Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Biblical Basis for Considering Consultation for Your Church

Several Biblical models serve as a foundation when I reflect on my philosophy of what it means to be a church consultant. The first model that is foundational to my understanding of church consulting can be found in Exodus 18:13-26. In this passage, Moses is acting as judge from morning until evening and is carrying a heavy load. Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law consults with Moses and tells him that what he is doing is not good and that he cannot possibly continue to listen to all of the issues facing God’s people alone. Furthermore, since Moses’ caseload is time consuming, much time was being wasted as people waited in line for their turn. Jethro instructs Moses to select capable men to share the load and he tells Moses to hear the difficult cases while his leaders can act as judge over groups of “hundreds, fifties, and tens.”
This Biblical account outlines what I consider to be the first principle of what I see as essential in church consulting. I call this the principle of “Burden Sharing.” Today many pastors and church leaders are carrying a heavy load. Because they are carrying such a burden, it is hard for them to see the “forest through the trees” and can easily get bogged down in the every day affairs of the church. Far too often, it is hard for churches to have a clear vision of what God wants to do. I find this especially true in small struggling churches in which the pastor and far too few leaders are carrying the entire load. As a consultant, I believe one of my tasks is to help a church to have a fresh look at their ministry and to assist them as I can use my specialty to do some of the exploratory work of helping a church realize God’s purposes for them. Many times, church leaders simply do not have the time to do the work necessary to map out a strategy of ministry to their community. However as a consultant, I can lighten the load by doing that aspect of the work while helping the leaders find ways to ease the load.
The second model of church consulting found in Scripture can be found in Numbers 13 where Moses sent out a team of people to explore the land of Canaan. In Numbers 13:18-20 a number of questions and issues were raised. “What are the people like?” “What kind of land do they live in?” “Is it good or bad?” “What kind of towns do they live in?” “Are they unwalled or fortified?” “How is the soil?” These were just a few of the questions that were raised and the task of these explorers was go into the land and to come back with a report.
This Biblical account outlines the second principle of church consulting which I call the principle of “Fact Finding.” It is important to see that, even though God had promised them a “land flowing with milk and honey,” this did not negate the need to do the exploratory research of the land that God promised to the Israelites. Likewise God’s command for us to make disciples comes with a promise in Matthew 28 that He would be with us. In Acts 1:8, God emphatically says that we will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon us and we will be witnesses in Jerusalem and to the ends of the world. This is not only a command but also a promise. As a consultant, my task is similar to those who explored the promise-to look at the layout of the land where God has called the church to be witnesses and to help it see the challenges and opportunities to live out God’s promises. It is also important to see that after the final report was given to the people (Numbers 13: 31-33), there was a negative reaction and the people rebelled against God. They were too afraid of going into the land and could only see the obstacles and not the promise. Nevertheless, Moses and Aaron focused on the promise (Numbers 14) in the midst of the conflict and in light of the facts. Likewise, the consultant’s role is not only to be a fact finder but also to reveal the facts in light of God’s promises regardless on how the church responds to the consultant’s findings. How the church responds to the consultant’s work will ultimately be up to that congregation in light of God’s Word.
The third principle of church consulting can be found in Isaiah 40:29-31 which promises that God will give strength to the weary for those who hope in the Lord. The passage concludes by saying, “They will soar on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:31, NIV). I call this principle of church consulting the principle of “hope.”
When I get my consulting ministry up and running, I plan to call this ministry, 4T/I40. The 4T stands for “Transformation Through Transitional Times.” The I-40 stands for Isaiah 40 in which “they will soar on wings like eagles.” There is no question that we are living in a period of great transition. Churches are facing major changes especially here in the Northeast where many churches are becoming bi-vocational or are even closing its doors. We are seeing many congregations becoming older in age while many young people are not connecting with a church. Yet God has a plan. One of the primary tasks as I pursue a consulting ministry is to take the training and the years of ministry experience I have had and to provide the tools and training to help churches through these transitional times with the goal to see true transformation in the church and in its individual congregations. My dream for the church is that it will truly soar on wings like eagles and will have an impact in the 21st century. I especially want to be able to help the small church even in declining communities and in places where the church has grown weary. My dream is to help churches restore the hope that has been lost.
I am fully aware that this will be a difficult road for many churches. Humanly speaking, often I can only see the giants living in the land. But, if in some small way, I can have an impact for the kingdom of God by helping churches along this journey and to see hope restored because of God’s promises, then I will consider my role as a consultant as an important one as we head into the next century.

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