Church Leadership Social Action

Worth fighting for

The last few days I’ve been following the story of Shaun King, an Atlanta church planter and friend of YS, who recently discovered his former boss & pastor has admittedly molested and raped some children.* After doing some further research Shaun learned that other church leaders were aware of the situation but remained silent.

Not Shaun. He took to Twitter to expose the problem. Here’s how he kicked things off:

Bishop Johnathan Alvarado of Total Grace Christian Center is a child molester. In the name of Jesus I declare this must end RIGHT NOW. @shaunking – March 13th, 2011

Here is the crux of his demand:

I have heard the worst, learned of his admission of guilt, yet he continues to serve and preach. Kids get the raw end of this deal. No more. @shaunking – March 13th, 2011

And he didn’t back down from there. He has continued to press on. Laying out his case and defending it with more evidence. Even if you don’t like Twitter, please take a few minutes to read through Shaun’s tweets from the past few days.

You will see righteous anger in action. As he says, “I will STAND FOR KIDS 100 out of 100 times.

It is the embodiment of Ephesians 5:11-13:

Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.

I know many are offended by Shaun, his tactics, and think that he is somehow giving the church a bad name. Are you kidding me? If these allegations are true, (and it seems the pastor admitted to them) young men were raped, families paid off, and the pastor went right on preaching? That’s a disgrace and we need to applaud Shaun for speaking out! To be silent, to deal with that in private, is disturbing. If you’ll protect a rapist… who wouldn’t you protect?

This morning I’m asking for 3 things:

  1. Pray for Shaun, Rai, and his kids. Pray for the victims and their families. Many in church circles are denouncing Shaun for speaking out. And sadly other people have sent him death threats. Pray that God protects Shaun as he stands in the gap for children in his community. Pray that justice prevails, not in the court of public opinion, but in a court of law.
  2. Reflect on the types of things worth fighting for in your life. What are things that you, as a child of God, would cause you to stand up and fight for, putting your reputation on the line for, even to the point of receiving death threats as you expose light to darkness?
  3. Act, act, act. I believe there are countless stories like this hidden in the confines of the church today. Expose them. Today. There is a devil-inspired lie that “true believers” settle things without the courts involvement. I’ve even heard people say that it’s a sin to sue a church. That is a lie. Examine 1 Corinthians 6:1-11 yourself. Rape is not trivial. Breaking the law is not trivial. Extortion is not trivial. On and on. Examine the context and reason Paul wrote those words. But yet this untruth has lead to countless victims and the continued victimization by people originally called to represent Jesus. Expose them. Do not take refuge in the reality that God will judge them. It is your responsibility as a believer to bring light to dark places. Search your heart, discover what is worth fighting for, and act. Today.

*I’ll admit in sharing this story that I’m confused on some of the details. I don’t know how a person can rape children and settle that in court without criminal charges against the accused. I firmly believe that a person is innocent until proven guilty. If someone could help me understand Shaun’s statements that the person has admitted guilt and not received a criminal complaint, please enlighten me. Is this a statute of limitations thing?

Church Leadership

Listen to the Right People

A big mouth doesn’t always equal an effective mouth

Photo by sroemerm via Flickr (Creative Commons)

One thing I’ve noticed happening in Christian-land these days is that there are a lot of voices saying quotable things about stuff they have no clue about.

The biggest one, something I’d label a pet peeve, is people who have successfully planted a megachurch trying to teach people in existing churches how to change their church culture.

It’s all a big misunderstanding.

Let’s face this one reality– A guy who planted a church and it grew to 10,000+ members cannot possibly help a 100 year old church of 300 who is struggling. Nor can they help a church plant that started in a house with 25 people and has grown to 200. Or a church that was once 1000 but is now 85.

Let’s face a second reality– If a person is a wonderful communicator of biblical truth they are not likely a prophet to your struggling ministry. They don’t know a single solitary thing about your situation. Nada, zip, zilch. If you had the chance to meet them they might tell you the same thing. They are probably impressed with what God does through their ministry, too. But that doesn’t mean squat to your church context.

Do take their words of encouragement personally. But let’s face it, they don’t know how to fix your church.

Should I try to change my church?

Of course! Just make sure, when you need advice, you listen to people who have actually done what you are trying to do.

  • Hire a consultant. Having an outside expert come over a series of months is probably the best and fastest thing you can do to systemically change a church. A neutral third party can be the best money you’ll ever spend.
  • Get to know people. It shocks me how fast newly hired church leaders want to move. Most church issues are based in culture. Over-eager church leaders will try to change stuff without understanding the culture enough… thus making the problem worse. Then they quit and leave the mess to someone else to clean up.
  • Become the expert on your community. You have the one advantage that truly makes a difference. You are there. When you read a book, article, or hear a message, everything you take in should be screened through the matrix of your unique church culture. Something you hear can be a fantastic idea– but a complete disaster in your culture. Become the expert of your community. (Which means spending decreasing time in the office and increasing time meeting the people you are trying to reach.)
  • Innovation is always welcome. I’ve never been in a church where new ideas were frowned upon. The trick in a church is how you implement an innovation. If people spent half the time on implementation that they spend on generating new ideas they’d be a lot better off.
  • Fools GoldPhoto by sportwrapper via Flicker (Creative Commons)

    Focus on transforming the people you have. The people in your church already have access to the people you want to reach. A popular speaker says, “You need to focus more on reaching than keeping.” That phrase shocks me. It sounds brilliant but is incredibly rude. Do you want to go to that church? I know I don’t. Rather than focusing on shedding people you don’t like why not focus on teaching in such a way that transforms those people’s hearts? Why not pray for those who are your enemies that they might become your allies? You don’t turn around a church by shedding all the people. You turn around a church by transforming people’s hearts around a common vision.

  • It’s about we not you. When I read books and listen to speakers I’m shocked at how little value they give to the leaders of their congregation. When a leader starts to say “this is my vision” everyone should automatically know that this person isn’t leading people. Vision is inclusive.
  • Measure the right things. Do measure stuff. Just make sure you measure the right stuff. I can’t believe how many people are upset with their congregations because they are measuring stuff like butts in seats and dollar bills. We both know those aren’t Kingdom measurements.
social media

A Pastor Who Gets It

There’s a tiny amount of cynicism when you hang out with church leaders. We have a hard job and it comes out in funny ways.

That guy just doesn’t get it.

There are lots of conversations where church leaders don’t get it. Talk to any associate level pastoral staff member, church secretary, maintenance person, van driver, or ministry volunteer and you’ll hear it. “My pastor doesn’t get it.

And, in all fairness, the job is too big to “get everything.” You simply have to chose what to “get” and what to “punt” on.

In my world when a pastor doesn’t get it— that usually means that the suck at all things computer related.

How these people got through seminary I’ll never know! But I’ve met too many pastors who can’t use Microsoft Office or manage their email or find stuff using Google.

And when it comes to social media– some pastors get it but most don’t. Facebook, Twitter, blogging, live broadcasts online… they glaze over as I talk about these things!

And yet over and over again, when I meet with pastors, they tell me “I want to get it.

This is precisely why I contacted Doug and Tony over at JoPa productions and asked them to bring Pastors’ Social Media Bootcamp to San Diego next week.

Pastors want to get it. Let’s make sure they get the training they need to get it.