Monday, June 18, 2007

Business 101

I've been in the manufacturing industry for most of my adult life. I've held positions on nearly every side of the business and have held jobs from entry level assembly to higher level management. During the years I've been in this business I've learned quite a bit about people, processes, and planning. I've learned how to motivate people. I've learned how to anticipate problems and reach a solution before the problem actually arises. I've learned how to make improvements to the way things are...I'm always looking for a better way to do what I do.

I've tried to carry much of this learning over into my spiritual life and into the way I minister to people. Something I've seen in many ministries that have failed is that there was no solid plan to execute. Therefore, things were destined to fall apart. I'm not necessarily speaking about a church, but smaller ministries within the church. The best intentioned folks will fail if they have no plan. Too often, we focus on having a vision, but we don't have a plan to get to that goal. I was encouraged recently by reading of a friend's new ministry. If you read his website, you can see that the man has a definite plan in place. Does a great plan mean that things will work out just as we desire? Not every time, but no plan will certainly lead to catastrophe.

Recently, I was in a meeting at work. Our GM gave a quick 4-point outline that generally spells success (at least in the area which we were discussing). I think there are some parallels here that translate quite well to ministry. The four steps are: Plan, Organize, Execute, Audit.


This is obviously extremely important. Let's say that you want to begin a new outreach ministry in your church. The planning phase is extremely important. You obviously want to identify what type of outreach ministry this will be (sports outreach, door-to-door outreach, bus ministry, addictions ministry, troubled youth ministry, etc.), but beyond that there is still a lot of planning that must take place. Who are some key folks to help you in this ministry? How much time will you be able to give to this ministry? How much time will this ministry require to have the proper impact? When will the new ministry be launched? What additional resources will you require? These are a few of the questions that you might ask yourself.


You've got your basic plan what? This is where many of the best-laid plans completely fall apart. Recruit the help you need. Put together a drive to get the additional physical resources you need. Spend some focused time in prayer with your ministry partners for this new ministry. This is the phase where you hammer out all the little details.


You've got the plan and it's organized, now put it to work. There's got to be some ability to be flexible, but don't abandon the weeks and months of planning at the first sign of trouble. Just because something doesn't go as planned initially, it doesn't mean that it needs to be scrapped. If you've handled the planning and organizing phases properly, you may well have anticipated these problems anyway. Give the plan a chance to work.


This is pretty simple...go back frequently and make sure that things are working and that they are working well. If some portion of the plan has been a bust from day one, improve on it or scrap it altogether. If something is working real well, look at it closely and see if it can be tweaked even more. This plan should be living - otherwise the ministry might become stagnant and the workers complacent.

Just a few thoughts from an old factory hand....

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Where are the preachers?

I enjoy reading, but don't seem to have much opportunity to do so these days. I suppose that some of my most enjoyable reading has been biographies, autobiographies, and diary's of great Christians of the past. As a matter of fact, the largest section of my "library" (outside of commentaries) is biographical in nature. Recently I began reading one that I purchased a year or two back but haven't had the opportunity to read until recently. It is entitled The Life and Diary of David Brainerd. It was edited by Jonathan Edwards (the great Puritan theologian, preacher, and author) who was a friend of Brainerd.

When I picked the book up it was chiefly because I knew very little about Brainerd, but what I didn't notice is that this book also contains a brief biographical sketch of Edwards (pictured to the left).

Jonathan Edwards is a remarkable figure - this brief biography has given me a desire to read and re-read some of his writings and sermons. One item from this book that really struck me today was the following excerpt:

In September, 1720, just before his seventeenth birthday, Jonathan Edwards graduated from Yale College with the highest honors. He continued on in graduate study for nearly two years, and in June or July, 1722, was licensed to preach the gospel. In September, 1723, he received the degree of master of arts from Yale, and was elected as a tutor. Though he supplied the pulpit of a small church in New York City for several months, he could not agree to accept a permanent charge until he had spent six years in study after his graduation from college. Remarking that in this Jonathan Edwards was like John Calvin, who, even after he had published his Institutes of the Christian Religion, "did not consider himself as sufficiently mature in knowledge to undertake the pastoral office," Dr. Samuel Miller cannot resist the following observation: "When will young men, unspeakably inferior to these master-minds,both in capacity and attainment, learn to resist that spirit of superficial, presumptuous haste,which is hurrying them prematurely into the pulpit, and burdening the church, to a lamentable extent, with "blind leaders of the
(emphasis mine)

I suppose that the reason this sticks with me is because of much of what I've seen in my (admittedly brief) life and experience in church life. I've witnessed ordinations where men who didn't have the slightest grasp of basic theology were ordained and placed into senior pastorates. During much of my life in church (both in and out of Fundamentalism) I've heard preaching that was woefully lacking any doctrinal clarity and sound handling of the Word. I've become increasingly convinced that a man under the age of 35 probably ought not be in pastoral ministry. Furthermore, I'm not so sure that men who lack significant formal training have any business pastoring (with some exceptions).

I constantly read and hear the same question..."why has Fundamentalism seemingly gone to hell?" The answer is fairly simple: that's where much of the preaching has gone. Somewhere along the line a visible and vocal segment of Fundamentalism gave up solid Biblical exposition for a personality-driven brand of religion that is more about entertainment and ear-tickling than it is about expounding the truths of the Word of God. Sunday morning, tens of thousands of American Christian Fundamentalists will go to church and get yelled at about whatever the pet peeve of the preacher happens to be. Some of us are in better situations - we'll hear the Word of God faithfully exposited.

The more I read from the Puritan era the more convinced I become that the average parishioner of 200 years ago had a deeper understanding of theology and deeper fear and respect of God than the average clergyman does today. Read what a 20-year old Jonathan Edwards penned and you'll see what I mean.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

I'm back.....

Two of the busiest weeks of my year at work have just ended. I'll be back to blogging this week....I'm not sure if that's good news or bad news........