Archives For Scott Attebery

Monster PastorIn a previous post, I wrote about “monster churches” in reference to congregations that chew up and spit out pastors on a regular basis. Monster churches are highly dysfunctional and rarely fruitful.

The congregation, however, is not always the problem. Just as monster churches are a factory of discord, monster pastors take trouble with them wherever they go.

Nicknames for monster pastors include: dictator, authoritarian, and control freak.

Biblically speaking, they may be false teachers, greedy for selfish gain, deceitful workmen, and ravenous wolves. They specialize in hijacking congregations then abusing power.

Monster pastors have little regard for the sheep (or the Chief Shepherd for that matter). Instead, their first priority is self, masked by other agendas. Such pastors may use pressure tactics, political maneuvering, and/or persuasive speech in order to manipulate a congregation into acting on their behalf. When they don’t get their way, monster pastors usually 1) move on to another church, 2) cause a stir in their current church, and/or 3) blame the congregation for not following their lead. Simply put, monster pastors are building their own kingdom rather than Christ’s kingdom.

As a general rule, monster pastors:

Bus-MinistryIt was exciting news. My friend’s eyes lit up as he shared the exciting changes in the church he recently began pastoring. One of the neatest transitions the congregation had made was to begin small group meetings.

Small group ministry has been around for decades now. However, it is still a relatively new concept to many churches. The main idea is that people hold Bible studies in groups of 10-12 (depending on the context) for the purpose of Christian growth, edification, accountability and fellowship. Most small groups meet in homes in order to promote a family atmosphere where people are comfortable discussing God’s Word and its application to their lives without the formalities and intimidation of traditional classroom models.

For many churches, small groups balance the reception of Scripture from a congregational sermon setting with the discussion, response, and application of Scripture within the setting of mutual trust and encouragement.

As my friend and I were talking about his church’s move toward small groups, one burning question arose: how can a church guard their small groups from becoming institutionalized and ritualistic in the way that other church programs have devolved? (i.e. Sunday School, Bus…

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Fact: Some congregations chew up pastors and spit them out every 2-3 years. I don’t have a Barna Study or Pew Research Poll to verify that assertion. But I don’t think verification is necessary. We’ve all seen the tragedy of “Monster Churches.”

What leads me to believe it is the church’s fault? Before I get to that, let me admit that it isn’t always the churches fault. I know many men who are just not effective pastors –no matter their congregational context. (That’s a topic for a future blog post entitled “Monster Pastors”).

Having said that, there are plenty of cases where the church undoubtedly has a problem. That is particularly evident in cases where:

  • The problem occurs over and over for a long period of time with a multitude of pastors. In these cases, the only common denominator is the congregation.
  • Pastors leave the church to find warm welcome and fruitful, long-term ministry in another congregation. When this happens, the change in church makes all the difference. The pastor remains the same.
  • The congregation denies that any problem exists at all. Pride is a powerful deceiver.

Once again, I admit that a church may have experienced all three…

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Fallow GroundGrowing up, I remember the announcement every year in church: “Ladies, please sign up to bring food for next week’s revival services.” I loved that announcement. Why? Several reasons: Home-made fried chicken, sour dough bread, mashed potatoes, and CHOCOLATE PIE!!!

Revival: The very word has different meanings for different people. For some, it means week-long meetings in the Fall and Spring (with lots of fried chicken). For others it means gathering for services two or three times a day for intense worship and prayer.

The biblical concept of revival refers to an awakening in which the souls of believers are stirred toward greater affections for Christ. It is a time in which men draw close to God as God draws close to them (James 4:8) and the presence of God seems unusually strong (Psalm 16:11).

I can’t imagine any believer who does not desire revival. Which begs the question, “Who is responsible for revival? -God or man?” Since only God can grant revival, should we take a passive “wait and see” position, or is there something we can be doing to prepare for revival? It really comes down to the age-old…

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“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Those words are quoted from the Emma Lazarus poem, New Colossus, inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty. While the original intent is to describe all who are welcomed by Lady Liberty, they may also sound like an apt description of a near-burnout pastor.

  • Tired? Check
  • Poor? Check
  • Yearning to breathe free? Check

How is it that pastors, ministering the gospel of Jesus Christ, experience such stress? Didn’t Jesus say, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30)?

Multitudes of statistical data point out the fact that pastoral burnout has become epidemic. Many reasons exist for such burnout:

  • Many pastors feel isolated and fear sharing their problems with others.
  • Some churches have unrealistic expectations for their pastor.
  • The work of a pastor is never done.
  • Many pastors believe they can never rest or take vacation for fear that someone will need them.

Perhaps pastors facing burnout feel like the prophet Elijah in I Kings 19. In the previous passage, He had just faced off with the prophets of Baal and watched God’s fire from Heaven consume the drenched sacrifices on Mount Carmel.

However, this action…

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Hidden Discipleship

By Scott Attebery

Here’s a phrase you’ve never read in Scripture: “And Jesus called aside the apostles saying, ‘take up your discipleship workbooks and gather for the lesson.’”

There is no doubt that Jesus was a disciple-maker and there is no doubt that He taught the apostles lessons. However, there is great doubt that he ever announced His discipleship in this way.

Certainly, in calling the apostles to “follow” him, He announced a general call to discipleship. But when it came to day-to-day learning, Jesus utilized a more potent method: hidden discipleship.

Hidden discipleship simply means it was unannounced.  Instead of being situated in a classroom, Christ’s discipleship was wrapped in real life.

For instance, Jesus didn’t announce, “Today I am going to teach you lesson seven: God will supply your every need.” No, instead, He took advantage of a real-life situation where masses of people were hungry. He involved the apostles in searching for a solution. Then, he took their incomplete understanding -five loaves here and two fish- (Matthew 14:13-21) and demonstrated His sufficiency. He even put an exclamation point on the lesson by giving each apostle a basketful of leftovers.

Jesus took advantage of another real-life…

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AloneI face it every night. After tucking my son in bed, I close the door and walk back into my living room. There it is, my faithful companion: being alone.

I didn’t choose the single life. Yet God chose it for me (at least for this season). I was happily married with a newborn when my wife passed away in an automobile accident.

Every night I must choose how to pass my time. I could catch up on work, watch television, read a book, surf the internet, etc. But the one thing I would love to do is the one thing unavailable to me at the moment. I am anticipating a time that I can remarry and have a wife with whom I can share my evenings. I long for the day I can sit down and pour out my heart with my mate after a long day. I am eager for the next chapter of my life in which I can laugh with a new companion.

But for now, God has brought me to a place of being alone.

Being alone, however, is not all bad. In fact, Christ himself spent great amounts of…

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Growth

Does God desire for your church to grow?

The short and simple answer is “yes.” We can make this deduction from the fact that God has called us to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20) and that ultimately; disciples from all nations will be gathered together in heaven (Revelation 7:9). In the mean time, God is working through His body, the Church, to gather His children (Matthew 16:18). Therefore, as the Church grows, God’s global kingdom grows. –and that’s not just God’s goal, its promise.

But there is another answer and its slightly more complicated.

Imagine you have a friend with two wild, unruly children. When his kids spend the night with your kids, you hide every breakable item in the house and never let them out of your sight! Although you love your friend immensely, you are really concerned about his lack of parenting skills.

One day, over lunch, your friend tells you that he and his wife are praying for another child. He explains how they are confident that God wants their family to grow and he even quotes Psalm 127:3, “Behold, children are a heritage…

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Singles

“I don’t belong here.” That was the first thought that entered my mind when I walked into the room labeled, “singles.”

I had recently relocated and was interested in building relationships in my new church home. On that particular Sunday morning, I was greeted in the Church entrance and asked what kind of class I would like to attend. After a short discussion, the greeter led me to a small classroom upstairs.

To be honest, I felt like I had been dropped off in the “lost and found” box for Christians. Other than being single, “What else could I possibly have in common with these people?” I thought.

You see, the term, “single” has multiple meanings. It can refer to a 26-year old graduate student who has never been married, a 43-year old divorcee and mother of three, or a 74-year old widower, or a million different other combinations!

I sat down and waited for the lesson to begin. My mind was filled with curiosity as I scanned the room. “I wonder what his story is?” “What brought her to this class?”

The lesson was great. But what was even better was the discussion. It was during that…

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Choices

The following is an excerpt from my book, “Navigate: Understanding & Pursuing God’s Will.”

The Tight Rope Theory

This teaching declares God’s will is like a tight rope where one wrong move will ruin your life and require you to start all over again -or worse, be eternally out of God’s will.  This view assumes God is powerless to work through the faults of man.

The tight rope theory has a difficult time explaining how Moses could lead the children of Israel out of Egypt with first-degree murder on his record (Exodus 2:11-12) or how Peter could preach powerfully at Pentecost (Acts 2:14-41) when months earlier Jesus rebuked him and called Him Satan. (Matthew 16:23)   It seems God is not wringing His hands worried that imperfect men will mess up His will.

The Perfect Will of God Theory

Another theory describes a state of being where everything magically lines up to put you in God’s perfect will.  (Of course this implies that God also has an imperfect will -which sounds really strange for God.)  “Those who acceptable to God,…

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Not HiringIn most cases, your church’s hiring practices will have major ramifications that reach beyond your awareness. It’s not just a matter of whether a candidate can do the job or not. The real impact of your hiring decision will be seen in:

  • How they interact with your church members
  • Whether they make the people around them better or bitter
  • The amount they “buy into” the overall mission of your church
  • How passionate and loyal they are toward the people they serve

There are plenty of basic “measurable” by which to judge a potential staff member such as education, experience, and skills. But those sort of issues only deal with the science of hiring –not the art.

The art of hiring requires more observation and interaction. It is hard work to be sure –but well worth it.

Some key questions that a church should ask when hiring staff are:

Will this person fit in our church’s culture? It has been said that culture trumps strategy every time. This doesn’t mean that the new hire must come from the same culture (He doesn’t have to be a city slicker to minister in NYC), but instead that he can fit in that…

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Churches DisciplingThe church where I formerly pastored, Wyatt Baptist Church of El Dorado, Arkansas, is one of the most mission-minded churches I know of. Every year they send a large percentage of church members around the world in partnership with various missionaries. One of the missionary families they partner with is Oscar and Tamy Gaitan of Centro De Vida Church in Catarina, Masaya, Nicaragua.

Centro De Vida naturally became Wyatt’s sister church. In fact, over the years, several of the members of Wyatt have moved to Catarina for periods of time and likewise, several members of Centro De Vida have moved to El Dorado for periods of time. We even had a Wyatt girl and a Centro De Vida boy get married!

But Centro De Vida became more than a sister church to Wyatt while I was there. Centro De Vida became a mentor to Wyatt.

Did you know it is possible for churches to disciple other churches? While the Bible doesn’t explicitly use that terminology, it is evident that churches have the privilege of influencing and edifying one another for kingdom work.

One great example is in I Thessalonians 2:14 where Paul writes to the church in…

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