MCMA INTERCOM

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


Throughout 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.

 

Political spin is constant.  Straight answers on any questions are almost impossible to arrive at.  Hard truth is rarely articulated; only spin.

 

Looking 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. 

 

The 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.

 

Divorce is lower partly due to the fact that many people are not bothering to get married…cohabitation has become a norm for many.

 

Cheating 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.

 

Oh, 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! 

 

As 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 living!

  

                                                            Timothy A. Johnson, Executive Director

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EXPAND YOUR LEADERSHIP REACH


3rd Quarter 2016 - Volume 20 - Number 3


The 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 leadership reach:

 

1.  ENLARGE YOUR VISION!

 

The 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.

 

The 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 entertained. 

 

Church 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 PEOPLE!

 

Learn 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.

 

Once those foundations of character and relationship are established, then agreed upon objectives can be set, all in keeping with the mission of the ministry.

 

Then…let 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.

 

3.  EMBRACE RISK!

 

Mr. 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 threshold.”

 

Where 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!


                                                            Timothy A. Johnson, Executive Director

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CHARACTER STILL MATTERS


4th Quarter 2016 - Volume 20 - Number 4


The 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 the electorate.

 

What 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 matters.

 

The 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.

 

It 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.

 

Ultimately, 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?

 

1.  THE 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.

 

2.  THE 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.

 

3.  THE 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.


In 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, Executive Director

RISING ABOVE THE NARRATIVE

 

1st Quarter 2017 - Volume 21 - Number 1


In 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.

 

When 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.

 

In 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.

 

There 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 be celebrated.

 

For 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.

 

In 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.

 

That 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.

 

May God help us to be transformed to rise above the narratives that hold us back!

 

                                                                           Timothy A. Johnson, Executive Director

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TAKE TIME TO THROW A PARTY!

 

2nd Quarter 2017 - Volume 21 - Number 2


In 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 have made.

 

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 easier.

 

What 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!

THE VALUE OF A GOOD SWEAT!

 

3rd Quarter 2017 - Volume 21 - Number 3


In 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.

 

It 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.

 

In 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.

 

And 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:

 

1. Personal 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.

 

2. Honest 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.

 

3. Proclamation 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.

 

Although 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, Executive Director