Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Recruiting Help - Do The Ask

In ministry I have at times noticed a recurring theme of frustration with many other pastors and church leaders in the area of recruiting volunteers and leaders for various ministry needs. Despite repeated public pleas for assistance the needs go unfulfilled and the leader becomes more and more frustrated at the apparent apathy from the congregation.

I too have experienced similar frustrations and have discovered a pretty simple solution. Instead of general requests from the stage or bulletin it is more productive to ask people on an individual basis. It seems the public requests often go unanswered because people are able to deflect the responsibility or simply may not be paying attention.

Here are the steps I try to follow when recruiting ministry help or leadership over an area.

  • Pray about it - Ask God to give wisdom and guidance about who should serve and in what capacity.
  • Get suggestions - Talk with other leaders about who they see as potential workers or leaders.
The Meeting
  • Make the appointment - Set a time to meet with the person about the opportunity. It also never hurts to buy them lunch.
  • Share with them the vision for the area you are asking them to serve in or lead. This is important. If you are not clear on what you are asking them to do, they will have no clue. Be sure to be passionate about the offer. Enthusiasm really is contagious.
  • Tell them how they are specifically gifted for this area and how they can make their mark.
  • Give them ownership. It does no good to delegate help and then never let them actually help.
  • Tell them to pray about the offer.
Follow Up
  • Check back with the person at a predetermined time. Answer any questions. If they accept then begin training them in their new responsibilities.
  • Continue to provide supervision and feedback. If this is a leader you have recruited make sure to make time to meet with them and provide additional advice and encouragement. If it is someone who is serving in a specific ministry area make sure their team or ministry leader is following up with them.
  • Make sure to get referrals from you new recruit as to others they see who may also be willing to serve. If the person you recruited is a team leader encourage them to repeat this process within their own team to develop and grow new volunteers and leaders.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Encouraged to Go

A recent conversation with a friend revealed to me that he and his wife were praying about the possibility of relocating from their current home in the Nashville area. This young couple is involved in one of the LifePoint campuses there but is trying to determine if God is calling them to possibly be a part of one of the other LifePoint campuses which are located in Seattle, Bangkok and Belgium. I did my best to offer advice based on my own experience of discerning God's will in such matters. One piece of this advice was for this friend to talk to as many people as possible about these thoughts.

It was at this point that I became thankful for the culture that God has created at LifePoint. Our goal as a church is to send people to be the church where there is no church. This simple statement is being fulfilled repeatedly in the lives of so many people. This unnamed friend is not the first to be thinking like this. I am amazed at how God continues to call people to accomplish His purpose among the nations.

What is equally encouraging is that my friend is able to ask these questions and discern God's calling in an environment that promotes this type of thinking. It seems that our churches often become a place in which we try to raise up leaders and hold on to them. Instead we are called to raise up new leaders for the purpose of sending them out to make an impact on the rest of the world.

I am convinced more now than ever that the church cannot be dependent solely on organizations such as the International Mission Board. Although the IMB is an incredible agency that has accomplished an incredible amount for the Kingdom it is simply not enough. The estimated 5000 SBC missionaries are not enough to reach the 5 billion people who do not know Christ. It is going to take people like my friend who are willing to accept God's call to go wherever He directs and to make an impact for His name in another culture and context.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Year In Review

As we enter the new year I (like many others) am once again setting a goal to begin posting in a regular fashion to my blog. It seemed best to make the first post for the new year a summary of what happened in the life of our church plant in 2010. So here goes...

The last year proved to be a very fruitful time for our ministry here in the Northwest. The first few months of the new year were marked by steady growth of new families coming to our church. Many of the families that began attending in 2010 are still heavily involved in the life of our church. In addition to the numeric growth our church witnessed a great season of leadership development. We have seen several men and women step up to serve in areas such as the children's ministry, worship band, and set up teams. We are very blessed to not only have people serving in these areas but to also have several people that have accepted leadership roles over these ministries.

In addition to leadership development we saw a great amount of spiritual development in the lives of many of our members. Our church went through a series called Radical based on the book by David Platt with the same name. At the end of this series we challenged our people to a Radical Commitment which involved things such as reading through the Bible, praying for the world, giving sacrificially, and being part of a small group. As a result we now have many people who are reading through Scripture, giving of their time and money, and committing to go on mission trips. We even have over %90 of our people involved in small groups. One of the best markers of the spiritual growth is the act of baptism. We have seen 6 people be baptized in the later months of 2010 and we already have someone else ready to be baptized in 2011.

The previous year was full of outreach events such as block parties on Halloween and July 4th in which we reached out to the local communities. We partnered with the city of Lynnwood for a very successful Egg Hunt reaching hundreds of families. We have also continued to partner with several different organizations in the community through our small groups. Many of these outreach events were accomplished through the hard work of multiple mission teams from various churches that traveled to the Northwest to assist us in our ministry to the community.

As you may know 2010 also provided us with an exciting opportunity. Connect Church began with the help of several valuable partner churches and individuals. One of these partner churches, LifePoint Church approached us last year with an offer to merge and become a LifePoint campus in the Seattle area.

After much prayer, discussion, and seeking wise counsel the leadership of Connect agreed to merge with LifePoint. The merger did not require us to sacrifice any of our vision, purpose, or core values as a church because these same ideals were held by LifePoint. Our church went through this transitional process very well. For the most part all of the daily operations and ministries of our church have remained the same. What has been different is the additional resources this merger has provided our church. This has given us a stability that most church plants cannot enjoy. Furthermore, it has greatly expanded our opportunities around the world by allowing us to partner with other LifePoint campuses in Bangkok and Belgium and other ministries in Africa, South America and Asia.

Overall, we believe that 2010 was a very successful year for the life of this church. However, it is important to note that God alone deserves all of the glory and credit for these accomplishments. He is the One who promised to build His church. We are thankful that we have been able to be a part of the process.

Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!
Psalm 115:1

Thursday, November 19, 2009

In 2005 Bobby Welch called Southern Baptists to a renewed commitment to personal evangelism. This resulted in an increased passion within many to share their faith on a personal level. It is imperative that Southern Baptists and all Christians be involved in evangelism. However, for us to stop there would ignore the call of God to plant churches.

In Acts 13, we see that Paul and Barnabus were sent out by the church to take the gospel to the nations. The book of Acts documents their story of starting churches throughout the Roman Empire. Specifically in Acts 19:8-10 Luke notes that Paul’s preaching in Ephesus apparently resulted in the formation of churches throughout the area. The result, all the residents of Asia heard the gospel.

In order for the Northwest to be impacted with the gospel our convention must develop a renewed sense of commitment to church planting similar to our commitment 4 years ago to personal evangelism and like the one in the book of Acts. There are simply too many people in need of the gospel and too few churches to share it to adequately impact this culture for the glory of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, by committing to church planting we also solve the need for increased personal evangelism since newer churches tend to do better in the area of evangelism.[1]

Therefore, let us become passionate about church planting. This can take several forms. Some churches are large enough to directly sponsor and plant a church. Other churches may choose to partner with additional churches to support a new church plant. Every church can at least find an existing church plant and commit to pray and financially support that plant.

Southern Baptists have a rich history of planting churches and impacting the culture for the glory of Jesus Christ. I believe we can see a church planting movement take shape here in the Pacific Northwest. For example, one church develops a passion for church planting and seeks to plant 10 churches over the next 20 years. Each church planted by the original church possesses this same passion for church planting. As a result these new churches seek to plant multiple churches and the cycle continues. This results in dozens of new churches formed from the passion of one original church. Now imagine if every church in the Northwest Baptist Convention displayed this enthusiasm for reaching the culture through church planting.

Let us pray that God will begin a church planting movement here in the Pacific Northwest that will sweep across the nation and world. And then let us commit to action by starting new churches and partnering with church plants.

[1] Planting Missional Churches. Stetzer, Ed. pp.7-8.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Is It Okay for Churches to Die? Part 2

It has been said that churches, like everything else in life, have a life cycle. There is a process of birth, growth and eventually death. Although many churches may experience multiple cycles of growth, decline and renewed growth, most if not all, eventually die.

So how does this apply to the church I am currently planting? I realize that Connect Church will not be on this earth forever. It may last 20, 50 or 100 years. However, at some point it will eventually close its doors. This should come as no more of a surprise than the fact that I too will eventually die. Before this sounds too morbid and depressing let me get to the point. My prayer is not for Connect to remain for 1000 years but that the vision and purpose of Connect survive and continue on in the core of the churches our church plants. I want our church planting vision to be carried on through the churches we plant and the churches that are planted from them and so on down the line. As a result Connect will live on through it's children, grandchildren, and great-grand children.

Unfortunately I believe many churches are like an elderly person that has no other family. They are coming to the end of their life and have no children or grandchildren to carry on their legacy. As a result these churches are fearful of the thought of closing their doors because they know of no one to carry on their work for the advancement of the kingdom of God. However, if more churches would commit to planting multiple, healthy, growing churches then they could rejoice in these times as they watch new churches grow and take the gospel to this culture.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Thoughts on Preaching

The following are some thoughts I have on preaching. This list is in no way exhaustive but contains some of the key elements I seek to incorporate into my own preaching.

1. Expository - I often joke that I am not creative enough to come up with fancy and thought provoking sermon series and topics. Therefore, I often resort to simply taking a passage of Scripture and preaching through it verse by verse. Over the years I have come to believe that expository preaching is the most effective form. By preaching through books of the Bible in a systematic manner I increase my chances of preaching on all of the subjects and topics it contains. This also prevents me from only preaching on topics that I may consider important. Furthermore, it tends to help listeners understand the Bible more easily and completely since I work through passages or books in a systematic fashion.

2. The text can never mean what it never meant - This line of thinking comes from the book The Modern Preacher and the Ancient Text by Sidney Greidanus. The phrase speaks for itself. The Bible cannot mean for us today what it did not mean for it's initial hearers. This is extremely important to remember when preaching and developing the application of a particular passage. Therefore, it is imperative to do the proper research to determine the cultural and historical settings in which a particular passage of Scripture was penned.

3. So What? - As mentioned by Bryan Chapell in Christ-Centered Preaching, every sermon must answer this question. After all a sermon is not a classroom lecture. I believe it is my responsibility to help the listener apply the passage to their everyday lives and help them understand what Scripture is calling them to do as a result. Obviously the Holy Spirit may reveal an application to the listener that I do not mention. However, I believe it is important for me to help provide as much application as possible.

4. One Meaning, Multiple Applications - This is important to prevent the common statement, "this passage means this to me." Each passage in the Bible has only one exact meaning. Although we may disagree at times on various interpretations that does not mean that there are multiple ways to interpret a passage. I do believe that one can at times derive multiple applications from a passage. A person may take a promise such as found in 1 Peter 5:7 and apply it to multiple areas in which they are experiencing fear and worry.

5. Preach the Gospel - This was ground in to me by my preaching professor, Robert Smith at Beeson Divinity. It is imperative that every sermon point the listener to the cross and the need for salvation through Jesus Christ. Although it may be easier to do this with some passages than others, I believe all of Scripture serves this end.

So, there are a few simple thoughts on preaching. I have noticed that these ideas seem to be gaining popularity which is very encouraging. Those who believe that preaching is outdated and irrelevant and must be drastically changed would do well to reconsider. Otherwise they may not have anyone in their churches to listen to their new, "relevant" style of preaching.

Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.
1 Timothy 4:13

Monday, August 3, 2009

Is It Okay for Churches to Die?

Over the years I have noticed two extremes among churches. There are some that are young church plants that are seeking to impact their community with the power of the gospel. These churches emphasize outreach and discipleship and appear to have a bright future ahead of them. Unfortunately these churches struggle to raise enough funds to effectively carry out their mission. The other type of church is much older, owns large facilities, but has very few people attending. They remember the glory days of ministry in the past. Now however, they are simply trying to survive.

I have often heard that the goal for the latter of these two churches is to find someway to revitalize their slow death and help them to regain their once healthy and growing status. As a result ministers and associations spend countless hours and energy trying to resurrect a dying church (many of which have no desire to change).

But what if we were to simply let them die? What if we were to help them transition their few remaining people to a new growing body and allocate their funds to new churches that are being started? Obviously this is not as appealing. The thought of letting a church die sounds like a defeat. But is it? For example, take a church that owns a facility and has money in the bank. If this church were willing to "die" it could then either sell the building and use the money for new church plants or allow another church or churches to use it's facilities. Furthermore, the remaining congregation could join another local church and participate in effective ministry in the community.

I believe one reason many people would be opposed to this line of thinking is due to the fact that we are not starting enough churches. Here in the Pacific Northwest there is a huge deficit of churches. As a result if one church closes it's doors it is significant loss. However, if there were 5 churches being planted for every church that closed then the loss would not be as significant.

Another reason we may be slow to accept this idea is we are often more concerned about our own church as opposed to the growth of the Kingdom of God. I believe it is important for us to strive for the growth and success of God's church as a whole instead of narrowly focusing on our personal kingdoms.

Therefore, I believe pastors, churches, associations, conventions, etc. should be putting much more effort into church planting and helping dying churches to transition their resources to new or existing churches that are growing and making an impact. The process of life and death is common for all of us, including churches. After all, none of the churches started by the Apostle Paul are still in existence. Maybe it is time we let go of the past and allocate our resources more effectively for the future so that we can impact this culture with the saving power of the gospel.