WHAT YOUR CHURCH NEEDS MORE THAN ORDINARY

12 03 2015

Dr. Steve Dunn, Bridgebuilders creator, speaking at the recent sessions of the Great Lakes Conference in Findlay OH. Photo courtesy of Ed Rosenberry.

Churches who are building bridges often slip into the trap of the worst of “attractional” Christianity.  They try to have the “best show” in town or depend on approaches that are as much spiritual adrenalin as Spirit. Tim Spivey has some guidance on this important issue. – STEVE

What Your Church Needs More Than Extraordinary

If I asked you to tell me about your 2014, you’d likely tell me about the highlights—vacations you took, job changes, big things in the lives of your kids, and other things that stand out in your mind. But that’s not what made the biggest difference in your life in 2014. Here’s what actually made the biggest difference:

You ate.

You slept.

You drank water.

That’s why you’re alive. That’s what sustained you and allowed all of the other things to happen. When any of those slipped, so did the rest of life. Try to enjoy your vacation without food, drink or sleep. Try to have breakthroughs at work or be a sunshiny presence at home. Eat, drink, sleep. Do those three things well and the rest of life happens. Fail to do them and life is worse—or life ends.

It’s more consistency in the ordinary stuff of Christianity that helps one’s spiritual life grow—not major breakthroughs. Major breakthroughs are great—but they tend to be flashes in the pan or become squandered opportunities when they aren’t undergirded by a foundation of consistency in basic Christian practices like prayer, reading Scripture, loving others and sharing our faith.

Consistency in the Basics—Most Vital for Churches

There’s a trinity of basics in church life that sustain churches—an eat, drink, sleep. It’s attending, giving and inviting. I’m not saying they are the most important things of all, theologically. I’m saying they may be the most necessary.

Consistency in attendance, giving and inviting friends is the eat, drink, sleep for churches. Without it, there will be no big shiny new initiatives. It sounds simple and bland, but it’s true. Look around at the best churches you can think of and you’ll see: Great churches aren’t great because of the big stuff. They are great because of faithfulness in the “small stuff.”

We spill a lot of energy and ink trying to convince ourselves these things don’t really matter. We say idealistic things like, “You aren’t a Christian because you go to church.” True enough, but when we don’t explain our emphasis well, what we are saying is … it doesn’t really matter much. So, people aim for something splashier or more private that feels more powerful but sustains them less and detaches them from basic Christian practices that teach obedience to Christ, humility (you’ll rarely get thanked for showing up to church consistently), and bless the faith communities that help nourish their walk with God. We’re not only hurting the spiritual walks of people when we say thoughtless things like this—we’re crippling churches.

In all our efforts to cast big visions for our churches, we must make sure to help them understand the vision behind the “ordinary.” If we don’t, it will reveal itself when the stakes of our “bigger” visions are high. Ministry is neither marathon nor sprint—it’s more like interval training. That’s why consistent beats extraordinary in ministry.

It’s better to be consistent in the ordinary than irregular at the extraordinary. If you are looking for a way to bless your church and walk with God, do these three things with a great attitude: show up consistently, give faithfully and invite your friends with regularity. Encourage others in the church to do the same. You might be surprised how much growth, evangelism and community happens. You’ll also be shocked at how it transforms you—to be consistent.

These days, that’s what’s exceptional.

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A SIMPLE ACT OF KINDNESS

15 09 2013

This video posted on YouTube by Pastor Rufus embodies what it means to build bridges to the Bridge by acts of kindness and creating redemptive relationships. – STEVE





FRUITFUL CONGREGATIONS – FIVE PRACTICES

8 10 2012


This post was written by Robert Schnase and is an excellent checklist of DNA of fruitful congregations. -steve

The purpose of the church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. But how do we do that? The most visible way God knits people into the community of Christ and draws people into the relationship with God is through congregations that fulfill the ministry of Christ in the world. Fruitful congregations repeat and improve on these five basic practices: Radical Hospitality, Passionate Worship, Intentional Faith Development, Risk-Taking Mission and Service and Extravagant Generosity.

The practices are basic and fundamental. But it’s the adjectives that make these words come alive, because they stretch us and cause us to ask ourselves, “How are we doing in practicing these qualities of ministry in our congregation? How might we do better?”

These are practices—they’re not qualities that some churches have and some don’t. They’re not phases that, once we get them done, we can move on to something else. These are practices that we have to learn and improve upon constantly. These are the activities that are so critical to the mission of the church that failure to perform them in an exemplary way leads to congregational decline and deterioration.

Here’s a look at the five practices used in fruitful congregations.

Radical Hospitality
(Romans 12:9-21)
Congregations offer the invitation and embrace of Jesus Christ, the gracious welcome that creates genuine belonging that brings people together in the Christian community. Churches characterized by Radical Hospitality are not just friendly and courteous. Instead, they exhibit restlessness because they realize so many people do not have a relationship to a faith community. They sense a calling and responsibility to pray and work to invite others and to help them feel welcome and supported in their faith journeys. Congregations surprise newcomers with a glimpse of the unmerited gracious love of God that they see in Christ. Our Radical Hospitality goes to the extremes, and we do it joyfully, not superficially, because we know our invitation is the invitation of Christ.

Passionate Worship
(John 4:21-24)
In Passionate Worship, people are honest before God and one another, and they are open to God’s presence and will for their lives. People so eagerly desire such worship that they will reorder their lives to attend. Passionate worship motivates pastors not only to improve their preaching but also to learn continually how to enhance content and technique for effective worship. Worship is something alive that requires continuing care, cultivation, and effort to keep it fresh. Pastors should willingly review and evaluate their own work and invite feedback. The motivation for enhancing the quality of worship is not only about deepening our own faith but also about allowing God to use us and our congregations to offer hope, life, and love to others. Worship is God’s gift and task, a sacred trust that requires our utmost and highest

Intentional Faith Development
(1 Corinthians 9:19-24)
Transformation comes through learning in community. Congregational leaders that practice Intentional Faith Development carefully consider the full life cycle of members and look for ways the church forms faith at every age. They look for gaps, opportunities, and unmet needs to round out their ministries and ask how they can do better. They train laypeople to lead small groups, teach Bible studies, and coordinate support groups. They realize the power of special topics and interests to attract unchurched people, and they advertise and invite beyond the walls of the church. They form affiliation groups such as grief or divorce recovery, substance abuse, parenting, and more. They explore new ways of forming learning communities–blogs, chat rooms, e-mail Bible studies, and downloadable materials. These pastors also participate in forms of community with other pastors or laypersons to help deepen their own relationship with God

Risk-Taking Mission and Service
(Matthew 25:14-30)
This involves work that stretches people, causing them to do something for the good of others that they would never have considered doing if it were not for their relationship with Christ and their desire to serve Him. These churches not only solicit and encourage ordinary service to support the work of the congregation, but they also consciously seek to motivate people to more extraordinary service. They lift examples in preaching and teaching. Risk-Taking Missions and Service is also part of the formation of children and youth. All youth and children ministries include teaching and experiential components that stretch compassion outward beyond the walls of the church. Faith mapped in childhood provides pathways that shape lifelong commitments. These churches collaborate with other churches, other denominations, civic organizations, social agencies, and non-profit groups. They actively invite and welcome newcomers, visitors, and the unchurched to help them in making a difference in the lives of others. As congregations move beyond their comfort zones and follow Christ into more adventurous encounters with people, God’s Spirit changes them, changes others, and changes churches.

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ROB WESTBROOK SHARES FROM MICHAEL GREEN

21 04 2011

Rob Westbrook shared this today as a pingback from a May 25, 2010 posting on this blog. Click on ROB to follow to his site.

Evangelism Principle

Posted on April 21, 2011 by Rob

Bullhorn EvangelismFirst get the centre of the fire hot, and people will be warmed on its outskirts, and drawn in. If we want the gospel to spread in the community of which we are a part, we would be unwise to start with some evangelistic outreach. We would be much better employed in paying attention to the quality of our church life. That is going to be the magnet that draws others to the Jesus who has made us into His body. But if our fellowship is cold, if nobody stays behind after the services because they are, frankly, ready to get away, if the music is dominated by an orge, if the minister is too fond of his own voice, if people are made to feel of a consumer mentality, rather than participants, if joy is frowned upon, then we are unlikely to see significant growth.
Thirty Years that Changed the World by Michael Green

What do you think of this?

Image from https://bridgestothebridge.wordpress.com/2010/05/25/understanding-the-process-of-evangelism/




SHARING ONLY GOD’S LOVE IS CONFUSED

7 04 2011

Sharing Only God’s Love Is Confused

God Loves You

by Clay Jones

I’ve often heard Christians say that when witnessing Christians should “just share the love of God,” meaning: don’t talk about hell or judgment. In this context I have also heard things like, “you can’t draw flies without honey” and “I don’t want to scare people into heaven; I want to love them in.” This sounds nice and loving.

But it’s not.

This approach to evangelism fails to understand the proper distinction between law and Gospel. The Reformers understood that when law and Gospel are properly distinguished, law is preached only to secure sinners and the Gospel (or grace) is preached only to insecure sinners. What they meant is this. You don’t just tell people who are secure in their sin that God loves them. Why? Because that only emboldens them in their sin. Those who are righteous in their own eyes don’t need a large dose of hearing about God’s grace. Instead what they need to hear about is judgment and the wrath of God. Secure sinners need to be made into insecure sinners (of course, this can’t be done without the work of the Holy Spirit). Once they become insecure sinners, then, and only then, do we preach to them the Gospel of Grace.

This is what Jesus did…

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Sharing Only God’s Love Is Confused | Clay Jones





HOW BIG IS YOUR GOSPEL

4 02 2011

How big is your gospel?  In reality, this is an expression of an even more important question, “How big is your God?”  Fred Sanders has written:

“A gospel which is only about the moment of conversion but does not extend to every moment of life in Christ is too small. A gospel that gets your sins forgiven but offers no power for transformation is too small. A gospel that isolates one of the benefits of union with Christ and ignores all the others is too small. A gospel that must be measured by your own moral conduct, social conscience, or religious experience is too small. A gospel that rearranges the components of your life but does not put you personally in the presence of God is too small.”  The Deep Things of God

Too often we settle for a gospel that leads only conversion, making evangelism simply about decisions.  We see Jesus Christ simply as the bridge to our salvation instead of something immeasurably more – people who are now able to live in the service of God and live life to the full (John 10:10).

Or we make the gospel simply a message of self-improvement … the be good, the be happy, the be more responsible – the gospel of moral therapeutic deism.

That is far too shallow. That simply requires a God who creates, watches, rewards. That does not require a God who transforms.

And transformation into new creations is what we need.

Transformation into a new heaven and a new earth is what the world needs.

The God of the true gospel is big enough to do all that … and immeasurably more.

How big is your God?  How big is your gospel?





WORSHIP EVANGELISM

24 05 2010

Increasingly the traditional church is learning what has been an open secret in youth ministry for decades. Worship is evangelism. When seekers come into a gathering where people are transparent and passionate to worship God, there is an electricity present that captures their attention and begins to open their hearts and minds to Him.

We are not talking about worship as a perfunctory act of obedience, all about form and language. We are talking about that humbling of one’s heart, that unashamed and unscripted abandonment of oneself to the transforming power of God. “Let love be genuine” is the command of scripture. When worship is a genuine expression of a heartfelt love for Jesus Christ, it illumines the dark places of our world with the awesome, supernatural light of the world. No one has to explain God or even defend Him. Worship reveals His presence.

Christian preachers are learning to communicate to emerging generations in effective ways. And churches are learning to worship in ways that communicate meaning and invite new people to enter into the flow of worship. Creative tools and worship arts create an atmosphere for worship that helps engage people of many personalities and passions as participants.

But in the end, worship that is genuine — in Spirit and in Truth — is what lifts up Christ and draws all people — old and young, modern and postmodern, traditional and contemporary, raised in the church or one who will be the first generation of their family to find faith — and ultimately (to quote Dan Kimball) to be the bridge to the Bridge that reconciles people to God.