Thursday, June 16, 2011


Fixity was a new concept to me when I first heard Carl George refer to it while discussing issues relating to the cell-based church some years ago. The issue was how to establish a new approach to small group ministry practice and organization in such a way that it sticks, that it continues, that it is not just a flash in the pan emphasis before going on the next program.

The fact is American pastors and congregations are often program junkies. We buy some one’s church program good for a semester or a year or two, and then we look for another one. The same thing happens in judicatories of denominations. In a way, serial programs give staff and other leaders a feeling they are doing something (and of course some such programs actually do make a difference).

Nevertheless, if a core concept for transformational ministry, such as small groups or ministry teams, that is not very common in traditional ministries is being implemented, it is easy for such a core concept to be the “program du jour,” to receive a lot of initial attention and "rah rah," but in a year or two become “something we did once.”

Understandably, most of our efforts are geared around the people, program, and policy management of our congregations that presently exist. So to preach (or hear) a few sermons on missional endeavor or to host a few workshops or conversations on the subject may make it the “topic of the month” and perhaps lead to some missional efforts. However, for a real and permanent transition to missional endeavor, a growing circle of leaders and participants within the organization must internalize and implement the practices of transformational vitality missional thinking. That’s fixity.

Fixity as a concept is congruent with that of momentum – that is the ability to keep on keeping one. Momentum can be a very positive force in the life of a church when it sustains a clear defining vision and defining practices. As the same time we know the value of agility, the ability to respond to changing conditions. Fluidity is another word for agility, the ease with which something can change.

When a leader and an organization have a fixity of defining vision and defining practices (or core values) and a fluidity of implementation and approach the result can be remarkably fruitful.

Some questions to consider:

How do we make core concepts and practices “stick?”

How do we “fix” them as permanent facets of our ministries?

Once we discern the vision and practices that define who we are, how will we preserve a fluidity of implementation that enables us to respond to opportunities and obstacles as they arise?

Joyfully - E. Stanley Ott

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Building One Another - Vol. 10, No. 16 

Dear Friend,
Yesterday I had the joy of meeting Anne Ortlund.   Her books and those of her husband, Ray, have had a mentoring role in my life, helping me grow in an understanding of the Christian life.

Usually a mentor is a person with whom you have a personal relationship, a person of experience and wisdom who helps you grow in some way.

I can think of many mentors in my life who have helped me grow in faith, in family life, in work, and in life and leisure in general.  How about you?

Scripture is full of wonderful mentoring relationships, the influence of life on life, such as Jethro to Moses, Elijah to Elisha, Barnabas to the Apostle Paul, Jesus to the Twelve and Pricilla and Aquila to Apollos.

Just think of the people who have been especially significant in helping you grow in your faith in Jesus Christ and in your service to him.

The names and faces of many mentors in my life jump to my mind immediately! Bob and Margaret Pickett, Bob and Liz Chalmers, Bill and Joyce Fall, Jim and Charlotte Walker, Jim and Vivian Tozer, Dick Halverson, Elton Trueblood, Alex Williams, Harry Fifield, Gordon Prescott, Chuck Miller, Cullen Story,  Ina Ziegler, Bill Bright, Charlie Shedd and the list goes on.

I am very aware of the many contributions they have made to my life and that I would not be who I am without them; and neither would you be who you are without the mentors our Lord has positioned in your life.

Be grateful for them and show them the great honor by passing onto others what the Spirit has passed to you through them.

“One generation will commend your works to another.” Psalm 145:4* 
With joy - E. Stanley Ott
Copyright 2011 E. Stanley Ott
 *Scripture from the NIV.
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Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Pastors, especially “solo pastors,” are familiar with the word and practice of “alone.”  Yet there are few things that are less consistent with the gospel, and few things, if changed, can affect a greater positive benefit immediately than to repent of the practice of alone.

What is this guy talking about?  Pastors often function as lone rangers.  We go to conferences, meetings, seminars, hospitals, pastoral visits…we have been trained to do it alone, even convinced there is no way else to do it.  But to reiterate, this is questionable biblical practice. Howeve a change of one’s pattern of behavior can begin to pay immediate benefits to enhance the development of leaders in a local congregation.

Biblical?  More than likely, if you are familiar with the Acts 16:5 Initiative materials and the efforts of Vital Churches Institute, you’ve heard of the “with me” principle.  Just a few illustrations:

“For he and all who were with him [Jesus] were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken…”--Luke 5:9 NRSV

“ Soon afterwards [Jesus] went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him…”—Luke 8:1

“Only Luke is with me [Paul]. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful in my ministry.”—2 Timothy 4:11

As a rule Jesus, and certainly the Apostle Paul, did very few things alone.  They had people with them, and they were intentional about it.  Yet for many pastors, this requires a significant change in our modus operandi.  Yes, it requires some planning, but mostly it requires a deliberate intentionality as in, “I will no longer go it alone.  I will plan and be intentional about having people with me.”  After all, it’s biblical.

But, here’s the bonus, imagine going to a training event, a leadership event, and you have one or more people along with you; they witness the same content that you hear, and it inspires them, motivates them to get on with it.  You did nothing but have them “with you,” but in doing so, you have convinced them, “sold them.”  You become a leadership genius.

All it takes is your resolve to repent of the lone ranger mentality, and increasingly commit to go throughout your ministry life “with.”  We know it; we know the “with me” principle.  No leadership in “alone.”  So today, start doing it “with.”

Joyfully - Dale Patterson

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


Building One Another - Vol. 10, No. 15 
Dear Friend,
If you have ever been in a low place you know the person who said the following words to God was at one time the lowest of the low, upset in spirit, and unresponsive to the Lord who loved him.

“When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was stupid and ignorant; I was like a brute beast toward you.” Psalm 73:21-22*

While this expresses a very down experience, it is the next word I love: nevertheless!

"Nevertheless I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me with honor.” Psalm 73:23-24

No matter what is happening at the present moment, how down, how uncertain, how threatened you may feel or anxious you may be, nevertheless the Lord who loves you is right with you, loving you, guiding you, and leading you.

In fact in the midst of all that concerns the psalmist, he sums his hope with these words:

“Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire other than you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:25-26

Remember – nevertheless!
With joy - E. Stanley Ott
Copyright 2011 E. Stanley Ott
 *Scripture from the NRSV.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Healthy Pastors?

I recently came across some comments and statistics published in the New York Times in August of last year.  After noting that, “Members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension and depression at rates higher than most Americans.  In the last decade, their use of antidepressants has risen, while their life expectancy has fallen.  Many would change jobs if they could . . .” several statistics were given such as:

  • 45% of pastors say that they have experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence from ministry.
  • 52% of pastors say they and their spouses believe that being in pastoral ministry is hazardous to their family’s well-being and health.
  • 70% do not have any close friends.
  • 75% report severe stress causing anguish, worry, bewilderment, anger, depression, fear, and alienation.
  • 80% of pastors say they have insufficient time with their spouse.
  • 94% feel under pressure to have a perfect family.
  • 1,500 pastors leave their ministries each month due to burnout, conflict, or moral failure.

Now, for all I know there are similar statistics to be cited for teachers or factory workers or corporate lawyers and stay-at-home parents.  But the fact that these statistics focus on pastors, whom one might think would have the kind of life priorities to exhibit a healthier picture of life, is quite startling.

Which makes me wonder . . . if you are a pastor and find any of these statistics hitting close to home, what are you doing to reverse those trends in your life?

If you are a church leader and sense your pastor is described in some of these statistics, how might you be supportive to reverse those trends in his or her life?

Grace to you - Steve Ebling