Tag Archives: ledarskap

True comfort and perspective to a misunderstood church planter and entrepreneur…

Have you felt misunderstood? Have you been questioned lately? Have you been in a position of unbelievable opportunities and open doors and when you try to communicate the excitement of it all people look you squarely in the face and wonder what the fuzz is all about? “Hello, this is the answer on our prayers! These are the works which God has prepared for you and me to move into!” Hello! Is anybody home?!” you wonder.

No matter what you do, no matter what you say, no matter how you live; if you are a pioneer, a church planter or an entrepreneur YOU WILL BE MISUNDERSTOOD! Most people in our churches have something against people with gifts and callings like the once I mentioned. The uneasy awareness of having people like that in your close surrounding is a threat to the very things that most people appreciate and seem to worship, namely: security and stability.

The sheer presence of a person like me tends to shake the fragile equilibrium which has been subconsciously and carefully designed within the group. (By the way; can you do that kind of thing in such way?!) Anyway… I cannot start to even tell you about the number of occasions when I have been accused, questioned, or downright neglected because I was too fast, had too many visions, or was too dissatisfied with the speed or direction we were going. (At times we were going nowhere fast!) People have complained about the lack of structure in the ministries I have been involved in, or the lack of unity, the lack of uniformity, or the lack of conscious majority support of members and regular visitors.

HELLO!? Doesn’t the fact that one is called to be a pioneer, church planter, and or entrepreneur imply that there is no majority vote empowering and enabling the ministry? The essence of such callings imply having to do things other people don’t (yet) do, seeing things others don’t (yet) see, or giving oneself to causes, situations, projects and faith demanding enterprises which seem far too daring, far too insecure and far too challenging to the overwhelming majority of people around you. Structures and organization will always be a few steps behind because of the nature of pioneering.

I believe that we as a church have a unique calling to remain a pioneering and church planting church which means that the fragile equilibrium will be shaken time after time again. It is part of the nature of our calling. Too often I have tried to appease people, too often I have tried to be someone I am not, too often I have felt guilty for being the one I believe I was meant to be. I also have felt guilty for not giving what people wanted.

“True comfort and perspective for a misunderstood church planter and entrepreneur…” was the title of this blog… The other day I was comforted when a man who has perspective, experience and knowhow told me, as I described my inner journey and struggle in regards to this matter; “OF COURSE you cannot provide a secure structure and organization when the development of the church and ministry is going as it does. As long as you are willing and determined to search for people and ministries behind the doors which seem to open to you, structures will have to change and adjust!”

When he pointed out to that I was reminded of the Early Church and God’s unexplainable and incomprehensible move through His Holy Spirit in and through the lives of the believers and beyond them… There was no status quo, there was little security, there were, let’s be honest, numerous potential hazardous situations which could have broken down the fragile balance in this young Body of believers… But they didn’t! The theology, structures and organization of the Early Church were always a few steps behind, but God in His mercy choose this bunch of rather ethnocentric Jewish believers empowered by the Holy Spirit to bring about an all encompassing, multi cultural, cross generational and world sweeping movement which shook and shakes the fragile equilibrium of the world’s value systems and priorities by bringing the up-side-down kingdom.

That awareness made me smile…and it brought comfort to my soul. I realized that for a reason like that I don’t care to be misunderstood! I would love to be part of a new overwhelming minority which will do the same in our world!

That’s the Way I see it!

John

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Leadership in the church: dealing with the “hireling” mentality!

Two months ago I wrote a blog as a reaction on the article in Dagen about the fact that pastors were encouraged to become part of a union to secure their rights and jobs. My first blog was semi-seriously written (check it out here). However after today’s articles in Dagen (here and here) I want to add my side of the story.

The problem I see is that most pastors are regarded as employees of the church that they serve. The reason for that is because most pastors are hired by churches in order to fulfill a particular job description, much as is done in the business world. The way we look at this “job” might or might not be in line with the Biblical perspective on what a pastor is meant to be / do. In such situations a pastor is more inclined to compromise with any unbiblical expectations of his employer otherwise he/she might loose their job.

I know of numerous pastors in both small and larger churches where there are issues in regards to the application of Biblical standards within the congregation. The churches in Sweden acknowledge the pastor mainly as a “hireling” who is supposed to yield to the decisions being made by the eldership and/or board.

It is not uncommon that the established laymen leadership (elders and board) has allowed certain unbiblical practices in the church among lay leaders, themselves and its members, thus setting up a potential division between the new appointed (hired) pastor(s) and the congregation. It is not unusual that congregations seek to recruit for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires (2 Tim.4:3). The fact is that most established churches don’t want any new pastor to rock the boat; they want peace and rest, maintaining what is going on in the church by strengthening the present and maybe making manageable changes to embrace the future!

“The hireling mentality” as I described above however, also exists among pastors.

This becomes clear to me when pastors look for promotion opportunities rather than to grow and develop on a long term basis with the church they are called to serve. Some actually are self-interested, showing greater concern for their compensation package and the earthly security it supposedly brings than ministering to the body of believers they are called to serve (Jn.10:12,13).

The practice of regarding pastors as employees has not been the norm through the church’s history. Historically, pastors have not been considered to be employees, but bond-servants of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is, they are slaves of Christ, not slaves to an employer.

My family and I have during 15 years lived and ministered without a regular salary. A couple of years after we started New Life Church (where I presently still am serving as a pastor), we received for the first time a part-time salary which as time passed has been raised and is a full-time salary today. Our church has well taken care of us although I for one, have been opposed to raising my salary at times because I preferred to use the money to provide support for other workers so that we could form a team. I consider myself a bond-servant to Christ and not an employee first of all (although legally I am in that position within the context of the Swedish society). So, in essence I am saying that you as pastor have to make a decision whether you are a “hireling” or have been “called” as a pastor! If you cannot exercise the gifts God has given you, or cannot minister as a pastor you might have chosen the wrong place to minister. (By the way; did you take the employment because a job was offered when you needed it, or was it a CALL from God?!)

Let’s face it; some pastors need to get rid of their hireling mentality, but so do some churches!

I have friends in churches where they receive very little support and encouragement from the congregations they serve. They experience that they have minimal impact in the direction of the church’s ministry and often find themselves on the receiving end of hurtful criticisms. Others are inadequately compensated and feel little appreciation for the important work that they do on behalf of the church. Expressions of discouragement and unhappiness are not uncommon, and for some, ministry is no longer a sense of calling from God nor a source of joy and satisfaction in their life!

Do members understand the concept of being a people of God?

Much of how we relate to our pastors depends on how we as individual members understand our relationship to the life of the church and its ministries. Are we essentially religious consumers who see ourselves as being receivers of ministry, or do we understand ourselves to be part of the people of God who partner and who have a vital role in helping to fulfill the church’s collective ministry? Do we see our pastors as employees who are paid to serve to congregational customers or as spiritual leaders whose ministries of the Word of God and their leadership enables us to better fulfill our ministries of service and proclamation in the world?

Our answer to those questions makes all the difference in the world when it comes to determining our expectations of the pastoral ministry and those who are called to serve within it. Our pastors are neither self-made nor self-maintained.

They need to be supported, encouraged and affirmed. And when we neglect that important work, we pay a very heavy collective price. I’ve never known a church whose spirit, enthusiasm and commitment to ministry exceeded that of its leadership. I’ve never experienced a vibrant, flourishing congregation whose pastor wasn’t also receiving generous amounts of prayerful support and encouragement from its members!

Remember, it’s not simply a matter of getting the kind of leadership we deserve. It’s more a matter of receiving precisely the kind of leadership we choose to call forth and then support.

That’s the Way I see it,

John

Leadership is all about failing – if you don’t dare to fail, you don’t dare to lead!

If you haven’t failed enough, you haven’t learned enough! One of the main characteristics of the leadership in my life and ministry has been that I have failed in many ways and with many things.

In our nation and in our churches we have many people that are well trained and well educated, but have not become involved in ministry. At the same time I as leader need to have the goal that they will be involved in the mission of God (Missio Dei)! We have to turn spectators into participators. The characteristic of a growing, vibrant and healthy church is not the program, the plans, popularity, nor position; but rather the people. Not the quantity but the quality. They are the ultimate barometer of how well we have carried out the ministry of the church.

If we want to be effective in ministry and to see the church grow and be built up then we have to be working at enabling people. If we want more people to be involved in ministry we have to find better ways to enable people.

One of the main enabling barriers

The enabling of people is the crucial point. At the same time, as I said before, we have many people who are well trained and well educated; yet they are not active in ministry and the mission of God! There are many reasons why they are not involved and I will not attempt to address all of these. Yet, one of the main reasons why people do not use their God-given gifts and qualities (and I am 100% sure of that!) is their fear of failure.

In a society where so much value is put towards performance we do not dare to fail. This creates a climate where leadership is quenched and new initiatives are not encouraged. The fact is that we actually encourage a defensive approach to leadership which in essence is not leadership at all. Isn’t leadership going where none has gone before; making trails where we no trails have been established… walking and guiding by compass rather then by a map?!

Leadership = insecurity = possible failure!

Leadership implies possible failure, it implies insecurity, and it implies having to learn while doing. “Theology on the run” and “leadership on the run” would be some of my slogans. In a nation (Sweden) where we look for consensus in all areas of life and also in leadership there is a danger that we quench the leadership gifts of our people and the Church as a whole. We are so embedded in a save, secure social system and way of doing things that we hardly allow anyone to break out of the box through entrepreneurial leadership styles; rather we call people who do authoritarian and insensitive. My view on leadership is based on a team approach, yet, we have to realize that God so often uses individuals to bring out new perspectives and new ways of application of old truths which transform the way a team used to think. And those new ways usually bring us where we have never been before… which implies possible failure.

Honestly, I rather fail and fail and fail again to be finally to learn a new way than to remain on secure grounds not learning anything new and working for status quo.

Check the following link on FAMOUS FAILURES and place yourself in good company as you dare to embrace the possibility to fail as you expand your borders and move out of your own and your cultures’ comfort zone!

That’s the Way I see it!

John

Ministering as a leader in a leader-hostile environment…

In the latest article on Livets Ord in the Christian Daily “Dagen”, we read about “Power” or more specific about leadership. I am one of the leaders in a multi-cultural church with a majority of Swedish members and others representing approximately 40 nations. Within this context we are learning a lot about leadership. As leaders in our different churches we are called to contextualize our way of being Church, being leaders and also how we present the message that God has entrusted to us through His word. Like I said, we are learning a lot about leadership (mainly through mistakes) as we are facing expectations, demands, theological viewpoints and experiences of cultural emphasized ways of leadership.

First of all it is important to conclude that there is more to leadership and even Biblical leadership that what we perceive to be true within our Swedish cultural context. There are many people in our churches who are used to the fact that leadership is exercised through consensus. Actually we are brought up in that kind of social environment which, if one dares to be honest, is far removed from the Biblical perspective on leadership. I dare say that we have a leadership hostile environment within the nation which has also permeated the Church in Sweden.

I have lived and ministered in five different nations (Holland, Sweden, USA, the Philippines and Japan) and besides that ministered in another 15-20 nations. In all of these nations there have been very different perspectives on what Christian leadership (or Biblical leadership) is all about. Even within our own church we have the two extremes with groups of people who have the deepest conviction that the pastor is to tell what is to happen while at the same time we have many who will always look for total consensus in vision, decisions and processes.

The fact of the matter is that many of our opinions about leadership in Sweden are culturally, rather than Biblically determined. It is not strange that a leadership style as practiced by Ulf Ekman is questioned, evaluated and scrutinized until the bone by many of us who are culturally inclined to go against any form of leadership which is not based on consensus. To my opinion; Sweden is a leadership hostile environment! Many of my Swedish (!) colleagues who are part of other church traditions than Livets Ord express so often their frustration how difficult it is to be a leader in a church in Sweden, and many actually leave the ministry because they cannot cope with the mechanisms of leadership within the rather rigid structures and praxis that we have formed within our churches.

Having said that, how do I look at leadership? Here are some pointers:

All the effective leaders I have encountered-both those I worked with and those I merely watched-knew four simple things:

1. The only definition of a leader is someone who has “followers”. Some people are thinkers. Some are prophets. Both roles are important and badly needed. But without followers, there can be no leaders.

2. An effective leader is not someone who is loved or admired. He or she is someone “whose followers” do the right things. Popularity is not leadership. Results are.

3. Leaders are highly visible. They therefore set examples.

4. Leadership is not rank, privileges, titles, or money. It is responsibility.

Another main question is what do these leaders do?
Regardless of their almost limitless diversity with respect to personality, style, abilities, and interests, the effective leaders I have met, worked with, and observed also behaved much the same way:

1. They did not start out with the question, “What do I want?” They started out asking, “What needs to be done?

2. Then they asked, “What can and should I do to make a difference?” This has to be something that both needs to be done and fits the leader’s strengths and the way she or he is most effective.

3. They constantly asked, “What are the organization’s mission and goals.

4. They were extremely tolerant of diversity in people and did not look for carbon copies of themselves. It rarely even occurred to them to ask, “Do I like or dislike this person?”

5. They were not afraid of strength in the people working with them. Whether they had heard of it or not, their motto was what Andrew Carnegie wanted to have put on his tombstone: “Here lies a man who attracted better people into his service than he was himself.”

6. One way or another, they submitted themselves to the “mirror test“-that is, they made sure that the person they saw in the mirror in the morning was the kind of person they wanted to be, respect, and believe in. This way they equipped themselves against the leader’s greatest temptations-to do things that are popular rather than right things.

7. Finally, these effective leaders were not preachers; they were doers. I read a story the other day about a student who had read different historical books, he said: “Every one of these books says that the Great War was a war of total military incompetence. Why was it?” The teacher did not hesitate a second but shot right back, “Because not enough generals were killed; they stayed way behind the lines and let others do the fighting and dying.”

Dear friends, if we want to look at this difficult and complex subject of Biblical leadership let us ask ourselves; “Am I willing to die for the sheep that God has entrusted us/me?” If you can say “Yes” you might be on your way becoming a leader God has set His heart on!

That’s the Way I see it for now… God bless you,

John

PS… Check my article about leadership and an invitation to become a member of an union for pastors here in Sweden. DS


What can we learn from Livets Ord and Ulf Ekman? A look over the shoulder…

With interest I have been reading the series about Livets Ord in the Christian Daily “Dagen”. (Here, here, here, here and here). My interest is not geared towards getting to know more about this church and its ministries; my interest is focused on learning how God has used their ministry and calling for the well being of the nation and our world.

Although one can make some footnotes and have some reservations about some of the early weaknesses and “unbalanced” aspects of their ministry, my opinion is that this ministry overall has been (is) a tremendous blessing to the nation and Christianity at large. The main purpose I see in an evaluation document after 25 years of ministry is to learn from it. What can we learn as Body of Christ in Sweden?

From the top of my head I am compelled to make a couple of quick observations:

1. It is possible to plant and build churches and ministries in Sweden today. I decided to start with this statement because we are surely not spoiled with positive reports about what is doing. After 25 years we can say: Livets Ord is established and has not lost its zeal and purpose!

2. It takes vision, determination, faithfulness and leadership well anchored in God to be able to make a difference in a spiritual hostile climate in secularized Sweden. One of my observations since I first arrived here in Sweden is that too many leaders and ministries come and go, many leaders lack one or more of the aspects which I mentioned earlier. Ulf Ekman does not lack these qualities and therefore he is able to build something lasting.

3. Leadership is built on character and transformation in a person’s life. In this last document about money it becomes quite clear that Ulf Ekman is not into ministry to become rich! He earns a good salary, (and he should!) as he is taking responsibility for such a demanding ministry! Money and the love of money are a good measurement of the character of a person; the way Ulf Ekman has passed on the right on royalties on his books and products to the ministry speaks for him! I would trust him with my wallet!

4. Some voices in the article talk about the emphasis on financial giving. First of all I believe that we speak too little about our finances in Sweden. There is really little transparency about what we earn and what we do with our finances. This whole area is privatized, it is in hiding… The Body of Christ in Sweden would be well off to address the area of financial accountability and giving because it is a spiritual stronghold. (Read more about consumerism and accountability here and here). Secondly I want us to realize that Livets Ord has used much of their income on missions, they have not spent it on themselves! For more reading about accountability check here>

Ulf, if you would ever read this… we only met once and shook hands on the stage of the Jesusmanifestationen… I appreciate all you have done for us and our nation. Thanks for your faithfulness and your commitment to follow the exhortation of the writer of Hebrews:

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12: 1-3)

That’s the Way I see it (when there is more to say I will continue on this subject).

John