ the motive for sharing it — was it self-serving
√ the level of privacy involved — do I know because of a position of trust
√ the need for others to know — why do they even need to know
√ and of course, what all would agree on, the truthfulness of what is being said

We Do Not Need To Agree . . . 
But We Do Need To Think, And Re-Think!



1. Obviously, there are situations where other church leaders and even members need to know the facts as to what has taken place.  An obvious case is when dealing with a genuine  Matthew 18 situation.

Anytime there is a serious church dispute, disagreement, or conflict, more, not less information becomes necessary.  Clarity as to what has happened, is happening, was said and done is vital to get to the crux of an issue.  The leadership and/or the members of the church should be made aware.  It is the covering and concealing of what was said and done that protects wrong-doing and wrong-doers — i.e. Ravi Z. and others — see Julie Roys reportWrong-doers aim at concealing the facts by targeting and categorizing all discussion of wrong-doing as GOSSIP.

2. Obviously, again — There are statements which Christian and secular leaders have made, and actions which they have engaged in (i.e. Jerry Falwell Jr.) for which they ought to be held accountable for making or doing.  There is no way that I am able to personally ascertain what is true. I rely on other reliable sources to access the truthfulness of this-or-that situation.
Again, wrong-doers in the political or religious world lean on the inability of others to discover the truth of a situation.  Therefore, it takes institutions such as a “free-press” (I know!) to investigate and report.  Julie Roys or the “wartburgwatch,” are one of several such outlets.

3. Attention: The word “GOSSIP” is also used as a defensive weapon . . . .

  • to suppress what ought to be revealed and known by God’s people
  • to quiet and stifle even the most reasonable levels of discussion and questioning
  • to shame people into submission

Multiple examples of this could easily be provided.  Is it GOSSIP when a member of the church speaks to another person about . . . .

  • their disagreement with a church policy?
  • the music being used in worship (of course? it is not GOSSIP if they speak favorably)?
  • a questionable or inappropriate reference a pastor made in a sermon?
  • their support of, or refusal to support,  a particular church ministry
  • the lack of love and concern by the leadership during COVID-19?
  • their disagreement with political comments being made from the pulpit?
  • the lack of evangelistic outreach by the church?
  • the lack of modesty in dress by those on the platform?
  • the spending of money?
  • salary and compensation?
  • the lack of church growth?
  • etc.
Or . . . . are only ministry leaders, board members, ministry staff, pastors, and/or deacons allowed to discuss these areas of ministry life.
Perhaps, there is a “cancel culture” and “freedom of speech” shutdown which is also a manipulative movement found in some ministries and the local churches.
The go-to arguments . . . .
You are sowing discord.
and
That is GOSSIPING.
It is a matter of control when open, honest, frank, fair-minded discussion, and legitimate criticism by and within the membership is labelled GOSSIP.
It is a matter of hypocrisy when ministry leaders and pastors engage in it themselves, on different levels, as outlined above.
— Just saying! —

Let’s Get Real: The Model Is Seriously Flawed

flawed

Sadly, there is no lack of examples of failed accountability in ministry!

James MacDonald is the most recent example of a flawed and failed local church model of accountability!  Over and over, we see the same pattern — The Inability Of Church Leaders To Hold Men Accountable.

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As was said concerning Bill Hybels — Our church model for holding pastors accountable is repeatedly seen as unworkable and, in fact, broken. Relationships interfere with clear-mindedness and judgment.

Once someone gains power in a broken system, then, they enter an elite subgroup within that system. Their fellow power-holders will do everything in their power to protect them.” [1]

As stated, the power holders finally speak out when it eventually or ultimately becomes perfectly safe to do so, when this-or-that leader makes a terrible decision or engages in an inexcusable action, which makes him radioactive then impossible to help or save.

“A broken system contains almost no provisions for reining in wrongdoers or removing them from power — because then all of these power-holders’ positions would land on the chopping block. None of the leaders in these systems really deserve to be there, and most of them behave in ways that would get them instantly removed from power in more functional systems. Not so, in broken systems.” [1]

As stated by Christianity Today, pastors may seek counsel, but the counsel “was misguided, or went unheeded.”  Too often, counsel and advice come from supportive friends, which because of their relationship, dismissed a leader’s or pastor’s lack of wisdom or even wrong-doing.   They fail to warn them of the dangers in their decisions, words, or actions.  Rather than dinging or damaging the relationship, they tell pastors and/or ministry leaders what they want to hear, not what they need to hear.   Like youth leaders who to often go into ministry wishing to be a friend to the teenagers, those who counsel pastors and/or ministry staff members mistakenly focuses on encouraging, supporting, and/or excusing the action of their “ministry friend.”  What was needed was honest rebuke and confrontation!

While all of us will say (How can we say otherwise?) . . . . “Now I want you to tell me the truth.” . . . Few of us actually want to hear the truth, no less in a way that rightly captures what needs to be said and deeply felt. Instead, the counsel is “sugar-coated” in a way that the truth is also buried and lost, and at the most critical and consequential junctures of ministry decisions.

Or the counsel exonerates — “No, I don’t think that is/was wrong to do/say.”

Or worse yet, some “counselors” encourage their friend to even greater levels of unwise action or wrong-doing — “I would have said or done far more than that!  I would have said / done /added / decided . . . .”

The result is that the counsel leaves that friend wide-open to making the same mistakes over and over . . . and again. [1]. I am reminded of a conversation with a Christian University vice-president who stated that they had to “let go” one of the administrative team members. He had foolishly come behind a woman in the office, and propped his chin on her shoulder. She was very uncomfortable and reported it to HR. When that team member was confronted, he stubbornly refused to see it as inappropriate. That vice-president said . . . .

We had to let him go, not because of what he did, but because he did not see it as inappropriate.  If he does not face nd recognize the inappropriateness of his action, he will do it again. We cannot allow that to happen again!

That vice-president was personally saddened by having to let that member of the administrative team go.  It was a real and personal loss, but they could not and would not take the risk — and what they rightly understood as a very real risk because of a justifying rather than a recognizing attitude.  His response only increased the chances of it  happening again!

Too often there is a reluctance and an accompanying delay (maybe years of delay *) to do and/or say what needs to be done and said.  Why?  The dynamic in play is “relationships.”  Those giving counsel and advice desire to have or maintain a relationship with someone in position and power.  They may not want to ding or damage the shared benevolence and/or deference which flows out of that relationship.  Or,  the relationship may give them a semblance of importance. [2]

Anyone who does not acknowledge that reality has not read about Falwell Jr., James Mac Donald, John Ortberg, Tullian Tchividjian, Ravi Z., or…or….or…or. Read the accounts reported on by Julie Roys just in 2020, and it is obvious that this is the flawed model that appears repeatedly.

Sadly, wherever power structures exist, there exists the danger or even sanctioned misuse and abuse of power, by those who ought to be safeguards within the ministry or local church.  Throw the dynamic of relationships into a power structure, and the brew can be consequential!

It is
power
and
relationships
which corrupts.

Because the relationships give permission, rather than argue or demand restraint.

James Mac Donald was finally called-out because there were those who were willing to break their relationship with power.  However, it was only because he had “turned radioactive!”

As Julie Roys reported . . . .

“While I am heartened
that the elders finally removed MacDonald,
he should have been fired five years ago.”*

Roys says five years ago because it was in 2014 when MacDonald issued his first apology.  It was not until 2019 that  MacDonald was fired!

Frankly, all the sitting leadership which surrounded and supported MacDonald should have resigned!  They were part of the problem for years in that they refused to call-out MacDonald’s abuse and misuse of power and position!  They share the dishonor for allowing it to take place and to go on for years!

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UpDate:
This post was prompted by the most recent “Update” — October 2020:  James MacDonald is now back in ministry!

Whether he has surrounded himself with some needed “truth-tellers,” who can speak to him without all the sugar, only time will tell.

Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely!

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Let’s Get Real:

There is something broken in our “ministry accountability model.”  Over and over, men in ministry and the pastorate let their position go to their heads.  The present-day model assumes that the other church lay-leaders who flank such men will provide a check and balance.  The present-day accountability model relies on these other church leaders within the ministry to be able to overrule . . . .

  • “the high” which accompanies being associated to those in position & power
  • the pride of being elected, chosen, or asked
  • the fears of dinging or damaging a friendship
  • the social pull of relationships
  • the lure of self-importance (the pride of life — “I am important”)

I am convinced that few can do that successfully! 

Our model relies on men and women
who can resist the persuasions of relationship.

That is why our accountability model is seriously flawed
and proves to be unworkable time and time again!

With MacDonald, some of the “few” were elders who supported MacDonald early on, then spoke up, and then finally and unexpectedly left.  Unfortunately, upon leaving, everything which was toxic was still in tact — with the same dynamics still operating and waiting for the next outbreak.

James MacDonald or Ravi Z would be the last headline.  It reminds me of when the “Me-Too” movement was on the front-pages.  I often thought — who will be outed next?

Who is the next ministry leader or pastor who will show up on the pages of Julie Roys? He will probably be another high profile national ministry leader.   As MacDonald, he will also be finally called to account and leave, and the wake left behind will be for the church membership to handle for years ahead.   There will also be other ministries which are far less well-known or prominent, that will not appear on the front pages of the news.  They too will have found themselves bitten and maybe killed by the same church dynamic — all revolving around a failed accountability model.

The ministry model of accountability is flawed and repeatedly fails.  Sooner or later — and the sooner the better —  someone will will have to address the flaws and failures of this ministry model in a way which meaningfully challenges and changes the way church governance and polity operates.


1. Christianity Today — See article on John Ortberg

2. Relate this concept to those who are around the President of the United States.   Have you ever said to yourself . . . .  “Someone needs to tell the President that he needs to / needs to stop. . . . ”  Either someone has and it goes unheeded, or no one is.  Then there are those who have resigned from positions of great personal contact.  Agree or disagree, they decided that they could not and would not let the relationship twist their beliefs or integrity.

Self-Important Leaders
&
The Persuasions of Relationships
Are The Real Killer Bees!

Purposefully Playing With No Scoreboard

scoreboard118-9

I cannot imagine watching a game without some kind of scoreboard.  One of the first pieces of information a person wants to know when they turn on a game which is in progress is . . . .

What’s the score?

Walk into a room, where people are watching a game in progress, and you will probably ask . . . .

“What’s the score?” 
or
“Who’s is ahead?”

Knowing the score is important for both sides of the game — those who are winning, in order to know that they are ahead, and to those who are behind, so that they realize that they need to up their game.

If there were no scoreboards, surely somebody would be recording the score on a piece of scrap paper or in the dirt.

SCOREBOARDS:

√ At times, a scoreboard was not needed because the score was not important. Some games are not that serious, and “no one” is really keeping score. If you have ever played a pickup game of basketball, or the youth group has played “tag” football, you probably had nothing close to a scoreboard. The game was recreational, not competitive — except perhaps to the most competitive.

√ At other times, keeping score was mentally manageable.   If you have ever attended a church or city-sponsored recreational team competition, there are no scoreboards — not even the simplest. Everyone watching the soccer game is keeping score in his/her mind. Many could even tell you who made this-or-that goal — especially moms and dads.

√  Sometimes a scoreboard becomes absolutely necessary.  The game is “point-intensive” — such as basketball — or is professional and/or competitive.  There are too many “points” to keep track of, and/or the outcome of the game has significant reward implications — March Madness / the Super-Bowl / FIFA / Wimbleton / The Open.

√  At times, a team wishes there was no scoreboard — 101 to 42.  The score is rather embarrassing.

In fact, the “Mercy Rule” — “if one competitor has a very large and presumably insurmountable scoring lead over the other,” the game can be ended.  In some sports (wrestling – a 15 point lead), the game is over if there is a designated point disparity.  There is even an ongoing discussion as to when a coach should stop running up the score against another team.

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Some ministries’ only scoreboard is one that reflects those who have come from other ministries and local churches. Church growth is built on the disappointment with and failure of other ministries, not on the heart-felt and effective ministry outreach. The scoreboard does not reflect outreach to their community, but outflow from other ministries.

Some ministries don’t keep score because it is not important and/or it involves so few. They really have little interest in outreach or evangelism. They are settled and satisfied as a ministry or local church. There may be an individual – or two – or three who come to know Jesus, but through little real effort or effectiveness on their part.

Some ministries don’t “keep score” because it is embarrassing! There has not been a meaningful inflow of new believers over years of ministry. Those ministries and churches are monolithic in their spiritual demographics. It is uniform, rather than diversified, in its attendance and membership. The spectrum of “Just-Saved-to-Seasoned-Saints” is sorely missing.

It ought to be embarrassing to a ministry, but too often, it is not because there is no scoreboard seen or referenced — “It’s not about numbers, you see!”  If they can get away with it, they will play down the need for any such accounting!

There are those in ministry who speak the “Rhetoric of Failure.”  They excuse themselves out of their responsibility or justify their lack of effort — or both — by saying something like . . . . .

Success in ministry is not determined by numbers!

  • We are called upon to be faithful, not successful.
  • Only the Spirit of God can move the hearts of people.
  • I can’t change a person’s heart.  Only God can do that.
  • We preach Christ and Him crucified.  That’s our responsibility.
  • We are called to preach, not persuade.

Of course, each of the comments calls up a biblical truth. That is what makes such excuses so useful and effective. Some call up the same kind of excuses when it comes to raising their children, as if there are no promises given to those who work hard in raising their children, as if raising your children in the nurture and admonitions of the Lord has no purposeful effectiveness.

There is a human or natural element in reaching out to those who know not Christ.  If we did not believe that, we would not even do what we do in ministry.  Whether it be a Christmas-Easter program, Summer Vacation Bible School themes-decorations-promotion, Youth Group events, etc. — They are all designed to make this-or-that outreach attempt more effective.

But when a ministry is floundering or failing at outreach, the mantras begin — “Ministry is not about how many people attend.”  “God is not interested in programs, but people.”  “We can only preach the Word; God must do the rest.”  “Success in ministry is not determined by numbers.”

How often has it been said . . . .

“It is hard to grow a church in our area of the country because . . . .
(and then a demographic was called up).

  • this area of the country (New England) has a whole different attitude toward
  • we are located in the inner-city, and people in the inner-city are
  • the people we minister to are so transient – military / college town / immigrants.
  • we are located in a very internationally diverse community
  • our community is very rich
  • our community is very poor
  • our town is overrun with churches
  • our town is primarily Italian Roman Catholics

After 36 years of ministry, in a heavily Roman Catholic, Northeast community, I refused to give any credence to those who excuse-out and excuse-away their responsibility.  There is not a business in the world which can talk that way and hope to prosper.  Only floundering and failing churches and ministries have that so-called “luxury” of such excuse making.

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“Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.”

“I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air.”

“To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.”

post-it note success and numbers

Some Purposefully Play Without A Scoreboard — Because It’s Embarrassing!

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When you begin believing the excuses of others in ministry, you are now on the road of excusing and lying to yourself about your responsibility for outreach!

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Who have you talked to about Jesus this week . . . . okay month . . . . okay year.[1]

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When it comes to ministry . . . .
I cannot imagine watching, no less playing a game without some kind of scoreboard. 



1. I didn’t say. . . . “Who has come to the Lord because of your talking to him or her?” But who did you begin a conversation with, for the intent of building toward and/or sharing the Gospel with this year?  Or don’t you have a scoreboard which holds you accountable for that biblical responsibility?

10 Questions To Ask: The Church & COVID-19

10 Questions To Ask!

COVID-19 — A REAGENT

three test tubes

COVID-19 Has Been A Reagent!

COVID-19 has been a game-changer, impacting all shades of Christian ministry.

  • Christian camps
  • para-church organizations
  • church planting
  • international missions
  • counseling
  • VBS
  • Christian Education
  • AWANA
  • evangelism
  • seminars
  • Christian colleges
  • mission trips
  • retreats

AND . . . .

  • local churches

COVID-19 has also been a REAGENT!
A reagent is a substance that is added to another substance which is being tested. The reagent is looking to triggering a reaction. That reaction reveals something about the substance being tested. A reagent aims to produce a reaction, usually visualized by a change in color on a test strip. Reagents are used to determine blood glucose, ketones, pregnancy, chlorine, and now the well-known COVID-19.

COVID-19 was a crisis which triggered a reaction within the Christian community and within a variety of ministries.  Perhaps, that reaction was most visible within the local church setting.

COVID-19 has been a reagent
— a detector —
of the thinking and attitudes of
pastors and leaders in the local church.

There were striking disclosures for some local church ministries regarding the pastors’ and leaders’ thinking and attitudes. As previously stated, the brightest color change appeared on the first test strip below — far too little interest in keeping in contact with members.

Far too many pastors, who made the claim of caring, came up “testing negative.” One might excuse the inattention during the initial “14 days to flatten the curve.  However, with the passing of weeks and months, there are still many members who realize — and say — “I have not even received a phone call from my pastor.” 

That is the result of one test strip.  I am sure there are more than those I have listed below, but these might be a sampling of some of the varied-colored reactions which showed up — and unfortunately, continue to  appear.

The test strips reveal . . . .

√  far too little interest in keeping in contact with members.
√  a lack of ministry creativity as to how to handle the new challenges.
√  an initial priority on financial survival.
√  a diminishing of preaching-teaching God’s Word.
√  the pitting of fear against faith.
√  a new or renewed political-focused-preaching which tracked the politics of COVID-19.
√ a readiness to charge the government with persecution and/or a new discussion about ministries’ right to disobey the law.
√  the exciting of the waters, instead of the calming of God’s flock.
√  a propensity by laity and clergy to propagate “tin foil hat” theories.
√  more “membership” movement to other local church options.
√  a new openness by pastors to live-streaming.
√  a disinterest in some of the church’s standing ministries.
√  an excess of paid-staff.
√  a “rending” & twisting of Scripture in order to fit the times — prophetically and/or institutionally.
√  a survival mentality instead of a serving mentality

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Some make the claim that the COVID-19 crisis will end “November 4th.” I’m not a prophet — but there may be several months of “the-same-but-different” ahead. Here are ten questions which might stir your thinking about local church ministry going forward . . . .

  • What changes would I make in local church ministry TODAY, if this was the first day of “14 days to flatten the curve,” knowing what you know now about those so-called “14 days?”
  • What would I do if I was starting a local church today?
  • Where have some of the greatest mistakes been made by others, which can alert us to those same pitfalls?
  • Who has been the most successful in navigating the COVID-19 waters?
  • What will the local church ministry look like six-months from not, one-year from now?
  • What must we do to still be effective in ministry months from now?
  • Will we as a local church survive this in a way that still leaves us as a local church ministry — meaningful and effective —  or will be be impaired for years ahead?
  • What can still be done to correct course and avoid some of the damage that is around the corner?
  • What changes to ministry might we be forced to make?
  • Is there one new avenue of ministry we need to add to be more effective post COVID-19?

Feel free to push-back !

We don’t have to agree, but as believers, we do need to
THINK why we do what we do.
(Tmart2007@Gmail.com).

Church Offerings: A Lagging Indicator?

Are Present Giving Patterns A Lagging Indicator?

Lagging Indicators:  “A lagging indicator is an observable or measurable factor that changes some time after” another apparent correlated factor.

For instance, hospitalizations for COVID-19 are a lagging indicator of the infection rate.  It lags behind the infection rate.  A “lagging indicator” stands in contrast to a  “leading indicator.”   The number of hospitalizations on any particular day or week becomes a leading indicator of a shortage of beds and possible deaths.

It may be that present church offerings are a “lagging indicator” of a local church ministries’ financial stability. While present giving may be consistent with past giving patterns, they will take a dramatic fall in coming months. 

Past giving patterns do not guarantee future performance.

Rerouted: There will be those members who will become acquainted with other legitimate and good ministries worthy of their financial support. [1]  Some percentage of that which was typically given to the church may be used to support yet other new and worthy ministries.  Maybe this-or-that ministry has a greater need, or appears to be much more effective in what it accomplishes, or has shown itself to be more creative and productive in what it aims to accomplish, or . . . .

Distracted: There will be those members who must cut back on their giving – who were able to give more than 10% of their income before COVID-19, but now there are needs within the home, within the family, among the grown children, etc. which will demand such cuts.

Disillusioned: There will be those members who will have become “disillusioned” with their local church as they have lived and worked through COVID-19.  The church leadership hasn’t performed very well –”Is this COVID-19 just a long paid vacation for our church pastors and staff?  Maybe it is time to rethink what we are giving to support.  They may be staying, but not giving as they have in the past because they expected a much better overall response.

Voting Present: There will be those members who will be looking for a different church ministry, having become disappointed in and/or disenchanted with the way their leadership has handled, spoken about, addresses the many and varied crises of 2020.  They are just out looking and are still financially supporting the local church they may end up leaving.  When they actually leave, their giving will follow them.  “Giving” will be a lagging indicator of their dissatisfaction and absence while looking around.

Grace Not Law: There will be those members who are hoping that they will be able to continue to give, but it is looking more and more like that isn’t going to happen much longer.  The clock is ticking, and while they are giving10% of their income today, a hard decision is coming down the road as to whether they can keep up with giving what they have been giving much longer – “Remember, Pastor has been teaching against legalism! – “Tithing is part of the OT law, and tithing is not taught in the NT.”

Declining Income: There will be those whose income has dropped, and while they may still be giving the same amount as they always have, the reality of giving more than 10% of one’s income will become clear, and their giving will drop, while not in percent of income.

Had Enough: They have come to realize that they are just a number and/or a check. Whether they are there or not, there is no personal interest in them, their family, and/or their children. “The church doesn’t care about me …. I have come to believe that it never has as it turns out.” Whether it be due to the pastor’s inexperience, a lack of creativity, self-centeredness, or laziness, the pastor(s) have woefully failed to navigate the ship through this testing time. These weeks and months have just certified what I have been seeing over the years.

If or when such a financial drop occurs, that drop will not be due to what is happening at the time.  That drop was merely a lagging indicator of what was taking place months ago, what has been taking place long before the time of awareness and possible remedy.

If pastors or ministry leaders do not realize that the drop in giving is a lagging indicator, they will mistakenly focus on what is happening when the drop occurs or when it becomes acute.  They may make their evaluations and adjustments based on the financial drop’s present context, rather than looking back on what has been happening over the past months..

Result?  Another navigational mistake will be made by some pastors and church leaders as they try to address the financial storm they then find themselves experiencing, not realizing that the navigational decisions which needed to be made, needed to be made many months ago, long before “today.”  They will be making adjustments and changes which will not get them out of the storm.  Those changes in course had to be made long ago.  Their only course of action now is to try to push through the financial storm – which may last far longer than imagined – perhaps years – perhaps several years later when another “captain” steps on board and tries to navigate through it all, after the damage of the previous “captain” has taken its toll on the ship, its cargo, and passengers.

It may be the better part of wisdom for local churches across America to look ahead, down the financial road, and plan for such a potential drop in income.

A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself:
but the simple pass on, and are punished.
Proverbs 22:3; 27:12

♦♦♦  ♦♦♦♦♦ ♦♦♦♦♦ ♦♦♦♦♦ ♦♦♦♦♦ ♦♦♦♦♦ ♦♦♦♦♦ ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

1. “Storehouse Tithing”:  There are those who teach “Storehouse Tithing or Giving” – Malachi 3:10.  They teach and believe that the “tithe” – the first 10% of income ought to be only given to the local church, and then anything above that (“offerings”) can be given to other ministry endeavors.

I am not advocating that God’s people should not give out of their income, and in my understanding of the Scriptures, giving 10% is a right and reasonable minimum for God’s people.  What I refuse to argue is that “Storehouse Tithing” is a biblical mandate for “the church.”  Unfortunately, for self-serving reasons, some pastors teach that position.

Interestingly, while some will teach that tithing is an O.T. practice and was part of the law (“Legalism!” ),  some still go on to teach that “Storehouse” giving is a biblical pattern for N.T. saints – that the “tithe” should go to only the local church.  What happened to “legalism.”

That is not to say that you should or should not give to support the local church ministry.  But it does mean that there is no biblical mandate for giving the first 10% of your income to the local church.

There are some good reasons for choosing NOT to give to your local church!  You may not realize it, but some ministries and churches are flush with cash and have excessive and unconscionable amounts of reserve in the bank. I know of some personally.

Other ministries abuse and misuse what is being given through terrible and repeated purchasing decisions, top-heavy administration cost, over-staffing, the multiplication and layering of ineffective staff and pastors, sloppy purchasing habits, etc.  I know of some personally!

Some ministries have leaders who have made unwise and foolish financial decisions, and that ministry has been forced to limit their ministry because of those terrible decisions.  Then, instead of removing such individuals from positions of financial authority and responsibility, they ask God’s people to dig them out of this-or-that crunch.  I know of some personally.

Some ministries give far too much financial authority to those in leadership, with little transparency or accountability to the membership of the church.  The financial reports are broad-brushed and little is actually known as to who is paid what, what was purchased, are funds co-mingled, who are and who are not the paid staff, etc. Far too much is covered and concealed from those who support the ministry.  I know of such ministries personally.

Some ministries allow the pastor to know, specifically or generally, the giving patterns of the people.  I have even personally heard a pastor state in a sermon that while he does not know what people give, yet he had asked the treasurer if the leaving of so-in-so from the church will make a difference to the ministry financially.  And she said, “No.”  Good reason not to give to that ministry!

Much more could be said about these various areas of financial concern! All are reason enough for some to purposefully chose to give to other ministries rather than the local church.

♦♦♦♦♦  ♦♦♦♦♦ ♦♦♦♦♦ ♦♦♦♦♦

Some churches may also teach “Faith Promise” giving for missions, which also has no biblical basis, but it does keep all the “tithes” going to the local church ministry.  Interesting, it protects the local church in that it doesn’t tie the survival of the various mission endeavors to the local church’s general income.  If the funds don’t come in to support the various mission endeavors, then they suffer, not the local church ministry – “sorry about that missionaries.”

Covering Up The Sexual Immorality Of A Fellow Pastor

cover up

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Here is a worthwhile read for those ministry leaders, pastors, and deacons who attempt to cover up the sexual immorality of others connected to and associated with their ministry!

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“Another witness—a victim of Trotter’s, Jennifer Baker—said she approached Loritts several weeks after the phone was discovered and was discouraged from reporting Trotter’s crime because it was “too late.” The phone was already gone.

Baker added that Loritts threatened her with church discipline if she told anyone at the church about Trotter’s crime.”

Link To Full Article

10 Questions To Ask!

COVID-19 — A Reagent

three test tubes

COVID-19 Has Been A Reagent!

COVID-19 been a game-changer, impacting all shades of Christian ministry.

  • Christian camps
  • para-church organizations
  • church planting
  • international missions
  • counseling
  • VBS
  • Christian Education
  • AWANA
  • evangelism
  • seminars
  • Christian colleges
  • mission trips
  • retreats

AND . . . .

  • local churches

COVID-19 has also been a REAGENT!
A reagent is a substance that is added to another substance which is being tested.  The reagent is looking to triggering a reaction.  That reaction reveals something about the substance being tested.  A reagent is aimed at producing a reaction, usually visualized by change in color on a test strip.  Reagents are used to determine blood glucose, ketones, pregnancy, chlorine, and now the well-known COVID-19.

COVID-19 was a crisis mixed into American life and living.  It triggered a reaction within the Christian community and within a variety of ministries.  Perhaps, that reaction was most visible within the local church setting.

COVID-19 has been a reagent
— a detector —
of the thinking and attitudes of the hearts
of pastors and leaders in the local church.

Actually, a good number of revelatory reactions have taken place.  For some local church ministries, there were striking disclosures as to the thinking and attitudes of the leaders and leadership in church ministries.  As previously stated, the brightest test strip was the first on the list.  I am sure there are more that I have listed, but this might be a sampling of some of the varied-colored test strips which showed up and continue to  appear.

There was . . . .

√  far too little interest in keeping in contact with members.
√  a lack of ministry creativity as to how to handle the new challenges.
√  an initial priority on financial survival.
√  a diminishing of preaching-teaching God’s Word.
√  the pitting of fear against faith.
√  a new or renewed political focus in preaching which accompanied the politics of COVID-19.
√  a readiness to charge the government with persecution.
√  a new discussion as to the right of ministries to disobey the law.
√  the exciting of the waters, instead of the calming of God’s flock.
√  a propensity by laity and clergy to propagate “tin foil hat” theories.
√  more “membership” movement to other local church options
√  a new openness a live-streaming and a disinterest in attending by church members.
√  a “rending” & twisting of Scripture in order to fit the times — prophetically and institutionally.
√  a survival mentality instead of a serving mentality

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

  • What changes would I make in local church ministry if I were still pastoring a local church today?
  • What would I do if I was starting a local church today?
  • Where have some of the greatest. mistakes been made by others, which can alert us to those pitfalls?
  • Who has been the most successful in navigating the COVID-19 waters?
  • What will the local church ministry look like six-months from not, one-year from now?
  • What must we do to still be effective in ministry months from now?
  • Will we as a local church survive this in a way that still leaves us as a local church ministry, effective, or will be be impaired for years ahead?
  • What can still be done to correct course and avoid some of the damage that is around the corner?
  • What changes to ministry might we be forced to make?
  • Is there one new avenue of ministry we need to add to be more effective post COVID-19?

Feel free to push-back !

We don’t have to agree, but as believers, we do need to
THINK why we do what we do.
(Tmart2007@Gmail.com).