Saturday, December 31, 2011

62.8 Million Can't Be Wrong

If you are leading a volunteer workforce, you are in good company.  The US Department of Labor reported that this past year (ending September 2011) that there were 62.8 million people that were actively volunteering in some organization. These people came from all walks of life, all economic classes, some college, some not, all races, both genders, young and old.

On average they spent about 52 hours in the past year volunteering, about one hour a week.

While you may not remember all these numbers, remember the "one hour a week".

Studies have shown that in about an hour, the average volunteer can be fully trained to perform the job for which they are assigned.  The church jobs that volunteers fill range from some simple jobs like handing out the weekly bulletin or folding chairs to more complex tasks like supervising a nursery or leading worship.

What is unfortunate is that all too often, we don't give these volunteers the one hour of training that they need.  This is unfortunate because the church is one big volunteer-run organization.  Since the day of Pentecost, the vast majority of the leaders in the Church have been volunteers.  Volunteers provide the invitation, the hospitality, the teaching, the training, the development and also the governance of most churches.

When training is inadequate, volunteers don't get the opportunity to fully understand the importance of their role.  Without proper training they can't lead and without leadership the mission suffers.

Fortunately the best people to do the training is volunteers.  We just need to give them the opportunity and let them know it is a priority; let them find the one-hour to train.  Let them lead.....62.8 million can't be wrong.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Why God?

We all want to ask the question, “Why God?” when we find trials, tribulations and suffering.  The Bible makes it clear however that when (not if) we are in difficult situations we are not to think that God may be unfaithful or uncaring but we are to look to Him for guidance and strength.  Jesus was a man of suffering yet His circumstances never dictated neither His attitude nor His mission. Peter the Apostle, who also knew suffering said we are to follow the example of Jesus:

“For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps: He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone. He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly. He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed. Once you were like sheep who wandered away. But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:21-25)

All too often, our theology is bad. We believe somehow that only good things happen to Godly people and that bad things happen only to the ungodly. Neither experience nor the Bible provides any support for that supposition.  The New Testament records instances where people that were poor or blind or crippled were thought to be cursed by God. Jesus didn’t agree with their theology and brought relief and sight and healing.

Oswald Chambers, the missionary and author of “My Utmost for His Highest” wrote about this.  He said, “Faith by its very nature must be tested and tried. And the real trial of faith is not that we find it difficult to trust God, but that God’s character must be proven as trustworthy in our own minds.

We often hear about the “time in the desert” but none of us like that journey. At the same time, our faith is constantly being worked out and often we will experience times of testing and trial.  Trials often come independent of discipline that the Lord brings.  The Bible tells us that “Lord disciplines those he loves” (Hebrews 12:6) and I love the very next verse where we are told to accept “hardship as discipline.”  

The writer of Hebrews doesn’t say that the hardship we are going through is actually the Lord’s discipline but our response is to be the same.  We run to Jesus, we humble ourselves and submit to His will for our lives.  At the same time we rejoice as the Apostle James said, “For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. (James 1:3-4)

Likely the person most associated with suffering and trials in the Bible was Job.  Job lost everything yet he didn't sin against God.  In Chapter 19:25 Job comments, "I know that my Redeemer  lives and in the end He will stand upon the earth".  

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Be Effective; Efficiency is over-rated

Our primary objective should always be to be effective.  Take a look at the dictionary definition of what it means to be effective:  To be adequate to accomplish the purpose; producing the intended and expected result; producing a deep or vivid impression; prepared and available for service.

This definition looks like exactly what we are to be about in ministry.   All too often we strive for efficiency at the expense of being effective.  In ministry, and particularly in our large churches, too much of an emphasis on efficiency can take something that is to be very personal and very hands-on and make it very impersonal and distant.

The church is told to "make disciples".  Jesus demonstrated that one of the ways to be effective in developing disciples was to actually spend three years with just twelve of them.   Jesus and his disciples were together in the desert, on the mountains, in boats during the storm and through some difficult times.

Often there may be short cuts we can embrace but typically while we may be convinced we are being efficient, we aren't necessarily effective.  I lived in Mexico for almost three years and I learned that particularly in Latin America, developing relationships takes time.  It takes time and effective leadership that allows us to transfer skills and a passion for people.  To effectively train and disciple others we need to provide feedback, offer suggestions and demonstrate support.

If our objective in ministry is to train and develop others that are to become effective in ministry then we are following the Biblical mandate.  Christ gave us (who are called to lead in ministry) "to equip His people people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up" (Eph 4:12) 

Now that's being effective!

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