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Archive for March, 2015

The Big 5 Questions: Their Answers Will Revitalize Your Church – Part 2

Last time, we introduced the first of our five questions:

QUESTION 1: How do we engage new people?

Now that you’ve had some time to think about the various ways your congregation engages new people, let’s assume that you need to find some additional ways. After all, your current level of engagement is what is producing your current level of health and growth so…if you perceive a need for improving in that area, well, we’ve arrived at a first step.

Who should your congregation be engaging?

We could certainly start with the people you are already connecting with, but not truly engaging. For example, imagine the “contact list” of just one of your congregation members. Nearly all of us know what such a list is all about–names that dot our iPhone contacts, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, and so much more. Among those names are family members, coworkers, neighbors, and many others we have gathered under the label of “friends.” Now, your people are contacting such folks all week, but are they engaging them for kingdom purposes?

For your congregation to spring forth in new life, you’re going to need to engage some new people, and there’s no better place to start than with those your people are connecting with already. So, how can you help them be more successful in such engagement? At our church, we held a “Single Mom Care Day” where we encouraged our people to invite all the single moms they knew to a day of being “spoiled” by our church. They invited and came with their single mom friends, enjoying a day of free stuff (haircuts, clothes, food, school supplies, oil changes, and other services). These ladies were their friends, so we created an environment where their church helped them bless their friends. Many single moms were in tears at the abundant help they were given, and who did they thank? Their friend! You can imagine how much easier the deeper conversations flowed after that.

A second place to engage new people is in the church’s physical neighborhood. Too many churches no longer reflect or maintain a connection to their immediate neighbors. But these are the folks within walking distance of our gatherings. They’re literally “right there” to receive love and friendship, so maybe we can find some ways to do that together. Why not sponsor a project that the neighbors would benefit from? Maybe a block party? Maybe a yard cleanup day? Maybe a neighborhood BBQ competition?

Finally, I’m a big fan of finding ways to take your congregation’s strengths outside your walls. Do what you do well, just do it “out there.” Maybe take one of your excellent teachers and set her up in a community room, teaching marriage or parenting stuff. You could take your musicians to the park and give a community concert. What if your quality children’s workers prepared an event for the local elementary school? You could have your best cooks bless the community with bake sales where the cookies are FREE! Better yet, leave some of those cookies in the teacher’s lounges at your local school.

You see, the goal is to engage people and find ways to do it together. The more answers you find to our first question, How do we engage new people?, the sooner you’ll find yourself on a road toward a healthier day. Remember that outward focus is the necessary catalyst for greater church health.

In our next blog, we’ll tackle the second of our five questions…

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 217

  1. “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet” (John 13:10).

Given that there’s no indication of Peter or the others bathing prior to this particular evening, one wonders what Jesus might be referring to in this statement. He goes on to point out that one of them isn’t clean (Judas) because his heart is soiled by betrayal. It seems Jesus is showing us that we must have God’s daily washing, even though our hearts our pure. Peter, and most of the others, are genuine in their pursuit of Jesus. Unlike Judas, their hearts aren’t divided but they are wholeheartedly following after their Master. Still, they must be washed for each of their lives have been touched by sin.

Categories: Leadership Journeys

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 216

  1. “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me” (John 13:8).

Everything begins here. If we can have relationship with God, we must be washed. We must be cleansed so that we can engage a perfectly holy and righteous God. But what may be most difficult is realizing what must happen for such cleansing to occur–Jesus must die! In this moment, Peter finds it difficult to allow Jesus to lower Himself to the role of a foot-washing servant. Imagine how difficult he will find it to allow Jesus to die in his place. If Jesus as servant is unacceptable to this fisherman, surely Jesus as sacrificial Lamb is even more frightening. How it must humble us to realize what He has done for us.

The Big 5 Questions: Their Answers Will Revitalize Your Church – Part 1

In our work with hundreds of churches over the past several years, we have come to conclude that there are five questions every congregation must ask if they will see the effectiveness of their church increase. These five questions can rescue the declining church and propel the strong church to greater heights. These five questions motivate the best of congregational actions and are virtually guaranteed to increase a congregation’s ability to achieve the Great Commission. Build good answers to these five questions, and it won’t be long before you’re reaching the full potential of your congregation.

Now, that I’ve hopefully whet your appetite by making promises that could seem unrealistic in your particular setting, let me show you the proof and the truth of what I’m promising. These five questions, and our determination to answer them, form the basis of the assignment we’ve been given. As you’ll see, each is built on the apostolic assignment and was proven effective long before the ink on New Testament pages was dry. In other words, this isn’t our stuff–it’s the Bible’s stuff!

So here we go…

QUESTION 1: How do we engage new people?

Now, that doesn’t exactly sound like biblical phrasing, but it’s the question Jesus frequently used to challenge His disciples–LIFT UP YOUR EYES!

The idea in this question is, how do we make contact with people outside of our current circle? How do we interact with folks who don’t currently attend, have never attended, and don’t really plan on attending our local church? Are they a “them” to us or do we see them as potentially a part of the “us.”

Virtually every congregation we have surveyed over the past five years will tell us that among the five functions of the Church (Fellowship, Discipleship, Service, Evangelism, Worship), their least effectiveness is found in evangelism. Fellowship and Worship are usually their perceived strengths, but reaching others with the Gospel isn’t something their congregation members prove to accomplish effectively. Sure, some will say that if they bring them in, Pastor has proved effective at bringing them to the altar, but given that there might be a hundred of us in the room each week and only one or two outsiders, well, few if any of us are having success at reaching others. On average (in Assembly of God churches) it takes four or five of us to lead one person to Jesus EACH YEAR! I can’t think of any other environment where that would seem like a high rate of effectiveness.

One of the likely causes for our struggle is that of the five functions listed above, this is the one we expect people to accomplish on their own. We worship together, fellowship together, provide discipleship settings to engage together, and serve together. But when it comes to evangelism (a subject pastor preaches on more than the others), we anticipate them doing this AFTER they leave us. “Go get ’em,” is the essence of our strategy in most places.

Could evangelism become a team sport like the others? Is there a way to do this together other than the two or three that have proven willing to go knock on doors? In our next blog, we will explore some team efforts that are proving effective in various places and, hopefully, we’ll stir some ideas to help you offer new answers to this question.

For now, make a list of the ways in which your congregation currently answers this first of our five questions. Frankly, until we find good answers to this question, the remaining four are only marginally important.

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 215

  1. “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet” (John 13:8).

How can we allow the perfect Son of God to become sin for us, to sacrifice Himself on our behalf and somehow give to us what only He could deserve? Peter’s resistance isn’t hard to identify with when you grasp its true nature. Jesus just can’t be doing what He’s doing for us! No servant would sit comfortably while his Master did the serving work. Guilt would immediately propel that servant to action. Peter cannot envision the importance of this moment and what it truly means, but his issue isn’t that his feet were clean. He knew better than that. He just couldn’t see Jesus serving Him–and perhaps when we understand who Jesus is and what He has done, we will (for a time) feel the same way.

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 214

  1. “You do not realize now what I am doing” (John 13:7).

This may be the most important statement made in Scripture concerning the life of a disciple. “You do not realize…” Indeed, this is the very nature of a life of following. Often we cannot grasp the “why” or the “how” of where we are headed. We cannot understand the place of His leading or the reason we must walk through particular storms. Since it is Jesus who makes this statement, we can assume a certain normalcy to this reality. He is telling Peter that he doesn’t yet realize the import of this moment or its place in God’s plan. But someday He will. And the fact that such a “someday” exists lets us know that while God walks us through places where faith alone can guide us, a day will come when knowledge and understanding will follow.

A Pastor’s Battle with Insecurity – Part 16

How do you react when someone applauds your efforts? For a pastor, the moment of appreciation has an awkwardness that’s hard to fully grasp. Yet, managing this moment and receiving gratitude in a healthy manner are essential for building self-worth.

Over the past four months, we’ve been exploring the pastor’s battle with insecurity. We’ve considered what forms of expression that insecurity can take, the type of moments when it can rear its ugly head, a simple strategy for winning those occasional battles, and, more recently, have been looking at some biblical help for improving our sense of value. God has much to say about our identities, our brokenness, and the purpose with which He has christened our lives.

In this last installment of the series, there’s one more biblical idea that should connect with our struggle—the giving and receiving of blessing.

  1. GIVING AND RECEIVING BLESSING

You must learn to let others love and bless you, and do the same for them.

Perhaps it’s culturally drawn, but the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, contains stories of multiple occasions where one is blessed or extends a blessing to another. This somewhat unusual practice was actually quite common within families, as one generation defined its view of the future with blessings for each of the children.

But the giving of blessing occurred outside the home as well. Melchizedek blessed Abraham, kings blessed their warriors and were blessed by prophets, and there is ample additional evidence that gaining a blessing was considered a treasured moment. Even Jesus used this expression as He blessed or called attention to those who were doing good, like the widow giving her significant offering and a group of dancing children who became His picture of faith. He even provided us with a series of statements that define the one who will be blessed.

For pastors, modern moments of blessing are a bit more difficult. We can find ourselves extending God’s blessing over people’s households, possessions, marital unions, and newborn children. In those moments, we recognize that we speak such blessing on God’s behalf and ask Him to demonstrate that blessing in measurable ways. But will God bless what we bless?

And what of receiving. Here things become especially challenging. Many pastors struggle to feel appropriate in any response to someone’s appreciation. “Great sermon, Pastor!” The well-intended applause is usually met with a sheepish smile or some clever quip that seeks to take the spotlight off one’s self, like “Well, the Bible’s a great book,” or the smiling, “Praise the Lord!” Every pastor has been told that if you do things for man’s attention then you have your reward. Jesus said that. So we are quick to redirect all appreciation because we cannot allow ourselves to feel worthy of such sentiment.

Of course, there’s another extreme. Some pastors feel so underappreciated that they’ve decided their people owe them. They can’t receive praise in a healthy way either because they don’t trust such expressions or they demand them. I once met a pastor who wanted to plan his own Pastor Appreciation Day, so he handed out assignments to his puzzled people and expected them to put their hearts into it!

Here’s some truth.

When we are losing the battle with our insecurities, we find it especially difficult to bless or be blessed. Instead our internal struggles twist and warp such sweet moments into something sour or tasteless. But a little work in this area can help rewrite your internal programming a bit. So let me offer you two steps that can start making a difference:

First, Pastor, it’s okay for your people to appreciate you. Like every other human being, such affirmation is a part of healthy self-worth. For the same reasons that you pat your own kids on their backs, you need a few pats too. When someone expresses gratitude for your efforts to care for them, just say “thanks” or “glad I could help.” Smile and receive. You see, pastoring has many moments that aren’t affirming, so don’t push away the ones that are. I’ve kept every card, every “thank you” letter, and every picture a toddler has drawn of me during a worship service. I keep them in a fat envelope in my desk drawer, and I pull them out every now and then, especially when I want to remember the special moments and special people God’s has brought to my journey.

Second, Pastor, look for ways to bless others. Applaud them when they live your church’s values. Pat them on the back when they offer the simplest acts of service. Celebrate their victories with a Facebook post or a card. When you get into the habit of blessing others, your own sense of value expands and you become less susceptible to the twinges of insecurities.

Blessing and being blessed can get their own chicken-and-egg cycle working. The more you bless others, the more you cultivate an environment where others do the same. See you people through a critical lens and you shouldn’t be surprised when they wear the same glasses as they look at you.

Ultimately, each of us serve for the pleasure off our Master, and we all look forward to a final day when we hear words of blessing like, “well done, good and faithful servant…” Maybe God doesn’t want to wait to tell you some of that, so He’s going to send a few of His friends to you with that message. Receive them with gratitude, knowing He’s the One who sent them.