Leader Newsletter September 2017 | Part I
God is like a mountain
Contemporary wisdom says that God is a mountain and the different religions are simply different paths leading to the top. I prefer my religion, but a wise person will see all the paths leading to the top.
This resembles the story of the blind people and the elephant. The one grabs the trunk and says it is a spear, one grabs the tail and calls it a rope, one touches the elephant and says she is a wall; one touches the ear and calls it a fan.
We are blind people groping around in the dark. God is the elephant. We should quit being so dogmatic and open our thoughts for once. It is good to have an open mind, but many modern people have gone too far.
It is easy to say that God is like a mountain or that we only see part of God's truth. It is good, except that the one saying this believes he knows everything.
In the example of the mountain the narrator looks at us as religious people stumbling along on our own paths and say: 'If only you could see what I see, you would realise that the paths are all the same.' In the story about the elephant, the narrator says that he sees the blind people's wandering ways and that he can help them out of their ignorance. In both cases, the problem lies with the narrator' arrogance. A humble person would say: 'I don't know everything, but I'm willing to learn."
There is also a problem with the logic. It takes a lot to say that the religions of the world say things that supplement each other. You can only make this statement if you don't think too deeply on the discrepancies between the different religions. One example is what happens to people when they die. Some say they go to heaven or hell; others talk of reincarnation and another life on earth, while still others think you simply disappear. Surely you can't do all these things at once! Logically these differences are real differences. It does no one any good to pretend that there aren't any differences – the facts speak for themselves.
There is also a relationship problem.
Nowhere else in our lives do we use such stupid arguments. It really does matter where we look.
If God is only a story dreamt up by our imaginations, it doesn't matter where we look for Him. If God is real, we should know how to seek Him and find Him. The message of the gospel is true even if sophisticated people don't agree with it. There was a Man who performed miracles and made the blind see. Only through Him – through Jesus Christ – can we – blind as we are – see again and receive the life that we need.
Eight indispensable characteristics of leaders
Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent? Who may live on your holy mountain? (Psalm 15:1, NIV). And the answer in verse 2: The one whose walk is blameless, who does what is righteous. Let's look at these eight characteristics:
1. He who speaks the truth with his whole heart (verse 2)
2. He who doesn't speak ill of others (verse 3)
3. He who does no wrong to others (verse 3)
4. He who despises things that are rejected by God (verse 4)
5. He who honours all who serve the Lord (verse 4)
6. He who keeps his word (verse 4)
7. He who treats the innocent fairly (verse 5)
8. He who doesn't allow himself to be bribed (verse 5)
Integrity means that I avoid sin. Susanne Wesley, the mother of Charles and John Wesley, defined sin as follows:
Whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes off your relish of spiritual things; in short, whatever increases the strength and authority of your body over your mind, that thing is sin to you, however innocent it may be in itself.
Most successes come after repeated failure:
James Dyson made 126 failed prototypes before he perfected his revolutionary vacuum cleaner.
Angry Birds, the Apple app, was the software producer Rovio's 52nd attempt after 8 years of virtual bankruptcy.
WD40 lubricant got its name after the previous 39 attempts failed. WD40 stands for Water Displacement 40th Attempt.
The difference between successful people and the rest of us is that they have learned to fail well. They accept their failures and use it as learning opportunities. They persevere and with every attempt they get closer to their target.
Steve Jobs attributed his success to a re-evaluation of his life after three major setbacks – he didn't complete his university training, he was fired by the company he founded and he was diagnosed with cancer.
Michael Jordan says: I have failed over and over and over again, and that is why I succeed.
Philip Schultz wrote a book about his failure as a writer. The book Failure won the Pulitzer Prize.
If we learn to fail well:
We will have realistic expectations of ourselves and our work;
We won't soar too high after success or sink too low after failure;
We won't be jealous of the success of others. We also won't try to copy them.
We will work diligently and with perseverance on our calling and talents, and steadily develop our skills to God's glory and the good of others.
We will confess our failures and seek forgiveness from the Lord and pray that He leads us.
After our failures, we will be humbler and weaker, but also stronger and happier.
We will eventually see how God changes our failures into something beneficial and beautiful.
Sometimes failure is the best thing that can happen to us. Ask Peter, the apostle.
The congregation is crumbling
There is seldom a simple reason why a congregation deteriorates. It is usually the result of a combination of cultural, theological and internal issues. Thom Rainer looked at internal issues that hinder church growth. Internal issues refer to those barriers that are inherent to the organization and its facilities. Sometimes they are called structural weaknesses. These weaknesses are usually self-inflicted.
Some of these barriers are long-standing and difficult to clear up. Let's look at the most common ones:
The most common problem is poor signage and too little parking. Dirty and overcrowded facilities, inadequate space for worship, too little space for children and poor sound and lighting in the worship space are also important factors.
This refers to a model of church management that doesn't work. The result is often vague or unpleasant meetings.
Congregations appoint staff in positions the way they have always done it. But the world has changed. The task descriptions of the 1960s aren't relevant anymore. Sometimes we put the wrong people in posts. Jim Collins uses the metaphor: we have to get the right people on the bus, and then we have to let everyone sit on the right seat. If we put people in positions that don't fit their talents, abilities and passion, the congregation will have problems.
This mainly refers to the attitudes and practices or the leadership as viewed by visitors. It may refer to an unfriendly atmosphere and services that aren't inviting to visitors.
5. Church calendar
Many churches are activity-driven – one activity after another. The church is so busy doing good deeds and there isn't enough time to do the best deeds. This is especially true for ministry outside the walls of the church, and evangelization.
6. Worship times
Why does your congregation have those specific times? For most congregations, it is simply the way things had always been done. Few leaders ever ask when the best time is to reach the community.
7. The website
The website is the front door for visitors. The information on the website should be clear and accurate.