Staying Churches vs Sending Churches : Part #2

MMlogoDisclaimer: In my sixteen years of vocational ministry, I have pastored both staying and sending churches. The characteristics that I share here do not come from a textbook. Instead, they are drawn from my own real-life experiences and observances.

Earlier this week I began writing about two types of churches: staying and sending. My intention was/is to the highlight the characteristics of each type of church. I know that using the phrase “versus” may bring to mind a battle or competition resulting in a winner or a loser. My use of the phrase “versus” has more to do with two different mindsets or priorities. Here is a quick recap of the first five characteristics of staying churches.

  1. The budget of a Staying Church reflects an inward focus.
  2. Staying Churches see the protection and preservation of the “church building” as being more important “building the church”.
  3. In Staying Churches, programs have become the “end” rather than a “means to an end.”
  4. Staying Churches prefer sending money so that other people may “do ministry” over involving themselves in ministry.
  5. Staying Churches are highly resistant to change.

6. Staying Churches believe the church exists to meet the physical, spiritual, and emotional needs of the membership exclusively. There are many church members today who believe that the church exists for them and that their comfort and needs are of primary importance. It was the German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer who wrote, “The Church is the Church only when it exists for others…not dominating, but helping and serving. It must tell men of every calling what it means to live for Christ, to exist for others.” If churches want to impact their community, the individual congregations must be willing to adjust what they do and what they think. There is a big difference between saying that we want people to come to our church and actually making room and allowance for them.

7. Staying Churches tend to spend more time talking about what is wrong instead of celebrating what God has accomplished. I’m not sure why it is harder to celebrate what God is doing (even if it is small things) than to focus on what is wrong, on what people are not doing, on failures in the past.

8. In Staying Churches, people perform tasks and duties out of a sense of obligation rather than out of a sense of purpose. Purpose is directly linked to service. If you understand your individual and corporate purpose for existence, you will view opportunities to serve and fulfill that purpose with excitement and enthusiasm. If you don’t understand what your individual and corporate purpose for existence is, then all service is seen as a job, an obligation, or an inconvenience.

9. Staying Churches spend an unhealthy amount of time dwelling on where the church has been instead of where the church is going. Notice that I said “an unhealthy amount” of time. There is nothing wrong with being proud of what the church has accomplished in years past. This can actually be helpful at times. However, if a church lives in the past, consistently looks back to past practices, pastors, and program, it won’t be long until the conclusion that “the best years are behind us” is made. Staying churches love the past and fiercely hold on to it.

In the next post in this series we will turn our attention to Sending Churches.

Staying Churches vs Sending Churches : Part #1

MMlogoDisclaimer: In my sixteen years of vocational ministry, I have pastored both staying and sending churches. The characteristics that I share here do not come from a textbook. Instead, they are drawn from my own real-life experiences.

I recently led a conference for our local Baptist association entitled “Community Engagement”. The purpose of this conference was to introduce church leaders to principles and strategies for reaching their local communities with the gospel of Jesus Christ. The principles and strategies that I shared are the same ones that guide our aggressive community ministry at Port Royal Baptist Church. In addition to the fifteen principles, I shared the difference between sending and staying churches. Why mention this? Not every church is ready and willing to reach out and make themselves uncomfortable getting to know and minister to their community. Before any church can get serious about reaching the neighborhoods and communities around them, they must determine if they are willing to pay the price to do so. Over the next few days I will share the nine characteristics of both staying and sending churches. I will begin with the first five of staying churches.

Staying Churches are those churches who devote the great majority of their resources, time, and energy to keeping those who are already a part of the church happy and satisfied. These churches acknowledge their community but don’t necessarily feel responsible for them.

What does a Staying Church look like?

1. The budget of a Staying Church reflects an inward focus. It has been said that you can look at a person’s friends, calendar, and checkbook and be able to tell where their heart is. The same is true for churches. Churches budget what is important to them. The budget of a staying church reflects a desire, although not spoken, to keep the membership entertained and happy. In staying churches, budgets are heavier in the areas of fellowship and lighter in the areas of missions and evangelism.

2. Staying Churches see the protection and preservation of the “church building” as being more important “building the church”. I believe it is fair to say that the one of the largest expenses churches have is facilities upkeep and maintenance. Because of this large monetary investment, staying churches fiercely guard the church building from anything that might harm or hurt it. An unhealthy attachment to the physical building can certainly hurt the effectiveness of the church’s outreach and missions ministries. An example here is helpful. Think about children for a moment. Children are messy. Children spill things on the carpet. Children write on the wall. In order to prevent all of this from happening, a staying church makes the decision to not reach families with kids because they might “hurt the building”.

3. In Staying Churches, programs have become the “end” rather than a “means to an end.” If you have been involved in a local church for any length of time you have been exposed to all kinds of church programming. I can say that in our Southern Baptist life we have never had a shortage of church programs. Church programming is much live television programming. Cable companies offer shows and programs to satisfy the interest of the viewers in almost every conceivable way (music, fashion, hunting, cooking, sports, news, etc.) Church programming is much the same. We utilize programs to minister to a wide variety of people (children, students, young adults, military, senior adults, etc.) Problems occur when churches see the programs as the end and not a means to an end. Staying churches fiercely defend their programming. The real question is not “Do we need to add another program?” The real question should be “Are the programs we are using helping us fulfill our purpose or do we need to do stop and do something different?” A word of caution. Do you remember how you felt when your favorite television show was cancelled? The same feelings are true in the local church.

4. Staying Churches prefer sending money so that other people may “do ministry” over involving themselves in ministry. This is very common. Throughout the year, most churches take up missions offerings for various causes. Staying churches believe this goes far enough. Why? It’s easy. It’s clean. I had a former church member tell me, “that’s what we pay missionaries for.” It’s one thing to simply throw money at a cause. It’s something altogether different to involve yourself in the lives of others and get your hands dirty. There is one major problem with this practice. The majority of the missions offerings that churches collect are not for their immediate community. Who is reaching them?

5. Staying Churches are highly resistant to change. Not much to stay here. For a church to reach and impact an ever-changing and ever-evolving community, business as usual must go out the window. Staying churches prefer to bask in comfort than to inconvenience themselves for someone else. Staying churches prefer comfortable routines over missional uncertainty.

Book Review : History, Law, and Christianity

historylawandchristianity-1Apologetic resources abound. No shortage of books that defend the validity of the Christian faith exists. Many of these resources often set Christianity alongside other belief systems and use the Bible to demonstrate the truthfulness and validity of Christianity. I have no problem with this. For I believe as Herschel Hobbs did when he wrote that the Bible is “truth without any mixture of error”. I am comfortable with using the Bible as the beginning of any apologetic discussion. However, there are many who are not willing and able to begin with the Bible itself as a starting point. Fewer apologetic resources begin the defense of the Christian message at somewhere other than the Bible. In his new book, “History, Law, and Christianity; How Does the Historic Evidence for the Christian Message Hold Up Against Cross-Examination”, Dr. John Warwick Montgomery approaches the defense of the Christian message from a strictly historical and legal perspective.

Montgomery’s book breaks into two major parts: Historical Evidence and Legal Evidence. In the first section, the author builds a case for the Christian message from a historian’s standpoint. He began by asking the question, “Are the New Testament documents historically trustworthy?” He answers by offering four tests. Test One, the Biographical Test, answers the question, “Can we arrive at a stable, reliable textual foundation for the claims of Jesus as set out in these records? Test Two, the Internal Evidence, deals with antiquity’s standard that the benefit of the doubt goes to the document itself unless under discussion the author disqualifies himself through fraud or contradiction. Test Three, External Evidence, answers the question, “Do other historical materials confirm or deny the internal testimony provided by the documents themselves?” Test Four, Form Criticism, which seeks to determine a literary work’s original form and the historical context of the literary tradition.

In the second section, Montgomery gives the reason for reasoning the Christian message from a legal perspective. He writes, “Here we shall use legal reasoning and the laws of evidence. The advantage of a jurisprudential approach lies in the difficulty of jettisoning it: legal standards of evidence develop as essential means of resolving the most intractable disputes in society. Thus one cannot very well throw out legal reasoning merely because its application to Christianity results in a verdict for the Christian faith”. Montgomery sets forth to answer the question, “What are the pertinent questions about faith?” He does so by asking and answering four key questions from the jurisprudential standpoint. Those questions are:

1. Are the historical records of Jesus solid enough to rely upon?

2. Is the testimony in these records concerning his life and ministry sufficiently reliable to know what he claimed about himself?

3. Do the accounts of his resurrection from the dead, offered as proof of his divine claims, in fact establish those claims?

4. If Jesus’ deity is established in the foregoing manner, does he place a divine stamp of approval on the Bible so as to render its pronouncements apodictically certain?

In the course of answering these legal questions, Montgomery puts the witnesses to Jesus’ ministry, death, burial, and the resurrected Christ “on trial” by utilizing the legal means of deeming a witness truthful and their testimony reliable. Montgomery writes, “In a court of law, admissible testimony is considered truthful unless impeached or otherwise rendered doubtful. The burden, then, is on those who would show that the New Testament testimony to Jesus is not worthy of belief.” It is here that Montgomery excels. He applies the criteria for credible testimony in the legal arena to the New Testament witnesses. He looks internal defects with the witnesses, external motives to falsify their testimony, internal defects in their testimony, and the external defects in their testimony. He then goes to share his conclusions that evidence for the Christian message in valid, reliable, and trustworthy. A tremendous work.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from CrossFocused Reviews as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Live SENT–Part #3 : Sensitivity

Slide1In the first two parts of this series, I have introduced you to a SENT lifestyle. Jesus sent His Son into our world for a very specific reason: to make the Father known and to show us how to know Him. To Live SENT means being sensitive to what’s happening around you. As we go about our daily business as spokesman for the King and messengers of the gospel, it is important that we take time to look around and see other people. SENT people are sensitive people. What do I need to be sensitive to?

1. The Condition of People:

When it comes to noticing the condition of people and responding correctly, Jesus is our model. We see a prime example in Matthew’s gospel: “Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. 36 But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.” Matthew 9:35-36. We can see here how Jesus viewed the people of His day. Matthew used words and phrases such as weary, scattered, without a shepherd to describe their lives. As we push through our daily lives we need to be sensitive as well to the condition of the people with whom we share parts of our days. We need to be sensitive to the fact that, although things may look good on the surface, people are hurting, lonely, scared, helpless, abused, and hopeless. We need to be sensitive to the fact that, as our North American Mission Board reports, three out of four people in North America have no personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Being sensitive to other people may at times mean entering their world. Jesus, again, is our model. He worshipped with them, went to weddings with them, worked with them on fishing boats, laughed and cried with them. There is a difference between seeing and looking. Those who are hurting have had enough of people looking at them with false pity and contempt. They need to be seen, and when seen, loved on and cared for. It is a fact that Jesus did not give his life for a denomination, a building, or a program. It was people like you and me. Shouldn’t we look at others with the same sensitivity?

2. The Movement of God:

We all have an idea of what we want to do and we have found a comfortable routine in which to do it. I wonder if we have become slaves to the routine, prisoners to the programmed life, and enslaved to the calendar. I wonder if at times we don’t subconsciously try to calendar the movement of God in a way that suits us. I wonder if God Himself has our permission to shake up, rearranges, and stir our lives? I think about the apostle Paul here. He was sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s reordering of his personal plans. “After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. 8 So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” (Acts 16:7-9)

What now?

1. Pray for a brokenness over the condition of those in our communities that are hurting.

2. Intentionally come along side someone you know that is hurting and be a friend.

3. Ensure that your plans are not set in stone. Give the Holy Spirit permission to move you.

A Special Mother’s Day

TrJrI believe, without any reservation at all, mothers deserve their own day. To be perfectly honest, a single day given to the sacrifice and ministry of motherhood is not sufficient. Today is a special day for a certain mother in my life: my wife, and Jordan’s mom, Terri. Today is special because it is the last Mother’s Day that Jordan will be at home with us. Jordan has joined the United States Marine Corps and will be leaving home on May 31st. He made his decision known to us back in late January and the ramifications of that decision have altered all of our lives in different ways. We had prepared for a future that had Jordan living at home and going to college. We now are preparing to be empty-nesters.

Not only is today a special day for my wife, it is certain to be an emotional one as well. Looking back over the years I am so thankful for the love, care, and attention that she has lavished upon Jordan. I want to take this opportunity to say a few things to Terri on this special Mother’s Day.

1. Thank you for showing up for work each day. Early on you decided that being at home was the best fit given our unique family dynamic. We found this true each time the opportunity surfaced for you to work outside the home. Thank you for being there every day after school to listen to his problems, share in the joys of the day, and help mend the heartbreak. Your days consisted being a chef, tutor, manager, bookkeeper, chauffer, counselor, event planner, and nurse. Thank you for your willingness to put our family’s well-being first.

2. Thank you for always putting Jordan’s needs, plans, hopes, and dreams before your own. I know for a fact that time and time again throughout the years you have had to give up your personal preferences and plans so that Jordan could do something or go somewhere.

3. Thank you for staying on top of Jordan’s school work even though he didn’t see a need to stay on top of it. I have watched you check Jordan’s grades, talk with his teachers, and ensure that his homework was completed; every day. I know how tiring it was. We have both joked about walking with him at graduation. You deserve your own cap and gown.

4. Thank you for embracing and supporting Jordan’s decision to become a Marine. I know this was not easy. I know the reservations you had. I know your deepest fears. In light of all that, you have thrown your support and love behind him as he sets out on this chapter of his life. Having walked the road he is about to walk, you’ll never know what it truly means to him that you are cheering him on.

It has been said that, “A boy’s view of the world is affected by what the mother has demonstrated.” All these years you have painted for him the picture of a compassionate mother, a loving and devoted wife, and a strong Christian woman. You have shaped the young man he has turned into today. Your gift request this year was a day at the beach. I wish I could buy you a beach. Happy Mother’s Day. I love you most.

Live SENT – Part #2 : The Sender and The Sample

Slide1In the introduction to this series, I mentioned several ways that a Christian could live the one life they have been given. Not to be dismissed is the commission that Jesus gave His followers to live a “sent” lifestyle. The word sent means “caused to go”. Think of it this way: someone caused someone else to do something. Every part of this equation is important. The someone is God. He is the ultimate Sender. What do we know of His sending nature?

1. God sent a flood upon the earth to destroy the wickedness of man who had chosen to walk in a way that was contrary to His perfect design.

2. God sent a rainbow as promise that He would never do the above again.

3. God sent Moses to deliver Israel from the slavery of Egypt after their cries rose to Heaven.

4. God sent plagues upon the nation of Egypt in order to bring the house of Pharaoh under conviction and demonstrate His power over creation.

5. God sent ravens to feed His prophet Elijah at Cherith to reinforce the truth that He cares for us in the most basic ways.

6. God sent His Son to this earth to redeem a fallen creation through the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ.

The someone else is the Christian, we are the sent ones. Again, John 17:18 highlights this sending, “As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.” Through our personal relationship with Jesus Christ, the mission of God has become our mission His love has caused us to love, care for, and pursue the lost, the hurting, and the broken. As you read through the New Testament you will quickly realize that it has a missionary spirit to it, especially the book of Acts. That missionary runs along three main avenues.

First, we see the people of God gathering and speaking.

Acts 2:46 “So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart.”

Acts 2:22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know– 23 Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death.”

Second, we see the Spirit of God directing and convicting.

Acts 16:6 “Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. 7 After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. 8 So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”

Acts 2:36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” 37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”

Lastly, we see the Church of God sending and commissioning.

Acts 8:14 “Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them.”

Acts 13:1 “Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.”

These avenues help to us to understand the final part of the equation. The “to do something” is the work of the ministry. As Christians, we are join God in His work and spend our lives in the pursuit of gospel advancement. As this series continues, we will look specifically what “living sent” looks like. Stay tuned.

Book Review : The NIV Proclamation Bible

NIVPBAs strange as it may sound, Bibles are difficult to review. Since the reader has no authority to argue or critique the content, the features of a particular Bible are all that are left to critique. Recently I received the NIV Proclamation Bible for review. I would have to say that the first thing that caught my attention was a quote on the front cover from Tim Keller saying, “”There are many Study Bibles, but none better.” Keller missed the boat there. The NIVPB is certainly not a study Bible. The publisher doesn’t even call it a study Bible. Within a study Bible you would expect to find commentary notes throughout giving further clarification and explanation to the text itself. The NIVPB has none at all. Also, a study Bible would be expected to give a thorough introduction to each book. The NIVPB doesn’t do that either. The best way to review the NIVPB is to simply give the good and the bad.

THE GOOD.

I am not sure if this good, but there is a feature that is unique to the NIVPB. Included within is an approximately 60 page section of articles on subjects ranging from the study, interpretation, and preaching of the Bible. The NIVPB does contain the standard fare of most every other Bible; concordance, weights and measures table, maps, double ribbons, cross referenced text, dual-column design, and hardcover.

THE BAD

I have already mentioned that the billing of this Bible by a well-known theologian as a study Bible fell miserably short. Although introductory articles are present, you will find something of the like in most “real” study Bibles. These articles are so common to most Bibles I don’t feel obliged to include them here. The book introductions were terribly out of balance. The introduction of Philemon (a 25 verse book with one primary theme) and Genesis (a 50 chapter book with multiple foundational and critical themes necessary for understanding the entire Bible) were given the same treatment. Several of the book summaries seemed to me “God has saved us and, as we travel through the wilderness of this world, we need to go on exercising faith to enter the inheritance Christ has secured for us.”) I am not sure if the editors support an ongoing, works-based, or reformed approach to soteriology.

In conclusion, if you desire a Bible for simply the purpose of reading, the NIVPB will suit the need. However, if you are looking for a “real” study Bible that will aid in your teaching, preaching, and in-depth study of God’s Word, you will need to go elsewhere.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”