In Christ = Relationship, Divine Presence, Family

RELATIONSHIP

“through faith you are all sons of God in Christ Jesus” 

DIVINE PRESENCE

“those of you who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ” 

FAMILY

“There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; since you are all one in Christ Jesus”  

Galatians 3:26-28 (CSB)

Relationship, so we’re loved and accepted.

Divine Presence, for when we need help that’s beyond ourselves.

Family, so that we’re never alone or abandoned

Thank you Father, for making us sons and daughters, for giving us the promise of your presence, and for making us part of your great family. Let us live that others may know you, feel your presence, and desire to become a part of your great kingdom. 

Happy Birthday Katherine Jubilee!

Our baby girl, Kate, is five today! She’s a beauty inside and out. Like her name, a Pure Joy – Katherine means Pure, Jubilee means Joy (see, I did use my Biblical languages after seminary, Ha!). Happy Cinco de Mayo and Happy Birthday Kate!

Georgia Barnette is at Work!

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First Baptisms at Point of Life Church in Plaucheville, one of 75 current church plants supported by the Georgia Barnette State Missions Offering.

Our Louisiana Baptists State Missions Offering, the Georgia Barnette Offering, is a great spark for missions all over Louisiana. In 2016, we received $1.58 million for the offering and this money is already at work across our state in 2017. Here’s some of the current expenditures:

  • $15k in scholarships for ministerial students.
  • $20k to help new churches and missions centers with equipment needs.
  • $159k in church planting and compassion ministry funding for over 100 projects currently in years 1-3.
  • $34k in funding for the Mission Builder program providing construction resources for churches across Louisiana.
  • $18k for church planting networking and training for non-english language groups in Louisiana.
  • $8k for African-American church planting development.
  • $6k for Men’s, Women’s, and Kids Missions training and networking.
  • $90k for special evangelism projects including Prison outreach and evangelistic event support
  • $85k for Collegiate Ministry, including the brand new Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM) at Southern University in Baton Rouge.
  • $30k for the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Extension at Angola State Penitentiary.
  • $9k for ESL (English as a Second Language), Multi-housing, and Chaplaincy training and projects across Louisiana.
  • $7k for Disaster Relief Training and Projects.
  • $150k for the Here For You Media campaign.

Still around $927k to be distributed over the next eight months. It’s always a lot of fun to watch the Georgia Barnette offering at work! Find out more about the Georgia Barnette State Missions Offering at GeorgiaBarnette.org. Promotional material for the 2017 Offering will be available in July. Watch for opportunities to give through your church this Fall. Let’s be faithful to provide this spark for missions in Louisiana!

Multiplication Requires Apostolic Networking

tracks01Multiplying leaders are masters at establishing new relational tracks for the Gospel to run on. Let’s call this Apostolic Networking. When Paul got to Rome, he was a little surprised that they already knew of him and his work, because of the relational tracks he’d developed had beat him there. The multiplying leader is a natural at networking for the good of the Gospel and for others. You will hear of their influence and impact from a wide spectrum of people and usually always in reference to the Gospel or for your good.

  • From an unchurched person, “___ told me about your church.”
  • From a leader you meet, “___ helped me understand…”
  • From a potential partner, “____ told me you were doing a great job.”

And your reply will always be, “You know ___! How do you know him/her!”

  • Church planters would do well to get to know the multiplying leaders in your area. They can open up doors that you won’t believe. Every community has them.
  • Pastors and church leaders should look for and empower those in your congregation who are apostolic networkers. They’ll gladly introduce your church to the entire community in less than a year.
  • Church planters should work at the art and science of networking for greater influence. If you’re not apostolic in nature (see the APEST test to find out), no problem, start by taking risk in new relationships, asking lots of questions, remembering names, following up with people you meet, look for opportunities to serve.

Read more about the apostolic gifting and church leadership in my post Creating Sending Capacity: Make Room for the Apostles (with a little “a”).

The Church As Movement 

TheChurchAsMovementJR Woodward’s and Dan White Jr.’s book The Church as Movement: Starting and Sustaining Missional-Incarnational Communities is well worth reading for church planters or leaders pursuing missional, incarnational movement. Great info and ideas on starting and sustaining missional communities. Also, goes into great detail on the APEST modes of church leadership – Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds, Teachers. Also, great information on the spiritual maturity as it relates to missional communities and deep relationships around discipleship. Would be great for a core group or launch team utilizing missional communities as a strategy to go through. Would also be good for a church wanting to get back to a missional, community driven focus to go through. Want be shelving this one anytime soon. Good tool to keep handy as we look to make disciples and catalyze a movement. Lots of good resources, worksheets, etc. at churchasmovement.com.

Wore through a highlighter reading this book, but here’s a few of my favorite highlights:

  1. Jesus’ main message centered on the kingdom of God and his primary way of creating movement was confiding in the three, training the Twelve and mobilizing the seventy.
  2. We must die to our self, our infatuation with speed and size, and devote ourselves to the work of making disciples, training the few.
  3. Movement is about developing structures and systems that catapult people into mission.
  4. the church as movement values shared leadership, sustainability and faithfulness, leaving fruitfulness to God.
  5. the church as movement focuses on the “small” grassroots work of developing a discipleship core that builds a missional community together.
  6. The church is not the church if it is not moving deeper into the brokenness of our world.
  7. The key element to the spontaneous expansion of the church is simplicity.
  8. Movement requires reproducibility. What we are multiplying should be reproducible by just about everyone.
  9. We must remember that faithfulness is our part, and fruitfulness is God’s. He can choose to move as slow or fast as he desires.
  10. Skill is not the first thing that qualifies leaders in the missional church; character is.
  11. Personality is great, but a sustainable movement is not built on it. Movements are built on character.
  12. Conflict in relating with others in community often hints at things we haven’t paid attention to in our own soul.
  13. We discover much about ourselves as we move outward on mission. Our fears, our insecurities, our hypocrisies, our apathies and our chaos is revealed as we attempt to live a missional life.
  14. Discipleship is a move toward accountability and vulnerability to learn and practice the way of Jesus on mission.
  15. Discipleship involves heart , mind and body learning, not just the transfer of information and beliefs.
  16. Discipleship cannot be consumed; we must participate in it.
  17. Mission is much more than a weekend project; it is an incarnational pursuit to be faithfully present to God’s in-breaking kingdom in the ordinariness of life.
  18. the church is not a building, a weekly gathering or a program, but a people God has called out of the world and sent back into the world to redeem and renew the world.
  19. This is the essence of the church: a people who find their identity in the arms of God (communion), rallied around tables welcoming each other (community) and sent out into the world with serving hands (co-mission).
  20. The church cannot storm the gates of hell by gathering around consumer needs. A shared life and the shared story that Jesus is King are its rallying points.

Co-operation, Commitment, Communion, Commission

Prayer is co-operation with God. It is the purest exercise of the faculties God has given us—an exercise that links these faculties with the Maker to work out the intentions He had in mind in their creation. Prayer is aligning ourselves with the purposes of God…

Prayer is commitment. We don’t merely co-operate with God with certain things held back within… We, the total person, co-operate. This means that co-operation equals commitment. Prayer means that the total you is praying… Your whole being reaches out to God, and God … reaches down to you…

Prayer is communion. Prayer is a means, but often it is an end in itself… There are times when your own wants and the needs of others drop away and you want just to look on His face and tell Him how much you love Him…

Prayer is commission. Out of the quietness with God, power is generated that turns the spiritual machinery of the world. When you pray, you begin to feel the sense of being sent, that the divine compulsion is upon you.

… E. Stanley Jones in Growing Spiritually. Via CQOTD

2016 ACP Data Is In!

ACP2016 ACP (Annual Church Profile) Reports are in for Louisiana. The Annual Church Profile is collected by State Convention Communication and Information Services Departments and tallied together nationally by Lifeway. Our Information Services Department works hard to gather the data, even from churches that do not turn in the form, by calling them and asking for what data can be gathered over the phone. Most Associations do a good job helping churches see the importance. It is valuable for us to see how we are doing together and for our strategists to have good data as we plan church planting and missions efforts nationally. It also gets our state included in national data collection.

Here are a few highlights that I found interesting from this years ACP Reports:

  • 86% or 1,376 Louisiana Baptist Churches reported. So 248 churches did not report.
  • Total Worship Attendance for 2016 in Louisiana was 165,228. Which is 3.5% of Louisiana’s total population of 4,670,724.
  • Total Resident Membership for 2016 was 357,631. Which is 7.7% of Louisiana’s total population.
  • Total Baptisms reported – 10,214. Down almost 900 from the previous year. Baptisms declined in every age group, but most drastically among children and youth.
  • Worship Attendance is down 8% since 2012.
  • 791 or 57% of Louisiana congregations are <150 in Resident Membership
  • 449 or 33% are between 150 and 499 in Resident Membership
  • 136 or 10% are over 500 in Resident Membership.
  • Out of 1,376 reporting congregations, 498 or 36% reported a decline in attendance from 2015-2016. 331 or 24% showed a decline of 10% or more.
  • 551 or 40% reported a decline in Small Group Attendance. 25% had a decline of 10% or more. 656 out of 1,376 or 48% reported a decline over the last 10 years.
  • Small Group Attendance is at an all-time low in Louisiana, dropping below 100,000 only the 2nd time in reported history.
  • No congregation had showed a decline every year in the last 10 years.

A few takeaways:

  1. A decline continues to be noted in attendance and membership.
  2. The decline is not a doomsday 80% of churches, that we hear sometimes. 36% of churches, not 80% declined since last year. And NO CHURCH showed a decline every year in the last 10 years.
  3. Small Group attendance figures are alarming. Small Group attendance has dropped drastically for Southern Baptist in Louisiana. Part of this is probably due to programming issues. More churches doing two worship services, etc. But knowing how much great face to face discipleship happens in small groups, it grieves me to see these figures dropping so drastically.
  4. Noted decline among children and youth baptisms continue in Louisiana. In the 1990’s Louisiana Baptist were baptizing 5,000+ children and 4,000+ youth every year. This year only 2,597 children and 1,896 youth baptisms were reported. Prayers for the next generation.

What data point most interest you? What would you like to know from this years ACP data? What are your takeaways? Comments? etc.

Making Plans for a Big Easter

CelebrationStBernard

Easter 2015 at Celebration St. Bernard

Celebration Church’s St. Bernard Campus has grown from 110 in 2009 to 485 in 2016 in weekly average attendance. Easter Sunday attendance has grown from 206 to 1,380 in that time frame, serving as a great catalyst for overall growth. Patrick Eagan, Celebration St. Bernard’s Campus Pastor, recently spent some time coaching church planters in the Baton Rouge area on how to make the most out of Easter. Get Patrick’s Notes HERE. This can serve as a great playbook for planning Easter or other Big Attendance weekends at your church. Patrick said, “Most of us will not be able to double our weekend attendance by simply praying harder and trying harder.” We need a plan! Here are a few great starter questions for planning from Patrick’s presentation:

  1. What would it look like at your church if the fullness of the power of God met the fullness of the efforts of man?
  2. If you successfully doubled your weekend attendance, would there be room for everyone?
  3. Is it possible to add worship services to your usual line up?
  4. What is the long-term growth vision for your church?
  5. What is the challenging but reasonable goal for your end of year attendance?
  6. How will you identify and follow-up with guests on Easter Sunday?
  7. What specific elements of the worship service will encourage guests to come back?
  8. What post-Easter events can we leverage guests toward?

Get the whole doc and do what you can to get ready for a big weekend of planting seeds and growing God’s kingdom. Always grateful for Celebration Church and their generosity of lessons learned and best practices.

We’re Not Done When We Make Converts, Our Mission is Maturity

 

The 2017 Generate Conference is a wrap. This years host and showcase church was North Monroe Baptist. Grateful to Pastor Bill Dye and staff for the generosity and hospitality. The Generate Conference is designed to help church planters in years 3 to 10 to get beyond growth barriers and leadership hurdles. Pastors and leaders in churches from >50 to <500 have also attended and took away actionable steps. With the Generate Conference we highlight the work of several Louisiana churches that have found ways to grow and break growth barriers in our unique context. Shawn Lovejoy, with Courage to Lead and Kirk Jones, Fellowship Church in Prairieville, also served as equippers this year, along with North Monroe’s staff. Here’s a few of my big takeaways this year:

From Bill Dye:

  • You can’t be a great pastoral leader without having the heart of Jesus.
  • Find a way to use new people. They are the best volunteers because they’ve bought in to the vision. Don’t wait to put them on ministry teams.
  • Only person who likes change is a wet baby. Don’t attempt any substantial change until you’ve done at least one year of vision casting.
  • Be willing to ignore and work around difficult people. Are you trying to win a fight or win the world for Christ.
  • Let the quality of your work speak for itself. When you do tough things in a spirit of humility, your stock goes up with the right people.
  • We’re not done when we make converts. Our mission is maturity.
  • Church staff are not ministers, but administrators of ministry. We don’t pay people to minister. Everybody ministers.

From Shawn Lovejoy:

  • The Three Gears of Growth: Culture – Team – Systems
  • Growth depends not on your preaching ability but the ability to let go of control and build a great team.
  • Decisions must be made based on who we might reach instead of who might leave.
  • If you have the right culture and the right team, almost any system will work.
  • You have to be the culture you want to build. We reproduce who we are.
  • Behaviors of a High Performing Team: They Trust Each Other, They Engage in Healthy Conflict, They Commit to Decisions and Plans of Actions, They Focus on Collective, not Individual Results.
  • Four things we owe our leaders: Clarity, Grace, Honesty, and Proper Placement.
  • God will not bring you more followers than you have leaders.
  • A learning church is a growing church. A learning leader is a growing leader.
  • Church staff is to be the equippers, not to do ministry, but to develop ministers.

Other presenters were: Jacob Crawford, Life Point Mansura; Chad Merrell, First West Fairbanks; Jason McGuffie, FBC Tallulah.

Look forward to highlighting other growing churches and leaders in 2018. Lots to learn from those right around us.

 

Church Growth = Growing Friends + Growing Family

I’ve been a part of a couple of growing churches. The fun of it is having a growing number of people to call friends and then a growing number of people to call family. This is essentially a good, simple church growth strategy. Hey, let’s make more friends and let’s stick with them long enough that they become family. Scaling this to grow a church larger and larger requires intentional strategy. Nothing wrong with a small group of friends and small families. But most churches want to grow. Many pastors and most church planters want their churches to be self-sustaining and be around for future generations. So how do we grow friends and family?

1. Design systems to discover and track the number of friends your church has.

A friend is anyone that may be connected with your church or with a member of your church family. Do you know how many friends you have? In the past, we’ve called these prospects. I prefer to think of them as friends. Do you have a list of prospects / friends? Here’s some ways to discover them:

  • Have a connection card on Sunday’s that people fill out. All first time guests are added to our Friends list, so that we can pray for them, and stay in touch with them.
  • Ask people in your church to make a list of friends that don’t have a church family. List them, pray for them among the leadership, visit them, invite them.
  • Have regular events that are just designed to make new friends. Easter Egg Hunts, Fall Festivals, Movie Nights in the park, etc. Let the community know that this is a safe place to know and be known.
  • Our church uses a list we call Crowd – Congregation – Core to track where people are spiritually within our family.

2. Cast a vision and provide resources to help people in your church to make new friends.

Tim Keller said,  “In the first two centuries, mission work was informal, conversational, and largely through friendship.” I think our world could use a lot of this kind of mission work as well. What if people got a vision for expanding the kingdom through friendship and caring for those around them. Here’s some ways a church may encourage this:

  • Teach people the importance of initiating new relationships in the process of evangelism.
  • Provide resources for people to celebrate and party well within the community. Like a block party trailer with inflatables, tents, and outdoor sound equipment. Like a big BBQ pit that can be loaned out to families on the weekends for Birthday parties and neighborhood gatherings.
  • Have special friend days, designed just for people to invite new friends to church that promises a meaningful message with them in mind.

3. Design systems to lead to deeper family-like connections and commitments.

sgcampout

One of the growing small groups at our church, does an annual camp out. Friendship written all over this pic. Love it!

We become family-like by sticking with each other through difficult times and awkward moments. Having systems in your church that provides meaningful connections for friends going through transitions and crisis – like moving, bringing home a new baby, experiencing loss, etc. helps develop sticky family-like connections. How do we do that?

  • Have a small group ministry where people can develop great connections where they can know and be known through good and bad seasons.
  • Have a team in your church that looks for opportunities to serve people in transition of some kind. For our church it’s the Family Support Team and the individual small groups. Care and concern make relationships sticky and family-like.

4. Move people to Commit to God’s family by Connecting them with Christ.

Our ultimate goal is not to have family-like relationships. We can do that through other organizations and relationships. We want to move people to become real spiritual family members and we do that through connecting them with the person and work of Christ.

  • Share the story of Christ at every gathering.
  • Teach people to share their story of connecting with Christ as they build friendship in the community.
  • Offer a Family Connections Class or Workshop or New Members Class that teaches people how to become real spiritual family through Christ.

Don’t focus on what you can’t do as a church. Make it simple. Friendship + Family. Every church can make new friends in their community and stick with them long enough to become family.  

sgthanksgivingdinner

Grateful for these friends in our small group that our family is blessed to walk through life with through our church. Great stories around this table.

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