Saturday, December 21, 2013
Friday, December 20, 2013
How Your Church Can PASTOR Your Guests This Christmas
By Rick Warren
If the two times of the year that guests typically show up for a weekend church service are Easter and Christmas, then we have an evangelistic mandate to make the most of the opportunity to welcome them, show them grace and love, and initiate a relationship with them if at all possible. The problem is, the people who attend faithfully the other fifty Sundays of the year often forget about the priority of welcoming and greeting those who are attending for the first time.
One of the most valuable things church leaders can be doing right now is reminding their members about the fundamentals of receiving guests. And that starts with a basic understanding of the kind of guests you’re going to meet at your Christmas services.
- There are those who come seeking – like the wise men
- There are those who come surprised – like the shepherd
- There are those who come distracted – like the innkeeper and his wife
- There are those who come kicking and screaming – like Herod.
In other words, your crowd will include those who are present with family but don’t really believe, or at least they don’t believe that Jesus is for them. Others may be hurt and in pain, but they’re giving the message of Jesus another shot and you’re His spokesperson. And many more will be coming in an enthusiastic search of a message for their lives – a message of hope and a spiritual family that will love and include them.
The Bible is clear that when people visit your church this Christmas, they will be coming into at lest two things…
1. They will be walking into “great light” according to Matthew 4:16. They’re going to experience (hopefully) the joy, the love, and the laughter of God’s people. The effect of the light of Jesus needs to be evident.
2. They will be coming to hear “good news” according to Luke 2:10. They’re also going to hear the truth about Jesus proclaimed in a way that is relevant to their lives. So the goodness of the good news needs to be evident also.
Philippians 2:1-4 tells us about the kind of attitude with which we should meet people. What do they need from us? They need encouragement. They need comfort. They need fellowship – every one of them needs a church family. And they need tenderness and compassion.
The world is not the most encouraging place around the holidays and many people who visit your service will be suffering from discouragement and depression as they reflect on a difficult year, those they’ve lost, or as they struggle with the stresses of finances and making time for family in a busy month. They need a word of encouragement from your church – a pat on the back, a handshake, and maybe even a hug!
Here are six tips for P.A.S.T.O.R.ing your guests – take them to heart and pass them along to your team. ~Tweet About This~
P – Pray with people.
Ask people how they are doing. If the answer is anything other than the standard “fine,” ask if you can lead them in a brief, personal prayer.
A – Ask to help.
Ask if you can guide them to where they need to go or help them in any way.
S – Smile.
A smile, in itself, can be a ministry of encouragement to people.
T – Take the initiative.
Make the first move in approaching people to welcome them, help them, and bless them.
O – Open the door of faith.
One of the greatest things that can happen is to see lay ministers sharing the gospel and offering to lead people to faith.
R – Recognize other lay ministers.
Great teams experience mutual encouragement. Thank someone else who is serving.
And finally, remember what I said earlier on Twitter
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
Monday, December 16, 2013
The Book of Proverbs has a lot to say about productivity. Not only does it teach us how we can be more productive, it teaches how we can be more biblically productive.
Some of these principles you can find in secular productivity literature today. (Indeed, many of the proverbs can be found in secular ancient Near East literature, verbatim.) But seeing them in God-breathed Scripture reminds us to adopt those principles with a God-centered perspective. Other principles in the list don’t get as much ink or pixels in productivity books or blogs. Let us consider how to incorporate those in our mindset and our workflow, so that we can glorify God all the more in the work that we do.
22 Productivity Principles from Proverbs
1. Productivity is a result of intrinsic motivation and self-direction. “Tools” won’t turn you into a productivity guru.
Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest. (Prov. 6:6-8)
2. Resist the temptation to continually chase new ideas. Focus on the responsibilities you have been called to do. Put the gifts and talents you have been given to work.
Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense. (Prov. 12:11)
3. Being responsible and diligent will probably lead you to opportunities for greater influence and leadership.
The hand of the diligent will rule, while the slothful will be put to forced labor. (Prov. 12:24)
Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men. (Prov. 22:29)
4. Productivity is messy. Don’t confuse being organized with being productive.
Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox. (Prov. 14:4)
5. But when everything is a mess all the time, that is a sign that you are not being productive.
I passed by the field of a sluggard, by the vineyard of a man lacking sense, and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns; the ground was covered with nettles, and its stone wall was broken down. Then I saw and considered it; I looked and received instruction. (Prov. 24:30-32)
6. In productivity – as in all things – talk is cheap. Don’t tell me your life mission statement, tell me the one step you took yesterday toward your most important goal or project.
In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty. (Prov. 14:23)
7. Laziness not only leads to less productivity, it creates obstacles for productivity. On the other hand, the more productive you are, the easier being productive becomes.
The way of a sluggard is like a hedge of thorns, but the path of the upright is a level highway. (Prov. 15:19)
8. Productive people are not know-it-all’s. They understand they will get better results if they get other people’s advice
Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed. (Prov. 15:22)
9. Planning is important. Planning shouldn’t be avoided on account of God’s sovereignty, nor should you elevate planning as if we can direct our destinies.
The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD. (Prov. 16:1)
Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established. (Prov. 16:3)
Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand. (Prov. 19:21)
10. Thoughtful progress over the long haul is better than quick bursts of effort that lack direction.
The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty. (Prov. 21:5)
11. Laziness is not neutral; ultimately it is destructive. It wastes time, money, and other valuable resources.
Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys. (Prov. 18:9)
12. The love of sleep is the root of all unproductivity.
Love not sleep, lest you come to poverty; open your eyes, and you will have plenty of bread. (Prov. 20:13)
13. An unproductive person reaches the height of his creativity while making excuses.
The sluggard says, “There is a lion outside! I shall be killed in the streets!” (Prov. 22:13)
14. A productive person finishes what he starts. The lazy person can’t complete the smallest of tasks.
The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; it wears him out to bring it back to his mouth. (Prov. 26:15)
15. The productive person knows that certain seasons call for certain kinds of work.
The sluggard does not plow in the autumn; he will seek at harvest and have nothing. (Prov. 20:4)
16. Productivity doesn’t mean everything always goes smoothly. It means you plow through the tough days to get something done.
If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small. (Prov. 24:10)
17. Being productive is not just about knowing what to do, but knowing the order and priority of what should be done.
Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house. (Prov. 24:27)
18. The vastness of your plans and aspirations are not the mark of your productivity. It is about what you actually accomplish.
Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring. (Prov. 27:1)
19. Though perhaps not in the short term, in the long term it is more productive to prevent the disaster that you see coming in the future.
The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it. (Prov. 27:12)
20. Don’t be ostentatious with your productivity habits. You’ll annoy everyone around you!
Whoever blesses his neighbor with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, will be counted as cursing. (Prov. 27:14)
21. Mundane chores and maintenance activities are an important part of being productive.
Whoever tends a fig tree will eat its fruit, and he who guards his master will be honored. (Prov. 27:18)
22. It is possible to be productive without looking like a productivity guru. Probably the most productive people are those who don’t need tools, apps, etc. Don’t try to look productive. Just get your work done!
Four things on earth are small, but they are exceedingly wise: the ants are a people not strong, yet they provide their food in the summer; the rock badgers are a people not mighty, yet they make their homes in the cliffs; the locusts have no king, yet all of them march in rank; the lizard you can take in your hands, yet it is in kings’ palaces. (Prov. 30:24-26)
While We're On The Topic:
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Avoiding the Coming Tsunami of Church Closure
In 1964 Bob Dylan released his third studio album “The Times, They Are a-Changin’.” As was typical of the music from the 1960s, political and cultural statements and protests were the norm. The times were changing. Some for the better (i.e. the Civil Rights Movement.) Others, maybe not (i.e. the sexual revolution.) Nevertheless, songs such as this and others that gained popularity became themes for a generation in flux.
Churches changed as well over time. Some for the better. Others. . .well maybe not. Over the last few decades we have seen the advent of the church growth movement, the growth of para-church organizations, the birth and subsequent death (well, basically) of the emergent church, the focus on being seeker-sensitive, the development of labels such as “traditional” and “contemporary” when it comes to worship styles (which by their nature are labels that mean different things to differnt people) and categorical shifts in emphases in areas such as youth ministry, family ministry, men’s and women’s ministries, and the like.
There are always those voices that speak of needed adjustments in church practice as culture changes. Some have wrongly attributed these changes to keeping the message “relevant.” That’s a misnomer. The Gospel is always relevant and always will be. The local church, however, that has been accused of sliding into irrelevancy often is just a victim of becoming an inwardly-focused organization that has forsaken the missional commands of the New Testament.
Hurry Up, We Have To Do Something!
Unfortunately, many churches realize they are on life support when it’s too late. Of course, with God, it’s never too late. I get that. However, I have been in numerous churches over the years, full of nice, loving people who have forgotten their mission. They gather, listen to sermons, go to Sunday school, worship through giving and singing, while the community surrounding them really doesn’t even notice they exist. Then, as if finally awakened from a deep sleep, they acknowledge they have had far more funerals in their building recently than baptisms and begin to see the writing on the wall. Something has to be done.
In some cases, these well-meaning believers hire a young pastor or maybe an associate pastor with the instructions to reach “those people out there.” It’s a noble gesture, but often doesn’t match true expectations. While the new pastor may have the greatest intentions to reach the community, and with the backing of those who called him to do just that, he often discovers the message given and the actual expectations are different.
While the instructions were to “reach those people out there” the actual, non-verbal instructions were “reach those people, but don’t force us to change anything in here.”
I have talked with numerous young ministers who have experienced this very thing. In most cases, they don’t last in these churches. In the most severe cases, they find themselves out of ministry fully.
Reaching Millenials While Keeping Boomers & Busters
Generational differences are real and as the times change they become more and more evident. Many church leaders track these trends, but others discover them naturally as one generation matures and the next steps into leadership roles. A church that only reaches an older generation will have a room full of wisdom and potentially no debt, but will not be as effective in reaching younger people in the community.
Conversely, a church thath only reaches Millenials will have a lot of energy and will “Like” ministries and movements that address social issues such as trafficking and justice, but will find it difficult to finish any significant task and may discover the funding to lack for all areas.
I’m not throwing stones. I’m simply stating facts. The Pew Research Center, as well as other surveying groups, have affirmed that young people (ages 18-29) are less religiously affiliated than any other generation in our nation. Unfortunately, the trending is that this number will continue to decline. The statistics mirror that which has been happening in Europe for decades. The times, they are a-changin’ it seems.
The rise of the “Nones” is alarming for those within the church. We discussed this last Saturday during our prayer gathering.
So, how does a church that desires to “be all things to all people” so that we may reach some for the Gospel, do this? How does an established church with almost a century of history adjust processes and programming in order to remain effective ambassadors for Christ in this culture? The answer may seem simple. It may even sound like a cliche, but when lived out fully, it is not. It is the Gospel in action. Regardless of generational makeup or church culture, living missionally is the key. It leads to viewing the community surrounding one’s church as the mission field. This inevitably leads those within the church to begin living as missionaries. Perhaps this is what God meant when he called us his ambassadors?
Living missionally removes the typical church marketing strategies that intend to sell a program or ministry to a community that doesn’t want or think they need it. No longer are church members bragging about their great church or the ministries offered. Here’s a newsflash – lost people aren’t thinking about the church and therefore, do not view what the church has to offer as something they need, much less want.
Living missionally leads Christ-followers to love their neighbors and to offer that which they do need – the good news of Jesus Christ. The Gospel! That changes everything.
Avoiding the Tsunami
I have seen a number of local churches in our city take steps to avoid the coming tsunami. These churches are different from the ones described above in one very significant way. These senior saints desire to see those in their changing community reached and are willing to sacrifice “their” church for the sake of the Kingdom. It’s an amazing transition. By sacrificing the concept of it being “their” church, they are affirming the reality that they are God’s church and the mandate given by Christ in the Great Commission is as valid today as ever. These “traditional” churches with a majority of older members are as relevant, and perhaps even moreso, as any “contemporary” church in the community.
Know the Times
In reading Pastor Mark Driscoll’s latest book, A Call to Resurgence: Will Christianity Have a Funeral or a Future?, some points really struck me the culture.
- It is estimated that one quarter of unmarried women between the ages of 29 and 39 are currently living with a partner and about half have lived at some time with an unmarried partner.
- Over half of first marriages are now preceded by cohabitation.
- Over 60% of high schoolers “agree” or “strongly agree” that cohabitation before marriage is a good idea.
- Churches that market themselves as a great place for the entire family, with service times on Sunday morning that work for young families, a great kids’ program, rocking student ministry, family camps, and daytime Bible studies for stay-at-home moms, are inadvertently telling the majority of Americans – singles – they are not welcome and to say away.
These points, and many others from various sources, all echo that which we know to be true – the western church is in trouble. In many cases, it is on life support, surviving on the tithes and attendance of an older generation while lamenting the fact that reaching the young, uncommitted “nones” is not easy.
Whoever said it would be easy?
God has promised that His church would prevail. However, he never promised that the local gathering on the corner that meets in a building with the name “church” on it would always be around. In fact, according to history, every local fellowship has a shelf-life. You don’t see anyone talking about the current work of the great church in Corinth or Ephesus any longer, do you?
So, while we’re here, we are called to honor God, spread the Gospel and do whatever it takes to be His uncompromising ambassadors in the community he has placed us. That focus and appropriate action will help us avoid the coming tsunami.
It must be less about “our” church and more about His.
- See more at: http://getreal.typepad.com/get_real_with_david_tarki/2013/11/avoiding-the-coming-tsunami-of-church-closure.html#sthash.Y7VzuNFI.dpuf
4 Steps to a Healthy Church Culture
By Larry Barker
“Love, Listen, Learn, and Lead! That is why we are here!” When I heard those words at a recent Global Vision Summit with Dynamic Church Planting International, it resonated with my heart. It caused me to think through how important the order is and the process of creating a healthy culture in our congregations and ministries. These four ingredients are paramount to moving our churches towards being healthy and reproducing. Every church must be driven by the Great Commission and recapture their vision to live on mission for God!
First, Love! We need to love our congregations and our communities. When Jesus looked on the multitudes He was moved with compassion. When you look at the people around you, are you broken hearted for them or are you just angry at them? Love your city enough to get involved and see it transformed one changed life at a time. We should love living where we live and not be trying to just tough it out or living in survival mode.
What impact could you have for Christ in the schools, in city government, in times of crisis, in local restaurants, and with the local policemen and firemen, to name a few? We are good at scolding but how good are we at loving them? People need to know that Jesus loves them and we love them. They need to know how deeply we care about them and are committed to them. Love means we are excited to live as missionaries in our zip code!
Second, Listen! The key is to stop always telling and start listening. You show people how much you value them and care about them by listening to their story. Alvin Reid in ReVITALize says, “The churches I observe who need revitalization have tended to reduce the gospel to the most brief and simple of presentations possible and tend to share the gospel with people they hardly know…” Who do I know that needs a listening ear? Who needs a shoulder to cry on?
Most people have moved past mass production and are looking for relationships. Our society now lives in the coffee shops where they can share their stories in community. They do not want a sales pitch but rather a more comprehensive perspective of the gospel by explaining creation, the fall, and how they can be rescued through Christ alone. But this demands our willingness to sit down with them, listen to them, and build a relationship with them.
Third, Learn! If we love the city and community we live in then we need to ask some very important questions. What is our city’s history? What are the values of the community we live in? What dreams and aspirations do the people who live here have? How can our congregation minster to them in practical ways that displays the love of Christ? How effective are we at reaching our communities for Christ? What is working and what needs fixing?
We must fight the temptation to continue using methods that are no longer effective. Many churches appear to be more concerned about maintaining their traditions than in pursuing people outside their walls and bringing to them the life-transforming gospel of Jesus Christ. When will we learn that the pain of slow death is worse than the pain of change? Moving a church from an inward focus to an outward focus is a major spiritual endeavor but is worth it!
Fourth, Lead! Here is the problem; many Christians believe their church exists for them! You hear from them, “What about me?” But spiritually mature Christians are asking, “What about them?” and are involved in the process of making disciples. The answer is not in scolding them because they are doing what they have been shown to do and what has been modeled. If living on mission were really valued than we would have already made the necessary changes.
The center of the church is Jesus Christ not us. Leaders in the church need to recall the membership to the reason we exist; to make disciples who make disciples! It begins by loving, learning, and listening to our congregations and our communities. Leading requires loving confrontation with the truth that maintenance, status quo, and being inwardly focus is living in disobedience to Christ’s commands!
Healthy cultures love, listen, learn and lead!