Friday, December 21, 2007

God Intrudes!

Rev. David LeRoy, Atlantic District Superintendent, included this great quote in his recent e-mail update:

“Despite our efforts to keep him out, God intrudes. The life of Jesus is bracketed by two impossibilities: a virgin’s womb and an empty tomb. Jesus entered our world through a door marked ‘No Entrance’ and left through a door marked ‘No Exit.’” -- Peter Larson

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Statistical Shell Game

"Statistical Shell Game" - The numbers we report are a matter of gospel integrity.

A Christianity Today editorial | posted 8/16/2007 08:51AM

Rarely do media report about the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) without mentioning its 16 million members. That's a problem SBC president Frank Page wants to correct.

"I never talk about 16 million. That is ridiculous," Page said. "I teasingly say the FBI could not find 5 million of our members."

As America's largest Protestant body, Southern Baptists boast political influence and media prestige. But convention records indicate that fewer than 6 million people attend Southern Baptist churches each week. The SBC has plenty of company with bloated statistics. Some denominations would rather not think about the problem, reporting the exact same numbers year after year. Could these churches have grown but forgotten to count?

The slide into fudged numbers begins innocently enough. Every number tells the story of a life we believe God has transformed. Maybe some wayward church members just need a little encouragement, rather than to be cut from the rolls. Besides, impressive numbers draw attention to the gospel in this American culture that demands results. Mainstream media coverage of religion has improved since legions of "values voters" received credit for reelecting President Bush.

Once rationalized, it's painfully difficult to reverse course on swollen statistics. During the annual SBC meeting in June, messengers debated a resolution that encouraged the convention to stand by the historic Baptist emphasis on "regenerate church membership," in which pastors hold church members accountable in belief and practice. But the resolution failed, just as it did the year before. Opponents cited Baptist polity and said the convention had no authority to tell churches how they should regulate membership and report those numbers.

The failed resolution's statement on statistical accuracy, at least, ought to attract widespread support. Since World War II, leading evangelicals have regarded statistics as a matter of gospel integrity. That's because revivalists in the early 20th century often exaggerated the size of their flocks. The statistical shell game may work in the short term, but eventually someone uncovers the truth.

"The tendency among some evangelists was to exaggerate their successes or to claim higher attendance numbers than they really had," Billy Graham wrote in Just As I Am. "This likewise discredited evangelism and brought the whole enterprise under suspicion."

Graham and his team agreed they would rely on official police counts for their public statistics. The move required restraint, because police often underestimated crusade crowds. But Graham rightly erred on the side of caution. So should today's evangelical leaders. Relief and development ministries, for example, discredit their vital work if they exaggerate the number of mouths they feed or loans they administer.

A fate worse than insignificance awaits us if we fail to be honest. The numbers trap tempts evangelicals to implement programs that will boost the bottom line, regardless of their biblical warrant. "What works?" begins to replace, "What does God's Word teach us?" Such programs may appear to succeed for a time. But Jesus told a parable about what happens when we do not build on the foundation of his Word. The rains will come, the floodwaters will rise, and the winds will blow against that house. Sooner or later, the house will fall. And great will be that fall, Jesus warned (Matt. 7:24-27).

One day, the elements will test what we have built in our churches, crusades, and mercy ministries. The greater the exaggeration, the greater the fall.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Planting 1 for 10!

Dr. Ademola Ishola, General Secretary for the Nigerian Baptist Convention, leads a network of approximately 10,000 churches representing almost 9 million people.  He reports that they are planting nearly 3 churches every day, averaging about 1,000 new church plants each year.  1 church plant for every 10 existing churches in their network.  How are we doing?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

John Donne's Prayer

John Donne, the seventeenth century Anglican poet, offers one of his sonnets as a bold prayer for God’s discipline in his life:

“Batter my heart, three-personed God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.”

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Charles Spurgeon on keeping your edge...

“If you want your people, as well as yourself, to be soul winners, keep up prayer meetings all you can. Let it be such a prayer meeting that there is not the like of it within 7000 miles. Keep up the prayer meeting, whatever else fails. Somehow we must keep up the prayer meetings, for they are very secret source of power with God and with men.”

“It is no use talking about the “higher life” on Sundays and then living the lower life on weekdays. We also ought to be willing to abstain from things that might not be wrong in themselves, but that might be an occasion of stumbling for others.”

“Our walk and conversation should be the most powerful part of our ministries. This is what is called being consistent, when lips and life agree.”

“No man, even when converted, has any power except as that power is daily, constantly, and perpetually infused into him by the Spirit.”

“A man’s life is always more forcible than his speech; when men take stock of him they reckon his deeds as pounds and his words as pence. If his life and his doctrines disagree, the mass of on-lookers accept his practice and reject his preaching. A man may know a great deal about truth, and be a very damaging witness on its behalf, because he is no credit to it.”

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Craig Groeschel on Ministry "Fatigue Creep"

Craig Groeschel gets it.  LifeChurch.tv understands "church edge."  They might even define it. But living on the edge can take a toll on leaders.  Here's Craig's recent posting about fatigue in ministry:

Fatigue Creep


I’ve recently endured one of those “grueling seasons” of ministry. If you’ve been in ministry for long, you know what I’m talking about. Some seasons are relatively easy. Others are more strenuous. Some are almost too much.

One of the grossest sins of ministers (in my opinion) is a blatant neglect for the Sabbath. Because a pastor’s rhythms and schedules are so erratic, a full day off can be a rarity.

It’s easy to do more than we should. Before long, we’ve wasted an evening doing email. We’ve burned half our day off chatting on our cell phone. We’ve lost an hour looking at blogs. We lose our day off to a funeral.

Our commitments can continue to creep until we realize that it’s been weeks since we’ve had a legitimate day off.

(Some of you even brag about not having a day off. I used to. This generally reflects our insecurities or sick desire to please God with a works-righteousness attitude.)

If you don’t take adequate time to rest, you will burn out. My counselor explained to me that my workaholic tendencies are really due to a “lack of faith.”

Here are the areas where I’m weak:

I wrongly think I’m more necessary than I am.
I wrongly believe that God is less involved than He really is.
Are you pushing it too hard? Do you lack faith? You’ll never do all that God wants you to if you won’t do what He’s already told you to do… Rest.

Do you know how to rest? And do you actually do it?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Here's what a top-rated coach asks CEOs

Graham Alexander has been an executive coach for more than 25 years coaching hundreds of CEOs. Graham has pinpointed 10 crucial questions that leaders must ask themselves if they are to achieve and, most importantly, maintain their success:

1. What's life all about for you?
2. Who are you, and who do others say you are?
3. What's the point for you and your people?
4. What would happen if you did less?
5. What can only you do?
6. Would you do anything differently if you knew you only had a year to live?
7. If people are your biggest asset, why don't they know who you are?
8. Who pays your salary, and why are you ignoring them?
9. Are you running your business, or is it running you?
10. So now how will you live your life differently ... or is it business as usual?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Inspirational Leadership


The Seven Secrets of Inspiring Leaders
By Carmine Gallo

American business professionals are uninspired. Only 10% of employees look forward to going to work and most point to a lack of leadership as the reason why, according to a recent Martitz Research poll. But it doesn’t have to be that way. All business leaders have the power to inspire, motivate, and positively influence the people in their professional lives.

For the past year, I have been interviewing renowned leaders, entrepreneurs, and educators who have an extraordinary ability to sell their vision, values, and themselves. I researched their communications secrets for my new book, Fire Them Up!: 7 Simple Secrets to Inspire Your Colleagues, Customers and Clients.

What I discovered along the way were seven techniques that you can easily adopt in your own professional communications with your employees, clients, and investors to motivate and inspire.

1. Demonstrate Enthusiasm - Constantly.

Inspiring leaders have an abundance of passion for what they do. You cannot inspire unless you’re inspired yourself. Period. Passion is something I can’t teach. In fact, no one can. You either have passion for your message or you don’t.

Once you discover your passion, make sure it’s apparent to everyone within your professional circle. Richard Tait, for example, sketched an idea on a napkin during a cross-country flight. It was an idea to bring joyful moments to families and friends. His enthusiasm was so infectious that he convinced partners, employees, and investors to join him. He created a toy and game company called Cranium. Walk into its Seattle headquarters and you are instantly hit with a wave of fun, excitement, and engagement the likes of which is rarely seen in corporate life. It all started with one man’s passion.

2. Articulate a Compelling Course of Action.

Inspiring leaders craft and deliver a specific, consistent, and memorable vision. A goal such as "we intend to double our sales by this time next year," is not inspiring. Neither is a long, convoluted mission statement destined to be tucked away and forgotten in a desk somewhere.

A vision is a short (usually 10 words or less), vivid description of what the world will look like if your product or service succeeds. Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer once said that shortly after he joined the company, he was having second thoughts. Bill Gates and Gates’ father took Ballmer out to dinner and said he had it all wrong. They said Ballmer saw his role as that of a bean counter for a startup. They had a vision of putting a computer on every desk, in every home. That vision - a computer on every desk, in every home - remains consistent to this day. The power of a vision set everything in motion.

3. Sell the Benefit.

Always remember, it’s not about you, it’s about them. In my first class at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, I was taught to answer the question, "Why should my readers care?" That’s the same thing you need to ask yourself constantly throughout a presentation, meeting, pitch, or any situation where persuasion takes place. Your listeners are asking themselves, what’s in this for me? Answer it. Don’t make them guess.

4. Tell More Stories.

Inspiring leaders tell memorable stories. Few business leaders appreciate the power of stories to connect with their audiences.

A few weeks ago I was working with one of the largest producers of organic food in the country. I can’t recall most, if any, of the data they used to prove organic is better. But I remember a story a farmer told. He said when he worked for a conventional grower, his kids could not hug him at the end of the day when he got home. His clothes had to be removed and disinfected. Now, his kids can hug him as soon as he walks off the field.

No amount of data can replace that story. And now guess what I think about when I see the organic section in my local grocery store? You got it. The farmer’s story. Stories connect with people on an emotional level. Tell more of them.

5. Invite Participation.

Inspiring leaders bring employees, customers, and colleagues into the process of building the company or service. This is especially important when trying to motivate young people.

The command and control way of managing is over. Instead, today’s managers solicit input, listen for feedback, and actively incorporate what they hear. Employees want more than a paycheck. They want to know that their work is adding up to something meaningful.

6. Reinforce an Optimistic Outlook.

Inspiring leaders speak of a better future. Robert Noyce, the co-founder of Intel, said "Optimism is an essential ingredient of innovation. How else can the individual favor change over security?"

Extraordinary leaders throughout history have been more optimistic than the average person. Winston Churchill exuded hope and confidence in the darkest days of World War II. Colin Powell said that optimism was the secret behind Ronald Reagan’s charisma. Powell also said that optimism is a force multiplier, meaning it has a ripple effect throughout an organization.

Speak in positive, optimistic language. Be a beacon of hope.

7. Encourage Potential.

Inspiring leaders praise people and invest in them emotionally. Richard Branson has said that when you praise people they flourish; criticize them and they shrivel up. Praise is the easiest way to connect with people. When people receive genuine praise, their doubt diminishes and their spirits soar. Encourage people and they’ll walk through walls for you.

By inspiring your listeners, you become the kind of person people want to be around. Customers will want to do business with you, employees will want to work with you, and investors will want to back you. It all starts with mastering the language of motivation.

Carmine Gallo is a communications coach for the world’s most admired brands. His book, Fire Them Up! contains insights from top business leaders who inspire through the language of motivation.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

One Good Reason "Not" to be a Hindu

Man in India marries dog as atonement

Tue Nov 13, 7:34 AM ET

A man in southern India married a female dog in a traditional Hindu ceremony as an attempt to atone for stoning two other dogs to death — an act he believes cursed him — a newspaper reported Tuesday.

P. Selvakumar married the sari-draped former stray named Selvi, chosen by family members and then bathed and clothed for the ceremony Sunday at a Hindu temple in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, the Hindustan Times newspaper said.

Selvakumar, 33, told the paper he had been suffering since he stoned two dogs to death and hung their bodies from a tree 15 years ago.

"After that my legs and hands got paralyzed and I lost hearing in one ear," he said in the report.

The paper said an astrologer had told Selvakumar the wedding was the only way he could cure the maladies. It did not say whether his situation had improved.

Deeply superstitious people in rural India sometimes organize weddings to dogs and other animals, believing it can ward off certain curses.

The paper showed a picture of Selvakumar sitting next to the dog, which was wearing an orange sari and a flower garland.

The paper said the groom and his family then had a feast, while the dog got a bun.


Monday, November 12, 2007

Church Sells Building, Commits $1.55 Million to Church Planting


SAN JOSE, CA (November 12, 2007) - New Life Covenant Church, one of the oldest congregations in the Evangelical Covenant Church, will donate $1.55 million toward church planting efforts in the Pacific Southwest Conference.

The church’s plan was announced this week, following the sale of the congregation’s longtime home at 790 Coe Avenue. It marked another step in the revitalization of this historic congregation, formerly known as First Covenant church.

Like many small, older churches, First Covenant was facing daunting questions and an uncertain future. Founded in 1892, the church reached a high point in the 1960s, attracting 450 people to worship on Sunday mornings. By 2004, that number had shrunk to 90 and was continuing to decline with no possibility of change in sight.

For a while, says pastor Kevin Budd, the church asked, “How do we survive?” But when the congregation began to ask, “What can we do for the kingdom?”—things began to change.

Over the past year, the church changed its name, moved from its former facility, and began meeting in a nearby public school. When their building was sold, the church netted more than $3 million, after all of its debts were paid. About $300,000 will be donated to compassion ministries, and another $1.55 million will be set aside for a future construction project. The rest—nearly 45 percent of the total—will fund new church plants.

The funds will help pay for new plants around San Jose and around the conference.

In keeping with the Covenant policy, the money will not be given to the Pacific Southwest Conference all at once but will be designated for specific projects, Budd says.

Gary Walter, executive minister of the Department of Church Growth and Evangelism, expressed thanks for New Life Covenant’s gift to the denomination. “This is a church looking at the totality of its assets and options and taking bold steps,” Walter says. “They would have been more comfortable to do nothing, but complacency never gets mission moving forward.”

Conference Superintendent Evelyn Johnson also thanked New Life Covenant for its generosity. “I affirm the church,” she said, “for reinventing itself to minister more effectively in the changing context and being intentional about multiplication in this process.”

Budd says that New Life has already seen signs of renewal. A significant contributor to the decline was a lack of parking as more and more people drove to church, Budd says. The 40 parking spaces were inadequate for the 24,000-square-foot building. By moving their services to the school two miles away, the congregation has started to attract new attenders. Budd says he hopes the congregation’s decision will inspire others to support church planting.

Steve Dawson, president of National Covenant Properties, is excited about the church’s decision. “This is a church that recognized they wanted to start a new vision for the future but also had a broader view of the kingdom of God.”

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Over the edge?

If you're really doing ministry on the edge, you're constantly running the risk of going too far. I have a great group of friends, heroes really, who are planting churches in West Michigan. One of them took a huge risk this week...and even he acknowledges that he went over the edge. But here's hoping and praying that he won't stop believing and trying and risking in the cause the counts!
----------

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.” – T.S. Eliot

“If no one ever took risks, Michaelangelo would have painted the Sistine floor.” – Neil Simon

“It’s nice to at least once a year have a near-death experience.” – Mark Allen

“That which does not destroy me makes me stronger.” – Neitzche

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” – Robert Kennedy

“To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself.” – Soren Kierkegaard

“We rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us.” - Romans 5:35

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Disturb Us, O Lord

Sir Francis Drake was a 16th century adventurer and, for much of his life, a "legal" pirate.

He set sail in 1577 from Portsmouth, England aboard the "Golden Hind" with a commission to interrupt the Spanish gold routes along the west coast of South America. Drake explored at least as far north as the non-Spanish parts of California, claiming it as "New Albion" [New England] before returning to England and his Queen Elizabeth via a "short-cut" (by crossing the Pacific and rounding Cape Horn, thus becoming the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe).

In return for the bounty he captured (more than half million pounds sterling), Drake was knighted and continued in service to his country until his death in 1596. This is the prayer that Drake is believed to have written as he set sail on his great adventure:

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
with the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wilder seas
Where storms will show Your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.

We ask you to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push back the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

This we ask in the name of our Captain,
Who is Jesus Christ.

Sir Francis Drake

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Churches planting churches!

Last month, Pastor David Sobrepena, the founding pastor of Word of Hope in Manila, Philippines announced that they had planted another 15 new churches. In less than 20 years, Word of Hope has grown to more than 18,000 worshippers and its skilled teams have planted more than 1000 churches.

Here's more from their website:

"On August 21, 1988, a group of 17 dedicated servants of God led by Rev. David A. SobrepeƱa, marched around what to them was the walls of Jericho. The purpose: To heed God’s call for them to establish a new ministry. They circled the vacant Paramount Theater, claiming it for use in God’s kingdom. Located along historic EDSA just across one of Asia’s biggest shopping malls, the theater soon became home to Word of Hope Christian Fellowship – the ministry that God has impressed upon the heart of Pastor SobrepeƱa to lead to be a beacon of hope to people who are lost in spiritual darkness and in need of a personal encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ."

"WORD OF HOPE officially opened its doors to the public on August 28, 1988, exactly one week after that fateful march, with 150 people in attendance. Shortly eight months after the inaugural service, the schedule of Sunday services was increased to three to accommodate the fast growing number of church attendees which have already reached a total of 900."

"Today, the congregation numbers over 18,000-strong church adherents who come from various strata of society in Metro Manila. This has been made possible through the cell group ministry which has become a vital part of the Church. Word of Hope has over 3,000 cell groups within the metropolis. The commitment and active involvement of cell leaders and hosts in the ministry has contributed to the immense numerical growth of the Church. Indeed Word of Hope has metamorphosed into what it is today – a mega church that reaches out to people from all walks of life who hunger and thirst for the Word of God."

AoG General Superintendent Focuses on Church Planting

New Pentecostal Head Stresses Vigorous Church Planting -

George O. Wood, who now heads one of the nation’s largest Pentecostal groups, is a by-product of church planting.

Sat, Oct. 13, 2007 Posted: 11:27:36 AM EST


George O. Wood, who now heads one of the nation’s largest Pentecostal groups, is a by-product of church planting.

Generations of Wood's family are believers largely because a 24-year-old minister felt a burden to a plant a church in Jeanette, Pa., nearly 100 years ago.

Back then, however, there weren't any resources or financial backing from churches or denominations like there are today for ministers freshly starting church plants. But when a young minister, Ben Mahan, still took the risk and began holding worship meetings on the streets of Jeanette and later established a church, Wood's grandmother and father accepted Christ.

"This is what church planting does," said Wood in a chapel service on Thursday at the Assemblies of God national headquarters in Springfield, Mo. "Not only was my dad saved but his family now. All of us children [are] serving the Lord and most all of our grandchildren and great grandchildren."

Moreover, there's a strong church today in northwest China with 15,000 believers – a church that Wood's parents helped establish.

"It all happened because somebody had a burden to go plant a church," said Wood.

"All across America there are people that are like my dad that if we can reach them, we'll not only reach them but everyone coming after them."

Wood was elected in August as general superintendent, succeeding Thomas E. Trask. He officially assumed his position on Monday. And now as head, he preaches a critical core value to the Pentecostals – "vigorously plant new churches."

"We know that planting new churches probably in our culture is the single most effective means of evangelizing a community," said Wood.

The Assemblies of God launched this year an aggressive church planting initiative called MX9 that aims to establish 1,000 new churches by 2009.

According to a biennial report (2005-2007) presented by Wood, Assemblies of God churches number 12,311 – the highest level on record with a net gain of 34. Overseas, membership has exploded with 95 percent of the 57 million Assemblies of God members outside the United States.

But Wood says it's not about numbers.

"The statistics are peripheral. They're not what's important. It's the lives of the people that we reach for Jesus," he said during chapel.

As the Pentecostal group still tries to double their current church planting rate in the coming years, Wood doesn't want to see church planting done the way his parents or other ministers decades ago had to do it, where there was no support or sometimes jealousy by neighboring ministers.

"We need to be a fellowship that is a giving fellowship, that is a supporting fellowship, that is an encouraging fellowship," he said. "We are meant to strengthen and encourage one another and be fellow workers in the Gospel of Jesus Christ."

Audrey Barrick
Christian Post Reporter

Monday, October 15, 2007

Business Prof has Ideas for Improving Worship

A Dozen Ways to Improve Your Worship Service -Michael Zigarelli


For more than three decades I’ve been collecting data in churches, at least informally. I’ve attended churches of all kinds over the course of my life—Mainline, Evangelical, Pentecostal, Roman Catholic, you name it. Beyond that, through my current position, I’ve had the privilege of talking with countless pastors, church board members, worship leaders, and other fine folks about how to improve our worship services. As a result, I’ve come to believe that as good as worship is at many churches, there are at least a dozen things churches can do to make Sunday morning services more effective.

A quick caveat before I share these ideas, though: I offer them not as an expert in church growth or spiritual formation, and not as a rigid formula for worship, but simply as observations from someone trained to diagnose and solve organizational problems. Your church is likely doing some of these things; I think the best churches do almost all of them.

So with that said, how can we build on the fine work of our churches so people are even more likely to meet God and to be transformed through our worship services? Here are twelve ideas:

1. Give the Pastor More Time to Prepare

As a college dean, I manage people who teach. If I required them to do a whole bunch of administrative tasks for my school during the week and then expected them to deliver a brilliant lecture on a different topic every weekend, I (and their students) would be sorely disappointed by their performance in this weekend class. The professors who work for me would be burnt out and frustrated, their students would be under-educated, and my job would be in jeopardy. Worst of all, I suspect that God would be a bit displeased by our ministry of mediocrity.

But think about it: this is precisely what goes on in many churches. Our pastors are overwhelmed with administrative demands during the week that take them away from sermon preparation. Consequently, many of them squeeze in what time they can for prep, sometimes at the expense of their families and their health, to craft their Sunday message. And after they deliver the message, those of us in the pews smile and nod and thank them for a great word as we run out the door. But truth be told, we smiling saints could have learned a whole lot more from the message had the pastor been given another fifteen hours to invest in that message.

Then, the same thing happens the next week. And the next. And on and on it goes for years. Overworked pastors, under-taught Christians. It’s nothing short of scandalous.

Usually this scandal is not the pastor’s fault, but the system’s fault. To teach with excellence, people need lots of time to prepare. They need time to research their material, time to put it in an engaging format, time to make sure the points flow, and time to practice their delivery. And even more basic than that, any Christian who desires to teach well needs regular space for spiritual and professional development. There’s an inextricable link between learning and teaching: when we stop learning, our teaching suffers immeasurably. Or, as professor Howard Hendricks puts it in is book Teaching to Change Lives: “I would rather have my students drink from a running stream than a stagnant pool” (p. 18).

If we want life-changing messages on Sunday, step one may be to change the work system in our churches. Our pastors must be able to off-load many of their current administrative tasks so they can focus on teaching with excellence. Stated differently, we need to rewrite the job description of the pastor so he has space prepare well, to learn well, and to maintain a close and growing relationship with God. What we’ll get in return is more consistent access to the voice of God from the pulpit.

2. Don’t Let the Music Become a Concert

Sermons are critical. Praise music, though, is my favorite part of the service. It’s where I most predictably meet God. But increasingly, what I’m seeing in churches are praise bands singing songs that are inspirational and performed with excellence, but that are…well…“unsingable” by us rank amateurs. They’re popular tunes that are written for a talented lead vocalist, not for people whose range is a mere octave. So we in the pews are relegated to a spectator role, watching the good folks on stage praise God. They do a fantastic job and we acknowledge it by clapping when they’re done—but the applause is more for their fine performance than it is thanks to God.

When such things happen, the worship time has morphed into a concert—a substitute for a worship service.

“Special music” is another example of this. Some exceedingly capable person wows us with an instrument or a song or both, and we’re awestruck by his or her gifts. This continues for at least five minutes and then we offer a rousing ovation. But here again, it’s become a concert. It’s not corporate worship, it’s corporate watching.

One last example that evidences the problem: I’ve always wondered why praise bands play in front of the people rather than behind them or somewhere on the side. Doesn’t their being on stage frame their endeavor as a performance? Beyond that, it’s harder for people to focus on God when distracted by the worship leader’s facial expressions, the lead guitarist’s fancy fingering and the percussionist’s flashy cymbal crashes.

If it’s logistically possible, why not put the worship band behind the congregation—or at least somewhere off the stage—and show inspirational pictures or video or something else on stage that will direct our attention above? I recognize that this suggestion may not sit well with some worship leaders, but frankly, such protests often have their root in pride. Worship teams do such a wonderful job, and we all owe them our gratitude, but we need to have them step away from the spotlight so we can magnify God alone.

3. Avoid Interrupting the Flow of Worship

We’ve all been there. The music is awesome. The congregation’s voices are growing. Eyes are closed. Hands are raised. Fifteen, thirty, sometimes forty-five minutes go by in a flash because people are meeting God through the experience. It all comes to a crescendo with a closing prayer of thanksgiving and some people wiping away tears. The Spirit has been ushered into this place in a mighty way.

…but then abruptly, the Spirit’s asked to sit quietly in the corner for ten minutes so we can take care of some housekeeping.

Sometimes that housekeeping is a set of announcements that we could just as easily read in the weekly bulletin; sometimes it’s walking the kids to their Sunday school classes; sometimes it’s a church member making a pitch for more participation in a budding ministry. Whatever the reason for the hiatus, it completely torpedoes the moment. People’s hearts have been prepared to hear God’s Word and a powerful message. What they get instead are the logistics for the church picnic. Sit down, Spirit. We’ll call you when we need you again.

“Flow” matters in a worship service, so make it a priority. Plan it. Choreograph it. It’s much better to go from singing to the message than to insert non-worship intermissions.

4. Let Visitors Remain Anonymous

This one’s a complete no-brainer, but because of the “we’ve always done it this way” syndrome, churches continue to make this same mistake week after week.

Almost anyone visiting a church for the first time wants to remain anonymous. If they don’t, they’ll tell you afterwards. But believe me, the last thing new folks want is to “stand up so we can show you how much we appreciate you.” Even long-time members don’t want to stand while everyone else looks at them; how much less would a first-time visitor desire this?

Recognizing this problem, one church I attended asked first-time visitors to remain seated while everyone else stood to greet them. Nice try, but since being detected is the problem, this creative tactic didn’t help much.

Seeker-friendly churches let new people hide. Other churches inadvertently embarrass their visitors. Decision makers in these latter churches might do well to become a first-time visitor someplace else for a week and be reminded of how awkward it feels to be singled out.

5. Teach People How Scripture Applies to Daily Life

Last year, I had the great privilege of teaching at a ministry leader’s conference in Brazil. I taught on the topic of “being a faithful leader,” deriving much of my material straight from scripture. I was struck, though, by the number of pastors who commented to me after each talk that they had never heard the Bible used in such a way. “You speak of practical things using spiritual language” was one representative comment. This was a new idea for many of these leaders. To them, the Bible was about eschatology, period. It had little to say regarding day to day living.

That chagrined me as I thought about what their congregations were missing. But this is hardly only a Brazilian phenomenon. The same problem occurs around the world each weekend as pastors neglect the highly practical nature of God’s Word. For instance, when was the last time you heard a solid sermon about how to live your faith in the workplace? Or about principles for raising your kids? Or about how to resolve conflicts in a Biblically-consistent manner? Or about how to be more persuasive? The Bible speaks to all these areas, but many Christians simply don’t know it.

Great pulpit messages are great, in part, because they show how to apply scriptural lessons to our daily life. People are starving for it. If we begin to take practical theology seriously, we’ll be amazed how many people in the pews will begin to take serious notes.

6. Beware of Giving Destinations without Directions

This is a corollary to the previous suggestion. Pastors are remarkably good at identifying targets for us. Love God with all your heart. Listen for God’s voice. Demonstrate joy, peace, patience, kindness, and so on. Live out the Great Commission. Turn the other cheek. Love your neighbor as yourself.

They’re absolutely correct in all these things, of course. We should co-labor with God to pursue such ideals. But I’ve left countless services wondering just how I can make progress. What am I supposed to do? I’ve been treated to 45 minutes of destinations, but zero minutes of directions.

When pastors teach that we should be more patient (or joyful, or forgiving, or whatever), they should also teach how to become more patient (or joyful, or forgiving, or whatever). When instructing us to listen to God, they should also teach how to hear God in the first place. When encouraging believers to evangelize, they should share what works in persuading people to consider the claims of the gospel.

The best pastors recognize this issue and therefore seldom offer a “what to do” without a “how to do it.” They are highly practical in their teaching and continually sensitive to the question that’s on everyone’s mind: “You’re right pastor, but how do I get there?” As a result, their members walk out of each service with an action plan to make real progress that week and beyond.

This is no small issue. It’s futile to give people destinations without directions. It even borders on malpractice, since many people are demoralized by knowing how far they have to go without knowing how to get there. Just as we’d carefully spell out directions from A to B for a lost traveler, we should provide clear road maps for the many travelers making a pit stop in our pews.

7. Challenge People

Some churches go too far in this regard, but I think that’s a small minority. More likely, when you walk into a church today, you’ll find teachers unwilling to require much of their hearers. Perhaps they worry that if they present Christianity as difficult and present God as desiring us to change, people will reject their teaching. People will vote with their feet, or at least with their wallets, right? Not a pretty sight—so we preach cheap grace.

That’s a toxic assumption, and one that poisons many churches. Consider the demographics. Denominations that consistently challenge people to change are expanding, while those preaching low-cost Christianity are shrinking.

So challenge people to change. Challenge them to be introspective, to see themselves against the blazing benchmark of scripture, to become more sanctified, and to go out and change their little corner of the world for God’s kingdom. Show them that they’re on an adventure with God—an adventure that requires both courage and commitment.

That’s what Jesus did. He wasn’t a milquetoast guy, walking on eggshells so he wouldn’t offend people. He told it like it is and then said “go and sin no more.” He told it like it is and said “be perfect, just as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” He told it like it is and said “if they persecuted me, they’ll persecute you too.”

The call of God is both exciting and exacting. Indeed, churches that boldly speak the truth in love are growing, but more importantly, they’re growing real disciples.

8. Shorten the Sermon—and Focus It

Want to know the fastest way to depress a pastor? Have him ask people on Sunday night what points he made on Sunday morning. If you want to totally demoralize him, though, have him ask the question on Tuesday.

The sad reality is that in an era of information overload, we no longer remember the vast majority of what we hear—even the same day. We might remember the pastor’s tie and perhaps one of his jokes or stories, but the essential lessons are essentially gone.

Short of selling people a CD of the message and hoping they’ll listen again, what’s a pastor to do? How ‘bout this: leverage the principle that “less can be more.” Shorten the sermon. Make it 15 to 20 minutes. Twenty-five tops. A lot can be said in that time. I just read through the Sermon on the Mount—aloud and slowly—as part of my research for this article. It took fewer than twelve minutes.

“But I’ll have to cut out so much!” some will object. Exactly right. Nothing personal, but most of the time, that will be a good thing, not a bad thing from a pedagogical perspective. Rather than presenting three points or three steps, focus on one. Just one. And punch it repeatedly in the time allotted. Show it visually. Use humor to make the point. And especially, tell stories that illustrate it. That was Jesus’ approach to teaching—He told stories because people remember stories.

Pastors, consider this counsel from a speaker who’s learned this lesson the hard way. If you want people to remember what you teach, focus your message on one point and say it three times in an engaging way. Then sit down.

9. Eliminate the Prayer Speeches

…and consider praying the Lord’s Prayer once in awhile, as well. When Jesus taught how we should pray, He modeled a prayer that goes from zero to done in under 30 seconds. By contrast, lots our pulpit prayers are five to ten minutes long. Many prayers in our small groups and our Sunday schools are similar in length. Sometimes even our table prayers compel us to re-warm the gravy afterward.

One wonders whether we’re making the same mistake that some in Jesus’ day made—the mistake that caused Him to say: “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words” (Matthew 6:7-8).

Talking to God is a good thing, and we all need to do more of it, but we’d do well to remember that, as Jesus said: “your Father knows what you need before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:8). Perhaps the better way in our worship services is for the pastor to pray briefly and earnestly, and then allow the rest of us to pray or meditate in silence for a time.

10. Separate Out the Kids

Out of the mouths of babes…come a remarkable number of distractions for their beleaguered parents, as well as for those around them in the pews. Have pity on these huddled masses. If you really want people transformed by worship, help them to remain focused by providing a place for their kids during the worship service.

Of course, many churches already do this, but I’ve attended some that still adhere to the convoluted position that kids need to develop the habit of sitting through services. Never mind that they don’t understand the concepts presented or the passages of scripture; being there is “good for them.”

That’s pure folly. In fact, it’s anti-discipleship. Holding kids hostage in an adult worship service is counter-productive and certainly not what Jesus would do. Instead, He’d provide a separate place for them so that their parents could worship properly, and so that the kids could be taught in age-appropriate ways.

11. Serve the Coffee and Donuts before the Service

Maybe some bagels, too. The better the spread, the more people will show up to partake and to fellowship. As an added benefit, they’ll be on time for worship, too.

Perhaps most importantly, though, their worship experience might be enhanced. Let’s face it, people don’t get as much out of their worship time when they’re distracted by hunger or fatigue. So some churches have sought a remedy by offering the caffeine and carbs on the front end of worship. Seems to makes sense.

Not convinced? Maybe your church is in a position to experiment with this. If you have a break between services, offer the food and beverages between the services only, and see whether you discern any differences between the first and second service.

I know, I know: it’s an uncontrolled experiment and you can’t know conclusively whether the timing of the food has any effect. But try the experiment anyway and see what you can learn. If nothing else, at least you’ll have less set up and clean up time!

12. Ask the Congregation How to Improve the Worship Service

When the most successful organizations in the world want to improve their products or services, they survey their customers. Many churches have benefited from doing the same.

I do understand that some people bristle at the thought of applying management tools to the church, but these are neutral tools, created by God to help us steward His organizations. So why not use them for His purposes? That’s how Saddleback started and prospered. Rick Warren and his team went door to door surveying people in the community about their feelings toward church and why they didn’t attend. Then, based on those data, they created something that taught the gospel in more engaging ways. Now they’re teaching tens of thousands every week.

So one last tip: if you want ideas for improving your worship services, consider asking the consumers of your worship services what they like and don’t like; what ideas they have for improvement; what would help them meet God more consistently in that place. You don’t need to adopt an idea just because you solicit one, but remember the words of God’s wisdom book: “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisors they succeed” (Proverbs 15:22).

You have a congregation full of “advisors” ready and even eager to provide “counsel.” Have the humility to tap into their ideas and you’ll probably net at least another dozen ways to improve your worship service.

Michael Zigarelli, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Management at Charleston Southern University and the editor of the Christianity9to5.org

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

"Transformation" by Bob Roberts

I'll do a longer report for my DBA on this outstanding book, but I just finished reading it a few days ago and can't wait to recommend it. The book is called Transformation: How Glocal Churches Transform Lives and the World.

It tells the story of one local church pastor's journey through brokenness to the blessing of exponential ministry.

Back in 1985, Bob Roberts Jr. planted Northwood Church in Keller, Texas. Not content to be the biggest church in his city, Bob and his team committed to churching their city...and the world.

Since 1992, NorthWood's Church Multiplication Center has started almost 90 churches, including 8 in their daughter churches in their own immediate area. Their first church plant was 3 miles to the east of their campus and the second plant was 4 miles to the west. They now have clusters of churches in 19 cities throughout the United States. Sixty-two new churches were planted in the network in 2005 alone!

Here are a few of Bob's comments that impacted me:

"...we started implementing what it meant to church the area instead of pouring all our energies into becoming the biggest church in the area." (p.41)

"when will Jesus be enough for you?" (p.80)

"what if the church were the missionary?" (p.106)

"the question is not 'Have you been baptized, converted or joined a church?' The question is 'Have you been transformed?'" (p.117)

"I have no interest in helping start a church--it's a waste of time and money. I have much interest in starting church-starting churches." (p.139)

"You know a church is multiplying when it has as many or more 'granddaughter' churches than it has 'daughter' churches." (p. 146)

Bob is living a great story that will will inspire and challenge every pastor!

For more information, check out Bob's website, Glocal.Net

Monday, October 8, 2007

Birth Day in West Michigan!

The most exciting place in a hospital is the delivery room!

Sunday, October 7, 2007, marked the birth of two new Wesleyan churches in the West Michigan District!

Pastor Jim Bowen and his launch team welcomed 95 people to the first worship service of Belding – Encounter.

Yesterday was also the birthday for Caledonia – Journey Church. Pastor Jon Allen and his launch team welcomed 158 people to their grand opening worship service.

Our whole district team joins in this celebration! It marks the first time that any of our zone partnerships (Grand Rapids Zone) has launched 2 churches on the same day. It is also significant to note that this week marked the 29th anniversary of Kentwood Community Church’s launch. Journey is the most recent of KCC’s daughter churches and Encounter is also her granddaughter church as Lowell – Impact launched this second of their church plants.

Yesterday was also the first day for Portland – Epic to move into 2 services on Sunday morning. Pastor Ed Love reported that attendance hit a new record attendance of 180 on this their 1st anniversary!

Our vision as a district team is for every church to be healthy enough to help fulfill the Great Commission through planting at least one daughter church. With new churches Grand Haven – Watermark taking the lead to plant “The Deep” and Lowell – Impact taking the lead to plant Belding – Encounter, our vision is becoming more of a reality!

In other exciting news, Allendale Wesleyan Church welcomed Rev. Jim Maness, their new pastor, for his first Sunday. They are in the middle of an exciting campus relocation project after voting 98% to sell their existing property and transition into temporary facilities.

Yesterday was also an exciting day for Pastor Jose Pacheco and La Roca as they moved into facilities on the north side of Holland. The church hosted a community yard-sale on Saturday as an opportunity to get to know their new neighbors.

Last week began with a wonderful time of spiritual renewal as more than 30 of our district leaders gathered at Gull Lake for our first pastors’ prayer and fasting retreat. Rev. Rick Kavanaugh was used by God to minister the Word to our team and Micah Kephart was a blessing as he led us in worship. You'll want to check out Rick's teaching website.

Thank you for making a difference…

In the cause that counts!

Mark

Friday, October 5, 2007

GIGA-Churches?


That's the word from this article @ The Christian Post

With the number of megachurches in America growing at an increasingly rapid rate, the largest of them all now have a new label: "gigachurches."

Topping this year's largest churches in the country is Lakewood Church in Houston, with an attendance of 47,000, according to Outreach Magazine's annual 100 list of America's largest and fastest-growing churches. While Lakewood remains on top, 36 of the top 100 draw 10,000-plus people each week (gigachurches). The rest have a weekly attendance of 6,000-plus. Meanwhile, megachurches (2,000-plus attendees) now number an estimated 1,300.

While that's only 0.4 percent of all U.S. Protestant churches, megachurches are growing rapidly as they pioneer new approaches largely to engage the unchurched population. At a time when an estimated 70 percent to 80 percent of U.S. churches are either in plateau or decline, I am encouraged to discover a number of healthy congregations on the Outreach 100 lists that are bucking the negative tendencies prevalent in so many U.S. churches," said Dr. Ed Stetzer, director of research and missiologist in residence for LifeWay Research. Outreach partnered with Stetzer for the first time for this year's top 100 which was based on new methodology that factored in both numerical and percentage growth in attendees..

This year's fastest growing church is Hispanic megachurch Iglesia Cristiana Segardores de Vida in Hollywood, Fla. Within the last year alone, the church grew by 2,800 attendees and now claims almost 6,000. The 100 churches on the fastest-growing list grew four times faster than churches on the largest list. A key growth trend, or megatrend, is multi-site technology. Currently, seven of the top 10 fastest-growing churches are multi-site churches in which churches have set up extension sites on multiple campuses across the city, state or country. In 1990, there were only 10 multi-site Protestant churches in the United States.

Today, 25 percent of all megachurches have more than one site and 16 percent of all Protestant churches in the United States are seriously considering adding a site within the next two years, according to LifeWay Research. Stetzer doesn't consider multi-sites a trend anymore, but rather as "the new normal."

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Top 10 Largest U.S. Churches

1. Lakewood Church, Houston Texas – Joel Osteen (47,000)
2. Willow Creek Community Church, South Barrington, Ill. – Bill Hybels (23,500)
3. Second Baptist Church, Houston – Ed Young Sr. (23,198)
4. Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, Calif. – Rick Warren (22,000)
5. LifeChurch.tv, Edmond, Okla. – Craig Groeschel (19,907)
6. Southeast Christian Church, Louisville, Ky. – Dave Stone (18,013)
7. North Point Church, Alpharetta, Ga. – Andy Stanley (17,700)
8. Thomas Road Baptist Church, Lynchburg, Va. – Jonathan Falwell (17.445)
9. Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. – Bob Coy (17,000)
10. The Potter's House, Dallas – T.D. Jakes (17,000)

Top 10 Fastest-Growing U.S. Churches

1. Iglesia Cristiana Segadores de Vida, Hollywood, Fla. – Ruddy and Maria Gracia (3,050, 109 percent growth)
2. Calvary Community Church, Phoenix, Ariz. – Mark Martin (2,344, 26 percent growth)
3. Elevation Church, Charlotte, N.C., Steven Furtick (1,965, 444 percent growth)
4. New Life Church, Conway, Ark. – Rick Bezet (2,000, 108 percent growth)
5. Valley Bible Fellowship, Bakersfield, Calif. – Ron Vietti (3,600, 52 percent growth)
6. Fellowship Church, Grapevine, Texas – Ed Young Jr. (3,000, 30 percent growth).
7. Thomas Road Baptist Church, Lynchburg, Va. – Jonathan Falwell (4,750, 37 percent growth)
8. The ROC (Richmond Outreach Center), Richmond, Va. – Geronimo Aguilar (2,100, 100 percent growth)
9. Redemption World Outreach Center, Greenville, S.C. – Ron and Hope Carpenter (2,000, 31 percent growth)
10. Champions Centre, Tacoma, Wash. – Kevin and Sheila Gerald (1,500, 30 percent growth)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Lessons from Disney

Devin Hudson is planting "Grace Point Church" on the northside of Las Vegas. I have his blog saved under "My Favorites" and came across this recent posting that caught my attention:

Lessons from Disney

Regardless of where I am, my wheels are usually turning as to how my present experience relates to ministry. It is difficult for me to get out of that mindset. Spending a week in Disney was a blast but it was also very frustrating realizing the impact a single mouse (or philosophy) has made upon much of the world while churches struggle to make an impact on the people who attend them not to even mention their communities or the world itself. Here are a few lessons I took from Disney.

1. First Impressions are lasting. If you have been to Disney, you know how well trained their "cast members" (employees) are. They are friendly, helpful, and always seeking to make your experience better. Sure you run into a fair share of employees who are not having a great day but the general tone of the park from the moment you arrive is friendliness and helpfulness.

2. First Impressions do not step once you have arrived. There is always help available. On more than one occasion I noticed a Disney employee approach a bewildered couple staring at a park map to ask of they needed help or directions. They are trained to look for opportunities to serve those at the park.

3. Efficiency and effectiveness are essential. The first time I went to Disney I was about 13 and I rode about 3 rides a day because you stood in line for 2 hours waiting for a 30 second ride. I hated it. If you have been to Disney in recent years, you know they have done everything they can to make their park more efficient which makes for a more effective experience. Fast passes and adding parks and rides has helped make the overall experience more positive. It also helps that we went during one of the slowest weeks of the year and rarely waited more than 5 minutes for a ride. Disney was already an enormous attraction without improving itself but it was not content to survive. Disney knew that to thrive they had to constantly improve their efficiency and effectiveness and that is what they did.

4. Excellence is a must. If you have been to Disney, you know how clean it is. You know how detailed it is. You know the high level with which they operate. Everything they do is done with absolute excellence.

5. A good blend of the old and new is not a bad thing. Disney has created some incredible new rides and attractions that are off the hook. Yet they have also held on to some timeless classics that draw huge crowds. What would Disney be without the Peter Pan ride and It's a Small World? They have not dismissed everything "old" as things progressed. They have built on the past for the future. Let me pause here to say that creativity does not always mean getting rid of everything "old". I have seen some churches that try to be so creative that they failed to build on the incredible foundation that has gone before us. Some elements of the church do not need to be replaced. Updated? Yes. Reformatted? Perhaps. But creativity does not always equal all things new.

6. There are some creative people in this world. Living in one of the most prominent entertainment cities in the world, I have learned that no church (yes that is an absolute statement) can "match" the productions that unbelievable creativity + unlimited money can put together. Grace Point is a creative church but we will never pull off a Cirque du Soleil show. Why? We do not have the millions of dollars necessary to put it together. There is no way the church can match the Fantasmic show that Disney puts on at MGM. We simply don't have the funds and it would not be wise to invest that type of money in entertainment even if we did have the coin. The creativity in a city like Vegas or a place like Disney is unbelievable. What we can do is tap into the creativity that God has placed around us to do what we can do with the resources God has provided. What we cannot do is be content with mediocrity because we do not have the same funding. We must learn to use what God has provided to be creative with simplicity and excellence. Here's the bottom line: a stage that can do a 180 in the air at a Cirque show does not impact someone's eternity. An animated cartoon character on a screen who can directly interact with the audience is impressive but it does not impact a community for Christ. Creativity for the sake of creativity or for the sake of sheer entertainment has no eternal value. We must seek creativity as a vehicle for the gospel but we can never seek creativity simply to "measure up" with a culture that is driven by the wrong values.

7. People will travel a long way for certain reasons. It is amazing how far people will travel to come to Disney World. I heard while in Orlando that over 50% of the people who come are international. I have heard that there are times when 70% of Vegas tourists are from overseas. It blows my mind how far people will travel and how much money they will spend to be entertained. What would it take for God to work in a church in such a way that people would travel for days to experience it?

8. All experiences have positives and negatives - try and leave people with the positives. Our trip to Disney was a blast. We had as much fun on that vacation as any we have ever had. But sprinkled amidst the fun were a few moments of frustration, anger, discipline, yelling, and impatience. Yet what I will remember were the fun times. Every environment has its positives and negatives. Fighting crowds, standing in line, waiting for the monorail, spending 45 minutes to get to your car, these are not the positive experiences at Disney, but these are not the moments I will remember. What I will remember is my children laughing, my son riding every possible ride he could ride, the funny faces we made for the cameras, getting wet on the water rides, and all of the positive moments that made our vacation so enjoyable. Principle: not every moment of the environments we create will be positive. But our goal must be for people to leave remembering the positive and not the negative. I love loud music, but if our music is so loud that is all the people remember (and not the song), we have missed it. I love creative illustrations and videos but if people leave and only remember the cute video and miss the life-changing message, we missed it. I loathe screen errors and misspellings. Not because I am such a perfectionist (well that is part of it) but primarily because it distracts from the central point. Create environments people will remember for the right reasons and not the wrong. Having the loudest band in town is cool unless it prevents you from connecting to the ones you are seeking to reach!

9. Connect to the kids and you will win over the parents. I loved Disney World because my kids loved Disney World. Actually Disney is not an adult-driven park. It is kid-driven. There are very few good roller coasters. Most of the rides are for kids but families come by the droves because their kids love it. Create environments that kids love and you will attract parents.

10. Eternity is bigger than a stupid mouse. I have to admit that I left Disney a little frustrated - frustrated because so much attention and money was given to a fictional character that makes no difference in someone's eternity. I also left Disney with a renewed passion to get people excited about the most important thing on earth - the gospel. Walt Disney created an empire around a mouse. Yet the church is part of an eternal kingdom that God has been creating throughout all of history. Now that's something to get excited about!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I think Seth Godin's insight matters for pastors!

Two kinds of 'don't know' (posted by marketing guru, Seth Godin)

I don't know French. I can't play the piano. I have no clue how to catch a bony spinefish. This is the first kind of don't know. Stuff you don't know because you haven't been taught it yet. Books are awfully good at solving this problem, so are good teachers.

The second kind of 'don't know' is often confused with the first type, but it's really quite different. This is the person who says they don't know how to cook, or that they can't balance a checkbook. This isn't about technique or a lack of knowledge. It's usually either fear or lack of interest. People with this type of deficit won't find the answer in a book or (usually) in a seminar either. You don't learn how to cook from a cookbook.

The answer lies in trial and error and motivation and in overcoming the fear that makes us avoid the topic in the first place.

And why should a marketer (PASTOR) care?

You need to care because if you try to solve the second kind of ignorance with a manual or a PDF or a blog post or even a long infomercial, you're going to fail. If you discover that users are afraid or resistant to what you're trying to get them to do, more information is almost always the incorrect response. The effective technique involves peer pressure and support and in changing the design and inputs of what you're doing so that this group is more receptive to what's on offer. For example, internet penetration isn't up by a factor of 20 because people read a lot of copies of Internet for Dummies. It happened because of what peers said to each other over time, and because the act of getting online is a lot easier than it used to be. And you can help that happen.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Joel Gorveatte... pastors in new assignments

Joel Gorveatte, my brother and the new senior leader at Tuscaloosa - First Wesleyan, is an amazing pastor and gifted writer. I always enjoy his blog and thought this posting would be helpful to other pastors in new ministry assignments:

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One of my recent prayers has been this: "Lord, I want to be teachable." Walking into this new situation, it is tempting to assume that you have all the answers and know how things should change.

Getting started as the new pastor at an established church however, I have realized the great need to first absorb things like a sponge. As I observe and learn, reserving judgments helps me to maintain a teachable spirit.

For anyone expecting me to immediately make sweeping changes at First Wesleyan Church, they may have to wait a little while. Instead, I am trying to get to know people. I am becoming a student of culture. I am asking lots of questions.

In conversations I am often floating out bits of philosophy to see how people respond. Some things need to be dealt with immediately, and that's what we've been doing. And we do know the ultimate goal: to become a church after God's heart, actively serving our community and bringing people to Jesus. But to accomplish that goal, our first priority is getting to know each other. And then...TOGETHER...we will figure out exactly how we're going to get where we're going.

In a recent article by Angie Ward, she wrote: "In addition to looking at ministry competence, one of the questions we continue to ask about potential candidates is whether or not they have it—that innate passion to keep learning and growing. It is much easier to fill in gaps in education than gaps in character. Teachability can't be taught.

Teachability is not determined by age, but increased age means an increased chances that bad habits and character traits are more permanently ingrained.

Neither is teachability directly related to giftedness. Again, there may be an inverse relationship: the more talented the leader, the more difficult it will be for her to be teachable because she may have been able to coast on giftedness. Give me a humble, teachable leader any day over the most talented pastor on the planet.

Teachability requires repeated long, hard looks in the mirror. It means constantly evaluating your effectiveness and developing new skills to meet the challenges in your current situation. It requires asking, "Am I the bottleneck here?" and having the courage to make changes if the answer comes back "Yes." It involves looking at your previous track record and recognizing that a history of repeated failures or bad experiences may reflect solely on yourself.

And it requires a commitment to grow in the context of community by letting others speak into your life. The teachable leader creates a culture where others can see the specks in their eyes because their leader is willing to pull the beam out of his own eye first. It is only when we are willing to learn from our mistakes that we will reduce the likelihood of repeating them."

Leader's Insight: It's Not My Fault
Why short-tenure leaders are doomed to repeat their excuses
by Angie Ward

Friday, September 14, 2007

Movitating Your People to Invite

Buildingchurchleaders.com is another good site for pastors. Here's recent posting from Pastor Dave Ferguson:

Ask the Experts Discussion: Dave Ferguson

How do you motivate your congregation to bring friends and family each week?

Since the vision statement of Community Christian Church is "helping people find their way back to God," we spend a lot of time dreaming, discussing, and talking about how we can do a better job of motivating our people to invite their friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers. As a result, during the last eight years, we have grown from 700 people in attendance to 5,000 people.

So here are a couple of suggestions:

Ask every week. We often overlook the most obvious solution—ask them! When is the last time you stood in front of your church and said, "Next week is going to be a great series to invite your friends, neighbors, family and co-workers to join you. Will you join me and ask someone who doesn't go to church to come with you?" We complain that people in our churches do not invite others, but do we ask them? Just about every week we ask our people to invite and include new people.

Ignite twice a year. Twice a year we do something we call "Ignite." Ignite is a combination of three key components: marketing, "wow," and invitation.

  • Marketing. For Ignite, we pick a high interest Big Idea and then spend some money marketing the series to the community. We have used a lot of different types of marketing: direct mail, billboards, newspapers, door hangers, and so on. Be creative.
  • "Wow." The "wow" is the reaction that we want from people who visit for the very first time. The "wow" will show up in every area of ministry—the "wow" of over-the-top hospitality from the time you pull into the parking lot to the time you leave. The "wow" will show up in our Kid's City and cause the kids to insist that they come back next week. The "wow" will be seen in our celebration service as we use our very best musicians and artists on those weekends. Everyone on our staff and volunteer teams takes everything up a notch to make sure we create a "wow."
  • Invitation. We challenge our people to bring three people with them during the Ignite series. We will give them high-quality invitations to put into the hands of their friends and remind them that 50 percent of all people who are asked to go to church will say "yes."

The twice-a-year Ignite campaign helps instill the value that we are all about "helping people find their way back to God" all year long.

(By the way, we learned a lot about Ignite from Cedar Creek Community Church in Toledo, Ohio—they are the experts and call it the BIG PUSH.)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

AoG planning 1000 new churches in 2 years!


(August 30, 2007)

U.S. Missions Executive Director Alton Garrison (right) introduces MX9 church pastors at the U.S. Missions Luncheon Friday. The Assemblies of God Executive Presbytery, U.S. Missions and the ReachAmerica Coalition are embarking on an aggressive church planting initiative with the goal of starting at least 1,000 new churches within the next two years.

National officials outlined details of the creation of the Church Multiplication Network and its MX9 pilot program Friday afternoon at a U.S. Missions luncheon at the Marriott Hotel in Indianapolis.

The ambitious combined effort represents a doubling of the current church plant rate. The MX9 acronym stands for the Roman numeral for 1,000 by 2009.

Even before the unveiling of details of the strategy at the lunch, AG officials had received commitments from personnel in the Fellowship to launch 346 churches by the 2009 General Council. By the end of the lunch, after the explanation of the project, the total number of pledges for new congregations had risen to 610.

The new congregations won't necessarily have red bricks and white steeples. The church plants will be meeting in shopping centers, movie theaters, rented schools, coffeehouses and homes. Some will be satellite churches and video spinoffs of existing primary congregations.

Steve Pike, director of church planting for Assemblies of God U.S. Missions, said MX9 signifies a revolutionary way of thinking about how to begin a congregation.

The heart of the plan is a pool of matching loans that will be available exclusively to AG church planters in partnership with districts or parent churches.

The AG initially will match whatever funds local church planters raise for start-up costs, with a $30,000 per congregation cap. That limit will be raised later as money is repaid into the account.

The interest-free matching funds will be in addition to monies distributed through similar programs in individual districts. The Assemblies of God has committed $2 million to the Church Multiplication Network, which Pike is directing.

U.S. Missions Executive Director Alton Garrison, who came to the luncheon directly after being elected assistant general superintendent of the Fellowship, said MX9 is crucial because church planting is the most effective way to reach the unsaved. Studies show new churches have a much higher ratio of salvation decisions and baptisms than established congregations. In addition, while existing churches grow primarily from membership transfers, the majority of church plants attendees are new Christians.

"MX9 will be a great catalyst to help us move forward in our calling as Christians to fulfill the Great Commission," Garrison said.

Naysayers may conclude that the nation already has enough churches. In 1900, the United States had 28 churches for every 10,000 people; today it's only 11 churches per 10,000 in population. Most states have dozens, if not hundreds, of communities without an AG church.

Videos shown at the gathering highlighted recent progressive and non-traditional church plants.

Around 1,200 people attend church plants of National Community Church in Washington, D.C. The daughter churches meet for seven services in three locations. Pastor Mark Batterson said he believes the multi-site locations are biblical and ordained by God. The primary site is in the
middle of the nation's political marketplace, in a theater at Union Station, just four blocks from the U.S. Capitol.

Elevation Church in Layton, Utah, involves nine house churches that meet together Sunday mornings in a cineplex. Pastor Trinity Jordan started the work two years ago with three families.

Last year, Pastor Maury Davis of Cornerstone Church in Madison, Tennessee, allowed a staff member to start an Assembly of God elsewhere in the Nashville area. Three other staff members, all with different giftings and interests, have planted regional churcDavis said the
attitude of sowing has not diminished Cornerstone; the mother church actually has grown in attendance - to nearly 3,000 - since the daughter congregations began. And the four church plants combined are now as large as the mother church.

Pike said the Church Multiplication Network will create a perpetual fund that should allow a significant stream of new churches to be funded indefinitely. The MX9 kickoff includes a realistic replenishment strategy designed to sustain and grow the original pool of funds from the fruit of the harvest itself, he said.

The Church Multiplication Network also will cover the cost of district church planting boot camps, which pioneering pastors are required to attend. Pike asserted that fresh churches have a better survival rate if partnership is involved.

"There isn't any other way to invest our time and money that's as productive as combining our resources for church planting," Pike said. "We have to overcome the thinking that everyone in America has been presented with the gospel. There are millions of people who are isolated
from any meaningful contact with the body of Christ."

While pioneering new works proved to be essential in the early days of the Fellowship, Pike said the practice slowed by the 1940s, after the establishment of the first generation of churches.

A renewed focus on church planting began in the 1990s, with the Decade of Harvest emphasis. Though hundreds of new churches have started since then, Pike said MX9 represents the first centralized strategy as well as source of funding to promote church planting....
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