I had a fascinating conversation over lunch with a friend that I really admire. As he and I discuss and at times disagree over issues, I find from time to time that I must either re-think my position on something or be willing to change that position. Confronting ideas that are opposed to the way you think in general is a great thing. I believe that we are both better for the friendship. I pray that in your world, there are people who will disagree with you in love. If all our friends agree with us 100% of the time, then we aren’t growing. Seek out those people who will challenge your presuppositions and grow in your faith, knowledge and abilities as a leader.
Archive for the 'fellowship' Category
Yesterday, I had a chance to see just a little bit of what the party in heaven must be like when someone comes to the Lord! NewSpring Church had a 10th anniversary celebration at the BiLo Center in Greenville, SC. Just being able to praise an ALL POWERFUL GOD along with 15,000 or so other people was incredible. The great thing was the altar call…over 350 people came forward to accept Christ as their Lord and Savior! The service was about 2 1/2 hours long and could have gone longer! During the altar call people clapped and cheered for those who were laying their lives down to let Christ take control of their destiny! For 15 minutes, 15,000 people were in unison praying for those down by the stage. For 15 minutes, there were no problems, no divorces, no debt, no tax issues, no kid problems or parent problems! For 15 minutes of Glory, people stood and cheered for the ALMIGHTY GOD who was GREAT enough to reach down and save not only those who walked forward but each of us who were cheering as well. We are ALL broken vessels saved by a LOVING GOD who cared enough to make a way for us to find HIM through HIS SON JESUS CHRIST! That was 15 minutes of GLORY!
Casper (my wife) and I went to a new church this week. So I thought I would give a quick analysis again as I did last week. Again, my hope is that as a pastor or church leader, you will take the time as you read through these comments to reflect on your own church and if there are ideas that could help you improve.
Facilities: This church meets in a converted warehouse or garage, not sure what it was originally. They have done a magnificent job of making the inside feel very homey. Nothing was over-done churchy, but it said clearly that they care about the facilities.
1. Order of service – They start with a 1/2 hour of “Fellowship” and it is exactly that. They had donuts, coffee etc. Tables and chairs in the lobby of the church. It was a casual time for people to meet and greet. As a visitor, it was natural. No one seemed to be on a “meet the visitor committee”, but people came over, introduced themselves and talked a bit. As we shared donuts and watched children run around it was a great way to break the ice. Then at 10:30 sharp, they began the worship service.
2. Music – The music was a mixture of praise and worship music from the 80′s, 90′s and new stuff. I must say, though it is a personal preference call, I really liked this. More importantly, it was well done. The band was simply a keyboard and drummer. The music was lead by three ladies.
3. Preaching – The casual yet passionate delivery style of the sermon was great. I was reminded of how the Jews marveled at the way the disciples spoke with authority even though they were local guys with little formal education. While this pastor has obviously been to college and perhaps seminary, it was a familiarity with the faith of which he spoke that touched me.
4. A self awareness of calling – There were obvious signs, comments etc. that said that this church feels a call to the local community and also the world outside the Pickens/Greenville area.
Negatives:(I am really short on negatives here…thoroughly enjoyed the service.)
1. Youth hanging out in front of the doors were not greeting people…they were getting griped at by a lady in the church as we walked up. One of them did hand us a bulletin though.
2. Two of the three ladies leading worship seemed to really enjoy doing so, and the passion they sang with was contagious, however, the third one looked bored out of her scull. I am hoping she was just having a bad week.
That is it for today. Hope you had a great morning in whatever church you attend this week!
Yesterday at 5 Point Fellowship, we celebrated the 4th of July by having sort of a community party/festival that we give to the community for free. There were inflatable rides, bungee slingshots, a rock wall, music, popcorn, cotton candy, sno cones, face painting, hotdogs and most of all, lots of smiles for free! I, along with many other volunteers, was able to share the love of Jesus Christ with people in word, but also through what we were doing. I was really proud off all the people from the church that started setting up about 1:00 and didn’t leave until the parking lot and church were cleaned up at almost 11:00 at night! It was great to have so many hands pitching in, and when asked to do anything, no one said, “That’s not my job.” Every single volunteer pitched in where they saw a need! I love working with this bunch! For those who may read this who have never even heard of 5 Point Fellowship or even Easley, SC…Sorry the blog is a little off my normal fare…I just had to brag on my people!
Before I write anything on this topic, I must first confess that I am church cultured all the way through. I have been in church since the first Sunday after my mother and father created me. Nine months or so later, I became a regular in the church nursery. You get the picture. In the world of business, a lot is changing, old business models aren’t necessarily working as well as they once did. Technology and the internet have made it possible for people to make business connections that were nearly impossible 5o years ago. So, my question is, how is that affecting the church? Should it? While the message we have to give away must remain constant through time, the way in which that message is given must be ever evolving and changing if we are to reach this generation for Christ! Pastors, we are awful about finding something that works and sticking with it long after it has ceased to work. Flannel board was all the rage and the newest and coolest way to reach people with the love of Jesus about 40 years ago. Fanny Crosby wrote incredible hymns that were put to the popular music of her day in the later half of the 1800′s. Overhead projectors shining the lyrics to “Majesty” up on the front wall of the church were great in the 1980′s! None of those things are bad. None of them will send anyone to hell. So why wouldn’t we keep using them in church? (Some churches still do.)The sinner on the street wouldn’t connect with the method in which the message was portrayed. Fanny Crosby herself said that her songs were written to speak to the man on the street, not to the highbrow church person. I am not just writing about music. Fellowship is meant to be relational. We can worship together in a large church, but fellowship only happens in small groups. How do we as a church, unless your church is only 10-15 people, continue to reach out to people while also creating environments in which small groups can assemble and spend time getting to know each other in very real relationships? At our church, we use a small group model that we call “Home TEAMs”. They are great! The problem is that less than 25% of our congregation are actively involved in one. That means that 75% basically show up on Sunday for a worship service and never experience the meaningful relationships that Christ meant for His Body – The church, to share.
Going back to the idea of rethinking business. Often 80% of your customers only account for 20% of your profit/income. In the church, we often say that 20% of the people do 80% of the work. Nice to see that isn’t only a church problem, but is it possible to get the other 80% actively involved in the work of the Lord? Yes it is! Here is my “Rethinking church” idea. We often refer to certain organizations as “para-church organizations” or “faith based organizations” I would propose that maybe some of these are really undercover churches. An example: I used to work as a volunteer with a group of theaters in the Midwest called Stained Glass Theatre. They put on plays using volunteer actors. All the shows contained a strong salvation message, but were not “Bible stories”. (Except for very few.) This group of stage hands/script writers/actors/editors/…were a fellowship of people who loved the Lord and loved theatre. Through that ministry and its offshoots, thousands of people have come to know Jesus as their Savior. Thousands more have had their walk with the Lord strengthened, and I am only referring to the spectators! The people who were in the theatre, were all working toward a common goal. Some had big jobs, others little ones, but all were involved with a purpose. When one is sick or hurting all are their to comfort and help. When one rejoices, all rejoice. Is SGT perfect? No! But were real meaningful relationships build every day? Yes! People found fellowship with other Christians and with God there. So is it a church? You can decide that one…maybe we should look at that model though, and see how it can affect our church. Having a common goal and purpose, and each person having his or her role in carrying out that goal can cause a revolution in Christendom. Sorry this one is so long. Have an awesome day! Hopefully you are thinking a bit.
Nate Larkin, founder of The Samson Society said, ” Almost everything changes when Christian faith escapes the prison of individualism and becomes truly collaborative.” Nate and I have a similar history in many ways, so I really appreciate his ministry! This quote of his really spoke to something more than just pastors who were/are porn addicts or struggling with sexual addictions. We as an American society tend to fight for our individual rights. We find in life that we can do so much more when we work with others in a collaborative way. We have a tendency to see our faith as personal, I challenge each of us to see our faith in a more community oriented way. We challenge each other as we grow in the Lord when we are open and transparent with our brother’s and sisters in Christ. Ultimately, our strength comes from the Lord, however, I have found that when I am weak spiritually, having a Jesus with skin on is a great help. Having a brother in Christ who can hold me accountable, encourage me, etc. is a great thing. I pray that I can be that same brother in Christ in return when others are weak and I am more spiritually/emotionally strong. As we share with each other in a safe environment, we can say exactly what is going on in our lives without fear of being ridiculed for our weaknesses. That is what the church should be. All of us who are Christians are redeemed sinners striving toward holiness. Let us strive together in that journey!
If you keep up with my blog, you know that I work with small group ministries at my church. Recently, in recruiting new leaders, I talked with a couple who I thought would make a great pair to host a new Home TEAM(our name for small groups). They were interested, and then pitched an idea to me. “What about a group for blended families?” I was pleased with their initiative and so we began working out the details. During those weeks, I did some checking because honestly, I know nothing about blended families beyond watching the Brady Bunch when I was a kid. There are no step or half anybodies in my family. I came across some interesting statistics. 30% of marriages in the United States create a blended family situation. As we know, the divorce rate in the church sadly is no different than outside the church, so chances are that there are blended families in any congregation. As I began reading about some of the issues they face, I realized that what started out as an idea from one couple who want to be Home TEAM leaders could end up being an incredible ministry! As I look around my own church, I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that at least 20% of our congregation are in some kind of blended family situation, and the reality is that I am probably very low on that statistic. I am writing as someone who knows nothing of the struggles these families face except from what I have read. Many pastors and church leaders are like me in this respect, so maybe this blog entry will trigger a new idea for your congregation. Have a great day!
For those who follow my blog, you know that I work with the small group ministry at my church. We call them Home TEAMs, but the name doesn’t matter much. What is important is that people’s lives are being changed. People are getting involved with other people in meaningful relationships and growing in their relationships with God as they work together. If your church is growing beyond the 60-100 size, you are probably starting to see that you no longer know everyone. There are two solutions. One is to not invite any more people to your church and thus keep it small so that you can continue to have great relationships with all the members. The other option is to be excited about the growth of the church and all the people’s lives that are being changed by the Lord and at the same time create environments in which people can connect on a more personal level. There isn’t one perfect model. In my own church, we have multiple types of small groups. Some are ladies only, some are men only, some are couples, some meet every week, some twice a month, some once a quarter, some are related to a theme like “the band” which plays music every Sunday for our worship service, some are classes like the one we currently have going which is a Marriage Enrichment class based on the movie and curriculum from Fireproof. All of these groups have different purposes, but all meet the need of helping people connect in a smaller group setting where they can build friendships and relationships with others. There are many other options, in a traditional church, there are Sunday school classes, or the choir. These can be excellent if opportunity is given for those relationships to be built. There is no need to suddenly stop what you are doing now, but you might look and see if there are opportunities to help people build meaningful relationships in your church to help combat the busy American lifestyle that doesn’t lend itself well to having close friends.
This is an incredibly busy week! And that is AWESOME! The part of my job that I absolutely love is helping people connect to God and to each other. The busy part of this week is that tonight, the men of the church are getting together to meet with a missionary and investigate helping out with his mission next summer. So Connection will happen there! Then tomorrow night is a Home TEAM meeting which is temporarily at my house. Connections again! Thursday night is nothing, and my wife works, so the dog and I can just veg out! Friday night is the start of a brand new Home TEAM for young couples! Connections will be started there! Saturday night is date night with my wife! Definite connection possibility there! Sunday night, I am teaching the New Believer’s class. Connections again! Monday night, we are having a leadership/vision casting meeting with the church staff and some of the lay leaders in the church. Connections will be made there! As you can see, it is a busy week, but I am jacked up! People will be connecting with God and with each other at each of these events! God is awesome! When we seek Him, He gives us the desires of our hearts! As I see people draw closer to God and grow in their relationship with Him, the desire of my heart is fulfilled! When I see people loving each other in community and not just “doing church”, it thrills me! In your church, are you helping people to connect to God and to each other?
I talked to my brother this morning to wish him Happy Thanksgiving, after family stuff, we began talking about all the great things God is doing in our churches! It was wonderful to hear how God is working not only here in Easley, SC but halfway across the country in Neosho, MO. He shared how the church has been growing to the point where the pews are all full and they have chairs out in the isles. He has lost track of how many men have gotten saved in the last month! God has healed the sick and even a sick dog. I had to laugh at the dog story, but it just goes to show how God cares about our needs even when they might not seem all that important to the rest of the world. There were many stories of healings, but the cool one for me was a lady who hasn’t been able to tie her own shoes due to a hip problem. Her teenage daughter has helped her get dressed every morning tying her shoes, putting on her socks etc. because she couldn’t bend down. After God’s healing, she is able to dress herself completely! I am sure that for a mom, that must be a great thing! Hearing about kids who have come to the Lord through the children’s ministry and now their Dads are getting saved! It was a wonderful uplifting conversation! Thank you Lord for all that you are and all that you do in our lives! Today is truly an awesome day of Thanksgiving!