Friday, May 17, 2013

A Failure to Communicate...

I love sports, especially team sports and I had the privilege of playing sports throughout my school experience. This spring, both of my sons have been playing different sports on lacrosse and rugby teams. One didn’t get much game time play but I am so proud of him for giving 150% in every practice to help his team succeed and make it to the playoffs. The team’s success is his success. Rugby is new to us this year and to see a mob of people pushing a ball toward a common goal is fascinating to watch. I’m proud of that team effort as well and my son’s contribution to that.

At our last CIC, the question was raised why we’re calling our committees “teams” and the church voted to remove the team terminology. I realized I have failed to communicate that we’re trying to work within our committee structure to foster and encourage a team mindset. Your ministerial staff is trying to work within our established structure to expand the impact and effectiveness of each committee. Let me be clear, I am not trying to do away with our committee structure. I take full responsibility for failing to communicate effectively that we’re trying to foster a team mindset within our committee structure.  

Most recently, our missions committee worked hard to have our mission fair that was by all accounts, a tremendous success! It was a great example of teamwork and I am so proud of them! This committee fully embraced the vision of engaging as many people as possible to see missions as who we are and not something we do – in other words living each day with an “I’m a missionary mindset.” “Be Missions” was the theme and literally happens in all of the opportunities we saw that day. There was an electric excitement on campus that reminded us all we’re about kingdom business at Calvary. We as Southern Baptists cooperate together to expand God’s Kingdom believing we can accomplish more together as a team of churches than as individual churches.  I have a simple vision from the Lord for Calvary, to “make it hard to go to Hell from Harford County” and I still believe the local church and its members are God’s means to win people to Christ and make disciples of them. My personal ministry philosophy is based on Eph. 4:12. I express it this way: “Teach my people very well so they will love me very much and serve me very effectively.” That is making disciples and that job is so big it requires a large team of believers to accomplish.

I recognize the value of organization and structure. However, if the structure hinders the ministry of Kingdom work, then it is time to reexamine and work within our established ground rules to bring about change; not just for the sake of change, but for the work of the Kingdom.  I don’t know about you but if I’m being recruited to join a committee or a “board”, there is hesitation and resistance in my spirit because I don’t need another meeting to fit into an already busy calendar. However, when I’m encouraged to volunteer for a team guided by a clear purpose and to pursue clear goals; then I can get excited because that tells me this is going to be action oriented, not meeting oriented even though I know invariably there will be meetings. The disciple making vision as members of Calvary should be to involve as many people as possible who attend Calvary but aren’t plugged in and connected to Calvary.

I found a 10 year old article by Harold Resnick [i] that helps me clarify the difference and encourage team principles. I’d like to share excerpts from this article and draw out some principles we can apply to our church life.

Teams and Committees Defined
For our purposes at Calvary, over the last year working with our Church Council, we’ve been defining team as “a group of people who are united around a common purpose, who work together to achieve common short, medium and long term goals and then develop plans to achieve those goals.”

Resnick’s article defines a committee as a group of people who come together to reach a common goal, but each committee member’s role is so represent a particular area or group of people in his or her circle of influence.  In a team, everyone is focused on the common goal. In a committee, everyone tends to focus on what the goal means to their group. In a team, everyone is authorized and empowered to make decisions. In a committee, everyone needs to “check back” before they are able to commit. In a team, decisions are made by consensus, based on the best solution. In a committee, decisions are made through compromise, and usually require a vote.

Teams and Committees At Work
Let's take a look at a few examples and the difference in results.
You are developing your budget. A team begins with an understanding of the budget requirement. Then the team analyzes the strategic initiatives and collectively decides how to allocate resources to support them. The remainder of the budget is allocated to individual requirements. Everyone understands that the goal is reached when the budget is established within limits, all major initiatives are supported, and all team members have the resources they need to fulfill their individual responsibilities.
Let's look at this same process by committee. The overall budget is announced. Everyone works individually to prepare his own component and submits it to the leader. The total, of course, far exceeds the limit. Everyone then proceeds into negotiations, until a final allocation is made that meets the overall target. In this process, the overall purposes (in our case church ministry) can be ignored.  It can foster an environment where the only interest is the piece of the budget pie that is allocated and not for the overall purpose of church ministry.
Resnick shares another example. He says: “For many years I served on the "Product Release Team" for a high tech company. Our goal was to ensure all products were ready and released to the market by an established schedule. But we were always about nine months late... for a simple reason. Each of us had strict orders from our bosses not to approve a release until we were absolutely sure that our area was fully prepared to support the release. As a good committee representative, my goal was first to make sure that our group was prepared, and second to release the product on time. If the product was late, so be it. The problem was resolved in a single conversation. The president came to all of us one day and said: "Let's be clear about your goal. If this product is not released on time, none of you will be working here the next day." That certainly changed our focus. The common goal was now clearly more important than our individual goals, and products - magically - began to be released on time.
We have a God-given and mandated purpose as a church from the Great Commission: “As you are going make disciples.” Over the last year, we’ve been teaching at Church Council and have asked each committee to do three things:
1. Develop a clear purpose statement to help them focus clearly why they exist.
2. Establish short, medium and long term goals that help the church as a whole achieve the overall purpose of making disciples.
3. Develop plans to achieve those goals.

We’re trying to simplify the decision making process so our committees are authorized and empowered to make decisions without having to check back in to their respective groups or have the ministerial staff micro-manage every decision. We believe we can cast the vision and provide some guidelines but your ministers do not believe we have to make all the decisions needed. This is precisely why the mission fair was such a wonderful success. The committee embraced the vision the ministers cast, developed a clearly defined purpose, set the goals, made plans and then enlisted assistance from across the whole church family! Kudos to the missions committee for working as a team – it was not only great teamwork, it was great committee work!

Will you prayerfully consider our church structure; and will you work with your ministry staff to figure out how we can work as a team within our committee structure to expand God’s Kingdom?  Common purpose, common goals and plans, empowering you as individuals, collective work and shared accountability to our God given mission are the ingredients for a remarkable church team, or committee as the case may be. Hopefully this more clearly communicates these concepts to you, from my little corner of the world to yours…

Monday, May 6, 2013

A Call to Pray...

As I write this, today is officially the National Day of Prayer. This morning I was privileged to lead a devotional prayer time with a group of teachers and staff at a local elementary school around the flag pole. We sang “America the Beautiful”, “What a friend we have in Jesus” and “Amazing Grace” together with the aid of another pastor friend who is more musically inclined than I with a guitar. There was no discussion of denominational preferences of those gathered. It was simply a time for us to pray to Almighty God for our nation, our state, our community and ourselves and to give thanks to God for His blessings upon our nation. Our nation has a long history of setting aside a national day of prayer. Consider these facts:
·        1775 – The first Continental Congress called for a National Day of Prayer
·        1863 – Abraham Lincoln called for such a day.
·        1952 – Congress established NDP as an annual event by a joint resolution, signed into law by President Truman
·        1988 – The law was amended and signed by President Reagan, designating the NDP as the first Thursday in May.
One of the Architects of the Constitution of the United States and later President Thomas Jefferson said in 1808: Fasting and prayer are religious exercises; the enjoining them an act of discipline. Every religious society has a right to determine for itself the time for these exercises, and the objects proper for them, according to their own particular tenets; and right can never be safer than in their hands, where the Constitution has deposited it.”

I read to the group the encouragement of the Apostle Paul from 1st Tim. 2:1-4 “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.  For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

We have a God-given mandate to pray for our national, state and local leaders and that is what we did today. We prayed for wisdom for them as they lead us and as Paul petitioned that “we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. We prayed that they would be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. In spite of the challenges, problems and evils that plague our nation, God has given us the ability to speak directly to Him about these needs and we need to be reminded the solutions to our national problems are not political, but spiritual and the Good News of Jesus Christ is the message to be proclaimed. God has promised when His people will humble themselves in prayer and repent He’ll hear from Heaven and heal their land. (2nd Chron. 7:14).

I also want to remind our church family of the need to pray for our church. I asked the church to fast and pray back in August and we’ve reiterated that request along the way most recently on Sunday night April 14th after our CIC with a call to fast and pray for the church weekly. We need to pray for unity, we need to pray for faithfulness to our mission of making disciples and glorifying our Lord Jesus Christ. I don’t mind telling you and I’m certain Pastors Ken & Mike would agree we covet and desperately need your prayers for us as we serve and minister here.
We can thank the Lord for the marvelous mission fair and for all the hard work of our mission committee and volunteers who made it not just a reality; but a tremendously exciting and encouraging day of worship. We can pray that God will use the excitement generated by that wonderful event to encourage us to “Be Missions” every day and to follow through with our commitment to be involved in missions this year personally.

We need to pray for faithfulness in the area of our tithes and offerings so we can fully fund the work of God’s Kingdom. We are greatly concerned at how our giving is down dramatically and we know this is in part due to the condition of our economy. God has promised that His financial program for funding the work of the ministry through the local church always works regardless of the economic conditions (Malachi 3:8-12). You do not need to pray about your tithe (10%) as God has already claimed the tithe belongs to Him. Every faithful tithing Christian knows the reality you cannot out give God.

I would also ask you to pray intently for your personnel committee who has begun the process of searching out the man God will call to be our minister of students. The personnel committee will be bringing updates monthly to the church as to our progress and you’ll be hearing us call you to come and pray for this man and his family and that God will make His will known to us. My prayer is God will guide us to this person sooner rather than later. We need to pray for ourselves in this process also because trust has been so horribly violated; there will be a tendency for us to be fearful and not embrace, support, encourage and follow the leadership of the man God will call to serve in ministry to our students and college and career. When God makes His will known to us and calls this person through much prayer; we’ll have the confidence we need and the joy of knowing that God has brought us His man to serve and labor in this field of service with us.

Today, I’m fasting and praying for our nation, our state, our local leaders, but primarily for this body of believers called Calvary Baptist Church. Please join me in prayer, from my little corner of the world to yours…