Repetition (part two): 7 Biblical Truths That Need to Be Repeated

1. Jesus Christ is the only Savior.

Pastor and leaders, keep telling the church — over and over again because the lie of “there are many roads to heaven” is creeping into the Western Church.

Parents and guardians, keep telling your kids that Jesus is the only way to heaven.  They spend most of their time away from you in a world that teaches them the opposite.

Christians, keep telling the world Jesus Christ is Lord.  He’s their only hope of salvation.

Always stay focused on The Lord Jesus with people.  People aren’t offended by the word “God” but use the name of Jesus Christ and many are.  Why? It’s because there are many gods, but only one true and live God!

2. The church is an essential part of the Lord’s plan, for all followers of Jesus.

I am referring to your local congregation. The church of Jesus Christ is more than our local assembly, I know.  However, it is impossible for world-wide church or universal church to carry out God’s will without strong local churches.  In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus tells His followers to go and make disciples.  This includes baptisms and teaching them to obey God’s word.  The most effective place of discipleship is a local church.

Many people claim to be able to live for Christ better without the church but I’ve never known it to be true.  Left alone, nature always moves towards the wilderness.  To produce much fruit a tree needs to be pruned, watered, fertilized etc.  The local church is the means Jesus created to disciple us.

NO ONE who followed Christ in the New Testament church stayed on their own.  They were “added daily” to the local church (Acts 2).  When you read the New Testament 90% of verses that talk about the church refer to a local gathering.  All the Epistles of Paul were written to a local assembly.  The word church itself means “those called out to assemble.”  There is a move today to make it unimportant to be part of a local church and the result is carnal, weak, immature believers who have not been properly discipled.

3. The Bible is the inspired word of God.

Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” David said the godly man’s “delight is in the Word of God and in that Word (law) doth he meditate day and night.”

We must combat the lies that the Bible is a collection of good stories or that the things in the Bible didn’t really happen but as simply allegories.  When it says Jonah was swallowed by a big fish or Peter walked on water, those things really happened to real people!

People have tried for years to disprove scripture, even the history of the Old Testament, to disprove that is was divinely written.  No one ever has disproved on verse.  A great book on this subject is Evidence That Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell.  It’s not easy reading but the facts are great. Josh set out to disprove the Bible and became a preacher after realizing he couldn’t!

As far as the Bible itself.  Repeat verses to yourself and your kids.  Memorize passages. Repetition is a great teacher. In fact, it may be the best teacher on the planet.  If the Bible is the Word of God then let’s do our best to learn it.

I know you’re thinking “WHAT?  There are only 3 truths here!”  Well, it was getting long so the rest will come next blog.  Follow me so you’ll be notified!

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7 Unspoken Questions People Ask About Their Church

1. Will I be accepted?

This is biggest and most immediate question of every new person. Answering that question involves all that you do. Having different races, ages and styles of people greeting, in our videos, on the platform etc. sends a message that we welcome diversity.

The best way to answer this question is by establishing small groups where people of similar interests, struggles or backgrounds can find and relate to each other. Everyone needs a niche and small groups play a crucial role in meeting this need. You must show people that you have a place for them.

2. Will I find friends at this church?

People are looking for opportunities to connect in new relationships. People aren’t just looking for a friendly church, they are looking for friends.  Encourage your people to greet someone they don’t know each week but also to invite new people over to their house.  Again, small groups are a great way to be intentional about this.  We divide our small groups into semester, forcing people to break for a few weeks to keep groups from devolving into cliques.  If people don’t make 3 meaningful relationship connections in a church within the first year, they usually stop attending.

3. Will I make a difference at this church?

People want to their lives to count. They want to be part of something bigger than themselves. When you can show people that they can make a difference with their gifts and talents, they will want to be involved.  Not everyone wants to be a singer, usher or small group leader so we try to offer a diversity of positions so there is a place for everyone to serve. We want our church to be a creative place where people may express their talents and abilities in various ways.  Of course, feedback and appreciation are key.  Simply telling volunteers they are appreciated or showing how their serving builds the church goes a long way in making people feel valued.

4. Will I Feel Safe?

In our society today people often feel unsafe.  Anxiety is at an all time high.  We must create a culture where people are never belittled, gossiped about or abused.  If a new person hears someone being spoken to harshly or gossiping about someone, they tend to believe they will be treated the same way.  Make a person feel unsafe and they will run for the door.  In addition, if they don’t feel their children are in a safe environment with loving teachers, they will leave quickly.

5. Will there be a lot expected of me?

This is a tricky one. It’s true that in American society today people are afraid of being overwhelmed.  Sometimes people don’t join a church because they don’t want to commit to being there every week. However, the other side is also true.  People want to be a part of something important and they understand it requires commitment.  The answer is simple, cast vision and have reasonable requirements.  The key is letting people know that their commitment matters and avoid having outrageous requirements.  Gone are the days of requiring members to attend service mid-week, Sunday and Sunday night.  Now the multiple services gives people options as to which one they attend.

Expect people to keep their commitments as volunteers and hold them to it but keep the time commitment low.  Don’t expect perfection but encourage spiritual growth.

6. Will I benefit from joining this church?

People are inherently self-centered.  Ultimately we want to know what’s in it for them.  Why should they choose your church over others or sleeping in on Sunday? First, clearly explain the biblical, practical and personal reasons for local church membership in literature, from the pulpit, in small groups, in video announcements, every opportunity you can.  Next share testimonies of changed lives, stories of how the church was used by God in an individual’s life.  The truth is, we know people can improve their relationships, health, career, finances and more from being mentored in a church. Don’t forget to illustrate that.  Of course, don’t forget the greatest benefit, a closer relationship with God.

7. Will I connect to God more at your church?

The greatest benefit of being part of a local church should be strengthening our connection to God.  Not everyone feels more connected by listening to a teaching on Sunday.  We must have a variety of ways to connect through avenues like music, art, prayer, support groups, baptism, Holy Spirit activity, how to study scripture and yes, practical pulpit teaching. Most importantly, teaching on how to connect to God.  Many churches talk about discipleship which means growing in following Christ but never explain how to do that.

Are you helping people answer these 7 questions about your church?

Like Easter Every Day

We had an awesome Easter at House of Praise.  In fact, it was the best Easter we ever had.  More people attended that service than we’ve ever had for an Easter service and 11 adults accepted salvation.  The drama CSI: Jerusalem brought the resurrection into a modern setting with understandable evidence that Christ, in fact, did die and rise again.  Amazing, awesome…a day that reminded me why I wanted to go into ministry in the first place…but what about now?

After the wonder of the wedding, there’s a ‘honeymoon phase’.  We are still enjoying the big day but soon reality sets in.  Like the newlyweds returning to work that first Monday, we all will soon be hit with the reality of arguments, bills and the daily challenges of life in general.  In addition to that we will all have friends that we invited to the Easter service and ‘love the church’ but haven’t come back.  How can we keep the momentum of Easter going every day? Do what we did to prepare for Easter, every week!

First Pray. Pray for you job, your family and for those who came to church with you.  Pray God’s will and presence into your life and ask God to draw our friends back to church.  We were all praying for God to move during the Easter services and to draw loved ones to Himself before Easter.  Don’t stop now!

And Jesus said, “Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day. It was also written that this message would be proclaimed in the authority of His name to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent.’ – Luke 24:46-47

Next Follow Up. The power of the resurrection is the hope of forgiveness.  Call your friends and remind them that God has a plan for their lives.  Invite them to come back to church (or those that didn’t make it to Easter to come for the first time).  We were excited about Easter so we left our comfort zone and reached out, do it again this week.  Especially follow up on anyone who met with Christ in a real way.  Gently remind them that repentance involves change, so create a new habit of going to church.

If God spoke to you during the Easter service, follow up on what He told you to do.  Stop worrying about the small stuff and focus on the eternity after your resurrection.

During the forty days after His crucifixion, He appeared to the apostles from time to time, and He proved to them in many ways that He was actually alive. And He talked to them about the Kingdom of God. Once when He was eating with them, He commanded them, “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift He promised, as I told you before. John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” – Acts 1:3-5

Last, expect God to do what He promised. Expect God’s Spirit to be present in your life.  We can experience the power of the resurrection every day through the Holy Spirit.  Pray for others for miracles and bring God your own needs.  Jesus promised to pour out His Spirit on the original disciples as they waited in Jerusalem. I think the same applies to us today.  As we wait expectantly after celebrating His resurrection, we can experience His power like Easter every day.

Best Easter Ever

This year at our church (House of Praise) we set out to make Easter the best Easter we’ve ever had.  We produced a 15 minute CSI (Crime Scene Investigation) style drama with professionally done video and scenery as a background.  The sermon followed the theme by investigating the scripture on the resurrection. The music team brought excellence and creativity to the service. The Children’s Department set up a cafe style setting and had fun things like a bouncy room.  Our volunteers were on point, greeting, seating and treating people well.  We gave gifts to guests and then we did everything we could to get people to come. We mailed out 12,000 oversize post cards, we challenged our members to invite 10 people each, and the outreach team handed out hundreds of invites at the local Wal*Mart.  The results?  Best Easter Ever!  Why do I say that?

  • 0ver 430 people attended (Our highest ever!)
  • At least 10 people accepted Christ for the 1st time (filled out a card to tell us)
  • At least 7 people rededicated their lives to following Christ
  • Many people returned to church
  • Many stories of life change already coming in

What this means is all of us didn’t just have a great service but lives were changed and the Kingdom of God advanced!

You can still make it your best Easter ever by committing to let the resurrected Savior run your life.  You can decide to live differently that before Easter, to expect God to be present in your life. You can expect God to flow through you to help others meet the risen Lord.

Make this the best Easter ever in your life by taking the power of the Resurrection with you into the rest of the year…expect new life ahead.  Best Easter ever…

How to can make sure Guests do NOT come back

Subtitle: how to turn guests in to one-time visitors

In our church we call new people guests not visitors.  To understand the difference, think of your home. A visitor shows up unexpectedly, uninvited and doesn’t stay usually.  A guest you’ve invited, you expected them, you’re glad to see them and you want them to stay.  You want guests to enjoy themselves and feel welcome.

We prepare at House of Praise for guests.  We’re glad they came, we’ve invited them and we want them to feel so welcomed that they want to join the family.

If you want visitors to just visit and leave, here’s what you do as a church member:

  1. Don’t talk to them.  (Remember it’s US and THEM) Look at them awkwardly and quickly walk away. Only talk to people you already know and most importantly, don’t welcome them.
  2. If you see someone who hasn’t been to church in a while (A Creaster- Christmas and Easter only) point that out to make them feel awkward.  Say “Wow, haven’t seen you for a while.” Or even better, “We’d like to see you on more than Easter and Christmas.”
  3. You wouldn’t think this matters but it does.  Make sure we all dress in suits and expensive clothes so guests feel under dressed.
  4. Let guests find their own way around. (Think “It’s not my job.”)  If they do dare to ask where something is, just point in the general direction and say, “that way.” Or something so complicated “Louis & Clark couldn’t find it such as,  “Our kid’s ministry is out those back doors, to the left, then another left turn, down a hallway, then turn right, go outside into the other building.”
  5. Mistreat their kids.  Yell at the guest’s kids for something kids normally do like running or taking a 2nd cookie.  If you’re volunteering make check in a long and painful process. Help make the kid’s areas dirty, cluttered, & poorly with extras from the Walking Dead at the door. If a baby cries in maim service, immediately kick the family out of the sanctuary.  They won’t be back!
  6. Keep tension in the air.  Argue or speak rudely to someone in front of the guest. They won’t know it’s your friend you’ve been feuding with all week.  They’ll think we all treat everyone like that.
  7. Above all, Don’t invite guests back.  Don’t speak to them as they leave and don’t follow up on them later in the week to see what they thought

If you will do these simple steps it will keep your church from being filled with new people.  More people will give up on church so their lives won’t improve and yes more people will probably also give up on God and go to hell BUT you can keep your church a comfortable size where you know everyone.

Of course, if that’s not important to you…in our church we treat new people like honored guests.  We include them in conversations,  walk them to where they go, make sure their kids love it, let them know there are NoPerfectPeopleHERE, tell them we are glad they are here and invite them back.  If they’re our friends we may even call them next week to see how they’re doing. Why? Because we genuinely care about them improving their lives and their eternity.

The First Tool for Life

I’m reading a book called The Ultimate Checklist for Life and it causes me to ask a question.  Are you prepared for life’s unexpected turns?

Life is a journey of twists and turns that take you around blind curves not knowing what’s around the bend. There are perils and pleasures, advances and set backs, obstacles and opportunities (sometimes the obstacles are the opportunities!) Fear if the unknown or fear of failure could paralyze a traveler on this journey called life.  How can we minimize anxiety and maximize success?

As any seasoned adventurer will tell you, it’s best to adopt the Boy Scout motto and “Be Prepared.”  To be prepared one must know the right tools to take.  Campers take things like tents, compasses, matches, water, bug spray, first aid kits, even things like emergency flares or a gun for protection. What are the right tools to take along the journey with you?  How can we be prepared?

The most important tool is the word of God, the Holy Bible.

I know it sound cliche but it’s true.  And I know, it is God’s love letter to humanity, and it is the story of God’s relationship to us, but it is also a guide book.  It is the instruction manual written by the creator of life on how this whole thing operates!

Your laws are always right; help me to understand them so I may live. – Psalm 119:144

His word helps us to understand this life He’s given us so that we may live.  Scripture talks about almost any topic you need, relationships, work, money, sickness, heartache, forgiveness, education, family, love, lust, even interest rates and cosigning a loan! (Bet you didn’t know that was in there!)

To be prepared for life, start with God’s instructions for how to live.

Life is God’s novel. Let Him write it. – Isaac Bashevis Singer

Next Week: Tool #2

Breaking Religious Taboos

Did you know that Jesus didn’t follow all the religious rules of His day? His methods weren’t welcomed in the established places of worship.  He hung out with the wrong crowd.  He overcame social and cultural barriers to reach people.  Jesus had to break many religions taboos to make a way to the Father for all of us.

In John 4:1-30, there is a story of the brief interaction between Jesus and a Samaritan Woman at the town well.

Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.”  He was alone at the time because His disciples had gone into the village to buy some food. The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. (v7-9)

Samaria was conquered Assyria 722 BC. The Samaritans intermarried with the foreigners. Therefore they were not regarded as fully Jewish. At the time of Jesus there was a lot of hatred between them. Jesus’ dealings with this woman illustrates His ministry breaking down barriers between Jews and Samaritans.

Jesus broke several taboos with this meeting.  He broke the racial prejudice that Jews had against Samaritans.  He broke the religious bias towards the Samaritans as being inferior Jews or ‘unclean’.  Last Jesus tackled the chauvinist view of women that was prominent in His culture.  Jesus often broke taboo as to how women should be treated.

Mary Magdalene; Joanna, the wife Herod’s business manager; Susanna; and other women traveled with Jesus contributing their own resources to support Him and His disciples. (Luke 8:1-3) This was scandalous for a woman to leave her homes and travel with a rabbi.  Unheard of!  Unthinkable!  Yet Jesus had several woman travel with Him throughout His ministry time.  In the orthodox, first century temples women and men were separated by a screen.  Jesus was one of the world’s first feminists treating woman as ‘joint-heirs’ of salvation.

Why is this important to us today?  Because to truly follow Jesus we must break down the social, cultural and even religious taboos we have been taught.  These things keep people from following God.  More next blog.

Enduring Excellence

Excellence isn’t really excellence unless it endures until the end.  Think about it.  I can be the fastest guy off the blocks in a race, clear the first few hurdles with ease but if I trip over the last hurdle or slow down before the finish line and other runners pass me, was it an excellent race?  Of course it wasn’t.  To be truly excellent at anything we must finish as strong as we begin.

Paul said this near the end of his life:

As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.  And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of His return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to His appearing. – 2 Timothy 4:6-8

The prize that awaits is worth running this race with excellence, but how do we do that?

Begin with Duplication and Delegation

Exodus 18:13-26 – Moses & Jethro

Jethro decides to check on his son-in-law Moses and see how his life as a leader is going.  He sees Moses handling every minor dispute that arises for a whole nation!  He tells him this isn’t good. You won’t have enduring excellence, you’ll wear out!  He instructs Moses on duplication and delegation.

Moses you teach the people and delegate the smaller decision to faithful, honest people. Then delegate the authority to make decisions.  Leaders make mistakes by delegating tasks and not authority because of fear or control issues. Moses sets up leaders over 1,ooo; 100, 50, and 10.  Each according to their ability.

There were good people standing around Moses all day learning by watching him make decisions.  they just needed a change to be able to help.  Duplicate yourself in faithful, honest people then give them a chance.  The help you need is already around you, waiting.

Jesus went beyond Delegation to Discipleship

Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” – Matthew 4:19

Jesus kicked it up a notch by saying in effect, I’ll mentor you.  I’ll teach you how to do what I do.  Jesus fed 5,000 but He duplicated Himself in 11 men and then He delegated the care of the Kingdom of God on this earth to them!

If Jesus can trust the care of His word and the eternal destiny of billions of souls to some uneducated fishermen, don’t you think you can delegate some task to those you are training?  Of course they will make mistakes, after all that’s how you learned.

If the people around you are willing to follow you, put your DNA into them and turn them loose!  After 3 years of discipling thieves, liars, uneducated fisherman and trouble makers Jesus was frustrated too.  He asked how long He had to put up with them and why they had such little faith but He entrusted His ministry to them.  Wow. Don’t make those you disciple wait until their perfect before you trust them because they never will be.

What’s this have to do with enduring excellence?  Jesus did the work better than His disciples. You can always do it better yourself. However, Jesus understood that excellence would come from the disciples eventually.  More importantly He knew that enduring excellence means building something that lasts beyond yourself. How long will the excellence you strive for today last?  Until you get tired? Even if it’s until you die, it’s not truly enduring.

Excellence is an attitude not an ability

Excellence is an attitude not an ability

I walk into an unusually tidy bedroom to see one of my daughters.  “Wow, you’re room looks great.” I commented surprisingly.  She explained that mom had said she couldn’t leave her room until it was clean.  “How long have you been up here working?” I inquired.  “Oh, not long.” she replied.  The Sherlock Holmes in me became instantly interested.  “Not long” I thought.  “Not long!  I’ve seen this room.” I investigated the closet.  The door was pushed out off the track and it was nearly impossible to open, even for me.  I then noticed several items of close and toys protruding from under her bed.  You know what happened next. I proceeded to explain that stuffing piles into the closet and under the bed wasn’t what her mother had in mind when she used the word ‘cleaning’.  Over the whines and objections I calmly and loving instructed about doing your best, doing things with excellence.  I don’t think she got it but neither did I, the first hundred times my mom explained it to me.  “Sometimes you do the right thing just because it’s the right thing.” my mother with exclaim in response to my “But Whyyyyyyyy?”

Doing things with excellence is an attitude.  It’s about personal pride in a job well done.  It’s about knowing you answer to a higher standard than most. “I don’t care what others kids do…” my mom would teach, “we don’t behave that way.”

Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. – Colossians 3:23

When you’re on your job, in you school, or serving at church.  Do you best because you are working for God and because it’s the right thing.

My daughter can’t clean her room as well as adult and we don’t expect her to.  We do however, expect her to give her best effort. God doesn’t say we have to BE the best; we just have to give God our best.  He’ll make up the lack to multiply it.  After all, He’s never been impressed with our ability, but He is keenly concerned about our attitude.

This Sunday at House of Praise, (www.NoPerfectPeopleHERE.com) we’ll look at Giving God Your Best.  I hope to see you there.

 

30 Days to Live e-Devotional Day – 22: Assessing Your Life & Career

When people have 30 Days to Live they normally assess their life.  They either are content saying they have had a good life or they are full of regrets at unfulfilled dreams.  Today, I’d like to give you simple questions to help you assess your life and determine if there are changes you need to make now.  Let’s live like we’re dying.

Here are a few questions organized by the different areas of your life to help you get started.

Emotional Health

1. Do I generally feel happy? – I know “happiness” is a relevant term but be honest with yourself…do you feel happy most days?

If the answer is no, or I’m not sure then you must find out why and fix it.  If you are truly depressed first seek prayer and healing and then please find out if there’s a medical condition causing it.  If you’re depressed because you’re physically sick in some other way, then do the same, prayer and medicine. Yes, while you’re waiting for a miracle God uses medicine too.

Most often happiness is a choice.  You have to choose not to sweat the small stuff.  Usually we get upset over silly little things that won’t mean anything 1,000 years from now. Sometimes the issue may financial pressure or relationship problems.  I’ll cover those tomorrow.

2. What do you do to bring fun and joy into your life?

We all need activities and people that refresh us and bring joy to us.  Spend extra time playing with the kids, see the new movie, read a book, pray longer, go for a walk outside, exercise…what works for you?  Take the time to recharge your emotional battery.

A cheerful heart is good medicine,but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength. – Proverbs 17:22

3. Do I feel fulfilled and motivated by my career? (School if you’re a student.)

I’ve had those jobs where I dreaded getting up to go to work.  The people were difficult, there was no room for promotion, the money wasn’t good etc.  It drove me to go back to school at 30 years old.  Education and training is a key to greater career fulfillment.

A house is built by wisdom and becomes strong through good sense. Through knowledge its rooms are filled with all sorts of precious riches and valuables. – Proverbs 24:3-4

Occasionally you have the degree and that’s not the issue. I still say studying a new field or getting training for a promotion may be the answer but…

If you hate your job, do something about it. I know you need to pay the bills, keep the job you have now and start looking for another.  It’s always easier to look while you have a job so you won’t settle again for new job you’ll hate in a year.  Networking with people you know is key.  Tell them what you’re interested in and see if they know someone in that field.

For 10 years I worked in the technology field in graphic design and the Internet (when it was first starting.)  I loved it for 9 years!  Then it began to seem meaningless to me.  I realized that I wanted to be in ministry to help people and began to move towards that goal.

If you like your career or company but feel capped because there is no advancement or your bored doing the same thing for years, education can break that cycle also.  It could be a simple as more in-house training or taking an on-line certification.

The best advice I can give someone is to do something you feel passionately about.  You will spend a third of your life at you job so make sure it’s fulfilling.

If you’re a student then school IS your career.  Put your effort into it.  If you don’t like your major, change.  The discipline you learn in school will to a large degree, determine how successful you will be in your career.  Now I know some people aren’t book people, then do vocational training and learn a trade.

Whether you are a student, a supervisor, a business owner, a public servant or a long-time employee, where you are right now is your mission field.  That’s right we can feel much more fulfilled when we look through eternal eyes to see that God has us there for a reason…to CONNECT OTHERS to Christ!

More assessments tomorrow.

Prayer

Lord, help me to be honest with myself about life.  Help me to not be so negative or worried about small issues.  Remind me to do activities that recharge me emotionally and spiritually.  Give me the courage to make the career changes I need to make.  Help me to see where I am as a mission field you sent me to and give me the boldness to speak when you open opportunities.  Lord make me the person you created me to be. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Thoughts

  • Am I in the job the Lord wants me in?
  • Do I feel challenged and fulfilled by my career choice?

Action

  • Do one activity that bring you joy this week.

30 Days to Live e-Devotional – Day 20: A Risk-Taking Church

We heard a challenging word from Pastor Matthew Barnett this morning.  He spoke one becoming a Risk-Taking Church.  I found that amusing since I had written on taking risks that morning.  Today’s blog is based off the notes I took during that sermon.

Churches start out as Risk-Taking Churches.  The word to describe them would be DARING.  We’ve heard the stories. They left the comfort of jobs, friends, and families to run after a dream God gave them.  The focus is vision or calling.

Matthew Barnett did that.  He left one of the largest churches in America that his father led in Arizona to start the Dreamcenter in downtown Los Angeles. He was 20 years old and had 7 people with them.  Then when they were still small but growing, they purchased a 4 million dollar hospital when their weekly income was $1,500.
Everyone told him it was foolish.

There will always be well-intentioned people telling you why you can’t do what God has told you to do during the daring phase.

Then the church gets buildings, salaries…there is more to lose.  This the Care-Taking Church.  The word that best describes this is the word DUTY.   This church focuses on maintaining property and programs.  They care most about meting the needs of its members. The problem is if you’re not going forward in God you are in fact backsliding.  You can’t maintain.

The Care-Taking Church becomes the Under-Taking Church.  It becomes a dying memorial to what God had done.  They talk more about what God did in the past than what He has called us to do in the future. They study history and work to amass the knowledge of scripture. The word that best describes this is the word DEAD.

Here’s what will blow your mind.  The Under-Taking Church isn’t always a dead church meaning; no miracles, no presence of God.  Under-Taking is a death of vision a death of the Great Commission.  Sometimes this church focuses on the ‘next experience’ with God but the gift is emphasized over the giver.  It’s not about what God wants us to do when we leave His presence but simply the next experience I can have personally.

Reading Hebrews chapter 11 we see the ‘Heroes of Faith’, God’s Hall of Fame.  They were all Risk-Takers!  Noah had no support when he responded to God’s word.  Noone believed He had heard God.

You can’t walk by faith and walk safe.

“How to” becomes the question of safe walkers, trying to manage miracles.  You can’t manage miracles.  You leap into the unknown and pray God catches you.

Jesus risked the salvation of all mankind on 12 fearful, dysfunctional, difficult underachievers and one of them was a traitor!  That’s taking a risk.  What if they didn’t do what they were called to do?

Our problem is that we want security more than glory.  You can never be great without taking a risk.

In closing let me say this, failing to take a risk is a sin.  If we care more about our image than advancing the Kingdom of God, it’s a sin.  God’s plan for you is bigger than your potential!  God’s vision for our church is greater than we can even comprehend.  We certainly can’t make it happen without Him.  Give God the chance to do great things through you.

Don’t be afraid to go where God has already gone.

Prayer

Dear Jesus help me to be a risk-taker not an excuse-maker.  Help me to fear missing your destiny more than what others will think if I fail.  I choose to take a leap of faith rather than playing it safe.

Thoughts

  • Is our church playing it safe or taking a risk?
  • How can I support my friends in their Risk-Taking adventures?

Action

  • Take a risk by praying for a stranger who need a miracle.
  • Start a ministry for God that needs His supernatural touch to succeed.

House of Praise webTV

Well it’s finally here.  The House of Praise will begin broadcasting our service LIVE tomorrow at 10:00am.  (Feb. 14, 2010) Why are we doing this?  So we can feel important?  No.

We use any means we can to get the teachings of Jesus Christ to people.  We use creative means to portray illustrated sermons, everything from cars on stage to the pastor dressing up like Mr. Rogers and singing the theme song.  We hand out notes each service to allow people to review the teaching later at home or share it with a friend.  We record the sermons and make them available on CD or in a podcast.  Now we’re actually broadcasting the service free on the web. (www.houseofpraise.cc)  Web broadcast is just a natural step in sharing God’s word anyway we can.

While there is something special about the dynamic that happens when we gather together (Hebrews 10:24-25), it is our hope that when someone is home sick, or snowed in they will still be able to participate in worship and hear the teaching on the webcast.  One of the great things about this is we can all tell our friends that might be a little apprehensive about coming to church, “Check the service out on-line before you come in person.  Then you’ll know what to expect.” Wow ain’t technology grand? lol

Oh, by the way, if you miss the live broadcast or 10am is just too early.  The last 10 services will be archived, watch them when you have time.

It is our prayer that many people who aren’t ready to attend a church or who simply miss a service for whatever reason will be blessed by this new resource.

The Next Level, What Got You This Far Won’t Get You There!

Many people talk about “getting to the next level”.  We here is in business, from financial gurus, from relationship advisors and in our churches.  This year we’re going to a ‘Hole ‘Nother Level! (HNL) Have you ever wondered how?

Most people don’t enjoy change but the stark reality is that we can’t get to a HNL by doing the same things we did to get to this level.  I’m a big fan of consistency and realize that many things may be accomplished simply by not quitting BUT leaps in success or growth are almost always preceded by changes in behavior. One definition of insanity is “to repeat the same behavior over and over, expecting a different result.”  The method, the priorities, the effort, the staff, the relationships…something has to change.

As I look at how differently people perceive church growth I realize that usually the first thing must change is people’s perception of the situation.  Whether it’s a person who looks at a picture of themselves on the web and says, “Am I that fat?” or a business who makes excuses, “We’re losing customers because it’s a bad economy.” or a church that stops to realize that they haven’t experienced God converting more than “two sinners to saints” in the same year in so long, they can’t find a record for it…HOW the situation is viewed is the key to change, which is the key to beginning to grow.

I’ll talk more about church growth next blog but for now, please take a hard look at your relationships, your finances, your body, your career, your spiritual life, are your growing in that area or are you stagnant?

After the realization that a change is needed, ask the question “What needs to change?”

Next blog I’ll apply this to growing your church.

Looking Forward

As we are starting our new year we are again forced to look forward.  Forced to look at a new year and ask, “What does the new year hold for me? For my family? For my church? For my city?”

It’s a good thing!  We can close the door on past failures and problems and start fresh!!  Each change of the calendar causes people to take assessment of their lives, careers, relationships, spiritual lives, even their bodies!  (haha)  That is why the new year is so full of resolutions.  I know, I know.  Most people never keep them.  But think of this, how many people make changes in their live that never make a resolution?  None.  We have to resolve to change and a new year is a great time to do that.

One of the best things we do is start each year with fasting and prayer.  It refocuses us on God, reestablishes prayer as a priority, buffets the flesh (not buff-A you hungry fasters, buff-ett) and gets us looking forward to a better new year.

I resolve this year to put God first in every are, work less, delegate more, blog weekly, finish school, get healthy, enjoy my family more, give more money, and reach 3 more people for Jesus.

How about you?  What are you looking forward to?

The Call from Heaven

The words of the familiar, old Christmas Carole ring out to us.

O Come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem
Come and behold Him, born the King of Angels

There is a call from heaven to behold the King. In Luke chapter to we see the story that inspired this song.  The shepherds working in the field had their lives interrupted by and unusual sight, an angel!

I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.

The Messiah’s been born.  He’s right in Bethlehem!  Go see Him!  In verse 15 we see the first response:

When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

Let’s go to the house where the Lord dwells and see what the Lord has done and what He has told us about.

Our response is the same today.

1. Go to Church.

First, we must go and see what the Lord has done and said in His house.  Christmas is the best time to go to church.  If you’re a believer, get there!  Go somewhere.  Next the shepherds had a reaction after seeing the Savior in verses 16-18.

They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing Him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished.

2. Tell Everyone What You Have Seen and Heard.

After seeing Him, they went and told everyone what had happened and what was said.  If we have seen the Lord, we must do the same. Look at verse 20.

The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

3. Return to Where You Came From.

The shepherds went back to their fields and their flocks.  They went back to work, school, family and friends.  Your “field” is where God has planted you for your everyday life.  After you’ve met Jesus, go back to your field and introduce other to Him.

Don’t come to church alone this Christmas.  Bring a friend, classmate, relative, neighbor or coworker.

Blind Eyes & Stuffy Noses

When we first walked into our church building as the new pastors we remembered thinking how terribly cold and unfriendly the facilities were.  Not the people, the building.  The colors were very cold, the floor in the lobby a dull, industrial, gray tile. The sanctuary had a basketball court on the carpet.  That was weird but not as bad as the huge stains that greeted you as entered. All of that paled in comparison to the children’s wing…

The threadbare and overly worn carpet was held down by duct tape on all the seems.  The nursery smelled horribly, a strong mildew smell and a slight vomit smell.  A single tear slowly crawled down my wife’s face as she shuddered, “I can’t put my babies in here.  I won’t.” She uttered firmly.  I assured her we’d take care of it.  First thing I did was rip up the nursery carpet and put down rubber squares.

My thought was this, “How can they have let the place run down so badly?”  Don’t they see the torn baseboards, the stains in the carpet?  Don’t they smell the nursery?  Time had caused eyes to become blind and noses to become stuffy.  It is a a scientific fact that a person looking at a crack of broken piece of a building long enough will no longer notice it.  If you’ve ever sold a house you know it’s true.  You didn’t realize how dingy the walls were until you painted them to sell. I encourage you church leaders to walk through the church with a new person with a critical eye.

Today we have new carpet in the sanctuary & kids wing, warmer colors, and clean fresh smells but as a pastor who has been here almost 5 years, I’m starting to not notice the broken door handle, the smell of the mop room, the chipped paint here and there.  We bring in secret shoppers to check us out and report.  People I know will be honest.  (If you’d like a secret shopper to check out your building or church service email: pastorlon@houseofpraise.cc)

Have you as a believer gotten a stuffy nose to the sin in your life that has been there for years or no longer notice the cracks in your relationships?  We all need a good walk through with a friend to see what needs to be fixed.  Don’t wait until someone smells the mildew in your life.

Your Experience Does Not Entitle You to Lead

The statement by Nancy Ortberg hit me like the chill that you get when you first jump into a cool pool on a hot summer day.  At first there’s the gasp of air leaving the lungs and the and the tightening of my skin just like when we first react to the cold.  Then something strange happens.  There’s a soothing feeling that follows as your body adjusts and remember why you jumped in. Sitting in the sun had caused you to become heated an sweaty, you wanted to be cooled down.  The water shocks at first but them soothes as as it cools.  Nancy’s statement did the same thing.

As I recovered from the brief shock, there was a soothing sigh of “Yes, that’s why I came.”  She brought out many insights on leadership in her session.  Experience doesn’t entitle a person to lead calling and character do.  I often articulated to people that maturity isn’t measured in years but in how much of the fruit of the Spirit one grows.  I had long felt the same way about leadership.  “Just because you’ve been in the church 15 years doesn’t mean you should be an elder.” was one discussion but I struggled to make it clearer.

I the soothing that Nancy’s teaching brought.  Saul couldn’t face Goliath but a teen shepherd boy could.  (1 Sam 17)  David asked why no one would fight the giant.  the reactions were interesting.  First, David’s brother accused him of being prideful and wicked for coming to the battle but David was just following his father’s instruction.  David ignored his brother and went to others again asking why none of them defended the Lord’s name.  Finally they brought him to Saul.  Saul reluctantly relented to David’s story of the God giving him the lion and the bear.  “Alright, you can go but wear my armor.”  Saul breathed.

In other words, “Ok, maybe God has sent you but do it my way.”  Saul had the experience to lead.  He was a king and a warrior.  But God didn’t call a warrior.  God knew no warrior could stand against the might of a giant who was a warrior since he was a youth.  No God called a shepherd boy.  New methods emerged.  A sling and stone instead of a sword and a spear.  Faith was his protection not a bronze shield.

I know understood how to articulate to others what the Spirit of God had been showing me.  Calling and character are what gives people the influence to lead not title nor experience.

Thanks Nancy.  That alone was worth the price of the Catalyst Conference and we’re just getting started!

Presenting the Gospel in a Visual Society

We opened with a 10 minutes drama of people’s different fears, death, public speaking, heights, snakes, drowning etc. I’m so proud of our creative and drama teams! It was awesome. I think the sermon was very well received also.  Were the drama and message effective?  Well, 2 people gave their lives to the Lord for the 1st time!

I loved the drama opening for the sermon but that sort of thing always brings questions into some observers mind. “Why do we need all those lights?” or “Is this just a show?”

Why do we use drama, video, decorations, give aways etc. to present the gospel?  It’s because we live in a visual society.  We are trying to reach a generation raised on television, movies, graphic design and the web.  Most of their classes in school will suppliment the teacher’s lecture with videos and Internet information.  Does this water down the gospel? No.

Presenting the gospel with more than words isn’t something new.  Jesus used imagery such as a “camel passing through the eye of a needle” and “a sower who planted seed.”  No, presenting the truths of the Kingdom of God in a visually stimulating medium isn’t a new idea or even’s man’s idea.  Jesus was doing it thousands of years ago.

The key is using the visual presentation to reinforce the message or present the message in a different way but the message never changes!!  It’s still that we are all depraved sinners worthy of judgment and damnation but God loved us so much that He sent Jesus to horribly suffer taking our punishment, then die, rising again to bring us the impossible reward of eternal bliss in heaven.

We will use the methods that will reach the audience but always remember to keep the message the same, we need Christ and thankfully He wants us.

Is Our God Safety?

When we allow fear to limit our actions we begin to serve safety instead of God.  Is risk-free living our ultimate goal?  Is being safe what the most important thing in life?

Think of this, a person who worships safety never accomplished anything note-worthy.  History is filled with the acts of the bold, the brave.  The fear filled don’t dream big dreams, risk-takers do.

When the disciples dropped their nets and walked away fro their jobs, neighborhoods, families…everything they knew, were they making the ‘safe’ choice?  How about Abraham when God told him to leave his people and everything he had ever known to go into a strange land?  God didn’t even tell Abraham where the destination of the journey was!

The worship of safety emasculates greatness.
– Max Lucado, Fearless

As a Christ-Follower you are called to greatness.  What is it that God is asking you to do that you’ve been afraid to try?  Well turn that computer off and go do it!

Discouraged?

Discouragement, we all go through it.  When someone you love dies, when you pray as hard as you can and don’t see a miracle, when you seem to be doing everything right but life gets harder.  The temptation is to give up.

1 Cor 10:13 – Remember that the temptations that come into your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can’t stand up against it. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it.

Don’t give up. Everyone has temptation, even Jesus.  How we react to the temptation determines victory or defeat.  God will never allow you to be tempted more than you can take so don’t give in.  It’s your choice.

Heb 12:2-3 – Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.

We will continue to consider the one we serve so that we will not grow discourged and weary!  He’s the finisher of our faith and WE WILL NOT QUIT.  Many people miss the blessing in their lives and the breakthrough by simply giving up too soon.

Like the kitty cat on the poster hang in there baby, God never comes too late or with too little.  God is the finisher of our faith and He’s not done yet!

Encouragement

We all need encouragement sometimes but what should we do when it seems there is no one to encourage us?  The answer comes from King David.

David was greatly distressed; for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the LORD His God. – 1 Samuel 30:6 (kjv)

David encouraged HIMSELF in God.  There comes a point where you have to encourage yourself.  The people you thought were with you turn on you. You have no one to help you.

In David’s life he survived his leader turning on him (Saul), his family attcking him (Absalom), his own sin (that whole Bathsheba thing) and his friends that have pledged loyalty to him talking about stoning him.  How did he do it?  He learned early this simple truth, sometimes there’s only God and you so you have to get your encouragement directly from Him yourself.

David rehearse the past protection of the Lord to encourage himself.

The LORD who saved me from the claws of the lion and the bear will save me from this Philistine! – 1 Samuel 17:37

Stand on the promise that God won’t allow you to be tempted more than you can take.  He will rescue you before you are overwhelmed.

The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience.
God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you can endure.
– 1 Corinthians 10:13

In closing, there are times when we must encourage ourselves.  The best ways to do this is to remember the good things God has done and to rehearse His promises to us such as the one just mentioned in 1 Cor 10:13.  So no matter what you’re going through, choose to encourage yourself today.

World’s Dumbest Criminal, a Lesson for Us

I love the TV show called “World’s Dumbest Criminals” (I know but I like to see dumb people get arrested.) Recently I saw a story of drug dealer name Daron.  The police had surveillance on him for over a month and came with an arrest warrant to pick him up.  They knocked on the door and asked, “Are you Daron…?”

Daron replies, “No, my name is Herbert Spinkleman.” Or some ridiculous similar name.

The police officer then looks at Daron’s forearm and points to his tattoo. “You have you name Daron tattooed on your arm.”

“No that’s my girlfriend’s name Da-Ron.”  He replied.

You can’t make this stuff up!  He was trying to fool the police pretending to be someone else and his name was tattooed on his forearm!  Then he denied it was his name!  Priceless.

Daron tried to pretend he was someone else but his true name was evident.  Many people do the same thing.  They say they are Christians but the name of Christ is not on them.  Christian means “little Christ”.  It’s like saying “Jesus Jr.” you look like your dad.

Many people call themselves a follower of Christ but the name tattooed on their arm is “liar, porn addict, judger of others, thief, fornicator, gossip” etc.  They try to fool people but hypocrisy is evident to most.

Jesus said, “Why do you say you love me but don’t obey my commandments?”
We know that many people will be shocked when their lives end because they will say didn’t we do all these “Christian things for you?” and He’ll reply, “Depart from me, sinner.  I never knew you.”

Don’t be like Daron.  Don’t try to fake out Jesus because you’ll only fool yourself and you also will be taken away in chains.

Why is the American Church in Trouble?

Don’t think the Evangelical church is i trouble in the US?  Consider these statistics:

•   The number of people in America that Do Not attend church has doubled in the past 15 years.

•   50% of  churches last year did not add one new person being saved

•   Only 15% of churches in the United States are growing

•   Just over 2% of churches grow because of new salvations

In the era of Mega-churches most believing churches are slowly dying. Why are some exploding while other shrivel?  I can answer this quesrtion best with an illustration from today’s sermon.

In Mark 2:13-17 Jesus calls Levi to follow Him and become His disciple.  Levi does, leaving his job, his neighborhood, financial security all to follow the Lord.

The next time we see Levi he has invited Jesus and His disciples over for dinner but he also invited his friends over.  The Bible calls them nortorius sinners.  The religious people couldn’t believe Jesus would eat with such scum.  Jesus replied that He didn’t come for those who think they are righteous but those who know they are sinners.

Levi understood what the Pharasees didn’t. From the moment we become followers of Jesus we must be inviting others to meet Him.  if we want God’s presence with us we must invite the people He wants to be around.  Sinners.

No new converts, none of God’s favor upon our churches.

Will They Come Back? Part 1

Is our church one that guess will want to come back to? That is the questions every church leader must answer.  If they enjoy the music and the teaching is understandable and they are able to apply it to their lives they may decide to give the church a second look but as important as the music and teaching are, it’s not enough to cause people to stay as part of the fellowship.

Before we look at what will cause people to stay let’s look at some things that drive interested guests away…

1. Having social networks that aren’t open to outsiders.  Guests notice if there are lunches, picnics, bible studies & groups that they aren’t invited to.  This is especially difficult if there are large families or groups of relatives in the church because it is natural to gather together with relatives and not realized it may perceived as a closed church function.

2. Feeling like their help isn’t needed. When a person wants to be a part of the church by serving and they aren’t allowed to there’s a rejection or feeling that they don’t belong.   Beware of controlling people within your church that may be well meaning but would rather do the work themselves than make room for others to help.  Also make sure you have good follow up in place for people to be plugged in quickly when they do volunteer.

3. Overcrowding. If over 80% of your chairs are full people will not come back. Rule of thumb, if 70% of you seats are occupied then get out more chairs or add another service.  Same principle applies to children’s church, if a parents sees overcrowded classes or nursery they may feel uncomfortable about their child getting enough attention.

4. Confusing service or facilites. People generally say no to whatever is confusing.  If they can’t find your sanctuary whey they enter anxiety begins to rise.  Good signs for restrooms and children’s wing definately help also.  How well do you insruct people what do to or inform them what to expect?  A simple announcement of “your kids will be dismissed to children’s church following the song service” can put people at ease.  Feeling relaxed allows people to focus on the spiritual aspects of the service.

5. Neglected facilities or grounds. Ever sold a house?  You fixed things that never bothered you.  Fresh paint for the shutters, trim the bushed and clean the windows make a good first impression.  Well, long time church members may walk by the ripped carpet and not notice it anymore but a new guest will.  Shabby landscaping or run down lobby says “we don’t care that much” and we probably won’t pay much attention to you either.

6. Inconsistent style.  People come to a flamboyant Easter pagent.  There’s a 50 person choir with rented robes, a 45 minute cantada with professional quality musicians, rented lights and scenery.  They come back two weeks later to one lady playing an accordian in an empty gymnasium.  I’m not saying don’t do special events but show people who you really are.

7. Tense or unwelcoming environment.  People need to be greated within the first 1-2 minutes they walk in the door by a smiling, friendly, normal person.  The facility needs to be decorated in a friendly manner.  As far as tension, if there is division, power struggles, or harsh and condemning leadership you can be sure people will run for the exits!

More next time…

Focus mean saying no.

Steve Jobs (co-founder of Apple) said, “People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of many of the things we haven’t done as the things we have done.”

It is the focus on making disciples that will make churches and individual believers great.  God gave us His authority for a reason, to make disciples.

Matt 28:18-20 – Jesus came and told His disciples, I have been given complete authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

Loss of focus causes us lose God’s authority and eventually we become dry.  It isn’t sin that causes people to start to slide away from God, it’s loss of focus.  Once the focus is lost it will eventually lead to sin but it started by saying yes to seemingly good opportunities that weren’t focused on disciple-making.

What do you spend most of your time, talent and treasure (money) on?

He Prepares a Table

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. – Psalm 23:(niv)

God says in the midst of conflict, while you’re under attack, I’ll prepare a place of rest, a place where you can be fed and a place where you can sit with family. To me the Table represents the church. The food is the word of God.

And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of His coming back again is drawing near. – Hebrews 10:25

The desire of the devil is to minimize the importance of church.  To make the Sunday service into something that good to do if you have time.  Experience has taught me that most Christians that aren’t actively involved in a good local church are at least stagnant and not growing, at worst carnal and slowly backsliding.  I’m sure there are exceptions to the rule out there but I haven’t met them.

Galatians 5:13 – For you have been called to live in freedom—not freedom to satisfy your sinful nature, but freedom to serve one another in love.

Part of why God set us free is so we can serve.  Those that aren’t free don’t serve.  It’s the opposite of the world where those in bondage server their bosses or masters.  We serve because we want to!  Out of gratitude, love and calling.

Don’t be deceived, be a part of a local assembly and use your gift to build up the church.  God bless.

Knowing What to Expect

On Easter this year we did something different.  We didn‘t do anyting different.  No Easter play, no choir robes, no lillies, just our normal service.  I told our over 20 1st time guest and dozens of occasionaly attenders why.  “I want you to see what this church is all about each week in the hope that you’ll come back.”  I continued, “We’re not just going to do a great show on Easter and let you be disappointed next time you’re here!  The same music, teaching style and welcoming atmosphere will be here every time you come.”

I hope this approach also made out members and regular attenders feel encouraged.  They know that any week they invite their friends to church that they can expect a few things to happen.

  • Their friends will be made to feel welcomed
  • The music will be off the chain!
  • The teaching will apply to their lives.
  • It will NOT be boring. (We use creative methods and humor.)
  • God will meet with them.

Do you clearly communicate to your friends and family what they can expect when they come to church?  Can they look at your life and know what to expect from Christianity.  Talk to people.  You’ll be very surprised at what they think is going to happen if they follow God.

Check out: http://www.houseofpraise.cc/whattoexpect.html

Restart

I was talking to someone the other day who was discouraged because they hadn’t kept a comittment they’d made.  Last year many of us at the House of Praise made a commitment to give the Lord the first 15 minutes of our day reading His word.  Well this well intentioned friend made it six months and then got distracted and stopped.

This year they were afraid to try again because they didn’t want to make a comittment they didn’t keep.  I understand that thought.  The Bible does teach us it is better not to vow than to vow and not keep it.  However…I believe it is better to read God’s word 6 days a week for 6 months than to never have tried!

“It’s time to restart.” I said. You know?  Sometimes our computers get bogged down and aren’t working right  (Well not mine it’s a Mac, but most of you know what I mean.) sometimes the best thing you can do is restart it.  We need to restart our walk with God sometimes.

“Is there something in your life you need to restart Pastor?” They asked.  I thought for a moment about a couple things.  1. Date nights with my wife had grown too few. 2. I need a vacation.  3.  I miss blogging.

So here we are.  I took m y wife out ALONE for dinner and a movie and I’m restarting the blog.  Those of you who make comments and follow me, please come back again.  I’m even going to try and learn twitter to make it easier.  God Bless ad let’s get restarted!

Love Matters Most

If you want your life to count, you have to focus it.  You can’t try to do 50 different things – you don’t have time for all of them.  Also, not everything is of equal value. Spend time and energy on what matters most.  God says there are two things that matter the most.

Matthew 22:37-39  Jesus replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Jesus, what’s the most important things in life?  Love for God and love for people.

To read your bible, attend church, and avoid the “big” sins…
Is this wholehearted passionate love for God?
The Seeking Heart by Francois Fenelon

We must be passionately, whole-heartedly in love with Jesus.  Our whole heart, soul and mind…everything we are!  Is doing the minimums of Christianity whole-hearted love?

Do you know what I’ve noticed? People who’s love for God has never truly been awakened or who have grown cold over the years, ask the same question…”How far can I go before it’s considered sin?”  There is a desire to walk as close to the line as possible.  To live in the dull grays of twilight, never fully embracing the darkness nor jumping into the brilliance of the bright light.

If love matters most, we must be passionately pursuing God like a courting, love sick teen AND pass that love onto others in need of God’s love.

If we don’t have love, then we really don’t know God.

40 Days of Love

We’ve started the 40 Days of Love at the House of Praise and I couldn’t be more excited.  For the next 6 weeks the Sunday services, the children’s church, the youth group and the church Connect Groups (home bible studies/small groups) will all be learning what Jesus taught about relationships.  What could be more important than that?

One of the main points last Sunday was “the best expression of love is time.”  Giving someone focused attention is one of the most important ways to communicate love.

Kids are crying, look at me daddy.  Turn the TV off.  Look at me mommy, stop cleaning for a minute.  Get off the computer and take a walk with your spouse.  All our relationships are damaged by hurry.  Eat fast, gotta run. Busyness feeds the ego but starves the family.

We shouldn’t be looking for more time to spend with family.  We should make spending the most time with loved ones the priority and try to fit other things into the schedule around your family and friends.

As Rick Warren says, “Stop watching reruns of friends and go make friends!”

Galatians 6:10 – Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity,  (NOW) we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.

Don ‘t put off love.  Right now, think of one person you could tell that you love them today.  Who should YOU call and encourage?  Who should YOU visit?

Bloggin Again

Hey, well it’s good to be back. After taking a month off to focus on changing some things in the church and organizing our schedule for the year, let’s blog some more.

40 Days of Love

Matthew 22:37-39  Jesus replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself.”

All of Christianity can be reduced down to one word, LOVE.  Love God, love people.  The very best use of our life is to love.

Love also is how the world knows we really are followers of Jesus.  Anyone can be “holy”!  Buddhists are self-disciplined, Hindus are sincere, Muslims will lay down their life for their faith. What’s the difference between us and them?  LOVE.

John 13:34-35 – So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.  Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.

People are watching you.  Do you know the question they are asking?  Is God real?  How will they know?  LOVE.  Wow, those Christians really treat people better than other people do.  Wow those Christians forgive people who mistreat them.  Wow, they really love God.  Wow, maybe they really do know God.

Finding Direction in the New Year

Have you ever felt lost?  Feeling like we have no direction, no purpose.  I think we all have.  As we begin 2009 our church took a look at how to find direction and purpose for our lives.  Here’s some highlights…

First Focus on Eternal Things.

I know it sounds funny to think about getting direction for our life by getting the focus off ourselves but that’s exactly how it works. Some good verses on this…

Prov 23:4-5 – Don’t weary yourself trying to get rich. Why waste your time? For riches can disappear as though they had the wings of a bird!

Matt 6:33 teaches us to pursue the Kingdom of God and live righteously then God will take care of our career, finances etc.

Prov 3:5-6 – Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will direct your paths.

Begin with the Bible.

It’s amazing how many times we forget to read the creator’s guide to life when we are trying to figure life out.  It reminds me of a story of an at critic who stood in a gallery describing what the artist was trying to say with a painting when another man walked up and said actually I think the artist meant something completely different.  The critic indignant with pride snapped “How would you know?”  “Well I painted it.” the man replied as he walked away.  Let’s ask the one who made us what we should be doing.

Psalm 119:104-105 – Your commandments give me understanding; no wonder I hate every false way of life. Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path.

Spend time directly in God’s presence.

There are things the word is silent on.  Where should you work?  What house should you buy?  These things God will speak directly to us as we pray.

Pslam 57:2 – I will cry to God Most High, who will fulfill His purposes for me. 

James 1:5If you need wisdom—if you want to know what God wants you to do—ask Him, and He will gladly tell you. He will not resent your asking

Don’t give up.

After we have heard God for ourselves we must take action and never give up until His word to us is fulfilled. (Gal 6:7-10)

Does Religion Leave You Feeling Lost?

Religion leaves you feeling lost but relationship connects you to God. Religion is man’s attempt to reach God or to earn His favor.  Real relationship with the Lord may begin with a hunger for God but even that hunger comes from Him because no one comes to repentance unless the Spirit draws them. 

Religion knows about God but through Relationship we can KNOW God.

Before I was born-again, I went to church almost weekly as a child.  I could tell you Jesus died for me, I could even quote some scripture but never knew the savior personally.  I was religious, I trusted in my church, my confirmation, even the cross on my neck but had never even met the Savior!

Religion is a list of Dos and Don’ts but relationship causes you to alter your behavior because of love.

Matthew 22:35-40 – One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”

Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

Love causes us to fulfill the laws of the one we love.  In the absence of love the law is needed. 

I’m Back

Well after a long absence due to holidays and a 3 week battle with pneumonia I’m finally back to blogging.  I apologize for the long absence.  Here’s a little catch up.

As we look at a new year we begin to take stock of our last year and our future. 2008 was a hard year, we battled sickness and buried a close friend whose loss still stings daily, but  I’m very thankful for the things God did in 2008 also.  We saw 38 people bow their knee to Jesus as their Savior for the first time and over 100 rededicate their lives to serving Christ afresh.  There were 65 new people added to our church and several people healed.  In the midst of trial and tragedy God built His Kingdom.  What more could we ask for?

As we begin 2009 I know God will do even greater and more exciting things in our midst.  Bring it on Lord.  Bring it on!

Attracting the Next Generation of Leaders

Every pastor I know and most people who lead ministries in churches complain that there just aren’t enough young leaders out there.  I don’t agree.  I think there are good, enthusiastic young people of character who are waiting for someone to mentor them.

Before we can decide who to mentor into ministry we must attract quality people.  I’m not talking about attracting people who are already leaders.  I mean developing untapped leadership potential in someone.  First because we shouldn’t take someone else’s leader. (We’re all working for the same king.) Second, it usually is too hard to unlearn the system they came out of to adapt them to yours.

If we’re going to attract the next generation to serve and eventually lead there are a few things we need to do:

  • Establish a fun environment – I said it as a children’s pastor and I say it as a senior pastor…Church should be fun!  I understand that salvation is serious business, that spiritual warfare is necessary and we have to meet the needs of hurting people BUT that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t laugh along the way also.  The joy of the Lord is our strength.
  • Establish a creative environment – God is the creative of everything.  He is the most creative being to ever exist.  Therefore, His church shouldn’t be outdated or using archaic methods to spread the gospel.  The next generation of leaders want to see intelligent, creative ways to stay culturally relevant.
  • Make Leadership Development Institutional – It amazes me how many churches have no obvious path for leadership development.  “Well you come and serve and if you’re called to lead God will show us.”  Wow, sounds spiritual  but doesn’t give a direction to focus one’s efforts on.  For that matter a clearly defined discipleship process is essential.  People in your church should now what the next step in their spiritual growth is.  Write it, make it plain. (Hab 2)  Budget time and money to develop potential leaders also.
  • Hire Well and Treat Better – Don’t just fill a need in the church.  leave the position empty until the right person comes along.  The wrong person (with great intentions, just wanting to help) in a position causes the perfect person to pass you by.  Once you get the right person pay them well, give them positive feedback and let them know they are appreciated so you can keep them!!
  • Don’t Reject, Redirect – If someone has good character, gets the vision and is loyal they are rare.  Find a place for them.  Even if you don’t see them as a leader or not a fit for the opening they are interested in, put them in a different ministry where they have responsibility.
  • Have Positions Run for One Year – Both paid and volunteer leaders should have a clear job description lasting exactly one year, for two reasons.  First, so you  both have the same expectations.  Second, if they don’t work out at the end of one year the conversation becomes “Thank you for serving in x this year.  Next year I’d like to put you in y.”  There’s no removing or firing simply another opportunity.  It really works well.
  • Look for Success in the World – David had the lion and the bear before Goliath.  Joseph learned how to lead as a slave and in the prison.  God usually takes someone from success to success because they have learned His principles and they work hard!  I’m always amazed at people who can’t hold a job and say, “It must be because I’m called to ministry.”  Beware!  It might be because they are rebellious or lazy.
  • Give the Responsibility before the Title – If you want to see if someone is a leader give them leadership responsibilities.  Plan this…Follow up on this person…Get this done for me…You get the picture.  After they have proven themselves faithful in an area make them the leader of the are they have excelled in.  Caution:  Many pastors blow it hear by waiting too long or thinking a person too young.  If they’ve been faithful for a year, take the chance. 
  • Pray – I know everyone says that but really.  Placing someone into a leadership position is a spiritual exercise.  Get God involved in the decision.

We can’t take the same approaches as we took 20 years ago to attract the next generation of leaders.  God wants us to accelerate our planning, mentoring and releasing of leaders.

Leading a Growing Church

Are you a leader in your church?  Before you answer let me rephrase the question.  I didn’t ask if you were the Lead Pastor.  I asked if you were a leader.  Do other people look to you for advice, direction or mentoring?  Then you’re a leader!!

Will you help lead your church towards growth or stagnation?  Will you be an instrument that God uses connect to Himself or someone who says, “It’s nice to every person in the church by name.”?

According to C. Peter Wagner’s book Your Church can GrowLeaders of Growing Churches have 5 Qualities in Common:

 

I. Single Minded Obedience – Be willing to pay the price to fulfill the Great Commission and faithful to the Lordship of Christ.  Don’t get discouraged or distracted and beware of offenses.

II. Clearly Defined Objectives – They set measureable goals to evaluate the effectiveness of all ministries.  How do you know if you’ve been successful in your ministry gifting.

 III. Reliance on Discerning Research – Don’t guess at the situation but rely upon gathering factual data. Set aside the emotion of the decision and base your strategy on facts.

IV. Ruthlessness in Evaluating Results – When desired goals aren’t achieved a process of ministry is scrapped.  Are you willing to lay down your favorite event or ministry for the sake of church growth?

V. An Attitude of Faith and Optimism – Will God do all He promised to do?  Don’t focus on the one or two things not going well focus on the eight or nine that are!

We all need to look at these five characteristics and improve the areas we are weak in.

The Road Less Traveled

John 12:26 – All those who want to be my disciples must come and follow me.

We read this verse so casually.  “Come and follow Jesus.”  “I’m a follower of Jesus.”  We seldom think about what that really means.  Following Jesus is a call to leave everything we know and run hard after Him no matter what it costs us.  The disciples left their jobs, their homes their families, friends, EVERYTHING to wander around homeless for 3 years listening to a teacher who taught in parables.  Why?  Because they knew that He had the keys to eternal life.

if you think about what Peter once said, if this life is all there is…then we’re the most miserable men ever because we’ve traded some of the pleasures of this world for a fable.  Ahhhh but if Jesus was who He said He was.  IF He is the messiah.  Then who can count this temporary suffering worthy to even be talked about in the same breath with the eternal reward!?

Matthew 7:13-14 – You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.

Oh, life might seem easier sometimes taking the broad and easy highway but it’s a highway to hell.  The hard, rocky, narrow, little sheep’s trail leads up the mountain to heaven’s throne.

You don’t have to be the sharpest crayon in the box.  You just have to leave everything behind, pick up you cross and follow the shepherd.

Marketing Mistakes Made by Churches

It’s hypocritical for Christian say they are against churches using marketing. Why?  because almost all churches do some marketing. Mailers, fliers, a sign out front, a bulletin advertising upcoming events, even listings in the yellow pages or listing service times in the newspaper…churches market they just don’t call it that. At the very least, word-of-mouth marketing happens as members invite their friends and family to services.

Wherever your feelings on the matter, the bottom line is more people Connect to God if you get them through the doors of the church.  Don’t misunderstand.  It’s not about promoting my church for me, it’s about discipling souls which is next to impossible outside the context of the local church.  Remember we’re called to make disciples, not gather a crowd.  Here’s the common mistakes church make when marketing.

Marketing the church itself instead of the Connection with God the church can bring. It’s ok to promote a sermon series or an event but as a lead into attending service. The reason to attend service is to Connect to God.  No one cares if you think your church is the coolest. They care if your church can help them have a better life or find eternal life.

Not having a good “product” when they come. If you tell people come to our church and you’ll find help for your failing marriage, then the church better offer help for marriages.  Guests must also find a welcoming, friendly environment.  

Not following up effectively.  Good marketers know that finding “qualified leads” is a must.  When you find someone who says they are interested in your product, you better follow through.  When the Holy Spirit draws a soul to search for the Savior and they walk through the doors of the church, that person is a gift from God.  How we connect with them during the Monday-Wednesday following their visit is essential to reinforce their experience. I’m amazed at how many churches aren’t effective in gathering information from their visitors for follow up.

Not Focusing on the people God has called you to.  God uses different churches to reach different types of people.  Joel Osteen can’t reach the same people as T.D. Jakes.  Benny Hinn can’t reach Ed young’s crowd.  Who has God called your church to?  Please don’t misunderstand, we accept all people but we should market to those most drawn to our style.  it sounds good to say, “We are trying to reach all people.” but it is impractical unless you have unlimited resources.

Competing with other churches. We are competing with false religions, cults, the occult, atheism and humanism but not other churches. We are all part of the same family.  Never run down or belittle another church, you only hurt the Kingdom of God.  My daughter once asked my why there were so many different kinds of Christian churches.  My response was “It’s like ice cream.  There are different flavors ranging from vanilla to tutti-fruity but it’s all still ice cream.”  If someone has a different style than yours it’s not wrong, just different.

Offering too many choices. More choices means more confusion. Confusion always cause inactivity.  The more choices you provide, the less likely people will be to take a step. A great example is trying to do a mid-week service and small groups.  People will choose one or the other and both are weakened.  Offer a mid-week service, weekly small groups and Sunday school and only the highly committed 20% will come and the unchurched will pass on your church.

Not evaluating effectiveness.  What is the message you are trying to communicate? Are you getting a response? Do people find a goo product when they come to the service? Do you know who you’re trying to reach?  Are you willing to say know to marketing and programs that are ineffective?

Turning the Church Inside Out

I was discussing with some young leaders this week the need to constantly turn the church inside out.  Yes, we were discussing the Great Commission to “go and make disciples” but I said it’s more than just encouraging people toward evangelism, it’s about focus.  

When you turn a shirt inside out, it looks different.  The inside becomes visible to everyone.  If the seams are lose you see it.  When a church truly changes it’s focus from “What is God going to do for me today?” to “How can I help connect someone to God today?” the weakness are exposed.  The threads hanging loosely from the seams that haven’t mattered because they were internal now need to be fixed.

Practical things like how welcoming your lobby is become important but there are spiritual seams exposed also.  Remember this: Everyone says they want to reach souls for Jesus until you start to make changes reach souls.  Then are little secret threads like selfishness and pettiness are exposed.

I am determined not to have a church that is just for Christians.  I am determined to teach, preach, encourage, challenge, prod, poke, activate, irritate and motivate believers to go and make disciples.  I am determined to turn the church inside out.

Openness in Relationships

Question: Who really knows you enough to be open with you?

Do you have someone in your life that will tell you the truth when you’re messing up?  Are you that person for your close friends?  As a pastor there are times when I have to tell people the things they don’t want to hear.  “Well what you’re experiencing right now is the consequence of your sin.”  Ouch, no one wants to hear that but love demands the truth that we might grow and become better followers of Christ.

Proverbs 27:5-6 – An open rebuke is better than hidden love! Wounds from a friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.

You can measure the value that you place on a relationship by the level of discomfort you are willing to engage to make that relationship the best it can possibly be.  If you value the relationship and love the person you have to risk the conflict and even the loss of the relationship to help the person grow.

I’m not talking about butting in constantly but if you love someone and there’s weakness or a sin creeping in, tell them the truth.  The big question is do you have someone who loves you enough to tell YOU the truth?

A Day for The Lord

As we prayed Sunday before the service, I found myself saying “Lord this is your day.  Have your way in this place an in our lives.”  As I think of that prayer today, I realize EVER Sunday is a day we set aside for the Lord.  After a busy week we stop and set aside some quality time to think about Jesus. I know we’re supposed to do that everyday but the truth is many of us forget to.  Sunday we stop.  We say, “Lord realign my priorities.  Today it’s about you and me worshipping you.”

We had Tino Wallenda of the Flying Wallendas at our church and many people brought guests.  It was wonderful.  There was a expectation for people to surrender their hearts to Christ.  Regular attenders worked hard to get unchurched friends to come.  We should be like that each week, expecting God to do big things and working hard to see people connect with Him.

This Sunday, expect God to do something great in your church.  Expect Him to heal a sick body, set a person bound with addiction free, reconcile broken relationship, encourage the discouraged, equip the believers, and save those that are headed for hell.  Expect God to build His kingdom using you on a day you set aside for Him we call Sonday.

Pray for President Barack Obama

Scripture is very clear about our mandate to pray for those place in authority over us.

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. 1 Timothy 2:1-2

Therefore, whether we voted for President Obama or against him, we now must pray for him AND respect him.

For the Lord’s sake, respect all human authority—whether the king as head of state, or the officials he has appointed. 1 Peter 2:13-14a

One of the saddest thing about our country is the lack of respect for those in authority.  I know we have freedom of speech and we’re allowed to disagree with and even poke fun at our leaders but there is a growing attitude of disrespect towards our presidents.  I saw this as a large issue when President Clinton had a sex scandal while in office and it has continued with President Bush largely because of broken promises to find Weapons of Mass Destruction and Bin Laden.

People used excuses like “Clinton dishonored the oval office” and “Bush lied”.  People have told me “Respect must be earned.” but that isn’t what we just read in 1 Peter.  We are commanded to respect the office even if we don’t respect the person in that office.

Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them, and give respect and honor to those who are in authority. Romans 13:7

My taxes go to pay for abortions and other things I don’t believe but that doesn’t mean I’m allowed to with hold my taxes.  Presidents and legislators have done things and stood for things I totally disagree with but I honor them as placed by God.

Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. Romans 13:1-2

I remember when President Clinton was elected it caused a rise in the prayer level of the church across the country because of his stance on moral issue like abortion and gay marriage.  I believe God will again cause His church to rise and pray for this nation after this controversial election and because of this trying time we live in both economically and with the war.

Pray, pray for our president because it’s commanded and it because it works. Respect, respect because it’s commanded and because it honors God.

Availability

Do you know that God is more concerned with your availability than He is with your ability?  After all, He can give anyone any ability He chooses.  Don’t think you have nothing to offer, you have HIM.  How available are you?

If you can help your neighbor now, don’t say, “Come back tomorrow, and then I’ll help you.” (Proverbs 3:28)  We as Christians have to illustrate the love of God by allowing ourselves to be inconvenienced.  Are we really that busy or is it a matter of priorities?

Sometimes as parents we are constantly telling our children not to interrupt.  See kids think the whole world revolves around them.  But if a child is hurt then everything stops.  if a child has a genuine need “I spilled!” then attention is needed. 

Jesus allowed Himself to be interrupted by genuine human need.  I’m not talking about needy people who just want to pop in whenever they feel like it just because they want attention.  I mean like the blind man named Bartimaeus who cried out to Jesus while He was on His way to an important meeting.  Jesus’ friends tried to quiet Bart but he sensed that God had made His mercy and compassion available in Jesus.

God now makes His mercy and compassion available through us, His church.  You will be the only picture of God people will see this week.  Will they see God as too busy? Uncaring? Unavailable?  Or will show them the caring and compassionate nature of Christ my reaching out to someone this week.  That person isn’t an interruption, they’re a gift from God and you’re the answer to their prayer.

 

Servant Leadership

As a pastor I often speak to leaders in church and the marketplace on leadership principles.  People usually ask “What makes a good leader?” and my response is always, “a good servant.”

Many have heard John Maxwell say “Leadership is influence.”  It’s hard to argue with that simple yet profound statement.  I however, like Ken Blanchard’s definition better.  Leadership is the capacity to influence others by unleashing their power and potential to impact the greater good.”  (Leading at a Higher Level)

Isn’t that what we as followers of Jesus should be all about?  Using our influence to set people free of that which holds them back from achieving their potential in Christ…

I love that Blanchard added the phrase “to impact the greater good” to his definition.  If the way you define leadership only focuses on the goals to be accomplished, then you as a leader will only measure success by those results.  The higher purpose is serving people to help them activate their potential.  As each member of a team begins to unleash their potential the department goals are accomplished.   As each department’s goals are accomplished then the organizational (church) goals are achieved.

The best kind of leadership is servant leadership, one that’s not focused only on the bottom line but on how you get there and with whom!  The servant leader doesn’t base their influence on fear or bullying but on the vision to accomplish the greater good.  “We are doing this task this ways because…”  The servant leader will be grounded in humility truly wanting those he trains to excel beyond his/her own ability because the leader is focused on the greater good. In our case building the Kingdom of God.

What motivates you?  Who are you when you and what is important to you?  People must trust you and believe in what you believe in to follow you.  If we have true influence we will be able to motivate people to action without the title or delegated power.

Serve others by helping them find and use their gifts for God’s vision.  The leadership potential you unlock maybe your own!

5 Vision Essentials

1. Find out What God is Doing

Most leaders make the mistake of thinking that change happens after you get a vision and work towards making it happen.  Success happens when a leader finds out what God is doing and falls in line with it.

When we saw that there were 20 people driving 20 minutes from a near by city to our former church we began to pray about how we could better serve them.  The main complaint was they couldn’t get their neighbors to come to the Sunday service because they didn’t want to go to another city for church.

The idea we came up with was to open a satellite campus.   This was in 2000 before we ever heard of Crag Groeshel or anyone else doing satellites.  We began slowly with small groups, then a mid-week service.  As the work grew over 75 people on Thursday nights we started a Sunday service.  What’s my point?  We saw God moving in an area and just joined in HIS vision. 

2. Money Always Follows Vision

If it’s the Lord’s will, then it’s the Lord’s bill.  He really will provide if you’re following His direction and being a good steward.  Also people don’t give to need, they give to vision.  If you don’t believe me then why don’t the ministries that have the greatest needs get the most money?  When times get hard, don’t shrink back on the vision and don’t be motivated by fear (2 Tim 1:7).   Remind people about the vision.

3. Make the Vision fit on a Napkin.

If you can’t explain the vision in a few short sentences then it will be too abstract to fully grasp and too complicated to remember.   All your processes and department visions need to be that simple also.  Our staff worked for a year to clearly define what makes a disciple.  Connect to: God-Church-Other (outside church).  When you do that you’re a true disciple.  Simple?  Yes, but deep enough contain the vision for discipleship.

4. Make Your First Answer Yes.

Worry about how you’re going to do something or how you’re going to pay for it later.  If you want creative, entrepreneurial thinking…if you want people to take risks and build synergy…then take a chance and say yes to their ideas!  People are filled by God with big dreams, don’t squash them!  I would rather have people try and fail than never attempt anything. 

On a related item, take risks on young leaders.  Resist the urge to wait a few years than until they’re more experienced.  David was a teen when he killed a giant and Mary was a teen when she gave birth to a savior.  Your young or newly saved people haven’t learned unbelief yet and aren’t stuck in the “that’s the way we’ve always done it” mentality.  You want great ideas and passion?  Try new ideas from new leaders.

5. Don’t let Negative People Take Your Eyes off the Vision.

Whenever there is new vision or change taking place their will be negative people making noise about how they don’t like it.  This type of “barking” is primarily to gain attention and to feel important.  I even had someone leave the church because they felt our church should vote on the colors of the walls before we were allowed to paint!

Remember dogs don’t bark and parked cars!  If you’re moving, going somewhere you’ll hear the yipping.  If you’re sitting still it’s quiet but like a fine race car the church is meant to speed forward.

Jesus is King of the Road

Paul never met the living God even though he spent most of his life in the temple or in scriptural study.  Paul had to find Jesus on the Damascus Road. Blind Bartimaeus called out for his healing while Jesus walked on the Jericho Road. Even the Ethiopian eunuch met Philip on the Gaza Road.  What’s my point?  If you want to meet with God, if you want to see miracles today…get out of your pew and get hit the road.

The Great Commission is called that referring to the word great as chief in importance.  What is the most important word in this the most important of all of Jesus’ words to His followers?  The word GO.

Matthew 28:18-20 – Jesus came and told His disciples, “I have been given complete authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Jesus said, all the authority has been given to me, because of that fact you go and make disciples.  He is delegating His authority to us, His followers, to make disciples.  Can this be done effectively with a “Build it and they will come” theology?  Don’t get me wrong.  Churches should advertise, have community events and use whatever techniques they can to draw people into church BUT…that is not how the vast majority of people come to Jesus.  No, it happens in homes, schools, jobs and in the streets through servant evangelism.  One thing is for sure, Jesus was clear about His command to go.  So why is it most Christians have never shared their faith with anyone outside church?

What part of “Go” don’t we understand?

Saintly Serving

1 Peter 4:10 – Each one should use whatever gift he’s received to serve others. (niv)

There is such a joy when people give their time and use their skill to serve the House of God.  We just finished our quarterly work day at the church today.  There were 33 adults that gave up some of their Saturday to clean, repair and organize the church.

Ephesians 2:10 – We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (niv)

We were all made to be a contributing part of God’s family, a contributor not just a consumer. The Bible says we’re created to serve, we’re saved to serve, we’re gifted to serve, and we’re shaped to serve.  We’re commanded to serve God by serving others.  May God bless each of you as you serve the Lord by serving others.

Matthew 20:26b-28 – Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must become your slave. For even I, the Son of Man, came here not to be served but to serve others

Someone once asked me why he felt disconnected from the church.  I asked him if he was serving in any area of the church and if he was in a small group.  The answer to both questions was no.  My reply was, “Then you are not connected to this church.”  He was shocked and exclaimed, “How can you say that?  I’ve been in this church for 15 years.”  Then he told me of all the ministries he served in and all the things he had done.

“My point exactly” I explained.  “While you were involved serving and were connecting with people in small groups, you felt connected, a part of the church.  Now that you’re not doing those things, you don’t.”

Have trouble making friends?  Feel disconnected from church at times?  Make sure your serving, it’s a great way to get to know people!!

Thank you again to those faithful people who came out and served today.  So much was accomplished from cleaning out the junk, to knocking down the wall to open the hallway for the new café.   To many things to list here but just as important is this… it was a great fun working together.  God Bless

The Empty Chair

Church leaders often discuss “revival”.  What is revival?  One thing we all agree upon across all denominational lines is there are greater numbers of salvations than normal.  People repenting of their sins and accepting Jesus as savior is the one thing that everyone lists as a part of true revival.  Oh, we disagree on miracles, worship style, church government, prophesy, end times and women in ministry just to name a few but we all want to see more people convert to Christianity.  So why are our services so tailored for Christians?

At the Creative Church Conference, Ed Young place a chair on the stage and announced, “We have forgotten about the empty chair.”  We create our weekend worship experiences for those that are already believers.  The songs we choose, the topics we preach on, even the language we use are usually meant to reach the believer.

If we really care about those that are on a fast highway to Hell, then we will focus the majority of our resources on filling the empty chairs in our sanctuaries.  This means changing some of the way we are used to doing things.  First, we need to modernize our church buildings.  People who spend their days in flashy malls, high tech schools and well decorated offices walk into a church building and either feel they have been time-warped back to the 1980s or see cheap, poorly maintained facilities. How we present God’s house says something about how relevant our faith is.

The next step is to change the way we present the gospel itself.  I’m not talking about ever compromising on the core values of scripture or tolerating sin.  I’m talking about vision drift.  The Great Commission tells us to “Go and make disciples” and this must be the center of every church’s vision.  This means limiting “Christianize”—words no one outside of church understands, playing contemporary style music and most of all preaching life-application messages.  An unchurched person doesn’t care what the 4 Beasts in Revelation are but does care about how to have a good marriage.  These changes offend those with religious spirits and those with self-centered, “What about me?” attitudes.  The truth is, it is the job of church leaders to feed baby believers but as people grow up they should be able to feed themselves.

The bottom line is this…mature people reproduce, immature care only about getting themselves fed.  This Sunday when you walk into the church sanctuary look around.  Each empty chair represents another soul that will be tormented in Hell for all eternity.  Let it break your heart so next week you’ll work hard to fill that chair.

Creating a Welcoming Culture part 2- Guest Story

This is the story of how I was able to help one person feel welcomed in the parking lot.

One day I was leaving the church office about 6:30pm when I saw a man on a motor cycle looking at the sign on our youth sanctuary door.  The sign said, “12 Step Program was Cancelled Tonight.”  I called out, “If you’re here for the 12 Step program it’s cancelled tonight.”  “I’m not here for that.” He responded.  “Although I have been to one before.”  I asking him, “Well can I help you with something?”  He became defensive saying he wasn’t doing anything wrong.  I told him I didn’t think he was.  I asked his name, for this blog we’ll call him Mac.

This began a significant conversation in Mac’s life.  We actually talked for over an hour. After talking a lot about church, God and life Mac finally got to the real issue. With tears beginning to form in his eyes, Mac asked me an extremely honest question, “Would your church accept me?”  “Of course they would.” I responded without hesitation.  Mac then told me how he had found the Lord in prison and was recently released but since getting out he couldn’t find a good church.  Mac told me that the two churches he had been to so far made him feel very unwelcome.  In one church the usher actually came up to Mac as he stood in the back of the church and asked him what he was doing there!  I assured Mac that the House of Praise is full of people that genuinely love God and love people.

To my surprise, that Sunday Mac came to service.  According to him, Mac was warmly greeted and given a gift by our greeters.  The ushers smiled at him and introduced themselves offering assistance finding a seat.  It happened to be friendship Sunday so there was a spaghetti dinner after service.  I told Mac, I bought his ticket.  As I stood talking to someone I saw Mac sheepishly walk into the youth building looking around as to where he should go.  One of the seasoned members grabbed Mac and said, “Hey sit with us.”  I watched Mac loosen up over the next hour until he was laughing freely and meeting new friends.

That was over a year ago.  I’ve had the privilege of baptizing Mac and seeing him become a member.  He is in a small group, serving in the church has made new friends. He now regularly meets new people and tells them “You will love it here!” 

When I think of his story I think, “That’s why we’re here.” How would Mac’s have been treated if he walked into your church?

Creating a Welcoming Culture

The line hit me like a punch.  Every person who walks through the doors of your church is a gift from God.”  As I read this line in a book called Fusion by Nelson Searcy I was so convicted by the concept that I immediately repented for my lackadaisical attitude towards guests.

The truth is for a long time church has been about me just wanting God to show up and cared about nothing else.  If the Holy Spirit was there that’s all that matters.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe you should be having a church service if the Spirit of God doesn’t show up and change lives.  If we come sing a few songs, share someone else’s thoughts from a book we read and go home how are we different from any other religion?  No we serve a living God who must be present for me to call it a good service.

BUT think of this…The Holy Spirit moves upon the heart of lost and desperate sinner and after perhaps years of working on them, get the person to go to a church.  God then looks all around are city and chooses our church to send that person to, trusting us with their eternal destiny.  Wow, how we treat that person is huge!

There is 7 minutes to make a first impression.  To be effective in reaching the first time guest we must recognize the power of the subconscious in making a first impression. Things like atmosphere, cleanliness, and friendliness of people become more important than preaching or church programs when we’re talking about a first impression.  Everything in your church speaks to guests.  How they are greeted, directed, treated and seated are important as well as the condition of the parking lot, the smell of the lobby, how clean things are, and whether there are signs directing them clearly.  What message is our church sending? We must find ways to look through the guests eyes.

We can have great worship, and excellent message preached but they have already made up their minds before those things whether to return or not.  The unchurched person goes more by feeling than rational choices.  “I just didn’t feel connected.”  “Everything was fine.  I don’t know, I think I’ll keep checking.”  The intangibles are so important to the subconscious thoughts.  They either feel welcomed and cared about or an intrusion.

We must be willing to change things anything that is confusing or make guests feel like they don’t belong.  Tomorrow we’ll look at the story of one first time guest.