The quarterly newsletter of the association that shares an important editorial on church ministry and the latest about MCMA activities.
AS FOR ME AND MY HOUSE
2nd Quarter 2016 - Volume 20 - Number 2
this rough and tumble presidential campaign it seems apparent that there is a
general coarsening of the culture around us.
Even presidential candidates are not presenting themselves in a positive
or classy manner. The rhetoric of the campaign
trail and apologists on all sides of the debate have lowered the standards of
general discourse making us wonder if civil conversation will ever return.
spin is constant. Straight answers on
any questions are almost impossible to arrive at. Hard truth is rarely articulated; only spin.
beyond the focus of the political scene, the general news in the community it
is not encouraging. Traditional
morality, even concepts of gender identity, are being called into question and
new definitions are being introduced that defy time-tested standards.
institution of marriage has been expanded through court decisions to include
unions of same sex couples with demands by other splinter groups for equality
of any domestic arrangement…of whatever types or numbers of people.
is lower partly due to the fact that many people are not bothering to get
married…cohabitation has become a norm for many.
in America’s educational institutions has been rising at all levels over the
last decades. Beginning in elementary
school and stretching all the way through grad school students attempt to
better their chances at success by playing fast and loose with the rules.
there are many other discouraging deficits in our culture today; these are only
a few. But what are we who are in the
leadership of the church to do in response to them? Let me suggest the following:
1. We must
identify the evil that is present in today’s society. The Bible is full of examples of the same
evils we can point to in the current day.
Our teaching and preaching will be especially relevant if we relate how
the Scripture illustrates the challenge of the current culture.
2. We must
teach clearly what biblical holiness and obedience entails. Without compromise, God’s standards must be
clearly taught. It may not always be
comfortable to contrast the current day with biblical standards, but our people
will be without guidance if we do not connect the dots and help people honor
God in their daily behavior.
3. We must
celebrate the examples of those who rise above the current culture. In our own lives and in that of our people,
when courageous examples of faith and faithfulness that fly in the face of the
trends of the day are true, we need to call attention to them. Special testimony should be given when
people, as in the spirit of Daniel, refuse to defile themselves with the
temptations that prey on them.
4. We must
model and reassure all that a bold resistance is possible. As Joshua made it clear, “As for me and my
house, we will serve the Lord!” No
matter how bad it gets; no matter what the mindless majority may think or do;
by the power of God in us, we can be God’s holy minority!
the clouds darken on the horizon of today’s culture, we can call our people to
remain faithful to God and become a bright witness to His power in daily
A. Johnson, Executive Director
EXPAND YOUR LEADERSHIP REACH
3rd Quarter 2016 - Volume 20 - Number 3
Global Leadership Summit, offered worldwide by the Willow Creek
Association is always a good investment of time for us as church leaders. Among the speakers on this year’s program, a
very compelling presentation was made by Jossy Chacko, President and Founder of
Empart, Inc. He offered us three
directives on how to maximize our effectiveness as leaders…to expand our
1. ENLARGE YOUR
daily, weekly tasks we must care for oftentimes narrow our focus so much that
we don’t think in expansive terms. Our
eyes become so trained on the immediate challenges and responsibilities, we
fail to see beyond today. We attempt to
protect the status quo rather than take risks to go beyond it.
challenge for the average church is obvious.
The coordination of the current program requires so much energy and
attention, that more long-range goals are oftentimes never even
leaders need to get their eyes open by getting out to meet people in the
community, visit other churches on Sundays to see what they are doing, have
probing conversations with people inside and outside the church to brainstorm
possible expansions of the reach of the church.
If we don’t intentionally look beyond the status quo…that is where we
will be five years from now.
2. EMPOWER YOUR
the joy of setting people free to minister.
Begin by helping to build character in them through teaching and
mentoring. Walk with them through their
process of growth, as Jossy says, “lead from alongside.” Relational leadership will bring out the
willing best in others.
those foundations of character and relationship are established, then agreed
upon objectives can be set, all in keeping with the mission of the ministry.
them serve! Don’t micro-manage or try
to control. Don’t take back tasks you
have already delegated. Trust God that
he will empower, motivate, and energize your team members to accomplish their
work, hence your work, with excellence and measurable achievement.
Chacko challenges us to recognize that risk-taking is just another name for
faith. It is fundamental to Christian
life and ministry. When we fail to take
risk, we “move from pioneering to preserving.”
Chacko’s other admonitions regarding risk include: “Risk is a friend to
be loved, not an enemy to be feared;”
“See comfort and safety as your enemies;” “Embrace fear;” “Don’t let
earthly practicalities blind you to heavenly possibilities;” “Expand your pain
do you want to be five years from now?
The great motivational speaker, Charlie Tremendous Jones used to say,
“Five years from today, you will be the person you are today plus the books you
read and people you get to know.” Those
are the resources necessary for us to move out to enlarge vision, empower
people, and embrace risk. We need to
take the time to read and take the time to consult others to get new
perspectives. May God give us the
boldness to expand our leadership reach!
A. Johnson, Executive Director
CHARACTER STILL MATTERS
4th Quarter 2016 - Volume 20 - Number 4
presidential campaign of 2016 was one for the books! There were several unprecedented aspects of
this contest, but one of the most disheartening things about it was that both
major party candidates were held in such low esteem due to the negatives that
swirled about them. Accusations on both
sides of corruption, incompetence, lying, and philandering seemed to demoralize
led to this sullenness in the populace?
Although some relativists may claim that American society has become
desensitized to a lot of traditional mores, I believe that what we saw in the
attitudes of Americans in this last election cycle is that character still
evident enthusiasm gap that existed in this election was due to the fact that
most of us really do have ideals about leadership. We really do believe that people of
impeccable character make better leaders.
On balance, trustworthiness, truthfulness, dependability and
respectability are preferred in leaders.
Even though getting a job done is a necessary thing; getting it done
with integrity intact is an even higher value.
seems to me, that these dynamics need to be constantly on the minds of church
leaders as well. In this season of
American life, we can be tempted to be very pragmatic and just want our pastors
and leaders to do their job efficiently, economically, and with good
statistical results. We want budgets
balanced, programs run, the windows washed, and attendance increasing.
though, if these external signs of success and efficiency are not accompanied
by internal strengths fueled by spiritual power, they fall flat. Why is character so important in Church work?
CHARACTER OF LEADERSHIP CAN GLORIFY GOD. Our
ultimate concern is that those with whom the church is identified, reflect the
spirit and character of Jesus Himself.
The reputation of God is besmirched in the eyes of both the members of
the church as well as the general public when leaders fail to maintain moral
and ethical standards as they pursue organizational objectives.
CHARACTER OF LEADERSHIP IS MODELED BY THE PEOPLE. We are often reminded that the flocks that we
lead will progress only as far as the quality of the shepherds that lead
them. Our people are always watching us
for direction in how to live life in a way that honors God. That is a sobering truth. Even when we are not aware of it, they are
observing our actions and reactions as leaders.
They are making value judgments based on what we value. As our character grows, we will give a real
life example for the people to follow.
Peter admonished the elders in I Peter 5 to be “examples to the flock of
God.” Whether we like it or not…we are
examples for good or ill.
CHARACTER OF LEADERSHIP PROJECTS VALUES TO THE COMMUNITY. Beyond the flock of God, the general public
is looking to leadership in the church for an indication of what the Body of
Christ is all about. In communities
where leaders have poor reputations, where they are known for their malfeasance
or cruelty, where the fruit of the Spirit is not evident in their private and
public deportment, the Church is misrepresented and the work of God is
short-circuited. When this happens, the
dynamic evident in Acts 2 in the 1st century church, "having favor with all the people" - is lacking and the ministry suffers.
all of these dimensions…God’s glory, the spiritual progress of the flock of
God, and the impact on the wider community…character still matters. May God give us grace to cooperate with the
Holy Spirit to develop character in ourselves and our people regardless of the
strengths or weaknesses of character ev evident in the public square as this 21stcentury continues to unfold.
Timothy A. Johnson,
RISING ABOVE THE NARRATIVE
1st Quarter 2017 - Volume 21 - Number 1
the political conversations of the last couple of years, we have been exposed
to several “narratives” that have been put forth by all sides attempting to
either cast the opposition in a bad light or to explain away their own
problems. A “narrative” is basically a
story that tries to put a certain construction on a situation in support of a
particular agenda. It is spin; it really
is deceit; it can be manipulation; it is not necessarily true.
it comes to the living out of personal lives, the “narrative” has become a
convenient device to enable people to offer an excuse for their behavior. We are told these days that everyone has a
story; my story is different from your story; there is no right story or wrong
story; it is what it is. We are as much
products of our story or narrative, as we are players in the drama. We can be given a convenient explanation for
who we are—cold, insensitive because our story is that of the Scandinavian
stoic; emotionally unconnected because our story is that of the adult child of
an alcoholic; wildly promiscuous because our story is that of the son of a
philanderer with no better role model to follow.
local churches, the “narratives” of specific assemblies are also taken into
account. We are the way we are because
we are: “immigrants”; “Pentecostals”;
“traditional”; “denominational”; “congregational in polity”; “working class”;
“urban in orientation”; “rural in orientation”; “suburban in orientation”;
“controlled by the founding family of the church”; “seeker-driven”;
“contemporary in worship”; “missions-minded”….and the list goes on.
are consultants who have made an industry out of helping local churches
understand what their story is and what they want it to become. The fact is that there is something
substantive in a local church’s narrative that explains why it is the way it is
today. Even with its inadequacies, those
realities should not be automatically critiqued…many of them probably need to
all of us, though…whether in our personal lives or in the corporate life of the
church…we must believe that it is possible for us to rise above where we are
today to a brand new reality! We are not
pre-determined by our past; we are not forced to follow patterns that have
retarded growth and progress; we are free to analyze where we believe God wants
us to be and move in that direction.
Romans 12, Paul tells the church not to be “conformed to the world, but be
transformed by a renewing of the mind.”
Many of us conform our attitudes and behaviors to what we have been
conditioned to believe about ourselves based on our own observations and the
opinions expressed by others. We are
then, as one translation puts it, “pressed into a mold” that restricts our
growth and development. We can be led to
believe we are the way we are and there is no escape.
simply is not true…the renewal of our minds can put us on a fresh course that
does not eliminate the DNA of our personalities, but transforms it in a
positive direction. How do we then renew
our minds? Consider….
1. Constant meditative study of the Scriptures
to think God’s thoughts after Him and ask the strategic question, “What would
you have me to do?”
2. Broaden your field of experience and
knowledge Visit some other churches;
attend some conferences; see what others are doing and saying; read and research
possible future paths.
3. Discuss the issues of life and service with
fellow disciples. As the Scripture tells
us, “Iron sharpens iron.” We need the
collective wisdom within the body.
God help us to be transformed to rise above the narratives that hold us back!
Timothy A. Johnson,
TAKE TIME TO THROW A PARTY!
2nd Quarter 2017 - Volume 21 - Number 2
the rhythm of local church work, it is a very healthy thing to pause long
enough to celebrate accomplishment within the fellowship. In America, that logically comes toward the
end of the school year when regular programming culminates and a summer break
ensues. So…my recommendation is that you
throw a party! Why?…
1. Throw a
party because God deserves it! Volunteers in your church have been working
throughout the last season with remarkable faithfulness. Oh, there have been some glitches along the
way, but it is an awesome thing to know that even with all the distractions and
alternative options people have, they have still been willing to serve in your
congregation. What accounts for
that? Ultimately it is a God who
inspires and equips people for service!
It is God who has been showing up right along with your people against
all odd through these months. We need to
throw a party to glorify God for what he has done!
2. Throw a
party because it gives honor to whom honor is due! The Scriptures are clear that we should show
appreciation to those who have served well among us. All people who have applied their time,
talent, and treasure for the sake of the ministry should be celebrated and
shown gratitude. In the setting of a
dinner, an ice cream social, an evening of special entertainment…however you
wish to package it…those who serve should be recognized for the sacrifices they
3. Throw a
party because it reminds everyone of your mission. When the above recognition and appreciation
event is announced, the disciple-making task of the church is automatically
restated once again and the entire membership has their basic purpose
rehearsed, never to forget why they are in business.
4. Throw a
party because it measures actual accomplishment. In the course of the
celebrating and recognition in your party, some statistical reports on progress
made in ministries as well as the anecdotal evidence offered through
testimonies of individuals will reveal the real life impact of what has been
done throughout the year, many times behind the scenes away from public
view. People in the pew can become
cynical and questioning whether or not anything is really happening in the
ministry. A party can give living
answers to those questions.
5. Throw a
party because it enhances relationships. Anytime you give an occasion for people to
gather together in fellowship, you add another building block to ongoing
relationships in the church. When you
add to that the dimension of gratitude and affirmation, relationships are
deepened all the more. Warm, heart-felt
connections between people will develop when the culture of your church is
shown to be thoughtful and thankful. A
celebration party can do just that!
6. Throw a
party because it inspires others to participate. In an event in which the congregation is
invited to participate, everyone will see just how many people are offering
their time and energy to the work of God.
Their example, the testimonies about the impact of their work, and the
loving treatment of the leadership of the church will speak loudly to all potential
future volunteers. When ministry
celebration and recognition takes place, recruitment for the future becomes far
will you do to celebrate the faithful service of your people? In whatever form it takes, let it be a
light-hearted party in which the faithfulness of God and His people is on
center-stage for everyone to see. God
will be glorified and all the saints will be blessed!
Timothy A. Johnson, Executive Director
THE VALUE OF A GOOD SWEAT!
3rd Quarter 2017 - Volume 21 - Number 3
Minnesota, one of our great goals through the summer months is to avoid
sweating. We usually have such
beautifully moderate temperatures that it rarely becomes a big issue for
us. But...when the heat arrives, we keep
the air-conditioning on in the house, the car, the workplace, and quickly move
from one cool spot to another to avoid perspiring.
struck me on my recent trip to Africa that the avoidance of sweat is really a
futile venture. Sooner or later you are
going to sweat in the African heat. But
then nature kicks in. You don't overheat;
the evaporation of perspiration has a cooling effect on your body and if you
remain hydrated, you will stay reasonably cool till the end of the day. You definitely welcome a shower at the end of
the day…but you feel just fine.
America, however, we are led to believe that sweating (or any discomfort) is
not necessary. We can and should avoid
it whenever possible. We avoid pain, we
control the climate around us, we seek to be comfortable at all times.
yet in church ministry, we do not benefit by avoiding all pain. In fact it is impossible for us to grow as
people or develop as ministries without going through the inevitable discomfort
we encounter. For instance:
Confrontation Produces Self-Examination. Most of us do not crave confrontation with
others. We take seriously the scriptural
admonition to “be at peace with all people.”
And yet, whenever we have an uncomfort- able run-in with someone, it
forces us into a process of self-examination in which we have to ask ourselves,
“Am I right or wrong in this situation?”; “Could my opponent have a point and I
have been blinded to something?”; “How am I coming across to others?” In leadership, the temptation to arrogance
gets quickly corrected when we are forced to deal with disagree-ment and
discord. This is a positive corrective
for us, though uncomfortable.
Evaluation Produces Change. As
we move forward in ministry, we are better served if indeed we go through
formal evaluations of what we do and how we do it. As leaders, it is not necessarily pleasant to
see how the ministry we have been doing over the last season is viewed by the
general public or how it is practically moving people toward spiritual
growth. Asking hard questions about the
effectiveness and impact of what we do, however, can bring about necessary
changes and shifts in approach.
of the Truth Produces Growth. A
lot of American preaching and teaching has become happy talk. Pastors tip-toe around moral issues and avoid
at all costs offending anyone in the congregation. And yet, the discomfort of hearing the truth
of the Word of God must be experienced in order for it to have impact. The Gospel itself must be bad news before it
is good news. Unless we realize we are sinners in need of savior, even our
salvation is not possible. So, regularly we usher our people into a place of
discomfort in order for them to be changed by the Word and grow.
we should not welcome unnecessary pain or discomfort in Church ministry, we
must recognize that there is truth in the sentiment of the old cliché, “No pain
– no gain!”
Timothy A. Johnson,
ENGAGING TODAY'S YOUNG ADULTS
4th Quarter 2017 - Volume 21 - Number 4
Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska has distinguished
himself as a credible Christian commentator on today’s society, with his strong
background in both business and higher education. In his book, The Vanishing American
Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis and How
to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance, he makes recommendations on how
we can build the next generation of adults emerging today. He offers five disciplines that need to be
developed as we face the future:
1. Flee Age Segregation. One of the weaknesses of American culture
today is the separation of the generations.
Whether it is in education, community activities, or the Church…we are
stratified along age lines. There is no
way that the wisdom and experience of the ages can be communicated between
generations with this division. We must
do what we can in our individual families, churches, and other social contexts
to unite younger and older in meaningful relationship and conversation.
2. Embrace Work Pain. There is a lack of a strong work ethic in the
emerging adult population. Many people
coming of age today have not been forced to hold a job that has taught them
important life skills. Sasse urges those
of us in the older generation to introduce younger ones to the joy and pain of
work. This builds character and sets the
stage for our economic future.
3. Consume Less. America is known for conspicuous consumption
of almost everything…food, drink, possessions.
This is both wasteful and an improper focus to communicate values. By both personal example and exhortation, we
need to convey the truth of what Jesus said:
“A man’s life consists not in the abundance of things he
possesses.” In that way, the door is
open to pursuing higher values that transcend mere things.
4. Travel to See. The myopic American perspective is often the
result of a lack of exposure to the rest of the world. Our worldview is expanded and enhanced by
travel to as many places as we can. An
understanding of other cultures and surroundings helps us mature and put all of
life into a coherent framework. With all
the current day opportunities for such travel, there is the potential for
greater maturity in the coming generations.
5. Build a Bookshelf. Success as a society will be greatly enhanced
by creating a reading culture. If all we
have are the meager thoughts in our own brains bouncing around, prospects for
the future may grow dim. But…a reading
list of classic books and works of emerging thinkers will prepare the coming
generations for a life-long process of personal growth.
In each of these above recommendations, the local
Church can play an important role. Just
think through each of them. What can you
as a leader and influencer in your local assembly bring about to positively
impact the current young adult population and then the future generations to
We must proceed with faith and expectation that
whatever cultural drift may have happened in the recent past, things can be
turned around in a positive direction if we take affirmative action in relation
to the generations now coming of age.
May God bless us in this important responsibility!
Timothy A. Johnson, Executive Director
UNIVERsals to celebrate!
1st Quarter 2018 - Volume 22 - Number 1
At a recent meeting of the International Bible
Givers ministry in Anoka, we heard a wonderful testimony about the rise of a
new church planting effort. The pastor
related that the vision for a new church came to him and his wife at 35,000
feet on a flight between California and Minnesota. They landed in Minnesota on a Wednesday with
a clear conviction that God wanted them to hold a worship service on
Sunday. The pastor was led to clean out
and paint up his garage and furnish it with white plastic chairs. Once that project was done, he said that God
gave him the idea to text everyone on his phone to invite them for worship on
Sunday. That week they welcomed twenty
people to worship at this instant church.
They have grown since then and now are a fellowship of about 100 people
I thought to myself, “What a wonderful rebuke to
the conventional wisdom about church ministry!”
The pastor didn’t do any in-depth demographic studies of his
neighborhood; he did not launch a small Bible study in a living room, working
up to a core group of people to launch formal meetings; he did not develop an
online presence; he did not go through any targeted training on how to start a
church. In the end, although he broke
all the supposed rules, a thriving fellowship now exists nonetheless.
This experience points to some universal principles
of success in any ministry that have been true ever since Pentecost and we
should recognize and celebrate them:
We must be driven by
the mission of the Church.
The disciple-making mission of the Church…to lead
people to faith in Christ and help them to grow to maturity by the ministry of
the Word needs to drive us.
We must be sensitive to
the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
As we pray, study the Word, and meditate on the
next steps in our ministry, we need to have our spiritual ears open to what the
Spirit of God wants us to do.
We must begin with our
own personal connections.
Those family members and friends who already know
us will more likely follow our lead in any ministry. We need to be expanding that circle of
friendship to maximize the reach of the ministry over time.
We must welcome anyone
regardless of demographics.
Whereas you may have a certain natural focus of
ages or interests in your ministry, an openness of heart to everyone regardless
of where they are in life will communicate the spirit of Jesus who reaches out
We must pursue
relational ministry always.
There is no organization, website, church facility,
public show, or professional staffing that will succeed without making ministry
as relational and personal as possible.
We live in an era in which the experts demand we
have a highly developed understanding of the demographics of our community,
that we are strumming on cultural strings that will resonate with the common
man, that we need to be connected online to really be relevant to anyone. These factors may contribute to our success,
but the spiritual foundations and the relational connections that have been
central in every generation need to intentionally be pursued in the 21stcentury. May God give us grace to
maintain our focus on these universals!
Timothy A. Johnson, Executive Director
ON BUILDING YOUR LEGACY!
2nd Quarter 2018 - Volume 22 - Number 2
are many joys we experience in our international ministry in Africa; we also
experience some sorrows along the way.
During our last overseas mission, we lost four important people in death
who were key supporters and encouragers in our work. They included Minister Cindy Hayden of
Philadelphia; Elder Natt Miller (father of our Associate Director Natt) in
Liberia; Pastor Charles Goah, member of our MCMA Board; and Dr. Harry Evans, my
university president and mentor. As I
think of each of these friends who have gone before us, I thank God for the
legacy they leave behind. They led lives
of impact and consequence and are worthy of our celebration.
time like this gives us opportunity to reflect on the fact that every one of us
is leaving a legacy of as we carry out the responsibilities of each day. It is helpful for us to remember:
begin with our primary relationships. The
impact we have in any other area of our lives will be compared with the quality
of our closest relationships with family and friends. If we intentionally live each day conscious
of the positive influence we are having on those in our immediate circle, the
genuineness of all other legacies will come clear. Instilling values in the next generation,
modelling integrity and faithfulness to those who are observing us, and being a
source of truth and right in our private lives sets a foundation for everything
else. In fact, if the inner circle of
our lives is touched with lasting impact by us...we have accomplished the most
important thing anyway.
continue with our relationships in the community. Expanding upon that inner circle, as
people of integrity we move out similarly to the next ring of influence to
others in the community. Every person we
meet, every conversation we have, every activity we enter into with the broader
public gives us opportunity to establish patterns of action and attitude that
can leave a lasting mark on hundreds and thousands of people directly and
indirectly. In the words of that great
old song: "If I can help somebody
as I walk along, if I can cheer somebody with a word or song, if I can show
somebody how they're travelling wrong--then my living shall not be in
build a special legacy in the church.
As the 21st century continues to unfold, involvement and leadership in
the local church is going to be an increasingly rare thing. Church attendance is waning; regularly
commitment to it is falling. When we
make a definite, public identification with the people of God, dedicate our time,
talent, and treasure to its health and growth, and maintain a long-term connection
with a local assembly...we stand out as noble examples to the Body of Christ
and the surrounding community. Some of
the most heart-warming memorial services I have attended in my life have been
those of faithful church members who have invested deeply in their
congregations and as a result have spiritual legacies that extend far and wide.
long as we live, we are building the legacies that follow us. May God give us grace to intentionally lead
lives of high impact in our primary relationships, in the broader community,
and in the Church of Jesus Christ. May
He further inspire us as Church leaders to instill the value of intentional
living in all those whom we lead in our assemblies.
Timothy A. Johnson, Executive Director