Posted on April 1, 2020
The realities have set in. The grief curve is moving deep towards the bottom. The evidence is everywhere. Personally, I am hearing from pastors, helping churches and dealing with Christians where desperation and frustration have set in.
The macro-social dynamics reveal the evidence. The divorce rate in China is skyrocketing. The cause? To little money, too much screen time, too much conflict, too little communication about expectations, and uneven division of housework and childcare. Remote therapy has surged in America. Early indications are there are not enough counselors to help those who are crying out in pain for help. Domestic abuse calls have surged. Physical abuse, emotional abuse, and relational break downs are all occurring.
The five stages of grief inform us about the difficulty of the situation. Depression is what we can expect to see for the foreseeable future. (The diagram below is from a resource called ReThink provided by the Corpus team. It explains the stages of grief people and organizations are going through during the current crisis).
Is there anywhere we can turn for help? Psalm 121.1-2 says, I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come? My help comes from the LORD. . .
The desperation is real. And even unexpected voices are encouraging people to turn to God. The governor of Mississippi led his state in prayer on TV. A CNN news anchor ask a Christian pastor to pray on air. Hollywood entertainers are online telling people to turn to Jesus and read the Bible. A businessman stood in the Rose Garden and preached the Gospel with the President standing beside him. The Prime Minister of Australia, one of the world’s most secular countries, is leading viewers in prayer on television. Things must be really bad, and they are. In times of disorientation we find our Re-orientation in the Lord.
One of the places many are turning for help is to the book of Psalms. I have noticed more pastors preaching from the Psalms, more posts on social media quoting the Psalms, many governmental officials appealing to the Psalms. And many churches are reading from the Psalms during their online services. People are seeking to give comfort, hope, direction, understanding and more to their listeners. I think the Psalms are the perfect place to turn in these disorienting times.
It was Walter Brueggemann in his groundbreaking book, The Message of the Psalms, that provides one of the most meaningful and simplest outlines for understanding the Psalms. Brueggemann identifies 3 types of Psalms in the cyclical nature of the human experience. According to Brueggemann there are Psalms of Orientation, Psalms of Disorientation, and Psalms of Re-Orientation.
While the Psalms of Orientation are a distant memory right now, most people can relate to the Psalms of Disorientation. Let me give my own outline to the Psalms of Disorientation. What we are facing is disorder leading to disruption, leading to disorientation, resulting in discouragement and for some even disillusionment.
It is at this low point of disorientation where the human heart recognizes it is empty and hurting, and it is powerless and helpless. We realize we cannot control the outcome of the crisis. We are not in charge of the circumstances. The thin veneer of human control is shattered, and we are asking existential questions about life’s meaning? what do I truly believe? and where if anywhere can I turn for help? This is life’s most vulnerable moment; however, it is spiritual life’s most valuable moment.
It is here where the Psalms really can help us! As Brueggemann says, “the Psalms of Disorientation teach us how to talk to God in our desperation.” The Psalms reveal it is ok to be angry, frustrated, and hurt. It is ok to vent these feelings and fears to God. It is ok to wrestle with these issues.
You/I are not the first to do this. As a matter of fact, every generation must have this moment, or they are doomed to live a shallow insignificant life. This season of suffering has been called the dark night of the soul, and it is a place where God does some of His very best work. We learn to walk by faith and not by sight. We learn the world is broken and we come face to face with the fact that we are broken too. We like Job sit in our sorry and gain a much better and more realistic view of the world we live in and the life we live.
Thankfully, for the believer, disorientation is not the last word! There is a coming Re-orientation for those who will put their hope in God. Psalm 73 was King David’s ultimate re-orientation. In light of his troubles, he makes his way into the presence of God confessing “his foot had almost slipped.” But when he comes to the Lord and finds spiritual reorientation, his “bitterness melts away and his hope surges.” He confesses his faith and trust in God, “Whom have I in heaven but you? and besides You I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Here are the 4 things David teaches us that come with our spiritual Re:Orientation:
Philippians 2.5-11 was Brueggemann’s inspiration for his three-fold outline of the Psalms. Paul reveals the ultimate gospel orientation when Jesus Himself went through this cycle of orientation, disorientation, and re-orientation and He came out on the other side victorious.
help us make sense of what we are feeling.
teach us how to talk to God in these times of frustration.
assist us in pouring out in human language all of the thoughts, feelings, and hurts that that flood the heart and mind.
speak to the topics every person faces during their life as they experience celebration, suffering, surprise, and survival.
reveal the hidden thoughts and emotions of the human heart.
and lay our hearts before God so we can understand our feelings in light of the eternal God.
Happy Reorientation Day as you read the Psalms!
Visit: www.drrobpeters.com for more resources.Leave a Comment
Posted on March 31, 2020
One of the greatest problems in American Evangelicalism is that we have forsaken the character – competence leadership model and perpetuated a charisma-based leadership model in its place.
Many refer to the charisma-based leadership model as the cult of personality. This charisma-based model is defined as an individual using media, the spectacle, the arts, patriotism, or rallies to create an idealized, heroic, and even worshipful image of themselves in order to gain influence over others.
Unfortunately, the charisma model of leadership is being used and abused far too often among Christian leaders. Many Christians have fallen victim to these charismatic personalities and come under the sway of their tools. I too have fallen victim to this model and even perpetuated it out of naivety and ambition, but I have found freedom from its slavery and insight from a better biblical model.
It is normal and even good for young pastors to have respect for their fathers in the ministry who have gone before them. Young pastors emulate those who have taught them in ministry. In some ways this is how we learn. The Apostle Paul did say, “Follow me as I follow the Lord.” The lesson I learned as I struggled with the charismatic model of leadership was to be careful who you emulate and to be cautious about why you emulate them. I also learned there is a point at which you must be true to yourself and to the calling God has upon you. Most of all your motives must be pure before God, and you must set aside your desire to seek great things for yourself and instead seek glory for God alone. This is much more difficult to do than to write. This requires deep refining and difficult personal examination.
I remember when I began to formulate a Character-Competence based leadership model. I was preaching chapel at “my” seminary, and the president of the seminary was speaking with me in the “green room” prior to the service. He was making excuses for why chapel attendance and enrollment had been so low for some time. During our somewhat awkward conversation, I talked with him about the need for pastors to learn skills that helped them be effective in ministry. He shocked me by stating, “I do not believe leadership can be taught – either the Man of God is ‘anointed’ or he is not.” The more I explored his thoughts on leadership the more clearly, I saw this the “MOG” syndrome being played out in my denomination. The Man of God approach says follow me, and I will use my personality, image, and persona to lead and gain influence. After all I have been “chosen” and “anointed” and that is all I need to lead.
I am not dismissing the calling of God or the anointing of God, but what I am saying is that charisma in comparison to character and competence has become way out of balance in most churches. It took me a while to formulate my thoughts biblically, but here is how I outline them:
1. The greatest leaders in the Bible were not recognized for their charisma. 2. The faithful leaders in the Bible are celebrated for their character and competence. 3. The church desperately needs more Character-Competence based leaders today. Let me speak to each of these briefly:
First, the greatest leaders in the Bible were not recognized for their charisma. As a matter of fact, we are told explicitly their charisma was not what attracted people to them. Consider three leaders from the Bible. It was said of the Apostle Paul in First Corinthians 10.10, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his personal presence is unimpressive and his speech contemptible.” Isaiah prophesied about Jesus in Isaiah 53.2, “For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.” And poor David embodied such poor leadership possibilities in his father’s mind that he was completely overlooked as being a potential candidate for leadership.
It is very clear that appearance and charisma was not what set Jesus, the Apostle Paul and King David apart. It was something other than their charisma that made them useful in God’s work.
Second, what is it that sets a servant of God apart? Faithful biblical leaders are celebrated for their character and competence. David is probably the most succinct example of this. It is said of him in Psalm 79.72, “He shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart and guided them with his skillful hands.” David is a celebrated leader because of his character and his competence. This is further exemplified in First Timothy and Titus where Paul highlights the “Qualifications” for elders and deacons. In both lists the character – competence continuum is highlighted and what is noticeably absent is charisma. Things like faith, courage, obedience, love, and hope stick out on the character side of the equation. Things like discipline, honesty, trustworthiness, transparency, communication skills, organizational abilities, administrative insights stick out on the competency side of the equation. Again, charisma is noticeable absent.
Finally, what the church desperately needs today is to recover the Character-Competence based leadership model the Bible teaches. Churches need pastors who shepherd with integrity of heart and guide them with skillfulness of hand. This means discipling pastors in spiritual formation that develops Christlikeness and training pastors in the necessary skills sets to lead in the church effectively.
Let me close by sharing the 7 potential impacts if the church were to recover the Character-Competence based leadership model:
To learn more about competency based leadership visit corpusvitae.org
To learn more about the competencies of a skilled overseer, a wise elder and a transformational shepherd you can take the Pastoral Readiness Assessment as a 360 degree assessment to see how you can develop in the Character-Competence based leadership model.Leave a Comment
Posted on March 27, 2020
The Corpus Team has worked with over 1,000 churches in the last three years in the area of church revitalization. We have worked with churches from many denominations across 4 continents and with churches from 20 US states. Compiling the meta-data reveals there are 3 reasons why church revitalization does not occur when revitalizations efforts are undertaken: Culture, Competency, and Chemistry, and there are benchmarks in each of these.
Culture – Church culture is by far the primary reason why churches cannot be revitalized. A full 60 percent of the time existing church culture is responsible for the failure of revitalization. A lot is being written about toxic leadership right now. With what has happened to two of the most notable churches in Chicago-land and the high profile nature of their pastors, this is an easy target these days. What is not being talked about or at least is not getting the attention of the Christian media or social media mob is the TOXIC Church Culture.
The reality is that it is a lot easier to point to one person on a stage and identify them as the responsible party than it is to point at all the people in the seats who are holding the pastor hostage and contributing negatively to the overall tone of the church.
What out team sees in toxic church culture are congregations: Going through the motions instead of living life on mission, Living in fear not living with courage, Being inflexible instead of being adaptive, and Being negative and cynical instead of living with joy. Of course there is more but you get the idea. Our team sees a lot of Toxic Shock Culture that pastors have been ask to “turn around, ” but when it comes to giving the pastor permission and support to lead the church to be effective and relevant there is more resistance than support. Our team has developed the above assessment that measures the nine most critical aspects of a church’s culture that reveals the likelihood that it can be revitalized. There are benchmarks that indicate the likelihood of success.
Competency – Thirty percent of revitalization pastors give tangible evidence that they do not have the necessary skills to lead a church revitalization. Lets be honest pastors are ask to perform a broad range of functions and be an expert in many fields. It is a challenging task. Numerous surveys of pastors indicate that pastors overwhelmingly feel like seminary or Bible college did not prepare them for the realities of ministry they face. The joke is “I must have missed the class where they taught us to _________ (you fill in the blank). Honestly this has been a joke for over 30 years, maybe it is time for a seminary to do something about this. Our team at Corpus is trying to help pastors learn, develop, and practice the skills necessary to lead well and to lead in revitalization. Below you will find a figure we use to measure the revitalization skills of a pastor.
Our model is built on the Overseer concept in the Bible. Both Peter and Paul exhort the pastoral teams they were leading to Oversee the church as a faithful steward (See Acts 20 and 1 Peter 5). In 1 Peter 2 Jesus is called the Great Overseer of our soul. Jesus is portrayed as a TYPE OF OVERSEER. The typology holds true in the Old Testament through 3 characters – Joseph, Josiah and Nehemiah all of whom were called overseers or Oversaw those they appointed as overseers. Joseph is the Vision caster. Josiah is the strategist. Nehemiah is the Culture curator. (See related blog post). All three led in a time of revitalization.
Our team has fully developed the nine biblical skillsets a revitalization under the headings: Wise Elder, Skilled Overseer, and Transformational Shepherd. We have also developed an assessment tool as a 360 degree assessment that helps a pastor honestly assess their capacities to lead a revitalization.
Chemistry – The final category for failed revitalization is chemistry. About 10 percent of the time the chemistry between a pastor and a congregation is just not right. The pastor struggles to understand the people and the people struggle to accept the pastor. Our team finds that when chemistry is the issue there are struggles for both the pastor and the people. The words spoken are rarely understood property. Love is given and receive on different terms. Leadership expectations are different. Bed side manner does not resonate, etc. When this occurs it is best for both parties to gain an appreciation for one another, the gifts God has given them and the skills and resources entrusted to them. Our assessment tools help pastors stop pointing the finger at the church and the church to stop pointing their finger at the pastor. When mutual understanding and appreciation are born, the likelihood of revitalization dramatically increases.
What is the secret of a good revitalization effort? A wise elder, a skilled overseer, and a transformational shepherd leading in a church that is self aware of who it is and what it needs to become. If you would like to know more about the Vision Receptivity Assessment (Culture), the Pastoral Readiness Assessment (Competency) or the Merging of the two assessments (Chemistry) visit the Corpus website and click on Assessments or just click here!
Posted on March 26, 2020
Thinking the Covid-19 disruption could help the church might sound strange or even devious at first. But consider that the church in North America has not been doing all that well for the past decade, and you may ReThink the opportunity the crisis presents to the church.
Since upwards of 80% of churches have plateaued or are declining, you have to conclude most churches have been stuck in patterns of irrelevance and insignificance for a long time. Many pastors have been challenging the existing culture within their church, but have found their churches resistant to change. But now . . . change has been forced upon the church. The forced disruption from Covid-19, social distancing, quarantining, etc. at first caused pastors to react, but now the ongoing reality is causing pastors to ReThink how they do ministry. This is not a bad thing!
Pastors started by ReThinking how they streamed their Sunday morning worship service. But as time is progressing pastors, staffs, and church leaders are ReThinking everything. They are ReThinking how discipleship is resourced and practiced. Pastors are ReThinking how they are mobilizing people for missional engagement. Churches are ReThinking how they communicate to and care for their congregations. Church leaders are ReThinking how they meet and make decisions.
Now marry these two ideas: God disrupted our everyday lives and the church in North America needed to be disrupted. Could God be up to something NEW here? I think He is, allow me to speculate a little about people, churches and pastors.
God has never wasted the crisis! It was Henry Blackaby that termed the concept “Crisis of Belief” in Experiencing God, and he taught us how God intentionally brings His people to the crisis moment in order to cause them to act in faith and Rediscover who He is. God has caused people to turn to him in faith through crisis. He has transformed people through their crisis. He has changed people’s perspective through the crisis. He has revealed Himself through the crisis, and so much more. Churches, pastors, Christians, don’t waste the crisis. Let this be the moment for this generation when we rediscover and recommit to the mission of the church.
Ps 34.17-20 says, “When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.16 Comments
Posted on March 25, 2020
Having led three churches and having led through three different significant disruptions, I know the challenges and the stresses that crisis can create for local churches. When multiple hurricane events in a single hurricane season caused massive disruption to both church and school ministries, our team had to figure out a way to lead through recovery while doing ministry within the crisis. Years later our team had to lead the church through a fire catastrophe that rendered a building unusable for ministry. In 2008-2009 our team lead a church through the financial crisis in a community where 25% of the home owners experienced foreclosures and home prices collapsed creating a financial crisis for the church. Make no mistake these were significant challenges, however, the current challenge is more of a combination of all 3 crisis occurring within a single event and it is not a regional event it is a global event.
Here is what you can be assured of: God is still on His throne, He has not changed, and His mission is still the same. He has even orchestrated events so that this crisis can be used to further His kingdom agenda if we will pursue Him and His desires. The crisis is even filled with potential. The crisis holds the possibility of recapturing our attention, refocusing us on what is important, and rethinking ministry beyond the crisis. I will write about these issues in the days to come. Today I want to Focus on YOU! You can’t lead through the challenge and you can’t be creative and passionate if you or your team are running on empty! You must take care of yourself and you must take care of your team.
When I faced my first crisis, a direct hit from a major hurricane, I thought once the hurricane passed, the crisis would be over. It was not! The crisis had only just begun. It was the hardest year of ministry I ever faced and it never seemed to end. I was not prepared for the toll it would take on me and the effects it would have on my team. During challenging times, wise and experienced leaders know self-care and team care are of upmost importance. If you or your team members become burned out, spent, or overwhelmed, you will not be able to be fully used by God and you will have little to give to those in need. Below you will find a few questions good leaders continually ask in the midst of the crisis.
Am I fostering my spiritual life through prayer, Bible reading and solitude? John 15 reminds us that we must abide in the vine if we are going to bear much fruit and if that fruit is going to remain. There is nothing more important as you face a crisis than remain “in Christ.” This will be the source of your personal peace and strength through the crisis.
Am I caring for my immediate family and closest friends? If the crisis becomes a family crisis, the focus will rightly shift from the ministry to the home. This will prevent the mission of the ministry from advancing. When it comes to caring for your family at home, use the “ounce of prevention rule.”
Am I taking time to be relationally recharged? Take time for people especially people who fuel your heart and mind. Don’t neglect phone calls from people you love. Stop to interact with people who encourage you. You don’t need all outflows and zero inflows.
Am I taking time to be alone to think? It is easy to get into a reaction mode. It is better to step back and posture yourself in a strategic mode. This does not have to take a long time, but it does require thoughtful consideration regarding the BIG issues. The ReThink resource is designed to help you do just this (https://corpusvitae.org/pdf/)
Am I turning off the world to gain a long-term perspective? In a crisis most leaders only think short-term. The crisis moment is one of the best times to think long-term. The crisis offers an opportunity to embrace changes that would have taken years to activate. But because the crisis necessitates it, the change can be made now.
Am I eating, sleeping, exercising, and drinking enough water? The emotional intensity of the crisis is hard to measure hourly or daily, only time will reveal the real toll it is taking. Paul may have born the marks of the gospel outwardly on his skin, but you are probably more likely to bear the marks inwardly through your blood pressure, heart rhythms, and mental health that can lead to health issues, depression and withdrawal. Caring for your physical body is essential for you to be present for the long-haul of the crisis.
Am I allowing others to speak into my life? You need to be talking to others who do what you do and hear from them the feelings they have, the thoughts they are thinking and the responses they are taking. You will discover you are not alone and you will learn many insightful ways to cope with the crisis and face the challenges before you. Some times you just need to verbalize to another human being what you are experiencing and experisnce the situation through their perspective.
Am I considering that one day in the future the crisis will be over? This too shall pass. You will one day look back on the current crisis with perspective and insights. It will be one of the biggest learning experiences you have ever had. Realize today, this crisis will not last forever. Say it out loud, “THIS WILL NOT LAST FOREVER!” Say it to your spouse, your kids, your leaders. “IT WILL NOT LAST FOREVER!” There don’t you feel better already knowing this will end?
Am I remembering that God is in charge and He ultimately will be the one who solves the crisis? This is a very freeing thought! I am not God. I can’t be God. I can’t do what only God can do. Isaiah 46.9-10 says, “I alone am God! There are no other gods; no one is like me. Think about what happened many years ago. 10 From the very beginning, I told what would happen long before it took place. I kept my word!
Visit the Corpus Website at http://www.corpusvitae.organd click the ReThink button to learn more.Leave a Comment