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Archive for April, 2013

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 38

38. A man can receive only what is given him from heaven (John 3:27).

Some perceive John’s ministry as being diminished by the rise of Jesus’ ministry. No longer is the Baptist the desert draw he had once been, but now Jesus and His healing miracles are drawing the crowds. How does John respond? John expresses no sense of threat in this, but seems content to do the work God has gifted him to do, while also rejoicing in the ministry his cousin is demonstrating. A leader must not covet the ministry of another, but learn to be content in what he is gifted to do.

 

Categories: Leadership Journeys

Assimilation – Putting the Pieces Together Part 7

Once you have effectively welcomed your new church friends and introduced them to key leaders and potential friends in your congregation, the final major piece of your early assimilation efforts is the newcomer’s orientation. Somehow, you must communicate the core components of life in your church if you expect people to engage that life with you.

This effort can take on a variety of designs. Some churches have a weekend event, others offer a 4-week class. Still others provide a DVD where the most important information is conveyed through video. Whatever approach will work best in your church, you must find a way to get your new friends started on the journey you want them to take. You must understand that new guests will struggle to connect if they don’t know what’s going on or why you want them to be a part of your church.

The content of a newcomer’s orientation is simple. Guests don’t need a detailed explanation of every ministry in your church. What they need is a clear explanation of the path you want them to walk. So, if your church wants them to connect with a small group, grow through a Sunday school class, and serve in a life-changing ministry, help them see that path. In a newcomer’s orientation, you are simply trying to finish this sentence–“As a part of our church family, we want you to experience…”

Some churches overwhelm new people with information they don’t really need. Too much of this type of info will block their view of the things they need to know. Empty-nesters don’t need details on all the children’s ministries and meeting times, but they need to see how they can connect their lives to your church. Make sense?

So focus on the journey you want them to take. Yes, you want every individual to build relationships in the church–that’s a key reason why offer small groups, so tell them that. Yes, you want every individual to grow in their understanding and experience of God’s truth and love–that’s why you offer classes and other growth settings. Yes, you know that real growth comes through serving, either in the church or in the community, so help them see the importance of making a volunteer effort. Layout the path and help them begin taking the first steps.

Without some type of newcomer orientation, we leave our guests to try and figure out the path on their own. That can take months, and if it does, many won’t still be attending with us when they could have been around long enough to figure it out.

And, by the way, when you help your new guests learn the why of the life of your church, you’ll discover that some of your existing congregation didn’t know the “why” either. A newcomer’s orientation can raise the bar of participation throughout your entire church.

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 37

37. Men loved darkness rather than light (John 3:19).

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised when sinners make choices that contradict God’s Word. Often, it seems the modern church reacts to sinfulness with an outrage that seems to imply such behavior was unexpected. Really? If the righteous can be expected to act righteously (hardly a given) then shouldn’t those who have not chosen righteousness be expected to act according to the path they have chosen? Mankind prefers to live and to act under the cover of darkness because there is a need to keep those actions hidden from the consequence of judgment. When such behaviors are brought into the light, they cannot endure the scrutiny of others. Once a choice is brought into the light, it’s power is gone and a price must be paid.

 

Categories: Leadership Journeys

The Brotherhood – Part 91

The Brotherhood of the Second Cross was established on Father’s Day 2005 where 160 men stood before their wives and children to pledge themselves to purity, self-sacrifice, loyalty, and excellence. Today, hundreds more have joined the commitment.

Social media is changing our world.

Today, we can exercise our angst, flirt with distant friends, and behave irresponsibly with virtually no accountability–all from the safe confines of a computer desk. The temptations that come from being “out there” are rising faster than our ability to address them in a healthy manner.

A decade ago, we were talking about how advances in medical science were moving faster than the ethical discussions of how to regulate them. Now, the technology stream has come to your house and opened doors that we haven’t determined to be healthy. We’re not just more connected than before, we are connected to everything!

Boundaries are needed and, unfortunately, no one will prescribe them for you. As a Godly man, you must choose to build healthy fences around your accesses. Remember that just because you can connect doesn’t mean you should.

Be careful of your friends. Now, I don’t just mean those who come by to grill steaks on your back patio. Be careful of your electronic relationships, with individuals, groups, organizations you know, and those you don’t.

Don’t use the internet to say things you wouldn’t say in person. It’s easy to be careless with words when no one will react in your presence. Be smart, be kind, be wise in your communication.

And encourage your friends–the real ones–to hold you accountable for your online behavior. When a friend sees you trashing a leader or passing on someone else’s vindictive post, you need them to correct your carelessness. Be that friend for others too.

Don’t let the ease of acting foolishly take hold of your behavioral choices. Be the man you are and don’t let your avatar behave differently.

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 36

April 23, 2013 1 comment

36. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world (John 3:17).

Many of God’s modern servants could use a dose of this reality. Condemnation and judgmental attitudes toward the world are commonplace in modern Christianity, at least in our nation. But Jesus’ mission was never to condemn the world. He did judge the inner thoughts and attitudes of religious people, an experience that many Christians likely would not find attractive, but He didn’t criticize the Roman culture or the broken behaviors of those on Jerusalem’s streets. He loved them, demonstrating the familiar truth of the preceding verse. His servants have that same mission and need to recognize that judgmental attitudes don’t change people’s hearts. Instead that spirit pushes people away. Love, as it turns out, is the only thing that changes people.

 

Categories: Leadership Journeys

Assimilation – Putting the Pieces Together Part 6

How do your new friends learn about the ministries of your church? If your answer is “Sunday morning announcements,” I think I might have some bad news for you.

While making announcements in services is a subject deserving of its own blog, the truth is that these aren’t as effective as you hope. Even where churches have high-dollar media budgets and can present their announcements with the same quality as the finest television commercials, Sunday morning announcements lack the personal touch you need to encourage a new person to risk yet another new environment.

If you want your new friends to start connecting with your ministries and events, the invitation has to be personal. That’s why a regular Newcomer’s event is a great way to introduce guests to the opportunities you offer.

A newcomer event scheduled quarterly, or even monthly where possible, provides a way for those who are new to the congregation to meet church leaders and learn important information about the church, its goals, and its ministries. In fact, at such an event, friendships can be formed and personal invitations can be extended to the ministry settings that will fit our new friends best.

In my experience, new people who attended a newcomer event were significantly more likely to continue attending the church. They began to feel like they knew us, and we were feeling the same way.

Some churches offer a meal event–an idea I really like. Free food has an appeal I don’t need to explain to you. And, when we scheduled the event immediately following our Sunday services, attendance grew considerably.

During the event, we served these new friends and had al of our church leaders attend to help maximize the connection. Our team’s job was to meet each individual and learn enough about them to introduce them to the rest of us. Not only did that mean we were getting to know them, but by the end of the event, the new friends had met and talked with more than a dozen people.

We also included a brief presentation of the history and values of our church, along with info on kids ministries. Our children’s pastor even assembled special game packs for the kids. Every member of the family was given the kind of welcome that would help them feel as special as they really were to us.

The event lasted about as long as it would take to entertain them for a restaurant meal, and many stayed even longer to enjoy more connection time.

The result, new people became involved in our ministries more quickly, felt like they new and understood the church more fully, and got started on some new meaningful relationships a lot more rapidly than if we’d just left the get acquainted opportunities to them.

Good assimilation demands that you provide an effective way for people to understand you and your church a lot better before they try to decide if they want to be a long-term part of your family.

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 35

35. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up (John 3:14).

I’ve never been totally at ease with this analogy. After all, the snake isn’t the most spiritually uplifting of God’s creatures. His role in sin’s beginning makes it hard to equate this creature with Jesus’ mission of love. But the Bible tells us that He became sin for us. He embodied sin, took it on himself fully, to the point that the Father had no choice but to turn from Him. It seems the analogy offers the shocking truth of what Jesus had to become in order to pay the real price for our sins. What a horrific thought. Jesus symbolized by a snake. But that’s what the sacrifice required and that’s the humiliating price He was willing to pay.

 

Categories: Leadership Journeys