Loving the Least of These

Many times we don’t know how to love the down and out. We struggle to help those who are hurting in our community and who are underserved. Often many Christians feel guilt, apathy or pride when they think about their role in loving the least of these. Jesus however calls us to love our neighbor. How do you do that without falling into the trap of Liberation Theology? How do you practice social justice without it becoming only about the here and now? How do you share not only your resources but the gospel as well? If you want to have an answer for these issues check out this sermon “Loving the Least of These.

 

You can also subscribe to this podcast on itunes here: 

The Purpose of Preaching

People have a variety of opinions about preaching. Most pastors are convinced that their way of preaching is the right way. Lets look at some of the preaching models.

Some pastors approach preaching by making it all about meeting people where they are at. This is commonly known as felt need preaching. You answer the questions that people are asking about their lives. You speak to people’s needs and hopes and fears. The hope is that if we can interpret culture and be culturally relevant then people will see how attractive the gospel is and want to follow Jesus.  The goal here is to be relevant to culture and build a bridge to culture.

Other pastors look at preaching as an information dump. They look at trying to educate their audience. They hope that they can give their flock enough information then they will be enlightened and continue to desire to grow. So they talk about theology and historical backgrounds and point to the past. Often attending a church where information is the focus, you as the member will grow in your knowledge of your scriptures and become a very informed Christian.

Some teachers focus instead on a very active, practical approach to their teaching. They try to give their congregation a clear path to taking control of the presenting problems they face. They give action points on how to overcome life’s dillemas. They focus on really practical subjects like managing your money, having a good quiet time and having a good sex life. These are usually pastors who are doers and type A leaders.

A newer, postmodern development in preaching is the teacher who brings his audience on a journey. This teacher is often the direct opposite of the active, practical teacher. They focus instead on asking questions and pondering weighty issues without resolving the tension that those questions bring about. They desire to struggle with issues and bring them to the surface but often have not desire to answer the questions they struggle with. The journey is what matters.

Still other churches are focused on the emotional response to the preaching. They focus on how the person feels in light of the sermon. There are several different expressions of an emotionally focused church. Some want you to feel a certain way during the sermon or worship service. They want you to either be emotionally moved to tears or laughter. They want you to be moved to feeling really worshipful. Or they may desire the polar opposite of someone feeling an emotion. They want a non emotional response and are very careful to not offend their audience. They try very hard to not be offensive by anything that they say, do or teach. They are very politically correct and measured.

Personally I think all these models have their strengths and weaknesses. Any thoughtful teacher should strive to preach in a relevant way that brings new helpful information to the table.  In fact, good teachers incorporate all of these elements into their teaching to be able to connect with the different kinds of people who are a part of their audience.

Recently I have had a lot of clarity concerning the kind of teaching I feel God is calling me to grow in. In my quiet time I came across Colossians 1:27-28.

It reads:

To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. [28] Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. Colossians 1:27-28

I love how it says that God is making known among us a great mystery. That mystery is that Christ is in us. This is our hope of glory. Think about that we have Christ in us.  During the sermon on the mount Jesus said that we are the light of the world. Thats remarkable. God is in us to be a light in the darkness. We all know we live in a dark place but it is better to be a light in a dark place than curse the darkness. jesus is calling us to be light. To show that we have his light in us. But that isn’t easy. It is hard to be consistent without community around us to encourage us to be faithful

But what Paul continues to say in Colossians 1:28 has shaped my teaching: Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.

Preaching at its core should be to present your audience mature in Christ. If you arent doing that you are missing the mark. Jesus said in the great commission that we are to make disciples. He didn’t say we are to make fans, or to make followers, but that we are to make disciples. When you teach you are to make people into replicas of Jesus through your teaching. That means as Paul says in Corinthians that you are to proclaim Jesus, warn people and teach them with all wisdom.

So that means that every teacher should ask themselves the following questions:

Am I calling people to be mature in this message? This is so hard because you have to work hard to be clear and practical about what you want people to change in their lives. But you have to have maturity as your target or else you will focus on either a creative idea or a truth that you are fond of but that may not transform a life.

Am I warning people? It takes a lot of courage to warn people about the dangers of this world. Often there are sermons that we don’t preach because we know that it is not a popular message. If you are going to really be a godly pastor you are going to have to be ok with offending people. If we are going to be like Jesus we will be unpopular when we teach what he said.

Am I proclaiming Jesus? It is easy to make a sermon about so many other things than Jesus. If you are going to a preacher of the gospel, then Jesus’ teachings need to permeate both your life and your teaching. You need to tie what you teach back to what he says. Be grounded in the word. Use it as your standard of truth. Use him to be your measuring stick concerning truth.

This past week we started a new series at Green Hills Church. The point is to drive people to maturity as we discuss hard topics found in the book of Exodus. The first week we had to tackle what the Bible had to say about slavery. I hope you enjoy the message.

You can hear the first sermon of the series here: What the Bible has to say about Slavery.

Church Planting Talk By Randy Draughon

A dear friend of mine, Randy Draughon, spoke at a Church Planter’s conference several weeks ago. I was really challenged by the message and wanted to pass it along. He shares an authentic approach to church planting that is moved by the spirit. If you are a church planter or thinking about planting you need to listen to this.

Here is the link: http://bit.ly/sEgWWy

 

 

Church Planting Task Management Software.


All of us have overflowing to-do lists. If you are like me, you are constantly trying to manage what is on your list and what you have already done. Complicating the issue are tasks that you share with other co-workers. Often there is as much time spend on sending each other emails about your work as doing the work itself. Group cooperation can be a maddening experience. Its even tougher when you have multiple people that you are assigning tasks too and you want to keep up on their progress without coming off as micro-managing. So how do you overcome the Task Management monster? More importantly, how do you overcome it on the cheap? My hope is that this will be helpful to all you church planters out there trying to lead your emerging teams.

This year we have more volunteer leaders and staff than ever. Our teams at Green Hills Church seem to be continually expanding. Our ministry is growing and we are trying to all stay sane and on the same page. As we have been trying to figure out the group task managing problem I commissioned my Administrative Director, and good friend Ben Stewart to come up with a solution.  What he has presented us is a task management software called Orchestra. You can check out their site at https://web.orchestra.com/#

Orchestra is completely free, has a mobile phone app and is very user friendly. You start by creating an account for each team member. It functions a lot like a Facebook Account. You then can assign tasks to other team members. They can accept or reject the task and you can see their progress. You can remind them to do the task by nudging them (a gentle reminder) or by sending them a note. You can also create subsets of tasks that are not shared globally so you can isolate your tasks to specific teams or even keep some of your tasks private.

The current drawback is that you cant upload and attach working documents and you can’t do file sharing between teams. But it is a great interface to use to communicate tasks and keep communication lines flowing.

Here is a picture of what the interface looks like.  

 

So if you are interested you can sign up at: https://web.orchestra.com/#

If this is helpful spread the word!

Church Size, Does it Matter?

Here’s a great read from Pastor Mark Driscoll as he talks about church size. What was surprising to me was how few true megachurches there really are in America. I had the opportunity to work at one while I was in Seminary and it was a surreal experience. What are your thoughts?

Some Thoughts on Church Size

by: Pastor Mark Driscoll on Nov 10, 2011 in ChurchLeadership

 

 

There are three major variables necessary to understanding a church:

Theology: This is both what you believe and what is emphasized in the teaching and ministry of the church. This includes what topics are regarded as open- and closed-handed issues, respectively. This is where questions such as, “Do we lean Reformed or Arminian?” “Do we baptize babies or not?” “Are we charismatic or cessationist?” “Will we have female pastors or not?” “Do we believe in a literal hell or not?” are answered.

Ministry Philosophy: This is the set of values and practical decisions that determine how you do things. Will you be a missional church engaging culture? A fundamentalist church retreating from culture? A seeker church attracting families with programming? Have contemporary music with a band or traditional music with a choir? Be multi-service or multi-site? Preach through books of the Bible or do short topical series? Etc.

Size: Church size affects nearly every aspect of a church, as bigger churches are not simply larger versions of smaller churches but rather very different organizations. For this reason, sometimes two very large churches that differ in aspects of theology and ministry philosophy have a lot in common simply because of size.

Size affects the number of lines of communication, how an organization stacks or does not stack leadership, access to the senior leader and family, etc. Simply, church size does matter for how a church is run, much like a married couple who some years later find themselves with a dozen children cannot simply organize their life as they did with their first child—everything must change. For those wanting to learn more about the dynamics of church size, Tim Keller has a helpful paper, and Larry Osborne has a helpful book called Sticky Teams.

Also, in my book Confessions, I write the following:

No one is exactly sure how many non-Catholic Protestant churches there are in the United States but the general figures are somewhere between 400,000 and 500,000 churches.[i] So, for purposes of this rough estimate I am assuming that there are 400,000 non-Catholic Protestant churches in the United States. I am also assuming that the reported attendance at these churches is accurate, something that is highly questionable as over-reporting of church attendance is estimated by some to be as high as fifty percent.[ii] Therefore, a rough estimate on the breakdown of weekly church attendance for adults and children in America breaks down as follows:

      • Churches with 45 people or less = 100,000 churches or 25% of all churches
      • Churches with 75 people or less = 200,000 churches or 50% of all churches
      • Churches with 150 people or less = 300,000 churches or 75% of all churches
      • Churches with 350 people or less = 380,000 churches or 95% of all churches
      • Churches with 800 people or less = 392,000 churches or 98% of all churches
      • Churches with 800 people or more = 8,000 churches or 2% of all churches
      • Churches with 2000 people or more = 870 churches or 0.22% of all churches
      • Churches with 3000 people or more = 425 churches or 0.11% of all churches

Summarily, George Barna says, “Four out of ten church-going adults (41%) go to churches with 100 or fewer adults while about one out of eight church-going adults (12%) can be found in churches of 1000 or more adults.[iii]

According to church expert Lyle Schaller, the two most comfortable church sizes are 45 people or less and 150 people or less.[iv] Subsequently, these are also likely the hardest size barriers a pastor has to push through. Practically, it seems that churches under 45 people are large enough to gather for worship and function as a church, but small enough for everyone to know each other and have a say in everything that happens. A congregation of 150 can usually gather in one service and exist as one community, yet have the resources to hire a pastor to care for all the people. These variables may help to explain why the average church in America is reportedly 89 people.[v]

Additionally, pushing through the 350 barrier is often very difficult because it usually requires that the church transition to multiple pastors, multiple services, and become multiple communities.

 

 

You can read the article in its entirety here: http://pastormark.tv/2011/11/10/some-thoughts-on-church-size

 

Covet the Kingdom

Coveting is an epidemic all around us. Our culture is based around the concept that we are always dissatisfied with what we have. We need what is new. We need what we dont have. Jesus in contrast said, “Seek First the Kingdom of Heaven.” How do we do that? How do we seek God’s Kingdom instead of ours? Check out this sermon to find out God’s heart for us.

http://blip.tv/green-hills-church/nov-6-2001-you-shall-not-covet-5713614

How To Develop Volunteer Leaders.

 

Every church need to reproduce leaders at every level. However, developing leaders not something that is easy to do. It takes a lot of time and effort to be able to develop leaders. I want to share with you how to develop leaders strategically in order to make a difference in your community.

This week we had a breakthrough Sunday at Green Hills Church. We had several key volunteer leaders who were out of commission. One had a medial condition that kept him from serving, another was on his honeymoon. These were guys who had been carrying the baton of leadership over the last 3 years. Instead of catastrophe we had something really exciting happen. We had several new volunteers step up and fill key roles that they had never filled before! These were not volunteers that showed up and were plugged into roles that they had never filled before, these were young men who had gone through an apprenticing process. It was exciting to see a new set of servant leaders spread their wings! From every ministry area we had new volunteers serving this past sunday.

As a church that depends on volunteers to set up and tear down our church every sunday it is a huge undertaking to do church every Sunday. We get to Cabana Restaurant in Nashville at 7 every morning and turn it from a high end nightclub into a church. We move tables, sweep and mop the floors and set up our sound system and children’s ministry. We can get it done usually in an hour. Over the years we have had certain key lay leaders who have led the charge sacrificially. But recently we have seen that we have needed some new blood to be able to continue ministering with excellence.

1. Recruit Relationally. The best volunteers are those who are your friends. I think the best place to recruit is among people who you are already friends with. Ask your volunteers to invite their friends to volunteer. Also remember that whomever you invite to your team is now a friend. I think many leaders do themselves a disservice by keeping people at an arms distance when they are working together. Many of my closest relationships have developed through serving alongside my volunteers.

The best way to recruit someone is to get to know them personally. Take them to coffee. Get to know their story. Invite them to join you in making a difference. I make it a point to personally recruit people when they indicate that they want to serve on one of the teams that I am personally leading. I have realized that men need someone to invite them personally to serve and tell them why they are needed.

2. Establish Parameters One of the temptations when you are recruiting someone is to be vague about what their responsibilities will be. Its easier to just shoot from the hip when you are dealing with volunteers. Personally I find that to be really lazy leadership. You will not develop or attract strong leaders that way. For every volunteer you need to clearly define what the role will be. You need to be able to answer the following questions for every volunteer you put in place. What will they do? How long will it take them to do it? Who do they report to? How do they request change? How long will they be committed to serve in this position? All these questions should be written down on a job description when you hire a volunteer.

3. Model the Role Leadership is caught more that it is taught. Your volunteers learn by your example. So make sure you set a good example in how hard you work. Set an example in how you deal with stress. Be active and diligent. Do the dirtiest jobs.

Volunteers should never be dropped into a servanthood position cold turkey. We do an apprenticeship for every role at Green Hills Church. We have someone shadow a volunteer at least one Sunday before they start to do the role on their own. Whether that is on our hospitality team or running sound we have people shadowing someone so they can replace themselves. What is so exciting about that is today we have multiple gifted leaders who run sound on a rotation. We have a list of volunteers who serve only once a month in our children’s ministry. We have a rotation of musicians who donate their time and talents to make a difference for the gospel.

4. Develop a community of servants People like to serve alongside their friends. We realize this and are trying to do things on Sundays that develop community while we serve. One of the things we have tried to do is to make sure that we all leave together. We make sure that we have a final time of prayer with our tear down team and then one of our members will close us in a cheer. On Sunday set up often the volunteer team will head out for coffee or breakfast after setting up. All these little things change serving from being a chore to being family.

5. Avoid the tyranny of the urgent.  It is so easy to short circuit a good process of volunteering because you need help today. I think being patient is the most important attribute to have when you are trying to develop volunteers. Often you can rush someone into a leadership position before they have fully committed to the role or before they are ready to lead. This causes more harm than good. Often you will lose other volunteers when your leaders crash and burn. The way you overcome the tyranny of the urgent is by projecting your future needs and sacrificing in the present.

Sometimes you have to do the hard work of sacrificing your own comfort right now so you can develop a great team. That may mean that you as the leader will have to do things you don’t want to do for a season. That is normal and healthy. Every leader has to carry the weight of their responsibility more heavily at times. If you remain patient you will reap a harvest that will pay off.

Projecting your future needs is vital to any volunteering effort. It takes time for people to commit to serving regularly. But developing volunteers is worthwhile. It gives people an opportunity to serve the kingdom and often gives them a platform for spiritual growth unlike everything else.

Feel free to add your suggestions on how to recruit and develop leaders in the comments!

Blog (Re) Focus

After some contemplation and deliberation, I have decided to refocus my blog around resourcing and encouraging Church Planters. Being someone who is in the midst of church planting I know how important it is to have good resources and best practices brought to light. My hope is that this will be a space where Church Planters can find really practical advice and ministry solutions as well as find encouragement when things seem bleak. Church Planting is not easy but it is the greatest calling a pastor can receive. Keep on fighting the good fight!