Saturday, December 15, 2012

I Want To See You Blessed!

I believe everyone who is reading this wants to be BLESSED!  I refuse to believe that ANYONE should remain in the dark when it comes to STEWARDSHIP.  Part of my job as a pastor is to PERFECT the saints and EQUIP them for the work of the ministry.  Part of that equipping process is to put TOOLS (resources) in place to help families.

One of my assignments as a Pastor is to create an atmosphere of GENEROSITY that models Corporate and Individual stewardship.  In truth, our level of STEWARDSHIP is a reflection of our SPIRITUAL GROWTH.

I can TRAIN our people on immersing themselves in Scripture, but I have no idea whether or not they really are.  I can EXHORT prayer until I'm blue in the face but I really have no way to measure the health of someone's prayer life.  I probably will never know how often, or how effectively our members are SHARING their faith with their friends.

However… STEWARDSHIP is a unique opportunity to gauge the pulse of someone's SPIRITUAL DEVELOPMENT.  When someone is growing in their giving it also implies a step of SPIRITUAL GROWTH.  If someone who has given sporadically at best begins tithing faithfully, we know God is working in their life.  This gauge also works the other way.  If someone who used to give faithfully has stopped giving, we can be sure something is wrong.

The interesting thing about DISCIPLESHIP is that people can be very mature in one area and still immature in another.  We've all run into people who are extremely mature in biblical knowledge, but have not given a dime in twenty years.  Or we may find people who are mature in the area of finances but they are immature when it comes to RELATIONSHIP practices in Scripture.

The Scriptures teach us, "Where your heart is, there your treasure will be." (Luke 12:34; Matthew 6:21)  In essence,  If your HEART is toward God so will your FINANCES.   

Are You an EXTRAVAGANT Giver?

As we become good stewards we are able to experience HEALTH in our finances and in our church.  We are called to be Godly managers of our households, but many times our focus is spent on being good spouses and good parents.  Somehow, the truths such as "the borrower is servant to the lender" (Proverbs 22:7) is ignored.

One of the things the Lord spoke to Beverly and I was that we needed to ELIMINATE as much DEBT from our life that we possibly could.  Honestly, we can't lead our church with effective zeal if we are enslaved to creditors.  We remained faithful in our tithes and offerings and organized a plan to eliminate debt.  With a focused effort, we were able to streamline our debt and use simple strategies to get things paid off early.

Friends, until we have our own finances under control, we won't be able to lead others into biblical stewardship with any conviction or integrity.

A few weeks ago, Beverly and I sowed a financial seed above our tithes into the ministry.  We felt an urgent prompting of the Lord to be obedient in a particular area.  Within a week, Beverly received a letter from a company she used to work for.  They stated that they had been trying to find her for years and her address recently popped up on their grid.  They sent her a check that was double than the seed we sowed!  

When you make a decision to be GENEROUS with your resources you release yourself into the best opportunity to grow!  Your children will be a direct recipient of the seeds you are sowing right now.  If you are GENEROUS…your children will be GENEROUS.

God spares nothing for our sakes, as is evidenced by Jesus' death on the cross (John 3:16; Philippians 2:8).  And he also PROMISES that he will provide for us ABUNDANTLY (John 10:10).  

We give away Bibles to new believers because we are looking for an opportunity to till the soil of people's hearts by ministering freely to them.  If we are known as the church that "charges" for everything then we miss our chance to SHINE generously.

Remember what Jesus taught in Luke 6:38? "Give, and you will receive.  Your gift will return to you in full – pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap.  The amount you give will determine the amount you get back."

Many churches are viewed in their community as the church that TAKES rather than GIVES.  We have the opportunity to CHANGE THAT MENTALITY when we give with unexpected generosity…which is really a reflection of God's love.

As a church, we have kept an open hand intentionally.  My hope has always been that BFWC would focus on exemplifying God's provision through generosity.  This decision has not always been easy…and we've been stretched.  BUT THE REWARDS of GENEROSITY are well worth the EFFORT and EXPENSE.

We've grown, our people have grown, our church has grown and the CULTURE OF GENEROSITY has been seeded, watered and harvested over and over again.
  • We give each first-time guest a gift.
  • We deliver a fresh loaf of bread to each first-time guests' home.
  • We give away free CD's to our volunteers.
  • We put free resources and materials online.
  • We provide free classes for all of our spiritual growth classes.
  • We put ads in the newspaper.
  • We do mailings to the community.
  • We reach out to hundreds of thousands of people annually through servant evangelism, which involves blanketing the community with free bottles of water, detergent, light bulbs, etc.
I've had people ask me, "How do you pay for all that?"  The answer is short and simple:  THE FRUIT IS IN THE HARVEST.  WE CAN'T AFFORD NOT TO DO IT!  

If BFWC refused to foster an atmosphere of generosity, we would be cutting off God's blessing and closing down people's hearts.  We would also be lessening the likelihood that people would visit our church for the first time and then go on to become fully engaged followers of Christ.

I take my responsibility serious…and that is to GIVE PEOPLE THE BEST POSSIBLE OPPORTUNITY TO MEET JESUS!  Part of that process requires being GENEROUS with the RESOURCES God gives us to do His work.  GOD IS NOT A GOD OF SCARCITY.  If you and I are called to represent Jesus on the earth, we certainly can't be a Christian of SCARCITY.  

Time and time again, God honors the generous seeds we scatter, and BFWC – not to mention the overall kingdom – reaps tremendous fruit.

May your heart continue to be open to the Holy Spirit and may you be EXPANDED in your generosity as you reap the BENEFITS of God's blessings in your family and your church.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

So...I Joined a Church (Part 3)

When Beverly and I exchanged VOWS to one another on our wedding day, we did so in front of God and a room full of witnesses.  They were present that day to REMIND us of the COVENANT relationship we were entering into, lest we would forget when difficult times inevitably would come. 

VOWS are actually a COVENANT. It is a promise, a contract, a profession of commitment between the husband and wife.  What is really going on at a wedding is the making of a Marriage COVENANT and not an issue of "vows" at all.

Vows are exchanged to announce the terms of the COVENANT.  When we enter into relationship with Jesus and His Church...we also make vows.

I believe that the Lord is calling His people within our nation to REMEMBER from where we have fallen, REPENT, and RENEW our vows, or should I say, renew our COVENANT with Him. His judgment over this land draws near. We have turned our back on the One who gave us birth. The protective covering of his “King-dome” over you is gained through REPENTANCE.

Since its conception, America has been under a COVENANTAL relationship with the Lord.  Even since the time of the Mayflower our purpose was clearly stated "For the glory of God and the advancement of the gospel."

God is once again revealing His plan for America, in spite of Satan's plan to erase God's purpose from our history.  It is OUR responsibility to STIR UP our children by way of remembrance.  In this dark hour we live in, we must help our children see and understand the Christian history of our nation.

There is a great conflict before us.  The troops of darkness are aligning themselves opposite us with lies and deception.  We must put on the armor of light that comes through application of the TRUTH, cheerfully bearing the message of Jesus as we march forward to VICTORY!

Who among us today will deny himself, take up his cross and follow Jesus?  

The power of God will be released through His sanctified vessels of honor, establishing His kingdom on the face of this earth forever. We must answer the call. As Paul told the church in Rome; “be wise in what is good, and innocent in what is evil. And the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” Amen.

The church of Jesus must truly examine the conditions of the Lord's COVENANT.  When we study the word of God and open our heart to the revelation of the Holy Spirit - the revealed will of God springs forth within us.

A vow should never be taken lightly.  Otherwise, it's just another useless ritual of man.  Any COVENANT we enter into...even a church MEMBERSHIP COVENANT...should be entered into with REVERENCE for the Lord, understanding the price He paid on the cross for our sin.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus...He is soon to return.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Thankful Heart

In the 80's, Beverly, Venita (my sister) and I had a Gospel singing group called "Thankful Heart."  We sang locally in area revivals, homecomings and in our parents' church.  The name "Thankful Heart" came from a song recorded by Petra.  It's funny now that I think about it that our little southern gospel group got its name from a Christian rock band.

While celebrating Thanksgiving last week, my heart was filled with happy memories as we visited with our families in Ohio.  My in-laws are doing well in spite of the health issues my father-in-law has faced.  My parents are doing well they continue to pastor their church and love people.  I'm very thankful for their valuable place in my life.

Thankfulness is an attitude of the heart. Have you ever noticed that a person who is thankful is also a happier person?  When we recognize the wonder the many blessings and benefits that God and others have provided for us, we cannot help but have a thankful attitude that results in a joyous heart.

I have noticed in my own life that if I am careful to observe the most minor detail of graciousness shown to me, I am much happier.  If I look around me and realize that God is good and most people (at least here in Indianapolis) are potential friends, I have a positive outlook on life and look forward to the days and weeks ahead. 

Being thankful has two sides.  First, we must observe the blessings around us and consciously and verbally express our gratitude to those with whom we come in contact.  Second, we must be a source of blessings to others. 

As we have freely received, let us freely give.  As has been done unto us, let us do unto others.  As we would have done unto us, let us do unto others.

Many times in today's world the commands of our Savior have been twisted to come out something like this, "Do unto others before they do unto you!"  Our Lord taught us to be kind to all and to love our enemies.  We are to do good to those who would use us or hurt us.  We are to show His grace to everyone.

Most people know these truths and practice them.  I love the people of our city and am still amazed that after thirteen years of living here, to find such love and good will among so many.  Yet, there are those who are sour.  There are those who have grown bitter instead of better in time.  There are those who want to cause trouble and stir up rumors about the most trivial of things.

Being thankful is a heart attitude that must be practiced daily. If we do not practice it daily, we can fall into the pit of despair and become bitter.  I have seen it on the faces of many who claim to know Jesus.  They are so hurt, so resentful, so begrudging that their faces have taken on an ugly snarl.  Look around you or better yet, look in the mirror and make sure it isn't you.

The cure for the "ugly snarl" on the face is an attitude of gratitude in the heart.  If we are thankful in all things, as our Lord commands us, then we will accept the most difficult of people as being brought to us from our Lord for our good and His glory.  It is hard, sometimes, to love our neighbor, especially when they throw their garbage onto our property.  It is hard to love a teacher, preacher or boss when our personalities clash with them, but...we are commanded to do so. 

It is all in the heart.  It begins with an attitude of gratitude.  It results in being thankful in all things.

In this holiday season, look around you and find things each day to be thankful for.  Decide not to bellyache about anything but to give thanks for everything.  As you practice what we are commanded in the Bible, you will find your attitude changing.  You will soon have an attitude of gratitude and be thankful.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

So...I Joined a Church (Part 2)

If we can KEEP a covenant then we can also BREAK a covenant.  The Scriptures teach us in Malachi 2:10 "Do we not all have one father?  Has not one God created us?  Why do we deal treacherously each against his brother so as to profane the covenant of our fathers?"

To be in COVENANT with God also means that you are in COVENANT with every other believer.  In essence, it's a DUAL COVENANT... vertical with God and horizontal with one another.  We cannot separate the two.  We cannot separate the BODY (believers) from the HEAD (Jesus).

How we treat ONE ANOTHER, we treat CHRIST.

In Malachi 2, God has a serious issue with the priests because of the ungodly way they were treating one another.  The priests were disregarding the COVENANT that the Lord had started with their forefathers. 

Remember all the "One Another's" in Scripture?  Those aren't suggestions...they're commands.  Anyone who has entered into the NEW COVENANT in Christ are required to behave in certain ways toward one another.  Basically, believers are mutually obligated to one another in RELATIONAL CONDUCT on the basis of LOVE through the empowerment of the HOLY SPIRIT.
Look at Malachi 2:10 again..."Do we not all have one father?  Has not one God created us?  Why do we deal treacherously each against his brother so as to profane the covenant of our fathers?"

The Hebrew word interpreted “profane” means, “to defile, to pollute, to desecrate, to break one’s word, to dissolve”. 

The BLESSINGS or CURSINGS that flow to others around us are all dependent on our OBEDIENCE or DISOBEDIENCE to the COVENANT.  That's why it's essential for us to remain faithful to the COVENANT we have entered into with God.  Because, as the church goes the world.

Another definition for the word "profane" is "to bore through, to wound, to pierce”. To profane the covenant of God is to wound or pierce His Son, Jesus Christ. 

When we mistreat another brother or sister with whom we are in COVENANT, we wound the Lord. This is the original BODY-PIERCING that is taking place today within the body of Christ. Remember...what we do to one another...we are doing to Jesus.  We are ONE BODY.  Every time we mistreat one another...we are profaning His COVENANT.

The way we walk out, or manifest the HORIZONTAL aspect of the covenant, reveals to everyone, including ourselves, the true commitment of our VERTICAL commitment to the Lord.  A half-hearted commitment to one another is due to a half-hearted commitment to the Lord.

Jesus addressed the VERTICAL and HORIZONTAL aspects of COVENANT between God and man in Matthew 22:36-40...
  • A Pharisee asked Jesus, “’Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ 
  • And He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind (the “vertical” covenant). 
  • This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself (the “horizontal” covenant). 
  • On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.’”
More to come...

Monday, November 19, 2012

So...I Joined a Church (Part 1)

Should I JOIN a church?  What does that even mean?  I'm asked frequently by returning guests "how do I join the church?"  I point them towards the CLIMB - the journey we ask every person take with us to become a practical member of our local church.  

Honestly, anyone who is born-again is already a spiritual member of the body of Christ.  Joining a local church is simply ALIGNING ones self with the vision, mission, values and purpose of that church...and then entering into what I believe is a COVENANT RELATIONSHIP.

For some,  joining a local church seems to be something you do out of tradition...for example..."my grandparents have always attended here."  Some even seem to join a church for the assumed "BENEFITS"...i.e., weddings, funerals and even financial assistance

To me, joining a local church should ultimately boil down to the SPIRITUAL SUBSTANCE of  believing in the vision, mission, values and purpose of that church and then willingly entering into COVENANT with that local body to achieve it's goals.  

Joining a church should be something you feel deeply passionate about.  It should be more than just a "membership" to another group, club or agency.  In fact, if you're merely joining a church just so you can have a card in your pocket, bragging rights or even the churches name listed in your obituary...then that's the wrong reason to join a church.

Back to my question..."what does it mean to join a church?"

Perhaps we can best describe what COVENANT MEMBERSHIP looks like in the language used in wedding vows.  Jesus (our heavenly bridegroom) is asking us to enter into His marriage covenant per His terms.

Marriage is not a's a COVENANT.  Basically, a contract is a LIMITED commitment.  A covenant on the other hand is an UNLIMITED commitment.  God intended for marriage to be a permanent relationships between one man and one woman, freely and totally committed to each other as companions for life.

Marriage is merely a model of God's covenant relationship with His people.  However, due to our western culture and our lack of understanding the meaning of the word COVENANT - we treat it like a contract that is self-serving and comes with limited liability.

When's the last time you heard the word COVENANT?  Not too often in America.  This word carries great significance to believers.  Christians recognize it to reflect our commitment to Christ and to one another.  This relationship is supposed to be sacred, serious, final and irrevocable...which is deeper and more demanding than most of us understand or may be WILLING to make.

It boils down to COMMITMENT.  All you have to do is look at marriage statistics today and you'll see that broken marriages even within the church are a reflection of our half-hearted commitment to Jesus Christ.

When we enter into COVENANT RELATIONSHIP with Jesus, we do so willingly...through repentance.  The blood of Jesus establishes our new relationship and secures our EVERLASTING COVENANT in His Body...THE CHURCH.

Inside of us we enjoy an INTERNAL RELATIONSHIP with Jesus that is expressed through our EXTERNAL RELATIONSHIPS within His Body...THE CHURCH.

Our public treatment of one another is visible evidence of our private life with Christ. 

More to come...

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Moving Forward

Ever help someone move?  When I was a teen, I helped a friend of a friend move from their house into an apartment.  I assumed when we arrived, that Saturday morning, everything would be boxed up, labeled and ready to load.  NOT!  

Nothing was boxed...and needless to say the place was a wreck!

Moving is no fun.  It's physically demanding, emotionally challenging and can be stressful if you are working without an organized effort! (and on an empty

In my experience, It's always better to have a TEAM effort when attempting to accomplish a big project!  What could be better than successfully accomplishing a project as a TEAM?

1. Batman had Robin

You're more effective with others.  Can you imagine Batman fighting crime alone?  Without Robin, there would be no DYNAMIC DUO.  Don't do ministry alone.  Find someone who has the same passion for Christ as you and have a Holy Ghost Hook Up!  

2. Love the people you're with

If you enjoy the people you work with, you'll be much more effective.  If you can laugh together, you can weather the toughest of storms, too.  When it comes to ministry, the team will move FURTHER and FASTER if they enjoy being together.

3. The Big MO!

What motivates you? For some, it's time off, more money or a good meal.  Regardless of what it is, we all need motivation and encouragement.  People need to know they bring value to the table, that their ideas have merit and their role on the team is vital.  In ministry, a little motivation goes a long way!

4. Breathe

If you fail to take a'll soon be out of breath.  There's nothing wrong with taking a five minute breather...especially after you've just finished a big project.  If you work should also play hard!  In ministry it's important to develop a rhythm.

5. Relationships matter

More than likely you'll receive help from the people you've personally invested in when things get overwhelming.  When you pour your life into others...they'll pour back too.  In ministry, we don't just lead from positional authority; we lead out of the relationships we've built with people.  As we invest our life, wisdom and resources into others it will eventually be reciprocated. 

6. Ask for help

Asking for help involves humility and yields creativity!  When you involve others, you'll end up with better ideas, more buy-in, and more effectiveness as a team.

7. Plan ahead

Can you imagine packing your entire house on a moving truck with no plan?  Nothing would fit if boxes and furniture were thrown in at random. When we plan ahead, we are ensuring that we're bringing the right people to the table, the right ideas are being implemented and the goals are going to be reached.  This takes work!!!  If we fail to plan...we plan to fail.

8. Lead the way

If you slow down...everyone else will too.  If you power will everyone else!  In ministry, leaders set the pace.  When a leader decides to push ahead, the team will do the same. 

9. Lead well

Sometimes you have to step back from doing the work to making sure that the people you've delegated are moving in the right direction.  In ministry, the team needs direction and high-level leadership, not just another worker.  Someone needs to direct, advise and make quick decisions.  That's the job of the leader.

10. Pack an umbrella

Plan for rainy days and times when the goal or deadline is missed.  In ministry, know that you'll forget some things along the way.  It's ok.  You're not perfect.  Remind your team that it's okay when things don't go as planned.  Simply pick up the pieces and move on.

God loves you so much!  Share His love with others and do all you can to build the Kingdom of God! 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

There's a Lion in You!

What you have done is NOT all you are capable of doing.  God has purposed the LION in you to let out a ROAR that has the capacity to influence others through inspiration generated by a passion that is ignited by a purpose!

As a LION, you must climb beyond the limitations you have placed on yourself.  Your success is not final...and your failure is not fatal.  God has positioned you for SUCCESS!

Throughout the Scriptures, Christians are compared to as SHEEP.  Notice something about sheep...flocks of sheep never have a leader.  They change their pattern of movement based on WHOEVER is in front of them at the moment.  This is why SHEEP need a SHEPHERD.  

What other animal in the animal kingdom needs a human?

When God created you...He intended for you to "HAVE DOMINION" (Genesis 1:26).  To have dominion means: to govern, to rule, to manage, to control, to lead...and to initiate progress! 

Your PURPOSE is to HAVE DOMINION!  God did not create you to be a SHEEP!  Even though we're compared to sheep throughout the Bible...we weren't created to be one.  We were created to LEAD like a LION!

In Matthew 9, Jesus modeled the type of leadership we are to walk in.  At the end of this chapter, He is MOVED BY COMPASSION for His people.

Compassion will move a person to help...NOT...hinder!  Jesus was moved by compassion  upon the people because of their condition.

Human condition is based on the ABSENCE or PRESENCE of leadership.

An army of sheep led by a lion will always defeat an army of lions led by a sheep.  The difference between the LION and the SHEEP is ATTITUDE.

Lion's understand the concept of leadership.

  • Your attitude can promote you faster than your degrees.
  • Your attitude can make you more money than hard work.
  • Attitude separates followers from leaders.
  • The source of attitude is BELIEF.
  • You cannot live beyond your convictions - whatever you believe controls your attitude.
  • Whatever you see with your eyes is not interpreted by your eyes but by your belief system.
  • Leadership is BETWEEN YOUR EARS!

We were all born with the LEADERSHIP SPIRIT
but we can't lead unless we have

The LION is the leader because he BELIEVES he is.

What your attitude CANNOT do for you...
  1. It CANNOT substitute for competence.  Confidence shouldn't be confused for competence. Our attitude may or may not be able to improve our ability to do something.  
  2. It CANNOT substitute for experience. A growing business will eventually reach a point where it has to consider hiring people who have experience and don't need to be trained from the ground up.
  3. It CANNOT change the facts. If I'm only 5 feet tall, chances are I'll never be a center in the NBA.  Maya Angelou said, "If you don't like something, change it.  If you can't change it, change your attitude.  Don't complain."
  4. It CANNOT substitute for personal growth.  You'll never be the man you want to be by waiting to become the man you want to be.  You have to start.
  5. It CANNOT stay good automatically. It takes work.  It's like the farmer that said, "The hardest thing about cows is they never stay milked."  Our attitude is just like that.  It just doesn't stay set.
It's tough to keep a good attitude if you don't purpose to display one early in the morning!  Once you get in the traffic on the interstate and people start honking their horns at you and gesturing that you're #1...your attitude will be TESTED!  Friends, it's better to MAINTAIN an attitude than it is to REGAIN an attitude. 

What your attitude CAN do for you...
  1. It CAN make a difference in your approach to life.  Ever hear the phrase, "All's well that ends well?"  Try saying it the other way around..."All's well that BEGINS well."  Ask any coach of a sports team, and they'll tell you the attitude of the players going into the game will be a determining factor in the outcome of the game.
  2. It CAN make a difference in your relationships with people. Often our difficulty with other people is a result of our own attitude. People who fail in relationships almost always fail in the area of attitude toward others.  Your attitude has a tremendous impact upon your relationship skills.
  3. It CAN make a difference in how you face challenges.  Your mindset is what separates you from being successful and unsuccessful.  Your circumstances and situations can prove to be very instrumental in the your development as a GREAT LEADER!

You cannot always choose what happens to you...but you can always choose what happens in you.  Some things in life are beyond your control.  Some things are within it.  CHOOSE to be a LION today and LEAD!

What you have done is NOT all you are capable of doing!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

First Time Guest?

All of us have been a church visitor from one time or another.  A few months ago, I had the opportunity to visit a church out of state.  Overall, it was a GREAT experience. 

Since I’m a melancholic personality, my wheels were turning the entire time.  I was being observant of everything that was taking place…from the parking lot, the hallways, the signage, the atmosphere, the lighting, the sound, the congregation, the volunteers, the order of service, the videos, the printed material…you name it…I was checking it out! 

Here’s some of the things I jotted down…
  • Pulled in the parking lot and it was clean and had good directional signage.
  • There was a welcome banner near the entrance that seemed inviting.
  • The sidewalk had several damaged places in it.
  •  People were mingling outside near some benches.  (No one said hello)
  • A gentlemen opened the door and greeted me with a smile.
  • A few steps further I was greeted by the official “Bulletin Distributor.” Again…a big smile.
  • I navigated my way to the Sanctuary…a little uncertain of where I was going…since the Sanctuary was adjacent to another hallway.
  • I loved the d├ęcor of this church!  Very modern and inviting!
  • As I entered the Sanctuary, no one was there to greet me and make me feel comfortable.  So, I found the back row and made myself comfortable.  (After all, I’m a professional church attendee!)
  • A young man, who I later discovered was an usher, walked by and welcomed me with a big smile and a handshake.  He also introduced himself to me…which made me feel welcome.
  • I then met a few more of the members, who also introduced themselves and made me feel welcome.  (Terry, Debra, Rose & Connie) – they appeared to be full of joy and happy to be at church that morning.  (I appreciated the smiles, the handshakes and the friendliness…it made me feel comfortable in my new environment.)
  • Connie proceeded to say, “you have to come back to hear our Pastor…he’s not here today…but when he preaches, God JUMPS out of him!  You’re going to love our Youth Pastor, he’s a good preacher too!” (She spoke highly of her leaders and I appreciated hearing someone speak positive…she represented the heartbeat of her leaders and her church!)
  • The countdown video came to an end and the worship team took off!
  • The worship was upbeat and passionate.  The congregation entered in and there were some real “God” moments where I had to reach for a tissue as the tears came rolling.  (Of course, there weren't any tissues in sight…so I did what anyone else would do.) 
  • As I scanned the crowd, I observed that the congregation appeared to be about 95% Caucasian. (Just an observation from someone who is used to seeing diversity)
  • At one point during the worship time, it was announced for the “healing team” to come forward.  As a Pastor, I knew they were getting ready to pray for the sick and anyone in need.  However, as a first time guest, It felt a little awkward because we weren't given clear instructions on what to do from the person who was leading the service.  Eventually, people started walking forward and receiving prayer on their own.
  • It caused me to think about how we expect everyone who attends our services to somehow FIGURE OUT on their own what our church practices and procedures are.  (We need to do better in communicating.)
  • The Youth Pastor preached a great message!  He spoke very well of the Senior Pastor and was very honoring.  I jotted down…GOOD WORD! GOOD SPIRIT!  GOOD DELIVERY!
  • As honoring as he was to his Pastor, the only thing I wish he would have said is WHERE the Pastor was.  As a first time guest, it would have been informational for me to hear from the pulpit that the Pastor was simply preaching at another church that morning and would be back the following Sunday.  I think first time guests appreciate knowing when things are different and what they can expect when or if they return.
I made a few more notes…
  • If you ask me to fill out a guest card…then please give me something to write with too. 
  • If you shake my hand…please introduce yourself. 
  • Please don’t save seats with Bibles and purses.  It’s embarrassing to get to a row only to find out it’s already saved.  Can you imagine the embarrassment a guest feels when they are half way down the aisle because every row has saved seats?...they have to turn around and walk back with their head down, knowing that everyone in the church is looking at them. 
  • Please limit your intake of Gatorade and Pepsi while sitting in the Sanctuary.  At one point during my visit, I noticed there was a whole lot of Gatorade guzzling going on.  In fact, in my row, the two students who sat to my right, they were using their empty bottles as drum sticks. The worst part was that they were doing that while the Youth Pastor was preaching.  I kept thinking, “imagine if I was a person off the street who had no church understanding…what a hindrance that would be.”  (I’m all for wetting your whistle…but come on…all that slurping, chugging and cap twisting…was a bit much for even a professional church attendee…like myself!) 
  • Also, if you have to get up and go to the restroom…surely the whole row don’t have to go with you???  Perhaps, a gentle statement like “THANK YOU FOR BEING COURTEOUS TO THOSE AROUND YOU” would be a nice way of encouraging etiquette.  (This would apply to parents who also insist on sitting in the front with screaming babies that they have to keep getting up to go to the nursery with.) 
Although I did observe the good and the “could be better”…overall it was a great service and I was glad I was there!  I was helped and I felt God in the house!

Can we all do better?  Sure we can.  It just takes preparation and being intentional on our part.

I read something the other day that I wanted to pass on…

9  Statements Church Visitors Never Want to Hear

1. Our pastor isn't normally this_________.
  • Insert whatever you want in this blank: loud, obnoxious, offensive, long-winded. If you have to explain part of your pastor’s style because you know that outsiders won’t like it or understand, you've got a problem. Talk to God about it…but most definitely don’t talk to other people about it.  Here’s a good idea…talk to your pastor.
2. We’re full. Sorry. 
  • Always have a backup plan. Always. If someone sees that your service is full once, they’ll deal with it. But they probably won’t come back if they don’t see a plan you have in place.
3. What are YOU doing here?
  • Never say this. Never. Your shocked, open mouth reveals your judgmental spirit…at least in the eyes of visitors. When you say this, all they can think is, “God couldn't really love someone like you.”
4. You can’t serve now… you've got to be a member first.
  • Why would someone want to become a member if they've never had the chance to serve?
5. What’s your address? I didn't catch it on the first 6 forms I had you fill out.
  • Try to streamline the “first time visitors check-in process.” Nobody likes to feel like they’re visiting HR on their first church visit.
6. You want to join a new class or small group? You’ll have to wait until next Fall.
  • If you ask people to wait more than a month to join community, they’ll often look elsewhere.
7. Here we just care about the Truth. If you don’t like it, you can leave.
  • I get it. You love the Bible. You love preaching the Truth. But don’t love that more than you love people.
8. Here are the 38 things we do each week as a church.
  • Simplifying is the key, otherwise you’ll give people decision paralysis.
9. Next time, could you make sure to wear _____.
  • Fill that in with “something nicer,” “something more relaxed,” or “something that’s clean,” and you've offended someone unnecessarily. Creating a “come as you are” culture should be our aim, not creating a “come as I am” culture.  Everything in balance.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Take Another Look at the Church (Part 5)

I've wrote about numbers before, (Who Cares About Numbers?) and it's still a legitimate subject when it comes to the church.  I guess the questions we should be asking are...

  • Does shooting for higher numbers sacrifice the INDIVIDUAL impact? Or...
  • Does God want us to reach out to as MANY people as possible?
Francis Chan says, "God is not interested in numbers.  He cares more about the faithfulness, not the size, of His bride."

Steven Furtick, Elevation Church, made a core value of his church, "We are all about the numbers - Tracking metrics measures effectiveness.  We unapologetically set goals and measure progress through all available quantitative means."

Which is correct?  Does God care about NUMBERS...or does He want FAITHFULNESS?  Perhaps God wants both.

Can we cling to both?  Is there a way that we can bring as many people as possible together in His name as well as create smaller group settings at the same time?

Let's build ATTENDANCE and
ATTENDEES at the same time!

If we do both...perhaps we can avoid the PITFALLS that come from doing one without the other. 

Focusing only on ATTENDANCE lends the following...

  1. Personal relationships are sacrificed to religious personality. 
  2. The truth of the Gospel is sacrificed in order to keep the "seeker friendly" crowd comfortable. 
    • Sermons about sin, wrath, justice and even the law become avoided.  Which in turn denies the Bible it's authority.
  3. A solid foundation is lacking due to the truth of the Gospel not being declared which in turn causes the people to suffer because they have nothing stable to stand on.
  4. Pride can enter in causing a judgmental spirit of other churches based on their size.
    • Bigger churches may think, "We have more people and bigger buildings, so we must be more favored by God."
    • However, numbers are no grounds for bragging rights.
Focusing only on ATTENDEES lends the following...
  1. Forgetting that numbers represent souls and statistics.
    • Growth in a church doesn't equal lack of relationship.  Growth in a church should equal more people being exposed to the GOOD NEWS that they need to hear.
  2. The church ends up becoming a private club.
    • Any church can become EXCLUSIVE rather than INCLUSIVE if the people aren't dedicated to inviting new people to come.
    • Honestly, there is more to it than just feeding the people who already attend...our cities are full of people who are slaves to sin and need the Gospel in order to be saved.
    • We must never lose our desire to get more people to come.
    • The church should never become a place for CERTAIN people and it should never be CONTENT with the number of people that come.
  3. More attention is given to the faithful members instead of sacrificing for the Kingdom.
    • If the church doesn't emphasize OUTREACH it can become content catering to the major tithers and those who've been in the church forever.
    • This is just as bad as being a church that is focused only on the "seekers".  The church should never cater to any particular group.  It should be faithful to proclaiming the Gospel to ALL people.
There must be an equal emphasis given to both ATTENDANCE and ATTENDEES.  

Matt Chandler, pastor of The Village Church in Dallas, Texas, has a good philosophy on church numbers.  He emphasizes that the BIGGER his church gets, the SMALLER that they need to make it seem.  They have four campuses of somewhat modest size and do multiple services at each location.  They aim for the SMALL CHURCH FEEL while still impacting thousands of people.

Remember the early church in the book of Acts?  On the Sabbath, they met together in the temple...but during the week, they met in each other's homes.  It provided them a CORPORATE worship setting but then the ACCOUNTABILITY and RELATIONSHIP of a small church and group of believers.

In conclusion...the church should love numbers, yet not sacrifice truth in order to gain them.  Each number represents a SOUL to which the church is ministering.  If a church is focused on numbers alone...then it will not sustain or impact lives with truth.  If a church is focused on feeding truth to a small number of people, but are not willing to reach out to others, then it's excluding the GOOD NEWS that so many around them need.

I hope you've invited someone to join you this Sunday!  We can do it!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Band-Aid of Hope

Romans 8:24  "For we are saved by hope..."  

We are called to be ENCOURAGERS of righteousness MORE than we are called to be CORRECTORS of unrighteousness.   As sons, we yield to the Father's correction in our life because of the HOPE instilled from His loving words to our heart. 

While raising our daughter, at times, we used the rod of correction to point her towards the HOPE of righteousness before God.  If we had been too hard, she might have lost HOPE of ever being able to live right before God or worse yet, depending on the degree of the sensitivity of her heart and soul, she may have succumbed to condemnation. 

Not all of us are able to receive the same degree of correction and maintain the same level of HOPE as perhaps other members of the Body of Christ who may have a more stable self image.

Fathers are to be sensitive to the weaknesses of their sons and seek to speak more to the CHAMPION in them than to the CHUMP!

My earthly father took time to correct me as well as RECONNECT me to HOPE.  After I received correction, he lovingly hugged me and spoke LIFE over me.  

Friends, if we break out our faithful knife to wound like a friend, we should also make sure we break out the bandages to bind the wound for healing.  Just like a doctor who has performed surgery on a patient - don't leave the patient on the operating table still laid open after the cancer has been removed, take the time to stitch them up so that they can begin to heal and have HOPE restored in a clean and sterile environment. 

Also, when you are chastened from a father, don't run from your father.  A father will look you in the eye and tell you the truth in love and then place their arms of love around you.  Correction doesn't have to be punishment.  Correction can be gentle instructions.  

Kaitlyn was very sensitive as a child when she received correction.  She didn't have to have too many spankings, mostly all we had to do was begin to talk to her about what she did wrong and she'd already be crying her eyes out.  That's when we'd kneel down and hug her and kiss her and tell her that we loved her.

Even to this day, I always make sure that she knows that her daddy loves her.  Her POSITION as my daughter is GREATER than what her CONDITION will ever matter what!

To every spiritual father, your children have to know you love them.  Your love for them should never be a question in their hearts.  Give everyone the band-aid of HOPE in everything you do.

"For we are saved by hope..."  

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Reformer or Rogue (Part 4)

What is the difference between EMERGING leaders and ESTABLISHED leaders?  Proven leadership.

There's something to be said about STABILITY and CREDIBILITY.  However, those very things can create generational tension for younger leaders who are bursting with new ideas and have a different view of ORGANIZATIONAL allegiance and RELATIONAL loyalty. 

What RELATIONSHIP means to my father's generation and my daughters generation can mean two different things. 

The younger generation CRAVES a father/son covering.  They are not interested in mere institutional independence...they are interested in living and dying for a CAUSE.  

They will die for a MAN...but not for an institution. The younger generation of ministers aren't merely seeking for leadership they're seeking for MENTORS to assist them with RESOURCES regarding CHURCH GROWTH MANAGEMENT and RELATIONAL NETWORKING.

Perhaps the key for organizational growth or should we say SURVIVAL is to harness the enthusiasm of our youth through the channels of RELATIONAL MENTORING regardless of the umbrella/affiliation used.

The future of our fellowship is both COLORFUL and without GENDER BIAS.  If we are to have any hope of connecting the dots and seeing GENERATIONAL IMPACT catapulted from the launchpad of APOSTOLIC REFORMATION (true father/son principle) then we cannot shove OLD SCHOOL politics and positional agendas down their throats or we'll strangle the last drop of energy out of them...and what then?

We must intentionally EMBRACE
RELEASE the next generation.

The Scriptures reveal to us that Apostles and Elders were not necessarily chosen because of their age, but because of the favor of the Spirit on them.  I believe we must have BOTH EMERGING and ESTABLISHED leadership at the helm...IF we are to avoid becoming STAGNANT and STALEMATED.

The future is bright...It is conceivable to me that a return to the values that launched the Pentecostal movement  is certain. Our roots still resonate with a passion for church planting, world missions and raising up new leaders!  We are MORE than a preachers union or an institution of self preservation.

We have a PURPOSE and a PLACE in this end time KINGDOM ASSIGNMENT!  To achieve it, we must not only RECOGNIZE where we are but we must be willing to use this knowledge to make the SHIFT.

I'm committed to see a REBIRTH in missions and church planting as well as the RISE of a generation that values RELATIONSHIP over structure.

"One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts." Psalms 145:4