The farmers market church

…or Three church cultures, part 2.

I’ll be honest – I’ve never been to a farmers market, so take this metaphor with a grain of salt. I did my research though, and found this great video, “How to shop at a farmers market.” It’s exactly what you’d expect – a sunny day with people enjoying themselves, examining and purchasing new and unique locally grown foods. Patrons browse, buy food, and incorporate it into their diets accordingly. All told, it looks like a very pleasant experience.

Churches sometimes adopt this model, often deemed a “discipleship” church, that assumes churchgoers will play a substantial role in their own spiritual development, regardless of current spiritual maturity. But, is it effective in accomplishing the end goal of training people to glorify God with good works? Continue reading

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The fancy restaurant church

…or Three church cultures, part 1.

When you go to a fancy restaurant, you go as much for the experience as you do the food. In fact, it’s almost all about the experience. You enter the dimly lit room, where the host graciously welcomes you and finds a seat for you. Maybe they’ll even pull out your chair for you and lay a cloth napkin across your lap for you. From start to finish, the point of the evening is to take the pressure entirely off of you, the customer, so that you leave with a smile and the thought that you’d love to come back.

This is increasingly the culture of churches today – meet the needs of the churchgoer. And meeting needs isn’t a bad thing.

But a fancy restaurant isn’t what God intended.

At a fancy restaurant…  Continue reading

Feedback, motivation, and the Tithe

I’ve often thought of the church (or, church services) as an ongoing training seminar (Eph 4:12). In this seminar you have a trainer (preacher), content (the word), a delivery mechanism (the sermon), and other trainees (the congregation). While it may be difficult to incorporate interactivity or allow for practicing the content, a church service really is a training session for what it means to be a Christ follower (or at least it should be).

Including feedback.  Continue reading

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The congregation as coach?

In his book “The Art and Practice of Leadership Coaching,” Marshall Goldsmith (one of the top executive coaches worldwide) explains that when he coaches top leaders, one of his primary emphases is not on the leader, but on the followers that support the leader. When leaders attempt to better themselves, they had better hope that the people they serve (their followers) will encourage these changes, not hinder them.  To help followers help the leader, Marshall tells followers four things: (1) let go of the past, (2) be helpful, not cynical, (3) tell the truth, and (4) improve yourselves as well.

Do you want to improve yourself as a church leader?  Do you want to avoid the thousands of dollars it takes to consult with an executive coach? Acknowledge your leadership needs and admit them to your congregation (that is to say, people in your congregation that you trust).  Consider applying these four questions to your congregation, and allow them to coach you.  Continue reading

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Three church cultures

Leaders develop the culture of their organization. The culture of the organization influences both the quality and the delivery of the product, but it also influences how stakeholders and members with the organization respond to these products. If you as a church leader are hoping to “equip the saints” for ministry (i.e., not just for the fun of it), then you’ll need a culture that supports this ministry, and the spiritual growth of your congregation.

In my earlier post, Entitlement mentality, I discussed the challenges that the “me” culture intoduces when trying to craft church culture. There’s a substantial conundrum in not being chained to the whims of a congregation while simultaneously meeting the legitimate need for spiritual inspiration and motivation. While I certainly won’t answer your church culture question in a few blog posts, perhaps a metaphor will shed some light and offer a new perspective on this issue.  Continue reading

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Entitlement mentality

I recently read an article decrying the “entitlement mentality” in the modern church, and to be sure, this is a major problem. People bounce from church to church, looking for one that “fits,” and as soon as it gets a little uncomfortable, it’s off they go once more. This is a spiritual problem, but not one we should be too surprised about (2 Timothy 4:3).

I’ve heard sermons on this, on the need to stay committed to your church, even in the tough times. Agreed. I’ve heard sermons that it’s the message, not the music, that matters in worship. Agreed (albeit somewhat less emphatically). I’ve heard sermons reminding us that church is about God, not man, and so we don’t need to worry about whether our needs are met or not. Wait. Let’s expound on that thought. If I understand this correctly, what we’re really saying is that, as long as God is in ANY way “glorified,” then we have done our duty? Can we glorify God “better” by serving more skillfully?  Continue reading

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Team leadership questions

I recently heard a statistic that about 800 churches are planted every year, but that 10,000 would need to be planted to keep up with the population. I can’t speak to the validity of that statistic, but common experience would tell us that more churches are closing, rather than opening, their doors.

What is going wrong?

If so much rises and falls on leadership (Hosea 4:6), we must necessarily be interested in how to do it better. And we are – there are a plethora of church leadership conferences – I myself just got back from one. Having good leaders in our churches is essential.

But what about team leadershipContinue reading


Leader relational appeal

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” It seems natural that we want to be with people with compatible personalities, values, and interests. Following a leader is similarly relational. We want leaders that we can connect with. At a minimum, we don’t want to follow a bad leader. But can “bad” be in the eyes of the beholder? Can we be matched (or mismatched) with leaders?

Consider the following leadership traits and behaviors, and try to see how each behavior could be useful in a given context. Continue reading

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Talent hoarders

As a church leader, you’re not only responsible for the outcomes of your team, but you’re also partially responsible for the spiritual lives of those you’re leading (Mark 9:42). Sometimes your role as leader and mentor will conflict – especially when you have limited time and resources. This conflict occurs when your team members are getting drained but the team needs to keep moving on. What do you do?

This is by no means a new suggestion, but maybe a new take, and if nothing else, a helpful reminder. Make sure your team members are being filled through their service. Different people have different gifts, abilities, and interests, and when they “fit” with the task they’re doing, it provides a sense of meaningfulness and excitement. That kind of work almost never leads to burnout, regardless of the actual time spent.

In church world, as in the business world, there is a temptation to assume that being a “rock star” (to take a phrase from Dave Ramsey) in one domain is going to lead to that same success in another domain. We assume you have a “servant’s heart” because you don’t shy away from physical labor, so we stick you with as many undesirable jobs as possible. We know you can develop a good lesson for teens, so you should be transferable to developing lessons for adults. There is logic behind this, but skill does not equate to passion.

Jim Collins talks about getting the “right people on the bus” and getting them “in the right seat.” Good leaders attract good followers. Rock stars will flock to you if your team consistently puts out a great product and you get a reputation as a good leader; you may then be tempted to hoard this talent, regardless of whether it is specifically relevant to your team or not. Great leaders discover and distribute great followers. Rock stars will still flock to you, but as a leader who listens to followers’ passions, you will be able and Kingdom-focused enough to direct them to the areas of service that best fulfill them.

  1. Certain natural skills will make some people better at almost everything they do.
  2. There is a temptation to over-utilize high performers.
  3. If their interests aren’t aligned, they will fizzle out.
  4. A great leader will not hoard, but distribute mismatched “rock stars.”
  5. A great leader will discover and develop, from their own teams, potential “rock stars” on the basis of matched passion.
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Questions for the church…

Check out the PDF below – it’s two chapters excerpted from a book, “The present future: Six tough questions for the church.” I haven’t read through the whole thing, but I plan to in the near future, and upcoming posts will likely branch off of some of these thoughts. I found it interesting if for nothing else than that towards the end of the PDF (about page 83), McNeal talks about how we design our approach to church such that people actually learn and are changed, without expecting the hokey, one-size-fits-all church curricula to do the trick. Read on after the break, and be looking for upcoming posts applying psychology to some of his thoughts and questions…

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