Thursday, December 30, 2010

Day 197: Forced Growth

I have always been a big advocate of outreach and doing things for a community in order to accomplish two things:

1. 1. Get the name of the church out there and that God loves them.

2. 2. Show people random acts of kindness that it might be contagious causing them to be interested genuine Christianity.

If you will notice I never say anything about “winning lost souls” or “getting our church to grow”. I have always been intentional about this and thought I would finally share my thoughts on this matter. Did you know to "go out soul winning" isn't even scriptural? That's for another time.

I always have viewed big productions, evangelism projects, etc. as “forced growth” programs. What I mean by this is that many times a church will do something with one thing in mind even though they do not promote it that way and it is “grow OUR church”. Many churches become very disappointed and will even discontinue a yearly event that might be well attended because they don’t see the numbers in their church go up.

What I have come to discover is when we do events only to grow OUR church, we are basically forcing growth to happen rather than letting the church body grow in a more organic kind of way. What I mean is people finding out who you are by discovering who you are. When people come to Radiant Fellowship they will love it, tolerate it, not like it or try and rebuke it. This is not a bad thing however because the growth we have happening at our church is somewhat slow but very solid.

What can happen with crazy rapid growth because of some rally you did, etc. is many people come into the church and immediately people want the services catered to their likings. They want ministries they can run and on and on what seemed to be great growth is now a nightmare.

I know of a Lutheran church that has seen magnificent growth over the past few years. The only problem now is that they are feeling the repercussions of it because people from many different denominations are insisting on what they want in a church when in fact this church is Lutheran. There is nothing wrong with Lutherans but when you draw all types in, you can expect this kind of thing to happen.

Am I saying never to do outreaches again? ABSOLUTELY NOT! What I am saying is don’t expect a whole lot of church growth to happen from the outreaches that you do. I would say expect more of a kingdom growth and pray that whoever comes to your event will find God and settle into a good bible believing church because of what your ministry did. A LOT of pressure is taken off of you when you go into it with that mindset.

Be true to the DNA of your church (even if that means some don’t like it and leave) and there will always be people attracted to that which will lead to a solid church growth.

Day 196: Staying on Task

When I set out to start this blog the intent was to make it a daily thing. I wanted to blog everyday for a year but that in and of itself is a blog to talk about. As of today I am 44 blogs behind and that would be a pretty epic feat to try and catch up. I may try and see what happens but who knows.

A lot of times in ministry we try to do our best in keeping on task but we get so sidetracked by this that or the other thing. I would like to tell you that being a pastor means being a behind a desk all the time so you can study and come up with your next stellar performance/message but it is not that way at all. You will get side tracked by many different things. You have to be willing to roll with whatever comes your way when you are on staff at a church.

Well, onward we go to the next blog.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Day 195: Little Church Big World

Over and over in church publications that pastors read there are articles about the 100 fastest growing churches in the U.S.A. Sadly though, we also see these rankings across all denominations as well as our giving toward missions, charities, how many converts, youth groups, etc. I remember being a youth pastor in a church of 100 people and our youth group was approximately 85 kids. That is pretty great growth for a church that size...fact is it was as large as some other youth groups from churches that had hundreds of people. I am amazed at Christian publications/organizations that rank the most important churches based on size.

You are a resurrection that God offers to the world. And you are to serve those whoever Christ has given you, whether it be just a few or many. Don't be discouraged by never showing up on these lists. I think they do more harm than good and really have an underlying purpose with why these lists are published. Feel free to ask my thoughts on this.

This is something I have come to believe. Those top 100 lists will always be the same. You will never see a church listed in there from a rural community. In regards to will probably never see a church as number one from a rural community. A church of 50 could double their size in one year, you still won't get mentioned because you are only a hundred. Never mind the fact you doubled in size. What I am confident in now that I am a pastor of a church in a smaller town is that even small churches can function as a big church. Let me share with you some ways I strive to function as a big church though our church attendance is under 100.

1. Stay organized: Nothing says, "Backwoods" more than having your congregants showing up to church and having someone shovel, fold bulletins, etc. Just because you are a small church does not mean you should not be on your A game. When people show up to church, don't be wrapping up your message or making your power point. Go and hang out with people...Sunday is not the time to be finishing sermon prep.

2. Stay current: In smaller churches we work on a tighter budget. This does not mean we cannot stay current with trends going on in churches. I attended a conference one year at Granger Community Church. This is a church with THOUSANDS of people in attendance. I noticed one thing though that they do for their children's church and that is a check in station. If you boil that system down it is basically each kid gets a number and if they are naughty, their number shows up on the big screen. That seems easy enough...I got home and put an email out to everyone from church asking for an old computer. Within a day we got one and with the help of a Dymo machine we have a system in place. This gave parents a real peace of mind and just another way to make a small church feel like a big church.

3. Website: In the words of one college age person I talked to, "If you don't have a website, you don't exist." Your church NEEDS an internet presence of some kind. Whether you pay someone to design a website for you or you setup a free blog...this is a necessary thing. With an internet presence you can drive people from your church to that site in order to get information which will lead to a drop in your postage expenses. At Radiant Fellowship we no longer mail anything. If a person does not have a computer than we provide hard copies in our lobby.

4. Technology: I am going to guarantee you that if you walk into a large church you will see some pretty shnazzy tech things. I recently noticed one church doing a live video stream on their website which peaked my interest. I found out what they used and the supplies they needed. This ended up discouraging me quite a bit because we did not have the funds to do something so elaborate. I began to do research and found there is a free service out there anyone can use to stream video live. After a trip to Best Buy I found a great camera Microsoft makes which broadcasts in 1080p (what HDTV's broadcast in) and bought it. The total investment in us streaming our church services live? $110.00. Don't let technology scare you off with prices...there is usually a cheaper route to go which will give you a great quality.

5. Don't micro manage: Pastors of small churches tend to micro-manage the ministries of the church because everything done is visible to everyone. Let me encourage you that if you have a worship leader (paid or volunteer) don't micro-manage them. If a church has the faith to let a volunteer or paid staff person do something at the church, trust them enough to run with it. You have enough to do as a pastor of a small church to not have to worry about every little thing.

6. Keep in mind what big churches do and how they streamline their ministries and time together. This takes no money to do in your own smaller church and it makes for a great time.

7. Just because your building may be small or you are renting a space, this does not mean it should look drab. It is a biblical principle to be a good steward of what God has given to you. When people walk into your church or rented space do they feel like they are in what is the future of the church or did they step back into time?

These are just a few thoughts I have thrown around as I continue to pastor a smaller sized church in Waupaca, WI. I love this church and plan on staying here until I retire...fact is we have ministries that far surpass what could happen inside our church which really makes Radiant Fellowship a ministry on a international level.

Stay encouraged and remember to think big and dream big!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Day 194: Thoughts on Christmas Eve Service from a Pastor

Each year many churches scramble to have an out of this world Christmas Eve service which really isn't a bad thing. I know for Radiant Fellowship we really enjoy as we give a great message, do a kids program and the worship team will lead us in some great songs and even cover some Trans-Siberian Orchestra music this year. However, out of our planning meetings and with some observations I have made over the years...I thought I would share some thoughts on Christmas eve service from a pastors perspective.

1. Don't spend money on advertising: If someone has been going to one church all year, it is a safe assumption that just because you run an ad in the paper or do a mass mailing blitz...those people will still not come to your church on Christmas Eve. Which leads to my next point.

2. Tradition: If someone has been going to the same church all year, I do not think a catch ad will make them jump ship for your church because of a catchy program. Year after year people go to the same church they are used to for Christmas Eve service and they take their family. You can bring out the big guns for your service and I am not sure it will change anything. People become very traditional this time of year which is not bad.

3. Don't overkill: The worship team at the church I pastor is doing some Trans-Siberian Orchestra songs this year and I can promise you it will be spot on. Our worship team is predominantly professional musicians (teach, record, play gigs, have degrees, etc.) so for them to do these songs is a bit of a stretch but nothing out of the norm for what you might see any given Sunday. You won't see it on the 26th of December because our church is going to be laid back as we all recover from sugar comas we got the day before hehe. Here is a simple rule for churches...however you brought people into your church is going to be way you will have to keep them in your church. If your church goes all out on Christmas Eve with its program and builds up this falseness of what your church DNA is really like, those same people will come on a normal Sunday and see something different. This could cause them to bail. Be real and be genuine of who and what your church is.

4. Do a service: The first church I served at the senior pastor would always go on family vacation over this time and thus our church would not have a Christmas eve service. I asked if we would have a service the next year and he responded, "only if you do it." Keep in mind I WAS THE YOUTH PASTOR and this is common sense stuff for a church to do. So, I took the reins and we had Christmas Eve services. This really is a special time for a church to come together in a nice way to remember what really matters.

5. The sacred hour: No matter how much someone loves your church and normally sticks around after service on a normal Sunday...your head will be on the chopping block if the service goes more than an hour. People have places to go and people to see on Christmas Eve. Don't be offended if the normal people at church bail right away after service without saying, "hi". I don't blame fact I would sit in that back row and when the final amen is uttered...I AM GONE!

Feel free to share some other thoughts you might have about Christmas Eve services!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Day 193: Churches and Who They Reach

I get so confused and okay...hacked off when I hear people complaining about the approaches ministries use to reach different crowds if it is not what they are used to reaching out. Now, I am going to talk specifically about churches/ministries that reach the disenfranchised, the outcasts, etc. Churches all over talk about reaching the lost. Specifically this time of year churches will say it all the more, "WE MUST DO THINGS TO DRAW THEM IN." Sad part is, the thing they do is default to a cookie cutter musical by David T. Clydesdale or some other Word records product (look at cantata songbooks to notice this) and expect this to draw in everyone. This may draw in people to the churches doing that, and that is great! If you are a middle of the road church out to win people from middle and upper class suburbs than with it! Those people need the Lord as much as anyone. I am quite confident the ministries I know that reach a different type of crowd don't really talk down about those kinds of churches. Honestly, after growing up in a church where we did those was fun and it reached people. I listen to them now after changing my focus on who God is calling me to reach and it makes my ears want to bleed. But, each to their own...we have to reach everyone. I am not sure you will find one church who would not agree with the fact, we have to reach everyone.

If this is the case than why do those who go to a church that caters to a nice suburban crowd that reaches people in happy subdivisions get blown out of shape by those of us trying to reach a different crowd? I have run into this when we hosted "Leper/Grave Robber." Just as cookie cutter cantata's may seem attractive to contemporary adults (probably not the teens) so does the music we used in concert cater to the goth/punk/rock/industrial crowd. Pre-concert music for a cantata might be Hillsongs, Maranatha, etc. Which is fine because when "Potters Hand" comes on, people in the audience immediately say..."OH, I LOVE THIS SONG!" The same can be said about a concert like "Grave Robber". I made a playlist on my iPod which I was quite confident that crowd would know. All of a sudden "Tourniquet-Psycho Surgery" would come on and many of the crowd knew it. It would go to "Celldweller" doing a song called "Switchback" and immediately talk went to the days of when they saw them in concert as "Circle of Dust". These are all Christian bands that are reaching a different sub-culture. Guess what though? We are all getting the job done. Some churches...many churches are reaching the typical crowd...AND THAT IS GREAT! It would be dumb of me to talk ill of that because everyone needs a savior (sounds like a song). The same stands true for churches/ministries that are trying to reach a different sub-culture. LIKE IT OR NOT they aren't coming to a "Traditional Christmas" cantata featuring songs in corny arrangements from the 90's.

So what do we do with this sub-culture of outcasts? They won't come to our church event so we write them off? I am quite confident that would make God sick! NO! We first have to take the time to understand that culture and realize it is who they are. Sure they might grow out of it but what if they don't? So Radiant Fellowship decided to embrace them and make Christmas special for these people and straight up rocked the house with these bands. I PROMISE YOU these bands were more ministry oriented and had more to say than many contemporary Christian artists gracing our churches for a FAT honorarium only to be treated like a diva. Grave Robber laid it out there in full form the salvation message and takes the time to talk does Leper and many other bands like this. We really are doing the same thing but to different crowds and that is okay...why get ticked?

This is what I would challenge you to do however...this is an open invite. This July when Grave Robber is back at Radiant Fellowship, come and attend...let me introduce you to the band and the many people who will come to see them. I would love for you to get to know them. If you were here for this concert a few days would have spoken to a twenty something who got kicked out of church never to return. Guess what? He was at Grave Robber/Leper concert and LOVED IT (many more stories like this)! I DARE ANYONE who is not comfortable with this crowd to come and take it in (bring ear plugs). You really want your world expanded? Join me for a day at Cornerstone and I will introduce you to my friends at Asylum ministries where their sole purpose is to reach Goths! I will introduce you to my friend and pastor, Pastor Bob Beeman who goes overseas to do "black metal festivals". You will be scared with places I take you but you can be rest assured Jesus is there. What about "Church at the Pub?" Come and join me and our team as we go into the pub and talk to people.When is the last time some of us in churches ever walked into a bar/pub to just talk and love people? Yes...Jesus is in the pub.

We get excited for missionaries that go into foreign lands and learn the culture in order to reach the people. If a missionary has to look a certain way, get a marking, etc. we cheer them on and say go for it! We even brag to our friends stateside and say how cutting edge they are. Heck...we even throw a lot of money behind it. If someone in the U.S.A. reaches out to a different crowd and breaks away from "the norm" we can sometimes think it is ungodly by the look, the sound, etc. We are missionaries at home and we do what needs to be done to reach people that others have written off. THIS EXCITES ME! If you don't understand it...join me for Cornerstone, Church at the Pub, walking the streets at night to talk to people and if you are used to the suburban life in a sub-division will find God is with the outcasts and you will be taken to some very dark places...and you might just like it!

Day 192: Things I am Conservative About...Including Christmas

Okay, so I thought I would blog about things I am surprisingly conservative about. It has come to my attention that some people think I am a pretty liberal Christian. Perhaps in the some ways I am but I would prefer to throw that under that label of grace. As my friends get to know me more and more they tell me, "you are conservative in ways I never would have imagined." So here is my list and I will probably never preach these...this is where I stand on some things. Sorry if offend you with this...or make you laugh.

1. Proms...homecomings...and others. Even when I began youth pastoring back in the day I have always taken the stance that school dances and things like this are just a bad idea. Nothing like getting a bunch of kids with raging hormones dancing together and perhaps experience things they shouldn't until later in life.

2. Giving up church for Christmas...Now I realize we are the church and everything but, I think we have it backwards if we skip church in order to stay up on the Christmas festivities. Now...I understand traveling and all of that stuff. If you are away you are away...enjoy the time. It just makes a statement when we skip the reason for the real meaning of Christmas in order to stay up on the commercial end of things. Seems a bit backwards.

3. Redone is a gripe of mine when these modern Christian artists add a few words to an old hymn and all of a sudden all the churches are singing them. Amazing Grace? Leave it alone! Do I care if a church does songs like this? Nope. Just my thoughts on it this is probably the only place you will hear me talk about it. What I love? The old hymns done in a musically majestic way.Oh...and I do love the old timey southern gospel hymns.

4. The last one leads to this one...Redone Christmas classics. When I hear a redone version of a classic Christmas tune...FAIL.

5. Church...a lifestyle decision not weekly decision. go back to the whole thing that we are the church, not the building we meet in. But, there is something to be said about meeting with others each Sunday and finding some refuge amongst a community. What gets me though are the ones that are on again off again. Church should be a know, make it a thing that every week we go to church. Not to say it is bad to take a Sunday off or vacation...NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT in my book. I am just saying the here a few months...gone a few months...what is that? Especially if you are raising kids.

I am sure there are a few other things but these are the ones that stand out in my mind. So I am old fashioned in some to find that heavy metal Christmas video clip to show before our Christmas Eve service.