Archive for Church

Feb
08

Trading in our Canoes

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The year following the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, President Thomas Jefferson commissioned Captain Meriwether Lewis to find the most direct and practical water route across the continent from the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean for the purposes of commerce. For over 300 years explorers from at least four sovereign nations had been looking for a pathway that would lead from the Mississippi River all the way through the North America to the Pacific. Lewis was joined by Second Lieutenant William Clark and together formed the Corps of Discovery to under take the challenge from President Jefferson.

The Corps of Discovery began with a faulty assumption. Everyone was certain that the water route to the Pacific was there. All they needed to do was discover it. But they were wrong. There was no passage. When Lewis and Clark came to the end of the river they realized that nothing before them was like anything they had experienced that was behind them. There were no manuals, maps or journals that could help them. They literally marched off the map into the unknown.

What the Corps of Discovery learned over 200 years ago is what we are learning today in the life of our church. The world of ministry is not like anything we have experienced in the past. The cultural landscape has changed to the degree that our assumptions about reaching and serving are experiencing diminishing returns.

Today we are recognizing that many of the ministries we found to be effective in the past are no longer having the same impact today. Like Lewis and Clark, we must realize that we are marching into an age where our canoes may no longer help us reach our destiny. Like the Corps of Discovery, we are finding the need to trade our canoes for horses so that we can stay focused on the mission. Those who choose to love their canoes more than the mission will risk becoming stuck at the headwaters of the river and fail to reach the ultimate goal.

Categories : Church, Church Growth
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Mar
19

The National Congregations Study

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I recently received my copy of the National Congregations Study due to my participation in the process. The NCS was directed by Mark Chaves, Professor of Sociology, Religious Studies, and Divinity at Duke University. The study gathered information from 3,185 congregations from across the religious spectrum. What follows are some of the important results from the research.

1. The number of congregations claiming no denominational affiliation increased from 18% in 1998 to 24% in 2012.

2. White mainline congregations, and the people in those congregations, are older than the congregations and people of other religious traditions.

3. Most congregations are small but most people are in large congregations. The average congregation is getting smaller, but the average church goer attends a larger congregation.

4. People in smaller congregations give more money to their churches than do people in larger congregations.

5. Worship services have become more informal and expressive.

6. 10% of church goers worship in a multi-site congregation.

7. American solo or senior pastoral leaders are more ethnically diverse and older, but not more female than they were in 1998.

8.Food assistance is by far the most common kind of social service actively pursued by congregations, with more than half listing food assistance among their four most important social service programs.

9. 13% of all congregations are led by a volunteer solo or senior pastor.

10. Women could, in principle, serve as a senior or solo pastoral leaders in 58% of American congregations. However, only 11% of those same congregations have a woman serving as a solo or senior pastor.

What do you think? Any surprises?

Categories : Church, Church Growth
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Jul
20

Simple Thoughts on Acts 2:42-47

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The church I serve is now nearly a year into a vision process that we began with Auxano. One of the key elements we learned is the importance of developing a cohesive strategy that describes how we intentionally plan to make disciples. A key passages that informed our thinking on strategy is the familiar description of the behavior of the early church following Pentecost.

“All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity– all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved” (Acts 2:42-47, NLT).

Here are five simple observations I shared in worship yesterday.

1. The behavior of the church was an outflow of the Spirit.
The second chapter of Acts opens with the Spirit’s advent on the Day of Pentecost. While one cannot deny the miraculous signs and wonders performed by the apostles, it is my conviction that the core impact of the Spirit’s arrival was the life change that occurred in the masses. If you want a good description of what a Spirit filled life looks like, don’t focus on the margins. Focus on the core behavior of worship, prayer, fellowship, teaching, sharing, ministry and evangelism.

2. The behavior of the church was consistent.
Notice the inclusive language: everyone, every day and all. The Spirit’s impact was so profound that all the people participated in the disciple making process every day.

3. The behavior of the church was simple.
Aren’t you amazed that the early church created such a movement without a building, a budget, or seminary trained staff? What they did was simple enough that anyone could do it; and they did it sincerely enough that it became influential.

4. The text describes the behavior of the church, not the behaviors.
I contend that these first and second generation disciples didn’t divide themselves up into silos or specializations. I believe that each person practiced each element. To pick and choose among the items listed in the text would be akin to baking a cake using only the ingredients that you like. In order for a cake to be a cake you have to include everything. Similarly, in order for a disciple to be mature, each discipline must be practiced.

5. God produced the results.
The final verse summarizes one of the most important chapters in the New Testament pertaining to the church. The Lord added daily. We can plan, program and strategize, but God has to produce the results. When the people committed themselves to disciple making practices, God responded and blessed the early church.

Categories : Acts, Church, Church Growth
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The National Review has weighed in with a good article on reaching Millennials. You can find the article HERE. According to the author, we should perhaps spend less time thinking about how to attract millennials and more time developing processes that help them grow spiritually.

Categories : Church, Church Growth
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Jun
26

The Faith of Women in America

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Barna Research Group has released a new study on the relationship between women and Church in America. To view the report, click HERE.

Categories : Barna Group, Church
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Feb
17

Approval Versus Acceptance

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I am a part of a congregational church. With the exception of one Elder led congregation, I have always been a part of a congregational church. A congregational church government means that the membership sits atop the organizational chart, providing the final thumbs up or thumbs down to initiatives from subsets of the church. A congregational church may delegate some of the day to day decisions to the church staff or to a board, but reserve the “big” decisions for church wide business sessions.

A couple of things about that fact strike me as strange. For example, voting on issues always creates winners and losers. All in favor say “aye,” and all opposed say “nay.” Let’s count the votes and see which side has won and which side has lost. American politics reminds us that we have winners and losers every two years.

A second thing that is striking is that all votes are equal and count the same. The wealthiest member of the congregation gets one vote. The oldest member gets one, as do the youngest and newest members. Every member gets one vote. Just one. They’re not weighted, which is appropriate. Every time I step into a voting booth I am reminded of the fact that any other number of registered voters can cancel my vote. While this is striking, it works for America and it works for congregational forms of church government.

There is one more thing about voting that I find interesting. Voting is based on a model of approval and disapproval. If I approve of an initiative or a candidate, I can vote “yes.” If is disapprove, I can vote “no.”

So what happens if I “lose” the vote? What do I do if I find myself in the minority of the will of the people?

Whenever I am in the minority, I move from approval to acceptance. I don’t have to approve of the action of the majority to find a position of acceptance as a minority voice. You see, I am troubled when I see a celebrity look into a television camera and say, “If so and so is elected then I’m moving to (fill in the blank some other nation).” There have been plenty of elections when I didn’t “approve” of the majority opinion and my horse didn’t win, but I didn’t move to another nation. I remained a good citizen of my community, state, and nation. I paid my bills and my taxes. I exercised my right to vote in the next election. I didn’t approve, but I accepted the outcome.

One of the things those of us in congregational churches need to remember is that sometimes things are going to happen when we don’t “approve.” But for the sake of the whole, we can come to a point of acceptance. We can continue to faithfully serve, continue to give as instructed by Scripture, and continue to work to advance the cause of Christ by serving our community and living as a faithful witness. We don’t have to always “approve.” But we can learn to “accept,” for the sake of something bigger than our one vote.

Categories : Church, Leadership
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Feb
07

On Bullying

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There seems to be a lot of talk about “bullying” in the news lately. Parents frequently claim that their child has been bullied at school, and are frustrated that teachers and building administrators are not doing anything to prevent these abusive acts.

I recognize that our first response to this conversation could be to brush it off under the argument, “That’s the way its always been,” or “Who hasn’t been bullied at school?” We could also say that we were tougher back in the day and that today’s kids are too soft; needing thicker skin like those who walked “miles” to school in the snow.

It seems logical that we should expect those in authority to work to diminish the problem of bullying in all of its forms. However, the most recent research has revealed that the most effective deterrent to bullying is not a top down model where administration and faculty stop the problem. The most effective way to deter bullying is peer influence. That’s right, peer influence. It seems that if students want to deter or even eliminate bullying, they need to speak up and stand up to bullies on behalf of their peers whenever and wherever they witness bullying. And if you think about it, it makes a lot of sense.

Administrators and faculty are paid to manage classroom behavior. Its their job. They may be able to stop a behavior, but may have little impact on shifting values. Peers, on the other hand, may be less effective in stopping a behavior, but could bear tremendous influence on shifting values and re-shaping a culture.

I wonder if the same could be said of the church?

Categories : Church, Leadership
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From Tony Morgan, a quick but helpful read. Click HERE for this excellent post.

Categories : Church, Church Growth
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Skye Jethani has written an incredible piece titled, “The Rise and Fall of Celebrity Pastors.” Its thoughtful, well written, and worth your time. You can find the article by clicking HERE.

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Rainer research is offering more insight on the worship preferences of young adults. To read the research click HERE.

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