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?

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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?”

Everybody Who’s in Your Corner isn’t on Your Team

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Some time ago, the Lord took me to one of my favorite passages in Ezra, and gave me a word to share with the people of God. I shared it on Facebook and forgot about it. Recently, I attended a service and the preached word came from that same passage, so I thought I’d share it here.

Ezra 4:1-5
Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the children of the captivity builded the temple unto the LORD God of Israel;
 
Then they came to Zerubbabel, and to the chief of the fathers, and said unto them, Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assur, which brought us up hither.
 
But Zerubbabel, and Jeshua, and the rest of the chief of the fathers of Israel, said unto them, Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the LORD God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia hath commanded us.
 
Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building,
 
And hired counsellors against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.”

So the story here is pretty clear and easy to understand. The children of Israel were on assignment to rebuild the Temple after decades in Babylonian captivity. They developed their plan, organized laborers, laid the foundation, and were working cheerfully when the enemies of Judah (praise) and Benjamin (son of the right hand, which symbolizes authority) showed up. If it wasn’t 10:30 at night, I would dig a little bit into how there are people who hate your praise, and surely people who hate your authority. But, you get the picture so let’s keep it moving. The enemies of praise and authority tried to fit in. They could’ve just come in trying to tear things up all out in the open and blatantly, but instead, they tried to sneak in cunningly. They devised a plan. They went to the newly freed Israelites and said, “hey, we’re on the same team as you. We want to build with you. We share the same vision. Let us help you build…” Now, if this was a scene from 2011, it probably would’ve sounded a little deeper, maybe something like: “Man of God, I feel led of the Lord to help you advance the kingdom of God here in Anytown. The Lord has placed a burden in my spirit to hold up your arms as you do the labor of the Lord throughout the nations, and through you, we will go to new realms and new seasons and breakthroughs and dimensions and all the other buzz words .
 
Yeah. You get the picture. They pretended to serve the same God. Probably had the look. Walked the walk, talked the talk, knew all the lingo, gestures, timing, etc. But thank God for a discerning leader. Zerubbabel knew they were up to no good, and told them they weren’t qualified to build God’s house. Some things never change. Back then, somewhere around 537, 536 BC, the enemies couldn’t just walk away and go find another chur– temple to harass. They decided to engage in an all-out attack on these folks who just barely got free from bondage… can’t even enjoy their victory good before the enemy shows up. Yeah, so anyway, in verse 4, we see that they began to do everything they could to “weaken the hands” (discourage, demoralize, burn out, frustrate, to cause to be idle or useless) of the builders. Now, the enemies wasn’t just bothering random Israelites, they were bothering those who were building the Temple (if I were Eddie Long, this would be a good place to say “watch this, watch this.”) The Bible says that they troubled them in building! (Watch this!) Troubled: From the Hebrew “bahal“… means to disturb, to alarm, to terrify, to rush or hasten, to cause anxiety, fear, nervousness, dismay, terror… Whew. If you haven’t met the “adversaries of Judah and Benjamin” yet, you don’t even know what enemies are! Imagine just trying to do ministry. That’s all you’re trying to do is what God assigned you to do… and here comes “folks” to try to rush the timeline God gave you, trying to make you anxious, doubtful, fearful, nervous, scared… just trying to disturb you however you can to keep you from fulfilling your assignment.
 
In verse 5, the Bible says that they hired counselors (co-conspirators) to frustrate (to BREAK) the Israelites’ purpose. Yes, your enemy will go so far as to find a cohort (or what did TD Jakes call them? Comrades) to fight against you. They will build a team of comrades.  They don’t even have to be friends or like each other. They just have to be willing to work together long enough to frustrate your purpose. Whew. Y’all don’t even have to read this, it is blessing ME! Some of us complain over having to deal with it for a whole year… the Bible says these enemies worked against them for 15 years! And… (watch this…lol) they kept. on. building. Selah (pause for reflection).
 
Yes, they kept on building. Speak to me, Jesus.
 
The enemies went over their heads and wrote a letter to the king. It was a conspiracy. They went to the king and said, “King, if you let them build this temple, they’re not going to pay taxes and you’re going to lose money. They are rebellious. Look at where they come from! Check their references, King, I’m telling you. You gotta stop them! What you need to do is… I’m not trying to tell you how to be King, but… If it were ME, I would… I’m just saying, King… it’s for the sake of the people!!! The people want you to intervene. I’m just trying to help you, King. You’re going to lose the Kingdom, everything is going to fall apart if you don’t stop them… not that I’m trying to tell you how to run your kingdom… I’m just… sayin…

The moral of the story is that everyone who looks like you, sounds like you, dresses like you, and plays in your sandbox is not necessarily on your team. These enemies didn’t come with a red cape and red horns and an evil grin. They came pretending to be worshippers.  Their Plan A was to “work” right alongside the Israelites tearing down everything they tried to build without them even noticing it.  They planned to unglue what the Israelites glued, unstitch what they stitched, remove nuts and bolts, hide bricks, whisper murmurings and complaints… But when that didn’t work, they enacted Plan B and just went public with their assault. 
 
Be prayerful. Be watchful. Sober. Vigilant. Be discerning. And no matter what, keep on building. ‘Cause going back is not an option. 🙂

Note: Sound familiar? I originally published this on my Facebook page on August 31, 2010. I’m sharing it here with minor edits.

The Good Friday Edition: 10 Things to Try Before You Give Up on The Church

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Happy Good Friday to all of you! I hope you’ve enjoyed a very peaceful and solemn week of reflection on the sacrifice Jesus made for you and me, over 2000 years ago. Because of His blood, we have the right to full remission of our sins, and after all these years, the cleansing, healing, saving, delivering power of the blood of Jesus STILL works! Whew… that made me want to bust out in a song!

Okay, I’m back. Whew!!! So here we go… the Good Friday Edition.

Before You Give Up on Church…

1. Spend more time “in the mirror” (figuratively, of course). One problem we have in the church is that everybody thinks everyone else is the problem. Philippians 2:3 (AMP) says “Do nothing from factional motives [through contentiousness, strife, selfishness, or for unworthy ends] or prompted by conceit and empty arrogance. Instead, in the true spirit of humility (lowliness of mind) let each regard the others as better than and superior to himself [thinking more highly of one another than you do of yourselves].”  Chances are, you either are part of the problem or you have been in the past. Don’t allow yourself to think you’re above the fray. Acknowledge your reflection. Own it. And fix it. If we could only think more highly of others than we do of ourselves…

2. Spend more time in prayer. As I mentioned in A Few Things I’ve Learned, prayer changes things. Prayer has a way of humbling you, calming you down, showing you yourself, and activating the characteristics of Christ that dwell in you. It’s hard to pray for someone who wronged you, as the Bible instructs, and not feel compassion and love for them. Prayer changes things, but more importantly, it changes people – and that change usually starts with the person praying.

3. Don’t gossip, and don’t allow anyone to gossip to you. Gossip contaminates your thoughts, your mind, and your heart. Most of our frustrations in church wouldn’t even exist if we didn’t know what we know (or what we think we know). So stop letting people use you as their trash can, and stop depositing your trash in others. Keep your mouth shut and turn your ears toward Jesus. I Peter 4:15 (KJV): “But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters.” As said in I Thessalonians 4:11, study to be quiet and mind your own business!

4. Measure yourself against Galatians 5:22-23. I participated in this Bible Study teleconference once, and at the end of it, the instructor asked everyone to rate themselves 1-5 on each of the fruits of the Spirit. WOW. That was a life-changing experience. I realized that while I could take a 3 or 4 in some areas, and a 5 in one area, my overall rating was pretty dismal, and I had some work to do. If everyone in the church – YOU and me included – spent time working on this, things would start to look a lot better.

5. Be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath. James 1:19. I know that sometimes, you just have to say something. But remember, that Jesus was oppressed and afflicted, and He opened not His mouth. He was wrongfully convicted, and didn’t try to defend Himself. He let them think they had won, knowing that victory was already His.

6. Stop trying to resolve conflicts YOUR way (in the flesh). I don’t know why we act like the Bible was just written to give us good sermon material, or to sit in the back windows of our cars. There’s some good stuff in there! If we follow it, we could easily achieve order in the church. Conflict is normal, and it can even be healthy. God knew conflict would arise in the church, so He gave us the remedy. When issues arise with a sister or brother, the ONLY “right way” to resolve it (the only BIBLICAL way) is to follow the three steps outlined in Matthew 18:15-17.

7. Stay focused. So often, we forget the real reason we assemble ourselves together. It’s not for auxiliaries, fashion shows, holiday services, or any other reason but Jesus Christ. When things get rough, remember the reason you’re there. The enemy (and the people he uses) would desire to frustrate us to the point that we don’t want any part of the church, but keep things in perspective and remember your role in the body. The Church cannot function properly without YOU. You are part of the body (I Cor. 12). Keep your mind renewed (Rom 12:2). Keep your thoughts in captivity to Christ (II Cor. 10:5). Think on the things that are of good report (Phil. 4:8). Look to the hills… (Psalm 121:1). When your eyes are on Him, you probably won’t even notice all the other stuff going on (unless you’re the administrator… lol).

8. Always look for God in that trouble-making person.  Look, the truth is, not everyone’s light will shine as brightly as it ought. Try to remember that no matter who you’re dealing with and what they’ve done, God loves them. And He wants them to experience His love through you. He won’t hold YOU responsible for what they do to you, but He will hold you responsible for how you respond. You never really know why people act the way they act or do the things they do, but what you do know is that everyone needs love. Isn’t it just like man to go off of what we see and not what lies in their heart, under all the muck and mire?

9. Don’t kick a sister or brother when they’re down. Galatians 6:1 says:  Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Try to remember that when you’re tempted to kick someone who messed up. Whether it’s Tonex, Eddie Long, Tye Tribbett, J. Moss, Alvarado, or Sister Susie from next door, try to remember Galatians 6:1. We’re all in the same army, remember? Often, they’ve already been restored and are counted among the friends of God, and positioning yourself as an enemy by shooting at them with “friendly fire.”

10. Take personal responsibility for making sure that everyone in your congregation experiences love. Judging from the many stories I’ve heard over the years, it seems the primary reason people give for leaving the church is that they are somehow wounded, abused, or mistreated. If we all take personal responsibility for showing the love of Christ, which IS the greatest commandment and the one on which all the others depend (Matthew 22:36-40), no one would get hurt. Let us remember what Paul told the Corinthians:

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.” — I Corinthians 13:1-3 NKJV

Remember that those who don’t show love, really don’t even know God (whew, I know that’s a tough one to digest, but it’s Bible – I John 4:8).

Call me crazy, but I think that if the pastors, bishops and apostles catch hold of the list in What is Wrong With the Church – 10 Things That Need to Stop! and the lay members catch hold of the 10 things above… shucks, we’d be on to something big! What do you think?

The Abusive Church – Exposing the Master Manipulators

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If you’ve missed parts 1 and 2 of The Abusive Church series, you can catch up here:

The Abusive Church – Introduction
The Abusive Church – The Control Factor (When the Pastor Becomes Their God)

In this third installment of The Abusive Church series, we will discuss manipulation. Manipulation is the skillful and deliberate use of external forces to get others to do what someone else wants them to do or to suit one’s purpose or advantage. In the church, it is often used by the powerless to get trusting people to submit to the leadership of the church, to bestow unearned honor on unscrupulous leaders, to increase their financial support of the ministry, to commit ungodly sexual acts or unlawful acts, or to isolate certain individuals or groups from others. Manipulative tactics can include the use of false promises, guilt, peer pressure, intimidation, and misuse of scripture to threaten divine judgment from God for disobedience. Manipulative pastors and church leaders tend to prey on those who are naive, depressed, have low self-esteem, are isolated from their families, or are brainwashed into believing false teachings that promote deifying men and women of God.

Manipulation in the Bible

In Churches That Abuse, Dr. Ron Enroth reminds us that church abuse isn’t new to our generation, or even to our century. He goes back to the early 1920s and tells the story of a controlling, manipulative leader and the people he abused. But a look at III John lets us know that manipulative leaders were present in the church since its beginning.

I have written briefly to the church; but Diotrephes, who likes to take the lead among them and put himself first, does not acknowledge my authority and refuses to accept my suggestions or to listen to me.

So when I arrive, I will call attention to what he is doing, his boiling over and casting malicious reflections upon us with insinuating language. And not satisfied with that, he refuses to receive and welcome the [missionary] brethren himself, and also interferes with and forbids those who would welcome them, and tries to expel (excommunicate) them from the church.” (III John v9-10)

The King James version says that Diotrephes loved to have “preeminence,” which in the original Greek is philoproteuo, meaning that he loved to be first. People who share Diotrephes’ attitude want all the attention, power and authority for themselves; they don’t want to share the spotlight or yield control of their members by allowing them to fellowship with anyone outside of the local congregation. Not only would Diotrephes resist visits from key leaders in the body of Christ, he would try to excommunicate (or kick out) any members who showed these guests any hospitality. Dude was a master manipulator.

Today’s Masters of Manipulation

In the 1900+ years since Diotrephes’ day, manipulation in the church has flourished and gone far beyond just isolating members from the freedom that comes with hearing the truth.

In today’s church, members are more likely to be manipulated into giving more than they want to or can afford to, or into having extra-marital or pre-marital sexual relations. There are few active churchgoers who don’t know of a pastor who engaged in an ungodly relationship with another woman, man, or teen. The news is filled daily with reports of pastors who impregnated their members or face criminal charges for some other sexual indiscretions. They get caught with the joint in their mouths, the prostitute in the car, the stolen cash in their gym bags, coming out of hotels, etc. and will still lie bold-faced and say it wasn’t them. And the manipulated members will believe and defend them. Many have been manipulated into stealing money to pay overdue church bills or line the pastor’s pockets. Many have been manipulated into keeping secret something that should’ve been reported. And how many of us have never been taken on the Offering Guilt Trip? I’ve even been in services where they have locked the doors, declaring “nobody is moving until we meet this goal!

How to raise a good offering

Recently, a friend shared with me some of the tips he was taught for raising a “good offering.” Included in his list were:

  1. timing,
  2. association with a theme,
  3. prophetic encouragement, and
  4. aiming high.

He explained that the key is to have good timing, even if that means stopping in the middle of a sermon while emotions are high. Sometimes, you have to tune up even when the sermon didn’t call for it, just to “take them there” emotionally, so they’ll give. He went on to explain that you can associate the amount requested with a scripture number, a date, a number from the text, or even a current event. He said that if you prophesy to people, they will give, so start the line with a high amount and begin to prophesy and watch others join the line (especially if the people in front of them are falling out). *blank stare* He also said not to be afraid to ask for an outrageous amount because you never know who is there and what they have. If the congregation is sparse or appears to be poor, you can assign each pew to raise a certain amount. His last “tactic” was to use lines like “a desperate need calls for a desperate offering” and “sow a seed into your breakthrough;” and we all know the ever-popular “NAME YOUR SEED,” where the congregation is told to name their seed after the blessing they need from God. Often promises are added like “the more you give, the faster He’ll move for you,” or “you’ve got to give until it hurts so He can see that you’re serious about this seed.” Sometimes, my friend said, people will give just because they feel bad for you standing up there so long, or they want to hurry up and get this over with so they can leave. So, take your time and don’t rush.

Those are all manipulative, unBiblical tactics. I know I just lost a lot of pastors, but that’s okay. Wrong is wrong.

What are some of the signs you’re being manipulated?

1. You’re made to feel guilty or troublesome for asking questions about teachings, doctrine, rules, or decisions. If there is no clear scriptural reference, and the rules or decisions cost you, but benefit the church, it is possible you’re being manipulated.

2. If you are a tither and you’re encouraged to give money that you don’t have or money that is designated for a bill, or you’re made to feel guilty for not giving enough, you are being manipulated. First of all, in most states, it’s illegal to write a check for an amount that is not in your account. Secondly, if you owe anyone (mother, co-worker, credit card company, landlord, bank, or any other lender), that money belongs to the person you owe, not the church – you are giving the church stolen money.

3. If you are made to feel guilty about anything other than outright sin and/or wrongdoing, you are being manipulated.

4. If there are benefits associated with giving (prophetic word, better seat, position/title, public acknowledgement), you’re being manipulated.

5. If you are underage and you are sexually involved with any one who is over 21 and is not your spouse, you are probably being manipulated. If you are sexually involved with your pastor or any other leader who is not your spouse, you are probably being manipulated.

6. If you are told that you shouldn’t fellowship with a certain person, group of people or a certain church, denomination, or organization, it’s possible that you’re being isolated and controlled, which is a form of manipulation.

7. If your pastor uses scripture irresponsibly to threaten you (like the pastor who once threatened his congregation saying that “God will stroke your mouth!” from Proverbs 18:6 – yeah, I rolled my eyes on that one, too), it is possible that you’re being manipulated. In fact, any intentional misuse of scripture is manipulative.

8. If you are encouraged or asked to do anything unlawful or ungodly, you are probably being manipulated.

9. If your pastor knowingly lives a lifestyle of sin, and you aren’t sure whether you should leave, you are possibly being manipulated (unless you’re living in sin yourself so you take comfort in his sin).

10. If you are being mistreated, but you are afraid to leave due to reasonable or unreasonable fears, you are probably being manipulated.

11. If your pastor is telling you one thing and telling everyone else (or anyone else) something different, it is possible that you’re being manipulated.

12. If you receive “prophetic” words that contradict what (a) the Bible says, (b) God said to you, or (c) you know to be right, you are being manipulated. The same is true if you receive “prophetic words” that don’t come to pass or come with financial strings attached. And God takes this very seriously, too. Deuteronomy 18:20 says “but the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die.

13. If you are frequently leaving church feeling good but never convicted or urged to change or improve your ways; if the preached Word wasn’t actually Word at all, or if you have no idea what the message was, but you know it sounded good and felt good – it’s possible you’re being emotionally manipulated.

Get out

If you are in a manipulative church, I strongly urge you to get out. I don’t advise you to pause to pray about it, because it is not the will of God for you to be manipulated by someone claiming to be His servant. You don’t need confirmation on that one; it’s just not the will of God.

God WILL take care of those who abuse His sheep. Click here to read His warning to the shepherds who aren’t doing what they’re supposed to do, and His promise to the sheep.

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