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reFocus Conference (IV)

Day three of the reFocus conference began with a talk from Ken Davis. Ken is a humorist—a comedian, really. I don’t quite know what to say about this session. He drew out a couple of messages he wanted to communicate to the pastors here and did it with a whole lot of laughter. My best efforts at blogging this comedy sketch fell flat (as I’m sure you understand). He did a great job of mixing the poignant and the hilarious. So we’ll just leave it there except to say that I appreciated his definition of humor: Humor is a gentle way to acknowledge human frailty.

Immediately after this session ended, I hurried down three flights of stairs, across campus and up three flights of stairs to deliver a breakout address. It went quite well, I think, and there was some productive discussion afterward. Unfortunately this discussion stretched on long enough that I was not able to make it to the general session that followed. It was a roundtable of sorts, I believe. But alas, I missed it. The mid-afternoon session, also a roundtable was canceled for some reason. And so that brought me to the evening.

The evening session began with a time of worship and then Chip Ingram took to the stage. Chip is President and Teaching Pastor of Living on the Edge. This session was rather interesting to me as he was speaking on a subject that overlapped significantly with the one I had spoken of in my breakout session. In fact, he turned to the same passage of Scripture, Romans 12, to prove the same thing and to challenge pastors in some of the same ways.

He started with a brief devotional and then turned to his subject for the evening: Refocusing Your Focus. If the talk had a subtitle, it would be this: What if “the problem” Is not “THE PROBLEM”?

What he shared in the evening was what he says is a whole new ministry dynamic; a whole new way of seeing ministry. His prayer is that through the brief time together, God would give each of these pastors a dynamic, paradigm-shifting refocus on all of life but especially on ministry. This was no small goal!

He gave a lot of statistics about the church—about pastors and why they leave the pastorate, about Christians and why so few of them actually resemble Christians. Looking at these issues about four years ago, he had come to some conclusions and had rolled out a program of sorts that would address them.

The problem is…
Pastors have been given a job for which it is very difficult to measure how they are doing. There is an epidemic problem of quality control within the church and the shepherds are the ones who are responsible.

The result is…
We’ve become slaves to running programs, keeping church activities rolling and feeling very frustrated with limited spiritual life-change.

His ministry commissioned a Barna study to figure out how big a problem this is. The overall conclusion was that pastors had no way of explaining what a healthy, mature Christian is. So the pastors themselves did not know their task!

…Most Christians equate spiritual maturity with following the rules.
…Most churchgoers are not clear what their church expects in terms of spiritual maturity
…Most pastors struggle with explaining or defining spiritual maturity
…Most pastors struggle with feeling the relevance of and articulating a specific set of objectives for spirituality, often favoring activities over attitudes

The answer is…
He offered a three-part answer.

Focus - Get clear on your calling (see Colossians 1:28-29).

Metrics - Get clear on measuring spiritual maturity. Here he introduced what he called an R12 Christian. He drew these marks of spiritual maturity from Romans 12 and did so at some length. I’ll provide only a brief outline. If you’d like to learn more you can do so at livingontheedge.org. From Romans 12 he found these five marks of a mature Christian: Such a Christian is Surrendered to God; Separate from the World; Sober in Self-Assessment; Serving in Love; Supernaturally Responding to Evil.

Power - Making God’s work in you the priority over God’s work through you.

It seemed to me that he ran out of time by the end, so hurried through the last few points. Overall, I appreciated his talk. I think he is right that a huge percentage of what passes for Christianity in America is really just empty and unbiblical. And so he is calling these churches to understand the pastor’s role as leading Christians from infancy to maturity. This is excellent! I think, though, that this is an insight that has not escaped those churches that all along have been focusing on the preaching of the Word as the primary task of the pastor and of the church. Churches that have become distracted by endless programs have definitely lost sight of the most important thing. So I guess I’d say Ingram’s call to emphasize making disciples (not just converts) is important but also obvious; it is what a remnant of evangelical churches have been saying all along! For those pastors that have lost sight of this task that God has given them, I hope this message stands as a wake-up call that drives them to Scripture to see how God would have them lead and shepherd their flock.