Questions worth answering?

Here are a few questions that I believe might be of some value for every church planter to ponder and hopefully answer prior to beginning the glorious but arduous task of pioneering a new church. Those pastoring existing churches that might be frustrated with their members’ unwillingness to take God’s calling seriously might also benefit from considering these questions:

1. Does God’s Word give us a glimpse of where the future history of mankind is headed?

2. Is it possible that Rev 5:9 and 7:9 give us a partial picture of what a portion of mankind will be doing in the future?

3. Based on what the God of the bible has revealed about Himself at previous points in the past: )see Gen 12:3, 26:3, 28:14, Psalm 86:8-10, 96:3, 2 Chron 6:32, Isa 42:1-7, 49:5,6, Luke 2:10,14, Matt 8:11-13, 28:18-20, and Acts 1:8, along with dozens of other verses), should we be surprised by what is described in Rev. 5:9 and 7:9?

4. Would we be wrong to conclude that bringing Rev 5:9 and 7:9 into reality might be one of God’s priorities?

5. Is it possible it should be one of our priorities too?

6. Did Jesus ever intentionally challenge His naturally SELF-focused followers to view things from the perspective of the bigger work that God is going to do? (Luke 10:2 John 4:35)

7. Does it take any effort on the part of a church leader to convince the members of his church to be concerned about themselves or the people in their inner circle of family and friends?

8. At what point did Jesus introduce His first followers to the idea that their following Him, their relationship with Him was for God’s larger purposes and interests, not their own? (Matt 4:19)

9. Did Paul see any value in helping a local church to understand that what he was called to and what God has done in and for them is a part of something larger that He is doing globally? (Rom 1:5 Col 1:6)

Based on the questions and the probable answers to these questions, what priority should God’s global purposes and one of His “end game” plans have in the vision and actual ministry of a local church from it’s inception forward?

Tapping Unlimited Potential

There has been a lot written about the up and coming Millennial generation. Miles wrote an eye opening post last week that is a must read. I would like to introduce you to a generation that has unlimited potential in the church, the Empty Nesters. Sure we know them as Baby Boomers or even as Framers but there is a group of people out there that aren’t ready for the Lazy Boy recliner or the forty-foot Winnebago just yet. They are couples who are done raising their children, and most likely their grandchildren, and are still unsettled. They want to do something significant with their lives and are finding that meaning in the church.

Our situation may be unique but we have a ton of people who are finishing up their second retirement (20 years in the military and now 20 as a civil servant) and are still under sixty. They have the time to devote to worthy causes. In our church we have had empty nesters do our bookkeeping, lead our food ministry, head up our hospitality, and lead numerous small groups. Almost all of them were dynamic influencers in the marketplace and were very successful in their careers and now they want to direct all of that experience and energy towards their faith in Christ and do it through the church.

This is a potential gold mine for the church. Not only do they have the time to devote to serving but also come with the maturity necessary to serve. They usually aren’t looking for the limelight and don’t need the financial incentive to do the job. What better gold mine to tap into than one that has time, experience, and comes at the best price… Free!

There are a few things that you need to prepare for. First is that this group is very comfortable working on their own. They like the autonomy and don’t like to be micromanaged. They will seek your feedback and input when they need it but usually like to be left alone. They also like to do things around their own schedule. Many of them golf, are involved in civic duties, or need to watch a grandchild and so they need to be able to do what they do on their schedule. Give them that freedom.

If your church can tap into this unlimited resource you will have a volunteer force that is unmatched in size and ability. Free from the constraints of raising a family and usually financially more stable than a Millennial (once again read Miles post) they are group that is hungry to do something meaningful with their life. Like the old adage goes: “Many have climbed the ladder to success only to find that the ladder was leaning against the wrong building.” This group is ready to pour their energies into the right work so tap into them.

Patter vs. Style (or: Cheap Knock-Offs)

We’re smart enough to know that we shouldn’t style ourselves after the more popular preachers, but not wise enough to follow our own counsel!  It is one thing to pattern yourself after someone you admire and something else to slavishly copy their style.  Calvary Chapel has a pattern of ministry bequeathed to us by Pastor Chuck Smith.  It is one thing to follow the pattern of ministry we see in Chuck, it’s another thing to slavishly copy his style of ministry. 

Look at the pattern of Pastor Chuck’s preaching – verse by verse, informational, devotional, Christ-centered, applicational, conversational preaching.  I have noticed that the movement as a whole seeks to follow this pattern of preaching, and I have noticed that many seek to copy Chuck’s style of preaching.  Chuck has a voice, a mood, a cadence, a ponderousness that is uniquely his own.  Something that is unique cannot be copied.  We can imitate Chuck’s pattern of ministry, but we can’t copy his style of ministry – but many still try.  And in trying to copy Chuck, they are slow to develop their own unique style. 

Many imitate the pattern of Pastor Chuck, but have a style all their own.  We can see in Bob Coy, Jon Courson, Raul Ries, Mike McIntosh, etc., the pattern of Pastor Chuck, but each has their own unique style.  You can follow the pattern these men follow, but the style has to be all you.  That’s probably what scares you!  You’ve never allowed yourself to be you.  I know that hindered me for years – and it still does at times.

I am enjoying a new liberty in the pulpit as I distance myself from the style of others.  I am allowing Tim to be Tim.  As I try to be someone else, I am quenching the Holy Spirit for I am distancing myself from what God made me to be.  Tim, set on fire by the Holy Spirit, is what the people need.  They don’t need me to channel Jon Courson or Pastor Chuck.  Learning effective techniques of communication is one thing – copying style is another.  The power of the Holy Spirit isn’t released by sitting on a stool, or by standing in one place, or by walking around.  The power of the Holy Spirit isn’t released by trying to strike a certain mood or by getting into some kind of rhythm.  The Holy Spirit is released as you yield yourself to the Lord and He flows through you the way that He created you.

If you’re humorous, be humorous.

If you’re slow with humor, don’t do it.  Is there anything more awkward than a serious preacher trying to use humor?  It’s downright embarrassing.

If you’re not a passionate type like John Piper, don’t get yourself worked up.  Artificial passion comes off like cold frenzy.  Sincerity doesn’t need an intense passion in order to be felt.  There is a quiet passion that flows from some.

If you’re over 35, don’t use the word ‘chillaxin.’  Yell

Those who attend Calvary Chapel Fremont from other Calvary Chapels will be comforted that the church I serve follows the expositional pattern of the Calvarys, but they will be refreshed by my style as I am filled w/ the Spirit and communicate the truth of God’s Word in the power of the Spirit.

Be you in the pulpit.  Find your own unique voice and style.  The church you serve doesn’t need a cheap knock-off.  They need you, filled with the Holy Spirit, bringing the Word.

Leave Only Footprints

I grew up hiking in the backwoods of South Lake Tahoe.  One of the first rules I learned about hiking was “To leave only footprints.”  The second rule grew from the first, “Leave the the campsite better than you found it.”  You may be thinking, “Okay, great.  What does this have to do with church anything?”

A few weeks ago I, or we the church, had to send of a very involved family away.  This family has been a HUGE blessing to me through the restarting journey.  They brought a depth of spirituality and service that was lacking early on.  Loosing families are painful, but some are more painful than others.  This was a painful one that came with joy.  Nothing bad happened, God moves people in and out through a variety of circumstances.  My time with this family was up and they moved on to another city to open a new chapter in their lives.

On their last Sunday, I brought them to the front of the church to love on them through having people share about how God used them in their lives and to pray for them as we sent them out to their new home and church.  In my comments I said to them, “I hope I left you better than I found you.  You know, like camping.”  It got a good chuckle, but they assured me that I had.  In this moment I learned a valuable lesson.

Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed,  shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness;  nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.  And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. (1 Peter 5:1-4, NASB)

“…for the keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account.” (Hebrews 13:17b, NASB)

People that we shepherd come and go throughout our ministries–it is inevitable.  When a person shows up at church, or calls you on the phone, or zaps you an email, you don’t know how much time God will give you to shepherd them.  He may give you days or years you never know how long you have with that person.  But from the above passages, it is a sober reminder that we as shepherds will give an account for the impact we had on the lives of those we shepherd.  I want people to leave their encounter with me walking closer to God than before we met.

The more I consider this post, I realize this is more of a prayer to be prayed.  There are times when managing my own life and family seems daunting, let alone being responsible for so many others that God has entrusted to my care.  My prayer is that God would enable me, and those who shepherd a flock of people, to shepherd the flock in a way that leaves them walking closer to Him–whether we have one contact or many alongside them.