April 2014

Slideshow for Second Sunday after Easter

Road to Emmaus and Supper at Emmaus in Art

The story is simple. Two disciples are returning home from Jerusalem on that first Easter. They had heard the news that Jesus had risen from the dead—or so some women had reported

A stranger—a very knowledgable stranger—joins them and explains the day’s events in light of scripture.

The travelers invite the stranger to stay with them. He breaks bread with them. They recognize him as the Lord.

Then Jesus vanishes.

The two disciples backtrack to Jerusalem that very hour. They have their own news to share.

The first two scenes— Jesus walking with the two disciples and Jesus breaking bread with them—are favorites with artists. The last scene—the return to Jerusalem—is rarely depicted.

How would you imagine that scene?

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The Changing Role of Pastor

churchWhere the Church Resists Change the Most!

Historically, pastors play a pivotal role in faith communities. They are the on site expert in religion—the resident theologians. They are caretakers and catalysts. They nurture faith and shape community. They make sure we believe the right things and behave accordingly.

Traditionally, they perform ministerial tasks in isolation. As long as things run smoothly, they have no reason to interact with authority or colleagues. No one questions their wisdom.

Years ago, a child in our church came to me. He was upset. His dog had died and he wanted to know what had happened to his beloved pet. Was his pet in heaven?

We were often without a pastor and the child came for help to the person he knew and trusted.

But we had a new pastor. I suggested to the boy that he take his question to the new pastor. It would help build relationship, I thought.

I was sorry I did.

The new pastor didn’t see the pain in the boy’s eyes. He began a discourse—something about heaven being for souls and animals have no souls and therefore there are no animals in heaven. The boy walked away in distress — faith-hindering distress.

The new pastor, eager to impress with authority and knowledge, confident in His role as theologian, had missed the opportunity to heal and nurture.

The boy needed to know that his dog’s life mattered, and though he felt powerless to help—that somehow his dog was still loved.

That boy would seek comfort elsewhere. Wouldn’t any of us?

The world has changed. The role of pastor must change, too. If we are people of faith looking for comfort or inspiration and we aren’t finding it within our congregation, we are going to look elsewhere.

This isn’t any different than any other realm of modern society. We are all faced with challenges to our expertise and demands to work and think differently. Job descriptions are being rewritten daily!

We can’t live in isolation any longer.

Seekers will look for answers beyond the pulpit. They will find meaning in spiritual teachings of other faiths. In that sense the role of pastor is more important.

But most pastors aren’t active in the venues where spiritual discussions are taking place. They are still waiting for people to come to them on Sunday morning—a narrow window of opportunity.

The Church faces choices. Build walls around our beliefs. Make rules. Rein in the seekers. Manufacture penalties for those who disagree or challenge. Circle the wagons. Celebrate the past. Hope that it will last a little longer.

This is the road chosen more often than the Church will admit.


Use curiosity and modern communication as tools. Find teaching moments among the questions asked. Juxtapose ideas (a favorite exercise among creative thinkers). Weave new ideas in with the old. Find points of agreement and understanding. Live in today’s world—the same world the congregation faces daily. Understand our neighbors who believe differently. Befriend them.

Recognize that members will find spiritual leaders online. Help them find the good ones! Follow them yourself!

The same thing is happening in the secular world. Authorities in every venue must keep up with online competition.

The answer is to be part of spiritual dialog—whether it is in your fellowship hall or online. Build on it.

Failure to do this is making the Church seem archaic and out of touch.

Ignoring this will not make it go away.

Object Lessons from Art—The Road to Emmaus

velazquez-maidJesus Takes to the Road—Again!

We are in Lectionary Year A. We are reading mostly from the gospels of Matthew and John. This week’s gospel lesson is from Luke. The reason: the account of this early appearance of the Risen Lord is an important part of the Resurrection narrative, but it is found only in Luke.

This appearance predates last week’s gospel—the appearance of the Risen Lord to the disciple, Thomas.

The travelers on the road to Emmaus have just left Jerusalem. (They were getting out of Dodge.)

It is still the third day. The news of Jesus’ Resurrection is fresh, and remember—Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead only days before. It is all a puzzle—a frightening puzzle.

The sun has yet to set on this first Easter. Cleopas and friend head in the opposite direction from the action.

You can run but you can’t hide.

Normally this hike might take two or three hours but they are probably high-tailing it.

They are troubled and discussing what had happened.

They had probably been in Jerusalem for the Passover. They may have been part of the Palm Sunday crowd. They may have witnessed some or even all of the trial, torture and crucifixion of Jesus. Perhaps they had cried for Barabbas.

The news of Jesus Resurrection comes to them as they are crushed with sorrow and perhaps guilt. If Jesus was alive, what would He think of the crowd of people who allowed Him to suffer?

They had hoped that this Jesus was the Messiah. Now they weren’t so sure. These disciples may have been doubting their own judgment or hiding their own culpability.

The news was confusing—disheartening.

Enter a stranger. Why not invite him to join them? Safety in numbers.

Imagine how the conversation might have gone. They probably spent some time scoping out the stranger. What did he know? How could he not know?

It is clear from the scripture that Jesus takes control of the conversation early on. They walk. Jesus explains.

In the end, they are trusting enough that they invite the stranger to spend the night—or did they want to keep an eye on Him?

The revelation comes with the breaking of bread—the sign—even today—of God’s presence among us.

The account of the Jesus’ appearance on the road to Emmaus, His revelation over dinner, and His sudden disappearance before the dishes were washed and put away is a favorite topic for artists. It became particularly popular in the mid 16th and 17th centuries when artists began to focus on domestic scenes, especially kitchen scenes and still life art in general.

An amazing part of this story is the long-standing assumption that both travelers were men. Luke leaves out this detail. One is named Cleopas. We know nothing about Traveler Number 2. And yet virtually all depictions show two men encountering Christ along the road.

Some modern scholars make the argument that the fact that one traveler is named and the other is not is evidence that the second traveler may very well have been female.

Is it so hard to imagine that these pilgrims visiting Jerusalem for the holidays might be husband and wife? That the invitation to enter their home was issued by the woman who would be setting the dinner table and preparing the food?

For 2000 years, we accept the prejudices of artists and we see two men traveling and sitting at the table with the stranger.

Perhaps that is why the portrayal of this scene by Diego Velázquez is so intriguing. We see the scene from the kitchen. The three travelers are talking at the dinner table in the background—but wait—only two of them are visible. A woman of color is preparing the food. Just look at her face to read her story. Is she the second traveler? Is she a servant? Velazquez intended that we see her as a maid, but that can’t stop us from imagining!

What is she is thinking?

Perhaps she returns to the table. And then the stranger disappears.

What would you do? What do Cleopas and his significant other do?

They head back to Jerusalem. Suddenly, they want to be where the action is!

Why Take Your Synod Assembly Seriously?

When did Synod Assemblies become DisneyWorld?A Poisoned Church Structure Resists Antidotes

It’s that time of year. For the next two months the 65 synods of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America will each meet to forge a direction for the coming year.

In our Ambassador visits we have witnessed several lay reports from Synod Assemblies. All were similar. One was particularly memorable. The lay delegate spoke of being awestruck at meeting the bishop. She gushed about the spectacular worship. She closed her report by admitting she couldn’t remember a single piece of business conducted—but added that she looked forward to attending again.

When did the business of Church become like a trip to DisneyWorld?

The Synod Assembly is the business arm of the churches that band together within the denomination. There are limits to their power—but if people don’t take part, they can get away with anything. That “anything” could affect you!

In recent years, the Annual Synod Assembly has been less about business and more of a showcase for leadership. Elaborate worship with all the stops pulled fills the time once allocated for debate and deliberation. New ideas? By the time you get to new business, most of the delegates have gone home.

Synod Assemblies are comprised of all rostered pastors and at least two delegates from each member church.


Pastors are required to attend or provide a good excuse.

Many will do no more than report to the registration table to sign in, gab with some friends in the lobby, and walk out the door. Why?

We’d have to ask them, but we suspect they feel that the agenda is pre-approved and they can’t make a difference—so why spend two work days trying?

Lay Representatives

And then we get to lay representation. What a mess!

When the ELCA formed 25 years ago, leaders were full of grand ideas. The ELCA was going to be inclusive. Everyone who was denied representation for decades would now have a voice.

Result: The quota system—the convoluted and ineffective quota system. It starts with allowing two delegates from each congregation, one male and one female, but adds delegates to fill special criteria — race, multilingual, youth. The extra votes must be approved somewhere along the way—another control factor.

So now we have Synod Assemblies, voting on issues that affect everyone, that are comprised of loyalist pastors and lay people — many of whom are present because they fill the quota need—not because they know anything at all about Church government or Church issues.

There is another determining factor in some synods that skews the decision-making process—the growing use of mission, bridge and interim pastors. These pastors actually work for the synod and so have a bias to their employer. In Southeastern Pennsylvania about 25% of congregations have pastors who work as bridge, mission, or interim pastors.

The formula creates a corporate ecosystem that protects abuse.

Leaders know they don’t have to make a good argument. Who will question them?

Consequently, we are experiencing a slow-motion implosion.

How did this happen?

We’ll use Redeemer’s experience to illustrate and imagine that similar conditions exist in other congregations.

The quota system hurt Redeemer. The rule that you must have one male and one female delegate is supposed to increase participation by women. But Redeemer had strong participation among women for decades. In the early days of the ELCA we had a church council with nine women and one man. The man wasn’t interested in attending Synod Council. Several of the women didn’t want to take off work for a meeting at the periphery of the five-county area that constitutes our synod. So, we, like many congregations, sent representatives who were willing to go—not necessarily representatives who understood church issues.

There are other ELCA rules designed to give minorities greater voice. Congregations with significant diversity or which are multilingual are granted more votes under the quota system. Redeemer, over the course of ten years, became both racially diverse and multilingual. Our Black members and our Swahili/German/French-speaking members were not recognized by synod so we were never allowed extra representatives.

And then our congregation dared to challenge a decision of the bishop—a right of any ELCA congregation. Suddenly, just days before the 2009 Synod Assembly, we were informed that we would not be allowed ANY representation. We were officially terminated. We were already registered. Our fees had been paid and accepted. But we were out. Just like that.

This was still another decision of the bishop which we had a right to challenge constitutionally. But our rights were denied and synod leadership made sure that we had no voice.

This is against the stated parliamentary rules of a Lutheran Synod. If a member is denied representation, the entire Assembly is invalid. But the abuse of the system is so great that it is guaranteed no one will speak up. Business as usual.

There is no place within the ELCA to register a complaint. We know. We tried. Presiding bishops ignore us. ELCA lawyers feel no obligation to enforce Lutheran law. Secular courts don’t want to be involved. Anarchy!

We suspect this problem plagues other synods within the ELCA structure.

The structure of the ELCA is seriously flawed.

The people who could fix it are part of the problem, don’t care, or have been replaced by the quota system.

Consequently, Synod Assemblies claim governance rights not part of their constitution. They cover this up with ceremony—lots of ceremony. They do this well. The observers leave impressed and unaware that their voice has been silenced with lights and mirrors.

With the quota system, leaders have assumed the right to approve of lay participation—choosing for congregations who can speak for them. We’ve addressed a democratic ideal by instituting an undemocratic process! It doesn’t matter what you know if you can’t claim the appropriate gender.

We ask again . . .

When did the business of Church become like a trip to DisneyWorld?

PS: The annual Assembly of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod is barely two weeks away. We won’t be there again—by edict of the bishop. No one is likely to question our absence.

photo credit: Express Monorail via photopin cc

Demographic Experts Lead the Church Astray

coin purseWhat does the modern Christian look like?

Wait! Don’t answer that question! Not yet!

I’m reminded of a song we learned as children—probably taught by my missionary grandparents.

Just around the corner lives a stranger child.
Did you smile at him? Were you kind to him?
Did you tell her of the one who loves us all?
Father, Comforter and Friend.

Evangelism is a simple concept that the Church complicates.

The simple formula:

  • You welcome whomever comes through your door.
  • You tell your story to anyone willing to listen.
  • You meet people where they are.
  • You invite.
  • You help.

This is easier for missionaries because they accept themselves as the stranger. They understand that everyone they talk to is coming from a different place.

Congregations, on the other hand, look for community. The search for community leads us to people like us.

The Gospel tells us this is wrong. Most of the gospel is one story after another about reaching out to people with whom we are unlikely to associate—except for our faith.

We are birds of a feather. We naturally flock together.

If we don’t believe it, there are church consultants ready to educate us.

“The demographics do not support having a ministry here”—as if the communities they are addressing exist in a wasteland. They’ll be careful when they explain. They don’t want to seem judgmental or aloof or—well, racist.

They’ll point to census reports on household income, etc. This is what they mean: The people like you have fled to the suburbs. Whoops, they forgot their wallets! We’ll help you with that.

This is an adoption of slumlord thinking. Taking from neighborhoods replaces any shred of caring and giving.

There is plenty of mission work to be done.

Church leaders have so narrowly defined their job descriptions that they don’t leave room for mission anymore. Mission work requires creativity and edginess. 

It is the reason we exist.

The economics of church paralyze us and stand between us and our future.

Demographic experts don’t know more than we. We know our neighborhoods. We are all too willing to pay our dwindling offering money to justify failure—and this includes the failure of church leaders.

What do modern Christians look like? Look around. They are closer than you think.

Just around the corner lives a stranger child . . . 

Here is a skit you might enjoy acting out on Stewardship Sunday.

Weekly Slideshow: Thomas-My Lord and My God

This slideshow illustrates the lectionary readings for the Sunday after Easter.

Also, 2×2 is experimenting with the Prezi format. Here is our first attempt!

You may also find the companion object lesson of interest.

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2x2virtualchurch adds a slideshow and object lesson to our library each week. There are nearly 100 in our collection. If you like our easy, interactive approach to teaching adult learners, please consider subscribing.

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Adult Object Lesson: John 20:19-31

sticky points

Today’s object is something sticky. A jar of glue or honey would work. It might have a prominent label.

Ask members of your congregation what they think you are holding. Go around, offer people a touch of what is sticky and gooey.

Ask them what they need in order to believe that what they are seeing is the real thing. Odds are that no one will want to touch the gooey stuff. But just in case—have some wipes ready. You never know what another person’s sticky point in believing might be!

Today’s Gospel lesson is the story that branded Thomas as “the Doubter” — the disciple who not only had to see Christ to believe in the Resurrection but boasted that he also had to touch his wounds. He had to know that it was really Jesus and not some impostor. The wounds were proof.

Retell the story. Hit the high points.

The disciples were now in the habit of meeting behind locked doors. Their lives were at stake.

Jesus appears. No knock on the door. No secret password for entry. He simply appears.

It is surely one of his first appearances. He will make others, but the two gatherings discussed in today’s Gospel are still “news.”

Thomas wasn’t there for the first gathering, but he heard about it—it was the hottest gossip in town.

Think about gossip for a minute. Some people who hear juicy gossip merge it with their own story, leading the next hearers to believe that the news is firsthand.

Thomas didn’t do this. Thomas wanted proof.

He lays it on the line. To be so memorable it must have been with some degree of machismo.

“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

The next time the disciples are together—with Thomas among them—and Jesus appears, all eyes turn to Thomas.

Jesus is there to bring peace and fuel the disciples with the Spirit.

But he is God and all-knowing. He knows the gossip, too. He turns to Thomas and offers his wounds to him.

Here is the interesting thing that almost all artists get wrong. The story of Thomas is depicted inaccurately so often that we tend to overlook an important part of this story. 

763px-Hendrick_ter_Brugghen_-_The_Incredulity_of_Saint_Thomas_-_WGA22166Artist after artist shows Thomas poking a finger or two into Jesus’ still open wounds. It’s almost as if we can’t believe this story if we don’t see Thomas following through on his pledge. (Here is one work by Hendrick ter Brugghen).

But reread the story from the gospel. Thomas doesn’t poke his fingers into Jesus’ wounds. Thomas immediately confesses his creed, “My Lord and my God.” Thomas never follows through on his boastful pledge. Seeing was believing.

If your congregation uses projection, use 2×2’s weekly slide presentation to be published by Thursday as evidence.

You might close by giving poor Thomas his due. Sure, Thomas doubted, but from his doubt grew an incredible faith. Thomas is credited with carrying the message of Christ to India and establishing the first Christian church there. Some Indian families today proudly trace their Christian heritage to his ministry. (And with this you can tie in two verses from today’s psalm — Psalm 16: 5-6. 

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage.

Please Consider Subscribing to 2×2

2x2virtualchurch adds a slideshow and object lesson to our library each week. There are more  than 100 in our collection. If you like our easy, interactive approach to engaging adult learners, please consider subscribing.

Thank you.

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A Cure for the Easter Monday Blues

2x2imageGood morning 2×2 readers.

It’s a new day! Christ is risen!

Prediction: This coming Sunday will be the week with the lowest church attendance of the church year. (Pastors call it Black Sunday.)

There is always a letdown after the long Lenten season, Holy Week and glorious Easter.

We pause to digest that Easter dinner—along with all the scripture paraded by us in the last few weeks—and start to think, “Now what?”

For many small churches the post-Easter weeks, soon to be followed by the distractions of summer, are depressing—a reminder of just how difficult small church ministry is.

Our Cure for the Post-Easter Blues

2×2 took most of last week off. Holy Week/Easter plans had us pretty busy. We are sure most 2×2 readers were on overload, too!

We are now thinking ahead to the long season of Pentecost only a few weeks away.

Here is 2×2’s plan.

Something Old!

2×2 now has three years of resources on our website. 2×2 will organize them by topic and lectionary. Readers will be able to find a resource for any given purpose more easily.

This may involve some disruption as we restructure our website—which has grown like three or four Topsys! The technology has changed during the last four years, too. So much more is possible! So please bear with us!

2×2 will continue to improve the slide show resources we started only a couple of months ago. These have 250 viewers when posted and seem to grow even after their liturgical significance passes.  This is not a bad statistic for a new offering that has not been promoted! As a new offering there will be some experimentation with formatting to make sure they are as versatile for different uses as possible.

We’ll continue our weekly adult object lessons.

Something New!

What’s the Number One thing holding congregations back from using social media?

Content creation.


Creating content is work even for churches with large churches with a dedicated ministry staff. Small churches often have minimal professional leadership—which is guaranteeing their doom unless they find a way to reach out—which is difficult with part-time and volunteer readership. Catch 22!

But there is a way (maybe even a few ways!).

2×2 now has three years of experience and 1000 posts!

We’ll start developing content for congregations to use in their social media campaigns using a weekly editorial calendar that any church (ANY CHURCH) can use and adapt to its own ministry.

The plan is to provide sharable content. Congregations will be encouraged to use the provided content “as is” to adapt for their existing community and grow their neighborhood presence and influence.


Congregations will have access to an editorial calendar to guide their online ministry. This basic structure, easily augmented and adapted for individual congregational use will provide the framework for any congregation’s online presence. From our experience this is 80% of the work—a major barrier to online ministry will be removed.

It will be another 2×2 experiment. An ambitious experiment!

So watch 2×2 as we launch this new congregational service. Use it free of charge! Let us know if it is helpful. Add your ideas on how to make it more useful.

Thanks, 2×2 readers. Remember, every Sunday is a celebration of Easter! No reason to feel blue!

Christ is risen, indeed!

Redeemer’s Easter 2014

Five Years—No Stone Rolled Away Yet!Easter 2014Some Redeemer members gathered for scripture and prayer in front of our forbidden church. It was our fifth Easter locked out of God’s house by edict of Bishop Claire Burkat of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (SEPA/ELCA).

Two years ago, a SEPA representative addressed the East Falls Community Council and pledged to start a Word and Sacrament Church in East Falls, never mentioning why they locked the doors on the 82 members of the 117-year-old congregation. In the five years in control of Redeemer’s property, they’ve taken NO actions toward opening a Word and Sacrament Church. They posted a For Sale sign the very month that the property was free of liens.

Yes, the back row of this photo montage is difficult to understand. Say one thing to gain support of people who don’t want to think too much about what’s going on — then get as much cash for East Falls property as possible.

The front row includes the people who are actually maintaining a Word and Sacrament Church in the East Falls neighborhood of Philadelphia (with the help of others not depicted). This dedicated group has grown the ministry with the broadest reach in the entire synod and perhaps the entire Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. But SEPA sees only dollar signs in East Falls.

Core Non-Theological Beliefs of A Successful Church

10 Non-Theological Core Beliefs of the FaithfulToday’s post follows yesterdays. Both build on posts by Dharmesh Shah, the founder of Hubspot.

Yesterday’s post was about 8 Habits for Success. Today’s builds on a second post, Core Beliefs for Success.

Here are some thoughts on how they apply to church life.

Beliefs are nothing without action, he states. What are the common traits of leaders and organizations that lead the way with their actions? How do they apply to congregations?

1. They believe they don’t have to wait to be “selected.” They can simply select themselves.

Church people have difficulty with this. We wait for “the call.” We rely on the skills, interests, and initiatives of the pastor who has received “the call.” A pastor’s call is elevated above the mundane calls of the laity—not by the Bible—not by Martin Luther—but in practice.

We all know that theologically we all receive calls. Some are followed. Some ignored. Some respected. Some despised.

When “the call” isn’t heard or, more likely, heard but unanswered, we use this as an excuse for failure.

The internet amplifies “the call.” It gives everyone the ability to do almost anything with their God-given interests and skills. So many impediments to success have been removed. Anyone can improve his or her theological education. Anyone can reach out. Anyone can “tell it.”

Listen carefully. God may be bypassing the layers of authority.

It would be just like him.

He did it in the Old Testament when he called Moses, Saul, Samuel, David, Jonah . . .

He did it in the New Testament when he commissioned His son and called Peter and eleven other disciples, Paul, Zaccheus, Lydia . . . .

Listen carefully.

2. They believe being the first matters less than being the best.

The game of life is a race with more than one winner.

The ones who get the best start often tire before they reach the finish line. Suddenly, the ones who paced along, trailing by yards, move into the forefront.

There is plenty of work in the kingdom. Let each congregation shine in its own race.

Hey, we can even help each other get to the finish line.

3. They believe success seems predictable only in hindsight.

Here Shah quotes the visionary, Steve Jobs.

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in the future.”

Jobs was wildly successful but his failures were noteworthy and newsworthy. They were public, humiliating and complete. Jobs was kicked out of the company he started!

In fact, his failures created his ingenuity. He had a LOT to overcome. Routinely he emerged with a new idea that changed the world—backed up with new systems and structures to promote them. Wow!

Here’s where so many congregations need a lift. We’ve been told “you can’t” or “we don’t see how you can” so many times. So many congregations reluctantly hand their future to leaders with no vision—leaders who are themselves tired and doubting and willing to carry congregations on their backs as they fall.

For them, hindsight will be too late. Predict your own success. Do it today!

4. They believe personal success comes from service, not selfishness.

There is a reason for this! Service creates connection—bonds. When we approach mission as service-oriented we reach out, we build bridges, we create a platform—or pulpit—from which the Word can be heard. Rather than viewing mission as a protection of assets, we see assets with the intent to serve. That is what the people who provided those assets had in mind!

The challenge for the modern church is to strengthen the individual. That’s not going to happen the traditional ways—Sunday Schools, Confirmation Class, etc. The writing for this is so on the wall that it is a grand mural.

Our challenge is to find ways to educate and empower in today’s world. It’s never been more possible, by the way!

5. They believe in doing a few things no one else is willing to do. 

Shah writes: The best opportunities often lie waiting in fields other people can’t be bothered to cultivate. Find those fields and start cultivating.

That should be enough said, but Redeemer’s Ambassador visits, reveal that most congregations are doing the same things. Many of them are supporting non-church charities like Habitat for Humanity, disease-cure walks, and contributing to food pantries. We send our youth to Appalachia, New Orleans or an Indian Reservation to work on a specific project. All good ventures. All have someone else providing the infrastructure and management, which helps churches that have lost that infrastructure. Mission made easy.

But here are two questions for every congregation to ask a few weeks before their Annual Meeting.

What opportunity for service is waiting for US?
What service can we provide that no one else can do?

 6. They believe that the depth of their network is more important than the breadth.

The numbers game is a real temptation. We all play it.

You must have 150 members to support a pastor. Then giving drops, participation drops and we suddenly need 250 members to pay the same bills. All those country and city churches that never had more than 150 members—all those churches that made their way through the founding years of our young nation and weathered the Great Depression are struggling amidst today’s affluence.

The internet numbers game is also a temptation. 2×2 watches our numbers. We are regularly solicited by Search Engine Optimizers to use their services to boost our numbers. We don’t use them. We want to grow organically. (We now, in our fourth year, have about 400 readers per day.)

The strength of the connections is more important than the numbers.

Strengthen the bonds and the numbers take care of themselves.

7. They believe ideas are important… but execution is everything.

How many church council meetings have you sat through that someone offered a great idea. “Let’s reach out to _________.”

And that’s where the idea stops.

Ideas are easy. Strategies and the ability to follow them and shift gears and resume speed when glitches occur—that’s the tough part.

Pick a great idea. Work at it.

8. They believe leadership is earned, not given.

We’ve heard the cry before. “If only the congregation would let me lead.”

Leadership doesn’t work that way!

Poor leaders sit around and mope about their pay or that they aren’t given the respect their position deserves. They build their reputations on a single achievement—ordination or the completion of a specific training course.

Inspiring leaders turn the attention outward, giving their followers the support and credit for success.

Shah is worth quoting directly here.

Real leaders make people feel they aren’t following—they’re on a journey together.

 9. They believe in paying it forward.

Successful people don’t wait for the right conditions for success. They work at creating conditions for success. 

This is a particular challenge in today’s church. So many part-time pastors are paid by the hour. 

“But you are only paying me for 15 hours a week.”

That doesn’t leave much time for leadership and opens the door for conflict as people fight over exactly what 15 hours should represent.

Real leaders don’t say, “Pay me more and I’ll do more.” They start doing more. They give their all.

This does more than earn raises. It earns respect.  Respect builds teamwork and teamwork helps us reach goals—mission goals and monetary goals.

10. They believe they will make their own history.

In 2009, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, with the secular court’s permission, locked the doors of Redeemer Lutheran Church and carried away our church records to be archived in the library of the Philadelphia Lutheran Seminary at Philadelphia.

They considered our history to be over—ready to collect dust.

It is 2014—five years later. Our history is not over. We are making our own history. We’ll archive it when we are ready!

By all means, you do the same!

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