Archives For change

  • Five Stages Of Decline
    • Hubris born of success
    • Undisciplined pursuit of more
    • Denial of risk and peril
    • Grasping for salvation
    • Capitulation to irrelevance or death
  • Bad decisions taken with good intentions are still bad decisions
  • Great leaders have two things in common, they know it is not about them, and they never give up.
  • Undisciplined pursuit of more will bring down the mighty
  • Regulate growth and reach by asking “Do we have all the right people in all the right seats.”  If the answer is no, then you should not move forward.
  • Greatness is never a single event
  • Businesses that have lasted are driven by purpose greater than money or success
  • The greatest businesses think about core values above all else
  • If we lose our values, we lose our souls.  If we lose our soul, we lose it all.
  • The best leaders ask more questions and give less answers
  • You may have a to-do list.  Create a stop-doing list.
  • You can double your reach to young people by changing your practices, not your core values

“Fluff, Don’t Stuff”

A few years back I was visiting a McDonalds in the south suburbs of Chicago where I lived. I placed my order, and immediately was drawn to a sign on the french fry warmer that said “Fluff, Don’t Stuff” in large capital letters. The first thought I had was, “Why is this sign in a place that the customers can see that they are ripping us off?” What they were essentially saying was, “Put less fries in, but make it look like they are getting more than what they are by fluffing them up.”

I immediately told the employee helping me that I wanted stuffed fries, not fluffed fries. After all, I wanted my monies-worth of artery-clogging goodness!

I am not sure what brought that back to my mind a few days ago. What is worse than remembering, is that I cannot get it out of my head, hence the reason for this post.  Maybe it will go away once I push “Publish!”

Anyways, the reason it has stuck with me is because I think many churches and up doing the same thing. There is a lot of talk and hype about how great the church is, how they are reaching people and how God is changing lives, but it is actually fluff. The church is deceiving itself into thinking that something good is happening, when in reality they are not growing, not reaching, and not seeing people’s lives changed.

You see, if you actually looked deeper into the church, you would see that no one has given their life to Christ in a long time (outside of kids in Jr Church), there is no community outreach at all, and really, no one has seen anyone that has gotten so close to Jesus that their life has been changed: No marriages restored, no relationships mended, no attitudes adjusted… nothing.  Life change has been equated to attendance at Ladies Meetings and the number of people that are in counseling with the pastor.  Not that either are bad mind you…

Life change is what happens when Jesus gets a hold of you, and you no longer are who you used to be, but God’s love and mercy are evident in your life and poured out to others through you.  Life change is what happens when people come face to face with the God of the Bible and realize that He loves them and that the love He has for them is all they need.  Life change is me becoming more and more like Jesus and sharing what I have with others so that their lives can be changed too.

This can be uncomfortable for a church because it means at times we have to admit that we are not seeing much happen, and then we have to address why.  it is easier to be comfortable, sit back and hype the next activity as a life changing event.  But that just does not work.  Look around you.  Is God working?  Really working.  If not, ask Him to start by changing and using you.

Forget the fluff…

Today’s quote comes from Mark Beeson in a message he preached a couple of weeks back.  As he was talking about tradition, he said:

“We should honor tradition, but we should not let it enslave us.”

Over the 20 years that I have been in ministry, it has been kind of fun (and sad) to see the different things that churches hold as important and take priority in their ministries.

  • I have visited churches where the ladies ministries were the most important thing going on, and they pretty much ran the church.
  • I have been in churches where the calendar was placed as a priority.  You know how that one goes, “We always have such and such on this week EVERY year… that cannot change! God only does revival on these days every year”
  • I have relatives that have kitchens in their churches that cannot be touched or walked into unless you are on the list or you get approval by the three 80-year old ladies that run said kitchen in the church (The interview process for that on is harder than what you go through to be CEO a fortune 500 company!)
  • I have led worship and had individuals refuse to sing anything that they could not open a book to or that was newer than like 1950.  (Of course, that all changed if it was Bill Gaither, Squire Parsons or just happened to be a song they were singing for church.)

Most of the things that I have heard people complain or fight about in the church are these things.  They have let tradition enslave them. They have allowed their preferences of how and when to do things overshadow the reason for doing those things. Really, what they have done is decided to worship tradition instead of God.

“That seems like a pretty tough statement Jason.”

Maybe, but here is the deal, there are people that will give their life to protect a tradition in the church, but will not give 10 minutes in the office to listen to someone who is hurting, or to walk across the lawn to invite a neighbor to church with them.  They have completely lost the fact that being a Christian is all about relationships, not running a social club that people meet at once a week. Being part of a church is NOT about those that are “in” it.  It is completely about the mission God gave to reach this world.

If we can use some traditions to do that, I say great!  If a tradition gets in the way of that, it is time to let it go.

This all reminds me of something that the first pastor I worked for said to me, “Tradition is good, if it is good tradition.”

Is there any tradition that is enslaving you?  How do we break free of that?

As I read thought the Gospels, I am amazed at the number of times that Jesus would rebuke the Pharisees for the life they were living.  Most people looked at the Pharisees and thought they were the very creme of the crop, and were the example that everyone needed to follow.  Their commitment to religious exercises and obedience to their laws were unrivaled, and even held as the standard for all.  The problem was, these were not God’s standards.  They were standards that were made by men to help keep God’s law.

I have no doubt that every intention in creating their man-made religious laws were done with great intentions.  After all, they did want to please and obey God.  But after time, the focus moved from pleasing and obeying God to making sure people met the standards man set up to keep God’s law.  No longer was it good enough to keep God’s commandments, but you had to keep the rules and regulations that men had set up in order to please God, which was, of course, totally wrong.

Today’s quote speaks to this.  It is found in a book by Bruxy Cavey titled, “The End Of Religion.”

Religious people miss the message and turn to the rituals and regulations, ethics and activities prescribed to them as the way to achieve what God has already offered them as a gift. In so doing, they miss the life of God and fail to satisfy their spiritual thirst.

Picture a thirsty person holding a cup of water. Now picture that person licking the outside of the cup in an attempt to quench his thirst. That is the picture of religion. Religious people tend to focus on the cup and forget about the contents.

I think there are many Christ-followers that have grown up in church thinking that doing is more important than being.  In other words, doing all of the prescribed things that man has set up for us to conform is more important than being like Jesus.  We have been taught to focus on the outside of the cup rather than what is inside the cup.

Jesus taught people to focus on the inside of the cup.  It is what will quench your thirst.  It is what gives you life.

The difference between the outside and the inside is this: one is based on rules, the other is based on a relationship.

I am focusing on the relationship.  That is what will make me more like Jesus.

This weeks quote comes from Andy Stanley and his leadership podcast that I have been listening to.  You can listen to his podcast by going to iTunes and subscribing to it.  Great stuff!  Ok, here is this weeks quote:

“The local church rarely gets serious about change until they run out of money… We’re preoccupied with paying the bills, not reaching unchurched people.  What does that make us?”

Here are my take-aways from this:

  • A church that thinks it can hold things together and stop the exodus of people by doing what they have always done is sadly mistaken.
  • Playing it safe so that you do not upset the church members that have been there a long time will not cause the church to grow.  In fact, it will sink the ship faster because no one is being reached and then change will have to come, and it will be forced change, not planned change.
  • It is much easier to plan the change yourself.  It may be difficult, and there may be some resistance, but at least it will be change you are planning and not change that is forced upon you.
  • When the focus is money and not people we will have a harder time making the necessary changes.