Help write my new book and provide me feedback on this article, Please comment at the end after reading this article! – Kent
Think about Lazarus. One day raised from the dead, and the next eating dinner with his sisters, Jesus and the disciples. All of a sudden, Lazarus, kind of a regular guy, has celebrity status. Everybody wanted to see the dead man walking, talking, and eating!
If your church experiences a turnaround, moving from plateau or decline to growth, you are going to attract attention.
My first assignment as a pastor was at Our Saviour Church in Detroit, Michigan. It was a tough inner-city congregation. In the 10 years prior to my arrival, it declined 67% in membership. It was an old Anglo church in a young African American community. No African Americans attended the church—not even visitors. The members commuted in to what they called “the old neighborhood”, which was a new neighborhood for the African Americans. Most of the people in the church were elderly.
As a young pastor, I started using some evangelism programs, involving the few people who had the heart for reaching out. Nothing worked well. As I began my Doctor of Ministry studies, two weeks at a time, at Fuller Seminary, I learned how to think like a missionary. Imagine that!
I carefully and patiently taught a few members the mission side of the Kingdom. This slowly changed the missional culture of a growing group in our church. We began to meet some needs of those in our community. As we developed relationships, we shared what God had been doing in our lives. Through that mechanism we began to reach, cross culturally, our new neighbors. The church began to grow, by God’s grace and blessing.
Some of the evangelism and mission leaders in my denomination began referring to me as “a rising star” in our church body. I was asked to write books, and speak at conferences. It was about that time that I learned the ugly side of effectiveness. Several seminary professors began criticizing me publically. It was never to my face. I confronted them. They would back down, and, sometime later, start again. They never visited my church and tried to learn about my biblical commitment.
Some used their classrooms as a forum to discredit me. Some of the students, who knew Christian ethics better than their professors, came to me and told me about their offensive comments. Some of those students knew me very well. I was discipling them and their professors didn’t know it! I even called one professor and gave him the opportunity to criticize me face-to-face, and have an honest dialogue. I offered to travel to him, and buy him lunch. I wanted to give him the opportunity to practice what Jesus taught in Matthew 18. He never did it.
If this ever happens to you, take another look at Lazarus. We like to preach and teach about Lazarus raised from the dead. Or about Martha, busy in the kitchen while Mary, anointed Jesus’ feet. However embedded in the Lazarus story is a great message about effective ministry. John 12:11: “…the high priests plotted to kill Lazarus because so many of the Jews were going over and believing in Jesus on account of him.” Poor Lazarus died, got raised to life, only to face death threats! Here’s the point: Sometimes, in ministry, it feels like that. God blesses your work and religious leaders come out of the woodwork trying to nail you. The more effective you are at mission, the more criticism you will draw.
Help write my new book and provide me feedback on this article. Please comment below! – Kent