Sunday, May 27, 2007

Memorial Day

I'm taking a week off of blogging for the holiday. It's a short week, as Pastor Brent, Mike DeKarske, John Fisher, Phil Criner, and I are leaving for National Conference on Thursday afternoon. We'll be gone until Sunday afternoon. Please pray for us that we'll have safe travel, that we would learn what God would have for us, and that God would have his will in our denomination. We'll be in prayer for the services here, too, while we're gone. God bless!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Now What? Leadership Multiplication

If we are going to fulfill the vision that God has given us to become actively involved in planting churches to reach the 100,000 people in Jackson County with no church family, there are certain preconditions we need to satisfy in our own church--we need to grow, we need unity, and we need to multiply leadership.

I believe that everything in a church rises and falls on the quality of its leadership. Leaders, of course, are not just the pastors, but the elders, the ministry leaders, the teachers and small group leaders. Leaders carry the weighty responsibility of influencing others, and that responsibility can be used well or poorly. When the leaders are spiritually mature, rooted in scripture, full of wisdom, and passionate about advancing God's agenda, the church will be full of God's power and will grow. Conversely, when the leaders are spiritually weak, rooted in tradition, full of themselves, and passionate about advancing their personal agenda, the church will be full of dysfunction and impotence.

To be able to provide quality leadership to a daughter church, and at the same time maintain the health and vitality of the mother church, we will need to have more leaders--there simply aren't enough right now. But leaders are not made overnight. Leadership develops over time through investment, experience, mentoring, accountability, and equipping. So to have enough leaders for both churches, we need to make more leaders now.

We currently have a process for developing additional elders as well as a process for Core Team leaders to train and mentor their own replacements. What we are currently lacking are people who are willing to make the commitment to step into leadership. There are a host of reasons why people may avoid leadership:

  • Some may not feel spiritually qualified. Indeed, not just anyone is qualified to be a leader. It takes someone who has some degree of spiritual maturity. However, many who are qualified feel that they fall short because they're not a "super-saint." At our church, we understand that no one is perfect, and we don't expect perfection. Our expectations for leaders are clearly spelled out in the Church Structure (ask me if you don't have a copy), and there are no "unwritten" rules or additional standards you have to live up to.
  • Some may have served in the past. Many people with past leadership experience no longer want to serve as a leader, and that's a real tragedy, in my opinion. I know that some may have had negative experiences that they don't want to repeat; others feel that they have "done their time," and now others should do it. In both cases, such individuals look at leadership as a burden--but if God has shaped you for leadership, you will not find satisfaction apart from leading others. Come talk to me if you are restless and dissatisfied in your current role.
  • Some are afraid. They are afraid they might try their best and fail. They are afraid they won't know how to lead others. Some are afraid they lack the knowledge, the training, or the understanding to direct a ministry. And these are understandable fears. But it should be recognized that at PCC no one does ministry alone. All leaders at all levels have others that they can turn to, that they can seek encouragement, advice, and support from, and that they can learn from. We provide training, support, and encouragement to all our leaders.

At some point, these hurdles will need to be jumped, as more people accept the responsibility to step into leadership. If no one does, we can keep our current church functioning, but we will never be able to expand beyond ourselves and make any kind of dent in the 100,000 people in Jackson County with no church family. We will be just another church that makes no difference to its community, and that is a very unsatisfying vision to me.

We currently are seeking those who would be interested in serving in the following areas:

  • Elder
  • Outreach Core Team Leader
  • Community Core Team Leader

In addition to these, we are always open to people who want to serve as members of any of the Core Minsitry Teams, which direct the ministries that fall under their various areas:

  • Service
  • Outreach
  • Worship
  • Community
  • Discipleship
  • Life Development (children & youth)
  • Finance
  • Property

We are praying that God will raise up the leaders we need, for without proper leadership, the vision will fail to become reality. Please prayerfully consider if God would have you give yourself to one of these ministries. As you pray, talk with me or Pastor Brent, or one of the current elders (Mike DeKarske, John Fisher) so that we can pray alongside you and see how God might lead and equip our church.

"Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task." 1 Timothy 3:1 NIV

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Now What? Unity

As we've seen the last two weeks, growth is a necessary precondition for the accomplishment of our vision to become actively involved in church planting to reach the 100,000 people in Jackson County with no church family. Another one is unity.

The Bible is very clear about the importance of unity in the life of a church.

  • Ephesians 4:3-6--"Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit--just as you were called to one hope when you were called--one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."
  • Romans 16:17-18--"I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people."
  • Psalm 133:1--"How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!"
  • Titus 3:10--"Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him."

It was also the subject of Jesus' longest recorded prayer in John 17--Jesus prayed that his church would be united! Jesus gave us specific instructions about how to resolve conflict in the church (Matthew 18:15-20) so that we can maintain unity. Paul said that if there is division when the church comes together, the meetings actually do more harm than good (1 Corinthians 11:17-18).

The church simply cannot be the church of Jesus Christ unless it is united. But what is unity? How do we gauge it? First, let me start by identifying what unity is not:

  • Unity is not uniformity. If we're united as a church, that doesn't mean that everyone has to talk alike, act alike, dress alike, look alike, or even believe exactly alike. It's clear that God loves diversity--he created 100,000 different species of trees, and millions of species of insects, not to mention all the billions of people that are each completely unique in thousands of different ways. We don't have to be identical clones of each other to have unity. We can bring all our different spiritual gifts, passions, abilities, skills, knowledge, personalities, and experiences, and still have unity.
  • Unity is not unanimity. Being united doesn't mean we all agree on everything. It doesn't mean suppressing opinions that might differ from those held by others in the church. It doesn't mean we all have to march in lock-step, like some two-bit dictatorship. We can discuss, differ, question, challenge, and debate; even after all that, we might still disagree. But that's ok, we can still have unity.

True unity is making the decision that we will lay aside all the things that could separate and divide us, and instead, commit ourselves 100% to loving each other and working together to advance the common mission, vision, and values we share as a church.

In fact, we will take all the things that make us different from one another, and apply them in the same direction to accomplish the mission and vision even more effectively than any of us could alone. This is the picture of the body of Christ that Paul paints for us in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12. This is what God's church is supposed to look like.

Unfortunately, many churches allow divisions to creep into their midst. Sometimes, churches are divided over the same things that divides society--race, socio-economic class, educational background, gender, etc. Other times, churches are divided over two conflicting centers of power--a pastor and a key lay leader who disagree about something, for example. Or a church might divide over preferences in worship styles.

All of this is tragic, and completely opposed to the portrait of the church we see in scripture. We need to make sure that we combat and defeat any attitudes or actions that would cause division in our church, including:

  • uncaring, unloving, "us-versus-them" attitudes
  • expressions of elitism or superiority
  • grumbling or complaining about others or groups in the church
  • an unwillingness to resolve conflict or to discuss differences of opinion

If you come across any of these problems in our church, you have my permission to address it forcefully and confidently. These are inappropriate and unacceptable in the church of Jesus Christ, and we must not tolerate or excuse them.

We are bound to one another by our mission, vision, and values. Anyone who will stand next to me in promoting these vital expressions of our church is my friend, my ally, my brother or sister in the Lord, and I will defend them to the death, no matter what other differences we may have. That is what it means to have unity, and this is the spirit we must nurture in our church.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Now What? Growth (Cont.)

Over the last several weeks, there have been a number of questions about the choices that have been made regarding the style of our recent and upcoming Sunday services. I'd like to take the time right now to address those questions in the light of last week's blog posting--that our church must grow in order to accomplish the vision that we have for reaching our community for Christ through church planting.

The short answer is that everything we do, we do in order to advance the mission and vision of the church. Everything--everything--is designed to meet people where they are on their spiritual journeys and lead them to become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ (our mission). If we are doing that, our church should be growing. As we grow, we are becoming increasingly ready to become actively involved in church planting to reach the 100,000 people in Jackson County with no church family (our vision).

However, I can understand that some may not see exactly how this is so. Therefore, I think it is worthwhile to give long answers to the following questions:

  • Where were the palm branches for Palm Sunday? Instead of commemorating Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (Matt. 21:1-11), we chose to focus on challenging the church to invite friends and neighbors for Easter the following week, because Easter Sunday is the single biggest opportunity we have all year long to see unchurched people come to church. Since the triumphal entry is no more important than the feeding of the 5,000 (for example) or any of the other stories about Jesus, there's no reason other then sentimentality to preach on it every year. Strategically, a message on outreach makes much more sense the week before Easter to advance our mission and vision.
  • What about lilies on Easter? If our mission is to reach people where they are, we need to start thinking like them. Is an Easter lily on the platform going to convince Northwest Nick to give his heart to Christ? Not likely. He's probably been to church on Easter Sunday a dozen times before, and there are always Easter lilies, along with a choir singing music he doesn't know or particularly like, and some ameteurish drama with guys in bathrobes. To the average unchurched person, this is not very compelling, and that's why they never come back the next week. Our goal was to launch a series that connects the Bible with Northwest Nick's day-to-day life, and shows him that satisfaction is found in God alone, not in all the other stuff that loads up (and overloads) his life. That goal was met: "Dragging 110%" brought in the highest average attendance of any series we've done so far, and a number of new people came more than just on Easter Sunday.
  • But why do we have to have all that junk on the stage? I know the stage sets are not everybody's cup of tea, but there is a definite purpose behind them. First, they serve as giant, visual sermon illustrations. I've used computer parts, a baseball bat, an apple, a glass of water, and many other items as illustrations in my messages; the sets really serve the same purpose--they're just bigger. Second, they help create a feeling, or a mood that helps draw many people (especially those who are visual learners) in to connect with what's going on or being said. Third, research shows that information that is heard and seen more than doubles the amount that is retained, compared to what is heard only ( Fourth--and this is probably the biggest reason--our culture is one that is awash in over-stimulation; if we simply present information in a traditional style, we will bore people and lose them (i.e., fail in our mission). Remember, we need to meet them where they are.
  • Why are we doing a series on Spider Man? Yes, the movie is rated PG-13 for violence; no one is suggesting you go pay money to see it. However, many people are--in fact, more people are seeing Spider Man than any movie in history ( When you consider the themes that the movie touches on--romance, power, responsibility, duty, integrity, loyalty, friendship, self-sacrifice, revenge, and more!--you begin to realize the incredible opportunity we have to help people process their entertainment in a deeper way, to see the spiritual messages that are contained in the movies they are watching, and to show them that the Bible is much more relevant and applicable to their lives than they ever dreamed--it addresses the same themes that Spider Man does, after all! It gives us an opening to create a spiritual discussion with unchurched people by taking a look at something that they are already actually interested in.

In short, our goal is to be a church that is different than most unchurched people have experienced. The church in America is failing: Every generation chooses to attend less frequently than the previous one. People are deciding that the church has nothing meaningful to say to their lives. It's boring, and people are busy--they are deciding to do other things with their valuable time. If we are going to not fail, we must do something different to break the cycle. We want to be a "church for the unchurched." We want to "do church" in such a way that someone who's never been to church before will be able to get it. In essence, that's our mission--to meet people where they are on their spiritual journeys and lead them to become fully devoted followers of Christ.

I understand that change is difficult. It's messy and painful and just plain hard. But the pain of not changing is even more severe. To not change is to resign ourselves to failure in our mission, to be content with impotence and irrelevance in a culture that desperately needs to be redeemed by the power of God. It is to turn our back on the call that God has placed on our lives to reach our world for him. It is to abandon our mission. And that is something we simply cannot do.