Thursday, December 21, 2017

Choosing to work together

The African-American Pastor's Fellowship recognized me at their annual banquet and invited me to share a few thoughts with them.  I thought I'd share with you the text of my address to them because it highlights what I believe is the most critical issue facing UBA  and every association of churches today.

Friday, October 13, 2017

A Leader Says Thanks

A good leader never forgets to thank those who make it possible to do the work for which he or she is responsible.  That’s what I’ve been doing for the last few days.  I’ve personally written over one hundred notes and letters to folks who contributed to UBA’s Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund.

As of today (October 13, 2017) UBA has received $119,450.83 in cash and nearly $40,000 in gift cards.  Most of the funds and and gift cards have already been distributed to churches, pastors and families affected by the storm.  Each week, as more comes in, we distribute it to those in need.

Friday, September 8, 2017

You Can't Fake Showing Up

Chances are you’ve never heard of Shannon Townsend.  He’s a member of The Fellowship, a UBA congregation where Jerry Edmonson is the pastor.  Shannon was the focus of a CNN story in the wee hours of the morning, Friday, September 1.  You can read the story here.  Take note of the quote at the end of the story:

“You can fake that you care.  You cannot fake showing up.”

Shannon Townsend showed up.  Shannon is illustrative of so many UBA churches that have been showing up in a big way during Hurricane Harvey.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

The revitalization equation

In his book Reclaiming Glory: Revitalizing Dying Churches Mark Clifton asks this disruptive question: ”What about a dying church brings glory to God?”
The answer? Nothing! Yet more than half of the churches across the US are plateaued or declining. Consider this church—a composite of many I’ve talked with through the years. The church is without a pastor. They have been in decline for over twenty years. Their building is old; it’s all the members can do to pay the utilities each month. The demographic makeup of the community has changed. Though the folks who attend worship still live in the community, they don’t look like most of the folks they see in the neighborhood supermarket each week. They know they need to grow or they won’t survive. So they call and ask for help finding a pastor, because they believe if they just find the right pastor they’ll start to grow again. 
When I meet with them I share with them my revitalization equation: a skilled pastor + a willing congregation = the possibility of revitalization. While they think all they need is the right pastor, I remind them that the other part of the equation is just, perhaps even more critical. 
What is a willing congregation? What must they be willing to do?

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Questioning your church

Thom Rainer receives thousands of questions from pastors and church leaders each year.  A few days ago he released a list of the top ten questions pastors ask him.  Topping the list was this question:   Where do I begin to lead my church toward revitalization? 

With 70%-80% of congregations nationwide either plateaued or declining it’s no wonder churches would be concerned about revitalization.  (Interestingly, the UBA video on “The Hard Work of Church Revitalization” is one of the most watched videos on our website.)

How can you know if your church is plateaued or declining?

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Transitioning to the next generation of leaders

Through the years I've had to make many hard decisions as the executive director of UBA, but none has been harder than the one I've just made.

Monday, April 3, 2017

UBA: an antifragile association

Human bones get stronger when subjected to stress and tension.

Rumors and riots intensify when someone tries to repress them.

While some people and institutions are crushed by crisis, others actually get stronger and better.  Nassim Nicholas Taleb calls the capacity to respond to stress, tension and crisis by getting better (not caving in or just getting through) being antifragile. “Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better.”  That, I believe, is the legacy of UBA.

Friday, March 3, 2017

The Church’s Leadership Crisis

The church is facing a leadership crisis and the answer may be a question.
I’m getting older. That’s not a bad thing. In fact, given the alternative, I think it’s a great thing. 
I’m not the only one getting older. 
On average people today are living longer than fifty years ago. The average life expectancy for an American male born in 1960 was 66; for one born in 2010 it is 76. For a female born in 1960 the life expectancy was 73; for one born in 2010 it is 81.
On average pastors are getting older, too, according to a report released this week by the Barna research group. One finding in the report staggered me.  According to the report there are now more pastors in the “over 65” category than there are in the “under 40” category.
There is another trend which, when considered along with our aging clergy, really troubles me. 
Seminary enrollment nationwide has been on the decline for some time. Fewer and fewer people are preparing for a career in ministry. 
Take these two things together (aging clergy, fewer entering the ministry) and it’s easy to see the church is facing a serious leadership crisis!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Take care of yourself, preacher

“Take care of yourself.”  It’s something we often say when parting like “drive safely,” “have a good time” and “see you soon."  More than just good advice, this is something which pastors need to hear and heed.

Recent research by Duke Divinity School has confirmed what I’ve heard for many years … that is, that clergy are generally in poorer health than the general population.

On Talk of the Nation (a PBS show) the host summarized the research this way:  “Priests, ministers, rabbis and imams are generally driven by a sense of duty to answer calls for help and to do the best they can to serve others. But recent research shows that in many cases, they rarely find time for themselves and as a result suffer from higher rates of depression, obesity and high blood pressure.  Many clergy members simply burn out.”

Friday, January 6, 2017

I'm not ashamed, though some might think I should be

Last month the Indonesian Baptist Church asked me to talk with them about our Baptist distinctives.  Over the last twenty-plus years there has been a trend away from identifying oneself as Baptist so I was honored to be given this assignment.  As I prepared I realized once again that I'm not ashamed to be a Baptist and I think I need to say so.

Two things set us apart as Baptists.  While they are not unique or exclusive to Baptists, combined they make us who we are.