Monday, June 30, 2008

Leadership (part 4)

This is the fourth in my series of articles on leadership. A leader helps people move from where they are to where they want or need to be. Helping churches make this transition can be incredibly challenging. I believe one of the greatest needs today is for “leaders” who have the skill and insight to help congregations successfully change. As I indicated in my third article “change is difficult.” It seems particularly difficult for churches.

Have you ever tried to implement what seemed to be a “small change” only to discover the change had far reaching impact? I once presented plans to a small congregation where I was serving as pastor to conduct a committee training event. It seemed like a harmless and practical way to begin the new church year. I thought it might help our committees function more effectively. However, as a young pastor, I was unaware of the potential impact of the decision to conduct a committee training event on the informal and formal power structures of the congregation. I was not aware of how the recommendation would impact some of my key leaders. The response was rapid and painful.

Joel Barker says leaders need to have an appreciation for complex systems and how they work. We have to be aware that small decisions in one area of our ministry may impact many other areas. One of the examples he shares is the Y2K bug. As you know in reality it was no bug. It was a simple decision made by early computer programmers to abbreviate the year to the last two digits rather than four digits. The result was a massive problem when the year 2000 arrived. The problem was that computers recognized “00” as 1900, not 2000. Barker reminds us that the result of one seemingly simple decision made years before the new millennium cost billions of dollars to correct.

Many pastors and church leaders have been “blind-sided” by the impact of what seemed to be simple, small decisions in their congregations. Whether we are dealing with the world of nature, a business venture, or a local congregation the decisions we make sometimes have major impact. If we fail to recognize the nature of complex systems then our leadership may be compromised before we even get started. Many congregations have split and pastors have resigned because leaders failed to recognize the impact of small decisions.

Helping churches successfully change takes time and patience. It also takes insight to see the complexities of the church’s systems and power structure. Pastors and church leaders can develop the skills to help the congregation gradually transition through changes as they move toward greater health and effectiveness. It is not impossible for churches to change, but it can be challenging. Remember Barker said, More than anything else, leaders build bridges that help us move from where we are to where we want to be. Leaders need to understand the nature of change and how it impacts those they lead.

Before we rush in with all our new ideas, we need to reflect on the impact of the changes we are recommending. How will these decisions impact our church’s ministry in the short-term and long-term? Who will be affected by the changes? How can we help these changes take place with less stress and resistance? What is the best time frame for making these changes? The list of questions goes on. Leaders take the time to ask and answer the right questions as they lead their congregations into the future God has planned. That is a part of building bridges to the future. No matter how great your ideas, if no one is following you, then you are not leading.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Bible Preaching Week Opportunities

Last year the Baptist General Convention of Missouri sponsored Bible Preaching Week at Windermere. The Missouri Baptist Convention quit sponsoring the event several years ago because they refuse to utilize Windermere’s facilities. I have always enjoyed the time of study and fellowship with pastors and church leaders. It was great to have the opportunity to give this special week a new birth last year. I talked with a number of pastors last year who were not aware Bible Preaching Week was back. I hope you will plan to join us this August.

The theme for this year’s week is Worship: An Encounter with God! from Isaiah 6:1-8. The week will begin on Monday, August 11, with the evening meal and conclude with lunch on Friday morning, August 15. Dr. Charles Wade, Retired Executive Director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, will be our preacher for the week. Dr. Wade served as Executive from 2000 until January of this year. Prior to coming to his position with the BGCT, Dr. Wade served as pastor of First Baptist Church in Arlington since 1976. Charles is a great preacher, and I am looking forward to hearing him each evening.

Dr. David May, Professor of New Testament at Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Shawnee, Kansas, will be our Bible Teacher. Dr. May previously served as Visiting Professor of New Testament (1991-94) at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri, and Baptist Chair of Bible (1987-1993) at Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg, Missouri.

The theme for the Bible studies will be Upside Down: Experiencing the Parables of Jesus. Dr. May says, “The parables of Jesus have often been neatly boxed and wrapped and their interpretative powers domesticated for popular theological agendas of the Church. Yet, these enigmatic riddles, which serve as the core of Jesus’ teaching on the reign of God, continue to defy conventional wisdom and interpretation. This Bible study will reassess the nature and function of parables and highlight some of the latest approaches for reading and understanding them.”

  • Session 1: Swallowing the Parable Pill: The Function of Parables
  • Session 2: “Warning, Handle with Care”: Approaching Parables
  • Session 3: Weddings, Kings, and Assorted Things: Parables in Matthew
  • Session 4: Sowings, Feastings, and Assorted Things: Parables in Luke

The Women’s Conference will be led this year by Kristie McGonegal. Kristie is a third-year student at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, working towards a Master of Divinity degree in Christian Education. She has served within her home church (First Baptist Church of Jefferson City) as a Department Director and Bible study teacher for many years and has also taught numerous Bible Studies from Precept Ministries. As a relatively new Stephen Leader, she is also currently serving as training coordinator for FBC’s new Stephen Ministry. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in mass communications from then Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg. She is married and has two daughters. The Women’s Study will focus on “Finding Your Role(s) with the Kingdom of God.”

One important aspect of Bible Preaching Week is the breakout sessions. These small group sessions provide an opportunity for dialogue and discussion with a wide variety of conference leaders who cover a diverse range of topics. This year our break out sessions include:

  • BaptistWay Bible Study Resources—Phil Miller
  • Christian Education Certification—Phil Miller
  • Contemporary Worship—Chad Cooper
  • Cowboy Church and Rodeo Bible Camps—Kevin Collins
  • Emerging Trends in Worship—Brad Andrews
  • Finding Fresh Sermons while Walking Ancient Paths: Preaching the Lectionary—Doyle Sager
  • How to Develop a Golf Links Fellowship—Steve Long
  • In-Side Out Weekends—Debbie Atteberry, WorldconneX staff
  • Introduction to Family Systems Theory: Understanding Church Craziness—Bob Perry
  • Managing the Worship Wars—Ian Coleman
  • Moving from Committees to Ministry Teams—Jeanie McGowan
  • Planning for Retirement—Stephen Mathis
  • Preparing for Cross-Cultural Missions—Gary Snowden
  • Right Leader, Right Place, Right Time—Verlyn Bergen
  • Roundtable Listening: Using Mid-Week Services to Prepare for Sunday’s Sermon—Doyle Sager
  • Stewardship: Giving as an Act of Worship—Jim Hill
  • Technology & Worship in the 21st Century—Chad Cooper
  • The [He]art of Worship Leading in the 21st Century—Brad Andrews
  • The History of Church Music and Worship—Ian Coleman
  • They Like Jesus, but Not the Church—Jeanie McGowan
  • Women’s Conference: Finding Your Role within the Kingdom of God—Kristie McGonegal
  • Worship Planning Roundtable—Rod Maples
  • Worship Strategies for New Churches—Owen Taylor

We are delighted to be able to provide $400 scholarships for pastors serving congregations with an average attendance of 150 or less. Pastors, church staff members, and church leaders are all invited to join us for the week. Student teams from Missouri Baptist University and William Jewell College will be leading morning and evening sessions for children and youth. Special “family rates” are available for all Windermere lodging. I hope you will plan to join us for this special time of worship, fellowship and study at Windermere. Check out our website ( for more information. (This article was originally written for our BGCM e-message.)

Common Ground

I began a new teaching assignment today. Common Ground is a Bible study class directed by Cari Collins at First Baptist Church in Jefferson City, Missouri, where Bettie Jo and I are members. It is an unusual gathering of a diverse group--attorneys, medical doctors, students, and other young professionals. Judge Duane Benton has been teaching the class for several years. He is completing a move to the Kansas City area with his family, and Cari convinced me I should become their new teacher. I told the class that I was on probation--they can still fire me if things don't work out.

The class has been studying the revised common lectionary scripture passages. At least for the present, we are planning to continue the process. I have been a part of a lot of different Bible study classes and groups through the years both as a teacher and a participant. This is truly a unique group. The conversation is open and lively. No one seems to have any hesitation about speaking up to share an insight or to ask a question. They seem genuinely interested in exploring the scripture to both understand its meaning and find appropriate application for their lives today. Preparation for this class will be a new experience for me because of their use of the RCL and because of the diversity of the class. I am looking forward to the challenge and opportunity.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Partners in Kingdom Ministries

I originally wrote this article for our Message page in the Word&Way. This past week I had the opportunity to participate in the Baptist Center for Ethics Luncheon and the Annual Meeting and Luncheon sponsored by the Religious Liberty Council of the Baptist Joint Committee. The luncheons were held in Memphis during the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s General Assembly. Both events were significant gatherings, and I am proud the Baptist General Convention of Missouri supports these important ministries.

The Baptist Center for Ethics luncheon featured a presentation on the issues of tax justice the need for the church and community of faith to be advocates for justice. Susan Pace Hamill, professor at the University of Alabama Law School, commented on high sacrifice vs. low sacrifice issues for people of faith. I also had the privilege of participating in interviews for a new DVD being produced by the Baptist Center for Ethics on Racial Justice. I am grateful for the ministry of this organization, and I encourage you to check out their work at or on our convention website.

The Religious Liberty Council luncheon was also held during the General Assembly. The Rev. Dr. Aidsand Wright-Riggins III was the featured speaker. Since 1991, Wright-Riggins has served as the executive director of National Ministries for American Baptist Churches USA, where he is chief executive officer of ABC’s publishing arm, Judson Press. He also is a member of the BJC board, and has served as its chairman.

This past year the Baptist General Convention of Missouri became a member of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty. I have the privilege of representing our convention as a member of the board. Through this organization we have the opportunity to join with other Baptists in being advocates for Religious Liberty causes. You can learn more about the BJC at their website (

Earlier this month our Board of Directors voted to approve some structural changes for our staff, and they elected Verlyn Bergen as our new Resources & Relationships Team Leader. Verlyn comes to this new role with tremendous gifts and experience in serving pastors and churches. Verlyn, like all of our staff, will serve on a part-time basis as we seek to utilize practitioners as convention leaders. I continue to be incredibly grateful for the opportunity to serve with our entire staff. We continue to be committed to serving churches and church leaders as they fulfill the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. We look forward to hearing from you regarding how we might assist your church.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A Fresh Vision for a Historic Church

This past Sunday I had the opportunity to preach at Fee Fee Baptist Church. Randy Fullerton, pastor of Fee Fee, was participating in a mission trip with a group from the church in Mexico. This past year Fee Fee celebrated their 200th Anniversary. It is the oldest protestant church west of the Mississippi River. The church hosted the organizational meeting for the Baptist General Convention of Missouri in April of 2002. Earlier this year they did a wonderful job of hosting our 6th Annual Meeting. Randy has been a member of the Board of Directors for two terms and is currently serving as Vice President of the convention.

The Fee Fee church family is a wonderful and gracious fellowship of believers. They have an incredible history and heritage of ministry in their community. Maybe even more important, they have a vision for the future. The church is currently in a building program which will significantly expand their facilities and capacity for ministry. They are reaching out to the unchurched in their community. Old historic churches can find a fresh vision for the future. In the words of Robert Dale, "they can dream again." In a world where many congregations seem to be struggling for survival, it is great to see churches growing. It was a privilege to worship with them.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Tiger's Interview with Joel Gregory

Kevin Gibson, Associate Pastor of Music and Senior Adults at First Baptist Church in North Kansas City, shared a link to the latest episode at with me. It is an interview with Dr. Joel Gregory on the subject of preaching.

In this episode, Pastor Tiger Pennington (Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of North Kansas City) interviews Dr. Joel Gregory on the subject of preaching. A sampling of topics discussed in this podcast are: the role of preaching in worship, sources for illustrations, preaching in a media-saturated culture, and the interaction of the biblical text with politics. Dr. Gregory is the Preaching Professor at Truett Theological Seminary of Baylor University and was appointed Distinguished Fellow by Georgetown College, Kentucky, in 2004. He is also the founder and president of Joel Gregory Ministries, a non-profit organization supporting a preaching, teaching, counseling, and writing ministry.

I thought the podcast interview was helpful. I believe Joel Gregory is one of the great preachers of our day. His message at the New Baptist Convenant meeting in Atlanta regarding our need to "welcome the stranger" was powerful. If you have not heard it, I encourage you to listen to it at the New Baptist Covenant site.

The total length of the worship interview with Dr. Gregory is 19:59. I encourage you to check it out at