Posts Tagged With: Religion and Spirituality

Wash and Be Clean

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This week during worship we will be taking a look at Naaman and his meeting with Elisha.  Naaman was a great military commander and was very well-respected.  He had one strike against him though…he had leprosy.  One of his slave servants told his wife about the prophet Elisha and how if there was any one who could heal Naaman, it would be Elisha.  So, Naaman set out in search of Elisha but he made four mistakes along the way and these mistakes will be the focus of our time together on Sunday.

In the end, Naaman was washed clean of his disease by the power of God.  It always amazes me how God is completely contradictory to the world we live in.  Naaman almost missed out on his opportunity to be cleansed because of his pride and perhaps because he expected a different solution to his situation.  Don’t we often do that?  Have you ever asked God for something and even suggested how He should answer your prayer only to have God answer it in a completely different way?  I know I have.  But what I have found is that God’s answer always is better than the one I suggested.

Sunday is going to be a special service with some awesome features.  I hope you will make plans to join us at 10:45 at Flint Hill.

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Church Leaders

Last night our Bible study took a look at 1 Peter 5:1-4 and discovered some great leadership advice.  It’s important that leaders within the church are worthy of being followed.  Here’s what a leader is called to be according to Peter:

1.  A MINISTER:  They are to shepherd their flock.  This includes feeding, grooming, and protecting from things that would destroy them.

2.  A MENTOR:  Not lording over people but investing in the flock with your time, energy, skills.  One of our jobs as leader is to replace ourselves and by mentoring others, we are preparing them to be the future leaders.

3.  A MANAGER:  Having over site of those who have been entrusted to our care.

4.  A MODEL:  Be an example of someone who is growing in their faith.  Leaders are those who can demonstrate how to live.

We’ve all seen people in leadership positions who have failed at one or more of these and when that happens it can be catastrophic to the organization.  I’m not saying our leaders are perfect at these, but they must first recognize this is what a leader is and growing daily in these roles.

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Stewardship According to John Wesley

An outline of John Wesley‘s Sermon on Stewardship:

The Good Steward”

Summary:  Wesley uses this sermon to explain that we as God’s Stewards are not the owners of what God entrust to us, but temporary custodians.  This applies to our souls, bodies, possessions, time, abilities and opportunities.  Wesley states in this sermon that there will be a day of great judgment when a final accountability will be given for our stewardship.

Introduction:

  1. The Bible describes the created as debtors and servants to the creator.
  2. The best description is that of a steward or manager.
  1. The Nature of Stewardship
  2. The Duration of Our Stewardship
  3. The Final Accounting of Our Stewardship
    1. The Value of Time
    2. How precious is every moment in time.
    3. In using time, no word or deed is truly unimportant.
    4. There are no works that produce excess merit.  We cannot do too much.
    5. It is not easy to give back to God all that he has given us, it will require all our wisdom, perseverance, patience, and faithfulness.
  1. Debtors are obligated to return what they have received, but can use it however they wish until the return.  This is not the case with stewards.
    1. We are obligated to use our blessings as God wishes not ourselves.
    2. Nothing is our own in this world.
  2. God has entrusted us with all that we have received including our minds and souls
  3. In doing God’s will we obtain our own happiness; therefore we should use our blessings for his glory.
  4. God entrust us with our bodies
  5. God has given us the superior capacity for speech and it is to be used to glorify
  6. God has given us our hands and feet and bodies.
  7. God has given us worldly goods of food, clothing, shelter and money.
  8. God has given us the gift of energy, health, favorable appearance, education, knowledge and influence.
    1. The gift of time and the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit
  1. We are only stewards for a short time while on earth.
  2. After we die, we won’t need the things God has entrusted to us.
  3. The same applies to the body.
  4. Death ends the need for speech, strength, health and beauty.
  5. What about the other talents such as the “still, small voice”?
  6. Our physical faculties will not probably exist after death, but continue in a greater degree.
  7. We don’t know how much wisdom will remain after death.
  8. Our souls will remain and retain all their faculties.
  9. Our comprehension will be freed from its present defects.
  10.  Some might say that disembodied spirits have no senses but they are dreaming.
  11. The soul will retain its comprehension and the full vigor of its will and affections. 
  12. However we are no longer stewards of these faculties.
  1. After death, we are no longer stewards and must give an accounting.
    1. We don’t know if it is immediate at the time of death.
  2. We are to give the account of our stewardship when “the great white throne and the one who sat on it come down from heave, and the earth and the heaven flee from God’s presence, and no place is found for them.”
  3. God will ask, “How did you use your life?
  4. God will ask, “How did you use your body?”
  5. God will ask, “How did you use your worldly goods?”
  6. God will ask, “Have you been a wise and faithful stewards of all the gifts?”
    1. If so, God will declare, “Well done, good and trustworthy servant; enter into my Kingdom.”
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John Wesley’s View on Money

As we begin our sermon series on the use of money, I thought it would be appropriate to give you an outline on John Wesley‘s view of money.  This sermon can be broken down to 3 points: Gain All You Can, Save All You Can, and Give All You Can.

“The Use of Money”

SummaryWesley uses this sermon to outline the proper use of earning, possessions and wealth with a very articulate statement: “Gain all you can, save all you can, give all you can.”  He uses this as an opportunity to insist that we are not owners of our assets, but stewards.

Introduction:

  1. There will be an accounting of our management of resources.
  2. Money can be bad, but it can also be good.  It can become the eyes to the blind and feet to the lame.
  3. It is one of our highest concerns to know how to use this valuable gift.
  1. Gain all You Can.
  2. Save All You Can
  3. Give All You Can.
  1. Without paying more than its worth; or at the expense of life or health
  2. Without harming our minds
    1. Lying, cheating, practices that are not in good consciences.
  3.  We must never harm others.
  4. Not gain more by harming our neighbor’s bodies.
  5. There are unscrupulous medicine “professionals” and it is clear that they are doing to others what they do not want done in return.
  6. These ways of gaining money comes at a high price.
  7. Cautions and restrictions
    1. Gain all you can by honest industry and diligence
    2. Make the most of your time
    3. Work with all your might.
    4. Do your work as well as possible and in a timely manner.
  8. Use common sense.
  1. Don’t throw your precious gains into the sea
  2. Don’t waste it on desires of the flesh.
  3. Don’t waste on desires of the eye such as fine clothing, houses, paintings, decorations gardens.
  4. Don’t spend to gain the admiration or praise of others.
  5. When we cater to these desires, they only increase.
  6. Don’t buy your kids everything and the best of everything.
  7. Don’t leave the kids money to squander.  Don’t set traps.
  8. Leave your money to the child that knows the value of money.
  1. Don’t stop with gaining and saving all you can.  You must give all you can.
  2. The sole ownership of everything rest with God.
  3. Provide for your basic needs; provide for your family; give the rest to the needy.
  4. How should you spend upon yourself?
    1. Am I acting according to my character?
    2. Am I giving this money in obedience to God’s word?
    3. Can I offer up this action as a sacrifice to God?
    4. Do I believe that I will receive a reward for this work at the resurrection?
  5. If your conscience says that this pleases God then you have no doubt that it is right and good.
  6. In your living and dying, waste nothing on sin or foolishness for yourself or your children.
  7. We cannot be wise or faithful stewards without managing the Lord’s goods in this way.
    1. Lead a life worthy of the dignity of your calling.
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5 Signs Your Church Underperforms

Great article by Mark Howell

Mark Howell serves as Community Life Pastor at Parkview Christian Church in Orland Park, IL. He founded SmallGroupResources.net, offering consulting and coaching services to help churches across North America launch, build and sustain healthy small group ministries. He spent four years on the consulting staff at Lifetogether and often contributes to ministry periodicals such as the Pastor’s Ministry Toolbox and ChurchCentral.com.

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You may want to argue with me (and if you do, please use the comment section), but there are 5 easy-to-spot signs that your church is actually designed to underperform at connection.  What I mean by that is that whether your church is growing or not (doesn’t matter), there are several key factors that predetermine whether people are able to connect.  And very importantly, it’s been conclusively determined that people want to belong before they want to believe.

So what are the signs?  How can you tell if your church is actually designed to underperform at connection?  Here’s what I’ve found.

Top 5 Signs Your Church Is Designed to Underperform at Connection:

Your senior pastor is a reluctant champion of group life.

Churches where the senior pastor only infrequently talks about the importance of being connected are rarely, if ever, easy environments for connection to happen.  Without encouragement from the most visible person in the organization, it is just too easy to remain disconnected.  Trouble is life change most frequently happens where there is dialogue.  Life change most frequently happens where people are known.

Stories about the power of group life are rarely told.

If you want unconnected people to take a baby step and test-drive a group, there is nothing more compelling than a satisfied customer.  While we’re on the subject, stories told by satisfied customers (as opposed to stories about satisfied customers) are much more compelling.  It’s the reason marketers love testimonials.

Your church has no clear understanding of what a win is.

To borrow the phrase from the 7 Practices of Effective Ministry, if it’s not clear to everyone that the goal is to be connected in a group where you can be known, challenged, loved, held accountable, forgiven, encouraged, etc., it will only happen for those people who instinctively gravitate toward community.  (You know who those people are.  They create groups and group life opportunities even without your help).  Everyone else will remain anonymous at their own peril…because they don’t know any better.

Your church thinks programs instead of steps.

Again, to borrow from the 7 Practices of Effective Ministry, there need to be easy steps that lead to connection.  If the hardest step for many people today is to walk into your auditorium for the first time, the next hardest step is to leave the auditorium to join a group in a stranger’s living room!  The steps that are created also need to be obvious.  They can’t be hard to find (like when you have a buffet-style ministry and only one of the menu items leads to group life).  Finally, the steps you create need to be strategic; they need to lead in the right direction without wasted time wandering.

You spend too much time propping up existing groups and not enough time forming new groups.

Although counterintuitive to many, matchmaking (helping unconnected people find a spot in an existing group) is rarely productive.  The easiest time for the largest number of unconnected people to put their toe in the water is when new groups are formed.

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Dissension in the Church

 “Do everything without grumbling or arguing,  so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.” Philippians 2:14-16 NIV

I’ve been around a great many churches in my life and career.  I have found that so many people have been hurt in the church.  In most of these it seems that someone said something, did something, didn’t say something or didn’t do something and this hurt someone else.  The person who is hurt will usually do one of the following:

  • Leave the church
  • Allow their hurt to seep out to others in the congregation

What this does is creates dissension within the walls of the church.  This is very dangerous and is the playground for Satan.  The prince of darkness loves it when Christians begin to quarrel with one another because it takes their focus and the focus of the church and places it on something besides the Great Commission. Thus the warning from Paul to the Philippians, “Do everything without grumbling or arguing.”

Is this really possible?  A church without some sort of dissension seems like the exception to the rule.  However, IT IS POSSIBLE.  How do we get to that point?  Well, Jesus gave us a plan to deal with problems in the church.

“If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you’ve made a friend. If he won’t listen, take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again. If he still won’t listen, tell the church. If he won’t listen to the church, you’ll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God’s forgiving love.” Matthew 18:15-17 The Message

A three-point plan to prevent dissension/arguments/hurt feelings within the church.

  1. Go and tell the person who hurt you or your upset with.
  2. IF he doesn’t listen, take one or two others along and try again.
  3. IF he still won’t listen, tell the church.

In our churches today, there is way too much skipping of the first step.  As pastor, when someone comes to me with a complaint against another congregation member or a staff member, the first thing I ask is, “Have you talked to that person?”  Most often the question is no.

The main reason people get hurt and leave the church is a lack of communication.  Skipping step number 1.  Jesus made this one number 1 and I believe he was a pretty smart man.  If we’re Christian, why do we just jump over the first step when most disagreements can be solved at this point? Let me assure you that anonymous letters, talking with other congregation members or just holding it in and staying hurt or mad will NOT help the situation.

Please, allow me to encourage you to open up that line of communication with everyone in the church.  If you have an issue with something a fellow member, staff or if the pastor has said, not said, done, or not done something, please go to that person with your concerns.  If he/she does not listen, then go Step 2, then if it is not resolved go to Step 3

It seems that someone is always upset with the pastor. It’s okay because the way to avoid that is to try to make everyone happy.  When pastors try to make everyone happy, they lose focus of their true calling from God.  I had one of my pastor mentors tell me, “Don’t spend time worrying about the complaints that have come from someone on behalf of the person who is complaining.  If they won’t talk to you one on one, you’re not going to be able to make changes to their satisfaction and it takes your focus off the important stuff.”

Open up your communication and there WILL BE less dissension in our churches and can you then imagine what God can accomplish for the Kingdom!

Categories: Church, Church At Chelsea Park, Faith Journey, John's Rant (opinion) | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

15 Signs Your Church Is in Trouble

Here is a great article which gives some great points.  All churches need to keep these in mind as they reach for their goals.  Also, a church doesn’t need to have all 15 to be in trouble.  One or two could give you an idea.  Click on the link below for the article.

15 Signs Your Church Is in Trouble.

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This May Step on Some Toes!!

GREAT ARTICLE I read on Christian Post.com

My Wife Had a Bad Experience at Chick-fil-A!

Fri, Nov. 25, 2011 Posted: 09:09 AM EDT


I love Chick-Fil-A! (AND love Tim Hawkins song about it)

We eat there at least two or three times a week (not kidding…we’ve actually pushed that number up to 6-7 a few times.)

The food is ALWAYS good, they get the order right nearly every time and their customer service is second to none. It is always clean and no matter how long the line seems to be people are always served as quickly and efficiently as possible.

So, imagine my surprise when my wife came home the other day and, as we were catching each other up on the things that had taken place while we had been apart all morning and afternoon she told me about a bad experience she had at Chick-Fil-A.

I was immediately frustrated! (Any husband would be!) AND…before I knew it I had literally told myself in my mind, “Well, if that’s the way things are going to be then I guess we just won’t be going to Chick-Fil-A anymore, they’ve lost my business.”

TIME OUT!!! How stupid was THAT thought? Seriously, let’s review…
■#1 – They ALWAYS deliver great food!
■#2 – They ALWAYS have friendly people!
■#3 – They ALWAYS have a clean environment!
■#4 – What my wife had experienced was not in line with what normally happens.

(AND…I want to be completely fair to Lucretia, she was NOT saying she would not go back, nor was she angry…she was just telling me about her day and I am the one who became irrational!) :-)

I lost my mind! I was literally going to allow one bad experience with one employee ruin a reputation of excellence that had been consistent for years! (AND…no one knows what was going on in that employees life…she could have had one of the worst days of her life and was trying her best to just hold it together until she could clock out!)

Before you agree with me too quickly…I think there are people who have done the same thing to the church!

It has become quite popular, even in some “Christian” circles, to bash the church for all of the dumb things that she has done.

I have met people since being in ministry for over 20 years that have the same attitude with the church that I almost had with Chick-Fil-A! They will attend, serve, be devoted to a local church for months or even years…and then, all of a sudden…
■Someone didn’t call them when they were out for two weeks.
■Someone said something hurtful to or about them.
■They didn’t like what the preacher said.
■They didn’t like what the youth group was doing.

I could go on and on…but you get the point. There are times when people will allow one thing in the church to trump the decades of ministry and impact that have taken place through that body of believers, and that’s a bit insane.
■Yes, if you stay in a church long enough I promise you that you will see hypocrisy.
■Someone will say something to you or about you that will hurt you.
■Decisions will be made that you do not like.
■There are going to be sermons that make you mad.

When that happens the enemy is going to try his best to convince you to just walk away…because he knows that the first step away from God is usually getting people to step away from the people of God.

Yes, the church, EVERY church, has made some unwise decisions and, in the process have hurt or disappointed people along the way…but let’s know throw the baby out with the bathwater…
■She’s STILL being built by Jesus–that makes her important!
■She’s STILL reaching out to the broken, the forgotten and the poor.
■She’s STILL making a difference that’s going to be seen for eternity.
■She’s STILL GOD’S PLAN for reaching the world.
■She’s STILL necessary for believers! (If church is not necessary then why did Jesus say He would build it, died for it, will one day redeem it and spends so much time in the NT talking to it and about it?”

No, the church is NOT perfect…but neither are you (or me!) So, when we’re tempted to walk away because of the one thing that seems to hurt us or trip us up we should simply ask, “is this consistant with this churches character?”

Stay in a church long enough and you will have a bad experience…but let that push you closer to Jesus as you recognize that HE uses imperfect people in His plan, which means sometimes they get it wrong, and then beg the Lord to teach both them and yourself how to best deal with the situation…because, she’s STILL the church and STILL His bride.

Now…anyone want to go to Chick-Fil-A with me? :-)

Perry Noble is the founding and senior pastor of NewSpring Church which has campuses in Anderson, Columbia, Florence, and Greenville, South Carolina. At ten years old, the church averages over 10,000 people across all campuses. You can find Perry online at perrynoble.com or on twitter @perrynoble.

Perry Noble
Christian Post Guest Columnist

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Hold Yourself Accountable (Wesley Style)

Signature of John Wesley, founder of Methodism

Image via Wikipedia

I was doing some research today and I ran across these questions that are similar to the ones that John Wesley gave to the members of his discipleship groups. This was over 200 years ago and they are still good questions for Christians to ask themselves today.

I challenge you to make these questions a daily part of your spiritual journey.

  1. Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I really am? In other words, am I a hypocrite?
  2. Do I confidentially pass on to others what has been said to me in confidence?
  3. Can I be trusted?
  4. Am I a slave to dress, friends, work or habits?
  5. Am I self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying?
  6. Did the Bible live in me today?
  7. Do I give the Bible time to speak to me every day?
  8. Am I enjoying prayer?
  9. When did I last speak to someone else of my faith?
  10. Do I pray about the money I spend?
  11. Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?
  12. Do I disobey God in anything?
  13. Do I insist upon doing something about which my conscience is uneasy?
  14. Am I defeated in any part of my life?
  15. Am I jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy or distrustful?
  16. How do I spend my spare time?
  17. Am I proud?
  18. Do I thank God that I am not as other people, especially as the Pharisees who despised the publican?
  19. Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold a resentment toward or disregard? If so, what am I doing about it?
  20. Do I grumble or complain constantly?
  21. Is Christ real to me?
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5 Interesting Facts Regarding Union CCP

I’ve been looking at the demographics for a 5 mile radius of Union CCP.  It’s quite interesting and one can gleam a great deal of info when looking at these reports.  Here are 5 things that I thought were interesting:

  1. Current population is 7,888 and expected to grow 16.2% or 1,277 people in the next 5 years.
  2. Average age is 36 years old.
  3. Prefer Contemporary Worship Style and Traditional Worship Music
  4. Very interested in their Spiritual Development
  5. 54% have Moderate or NO Faith Involvement

54% of the population that has none or moderate faith involvement. That’s close to 4000 people within a five-mile radius.  These are members of our community who do not go to church at all or those who go once or twice a year (Christmas/Easter/Mothers Day).

This past Sunday, the title of my sermon was “Why Go to Church” and the scripture was taken from Hebrews 10.  The sermon stressed the need for a community of faith, how we need each other, how God works through others to encourage/spur on/and hold one another accountable.  I cannot imagine going through some of the struggles in life I have been through without a church family.

The truth is…according to these numbers, there are almost 4000 people around Union who are trying to do life by themselves.

Demographic information was obtained through Percept Group

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5 Types of Church Visitor

One thing pastors love is church visitors. Really, what we like even more is church visitors who become regular church attendee, but that process begins with visitors. It’s always a mystery why some visit a church and never come back. Those reasons may be the subject of another post, but one thing I’ve learned, much of the chance for return depends on why the person chooses to visit in the first place. I have discovered there are basically 5 types of visitors to a church:

Testers – These visitors are just looking around…perhaps for a new church…perhaps because they are dissatisfied where they currently attend church. They may feel they are not growing at their current church, or they aren’t completely satisfied with the leadership, the programs, or the opportunities for service available. If testers find what they are looking for, they’ll be back, but most likely, there is a specific fit they are seeking. I wouldn’t suggest altering things to keep them, but make sure their questions are answered.

Pleasers – These visitors are usually coming to appease someone who asked them. They have less interest in attending church than they have in satisfying the request of a spouse or friend. This is not a bad way to get them at first, and I’m always happy to have them, but it is harder to get them to stick unless God moves in their heart for attending church to become their personal desire. For these visitors, the person inviting them is just as important as the visitor in keeping them, but help the pleaser feel welcome, don’t make them feel uncomfortable, and you’ve got a good chance of seeing them return. Don’t Miss 7 Checkpoints to a Greater Guest Experience The Church WOW Factor Visitor Assimilation: It’s Not Rocket Science Top 7 Ways to Close the

Back Door Seekers – These are people who know they are missing something in life but aren’t sure what it is. Church may simply be another option, or it may be the only option, but these are the true unchurched. These visitors are a mission field. If we introduce them to Christ, they become forever loyal to the church where they found Him.

Jumpers – These visitors seldom stay long at one church. They get upset at something the church does, the church enters a building program that scares them away, or they simply grow bored. Likely they’ll only stick for a while at the new church, too, so don’t be take it personally if they disappear, as it may not be anything you did or didn’t do. Enjoy them while they are with you.

Investors – Most likely, these people moved to your community or some major issue caused them to leave their current church. These visitors are active church attendees looking for a new long-term home. They are ready to quickly commit and serve. It’s important to plug these people in as soon as possible. Again, churches love visitors. In fact, we like any of these five types. Knowing why someone is visiting your church, however, often helps the way you respond to them and gives you a better chance of keeping them. I wouldn’t recommend you ask them which of these they are, but it’s good to have in the back of your mind as you get to know them.

This article was written by Ron Edmonson. Ron is a pastor and church leader passionate about planting churches, helping established churches thrive, and assisting pastors and those in ministry think through leadership, strategy and life. Ron has over 20 years business experience, mostly as a self-employed business owner, and he’s been in full-time ministry for over 8 years.

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Outside the Wall’s

The teachings of Jesus say that the first shall be last and the last shall be first.  He was the greatest model of someone being a servant to others.  This is completely contrary to a worldly view where we are taught to put ourselves first.  Becoming inward is something that happens quickly in our personal lives and our churches.

As individuals, it’s a very easy process.  We have an unexpected bill come in and just this once we use our offering to cover it.  Pretty soon we find ourselves not giving any offering and we have become internal. All about me.

Churches can also have this happen. In our church situation, we have come out of huge hole and have gotten our head just above the water.  It would be very easy to direct all of our focus on ourselves.  I don’t want this to happen.  Last Sunday, I challenged our congregation to begin looking and planning as to how we could give of ourselves outside our local church.  We have a budget of $260,000 which essentially pays our bills.  We are not doing what God has called us to do if we relax and just meet this budget!  We must be on a mission to budget for more than just ourselves.  What if we committed to 10% of our yearly budget for missions or is it too much to ask for the church to devote 20% ($52,000.00) of our budget to serve others?  What if we decided we were going to take $26,000.00 and start a food pantry? Or a battered woman shelter? Or provide school uniforms in a 3rd world village so their children could go to school? Or buy $26,000.00 of mosquito netting for people in Africa dying from malaria.  Can you imagine brainstorming on how to use $26,000.00 or 56K to serve others?  I can.  I see it happening and I see Union growing from it.  I know we can do it, so let’s focus our prayers and our efforts to achieve this!!

Our youth have already started doing just this.  They are using their offerings to sponsor a child through Compassion International. I challenge our church to follow their example.

Categories: Church, Church At Chelsea Park, Faith Journey, John Personal | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Church Attendance

I’ve been reading and studying some info regarding why people attend church and why people DON’T attend church.  Here are 3 good article I’ve found that are worth taking time to read:

Stats on Church Attendance and Avoidance (Barna Group)

Why Americans Attend, Skip Church (Christian Post)

Just Why Do Americans Attend Church (Gallop)

If we are going to be serious about outreaching to our community, we must have an understanding of why people go and don’t go to church.

I hope you will let me know what you think about these articles.

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Why You’re Needed

One of my goals as pastor which has been set by the North Alabama Conference is to increase the average worship attendance of Union to 145.  I have heard many people say that all we’re doing is concentrating on numbers and there is some truth to that.  We are concentrating on numbers because each number is a soul.  An individual who is loved by God.  So, shouldn’t we concentrate on numbers?  Yes!  Numbers are important.  As with most goals, I cannot achieve this goal alone.  It’s not something that I can do without the help of the congregation, plain and simple.  BUT beyond my goal, here are some reasons why YOU ARE NEEDED and You’re ATTENDANCE is IMPORTANT.

  • People who are visiting feel uncomfortable in a church that seats 300 and has only 75 people sitting in the pews.  There is an emptiness that is felt.  There is a huge difference in the feeling of walking into a 300 seat church with 200 people in it than the feeling of 70 people.  Guest are left wondering, “where are all the people?”  “Have all the people left?” and other questions.
  • When starting a church, new church pastors are told not to start corporate worship until the have a CRITICAL MASS of 50-70 people.  Having people in the pews is vital to getting new people to come back.  We also made a point to have all of our people park in front of the building.  It’s important to “look” like there is something exciting happening when new people arrive.  If someone is making a first time visit, pull into the parking lot and there are 15 cars in a lot with 70 empty spaces…it doesn’t look like there is anything “happening”.
  • We need each other.  There is something spiritual about worshiping with others and we grow in our spiritual journey because of it.  We are a COMMUNITY OF FAITH.
  • We have vowed to support the church with our PRESENCE.
  • How can you minister to someone else if you’re not here? And how can you be ministered to?

As we continue into 2011, please remember how important your presence is to the life of the church and make every effort to be here on Sunday’s.  You need the church and the church needs you.

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Keeping X in Xmas

A good friend of mine (Steve West) wrote this on his Facebook page and I thought it gave a wonderful explanation regarding a topic that there is so much confusion about.

Surprised at my title, “Keeping X in Xmas“?

Many statements come out this time of year by evangelical Christians decrying the use of the abbreviation “Xmas”. They proclaim our need to “keep Christ in Christmas” and not “X him out”. I do understand the desire to keep Christmas faithful to the true reason for the season, of course.

But it’s a fairly common abbreviation that you can find on the storage boxes in my attic. Is it unfaithful? Should it be on the forefront of culture wars to keep Christ out of the celebration?
Actually, no. There’s a huge misunderstanding about the etymology of this abbreviation that could help us learn about our faith heritage. The use of “Xmas” a remnant of a beautiful tradition in the ancient art of Christianity which is dear to our faith.
Beginning with the ancient church, including times of persecution when Christians met in the catacombs and other secret places, the use of the Greek letter X (pronounced chi in the original Greek) was used to represent Christ because it was the first letter in the Greek word Christos, or Christ. It became a sort of secret symbol, not unlike the use of the fish, the ichthus, in the ancient church to represent the Christian faith. Writing “Xmas” on a box is no more unfaithful than putting the symbol of the fish on the bumper of your car.
You can find remnants of this tradition in almost any sanctuary today. Christmon trees, paraments, and the like will employ the X as a decorative remnant of this tradition in ancient Christian art. Consider the XP (chi rho) on the paraments of many pulpits.

Use of the X in the abbreviation Xmas is not “x-ing out Christ.” On the contrary, one could look at it as a statement of faith. Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God. As I tell my confirmands every year, Christ is not Jesus’ last name. It’s his divine title. It means that he is not only the human Jesus who walked the earth. He is the anointed one, the Messiah.
For additional explanation about this, see a good article on the use of Xmas on wikipedia. Here is a gospel cover from approximately 700 A.D. reflecting the ancient use of this symbol of faith.
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Devout and Holy Life

 

Rev John Hill and John Wesley at St. Pauls in London

 

The following is an article written by and used with permission from Ted Leach.  Enjoy, I did.

Somewhere along the way a simple idea became a doctrinal bone of contention.  There was a man named William Law (1686-1761) who wrote a book entitled A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life.  That book was formative for a slightly younger British cleric named John Wesley (1703-1791).  These two men were part of a movement that changed Great Britain for the better.  Their focus was simple:  as followers of Jesus Christ, seek to live a holy life.

John Wesley preached a fairly simple message, but it was a deep message that impacted the whole range of human existence.  Wesley believed every aspect of life was subject to the powerful scrutiny and the transforming grace of the Gospel.   His primary interest was in developing a sense of unity around the essence of Christianity and the core values of the church:  “If your heart is as my heart, then give me your hand.”   Wesley was thoroughly Protestant but he appreciated the faith of devout Roman Catholics.   He respected those who differed with him theologically, such as George Whitefield.  His deep commitment to the basics of Christianity and a strong (post-Aldersgate) sense of assurance gave him a self-confidence that enabled him to embrace people across a wide range of Christian experience and expression.   The Methodist movement became a rather large, inclusive tent.  Wesley encouraged people to “think and let think” regarding non-essential applications of the faith.

After John Wesley’s death, his spiritual descendants echoed his message while adding their own flavor.  Different and sometimes conflicting themes emerged in the Wesleyan community in the century after Wesley.  Doctrinal differences emerged around the definition of a holy life.  Some held to strict “dos” and “don’ts,” seeing outward behavior as the true measure of a holy life, while others were more accommodating to the changing values of the broader culture.   Some were more literal in their interpretation of scripture while others interpreted scripture in light of an emerging “historical criticism.”  Some preached a definitive “second work of grace,” a transformative event of the Holy Spirit that brings entire sanctification, while others focused on the gradual work of the Holy Spirit over one’s lifetime.  Wesley’s spiritual descendants began to populate various denominations in the holiness tradition such as the Church of the Nazarene and the Wesleyan Church.  Some joined the ranks of Pentecostal denominations such as the Church of God and the Assemblies of God.

These denominations, along with those that continued to use some form of the name “Methodist,” all share a common heritage:  to strive for holiness of heart and life.  Wesleyan people are future-focused and goal-oriented.   We believe God isn’t through with us yet.  Wesleyan people are “going on to perfection.”  We expect to “be made perfect in love in this life.”  United Methodists, Nazarenes, Pentecostals and Roman Catholics may express holiness of heart and life in different ways.  In the late 19th century and the 20th century, these groups often defined themselves apart from, or in contrast to, one another.   Perhaps in the 21st century, we will have more dialogue about the faith roots we share.

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4 Reason I Love the UMC

I’ve been a United Methodist all my life and I realized in seminary that I was a UM not only because of my life-long membership.  It was because I truly believed in the theology and doctrine of our church.  Do I agree with it all, no.  But here are some reasons that I love the UMC

  1. We Baptize Infants. We believe that the grace of God extends even to the youngest.  Even those who are so young that they have no inclination there is a God, God still loves them and showers them with grace.
  2. The Communion Table is Open.  Everyone is invited to feast at the table of the Lord who love him, repent of their sin, and seek to live in peace with each other.  It doesn’t matter how much money you make, where you are from, what your race is or your age…you’re invited to the table.
  3. Our Connection. We are a connectional church which means that all of our churches are part of the larger church.  This gives our ministries greater effectiveness throughout the world.
  4. Accountability.  There is not a Lone Ranger sense being a pastor within the UM Church.  I understand that I’m going to be held accountable to the church through the Staff/Parish Relations Team and to the larger church through the District Superintendent and the Bishop.  In North Alabama, a new focus is being put in place to monitor a pastor’s effectiveness and there are some who are upset about this.  I’ve never worked for an organization where I didn’t have review, goals and quota’s.  Why shouldn’t we as pastors expect the same accountability?
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Foundation of Spiritual Growth

Have you ever felt tired in your spiritual journey?  My grandmother used to say, “I’m just tuckered out!”  I have felt like that and if we are not careful to take care of our own spiritual needs while doing the work of Christ, we will get burned out.  Then we are no good to anyone.  So how do we make disciples while still becoming one?

If we are to “make disciples” as the mission of the church; it leads the next thought to that of a personal one…how do I become a disciple of Christ. Is it more than just going to church on every Sunday of your life (although that is a part of spiritual growth); it is more than just saying that you are a disciple (I could say that I’m the President of the US but I cannot get my organist to play “Hail to the Chief” as I enter); and it is more than just a belief that Christ is the Son of God (Scripture says that even the demons believe in this). So what do I do to become a disciple?

I attended a great conference in Orlando several years ago (I found my notes while cleaning up my office and unpacking some boxes…yes, I’m still unpacking) and one of the gentlemen who spoke (Wayne Cordero) stated that you will hear a lot of people saying to read this and do that and that may be good advice, but for the foundation of Spiritual Growth…look to what Jesus did. Let me give you a couple of examples:

1. Solitude: (Un-distracted time with God) This was a holy habit for Jesus. Life is going to get hectic, it’s going to get overwhelming with work; raising children; marriage; finances; even the commute to and from work. Take some un-distracted time with God. Put away your cell phone; don’t check your e-mail; turn off the TV, radio, I-Pod, and text messaging and get away from other people so that you can spend some un-distracted time with God. Luke 6:12-13; Luke 22:39-43; Matthew 14:13; Matthew 14:22.

2. Sabbath: Most of us are heavily burdened with worries and a host of responsibilities. Jesus promises rest for their souls. (Matthew 11:28-29). Rest, inspiration and play are precious pathways that can renew our souls. We need to take time to rest.

3. Silence: Mother Theresa said “Silence of the heart is necessary so you can hear God everywhere–in the closing of the door, in the person who needs you, in the birds that sing…” and the Scripture tells us to “Be Still and Know I am God.

4. Prayer: There are many examples of Jesus praying. Mark 1:35 “In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.” Spiritual growth into discipleship cannot and will not happen without prayer. A personal conversation with God in which one listens as much as one talks. Jesus had such a prayer life that it amazed his disciples (Jews who had probably prayed their whole life, yet they say something different in the prayers of Christ) they came to him and,said, Jesus, teach us to pray.

If your desire is Spiritual Growth and you want to be a Disciple…look to the Master. Find out what he did in his life and use those activities as the foundation of your growth. You can’t go wrong and it will make all the difference in your life.

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Why? Simple Question/Big Answer

Last night we had our annual Charge Conference and it was one of the best that I have ever attended.  Instead of it being a “business meeting” that bored everyone to tears, it focused on the work of the Body of Christ.  An hour was spent talking to the leaders of our churches about making disciples.  The guest speaker was Dr. Rudy Guess who is the Sr. Pastor at Gardendale/Mt. Vernon UMC.  He spoke on several different issues but the questions he raised are what got my attention the most.  Simple questions that mean so much and have such a big answer.  I struggled with these questions last night, not for the right answer but more of why have we not been asking these simple questions.  Maybe we’re scared of the answers.  Maybe it’s because we know the right answers but don’t believe it.  Or, is it that we just don’t care.  Three simple questions:

  1. Why does Jesus matter?
  2. Why does the Church matter?
  3. Why does your local church matter?

Have you ever given thought to these three questions?  They go hand in hand.  They deserve to be asked and more importantly deserve an answer.  However, if we ask that first one and answer it according to what we say we believe, it holds our feet to the fire on the other two.  Maybe we don’t want to answer the questions?  Do we truly believe our answers to the first question and if we do, how are we going to answer the second and third question?

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Connectional Giving: World Service Fund

The World Service Fund is the heart of our denomination-wide ministriy, underwriting Christian mission and ministry around the world.  This fund strenghtenes our evangelism efforts, stimulates church growth, expands Bible studies and enriches spiritual commitment. By giving to the World Service Fund we help God’s children everywhere shape the lives of tomorrow’s leaders and proclaim our Christian faith.

The World Service Fund truly demonstrates the Mission of the United Methodist Church by:

  • Supporting specific local church work with children, youth, students, persons who are mentally and physically challenged, adults and older persons;
  • Providing leadership and coordination for denominational ministry with youth;
  • Continuing nearly 200 years of commitment to quality college and graduate education;
  • Certifying United Methodist professional Christian educators, communicators and musicians;
  • Assuring United Methodists speak and work to help encourage a more ethical, just and human world;
  • Continuing a proud tradition of cooperation and dialogue with other faith traditions through interdenominational and ecumenical work;
  • Giving our denomination a presence in the mass media and making new communications technologies accessible to the church.

Click HERE to learn MORE

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