Category Archives: Other thoughts

Multiplying Results

I believe that the church, when it follows a Biblical model, is an unstoppable force in the community.  It can make a difference in every aspect of it.  As individuals, we all play a part in accomplishing this.  God designed the church to be made up of individual parts, but work in unison together to accomplish something that is bigger than all of us.  When everyone joins together to become who God made them to be, Scripture tells us that even the gates of Hell will not be able to stand up against the church.  We can have power in our lives and in our church, not because of who we are, but because of who He is.

He is the Creator of all things and still works to hold it all in place.  He is the Sacrifice who gave his life and died in our place.  He is the Savior who rose from the grave.  He is our Redeemer who personally forgives our sins.  He is our strength to live beyond ourselves each day.  He is our hope of what can be when we put our trust in Him.

Because of him, I believe that the church can do great things.  I believe that it can make a difference.  As the church, God can work through even small things to accomplish great things.  Imagine a place where hurt people can find peace, where the poor can find relief, where the grieving can find hope.  Imagine a place where those who are broken can be made whole again.  That place is the church.

In the book of Acts we find that at different times there are descriptions given on how the church is growing. Acts 1:15 tells us the church numbered 120 believers.  In Acts 2:41 we find that believers were being added daily.  This continues to grow as we look at Acts 5:14, believers were increasingly added to the Lord.  Acts 6:1 notates that the number of disciples were increasing in number.  Then in Acts 6:7 we find that the number of disciples were multiplying greatly.  It is obvious that the church here is beginning to move from simply picking up a few people here and there to growing exponentially.  Multitudes are turning to the Lord.  There are a few things that I see happen in Acts 6:1-7 that causes some increased momentum for the early church and can have the same effect for our churches as well.

Four Simple actions that can create multiplying results.

1.  Solve problems quickly.  Anytime you have growth, you have growing pains.  And we see that the church is definitely growing.  So much so that some of the widows were being neglected.  This was a real problem.  In the context of scripture, this was a matter of life and death for many.  But we find in the passage that the apostles didn’t drop everything to take care of this.  They realized the need and knew something needed to change, but also knew that they weren’t the ones to handle the change.  Problems have a way of forcing change in any organization, but it doesn’t have to stop the forward progress of what may already be happening. If allowed to, problems can lead to focusing on internal needs of the church rather than the external mission of the church.  As things change in our church, we have a choice of whether to be a part of the solution or a part of the problem.  Our goal should be to glorify God and be used by Him to solve problems quickly.  When problems arise, we can take those problems as opportunities to further the work of the church but at the same time  keep the focus of the church in check.

2.  Set your priorities correctly.  The apostles set their priorities as prayer and the ministry of the word.  They knew that these were two areas of the church that could not be neglected for any reason.  Stepping away from these two areas would have devastating effects on the spiritual life of the growing church.  Prayer releases the power of God in our lives and in our church.  Without it we essentially cripple the work we are trying to do.  The ministry of the word gives us the only true source of truth that can change people.  It is easy to get caught up in running programs in the church and lose sight of the main purpose of the church.  When the program or system becomes the end goal, we have lost sight of our purpose.  We should be seeking to reach people at all times, laying a foundation of prayer and ministering the word as we go.

3.  Share the responsibility.  The apostles delegated portions of the ministry needs to others.  They didn’t try to do it all themselves.  We should be always in the process of including more people in the work of the ministry.  There are a lot of good things to do in the church, but each of us will only have a few God things that He has called us to.  The apostles knew what their God thing was and stuck to it.  They could have added some more good things in, but that would have taken away from their God thing.  At the same time, God had men He had been preparing to do this specific God thing that was needed in scripture.  Let people take ownership of specific areas.  We should encourage people to do their part and find a place to serve within the church.  This actually multiplies the results and effectiveness of ministry.

4.  Saturate everything in prayer.  I know we have already looked at this, but it’s worth repeating.  The very first thing they did when they started wasn’t getting a food pantry started, developing a Widows in Need program or getting a list of names of all of those who were being neglected.  They didn’t just jump in and start working.  We see in the scripture that the apostles laid their hands on them and prayed.  We could see a lot more happen in our lives, in our families, in our churches and in our communities if we would really take hold of the power of prayer.  Prayer has a way of changing the world around us.  It can and does make a difference.  Matthew 7:7 tells us to ask.  This requires us to admit we don’t have all the answers and we aren’t in control.  But it also requires us to admit that we know that God is in control.  He can make a difference in our churches if we let Him.

If we want to see a multiplication movement take place in and through the church, we must place prayer and the word as a priority.  Also we must make it a part of our culture to raise up leaders who will share the load.  When we do things in our power, we get what we can do.  When we do things through prayer, we get what God can do.


Creating Environments of Worship

We are all affected by our surroundings in one way or another.  It either has a positive affect on us or a negative affect on us.  To help you understand this let’s look at a couple of examples:

Imagine you go to 2 restaurants.  One has paint coming off the walls, the table is kept from rocking by some cardboard shoved under one leg, a dead fly is on the table when you sit down, the menus have some sort of sticky residue on them, and you’re treated like you’re intruding on someone else’s time.  This environment will effect your attitude toward the meal you are about to eat.  You order a steak, but you’re not certain that’s what they brought you.  The end result is that your experience was less than perfect.  The other restaurant has just the right lighting, not too bright, not too dark.  You’re treated like you’re family.  The menu’s are clean.  The tables are clean. Everything seems to be good.  This environment will effect your attitude toward the meal you are about to eat.  You order a steak.  It’s just what you were hoping for and as a result you’ll definitely be back.

Imagine you go to 2 hotels.  One was built in 1970.  It was modern in it’s day, but over the past 40+ years it’s lost its’ appeal.  The burnt orange  carpet is no longer ”fancy”. The dark paneling is dented and scarred from years of guests coming and going.  Even the clothing worn by the front desk personnel is dated.  It’s almost as if you walked back in time to 1970.  It’s really no longer a relevant environment.  And you’re hoping that the bed is newer than 35 years old.  The other hotel was built the same year.  The difference is that it just underwent renovation to bring it up to date.  It will still serve the save purpose.  It’s just a little more relevant.  A fountain and greenery were installed in the lobby.  Large tile floors, abstract painting, new furnishings and much more were included in the renovation.  You can immediately feel a sense of relaxation when you walk into this environment.

The truth is that we make our choices of restaurants, hotels, even where we want to watch a movie because we like the environments that are there.  Environments are important to how we respond to situations.  This is true for our worship as well.  As far back as Genesis, we find environments of worship being created.  In Genesis 8:20, Noah built an altar for a sacrifice to God.  This had to be built before he could worship.  We also find that Solomon built the temple.  Following God’s leadership, he built it with only the best gold and precious jewels. Nothing was spared.  This was to be the house of God.  The environment had to be suitable.  We even have current examples of environments of worship.

Today, God doesn’t dwell so much in a place as much as he does within us.  However, to be able to reach the world that we live in we must be aware of the importance of environments.  The world around us uses a variety of gadgets, computer graphics and technology to communicate in large environments.  Because of this, we have to be aware that what we do in an environment of worship is important.

Our goal is to create worship environments that are appealing, relevant, changing and current.  Probably the best example of what we attempt to accomplish is our own homes.  When we have people over, we attempt to make them feel welcome and comfortable as our guests.  We put our best foot forward by making sure our house is clean (usually).  We want the decorations to look good and for everything to be in its’ place.  We don’t hold back!  It’s only the best for our guests.  And we may even surprise them with a few unexpected things.

So what does this mean for us as we develop environments of worship where we are?  How do we create a relevant environment for worship and what exactly does that mean?  There are a few things that are important.

1.  The People.  We need people who are contagious.  This is the most important aspect of setting our environment.  Attitude counts!  We’re not a looking for a fake personality, but a genuine excitement for what God is going to do.  From the time people arrive on any day of worship, we set the stage for worship.  A Guest Services team should be ready to greet people at the door to invite and encourage them to worship.  They create an environment in the refreshment area and meet and greet people there.  Praise singers, audio visual, children’s workers, instrumentalists, greeters and others all play a vital role in creating an environment of worship.  That’s why people are a vital key to a successful environment.

2.  The Decorations.  Cleanliness is important.  We should have an inviting place to come and worship and for our guests to come and worship.  Don’t be afraid to change things up.  Create fresh looks by using new banners and graphics.  Change is a good thing because it helps keep us from falling into a rut or a routine.  We set the stage for our environment by providing a visually stimulating environment.  Everything works together.  Those who work on cleaning the property, maintaining the property or decorations all work together to help create an important aspect of our environments …

3.  The Gadgets.  We live in a technical world.  Any concert you go to is maxed out with lights and sound and visuals that are top of the line.  Check out the computer graphics in movies these days.  It’s amazing what can be accomplished by the stoke of a key on a keyboard.  To reach this computer driven age, we must be relevant.  Our technology and audio visual is important in creating a relevant and current environment.  It’s important to realize how these just aren’t extras if we want them anymore.  They are things that are expected as much as hymn books were expected in many churches.

4.  The Unexpected. Everyone likes being entertained.  Although church is not “an entertainment”, it’s not intended to be boring either.  One of the main reasons people go to different concerts, movies and more is because they’re looking for the unexpected. So let’s plan to be unexpected in what we do when we worship God.  We can change our flow of worship, change how things are presented, and even change how things look.  As we create the unexpected in our worship, we must always stay true to the truth of the Bible.  That is one thing we cannot change!  Scripture demonstrates that God has been worshiped in a variety of different ways throughout history.  As we do things that are unexpected, it allows us to worship God in fresh ways.

We need to realize that we all have a role in creating an environment of worship whether we’re the Pastor or have just been worshiping for a short time.  Because of this, we need to plan ahead.  What attitude do we need to have? What needs to be cleaned up?  What needs to be changed or added?  What are some creative things that can be done to engage people in worship?  How can we have a sense of worship that is contagious?  Everything we do works together to create an environment of worship.  Our Worship involves the whole body.  Once the environment is set, we can let the worship begin!

You Can’t Control the Future!

 Did you know that you or I can’t control the future.  It’s not possible.  There are times in our lives when we have the appearance of control, but at any given moment that can change.  Each day there are things that happen that are actually beyond our control.  It’s hard for us to accept sometimes, because we like to think that we are in control.  But how many of us have lost sleep because of something that consumed our thoughts about the next day?  How many of us have attempted to manipulate a situation in an attempt to control the future outcome?  How many of us are stuck in the past because we’re afraid to move to the future?  I know a few years back I worked in a company that I had been at for many years.  I had worked my way up from the lowest position they had to the point of helping run the company and being a decision maker in the company.  Because I had been there for a while, I had established a certain amount of comfort throughout each day.  I knew the job.  I was also secure in my job and could see it being a long-term career.  It was safe because I knew the people I worked with, I was earning a paycheck and found some satisfaction in what I was doing.  The only problem was, I also knew that this wasn’t what God wanted me to do long-term in my life.  But I was secure, comfortable and safe.  All of these things working together make it hard to move into the unknown.  That’s what all of our futures are … UNKNOWN.  We’re not sure what will happen tomorrow.  We’re not sure what the next phone call will be about or what will happen at the next stop light.  But God knows it all.  We spend a lot of our time worrying about many things.  A majority of those things never come to pass.

Proverbs 16:9 tells us, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.” Later in Proverbs 19:21 we read, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.”  This lets us know really who we should look to in our lives for our next steps and purpose in our lives.  The Lord has a better plan than we could even begin to imagine.

In Matthew 6:25-34  we read, 25“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?  28“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

If you’re like me, you spend a lot of time consumed with either what has happened or what will happen, but not much time thinking about what IS HAPPENING.  The truth is that we’re too busy trying to control our future that we miss today.  The worry of damage control or preparation for tomorrow immobilizes us in the present.

I want to explore  why we’re consumed by the future.  I see 5 areas in this passage that we can explore to help us learn to live more in the present.

  1. We’re afraid we won’t succeed. (25)  We look at what as going on around us and measure our success by what we have and how well things are going.  We’re afraid that if we don’t get everything just right then somehow the world will come crashing down around us.  Somewhere along the line, we learned that failure is a bad thing in our lives.  And, although it is difficult to go through a season of failure, it is one of the best opportunities we have in life to learn more about ourselves and our God.
  2. We don’t realize our value. (v 26)  God loves us more than words can express.  That’s why He sent His son into the world to live and die for us and to live again.  We are valuable not because of what we do, but because of who we are in Him.  We need to realize that God doesn’t measure our worth based on whether or not we can hold the world together, He already has that coverd.  He loved us before we were loveable and desires a personal relationship with each one of us.
  3. We live by sight not by faith. (v 25-27)  We are conditioned to look at the physical things of this world as a guide for how well things are going.  We have learned to trust in what we can see around us because it’s harder to trust in what we cannot see.  To live by faith, we actually have to let go and let God take control.  We have to admit that we don’t have all the answers and can’t predict everything that will take place.  Faith is living in such a way that often goes against what the world will tell you to do.  It’s trusting God even when the finances don’t balance, or the move doesn’t make since, or you don’t know where the next meal for your kids is going to come from.  Faith is expressed in the details of life.
  4. We don’t pursue God. (v 33)  We work hard at pursuing our careers, our families, our hobbies and other relationships.  Often in the course of life, we fail to pursue God.  We assume He will be in our plans and will bless our efforts.  We assume that we are going in the right direction.  Our assumptions often take us away from God as we pursue the world’s view of success, security, value and happiness.  But the verse here tells us to seek God first above all things.  He should be our number one pursuit.  When we put that relationship first above everything else … everything else seems to fall in place.  It’s awesome the way God works.
  5. We forget His promises. (v 33)  He tells us if we seek Him first and He’ll take care of everything else.  Does that mean steak for dinner every night?  No.  Does that mean namebrand clothes in a packed closet? No.  It does mean that He will direct our paths and guide us through each day as we seek to glorify Him.  Let’s not forget that He promised that we’re not in this life alone.  He is there and waiting to be an active part of our lives.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.”  Let’s do what we can to just take it one day at a time and let God handle all of the tomorrows that come our way.  We have enough going on in each day to consume our thoughts and actions without bringing in everything from the tomorrows that may not ever come as we think.  As we live each of our days for the value they bring, let’s seek to give Him the glory He deserves.  He is the one who is in control of all things and we get to experience the journey with Him.

The Joy of Record Keeping

I know if you’re not administratively gifted that keeping records are a thorn in your flesh.  I mean, who really needs to know what people gave on a certain week or exactly how many were in small groups last week?  Aren’t we really seeking to glorify God in what we do?  I would say the answer is we need to know where we have been to know where we are going and by doing that we can glorify God in the results.  It’s interesting to me that as I read scripture, I see that someone was administratively inclined.  There was someone who counted that 3000 were added to the church on the day of Pentecost.  Someone counted that Jesus fed the 5000.  When Jesus sent out the 72 to the towns and cities, how did they know it was 72?  Someone counted that Gideon started with 30,000 men and ended up with 300 men.  The fact is that throughout scripture God is tracking what is happening in the life of the early church.  We can learn from this example and keep records of what is happening in the life of our church as well.  I’ve discovered as I look at real numbers, it is often different from my perception of how things are going.  Sometimes the real numbers encourage me and sometimes they challenge me to reach new goals.  Either way, they are valuable in measuring the physical and spiritual growth of our church.

You can track, attendance of your weekly worship service, tithes and offerings, per capita giving, baptisms, first time guests, new members, small group attendance as well as projections for some of these areas.  By tracking many of these you will be able to see over a period of time how your church is doing at evangelism and outreach, discipleship, assimilation, and other areas.

Many of the church management software today allow you to track and print reports on many of the areas above.  If you don’t have that capability, I am including a digital form (in excel format) I have used over the past several years that can help you keep records of what is taking place on a weekly basis.  You can click here to download it: Church Data Sheet

Organizing Your Time

Organization would be at the top of most of our to do lists if we had time to make a to do list.  But the fact is that most of us go through life each day just trying to survive.  We live as though we are a passenger in our own lives.  We’re simply along for the ride.  We go through each day with no real direction other than the urgent demands of our days.  And then we often wonder why we aren’t moving forward in many areas of our lives.  What would your life look like if you began to live intentionally? What would change if you made an effort to become organized in how you approach your days and weeks?  What would be different for you if you began to try to organize things in every area of your life?  Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

In the 1960s, Time magazine reported that a subcommittee of the United States Senate was assembled to discuss the topic of time management. Essentially, the best experts in the field were concerned that with advances in technology the biggest problem by the end of the century would be what people would do with all their free time. It was actually suggested that workers would have to cut back on how many hours a week they worked, or how many weeks a year they worked, or else they would have to start retiring sooner. The truth is that the average workweek is now 47 hours – up from 43 hours two decades ago. A recent Gallup Poll found that 44% of Americans consider themselves workaholics.  As a pastor, I am no different.  I see the needs of people around me and because I haven’t set up boundaries in how I will use my time, I find myself being pulled in multiple directions at once and feel guilty when I can’t rise to the demands.  But this isn’t a biblical perspective of how we use our time.

Would you classify yourself as a workaholic?  It’s not something that we should brag about.  In fact, to be a workaholic is to be out of God’s will for your life. Part of his plan for your life is to have downtime as well as time with family and opportunities to build relationships.  The reason we find ourselves in these situations and often facing burnout is because we don’t discipline ourselves with how we use our time.  Organization is discipline in action.  Ephesians 5:15-16 tells us, “Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity”.  The questions we should ask ourselves is are we being careful? Are we being wise? Are we making the most of every opportunity?  How we organize our day will determine how well or how wisely we will live that day.

This is why I have four basic areas I work through when I am trying to make sense of my days, weeks and months.

  1. Itemize.  Be detailed in your plans.  This is where you randomly write down everything that you have going on.  What is it that is consuming your thoughts.  Write it down (i.e. pay bills, get groceries, pick up kids, write sermon, etc…).  We often fail to start with this very simple step of actually writing down what it is we have to accomplish throughout the day or week.  Then when we remember it, we go into panic mode because we are rushed for time to accomplish everything.  So I would encourage you to take some time to write it down.
  2. Categorize.  Assign relevance to the details.  Once you have your list of items written down, you will start to notice areas that go together on your list.  You may notice some main categories like Ministry/Work, Personal, Family, etc…  Then you may also notice some subcategories with these.  Under Personal, you may notice several Financial things that must be accomplished and can group them accordingly. (I would put it on my priority list as follows – Personal: Financial: Pay bills.)  As I began to pull all the personal things together, I would also group the financial areas.  You can do this in every area to start to gain clarity in what is really taking place. This also works great in ministry when you are working in multiple areas within the church to begin to gain clarity and focus of objectives.
  3. Prioritize.  Determine the order of importance.  Let’s face it.  We have a lot to do every day.  But the truth is there are some things that we do that could be done at a later time (or eliminated all together).  Place importance on the categories that match up with who God made you to be and what He wants you to accomplish.  There may be some things on your to do list that have nothing to do with where God is leading you in your family, ministry, work, etc… These are areas I usually start eliminating because they are simply noise in my life.  Once you have successfully itemized, categorized and prioritized what is going on in your life, there is one last area that can’t be missed.
  4. Strategize. Plan your day and work your plan.  It’s great to have an idea of what is going on and even to assign priority to it.  But what does this look like on a daily basis?  This is where the strategy comes in.  I think it’s important for us to realize that mentally and emotionally, we can only go in a few different directions in one day.  Because of this, we need to be strategic in what we allow ourselves to be focused on each day.  It may be that you group all of your Personal:Finance items into one day along with a few other personal categories and make that a part of that days strategy.  You may have different areas of focus in ministry.  I would encourage you to have certain days of the week designated for certain areas of focus.  (i.e. Monday Ministry: Communication: all emails, phone calls, newsletters etc…, Tuesday Ministry: Sermon Prep: Finalize sermon for Sunday, continue to develop sermons for following weeks, Wednesday Ministry: Staff: Work with staff concerning areas of need, etc…)  The key is when we get phone calls to pull us into a different area that we push those into the days where we are actually going to be working in that category.  (There may be emergencies that come up, but most of the urgent demands that come up can actually wait.) This will help reduce stress and also help us stay focused on what needs to be accomplished that day.

Now, I know you may be thinking that this will cost me more time and I can’t spend time doing this with everything else I have going on in my life.  I would say that you will actually gain time by making this process a priority.  This approach to my schedule has helped me stay focused even in some of the most chaotic times of my ministry.  I’ve heard it said, “If we fail to plan, we plan to fail.”  And I believe this to be true.  When I find myself getting stressed or overwhelmed, I can usually look and realize that I have stopped being wise with my time and I am letting others control my time for me.  A good example of this process in practice is found in Genesis 1 when God created.  He took chaos and gave it order.  He didn’t create all at once, but allowed different things to be accomplished on different days.  He had details that he wanted accomplished, but worked through categories and priorities to accomplish His strategy.  I would encourage you to read through that chapter again and see how God organized that one week according to the above areas and see what changes you could make to model that in your life.

Update to blog:  As requested, I have put together a sample to do list of what a finished week might look like.  You will need to discover your own categories and priorities, but maybe this will help you as you are putting it together.  You can download it here: Sample To Do List

Note: I use evernote one my phone and have used docs to go to keep track of this electronically.  It’s easier to manipulate once it’s in the computer.

Raising expectations of Membership

English: Raising IT Logo

Image via Wikipedia

It’s amazing to me how often we have people make the huge decision of becoming a member of our churches, but often we fail to really explain what that means.  We make assumptions that their view of church membership will be the same as ours.  When in reality, we all come from different backgrounds and different church experiences.  This is why it is important that before someone becomes a member of the church, they gain a full understanding of what church membership means at that church from a biblical perspective (rather than a traditional or experiential perspective).

I have found that people who go through our membership session (it takes just over an hour), will thank me for explaining membership to them and they often say it is the first church that has ever done so for them.  By raising membership expectations, we’ve actually noticed that more people rise to the expectations of membership rather than run away.  People are looking for churches that have expectations.  My lead pastor and I developed our membership agreement and placed scriptural references with each point.

It is important that people understand that we aren’t asking them to do anything contrary to the scriptures.  In fact, we are asking them to become more what the scriptures teach us to be in our daily lives.  When we review this with them, we ask people to sign one copy of it and also give them a second copy for them to take home and examine the scriptures for themselves.

I am attaching a copy of the membership agreement we use here: Membership Agreement SAMPLE

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