Tag Archives: lessons

The American Church: Tempted in the Wilderness

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Matthew 4:1

The church in America is in the wilderness. That’s not such a bad place to be. It’s a difficult place, often a painful place, but it’s a place God often leads his people when He has some difficult lessons to teach them or preparations to be made. And the American church certainly has some difficult lessons to learn. Moses learned in the wilderness, as did Elijah. The people of Israel learned in the wilderness. And Jesus went there as well, where he experienced some critical “perspective builders” in the form of temptations. The American church, while in the wilderness, is experiencing temptations as well. If there were ever a story written about it, the way Jesus’ story in the wilderness has been written, the enemy’s temptations of the church might go something like this…

temptationsI. The devil said to them, “If you are the Church of God, tell these people to become members.” As bread represents a basic necessity for our body, believers (i.e., members) represent a basic necessity for the Church. There is not a church leader anywhere who, when describing the church he/she serves, is not tempted to describe it at some level in terms of number of members. It is one way we measure our effectiveness in mission. Every evangelistic outreach is measured this way. And since we all want to be seen as “successful”, the temptation here is to move as many bodies as possible from the “prospect” category to the “member” category as quickly as possible. The temptation is to use emotional pleas, scare tactics, or other forms of manipulation toward an all-important “decision”. And what the church is left with, especially over the long term, …

Two Quick Lessons for Your Church…from Our Older Brother

Tuesday Re-mix –

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.  Matthew 16:16-17

Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”  Matthew 16:22-23

I was the baby in my family.  That means I got to learn from my older sibling’s mistakes (sorry, Sis)…not that there were THAT MANY mistakes there to learn from…but there were a few.  And I did learn from them.  That, it seems to me, is a huge benefit of being the younger brother.

I think of Peter that way…an older brother from whom we can learn.  For me, Peter’s spiritual pilgrimage has always served as a great illustration of the human frailty of the church.  Just like a local body of believers, there are times when Peter got it so very right, and there are times when he got it so very wrong.  Looking at his pilgrimage in Matthew 16 raises for me a couple of important lessons for the church.

1.  Celebrate when we get it right, but don’t get too cocky…we may just get it wrong tomorrow.  My church happens to be one of the really healthy churches in our community right now.  I like that.  It makes me feel good.  Even though people coming from other, less healthy, churches do not constitute “kingdom growth”, I am not going to lie and act like it doesn’t make me feel good.  My …

What Churches Learn from Conflict

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

Every church conflict is unique in many ways.  The mix of personalities, the history, and especially the specific facts and circumstances cover a huge range of possibilities.  But they all have some things in common as well.  As I “debrief” a church leadership team after having come through a difficult conflict, I am always intrigued by what they learn as a result of that conflict.  Intrigued, but rarely surprised anymore.  Because, generally speaking, I hear variations on the same lessons over and over again.  “What regrets do you have?” I will ask them.  In the instances where we actually came through with success, I almost always hear the same regrets.

Church Leaders’ 3 Most Common Regrets from their Conflict:

1.  “I wish we had built stronger relationships.”

No surprise here, right?  There is a lot of talk these days about the fact that the church is not a building, it is people.  I agree with that, but I disagree with saying it quite like that.  The church is not just people…it is people living in relationships with each other.  The key is the relationships.  It’s one thing to get a bunch of people attending a weekly “show” on Sunday mornings.  But if they are not in relationships with each other, they are no more a church than the theater full of people all attending the same movie.  What makes it a church is the relationships between the people.  And what destroys the church is when the relationships fall apart.  Relationships, then, are the very “fabric” of the church.

When church leaders look back at a season of severe conflict, they almost always realize that much of the attention, emphasis, energy and …