Monday, July 6, 2009

What's Wrong with an Attractional Church?

Another good read on having a missional mindset rather than just being a "we'll leave the light on for you", and open the front door for you, and take care of your kids while you worship, and have a well orchestrated worship event for you church.

Something More!

What Church Isn't

If you are a regular follower of this blog you know that I have been pretty focused on moving our church toward a missional mindset.

I found this post on another blog that comes from the flow of this missional reservoir.

Check it out: "What Church Isn't"

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Random Reflections

I am thankful for:
- our daughter visiting from Kentucky and taking care of her ailing mother so that I could attend the NC West District Conference and reconnect with old friends and associates.
- a great week of VBS at Neighbors Grove with over 100 children enrolled and over 40 children inviting Christ into their hearts or rededicating their lives to Him.
- a great day of worship at Neighbors Grove. Rev. Ken Reeves, Balfour Baptist pastor, started the service with a a powerful witness. The VBS staff and children led the congregation in worship music. I witnessed the church body minister to a grieving family and sensed the Lord's anointing while preaching. Not sure what the attendance was but the sanctuary looked full. There is such a different spirit in this place from when I arrived 11 months ago.

I have been reminded that:
- one year ago today I closed out our ministry at First Wesleyan in Bessemer City. God continues to bless that congregation as they move forward after our intentional interim ministry with them.
- God gives us opportunities for a ministry of presence when we don't even know it. I received an email today from a widower thanking me for attending his wife's funeral and how much it meant to him to see my face in the audience during the service.
- we need to continually drink from God's spiritual well. As I walked our neighborhood tonight I noticed the grass beginning to turn brown after about 10 days without rain. Earlier this spring we had an abundance of rain, but the grass needs water constantly. So do our souls.

I pray for:
- the Glenn McGrady family in their loss with his sudden death last week. He leaves a sweet five year old daughter, Emma, that will need our love and support.
- our daughter and son-in-law to find God's open doors for ministry and employment as they seek to follow His will for their lives.
- my wife, Pam, to continue to heal from her kidney stone attack and back surgery. We are thankful for seeing God's hand upon her life already.

Well, this post now has three sets of three items each so I guess I will close it out.
May God bless and keep you as you go on mission with Him this week!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Grooving At Neighbors Grove

The summer slump has NOT come to Neighbors Grove. June has been and is a strong ministry month.

June 7th - Homecoming!! Great day of worship and fellowship. The choir "knocked it out of the park" with their special music and Rev. Luke Jackson returned home and preached with a fresh anointing.

June 14th - Experience has taught me that the week after a BIG day like Homecoming can be a real challenge to get up for. But we had a wonderful spirit in the service as we dedicated for newest baby in the congregation, Garrett Saunders, and honored our R.C.C. graduate, Justin Henderson. Our Intentional Interim focus point this summer is "Connections". We are using this time to reflect on our Wesleyan heritage and doctrine. Therefore, I started a sermon series - Wesleyans Believe In ... Worship attendance was over 100 (great for the summer).

June 21st - The choir sang for the last time before their summer break. They finished strong, doing a great job with some challenging music. Our Youth Director, Chris James, led us in prayer with special attention on our ten teens (largest number in several years) attending Youth Camps this month. There was a sweet spirit in our midst as I preached the sermon, Wesleyans Believe in the Saving Grace of God. Worship attendance was over 100 again.

Missional Measurement - Totals for the second week of reporting are better than I could have imagined. 21 people reported. Knowing that not everyone reported, we can say that that at least 44 conversations were transformed into spiritual conversations. There were at least 57 hours spent in prayer for spiritual needs and blessing others. And at least 125 hours were given in volunteer service to other people or organizations. Neighbors Grove has a bunch of missionaries in the field every week!

Vacation Bible School - Each morning this week we will be having VBS. Most churches offer VBS in the evenings because so many adults work during the day. We are doing VBS during the day for the same reason, because so many adults work during the day. We have had to stretch to get enough staffing but we are determined to offer VBS to all the children enrolled this summer in the Child Development Center and Academy Camp programs. This is another expression of our missional mindset. Though most of our own church children will be enrolled in VBS, we especially want to serve the families of the CDC and Academy.

Church Spotlight - Another part of our "Connections" focus point is to help the congregation appreciate it's place in the larger body of Christ. Over the next several weeks we will be spotlighting one of the other local churches in the area. Either the pastor will make a personal visit or we will share a ministry report from the church and offer special prayer for that congregation. I look forward to this opportunity to highlight what God is doing in other places.

Stay tuned for further ministry updates as we seek to groove with God at Neighbors Grove. We pray that God's Spirit is at work where you are as well.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

In yesterday's blog I spoke of the need to keep the missional vision before the NGWC congregation. I said, "This vision, like any other, or maybe more than any other, must be refreshed in the minds and hearts of the people about every 30 days." My sense is that the passion for evangelism and outreach leaks quicker than anything in our lives.

Well, I was reading a Christianity Today interview of Lee Strobel. This is part of what he said, "The evangelism value leaks away from us faster than any other value in the Christian life. Churches are faced with the problem of having to elevate many different values: Bible study, prayer, community, and so on. Evangelism is [just] one of them. But I haven't run into anybody who says, 'Man, my spiritual life is so dry right now. I feel like I'm in the middle of the desert and, oh, by the way, I have a friend next door who's not a Christian, and I'm really praying for opportunities to reach out to him. I've invited him to lunch next week, and I'm hoping God opens up a chance to talk about spiritual stuff.'"

Why does our evangelism value tend to leak quickly? My opinion is that evangelistic outreach and a missional mindset runs completely contrary to our natural self-centered human tendency.

What do you think? Why is so easy for us to lose our interest in reaching others for Jesus?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Are One or Need One?

Found this quote on the "Revitalize Your Church" blog written by Mark Wilson:

Either you are a minister or you need one.
Either you are a missionary or you need one.
-- John Huffman (Presbyterian pastor)

I will be using this one in the future when I am recasting the missional vision to the NGWC congregation again in a month or so. This vision, like any other, or maybe more than any other, must be refreshed in the minds and hearts of the people about every 30 days.

If you are a pastor reading this - when was the last time you recast the vision to your church people?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Over the last decade I have read dozens of business leadership books. Two are at the top of the list for impact on my pastoral career.
Good to Great by Jim Collins
The One Thing You Need to Know by Marcus Buckingham

Collins has written another book that holds promise for potential impact. I found the following review about his new book. Hope to pick it up soon and give it a read.

In his newest title, How the Mighty Fall, Jim Collins peers into the causes underlying the decline of greatness. In light of our economic plight, one of Collins' observations loudly rings true. He identifies the "undisciplined pursuit of more" as a key stage in the breakdown of a once-mighty business or nation. In doing so, he makes three points worthy of a closer look.

1) Fear Excessive Ambition More Than Idleness

In examining the histories of companies that regressed from great to good, Collins expected complacency or loss of initiative to be a common denominator. Instead, research showed the reverse to be true. As opposed to laziness, "Overreaching much better explains how the once-invincible self-destruct."

Collins points to Rubbermaid to illustrate. In the mid-'90s Rubbermaid committed itself to introducing a new product every day of the year. Although the company won acclaim for innovation, it abandoned cost discipline along the way. In its efforts to develop thousands of new products, Rubbermaid lost its grip on core competencies and eventually sunk into bankruptcy.

2) Do Not Confuse Growth with Excellence

Collins recounts Merck's decline as a cautionary tale of a company who floundered after pursuing a growth-above-all strategy. In 1995, Merck chose growth as its number one organizational objective. Chasing the holy grail of growth, Merck bet heavily on the success of prescription drug, Vioxx at the turn of the century. Bent on expansion, Merck neglected to investigate troubling data on the cardiovascular risks associated with Vioxx. As time went on, concerns about Vioxx became undeniable. Merck did voluntarily pull Vioxx off the shelves, but not before the company had taken a massive PR hit and had suffered a $15 billion drop in market value.

As Collins observes,

"The greatest leaders do seek growth - growth in performance, growth in distinctive impact, growth in creativity, growth in people - but they do not succumb to growth that undermines long-term value. And they certainly do not confuse growth with excellence. Big does not equal great, and great does not equal big."

3) You Grow Only as Fast as You Can Attract the Right People

More often than not, the attempt of a business to grow its operations becomes its undoing. In the words of David Packard, "More companies die of indigestion than of starvation." Why? Most companies don't bring in the right personnel to handle an uptick in business, and they go under as a result. Growth must be staffed with the talent.

Drawing inspiration from HP's co-founder, Collins and his team coined Packard's Law: "No company can consistently grow revenues faster than its ability to get enough of the right people to implement that growth and still become a great company." Internally motivated, self-disciplined people are the foundation for growth. Without them, new business ventures collapse.


In another groundbreaking leadership text, How the Mighty Fall, Jim Collins has hit upon a root cause of organizational / societal decline: The Undisciplined Pursuit of More. To maintain a healthy sense of discipline, leaders ought to be wary of the hazards of excessive ambition. In a similar vein, leaders must put growth in perspective. Bigger isn't necessarily better. Finally, leaders would be wise to realize that growth has to be fueled by the right people. Otherwise, the expansionist urge will bleed an organization of its resources.

While on the topic of good books - may I ask:

What was the last good book that you read?

When did you read it?

Monday, June 8, 2009

Homecoming and Memorial Service

Sunday, June 7th, was the 130th Anniversary Homecoming and Memorial Service at Neighbors Grove Wesleyan Church. This service was a testament of God's faithfulness and His desire to continue to use this congregation to reach the Asheboro area with the gospel.

Attendance was 168. Our average attendance for the recent months is around 105. These figures compare to a mid 80s average for the summer months last year. The service had high energy and the sense of the Spirit's presence in our midst. Overall, I felt this was a great day for the church as we near the half way point in our intentional interim journey.

Rev. Luke Jackson, a young man who grew up in the church and who now serves as the Student Ministries Pastor at Mt Zion Wesleyan Church in Thomasville, was our guest speaker. His sister, Creath, and the church choir provided the special music. Luke's message centered on the nature of the God to whom the church prays. I thought this served as a great connection to the intentional interim emphasis of giving the church back to God (signified with the signing of a title deed giving God ownership).

I especially appreciated the closing prayer that Luke prayed over his home church.
"May God give you wet eyes, a broken heart and a bended knee.
May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.
May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy.
And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done. Amen."

Monday, June 1, 2009

Changes to the NGWC Scorecard

In our recent discussions focused on being a missional church we have been using Reggie McNeal’s definition: The people of God partnering with God in His redemptive mission in the world.

During the Mission Possible Pizza Party the Transition Team asked the participants to rate NGWC on a scale of 1 to 10 for having a missional mindset using the above definition. The average rating was 3.6. The participants were then asked to set a goal for where the church should be a year from now. The rating for this goal was 6.5 using the 1 to 10 scale. In other words, a desire for improvement was indicated.

Knowing that this will require the church to change the way some things are done, the Transition Team proposed some changes to the church scorecard. One of the best ways to change behavior is to change what gets counted, to change the scorecard. The L.B.A. agreed to the proposals and yesterday they were presented to the congregation.

1) To nurture a culture in our community of faith in which the importance of mission is continually present the following expectation is implemented throughout the church:

Every Sunday School class and other small group ministry is to have at least two designated “servant evangelism” or “missional” projects per year.

2) Realizing that a missional mindset flows primarily out of our individual lifestyles into the community culture we need a way to have accountability with one another. Therefore, adults and youth attending Sunday School are asked to respond weekly to three questions for the next four months and that the totals be shared with the congregation as a whole.

How many conversations were transformed into spiritual conversations?
How much time was spent in prayer for spiritual needs or blessing others?
How much time was given in individual volunteer service?

Can you think of other changes that a church could make to the scorecard that would emphasize a missional mindset throughout the congregation?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Is Your Church Sending or Sent?

Many churches are "missionary" minded. They have large faith promise budgets and consider themselves a "sending" church as they prayerfully and financially support international and national missionaries. They receive reports and hear testimonies of what God is doing "over there" as the missionaries live and work cross culturally. These missionaries are valuable instruments in God's plan of reaching the whole world with the gospel. Yes, churches should be "sending".

Regrettably, fewer churches have a "missional" mindset. These churches see themselves as a "sent" church. They prayerfully and financially support the efforts of the local missionary members of their congregation. They receive reports and hear testimonies of what is doing "around here" as these missionaries live and work in their own culture. These missionaries are just as valuable instruments in God's plan of reaching the whole world with the gospel as those missionaries who leave home in vocational ministry positions.

In my opinion, congregations should ask themselves two questions:
Is our church a "sending" people that supports the spread of the gospel "over there"?
Is our church a "sent" people that encourages the spread of the gospel "around here?

It is only when both questions are answered with a "yes" answer that a church has fully joined with God in His mission of reaching the whole world with the good news of the gospel.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

"Baby Steps" Aren't Baby Steps to Babies

Have you ever heard a baby say, "Look at me, I'm taking baby steps!"? I know - babies walk before they talk real well. So what do we adults mean when we talk about taking baby steps?

Recently our Transition Team was discussing what "baby steps" could be taken by the congregation in order for us to move toward a more missional mindset in the church. As we were talking I was thinking - what would be easy for us to do? Later I realized that "baby steps" are small but never easy.

In fact, "baby steps" are more frightening to babies than adult steps are to adults. Have you ever noticed how a baby holds on to anything and everything when they are learning to walk. They have a fear of falling and don't like the pain of hitting the floor.

Leaders must remember this reality. Baby steps are frightening to anyone who has never walked before. If we are to help our followers to walk on their own we must hold their hand firmly enough that they know we will not let them hurt themselves if they are less than successful in their efforts. And we must offer enough encouragement that their courage will be strong enough to take the risk.

When was the last time you helped someone take some "baby steps" to venture out and try something new and different?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Becoming Part of the Answer to Your Prayers

Recently while visiting an "eating restaurant" as my wife likes to call them (not sure what other kind of restaurants there are) I engaged the server in conversation and built up enough re pore that I was comfortable popping the question that I ask people as a believer on mission with God. "How can I pray for you?"

I explained to the server that I would be blessing my food and would like to bless him in prayer and that I would pray for any special needs that he might have. His response, "That I have a good night here at the restaurant and that the tips are good."

He left and I bowed my head to pray. I prayed for my food and then prayed for Jim to have a good night, get some good tips and that he would remember to give God the thanks for them. In that moment I realized that I had to be part of the answer to my own prayer.

I have heard all my life that we needed to be willing to be part of the answer to our prayers. And here it was coming true. This old tight wad was going to have to lay out some serious cash so that Jim would know that God really does love him.

Don't know if I will ever see Jim again on earth. But it would thrill my socks off (if we wear socks in heaven) to have Jim come up to me in heaven and tell me about a night in an Applebee's restaurant when he got one step closer to Jesus because this old guy prayed for him to have a good night and he had the best night of his serving career.

Are you praying for people to get one step closer to Jesus? Are you willing to become part of the answer to your prayers?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Sins of Omission

One definition of sin that Wesleyans like is "a willful transgression of a known law". Where do sins of omission fit into this definition? They don't! But whether you are Wesleyan or not, you may find yourself struggling to admit it when you sin by your failure to do something.

Why do we have this struggle? I believe it is because sins of omission are never deliberate or intentional. Therefore, we tend to excuse them as "lesser" offenses and just sweep them under the proverbial rug. Recently I failed a brother through a sin of omission. I battled the conviction to go and to ask for forgiveness by justifying myself. It was just an oversight. I would do better next time.

I did ask the brother to forgive me. He had even felt offended and seemed a bit surprised by my request to be forgiven. So was my conscience just overly sensitive? Did I get all bothered for nothing? I don't think so! First, I was trying to obey the Lord! Obedience, even perceived, is a good thing. Second, I imagine that my confession will help me to be more alert the next time I am in a similar situation so that the same omission does not occur again.

When was the last time that you felt conviction over a sin of omission? How did you deal with it?

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Wesleyans Can Dance!!!

Two ladies, both over 70 years of age I guess, came into our midweek morning Bible study yesterday so excited that they could hardly contain themselves. They had danced with the Holy Spirit and He had worked through them to communicate God’s love and grace.

In both cases these ladies had sensed a strong internal prompting to ask the person they were talking to if they had any special needs that they would appreciate prayer for. These ladies were so very nervous but the internal Spirit compulsion was so strong that they overcame their fears and popped the question.

One of the ladies was told that there had just been a death (in an auto accident) in the family and the other was told about a recent house purchase and the fear of being able to make the payments for it. The Holy Spirit had led both these ladies to spiritually receptive people in which the moment was right to turn an ordinary conversation into a spiritual conversation. He had transformed an ordinary moment into a missional moment.

These ladies had been praying for God to help them to become a missionary and He answered their prayers. I explained to these ladies that praying this kind of prayer is like buying a new car. Before you buy the car you seldom notice that model car on the road. But after you make the purchase you see them everywhere you go. Before we pray to be used as a missionary we never notice people that we can strike up conversations with. After we pray we will see them everywhere.

During our evening midweek Bible study a gentleman in the congregation also told us that he had begun to look for opportunities to ask coworkers during breaks at work if they had needs that he could pray for. The Holy Spirit wants to dance with the people of NGWC and some of these Wesleyans have decided to give it a try. And they are having the time of their lives.

I wonder who will start dancing next? Will it be you?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

How to Dance with the Holy Spirit

The church in the book of Acts, under the anointing, direction and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, went out into the streets of Jerusalem and then down the roads to Judea and Samaria, and eventually to the ends of the earth. As the Holy Spirit moved, they moved with Him.

If Christians today are going to once again become missionaries, then we too must move with the Holy Spirit. Let me ask: are you moving with the Holy Spirit? Are you listening to His voice? Are you following His promptings?

I once had a class in seminary called “Creative Movement” where they tried to teach me to square dance along with some other dances that I don’t remember. If we are going to move with the Holy Spirit then we will need to learn how to dance with Him.

Since I am both a Wesleyan and don’t have much rhythm in my bones I never really learned to dance. So I decided to find some pointers and tips to being a good dance partner. This is what I found.

Men: Lead without pushing, pulling or forcing the follower.
If your partner misses a step or move do your best to cover for them.
(These two tips sound just like how I know the Holy Spirit to operate in my life. You could say that He is a gentleman. He will nudge but never force me to move or act. And He is always protecting and covering me.)

Ladies: Practice with your partner so you can better anticipate his steps and moves.
Develop following skills so leaders don’t have to work so hard to get you to respond.
(These tips are definitely how we should be responding to the promptings and leadings of the Holy Spirit in our lives.)

The real key to dancing with the Holy Spirit is to be a person of prayer because this is how we connect and commune with Him. These words from Acts 1:14, “They all joined together constantly in prayer” were true for the early church and should be true for us as well.

So I ask again, will you dance with the Holy Spirit this week?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Let's Dance with the Holy Spirit

Last week I challenged the people of NGWC to become missionaries, each and every one of them. This challenge was based in 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 – “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. … And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.

This week I told them that they were incapable of becoming missionaries on their own; that they needed an empowerment beyond themselves. This assertion is based on Jesus’ words recorded in Acts 1:8 - “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.”

Jesus understood that His disciples would need help (power) beyond themselves to do the work that He was leaving to be done. This power source was the same one that He had while He served as a missionary on earth.

At Jesus’ baptism the heavens were torn open and the Holy Spirit descended on Him like a dove.
He was then led by the Spirit into the wilderness.
Jesus then returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit.
The first recorded time that Jesus spoke in the synagogue He quoted scripture and said, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me …”

Before His crucifixion Jesus went to great length to explain to the disciples the promise of the Holy Spirit and His work in their lives and in the world (John 14-16). In Acts 1, before His return to heaven He restates the promise once more.

A careful read through the Acts of the Apostles (some would say of the Holy Spirit) reveals how the church was moved by God’s Spirit time and time again.

The church under the anointing, direction and inspiration of the Holy Spirit went out into the streets of Jerusalem and then down the roads to Judea and Samaria, and eventually to the ends of the earth. As the Holy Spirit moved, they moved with Him.

Perhaps it was because of his experience of seeing how the Spirit worked in and through the church that he was prompted to write in Revelation 22:17 - "The Spirit and the bride say come!"

When the individual members of the bride of Christ are all (collectively) saying the same thing it speaks more loudly to the world and they are more apt to hear the message. But the Spirit must also be at work in our hearts and lives as well as those of the people we are communicating with.

So, if we are going to be missionaries then we must move with the Holy Spirit. Someone has referred to this moving with the Holy Spirit as a dance.

Question: are you dancing with the Holy Spirit? Are you listening to His voice? Are you following His promptings?

I may get in trouble as a Wesleyan pastor – but I challenge you to dance this week – dance with the Holy Spirit.

Later this week I will be sharing some tips on being a good dance partner.