Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Things I've learned - Notes - DO NOT PUBLISH

1. Changed Lives
Are lives being positively transformed through the ministry? Are people being transformed to reflect the image of Jesus Christ with their lives? Note that this is not necessarily connected with how much theology they know or how many Bible verses they can quote from memory. Are the people learning to live Christ-honoring lives and to do so in order to bring Him glory?

2. That-Which-Shall-Not-Be-Named
I'm about to write something that is not popular among a number of my friends colleagues. If you find yourself in either category, please skip the next sentence. For the rest of you, I will whisper.

I believe one indication of success is: Numerical Growth

Acts 2:41 - So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand people were added.
Acts 2:47 - And the Lord was adding to their number every day those who were being saved.
Acts 5:14 - More and more believers in the Lord were added to their number, crowds of both men and women.
Acts 6:1 - Now in those days, when the disciples were growing in number, a complaint arose on the part of the Greek-speaking Jews against the native Hebraic Jews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.
Acts 6:7 - The word of God continued to spread, the number of disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly, and a large group of priests became obedient to the faith.
Acts 11:21 - The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord.
Acts 11:26b - So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught a significant number of people.
Acts 17:12 - Therefore many of them believed, along with quite a few prominent Greek women and men.

Sunday school is passe: I have visited probably 15 churches over the last couple of months and small-groups is where they are all focused (and they don't just have Sunday School and call it "small group." Children's and Youth ministry happen on Sunday morning during the service, but there are no adult sunday school classes in any of those 15 churches I've visited.

Missions is a Department: It's not something that is "above and beyond" but a real integral part of the ministry. And it's not just sending a check to a family on the other side of the world. Missions, for these growing churches, is something that each person is a part of and happens in coffee shops and soup kitchens in the community, as well as international ministries. Also note that it's not just evangelism but real ministry meeting the physical as well as the spiritual needs of people.

Technology is an Must: And a website doesn't cut it anymore. You have to connect with people where they are. Connect with people via podcast, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter. To not have these things in the 21st century is like a church not having a phone in the 20th century. It's a must. Use text-messaging to connect people to the service and to the staff. The guy at 121 Community Church gave out his personal phone number for people to text if they wanted to talk about what it means to trust Christ. Technology should be a big part of the services. Pretty soon we're all going to have HD coming into our homes. The church needs to go HD in order to stay current. After February of next year, many churches will be out of date. Going digital costs money, but the things mentioned above do not. Also, going to church Online is gaining a lot of attention these days.

Proper Branding Cannot be Underestimated: I went to LifeChurch in Fort Worth this past Sunday and I noticed that the tables at the coffee area had the LifeChurch logo on them. There was a unity to everything in the church. The fonts used on all the signage matched. The worship bulletin was very crisp and professional. 21st century people are market-savvy and will respond to these techniques because they are a way of communicating a unified message to people. Proper branding doesn't happen by accident and it must look professional to be effective. Gone are the days when printing a flyer using Microsoft Word and some clip art will be effective for communicating what's happening and your church and where your church is headed in the next 10 years.

Be a Church of Pastors: The buzz word is living "incarnationally," but I'm not sure most people understand what that means really. I say, don't have your pastor being a chaplain for the masses, but a champion for the mission. Show people how to care for one another and it will free up your staff to pursue their God-given mission to reach the community for Christ.

Communicate the Mission Constantly: If you're blue-in-the-face that's a good sign! 121 Community Church meets in a store front. You walk up to the front door and you feel like you're going to go shopping. When you walk in, though, the place feels like a modern church. There are four archways over the hall that have the core values of the church emblazened upon them. I've only been there a couple of times, so I can't tell you what they are, but I would venture to guess the people in the church know what that church is all about. I've only been to two services at LifeChurch, but there is no doubt they value "Lifegroups," their small group ministry, and reaching their community for Christ. No doubt. This isn't something that just happens on "Missions Sunday" when nobody comes to church for the very reason that it's "Missions Sunday." The mission of the church should be pervasive in every single thing the church does.

Find Your Niche: You cannot minister to ever type of person. This church: is not going to meet the needs of the same people as this church Prayerfully decide who you will reach and how you will do so. Set measurable goals and adjust accordingly. Don't worry because another church will come along and pick up the slack in the population you are not targeting. And if they don't, start a church plant that will.

Be Fearless: Don't be afraid of what other churches will think. PLEASE don't be afraid of what Christians will think because most of American Christianity has confused the message of Jesus Christ with the message of Reagan Conservatism and vice-versa. (And both are very good in my opinion!) If you are in line with the mission God has given your church, the pursue it passionately without fear. Let the "scoffers come with their scoffing," and deflect those shots as you rush toward your mission. Don't be afraid of the possibility of a non-married couple coming into your church life or kids who will wreck the place or the gay couple who holds hands during the service or the white guy with the perfect family who is so in love with money that the reason he's at church is to make business connections. These are the very people you're trying to reach! Don't tell them to leave, but encourage them in the faith and the hope that is found in Jesus Christ. Now that I think about it, it's probably good advice for all of us in our personal ministries as well!

Be Dangerous: In the Chronicles of Narnia, one of the characters asks about Aslan, "Isn't he dangerous?" and the other character responds, "Of course he's dangerous! But he's good." When your church starts do move in the power of Jesus Christ, it will cause the gates of hell to shake. When people approach the God you're describing week-in and week-out, there should be some fear because once they are committed to serving your God, life will never be the same again.

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