Posts Tagged church

The Sunday Mind-shift

For a context of this discussion, see The Sermon Starts in the Parking Lot.

Making a difference with the guests to our church is not hard. It takes surprisingly little effort. But, sadly, few Christians intentionally focus on this opportunity to love and serve our neighbors. When we invite our own friends and family, we do this naturally. But what about the other Sundays when other people have invited their friends?

Make a mind-shift.

Colin Marshall writes:

See church as a place where Christians go to work. Church is a gathering of God’s people to hear his word and respond in faith and obedience. In this gathering, we are in fellowship with each other, through the blood of Jesus, and, because of our fellowship, we seek to serve each other. We use our gifts and abilities to strengthen one another and build Christ’s Church— ‘edification’ is the word often used to describe what goes on in church. All believers are involved in building the church, not just clergy or preachers. The New Testament consistently teaches that in the growth of the body of Christ each part must do its work (see Eph 4; 1 Cor 12-14). Because of this, we aren’t to see ourselves merely as part of an organization called [Second Mile Church], but as servants of God’s people, eager to meet the needs of others even if it means sacrificing our own.

This will change your reasons for going to church. Make the shift from being the ‘helpee’ to the helper, the served to the servant. Church is where we seek spiritual food and encouragement in order to become more godly; but church is also where we go in order to feed other people and encourage them. In God’s mercy, we become more Christ-like in the process, as like him we deny ourselves for the sake of others.

Why do you think we do this naturally when we bring guests to church, but we forget it the other weeks?

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BEYOND Update: Construction Starts Today!

We are excited to announce that construction begins today on the new facility at 8743 E Pecos Rd! The existing shell is already there, so this buildout project is anticipated to conclude in time for Easter 2011. For photos of the facility and some architectural drawings, click here.

We will be taking regular pictures of the facility and updating them here on the blog.

Please be praying that the work would go smoothly, that the contractor would do an excellent job, and that communication between all the various parties would flow naturally.

Above all, be praying that God would be preparing a harvest in our community of people whose lives need to be transformed by the gospel and be praying that God would be preparing us to serve and bless.

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How to Leave a Church

I met yesterday with a friend who is leaving our church. We had a good conversation about his reasons for leaving (they are legitimate) and then some discussion about how he can “leave well.” I told him that, based on my experience with people leaving our church or coming to our church after leaving another one, most people don’t leave well.

Here are a few ideas on how to leave a church well:

1. Have a good reason for leaving. Before you go, evaluate whether your reasons are good, legitimate and God-honoring. Here’s a thought-provoking post exploring good, possible, and bad reasons for leaving a church (and here’s a discussion about this post). I don’t think this list is comprehensive, but it’s good to make you think. If your reasons are good, go. If not, stay.

2. Communicate your decision to leave with the appropriate leaders. If you’re an active part of the church, leaders will need to know you’re leaving. If you are serving, communicate it to your Ministry Team leader. If you are in a Community Group, communicate it to the leader. If you are connected with an elder or pastor, communicate it with them. Personal communication is preferable to written communication, but make sure you communicate.

3. Tell these leaders the truth about why you’re leaving. If you have legitimate reasons to leave then you have nothing to hide or worry about. If the reasons for leaving will sting church leadership, deliver it in the spirit of Proverbs 27:6, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” Scripture commands us to “speak the truth in love” (Eph 4:15), which means you don’t couch the real, sometimes difficult reasons behind a bunch of spiritualized nonsense. God may use your reasons for leaving to help the church or its leaders. I’ve had at least one “exit interview” that was immensely helpful to me as a leader — some of the truth of it stung, but it helped me grow. Whatever you do, don’t just leave without telling your leaders.

4. Appropriately transition or conclude your ministry commitments. If you’ve been an active part of ministry, your role will need to be transitioned. Hopefully you’ve been training and developing somebody to take your place anyway, but if you haven’t, give your leaders an appropriate time to find others to serve in your capacity. This period shouldn’t drag on, but you also should not just drop the ball on the people you’ve been committed to.

5. Leave graciously. In Ray Pritchard’s post on this topic, he writes:

“[Leaving] graciously means you refuse to speak evil of those who remain in the church. Look forward, not backward. Focus on your new church, not your old one. Think carefully before you speak about your former congregation. Don’t say anything that could be remotely construed as criticism. Even casual comments could stir up needless controversy. Let the Golden Rule guide all your comments public and private.”

If you’ve read this post and realize that you didn’t leave a church well in the past, it might be wise to circle back to seek forgiveness and reconciliation. If you have gossiped or stirred up division, you should make it right, apologizing not only to the leaders of that church but also to the people to whom you gossiped.

In the end, remember that Jesus loves the church you’re leaving and the one you’re going to — His blood was shed for both. Both churches are part of his bride. Do his bride the honor of leaving well.

Question: Is there anything else you’d recommend for somebody leaving a church?

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Upcoming Stuff at Second Mile

As school begins again for most people in our neck of the woods, this is a fun and full-throttle time for me and for the leadership of Second Mile. Here are a few key things that are coming up in the weeks ahead:

1. Tomorrow night (Wednesday, 8/4)  is our Children’s Ministry Preview Night. It will be fun night where we discuss and demonstrate some of the new changes to our recently revamped ministry environments for kids, The Pond and Route252. If you’re a Second Mile parent or volunteer, make sure you get there at 7pm. More info is here.

2. This Sunday (8/8) we’re studying Elders and Church Leadership. Few things in life run well with poor leadership, and the church is no exception. Additionally, many people’s church experiences (positive and negative) are shaped by the attitude, role, and makeup of the church’s senior leadership team. In addition to exploring what the Bible teaches about church leadership and followership, we’ll be introducing a group of men that we hope to install as the initial elder team of our church. You can read more about our expectations for the elder team and the process for becoming an elder here.

3. Next Sunday (8/15) is “You Pick the Sermon.” People have been voting at www.secondmilechurch.com/poll and the race is tight (it really is–I’m not hyping it). Your votes matter and literally determine what we talk about that day. Should be fun!

4. The Community Group On-Ramp is about to start again. This fall, almost all of our community groups will be going through the same sermon-based study together — which will be related to our vision as a church and Jesus’ teaching on prayer. I think this may prove to be one of the most life-changing and prayer-habit-forming seasons we’ve ever had. Stay tuned.

5. August 22nd will be the beginning of our next series, “Beyond.” We’ll be looking at our vision as a church, what God’s calling us to do and be in the future, and how God’s heart for those beyond our walls compels us to love the people God has sent us to.

This should all make for a fun fall…plus there will be a few good surprises along the way. Be praying that God would use all these things for his glory and fame.

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Good and Bad Reasons for Leaving a Church

In a new church like Second Mile, we’ve definitely had our share of Christians who join with our ministry as they are coming out of an existing church. Whenever possible, I have tried to encourage these people to leave well. Some have left for good reasons, some for less good reasons.

Additionally, we’ve had a number of people decide to leave Second Mile for a variety of reasons. In reality, many of us will eventually move on to another church or city. Life is just too fluid for most people to expect everyone to stay in one place for their whole life.

Few people, however, really think through the implications of their leaving their church — often resulting in pretty flimsy reasons they leave. Into this predicament, Jason Helopoulos has written a very helpful post on reasons to leave a church.

He gives four good reasons to leave, three possible reasons to leave, and eight insufficient reasons to leave.

Click here to read the article.

What do you think? What parts do you agree or disagree with?

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10 Reasons Why Churches Stall

One of the most exciting, but difficult aspects of leading a growing new church is keeping the momentum of our mission going at full throttle. It’s a rare church that keeps momentum and energy going at a strong, healthy pace. In his article, “A hole in the fuel tank?” Marcus Honeysett gives ten reasons why churches stall.

Tim Chester summarizes the article like this:

1. The church forgets who we are and what we are for … When we forget that we are the community of disciples for declaring God’s greatness and making disciples, mission quickly becomes just one among many activities rather than the defining vision of who we are as a community.

2. The majority of believers are no longer thrilled with the Lord and what he is doing in their lives. When questions like ‘What is God doing with you at the moment?’ cease to be common currency, it is a sure sign of creeping spiritual mediocrity.

3. … In my view, the single biggest cause of stalled churches…is the belief that material comfort can be normative for Christians. It is the opposite of radical commitment to Christ.

4. When [Christians]  see church as one among many leisure activities, usually low down the priority list. They are unlikely to see the Christian community as God’s great hope for the world and unlikely to put commitment above self-interest.

5. … Where people take no personal responsibility for their own spiritual growth a stalled church becomes more likely.

6. … When preaching, teaching and Bible study become ends in themselves rather than means to an end, something is badly wrong.

7. A church becomes afraid to ask radical questions … The danger is that people start to equate serving the church with living out the gospel. Few churches regularly evaluate every aspect of church life against their core vision.

8. Confusing Christian activities with discipleship …

9. Not understanding how to release and encourage everyone in the church to use their spiritual gifts for the building up of the church … There are two types of DNA in churches. One type of church says ‘we exist to have our personal spiritual needs met’, the other ‘we exist to impact our locality and the world with the gospel of the grace of God in Christ’. The first type is a stalled church.

10. … No church was stalled at the point that it was founded. At the beginning all churches were adventures in faith and daring risk for God. No one actively decided for comfort over risk, but at some point the mindset shifted from uncomfortable faith and daring passion for the Lord to comfortable mediocrity … The mantra of the maintenance mindset is ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’. But just like buying shoes for growing children, if structures don’t take account of future growth then fellowships end up stunted and deformed.

Which of these have you seen in yourself? Which of these concern you as you think about Second Mile?

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Size Matters

One of the most interesting things to study as a leader in a growing church is how we are impacted by the changing size of the church. A helpful resource along these lines has been Tim Keller’s paper, “Leadership and Church Size Dynamics: How Strategy Changes with Growth.”

Keller makes a few important observations:

  • Every church has a culture that goes with its size and which must be accepted. Most people tend to prefer a certain size culture, and unfortunately, many give their favorite size culture a moral status and treat other size categories as spiritually and morally inferior.
  • There is no “best size” for a church. Each size presents great difficulties and also many opportunities for ministry that churches of other sizes cannot undertake (at least not as well). Only together can churches of all sizes be all that Christ wants the church to be.
  • One of the most common reasons for pastoral leadership mistakes is blindness to the significance of church size. Size has an enormous impact on how a church functions. There is a “size culture” that profoundly affects how decisions are made, how relationships flow, how effectiveness is evaluated, and what ministers, staff, and lay leaders do… We tend to think of the chief differences between churches mainly in denominational or theological terms, but that underestimates the impact of size on how a church operates…A large church is not simply a bigger version of a small church. The difference in communication, community formation, and decision-making processes are so great that the leadership skills required in each are of almost completely different orders.

The rest of the article explains some of the realities of different sized churches as well as the transitions that have to be made as churches grow. It’s a fascinating read, especially if (like me) you are interested in organizational dynamics.

What’s your experience? What changes have you experienced in growing churches? Were the results good or bad?

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