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Posted on Mar 28, 2016 in Blog, Church, Featured

Easter Isn’t Over, Neither Are You!

Easter Isn’t Over, Neither Are You!

Easter has just begun. We celebrated the beginning of Easter yesterday. But Easter is a long season. Seriously. According to the Church Calendar, Easter lasts until the season of Pentecost, which is approximately 50 days after Easter. So, from now through May 15, we are in the season of Easter.

So, don’t you go thinking that resurrection thing was just a one day deal. That’s not true. The resurrection changed everything. Yes, the fact that Jesus died on the cross was important, but if Jesus did not conquer the grave, we are crazy to spend our lives following him. In fact, our entire faith is futile. Without the resurrection, we don’t even have victory over our sins.

14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either.17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. ( 1 Cor. 15:14-19)

The resurrection changed everything. Easter is not just a day, it’s a season. Resurrection is not just a day, it’s whole new way of thinking. You are no longer dead in your sins, you are alive in Christ. Your savior is not rotting in a borrowed grave, He is alive. He appeared to hundreds of witnesses to prove the fact that he was alive again. And hundreds of witnesses saw him ascend into heaven. And Stephen saw the heavens open to see Jesus sitting at the right hand of the Father. Jesus is alive.

Resurrection Sunday is the day we celebrate the event, but resurrected living is an entirely different thing. Once we have put our faith in and belief on Jesus, we are no longer dead, but alive again. We were the walking dead, but Jesus cured us from out death. So now, you are alive. Alive like you’ve never been before. Your life is being transformed. Your mind is being renewed. You are no longer operating under the old system, but are being redeemed and restored into a new world.

Because of the resurrection, you now have victory over sin, victory over death and confidence to approach the throne. The curtain was torn, and you can enter into the holiest place. Actually, you now become the holiest place because God resides in you. You are the dwelling place for the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God dwells in you.

All this is because of the resurrection. You have new life because of Jesus’ new life.

But, just as Easter isn’t over, neither is your responsibility as a follower of Jesus Christ.

Remember, Jesus appeared to hundreds of witnesses after he came back to life. And there were hundreds of witnesses who saw him ascend into heaven. Just before he ascended, he told his followers something:

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

Jesus’ followers had witnessed Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection and ascension. And he told them, you will now be my witnesses – telling people the story of what they had seen – to Jerusalem (where they were), Judea (the bigger region), Samaria (to the people in surrounding areas, some who had previously been outcasts) and the ends of the earth (everywhere else.)

We are witnesses too. We may not have seen Jesus with our own eyes, (even though we have plenty of evidence for the story of Jesus) but we have witnessed other things. We have witnessed the resurrection power of Jesus in our own lives. We have witnessed the new life we have received because of Jesus. we have witnesses the resurrection power of Jesus in the transformed lives around us. We are witnesses who have a story to tell.

Just like Easter isn’t over, we aren’t done yet either. You might be thinking to yourself:

“I invested time and resources to invite someone to Easter, and they came. So, I did my job, I’m done now. Right?” 

WRONG! You have only just begun. “But isn’t it the “church’s” job to make them disciples?” Yes, it is. But, who is the church? The church is not the pastor. The church is not organization. The church, actually ecclesia is the right word (ecclesia means: called out ones)…the church/ecclesia is the community of believers. You and I together are the church. We are the church. We are the body of Christ. Together we make up the body. We cannot be individually the body of Christ, we must be in community.

That means, that you have a role to play in making disciples. Yes, you did a fantastic job investing in someone and inviting them to church. And I applaud you for that. Seriously!! Great job! Bravo! But, don’t let up now.

Don’t miss the opportunity to solidify the commitment of the person you invested in. Don’t miss the opportunity to follow up and give your invitee the opportunity to ask questions. Don’t worry about having all the right answers. If you don’t know, just tell them you don’t know, but you’ll figure it out.

Right now, while they are interested and hopefully excited about Jesus is the best time to solidify them in that commitment. Don’t let that seed go to waste. Don’t let the worries of the world spring up around that seed of the gospel that was planted and choke it out. They need you around them, helping the seed to grow. They need the health of other believers and Christian community to encourage them in this new walk.

Don’t miss the chance that you invested so much time and energy in. They’re worth it. And Christ in them is worth it. Do whatever it takes! Keep going. Keep investing. Keep pursuing them. Keep inviting them to church. Keep up the good work.

You’ve only just begun.

You invested time and resources to invite someone to Easter, and they didn’t come. That’s all I can do right? 

WRONG! You’ve only just begun.

“I spent time with them. I tried to meet their needs. I did what I could to invest in them. And I invited them to Easter, but they didn’t come. What else can I do?”

For some, it can take a long time of investing and investing and inviting and investing and investing and inviting before they’ll ever agree to come. And potentially even longer before they are willing to consider Christ. I believe this process of investing is going to be taking longer and longer the more our culture becomes hostile toward Christianity. It’s not like it used to be.

Don’t lose what you’ve invested to this point by avoiding this person or avoiding the issue. They didn’t come to Easter, that doesn’t mean we stop caring about them. It means we keep caring. Perhaps caring more than we did before. Maybe we need to try different things. I don’t know what to tell you because it’s different for every person we’re trying to reach just like it’s different for each of us doing the investing. All I know is that we must continue on.

You’ve only just begun. Don’t stop now. Don’t hesitate to invite again. Don’t lose what you’ve invested.

Jesus is still risen. The resurrection is still the most significant event of all time. God is still drawing people to himself. The gospel is still good news and the Spirit is still active.

Easter isn’t over. Neither are you.

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Posted on Mar 4, 2016 in Blog, Church, Dear Leader, Featured, Humility, Leadership, Unity

An Open Letter to Andy Stanley From the Pastor of a Small Church

An Open Letter to Andy Stanley From the Pastor of a Small Church

Dear Andy,

First off, I love you. Seriously. I’ve spent a lot of time studying your way of doing things. I’ve been an Andy Stanley champion for a decade. I’ve bought your books and ready them. Some of them more than once. There is great insight in them for up and coming pastors like myself. I’ve used your podcasts, I’ve bought books you’ve recommended on your leadership podcast. I’ve loved having you as a source of wisdom and input into my ministry since I discovered you in 2005. So, I feel like I’ve known you for over a decade.

Second, I don’t normally write these kinds of posts. I generally try to write posts that will help the people I know and lead be better disciples. Most of them don’t know about Andy’s remarks, and probably never would. But, in this instance I feel compelled to respond. And, I feel like I may have something to offer you for a change. And, I’m hoping you’ll hear me. Chances aren’t great you’ll ever read this letter, but it’s worth a shot. I’m not anti-mega church like so many. We can disagree without hating each other, right? More on that later.

Third, my intent in writing this letter is to share with other pastors of small churches some of the things I’ve learned – which is being pointed out by the response to your comments. I was offended, though I’m trying not to be.

Recently, you preached a sermon at your church, where you spoke ill of small churches. And from the outcry I’ve seen on Facebook and Twitter, you’ve had your hands full dealing with the backlash as a result. (The video is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gZhhpiU4d0A). I’m sure that’s not been fun. But, I’m also sure you’re learning a lot from it. At least, I hope you are.

Since you were pretty direct and blunt in your remarks, I’ll just go ahead and be blunt and direct in my response as well. You said some pretty stupid things in that sermon. I get where you were coming from, but I think you probably could have been a little more careful. I’ll be honest. I didn’t go watch the whole sermon. I didn’t care to after what I saw and heard. I’ve listened to a lot of your sermons over the years. I’ve shared them with my friends, family and church.

Along with being the pastor of a small church, I’ve worked in several mid-sized to large churches as well. So, in part, I understand both worlds. Not to the level you do, but I get more than many. That said, I’m not one of those “mega churches are evil” people. I see you reach a lot of people for the kingdom. And I thank God for what you and so many other mega churches are able to do.

But there were some words that are going to be hard to get over. And as a result, will change the amount of influence I’ll allow you to have in my life and ministry in the future. I refuse to write you off, but my pursuit of your teaching will be a little more tempered.

These are a few of the quotes from the snipet I saw.

“If you don’t go to a church large enough where you can have enough middle schoolers and high schoolers to separate them so they can have small groups and grow up the local church, you are a selfish adult, get over it. Find yourself a big ‘ol church where your kids can connect with a bunch of people and grow up and love the local church.”

“You drag your kids to a church they hate, and then they grow up and hate the local church.”

“Don’t attend a church that teaches your children to hate church.”

As is so often said nowadays, it’s not just what you said, it’s also how you said it. It wasn’t just a comment that was made in passing. It was a remark that you spent time preparing. I decipher this based on the point you wrote out on your screen. “Don’t attend a church that teaches your children to hate church.” I know you work on your sermons well in advance, you’ve said you work on three sermons at a time at one of your earlier drive conferences. So, You probably worked on this sermon for a few weeks. So, it’s hard for me to imagine this was off the cuff and not well thought out. Because that’s not you. And, the manner with which you made these remarks show that you are very passionate about what you said. And, I guess if that’s your strategy, you should be passionate. But, what if you’re wrong? In fact, you’ve said “Your beliefs shape your attitudes.” Perhaps this is why you spoke with such passion.

Does your, phrase that pays principle apply to your church? If your church is teaching children to hate church, should people choose a different church? Isn’t it also selfish for parents to drag their kids to your church if they hate your church?

You’ve also said, “It is when our hearts are stirred that we become most aware of what they contain.” (Source: It came from within! The The Shocking Truth of What lurks in the Heart). Is that what your heart contains, complete disdain for all us small churches out in the world struggling and wishing we had the resources you have at your disposal?

I don’t pretend to know the pressure and scrutiny you are under as a mega leader in the American Christian church. I can’t imagine having so many people scrutinize my sermons and listen for things that can be taken personally. I’m sure I’ve said similarly offensive things, it’s just that there aren’t tens of thousands of church leaders and Christians listening to me.

As you have said: “We don’t drift in good directions. We discipline and prioritize ourselves there.” (Source: The principle of the path) Somewhere along the way, your priorities seem to have gotten a little out of whack. That is, assuming you believe what you said. And that’s why I’m writing this really long letter. Because, maybe it will serve as a catalyst to help you create some disciplines that correct your path for the future. I know that sounds arrogant, but you’ve also said we’re supposed to learn from everyone. That we should be asking good questions.

From reading your books, I don’t think you’ve had a ton of experience leading a small church. North Point was a plant/split from your dad’s church that started with 1,000 people. You may not understand the challenges we small church pastors face. We work on strategy and systems in the same way you do, but we don’t have a pool of thousands of people to draw from the implement the strategy. Often times, if we think something is extremely important and needs to be done, we are the ones who have to get it done.

You may not understand what it’s like to have a megachurch down the street from you, and have people leave your church to go there. You may not understand what it’s like to have friends leave your church because the mega church offers more than your church can imagine. There may be a lot of things you just don’t understand because you’ve never had to lead a small church. And to be honest, I refuse to judge you or condemn you for your lack of knowledge. Instead, I’m hoping you’ll learn from us small church pastors. Because while you have things to teach us, believe it or not, there may be a thing or two you can learn from us. And, to be honest, if you’re not willing to learn from me/us, it’s foolish for me/us to continue to learn from you.

As far as I’m concerned, you’re forgiven. I probably put too much stock in your words anyway. So, it’s also on me that I put myself in a position to be offended by your words. At the same time, it does me not good to carry a grudge against you or any pastor. We have more to learn from one another. And if we can all walk a little more humbly, the Kingdom of God will advance in a much more biblical and unified fashion than we have seen in the past.

To my fellow small church pastors who may be reading this letter, learn from me. Several years ago I realized I was allowing pastors such as Andy Stanley and Matt Chandler among others to have too much influence in my ministry. Learn what you can from them, but be more concerned about what God wants to do through you in the church he has you in. He put YOU there for a reason. If God wanted Andy or Matt to be pastoring your church, God would move them there. Can we learn from them? Absolutely. In fact, to this day, If Andy or Matt were to offer to mentor me as a young pastor, I would still take them up on their offer. I don’t expect that to happen. (How awesome would it be if each Mega church pastor took some young, small church pastors under their wing for a year or two or three – at no cost! After all, do for one what you wish you could do for all – right Andy?) But, let’s stop elevating one another as idols in ministry and be more focused on being and doing who and what God wants for us. And don’t use this as a tool to talk down about other churches. We all know, if they were to scrutinize us in the same fashion, they’d find something to make us look bad too.

Anyway, Andy. Thanks for your apology. It is accepted. (Of course, I know about your apology because I follow you on Twitter, maybe I’ll get lucky enough for you to follow me back someday.) And my hope and prayer is that God will use this in your life to further the mission of the Kingdom of God in our modern day and age, and that this may become a tool that actually unites us and sharpens our attack.

You’re an awesome guy who just happened to offend thousands of other awesome men and women who used to look up to you. It just shows us you’re as human and flawed as we are. Who knows, maybe that’s why you said what you said. But, you may want to think a little more carefully the next time before you say something to drive off all the leaders you’ve been trying to lead for the last 10-12 years.

Thanks for listening,

David

 

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Posted on Feb 2, 2016 in Blog, Church, Featured, Truth

Definition: Abide

Definition: Abide

Waiting can be hard. I don’t know if you’ve had to wait for something, but I have. It can be challenging, stressful, annoying. The waiting is often the worst part. We get impatient. We want things now. We can’t wait for our birthday. We can’t wait for Christmas. We can’t wait for summer. We can’t wait for our wedding. We just have a hard time waiting.

Today I would like to look at another word: abide.

What is the meaning of this word that Jesus used in a very important teaching? If you want to know the context of this word, go read John 15.

What is the literal definition?

In the english dictionary the word is defined as:

verb (used without object), abode or abided, abiding.
1. to remain; continue; stay: Abide with me.
2. to have one’s abode; dwell; reside: to abide in a small Scottish village.
3. to continue in a particular condition, attitude, relationship, etc.; last.
In the greek dictionary, the definition is similar:
  1. to remain, abide
    1. in reference to place
      1. to sojourn, tarry
      2. not to depart 1a
    2. to continue to be present 1a
    3. to be held, kept, continually
    4. in reference to time
      1. to continue to be, not to perish, to last, endure 1b
    5. of persons, to survive, live
    6. in reference to state or condition
      1. to remain as one, not to become another or different
  2. to wait for, await one

There is a key verse outside of John 15 that I want to draw your attention to: 1 John 2:28

“And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.”

Let’s Define it:

Abide means to remain, to continue in, to be present in continually. What is the big deal with “abiding in Christ?”

That’s the key question we need to answer. Why do we need to abide? There are a few reasons:

To avoid drifting

The key temptation we face in waiting for someone is that our focus can drift off to something else. It’s like having kids. You may have noticed it can be a challenge sometimes to keep your kids attention for long periods of time. You may be talking to them, but a bird flies by the window and they’re distracted. Maybe the TV is on in the background while you’re talking and a funny commercial comes on and they get distracted. Or one of the siblings comes into the room and they get distracted. Before long, you realize it’s taken you 15 minutes to say something that should have only taken about 15 seconds.

The same is true for us. We need to abide in Christ, remain in him and be present in our relationship with him so that we don’t find ourselves drifting off course when life comes along to distract us. And it always will. There will always be a distraction. There will always be an opportunity to drift. We must abide.

To produce fruit

From the very beginning of the bible to the very end, God has been in the business of gardening to produce fruit. In this key passage in John 15 we discover the key to producing the fruit of the kingdom. Can you guess what it is? The key to producing fruit is remaining in, being present – abiding in Christ. The fruit of the kingdom is contrary to the fruit of the world. (Yes the world produces fruit – and it’s desirable too, just ask Eve.) If we want to produce the fruit of the kingdom of God which is making disciples, spreading the gospel and seeing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control in our own lives, we can only do so by remaining in Christ.

To be ready for His return

In  this verse in 1 John 2, we also see that abiding in Christ is what makes us ready for His return.

They key to not making mom and dad mad when they get home from a date is to make sure the house is ready for their return before they get home. And I’m not talking about rushing to clean the house in the last few minutes before they arrive. It’s easier to be ready for their return if we have kept the house clean all along. Other wise, we may find ourselves trying to clean up when they get home a few minutes early.

If we want to be ready for Christ’s return, we must abide in him continually. We must be present with him continually. We must remain in him. This means we are actively working on our relationship with him. This means we are presently pursuing him. This means we don’t wait for Sunday to come to hear from his word, but that we are in his word daily. We are devoted to this relationship and we are going to choose to make our relationship with him a priority. We’re not going to make a mess of our lives all week long and then hope it can be fixed up and cleaned up on Sunday. We’re going to continually reorder our lives around the call of the Kingdom. We will use Sundays as earmarks to make sure we are in a state of constant pursuit.

That’s why abiding is such a big deal. We must abide.

Will you abide in Christ today?

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Posted on Aug 11, 2015 in Blog, Church, Culture, Deliberate Living, Family, Featured, Intentional Living, repost

3 Simple Steps for Getting Back Into The Swing (of things)

3 Simple Steps for Getting Back Into The Swing (of things)

Summer is a crazy time. It’s fun. We spend a lot of time together as a family. We do things we don’t do the rest of the year. And it’s good. It’s good to spend time together as a family and make memories that will last a lifetime. But, as we start to run out of steam on cramming all the summery goodness into our summer, we run the risk of making a different kind of memory. They last a lifetime too, but we wish they wouldn’t.

So, I wanted to give you 3 simple tips for getting back into the swing of things.

1.) Find a simple, but productive, daily discipline to begin. 

As we go through the summer months, it’s easy to let discipline slide. We’re living in the moment, winging it. And while there is a time and place for that, in fact it’s good to do that, we also need to have discipline in our lives as well.

If you’ve gone a long time without discipline, it can be hard to find the on ramp again. But, what I’ve found is that discipline always facilitates more discipline. I call it the begetting principle. That’s a post that’ll come later.

If you want to live a more disciplined life, find one small area you can succeed in with being disciplined on a daily basis. It doesn’t have to be big. It shouldn’t be. You just need to be able to sustain it. It can be as simple as setting the alarm for a specific time, and refusing to hit the snooze. That may prove more challenging. You may want to get a simple devotional and read it first thing in the morning.

Whatever it is, do it every day and first thing in the morning. This will turn on the discipline switch in your mind, and you’ll start building up the getting things done muscles of your psyche.

2.) Make a list each day of what needs to be done. 

There are days when I feel productive, but then when I look back on what I accomplished that day, I realize I didn’t get nearly as much done as I thought I did. When you don’t give yourself specific things to do, it’s easy to feel like you’re doing a lot when you’re not really doing much at all.

So, another simple way to get back into the swing of things is to start making a list. Don’t get carried away. Just add 5-6 specific things to that list that need to get done today. If you do these things today, you will have succeeded. If you don’t do these things today, you know you need to work harder tomorrow.

When we get out of routine, we can easily do one thing in a days time and feel like we’ve exhausted our entire stockpile of energy for the day. But, let’s be honest, we all know we’re capable of doing more than one thing a day.

Some of the things on your list may be bigger and take longer. If it’s a bigger project, try to break it up into manageable steps that you can check off. Maybe you won’t finish the whole thing today, but I bet you can finish several steps.

And put a one or two simple and quick to accomplish tasks on your list too. That will make you feel like you’re making progress and get you moving toward getting the other things done.

3.) Plan & Build your fall routine. 

Life has a natural repetitive nature to it. Every week, we start a new week. (That was a really profound statement.) I think of the week as starting on Sunday. So, every Sunday I begin a new week. Every Sunday, my family begins a new week. The old week is done, a new week has come. Because of this natural cycle, it’s good to use the week as your framework to build your routine.

My number one suggestion for planning and executing on a successful routine is to go to church on Sunday morning. (DON’T STOP READING YET!!!) Yes, I’m biased because I’m a pastor. But I have a good reason.

Starting your week with going to church starts your week off with discipline. It’s easy to go to church. I know the excuses, I’ve heard them all. (I actually wrote some articles about it on our church blog: http://68church.com/12-excuses-for-not-going-to-church-and-why-you-shouldnt-use-them-part-1/) But, let’s be honest: It’s not that hard to go to church. Especially a church like ours, where you can come just like you are. You don’t have to look fancy and wear your “Sunday best.” Just come. Just be here.

Why does it help to start your week this way? There are a few reasons. It gives you structure. And when you’re trying to build structure, you need to start with structure.

Another reason is, if you can overcome the temptation and excuses to skip church on Sunday, you will help yourself overcome the excuses for other things throughout the week. So much of what we don’t do is because we’ve excused ourself and all we need to do is step up and be responsible.

Another reason? It’s a very healthy beginning. You have the servant aspect of church. Starting off your week serving others is a great set up. There’s the community aspect. Starting your week with a community of like-minded believers sets you up for walking through life in the same way. Tithing/Giving/Generosity is another great aspect. Prioritizing God in our finances also helps us to make other priorities in our spending.

Worshipping God is a great way to keep yourself in check. Exalting God makes it harder to exalt ourselves as the most important thing in our lives. When we are starting our week by humbling ourselves and submitting to the creator of the universe, that’s like saying, you designed this whole thing in the first place and I’m going to let you take the lead.

19 By wisdom the Lord laid the earth’s foundations,
    by understanding he set the heavens in place;
20 by his knowledge the watery depths were divided,
    and the clouds let drop the dew.        {Proverbs 3:19-20}

Try these three simple steps and just see if you don’t have a better week! 1. Daily Discipline. 2. Make a List. 3. Plan your Weekly Routine. Try it.

I dare you!

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Posted on Apr 22, 2015 in Blog, Church, Dear Leader, Leadership, repost

Dear Leader: Coaching vs. Catering

Dear Leader: Coaching vs. Catering

Dear-LeaderDear Leader,

We live in an interesting tension don’t we? Especially in the church world. I know how you feel. It can be a really big scale to try to balance. On the one hand we’re supposed to be leading people. Yet, at the same time, if we push to hard or offend people, they’ll stop following us.

More often than not, we end up playing it safe. Instead of getting out in front a little farther and working to get our people to follow us, it’s easier to just let them stay where they are.

We imagine ourselves out in front of the pack, blazing the trail that those who come behind us will walk on. But are we doing that? Are we blazing a new trail, coaching our people to come behind us? Or are we standing in the midst of the people, trying to keep them where they are and from taking steps backwards?

I know where most of us end up, because I’ve been there too. It’s so much more comfortable in the middle of the pack. It’s easier to feel like we’re successful when we’re surrounded with the people who have followed us to this point. And if we take that step toward something new, we’ll have to step out of the comfortable spot inside the pack and put ourselves out there in front of the pack.

It’s risky out there in front. It’s dangerous out there, maybe even a little scary. Everyone thinks we know exactly where to go and what to do, but the reality is we’re figuring it out too. We may know a little more than those who are supposed to follow, but we don’t have a crystal ball to use to read the future.

So, every once in a while we get out in front. But, as happens when we start prodding most people to move, there’s a little resistance. And when you add the frustration of resistance to the uncertainty of the future, the sum is a load that can be hard to carry. Too hard.

And it doesn’t get any easier. We think it will get easier if we can get a few more people on board. But the reality is, the more people who follow us just means the more people who can choose to stop following us. And the more people who are following us, the more people who are relying on us to lead them well.

So we retreat to where we have already been. Back into the middle of the pack we go. At least there, we’re relatively safe and the risk is relatively low.

But is it?

What exactly have we been called to do? If we are supposed to be leaders, can we really call ourselves that if we aren’t actually leading our people anywhere? If we’re just trying to keep everyone around us, is that really leading?

Have you ever thought about this? It’s much harder to get a group of people moving than it is to keep them moving. Once a group is in motion, it’s easier to lead. When a group hasn’t moved in a while, it takes an enormous amount of effort and energy to get it moving. The longer it’s been sitting still, the harder it will be.

At the end of the day, what’s need of us most is to lead. We won’t always do it right, we don’t always do it well. But, that’s our job. Yes, we do it in the best way we can so that those who are following us are being cared for. But, we must drop this myth that we can’t lead people and care for people at the same time. In fact, if we really care for people we will really lead people. Forward motion is what’s best for everyone. When is it better to sit without moving? Is it better to sit on the couch or to go on a walk?

So, will you join me in leading? Our job is not to cater to the people around us in the hope that we will keep them. Our job is to coach people as we lead the charge. Our job is to get out in front and figure out where we need to go, and then coach those we are leading on how to take that next step, giving them the helping hand up on the way.

Leaders don’t cater, leaders coach,
David

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Posted on Jan 30, 2015 in Blog, Church, Culture, Dear Leader, Featured, Leadership, Lost Virtues, repost, Truth

How Do We Save The Church?

How Do We Save The Church?

There’s a great blog/podcast for church leaders that I love to follow, Carey Nieuwhof. One of the posts he wrote just before Christmas (http://careynieuwhof.com/2014/12/impending-death-rebirth-cool-church/) really resonated with me. As I’ve been involved with the discussion, I have also realized that I have a lot to say about this particular subject.

So, I thought I’d share it with you.

But, before I begin, let me be clear. I believe in the church. And I don’t like it when Christians tear down other Christians…when churches tear down other churches. This is not going to be that kind of a post. There’s plenty of content like that out there. It won’t take you long to find it.

With that said, I also think we need to be honest about the current state of the church. I don’t think we are doing ourselves any favors by trying to hide what is going on. The church is in decline.

Fighting for our former position in society will do us no good. It will not help if our interest is in “being seen as a Christian nation again.” I understand the desire. I do. But it is sideways energy.

And it is not the way for us to gain influence in our society. But, we’ll get to that in a bit.

Fighting for the former means. 

I have always thought it should be the job of the older and wiser members of a church community who have the depth of understanding to be able to set preference aside. Never setting aside mission. But, set aside their personal preference because they understand the means are the vehicle for connecting with the next generation. I have no problem with a fight to keep the church on mission.

But too often the fight has nothing to do with mission.

too-often-the-fightToo often the fight is centered around personal preference, and it is mission that gets sacrificed. And when mission is the thing that gets put on the back burner, there is a whole pressure cooker of preference that it just waiting to blow beans all over the ceiling. (I may or may not have experienced first hand what happens when the pressure regulator comes off while pressure cooking beans…just as I may or may not have seen someone mop the ceiling.)

When preference takes over, we forget that the point of the church is the fulfillment of the great commission. This is our function. This is what we are designed for. When the means with which we accomplish that mission become more important than the mission itself, there will inevitably be fights, bickering, backlash, power grabbing and eventually division, strive, discord and ultimately the loss of influence in society.

Yes, there are other functions and activities that the church is supposed to do besides the great commission. But, if you’ll read Paul’s words carefully, you’ll also notice that the point of those functions is for the building up of the body. Those are the things we do to prepare us to do what we have been built to do.

This is where my concern for the church is exacerbated. This isn’t just a bump in the road for us. There is potential massive decline ahead of us. The baby boomer generation has begun to retire. Generation X is a smaller generation, by number, and have, in large part already left the church. And if we thought the church was struggling now, just imagine how it will be in 10-20 years when many of the boomers are gone. Now is the time to sound the alarm.

This means that our hope (as it has always been) lies solely is in reaching the next generations.

Too many churches have caused too much pain and sent a lot of people away from the church. For those who left because their preferences weren’t being met, I’m not that concerned. But for those who left because they didn’t want to be around those fighting for preference, I am greatly concerned. And as long as we’re focused on fighting to preserve what was relevant for us, we make the gospel and the church all about the preferences of those who are already in. And I don’t see that anywhere in scripture.

May I be frank for a moment and speak to my fellow Christians who are clinging to a means instead of mission? For the sake of the next generation, please let go. Please find it in yourself to become the support for the leaders of today’s church who are trying to reach the church of tomorrow. Don’t make their life miserable by clinging to your means. Make their life joyous by fighting for mission.

And if you’re a leader who is clinging to the means of of the past, for the sake of the mission that you once believed in – the mission that was at one time the passion that drove you to pursue ministry – please either get back on mission or get out of the way. (That may sound a little harsh, but I’m a pastor so I feel a little more freedom to speak sternly to my co-laborers.)

But, the pendulum has swung too far.

Just as the church has been greatly sidetracked by an outdated means of ministry, there is a completely separate faction that has swung to the opposite extreme. The extreme of cool.

Relevance is important. But cool does not equal relevant. Sometimes those are the methods that are relevant. But if the end goal is to be cool and hip, then we’ve lost track of mission too.

All the lights and video in the world will not necessarily make you relevant. If you don’t focus on mission, it doesn’t matter how cool your church is because you won’t be changing lives. You’ll just be attracting a crowd.

And there have been just as many casualties of cool as there were of outdated means. The church has sacrificed a great many souls on the altar of cool. If you are pursuing the coolest thing because that’s what’s cool, you’re not doing much better. And we will drive off just as many people.

What is the answer? How do we regain our influence?

It’s really quite simple. If we want to be heard, if we want to have influence, if we want to see a move of God, all we have to do is what we’ve been told to do. The mission.

We’ve lost our influence because we have exchanged mission for preference. We’ve lost our influence because we’ve sacrificed mission for our own selfish pursuits and pleasures. We are no longer credible because we’ve elevated ourselves over the work that Jesus did. I don’t know about you, but I’m so far from perfect and have made far too many mistakes to be the one who decides what the mission should be. We cannot allow ourselves in our imperfections to overthrow the mission. And if we can’t get back to that, we will never be heard.

Is relevance important? Yes. Is it more important than mission? I don’t think that’s the right question.

The question is, does the great commission require relevance?

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

At first, my answer to that question was, “no.” But upon further study I have found that I was wrong. It’s not explicit in the text, but it is implicit. In a few ways.

1. All authority in heaven and on earth. 

If Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and on earth, aside from the apparent, could it not also imply that Jesus’ authority coupled with Jesus presence empowers us to accomplish the mission in whatever method is necessary?

I’m not talking sinful methods. I’m not talking manipulative methods. But, within what is useful for building the kingdom, doesn’t Jesus’ authority cover all manner of preference?

2. Make Disciples

What is necessary if you’re going to make disciples? You have to have people to disciple. If the people who are available for us to disciple can only be reached through a method that is different than our own preference, doesn’t that mean we need to change our method to even have the opportunity to disciple them?

Our most important task as followers of Jesus Christ is to make disciples. It is not to make ourselves comfortable. If making disciples requires us to be a little uncomfortable, then our job is set comfort aside so that we may receive the title of “good and faithful servant.”

3. Teach them to obey. 

A part of making disciples is teaching. We have to teach people to obey Jesus’ commands. Does this require relevance? Well, have you ever tried to get children to listen to a long lecture? Have you ever tried to teach adults using sock puppets? I have. And because of that, I know that relevance is a requirement of teaching. Even more so if we are teaching for the purpose of obedience. It’s one thing to teach to dispense information. It’s something else entirely to teach for obedience.

I think the gospel is the most relevant message of all time. Its relevance transcends time. Christ died to save sinners. It doesn’t matter where you live, it doesn’t matter what language you speak. It doesn’t matter how old you are. If you’re a sinner, Christ died to save you.

If the gospel is the most relevant message of all time, why have we worked so hard to disguise it beneath to many layers of personal preference?

How do we save the church?

I hope that’s an alarming statement. It should be alarming because the church technically shouldn’t need to be saved. And yet it does. It needs to be saved from its continued pursuit of tarnishing the gospel of grace with things that have nothing to do with it.

But, the church needs some help.

I could be wrong. Definitely been wrong before. But it just seems that the trend is intensifying and with people not feeling societal pressure to be religious, they wont’ put up with irrelevance for much longer. They’ll just be done.

With the decline we have seen in the church’s influence, we don’t have the luxury of being irrelevant. We coasted for a long time because we had influence. But, those days are gone.

If we are going to change the world we live in, we have to live as those who are different. We have to have been changed by grace. We have to believe in the mission and give our lives for it. Our lukewarmness is what has made us unpalatable to the unbelieving world around us.

I guess the question is, do we believe enough to put mission first? If not, we have some repentance ahead of us.

And if we’re not willing to repent of our preferential ways, we should neither be surprised when our churches shut down.

We don’t get to forsake the mission. The mission is the most important thing. And we must do everything we can to fulfill it. Even if that means giving up things that are precious to us. Even if that means putting our preferences aside. Because, is it really worth holding on to your preference if it keeps someone from hearing the most relevant message of all time?

If we saw the mission of being the church as the most important thing, I don’t think we would care what the means are that we use to share that message. But by either fighting to retain what was relevant to us when we found Christ, but is no longer relevant to current and future generations or by dismissing the need for relevance as worldly we silence our own voice.

The saving grace for the church is to speak up. But not with protests and preferences. The way we speak up is to live out the mission. The way we speak up is to make the great commission the most important thing for us and our churches. Setting preference aside, let us press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of us.

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