Healthy leaders mark healthy churches
    May 17 2010 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

    In his book Comeback Churches, Ed Stetzer writes that 3,500-4,000 churches close each year in the United States and 70-80 percent of churches in North America are stagnant or declining.

    “Millions of Christians attend churches that demonstrate little concern for the lost around them,” writes Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research. Many of these stagnant churches have the resources to make a difference if they committed to becoming “more than museums of past glory days.”

    While more church plants are desperately needed, existing churches also need to get back on track if nearly 1.6 billion people in the world are going to hear the gospel for the first time. The foundation for doing both and seeing any measure of success is really the same: spiritually healthy leaders. Pastors and church leaders can’t expect the congregation to be healthy if they themselves are not healthy.

    Returning spiritually mature leaders to the pulpit is the focus of one-day Church Health Institutes being held across the state. Neal Eller, church health team leader for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), began the May 4 Church Health Institute in Cary by asking pastors, church leaders and directors of missions to consider the state of congregations they serve. Are they barren, with no fruit for the Kingdom of God? Do they look healthy only from the outside? Are they producing disciples who are producing disciples?

    Russ Conley, BSC leadership consultant, says “We often don’t give a lot of thought to why we’re doing the things we’re doing.”

    Eller reminded leaders of Revelation 2:2-5 and how the church in Ephesus “abandoned the love” they once had for God. Leaders must anchor their lives on love for God and the gospel or they will never be healthy leaders with healthy congregations.  

    Who are you?
    Church leaders sometimes give in to the unhealthy habit of trying to please everyone around them. When that happens, their vision for the church can get sidetracked by other priorities. David Moore, BSC pastoral ministries consultant, asked attendees to think about the people they listen to. “Ministers lose their joy because they feel like they are subject to other people’s voices,” Moore said.

    John 10 describes Jesus as the Good Shepherd and believers as those who hear His voice and follow Him.

    “Who you are and what you value will determine what you do,” Moore said. Who a leader is depends on whether or not the leader truly believes that self-worth and value are validated in a relationship with Jesus Christ and not in trying to please everyone.

    Church leaders, especially ministers, can fall into the trap of saying “yes” to everything and before long have no time for family or even themselves. “What are you saying yes to that you really don’t have to?,” Moore asked.  

    Values first
    Most are familiar with the Proverbs 29:18 text: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” But a vision statement “doesn’t automatically mean a shared understanding and commitment,” said Russ Conley, BSC leadership consultant. Nor does it automatically mean a healthy church.

    Values drive vision. If a leader’s values are not aligned with scripture the most eloquent church vision statement means nothing. Conley said pastors must face the reality that often a gap exists between the stated values of a congregation and their actual values. Pastors must help their congregations understand who they actually are.

    With values in place, churches can move forward in the process of re-thinking structure and strategy. “We often don’t give a lot of thought to why we’re doing the things we’re doing,” Conley said. “A busy church is a happy church. We lose sight of the bigger picture.”  

    The Great Commandment
    In Matthew 22:20 Jesus says the greatest commandment is to love God and the second is to love your neighbor as yourself. Healthy churches do both. Healthy churches understand that a shared sense of values among the people is fostered when leaders put a high value on making disciples committed to Matthew 22:20.

    “You can’t change the values in your church without discipling people,” said Rick Hughes, BSC discipleship consultant.

    Hughes explained that healthy churches do not see church as something just for them; healthy churches engage in gospel-centered worship and engage others with the gospel. Hughes encourages churches to begin Acts 2 disciple-making groups. Groups of about 8 or 10 meet weekly and focus on four areas: learning biblical truths, building relationships, community missions and spiritual growth.

    Remaining Church Health Institutes are June 1 in Concord, Sept. 9 in Greensboro and Oct. 19 in Hendersonville.
    5/17/2010 7:29:00 AM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

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