Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” – Luke 15:1-2

Pastors, have we stopped being friends to sinners?  Many of us are friends with our staff.  Friends with the leaders of our church.  Friends with denominational leaders. Friends with other pastors.  Friends with the folks that attend our church.  Friends with our planting networks.  Friends with our leadership coaches.  Friends with Christians.  But are we friends with sinners?

“My job is to lead those that lead our church,” the pastor of a growing church recently said to me.  He had been complaining about the fact that most of the church’s growth had been transfer – and not conversion.  I began to ask him questions about his leadership style and what kind of relationships he had.  It became obvious that his whole world was Christians.  He was leading those that lead the church, but he wasn’t actively pursuing relationships with people far from God.  He was hanging out with those in church, but had no relationship with people that weren’t.  Therein lies the problem.

Study after study shows that while churches may be growing, the Church is not.  For every new church we plant in America, less and less people are attending church.  In almost every denomination the number of salvation decisions and baptisms are down. The majority of church growth in America is transfer and not conversion.  Churches are just handing off the saints instead of seeking the sinners.  I am beginning to wonder if this is because pastors – by and large – have stopped being friends with sinners?

The “I am a leader of leaders” may sound right in today’s society, but is it Scriptural? The mentality comes from the business world – and makes sense there.  As pastors – and Christians – Christ should be our example.  We should not be taking marching orders from the business world of “dog eat dog” and “success at all costs”.  While Christ was a leader of leaders He was also a friend to sinners.  He actively built relationships with sinners – as well as His relationship with His disciples.

Things can get pretty busy when leading a church.  There is always something – or someone – competing for our time.  It becomes easy to say, “My job is to teach and equip the saints to reach people for Christ” or “my job is to lead our leaders to lead our people to lead others to Christ.” This may be easy – and acceptable in today’s idea of pastoral leadership – but it is not Biblical. If Christ was friend to sinners, then pastors – we should be also.  It should be intentional.  We should make time for it.  We should pattern it in our lives.  It should be the example that we set for our churches.  Maybe the stats would change?  Maybe the Kingdom of God would grow – if pastors spent more time becoming friends with sinners?

 

A few weeks ago several pastors and myself were served by – and blessed by  – the wonderful staff and congregation of Lifepoint Church in Wilmington, NC. They provided an AMAZING place for us to stay, incredible meals and treated us to the Relate One-Day Conference – all at no cost.

I cannot begin to describe how much I needed a week like that and how much it ministered to me. It came at a time when I desperately needed to get away, get spiritually fed, be challenged as a church leader and experience renewal.  I was blown away by Lifepoint Church’s generosity and heart for serving others.  It is a culture that cannot be described in words – it just has to be experienced.  To say that I came home refreshed and ready to get back into the spiritual fight of leading a “church in the hood” would be an understatement.

So – on this “Thank You Thursday” – I would like to say thank you to Lifepoint Church for investing in other pastors and churches.  Heaven will be more crowded because of your efforts and generosity!!!

Last week I had the honor of attending  the Relate One-Day Conference in Wilmington, NC.  Let me begin by saying how amazing the hospitality was at Lifepoint Church for the conference.  Jeff Kapusta and his team pulled out all of the stops to make us feel welcomed and served.

This morning I had a chance to go back over the notes I took during the main sessions and breakouts.  I thought I would share a few of the highlights with my blog readers.

RANDY BEZET – Bayside Community Church

  • When things all go wrong, you can either get bitter or get better.
  • Great leaders know how to encourage themselves AND feed (spiritually) themselves.
  • You CAN keep up and communicate with people online, but you CAN’T build a meaningful relationship with them online.
  • It’s not the crown that makes a king, it’s the annointing.
  • When it comes to leadership development and vision casting, there is a cumulative value in investing small amounts of time in certain activites over a long period of time.
  • Rarely is there immediate consequences for neglecting important areas of your life.
  • In the critical areas of your life, you cannot make up for lost time.

TROY MAXWELL - Freedom House Church

  • Pastors, sometimes we debilitate ourselves by trying to copy other pastor’s success.
  • Rest is a weapon against Satan.
  • Sometimes we don’t rest because we don’t like what we discover about ourselves when we get quiet.
  • We do not need to be part-time Christians and full-time pastors.
  • If we don’t CHOOSE to rest then we will be FORCED to rest (when our body shuts down).
  • Every 7 days take a day off. Every 7 weeks take a a few days off. Every 7 months take a vacation.

CRAIG ALTMAN – Grace Family Church

  • Two things that kill vision; lack of leadership and lack of finances.
  • I tell my church, “I have good news and bad news.  The good news is that we have all of the money we need at this church.  The bad news is that it’s still in your pockets.”
  • If you manipulate people to financial give to the church out of regret or guilt, then you have a BIG problem.
  • One of the goals of discipleship is to move people from consumer to contributor.
  • Don’t despise small beginnings. They are opportunities that God has given you to be faithful.

JEFF KAPUSTA – Lifepoint Church

  • You have to learn to say, “The vision is not for sale.”
  • The longer that people have been in church the harder it is for them to imagine a world outside of the church.
  • When it comes to signage think clear not cute. Keep it simple. Let people know where they go (auditorium).  Let them know where their kids go (children’s ministry). Let them know where to go when they have to go (bathroom).

MARK QUATTROCHI - The Chapel

  • You don’t need the MOST people in your church; you need the RIGHT people in your church.
  • Create a congregation, not a crowd.
  • It’s a miracle and blessing of God when guests walk into a church service.  We only need 1 new guest to have a successful Sunday.
  • Our only goals as a church are to: a) Create an atmosphere where God can bring growth. b) Be good stewards with people when He does.
  • Pastors, we CANNOT empower people to lead that do not have our level of faith in God.

ALEX ANDERSON - Bayside Community Church

  • We should have a church OF small groups, not a church WITH small groups.
  • The goal of small groups is that they should mature into pastoral care for the church.
  • Those leading small groups should not see themselves as leaders, facilitators or teachers.  They should see themselves as shepherds.
  • Church leaders, your job is to give your job away.  You should not be doing everything next year that you are doing this year.