Monday, December 19, 2005

Monday Morning QB 12/19/05

Here's the Monday morning QB for this week:

Message: The Purpose of Christmas (Dave Preached)

Scripture: 1 John 1:1-4

Service Highlights: Pastor Dave really brought home the point of why we tell people "Merry Christmas." As controversial as it has become to speak those words in today's society, it defines who we are because of the incarnation. Dave closed the message with a powerful clip from "It's a Wonderful Life."

Stats: 506 in worship + 161 in Sunday school

Final Notes: Christmas Eve worship is this Saturday at 5:00, 7:00, 9:00, & 11:00. We will also have one Christmas day worship service at 10:30am.

For the Sake of the Mission

"The North American church has lost its influence at this critical juncture. It has lost its influence becuase it has lost its identity. It has lost its identity because it has lost its mission." Reggie McNeal, The Present Future

The mission of Charter Oak Church is to reach out to those searching and nurture believers to be fully devoted followers of Jesus. That's what we are called to do and to be. That's why each one of us has been hired. That's what every decision we make should be filtered through - does this help make our mission happen? Why is this our mission? Because...

A recent study pegged church attenance at only 26% of Americans. George Barna reports that the unchurched population has grown from 24 to 34 percent in just one decade. Since 1991, the number of unchurched women has risen from 18 to 30%. The number of unchurched in the Northeast is up from 26 to 38%. 90 percent of kids active in high school youth groups do not go to church by the time they are sophomores in college. One-third of these will never return.

"The church's mission is to join God in his redemptive efforts to save the world. People all around us are in darkness. They are going to die unless someone finds a way to connect them to Jesus. The trouble is, the church is sleeping on the job. Too many of us have forgotten why we showed up for work. Even worse, many of us never have known."

Seeing the mission fulfilled begins here, with us as the leaders of this church.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Amazon Reading Plan

I was just on and it gave me three suggested books for me to read next.

I was so excited that I have read one of them (The Present Future), I have another one waiting to be read (Blue Like Jazz), and I am a great fan of the author of other one (The Barbarian Way). It amazes me that Amazon can create a platform that actually can represent books that I would read.

Now if only we could do the same thing for people in the church when it comes to spiritual development, serving opportunities, and leadership growth.

Thanks for Nothing

What happens when we don't have vision - nothing.

Check out this photo from Nothing, Arizona.

I hope that we never become a church of nothing.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Who/What Are We Teaching?

Howard Hendricks writes, "God never called us to teach the Bible. He called us to teach people the Bible. So study your Bible, but before you teach it, make sure you also study your people."

Light Bearers

"You're here to be light, bringing out the God colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We're going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don't think I'm going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I'm putting you on a light stand. Now that I've put you there on a hill top, on a light stand - shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you'll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven."

Matthew 5:14-16 (The Message)

Monday, December 12, 2005

Monday Morning QB 12/12/05

Here's the Monday morning QB for this week:

Message: Getting Sober for Christmas (Dave Preached)

Scripture: Luke 3:2-18

Service Highlights: This weekend was the Christmas Cantata. The choir performed three concerts. The music, the drama, and the narration were phenominal. I am certain that this will launch the people of our church into the Christmas season.

Stats: 819 worship + 161 Sunday school

Final Notes: We asked people to step up to make enough cookies to give to the workers at our new building site 2-3 dozen each.

Clarifying the Win

Andy Stanley writes in 7 Practices of Effective ministry, "The church should be more determined than any other kind of organization to 'clarify the win' simply because the stakes are so much higher: Eternity hangs in the balance."

Keeping score is so important today. We talk about the score of the Steelers game. We talk about how many yards Jerome Bettis rushed for, Hines Ward received, and Big Ben threw for in yesterday's game. The same is true in today's church. Pastors have a scorecard that we keep on each other. It looks something like this: How many members do you have? How many people in worship on a weekend? How many kids and youth do you have? What is the size of your budget? What is the size of your campus? We measure so many things - so many of the wrong things for the wrong reasons.

How can we possibly succeed if we are measuring the wrong things? So if the things on the typical scorecard are wrong, then what should we be measuring?

I was always taught that the things you measure are the things that get done. If I can define for someone what they have to do to succeed they can better evaluate themselves and I can better help them to achieve those results. However, we try to complicate things, we actually dilute what we are doing to the point that we don't know what we are supposed to be doing. Every time we do that in the church, we lose people.

We need to define who it is we are trying to serve. We should be unapologetic about who we are serving and why we are serving them - that's focus. Then we can get out of the way of the leaders and let them serve those specifically defined people in creative ways. Then we will see lives changed, that's the business that we are in.

Friday, December 9, 2005

Pushing the Excellence Envelope

"Don't bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself."
- William Faulkner

"People would always say to my father, 'Gee whiz, you've done real well. Now you can rest.' And he would reply, 'Oh, no. Got to keep going and do it better.'"
- J. Willard Marriott, Jr., Chairman, Marriott, 1987.

What will it take on Monday morning to push through the excellence envelope to be great? What do we need to accomplish during the next quarter to say that it was successful? Questions I am pondering and quotes that are challenging me as I look toward 2006.

Tuesday, December 6, 2005

What Defines Failure?

I am a huge Pittsburgh Steelers' fan. The Steelers have dominated the last couple of years, especially in their own division - the AFC North. The Steelers have defeated the Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals, and the Baltimore Ravens easily the last few years.

The Steelers lost to the Bengals on Sunday afternoon. It was the first time in like five years. Now every sports' writer that I read says that the domination is over. The Steelers ability to push the Bengals around is over. I don't understand.

How does one game say that nearly five years of winning is now over? What defines failure? Can years of success be eliminated so quickly?

If we have a consistent level of growth at our church and then we have a Sunday that we don't hit it out of the park, does that mean we are headed for a losing streak? Should one game define a team? It appears it does in sports' writers eyes. I hope we never give into such thinking at Charter Oak Church.

Monday Morning QB 12/5/05

Here's the Monday Morning QB for this week:

Message: God Is with Us - I preached

Scripture: Mark 5:13-16 (The Message)

Service Highlights: I talked about God's call in our lives to be light in the darkness of this world. I focused in on the six things that can hide our light. At the Saturday night worship service, I accidentally caught my sweater on fire when lighting a candle. Comments heard throughout the weekend, "He's on fire for Jesus."

Stats: 486 worship + 226 Sunday school
It was a sleeting and snowing throughout the morning.

Final Notes:
That was my last sermon for a while. I will be preaching twice on Christmas Eve, but Dave will be preaching each weekend until the third week of January.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Why We Do What We Do

Sometimes I need to be reminded what the focus of the weekend is all about...

"Worship is when you walk away and all you can think about is Him and your relationship with Him. You are not thinking about the band or the music or whether or not they did your favorite song. You are simple lost in your thoughts of Him; you are remembering what the Holy Spirit told you and taught you; you are relishing in the satisfaction of your soul because your needs have been heard and met. You have been given love and have received love; moreover, your affection has not been rejected and you are at peace. You are stirred to continue to be obedient to all He has commanded, not out of duty or obligation, but because you are in love with your Creator who loves you like no one can. True worship results in change of your heart, of your actions, of your mind. Otherwise, we have simply sung a bunch of songs over and over like choir practice. So, either I am a singer and I go away a bit hoarse or I am a worshipper and go away different."

Thanks for reminding me Brandi.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Crowder does it again.

This is the most creative album I have ever heard in the Christian music industry. There are times that I am brought to the very throne of God in worship. There are other times that I find myself laughing my head off. I also wonder occasionally, what in the world is he trying to do here.

Thanks to my incredible wife, for giving me this great gift!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

No Life Jackets Needed

Change was definitely on the horizon when the disciples saw Jesus walking toward them on the water early that morning. So many people use the passage in Matthew 14 to talk about a lack of faith on Peter's part. I want to explore instead, what it means for us as leaders, by breaking down a few of the elements found in the reading from verses 22-32.

First, Jesus spends time away by himself. When change is going to occur we need to spend a great deal of time in prayer. Change is very difficult to lead. People push back. Sometimes people even say and do things that really hurt. It is amazing what happens when change hits someone who is not ready for it. It can be like a tiger backed into a corner. The person who is a leader in the church can all of a sudden display the kind of character that is more like someone far from God instead of someone who is a follower of Jesus. Therefore, when we are preparing for any change we must ground it in prayer.

Second, Jesus comes to the disciples at 4:00 in the morning. Change never comes when we are totally ready. God moves when he is ready, not when we are ready. How often do we want to push off change because we aren't prepared? I will procrastinate by saying that I need to do some reading on the subject before I make my decision. When God is ready to move in our lives and in the life of our church we must be ready no matter when it is that he comes to us.

Third, Jesus tells them to take courage. In other words, Jesus knows that the change that he brings will not be easy. The things he is going to ask of these men is not going to be ordinary, it is going to be extraordinary. What happens next? Peter gets to walk on water - that's never happened before or since. The work that Jesus calls us to as leaders is not one of ease, but of joining him where he is at work in our community. In most cases, it going to be where we least expect it. That will challenge us and change us to rely on Jesus. Just as Peter had to reach out his hand to Jesus so that he could rescue him, we will have to do the same as we get in over our head and try to do things ourselves.

Fourth, Peter begins to sink in the water because he took his eyes off of Jesus. Everyone points this out. Everyone says this is where Peter failed. This is where I think we fail too. The change is upon us as leaders. We step out in faith to be a part of what God is doing, but then we begin to realize that there are a lot of things that need to be done. We realize that the effort and the energy necessary to make the change work is extraordinary. We start looking at the waves crashing against us. Satan whispers to us, "you can't do it." We start believing it. We get stressed out because we see all the reasons we shouldn't be going through this change. We hear from those around us, who have been in the church a long time, and we listen more to them than the voice of Jesus upon our lives. All of this culminates in our sinking. We take our eyes off of the master and we go under.

Fifth, the good news is that Jesus is there and his hand is always extended. He is ready to rescue us from ourselves. He is ready to right the ship, calm the storm, and give us everything we need to persevere. Jesus wants us to succeed in the work that he has called us to be about as leaders. I think he is ready to lighten the load if necessary, but I believe that this lessens what it is that God is seeking to do through us. If everything is smooth and easy and we succeed, then we can take the credit. But if we can stand firm in the midst of the storm, then we can only point to God as the one who made us successful.

Finally, the disciples who stayed in the boat proclaimed, "Truly you are the Son of God." When Jesus moves in our lives in an authentic way, people around us will know that he is God and we are not. Sometimes it is even in our failure that others can see who God truly is and be drawn to him.What would happen if we as leaders decided to get out of the boat and to never take our eyes off of Jesus?

Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Vision Leaks

One of the prophets of old, Nehemiah, received a vision from God to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem. About half way through the process, the people lost sight of the vision. It says in Nehemiah 4:10, "The strength of the laborers is giving out." This didn't just mean their physical strength, but also their resolve to follow the vision God had given through Nehemiah. So Nehemiah recast the vision in verse 14, "Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome."

When people join Charter Oak Church we ask them to sign a membership covenant. For many in our faith community, that covenant has been long forgotten, others just need to hear the vision again for who we are as a body of believers. I put before you once again the Charter Oak Church Membership Covenant:

1. Members are expected to WORSHIP the Lord by doing the following:
• Faithfully attending a worship service each weekend that you’re in town and not ill;
• Giving financially to God’s work at Charter Oak Church;
• Living a Godly life.

2. Members are expected to GROW in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ by doing the following:
• Progressing through the ’01 classes;
• Faithful participation in Sunday school classes, a small group, or Bible studies.

3. Members are expected to CONNECT with others in this body by doing the following:
• Refusing to gossip;
• Being a peacemaker;
• Praying for Charter Oak Church and the needs of her people;
• Participating in fun events;
• Becoming part of a small group;
• Acting in love toward every person you encounter.

4. Members are expected to SERVE in the ministries of the church by doing the following:
• Discovering your SHAPE;
• Being equipped to serve;
• Developing a servant’s heart.

5. Members are expected to REACH out to members of the community by doing the following:
• Sharing your time, your faith, and your hospitality with them;
• Inviting them to attend church and fun events with you;
• Warmly greeting those who visit Charter Oak Church.

As leaders of Charter Oak Church, we are called to live out this covenant to the best of our ability so that those who watch us will be influenced by our leadership. The way you live your life, inside and outside the church, matters. It matters to God.

Friday, January 7, 2005

Small Groups and Belonging

Everything I have read within the church growth sector has caused me to believe that starting small groups and being a church of small groups and not just a church with small groups is the only way you can grow your church.

I have just stared reading Joe Myers' book, The Search to Belong. He's not so much against small groups, but against thinking that small groups are the savior of the church. He brings out a different way of thinking about belonging in a community. He uses Ed Hall's space reference distance to begin the conversation of different types of community we may be a part of.
  • Public Space (12 feet+)
  • Social Space (4 -12 feet)
  • Personal Space (18 in - 4 feet)
  • Initimate Space (0 - 18 in)

What does it mean to belong in each of these spaces?