Put Your Money Where Your Mission Statement Is

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They say if you want to know what a person values, just take a look at his or her checkbook. (I’ve also heard a variation that says “if you want to know where a person’s heart is, look at their checkbook” – which is pretty darn close to Matthew 6:21). I guess the updated version of that would include taking a look at their bank statement, but the point is that if you want to know what matters to a person, look at how they spend their money.

The same holds true of the church. In 2000, a study by John LaRue (no relation, though that IS pretty cool… lol) showed that the average church spends about 75% of their tithes and offering on compensation, facilities, organizational fees, and administration and supplies. That leaves about 25% to do hands-on ministry.

The churches who responded to his survey had an average annual budget of nearly $300k. Since I mostly work with small and mid-sized churches, I’m more familiar with churches whose budgets average under $100,000. I would guess that the average small church spends almost half their budget on facilities and almost half on compensation and conferences, leaving about 1 or 2% for outreach and evangelism.

I’ll be the one to say it: if I’m even close to accurate, that’s a crying shame. If we value “having church” more than we value ministering to people outside our four walls, hitting the streets with tracts, going door-to-door to invite people to Christ, feeding the hungry, helping the elderly, giving clothes to those in need, then we’ve lost sight of our mission. Too many churches have mission statements that they don’t carry out. If a person just reads the mission, it sounds like you’re doing great things, but do we actually DO anything more than come to church every Sunday (or Sabbath) and sing and shout and cry for 2 hours (or 3)? I know we enjoy that. It makes us feel good. It’s what we’re accustomed to, so it feels right.Rehearsals, meetings, trainings, classes, usher board, children’s ministry… that’s all great, and God knows it has its place. But there is MORE to ministry than just what takes place in the four walls of your church building.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not minimizing the benefits of a good worship service. I can cry and shout with the best of ’em. But we cannot – we simply cannot forget about the ones who need food, or clothes, or love, or help; the ones we don’t see on Sundays at 11. That’s what ministry is. Anybody can do church. Shucks, these days, EVERYBODY is doing church. It used to be a running joke that in Brooklyn, New York, there are churches on every corner. Nowadays, that can be said of nearly ever major metropolitan city in the US – and even in the small towns. New churches are opening every week… and few of them are doing more than just running through an order of service for a few hours, going home and coming back to do it again the next week. That’s lame. SOOOO LAME.

I challenge you pastors, leaders, and lay members to encourage YOUR local assembly to do more. Show the love of Jesus Christ by serving the people around you. Have your youth ministry rake leaves for the neighbors – for free. Instead of soliciting financial support from the community, give back to the community: wash some cars for free, this time. Adopt a widow or two. Teach people how to write resumes. Start a mentoring program for young men. Collect and distribute winter coats. Offer a free aerobics/exercise class (or if you don’t have the space, organize some walking/jogging teams).  Do a food drive AFTER Thanksgiving is over… visit the sick and hospitalized – even if they’re not members of your church. Go downtown and pass out bottles of water on a hot, summer day. Or go to the local park and give out hot dogs and soft drinks. Offer a parents’ night out to the neighbors. Host a weeknight dinner for all the families who live on the block where your church is located. It’s great to give scholarships to your HS grads, but maybe this year you can give one to some other kid who’s not a member of your church (Philippians 2:4). Instead of trying to think of new ways to get more people in the church, try to think of new ways to show more people the love of Christ, thus winning them into the KINGDOM. I Corinthians 9:19 says, “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more.You want to win souls? SERVE THEM!

I encourage all my readers, especially the pastors, to go back to the book of Acts and reflect on how church used to be… how church was designed to be. Go back to the blueprint. And while you have that Good Book open, check out Matthew 25:31-46 (a must read). Flip over to the disciples’ argument about who is the greatest, and re-read what Jesus told them about servanthood (Luke 22:25-27). Let’s reclaim the church for ministry and do what we’re assigned to do.

So the question to ponder or discuss is, does your church do church or do you do ministry?

OITC Nominated for FOUR 2011 Black Weblog Awards!

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Vote Order in the Church! for Best Faith-Based Blog, Best Writing in a Blog, Blog to Watch, and Blog of the Year!

Thanks to your support and God’s grace, Order in the Church! has been nominated for FOUR 2011 Black Weblog Awards. Yes, four! Wow.

We were nominated for:

  • Best Faith-Based Blog
  • Best Writing in a Blog
  • Blog to Watch
  • Blog of the Year

I would really appreciate your continued support! To vote for Order in the Church!, please click here or on the “Vote 4 Me” image. To spread the word, click on the Facebook or Twitter icons at the bottom of this post (or you can click the e-mail icon to send this post via e-mail).

When I started Order in the Church!, I really just wanted an outlet for the many random, but church-related, thoughts that run through my mind frequently throughout the day. As I began to write more, and the Lord began to whisper things in my ear, I realized that Order in the Church! is not just an outlet for me. So many of you have told me that you feel the same way and have the same thoughts and have the same hopes for the Body of Christ. I just can’t say how much that encourages me. I truly believe that one day, we will be able to get back to the basics of church – without the hype, without the frills, without the excessive emotionalism, without the man-made rituals and traditions. One of these days, we will once again see order in the church.

And that’s why I write. I want to help us all – in some small way – to be better administrators, better pastors, better leaders, and better members of the body.

Thank you again for reading, subscribing, forwarding, sharing, commenting, encouraging, praying, giving feedback, offering topic suggestions, telling your friends and family about the blog… thank you for your support.

~LaRue

Monday Morning Manna: Should You Care What People Say About You?

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Now the queen by reason of the words of the king and his lords came into the banquet house: and the queen spake and said, O king, live for ever: let not thy thoughts trouble thee, nor let thy countenance be changed:

There is a man in thy kingdom, in whom is the spirit of the holy gods; and in the days of thy father light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, was found in him; whom the king Nebuchadnezzar thy father, the king, I say, thy father, made master of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers;

Forasmuch as an excellent spirit, and knowledge, and understanding, interpreting of dreams, and shewing of hard sentences, and dissolving of doubts, were found in the same Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar: now let Daniel be called, and he will shew the interpretation.” — Daniel 5:10-12 KJV

“I really don’t care what people think about me.”

Or when frustrated, it’s: “well, they can say what they want… as long as I know the truth.” Or the defensive line: “they don’t know me anyway.” Or the sassy line: “no matter what you do, people will always have something to say. I can’t waste my time and energy worrying about that; I have things to do! They don’t pay my bills!

Most of us are taught at an early age not to worry about what people say about us, and the truth is, you’ll drive yourself nuts trying to correct misperceptions and wrong impressions. But too often, we use that as an excuse to continue poor behavior and attitudes, and while there is value in not obsessing over what unreasonable people say, we must be cautious not to disregard and dismiss the importance of maintaining a good reputation – whether in our families, at work, at school, in ministry, at church, in social networks online and offline, and everywhere else.

Why should I care?

The Bible has a lot to say about the value of a good reputation. In Acts 16, we learn that Timothy had a good reputation, which probably played a part in Paul’s decision to bring him along on his missionary journey. In I Peter 2, believers in exile are admonished to take special care to conduct themselves properly in front of the Gentiles so that even when their names were slandered, their good behavior would testify for them. He then said that their righteous conduct would “silence (muzzle, gag) the ignorant charges and ill-informed criticisms of foolish persons” (I Peter 2:15 AMP). In other words, Peter was saying that your behavior can change what people say about you.

Several hundred years earlier, Daniel had already proven this to be true.

When Daniel and his friends were taken captive into Babylon, they must have already had a reputation for being “skillful in all wisdom, discernment, and understanding, apt in learning knowledge, competent” (Dan. 1:4 AMP) since they were selected to be a part of the king’s special training program. Even in adverse conditions, Daniel was determined to maintain his integrity by refusing to adapt to the Babylonian cultures, traditions and norms – even when his life depended on it. But over time, by demonstrating character, competence, commitment and the courage of his convictions, Daniel strengthened his reputation even more and it earned him promotion, prestige, and perquisites. More importantly, it earned him additional opportunities to minister. (And we all know that preacher/prophet/musician/singer/workshop instructor who will never get another invitation to minister at our church because of what is attached to his/her name).

In Daniel 6, we find that King Darius named Daniel the first of three presidents, preferred him above the presidents and princes, and planned to set him over the entire realm. This promotion, and the related prestige and perqs were a result of the excellent spirit that was found in Daniel. Daniel was known for his excellence. As we saw in Chapter 5, excellence was attached to his name. It was his reputation. As I said in A Few Things I’ve Learned Along the Way, your name can take you places skills alone can’t.

At the heart of the matter is character, because you can’t really address reputation without addressing character. The longer I live, the more I realize that one of my greatest assets is my name, supported by my character. I don’t run around chasing down rumors to try to correct lies, but I will do everything I can to make sure that my character nullifies any lies or falsehoods attached to my name. After all, a good name is more desirable than great riches (Proverbs 22:1). So my final answer is yes, we should care about what people say about us.

Should the Church Take Lessons from Corporate America?

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The title subject is one that I’ve pondered for many years, but never really studied beyond the surface. But a few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of listening to Brien’s Place, a daily radio show hosted by musician Brien Andrews. (Major plug for my buddy who is doing great things in an excellent way. He definitely gets my personal stamp of excellence! And as a bonus, music lovers will LOVE the show’s background music and BGVs!).

From Pastor to CEO

On the show, Brien mentioned how the use of corporate titles such as CEO, CFO, COO, CAO, and CMO is becoming increasingly common in today’s churches; and that, overall we are adapting more of Corporate America’s policies.

In the many leadership workshops I’ve taught over the years, I’ve said that church leaders could learn a lot from Corporate America. Certainly, we can learn more about structure and order, communication, punctuality, networking, excellence, productivity, efficiency, attention to detail, teamwork, responsibility, conflict resolution, marketing, budgeting and the value of having a good reputation. I’ve even heard some suggest that the church needs to learn the principles of good customer service, considering its members as “customers.” At my own church last summer, I taught a session on branding, and frequently teach leaders at other churches on many of the subjects I mentioned above.

But when I heard Brien say that we are “adapting more [of] Corporate America’s policies,” I felt the unspoken implications resonate in my spirit, and I felt the wheels of my mind begin to turn.  So about a week ago, I asked a few friends what they thought about this subject, and while many of them raised really good points, two in particular addressed the points I had considered myself. Thanks to Vanessa Miller, Bennett Yancey, Philip Brown, Robert Jones, and William Spruill for your input.

Corporate America Needs to Take Lessons from the Bible

In her book, Jesus, CEO: Using Ancient Wisdom for Visionary Leadership, Laurie Beth Jones uses the ministry of Jesus Christ as the model for a perfect CEO as she shares leadership techniques and lessons inspired by Him. One of the things I learned from reading Jesus, CEO is that we really can get all the tools and lessons we need to be good leaders from the Word of God.

The Bible is full of strong examples of leaders, Jesus being the best example, and each one’s story provides lessons for leaders, lists of what to do, what not to do, and demonstrates the characteristics of excellent leaders. We can learn about excellence and having a good name from Daniel; the importance of detailed planning, networking, and resource planning from Nehemiah; building under duress and overcoming obstacles from Ezra; conflict resolution from Paul; attention to detail from Noah (or Solomon); succession planning from Jesus; budgeting from Solomon, and so much more from those powerful Biblical leaders, and the many others I didn’t name. I would go as far as to say that there is NOTHING a Christian leader needs to learn that s/he cannot learn from studying Biblical principles and Biblical leaders. I cannot think of any concepts, principles or values in Corporate America that are not covered to some degree in the Bible.

So if we desire to pattern ourselves after the strongest Biblical leaders, in an effort to be more like Christ, what reason do we have to seek out secular sources to achieve success as ministry leaders?

Conflicting Goals

Another HUGE reason I can’t support churches taking lessons from Corporate America is that we have some insurmountable differences in our values, missions, goals, and overall purpose. As one friend put it, “Many principles that dominate Corporate America conflict with Christian values.” Another friend pointed out, “the corporate world is cut-throat,” and I have to agree with her.

The overall corporate focus is on producing revenue. Furthermore, the “moral decay facing companies today,” including its self-serving values, make it a fairly dangerous model for churches to follow.

The Church’s overall mission is to declare the gospel of Jesus Christ to all mankind, compel those who are lost, edify its members, and minister the love of Christ to all so that God is glorified. When fulfilled, our mission and purpose, as a friend said, will profit the entire body of Christ. On the other hand, in Corporate America, only the corporation itself benefits.

Taking lessons from an entity with such a conflicting mission puts the Church in a position to receive lessons possibly contaminated by greed, self-centeredness, malice, lies, ruthlessness and immorality. I can easily see us slowly trending into an institution that has unknowingly disregarded its purpose for the pursuit of worldly success and material things.

As Brien said in his radio show, the church simply “can’t forget what your real purpose and your real mission is, and that’s about souls. It’s about people. ‘People’ is the church’s ‘product.'”

So… what’s my final answer? No, churches should not take lessons from Corporate America. Churches should position ourselves to be the organism Christ built us to be so that Corporate America can take lessons from us. We are made to be the head, not the tail; the leaders, not the followers.

So what do you think? Should the church take lessons from Corporate America? Okay, I can’t read your mind, silly! Use the comment box below to tell me what you think. 🙂

To Vote or Not to Vote

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Today, I read a blog article titled “19 Reasons Baptists Should Stop Voting on Stuff.” I’m not sure what made the author, Brandon A. Cox, a pastor at Saddleback Church, give Pentecostals, Apostolics, Methodists, and Presbyterians a pass, but shucks, we have it bad, too – especially we Pentecostals and Apostolics!

We tend be governed by Pastoral Rule, and not by a board of deacons, elders or a presbytery. One person typically calls the shots in Pentecostal churches, so we tend not to vote on the little things like whether or not to implement casual attire for the warm summer months or whether or not to push the service time up an hour when daylight savings time ends. Shoot, many of us don’t even vote on the big things like how tithes and offerings are administered. *shrug* Okay so we definitely don’t vote as much as the Baptists – maybe that’s why Cox let us off the hook. But, we do have our share of nasty, anything-but-Godly, knock down, drag out, go-for-blood campaigns, which can easily include all the filthy elements of a typical U.S. Presidential election. We are known to get downright dirty if a pastoral position is up for grabs, and don’t let a bishop or superintendent become ill. Folks will be campaigning in the hospital waiting room before the Beloved Bishop even takes his last breath.

And I won’t even get into all the resources (money, time, and people) spent to campaign for these “ministry positions” when those resources could be spent on evangelism and outreach (which are actual Biblical mandates).

But as a friend and fellow blogger asked today, what’s the alternative? If we don’t vote in our leaders, how do we go about filling a vacant position?

I’d love to dig into what the Bible shows us about selecting (or electing) leaders, singular leadership, plural leadership, New Testament church leadership and all that good stuff. But alas, I’m on the iPad and typing on this thing is no fun… Plus, I haven’t done a great deal of research yet anyway. So how about you check out Brandon’s list (and by the way, I do NOT agree find merit with all his points), and I’ll promise to dig a little deeper soon. Fair enough?

What do you think about voting in the church? Should it be acceptable? Is it Biblical? What, if anything, do you think should be voted on? In lieu of voting, how would you propose leadership and leadership matters be decided? Let me know what you think!

  1. Voting never brings unity, it actually calls for division. Who is for and who is against?
  2. Voting is democratic – government by the people. Church should be theocratic – government by the Holy Spirit.
  3. Voting plays right to the flesh and personal preferences. We typically vote what we want or prefer, regardless of what God wants or what leaders are leading us to do.
  4. Voting gives equal weight to every member, regardless of investment in ministry.
  5. Voting leads us to believe that the majority must be right. According to some presidential elections, that obviously isn’t true (I’ll leave you to sort out which ones make my case).
  6. Voting gives the impression that a plurality of approval is the same as unity. It’s not. One deeply hurt family prevents real “unity.”
  7. Voting supersedes God’s intended order of leadership within the structure of the local church.
  8. Voting risks friendships needlessly.
  9. Voting equals leadership by polls. Since when did Jesus ever ask the audience their opinion? Even with His shepherd’s heart, Jesus never polled the sheep to find out which direction to go.
  10. Voting doesn’t work too well for Congress!
  11. Voting is man-made, there isn’t a single scriptural example. And Mattathias is not an example (Acts 1).
  12. Voting keeps us business-minded, not ministry-minded.
  13. Voting suggests the church has a political side. It’s the only time we really see power plays within God’s family.
  14. Voting is governed by rules but church is governed by relationships.
  15. Voting creates confusion and invites the opinions of 15, or 150, or 1500 viewpoints. No real problems are ever solved.
  16. Hanging chads.
  17. Democrats.
  18. Republicans.
  19. People were pretty much unanimous to crucify Jesus.

You’ve got to admit, I have at least a dozen good points, right? What’s your vote?”

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