Questions to ask~ as you lead yourself!

Questions to help you reflect on how you show up.

How do you behave when you are engrossed in a project/activity?

How do you behave when you are under pressure to perform?

How do you behave when you are certain that yours is the right way to do a task?

Are you paying attention to the effect you are having on others?

What is it like for the people around you when you are driven?

What is it like for others when they see your high expectations for yourself?

What is it like for your peers/family/friends when you are dogmatic and directive?

Did you gain any insights when thinking about these questions?

What do you need to pay attention to so that your drive has a positive influence?

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Advancing the Gospel This Holiday Season!

As we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ-let us take a look into the mindset of advancing the Gospel locally and globally.

When we as sheep gather and grow we can adopt a mindset to grow as people who are disciple-making disciples of Christ.

In order to humble ourselves we should take a few intentional transitional steps:

1. From running programs to building people
2. From running events to training people
3. From using people to growing people
4. From filling gaps to training new workers
5. From solving problems to helping people make progress
6. From clinging to ordained ministry to developing team leadership
7. From focusing on church polity to forging ministry partnerships
8. From relying on training institutions to establishing local training
9. From focusing on immediate pressures to aiming for long-term expansion
10. From engaging in management to engaging in ministry
11. From seeking church growth to desiring gospel growth

It is true that it’s Christ’s Church and He is the one who builds it and it is also true He blesses us with the opportunity to partner with Him in so doing!

For further information and resources see: The Trellis and The Vine By Collin Marshall and Tony Payne

Equipping Others for MINISTRY

Strategies for equipping others for peer evangelism

In describing the basics of CPR, I have noted several goals we have as ministry leaders and workers in equipping our people for their personal involvement in winning lost peers to Christ. To help you in thinking about the effectiveness of your ministry, let me conclude with a list of questions to stimulate your thinking concerning how you can be more successful in this equipping (my thanks to Sonlife Ministries for this list):

Cultivating
• Are the people in your group consistently praying for their lost friends’ salvation?
•Are you regularly challenging your people to make new unchurched friends?
•Are you providing regular events designed to help build friendships with the unchurched?

Planting

•Do people share their testimonies in evangelistic ways at school, work, and throughout their lives?

•Do you host activities where unchurched people can be exposed in positive ways to truths about Jesus?

•Are you encouraging and equipping others to have on-going “truth based” dialogues with their unchurched friends?

Reaping

•Do you regularly equip others with the ability to share the gospel?

•Do they “own” the conviction that all people need salvation and that Jesus is the only way for that salvation?

•Do you regularly share the gospel in relational ways with the non-churched visitors?

Please say a good word for Jesus…You never know who is to be saved or not…We have an awesome blessing in being used by God as a living testimony of His love and forgiveness. To not say anything -you may miss the blessing in Loving God and Loving Others- Take the Step and Don’t Look Back!

Part Deux-Leave Well

Why do people leave church? This is the question I have heard discussed quite a bit recently (a discussion kicked off by Rachael Held Evans with her article “Why Millennials are Leaving the Church“) and a discussion which continues to flow throughout the blog world. I much appreciated Rachael’s thoughts on why Millennials, specifically, are leaving the church but feel the discussion she sparked is an important one which needs to continue. I’ve been receiving requests from readers to weigh in on this issue, and having given it a great deal of thought, am happy to offer my voice to this worthy discussion.

As I thought about my own opinion as to why people leave the church, it struck me that the actual reasons why people leave aren’t necessarily reasons that apply to one generation or the other. The issues that wound and tear a person down to the point that they walk out the door are typically issues that affect people from all generations and all walks of life. In fact, the reasons I have compiled are issues that led me to walk way from church as twenty-year-old, and still tempt me to walk out again some days– even though I’m not 20 anymore.
Whether you’ve always known what e-mail was, rode your big-wheel in the street without a helmet, can remember seeing ET in the theater, or did time in ‘Nam, here are the 10 reasons why people from all generations leave church:

10. People leave church when they can’t find community.This is one of those reasons where it can serve as a reason why people come to church in the first place, and also becomes a reason why they leave– people want community. So many of us are tired of doing life on our own, tired of plastic American relationships, and are looking for deep, loyal, and authentic communal relationships. This should be a central goal of churches– building community. Why? Christianity was never meant to be lived out in the context of isolation, but rather in the context of community. When people can’t find community, can’t plug-in or access meaningful relationships, they split in hopes they’ll find it somewhere else. When a church learns to do community well, it is a life-giving experience. When churches fail to build community, church just becomes another item on your list that sucks the life out of you. I have experienced church both ways and can honestly say that I’m finished investing emotional energy into churches that don’t build a culture that values authentic community.

9. People leave church because they need less drama in their lives.I don’t know about you, but my life always seems to have enough drama in it– I certainly don’t need anything that is going to add to the drama factor. So often, people seek out church because they need a reprieve, a refuge from the emotional drama of day to day living. However, far too often church relationships find a way to add to your drama. Now, I get that we’re all imperfect and that any group will have their own conflict, but some churches seem to do drama more than others. Our jobs, family dynamics and friendships provide us with enough opportunity to be gossiped about, back-stabbed, and pushed to the margins- we don’t need to add to that. Church needs to be a safe place where one can escape the typical relational drama we all face and instead experience loving support and acceptance. When church just becomes another area that is going to add drama to my life, I need to cut the cord and move on for my own sanity. Which leads me too…

8. People leave church because of unresolved conflict.As mentioned above, any community is going to have conflict. However, a healthy and life-giving community is one that practices healthy conflict resolution in order to keep relationships safe and whole. Some churches do a fantastic job at helping individuals reconcile their differences in loving ways which deescalate and restore, while others have skewed ideas of what reconciliation looks like. Too often, wounded people are told, or are caused to feel, as if their emotional response to being wounded is somehow wrong or sinful. We can be encouraged to “forgive and forget”, “get over it”, or even told we have “no right to feel that way”. We fail to realize that wounded people need to have their feelings validated, and need to have a place to air their hurts in a way that causes them to feel heard. If we want people to stop leaving church, we need to develop radical humility and become the peacemakers that Jesus claimed would be blessed.

7. People leave church because of controlling leaders and unskilled teachers.Leaders make or break an organization, and church is no different. When the pastor or church leader(s) come across as controlling (whether it is real or perceived) it creates an environment that doesn’t feel safe to people. No one wants to be controlled or dominated in church– not even the people who assimilate and eventually tolerate such environments. Instead, people want to feel heard and included in issues of decision making and long-term vision. Too often, it seems like the kids who are picked on in high school either become cops or pastors so that they can control other people- and they become increasingly intoxicated with their own perceived power. When people like me smell this, we bolt.
Likewise, you can have a church with a great community and a loving pastor– but a pastor who happens to be differently gifted outside the realm of preaching, and lose people. The longest 45 minute blocks in my life have been when I have been forced to sit and listen to a person fly the plane around the pulpit ten times, without ever landing. Bad preaching is miserable. If people feel like the preaching sucks, they’ll leave in search of something else. We need to make sure we place people in positions to serve in accordance with their abilities AND passions, not just their passions.

6. People leave church because they get turned off by social climbing, cliques, and nepotism.Social climbing is simply how I would describe the phenomena where people have to acquire a certain amount of “social credit” with the people of influence before they can serve and be included. As a result, the popular folks at church amass followers, and power. Such a system requires you to play the “game” with people of influence if you want to be a fully included member of the group (leading to the formation of cliques). Some people, like me, refuse to do this in silent protest… instead believing that all people should be able to come together to experience God, equally. Nepotism goes along the same lines– we don’t want to see people elevated to their positions because they were of the right bloodline, or played the game with the right people– we want to see people elevated to positions simply on the basis of their skills, abilities, and calling.

5. People leave church when they feel like they need to become a carbon copy of an individual or ideal in order to be fully included and appreciated.
During the times when I have found myself church shopping online, one of the first things I look at is the church’s statement of faith. This isn’t so much because I care about what they believe (although, I obviously do) but because I want to know if I’m going to be required to be a detailed copy of everyone else to be accepted. When I see a ten-page statement of faith the spells out everything from “Who is God” to “Why we believe the rapture will happen next Tuesday”, it tells me that there will be no room for me to live, breathe, or be my own person– my acceptance will depend on whether or not I am a carbon copy of everyone else.

People want to be who God made them– they don’t want to be a carbon copy of who God made you. When we feel forced to fit into a predetermined mold as to what a member of this community must look like, we leave (or in my case, I don’t ever go to begin with).
Most people don’t want to be like everyone else, and when a certain culture tells them they must become a clone as a condition of acceptance, many will leave instead of submitting to such a dehumanizing experience.

4. People leave church because they are tired of being told how a “good Christian” will vote.
One of the most frustrating aspects of Evangelical Christianity is that it’s not so much of a faith tradition anymore, as it is a political movement. When I was in seminary I wrote frequently on this issue calling it the “deification of western values”, because Christian culture has picked a few hot-button political issues and married one’s political opinion on these issues to their faith. We are tired of this. All of us.
It is possible to sincerely love Jesus and still not vote for the Republican candidate. PLEASE stop making people feel like voting differently is somehow akin to apostasy. Jesus followers hold a wide array of political beliefs, and that’s okay– they’re just political beliefs… it’s not theology not matter how hard others want to make it theology.

The sooner we can embrace our political diversity, and end this unholy marriage with conservative politics, the sooner we can all start trying to follow Jesus, together.

3. People leave church because they’re looking for something authentic.The word authentic means: “not false, but real… therefore reliable and trustworthy”. Ironically, I can think of no more authentic message than the loving and very real message of Jesus.

However, the way we often live that out is far from authentic. In scripture we see authenticity being something God loves; my favorite characters in the Bible are the people who were raw and who told God exactly what was on their mind, minus a filter. These are the people, such as David, whom God calls “friend”.

Yet, church often becomes a place where you want to be anything but real. It’s just not safe to do so- especially with people who are busy pretending they have it all together but still seem to have enough time to be your worst critic.
People want to do church with people who are real, people who aren’t afraid to be vulnerable in relationship, and who are willing to sit beside you in the messiness of life. When church feels fake and like it’s not a safe place to be vulnerable, people leave in hopes they’ll find someplace that is.

2. People leave church because they feel lonely.As you look through items 10-3, imagine how it feels to experience the losing end of one of these issues (sadly, I don’t think many of you will have to imagine that). The feeling of being excluded, by definition, creates an intense loneliness. Being one of the only people living raw and authentically in a quest for community, is a lonely feeling. Being the one person who can’t, in good conscience, sign onto the same statement of faith that the group has, is a lonely feeling. Watching cliques form as an outsider, and watching people who rise to esteemed positions by way of church politics, is a lonely feeling.

People leave church because they start to feel like an outsider, and that makes them lonely. It is an emotion that is painful, powerful, and given enough time, unbearable. If leaving church is what’s needed to stop feeling so lonely and to stop feeling like an outsider– they’ll do it (and it would be the right decision).

1. People leave church when they don’t find Jesus.This sounds silly on the surface, but it’s not. Church of all places should look like Jesus! Church should be a place where people are busy loving the unlovable, embracing the outcast, serving the widow, immigrant and fatherless. It should be a place where power is rejected, gender and race is irrelevant, and where the most coveted position is the position of servant.

I think we need to just start being honest with ourselves and admit that a lot of people reject our churches because they’re too interested in Jesus to accept a counterfeit version.

When I look at the story of Jesus, I am consistently moved by the way people were attracted to his personality. With the exception of religious conservatives, everyone longed to be around Jesus and went to great lengths and great risk to spend time with him. I am convinced that if we built loving communities of faith that were raw and authentic, that embraced the excluded, and were known by how well they loved others, there wouldn’t be an empty chair in the sanctuary.

Because if a church were really to look like Jesus, people wouldn’t want to be anywhere else

Wisdom or Feelings or Both?

Why do people leave church or join different churches? Are we consumers? Do we leave for the wrong reasons? Do people walk away from church and never come back? Is this how cults are formed?

Together we will look into these questions and see if there is a theme we can address in a few posts.

Top reasons LifeWay Research found why people switch churches:

The church was not helping me to develop spiritually. (28%)
I did not feel engaged or involved in meaningful church work (20%)
Church members were judgmental of others (18%)
Pastor was not a good preacher (16%)
Too many changes (16%)
Members seemed hypocritical (15%)
Church didn’t seem to be a place where God was at work (14%)
Church was run by a clique that discouraged involvement (14%)
Pastor was judgmental of others (14%)
Pastor seemed hypocritical (13%)

For me personally the hypocrite argument is very weak and overdrawn. We all at times are hypocrites. Meaning for my sake is that we say one thing and do another.

Do you see that most of these reasons may be due to feelings and emotions. Is that a bad thing? God did create us to have them. We also know however that our hearts are wicked and deceitful. Under the Lordship of Christ we can practice self control- truth is truth no matter how we feel. Take every thought captive…..etc…

Please don’t misunderstand- our feelings and emotions do matter. We are a people that live in a post modern world. God’s Word is still the base and foundation of our faith. Can’t church be a place that we authentically Worship and grow with like minded people? To find love and acceptance no of our sin but of the common thread of Christ. Not having to fit in a mold or ideal.

Just give me Jesus….He is our only hope.

Before You Leave a Church

Everyone will leave their church at some point. Whether God calls us home to glory, move to another city, or decide to try a different local church, we are going to leave.

Leaving a local congregation should be one of the most difficult decisions we face. It should be filled with the recollection of our love for the saints, their love for us, our service together in the name of our Lord, and our sorrows and joys in the faith. A church is family and we ought never feel it easy to leave family–even an unhealthy family.

But we do sometimes find ourselves at that crossroads. When we’ve decided to leave, there are at least five things we want to do before we go.

1. Share Your Thinking/Reasons with the Leaders

You’ve no doubt been thinking of leaving for some time. In all likelihood you did not wake up with the sudden new thought, I think I’m going to find another church. The thought has been building for some time. You’ve been piling up observations, minor disappointments, major hurts and persistent longings. You’ve likely done that quietly, without talking to anyone. And you’ve likely kept your silence for good reasons. First, you thought perhaps the situation would change. If you kept quiet things would get better and you wouldn’t have caused a “stir” by saying anything. Then you kept quiet because you didn’t want to spread your concern to others or hurt anyone’s feelings. Finally, you kept quiet because you stopped believing any change was possible or forthcoming. Now, after all those silent months of stockpiling critiques, you’ve decided to leave.

But if you leave this way, you’re going to leave a ghost in the congregation. People will be haunted by your absence and wonder, What happened to them? Why did they leave? Then people feel abandoned and hurt.

There’s a better way to leave. Share your thinking with your leaders before you make the final decision. Let them shepherd you through your thoughts and reasons even i that means shepherding you to the next church. Two things will happen. You will benefit from their spiritual care (and perhaps even be surprised by their agreement or receptivity). And the church’s leader and congregation will benefit from your insight. There’s a way to leave a church that amounts to win-win rather than abandonment.

2. Resolve Any Outstanding Conflicts

I suspect I experience what a lot of pastors experience: persons coming to the church disgruntled with persons in their previous church without having done anything to resolve the conflict. They’re running from something rather than facing it. The something could be personal conflict, church discipline or theological strife. In either case, don’t leave your church before you’ve addressed the conflict. Obey our Lord’s instructions in Matthew 5:23-24 and 18:15. Go and be reconciled to the best of your ability.

If you obey the Lord in this before moving on then everybody wins. Lord willing, you win your brother over and the relationship is mended. You may find you don’t have to leave at all and experience renewed joy in the church family you’ve already invested years of life with. Even if you still need or want to leave, you’ll experience freedom from guilt because you’ve “made every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). And your new church family will be able to receive you without the baggage associated with the previous church.

At FBC we refuse to take into membership anyone we know has some outstanding issue with their previous church. We insist they return to work things out before coming to us, and we very often follow-up with leaders of the church to confirm that appropriate efforts have been made. We find this leads to peace between churches, grace in reconciliation, and freshness in any new starts that are made.

3. Express Your Appreciation for the Church’s Ministry in Your Life

When people leave suddenly and without conversation with the leaders of the church they very often fall prey to ingratitude. Having convinced themselves of all the problems in the church, they usually minimize the strengths and virtues of the church. Sadly, this is the way many of us work ourselves up to making major decisions–emphasize the negative and downplay the positives.

But truthfully, no true church is without significant positive qualities. Even the church at Corinth, with all their problems, could be commended for the “grace given you in Christ Jesus” (1:4), for having been “enriched in every way” (1:5), “not lack[ing] any spiritual gift as they eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed” (1:7), and being “the seal of [Paul’s] apostleship in the Lord” (9:2). They had significant problems, but also much to commend. Though Paul heard things that he as an apostle should put in order, he nevertheless confirmed their testimony in Christ (1:6) and gave praise wherever appropriate.

We should celebrate God’s grace in a church long before we decide and actually leave. We should note the positive ways the church has impacted and blessed us spiritually. We should communicate that to our leaders and, where appropriate, to the body as a whole. I love those resignation letters that actually strengthen and edify the body because the brother/sister resigning “builds an Ebenezer” to God’s grace as they leave.

Please don’t make this a matter of soothing your conscience once you’ve decided to leave in an unhealthy way. Make this a matter of constant discipline in grace. Communicate appreciation before you decide to leave, as you’re thinking about leaving, and once you do leave. Our churches would be far healthier and more joyful if they were communities of gracious affirmation and appreciation.

4. Say “Goodbye” to Friends and Family

Unless we’ve been unusually isolated in our church families, chances are we have some significant family and friends who will remain in the church. They mean a great deal to us and they’re likely to be affected by our leaving. These are people you want to say your “goodbyes” to in person. You don’t want them to hear you’re leaving or have left on the floor of a members’ meeting. You don’t want to inadvertently suggest their friendship doesn’t or hasn’t meant much to you. You don’t want them wondering whether you actually loved them. You don’t want things to be awkward when you see them out and about in the community.

Instead, you want them to be affirmed in and by your love. You want them to know you will carry them in your affections though you’re going to settle into a new communion. You want them to know, circumstances permitting, that the friendship will continue and you’ll always be brothers and sisters in Christ.

So, include some personal time with friends and family before you actually leave the church. Invite them to your home or to coffee. Share with them your appreciation and your hopes as you move forward. Most will understand and be happy for you, even if they’re sad for themselves and their church. Such mourning and rejoicing are part of what it means to be the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:27).

5. Be Honest with Yourself about Your Own Efforts, Motives and Failings

Leaving a church ought to be cause for self-examination. We ought to get the log out of our own eyes before focusing on the speck in the church’s eye (Matt. 7:3-4). This is hard, slow work–and most people skip it. It’s so easy to assume the purity of our own motives, to view ourselves as victims or martyrs, and to trivialize our many failings.

But integrity requires we be honest with the man in the mirror. Why are we thinking of leaving? What really motivates our assessment and desires? How have we contributed to the problems and feelings we’re finding so dissatisfying or hurtful? Have we taken full responsibility in confession, repentance and action?

We’re not honestly ready to leave and our churches are not ready for us to leave until we’ve gotten before the Lord with transparency, humility and ruthlessness with our own sin and flesh. But, if we muster such honesty, it will lead to our increased sanctification and joy.

CONCLUSION

Leaving a church can be a means of grace rather than a source of pain for everyone involved. But for grace to be multiplied we’ll have to do some things before we decide to leave and actually exit. Receiving this grace will require putting to death the fear of man and believing that God exists and He rewards those who earnestly seek Him (Heb. 11:6). If you are thinking of leaving, think of how you will leave. It could make a positive difference for you, your friends, your current and your future churches

What is a Disciple of Jesus?- D Wadsworth

So if you were asked by a young person to make a disciple out of clay what would it look like? What character qualities would it have? How or what would it be doing?

As followers of Jesus Christ we regularly devote ourselves to times of intimacy with God through prayer. Publicly and privately we dedicate ourselves to growing in biblical knowledge, loving, serving others, and forming relationships to share our faith in an active humble lifestyle.

Prays-We regularly devote time to intimacy with God through prayer

prays dependently on a daily basis
overall triumph and fruitfulness from prayer life
convinced of our need for God and the power of a personal prayer life

Worships-We bow, show reverence and adore God

believes worship is an active, holy response toward God
participates in corporate worship of God
combines our head, heart, mind to worship on a personal level

Learns-We grow in biblical knowledge and apply it daily

develop a capacity of inspiration and authority of the Bible
pursue Godly perspective in everyday life and decision making
committed to an ongoing analysis of the Holy Bible

Serves-We unselfishly serve others for God’s glory with a humble lifestyle

deep understanding for the ultimate service of Christ
further God’s kingdom through the use of our giftedness
joyful about meeting others needs
serve God in all areas of life

Loves-We Love God, believers and those who don’t believe

sensitive spirit that enables encouragement toward others
build up others by word and deed
genuine concern to see others be all they can be in Christ
seek opportunities to help those in need

Impacts-We actively form relationships seeking to share our faith by the way we act and live

manages time to prioritize developing solid relationships with the lost within our circle of influence
explain and live the gospel in simple loving ways
deep compassion for the lost
known as a friend of spiritually lost people