Short-sightedness, astigmatism, floaters and cataracts are eye conditions. When we have them they blur our vision—we can’t see things clearly. We consult an optometrist or an ophthalmologist, depending on the problem, to make a pair of eye glasses (or contact lenses) or to have laser eye surgery done. We do this because we want visual clarity—to see, to read, to drive, to enjoy the beauty around us.

The need for clarity is not just limited to our physical sight. Just as much, we need mental and spiritual clarity; and this, not only for the individual, but also for a corporate entity like the church. Without clarity, the people perish, may not be quite what the Bible says, but it is the truth! And I am afraid this happens all too often in the church, to the detriment of relationships and the church’s effectiveness.

Without Clarity

Without clarity there is confusion. The Senior Pastor makes decisions on matters like this? I thought it was the Chairman of the Board who makes the call.

Without clarity there is misalignment. My CG is studying the book of Jonah. I didn’t know that it was mandatory for all the CGs to do the study on “Unity” this month.

Without clarity there can be no efficiency. I’ve been walking around in the church building for the last 10 minutes because the signages are so poor, I can’t figure out where I’m supposed to be heading.

Without clarity there can be no teamwork. Chong Beng, you were supposed to bring the pizza. Joe was to bring the drinks. Now we have too much coke and no pizza for our Youth leaders’ meeting!

This is by no means exhaustive, and I am sure you can think of a few more nasty consequences that come from a lack of clarity in the church. Often it has to do with communication; that is, the poor quality and the ineffective means of communication. However, more serious is the lack of clarity at the source; that is, the people who are giving the instructions, making the decisions, leading the direction—they are not clear themselves. And, it is inevitable that they will not be able to provide clarity to others.

Areas That Need Clarity

Some of the areas that a church needs corporate clarity includes:

Clarity of purpose. Some churches don’t have a clear purpose about what they are doing or where they are heading. Those that do often just hang up their vision statement on the wall or emblazon it on their website’s homepage. But the leaders don’t talk about it or rally the people to pursue it. Fewer still have achievable and measurable goals to lead the members to fulfil what they like to do (or what they think the Lord wants them to do).

Clarity of Values. By values I don’t mean the church’s doctrinal beliefs. These are important, and no church should be without absolute clarity about their theological beliefs. However, the values I am referring to here are about a church’s organisational beliefs as a corporate body or group of people who have banded together to serve the Lord and His purpose. People will only stick together and work with one another to the extent that they share the same values. If they don’t, they won’t. Confusion in this area leads to uncertainty and disillusionment. Clarity and acceptance of the shared values is like glue that holds the team together.

Clarity of Philosophy of Ministry. Conflicts in the church today have very much less to do with doctrinal issues. Sometimes it is over values. But really, most times it is over the philosophy of ministry—the way things are done. Hence, if it is unclear it is a cause for misunderstandings and dragging-of-the-feet which can escalate into outright conflicts. Worship-wars is in part due to a conflict of philosophies of ministry. So is the multiplication of cell groups, the number of paid staff the church may engage, and the amount of money the church should save as against giving it away to support missions. Every church needs clear philosophies of ministry for all the critical areas of church life and organisation. (Read my earlier blogpost on Philosophy of Ministry here.)

Clarity in the Lines of Authority. This an obvious biggie! Who’s in-charge? Who’s responsible? Where does the buck stop? Who’s got the final say? Every church needs to get it right and make it absolutely clear to everyone.

Again, the above list is not exhaustive. But I hope it is plain enough that your church needs clarity! Here’s a point of application for you. What is one area in your church that lacks clarity? Work on it today. What’s unclear that needs clarity? Who are the stakeholders that should be consulted? Write three to five statements to provide clarity and get all the stakeholders to agree on them. Communicate it to the church clearly, repeatedly, creatively, and in as many ways as possible. Then repeat the process in another area. It will get you clarity and save you a lot of headaches and heartaches.


My Philosophy of Church Consulting (Part 2)

Apart from what I wrote in Part 1, which would form the basic framework of my philosophy of church consulting, the following, I believe, are also necessary elements for effective consulting:

Long Term. Consulting a church may be a one-off engagement. However, a long term engagement is not only more helpful, it is, I believe, necessary.  The leaders and executors need guidance from a trained consultant to help them carry out the recommendations, which includes planning, strategizing and execution. I would make myself available to the implementation team; to provide assistance in the areas where I have the gift-set. At the very least that would include guidance vis-à-vis the big picture needs of the church.

Driver. I do not believe that any attempts to implement the recommendations will work if there isn’t a clear driver from within the church. If it is something that concerns the whole church then the driver must be from among the top leadership; better still, if it was the pastor himself. If it concerns a particular ministry then the ministry leader must be the driver. The consultant cannot be the driver; it must be someone from the church. That person must have a clear sense of ownership of the church or ministry, and the issue. He must be passionate for the Lord, the church and what needs to be done. He must also have godly wisdom and good leadership skills.

Leadership Unity. Unity among the key leaders of the church is critical to the success of the consultation process. They must agree on the issues that need to be addressed, decisions about what to do (recommendations), their priority and the steps to take to implement the solutions. If any key leader is not in agreement it is very likely that it will fail. It is not good enough for a key leader to stand passively by the side and watch. It is spiritually damning as much as it is organisationally divisive. The attempted remedy may result in something worse than the original problem!

Similar to the item on Driver it is critical to secure the commitment of the whole leadership team–that they are united in their desire to deal with the issues of their church. That commitment is to be reiterated and affirmed at each phase of the consultation.

Authority. I believe that a church consultant must at all times work under the spiritual authority of the church leadership that has invited him, and in particular to the recognised team leader, such as the pastor. Care must be taken that he does not undermine the authority of the leadership nor diminish their esteem in the eyes of the members. As the goal of church consultation is to build up the church the consultant must do everything to help realise it and not do anything that may bring a reverse consequence.

Remuneration. It is very uncommon in Malaysia for invited speakers and itinerant preachers to state their speaking fees or even ask for an honorarium. This is usually left to the inviting church.  Secondly, church consulting is a totally unknown ministry in Malaysia. However, I have observed that once I have explained what I do, people immediately identify me as a “consultant”. Eventually they get round to ask about my fees. Still, I feel that it is premature to speak about fees as church consulting is not something that people in Malaysia, leaders included, appreciate nor understand.

My philosophy is to ask the inviting church to cover all my expenses, such as: travel, meals and accommodation. As for honorarium, it is best left to the discretion of the church. To help the church gauge what might be a reasonable amount I will append in my report an explanation of the work I’ve done and the man-hours taken to do it.

My Philosophy of Church Consulting (Part 1)

I believe that Jesus Christ, the Lord of the Church, wants all His churches to do well, and fulfil His mission, aka the Great Commission (Mt 28:18-20). However, the sad reality is that many churches are unhealthy, and hence, ineffective. I do not believe that churches should remain in this state. Something can be done and must be done. I believe church consultants can point pastors and church leaders in the right direction. This is why I am stepping into the work of church consulting; apart from, what I believe is the Lord’s calling for me in this final lap of my ministry journey.

The work of church consulting (what) is simply and primarily coming alongside pastors and leaders to help them with the development of their churches. It may involve studying the church, providing solutions and assisting the executors in the implementation of those solutions. During this time there might also be a need for the consultant to offer coaching, training and ministry to the leaders and the implementation team in particular, and to the church in general, so that they are empowered to lead the change. I call this the Empowering Process, as shown in Diagram 1 above.

When it comes to helping or consulting a church there is no one size fits all. There is no one solution that will solve the problems of all churches. Every church is different. Each one has its own particular problems that are to be identified through prayer and discernment in the Spirit, and from a studied analysis of the church.  This is then followed up with wise custom-made solutions.

If a church has not done a comprehensive church health analysis, it would be a good first step to take. Such an analysis will help to objectively identify the real issues of the church. Notwithstanding, the leadership may determine the area of consultation they require.

Diagram 2 below sets out the Empowering Analytical Process to determine the what and how of the consultation.

The flowchart also details the methodology showing how a study of a church might be done. The first step is always to gather extensive and accurate information. This is done through asking for church data, conducting surveys, audits and  interviews, and from personal on-site observations. The information is then studied and analysed, conclusions drawn, and recommendations made to help the church become healthier or, to resolve the defined issue.

(Click on the link to Part 2 below on other aspects of my philosophy of church consulting.)

Know Your Philosophy of Ministry

One of the most important things I ever did was to write out my philosophy of ministry. It was an assignment for a refresher course I took at a Bible school in Penang. By then, I had been in the pastoral ministry for 14 years; doing ministry from out of convictions that were being developed during those early years in the full-time ministry. In fact, some of the convictions had already begun to form while I was studying in a Bible school in Singapore, and even going further back to the time as a new Christian that was influenced by both the Charismatic renewal in New Zealand (where I was converted) and the Navigators (that I had been a part of for a while).

Sometimes I was conscious of my philosophy of ministry. Other times it was operating at my sub-conscious level. Writing it down was immensely helpful because it made me see more fully and clearly my philosophy of ministry.

What is a Philosophy of Ministry? Simply put, it tells us why we do what we do in the way we do it.

All Christians who have been serving for some years (paid and volunteer) do it from out of their philosophy of ministry. Whether they are conscious of it or not, whether they have thought through it or not, it is there. It guides them when they make ministry decisions and it directs them on how they do ministry. Where did it come from? General speaking, it was likely passed on to them by their church and ministry leaders and/or picked up from books they read which influenced them, and eventually internalised along the way of service.

Unfortunately most Christians have not thought about their philosophy of ministry, much less worked through it. At no point did they consider whether it is Biblical or not, and whether it is the best approach to their service or not. This becomes critical for those who are in positions of influence like leaders of a ministry or a church; more so if they are the lead pastors or the key leaders of a Christian organisation.

Why is knowing your philosophy of ministry important? For starters, knowing why is critical for clarity; not only just for yourself but also for those who are working with you. If you are clear, it will help you to be consistent in applying your philosophy of ministry in every situation. In fact, this is one of the most important keys to help you work through difficult situations; because you know why you are doing what you are doing in the way you are doing it. When you are consistent your fellow-workers will value you as a person of integrity and likely, to be happy to follow your lead. On the other hand, if your philosophy of ministry is fuzzy and you are often flip-flopping, they will be very uncertain about how you make ministry decisions and eventually you will lose their trust in you.

This does not mean that a Philosophy of Ministry is written in concrete. It can be modified or even overhauled if you are convinced that another philosophy is better (and “more” Biblical). Mine has not significantly changed since that time when I wrote it down, but it has certainly developed further.

If you are a ministry or church leader, and especially, if you are the lead pastor or a leader in a Christian organisation, you need to write down your philosophy of ministry. You may begin with something broad and general vis-à-vis your approach to ministry. Then, you may single out some specific areas of ministry to work through. If you are a pastor of a church you will want to look at the role of the pastor, leadership structure, finance, church growth and discipleship, to name a few.

Start working on it and enjoy the journey. I know for a fact that the value that you will get from doing this will far outweigh the effort you put into it.