Month: February 2010

We exist to build authentic community

Note: This is part four of a four-part blog series on the core values of New Life Church

 We are strongest when we are living our lives with other people. Our enemy knows if he can separate us from our family and distance us from close friends, we are more vulnerable and prone to deception. That’s why the church must be a place where genuine friendships can be built and people are allowed to live transparent lives with one another.

 I despise church masks, including the one I wear from time to time. We have built church around the idea that everyone should be perpetually ok when, in fact, the church should be the safest place to confess failures and struggles.  Authentic community only happens when we give each other permission to be honest without fear of rejection. In fact, a big part of our healing should include confession and prayer for one another. (James 5:16)

 I am not a big fan of organized accountability groups where guys meet once a week and confess all their temptations. If you are in a group like this and it is helping you, then continue going by all means. I just don’t believe you can organize and administrate real friendships. These types of relationships take time and intentionality. Real friendships are not made in the microwave; they must be marinated.

 Sincere friends have blessed my life, but I have also felt the pain of being lonely. The first year I was at New Life, I felt alone, even though I was on a stage every weekend speaking to thousands of people. All my close friends were back in Texas and I had to start making new friends here in Colorado. I believe God reminded me during that lonely time to never take friendships for granted and to make sure New Life Church was a place where authentic community could be easily found.

 If you are not a part of an authentic community of friends, invite someone this week to eat a meal with you or meet for coffee. Come to church early next Sunday and stay late so you have time for conversations. Find a small group and bravely go to the meeting, even if you don’t know anyone there. It takes courage, I know, but the reward of having friends is worth the risk.

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We Exist to Build Leaders

This is part three of a four-part blog series on the core values of New Life Church.

 I believe that everything rises and falls because of leadership. I also believe the church should be the best place to learn real leadership, but the church has to be willing to do two things well. We must be willing to give young leaders a place at the table and we should be willing to clean up some messes.

 Most churches have older, mature leaders in all the key leadership positions but very few churches are willing to trust an emerging leader with any real responsibility.  Many churches have interns and most churches have youth pastors and worship leaders that are under 30. But often, these young leaders are not brought to the table when the key decisions are being made in the local church. They can decide some issues in their department, but their voice is seldom heard on the bigger issues of the local body.

 At New Life, there was a culture of building young leaders when I arrived and I have tried to preserve and nurture this idea. New Life had actually moved too much toward young leaders and I needed to balance the core leadership teams with some maturity. This is not the case in most churches, though. Most churches need more some 20-somethings and 30-somethings at the table when decisions are being made.

 The reason churches don’t embrace young leaders is because they cause messes. So we choose ease and comfort over the inevitable mistakes that young leaders are bound to make. Young leaders will also challenge the cultural traditions of a local fellowship and we all know that churches like change as much as cats like water.

 If the church of 2010 is to march forward and take ground in this next decade, those of us who have leadership in the local church must embrace the ideas, strategies, innovation, mistakes and messes of this next generation. I challenge pastors to bring young leaders to the table when big decisions are being made. They may not have the bid idea that saves the day, but we will have a chance a to build leaders that will one day take the baton from us.

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We exist to equip believers

Note: This is part two of a four part blog series on the mission of New Life Church.

Equip means to prepare someone for a particular task or situation or to supply them with what they need to be successful. This is the primary role for those of us who are pastors at New Life Church. Our focus should be teaching, praying, leading and equipping the people of New Life for ministry.

The best way to equip people is to simply get them out doing stuff. We spend too much time teaching, lecturing, and talking and not enough time experimenting and allowing people to make messes.

Before sophisticated missile guidance systems, naval battles were often won by cannon crews who could adjust the quickest after a missed shot. It was pure luck if the first shot hit its target. I believe the church has trained people to not try until there is a guarantee of success. So we stand on the ship and tell them “Ready, ready, aim, aim, aim”, but we are reluctant to yell, “Fire”.

I do believe in teaching sound theology, and I believe there are some great leadership tools like Strength Finders that can help people. But people are best taught when they have a “hands on” experience, especially if a mentor or coach is with them when they minister.

Its the same model Jesus used to equip his disciples:

Watch me do ministry
Do ministry while I am watching you.
Go minister by yourself and report back to me later.

That is equipping the saints for the work of ministry. It is not complicated.

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