Bill Campbell

Thoughts of Life and Ministry

ON BEING THE LIGHTHOUSE

A few days ago I was rereading an old story I had used in one of my books. The story was about an old lighthouse. It had become well known for its passion and expertise in rescuing persons from wrecked ships at sea.

Through years of constant rescuing operations, however, the old lighthouse had suffered. It was shabby looking and had become an eyesore. An effort was then set in motion to beautify the old lighthouse. Once this project was completed, a rather strange phenomenon occurred. The lighthouse staff now enjoyed having club meetings and galas. Many of them. They had become a weekly affair. Yet, fewer and fewer people were being rescued and saved at sea.

Many congregations have passed through somewhat the same phenomenon. Not at sea, mind you, but on land. At one time they were engaged in rescuing persons from misdirected lives. From a confused existence. Carefully aiming individuals toward the Lord Jesus. Endeavoring to help persons discover how the life of following Jesus is the way toward having a meaningful life on earth.

But this mission has often been sidestepped and ignored today. Left behind. Clouded. In fact, the rescue operation is no longer even a memory for many churchmen. The rescue operation is now out of sight and out of mind. Beautiful facilities have been erected. Sophisticated programs have been established. Hundreds of meaningless dictatorial laws have been set in motion. Certain people have even been elevated over others as being significant and necessary. The club mentality has entered the sacred precincts. In fact, it has become the ongoing way of life for many churches.

As a result, what has this drift brought about in present day congregations?

  • Many established congregations no longer know why they exist. For life is about them and not about HIM and others any longer. Congregational life is now about maintenance, not about mission and ministry.
  • Congregations know something’s wrong. I hear their numerous moans and groans.They are not growing in number or spiritually. Internal feuding is common fodder. Entertainment is enjoyed and expected. But the rescue operation doesn’t figure into the current scheme of things. In other words, that which matters. That which is necessary.
  • Knit picking has become a favorite pastime. These congregations are always finding something wrong. Something that’s out of place. Something you shouldn’t or can’t do. I’ve heard so many knit picking stories, that it would take numerous notebooks to record them all.
  • These congregations can also discover numerous reasons why they’ve lost their way. Such as: Having the wrong preacher or preachers. Having an inadequate congregational leadership. Having the wrong programs. Or, by not having the right rules and regulations in place to guide the church. The scapegoats are many.

My advice here as a church consultant and coach is this: If your congregation fits into the above picture I’ve endeavored to capture in words, it’s time for REPENTANCE!! Yes, I said, REPENTANCE!! To launch a turnaround. To become a turnaround congregation. To redirect your energies toward being a mission to others beyond your walls, in place of being a club to simply maintain interest and involvement.

Any congregation that gets off track today needs to return to the teaching of Jesus, where He instructs His followers in this way: ” … If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25).

Lighthouse crews give up their lives and all its comforts for the welfare of others at sea. Jesus expects His followers and congregations to do the very same today for individuals who are on life’s sea.

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February 20, 2013 Posted by | Christ, Christian Life, Church, Church and Family, Church and Ministry, Church Growth, Church Health, Church Leadership, Church Unity, Coaching, Discipleship, God, Outreach, Relationships, Salvation, Scripture, Service, Spirituality | Leave a comment

A CALL FOR HEALTHY PREACHING

Healthy congregations are nurtured on healthy preaching. Always. Without exception. And just as healthy food on the table makes for healthy families, healthy preaching makes for spiritually healthy church families. Through my observation and study of congregations today I am thoroughly convinced this is true.

With the foregoing said, a congregation that’s dished out an unhealthy preaching diet, on a regular basis, will pay the price over time. A serious price. For its spiritual development and growth will definitely be blocked. Now the important question is: what are the important items that cause unhealthy preaching in congregations?

  • Unhealthy preaching is in operation when the preacher doles out a regular diet of topical preaching. This is preaching that’s dictated by the preacher rather than Scripture. So, which comes first is the major issue here? Is it Scripture or what the preacher thinks need to be shared? Scripture must always be the foundational and initial point of departure for the preacher in his preaching.
  • Unhealthy preaching is in operation when a preacher rides perpetual hobby horses. When he fails to let Scripture give direction he will predictably run off into many areas that become his own pet peeves. As a result, a congregation will not be fed a healthy spiritual diet.
  • Unhealthy preaching is in operation when the preacher is constantly negative in his pronouncements. For some reason, when a preacher strays off into topical hobby horse style preaching, he will move in negative directions. Without exception. While there are definitely times to offer “thou shalt nots,” to much of this negative strain can easily ignore the more important “you shall.”
  • Unhealthy preaching is in operation when a congregation is not exposed to “the whole counsel of God.” Variety is the key word here. There are sixty-six books in the Bible, not only two are three biblical books that are the preacher’s favorites.

Allow me to view preaching from the other side. What makes for healthy preaching? For preaching that makes a congregation a healthy fellowship?

  • Healthy preaching is in operation when the preacher is first and foremost in touch with the original biblical text. He sees clearly what the biblical text said after having studied it in its original context. The preacher should clearly understand: You cannot handle the biblical text with objectivity, and in a healthy fashion, if the Scriptures are subject to the preacher’s initial subjective interpretations.
  • Healthy preaching is in operation when the preacher is not only familiar with what the text said originally, but also with what the text is ultimately saying for his hearers today. In other words, making the responsible leap to bring the message the text offers for the needs of contemporary worshipers. Should this not happen the sermon will become a history lesson and will lack relevance and interest.
  • Healthy preaching is in operation when a preacher prepares well in advance of Sunday, or, whenever he’s scheduled to preach. Last minute preparation cannot prepare the preacher spiritually, or, with content that’s nutritional and helpful.
  • Healthy preaching must be bathed in study, prayer and careful reflection. When all three of the foregoing items become part of the sermon process, a preacher’s preaching will possess the necessary qualities that will make it ready for delivery.

My thoughts here have been brief. Furthermore, effective preaching will require many more items to consider. But these are the basic items for having healthy preaching in any congregations today.

 

 

February 9, 2013 Posted by | Celebration, Christ, Christian Life, Church, Church and Family, Church and Ministry, Church Growth, Church Health, Church Leadership, Church Unity, Coaching, Discipleship, God, Outreach, Prayer, Preaching, Relationships, Scripture, Spirituality | Leave a comment

WAILING OVER WORRY

Human beings are worry warts. If there isn’t something to actually worry about, a person seems to be able to find something to stew over.

Worry is not only a problem though for individuals in everyday life, worry also becomes a nagging problem for congregations. How do I know? I’ve experienced their concerns. And I’ve listened to them WAIL OVER THEIR WORRIES. They worry about attendance; offerings; apathy; discord; having no new faces among them; and the list could go on and on.

The presence of worry is evidence of a lack of trust. It is depending on ourselves in place of depending on God. Someone has well said that we need to pray as if everything depended on God. Do not conclude, however, that prayer leaves the door open to passivity. For work and effort are still important and necessary ingredients in our relationship with God. Yet, all work and effort without God’s presence makes the well-being of the church a human effort only.

What are some important reasons for a congregation to constantly engage in ridding themselves of needless worry?

  • Worry never achieves anything. It never has and it never will. It’s a waste of time. In fact, worry is much like a rocking chair. You can rock all day and go nowhere.
  • Worry is a sin in Scripture. Most importantly, Jesus Himself has taught us not to worry. Thus, to go against what He has taught is sin (see Matthew 6:25-34).
  • Worry is evidence of a lack of trust in God, as I’ve already indicated. And when faith and trust are lacking we cannot be pleasing to God (See Hebrews 11:6).
  • Worry builds mountains that we’ve erected. God doesn’t build or function with mountains in sight. Nor does He want you, or, your church to function with mountains in front of you. He removes all of our mountains when we operate with faith and trust.
  • Worry immobilizes persons and congregations. Worry paralyzes us. Worry defeats us. We sit and forever ponder and stew over our invented problems. God doesn’t have problems in His vocabulary.
  • Worry makes a congregation irresponsible. Ministry is replaced with fruitless attempts to forever sit and seek human answers to our senseless problems. If God is with us and for us, and He is, there’s no way His work through us can ever ever fail.

So, here’s my counsel: STOP WAILING OVER WORRY!! Follow God’s teaching in Scripture in faith and trust, and begin to experience the WITHERING OF WORRY in your life and congregation!!

Corrie Ten Boom offers this piece of advice: “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength.” Also, think the following over: “Worry is the interest paid by those who borrow trouble.” (G. W. Lyon)

 

February 7, 2013 Posted by | Celebration, Christ, Christian Life, Church, Church and Family, Church and Ministry, Church Growth, Church Health, Church Leadership, Church Unity, Coaching, Discipleship, God, Outreach, Prayer, Relationships, Scripture, Service, Spirituality | Leave a comment

OVERCOMING THE DRIVE TO SURVIVE

I continue to focus my best attention on church health today. Why? Because unhealthy churches cannot grow. Move forward. Progress. Make a difference in peoples lives in this spiritually needy world.

One glaring health issue for many congregations, I believe, is the attempt to continue their existence in what I call, “the survival mode.” In other words, attempting to keep the doors open. Paying the bills. Keeping the members happy and coming on Sunday.

In each situation where I have encountered this mentality of attempting to survive, a congregation is in a helpless rut of retreating. They are moving backwards. Existing in a reversal mode. Unable to move forward. Progress. Become fruitful channels for the Lord in the present time.

Why does this “survival mode” exist? Continue? Increase and grow like a snowball moving downhill and forever picking up momentum?

  • It’s because a congregation has turned inward and is not functioning outward.
  • It’s because the drive to maintain has overtaken the ministry of mission.
  • It’s because the church is about what we want in place of what God wants.
  • It’s because church is about us and not about Him.

How is this static and stagnant state going to be reversed? Changed? Turned around? It will not happen by idly hoping that the church will, by uncertain means, be rescued and somehow survive. In other words, by continuing to focus on the problem of the congregations slide and reversal. It will happen when:

  • A congregation loses itself in order to find itself. It will be overwhelmed by the wondrous love of God that eludes and leaps beyond mere human understanding.
  • When a congregation returns to mission and opts out of being a mere maintenance religious oriented institution.
  • When a congregation hops on board with God and responds to engaging in His all important mission in place of their own.
  • When a congregation moves beyond being a mutual admiration society. In other words, no longer being simply appealing to us, but to God who has made us and seeks to remake us.
  • When a church is no longer committed to merely looking like a Christian to the world, but actually being Christian. Todd Ahrend has it right, I’m convinced, when he stresses that God isn’t ” … interested in me Christianizing my life; He was interested in me crucifying my life (The Abrhamic Revolution – page 21).” Similarly, God isn’t interested in a church Christianizing itself, but crucifying itself.

A church will be of no earthly good and influence, regardless of the age in which it finds itself, until it overcomes the deluded drive to survive. Allow me to conclude with Paul’s perspective in Scritpure: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20 – NKJV).

May this indeed ever be the driving dictum for a congregations life and ministry!!!

February 5, 2013 Posted by | Celebration, Christ, Christian Life, Church, Church and Family, Church and Ministry, Church Growth, Church Health, Church Leadership, Church Unity, Coaching, Discipleship, God, Outreach, Relationships, Scripture, Service, Spirituality | Leave a comment

OUTSIDE THINKING FROM THE INSIDE

My previous blog focused attention on developing turnaround thinking in congregations. Yet, why is turnaround thinking necessary? Because the thinking that goes on in numerous established churches has become visibly counterproductive today.

As a result of this counterproductive thinking, congregations find themselves heavily discouraged in being unable to grow. Not only is non-growth experienced, their church has become involved in a rather heavy reverse slide, and they do not know how to stop the slide and make a turnaround possible.

In the previous blog I posed the question frequently heard in these declining congregations: “What can we do to reverse our slide?”

Transitions or turnarounds are not going to happen without the willingness to do things differently than the ways they’ve been done in the past. The most problematic of all issues for established and traditional congregatons is the ability to bring outsiders inside a declining church.

This being true, how does a church bring outsiders inside a declining congregation? It will not happen immediately.  With the flash of a magic wand. Overnight. It will require considerable patience and time for turnaround thinking and action to begin.

So, what kind of thinking needs to emerge for a non-growing church to grow once again?

  • It must start with the understanding that merely having the church doors open every Sunday will not grow a church. Perhaps it did at one time. Individuals rushed to the meeting place when they heard the sound of the church bell. But that’s no longer true. Churches must go to the people. Take an interest in the folks around them.
  • Another important factor is having a church that’s both open and passionate about reaching persons outside its four walls. A leadership and membership that is not seriously sensitized to reaching the unchurched, will not be able to see their church grow again.
  • Christians need to enlarge their circle of friends. One serious problem a church often faces is that it becomes a closed society of people that resembles a private exclusive club. Enlarging friendships with non-Christians will enable those in a church to identify with and invite those who are on the outside.
  • Establish in your church a contagious and effective children’s ministry. This is not a ministry to teens mind you, but to children. Here is where non-growing congregations often lack insight, and fail to reach outsiders. Calling aboard a children’s ministry specialist, one who is allowed to openly lead and attract children and families, is a must today for having a turnaround church. Why? Because parents are greatly influenced by the likes and wants of their children.
  • Put heavy responsibility on having the best nursery facility. This means having a nursery that’s clean, safe, spacious, eye-catching and functional. The nursery staff must be knowledgeable, cheerful, sensitive, caring, well-staffed and arrive ahead of a congregations service times.
  • You must know your community. Know their likes and dislikes. What attracts them and what repels them. Tailor the ministry of your church to magnetically attract these persons. Scripture never changes, but our methods must change. Growing and effective congregations are always focused with and outward and inward balance. Keep in mind that the church is not about what I/We want. Congregations  must be unselfish if they are going to reach outsiders.
  • Provide a service of worship that is positive, inspirational and instructive. It needs to be a service without bothersome gaps, annoying announcements, as well as begin and end on time.
  • A turnaround church also has members who can share their faith journey with others. Furthermore, they have a very sensitive spirit for broken and hurting people around them in this age.

When a church follows the foregoing path, along with bathing itself well in constant prayer and kingdom thinking, be prepared for God to do some really great things in and through you.

 

February 2, 2013 Posted by | Celebration, Christ, Christian Life, Church, Church and Family, Church and Ministry, Church Growth, Church Health, Church Leadership, Church Unity, Coaching, Discipleship, God, Outreach, Prayer, Preaching, Relationships, Service, Spirituality | Leave a comment

DEVELOPING TURNAROUND THINKING

Non-growing congregations has become an ever increasing problem in the 21st century. In fact, there are more non-growing congregations than there are growing ones. This problem of non-growth is ignored by many churches today, whereas, there are some congregations that are troubled and are seriously concerned with their downward slide.

“What can we do to change our present slide?”

I hear questions like the foregoing one asked often when I visit with church leaders. They would like to receive a magic short answer to their problems. And it would be nice indeed to be able to provide such an immediate response that would work surprising wonders. But congregations do not get into their non-growth predicament overnight. It is the result of a long evolutionary period of time in which the slide develops. What needs to be changed in the thinking of these congregations?

Allow me to offer some mind-changing procedures.

  • Cease playing what I call the blame game. Non-growing congregations often want to blame their preacher. Or, they wish to blame a certain leader, maybe all their leaders. But a church needs to look for positive solutions in place of playing the blame game.
  • Stop holding onto all your past church methods as being sacred territory. The message of Scripture is sacred, but your methods are not. They never have been, and never will be. Methods are always open to change. Scripture is not subject to change. And if you keep doing things the same way, with the same methods, you are going to get the same results.
  • Improvement will not take place all at once. Remove this thought from your mind. If you entered into the non-growth state over a lengthy period of time, it will obviously take time to reverse the direction you’re currently going. Improvements happen incrementally, not in quantum leaps. Identify several areas needing to be turned around in your church, and begin to address each one specifically before you move onto the next area.
  • Turnarounds do not happen when we are expecting someone else or others around us to make the changes. Congregational turnaround must begin with YOU!! Every leader and member must assume personal responsibility if a needed rippling effect is to take place in your church.
  • Prayer sensitivity must begin in earnest among your leadership and then reach out into the congregation as a whole. Congregations are often guilty of praying for everything imaginable over that of the congregations growth. Notice that Jesus prayed: “Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Matthew 9:38). Someone has well stressed: “Pray as if everything depends on you, and work as if everything depends on God!”
  • Develop an outward orientation. This is a mindset reversal. Static congregations are, for the most part, inward oriented. We need to begin to think increasingly outward as the way to begin to experience a reversal in the growth problem area. What can we be doing, for example, to reach the people who are around us? Our answers to such questions must next be mobilized into serious action.

Hopefully these thoughts will serve as a directional roadmap for established congregations to begin experiencing a reversal out of their downward slide.

February 1, 2013 Posted by | Celebration, Christ, Christian Life, Church, Church and Family, Church and Ministry, Church Growth, Church Health, Church Leadership, Church Unity, Coaching, Discipleship, God, Outreach, Relationships, Spirituality | Leave a comment