Month: May 2016

Lessons an established church can learn from a church plant.

churchplanting

There was a huge push when I was in seminary for those of us who were graduating to set out and plant a church in an area that needed something modern and relevant to reach a lost and dying world.  Many of my friends answered the call and went for it. Some were successful while others couldn’t seem to get one to either start or lead it to an established state. Regardless, none of my friends 20 years later are still with the church they started after they left seminary… they now have found “homes” in established churches.  Whether this is a sad commentary or not is irrelevant.  What is relevant however is many of the things that are true of a church plant should also be true of an established church. What is sad is somewhere along the way some (not all) established churches have lost some of the basic things a church needs to be doing regardless if it is new or old.

First there are very few (if any) pew sitters that go to a church plant.  If someone comes to church and is not involved in some form of that church’s ministry they are called – visitors or better yet “Guest”.  For some reason most established churches have plenty of members who just pew sit every Sunday and do not get involved in the ministry of the church.  There are various reasons for this but the point here is that there should never be a member of a church that isn’t involved in some type of church ministry, regardless if it is new or old.  Just think, if we could figure out how to mobilize the pew sitters in our congregations how powerful that would be not only for the life of the church but think of how impactful that would be for the community around the church.

Second, a church plant will except anyone that walks through their doors.  This acceptance isn’t in the sense of “accepting people’s sin”, but rather acceptance that comes from the understanding that church is a place you “come as you are” and is a place “sinners need to be at.”  One of the reasons people fear coming to an established church is the fear of rejection, of not being accepted.  A church plant is so hungry for people that they always accept any visitor and try to make them feel at home while they are there.  Some established churches struggle with those who have tattoos, piercings, dress differently or come from a different race or social standing than they are accustomed to at church.  I would argue that any church established or new should focus on making people far from God  (or close to God) feel welcome and loved.  This is how Christ reached people and so should we.

Third, in a church plant the members seem to bring visitors every week.  In most established churches people quit inviting people to church a long time ago.  The members of any church should be out promoting the church they are a member of by inviting their friends and neighbors to come and attend.  This is part of the great commission. One of the reasons established churches do not grow is because of this.

Fourth, the environment of a church plant oozes with change.  In fact ,change is expected.  Some established churches cringe at any change that might be made.  An environment of change however breaths life into the church body.  Yes, not all change is good, but that isn’t what this is about. If something remains the same and changing something becomes a thing to be feared, the life of the church will soon be choked and the life within it will  die. (In some churches you can smell the moth balls when you enter them.)  All churches should have an environment where change is expected instead of resisted.

Fifth, rules and policies are simple and not cumbersome. Most church plants haven’t had the time to create a bunch of policies to govern their church environment and because the policies they do have are not generally written down, the policies/rules have to be simple enough to remember. Simpleness breeds practicality.  Too many established churches have policies and rules that are way to complicated (probably because something bad has happened and they want to make sure it doesn’t happen again).  Maybe, it’s time for your church to ditch Roberts Rules of order and get rid of some of the committees it has so you can function a bit better and move a little bit faster on things. This would take a new way of thinking of course and the way to accomplish this would be to sit down with some church planters in your area and ask them how things operate at their churches.  Not so you can give them guidance, but so you can see clearly where your established church is bogged down with needles red tape.

So there you go….

…a few things we who have an established church can learn from a church plant that we need to be reminded of lest we forget some of the things that should be part of what we do.

Rain (Hebrews 6)

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I have grass this year in my yard.  This is an accomplishment but its not mine alone.  My good friend Josh Hill (who is now a pastor at The Summit church in Raleigh. NC)  has plugged and planted grass seed in the fall of each of the last 3 years.  The results have been very pleasing, we have gone from a yard of weeds to a yard that has mostly grass in it.  The transformation – especially this year – of my yard has been amazing…

but maybe it doesn’t take much to amaze me – Ok I might give you that…

Our neighbor who lives across the street however has nothing in their yard but weeds and trees.  The trees have weeds growing up and into them (its a vine like thing) at an alarming rate. In fact the weeds that are growing “up” the trees in their yard have killed several of the trees and are on their way to eliminate all of them.  They have tried several things in an attempt to rid themselves of these weeds but none of their strategies have worked so far.  They are coming to realize what I have known for a while.  The yard will have to have a major over hall before the problem is taken care of but even if they do that, they will have to fight to keep their yard free of weeds if they want the new grass to grow and remain.

So what does this have to do with rain?

I’m glad you asked…

It rained two weeks ago for 7 days in a row. I’m not talking about an occasional thunderstorm every day. I’m talking about rain, sometimes hard sometimes light but continual rain to the point you felt like looking for Noah.  The grass in my yard loved those seven days. It was almost like you could watch the grass grow right before your eyes.  My neighbor’s yard received the same rain.  The ground soaked it up and the weeds and trees drank it.  In their yard you could also seemingly watch the weeds come to life taking over areas that they had previously worked on to rid themselves of the weeds.  The same rain that blessed my yard allowing it to grow and live was the same rain that blessed their yard also allowing it to grow and prosper.

Hebrews 6:7-8 For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.”

This comes at the end of a highly debated passage of scripture, but is often ignored when explanations are given for the previous verses.  I am not attempting to write this blog to solve the issues people have with those verses.  That is not my goal and I’m not really interested in getting involved in that discussion.  But, I will say this, these verses play a major role in what the previous verses actually mean.  There are a few things that are clear…

Rain falls on ground that will produce good things and ground that will produce bad things.

Both types of ground drink/soak up/taste the rain for their own benefit.  The ground then produces what is planted deep within it. Some ground produces very beneficial things while other types of ground only produces weeds,thorns, and thistles.  It is only ground that is cultivated to produce a crop that actually winds up producing that crop.  Land that remains uncultivated will not produce a crop of any value – only weeds.

Unless my neighbor cuts down all the tress in their yard and kills the rest of the weeds all the way to the roots and then plants some grass, it will be impossible for their yard to have anything in it other than weeds.  If they turn away from that path –  just choose to not pay the price to solve the problem – just let things be as they are – they will live in the arena of impossibility.  Yes doing nothing makes it impossible for them to ever have a yard that produces anything other than weeds.

Every time they visit my yard they taste and see what a “good looking” yard can be.  (Ok my yard isn’t a “Better Homes and Garden Yard” but that’s not the point) But if they aren’t willing to change in order to get the weeds out of their yard they will continue to live in the arena of hopelessness.  All the while God continues to bless them with the thing they can’t produce or make for themselves – RAIN.

So, I feel like this post is already too long so I’ll end with this.  Hebrews 5:11- 6:12 is about cultivation and believing in Jesus.  You need to make sure you have allowed Him to change you and that you are working everyday to cultivate and grow in the faith you have in Him.

He will provide the Rain and help you remove the weeds.

Just Like Everyone Else

youre_unique_-_just_like_everyone_else

Hi

My name is Phillip

Nothing extra ordinary

Just Phillip

Made like everyone else was made in this world

in my mother’s womb

Crafted by the hand of God

then born

into an imperfect world filled with imperfect people

just like me

which defined the need without defining it

which set me in a bad situation I could not get out of

committed to sin without committing to sin

just like everyone else

But one day

I was found and offered a way out

by the very God who crafted my very existence

just like everyone else

So I Phillip

believed in Jesus, His Death and Resurrection

and began a relationship with Him

Jesus

and now He calls me

Phillip, My Child

My son

I now join all those who have believed in His name

and pray for all those who still have a chance to do so here on this earth

to accept Him as I have.

Difficult Times

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We live in some difficult and confusing times.  It is a cultural era that just when you think it couldn’t get worse or more confusing (as to how people are thinking) it does. Never before – even during the marriage issue of our recent history  – have I seen so many upset people “yelling out” on Facebook about things they do not totally understand.  We have slipped into a narrative type of environment where truth and morality are no longer based on common sense or facts but instead are based on a trumped up emotional narrative that makes people think they are standing for something good when in fact it is really bad and damaging for not only them but the future of our country.

Here are a few things that the culture has done…

  1. “We” have lowered the value of the human individual by making sexuality an identifying civil characteristic.  These aren’t “race” wars we are currently drug into as a nation, it’s “sex” wars.  What type you participate in has become a label that identifies you more than your job, your character, or who you really are as a human being.  There is something majorly different from someone saying “I am an African American, that is  my heritage” and someone saying “I am straight” or another type of sexual reference of “identity.”  Our sexuality should not be what gives us value, when it is allowed to do that it degrades what it means to be human.  We are more than “pieces of meat” for someone else to get enjoyment from.
  2. “We” have devalued the value of physical privacy.  This happened when steps were taken to insure the right of “physical” privacy and some “agenda” driven people made it a “sexual identity” civil rights issue while totally disregarding the safety and dignity of our children.  When people are against a measure that insures that a middle school girl can go to the bathroom at her school without a man or middle school boy watching her, they have elevated the safety of their political agenda above the safety of that young girl and have slapped the face of all who believe in women’s rights.  In fact, if they wind up winning this fight they will deal a major blow to every woman and girl’s dignity in this country.  (There is a good reason why men are not scared of women using their restrooms.) It will send a message that their privacy is not as important as the “sexual agenda” that is being pushed.
  3. “We” have devalued our right to choose and it has resulted in creating a culture of fear. This is in part because of the rise of corporate and political bullying.  Not only do corporations threaten groups of people to try to force them to do what they want, the federal government threatens loss of funds if things do not change to the way they think things should be.  This is nothing short of holding fellow Americans hostage until they bow to a certain belief system. A certain “doctrine” of right and wrong. Some of the media participates in this by smearing the facts by overlaying them with a narrative that doesn’t fit what is going on.  They do not allow others who disagree with them this “right of refusal” that they so willingly take on themselves.  You can no longer choose in America, you are only allowed to conform.
  4. “We” have devalued the value of listening and discussing ideas.  This has been traded with shouting ideologies instead. Reason is no longer a commodity, it has been replaced with name calling, threats and unfounded attacks on character. With usages of “you people”, “your religion”, “bigots” etc… these words are used to try to silence opposition. This false labeling of people has caused many to be silent.  It is a tactic that is working and flourishing.  This is unfortunate.
  5. Making things better is no longer possible because common sense has been replaced with “advocacy” at any cost. This makes trust a hard value to find.

Yes, these are difficult and confusing times.  We are more broken as a culture now than we were 10 years ago.

But there is hope…

iStock_000020139656_Large-760x506.jpgFor those who believe in Jesus Christ this is exactly the type of world He came to save and fix.  It is the type of world the gospel finds additional value in as its power changes lives willing to accept it.  The power of the gospel is never devalued nor weakened by the state of a particular culture or secular/political ideology.  It is what we should be talking about and holding on to. It is the answer for a lost and broken world.  It brings healing to a world of pain, strength to endure dark difficult days and shines a light on confusion making things clear. It gives value and a solid identity to all people, who would otherwise depend on lesser forms, to find self worth.

If there was ever a time to proclaim the gospel…

the time is now.

Let’s rally around that.