7 Years Later…INJOY Study Revisited

Over nine years ago the Church of God leadership secured INJOY denominational consultants to provide an analysis of our organization.  After two years of research the following report was presented to the Executive Council and published.  The is posted below.

  • Do you think the report was objective/accurate?

  • How do you think we as a denomination responded to the findings?

  • What do you think has changed in seven years since the report was presented?

COG Leadership Development:The Consultant’s View

7/12/02

For the past two years, the Church of God has benefited from an association with INJOY denominational consultants Dr. Conrad Lowe and Dr. Ron McManus. Recently they presented a comprehensive report with the Church of God Executive Council, which is shared here with COG News readers.

John Maxwell Denominational Partnerships wishes to thank God and the leaders of the Church of God for the privilege of working closely together in the leadership development initiative. This endeavor has been a highlight of our ministry.

As your consultants, we have seen the International Executive Committee—Dr. Lamar Vest, Dr. Bill Sheeks and Dr. Gene Rice—offer visionary leadership to the Church of God during these two years of partnership. In Dr. Vest’s vision statement, Charting the Course, the Church of God has a godly aggressive map to a great future. If implemented, the Church of God will not only experience transforming “leadership development” but will be the leader of Christian ministry in the USA.

During Phase I, we witnessed this great vision cast across the entire Church of God in North America. Visionary leadership was modeled by the Executive Committee and the Executive Council. State overseers have invested in extensive training. Approximately 2,000 pastors and lay leaders have been trained in various ministry skills. Mentoring groups have begun in most states. Many growing churches have begun to grow, and many declining churches have accelerated, many plateaud churches have begun to grow, and many declining churches have stabilized. Finances, conversions and membership have increased. Church health and “excellence” have also improved for many churches.

The future goal is that additional pastors and churches will be added as we move to more intensive leadership training. In addition, the leadership development initiative will add leadership “coaching” to the mentoring strategy.

One of our tasks as consultants is to bring awareness of potential barriers to the vision of the Church of God. At this juncture in the process, we suggest there are five areas that should be addressed by the Church of God.

Church of God DNA
From our observation, the Church of God has at least three prominent formative influences—holiness, Pentecostal experience and a predominant rural culture.

· The holiness lifestyle defines your character.
· The Pentecostal experience empowers you through the Holy Spirit.
· The rural culture gives you your mental model of ministry.

The dangers we envision are as follows: (1) the importance of holiness may not be passed to the next generation; (2) the Pentecostal experience may lead you to focus on the gifts and neglect the disciplines of ministry; (3) a rural model of ministry is not readily transferable to other cultures, including ethnically diverse, suburban and urban cultures.

RECOMMENDATIONS
1. A plan of education in your heritage holiness must heavily influence your next generation. It may take place in institutions, distance learning, books, tapes, seminars, and so forth. At this point, we observe many Church of God pastors receiving their theology from external sources rather than their denomination.

2. Focus on you Pentecostal experience as your distinctive relationship with God, but add the disciplines of ministry to your gifts. For example, the training offered by the International Executive Committee during the spring and fall events focused primarily on ministry disciplines such as evangelism, assimilation and change management, along with others. Eventually, Church of God leaders will excel in the exercise of the gifts and the disciplines of ministry.

3. Learn how to plan and grow churches in diverse cultures.

Leadership Rotation
It appears that you believe you can “lead by taking turns.” The theory is based on the belief that every leader who is voted into offices next is as productive and skilled as the one being replaced. This organizational model works only if all leaders are equally capable. That theory is never true. This system always produces a roller-coaster effect of good and bad leadership. There is never time for the accomplishment of a vision; instead, each new leader is determined to leave his personal mark. The new leaders then feel free to change everything every time there is an election. If any group is lead by a great leader, they should do everything possible to keep the same leadership in place for sustained success. If not, the quality of leadership in the Church of God will always be “peaks and valleys” depending on whose “turn it is this year.”

Imagine any local Church of God. If they get a great leader and the church is prospering, they would do anything to keep that leader because they know one thing from experience—we have fine leader, but if he leaves, the next one may not be as good. We encourage the Church of God to rethink this underlying assumption about how your denomination is led. Major ministries are led by (1) great leaders and (2) those leaders stay long enough to build something that lasts. For great leaders, the longer they lead, the better the organization will become.

RECOMMENDATION
Focus on productivity instead of “taking turns leading.” As John Maxwell says, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” The local Church of God churches will “rise and fall” on the quality of the leadership in your pulpits, your state and regional offices, and the international offices. The future of your movement depends on your ability to attract and keep our most gifted and productive leaders in your positions of influence.

Leadership Skills
The present system of choosing leadership in the Church of God encourages “political skills” instead of “leadership skill.” The regular votes for leaders (state, national and international levels) express the will of the minority. This is true because the majority do not vote in most political systems.

RECOMMENDATION
Hold the elected leaders accountable for the improved ministry of the churches they serve instead of “popularity votes.” Choose the best leaders among you. Then give them the resources to do the job. Support them with prayer and cooperation. Finally, hold each leader accountable for the results of their leadership and measure how well the churches are doing under their leadership.

We encourage the Church of God to continue its dependence upon the leadership of the Holy Spirit in making decisions which improve the church. As consultants, we find few people who are purely political, but we raise a major warning that the present system encourages “patronage.”

Structure
The Church of God is historically structured as a “hierarchy.” It can be visualized as a pyramid with pastors and churches at the bottom, state overseers in the middle, and international executive leaders at the top. As one moves upward in the pyramid, renown, finances and power increase. Under the leadership of Dr. Lamar Vest, the pyramid is being inverted. The principle is Biblical “servant leadership.” The international executive leaders serve as a resource for the state overseers, while the state overseers serve as a resource for the local pastors and churches.

We encourage the Church of God to “stay the course” moving in the direction of servant leadership. Jesus said, “He who would be greatest among you, let him become the least among you.” In the body of Christ, we must focus attention and resources on those who labor in the fields of the Lord’s vineyard.

RECOMMENDATIONS
1. Focus on the right group. Every successful structure must align the members to achieve the ultimate goal. The goal of the Church of God is to reach the lost and to train fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. In most organizations, the structure evolves to benefit the people who make the policies. Improvement occurs when they focus on the right people, the lost and those being involved in ministry.

2. Make decisions at the level closest to the work. The correct consulting term for this is empowerment. The Church of God must organize the denomination to develop the potential in every church. Ephesians 4 clearly describes the congregation of the church as “ministers,” not “spectators.” The Bible then says those lay ministers should choose laypeople to lead their ministry. The task of the pastor and staff is to equip the people in the congregation to build a great ministry. Structure the future to develop strong lay ministries with everyone else serving as a resource for that local ministry.

3. Make the structure flexible enough to meet current challenges. The foundation of the Church of God is its holiness, Pentecostal experience and Biblical authority. They are the bedrock principles that should remain the same. Structure, however, is temporary and changes as the organization grows and faces new challenges. A denomination plateaus or declines when it treats structure as if it were a foundational principle. You cannot confuse structures with foundational principles. You improve the Church of God when the structures serve the people instead of the people being saddled with an outdated structure.

4. Form Follows Function in Structure. The Church of God must find what God is blessing and then structure itself to join Him. Most denominations begin to decline and decay when they retain their present forms even if they can no longer be successful within those forms. It is time to simplify structure, increase flexibility to encourage innovation, and form your structures to fit your functions.

State/Regional Overseer Productivity
After consulting with the Church of God for almost two years, it is our conclusion that the key to transformation for the future rests primarily in the leadership of the state/regional overseers. They are the denomination’s primary influence on the field of ministry. If the state/regional overseer provides resources; models visionary leadership; and implements the strategies of “mentoring, coaching, consulting, modeling and teaching churches,” that state or region will experience health and growth.

RECOMMENDATIONS
1. Choose only your best leaders in the Church of God as state/regional overseers. They should have sterling character, be holy in their reputation, and have a “track record” of successful leadership; and train them to move from “doing” to “coaching”

2. Evaluate state/regional overseers solely on their ability to move their churches to new levels of quality and quantity.

3. Increase the training for state/regional overseers with one goal: our most productive leaders are overseers.

4. Leave them in place long enough to make a major, positive difference in their state or region. Instead of inheriting a stronger state or region, require the state/regional overseer to build a better state or region.

Leadership Trust
It appears that some Church of God policies have been established as a reaction to leadership failures in the past. Large organizations are notoriously slow to personally address misbehavior. When they do, they often make a general policy that punishes everyone rather than addressing the specific leader involved. The result is “leadership suspicion.” Those within the organization begin to mistrust all leaders and make broad defensive policies. The result is tragic—leadership for the organization is diminished.

RECOMMENDATION
Elect and appoint leaders who meet Biblical standards and who are recognized as people of Christian integrity. Then take the risk to trust and honor them as Scripture requires.

CONCLUSION
We believe the Church of God must address these issues in order to move boldly into the leadership role God has offered you. We do not offer detailed solutions at this point. It is simply our duty to help you recognize some of the issues that will determine the future.

We believe that you must minister as if your dreams are bigger than your memories. Your past has been glorious, but it is no place to live now. Your leaders are being endowed with vision fro God for your denomination, every state or region, and every local church. We encourage you to grow into those visions and resist being defined by the past.

Most important, we believe the church is poised for an unprecedented time of spiritual harvest. The great news is the issues you must address are all issues of growth, not of decline. The difficult news is, you must give serious consideration to some strategies changes. We believe every denomination in America needs to see one leadership group experience miraculous reformation. The rest will gladly follow. We are praying that you—the Church of God—are the group willing to learn enough, work enough, receive enough and pray enough to respond to God’s great promise—that your ministry will multiply “like the sands of the sea and the stars of the sky.”

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34 Responses

  1. Was it objective?
    I don’t know all of the dynamics around the relationship with INJOY and the COG. It does seem there was some sort of shift in how INJOY interacted with us organizationally at some point. Maybe someone else that knows more about that can share.

    How did we respond?

    I think to a degree we acknowledged what was said. And, perhaps some level of instruction was given internally. But, I don’t know that any structural changes were made. Obviously, there were some proposals made to the General Assembly. But, they seem to have been selective, poorly explained (and in no way tied to this report), and possibly made to “the benefit of those making the policy” both on the formation side (by the E-Council) and in the voting by the GA.

    What has changed during the seven years since the report?

    Without a doubt, it seems that the General Assembly recognized many of these issues and felt that the E-Council had been slow, unresponsive, and resistant to many of the recommendations.

    Also, the COG is no longer growing. We are rapidly trending into active negative growth on a number of levels. At the time of this report, this was not the case. In fact, Conrad Lowe states that we were poised to be the leader in American Christian Ministry and that we could continue our growth trend with these changes. We did not change. We resisted. We fought those who brought similar warnings and solutions. We are now shrinking with startling velocity.

    There is a lot of beneficial discussion to be had here…looking forward to it.

    On another note, it seems that I had heard there was a 20 page report that went unpublished. It’s been a while and that is a vague memory and may not be accurate. Can someone help me out with that?

  2. Reading this for the first time. One paragraph leaps out of the page:

    Leadership Trust
    It appears that some Church of God policies have been established as a reaction to leadership failures in the past. Large organizations are notoriously slow to personally address misbehavior. When they do, they often make a general policy that punishes everyone rather than addressing the specific leader involved. The result is “leadership suspicion.” Those within the organization begin to mistrust all leaders and make broad defensive policies. The result is tragic—leadership for the organization is diminished”

    Much of what I read in the minutes is safety-first stuff that may well prevent a past situation arising with a State Youth Board in the US – but has nothing to say to a church planter in Ireland or Kenya.

    So, for example, that is why many innovative Church of God ministries are doing stuff that is neither by the minutes nor against the minutes – but on another plane altogether.

    So, we can have apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors & teachers operating in a biblical way. There was an attempt to address this as the General Assembly a few years ago, but it turned into an embarrassing debate about titles.

    So, as I see it. Apostolic church planters will either continue to operate in a mode that is neither acknowledged or addressed in the minutes, or we might begin to establish a system that abandons safety-first approaches and seeks to develop more apostolic leaders. Would there be a scandal or two along the way? Probably, because when you give people freedom to grow some clown will always abuse it, but there would also many more glorious success stories to celebrate.

    The Quest for Trust could turn out to be a bigger two-way process than any of us have imagined.

  3. “The Quest for Trust could turn out to be a bigger two-way process than any of us have imagined.”

    Agreed!

    Nick,

    It’s said that you can either structure to manage or you can structure to grow. But, you can’t do both. If we are primarily concerned with preventing the occassional scandal as opposed to structuring to facilitate explosive growth, we’ll safely descend into irrelevance. Let’s structure for growth as a primary purpose. Doing so should cause growth to outstrip the occurrences of scandal or organizational failure by far. Thus, creating a permissive environment where risk-takers are encouraged to function in their apostolic calling.

    But, as we go into these aims, blow the doors off of the secrecy. The body won’t give permission to our directional boards if they don’t understand the aims or don’t believe the aims.

    As of this moment, we don’t provide detailed Minutes of the Executive Committee or Executive Council meetings. We can’t see into the GA Agenda formation process. This is not conducive to high trust. I don’t think it’s some sort of conspiracy. I simply think this is a piece caught in the transition that needs to be loosened. We also do not have the Financial transparency the GA demands. I think it’s challenging to get there and I do think we’re going there. Let’s put the peddle to the metal and make it happen.

    Already notice what happened with the EC report. The silence surrounding it and the lack of criticism is almost astounding. Why? I think the reason is that people aren’t looking to be negative for the sake of negativity. I think people in the COG have legitimate claims and are rewarding disclosure with their removal of criticism as their critiques are answered with transformational action.

    Run in that direction, increase the level of trust to the highest heights. Bring the innovators into the formal circles of influence by organizational choice as opposed to having the GA lead our directional boards around by the nose.

    Nick, I think everyone wants to trust. Let’s peel this onion and get on with it. Jerry Lawson has it right. This cannot be incremental. It must be rapid to compete with the rate of atrophy and power of political resistance.

    Great insight, Nick…really good stuff.

  4. Focus on productivity instead of “taking turns leading.”

    I’ve been told for years that the most successful pastors are the ones who stay the longest, so why do we kick out our AB’s every 4 years? Is it a trust issue? Is it because we belive that power corrupts? Under our system the Apostles would have had 12 years to build the church then go pastor somewhere. Something doesn’t feel right with that.

  5. James,

    We have to be able to let our leaders stay in with remedy to address non-productive or abusive leaders. Additionally, as the report points out, keying in on Lamar Vest’s document, our leaders have to serve down, instead of leading up.

    Some of our leaders instinctively lead with a servant leadership. They are loved far and wide. But, many don’t as threats and intimidation is often employed if someone from the bottom gets into arenas he/she is not welcome. There has to be remedy for that.

    I really don’t see how you arrive at inverting the pyramid if you don’t make the accountability point down to “those who are most affected by the decisions” as opposed to having the accountability being a top-down proposition. That’s why I really like the concept of electing State/regional overseers.

    I’d also go further and state that our AB positions are not by conference of title, apostolic leaders. Our apostolic leaders are found throughout our church, including at times those positions. You know them when you see what they do.

    I think to standardize that position and conferring some type of apostolic mantle on the position would be a fallacy and an oversimplification of the work of the Spirit in and among us.

  6. Travis, there are “hirelings” in every office of ministry. And, there are insensitive leaders in every leadership position, some become bullies….However, “electing” AB’s will not change this.

    I believe that “Elections” will do a lot more harm than good….the process will be very politically charged in each state or region.

    There are Scriptural, and some common sense “qualifiers” that ought to be required before anyone should be considered for an appointment.

    Could the General Council call for a committee of action to be formed to develop a clear process that includes specific qualifications [and safeguards], for the appointment of all Administrative Bishops?

    J. David {jim} Stephens

  7. Bro Stephens,

    A couple questions…

    Do you think that an election process is more vulnerable to political abuses/extremes than the appointment process?

    It is my understanding that the Assemblies of God votes for their District Superintendents (COG Admin Bishop) have you noted any historical issues that are significant?

    Thanks…

  8. Tom, we recognize pros and cons in every selection process, whether it be for a pastor, local church positions, or Administrative Bishop.

    When speaking to a local congregation, I point out the “appointment model” Paul used… He told Titus [1:5] “…set in order ….and, “appoint” elders in every city as I commanded you….”

    Should our process of appointment; coupled with “accountability” to those an AB serves, be changed to a State/Region elected their own?

    Our “reasoning” for discontinuing the pastoral vote in our local churches, speak volumes concerning this question.

    What About the Assemblies of God?

    I was appointed as AB of Northern New England a few years back….and, met the AG District Superintendent…He had served for many years, more than 20, nearly 30!….[.knowing that this is pubic domain I must be cautious]…. but, behind many AG pastors were frustrated…. He was able to continue as D.S. because of their system, but that process did not ‘serve’ the AG well, to say the least.

    Of course, we all know that the AG is larger in numbers than we…This is true, but the AG is not necessarily better, or even “stronger”….

    For example…many of our ministries outshine the AG: Lee University, SMCH, Penial, The Pentecostal Seminary, the way we care for our retired ministers…

    And, on the state/ regional level…the AG does not come close to having the same level of care and support we enjoy with one another! For example, in Tennessee we have nearly 200 pastors active in monthly Pastoral Covenant Groups. And,many churches/pastors benefit from connectivity with our “District Superintendents” {DO’s].

    Thanks for pitching the question to me….I enjoy the dialogue on MIssional COG!

    J. David {jim} Stephens

    • Bro. Stephens,

      I certainly am not advocating that the COG is devoid of incredible and even pace setting, exemplary ministry expressions. My concerns lie in the pursuit of posturing ourselves to most greatly receive what God has now and tomorrow. Even the report itself warns of the tendency and danger in celebrating our historic victories and accomplishments of the past unto the exclusion of present examination and future potential.

      Further, I don’t know that the selection process (appointment vs. election) of state ABs would have any direct (or indirect) effect on the initiatives listed (i.e., relational connectivity, Covenant groups, provision for retired ministers, etc.).

      To further dialog I would be interested in hearing your opinion on the three opening considerations.
      ** Do you think the report was objective/accurate?
      ** How do you think we as a denomination responded to the findings?
      ** What do you think has changed in seven years since the report was presented?

      Personally: I would most certainly vote for you to remain in your current point of leadership until you died. Although, I may just simply be glad we got rid of that last guy we had!
      Thank you Jesus!
      (ROTFL!!! – Man I hope he reads this! He’ll hit me in the head with his brand new genuine Buffalo Skin Bible! – still laughing!)

      • Tom, to respond to your three questions concerning the Injoy report……

        1. Was it objective/ accurate?
        2. How do you think we as a denomination responded to the findings?
        3. What has changed in 7 years since the report was presented?

        First; absolutely….I do believe it was objective and accurate… TO THE BONE!

        Second; There is evidence of proactive response on the part of the Executive Committee/ Council…..Our present EC is in sync with the recommendations of the report. They are very courageous and leading the Church toward missional mandate! {Prayer, The Great Commission, and the Quest for Trust are top of the list}

        Third: 7 years later we find ourselves in the middle of significant change…directly or indirectly, a by-product of the study….It took four of the seven to get some things through the General Assembly.

        FOR EXAMPLE…..

        This week all Overseer’s received a Memo from RFC. our Presiding Bishop….It was unlike any previous letter I have ever seen….His instructions were clear, and among other things He said that all Overseer’s are to”

        A. Make the membership rolls “accurate” in the State Office, and encourage pastors to do the same in the local church. { This is change, and very good news…]

        B. Disband, and desist from reporting “paper” churches. { It is estimated that the COG is reporting over 400 churches that no longer exists}

        C. The General Overseer stated clearly to all leaders presently under appointment….that, if your tenure is up, the Executive Committee will assist you as best they can, but can not “create” any new positions for anyone. He suggested that each individual seek God for direction, and stated that it would be wise, should a church become available, to seriously consider becoming a “Candidate”!

        WE are in the midst of very DRAMATIC CHANGE…The ramifications of the direction taken by the EX Council and Executive Committee are very significant, and can be transformatonal for the entire body….

        I am not “churchy”, to a fault….but I do pray for unity in the Church of God, and that we will move FORWARD TOGETHER, IN CHANGING TIMES….

        Let’s be in unity with “Christ’s prayer for the Church” : John 17:9, 16-23!

        J. David {Jim} Stephens

    • Oh yeah….I almost forgot….

      My question earlier: “Do you think that an election process is more vulnerable to political abuses/extremes than the appointment process?”
      This was specifically in response to your statement from your earlier post responding to Travis : “I believe that “Elections” will do a lot more harm than good….the process will be very politically charged in each state or region.”

      Again, do you think that an election process somehow invites more political “charged-ness” than an appointment process? If so why?

      Thanks

      • IN Response to Tom and Joe :

        First, Tom, you asked me…. “Do you think an elections process would be more politically charged than the appointment process”? And, why?

        My perspective on “electing” vs the “appointment” of Administrative Bishops in each state/region can be stated in 3 simple points ….

        1. We already “elect” our top administrative posts…The General Assembly has vested them with the authority to “appoint” a team to carry out their vision in each state or region…{ I believe this for pastors, too.}

        2. I do believe elections would be more politically charged…. Someone suggested in a recent post that elections would make it possible to select individuals that meet our expectations….This starts pure, but becomes a political football…we rally our team to say: “We will vote for you, if you meet our “idea” {our criteria} of what is good for us” I believe that the appointment process eliminates these personal/ group “agenda” platforms, on the other hand,”elections” will spawn them!

        3. A lesson from our past…..remember how Mr. and Miss Youth campaigns used to go….in some states, all the good that was accomplished, and much of the affirmation extended to the campers, took a back seat to the pomp and circumstance of the Process!

        A word to JOE: I am blown away with your last reply, following a previous post from me to you! You responded with the grace and wisdom of James 3:17…..peaceable, gentle,…without partiality and without hypocrisy….Thank you!

        J. David {jim} Stephens

      • Alrighty then…. 🙂

        Working backwards on your itemization is almost more fun than I can stand! (You MUST NOT lob those kind of softballs in front of my fractal mind – if not fractured- mind). Consider the following hypothetically…..

        #3 – Mr. and Miss Youthcamp –
        (youthcamp – read “General Assembly”)

        …all the good that was accomplished, and much of the affirmation extended to the campers (read – General Assembly), took a back seat to the pomp and circumstance of the Process!”

        Seriously….hang with me here…..(maybe we can talk more about “Mr Youthcamp” LOL!…)

        #2 – Politically Charged

        I do believe elections would be more politically charged….This starts pure, but becomes a political football…we rally our team to say: “We will vote for you, if you meet our “idea” {our criteria} of what is good for us.” I believe that the appointment process eliminates these personal/ group “agenda” platforms, on the other hand,”elections” will spawn them!

        And unfortunately if we use our only current voting expression (vote for General Officials) as an example of your premise…then I am forced to concede. “Politically charged” environments most definitely threaten/challenge the preservation of purity of heart. And in my opinion, purity and integrity has lost the battle on too many occasions in the General Council of Ordained Bishops.

        In terms of “agendas,” personally I would love someone to publicly own an “agenda,” identify with it and defend it Biblically and in dialog. (I realize my play on your wording is not what you meant…)

        #1 – We Vote for Those Who Appoint

        We already “elect” our top administrative posts…The General Assembly has vested them with the authority to “appoint” a team to carry out their vision in each state or region…

        All of which is an exceptional example of the warnings/prohibitions and potential down falls you offer in #2 and #3.

        I believe that the state by state process of the selection of State ABs may very well serve to “dis-charge” the politically “charged” atmosphere of the General Assembly. Example: Voting for the General Officials (in particular the Executive Committee) would no longer carry any overtones of potential political “groups” in terms of who is appointed to state AB roles.

        Further – why do we trust these same Ordained Bishops to vote for and select General Officials and yet not be able to maintain some semblance of purity on a state level?

        Last: If we should be able to vote on State Bishops I would see them as a greater voice of accountability – as the result of having removed the unnecessary threat/challenge to purity – if they should serve in places like the Council of 18.

        Very Last – 🙂 I would far rather see the General Officials be able to appoint other General positions (currently voted on) so that they may be able to partner with those who are closest to the core of administrative expression so that the most convincing expression of VISION can be disseminated effectively.

        But that’s just me….thanks for the dialog. Thanks a lot!!

        By the way…I did good…I didn’t even pursue any editorial and comedic license with the “Mr and Miss Youthcamp” analogy… Whose most outstanding qualities included being attractive, popular, and charismatic, typically perceptive regarding the social culture of youthcamp, but otherwise they were……………….oh well. 🙂

  9. Trav, I don’t think elections will accomplish what you have in mind. for every pastor like yourself who would take the process to heart and truly seek God’s “anointed”, there are 3 others who would just vote for the pastor of the biggest church, or a buddy, or someone they owe a favor.

    Appointment is scriptural, Jesus appointed the twelve, the eleven appointed Matthias to replace Judas, Antioch appointed Paul and Barnabus..etc. What has been missing from our appointment process is the “it seems good to the Holy Spirit” factor. I agree that our current system is ripe for abuses, but I am not at all comfortable with elections as an alternative.

    Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I still believe in Apostolic authority, Prophetic calling, Evangelistic missions and Pastoral care. Now I’m not suggesting we go catholic and have a conclave and send smoke signals, but I do believe that the GA should be a time for the OB’s to come together in fasting and prayer and wait to hear form the Lord as to who He has chosen to lead our church. Then let Him lead as long as He has the anointing and character to do so.

    • James,

      Should pastors be appointed by leaders who are not relationally connected to the local church and without substantial input from that body? That’s the arrangement we are all to often under now. The apostolic element of our organizational structure is too often absent for our pastoral placement process with patronage concerns as expressed by Lowe being a leading practice induced by our system.

      I believe our appointment system on the local level is also in née of examination, though a number of overseers have become more sensitive to the wishes of a local church. Still, those situations are most likely to develop based on the size, influence, and financial position of the church.

      I think it would also be beneficial as we work out a scriptural prescription for church administration to determine the difference between descriptive and prescriptive passages.

      With that said, let’s inject more scripture. It certainly has the highest place of relevance in this discussion.

  10. in my opinion. the report may have been read but as far as any action being taken i have seen little if any significant change.

    there is still a basic mistrust of the system.

    there is still a basic mistrust of leaders.

    there is still a lack of understanding between the local churches and leadership at local, state or national or international levels. (i.e. many people attending local congregations do not even know what denomonation they are attending)

    as far as allowing for members to become ministers. the overwhelming deffinition of minister is pastor.

    just a few of observations

    • Joe,

      Allow me to hitchhike on your your artful use of alliterations in your post….{“There is still”}

      There is still a basic disinterest in talking about things that are True, honest, Just, and pure in the Church…

      There is still a bunch of folks that are so unhappy with themselves, that they will never be happy with anyone, or anything else….

      • i agree 100 %

        the truth about some things would cause a great a great amount pain but bring about change not for the sake of change but for the good of all concerned.

        honesty has to go both ways. i as a minister in the church of god that has never pastored a church is very honest in saying i have been disillusioned,and hurt by the present system as well as supported and paid by the same. i am at times very careful about my comments in public and priviate although it would be much easier if i could just speak my heart but polity usually stops that from happening. respect for those in authority usally quells any outburst of disagreement as well as knowing my existance depends on staying in good favor with those over me. these things combine together to slow if not stop honest open talk

        just, right over wrong everytime, is still a thing that can be defined but not very easily lived. justice, just way of doing things, is a matter that can be descibed best as doing what has to be done “at the time” to cover what ever decision “had to be made” to maintain the status quo. much like our nation is going thru now our church must face the reality that what we have done in the past is being paid for now. moving monies around from ministry to ministry may be needed but is it “just” with full knowledge it will be put back from where it came change the fact that it was given for a particular project. i agree 100% “just” things should be talked about with an open heart to a “just God”

        purity an even harder concept for me because i am a part of an impure society. i have a hard time just walking thru the store or sitting at home and maintaining pure thoughts and conversation. dicussions about pure churches or leaders an even more difficult proposition.

        bro stephens i confess it is a major step for me to say i have to work hard to be happy with my self and it is very easy to blame someone or some organization for my unhappiness. as i am in the process of learning so must we as a gathering of believers listen to Holy Spirit about each and every decision and hopfully learn how to get to where this study would take us.

  11. I hear you Travis, but I can’t get on board with elections. It is impossible to keep the politics from turning your accountability argument into party platforms and special interests.

    We both agree that scripture has to be the foundation of reform and the Spirit the catalyst.

    I haven’t heard anything about the agenda for this GA, but I hope there is something along these lines. Do we want to continue a system that has led to stagnation and division, or is there a more excellent way?

    • James,

      I actually think that knowing a person’s posture towards a myriad of issues would be beneficial in determining whether or not we have the best leadership in place. For instance:

      One might have a position that spending General Assembly mandated church planting funds on church planting. While another may have the position that the church planting (EHM) fund can be spent at the discretion of a State Overseer or a State Council.

      OR

      One might have the position that all State Council meetings should report detailed minutes to the state ministers and laity. While another may have the position that our business should be done behind closed doors and with secrecy.

      You could go on with a number of scenarios. I can’t imagine that we’d want to go on electing men without knowing what they stand for and instead choose to vote on people based on their exposure in denominational meetings and magazines. As such, I think you’d probably agree that this is the current way we elect the people we’re already electing. Though, it would be nice to get platforms from potential or standing members of the Council of 18 or the Executive Committee, we don’t…. or do we?!?!

      It seems to me, that to a degree, there have been platforms…not that men were running. But, there are a group of men that are articulate in their expressed positions while some do everything they can to avoid articulating any position whatsoever relying on generic popularity for denominational leadership placement. I’d be glad to cite specific examples with supporting evidence if you’re interested. Otherwise, I’ll avoid cluttering my response further.

    • James, I love your input. It is incredibly thoughtful. Additionally, I think it’s pretty cool that we largely connected here before we connected in South Florida…just a cool little thought worth noting.

      Anyway, here’s one more consideration, James. When taking the concerns about the men most affected by a good or poor AB actually being the ones electing their state/regional overseer to it’s logical end, it seems we’d posture ourselves in like manner concerning electing the Council of 18, Directors, and Executive Committee.

      Is there any room for, “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and us?” If you’ll remember, this was an unanimous vote recorded in Acts 15. Shall we cast lots or draw straws when replacing an open position as was the case with Matthias replacing Judas as an Apostle? Or, should all positions be filled by appointment without regard to the warning in 1 Peter 5:3, a warning we seem to have largely failed to heed.

      I understand that no matter which course of action we take, there will be downsides. But, there is no perfect New Testament model that is prescribed. As such, we should take into consideration all Scripture, past behavior, future aims, organizational effectiveness, and cultural receptivity in forming the organizational structure of the COG going forward.

      I am of the opinion our current setup lends itself to abuse, undue influence, inefficiencies, a shallow or limited pool of leadership input, stasis, patronage, and an environment that at times is toxic and even vindictive bullying and leadership by threat. And, while this is not always the case, it occurs with too much frequency. Our present arrangement is broken. We must look for a godly solution that guards against abuse and also makes us fast, small, and permissive.

  12. Stray thoughts on the recommendations…

    “A plan of education in your heritage holiness must heavily influence your next generation. It may take place in institutions, distance learning, books, tapes, seminars, and so forth. At this point, we observe many Church of God pastors receiving their theology from external sources rather than their denomination”

    The right place to start, we have been copying the baptist model for so long, we have lost the uniqueness that defined the eary generations of our church.

    2. “Hold the elected leaders accountable for the improved ministry of the churches they serve instead of “popularity votes.” Choose the best leaders among you. Then give them the resources to do the job. Support them with prayer and cooperation. Finally, hold each leader accountable for the results of their leadership and measure how well the churches are doing under their leadership”

    Concerned about overdependence on statistics to determine “productivity”

  13. This may be shifting the debate just a little but there is one quote from Injoy that sticks out to me.

    “The future of your movement depends on your ability to attract and keep our most gifted and productive leaders in your positions of influence.”

    Do you think we really took this idea to heart? Or are we too arrogant to recognize that we NEED the rising gifted young leaders? It seems to me that we are too afraid of them to affirm and attract them. Many of our leaders push and push them away, and then when they are gone, they say, “You see, they weren’t really Church-a-Gowd or they would have been loyal enough to stick around!”

    Is this a pride issue or just a systemic problem whereby to maintain one’s position, a leader has to look better than the rest, therefore he cannot afford to affirm a new leader for fear that it may reflect poorly on his own performance?

  14. Travis,

    I am almost persuaded, but I can’t get past the concept of “I am of Raymond Culpepper” while another says “I am of Tim Hill” or regionally “I am of Dwight Allen” and another ” I am of “Waymon Miller”.

    This is personally distasteful to me and specifically warned against in scripture. I do like the idea of knowing a person’s positions before the GA. Perhaps a compromise would be to have the EC offer a slate of potential AB’s for each region and another for the EC and let them be vetted by the OB’s before the GA. At least then we would have a reasonable idea of who we’re voting for.

    Another change would be to go to a 3 year GA, and allow the AB’s 6 or even 12 years of service before moving on. I think INJOY is correct in criticizing our “take turns” model. As long as there is still a mechanism for recalling ineffective leaders, I am ok with longer terms.

    On a personal matter, I hope to see you at our benefit concert at Cooper City. We are trying to raise funds to help replace some of the furnishings lost in the fire. I’ll even pick up the tab at the Steak N Shake.

  15. Whereas we currently elect our state council members, executive council members, executive committee members, and appoint state and regional AB as well as local pastors, we, do by our behavior, show that we believe, endorse and practice an admixture of both elections and appointments! Thus to argue for or against one or the other, exclusively, as being The Best Biblical Practice, not only is incongruent with logical consistency but flies in the face of long held practices and admits to the fallibility of our current praxis.

    Consequently, unless we have reached perfection in our understanding of best Biblical Practices in the above stated admixture, would it not be Biblically permissible to consider the wisdom of remixing our dearly beloved commixture?

  16. Whew! After Tom’s humiliating dismantle of my 3 points…. and, Dale Denham’s ; “both arguments are incongruent with logic”….I’m totally speechless!

    • Bro Stephens,

      Unfortunately, people who read here have no idea of the nature of our relationship…nor of the hours of conversation already spent. That’s a shame…they would laugh more.
      As I said in another thread, your willingness to dialog here says as much (or more) about you perhaps than even the words you’ve written.

      True brotherhood bears the weight of diversity in varied perspective…and is certainly the greater value.

      Thanks

  17. The report itself is troubling. Is the COG interested in advancing the COG or is it interested in advancing the Kingdom of God? This statement in particular is telling:

    At this point, we observe many Church of God pastors receiving their theology from external sources rather than their denomination.

    This statement fails to recognize that truth is not the exclusive property of COG and is not constrained within the doctrines of the COG. Truth was given to all men and those in search of truth outside the walls of the COG often have a valid criticism of COG doctrine. The idea that theology from sources outside the COG should be rejected is utter nonsense and simply results in a ‘circle the wagons’ mentality when traditional doctrine is threatened. If our task is missional, we must be prepared to LISTEN and address the criticism and ADJUST OUR OWN DOCTRINE when necessary. Whoever wrote the INJOY report (why does the very name evoke images of a condom package? Sorry but it’s true. LOL) would do well to read G.K. Chesterton’s chapter on the Suicide of Thought.

    Generally, the COG has a closed system of thought, unable to process or engage information outside of its circle of learning. Not good brothers. Not good at all.

    • Russell, the report itself was produced by people outside of the Church of God. I tyhink the Methodists and Baptists that work for Injoy probably do recognise that truth is not the exclusive property of COG and is not constrained within the doctrines of the COG.

      Their point was, looking at the COG from an organisational standpoint, that a loss of Pentecostal theological distinctives would probably impact negatively on growth.

  18. Nick,

    Here is my contention. If we limit our vision of the expansion of the kingdom to those who subscribe to cog doctrinal distinctives, our definition of who should be included under our tent is too narrow. I like the idea of stretching out our tent. The single factor that makes one part of our family is faith in King Jesus. Let’s think about that as it relates to the railroad industry within the last century. Their self-definition was that they were in the RAILROAD business rather than in the transportation industry. NOW look at them. They are a defunct, rusting, dying dinosaur.

    Growth would take care of itself if we quit focusing on distinctives. What happened in the N.T.? The Apostles realized that the SCOPE of the covenant had expanded to include Gentiles. What happened? BAM. MASSIVE growth. Their theological mistake prior to that time was their idea of ethnic privilege. Imagine the possibilities brother if we reached out to embrace ALL who have faith in King Jesus.

    Again, I like to think about stretching out our tent. Is there not room in our tent for all who have faith in King Jesus?

  19. Russell, you’ve obviously never taken a high speed train in Europe! 🙂

    Actually growth never takes care of itself. Look at a growing church and you will find that someone usually made intentional decisions to facilitate growth.

    The Injoy Report was not saying that we should limit ourselves to our own theological sources – but it was saying we impoverish ourselves if we ignore our distinctives.

    For example, I pastor a church that combines Pentecostal distinctives with a seeker friendly attitude – and it attracts unbelievers! But I have seen too many formerly Pentecostal Churches that forgot who they were, tried to be Willow Creek or Saddleback clones, and have become generic, boring and profoundly unattractive to the lost.

    We can learn from others, but if we throw away the Pentecostal baby with the Southern bathwater then we may lose our saltiness.

    Nick

  20. Nick, I guess I should have qualified my statement about the railroad business to the American railroad industry! :-).

    You can tell I don’t get out much. LOL

    I appreciate your term ‘Southern bathwater’.

    What decisions were made in Acts that led to the growth of the early church?

    I’m not saying that our theology shouldn’t be ‘adjusted’ somewhat to fit our own culture. I’m just asking.

  21. btw, I appreciate your point about saltiness.

    How can we achieve balance in this area given Paul’s admonitions in I Corinthians 14?

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