Saturday, February 18, 2012

I Hear a Symphony, Leadership Series Part II

This is the second in a series of blogs talking about leadership and in particular church leadership. This blog deals with how leaders should empower the membership of the church. 

Last week I had the pleasure of visiting Joseph Martin at his home.  He is one of the premier church music composers in America today.  My wife, Carla, Michael Slaughter, Music Minister of Fitzhugh Baptist Church, and his wife Rachel accompanied me.  We were in for a real treat.  Heather Sorenson was recording an album at Joseph's home that week. 

We sat and listened as Heather played the piano.  Joseph and a recording engineer were with us listening to her play a song.  She would play the same section of that song many times.  Each time, Joseph would critique her performance.  One time he said he could hear her thumb too heavy on a key or another, she lifted her foot off the pedal too slow.  He even said she missed playing a B note one time.  To my untrained ear, each performance was beautiful and sounded the same.  To the trained ear, Joseph heard each little nuance.  I was amazed and asked him why it mattered so much, that I thought that it was all beautiful.  He replied that once a recording is done, it is forever. 

You see, Joseph is a perfectionist.  He has conducted an orchestra at Carnegie Hall.  He will soon perform at the Lincoln Center.  Joseph knows how to blend all types of instruments together and come out with a beautiful noise. 

That made me think about a church and how the leaders of the church are something like a conductor in a symphony.  You see, all members of a symphony know how to play their particular instrument, but it takes a conductor to bring it all together.

The different members of a church congregation all have different talents.  It takes leadership in the church to let the members use their talents in concert with the other members of the church to work effectively for God.  When the leaders are not empowering the membership, talents are wasted.  Many people are never even given the opportunity to use their talents. 

Many many organizations including churches get into the same rut.  We have all heard the same cliche over and over.  Eighty per cent of the work gets done by twenty per cent of the people.  Most of the time its those twenty per cent that tell you that they are doing all the work.  My contention is when twenty per cent are doing all the work, there is a serious void of leadership in that organization.  Frequently that twenty per cent don't want any help, even when it's offered.  They get pretty comfortable with the idea that they are indispensable to the organization. 

Now don't get me wrong, they are very important to the organization.  Equally important is that other eighty per cent.  They need to be brought into doing God's work.  They don't need to be Sunday Pew Sitters.  These people are missing out on real blessing. 

A friend of mine, Rick Carson of the Vertroue Foundation is a great leader.  I will never forget what he shared with me.  He said that he is always looking for his replacement.  He understands that he will not be there forever.  My pastor shared the same idea with me this last week.  That's real leadership.  When a person is thinking more about his followers than he is himself,  it shows.  And people will follow that person.  That's how Jesus treated his flock. 

I mentioned in a earlier blog that a church is either moving forward or backwards that there is no neutral.  It is up to the leaders of a church to keep that church in forward gear.  The only way for the leaders of a church to keep it in forward gear is to empower the members of the congregation to use their talents effectively for God.  That church will thrive and it's members will demonstrate great love for God and a huge desire to do his work.  They will be a true family. 

This type of leader gets down in the trenches with his followers.  He encourages them, challenges them and instructs them in the ways of the Lord.  He is a spiritual leader, yet he will get his hands dirty.  He is almost always there to demonstrate to others his dedication to the Lord and shows the members first hand how hard he will work for the Lord.  But, he always gives credit to God and seeks none for himself.  As we always have heard there is no i in team.  The leader is a team player and shows it by his actions.  I pray for leadership in our churches. 

Diana Ross and the Supremes first recorded, "I hear a Symphony".  I wanted to let you hear it when recorded by The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.  Hope you enjoy it. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Everybody's Talking at Me. Leadership series Part 1.

I am starting a series of blogs talking about leadership and in particular church leadership.  God has put this on my heart and I feel obliged to at least put the thought out there for your consideration.  I have  used several sources for this post.   The title of that blog is Lead, Follow and Get out of the Way.  I encourge you to read it.

I am attempting to take the main points that apply to leaders in that post and apply them to church leaders.  The first and probably most important trait of a leader is the ability to listen.

Leaders listen. Listening is not waiting for your turn to speak. Listening is an active engagement with the person you are talking with. Leadership grows out of knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your colleagues, their fears and triumphs, what motivates them and what turns them off. There’s a trick psychologists recommend, where you try to summarize what your conversation partner just told you and what you understood them to be saying, like this: “So the police officer gave you the ticket anyway, and you feel that was unfair?” This gives your partner a chance to correct you if you’re wrong or confirm that you more or less got what they were saying — plus it helps you to learn and not just respond
I think it’s important to go to the bible and just see what The Bible says of a flock of sheep. about listening. 

"He who has ears to hear, let him hear!" (Matthew 11:15).
What is the intent of this verse? How does this apply to leaders in our church?
Many times I have heard that the leaders of a church are like the shepherds of a flock.

Well, this is a fairly good analogy except for one point.  Human beings have feelings and have the process of thought.  They were made in God’s image.  So really, you shouldn’t treat humans like sheep.  This happens fairly often in our churches. 

The even deeper problem lies in the fact that you can let someone talk all day.  They can talk till they are blue in the face.  But, is anybody listening to them.  Listening is a conscious thought.  Don’t tell me that you haven’t sat in a Sunday sermon and quit listening to the pastor somewhere during the sermon.  Maybe you don’t agree with him or maybe you are thinking about what you have planned for the afternoon.  The end result is that you quit listening. 
You know, I have often heard that listening is an art.  I think there is something to that idea.  Too often we have our own preconceived ideas about what someone is telling us.  We often speak before we know what is being said.  When a person fails to listen to you and you have told them several times how you feel about a subject, they are diminished in your eyes. You are may have been wrong, but you will never know, because the person didn't listen to you.

Just take that to the church.  If the leaders don’t listen to the people, they began to get discouraged and they began to leave, or maybe even worse, stay and complain and cause trouble in God’s house.  Even worse yet, they sit in the pew and say nothing and contribute nothing to the spirit of the church and cause newcomers to wonder what is wrong? 
Let’s go to the Bible for some more instruction.

"He who answers before listening--that is his folly and his shame." (Proverbs 18:13).
We should be quick to listen and slow to speak. (James 1:19).
Acts 14:23

GOD’S WORD Translation (GW)

23They had the disciples in each church choose spiritual leaders,[a] and with prayer and fasting they entrusted the leaders to the Lord in whom they believed.

The congregation chooses their leaders.  I don’t know so much about fasting anymore, but I do know that it is done with lots of prayers.  Read this verse carefully, “they entrusted the leaders to the Lord in whom they believed”. 

This is where one’s interpretation of the Bible gets tricky.  You have to remember that not everyone is a Bible scholar, (this includes me), not many have gone to seminary, few get intense Bible training and lots of people just go to church on Sunday and listen to the sermon.  Even more don’t go to the church, but claim to believe and trust in the Bible.  And the one thing that I have heard all my life, is that your interpretation of the Bible is between you and God.

Many people take the Bible literally, some are Biblical historians and take it in context of the times of Jesus, Some believe in Biblical myths.  It gets very confusing to people because most can’t defend themselves when confronted with someone that is a Bible scholar. 

So now back to Act 14:23.  What does that last sentence mean?  If you pray about it, it means what God tells you it means.  But my interpretation is a follows:

The disciples believed not only in the Lord but the leaders that they felt the Lord sent to them.

Many people may say that it is just the Lord that the disciples believed in and that’s their right.  I just add the leaders to whom the disciples believed in. 

I want to insert another line from the link that I found about leadership:

It follows then that leadership is not a trait of individuals. Leadership theorist James MacGregor Burns describes leadership as a collective process, a characteristic of the relationship between individuals rather than a property of individuals themselves.

Who is right?  Well there are probably both types.  Leaders have followers.  Why do people follow someone?  There are many ingredients, but one of the most important is listening. 
Please pray about this and the future blogs that I write about leadership.  These are just my thoughts. I am going to close here, but as almost always, I need some music. Please enjoy the following.
Most of you remember the song, "Everybody's talking to Me", by Harry Nillson. The most important line in that song is the first line. "Everybody's talking to me, I can't hear a word their saying". Quite frankly that's the problem

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Only the Lonely

Our music is rapt with great songs about the number one and how lonely a number it is. 

And the list goes on and on.  One thing that we are afraid of, whether we admit it or not, is being lonely.  One of the reasons that suicide rates soar during the holidays is the fear of being alone.  Alcoholism and drug abuse is a common thread among loners. 

Genesis 2:18. 
“It is not good for the man to be alone.  I will make a helper suitable to him.”

God knew that it was not good for man to be alone.  Man has gone to great lengths to make sure that he is not alone.  The current riptide of Social Media makes sure we are not alone.  People carry that mobile phone with them everywhere to make sure that they can be found.  The radio in the car is not enough company for us anymore, so we talk on the phone while we drive or even worse text. 

So why do so many people that need to have company all the time, want to keep God in their heart.  I hear it all the time, I don’t need to go to church, I know God and my relationship is personal.  That’s about the only thing that people keep personal, just check out Facebook and people tell their innermost feelings. 

Jesus told us to go make disciples in all nations and tell the Good News, yet all we tell people about is about the new restaurant that we found.

That’s a sad commentary.  I don’t know if it is society, the government or something else that has cause Christians to be put into a box.  Like a box of cereal that we only take out on Sundays, put a little in the bowl and put the box back until next Sunday. 

I know many churches are moving away from Sunday night services, because people just don’t show up.  It’s hard to compete with a Super Bowl.  I can’t believe that I just said that, but’s it true. 

We miss out on so many blessing because we keep Jesus in our pocket.  I have found that church is the place that I can go and not be lonely, be with believers, and find the courage to step out on faith and try to do God’s work.  It’s a joyful place, a place to find comfort and a place where all are welcome. 

My church does something that I love.  Before the pastor delivers the sermon, we stop and welcome everybody and shake hands and hug our fellow members.  Feels like a family. 

I would encourage you to find a church family and stay there.  Don’t keep Jesus in your heart, share him.  Do what he has commanded and share the Good News.