Archive for January, 2009



   Posted by: pastordiehl    in The Church and Change

When a church first begins, the number one focus is people. So all our effort, finances, and time goes to reach people and get them in there. Once we’ve got a few people, the focus begins to change to caring for the people we’ve won, including a building, childcare, ministry opportunities, etc. The values of the church have now moved from evangelism to management. The church’s effort, finances, and time must now change to take care of the people who are there. And the new evangelistic church has lost its evangelistic focus. It happens in the best of churches.

If a church is to keep its “balance” as it matures, it must find a way to keep its eyes on both evangelism (reaching new people), and management (facilitating people we already have) at the same time. Both are critical to a healthy church. Otherwise, the natural evolution within any church will cause it to turn inward upon itself. 

Have you seen this happen in a church? Tell me about it.

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   Posted by: pastordiehl    in The Church and Change

Most of us know that our church used to be a non-instrumental Church of Christ. When the elders asked me to be their pastor, I told them I would only do so if we made major changes, beginning with approval of By-Laws and establishing a membership. How did I lead this church through these changes with virtually no opposition?

For starters, the leaders had seen the failed system fail. They were ready for some stability. You see, the Church of Christ believed in a congregational government, meaning a democracy where everyone had an equal say. They also did not believe in a membership. Therefore, when problems came up, they called a congregational meeting to vote on it, and whoever brought the most friends and neighbors won! People showed up who had never attended before.

That’s wrong and they all knew it. The only logical fix was to establish a membership roster to identify who the legitimate voters would be. And By-Laws simply spelled out how we would do business in our church. It was common sense stuff and everyone agreed.

Every church should have a membership roster kept updated and workable By-Laws that close loopholes that give Satan a foothold to destroy what God wants to do. Because I had already proven myself by being a faithful lay person in the same church for eight years, the elders trusted me and approved every change I suggested. But I had to earn that right.

Of course, the church had already been through a split, eliminating those who didn’t want the change, and the remaining people were weary of the backbiting. That set up the possibility for the changes that allowed our church to grow over the next two decades. Only a handfull of people remain who can remember those agonizing days back in 1980, but I am eternally grateful for their trust and support.

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   Posted by: pastordiehl    in The Church and Change

Several years ago the pastor of a church in a neighboring community and I were visiting. He had come from a rather large church which was led by his Senior Pastor. He had been accepted as the pastor of a church with an elder-led system. He had been their pastor only about two months and was complaining about how the Board thought it was their job to tell him what to do. I just listened.

He announced his plan to change the governmental system of this church so that it became a pastor-led church. He was insistent that only his way was the scriptural way to govern a church. I encouraged him to slow down and give this transition time, but he was adamant that the Board step down. Sure enough, he lead a challenge publicly to change the governmental structure of the church. And within the month he was moving back home to Michigan, fired from his position.

He may have been correct about the scriptural way a church should be governed, but he was too new to be trusted, and had not gained sufficient clout to influence the people. He was without a job and the church was without a pastor. He tried to change the value system of that church and didn’t give it the time necessary.

Have you seen sad stories like this?

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   Posted by: pastordiehl    in The Church and Change

It is evident that established churches are resistant to change. Why is that?

1. These people are content and do not see a need to change things. They think all is well.

2. These people prefer the status quo. Change will cost money and take work.

3. These people have vested interests. They have sacrificed to build the church to where it is and don’t want to surrender what they’ve worked for.

4. These people are cautious in trusting new leadership who have not proven themselves. This is the number one problem with denominations that relocate pastors every two or three years.

5. These people have a tendency to grant to old values and traditions a sacred quality that is not realistic. Over time they become organizational sacred cows.

6. These people tend to be self-centered. They cease to look outward and only focus inwardly, caring for their own needs. Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5 are an example of people who only look out for themselves.

In his book Managing By Values, Ken Blanchard says four times that it takes two to three years for values to change in a church. If a church changes leaders every two to three years, it will be impossible for that church to ever change.

Can you add to this list of why it is difficult for established churches to change?

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   Posted by: pastordiehl    in The Church and Change

When a pastor starts a church plant from scratch, his values become the values of the church. Those who join after automatically see him/her as the leader and adopt his/her values. When a pastor takes an invitation to shepherd an existing church, it can take three years before he earns the right to begin to persuade a church with established values to change, and usually longer. That’s why church growth experts say the most effective way to reach new converts is through a church plant. So why don’t we all just leave our churches and start new ones?

For starters, its a lot more expensive to start over. Secondly, we have deep relationships with the members of the old church. Thirdly, God has called us to unite and not divide (split). Fourthly, our kids are watching our example and need to see stability in God’s church. Fifthly, its a waste of the church’s resources to keep reinventing the wheel. Sixthly, the man/woman who starts the new church may actually just be rebelling against the spiritual authority God has placed him/her under.

What’s the solution? Find out what the values of the church are early on and see if you agree. If so, support it. If not, don’t even begin to get involved there, because you will eventually be disappointed. At New Hope, what you see is what you get.

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   Posted by: pastordiehl    in The Church and Change

America is changing. And has been. The United States population has moved from 20% urban in 1870, to 40% in 1900, to 70% in 1980, and now 90% urban in 2000. This radical shift in lifestyle has affected every corner of America. Consider the following differences listed by author Aubrey Malphurs:

Rural Communities Urban Communities
Status quo Change
Sameness Diversity
Harmony Conflict Management
Smallness Bigness
Established Mobile

These attitudes affect ministry in all denominations. Churches which were established by Rural-minded people are now frustrated trying to reach Urban-minded people. Church leaders cannot keep the church as it once was, but must minister to the new attitudes in our culture. And young pastors of these Rural-minded churches must understand the dynamics of the church they are shepherding or it will rapidly end in a split.

What is your own experience in this change of attitudes in America? Or do you disagree with Malphurs’ assumption?

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   Posted by: pastordiehl    in Uncategorized

When a team of Christians visited Stavropol, Russia, in 1994 to hand out Bibles, a local citizen said he recalled seeing Bibles in an old warehouse. They had been confiscated in the 1930s when Stalin was sending believers to the gulags. Amazingly, the Bibles were still there.

Among those who showed up to load them into trucks was a young agnostic student just wanting to earn a day’s wage. But soon he slipped away from the job to steal a Bible. A team member went looking for him and found him sitting in a corner weeping.

Out of hundreds of Bibles, he had picked up one that bore the handwritten signature of his own grandmother. Persecuted for her faith, she had no doubt prayed often for her family and her city. God used that grandmother’s Bible to convict that young man.

The language of the Spirit is coincidence. Do you have a coincidental story relating to a Bible?

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