Weapons of Mass *Distraction*

by Dick Wamsley 

If there were any doubters that Apple would be able to attract buyers for their new iPhone X selling at $999, those doubts vanished when their most expensive phone ever was released on November 3rd.  They started selling out by the next day.  Over the weekend, resale prices began appearing on eBay and Craigslist ranging from $1,500 to $5,000! 

And so, yet another technical marvel is in the hands of consumers that some will find to be a valuable tool in their work, home and personal management.  For others it will become just another distraction that keeps them from fulfilling responsibilities in their work, home and personal management.  In some cases, it will be a distraction that leads to auto and pedestrian accidents, loss of productivity on the job and even deaths.  I heard one preacher refer to such technological gadgets as “weapons of mass distraction.” 

That led me to consider how weapons of mass distraction can make their way into the life of the church.  The latest and greatest outreach program that attracted people to Church A down the road is adopted in Church B without evaluating its appropriateness for them.  A church introduces an entirely new worship style with little education of the congregation as to why the change is being made.  A ministry staff member becomes a lightning rod of controversy that ends up dividing the loyalties of the congregation. 

These can become weapons of mass distraction that divert the energies of a church from pursuing its vision and fulfilling its mission.  What starts out as a minor distraction morphs into a weapon that blows up in the faces of the church’s leadership. 

In the letters of the Apostle Paul to the first century church in Corinth, several such distractions are cited and criticized.  (All of the following are in 1 Corinthians.)  There were quarrels among some church members as to whom they should follow: Paul, Apollos, Peter or Christ (1:11-12).  There was the distraction of sexual immorality by one of the members who “has his father’s wife,” (5:1).  Others were suing each other in civil courts (6:1-6).  There was controversy over Christians eating food that had been sacrificed to idols (all of chapter 8), divisiveness when sharing the Lord’s Supper (11:17-34), and the manifestation of spiritual gifts used during corporate worship (chapters 12-14).  

You talk about weapons of mass distraction!  There was a stockpile of them in the Corinthian church! 

Paul exerted his apostolic authority and gave specific instructions as to how to deal with each of these potential weapons of mass distraction, any one of which could explode into a church-splitting contention.  Part of Satan’s strategy to disrupt the impact of the church on its community is to turn what may begin as minor distractions into major disruptions.  Modern leaders in the church need to be on the alert for those distractions and take definitive, Biblically-based and Holy Spirit-led action to defuse them early.  Procrastination usually leads to an escalation of the dynamics involved in the distraction. 

Paul’s appeal for dealing with the divisions was that the church “agree with one another” and “be perfectly united in mind and thought,” (1:10).  To deal with the sexual immorality among them, he said they should have “been filled with grief” and “put out of [their] fellowship” the guilty man, (5:2).  To those who were suing one another in civil courts, he admonished them to appoint judges who were “wise enough to judge disputes among believers,” (6:4-5).  He gave similar definitive actions to take in dealing with eating food offered to idols, the divisiveness when observing the Lord’s supper, and the proper use of spiritual gifts during corporate worship. 

The key to neutralizing potential weapons of mass distraction is for the church’s leaders to be alert to those distractions as they arise in the church, interceding with biblical teaching and problem-solving actions to prevent those distractions from escalating into major disruptions.  Doing so will more likely result in people affirming what Paul said to the Corinthian church in his first line after the greeting; chapter 1, verse 4: “I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.”

3 Models for Church Leadership

by Tim Wallingford 

I had the opportunity to visit with over 400 ministers in 18 months either in group settings or one-on-one as we began the Center for Church Leadership.  One of the most-common questions that ministers ask is about having effective working relationships with elders and the Eldership. 
In Christian Churches / Churches of Christ, we can conceptualize the roles, responsibilities, accountability and teamwork of congregations’ leadership into 3 basic “models:”  

  • Elder-Led / Staff-Engaged
  • Staff-Led / Elder-Protected
  • Shared Leadership

I remember one of my first ministries; I was still in Bible college.  The church was growing.  As a good minister I believed my role was to present a Ministry Plan to sustain and enable future growth.  But every proposal I made created tension with a few of the Elders.  I was operating out of the Staff-led/Elder-protected model.  I came to realize that, in contrast, the Elders’ philosophy of leadership in that congregation was Elder-led/Staff-Engaged.  When the church was smaller, the Elders created the ministry plan and the part-time Bible college students would engage, or execute, it.  
When I crafted and presented my Ministry Plans, a few of the elders were having difficulty making the mental jump in their oversight of me from “approving” a plan versus their familiarity with “creating” the plan.  The Elders were godly, good men, but misunderstanding between myself and my fellow leaders on how we would operate created tension and killed our effectiveness. 
As a minister or Elder, if there’s any tension or you perceive the leadership is not always on the same page, ask the philosophy of leadership question: “what model are we using to work as a team?”  Much tension will be removed – and effectiveness and joy will return! – when everyone understands how their role, responsibilities, accountability and teamwork all come together to honor God. 

What Young Ministers Wish we Knew about Them

by Dan Overdorf

Each May, graduates march across stages at Christian colleges and seminaries nationwide to receive ministry degrees.  Then they march into our pulpits, youth ministries … and elders’ meetings. They’re educated and eager, but, well, they’re young.  They have new ideas.  They look at things differently than we do.  They say and do things that make us uncomfortable.  And we struggle to understand them.
In an effort to better understand our young ministers, I asked a number of them to answer this question:  “What do you wish your elders knew about you?”
I summarized their responses in no particular order:

  • I am a unique individual, not a generational profile.   
  • People trust you more than they trust me – your verbal support makes a difference.
  • Inexperienced does not equal ineffective.
  • It builds my confidence when you ask for my opinion.
  • When you let me try my new idea, you saved my ministry.
  • Finances are tight. 
  • When you invited me into your home, it made me feel like family.
  • I need your public support and private constructive criticism.
  • Being single doesn’t make me less of a minister.
  • I appreciate when you care about me as a person.   
  • I’ve given everything to serve the Kingdom.
  • We’re on the same team.
  • I am scared and need your encouragement more than I let on.
  • I need your help to grow as a leader, Christian, and person.
  • I pour my heart (and several hours of prep) into my sermons.
  • I have unique gifts and I need your help to develop them.
  • It hurts when people say, “You’re going to be a good minister someday.”
  • Being female doesn’t make me less of a minister.   
  • I need your trust.
  • I’m grateful that you took a chance on me.
  • I support you more than you think and I want you to succeed.
  • If you appreciate my teaching and preaching (and say so), others will too.
  • I am not the minister who came before me.
  • I proposed a change because I love the church and our mission.
  • I can serve best when your expectations are clear.
  • The gift for Pastor Appreciate Month meant the world to me.
  • I value our heritage and want to carry the baton to the next generation.
  • I felt supported when you helped pay for my master’s degree.
  • Sometimes I need to be alone with my family.
  • I feel appreciated when you treat me like a team member.

I once heard a long-time church member say, “I used to give my preacher a really hard time. He was a young guy who made a lot of mistakes, and he just didn’t measure up to what I thought he should be.  So I let him and everybody within earshot know what I thought.  Then I imagined myself at the Pearly Gates and God saying, ‘I sent a young minister to your church for you to encourage.  I have big plans for his future.  How’d you do?’”
“Right then,” this church member concluded, “I decided my job was to encourage and help him, not to criticize him and run him off.”
Young and old ministers need our support.  Our young ministers, however, need that support in extra measure.

Pastoring the Pastor

by Scott Clevenger

Have you ever had one of those best friends who could reliably finish your sentence before the words ever left your tongue?  I have.  In fact, I had two men in my life who were that close to me.  
Had.  That’s the key word.  Over the past few years, life took them to different parts of the country.  Sure, with today’s technology, we’re able to stay in touch.  But it’s just not the same as sitting across the table at lunch looking into the whites of each other’s eyes.
No matter the size of the church, there will always be drama.  There will always be conflict.  There will always be mountaintop seasons, and there will always be seasons in the valleys.  Through those seasons, I’ve found that it’s very easy for the senior pastor to experience seasons of loneliness.  It’s been said that “It’s lonely at the top.”  I’m guessing your pastor may agree, especially if your pastor doesn’t have a close friend whom he can look straight into the eyes and be ruthlessly honest.
During those seasons, it’s easy for elders to continue on with the business of the church while neglecting the health of their pastor.  I don’t imagine it’s intentional whatsoever.  It’s just an all-too-natural drift.  Because of that, at Christ’s Church Camden, we’ve added something to the “job description” for our elders.
One of our elders’ foremost responsibilities is:  PASTOR THE PASTORS!  
Think about it.  You expect your senior pastor to make sure the congregation gets pastored.  However, who’s pastoring your pastor?  Peter told us, (1 Peter 5:2), “Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you.  Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly – not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God.”  I would point out that the pastors of your church are part of your flock and need to be shepherded by the elders as well.
Let’s get practical.  When’s the last time you enjoyed lunch with a pastor with no other agenda than to bless him?  How often do elders and pastors at your church randomly stop each other in the hallways on Sunday mornings to pray?  Do the elders make a practice of “popping their heads in his office” to simply tell him that he’s appreciated?  Pastoring and soul care certainly go beyond such actions, but simple, daily things like these are a great base to build from! 
The depth of pastoring the pastors goes further than the pastor himself, of course.  His family needs cared-for as well.  You may be surprised at how many pastor’s wives would admit how disconnected they feel from the rest of the church.  They know intimate details about the church, but rarely can do anything about them.  The natural instinct for many is to distance themselves.  So make sure your pastor’s wife is also pastored!
What can you do today for your pastor and his family to shield them from burn-out?  What can you do as an elder to encourage, even inspire, your pastor?  The fact is, nobody else in your church can truly pastor your pastor(s).  It must be at the forefront of the elders’ responsibilities.