How do we mold leadership teams?

Patrick Lencioni defines a leadership team as a small group group of people who are collectively responsible for achieving results for their organization.

Do our churches by this definition have leadership teams? Do we have a groups that understands themselves to be collectively responsible for achieving results?

I find these questions challenging. They challenge me because I wonder if we could even define what we mean by “results” in many cases. They challenge me because I am full of doubt about my ability to pull together such a leadership team. They challenge me because I sense that as pastor, the ministry of order calls me to do what I most doubt my ability to do.

What stories can you share about creating groups of leaders in church?

How do we mold leadership teams?

Going all-in for mission?

The latest E-pistle from my bishop. I added highlighting to one paragraph that really leaped out at me:


Our Extended Cabinet team of 14 District Superintendents, Directors and a couple of spouses has just returned from our trip to Mission Guatemala. That ministry is led by Rev. Tom Heaton, a clergy member of our Indiana Conference who began this mission work just four and a half years ago. Already that ministry has grown into several communities, helping provide health, nutrition and education for some of the poorest people in Guatemala. Our team visited ministry sites, worked hard on a couple of projects and learned from the passion, creativity and energy of Mission Guatemala. Truly Mission Guatemala is helping to transform the world in the name of Christ.

During one of our daily devotional times on our trip, Jennifer Gallagher, our conference treasurer, observed: “We need to be Mission Indiana when we get home.” We all agreed. We are not sure what all that means, but we sense this is our role as conference servant leaders:

  • We need to see Indiana as a mission field, even to realize that Indiana is a land that is underdeveloped spiritually, as much as Guatemala is an underdeveloped country.
  • We want to help every appointed pastor to see his/her appointment as an assignment to a community and not just to a church.
  • We hope that every congregation will see itself as a mission station to serve others, and not as a religious club where the members expect to be pampered.
  • We are ready, as the Extended Cabinet, to lead the way, to model a new sense of being on a mission for God and to seek nothing less than a transformed Indiana.

Our mission remains the same: “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” That mission begins with each of us, and it extends to Mission Indiana.

“Imagine Indiana” helped us to form a new Conference over the past five years, and so “Mission Indiana” may be the next logical step. Indeed our Annual Conference sessions the past two years have already focused upon the themes “Be a World Changer” and “The Outwardly-Focused Church.” Our theme this year will be “Sharing Our Story.” Many churches and many of our pastors and people have already caught this vision of being a church on a mission, making disciples and transforming the world.

Maybe it is time to release those who don’t want to be part of a mission movement – allowing them to go in peace. Maybe it is time to close any church which is not making disciples or reaching its community – and use those assets to start new ministries. Maybe it is time for us to help any pastor who is not “all-in for our mission” to leave with dignity and with support to find another career. Maybe it is time to get serious about our mission and to become Mission Indiana.

I invite you to think and pray about this, to consider whether or not you are “in,” and to discuss this in your congregation, cluster, and clergy covenant group. Are you ready to be a part of Mission Indiana?

Going all-in for mission?

Why they approve of our stand against sex trafficking

Last week, I got an e-mail reminding me that the United Methodist Women want us to raise awareness about sex trafficking.*

I don’t know why, but it got me wondering about the way the non-Christian world reacts to the church when we engage in such issues. Specifically, I asked myself this question:

Why do non-Christians approve of Christian work to end sex trafficking but oppose Christian teaching against fornication?

Here is one thought about that.

Our society lives and breathes a political philosophy that rose to dominance in the 18th and 19th centuries. The most common name for this political philosophy is liberalism, which is unhelpful in America because it creates confusion. In America, a liberal is most often thought of as a member of the Democratic Party. In political philosophy, though, nearly everyone in both major US parties are modern liberals — people committed to individualism, equality before the law, and social and political freedom.

Modern liberals operate out of a theory of the state that says it exists primarily to prevent one person from inflicting harm on another. “Your right to swing your fist stops at the end of your neighbor’s nose.” As such, liberals find themselves in a hard spot when trying to argue for public policies that appear to be strictly in the self-interest of individuals. Motorcycle helmet laws and seat-belt laws, for instance, are often defended because of the “harm” inflicted on the society when the costs of medical care or death from preventable injuries is taken into account. Similarly, the arguments for smoking bans are often argued in terms of harm caused to others by second hand smoke or the cost to the medical system of treating lung cancer and related diseases. When people propose such policies as good for the people being required to wear helmets or cease smoking, the reflex in our society is to say people should be free to hurt themselves if they want. Even as tobacco smoking bans take wider and wider hold in our country, the legalization of marijuana marches forward precisely because opponents, as yet, cannot come up with an argument against the drug that can be made on the basis of the harm it causes other people.

So, when an argument against sex trafficking is made, it can appeal to liberals if it is put in terms of protecting victims from harm. What you cannot argue with them is that we need to prevent sex trafficking because the sex traffickers and purchasers of sex are sinning against God and imperiling their immortal souls.

And here is the difference. Christians believe that people around us can harm themselves by their choices and that it is a violation of our Christian love to ignore the harm they do to their own bodies and souls. We also reject fundamentally the idea that this is “our” life or “our” body that we can do with as we please. All we have and all we are is a gift from God that should be used only in keeping with God’s will.

These claims and beliefs run directly contrary to the spirit of modern political liberalism.

For my part, I think we can hold convictions that fornication is a sin against God while still living at peace in a society that does not agree with us. We can live under a liberal regime and still be Christians, just as we can live under feudal monarchy and still be Christians or under atheist totalitarianism and still be Christians.

What is important, though, is that we do not fall into the trap of confusing the reasons we take the social actions we take with the reasons that non-Christians take similar actions.

When we engage in Christian works of mercy, we may find ourselves working side-by-side with people who do not share our convictions. It is important that we remain clear in our own understanding about why we do the good works we do, and do not surrender the moral courage to include in our public witness the convictions that arise out of our belief that men and women are accountable before God and their sins bear a price that is beyond the reckoning of any human system of justice.

Christians oppose the evil of sex trafficking, but even so we pray for the repentance of the people committing these crimes and paying to have sex with trafficked women and men. We are grieve both by the evil that they do and the damnation that they call down upon themselves.


*The UMW would probably remind me here that the broader category of human trafficking is a much more widespread problem.

Why they approve of our stand against sex trafficking

Using dollars to disagree

Good News shared this story about Mt. Bethel UMC, a huge United Methodist congregation in North Georgia, voting to withhold apportionments:

One of the largest congregations in The United Methodist Church withheld over $200,000 of its apportionments in 2014 in response to what it believes to be “wholly unsatisfactory” inaction on the part of the Council of Bishops to recent controversies within the denomination. The congregation will make no further payments in 2015 without the explicit approval of the church’s administrative council.

The story says the church will not pay apportionments in 2015 unless the Council of Bishops responds satisfactorily to a statement issued by a group of United Methodists pastors and other leaders last summer.

It will be interesting to see how North Georgia Bishop Michael Watson responds.

Using dollars to disagree

Taking a razor to the Book of Discipline

Tom Lambrecht has written a series of posts in response to the resolution of the complaint against retired bishop Melvin Talbert. Here are links to Lambrecht’s posts: 1, 2, 3.

Near the end of the third post, he writes this:

The supreme law of the church is no longer the Discipline or General Conference; it is individual conscience. Personal judgment is now the ultimate arbiter of our faith and practice. We are no longer a connectional church, nor even a congregational one, but an individualistic one. Every person is now clamoring to do “what is right in his/her own eyes.”

I wonder what would happen if the Council of Bishops got together like a group of Thomas Jeffersons with razor blades and cut out of the Book of Discipline every line and paragraph that they would be unwilling to enforce or insist upon.

I wonder what the resulting book would look like.

I wonder if it would not be a more honest and more effective book than the one we have.

Taking a razor to the Book of Discipline

How does the church make the world better?

A local church is an organization designed to do something.

Patrick Lencioni in his book The Advantage argues that an organization has to have a purpose that is ultimately about making the world a better place.

I find myself struggling with a way to clearly articulate the purpose of the local church that fits Lencioni’s description.

What comes to mind right away are the official United Methodist mission statement and John Wesley’s description of the purpose of his movement. I’m not convinced either of those is particularly useful for us.

John Wesley’s purpose at the very least needs new language, but, as much as I admire Wesley, I don’t think his purpose statement is fitted to a local church that will not have the high discipline and narrow focus of the early Methodist movement and that is no longer located in a culture that takes universal Christianity as its default setting.

The official mission of the United Methodist Church — make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world — is too vague. It also might actually be more about how we accomplish our mission that what our mission itself is. I’ve never been sure.

So, how does the local church make the world a better place?

Here are some ideas that are little more than brain storming. I’m not sure they are any good.

The church exists to …

destroy the works of the devil.

welcome every person into a living and growing relationship with Jesus Christ.

help you become the person God created you to be.

create a colony of heaven on Earth

Add you own.

How does the church make the world better?