I attended many great classes at Pepperdine this year. Tim Spivey’s three were among the most relevant to the work with The Lake Merced Church of Christ in San Francisco.
Here are the notes from part 1 of Tim’s class:
“All We Are Meant to Be: Reviving and Sustaining Growing and Healthy Churches” pt. 1 by Tim Spivey
- Introduces the concept of “wholism” – in churches everything is connected. The children’s ministry affects the adult ministry – the college ministry affects the worship service – the preaching style affects outreach. Just like the whole body is affected when a finger is broken, so also the entire church is affected when one ministry is weak or sick. This class is designed to be like a physical for your church. Take this information and give your church a checkup.
- “I believe God has a bias toward the church flourishing … the command to ‘be fruitful and multiply’ applies to the church … when God creates something He wants it to flourish!”
- Jesus constantly uses fruit/farming metaphors. The New Testament counts the number of people involved. Numbers matter because numbers are people, and people matter.
- Simple principle: “Healthy things grow.”
Principle to Remember: Everything is Connected
- In the church world everything is connected.
- Illustration: a guy with a knee problem has bad posture which causes him to experience back pain. If he treats only the back pain but never the knee, the problem will never go away. Everything is connected.
- Want a good youth ministry? You have to do a lot more than simply hire a youth minister – you have to ask what you’re willing to change about your worship service. Teens love music. Are you willing to let the youth minister do what needs to be done to reach teens?
- The church is like a body – it can be very healthy, or it can be very sick. The church has an immune system. If you get a sore throat, you may think you have throat problems, but in reality you may have a virus. You must attack viruses!
- Leadership = the gatekeeper of the immune system. Dysfunctional leadership = no hope.
Tolerance of Pain in Leadership
- Effective leaders must be able to tolerate pain – pain in themselves, and pain in others.
- Low-Low Leaders: this is the type of leader who can’t tolerate pain themselves, and they can’t tolerate others hurting either. This type of leader will go nowhere because change includes pain. The status quo will be held no matter what. Illustration: a child-centered family.
- Low-High Leaders: this type of leader cannot tolerate pain themselves, but doesn’t mind a bit when others suffer. This type of person is a church terrorist. If they don’t get their way they make life very difficult for everyone else – they don’t mind splitting a church as long as they get their way. They put their own wants and needs in front of everything else.
- High-Low Leaders: can tolerate a lot of pain in themselves, but cannot stand to see pain in others. This type of leader will take abuse from people without responding. If a church is led by this type of person, members will remain immature because they are allowed to do whatever they want, abuse whoever they want, behave however they want and this leader will say nothing because they don’t want to cause the other person pain. Many who serve as elders are this type of leader.
- High-High Leaders: this type of leadership is characterized by Jesus. Can tolerate lots of pain themselves, and can tolerate pain in others. God suffers through Christ – decisions are not shaped by an avoidance of pain. The best decisions are made for the church even if it means someone isn’t going to get their way or someone will be unsatisfied.
- Tim went on to tell a story about a 6’9 farmer that confronted him after he preached a sermon telling him he was an instrument of Satan. This was done in front of several people attending the assembly. Tim instructed the man he needed to meet with he and the elders of the church at a later time and they did. The elders plainly told this man if he ever did something like that again he would not be welcome back at their church. They realized their church was going to be sick if they let this behavior go. They did not, and the man decided to take his family and leave their church. They never saw him again.
- “It’s popular for people to say ‘the church is a hospital for the sick.’ If the only people in your church are sick ones you will end up with a morgue!” Church is about finding health – not continuing in sickness. Sickness must be dealt with, and sometimes this will cause pain.
- Dysfunctional people are allowed to stay because the leadership decides to tolerate pain. Many times leadership allows the unhealthy people to run off the healthy people. You must decide what you’re doing is too important to tolerate bullies in the church!
Steps to Revitalization
- Begins with Spiritual Renewal. Seek this above all else for your church.
- Is there a vibrancy to your assemblies that will cause someone who is seeking God to enter in and realize He’s there?
- Preaching, Worship, and Prayer should be your top three priorities if you want to revitalize your church. Underprepared preaching, lifeless worship, and rote prayer is a recipe for failure in a church revitalization effort. “Many assemblies are like a church business meeting with a sermon chaser.”
- When considering what the church should do, God is both the means and the end. Preaching, prayer, and worship center us on God.
- Refine Church Structure. Church structure is spiritual for a whole lot of reasons. Most important is that it affects how well we can reach people.
- Advice: structure yourselves as a church that’s three times the size you already are. What happens if you plant an oak tree in a flower pot?
- When your facility reaches 60-70% capacity in an assembly, start another assembly. People don’t like full buildings (the people who’ve been with your church a long time do, but not new people).
- Most churches are structured to be the size they are, and they stay that size. The reason they don’t grow is because they’re not structured to handle it.
- Expanding your church’s structure does not mean an expansion of activities. Your church should not have the number of activities/ministries of a church three times its size – this will kill you. In fact, you should probably have about half of the activities of a church your size. Churches book themselves solid because they think it looks virtuous, but oftentimes programs that are started are more of a hindrance than a help. Only do what you can do very well – don’t overexert.
- Don’t look at your weaknesses first to see what needs to change – look at your strengths to see what you can build on. Fellowship is usually a great strength is smaller churches. Hold on to this and build on it somehow. Fellowship doesn’t mean ‘everybody knows everybody’ – it does mean ‘everybody knows somebody.’ Illustration: small town fellowship. Not everyone in the town knows one another, but everyone knows somebody and feels part of the community. Don’t strive to be a big church where everyone knows everyone else – strive to be like a small town where everyone knows someone.
- You will lose people. Expect it. Name a church that doesn’t lose people. Ask yourself, “Is God going to run this ship, or is fear of losing some people going to run this ship?”
- The question should never be, “Are people leaving?” The question should be, “Who is leaving and why? Are they leaving because we’re sticking to our vision and mission in the world/community that they’ve decided they don’t like, or are they leaving for another reason?” Do not let fear and manipulative people run your church – let God’s mission run your church.
If you’re interested in ordering audio or video recordings from the 2010 Pepperdine Bible Lectures, go here.