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View Evangelism Entropy

Six Causes for Evangelistic Entropy

Gary Rohrmayer, 2007

Entropy is the natural and irreversible tendency toward disorder in any system without an external source of energy (The Wordsmyth English Dictionary).  When we apply this principle to evangelism we need to embrace the fact that left to itself the energy for evangelism in the local church will naturally (and in some cases irreversibly) move towards disorder.  This is why every church needs an energy source to counter this natural drift from mission to maintenance.  What is that energy source? Leadership! Its through leaders who model evangelistic passion, though their prayers, priorities and plans.  Someone once said, “Leadership is focused energy bursts.”  The older the church, the more energy is needed to overcome all the competing issues that cause evangelistic entropy.  Over the next few months we are going to take a close look at how to practically lead your church in overcome the entropy that can slowly kill a church’s missional effectiveness.

Here are the first two of six causes for evangelistic entropy:

1. Burnout of the leader.
Evangelism is a spiritually intense activity. Pioneer church planters, those without a “running start” with a core group, are fully engaged in evangelistic activities out of the sheer need for survival.  The ability to network in the community and to engage it evangelically rests solely on their shoulders, and the burden of that responsibility is intense.  The constant load of rejection they encounter can lead to burnout. One of my church planters said, “If you really want to gain a little understanding on the condition of the church in America just drop yourself into a community not knowing a soul.  Every time I shared my vision with churched people they looked at me as though I was an alien from another planet.”  The face of that constant rejection can be very demoralizing.

Another factor that can lead to burnout is the lonely nature of the job, especially for those who come out of thriving ministries.  The shock of going to a community where nobody really cares that you are there can be debilitating.  I usually try to prepare pioneer church planters with a little pep talk like, “When you move into town you will need to push yourself to meet people because the only people who care that you are there will be me and Jesus!”  Now that is a overstatement. I am sure that there are many people who care that they are there.  The only problem is that none of them live in that town.  Leadership is a lonely job!  Many pastors feel like they are carrying the burden for their communities alone. Listening to people’s myriad of complaints can lead to frustration and wondering if anyone cares about their neighbors.

The final factor that can lead to burnout is the intense care of new believers.  Converts come in all sizes and shapes, with all sorts of baggage.  They have messed-up marriages, damaged emotional lives, self-centered values, screwed-up finances and whacked-out priorities.  They have no knowledge of God, the Bible and the church.  Seeing them through these issues with proper follow-up and discipleship can be a very draining and frustrating experience.  I particularly remember one such time when I cried out to God.  It was eighteen months after we had started a new church.  I was working a couple of jobs.  We had grown from two families to about 40 families, of which about 80-90% were people who weren’t believers yet, had just trusted Christ, or had just started coming back to Christ.  I remember yelling at God saying, “If you don’t bring me any help in the next six months, I am going to quit!”  Did it mean that I didn’t love lost people? No!  It just revealed that I was burned out.  John Maxwell has said, “There’s no such thing as burnout.  It’s just people who are taking themselves too seriously.”  In principle I believe that.  But when you’re on the front lines and ministry is such a struggle, you seriously do need some tangible help.  The end of that story is that within two weeks, God provided two spiritually mature couples who partnered with us in establishing the church.

2. Imbalance of the Ministry Priorities.
Imbalance is another reason why leaders can abdicate their evangelistic responsibilities.  Although many church’s mission statements say something about reaching unchurched people, the truth is that investing in churched people takes time.  A leader’s time can get swallowed up just ministering to the already convinced.  Shepherding, counseling, discipling, training all take time not including leading and preparing for worship services. If leaders are not disciplined in networking and spending time with unchurched people they can end up growing a church for the churched instead of a leading the church to missionally engage its community.  We recommend that our pastors and church planters minimally tithe of their work week in networking and developing pre-Christian contacts. (See 3 X 5 Rule)  To adequately address evangelism entropy leaders are going to have to replace a negative imbalance with a positive imbalance in favor of evangelistic engagement and equipping the church missionally.  (Excerpt: Church Planting Landmines)

3. Corporate Entropy.
There is a concept out there called Corporate entropy which is simply defined as energy waste. Energy waste occurs through such things as the endless red tape of organization, team inefficiency and the surrendering to constant distractions. It is simply “energy lost to waste!”  Waste of time, money and human resources.  If corporate entropy is not recognized and addressed by leaders it will bring on inertia, complacency, denial, missed opportunity, vulnerability to paradigm shifts, competitive attacks and permanent loss of vitality.  Does this describe your church or organization when it comes to outreach?

In the first part of this article we examined the causes of entropy that can rob leaders of their energy for evangelism such as burnout and the imbalance of priorities.  Over the next couple of weeks we will take a look at corporate aspects of evangelistic entropy and provide some advice how leaders are to address it.
The first cause we will address on the corporate side is called “Sin in the Camp.”

Have you ever wondered why some churches and organizations strangely lose their evangelistic edge and effectiveness?  After being involved in denominational ministry for over nine years I have discovered that the spiritual principle from Joshua 6-7 is applicable today.  Unfortunately there is a dark side of the church that is rarely seen except by those who are in charge of their care and over-site. In my limited experience I have seen churches derailed by sexual misconduct, financial scandals and timid leadership. Leadership that is fearful to confront sin, to take a hard look at themselves and to make the needed changes to keep the church on mission.
Yet all too often these hidden and debilitating sins go undetected because leaders don’t recognize or embrace this principle.  In Joshua 6 we see God’s people on the move, fully engaged in the mission that God had charged them with; securing the Promise-land.  In the midst of that great victory, one of the victorious violated God’s specific command (Josh. 6:18).  The result of that sin was the only reason they experienced a humiliating defeat over a weaker enemy.  Jericho, a city of over a million people, was conquered by a small band of believers trusting in the hand of God and, Ai, a city of 12,000, defeated the people of God because of one man’s selfish act and rebellion against a Holy God. This reminds us that a spiritual mission is only completed by spiritual means. 

Read God’s response to Joshua’s lament in Joshua 7:10-12:

“The LORD said to Joshua, ‘Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.’”

Not a lot of sympathy here. Pretty simple message: Get up, deal with it and move on!  The LORD continues and instructs Joshua on how to deal with it. “Go, consecrate the people. Tell them, ‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow; for this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: That which is devoted is among you, O Israel. You cannot stand against your enemies until you remove it.’” (Josh. 7:13)

I liken “consecration” to doing a rigorous spiritual inventory. As individuals there are seasons in our lives where we need to allow scripture to search our hearts and penetrate our lives.  Martin Luther made it a regular practice to pray through the ‘Ten Commandments’ and ‘The Fruit of the Spirit’ asking God to expose those hidden areas of his that made him spiritually weak.

How to does one lead a church to consecrate themselves?  Here are a couple of “quick hits” to ponder:
•  Make personal consecration a regular practice in the life of your people. Ask individuals to assess their spiritual life through a rigorous spiritual inventory. When was the last time you taught on the subject within your congregation? Example: Pray through I Corinthians 13.
•  Make corporate consecration a regular practice.  As a leadership team submit yourselves to internal and external assessments.  What type of internal and external assessments has your church participated in?  Example: Pray through Revelation 2 & 3 as a leadership team.
•  Restore the act of corporate confession.  Agreeing with God corporately that as a church we are stuck, complacent, crippled by disunity, etc. When is the last time you led your congregation in a time of public confession?
•  Promoting prayers of resolution or commitment.  Leading your church through defining moments of commitment to glorify God and to missional engagement.  Can you remember the last time you asked your congregation to drive a “stake in the ground” symbolizing their commitment? 

Read Joshua 24 to glean some principles on leading your church through a time of resolution and commitment.

Any thoughts?  Do you feel like there is something strangely crippling your evangelistic effectiveness?  Are there times where you sense that something beyond you is holding you back?  Ask God to search you and your church.  Courageously ask God to reveal the source of your trouble.

“Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you.”  Joshua 3:5
Posted at 04:13 PM in Church Planting, Evangelism, Leadership | Permalink
Technorati Tags: church growth, church health, church planting, evangelism, leaders, leadership, missional

4. Not Willing to Pay the Price
What price are you willing to pay to see your church actively engaged in evangelism? Price? What do you mean by price?  There is a cost for everything.  One of the causes for evangelistic entropy is an unwillingness to count the cost of growth.  If evangelism is really going to be a value that your church embraces, the church will have to embrace the changes that will take place when evangelism is activated in the church.  The following questions will help you measure your readiness to count the cost:

•  What leadership changes are you unwilling to sacrifice?  Too many times leaders get locked in and set in their ways which leads to becoming self-protective.  Once a self-protective posture grabs the heart of any leader every decision or action is filtered through this question: How is this going to impact me?
•  What programs are you unwilling to touch?  Do you have a way to assess the effectiveness of your programs? Are there programs in place that exist only because of tradition and not in light of their added value to the mission?
•  What is the bottom line you are willing to spend?  How much of your budget is allocated for evangelism?  Five, ten, twenty, forty percent? Is there a price too high to pay?
•  What relationships are you unwilling to let go?  What if your best friend strongly opposed you? What if long-term relationships became threatened in light of decisions that needed to be made?
•  What types of environmental changes are you unwilling to make?  What about stylistic changes in your services?  What about social-economic changes in the nature of your congregation?  What about the look and feel of your facilities?
•  What personal price is too high?  What financial, emotional, relational, physical cost are too heavy to bear?

Let the words of Jesus wash over your soul from Luke 9:57-62:

As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

He said to another man, “Follow me.” But the man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.” Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

There IS cost involved with being in the center of God’s missional purpose.  If we are going to bring leadership energy to the evangelistic entropy that you are facing, the cost will be real. Dwight Eisenhower said, “There is no victory at bargain basement prices.”

5. Tyranny of the Urgent
The next cause for evangelistic entropy is what is known as the “tyranny of the urgent.”  I discovered this concept in Stephen Covey’s classic book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. In it he refers to two factors that determine activity: urgency and importance.

Urgent items are describe as “…those that are requiring immediate attention. It’s ‘Now!’ Urgent things act on us…urgent matters are usually visible.  They press on us. They insist on action.  They’re often popular with others.  They are usually right in front of us.  And often they are pleasant, easy, and fun to do. But so often unimportant!” 

Important items are describe as “…being focused on results.  If something is important, it contributes to your mission, your values, and your high priority goals. Important matters that are not urgent require more initiative, more pro-actively.” 

Let’s consider the four quadrants of the Covey’s urgent/important matrix as it relates to all the activities that rob us and our churches of its evangelistic energy.  Take a few minutes to categorize your daily and weekly activities in the following quadrants.

Here are some “what, who and when” questions to consider as you work through the urgent - important matrix:
1)    What are the important activities that you cannot delegate?
2)    What are the important activities that you can delegate?
3)    What are the not important activities that you cannot delegate?
4)    What are the not important activities that you can delegate?
1)    Who assists you in navigating the not important activities of your day?
2)    Who can help you in completing the important/urgent activities of your day?
3)    Who assists you in scheduling time for the important/non-urgent activities of your day?
4)    Who can you trust with the important/urgent activities in your ministry?
1)    When in your weekly schedule is there time for important/urgent activities?
2)    When in your weekly schedule is there time for important/non-urgent activities?
3)    When in your annual calendar is there time for reflecting and planning important/urgent activities?
4)    When in your annual calendar is there time for reflecting and planning important/non-urgent activities?
Leadership is simply a well applied energy burst.  If a leader is going to let his energy get depleted through not important and urgent activities that distracts every ministry, then there will not be any energy left to counteract the evangelistic entropy that attacks every church and robs them of their evangelistic effectiveness.

6. Ineffective Training Strategy.
Recently I discovered a athletic training principle called, momentary muscular failure, also known as the overload principle. This principle states that, “Only by stressing your muscles beyond their physical capacity can you compel them to produce an adaptive response and exact a change in your body. You will gradually increase intensity until you are training to momentary muscular failure. From a training perspective, failure equals success! When you first attempt to train to failure, it can be an enlightening experience, one that you might not be prepared to endure. While lifting a weight, most people are prone to give up mentally before their muscles truly give out. They may think they have induced muscular failure, yet their muscles are capable of completing several more repetitions. To obtain the best results, you must learn to differentiate between mental failure and physical failure. Remember the adage, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?” Pushing yourself to the limit will show your internal and external strength and allow your body to achieve more than you ever could have imagined.” (HT:Human Kinetics)

The take away of this principle is that for effective training to take place the participant must experience a certain level of discomfort.  They must be pushed out of their comfort zone.  Which begs the question: “How much of our training pushes people out of their comfort zones?” or “How much of our training is simply entertainment for the consumer?” Jesus in His great commission says, ‘’...and teach them to obey everything I have commanded.” (Matthew 28:20)  Obedience is a bending of our wills to another’s will.  A disciple of Jesus is one who bends his will to the commands of Jesus.  In a day when mega churches are admittedly saying we don’t know how to make disciples, this principle goes to the heart of the matter.

Here are Five Biblical Elements needed for an effective training strategy:
1. A Mature Influence:
  Jesus said, “A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.” (Luke 6:40)  Paul writes that fathers are to train their child (Ephesians 6:4) and the older women are to train younger women. (Titus 2:3-4)  I am personally convinced that the goal of every church should be that every convert has a personal mentor, a mature influence that builds trust, sets the example and speaks specifically into their lives as they bend their will to Jesus’ will.

2. A Common Goal: Paul wrote to a young leader he was mentoring, “Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”        (I Timothy 4:7-8)  Godliness is defined as, “character and conduct determined by the principle of love or fear of God in the heart.” Another definition describes godliness as “a God-ward attitude, does that which is well-pleasing to Him.” HT:Godliness If the goal is to please ourselves or meet our own needs then every effort of training will always fall short. 

3. A Common Source of Authority: Jesus said, “and teach them to obey everything I have commanded.” (Matthew 28:20)  Paul wrote, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (II Timothy 3:16-17)  Following the rules is essential to training, yet so often we all want to write our own rules or live by our interpretation of the rules and then we wonder why our efforts are so ineffective!

4. A Certain Level of Discomfort: Paul uniquely describes the training process when he writes, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (II Timothy 3:16-17)  Teaching is giving us the knowledge needed to be thoroughly equipped.  Rebuking is revealing behavior, attitudes and beliefs that keep us for being thoroughly equipped.  Correcting involves those mid-course adjustments that are needed to be thoroughly equipped.  Training in Righteousness is the discipline needed to stay the course and achieve the goal of godliness.  In the book of Hebrews we see the value of discipline, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11)

5. Constant Repetition: I think all of us would agree that the more we do something the better equipped we feel at handling a certain task. The author of the book of Hebrews writes, “But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” (Hebrews 5:14)  What level of repetition is represented in your training programs? 


Category:Outreach & Evangelism
Category:Training Center Topics & Workshop Resources