Tag Archives: Leadership

Is there an “X Factor” that makes a church successful?

X Factor (Netherlands)

I assume you are familiar with the term “The X Factor”? Simon Cowell has helped a bit with that. By definition, it is something you can’t quite describe that makes someone or some organization special and or successful. Some might call it the Midas touch – everything they do seems to turn to gold. But is there and “X Factor” that can make a church successful? I believe there is but it is not unknown, just not always correctly identified.

  • Is it clarity of the vision?
  • Is it the quality of the leadership?
  • Is it the excellence of the programs?
  • Is it the charisma of the senior pastor?
  • Is it the quality of the preaching?
  • Is it the way the church seeks to meet the needs of its people?

All of those play a greater or lesser role in making up a good church. But the Bible is clear that ultimately none of those are “The X Factor” of the church. They are important, and God uses them, but they are not “The X Factor”. They are not what ultimately make the church successful.

Well what is it? I believe the answer lies in (amongst other passages) John 16: 5 – 16. In John 13 – 17 Jesus spends some quality teaching time with his disciples preparing them for His sacrificial and substitutionary work on the cross for the sins of the world and their sacrificial gospel mission on earth to tell the world about what Jesus has done on the cross after He returns to heaven to His Father. Jesus makes it very clear that this gospel mission will be very tough for His disciples because although they know the good they will be doing, the world won’t see it that way and will hate them for it like they did Jesus. And in fact it becomes clear that the gospel mission that Jesus sends them out on is impossible for them to accomplish. They possess no X Factor that can turn the hearts of spiritually dead people who hate Him and His disciples into people who are spiritually alive and love Jesus and His disciples and are willing to sacrificially serve the world with the good news themselves. It is going to take a miracle to change spiritually dead people into spiritually alive people. And only God can do that. And so in John 16: 5 – 16 we see (and this is the main point of this blog entry) that the X Factor that makes any church successful in its gospel mission is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit and we have to depend on Him to do that and use us in the process.

So the X Factor that makes any church successful in its gospel mission is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. But that doesn’t mean we are not involved. We have to depend on Him to do that and use us in the process. And how do we depend on Him? Yes we get stuck into continuing the gospel mission given to the disciples doing whatever we can to be witnessing disciples for Jesus. But we must realise that unless the Holy Spirit works, all that we are and do will not achieve what will make the church successful in its mission.

But how do we show that dependency on the Holy Spirit? Just keeping these things in mind? Yes, we must keep this in mind, but the way we show our dependence is on God the Holy Spirit to is to PRAY! A helpful definition of prayer is “expressed dependency on God”. Read Ephesians 6: 10 – 20 to get a sense of that.

So how successful do we think our church are? And what I mean by that is how many people’s lives are we seeing being changed by the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit through us? I suspect that while there are many good churches, there may not be too many successful churches. And I wonder if that is so because we do not pray for it to happen (as usual we have to live in the tension between God’s sovereignty and our action). But maybe we do not express to God just how dependant we are on Him for that to happen through us? Or express just how willing we are for that to happen through us? Also, however much we may pray privately and in small groups, but how often as God’s family do we pray together?

“I have seen many men work without praying, though I have never seen any good come out of it; but I have never seen a man pray without working.” James Hudson Taylor “We are too busy to pray, and so we are too busy to have power. We have a great deal of activity, but we accomplish little; many services but few conversions; much machinery but few results.” R. A. Torrey

“I would rather teach one man to pray than ten to preach.” Charles Spurgeon

Can our churches be successful? That is can we make a great gospel impact on our communities? Yes we can. Will it happen in the way we envisage it? Probably not. But one thing is for sure, if we don’t pray urgently for it we will never know!

Let’s pray for the Holy Spirit to pour out His power on and through us for gospel living and success. Let’s ask Him to:

  • Revive our hearts
  • Revive our families
  • Revive our churches
  • Save many in our neighborhoods, town, cities and countries through us

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Building the church but breaking our families?

Family in tall grass

Sabbatical reflection 2: As a pastor it is biblical and wise to put my family first. There are many men who could be called to pastor the church where I am but I am the only man at this time called to love and pastor my family in the unique and intimate way that only I can. Jesus said He would build the church and called me to love my wife and children and minister out of the overflow of that. This must have a significant impact on how I use my time… what I say yes and no to.

There seem to be an increasing number of stories of pastors who have reasonably “successful” ministries but families who are falling apart because they spend more time leading the church than their families. Ultimately the family and the ministry will suffer if that is the case.

Whether I am part of a “successful” ministry or not I will leave to others to decide on but it does worry me that I probably spend more time leading others than my own family. Part of that is because I really love what I do working as a leader and pastor. And part of that is that while I love my family very much it is often easier to lead people in the church than my family for many reasons.

But as I reflect on 1 Timothy 3: 4 – 5 it seems that Paul is adamant that if a man is to be an elder and has a family he cannot manage the household of God if he can’t manage his own household. Paul doesn’t say the elder must manage his family perfectly but well and in such a way that they follow him. Now if for me it is easier to lead others than my family then it means that I am going to have to put in extra time and effort in order to lead my family well. And that actually will be good for the church because it seems that Paul is, in a way, saying that those with families must lead the church well out of the overflow of leading their families well? If that is true, and I believe it is, then I need to reschedule my life to spend more time leading and loving my family and learn to say no to some other things that may be on other people’s agenda for me so that I can lead my family and the church of Jesus better.

I also remember hearing a leader at a conference say something that made me realize while there are many other men whom the Lord could use to lead and be the vessel through which He builds the church where I am while I am still alive, while I am alive there is only one me through whom He will build up my family in the intimate and unique way that only I can.

So please pray especially for me and all pastors and church leaders that we would lead our families well and out of the overflow of that lead the church well.

But also please pray also for all Christian husbands and dads and single moms that they would all lead their families well and minister from the overflow of that to the world.

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Reflections on 1 Timothy – chapter 3: The local church with the right leaders – God’s vehicle for the Gospel!

The study translation Bible 2009

If we are passionate about the Gospel of salvation through Christ alone as taught by Paul God’s appointed spokesman – because that is what God is passionate about (see previous reflections on 1 Timothy below) then that will be reflected in the leadership of the church.

Three times in 1 Timothy Paul says, “Here is a trustworthy saying.” And each of these sayings are critical to our thinking as followers of Jesus but the one we look at in 1 Timothy 3, our passage for reflection, is perhaps the more surprising one. The first one, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”, and the third one, “we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men” we can resonate with because they focus on Jesus. But the middle one, “If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task” seems not to be as Jesus-centered as the others.

Why does Paul put this saying in the same trustworthy league as the others? I think it is because God is passionate about the local church! Contrary to all the hype that backs people who love Jesus but hate the church, God has chosen to primarily communicate the life changing good news about the Gospel of salvation as taught by Paul through the frail, failing local church and the leadership of such a local is critical to keep it on the gospel path that it needs to be on.

And the amazing thing is that Paul says that it is great thing if someone sets his heart on being a leader in the local church. Amazing because in this generation we are not only skeptical about leadership but especially church leadership and especially people who go after being in church leadership. As someone said, “We prefer reluctant leaders, pushed forward, while protesting their unworthiness.” But Paul says the opposite and therefore so does God.

The words used to describe the leadership of a local church are that they are overseers and deacons in other words supervisors and servants. And Paul now sets out to tell Timothy and us just what kind of people should be overseers and deacons. And these qualities can apply to all areas of leadership in the local church.

Essentially Paul says an overseer must be able to teach and live the truth. You can read the qualities for yourself.

It is interesting to note however that while today being a visionary is regarded as so important to church leadership it is not mentioned here at all. I think that is because our vision is Jesus’ vision as laid out in Matthew 28 and Acts 1… and so what is needed are not visionaries coming up with new visions but teachers who can teach and mobilize people around the vision of Jesus.


Filed under 1 Timothy