Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Hedgehog Concept

In studying for my message in a couple of weeks, I ran across something that I've read before and really appreciate. In Jim Collins' business book, Good to Great, he addresses something called the Hedgehog Concept. He relates an essay by Isaiah Berlin where Berlin proposes that people are in one of two categories: they are either foxes or hedgehogs. Foxes are diffused, scattered and moving on many levels, whereas hedgehogs simplify the complex world into a single concept that reduces all challenges to a simple idea. They refuse to be anything but hedgehogs! They have "a piercing insight that allows them to see through complexity and discern underlying patterns. Hedgehogs see what is essential, and ignore the rest." (page 91)

Let me encourage you to be a hedgehog! As Keith Drury used to teach in Strategetics, "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing." What is our main thing? Win souls! We are to fulfill the Great Commission in the spirit of the Great Commandment. Many people are trying to change and improve our world through secular theories. They are looking to the political world to "save them." Christians have the answer to change and improvement - Jesus! Let's not get sidetracked in doing good. Let us do the "goodest" we can by sharing the hope of Jesus with others. He alone is our hope and salvation.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Thoughts on Longevity

In my posting on Pastoral Longevity, I asked the question about what are some factors that contribute to longer pastoral tenures. I would still like to hear from anyone reading this what you think in this matter.

I believe one key to longevity is the issue of release. We put a lot of emphasis on the initial call to a congregation in The Wesleyan Church. I believe it is very important to match a pastor and a church. In our system, the district superintendent may be able to give assistance in this area, it is ultimately the pastor's responsibility to assess a church's culture and personality to see if there is a match.

But once the decision has been made to go to a church, a pastor needs to be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit to know when it is the right time to leave. Just because we face some resistance does not mean it's time to go. Over the years I've watched some pastors leave churches well before they should have simply because they didn't want to deal with conflict. (At this point, I would have to recommend Dr. Wayne Schmidt's teaching on "Change and Conflict Management" I enjoyed in my masters program!)

I'll relate a personal story here. I came to the Edgerton Church after having closed a church plant that my family and I had worked to establish for five years. I was beat up and faced a lot of rejection from my district "tribe." I figured that I would stay in Edgerton for a couple of years, using the time to heal while helping the congregation find a new direction. Then I would head off for whatever ministry God had in store next. That was nine years ago! My district superintendent applauds me for hanging in there and building things up. But I will tell you what I have told him: I am here because God hasn't released me.

Let me ask my pastor friends this: How do you know when you are released? Have you ever left a church and regretted the move, realizing some time after the fact that you should have stayed? And have you stayed longer than you should have (for whatever reasons) and have regrets?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Feeding the Lions

"If you're thrown to the lions, of course you hope you'll be there in the morning to celebrate. But if not, you'll be in the presence of God, and you will have provided a small kindness to a few hungry lions." -Erwin McManus

OK, I'll admit that I've never really thought about conflict in this way before. I've been attacked by "lions" before. I bet you have, too. My competitive nature causes me to want to win at every turn. I don't like to be wrong, and I admit I love it when I've been vindicated. When an attack comes I want to celebrate in the morning.

I'm not sure I like feeding lions, but I think I get what Erwin McManus was referring to his comment. Is it more important to win the battle with the lions or to win the battle by being more like Christ? I know the answer to that question, as do you. But living in the reality of it is tough. I used to bristle at John Maxwell's axiom, "I don't have to survive." I hate to admit it, but the older I get, the more I buy in to it.

When the lions come, so be it. But just a word...I bet I don't taste that good anyway!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Pastoral Longevity

I was talking with a pastor friend yesterday when the subject of how long I've been at the Edgerton Church came up. My association with this church has been nine years - a little over eight as the full-time pastor. My friend commented that he had read my blog and was encouraged by it. He has served for a little more than two years in an established, older church. We talked about the difficulty a pastor faces in trying to change the culture of a declining or dying church. In my previous post I listed seven things that I believe have contributed to our turn around in Edgerton.

However, one thing I left off the list was longevity. I think a lot of pastors get frustrated when they go to a church and can't implement their vision immediately. They work at a feverish pace for a year or two and then move on to what they hope will be a more receptive field. I know - I've done it!

The reality is that it takes time to change church culture. The attitude of many lay persons in the church is, "Pastors come and go." It's true. Take a look at the statistics. But the churches that experience growth, and the declining churches that experience renewal, have one thing in common - pastors who serve for a number of years in the same place.

So what's it take to hang in there for the long haul? I have some ideas, but what do you think?