Leadership and the Pastoral, Shepherding side of ministry.

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Leadership seminars, conferences, books and articles abound. The proliferation of leadership resources over the last three decades is astounding. I applaud it all, get much as you can.

I remember when I went through Bible College (1981) there was one leadership magazine that came out of the USA once every three months that many of us devoured. (Yes it was a long time ago). That was about the only journal on leadership. How things have changed, which is brilliant, and it needed to.

BUT… it seems the percentage of Christians still hasn’t increased overall in NZ. In Europe the trend is downwards. I’m not sure about other nations, but a brief look at the USA stats suggests no increase. Yes, churches have grown larger and multi-sites are on the increase. And with all the leadership conversations and resources and conferences, there are some attitudes that I’ve seen develop over the last number of years that are not helpful. I don’t particularly like seeing it in Christian leaders; it’s not only in churches but also among leaders in companies and businesses. It’s the unhealthy over-balance in leadership and an under-valued aspect of the pastoral, shepherding, and caring side of ministry.

Love people . . . no matter what. I understand leaders are task-focused and want a job done well. Amen!... but people are never only an end to a means. They are not only and simply there so the work you want done gets done! No one is perfect or will ever be perfect. But leaders, care for people - be gentle with people; people will make mistakes – sometimes really bad ones! People will make bad calls, that’s just the world we live in. Love them, bring them through, just like Jesus did and does with us.

It seems that at a quick glance, communication is at an all-time high. But emails, Facebook, Twitter and with all the other platforms of social media more than ever there seems to be a famine of loneliness, and people feeling isolated like never before. One cannot replace touch and face-to-face communication. Could it be we are broadcasting and not connecting? Or announcing - not listening, connecting or truly hearing? Could we be declaring yet not discussing?  Sending a text or email is not communicating. An email is read how you the receiver feels. Tone, facial expressions, voice and empathy are not communicated through social media.

The community of faith has an answer if not the answer… shepherds, pastors, people who really care for one another.

Leaders, allow me to remind you:    

Be kind, tender-hearted and forgiving. Ephesians 4:32.

Let your conversation be gracious and attractive. Colossians 4:6.

When one gets behind the scenes in some leadership situations the talk is not very uplifting about others, and it’s certainly not gracious or attractive. Being a leader is not an excuse to be ungracious, nor does it give license for being harsh. Leaders should set the example in forgiveness, graciousness, and kindness.

A whole Psalm is dedicated to this shepherding thought. It’s a piece of literature people have recited at special occasions and funerals, Christians and non-Christians alike, in fact some say it’s one of the most famous and recognised passages ever written. I wonder why? Maybe it’s because it shows how much we need shepherding. After all we are known as sheep!

Of course it’s Ps 23:1-6, NLT: “The Lord is my Shepherd…” Not the Lord is my leader, apostle, prophet… but my shepherd. Because He is our Shepherd we have everything we need. He gives rest, leads, renews, guides, takes away fear, He is with me, protects and comforts, prepares food, anoints me, our cup overflows, goodness and unfailing love pursue me. All because HE is our Shepherd. Wow!! Of course we also have Ps 91 and other passages which speak of this shepherding, caring, pastoral role.

One of the names of God is Jehovah-Rohi; Jehovah my shepherd. In fact many of the names of God resemble this pastoral attribute. For example Jehovah heals, Jehovah our peace, my banner, my provider, He is there…

John 10:1-17. Jesus speaks of Himself as the Good Shepherd. They recognize His voice, He calls and leads them. Jesus is speaking from an Eastern mind-set: in that part of the world a shepherd leads the sheep. In NZ the shepherd drives the sheep from behind. So maybe it’s out of the shepherding role, leaders lead? The passage goes on to say what a good shepherd does: He gives safety; He gives a rich and satisfying life; He sacrifices His life for the sheep; He brings others into the fold.

My thought is this, if you are going to lead well, learn to shepherd and pastor well. Or as J. C. Douglas said, ‘The right to lead comes out of how well we feed’.

My conclusion: 

Maybe, just maybe, true Biblical shepherding and pastoring means leadership is a result??

Maybe, leadership is a result of shepherding and caring for people? 

Thank you once again for taking the time to read this – and for your prayer support and encouragement.

Account Details for Vision Churches International

Bank: Westpac
Branch Name: Victoria Street
Bank City: Hamilton, New Zealand
Branch number: 03-0318
Account number: 0882461-00 Swift code for Westpac NZ: WPACNZ2W

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2017 is off to a great start

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Hello everyone,
 
2017 … it’s been a great start for Karen & I. We’ve been able to have some time away. We live in a country that has amazing scenery… we were wowed many times!

I’m off to Europe on the 14th of Feb. Netherlands, Belgium and France for 3 weeks. This is the first of 3, maybe 4 trips to Europe this year. I’ll also be in the USA, Canada and Australia later in the year.
 
We are starting a 'Church planting training Centre’ CptC in September this year in South Holland. This will impact not only Holland, but Belgium and hopefully the north of France as well. It’s an internship programme and students graduate only once they are involved in a church plant!!! As far as we know it’s the first of its kind in Western Europe… exciting! We have great teachers and a great venue; and the curriculum is currently being worked on by a fantastic team.  My dream is to have a CptC in every Western European Nation before I leave this planet!


I continue to travel around New Zealand most weekends, and am so thankful to God for the people I see coming to Christ and also many healings.
 
We are almost ready to publish a new book that has been a major focus for me for the past 6 months - edition 2 “Multiplication". I am very, very excited about this one. I’ve taken chapters out and put new ones in and it’s turning out better than expected. I have a conviction that this is a timely book for the Body of Christ. It will aid and nurture the process of Church planting wherever it is read. I see it used in seminars, workshops for pastors and in Bible training centers. There are over 20 endorsements from around the world; which is a great encouragement. I’m looking forward to placing this prophetic tool book in people’s hands.

Please allow me to place a couple of needs before you. Please hear my heart in this, I do not want anyone to feel any compulsion or pressure at all. All I would ask, is that you pray and ask God if this is something you could invest in…
 
ONE: The publication of my book, ‘Multiplication’.  The editing and cover are being processed in the USA and then it will be printed in USA, Europe, NZ and Australia (making it easier for postage/freight.) The approximate cost for the first 500 copies (which includes editing, formatting, design work and printing) is about $4,500 NZD.
 
TWO: The Church planting training Center, CptC. 
While the Church Planting Training Center has a fee per student, to do the job excellently we need extra funding.  (Costs are all $NZD).

- Scholarships (30-40% of the fee) = $500 per student.
- We want to provide text books = $3000 per year.                 
- Marketing $1500 per year. This is so important to get the word out.
- Teachers from other Nations $1500 per year.
- A part time administrator $7200 per year. (1 day a week. We currently have a volunteer, but we see this is unsustainable long term).

Total = $13,200 NZD per year. (this includes scholarships for 3 people).
 
If you want to give to this specifically please use the bank account details below and mark it accordingly.

Thank you once again for taking the time to read this – and for your prayer support and encouragement.

Account Details for Vision Churches International

Bank: Westpac
Branch Name: Victoria Street
Bank City: Hamilton, New Zealand
Branch number: 03-0318
Account number: 0882461-00 Swift code for Westpac NZ: WPACNZ2W

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Would you do life differently?

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I have said a few times to leaders who are in established churches, “Imagine if you were starting a new church, how would you live life and what would your priorities be for ministry?”
 
This is helpful paradigm to help us shift our thinking. What would you do differently? For when we have been in an established church for a long period of time, we think a certain way. Please understand I am talking generalisations.
 
Let’s take a few examples of living in an established church mindset and then we will compare them to a New Church Planting (NCP) mindset:
Finances – they are usually fairly stable and predictable. Budgets are set, cash flows are set, and usually come in somewhere around the target, as you will know if you have been in the church for many years. One usually can see what percentage increases are realistic and the faith projections that could be realised.
 
In a New Church Plant, (NCP) every $ counts. And it’s usually the same for mission and ministry outside of the church. Resources are seen to be in the harvest. 
 
Missions – usually there is a missions team, especially for other nations. A missions budget is set. Mission locally is in place with events and programs. In some churches, it doesn’t seem to bother leaders if people haven’t come to faith or been baptized in the last 6-12months.
 
In an NCP – It’s usually all about mission. It’s why the church was birthed. They are very committed to finding people of peace.

Pastoral – is mainly for those inside the church. I’m not saying it’s wrong it’s just that it demands focus. Paid, professional (part time, or full-time) are the people who pastor those in the church.
 
In an NCP, pastoring the community or the city is the captivating thought. How can people in our new church pastor people in the community? There is a focus in releasing everybody into their gifts. Let’s face it, there are not many people in our church yet.
 
 
Size of the congregation – if we have 1500 or 150 in the congregation, we can feel like we can relax, after all, if we are 1500 people or 150 people in the church you are in the 20% category, above average for church attendance. Wonderful.
 
An NCP looks at those outside of the church. It’s not who’s in the church, it’s who’s outside that’s the focus.
 
Events – these can be put on mainly for the church community, without too much thought of the community around them. That’s just the reality and by the way, it’s good to do for the church community.
 
In an NCP, events have the emphasis to win people to Christ or introduce them to the community of faith. Why? Usually it’s because of limited resources, people, and budgets, so we want to have the maximum impact for the community around us as well.
 
Facilities – are mainly in a building, which is wonderful. Health and safety regulations need to be adhered to, maintenance issues are ongoing, ongoing finances need to be raised for buildings. By the way, buildings are fantastic if used for reaching the community.
 
For an NCP, there usually is no building so renting is needed, and change of buildings can be adjusted when the needs are different and as the church expands. The church is more than facilities and is forced to live this out. Resources can be used for ministry. Homes are used for meetings, coffee mornings, dinners, offices, and evangelism etc.
 
Leadership – professional people lead. Of course it is not intentional, but the size of the church and the length of it’s existence can demand or determine this. Leaders can tend to do ministry for people.
 
In an NCP, usually it’s a team; it has to be because of time and the resources of the church. The leaders do ministry, but they are focused on equipping others and enabling them to do the work of ministry.
 
The list could go on. Please let me remind you that these are generalisations and are not in any way against larger churches. 
 
You will see from the above list that a New Church Plant has many, many limitations. It’s encouraging to note that limitations are not impossibilities or barriers, they are often God’s gifts to us!  Limitations cause us to pray, read the Bible, communicate, use resources, and let us see volunteers’ gifts and time very differently. Limitations push us to God and His limitlessness. They also cause us to think out of the box and help us focus on mission.

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One forgotten key for spreading the Good News

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Today I want to give you a key to successfully spreading the gospel.

“Oikos…It’s God’s Key to the natural and rapid spread of the Good News”!
Tom Wolf.
 
The oikos is one of the keys in evangelism in every local church - it’s a key for the newly planted church. Why?  Because the new church is small and people know full well what they can’t do because of limited resources.  A new church will be able to use this straight away.
 
Oikos is the Greek word for a household - a house of people.

“Believe in the Lord Jesus and you shall be saved, you and your Household”[1]

Mission Professor Dr Tom Wolf says an oikos is, “a social system composed of those related to each other through common ties and tasks.  It is God’s key to the natural and rapid spread of the Good News.”
 
Did you know that the average person has 20-30 people in his or her sphere of influence, with a number of these being non-believers.
 
Oikos and the Old Testament
The Old Testament pictures the household as including several generations in a family - usually four generations including men, married women, unmarried daughters, slaves, persons without citizenship, and sojourners or resident foreign workers.
 
In Genesis 12:3. “All families of the earth shall be blessed.”[2]
 
Oikos and the New Testament
God continues to focus on households, i.e. friends, extended family, relatives, those with common interest and the same work environment.
 
In Mark 5:19 Jesus told the man he delivered of demons; “Go home to your friends (oikos) and tell them what a wonderful thing God has done for you; and how merciful he has been.”
 
After Zacchaeus was converted Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house (oikos).” (Luke 19:9).  Other scriptures. John 4:53, John 1:41, John 1:44
 
In Luke 10 we see that Jesus appointed seventy to go in pairs ahead of him into every city and place where he himself was intending to visit.  Included in the instructions Jesus (v5) tells them “Whatever house (oikos) you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house’ (oikos).”
 
Verse 6 says that, “if a man of peace is there (in that household/oikos), your peace will rest on him.”  In other words, look for the person who is receptive to the Gospel in your oikos, your household; which includes your friends, extended family, relatives, those with the same interest, and those in the same work environment.  Ralf Neighbour, a Baptist Pastor from America, defines your oikos as being, “Those you spend at least one hour every three weeks with, most people have 20 to 30 people in their oikos.”[3]
 
Today write down your oikos group.
In that oikos find out the ones who are receptive to the Gospel; there should be at least two.
 
Research conducted by the Institute of American Church Growth of Pasadena, California, in 1980 on why people have come to Christ and the church provides tremendous support on the effectiveness of the oikos concept at work today.  Over 20,000 people have been asked the question, “What or who was responsible for your coming to Christ and your church?”  I have done this many times in meetings and the percentages confirm what you see below.
 
Following are the percentages:
1-2%    Special need   
0.5%    Evangelistic crusade
2-3%    Walk in           
2-3%    Church programme
5-6%    Pastor             
4-5%    Sunday school 
1-2%    Visitation       
75-90%   Friends or relatives
 
The facts are, most people who come to Christ become Christians because of a relationship with friends or family; oikos.
 
I agree with Wolf’s words from earlier: Oikos is God’s key to the natural and rapid spread of the Good News. It is still is a powerful key today.

 
[1] Acts 16:31
[2] Also Deut 12:7; 14:26; Joshua 7:14
[3] I heard this from Ralph Neighbour during a lecture he gave to the Baptist Union in Auckland, NZ, in the early 1980’s.
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Dad I Dug A Hole!

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It’s a line from the movie, ‘The Castle’, which I confess we still enjoy as a family.
 
In the movie the son comes in for dinner and his Dad is asking the family what they have done today, the son replies excitedly, “Dad I dug a hole”. The father is very pleased and commends him.
 
I must admit I have dug the odd hole and taken a picture of it and sent it to my sons! Yes, they got the joke!! But every hole I have ever dug was for a reason. There was a purpose in digging the hole.

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The Profile of a Church Planter

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This is a common question. I am reluctantly going to give a list. I say reluctantly, because I find God always surprises me with people who I think wouldn’t be able to plant, yet they do!

So here are some key factors that a planter can’t do without. The question to ask after each of these qualities is: where have I seen this functioning in my ministry? How and when have these been tested in my life?

  1. Need a clear sense of God’s call. Church planting is not easy. The call of God constrains us to plant. A wise Christian leader has said, “If you can do anything else, then do that instead”. They need to be serving with consistency in a church, before there is any thought of them church planting. It goes without saying they need to be in a close relationship with God. They have developed healthy habits of prayer, (reading the word), fasting and giving. Matt 6:1-18.  
  2. A self starter. Is able to take initiative. A pioneer. They are able to start from nothing and make it something for God’s glory. 
  3. Has a high level of Faith. They have the belief that, God is able to do this, no matter what. They understand, as much as one is able, it is the supernatural God at work. They are able to dream dreams and see impossibilities become possible. They believe that God will make a way where there is no way. The planter must able to see past the present situation and into the future. 
  4. Perseverance is a key factor. Tenacity is another word. They are able to persevere through difficult and unfavorable situations. 
  5. The planter needs to be able to gather people! They love people and are able to relate to the lost as well as the found. A church planter is a ‘well liked’ person that draws people in. 
  6. They are able to disciple people and train them. The question is, do people follow you? A key priority for church planters (leaders) is to disciple, train and release people for the market place as well as ministry. Ex 18:17-23 esp. v20-21. Also Acts 6:1-7.  
  7. A supportive spouse and family. Is your family on the same page and has the same dream as you? Sustainability long term won’t happen without this in place. 

Rate yourself, 1 = low and 10 = high. If you end up with 35 or less you really need to rethink leading a church plant. Ask a friend or family member to rate you as well. 

 

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Is Christianity safe?

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Is God safe? He made pussy cats, puppies and mice. But He also made tigers, lions, bears, sharks and scorpions and spiders of all dangerous kinds. I sometimes wonder if we try to domesticate God? 

I have come to the conviction that God will never be domesticated. Planting a church that aims to plant churches is not easy. At times it’s downright difficult and challenges us at all levels; in our relationships, leadership, families, financially, even our beliefs, our faith. There are wonderful high points and winning power encounters, yet we also know that the dominion of darkness is arrayed against any kind of Jesus Kingdom bleeding into community and beyond. Many of us know the effects of this. Yet the Church (church planting) is still God’s plan A.  

In C S Lewis’ famous work The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the Pevensie children find themselves in Narnia, with news that Aslan the king – a lion! – is on the move.  Lucy is somewhat frightened and asks Beaver, “is Aslan safe?”  (Aslan being a type of Jesus).  Beaver’s reply was “Oh no He’s not safe, but He’s good, He’s the King I tell you!”  

May I suggest Christianity, security, comfort and safety don’t mix easily.  Look at Paul’s life, or John the Baptist, or any of the disciples for that matter, or Jesus!  John and Jesus were killed by the time they were 34!  Paul and the disciples had uncomfortable lives.  

Suffice to say, Safety, security, comfort and church planting don’t mix! Yet it’s still God’s plan that His church is planted and multiplies. Man and women throughout the centuries have willingly and valiantly picked up the challenge of extending God’s Kingdom and that’s the reason many of us are part of His church today! 

Let’s take our opportunity to change history in families and communities… what can you do to forward the mission of His church and bleed His Kingdom into society?  

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One simple way you can be involved in the greatest cause ever...

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In many cities and towns in the western world, especially in Europe, you will find approximately 90-99% of people are bound for a Christless eternity. We must reach them. It is a command, an imperative. Jesus tells us to do it; there is no option. Many leaders and people wonder how could they be involved in planting churches that plant churches.

This year, I was speaking in a church in Europe that was passionate about planting churches. After the meeting a young mum comes up to me and was so desirous to get involved in planting churches but felt so frustrated. She was not only a mum and wife but both her and her husband worked fulltime as a Medical Doctors. Already they are busy and influential people in bleeding the Kingdom. Yet heartbroken, she felt it was hopeless to think about church planting. I said you could be involved in church planting tomorrow if you wanted. Stunned she asked, “how”? I said, “you have the ability to command large dollars into your home, why not set aside xx amount of $ into a church planting account. Let it grow over the year or years and when your church is about to plant you have finances to give to bless the planting team or the Leader of your church to give to the plant”.

There’s a principle, the Message Bible says in Matt 6:21. “It’s obvious isn’t it. The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being”. You’ll end up being in the place where you put your treasure!

Her eyes lit up. And I thought, “we have just released finances into the harvest!”

Individuals and churches can set aside finances, and be involved in the best way to fulfil Matt 28.

I’ve just named one way but there are many ways one can be involved in planting a church.

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