Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Church On the Corner

The Church on the Corner | Love Your Neighbour

The key to evangelism is to create lots of opportunities for Christians to ‘rub off’ on those around them. “A woman came and did her community service sentence with the trust and she became a Christian. Her friend saw the change in her and she also became a Christian. One of them works for the trust now, and the first woman’s extended family is also coming to church.”

“Our dream,” says Russell, “is to be as much a part of the community as the corner dairy. A corner Dairy is an integral part of any community. It is a place that would be missed if it were to shut down and it meets a need in the area. Also, there is nothing mystical about a dairy, it is a normal and accepted part of life. This is what church should be, a normal and accepted part of life that meets people where they are at and at their individual level.”

Hmmm... church on the corner...

BTW, the "corner dairy" would be the local 7-11 or Tom Thumb in our culture.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Rick Warren Gets It, He Really, Really Gets It

One of the most polarizing names a pastor can bring up among other pastors and increasingly among church members is Rick Warren. The mega-church pastor, and author of the Purpose Driven Church, Purpose Driven Life and others is blamed for a lot as church go through change.

Well, it appears Rick is going to keep bothering people. And I'm glad he is.

At the "Q" conference in ATL, Warren said:

If I knew something more important than raising up believers, training them in discipleship and sending them out to engage culture, then I’d be doing it. But I don’t. (AMEN and AMEN - DW)


If God can create a fish to live its entire life in brine, yet not get salty, can God not protect us as we live in culture and engage it with the gospel? The answer is not isolation, nor imitation, but incarnation. What is it? It is insulation (from what is wrong) and it is infiltration (with what is right).

Too many churches today would rather be cute than effective. “I am addicted to changed lives.” (me too bro, me too - DW)

Marty Duren blogged the whole talk, go read the whole thing.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Why I Love Small Church

"Go big or go home" is what I heard from one pastor friend. "You've got to have a big vision" said another.

My denomination publishing house rolls out another program, calls it "Simple Church", and then charges $69 for a seat at the conference so you can learn how to be simple.

Well, I'll tell you how for $20. Send them by paypal please.

Here it is - love small church.

If you love small church, you won't have to be troubled by things that drive the guys in big churches crazy. Staff meetings are a breeze when it's just you. Worship planning never has a hitch when nothing is timed to the minute, especially since you never start on time. Budgeting is much easier, since you have no money to plan with, and have to depend on God to meet your needs rather than John Maxwell's friends and their stewardship skills.

Much of what is directed at me tells me I am a failure because I haven't led my church to exponential growth, aren't planning on satellite campuses, and have no plans to open a virtual community on Second Life. We don't even play rock music during our worship. GASP!

Ah but today brought with it a beautiful expression of God's grace in clear skies and warm breezes, as well as the opportunity to read David Fitch's article "Why Missional Community Is More Difficult And I Love It"

It was awesome. Here are a couple of excerpts - go read it. It's good for what ails you.

It is more difficult to take 10 people and grow a living organic body of Christ to 150 than it is
to transplant 200 or 300 people (or I have heard even 600-800) and then
grow that congregation to 5,000. Because a crowd draws a crowd.

It is more difficult
to build a community of people who know and care for one another, who
when they speak, they are heard, who when there is conflicts, all
participate in reconciliation and growth, than it is to
put on a production and provide religious goods and services where if
some people don't like it they can just go shopping elsewhere.

It is more difficult to preach a sermon to 100 people than it is to 8,000 people.

It is more difficult
to deal with conflict and leadership in a small organic church where
our conflicts, our vision, our weaknesses must all be talked about,
worked through.

Go read it all. Then forward it to the pastor of any small churches and struggling plants you know. David Fitch, you are my hero.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

How Leaders Should Lead

"No matter what your job is," Ortberg said, "you have an opportunity to live that out every day. Work gives you an opportunity to make a meaningful and significant contribution to the world. Unlike being in church, work gives you an opportunity to live out what it means when Jesus says, 'You are salt, and you are light.'"
Nancy Ortberg

I haven't always been a pastor. For most of my working career, I was employed as a sales representative for some famous consumer goods companies. So I got to see people who hadn't put their happy faces on, or were pretending to be something they were not, unlike what I see sometimes at church.

Working in organizations of tens of thousands meant that I was a very small part of a big machine. As just a part, I interacted with people in authority over me frequently as well as with people in authority within the businesses I called on. I met Sam Walton once, the presidents of companies like P&G, Kroger, etc. And I related daily with my bosses in my organization and mid-level management in our customer's concerns.

Leadership was a commodity that was not as common as one might think. There were people placed in the position as leaders, but who weren't. Just as there are people placed as pastors and leaders in churches, who aren't either.

Today I read an excerpt from a sermon by Nancy Ortberg. She describes an encounter with a person who exhibited true leadership. Her sermon was noticed by Rich Karlgaard of Forbes magazine, who though redacting her references to Jesus, was impacted by her desire to express was true leadership is. His article is called "Godly Work" and I urge you all to read it, as well as listen to Nancy's sermon on the Menlo Park presbyterian site.

An example from her sermon:

"It was about 10:30 p.m. The room was a mess. I was finishing up some work on the chart before going home. The doctor with whom I loved working was debriefing a new doctor, who had done a very respectable, competent job, telling him what he'd done well and what he could have done differently.

"Then he put his hand on the young doctor's shoulder and said, 'When you finished, did you notice the young man from housekeeping who came in to clean the room?' There was a completely blank look on the young doctor's face.

"The older doctor said, 'His name is Carlos. He's been here for three years. He does a fabulous job. When he comes in he gets the room turned around so fast that you and I can get our next patients in quickly. His wife's name is Maria. They have four children.' Then he named each of the four children and gave each child's age.

"The older doctor went on to say, 'He lives in a rented house about three blocks from here, in Santa Ana. They've been up from Mexico for about five years. His name is Carlos,' he repeated. Then he said, 'Next week I would like you to tell me something about Carlos that I don't already know. Okay? Now, let's go check on the rest of the patients.'"

Ortberg recalls: "I remember standing there writing my nursing notes--stunned--and thinking, I have just witnessed breathtaking leadership."

Yes she did. Go read the article, watch the sermon, and go lead.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

I See Dead People

Again and again over the last few weeks, God has shown me how little impact the church has on the culture. First it was Good Friday, when we had our Tenebrae service and at the same time, the Little league was going great guns across the street. Our parking lot LOOKED full, but it wasn't from people wanting to experience the bittersweets of Good Friday worship.

Then again today, the air show at the base began at 9AM, and the F-15 demonstration team acrobatics began at 11:30. I was talking with someone who had retired from the Air Force just a few years ago and he said, "that wouldn't have happened 5 years ago. They'd have waited until after church worship was over."

Our church is healthy relationally, active spiritually, and needy monetarily. Almost every church around us is bigger, has more facilities, staff, etc. But none of us is doing squat when it comes to reaching lost people for Jesus.

Tonight, we had a business meeting where we talked a while about the usual events planning, membership bookkeeping, and money. We need more. The cost of doing business is rising steadily, and income isn't keeping pace. The good people of New Hope in attendance stepped up and challenged each other to give more, to pray more, and to enlist others to do the same. It's obvious they love their church and its staff, and for that I am very, very thankful. My wife and I love them dearly.

But we may be on separate paths.

Their concern was to do what it takes to handle the financial emergency so we could keep things going as they are.

My concern was to do whatever it takes to handle the financial emergency so we could change things and become exponentially more effective in reaching people. That would ultimately involve selling our buildings and becoming the church that meets in the elementary school and in homes.

We're in a building now that seats 130 with a budget that needs 200. (based on what the average Baptist church member gives) Our money takes care of us by and large - not doing ministry, but Me-istry. And that's increasingly an issue that God won't let rest in my heart. I can't be simultaneously ineffective at reaching out and spectacularly effective at taking care of those already here. I can't enjoy this awesomely loving and giving group of people here, because I keep seeing the faces of the dead people outside, yet to come.

It is precisely at this point that we've arrived today.

And I go to bed now with a sense of loss.

Friday, April 13, 2007

I'm Just Saying...

It's gotten to be a joke between my bride and me - my use of the phrase "I'm just saying..." as I try to make a case for an opinion or qualify something I've said. One of the great joys of this life has been and is that I get to spend time with someone who knows me intimately and yet loves me as I am.

My wife has a knack for "helping" (I typed that wincing, BTW) me to see not just whether my arguments are good ones, but perhaps as important, whether the way I'm putting them forward is good.

You see, I'm a passionate guy.

This life, role, position - this whatever you call it - how about - Christ-follower- demands that I never "phone it in". I'm supposed to be ever learning, ever changing, ever growing as I follow Jesus as his disciple. Love for Him drives me to really work at that - every day.

But there are times when even while driving hard after being like Jesus, being conformed to His image, I wind up portraying just the opposite. And what's crazy, I can do it without even realizing it.

"I'm just saying..."

If my Spirit-filled wife is really good at pointing that out, there is someone who's even better.

The Holy Spirit.

So I'm reading the story of the prodigal son today in Luke, not looking for anything specific, just wanting again to experience how much God loves "lost" things and through that remind myself of how much He loves "lost" people.

You know the story. Guy gets full of himself, tells his old man he's splitting, and to give him his part of the inheritance. Dad does, guy goes off to Las Vegas (my modern day paraphrase) and loses it all, and winds up sleeping with the pigs and living low on the hog. Realizes finally what he left behind and gets up and goes to try to make it right. Has his apology well rehearsed, probably repeating it over and over as he nears his old home. But his daddy, whose been pleading with God every day for him, and expecting God to bring him home, sees his son coming and runs to meet him. Grabs him. Hugs his filthy self and tells him it will be okay. BBQ ensues. (irony there, eh?)

With me so far?

Ok. Here's where I found myself in the story today.

28 "The older brother was angry and wouldn't go in. His father came out and begged him, 29 but he replied, 'All these years I've slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. 30 Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!' Luke 15:28-30 (NLT)

I could see the older brother, seeing what went on and getting furious. Then as we used to hear in Georgia, he "showed himself."

All those years he spent doing the right thing - for the wrong reason - had changed him alright, but not in the way they should have. They made him more cynical, more willing to find fault in others, more blind to faults in himself.

When his daddy protested 'Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. 32 We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!'"

Luke 15:31-32 (NLT)

I could hear that older brother say,

"I'm just saying..."
Friends, that's just wrong.

And I thank God for the people He's put in my life to help with the corrections necessary sometimes when I start to veer off the Way.

What about your life, if you were able to step back and see it as others do, would make you realize that changes were needed to get back in step with the Spirit?

Maybe it's time to really commit to becoming part of a community of faith where each person holds the other accountable to Jesus, in love. Maybe it's time to really follow Jesus as His disciple.

I'm just saying... :)



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Thursday, April 12, 2007

They're Back!


One of the great blessings of being a pastor here is being around some of the greatest folks I have ever known - our military. If I had been younger when I came here, there's no doubt Bunny and I would have sought to join the Air Force as a chaplain and wife.

Every few years, we have an air show, and the Thunderbirds come. New Hope being directly under the final approach path, I'll go outside and get treated to an air show over the parking lot. Today was practice, tomorrow they will do a show for the military and dependents on base, and the air show is Sat and Sun.

Talk about teamwork, and trusting your teammate!

Now we return to our regularly scheduled church stuff.
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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

It's Early, But This Did Make Me Pause

From the comment stream after one of John Frye's excellent posts at Jesus the Radical Pastor

Doug Jones wrote
... one result of this kind of church (where we are concerned about numbers, measurement of "growth" and expansion) has convinced many that Christianity is really just a system of moralistic, therapeutic Deism (Christian Smith, Soul Searching). In other words our churches are successfully helping teach too many that God is something like a combination divine butler and cosmic therapist, who comes when called, helps you to feel better, but doesn’t get too personally involved.

And we wonder why people aren't more committed to the work of the Body of Christ? What work? What Body?

Our theology has to include, but progress far past "Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so." We have to help people create a holistic view of their place in God's overarching plan for the Kingdom of God.

I'm beginning a series on that plan as revealed in Scripture. My hope is to ground people in that understanding of the work of the Kingdom of God and my prayer is that the Holy Spirit moves them into the flow of God's work all their lives.

Act One - Creation begins this Sunday. Stay tuned.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Moving At the Speed of Love


Kosuke Koyama wrote an article called Three Mile an Hour God:

God walks 'slowly' because he is love. If he is not love he would have gone much faster.

Love has its speed. It is an inner speed. It is a spiritual speed. It is a different kind of speed from the technological speed to which we are accustomed.

It is ‘slow' yet it is lord over all other speeds since it is the speed of love. It goes on in the depth of our life, whether we notice or not, whether we are currently hit by storm or not, at three miles an hour.

It is the speed we walk and therefore it is the speed the love of God walks.

It's Easter. I've got 3,287 things flashing through my brain. Lord, help me to let You set the pace. Let me walk with the people who come tomorrow at the speed of love.

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Hmm... Study on Church Hoppers

Most Church Switchers Choose Non-Traditional Worship |

In a series of studies on adults who switch churches, LifeWay Research found "church switchers" often choose a new church that is different in several ways from their previous church. And most do not end up attending traditional services as they formerly did.

According to the study, 53 percent of church switchers attended traditional style worship. Of that, only 29 percent switched to churches that hold traditional services. The most popular worship styles among church switchers are blended worship (38 percent) and and attend a contemporary worship (33 percent).

"Clearly, selecting a new church with a more contemporary worship style is a current trend," said Scott McConnell, associate director of LifeWay Research, in the report. "These changes are intentional, as indicated by eighty percent finding worship style an important factor in selecting a new church."

Nearly half (46 percent) of those who switch churches move to a larger church, the study also found. Meanwhile, 29 percent switch to a smaller church and 25 percent choose a church the same size as their former church.

Among those who attended a church with 100 or less people, 79 percent switched to a larger church.

Among people who attended a church with more than 500 in worship attendance, 57 percent moved to a smaller church.

“The trend clearly shows church switchers are moving to larger churches,” McConnell noted in the report. “However, there is a smaller counter-trend among those who attended larger churches; some of them select smaller new churches.”

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Poking Around In Dark Corners

Tonight I broke into the dark corner of the Scriptures that is the book of Numbers. I've been a follower of Jesus for 33 years now, and I have never heard or been taught anything about this book. Never studied it. Never read anyone else's work on it. So all of this is new information to me.

That kind of ticks me off.

Jason's point after my last post was that we have a tendency to stay very close to the water's edge when it comes to our study of the Bible. It's "Jesus saved my soul and I'm going to heaven when I die" all the time from day one to day 5,201.

And yet as I've progressed through Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus and now Numbers, I can see just how much we have been missing - how much I have been missing.

Ray Steadman says of the book:

In Numbers we have dramatically set forth what is perhaps the hardest lesson a Christian has to learn – to trust God instead of his own reason.
This is where we struggle, isn’t it? We think that what we want to do and the way we want to do it is the right way. The hardest struggle we have, even as these Israelites had, is to learn to believe that God knows what he is talking about and that what he tells us is the truth, and is for our good, and to operate on that basis despite what friends and others around are telling us concerning the right way.

Given that, wouldn't it make sense to study this book?

Monday, April 02, 2007

Bibles and Bible Study

Last night I finished a small group study of Rick Warren's Bible Study Methods. I was able to find some of the charts he uses online for people to take home with them, which made teaching it much easier.

I went over to my office and grabbed a few of the tools I have used over the years for Bible study. Now I basically am an internet user, but I used to have to pull books like Strong's Concordance, Bakers Bible Dictionary, Robertson's Word Pictures, etc. off the shelf to do serious work. The internet makes that simpler, and good Bible study software like Bible Explorer really helps a lot.

We looked at various study Bibles as well. Remember how awesome it was when the NIV study Bible came out? Then the Life Application Bible, the Hebrew-Greek Study Bible and all the rest really accelerated a person's ability to dig deep without having to carry a library with them.

But which version to choose? Well, I'm an NLT, HCSB, Message man myself. Here's a link though to Wayne Lehman's studies on evaluating English Bible versions.

I came away from last night's group believing that we needed to do a much better job of teaching our people how to study the Word. The people around the tables with one exception had been Christians for decades. They should already be past this and they weren't. Where does that leave the new believer?

We need to help people grow deeper. Next week's project is to develop a vehicle to get that done.

Getting Your Church on the MOVE!!!

Now these people know how to get a church MOVING!!!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

The Super Bowl, World Series, World Cup and the Masters

Well, it seems like that way.

It's Holy week.

Even people who don't think about church the rest of the year think of it during Holy week. Maybe it's the blizzard of invite cards from churches. Maybe going to CVS for Easter candy stirs their memory. But it is one of those times of opportunity.

At New Hope we're working through our people, equipping them with invitations for their friends, coworkers, neighbors and loved ones, and asking them to personally invite them. We prepared two types, one for adults, and another for youth and older children. Personally, I like "Come Hang Out With Your Peeps", but that's just me.

Later this week we'll have a family time of communion on Thursday and then our Service of Shadows on Good Friday. That is a time of darkness and reflection on the cost paid for our sins. It is my favorite service all year. I need to remember.

And then Easter - CELEBRATION!!!

But after the crowds, then what? I was grateful for Gary Rohrmayer's blog post on how to follow up on Easter. "The "Next Steps" Principle" is an excellent primer on just how to make Easter the jumpstart you want your church to experience.

What "Next Steps" are you going to offer this year?