Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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Developing Leaders in the Local Church

Just like any organization, a church needs to be continually developing future leaders to plan for succession. As leaders get older, retire and/or move away, you need to have other leaders ready to step in. These would most often be candidates for the office of deacon or elder, but it could also be someone who may want to be a pastor, church planter, missionary or worship leader. In order to have a steady supply of leaders, a church needs to be intentional about leadership development. But how do you do that effectively?
I have previously written about leadership development in the workplace. There are some similarities, but also some key differences between leadership development in the workplace and within the church. In their book Designed to Lead: The Church and Leadership, Eric Geiger and Kevin Peck write that God has designed his people to lead and that the church should be the epicenter of leadership development as God has designed the church to develop leaders in all spheres of life – the church, workplace, home, community and world.

Here are four steps for developing leaders in the local church:

  1. Identify candidates. First, the Bible lays out clear qualifications for the offices of elder and deacon. Qualifications for elders are found in 1 Timothy 3:2-7 and Titus 1:6-8, while qualifications for the office of deacon are found in 1 Timothy 3:8-13. The church leadership team (pastors and elders) should meet on a regular basis (semiannually would be ideal), to discuss potential future leaders and getting them into the leadership pipeline. This is similar to what a workplace organization would do with their leadership talent.
  2. Candidates mentored/discipled by existing leaders. Once candidates have been identified, they should be paired with an existing pastor or elder in a mentoring/discipling relationship. These relationships can all look a bit different. In some cases, you might want to do a Bible study, or read and discuss a book you are both interested in. You might want to have meals, spend time in a coffee shop or take long walks. The mentor will get to know the mentee well to find out about how they lead their families (if applicable), their attention to spiritual disciplines, and whether there is anything in their life that would disqualify them for church leadership. This period is critical. It may help to confirm a leadership calling. On the other hand, it may confirm that the individual is not suited for leadership, or not interested or ready at this particular time.
  3. Do the work of a leader. One of the ways to identify a potential leader (see Step 1) is to observe those who are actually doing the work of a leader now, without the title or office. For example, who are the individuals who regularly show up at the church work days? Who are those who are volunteering to serve in different ministries within the church? Who are those quiet servants? Who is leading a small group, teaching a Sunday School class, or discipling others? In the same way, doing the work of a leader, and getting feedback from your mentor, is an excellent way to develop as a leader.
  4. Intense training on theology and beliefs. In the church I attend, this training is done by the senior pastor. Time is spent on our confession (Westminster Confession of Faith), to assure the candidate’s beliefs are in line with Scripture, the denomination and the church. There is also discussion to determine whether it is the right time of life for the individual to go into leadership. For example, if the individual has a number of small children at home, he may not have the time to devote to this new calling. Over the years, there have been individuals who made the decision during this training that now is not the right time to pursue leadership in the church. However, if all goes well in this training, the senior pastor makes the recommendation to the rest of the leadership team to bring the individual before the church as a new elder or deacon.

These are four steps that I’ve found to be helpful in developing leaders in the local church. What other things have you found to be helpful?

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My Review of GOSNELL: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer

Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer
*** ½

Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer is a film based on the investigation and trial of Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell. It is an important film, but also a very difficult one to watch. The film is directed by Nick Searcy, who also plays one of the major roles in the film. The film is written by Andrew Klavan based on the book Gosnell: The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer by a married couple of investigative journalists from Ireland Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney.
In 2010 Philadelphia detectives James Wood, played by Dean Cain (Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman), and his partner Starks, played by Alfonzo Rachel, obtain a warrant to search Dr. Gosnell’s clinic regarding an illegal pharmaceutical drug business being run out of the clinic. The DEA and FBI are also investigating the clinic for the same reason. What they find at the clinic is disgusting, a house of horrors. The clinic is filthy, and we see bags containing dead babies and jars of aborted babies’ feet. Cats run freely through the clinic, adding to the terrible smell inside. In the midst of the raid, Dr. Gosnell, played convincingly by Earl Billings, calmly feeds his pet turtles.
As the detectives interview clinic workers, they find out that patients were given anesthesia by untrained clinic workers, some of those workers being as young as 15 years old. One patient died at the clinic from an anesthesia overdose. Abortions were performed at the clinic past the state’s legal limit of 24 weeks. There were many babies that were born alive. In those instances, Dr. Gosnell cut their spinal cords with scissors.
Concerned with what he has seen at the clinic, Detective Wood contacts Assistant District Attorney Lexis McGuire, played by Sarah Jane Morris (Brothers & Sisters), about getting a search warrant for Dr. Gosnell’s home, as it appears that he has recently moved some files from the clinic. District Attorney Dan Molinari, played by Michael Beach, is concerned about the political ramifications of bringing murder charges against an abortion doctor, telling McGuire that it could damage her career aspirations.       
Dr. Gosnell hires defense attorney Mike Cohan, played by the film’s director Nick Searcy.  An investigative blogger, Molly Mullaney, played by Cyrina Fiallo, plays a key role in the case against Dr. Gosnell. The Mullaney character is a composite of JD Mullane and Mollie Z. Hemingway. The film uses actual transcripts from the two-month trial. Three-time Golden Globe nominee Janine Turner (Northern Exposure) plays Dr. North, an abortion doctor called to the stand during the trial who explains in painful detail the procedures she and her clinic have performed.
The film is difficult to watch not so much for what is shown on the screen, but for what is left to the imagination. Christine Wechsler (on whom Morris’ character is based) and the real-life Wood, served as consultants on the film, which also relied “very heavily on actual court transcripts” and “dozens of hours of interviews with Kermit Gosnell” himself.
The film tells us that despite concerns about the deplorable clinic conditions that were brought to their attention, the Philadelphia Department of Health refused to inspect Dr. Gosnell’s clinic based on orders from a past Pennsylvania governor. As a result, Gosnell’s clinic had not been inspected for several years.
Themes include abortion, murder, justice, sanctity of life. Content concerns include bags containing dead babies, aborted babies’ feet in jars and some adult language.
The film features a solid cast, led by Billings portrayal of Dr. Gosnell. It focuses on the facts of the story, so there is not a lot of character development. Real-life police photos are displayed over the ending credits.
Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer is a film that almost all top critics have refused to review, despite the film finishing in the top 10 its opening weekend while only being shown in just 673 theatres (the top film Venom is showing in 4,250 theatres). Facebook banned ads for the film in May 2018 saying it was “political speech”. The film’s producers raised $2.3 million in 45 days from nearly 30,000 people to fund this film.
It’s an important film. Go see it. Here is a current list of theatres where the film is showing.


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6 Reasons Why Your Church Needs a Personnel Structure

I recently wrote on “How to Move Your Church Forward Through Effective Planning”.  In that article I stated I wasn’t suggesting that you run your church like a business. However, after having been a leader in the marketplace for nearly 38 years, and in the church for more than 22 years, I do think there are things we can learn from the business world to help our churches be more effective organizations. One of those things is a Human Resources (HR) “department” and a performance management system. In many churches, these functions could be the responsibility of an executive pastor. Here are 6 reasons I believe that a church needs an individual or team dedicated to HR functions:

  • Employment decisions. It is important to have a consistent approach to selecting and onboarding new members onto your church team. Processes need to be established so that you don’t have to “recreate the wheel” every time you have an opening. This would start with developing job descriptions for each position, from the lead pastor to the church janitor. Following this would be an approach to interviewing, a training schedule for each position, new employee orientation, etc.
  • Salary and Benefits. Another human resources responsibility is to determine the salary range and benefits for each position at the church. This will include everything from starting salary, annual salary increases, insurance, retirement, weeks of vacation, etc. Understanding that the starting salary could be flexible based on the skills and experience of the candidate, there should be salary ranges developed, so that a consistent approach is followed.
  • Alignment to the vision and annual plan. It is easy for the different ministries of the church to all be doing “good” things, but having no alignment to the overall vision and the annual plan (see the effective planning article). My suggestion is that each member of the church staff, and all of the major ministries of the church, annually develop their plans, budgets and individual goals in alignment with the overall church vision and goals. The budgets and goals should be submitted to the leadership team, or a designee, such as an executive pastor.
  • Performance evaluation. At a minimum, a one-hour formal performance evaluation (between the established goals and the actual performance) should take place on a semi-annual basis. Individual meetings to discuss performance, concerns, development needs, etc. should take place monthly to facilitate open communication and relationship building. These evaluations should be a component used by the church in determining annual salary compensation decisions.
  • Legal issues. In today’s climate more than ever, a church will need a staff member who can advise them on legal issues related to staffing (hiring, terminating, etc.).
  • Training and development. The ongoing growth of your team members is critical to your organization moving forward. Again, your church should have a consistent approach to the resources (books, conferences, classes, etc.) used for development, and one individual, such as the executive pastor, overseeing this.

If your church is very small, the above responsibilities are probably handled by the pastor or a group of elders. However, if your church is over 200 members, I would recommend assigning these responsibilities to one individual, such as an executive pastor or a personnel committee overseen by the executive pastor.

I’ve listed just a few of the most important responsibilities of a human resources department that are needed in your church. Other responsibilities such as finances could also be added to this list. What would you add to the list?


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How to Move Your Church Forward Through Effective Planning

I was a leader in a Fortune 50 organization for nearly 38 years, and I’ve been in a leadership position at our church for more than 22 years. I’ve found that effective annual planning will help move your organization forward, whether it is a Fortune 50 organization, a church, non-profit, etc. If you don’t have a plan mapped back to your church vision and mission, you may end up just treading water, not making any progress. Or, each ministry may do their own thing, without connection to the overall direction that the church is heading. And, without a plan, how do you know whether you are being successful or not?
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that you run your church like a business. But I do think there are things we can learn from the business world to help our churches be more effective organizations.
A church is different because its mission is different from a Fortune 50 organization. Some may say that the mission of the church is what is referred to as the Great Commission, which is found in Matthew 28: 18-20:  And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
While many may say that Jesus’ primary emphasis in the Great Commission is evangelism, it is actually to make disciples. Making disciples includes evangelism, but it includes so much more than evangelism. If we take a look at this passage, we see that the Great Commission includes baptizing, teaching and sending. The Great Commission is a call to the local church.
A church is also called to do the “ordinary” work of ministry, as Michael Horton referred to in his book Ordinary. He wrote “CNN will not be showing up at a church that is simply trusting God to do extraordinary things through his ordinary means of grace delivered by ordinary servants. But God will.”
Given that a church is different from other organizations, what can it do to make sure it is moving forward and not just going through the motions? Here are 4 thoughts for you to consider:

  1. Annual Planning Session. Hold an annual planning session in the fall. Although not convenient, I would suggest that the leadership team take an entire Saturday to do this. The leaders should prepare in advance of the meeting to make good use of the time. An agenda should be developed and someone assigned to be the meeting facilitator to help the meeting stay on schedule and focus. The planning session can address the following items:
    • What will be the emphasis for the church the following year? For example, will the church continue with the current vision, or does the vision need to be refreshed?
    • Develop high-level church goals to align with the vision. Consideration should be given to aligning the preaching series (topical, books of the bible) that the pastor will be preaching, or the studies that the men and women will be doing, with the goals.
    • What ministries, programs or events will the church be holding in the following year. For example, will the church have:
  • Vacation Bible School
  • Mission trips
  • Financial Peace University classes
  • Concerts
  • Conferences
  • Outreaches
  • Christmas Banquet
  • Leadership retreats
  • Congregational fellowship events (progressive dinner, picnics, etc.)
  1. Develop Ministry Goals. Each of the major ministries in the church should develop their plans and budgets in alignment with the overall church vision and annual goals. The goals and budgets should be submitted to the leadership team, or a designee, such as an Executive Pastor.
  2. Communicate, communicate, communicate. The vision and goals that have been established should be communicated to the congregation when established, with progress updates given throughout the year. This will help connect the entire congregation with the work of the church and build excitement for where the church is going.
  3. Quarterly Leadership Team Meetings. Quarterly leadership team meetings should be held to review progress of the goals that were established. In larger churches, individual staff members may be asked to establish goals for their areas of responsibility. In some cases, their performance on these goals may be taken into consideration during their annual performance review.

These are just 4 thoughts on how your church can use effective planning to help assure that it continues to move forward. What other thoughts do you have to add to this list?


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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

Hymns Vol. 1 – Shane and Shane
****

Shane and Shane are a contemporary worship duo comprised of Shane Barnard and Shane Everett. I recently got to enjoy their music at the Sing 2018 conference in Nashville. Prior to that, what I knew about the duo was primarily through the ministry of Desiring God.

Hymns Vol. 1 is a new album featuring new arrangements of ten modern and traditional hymns, totaling in excess of 57 minutes of music.  This is an album that I thoroughly enjoyed. At first listen, it can appear like a simple and basic covering of these wonderful hymns. However, each repeated listening brings out something new about these extended arrangements, which are connected, with no breaks between the songs. The lead and harmony vocals are excellent throughout, as is the musical accompaniment, which never gets in the way of the words of these wonderful hymns. I can’t wait for Vol. 2.

Below are a few brief comments about each song:

Tis So Sweet – The lyrics to this hymn were written by Louisa M.R. Stead in 1882, and the music by William J. Kirkpatrick. This version, which clocks in just under seven minutes, features guitar, light percussion, and violin, and builds powerfully.

How Great Thou Art – This hymn, which is my favorite, was based on a poem written by Carl Boberg in 1885. It was translated into English by the missionary Stuart K. Hine, who also added two additional verses. The hymn was set to a Russian melody. The song features guitar, piano, drums and builds powerfully.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:

  • More of this review
  • A review of Paul McCartney’s Egypt Station
  • Music News
  • Music Quotes
  • Song of the Week Lyrics

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My Review of THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS

Three Identical Strangers, rated PG-13
*** ½

This well-made documentary tells the incredible true story of three brothers who were separated at birth by the Louise Wise Services, a Jewish adoption agency in New York. Their story is truly one of truth being stranger than fiction. The film is directed by Tim Wardle and includes interviews with the three boys, some of their family members and others involved in their story along with home movies, archival footage and re-creations.
The boys’ story is told sequentially and unfolds like a mystery. On July 12, 1961 in Glen Oaks, New York, Robert Shafran, Eddie Galland, and Robert Kellman were born as identical triplets to a single teenage mother and later adopted by different families.

***SPOILER ALERT***
The film begins in 1980, when one of the boys arrives for his first day at Sullivan County Community College, and is warmly greeted by returning students, which he feels is very strange, since he has never been there and didn’t know any of the students. It turns out that he has been mistaken for someone else, which he finds out to be his identical twin. When the story hits the New York newspapers, a third brother is identified, and we see the happy reunion. The boys are instant celebrities, appearing on the Today Show, the Phil Donahue Show and even have a brief cameo opposite Madonna in the 1985 film Desperately Seeking Susan. They have some of the same mannerisms, smoke the same brand of cigarettes and have the same taste in women. Later, they would own a restaurant called “Triplets” together.
Louise Wise Services had separated the boys (as well as other children), at birth, and they had been adopted by three different families – an upper-class family, a middle-class family and a working-class family. Some of the parents were more loving than others and some had stricter discipline. None of the families had been told that the boys were part of triplets separated at birth.
***********************

The first half of this film was heart-warming and funny. The second half of the film, which I won’t ruin with spoilers, takes a shocking, disturbing and much darker turn as we meet New Yorker reporter Lawrence Wright, who looked into the boys’ story.
This documentary is well-written, with good editing of the interviews. The major theme in the film is family, also secrecy, and betrayal. The only content concern is some adult language.
Three Identical Strangers is a well-made documentary that is both heart-warming and heart-breaking.


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS


Letters to the Church by Francis Chan. David C. Cook. 224 pages. 2018
****

I haven’t been challenged so much by a book since I first read Francis Chan’s book Crazy Love several years ago. This book has a lot of similarities to Crazy Love, as the author looks at what a church should be according to scripture and shows where the American church is lacking. I read the book in two days, and I’m sure I will read it many more times, just as I have Crazy Love. It’s one of the best books I’ve read this year.
The author begins the book by discussing why he left Cornerstone Church eight years ago. He admits that he didn’t lead very well, and that leaving Cornerstone was not an easy decision. After some time overseas, he felt that the Lord was leading him to come back to America to plant churches. Five years ago, twenty years after planting Cornerstone out of a living room, he planted We Are Church  In San Francisco.
Each chapter, or letter, of the book addresses a different issue a church may or may not need to work on. The author writes that the book is about the most obvious commands repeated throughout the entire Bible. He tried to pay attention to the times when God seems most bothered by what His people were doing. He has tried to point out only the most obvious biblical truths about God’s desire for His Bride—truths that he writes none of us can afford to ignore. He states that he has written from the perspective of not worrying about the fallout from the book, but sought only to be faithful to God.
Throughout the book he provides encouraging examples of international churches. However, he writes that as he examines the state of the Christian Church today, he can’t help but think that God is displeased with many of the churches in America. He states that the more he studies the Gospels, the more he is convinced that those of us who live in the United States have a warped view of what it means to be a “Christian”, and it is for that reason our churches are in the state they are in.
The author uses a lot of scripture in this book. Aspects of church that he addresses in the book include devotion to scripture, prayer, unity, community, love, serving others, leadership, humility, suffering and children.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:
More of this review…
BOOK REVIEW ~ The Prayer That Turns the World Upside Down: The Lord’s Prayer as a Manifesto for Revolution by Albert Mohler
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ How the Nations Rage: Rethinking Faith and Politics in a Divided Age by Jonathan Leeman
I’M CURRENTLY READING….
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