Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Question for Church Leaders

If you knew that there was a direction that you needed to steer your flock...a vision that would increase the level of spirituality, the prayer lives of your members, outreach in your community, service to the poor and oppressed, and deeper commitments to discipleship...
You knew that you would lose 15-20% of your congregation because the vision seems too radical...

Would you follow through with the theological commitment?


Anonymous said...

If it violated neither scripture nor conscience (i.e. avoided the ditches to the left or right), I would at least be interested in hearing more about it.
Do you have such a plan?

Josh Ross said...

No plan. Just curious. Would we choose numbers over deeper commitments to discipleship?

I am not suggesting that churches dream dreams that will run people off. :)

Rick Ross said...

"a vision that would increase the level of spirituality" and "deeper commitments to discipleship" takes this statement out of the realm of my opinion verses your opinion -- if those things would truly be accomplished in the process.

Jesus seemed to be much more concerned about quality of discipleship than He did about quantity.

Josh Graves said...

That's RCC's story. We gained almost the same number we lost...but these folks were jaded, non-Christian, or post-Christian folks.

"Give me twelve disciples over a thousand people just hanging around any day of the week," Rabbi Randy Harris.


phil said...

“If you knew that there was a direction that you needed to steer your flock...”

Perhaps the hardest concept to grasp in your post is this: “knowing” the direction your flock needs to go. As I’m sure you’re already aware, it can be so easy for a preacher who has so many sincere directions and so much enthusiasm to intertwine and confuse passion for God’s plan for a church. This conversation is still one I ponder over: Unity seems to be of top priority in scripture, but so does living out our inheritance day to day. If a leader or leaders decide to make such a decision, it would be wise to prepare for growing pains. Thanks for the thoughts….


Josh Ross said...

Rick, you're right on...quantity does not equal quality.

Graves, I love RCC even though I've only been there once. Thanks for the Harris quote.

Phil, couldn't agree more...unity and daily-Christ-like-living trumps many things. You also hit on another great point--discerning a/the vision is a daunting task which takes much prayer, seeking, listening...

Chris said...

The elders are the shepherds of the flock so they should be doing the steering.

Luke said...

I a church continues without any vision or direction, what is the point? A church that is held hostage by fear of upsetting people has bigger problems than losing 20% of their members.

Josh Ross said...

Chris, I know what you are saying and I love working with shepherds...but your statement contradicts itself. (Folks in the C of C often use the same language).

Shepherds lead. They don't steer. Cowboys steer. Shepherds affirm, bless, pray, encourage, ignite... and just as imporantly, they empower people to dream dreams.

Luke, appreciate your words

James Wood said...

I may be biased, but I would say that this doesn't need to be an either/or proposition. Why not try church planting? You could take 10-20% of the church and go and start a new congregation. Church planting has always been the best and most effective way to spread the gospel.

I think that we've lost the place in the church for apostolic and prophetic leadership. Ephesians 4:11 talks about the leaders of the church and they are the shepherds (pastors) as well as the preachers, teachers, the prophets and the apostles. They are all necessary for the health of the church.

Just to avoid some of the arguments that may come up - I believe that the word apostle should translate into something like missionary and that prophets are those that speak the message of God to the people.

We've sent our apostles over seas to do mission work in foreign countries, but we haven't allowed them to be apostolic leaders in the church in the US. So now the mission field has come to us. There are African churches sending missionaries to the US because they have heard about how unchurched it is.

Click here for more (if you aren't bored yet).

Josh Ross said...

Hey bro, this is all about dialogue and I appreciate your voice. I often write out of a church context because that is my experience, but I never want it to sound like an either/or conversation.

I applaud church planting. It is healthy...it is thriving. Some of my very best friends in ministry have either planted churches or are in the process of planting churches and it is EXCITING!!!

And, the fact that Africans (along with other countries) are sending missionaries over here is a wonderful sign of what God is doing around the world.

James, when you have a minute, email me at joshross15@gmail.com and tell me a little bit more about your story. I'd love to hear it.

Missy Robinson said...

I would be cautious in predicting that a certain percentage of a congregation would leave... I mean, anytime something new is proposed by a leader, it certainly has to be done in a very measured and prayerful manner - and that starts by knowing your audience through the relationships that you have. If you already expect to lose people, then you will (that whole self-fulfilling prophecy thing)... on the other hand, if you are connected with the people in such a way that you are able to communicate the message (vision) in a manner that will resonate with them and if you have the expectation that they will of course catch the vision, then you might just be surprised that your positive expectation set the tone. I guess what I am saying is to just give everyone in the audience a chance to embrace the new vision.

Josh Ross said...

Wouldn't it be great to have this conversation over some Olive Garden with you, Jeff, me and Kayci? :)

The way that a vision is presented to people is paramount. From including voices, to hearing stories, to praying our hearts out, to articulating why we feel this is the call of God, to one-on-one conversations, to Life/Small Group conversations, from days of fasting to being formed through Scripture. The entire "vision" process is demanding.

Josh Ross said...

This post was just a thought. There are no hidden motives or agendas behind it.

Here's the truth--many American churches are driven by the 3 B's: Buildings, budgets, and baptisms. These 3 things sometimes trump everything else. Sometimes we are hesitant to follow through with a call from God because we might lose a family or two, and if we lose families we lose money...therefore we don't do anything.
We (the people of God) shouldn't be about thinking of visions that can drive people away, but we are called to be about calling people to authentic lives of faithful discipleship, and when this happens, there are people who will decide not to follow. (Perfect example--John 6:60-66)

Rick Ross said...

Great summary thoughts, Josh.

Steve Dye said...

Josh -

I believe that church leaders who view each member of the flock as a precious, priceless soul are more likely to ask, "How can we shepherd all of the souls our Father has entrusted to us, bring in that many again and more through local evangelism and unite them all as one in Christ?"

Our Father is more than able to accomplish that. He still desires that every soul be reconciled to Him through Jesus.

Bozo said...


I am so glad you are at SVC. I truly hope that you have a vision (I don't believe it's an agenda) for how you should steer the flock there - and I praise God for that.

CofC written history states that you aren't the one to steer at all - that is the role of the shepherds. Presumably, your role isn't to lead at all - but rather to teach/visit/encourage/counsel/mediate.

We find that history has actually played out differently than was planned in the CofC - showing that it is in fact the "pulpit guy" who does the steering - in many cases under great co-leadership with the elders.

From Abilene to York, you have now assumed the unassigned role of Elder, Pastor, Presbyter, Shepherd and Leader of Sycamore View Church - congratulations!

If it happens that you lose 15-20% quickly - don't be discouraged - praise God!. You implied that you feel it's a theological commitment...if it is, don't grieve the Holy Spirit. Man-up.

The 15-20% you "lose" won't be "lost" - they'll go to Bartlett Woods, Highland or Grace Crossing and continue "escaping through the flames...". They will get their reward, but sadly, they will have missed the point. Don't let them bring down the remaining 80-85 % that God has placed on your heart.

Don&Betty Litton said...

Establishing or redefining a "vision" for a church require 3 things of servant-leaders it seems to me.
First, is the difficult process of determining 'Where is God leading us as a church to go?'.
Second, what are our strengths and weakness as a congregation in accomplishing what we feel God is asking us to do.
Third, is the congregation as a whole ready to go there.

If so, and we are convinced that God is leading, then we must commit knowing that a small percentage may be unhappy with the choice. We do our best to help those uncomfortable with the vision to understand why we feel it is necessary. They then have the responsibility to either join the effort or determine another course of action.

If not, and servant-leadership is still convinced this is where God wants us to go, then we spend the necessary time to prepare the congregation and then proceed.

kcox said...

About the above entry.
My short answer is yes. I believe churches have been held back for decades be the fear that someone will be unhappy, so let do nothing. If we ignore it long enough, things will work out.
A longer answer is--
I am not interested in running people off but I also realize that you can't please EVERYONE EVER. I believe if the vision is where we need to go, we should first work toward educating the body to help them share the vision then move on understanding that there are many churches in the area that are willing to just keep the peace.

I may be way off but I say get the herd off stop and on down the trail.

I am convinced you are the man that God has chosen to lead us where He wants us to go.

Am I pushing too hard?