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Do I HAVE TO go to church? No, I GET TO go to church!!!

Church is sometimes billed as boring, out of step with real life, or something in the way of so many other awesome opportunities that come our way on the weekend. The question we sometime ask as kids, but that can stay with us into adulthood, “Church? Do I HAAVVVVEE to?”

If we really understood God’s view of church & His purpose for it, we would change it from a HAVE TO, to a GET TO. Here’s some of the things  we GET TO experience through connecting with a church, that make it worth it.

1. I GET TO experience God at work.

Whenever believers get together, Jesus promised to show up as well  (Matthew 18:20). And He promised His power would be active through the work of the church (Matthew 16:18). In Christian relationships, we see him at work in the lives of others as we hear & see God working in their lives. We also experience God at work using us as we step out & use our gifts in ministry in the church.

2. I GET TO pool my resources together with others for God’s purposes.

From the very beginning we see churches demonstrating radical generosity to meet each others needs & the needs of the world (Acts 2:41-47). Paul, who started many of the first churches in the Asia Minor, taught the churches to set aside money on the first day of the week to be given for God’s purposes (1 Corinthians 16:2). He taught that giving was to be done regularly, sacrificially, & cheerfully (2 Corinthians 8-9). Giving is not just about meeting the needs of the church. It is an act of worship, reflecting back to God how great He is worth to us, & declaring that our faith is in Him. But I do get excited about giving to my church as I think about how my giving, pooled with others, will make a great difference in our world.

Pooling my resources is also, not just about money, but gifts & abilities. In church, we pool our God given spiritual gifts, passion, abilities, & experiences for the good of each other & the world. The kingdom & church grows by each one contributing their part (Ephesians 4:16).

3. I GET TO die to my sin & selfishness.

Christian relationships are to be marked by selflessness & sacrifice (John 13:34-35; Matthew 20:28; Philippians 2:3-4). In relationships, I’m always seeing how selfish I am. Seeing my selfishness & the selfishness of others, is actually a great opportunity for growth! Some of us see it & change. Some of us see it & vow not to change. Some of us see it, & unfortunately run away. Yep. Relationships at church can be hard. People can be difficult. Differing personalities, beliefs, upbringings, preferences can collide & create sparks. But I’ve learned that if I embrace the sparks & not runaway when I’m confronted with sin & selfishness in me & others, then we are all sharpened & changed & transformed into what God desires for me to be.

Lane, do you mean, God wanted relationships to be hard. Proverbs 27:17 says it like this, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Iron sharpening iron is a messy process. But necessary for a tool or blade to be at its greatest strength. Same is true for us in regard to relationships. We will be at our greatest strength when we are sharpened by relationships with others. Relationships where I can humble give & receive love & correction & encouragement & teaching, etc., etc.

These are three things I GET TO DO as I commit to a church. There are more. Like I didn’t even mention the coffee & donuts. If you’re not a part of a church, let me encourage you to jump in. Commit to a relationship with God. Commit to relationships with imperfect people you’ll find there. Commit to change as your confronted with sin & selfishness. You won’t regret it.

You can join my church if your in West St. Tammany Parish. We meet each Sunday, 10:30am at the Maritime Museum in Madisonville. We’re finishing a series on relationships this Sunday called Let the Sparks Fly. Come early for coffee!

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How to Be Satisfied By Church

If you ask people about their church today, you might get a “BUT.”

  • “The music is great, BUT…”
  • “The pastor’s teaching is good, but…”
  • “I like my Sunday School, class, BUT…”

A lot of dissatisfaction out there about church. A product of our consumer culture I guess. We’re taught to critique anything we buy & we know we have other choices if we’re not satisfied. Unfortunately, that’s what church has become, simply another service vying for our time & attention & in our culture, we have choices!

Well, I’m not trying to sell you anything, but I believe that you can be SATISFIED by YOUR CHURCH or any Biblically sound church with some attitude changes. Here’s three Biblical attitudes that will bring much satisfaction to your life at church:

1. “My church is incomplete without me.”

See yourself as a part of the whole body, & the church as incomplete without you. See Ephesians 4:7 & 1 Corinthians 12:8-12.

he has given each one of us a special gift[a] through the generosity of Christ.

And 1 Corinthians 12:12

The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ.

2. “I’m a player, not a spectator.”

Be a player, not a spectator. We’re actually all playing for an audience of one. Our leaders are there, not to entertain us, but to EQUIP US FOR THE WORK OF THE MINISTRY. See Ephesians 4:11-12

Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church

3. “What can I give today?”

Don’t focus on what you can “get out of it.” It’s not what you “get out of it” but what you give to others that makes you & the church grow AND (watch this) determines if you GET SOMETHING out of it or not. See Ephesians 4:16.

He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work

In the Old Testament book of Exodus – chapter 18, Moses found himself leading a very large group of dissatisfied people. They had many needs & they looked to Moses to meet them all. Moses’ father-in-law came to town & gave Moses a different plan. Empower the people to use their gifts & abilities to solve the problems of the community. And I love what he told Moses about this plan in Exodus 18:23.

“If you do this, and God so directs you, you will be able to endure, and also all these people will be able to go home SATISFIED.”

When we all come together TO GIVE of what God’s given us, take OWNERSHIP of the mission, & drop the “but’s” no matter where you are, we’ll get the most out of our experience in & with the body of Christ.

Learn more about Getting something out of church by grabbing the audio for last weeks message at Bridge Church in Madisonville where we talked about the On Ramp of Ministry & Mission as a vital component of our Spiritual Growth.

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Beneath the Surface: Going to Church vs. Getting Involved in the Life of a Church

“every individual Christian will find in the communion of a local church the most perfect atmosphere for the fullest development of his spiritual life.” ~ A.W. Tozer

My observation is that most people never experience “the fullest development of his spiritual life” through the church or see the great value, because they may GO TO CHURCH, but they don’t get involved in the LIFE OF A CHURCH. There’s a big difference. Going to church makes you a CONSUMER of its services. Getting involved in the life of a church puts you in “COMMUNION” with a life source fed by God himself. The Apostle Paul said it like this

“From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” ~ Ephesians 4:16

It’s consuming vs. serving, sharing life, supporting, being supported, building up, being built up, etc.

ForestThe enduring image of church for me is that of a forest. A forest stays strong, even in dry seasons, because BENEATH THE SURFACE, the roots of the trees are feeding off of one another for growth & strength. Roots can’t share their life with a tree that just lays itself upon the surface. It has to take root & do life with the others.

“I tried church, but it didn’t help.” Probably not, if you just showed up every now & then with little commitment, little humbling of yourself, little sharing of your life, little getting involved in relationships, little investment in ministries, little digging deep to support & be supported.

I love the Tozer quote, because I’ve experience it. Now, don’t read it wrong. The church is NOT a “perfect atmosphere.” Far from it. It is the perfect atmosphere for spiritual development BECAUSE of its imperfections. Relationships with people that are struggling through life together, growing as individuals, utilizing unique gifts no matter how imperfectly. And seeing God in Christ feed & nourish & heal & empower each other. It’s a beautiful thing! But you won’t see it on the surface by just GOING TO CHURCH.

Pastor, It Could Be Worse…

Church attendance is down & looking at stats can be depressing when thinking about faith in North America, BUT it could be worse, & it actually has been much worse in the history of Christianity. For instance, I recently read the great book How the West Won by Rodney Stark & he records the conditions of the reformation era churches in Germany:

In 1525, the newly reformed church put together a research arm & began making systematic observations & interviews of churches. Here’s some of what was in the reports:

  • “You’ll find more of them out fishing than at service… those who do come walk out as soon as the pastor begins his sermon.”
  • “A pastor testified that he often quits his church without preaching… because not a soul has turned up to hear him.”
  • “Absenteeism from church on Sunday mornings was so widespread that the shod debated whether the city gates should be barred on Sunday mornings to lock everyone inside. Evidence from elsewhere suggests that this expedient would not have helped.”
  • “Those who come to services are usually drunk… and sleep through the whole sermon, except sometimes they fall off the benches, making a great clatter…”
  • “During church there is such snoring that I could not believe my ears when I heard it…”
  • “People make indecent gestures at members of the congregation who wish to join in singing the hymns…”
  • “The play cards while the pastor preaches, and often mock or mimic him cruelly to his face…”
  • The researcher notes: “I have selected only such instances as could be multiplied a hundredfold.”

even Martin Luther admitted that neither the tidal wave of publications nor all the Lutheran preachers in Germany had made the slightest dent in the ignorance, irreverence, and alienation of the masses. Luther complained in 1529, “Dear God help us! The common man, especially in the villages, knows absolutely nothing about Christian doctrine; and indeed many pastors are in effect unfit and incompetent to teach. Yet they are all called Christians, are baptized, and enjoy the holy sacraments…”

And let us not forget that a small group of uneducated fishermen & the likes overcame the Pantheism of the Roman Empire with the same message & the same power of God that we have access to today. Be encouraged that the Gospel we preach has overcame incredible odds over & over again in the history of the world. And it can happen again.

How Much Does it Cost Your Church to Reach One Person for Christ?

Got an interesting question that has me working the calculator this morning. How much money does it take to reach a person for Christ in the average SBC Church? So many factors could be thrown in to the equation here, but just some quick figuring in a few major population areas in Louisiana.

  • A sample of 66 churches in one city spent $40,845,337 in 2013.
  • The same 66 churches reported 503 baptisms in 2013.
  • So it took this group of 66 churches $81,203 to baptize one person.
  • Looking at the new churches in this group of 66, the total spent per baptism went down to $21,276.
  • I’m guessing, it will go up for the age of the church, but more study will be needed.

How much does it cost your church to baptize one new convert? is this a good question to gauge our effectiveness? What do these figures tell us about our churches?

Creating More SENDING Capacity

“The greatness of a church is not in her seating capacity, but in her sending capacity”

I’ve heard this saying over & over again for the past 15 years or so from Pastors and church leaders from all different perspectives of ministry. But I haven’t seen much about how to expand the SENDING capacity of a local church or a real change in strategy to developing SENDING capacity. Both are necessary for a missional movement. How can we understand the difference & add real SENDING capacity to our strategies?

  • Seating capacity is about managing the movement of people into relationships. Sending capacity is about managing the movement of people into mission.
  • The mission that Jesus gave the church was a SENDING strategy. The Great Commission & the Acts 1:8 Challenge are foundational
    • Matthew 28:19 (NLT) – “go and make disciples of all the nations…”
    • Acts 1:8 (NLT) – “you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
  • Seating capacity is easier. Not cheaper, but easier. It’s easier to draw a big crowd than to send a lot of people into missional roles in the world. It takes longer & requires different things from the leaders.
  • Seating capacity is INSIDE. Sending capacity is OUTSIDE. Serving inside the church is great, but if the only mission opportunities we give people are inside, we fall short of a true  Acts 1:8 SENDING strategy.
  • Being SEATED is much more comfortable than being SENT. Going to church is for the majority of people, very safe, sanitary, & can be enjoyable. Being SENT requires sacrifice, risk, & a sometimes delayed reward for effort.
  • I can be SEATED in my own strength. Being SENT requires the power of the Spirit.
  • Being SEATED tends to make much of the leaders. Being SENT makes much of the mission. We hear a lot about the churches & leaders with the most SEATING capacity.
  • SEATING capacity is easier to track and clean up after. It’s more static. SENDING strategies are hard to control and can get messy.

Do you see any difference between SEATING capacity and SENDING capacity? How does your church include SENDING in its strategies? What resources do you know about to aid SENDING capacity and SEATING capacity?

Where are the next generation of church leaders? You might be surprised…

Don’t get down about the future of the church. God’s Spirit is not done yet. Loved this post from Dr. Russell Moore.

…the leaders of the next generation might not be coming from the current evangelical establishment. They are probably still pagans.

The next Jonathan Edwards might be the man driving in front of you with the Darwin Fish bumper decal. The next Charles Wesley might be a misogynist, profanity-spewing hip-hop artist right now. The next Billy Graham might be passed out drunk in a fraternity house right now. The next Charles Spurgeon might be making posters for a Gay Pride March right now. The next Mother Teresa might be managing an abortion clinic right now.

But the Spirit of God can turn all that around.

Who is it that you’re thinking will never change? Who are you shying away from talking about faith with? How about instead of seeing people as dead ends or distractions, see them as next gen leaders for God’s continued Gospel movement. Think of the possibilities…

Read the entire post here. And follow Dr. Moore on Twitter as well.

Zero

Thinking about numerical goals for 2012 & beyond. None challenges my faith more than ZERO. How about shooting for some of these?

  • Zero w/o the opportunity to respond to the gospel.
  • Zero homes destroyed by addiction, adultery, abuse, neglect.
  • Zero kids dying of curable diseases.
  • Zero elderly residents w/o life’s necessities.
  • Zero kids w/o encouragement, mentoring, and opportunity to connect w/God.
  • Zero suicides completed.
  • Zero kids waiting for adoption.

In our quest for numbers going up, let’s not forget to think about the ones that should be going down and add them to our stat sheets every now and then. Someone asked, “What difference does it make if our churches grow but the community continues to deteriorate?” If we’re really making disciples who respond to God’s call of engagement (Matthew 28:19-20), some things should be moving toward zero.

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