Tag Archives: ministry

Lessons from Leadership Struggles

Trying to form a theologically diverse community – harder than I thought…


“The way of the cross.” or “Why you shouldn’t run toward a firing squad.”

When we remember Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection, it is tempting to get caught up in an over-exuberant faithfulness toward self-denial, embracing the Way of the Cross, that verges on a full-fledged Messiah Complex.

  • Yes, we are called to a life of self-denial. *
  • Yes, we are called to “take up your cross and follow me.” *
  • Yes, we are promised that we will only find life in our journey of releasing. *
    * Luke 9:23-24

And Yes, Jesus entered Jerusalem that final week and seemingly did everything he could to get himself crucified. He stirred up trouble with every group of religious leaders, and then refused to defend himself when given the opportunity. (Mark 11-15) It could be tempting to follow his example.

(Thanks to crosstippedchurches.blogspot.com)

Thanks to crosstippedchurches.blogspot.com


Remember that numerous times Jesus avoided conflict and trouble, slipping away from the crowd rather than letting them take him to martyrdom. At the wedding in Cana he initially declined to intervene (John 2). In Nazareth the crowd was inflamed and sought to throw him off a cliff, but he slipped away (Luke 4). His brothers invited him to join them in Jerusalem and he said no, and then went alone, secretly (John 7:10). He repeatedly tells people not to reveal who he is. He says this to the disciples (Matthew 17), those he heals (Mark 7), and even to the demons (Mark 1).

Jesus had likely visited Jerusalem numerous times and seen the terrible things taking place in the Temple but said nothing. He likely witnessed many forms of oppression and violence without intervening. This does not mean that he condoned these things, or that we should. It seems to suggest that he had a very clear sense of his own calling and purpose, and that he would not let anything derail that –

16 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, 19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  (Luke 4)

Jesus’ public ministry lasted for three years, and he was an adult leader in his community for 15 years prior to that. He had innumerable opportunities to embrace his destiny on the cross, and he let them pass by, because “his time had not come.” (John 7) When his time finally did come, he knew, and walked with faithfulness and hope, into Jerusalem and ultimately to Golgotha. But even then, this was an end he neither desired nor sought. He had no death wish, no need to be a martyr, no longing for the glory among humans or the honor from heaven that comes with laying down one’s life. Not until he recognized the time had come for God’s plan to unfold did he, willingly if regretfully, yield to those who sought to destroy the kingdom, “taking it by force.” (Matthew 11:12)

So, whatever else Holy Week means to you, don’t get confused into thinking that God wants you to martyr yourself for the cause. In the vast majority of cases you are far more likely to be of use and service to God’s kingdom by staying alive, by living humbly and quietly and graciously with a passion for justice and a love for all people that expresses the love and peace you have found in God.

Taking up your cross and following him is not about literally getting yourself killed, at least not for most of us. It is about the many little self-denials and rejections that we experience and embrace because Christ calls us to something that the world does not understand nor know that it needs.


Where are all the Millenials?

Look around the sanctuary. What do you see? A few handfuls of children with their parents, a dozen youth and their sponsors, and scores of empty-nesters and retirees. Mostly gray, white or bald heads everywhere you turn.  Now of course there is nothing wrong with having lots of older folks in church. And depending on the community, this might be a sign of real vitality. Clearly, a church adjacent to several active senior living and retirement communities will want to have a vibrant ministry to these neighbors. Unfortunately, many congregations look this way even though they are surrounded by families with children and youth in the adjoining districts. What then?

Where are all the young adults, single or married with children? Who is reaching them, and how? What are these congregations doing (or what are they not doing) that is making a connection. One church consultant has been known to ask congregations, “Are your grandchildren in church?” and when the answer comes back a strong and pain-filled, “No.” He follows by asking, “What would you be willing to do to provide a place for them, where they wanted to be?” “Anything!”

Institute for Vital Ministry exists to connect congregations and leaders facing such challenges with those who are also on the journey, and are having success. We will help you know where to turn, and even facilitate the learning process for you through conferences, on-sites and immersion trips. Practitioners who work with us are excited to share what they know, recognizing that there is always more to learn, and that we are better together.

The ministry you have to offer is inside you. You may just need some help drawing it out and believing that it is worth offering.

Who is my neighbor?

A congregation of generous, warm, and loving folks sits in a neighborhood that has changed around it. In decades past many of the congregation’s active participants lived within walking distance, but over time the community transitioned, and now most of the folks in the pews come in from other parts of town. The congregation is also aging, and the members and staff are trying to figure out how to connect with their new neighbors. They say to themselves:

“We don’t know where we fit in the world anymore.”

(To tell the truth, many also don’t make meaningful faith connections with the people in the communities where they now live either. Is that the same problem, or a different but related one?)This congregation has read books and some of the folks have even attended conferences and workshops. They hear lots of great ideas, and get inspired to do amazing things for God. But somehow, when they get back home, they struggle to connect the ideas with where and how they really live. And all that energy and enthusiasm they felt with the hundreds of others who gathered for training – somehow they can’t manage to keep up that level of passion. They feel that they are letting down each other, their neighbors, and God.  The questions come:

  • How do we connect with our community?
  • How do we get to know them?
  • Who do they need us to be here?
  • What is God calling us to do here?
  • What should we do next?

The Institute for Vital Ministry exists to partner with the staff AND participants of this congregation – those who are asking these questions, but don’t know where to turn, and may even be afraid of the answers they might find.

We bring together agencies, institutes, organizations and practitioners to form collaborative partnerships that facilitate contextual learning in a trusted community of companion travelers on the journey of discovery and transformation.

iVM will help you engage, equip, and extend your ever deepening faith out into the community and world around you. Get in touch and let’s learn together.