Month: May 2010

The Gospel and Discount Tire

In the past ten years, I have never had one bad experience at a Discount Tire. That’s either an unbelievable run of personal good fortune or Discount Tire is really good at treating people well.

Yesterday, Pam hit a curb in my car and blew out the right rear tire. After changing the tire, I took it to a nearby Discount Tire driving past several other tire dealers on the way. Once again, a customer service rep named Israel exceeded my expectations.

He ordered a new tire, gave me a discount, checked my spare to make sure it was safe to drive and told me everything I needed to know without me asking.  The Discount Tire streak continues and that’s why I am such a loyal customer.

What does this have to do with church? Well, it would be nice if church could operate like Discount Tire. What if everyone who identified themselves as Christ followers were cordial, helpful and smiled a lot. What if seekers and searchers went to all our churches in the next ten years and had a great experience each time. I’m guessing they would come back.

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Things We Leave Behind

This is an old school song, but it captures the heart behind Treasure, the current series of talks at New Life.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQY2auav8Qw

Treasure continues this Sunday at New Life. I will answer some frequently asked questions about giving, debt, generosity and tithing.

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Equipping vs. Event Planning

How much of your team’s time is spent organizing and administrating events? How much time does your team spend equipping leaders and empowering people to do ministry? If we really evaluated these two questions, the results would be shocking and would go a long way explaining why so many attend our events but so few are actually engaged in the mission of making disciples.

I am not saying that events are evil or that organizing an event is a waste of our time. Some of the most epic moments I have had with God have been at events that someone took the time to organize.  What I am saying is that we must balance our time so that we are actually empowering people to be Christ followers who are making disciples and not enabling people to look at big events as the sum total of the Gospel experience.

A friend told me today that a man in our church is sitting on the sidelines and is waiting for a chance to do some ministry.  I told my friend to tell this man to open up the newspaper everyday and look for an area in our city that needs serving and get busy serving. If this man is waiting around for me to plan and organize an event tailored to his passions, he could be in for a long wait. Chances are, we might schedule something that fires him up, but then again, he may pass on several outreach events because they do not fit his schedule or align with his passions.

The bottom line is the pastors and leaders of local fellowships should spend the majority of their time equipping, training, leading, praying and releasing people to serve. We can schedule a few events that are necessary to rally the entire family around a big need in our city, but the primary responsibility to get involved falls on the individual, not on the church leaders.

What do you expect from the leaders of your church? Can you support your expectations with the expectations placed on them by Scripture? The life of God is released in a church and a city when leaders are equipping the people for the work of ministry and events only exist to strengthen the mission of the fellowship.

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Giving and the Local Church

The local church should be the most well funded group in our culture, but it’s not, and there are plenty of good reasons. Most local fellowships, including New Life, need to make some fundamental changes in the way they function in order for people to trust them with their finances. Here are a few thoughts to discuss and consider.

1. The church must be a storehouse and not a stockpile

In the Old Testament, there were regional storehouses, where people would literally bring their tithe of livestock, grains and produce. These storehouses had two primary functions – to take care of the needs of the priests and to distribute resources to the widows and poor. The New Covenant established by Christ did away with the Temple sacrifices, but the function of the local church was to be much the same. The elders should have the support necessary to pray and lead the church, and the local fellowship should be the distribution point for the widows and poor.  The church was never meant to be a stockpile of resources that were consumed primarily by its members.

2. The church must be missional not empirical

The days of empirical church are coming to an end and the age of mission is returning. People are no longer motivated to build more buildings just for the sake of new buildings. There has to be a legitimate Kingdom mission attached to each project that can be clearly communicated. If there is even a hint that something is being done to promote a person’s ego or ambition, wary churchgoers will withhold their resources. However, if the real needs of humanity are being met with the project, you can expect extreme generosity, even in a down economy.

3. The decisions must be made by a team, not a person

The local church is designed to be led by a team of people with various strengths and differing functions. That’s why it’s called a body. One dominant person with a charismatic personality may get the crowd charged with excitement, but over the long haul, it will require a team of men and women, young and old to accomplish the audacious dreams that God gives us.

I do believe the local church is returning to its original design and just in time. Our culture is tired of the flash and hype and is longing for humility and authenticity in a local church. May we respond to the needs of our world and reflect the love of Christ to our city, using words only when necessary. When we do, we will never lack the resources required for His mission.

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Freely Give and Freely Receive

Regardless of our economic situation, most of us have things in our homes that are not being used that would be a huge blessing to another family. Starting this week, I have asked New Lifers to take a look at what they have and to give away anything that is not really needed. We are calling this “Freely Give and Freely Receive.” To find out more, go to:

http://www.newlifechurch.org/nln.jsp?id=205

There are only five ways to use money – give it, save it, invest it, lend it or spend it. I hope we all choose the first three more often and think of spending it less often. This would take a huge amount of stress and worry off our lives and allow us to be the generous givers and producers God needs us to be.

I do believe that God wants to bless us and I certainly believe it’s appropriate to enjoy the nice things God gives us. However, our possessions cannot ever be the focus of our worship and we must be willing to give any of it away. That is when we begin to take hold of a life that is truly life. (1 Timothy 6:19)

It will be great fun the next two weekends to watch as huge trucks are filled with the surplus of our homes and given to families in our city and in our own fellowship who are in real need. Better yet, it will be liberating for all of us to finally find freedom from the stuff that can so easily become the focus of our worship. Godliness with contentment really is great gain.

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Leading from a Distance

Can you leave your church for the weekend and not fret? Can you not show up one Sunday and the worship services continue? Are most Sundays built around your charisma, your strengths and your talents or can someone different than you lead a weekend service? Do you have to be at every public gathering so people will feel the meeting is important?

I believe the real test of a leader is not so much when they are up front but when they are away and someone on the team is leading. Too many churches are built around one set of spiritual gifts and around one personality. The healthiest churches I know have empowered a diverse group of people to lead so that many spiritual gifts and many perspectives can be on display to the congregation.

This is one reason I have not embraced the video campus model and instead I am experimenting with another pastor leading a Sunday night campus who preaches my message live instead of asking people to watch me on a screen. There is nothing wrong with the aforementioned model so I am not challenging the leadership of many of my friends who do this at multiple campuses. What I am saying is there is another option that may work just as well.

My model is messier, requires a lot of relational equity with the campus pastor and demands loyalty and trust from one another. But in the end, it allows me to mentor young communicators and helps build our fellowship around a multitude of gifts and personalities and not just one. I am still the primary leader and I have final say on the sermon topics. We preach the same main points and use the same Scriptures, but a team is formed and many players get in the game.

This is just one way I am purposely leading New Life while purposely staying away from many of the gatherings. I want to lead, at times, from a distance.

Have you empowered people around you to lead or does everyone look to you to oversee every gathering? Are you preaching in your own pulpit more than 48 times a year?  If so, can I suggest you immediately begin mentoring your replacement, because unless you are spiritual Superman, you are headed for burnout.

Step away and lead from a distance. You will find rest for your soul, and the church will get to feed from a buffet of teachers and not from just one menu item. Your team will rise to the challenge and your church will become healthier than ever. Try it for a year and let me know if I am right or wrong.

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