Tuesday, March 31, 2009

IIM Mission Focus - Congregational Survey

The NGWC Transition Team has prepared and is distributing surveys to get congregational input as we seek to determine what our specific vision and ministry focus should be within the larger mission of the universal church. This survey and a congregational event called "Mission Possible" Pizza Party scheduled for May 3rd are the primary tools that our Transition Team are using for the Mission focus of our Intentional Interim work.

Here is a sample survey:
Neighbors Grove is known as the church that ...

What church ministries, activities or programs bring you the greatest sense of joy and fulfillment?

What needs do you have that are not being met?

What needs do you see in the community that are not being met?

What are the church's distinctives/strengths which should draw others to this congregation?

What are the limitations that we will need to overcome to accomplish our church mission?

What are the current activities, programs and ministries that should continue, regardless of who the next pastor is?

What activities, programs or ministries would you like to see our church start that will be beneficial to future generations?

Two other special surveys have been distributed as well.
1) A 3 question survey that was given to the daycare and academy families.
2) A 8 question survey that was given to individuals who have attended NGWC for five years or less.

The Transition Team will develop an assessment based on the information obtained from these surveys and the small group discussions during the May 3rd "Mission Possible" Pizza Party.

In the interim I am continuing to direction my sermon development toward the challenge of being a more missional congregation. I think that more and more of the proverbial "light bulbs" are coming on and people are "getting it". Time will tell - if NGWC becomes more incarnational in its ministry outlook.

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Church Should Breathe the Breath of God

Yesterday I preached a message that challenged NGWC once again to be a missional church. Here are my sermon notes:

Let’s do an exercise – breathe in and hold it. You can’t hold it in but so long before you have to exhale.

This illustrates the life and flow of the church (both in and out). We bring ourselves to church on Sunday and we bring the church to others every day. We come to church asking God to bless and help us; then we leave asking God to bless others and to make us a blessing.

Scripture: John 20:21-23

Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."

Before we can be sent out we must breathe in the breath of God (H.S.) Before we can go out into the world we need to come near to God and each other to form a community of faith. But if all we ever do is come in then we will just inflate ourselves until we explode.

The church has done a pretty good job of gathering; so good that we have become very inwardly focused in everything we do. Our Lord said that we should pray for laborers to go out into the harvest field yet most of our labor is expended on ourselves.

Dare I say that we have become more interested in the barn than in the harvest? Have we become consumed with the operation of the machinery around the barn to the neglect of going out into the harvest?

This dominant inward focus can be seen in our church scorecards (attendance, offerings, membership, value of our buildings). When will we develop a scorecard that measures our impact on the community around us?

An outwardly focused church still comes in and meets together. But their reasons are different from those of an inwardly focused church. Ask yourself: Why did I come to church today?

Reasons for The Church To Come In While We Also Go Out:

Rejoice – Psalm 68:26 > Praise God in the great congregation; praise the LORD in the assembly of Israel.

Repent – James 5:16 > Confess your sins to each other.

Request – Matthew 21:13 > My house will be called a house of prayer.

Recharge – Ephesians 4:11-12 > It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service.

Once we have done these things together each of us goes out to serve on mission with God in the same way that Jesus was sent by God from heaven to this earth.

“As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”

John 3:17 > For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

The Mission of Jesus is the Mission of His Followers:

1) To serve and sacrifice

Mark 10:45 > The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

2) To seek and save

Luke 19:10 > For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.

The Message of Jesus is the Message of His Followers:

Luke 4:18-19 > He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.

It does not matter the style of worship, theological doctrines, size of the building, or denominational labels all followers of Jesus are called to go on mission in the power of the Holy Spirit with His message.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Church Should Be Like the Month of March

The old saying about March is that it comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. If we drop the lion and the lamb parts it seems to me that the church should be like the month of March. We are to both come in (for worship) and go out (for witness). Missional churches understand this concept.

The first word of what we call the Great Commission is “go”. Some commentators state that if we were to literally translate what Jesus said it would be expressed “as you are going”. Yesterday my sermon focus was divine appointments. As the people of God are going about their daily lives and understand themselves to be on mission for God they will frequently have meetings or events that have been arranged and orchestrated by God.

My basic premise is that God works through ordinary people, empowered by the Holy Spirit, in the ordinary moments of life. The story of the healing of the crippled man beside the temple gate called Beautiful is a classic example.

My sermon points on how to keep divine appointments are:

1) Do the things you are suppose to do.

Peter and John were just doing what good Jewish men did any day at 3 pm. They could just as easily been going to the grocery store. Are we doing the things we are supposed to be doing?

2) Pay attention to those around you.

Peter and John had probably passed by this man on other days (he had been there), but today they noticed him. He caught their attention on this day. Do we pay attention to the people around us?

3) Be ready for interruptions.

Peter and John had a schedule to keep but it was not as important as a need to meet. Like Jesus they were not so busy that they couldn’t be interrupted. What do you do when you are interrupted?

4) Be willing to share what you have.

Peter and John didn’t have any money but they had a miracle to share. You can’t give away what you don’t have. But you can’t keep what you have unless you give it away. Are you a river or a reservoir?

5) Risk involvement in the lives of others.

Peter and John didn’t just tell about Jesus, they helped a man to Jesus. Peter risked making himself “unclean” by touching this crippled man. Are we willing to get “dirty” in order to help people to Jesus?

6) Seize the moments of opportunity to talk about Jesus.

Once Peter and John had the attention of the people they turned the spotlight on Jesus. We must make sure people know who the One is that gets the glory and honor by turning conversations toward spiritual things. How often do we work Jesus into our conversations?

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me to keep my divine appointments this week and be your instrument of peace.

Will you join me in praying this prayer?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Missional Church Scorecard

In case you don't know it, churches have scorecards. They aren't called scorecards, they go by names like - Annual Statistical Report. But no matter what we call them, they are still scorecards because they serve to measure how well we are doing.

Church scorecards traditionally have kept tally of things like attendance, membership, giving, and frequency of meetings. In other words, how many and how much? Scorecards are still needed in missional churches. But the scorecards must change if a church is to become more effective at reaching beyond the walls of the sanctuary, educational wing and family life center.

Reggie McNeal, the author of "Missional Renaissance: Changing the Scorecard for the Church", proposes that we "expand the bandwith" of what we measure in order to determine our success as missional churches.

Instead of asking how many people showed up for an event, he suggests asking such questions as:

* How many better marriages do we have in our church today than a year ago?

* How much money did we give away last year? How much did we invest in our community?

* How many members are prayer partners with a public school teacher?

* How many people have figured out a way to show love for their neighbor instead of just coming to support our stuff?

To quote McNeil: "In a missional world, it’s about the size of your vision and impacting your community. A church with 33 people in the inner city that’s about making an impact is making a bigger difference than a big old honking suburban church with 3,000 people who are as busy as can be running the cruise ship."

So is your church more like a lifeboat that goes out into the stormy seas to rescue drowning people or a cruise ship that seeks to keep the passengers on board entertained?

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Missional Church Is Not ...

The world missional is an adjective. An adjective, by definition, modifies a noun or a pronoun by describing, identifying, or quantifying words. So, missional is a descriptive word that provides a “word picture” of how a church might look or act. Missional churches don’t all look or act exactly alike. Though missional churches can take various forms and have different fashions, there are some things that they will not be or do.

A missional church is not:

1) a dispenser of religious goods and services or a place where people come for their weekly spiritual fix.
2) a place where mature Christians come to be fed and have their needs met.
3) a place where "professionals" are hired to do all the work of the church.
4) about a new strategy for evangelism.
5) missional just because it is contemporary, young, hip, postmodern-sensitive, seeker-sensitive or even traditional.
6) a church with a "good missions program." The people are the missions program and includes going to "Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

Jesus said that we (all) “are the light of the world”. Too often churches expect the professionals to do all the light shining, usually on those already within the congregation, or only let the laity shine their lights on each other within the walls of the church rather than all of us getting our light into the dark places of the world that most desperately need the light of Christ.

Based on the “Is Nots” list, how well is your church doing at being a missional church?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Why be a Missional Church?

For many years most statistical data has stated that 40% of Americans attend church on any given Sunday. More recently researchers have questioned this percentage and believe it to be overstated. It seems that people tend to answer survey questions by either giving answers that they think the questioners want or that are considered to be right. Simply, different questions yield different results. For example, in a survey you might ask, “What did you do last weekend?” listing for the person a number of possible activities, including church-going. This will yield a very different response than if you asked, “Did you attend church last Sunday?”

Dave Olson, director of church planting for the Evangelical Covenant Church, among many others, has now concluded that the percentage of Americans attending church on any given Sunday is less than 20% and will decline to less than 12% by 2050.

I don’t know if the correct number is 40% or 20%. But my “gut” tells me it is closer to the 20% number. This is a reminder that the church can’t operate like a Motel 6 and just leave the light on for people. We must move our ministry outside the four walls of the church because the vast majority of people aren’t coming to us.

Here are some of the best descriptions that I have found of what a missional church is trying to do:

1) exploring and rediscovering what it means to be Jesus' sent people as both our identity and vocation

2) willing and ready to be Christ's people in any situation and place

3) engaging with the culture (in the world) without being absorbed by the culture (not of the world)

4) becoming intentionally indigenous

5) aligning all our activities around the mission of God

6) seeking to put the good of our neighbor over our own

7) being desperately dependent on prayer

8) being orthodox in our message of the gospel and scripture, but culturally relevant in our methods and practice of ministry

The attractional model church does not seem to be working. When will we wake up and become a missional church?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Becoming a Missional Church

Last year Christianity Today magazine asked the question: What makes a church missional? I desire to see NGWC become a more missional church. Before we can answer this question or achieve this goal, we need to know what “missional” means. Apparently it has come to mean different things to different people.

This week’s blog postings will explore what it means, in my mind, to be a missional church. Dan Kimball describes the missional church "as a body of people sent on a mission who gather in community for worship, encouragement, and teaching from the Word that supplements what they are feeding themselves throughout the week." I like to state it this way, this expression is borrowed from a forgotten source, “Don’t say that the church has a mission, rather that the mission has a church.” The mission is God’s mission of reaching the world and Jesus said, “as the Father has sent me, so send I you.”

Missional is a shift in thinking; not a phase or program. Ed Stetzer and David Putman in their book, "Breaking the Missional Code" express this new paradigm in the following types of shifts:

From attractional to incarnational
From programs to processes
From uniformity to diversity
From professional to passionate
From seating to sending
From decisions to disciples
From services to service
From ordained to the ordinary
From organizations to organisms

This shift from the historical American “build it and they will come” mindset to the biblical great commission “go and make disciples” mindset will be a challenge for many churches but a necessary one in our post-modern culture.