20 Things I Learned From ‘Attentive Church Leadership’

I recently wrote the foreword to a helpful new book called “Attentive Church Leadership.” In a sense, the key is to know what time it is—and how we might react.

We’ve listed 20 truths—quotes from the book—that give you a feel for the book. You can also listen to a podcast we did with Kevin and Jim here

And, enjoy these quotes from the book.

20 Truths From Attentive Church Leadership: Listening and Leading in a World We’ve Never Known by Kevin Ford and Jim Singleton 

“A major shift began in the early 1990s, taking us from a broadcast culture to a digital one. It started slowly, with people suddenly talking about the World Wide Web and America Online (AOL)’s infamous ‘you’ve got mail.’” (5)

“People upload approximately 500 hours of video to YouTube every minute…[I]t would take a human more than eighty-two years just to watch the amount of video footage uploaded onto YouTube in one single day. Never before in human history have people experienced this constant bombardment of potential distractions.” (6)

“This book is not primarily about change. It’s about being attentive and knowing when circumstances demand that we pivot. It’s also about discerning when to ignore the myriad of voices distracting us and how to stay true to your authentic path. The first task of leadership is to discern what needs to be preserved versus what needs to change. You will make changes, not for the sake of being trendy, but because of God’s mission.” (7)  

“A frog waits for food to come to him, but lizards seek out their food. Churches today need to be more like lizards and less like frogs. Now the call is to go where people live, work, and play with the Good News of Jesus.” (33)

“Today many churches are struggling and the Attractional churches have plateaued. The Attractional Church was directly crafted for the cultural moment of the Baby Boomers. But it has not quite fit later generations in the same way. This is a world we’ve never known.” (34) 

“Throughout Paul’s epistles, the ‘indicative’ always precedes the ‘imperative.’ Who we are in Christ precedes what we are challenged to do. As ministry leaders, we need to move toward a posture of being attentive to our souls before we can lead others in a world we’ve never known.” (40) 

“Two types of conflict exist: a mission-focused conflict, which we call the Blue Zone, and a person-centered conflict, which we call the Red Zone. Blue Zone issues do not become personal nor personality-driven. Instead, they focus on issues facing the church.” (70) 

“The well-defined leader continuously pursues internal alignment, embracing their true self before God. They allow the Lord to define who they are more than the expectations of individuals or the apparent successes or failures of any organization.” (77)

“One key differentiation between how participants of Red Zone vs. Blue Zone conflict behave is the following: Leaders in the Blue Zone accept responsibility for their part of the discussion, issue, or need without becoming the victim or rescuer. In Red Zone conflicts, individuals act out of the desire to protect and promote self—and they look to others to protect them as well.” (74)

“Leading a church is not a simple task in an entitled world where members often feel privileged. Congregations get confused about who they are serving and how. For a pastor to help a church navigate change in a world we’ve never known, especially when they involve transformation or adaptive challenges, one vital ingredient is needed. This ingredient comes through multiple channels. The ingredient is trust.” (87) 

“Establishing healthy boundaries is essential to building long-term trust. We live in an intrusive world. In part because of digital technology and social media, people want constant access to us at all times. These boundaries—or fences—communicate where I stop and you begin. They show what I am responsible for—and what I am not.” (93)

“The last several decades, the evolution of individualism, consumerism, and social media have together created a robust cultural narcissism. The use of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter has dramatically increased in recent years and has even drawn the attention of scholarly research. A number of these studies seek to show a correlation between the use of social media and narcissist tendencies.” (139)

“In today’s narcissistic society, churches miss the mark when meeting people’s felt needs instead of building biblical community. It’s a mistake to think the church can adopt a customer-driven strategy, reach people, and then convert them into a close-knit community.” (148)

“One healthy corrective to imbalance is to not have full-time vocational pastors and instead have a mix of bi-vocational pastors and volunteer leadership, in the context of team leadership that doesn’t elevate a singular superstar pastor. The church in Antioch seems to have been led by a team of several people, rather than one superstar.” (149) 

“Healthy pastors adopt a model of shepherding, not just management or vision-casting. The aim is to edify and build people—not just use them to accomplish the leader or organization’s purpose. The emphasis is on building people rather than using them. Pastoral identity must be grounded in the biblical metaphors of ministry.” (153)

“In the Attractional Era, a more casual approach through small groups often replaced the traditional Sunday school. Typically, when newcomers connect with a group of seven to fifteen people within their first three months, they are much more likely to stay involved over the long haul.” (157)

“We desire three aspects of healthy community: we need to belong, we need to contribute, and we need to make a difference. Innate to our existence is the desire to be in healthy community, created in God’s image. We want church to be a place to belong, to contribute, and to make a difference.” (172)

“Most leaders tend to treat all problems the same way. Let’s quickly identify a fix and get on with it. But often, they miss the deeper issues in doing so. The deepest issues all revolve around the conflicts within the culture.” (178)

“What is the greatest roadblock to transformation? Me. My own selfish desires get in the way of a life-giving biblical community. This is the essence of what we call ‘competing values.’ Me versus we.” (216)

Discipleship depends on relationships rather than programs. Real change, and the ever-widening ripple effects, flows through people more than classes. This can be a hard paradigm shift for churches.” (262)

This article originally appeared here and is reposted by permission.

Ed Stetzer
Ed Stetzerhttps://edstetzer.com/

Ed Stetzer is the editor-in-chief of Outreach magazine, host of the Stetzer ChurchLeaders Podcast, and a professor and dean at the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, and has written hundreds of articles and a dozen books. He currently serves as teaching pastor at Mariners Church in Irvine, California.

He is also regional director for Lausanne North America, and is frequently cited in, interviewed by and writes for news outlets such as USA Today and CNN. He is the founding editor of The Gospel Project, and his national radio show, Ed Stetzer Live, airs Saturdays on Moody Radio and affiliates.