EPISODE #88 – IS YOUR CHURCH READY FOR CONSULTATION
Today on the Bootcamp the guys continue their musings on “consultation” by asking then answering is your church ready to receive a consultation? Bob tells a winding tale about a bear that was running lose in his neighborhood and then lands the plane. Here are the takeaways to determine if your church is ready for consultation.
- The church has to be ready to do something about the problem
- There needs to be a sense of urgency-things cannot stay the same
- There should be an eagerness to hear from Jesus, about what He wants for the church
- A church needs to be ready to accept the reality of where they are and surrender to what Jesus reveals as his plan for the church
- A church has to tear up their non-negotiable list (if they have one) and follow Jesus fully
Some additional considerations
-Pastor, you need a team, bring people with you as you meet and consider what the consultant has to say, don’t meet with him alone.
-The goal in a consultation is to gain awareness of where you are and what God wants for your church
-History is a great resource for insight into the reasons why church may act like it does, it explains it but it does not excuse those things.
Check out Flickering Lamps from Blackaby Ministries International as your church considers its future.
Did you miss part 1? Give it a listen here.
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Show notes powered by Descript are an approximation of the verbal content, consult podcast audio for accuracy
[00:00:00] JimBo Stewart: All right. Part do we’re back. Should you hire or entertain retained gain a consultant outside eyes and ears. Somehow was part one. You heard it last week. I know all 7,000 of our listeners. There’s a little exaggeration, decided to listen to that. And so now you’re coming back for part two on should.
What, how do you know that your church is even ready? Right. So the three questions, we, the two questions really we answered last week was one. Should you get outside? Con consultation and the answer was yes. To how do you decide who that’s going to be? Our answer basically was it needs to be somebody that has experienced failure and success that has knows what it’s like to be in the trenches.
That’s going to ask more questions than they are going to give advice, and it’s going to have your best interest at heart. Uh, in what they’re doing. and, and it’s not only experienced success and failure as a re planter or revitalizer, but has [00:01:00] experienced success and failure as someone trying to help churches.
and so we learn from all those things, so they need to have humility coming in. You need to have humility going in, but how do you even know if your church is ready? How do you know, if your church is right ready, Bob? What, what are some of the things that we can look at to know that.
Bob Bickford: you know, Jim boy, I’d like to tell a story as we, before we start
JimBo Stewart: I would love for you. I would love for you to tell the
Bob Bickford: It will relate. So, I think I sent you in Kyle a, uh, a photograph of a happening, uh, we had a wildlife creature here in the mid county area in St. Louis in, um, Kirkwood, Oakland, Webster Jimbo. We had a juvenile black bear that was roaming in the neighborhoods.
And you had some cows the other day. but Jimbo, we had a bear. All right. So I don’t know if that, I think that wins the Cal versus bear battle. I think the bear
JimBo Stewart: it does. It’s a little scarier.
Bob Bickford: scary. Yeah. it was interesting, like everybody on the Facebook community pages where [00:02:00] they were freaking out a little bit Jimbo, they were a little afraid and they were asking a lot of questions and they were making a lot of jokes.
And one of the things that the, the police department said here locally is there is a bear that is wandering around. please no selfies with the bear. Right. So I don’t know that I wouldn’t have thought, Hey, there’s a Bayer, I’m going to try to get a selfie with it. Right.
JimBo Stewart: Nope.
Bob Bickford: So, they dialed up the Missouri department of conservation and they showed up on, uh, I think it was Saturday night and the bird climbed a tree, at the Catholic church.
That’s not far from my church. And, uh, I went to bed and we were laughing about it. And Barbara and I were like, well, I guess the Missouri department of conversations, since they were notified, they’re going to, uh, get the Bayer. Well, it turns out to them Bo they must have not got the bear because they, the next morning we woke up and we discovered, that afternoon that the bear was still wandering around the mid county area in St.
Louis. Apparently [00:03:00] the consultant decided it wasn’t time to do anything about the bears. So then the bear started going north and he started going to a town called Brentwood in Brentwood has like whole foods and like trader Joe’s and like all of those sorts of places. And just let me tell you people who shop at whole foods and trader Joe’s, they don’t want no bear around them.
All right. REI. They just, they don’t want anything. They, they like to look at a bear at the zoo, but they just don’t want to bear around them. So Jimbo the people, a great uproar. Rose from the people of Brentwood in those shopping areas. And they said, you must get the bear. So the bear crawled up into a tree on Sunday afternoon and the Missouri department of conservation came back and they tranquilized the bear and they relocated the bear.
Now, what does that have to do with, is your church ready? The people in your church gotta be ready to do something about the problem. Number one.
JimBo Stewart: Yes.
Bob Bickford: They gotta be [00:04:00] ready. They can’t tolerate the problem anymore. It’s a key, it’s a kill, you know, to cute pro or you just a family church here. We got acute problem.
It’s not that big a deal. We know our worship leader. He can’t sing really well. And we know that old bill is always fussing in the business meetings and, you know, and, and, you know, Sue, she’s kind of run off a lot of young families, but you know, that’s just who they are. Right. They’re just, let’s just, we’re a quirky church, right?
Well, you gotta be ready to deal with the problems that exist in the church. Number one, I think. And so. When we put this survey together that, that we have out there for association leaders in churches, we started with a sense of urgency. Right? That was kind of the first category we talked about was you gotta, you gotta have this sense of urgency that it’s time to do something about the problem, right.
Otherwise, I think you’re just kind of, you know, you’re, you’re going to be, doing a lot activity and not making a lot of progress.
JimBo Stewart: as we’ve discussed on here before, I think the idea of urgency is when it’s been associated with change leadership for a very long time, that the need for [00:05:00] that going all the way back to John Cotter, if not before. But you, gave this great phrase of holy Discontentment and so do we have, do they have an urgency?
Do they have, does your congregation, do you as a leader, have a holy Discontentment paired with a sense of urgency about that, right? Are you discontent about the way things are going to a point that it feels. Urgent. Do you have an underst an understanding of it to know that what’s happening now can’t stay the same.
That the pain of change is less than the pain of staying the same.
Bob Bickford: yeah, you, you just have a, you have to have a really keen understanding of. we cannot let this go any longer. Right? We have to address it.
JimBo Stewart: some of the ways I think that you can help your congregation attain that if you don’t already have it, is we oftentimes recommend. the study flickering lamps with Henry and Richard Blackaby. And [00:06:00] here’s something I’ve started adding to that. Bob is, you know, they go through the, the churches in revelation and they talk through, the way that Jesus writes to them.
And so one of the things I’ve started challenging leadership of churches is after you finished that, I want you on your own to spend some time read, read through those passages. Again, take some time of prayer asking Jesus, this question, and I want you to write it out. What would Jesus say if he were writing a letter to your church right now? And I want you to write that out and then I want you guys as a leadership team to come back and read your letter from Jesus to your church, to each other. And discuss that and, and see what the Lord is saying to you guys.
Bob Bickford: because we have to personalize it. Right. We have to think about on our end, what is God saying to us? Cause that’s really where, where the church begins to pray together and to discern together, The message of the Lord for their church. And that’s where it’s interesting, but, but it will, Most often there’ll be a sense of unity and a [00:07:00] common theme that we’ll develop amongst some of the leaders of the churches.
I began to pray about the future of their church. and so as they began to pray about that and the Lord begins to speak to their hearts, when someone else verbalizes that there’s a sense of affirmation, oftentimes that you’ll see around the room, around the circle, around the table that you’re meeting with with people go, yeah, you said exactly what I feel, but I didn’t know how to put in it towards Or, you know what I was thinking the same exact thing, or, you know what I agree with you. And so I think those are signs that God is uniting the church. Leadership in, in feeling a sense of perhaps urgency, but also one of the things we talk about is maybe that maybe they’re finally getting a picture of reality based on either what scripture calls the church to be.
And they’re not that, or in a real practical sense what the data and the trans line show that, Hey, our church, if we just look at the numbers and the trends, like our church churches in serious trouble, And, and so the dose of reality then is another key step. I think in understanding if your church is ready for consultation, are they ready to look at [00:08:00] reality?
And then are they ready to accept it and not debated
JimBo Stewart: the next category forces is understanding that reality. and so. That part of the urgency is connected to understanding the reality, being able to embrace what’s actually happening. And I’d go back to our previous episode and say, when you’re considering, what kind of person to coach or consult you.
Through this from an outside perspective, if they come with a perfectly pre-packaged plan with a guarantee of you do these six steps, your church will grow by X percentage. bam. They’ve gotten the cart before the horse a little bit. And the reason we start with reality and urgency is, and we say things like.
What, what would Jesus say to your church? It’s because this is his church, this isn’t ours. It’s not your character and it’s not ours as consultants. It’s not ours as outside coaches. And while we may have processes and ways of helping you determine what God’s next steps for your church are that we’ve seen be effective or other people have seen that, or the consultant you have may have [00:09:00] processes.
That’s great. It’s great to have processes, but understand that the point of this is to see. Where, where you’re supposed to be in part of that is, is understanding the nature of your actual decline or your actual condition. Like what what’s actually happening. You got to actually look at the spiritual health, the historic trends of your church, and what’s happening and take ownership of the history of your church.
Bob Bickford: so good. So good. And I think once the church gets a picture of the reality, the next category we talk about in terms of asking questions to help a church to discern if they’re ready. For consultation is this idea of surrender. We almost, we might also call it acceptance. Right? So integrate the grief, the grief stages, as you probably took, uh, you know, a health class or in my college experience, we took a class called death and dying.
And, uh, it was interesting Barbara and I took that [00:10:00] class right after we got married. and I was, it was kind of one of those classes I just had, I needed to fill up an elective just to get out of graduate. And so we’d just gotten married and she was a psychology major. So it was on her track. So that’s, I think the only class we ever had in college together as we were making our way through, uh, Through our last years of school there, but she got frayed.
She thought like, because we were studying death and dying, she was just sure I was going to die. Like anytime, Sarah, she just, she was afraid that I was going to die. Right. And we had to plan our own funeral out. And I think I, you know, we had to plan songs and who would preach our funeral and all that kind of stuff.
Anyway. but part of the grief cycle we learned in there was acceptance. Right. And acceptance is based on here’s what reality says in reality is not good. And a church has to go through that, but the church also has to surrender to the reality that is, that exists. Right. That’s revealed to it. That’s based on data.
That’s based on surveys, it’s based on interviews and accounts. That’s based on what the leaders agree in. [00:11:00] And so they have to be able to, to say, to come to the point, you know what, um, We are going to have to do whatever it takes and surrender our preferences in order to see this church move forward. And it really takes a dying to self, right.
And most of the churches that, that we deal with that aren’t ready for consultation have a, I’m not ready for that. Right. And I was talking to a church leader today and one of the things that he was saying was, you know, we were. We’re a congregation about 25. Most of them are in their eighties and we just retired and we’re in our late sixties and we’re the young kids.
And he said, we were talking with the church plant. But everybody in the congregation, not everybody building a good majority said, you know, it’s just moving too fast. And the new church plant that wants to adopt us and wants us to merge in with them, wants us to change our name. And that’s just, we can’t do that.
That’s just a bridge too far. They understood their reality, but they weren’t [00:12:00] filled with this attitude of surrender. And so, this is really why we put this whole consultation readiness survey together, I think is because one of our good friends, Walker Armstrong said, you know what, Hey, we doing a lot of good work with churches.
And then we get to this point in the process where we realize they’ve pushed the done button. I’m done. I’m not talking about this anymore. Our not doing any more work on this, I’m done. And if there’s a way to highlight, uh, churches, lack of surrender. And if you can do that early, then you can save yourself and the church, a lot of headache and all the time.
And I think one of the things you have to realize is some churches need to season, They just need to kind of sit and they need to kind of season, and you may not be able to move forward with them immediately, but. the Lord has some work to do some spiritual work to do in the life of that church in order for it to be ready to receive the consultation.
Otherwise, if you don’t discern that you’re kind of wasting your time and their time.
JimBo Stewart: the passages I’ve used over and over. You’ve heard me use it before as Joshua chapter five. It’s [00:13:00] this key moment, right in Joshua’s leadership, where he’s been given leadership of the Israelites that have crossed the river, they have done Passover, and they’re now getting ready to prepare for battle with Jericho, their first battle in the promised land as they go in.
And he is serving the land and he comes across a soldier, a warrior with a sword drawn and he goes to the, and I’m paraphrasing, but he goes, and he says, Hey, are you for us? Are you against us? And the person answers? No. A worker. It was not a yes or no question, but it says no, but I am the commander of the Lord’s army.
Now I believe that to be a Christophany and Jesus Christ himself standing there. And I think Joshua realized when he looked up and heard this, that it’s just the command of the Lord’s army, what was going on. And he says, what would you have me do Lord. It’s one of the things I’ll share that, that passage with churches.
[00:14:00] And I’ll say we have to be willing to ask the right questions here. And, the question we can’t ask the wrong question is here are our plans. Lord, are you for our plans or are you against our plans? That’s not the right question. The right question is Lord, what would you have us do? And so I don’t know about you Bob, but sometimes early on in a process, I’ll talk about all the possible probable pathways we could come to a conclusion with at the end of our process.
And I’ll intentionally include things like. Closing up the church, selling the property and donating the assets to kingdom initiatives, or I’ll say things like changing your name. I’ll say things like a church plant that has completely different ethnicities than yours coming in. And they’re the ethnicity of this community now.
And so you give them everything and you can join what they’re doing or not, and help them reach this community. And I’ll intentionally say those, some of the things early on to say. Are any of [00:15:00] those off the table for you guys? I’m not saying I don’t have that church in my back pocket. I don’t, I’m not trying to sell your property.
I’m not trying to, but I just need to know now. I mean, are we willing to ask the Lord that question? What would you have us do if that’s his answer and that’s a hard, and I say, I want you to sit with that for a second. And again, I’m not telling you that I’ve come to those conclusions. I just need us to all go in and I’ll keep reminding them of that.
I need just to all go in knowing what we’re doing is asking the Lord, what would you have us do? And then we’re going to surrender and submit. We’re not going to surrender and submit to what Jimbo said you need to do. We’re going to surrender and submit to what the Lord says for us. Now that’s going to require some flexibility and adaptability.
Bob Bickford: absolutely. That they’ve got to be flexible and move off of those things that they’re holding that that are, non-negotiable soon. And that’s, you know, that’s one of things I want to be careful. Like if we’ve got some guys that are listening, that consult churches out there, I don’t know how you feel about this, but, but I, I have a strong feeling that you should never go [00:16:00] into a church and go, Hey, what are your non-negotiables.
Right. Because if you do that, they’re like, no. Okay, well it’s okay to have a non-negotiable right. And so my non-negotiable is, we’re not changing our name or we’re not moving the flags off the stage, or we’re not changing our a, the time of our service or, you know, whatever. Right. And I don’t think Jesus asked us to follow him and go, Hey, take your cross.
Give me a list of your non-negotiables and follow me. Right? You say that, thank you for cross, die to yourself daily
and follow me, like, where do we get this idea of non-negotiables
JimBo Stewart: we don’t get to have non-negotiables
Bob Bickford: only in doctrine, right? In the sense of biblical fidelity, right. That we’re not going to, we’re not going to get away from being faithful to the word of God and being obedient to him like obedience.
JimBo Stewart: I’ve got a great story with that. Uh, a church that I’ve been working with, for a little over a year now, cause COVID [00:17:00] really hijacks the whole process, uh, a church. They, they agreed early on to consider replanting and we’ve been trying to find them the right partner to replant. And I never used the phrase non-negotiables with them.
I had that kind of Joshua five conversation with them and just said like if, if there are things you’re holding onto. Let’s let’s go ahead and start naming those in laying them at the feet of Jesus. And I would always say, I’m not saying Jesus is going to take those away from you, but I’m also not saying that he’s not going to take them away from you.
I don’t know. I don’t know what the end of this process looks like for you. And I need you to be prepared to surrender whatever Jesus asks you to surrender. Right? And so we had a meeting the other night. With a potential partner church and potential replant or, with them and that potential re planter asked, what are your non-negotiables?
And, but it was such a, I was so proud, Bob. I was so proud because one of the ladies goes, oh, I got them. I got [00:18:00] non-negotiables. And I was like, oh man, I’m curious to see where this goes. And she goes, the Bible Jesus and the holy spirit.
Bob Bickford: Yes, man. Let me tell you here’s the non-negotiables that we got in one church consultation here in St. Louis, the name,
my hymnal, and putting up a screen in the sanctuary.
Those are my non-negotiables.
JimBo Stewart: no, no. That’s the deal, man. It’s look, this is if you’re pastoring a church and you’re considering. Getting somebody to come and give some consultation and help you figure out where your next steps are. two things. And we haven’t said this yet, one of these things, and it’s super important. We’ve said it in other episodes in different discussions, but it’s important enough to bring up right now.
do not. It underline bold italicize, make it 27 font. Do not just hire a [00:19:00] consultant and you, the pastor be the only one that converses with them. Don’t do not lead a change process by yourself because here’s, what’s going to happen if you do. They’re going to help you see some things and you’re going to get some really excited and then you’re going to go in and you’re gonna blow up everything.
And you’re going to cancel the big, huge Christmas pageant. And you’re going to go do all the things the way that you want them done. And Nope, you haven’t, you haven’t shepherded anyone on this journey with you. to go walk this with you, right? You, you were, you, you thought you were Moses and you went up on Mount Sinai and you got your tablets and you came down.
What, you know what happened when Moses came back down, they had a golden TAF.
Bob Bickford: yes.
JimBo Stewart: you got to bring some people on the journey with you, man. You got to build a team that is look, it would be much faster for you to do it by yourself, but it also would be far more fluid [00:20:00] for you to do it by yourself. And so this has to be a process.
You gotta have people with you, as you do this. And, I had a second thing there, but I don’t remember what it is now.
Bob Bickford: Okay. Well, as we’re kind of thinking through, in terms of leading a congregation, what you’re really trying to lead them towards is awareness, right. Perspective. you know, how do we see ourselves in light of what God says he wants for a church? if a congregation can only see itself, In a positive light and the way they will describe it as well.
We’re a, we’re a family church, or we’re a friendly church, or we’re a loving church or we’re a faithful church. Right. And so all those things may be true in there from their perspective, but what is, what does the Lord say? What, what do people who have visited the church? Say people who’ve left the church.
Right? I, I think all of these things in terms of thinking about reality [00:21:00] and, Addressing their, their areas of inflexibility and perhaps idolatry. They’ve got to come to a, a great sense of perspective about where they really are and how they are with where, with what they see. Right. And so I think that, um, The congregation’s perspective is, is really key part in helping them evaluate, are they ready for change?
Right. And, and are they just, are they tired of, are they tired of where they are to the degree that they like, we, we just can’t stay here. That’s kind of goes through a sense of urgency, but I think there’s also a sense of perspective about that. It’s like, look, what if we keep going the direction we’re going, this is not going to end well for us.
And we believe that the church should prevail and that God is glorified when a church is growing and healthy and vitally connected to the mission that he’s called it to. So they’ve got to have a perspective God’s perspective, not just their perspective about the church. Part of it is their perspective to see where they honestly are, but also [00:22:00] to really envision God’s perspective what he wants for the church.
And beyond that,
JimBo Stewart: yeah, I’ve heard it quoted so many times. I decided to. Figure out where the quote came from, on, have you ever heard this perspective is worth 80 IQ points? I don’t know if you’ve ever heard that before, but I’ve heard that so many times that this idea of it really adds so much just to have perspective.
and I went back to Alan Kay in the early days of Macintosh back in July, 1982. Which is when I was born by the way, July, 1982. And so, I like to say it was a great quote, probably the same day. Yeah. I was born, came out. he actually originally said it, the point of view is worth 80 IQ points. but there really is something to having a clear perspective on what’s happening, and understanding compare you, you pair that with.
Urgency and an understanding of reality and a willingness to surrender a flexibility and adaptability. but I think the other thing you have to consider when [00:23:00] you’re trying to figure out is, is your church ready for outside perspective and consultation or coaching, is, is the history of the church.
does, does the congregation acknowledge and account for the presence of embedded conflict or still, or historical issues that have contributed to their present condition? there’s part of getting perspective is understanding history, right? And, and here’s the deal just like if you. Go to a counselor and that counselor does a little bit of digging into your history to figure out some of the ways that you tick and why, why that is the way you tick.
that, that is to help explain things. But it has never to excuse things, Like when we figure out historical reasons for why we behave the way we behave on an individual or on a corporate basis, it is never to give an excuse for misbehavior, or for bad attitudes or, or any of those things. It helps us [00:24:00] understand and be sensitive to where that’s coming from.
Right. But it doesn’t, it does not give us a reason to go well, you know, we’re just, we had that failed, you know, whatever pastor. And so we’re just never going to trust anybody like that again. Wow. It can help you understand why you would be hesitant, but it can’t be a reason to not do something in the Lord asks you to do.
Bob Bickford: so agree with that. Um, particularly what, what we see in troubled churches. And I was having this conversation with, I think, a group of associational leaders and. The reality is once, once a, um, once a church has a conflict that goes unresolved, or once they have a forced termination, once something happens, a fracture split, it’s easier for that thing to happen again.
And if they don’t acknowledge it, it, it, they don’t understand what led to it and they haven’t dealt with it in a redemptive and re and repentive way. [00:25:00] Then it’s likely that that thing is going to come up over and over again. And, and typically what will happen is we can go through all of these things that we’ve talked about before, previously in the list.
And then we can get down to this element of history and the church. Won’t be honest about what its history has been. And if there’s some things in it in its history that need to be dealt with, then all of those previous things that we talked about, if they come to the per the right place on all of them, if they’re not willing to deal with their history, then their history almost will undo everything that, that.
Has happened in terms of preparing them to come to that particular point in thinking about their readiness. Right. So, Hey, we’re going to do all these things. We’re going to think about all these things, but Hey, well, we’re not going there, right? We’re not talking about that. And we’re not going to deal with that and we’re not going to own our part in a dysfunctional or sinful history.
In terms of churches corporate experience. Now, when we’re saying like, uh, a historical experience, that’s not a good [00:26:00] one. And we talk about sin. We don’t mean every single person in the church. But we mean, there’s a, there is a sense that there perhaps were a few that were involved in a leadership issue or something that didn’t go right.
And then it must be acknowledged and it must be dealt with, uh, because th that, that has the impact, right? I mean, we were talking about Joshua earlier, remember the sin of Aiken and the battle of AI when they got routed. Right. So, You know, Aiken and his family took some of the things that God didn’t want them to take him and the whole army lost, and they they’d lost people that were not related to Aiken.
And ultimately they had to uncover and deal with what, what was going on in the, uh, the people, uh, and Akins family in order to, to move forward. I think the same thing holds true with
JimBo Stewart: absolutely. Look, this has been a great couple of episodes with the golden guru, with the golden voice of replanting. so just to recap, Part one, should you get outside [00:27:00] perspective, consultation, coaching wisdom counsel, a hundred percent, yes. On a regular basis, you should have that speaking into you individually as a leader and into your congregation.
It’s just healthy. And it’s good. If you can do that and it takes humility on your part to be willing to submit to that. But who do you ask to do that? Somebody who asks more questions than they give advice, somebody who has experienced somebody. Who has tasted failure and seen God do great things and can share with you great stories out of both sides of that, and is willing to show that with Jesus being the hero and not themselves, how do you know your church is ready when your church has got to have a sense of urgency, a holy Discontentment.
They need to be aware of the nature of their declining condition and the reality of everything that’s happening. They need to be willing to surrender. In order to see a better future that requires a flexibility and adaptability on non-essentials and be ready to adapt to potential changes in order to see a better future, they need to have a good perspective of what’s actually happening perspective of their own hearts [00:28:00] perspective of the congregation perspective of the community and how all those things come together.
Or there needs to be an openness and honest understanding of the history of the church. Then that church is ready to not only receive, but follow good wise, biblical holy spirit lead counsel, and that kind of counsel doesn’t look like a perfectly pre-packaged promises of we can make this happen. That kind of godly counsel looks like.
Let’s see what Jesus has in mind for your church. All right. See you guys next week.