Tuesday, December 22, 2009

2 Losses One Heartbreak

Within a couple of days this world lost two men. One man was unknown to the world, while the other had great fame.

The first man was my great uncle Ralph Fry. Ralph was the father of six kids, a retired carpenter, and a great Christian man. Ralph also had the privilege to serve in WWII as a member of the 509th Composite Group. That group was specially selected to drop the first atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki Japan. Uncle Ralph was a ground mechanic for the two planes that participated in that event.

When I heard the news of Uncle Ralphs passing my heart was saddened, but knew that he was at peace. No longer did he labor to breath. No longer did he have to go through medical test after medical test. No longer did he have to fight the cancer that was about to ravage his body. He is at peace; he is now at home with the father.

Two days after I heard the passing of Uncle Ralph, tragic news struck the Cincinnati community. Chris Henry, a wide receiver for the Bengals passed away after a domestic dispute with his fiancé. If you follow much football you know that Henry had struggled with the law in his short young life. However, all the news reports, all the people involved with the Bengals, and his family said he was finally getting things in order. He had spent a lot of time cleaning up his life.

Our Sr. Minister had the privilege of speaking with the Bengals at their training camp. While there he got to have a conversation with Henry. During that conversations Henry took the opportunity to talk with Marty’s grandson about making right decisions and listening to the right people in his life. Henry seemed to be on the right road.

When I heard the news of Henry’s passing, I felt a different emotion than I did for Uncle Ralph. Uncle Ralph was 89 years old and a Christian man. He had lived a full life, and is finally in peace. Chris Henry was only 26 years old. I do not know if he was a Christian, or had any relationship with God, but I do know he left two young children behind. My heart went out for his soul and where it might be.

Friends, I believe situations like these tend to remind us of the urgency we must carry out the gospel. We never know when life will be taken from us. We must strive to bring the message of the cross to all who will hear. I can take comfort that Uncle Ralph is at home with the father. Can you take comfort that your friends and family have a relationship with the God, and have confidence where their soul will reside? Can you say the same for yourself?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Do you Process or Event?

Today I was reading a great blog by Seth Godin. On his blog he was talking about process vs. events. A process is the long haul, the path you take to get to your eventual goal or next level. Seth relates the process concept to loosing weight and dating. An event is an individual part of that process. Seth relates the event concept to setting up a trade show booth.

In the church, are we focused on the events or the processes?
If we are focused on the event then life change in people would be sporadic and all over the place. But if we are focused on the process, then life change is constant and always taking place. In the church the process is the system that will move you through each level of church growth. In the church the process is the path people take to go from a Christian who needs milk to a Christian who is eating solid foods. In the church the events are things that help the process move along. In the church the events attract people to the church, are the events that spur them to Christ, and are the events that encourage people to step up and serve. These may be festivals that attract the community to your church, the revival that moves the heart, and the ministry fair that calls for volunteers. But remember, these are just the tools of the process, the long term goal. There might be a wide variety of events that go into accomplishing one part of the process.

Can you define the processes in your church? Can you define the events in your church that help the process move? Can you distinguish between the two?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Christmas Traditions

One of the things this time of year is known for is family traditions. Most of us can reach into the crevasses of our minds and pull to memory many of our favorite family traditions.

One of my favorite Christmas traditions no longer takes place, but the memories I have are great. I remember when I was little we would meet at my Grandma’s house every Christmas Eve. It would be my family, all my aunts and uncles, their children, and my Grandma. That night we would share a meal, open presents and just spend time together as a family. After that we would load up the car and then go home. On our way home we would take a few detours to look at Christmas light in various neighborhoods. Finally we would get home and my mom would hurry my brother and I off to bed so that they could stay up to meet Santa when he came (They always told us that they had to pay Santa for the gifts that he brought us on Christmas.).

We had to stop doing that tradition once my aunt started working on Christmas Eve. Now the whole family meets on Christmas day at Grandmas for brunch. The first year we did not do this it did not feel like Christmas to me. The tradition was so much a part of Christmas to me as the actual day itself. Isn’t it funny how are traditions can define our experiences?

What are some of your favorite family traditions you have during the Holiday Season? What are some of the things you used to do in the past that you no longer do now? Do these traditions help you to remember that Christmas is about the birth of Christ? Feel free to comment in the comment section below.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


The Blog is in transition. I wanted an easier url for people to find this blog. Because of that it will take a couple of days to register, and as it does, some things might not work. The new domain name is www.michaeldawsononline.com . Place it in your favorites tabs and follow along. Thank you.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Just For Fun

I really enjoy Rhett and Link and thought you might like this video as well. By the way the product is more sham than wow in my opinion. Enjoy

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Media Overdose

Last spring I stumbled across a couple of internet comedians … Rhett and Link. They are a couple of guys from central North Carolina who earn their money by making videos for the internet as well as some local business. As I scanned through their music videos I came across the following one.

Some days this is exactly how I feel. I was sitting in my parent’s living room on Thanksgiving, talking to family, when one of them asked if I did Facebook. I then proceeded to tell them I email, text, tweet, Facebook, MySpace, and Blog, and to top it off, I am able to do all that not only through my computer but also through my cell phone. I also read four or five blogs daily, as well as participate on a couple message boards, and I only do a fraction of what some of my friends do. Friends, we live in a digital age. One of the things we must do is find a way to balance all of it. It is sometimes tricky find the perfect balance, but it is very necessary.

I say all this as a reminder to myself. Beginning in January I will be making daily blog updates corresponding to the Bible reading plan at the church. It takes a careful balance not to spend all day scanning the web, blogging, tweeting, Facebooking, while I am working on God’s work for his kingdom.

So what digital media do you find yourself tied to each day?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Same Blog, New Look

As we near 2010, and as I gear up to launch this blog to the whole church as part of our Bible reading plan, I have decided to redo the layout. So for right now I wanted it to be simple and plain until I can figure out what I would like it to look like. Plus I haven't been feeling the other background for about a month now. Thanks for checking out all of my random thoughts posted on here over the past couple of months. I am excited to see what form it takes over the next couple of months.

Love your Brother

Last night I attended my weekly Bible study. The topic right now is grace, and we are going through the chapter on brotherly love. Last night we discussed what it means to love others, how to love others as ourselves, and how to love as Christ loved us. For some that can be a difficult thing.

Then this morning as I am doing my daily Bible reading, 1 John 3, and reading Vince’s thoughts on it, I came across something much related to last night. In 1 John 3:16-20 we find out what true love is … Jesus laid down his life for usthat we ought to lay down our lives for our brotherslet us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. When we love in these ways John says that is how we know we belong to truth.

John is connecting our confidence in Salvation, our belonging to God, in how we love others. How are you doing at loving others? Are you laying down your life for your brothers and sisters in Christ? Are you laying down your wants and desires to see others brought to Christ? How are you doing at loving others?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Pruned to be Persecuted?

So each day I follow a Bible reading plan used by Vince Antonucci. Today’s reading is found in John 15. As I was reading the passage three things stuck out to me. Jesus is talking to his disciples, who are twelve men living life with Jesus. In John 14 Jesus drops a bomb on them … eventually he is going to leave them and after he is gone the counselor is going to come.

Then in chapter 15 he compares himself to a vine, and God as the gardener. Any good gardener knows that to get healthy plants that bear much fruit there must be pruning taking place. Jesus says in Vs. 2 “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” As the passage reads on Jesus talks about loving his disciples, and that true love is found when one lays his life down for the other. That is just what Jesus is going to do. Then Jesus says in Vs. 16 “You did not choose me, but I choose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit-fruit that will last.” Then the discussion takes a hard turn.

In the next part of this discussion Jesus then tells his disciples that they are going to get persecuted because they belong to Jesus. As they go out to teach and preach the good news in the coming days and years, they are going to face trials because of Jesus. At this point if I was one of the disciples I might want to raise my hand and be like the dead branch that gets cut off.

In essence what Jesus is saying to his disciples is this, I have picked you, loved you, taught you, and now once I leave God is going to prune you into something amazing, so that you can go out and be persecuted, maybe even killed in my name. What a tough calling. What a challenging calling. What a noble calling. Are we praying each day that God will prune us so that we will bear fruit that will last? Are we praying each day that God will prune us so that as we share Jesus name we might just be persecuted? What an honor that would be.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Solid Foundation

One of the things I believe strongly in is a firm foundation. No organization can be effective without a firm foundation. One look at my beloved Cleveland Browns will reaffirm my beliefs. There is no firm foundation with the Browns, and because of that, they may be one of the biggest laughing stocks of the entire NFL.

There is no more important organization out there than Christ’s Church. Without a firm foundation, the church cannot be as successful as it desires to be. What is the Churches’ foundation? It is Jesus Christ. It is living the Great Commission. It is knowing how you are going to love Jesus and tell people about Him. It is having a vision of how you will be successful as a church.

Jesus teaches in Matthew 7 about the wise and foolish builders. One man built his house on the sand, when the rains came, the winds blew, and the streams rose, the house eventually fell down. Another man built his house on the rock. Jesus describes it this way. “The rains came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”

Does your church have its foundation on the rock? Do you know the vision of your church? Do you know where your church is going? Do you know how your church is trying to reach people far from God? Does your church share that vision repeatedly? If not, you need to start asking for one.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Let Everything that has Breath Praise the Lord

So yesterday I worked on our Bible reading plan for West Side for 2010. I will give the Church more details as we approach the new year, but on thing we will be doing is reading through the New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs. My format and ideas for this reading plan is going to follow one done by Vince Antonucci. As I put the plan together I decided to end the year on a very positive note, so we will be ending with Psalms 149 & 150. The cool thing is…that is over a year away, so I want to comment on it today. If you haven’t read it, and do not have a Bible handy, click here.

What do you think the major theme of these two chapters is? Praise! That is it. We have been created to praise. We praise because we have been given salvation. We praise with everything we have. We praise because of everything God has done. We praise everywhere we are. We praise with new songs and with old songs. We praise to glorify God and bring vengeance on those who oppose God. Then the book ends with “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.”

I wonder, do we praise God that much? Do we spend every waking hour praising God? Does our life reflect an attitude of praise? I know many times mine does not. I am excited to see how this Bible reading plan comes together, and am excited to see it all point towards a life of praise.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Understanding the Generational Gap Part 7

The following is part of a series on generations and what I have learned about them.

The church is made up of all the generation I have discussed last week. The church is a unique organization in that it has the mission of reaching all people. Most companies are designed to reach specific parts of the population. Matchbox Cars are designed to reach young boys, while makeup is targeted to women. However, the church has the commission to reach all people.

That is why we have many churches. Each church must decide who they are going to seek to reach. When I lived in Chesapeake there was a church near by that I would have absolutely no desire attending. They have worship that is just not for me. Some of their methods are not for me. But, I love what they are doing because they are reaching people for Jesus Christ. They are reaching people that the church I served in that area was never going to reach. However, we were reaching people that they were never going to reach.

In his book The Purpose Driven Church, Rick Warren talks about how they came up with Saddleback Sam. Saddleback Sam is the ideal person that Saddleback Church is targeting. They pick who they are going to go after and that is who they reach out to. Friends, I believe we must do that same thing. We must work together as the larger body of Christ brining people into a relationship with Christ with our own unique churches reaching our own unique culture.

Our culture is made up of many different people, from many different generations. Some have grown up in the church, others haven’t. Some you can label with a generation, others you cannot. Some fit their generation, others do not. The information I have passed on through this blog is generalizations, nothing concrete, but some basic guidelines to work with as we seek to grow Christ Church. Learning how to work with the different generations, different cultures, and different personalities, and at the same time defining who our target group is, will help as we seek to bring life to lost people.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Understanding the Generational Gap Part 6

The following is part of a series on generations and what I have learned about them.

What defines the characteristics of a generation? I believe there are several factors at play when the characteristics of a generation are formed. Some of these include the parents they were raised by as well as the domestic and world events during their formative years. In the past couple of days we talked about the Greatest Generation, the Silent Generation, and the Baby Boomer Generation. Today we are going to complete the generation and how we might deal with them in the Church. As we do so, please understand this is a generalization of entire generations.

Generation Jones 1954-65
Now I know you might be thinking that we already covered these years, and yes we did. Some want to draw a line in the sand and break up the Baby Boomer Generation. Those that do sight that birth rates took a plunge in 1954 and that there are some different ideals. Some Characteristics about this generation are they arose less optimistic, they distrust the government more, and are generally cynical. This has a lot to do with the things of their era, like the oil crises of the 70’s and the war in Vietnam.

This generation can be a challenge to work with in the church. They take there distrust of government over to the church. They see the world wearing dark tinted glasses, and they see the church the same way. This generation, like the Baby Boomers can be hard to get involved in things and when they do, the commitment level is not that high. Those who have been in the church most of their lives are committed and even stepping up to be leaders and Elders. This generation is highly educated and wants real answers to the questions we ask. We have to be prepared to give those real answers.

Generation X – 1963-1979
This generation was born at the end of the Vietnam War, and saw the end of the cold war and the fall of communism. They grew up during relative peace; they hold the highest levels of education of any generation; and they saw the rise of computers, video games, and the internet. This generation tends to make less money than their fathers did, but their hose hold incomes are higher because of working spouses. This generation is very pragmatic and perceptive to new things. They are very savvy but amoral. This generation is more focused on earning money than creating art.

This generation can be a great benefit to any church. Getting them in the church however can be a challenge. There are so many things screaming for this generation’s time that adding something else can be a challenge. What this generation is looking for is a church that can help to meet the needs of their families. They want churches that have things for their kids, have things that reduce the number of things they have to do, and have things that get them involved. This generation wants to see technology being used to demonstrate the gospel, as well as seeing things done professionally. They are consumer driven, and want the church to act like a marketer. This has forced the church to keep up with the modern day world.

Generation Y – 1978-1992
This generation was born during the collapse of USSR, the fall of the Berlin wall and the end of the Cold War. This generation was born in a time of resurgence of the US as an economic world power. This generation is driven by communication such as media and digital technology. This generation signs on daily to Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, YouTube, and their person blogs. They can be called the MTV generation. This generation no longer receives their news the “old fashioned” way of the newspaper. 74% of this generation receives its new by TV or the Internet. They grew up participating and trying everything under the sun. Because of social networking this generation is greatly affected by what their peers are doing. They have also delayed the plunge into adult hood by living with their parents longer, waiting longer for marriage, and those who choose to, waiting longer to have children. Because of this delaying of adulthood, this generation is more in touch with their parents than generation before. They have have forced business to change its strategy’s and marketing. When it comes to working, this generation seeks more feedback and responsibility, but does not want to be left out of decision making. However, they want their jobs to adapt to their lives instead of adapting their lives to their jobs.

This generation has become very focused on me. Because their grandparents parents left (the broad Baby Boomer Generation), we have a long way to go when it comes to brining them to Christ. They do not see the need for salvation. They have been raised in a world that say if it feels good do it. Their morals are based on what they want them to be. Teaching about the love of Christ is a long road. However, this generation is looking for meaning and purpose. They want to know what they are here for and they want completeness. We have a perfect opportunity to show them that only true completeness is found in Jesus Christ. We must do that by being open going to where they are, maybe that can be through blogging and social networking. We must also change the way we market the church. We must now look professional, put together, like we know what we are doing. This generation seeks this in all aspects of their lives. This generation is waiting for us to come to them. With this generation, more than any before it, must we follow the approach of Christ, and go to the people, where they, no matter how far away.

There is one more generation living in our society today. However, they are still coming into their own and I will not discuss them here. Check back Monday to see how all of this ties together.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Understanding the Generational Gap Part 5

The following is part of a series on generations and what I have learned about them.

What defines the characteristics of a generation? I believe there are several factors at play when the characteristics of a generation are formed. Some of these include the parents they were raised by as well as the domestic and world events during their formative years. Yesterday we talked about the Greatest Generation and the Silent Generation. Today we are going to lay out a few more of those characteristics and how that might have an impact on the church. As we do so, please understand this is a generalization of entire generations.

The Baby Boomer Generation 1946-1964

This was the first generation during the recovery of the Great Depression and the WWII. During this time of plenty there was a major boom in birth rates. From 1946 to 1960 over 76 million babies were born. They were born during a time of economic stability as well as the pushing of new frontiers in social and philosophical realms. This generation grew up as the healthiest and wealthiest generation of all time. Because of this they expected to the world to improve with the passage of time. They saw the assassination of President Kennedy, the moon walk, the court battle of Roe V. Wade, and the rise of sexual freedom. From these things this generation sought an experimental spirit, individualism, a free spirit, and became interested in many social issues.

There are some startling statistics about this generation when concerning church attendance. Out of this generation of 76 million people, 42% left formal religion, that means 31.9 million left formal religion. Out of the original 76 million only 33% stayed in the church, which is roughly 25 million of the generation. Out of the 42% who left religion, only 25% have returned to the church, which is roughly 8 million people. That means out of 76 million from this generation only 33 million are involved in the church. That is less than half of the generation. Now the people who remained from childhood are active participating members in congregations. However, the ones who left and came back tend to be less active members and more liberal on issues pertaining to abortion, homosexuality, and other similar issues.

Friends, this may be one of the most difficult generations to deal with. I am not normally one to place blame, but I believe many of the issues we face in today’s culture; like redefining of the family, widespread acceptance of sexual promiscuity, and many other once forbidden lifestyles, are brought about by this generation. This generation became comfortable with the world their parents, the Greatest Generation, had created for them. They have grown up in plenty and have expected things to be handed them. They are willing to work, but sometimes they have unclear objectives at hand. For this generation many absolutes are not part of their vocabulary. I also believe this generation varies a great deal as well depending on the region of the country where they were raised.

With this generation there are two areas to target. The first is a little bit more difficult than the second. This first area is rebuilding a Biblical foundation. Teaching what God desires from his children. It is also returning to a Judeo-Christian set of morals and principles. It is teaching that God’s Word is infallible and inspired. This is also a group that is hard to motivate to take part in the growth of the church. There has to be at times some serious arm twisting to get them involved. But unfortunately sometimes when you do get them involved the long term commitment is not there. This presents major challenges to our churches.

The other part of this group is not as difficult to work with. In fact they are easy to work with. They are similar to the Silent Generation in the fact that they have taken what has been passed on to them and brought it to the present day. This is one of the most educated generations of all times. Because of that they are like the Greatest Generation. They are not about change for the sake of change, but if they see that it is for the right reasons, they are easy to jump on board with it. Working with this segment of this generation is truly an enjoyable experience.

Tomorrow we will look at Generation Jones, Generation X and Generation Y.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Understanding the Generational Gap Part 4

The following is part of a series on generations and what I have learned about them.

What defines the characteristics of a generation? I believe there are several factors at play when the characteristics of a generation are formed. Some of these include the parents they were raised by as well as the domestic and world events during their formative years. Today we are going to lay out a few of those characteristics and how that might have an impact on the church. As we do so, please understand this is a generalization of entire generations.

The Greatest Generation – 1901-1924
This generation grew up during the “Roaring 20’s” and the Great Depression of the United States. They saw both the good times and the horrible outcomes of the Depression. They understood what it meant to be in want and need. This is also the generation that fought World War II. Following the war and following the Depression this generation helped to rebuild the United States and helped to form it into a world superpower. This generation did not fight and work because of a desire for fame and recognition, but because it was the right thing to do.

This generation is a group of hardworking people, seeking a better life for themselves and their children. They are very country minded people. They honor and cherish the things of the past, but seek to build a stronger future.

I believe as we look at this generation in our churches, too many times we think they are un-capable of change. But remember, it is this generation that built the America we know today. It is this generation that fought for our freedom to speak and worship freely. They are open to change, they are open to adaptation; however, it has to be for the right reason. They are not going to change just for the sake of change. Whatever changes we seek in our churches must be thought out and presented well, and have extreme importance for future growth for this generation to get on board. If we think through change, deem it is necessary for future growth, and present it well, this generation has it in their DNA the ability to jump on board and support it greatly.

The Silent Generation – 1923-1943
This generation was born into the great depression and grew up during WWII. They saw the horrors of the depression as little children and saw the horrors of war as teenagers. This generation was raised by parents that new a good life, a peaceful life, and saw how everything could be ripped away. This generation typically has a grave and fatalistic view of the world. They often posses confused morals and expect to be disappointed, but they do desire faith.

This generation is called the Silent Generation because they did not have any major manifestoes, make many important speeches or carry many causes that made major societal changes. This generation took the technology of the Depression and WWII and enhanced it, but did not do much creating on their own. However, they did work through other means to bring about social and even political change. When they did speak out, they were well heard. One of the greatest Civic leaders of the 20th Century came from this generation, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Other leaders from this generation came from the performing arts: The Beetles, Rolling Stones, Beach Boys, Jimi Hendrix, Elvis Presley, Marlon Brando, Marilyn Monroe, and James Dean. They all impacted culture and society greatly.

This generation was made up of hard working people seeking to keep the status quo, happy with what the generation before them had created and willing to pass it on to the next generation. For the most part major change was not sought, but contentment was desired.

This is a generation presents some challenges when it come to the church. This generation was the one that took what was done before them and held on to it tightly. They are the generation that glorifies that past and wants to cherish it, almost as if they are too scared to fail, because they know how bad failure can be. They are essential to any congregation because they remind us of our values and principles. This generation reminds us that the message cannot change. The few in this generation that are willing to step out in faith, are willing to take risks, are some of the greatest advocates in any church. They are the ones who really have the ear of the people. If anything is going to be done it must be done through them. Can you think of who this is in your own congregation? Getting to them with your ideas and vision might be imperative if you seek any change.

Check back tomorrow for the next generation. Let me know if there is anything you can think of to add to these generations from your own experiences.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Understanding the generational Gap Part 3

The following is part of series on generations and what I have learned about them.

What generation is your church reaching?
The answer to that question is possibly as simple as looking at the color of hair in the congregation. When I came to West Side one of the things the elders told me was they wanted to see less grey hairs in the congregation. Now this can be an easier thing to talk about than to actually execute.

Yesterday I broke down the various generations living in our culture today. If you look at church culture today, churches at various levels of health and life are reaching the generations they are targeting. Each generation has different likes and dislikes. A church steeped in tradition, steeped in doing things the way they have always done tend to be the churches that are dying or are struggling to maintain, and tend to be made up of the silent generation. Churches that have taken some steps forward, but cherish some tradition, tend to be the ones reaching the broader segment of the Baby Boomer generation. The churches that are cutting the edge with new methods are the ones reaching Generation Next and Generation Y.

How does all this affect the church? Knowing what generation a person belongs to, and the characteristics of that generation, will tell you what kind of church they are going to closely relate to. The church I desire, the church my mom desires, and the church my grandmother desires, are all just a little different. Pinpointing the differences in generations will help to define the people you want to reach and the church you want to be. Tomorrow I will uncover a few of the distinct characteristics of each generation, and give differences in the type of church I believe they may desire.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Understanding the Generational Gap Part 2

The following is part of series on generations and what I have learned about them.

Do you know what generation you belong to? For some of us it is pretty easy to define, for others it can be rather difficult. Because there is no specific authority, the lines and names of the various generations can become a little gray. From my research I believe there is between 6 and 8 generations living today. Below is a list of the common names used to describe generations and the years given. (The years and names very from source to source. Generations in green are agreed upon breakdowns)

  1. The Greatest Generation – 1901- 1924
  2. Some want to split this into two Generations – 1901 – 1913 or 1912- 1924
  3. The Silent Generation – 1923 – 1943
  4. The Baby Boomer Generation – 1946 – 1964
  5. Generation Jones – 1954 – 1964 (Birth rates of this period dropped off the Baby Boom highs thus leading some to say a new generation started in 1954).
  6. Generation X – 1963 – 1979
  7. Generation Y – 1978 – 1992
  8. Generation Z – 1992 - 2010

As you can see there is no real authority when it comes to defining when a generation starts and when it ends. Part of the reason for this difference and for some of the overlapping in years has to do with the parents of the generation. Depending where the parents are born affects what generation a child born during a change is placed. This makes this research a lot of fun.

How does all this affect the church? To have the best church possible you must closely relate it to your people. Knowing the different generations, their likes and dislikes will go a long way in defining what you church will look like. Can you guess what generation most of the people in your congregation belong to?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


So, last week the blog just kind of stopped. If you are, and I don't think there are many, reading this blog, I am sorry that I have not updated. My mind has not been on blogging, or doing anything creative that way. I have been sermonizing. Because I don't preach every week, (and haven't wrote a sermon in a while) writing a sermon takes a lot out of me creatively. As I do it more often I imagine I will develop a better routine and not be so creatively drained. I hope to begin/resume my generation post next week.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Understanding the Generational Gap

How do different generations define your church? I have read many books that mention generations and how they interact in the world. Each book defines generations in their own way to meet their own purposes. Today I was reading a blog that was talking about how the church that the writer attended in the early 90’s was geared for the Baby Boomer Generation (those who are who are 45 to 63 years old). Because my mind was confused and intrigued by the different generations I decided to do some research.
After my two hours of quick internet research I feel I have a better understanding of the many generations that exist in our country today. I think defining and understanding these generational gaps is imperative to church growth. Where in society do we try to be all things to all generations? The Church! Apple does not market the iPhone to the Silent Generation (those who are 66 to 86 years old). For the most part Dentucreme (a denture cleaning paste) is not marketed to Generation Y (those who are 17 to 31 years old). There are many products out there for people at specific periods of life. Likewise, there are products out there that for specific generations. But the church is for all people (1 Corinthians 9:19-23)
Because of the differences in generations the church has run into many different problems, often based on preferences. The one that comes quickly to mind is worship. In the church we have the task of leading people in worship that are 10 years old and at the same time 80 years old. That is a very tall and challenging task. That is why I believe understanding the generational gap is very important. Over the next several days I plan to lay out some things I have learned about the different generations and how their particular characteristics affect the way we do church.

Monday, September 28, 2009

It All Starts at the Top

Growing up in South East Ohio I developed a deep love and passion for the Cleveland Browns. I became a fan at the age of 3 when I received for Christmas a Cleveland Browns uniform. I began following and understanding the team in the mid 90’s during the Bill Belichick and Vinny Testaverde era, right before the team moved to Baltimore. I remember watching one game in 93 or 94 following one of the Cowboys Super Bowl wins and thinking it was really cool that my team was playing the Cowboys. I remember the three years that I was without a team. I remember getting on the internet one of the first times and watching the live feeds of the construction progress of the new stadium. I remember going to the NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame and seeing on a bill board the date of the Browns first game at Fawcett Stadium against the Dallas Cowboys. I remember watching that game, and being excited as they won the game in overtime. But that is, for the most part, where my good memories end.
Since their return in 1999 the Browns have had a winning season only twice, and made the playoffs only once. Every other year has been abysmal, leaving the fans and myself broken hearted. Every so often a regime change takes place. After the first two horrible years the Browns head coach, Chris Palmer was let go. Following him was Butch Davis. Some good happened under Butch, but after a crazy game against Cincinnati Butch had a psychological breakdown, and resigned from the position. Following him was the Savage/Crenel era, and the era was branded as “rebuilding.” They lasted three years, had one good season, but following a poor attempt last year, were let go. Now with a new coach and new GM the rebuilding is beginning again. So far, it does not look promising. My preseason prediction – the Browns have a chance against 3 teams, Kansas City, Oakland, and Detroit, but to be honest I think they may loose all three of them. Players are signing grievances with the players union against Coach Eric Mangini, and it is reported that players have stopped “playing” for him.
Why do I say all that on a blog where I comment about life and the Church? Because I believe the failures of the Browns are due to one reason and if the Church is not careful it too can fall to the same problem. I believe the heart of the Browns problems begin with the ownership of the team, and the “lack” of leadership. I do not know the Browns owner, and assume he is a great guy, but as an NFL owner, Randy Lerner stinks. I think it is time to change the Browns organization from the top down, starting with the owner. He is an owner that is known for not being very visible and not involved in the day to day operations of the team. Now I certainly do not want an owner like Jerry Jones, but someone who cares would be nice. Leadership is important.
Friends I believe the Church can face a similar situation. If the leadership is not right, if it is not strong, if it is only half into it, then the local Church is going to fail. Leadership means taking risks. Leadership means being involved. Leadership means taking action. Leadership means being on the cutting edge. This is especially important in the Church. If we are going to win people to Christ then we have to do whatever it takes to win them. But if we manage our team like the management of the Cleveland Browns at best we get a mediocre team that has a positive season every now and then. Friends, I believe the church is too important to let that happen. Lets stop being mediocre, and get busy winning souls to the Kingdom.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Good News & Bad News, Which do you prefer?

One of my favorite movies is Evan Almighty starring Steve Carell. The movie follows the life of a Buffalo man who was recently elected to congress on the campaign slogan “To Change the World.” The neighborhood where he buys a home near Washington D.C. is in trouble because of a poorly constructed water dam. So God, played by the ever impressive Morgan Freeman, asks Evan to build an ark. Yes an ark, just like Noah was asked to build. Along the way, as Evan begins to build the ark, his collogues, neighbors and even his own family begin to mock him and pull away from him. At one point the task at hand seems too much for Evan to complete.

Do you ever feel like you are following God, doing what he has asked you to do, confident that it is your calling? But all along the way there is one let down after another. Something goes wrong and makes your job a little harder. Someone says or does something mean and nasty to you. You are persecuted by co-workers for following “God” instead of man.

Well let me give you the bad news, according to God’s Word, persecution, tough times, and trials are a part of his plan. Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 3:3 to not “be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them.” Paul says we are destined for trials. Well how great is that. Part of God plan is to destine us for trials. That means if we are following God, at some point we are going to have it a little tough. Does that sound like the journey you thought you had singed up for?

Well there is good news. In Corinthians Paul teaches that there are no situations we enter that are above us. You see God has called us according to our talents and abilities. He has equipped us and only asks us to serve to our ability. When things get to be too much for us he sends in the cavalry, the muscles, and the armor to help us stand strong and complete the task.

Time and time again we see God providing just what was needed to get through each trial. In the wilderness God provided manna and quail for the Israelites to eat. When Jerusalem was under siege by Sennacherib, King of Assyria, God provided an angel of the Lord killing 180,000 troops. When Paul and Silas were in prison God provided an earthquake to set them free and to help them witness and baptize the Philippian jailor.

Friends, we serve a God who has asked us to do some pretty impressive things. But remember, no matter how tough it gets, what we have been called to matches our gifts and abilities, and when a little more is needed, God is there to provide. When the work got to be too much for Evan, God used the animals in the movie to help lift beams, hammer in pegs, and saw and cut wood. God provides in amazing and wonderful ways.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Paradigm Shift

I am currently reading a book by Will Mancini titled Church Unique. In his book Mancini put into words a paradigm shift that has been taking place in my own heart. For years churches have built their growth structure under a mission statement and a twelve step process of how to get there. This type of system thrived in a world where the church was playing with home field advantage.

Unfortunately we are now living in a post-Christian world. People today do not know exactly who Jesus is. Sure they may have heard of him, sure they may know some details about his life, but they do not really know or understand his mission and his love. The church is now playing as the visiting team, having to overcome a lot of crowd noise and boos just to get a play off. Because of this the twelve step process is on its way out and a new system is entering.

Up until the last 9 months I believed the twelve step process was the way to go. I had thought and dreamed of many systems of how to be a better and bigger church by a particular date. I had even come up with a slogan, corny or not, that was based on the year 2020. I wanted to call it “2020 Vision: A clear vision for the year 2020.” I thought this would be a great ten year plan for 2020 and play off the idea of perfect eye sight. While that might have worked in the Christian era, I now believe it is not the best route.

As my mind is starting to wrap around this new idea, I am quickly coming to believe that the best way, is to make a plan based off of who you want to be as a church. Throw out the programs, throw out the numbers goals, and decide what kind of church you want to be. Develop a mission statement, and then base everything you do off of the mission statement. Decide what kind of people your church wants to reach and do everything you can to reach that kind of people. Decide that you are not going to hire staff to get a job done, but that you are going to equip your people to get that job done. Sure there is planning still involved, sure you must account for growth and have some provisions in place to handle it. But the step by step vision casting is no longer the same, it is has evolved, it has changed, and it is working to meet a post-Christian world where they are.

Like I said this is a paradigm shift for me, and I am still working through it. But I am eager to see where this leads me, and what kind I vision and plan we cast for future growth in the Lord’s church for the lost people of this world.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Using Twitter

So I have decided I was going to start using my Twitter account that I have had for months. I am doing this in an effort to help with our ministry systems here at the church. Now I need to get folks in the church using Twitter, Facebook, and following my blog. This will be fun.

Barriers – Unscriptural?

If you are remotely a news junkie like myself, then you have probably heard the current debate about race and our President. The fire was fueled even more the other night when former President Jimmy Carter said on NBC Nightly news that race was playing a part in some peoples opposition to President Obama. Friends, it is sad to see that we are still not past racial issues in our great country. Maybe one day, but today is not that day.

But what saddens me even more is to see racial divides in Christ’s church. Did you know that one of the most segregated times in the United States is on Sunday mornings? Didn’t Paul teach us that there is no “Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarians, Scythians, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all?” (Colossians 3:11 NIV) Then why is Sunday morning still so segregated. I think there could possibly be two reasons.

I know a church were the racial battle is brewing hard right now. Some in the church want to go into the black community and invite them to there various events and even their Sunday morning services. The church is split on this issue. Some are highly against it because it is a white church, and in that culture whites, blacks, and Latinos just do not go to church together. There could possibly be a church split over this issue. Friends, this is wrong, and is not scriptural.

Now, having said all of that, I do believe the second reason is a justifiable reason for segregation in the church. A few years ago I heard of two congregations, one white and one black, coming together to become one congregation. They enjoyed the fellowship, enjoyed the Bible study, and through it all had no issues over race. But after several years of worshiping together, the “worship wars” got intense. The black culture wanted worship to be a little more lively and energetic, while the white culture wanted worship to be a little more somber with more thought provoking meaning. To solve their issues, the two groups decided that they were going to launch two different services. One service would have worship for one culture, and one for the other. While this segregated the times of worship, it did not divide the church. They did not split over racial issues, just style preferences. They continued to fellowship together, they continued to be one church, and they continued to bring lost souls into a life saving relationship with Jesus Christ.

Friends it saddens me to see our world divided by the color of someone’s skin. It is truly heartbreaking. But what sickens me is to see Christ’s church divided by the color of skin. In Christ we are all one. In Christ the social, economic, gender, and racial barriers have been removed. In Christ we are free. How are we doing at removing the barriers in our churches and in our lives?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Confidence in God

So on Wednesday nights I have been working with the teenagers at West Side. I have been going through a series of lessons on purpose using clips from the movie Evan Almighty. Tonight’s lesson is about sacrifice and I am using the story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac found in Genesis 22:1-19. As I was studying the text for the lesson something obvious jumped off the page at me.

I have read the story many times and even seen these very words, but they really made me think. When we are following God’s will in our lives how confident are we in God. I mean, I try to follow God every day, but I still worry about how I am going to provide for my wife and my self. I have put my trust in God, but how deeply have I done that?

But here is Abraham, asked by God to sacrifice Isaac the son he has waited so long on. As he leaves his servants behind to climb the mountain to offer that sacrifice he replies to the servants “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.” Abraham was following God’s difficult request, and all the while putting his full faith in God. He had confidence that God would provide for him. He knows somehow he was going to return with Isaac.

Now was that selfishness on Abraham’s part? Maybe. Was that insider knowledge? Maybe. Was that true trust and faith in God? Certainly. That is evident when Abraham grabs the knife to perform the sacrifice. Do we live out God’s purposes with that amount of faith and confidence in what He has said He will do? I know at times I don’t.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Small Groups with Purpose

My first series of post on this blog will be about the methods we use to share the message of the cross with our families and our communities. Here is my next thought.

A trend of the late 90’s and early 2000’s was the small group movement. This is one trend I do not believe is going any where. Many churches have tried them, some have done amazingly well, some have just kind of happened, and some have failed miserably. At West Side one of my jobs is to over see our small group ministry. Currently we have two groups meeting. However, these two groups do not appear to be organic and seem to have no purpose outside of Bible study and fellowship.

One of the blogs I read daily is by Vince Antonucci, who is planting a Church on the Strip in Las Vegas. He posted from a friends blog that really got me thinking about the purpose of our small groups. Follow this link and read his post.

Does your church do small groups? Do your small groups have a purpose? Are your small groups organic? After reading Vince’s post several months ago, pondering over the question myself, I have come to the conclusion that the original poster is right. That’s why at West Side as we revamp our small group structure and begin to launch new groups one key aspect will be community service. Not only will this aid us in forming community within our congregation, but this will be one more avenue into reaching our community. I think we can bring the message of the cross to our families and our communities, and bring each other closer together through common purposes.

Below is a video from the Matt Carter, Pastor of The Austin Stone Community Church. The Austin Stone Community Church is one of the fastest growing Churches in America. Started in 2002 they are now averaging over 5,000 for weekend worship. They too addressed the problem they had with small groups. I also borrowed this video from Vince’s blog.

Matt Carter // Missional Small Groups from Todd Rhoades on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Culturally Relevant

My first series of post on this blog will be about the methods we use to share the message of the cross with our families and our communities. Here is my next thought.

How do we communicate the message of the gospel? Do we go door to door and share it? Do we send out mailing to our communities? Do we preach and teach only on our campuses? Do we encourage our members to do evangelism through relational living? Each of these methods I believe can be effective. But they have to be done in the right culture and the right community.

That means you need to know your community. Not only do you survey your community and find out how your church looks in their eyes, but you also have to find out the best way to share the gospel. For rural congregations their culture is completely different than urban congregations. Going door to door might actual work in a rural congregation, while in an urban setting doors may be slammed in your face. For some places it might be best to invite people into our church buildings to share the gospel, while other cultures the best way is through a small group ministry.

I think the point is, whatever you do, however you do it, our evangelism strategy needs to be based on the culture where our congregation resides.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Background Checks

Just got my background checked for Church. I had to go to the police station and get my finger prints scanned. That was fun. Now I am in the system. I think it is great so many churches are finally going through this process. Its also sad that we live in a society where we have to do this kind of thing. Church lets get busy.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Turning the tide of Perception

My first series of post on this blog will be about the methods we use to share the message of the cross with our families and our communities. Here is my next thought.

Yesterday I posted about perceptions? Do you know how the community perceives your congregation? If not, you need to find out. This can be done by conducting surveys at local venues in your community. You can also find out by knocking on some doors and asking simple questions. This process does not have to be too scientific just enough to get a general idea. A great resource to find out more is Darren Walter’s book “The People-Magnet Church, Attracting Your Community to Christ.”

Once you know the perception of your community you can begin either changing it or building on it. If you have a bad perception problem take some simple steps to change the negative mindset of people. Do things for the community with no strings attached.

~A Fall Festival with games, food, candy, and even door prizes or costume contest prizes. Make the prizes something people can really use, i.e. gift cards to Walmart (no I am not getting paid to endorse them), iTunes, or McDonalds. Provide the community a safe place for Halloween activities

~Possibly even a spring or summer festival.

~Free carwash to the neighborhood. People are skeptical about this, but boy does it help to change perception.

~Free Easter Egg hunt.

~If your in a neighborhood or urban setting a block party periodically might be it.
Maybe a cheap babysitting night for parents. Possibly charge $5 to cover the cost of some food and other basic supplies.

I think the key to this is to be creative and to attach no strings. Do what works best for the needs of your community. However, DO NOT preach at people. Show them the love of Christ. Remember this is about perception change, so some things might start slowly, but as more perception changes, the more results you will see.

If you find your community has a strong perception of your church, great, you must build on that. Continue to show your community that you care about them. Continue to show your community that you are there when they are hurting. Continue to be that beacon of light.

Maybe your perception is good, but your presence is not so strong. This is where some good advertising comes into play. Be creative in this. Do door knockers, mailers, and creative signs out front of your building. Get your image into the communities’ minds.

In both churches where I served once perception began to change we were able to begin spreading the message of the cross in more powerful ways. If you work hard at this I believe God will supply great benefits.

Perception Problems?

My first series of post on this blog will be about the methods we use to share the message of the cross with our families and our communities. Here is my next thought.

The other day I posted that I think we need to learn a lesson from Walmart. Walmart had a sign in one of their stores that mentioned being a part of the community where they exist because their employees live in that community. I believe the lesson we can learn is that we too should be involved in the communities where our congregations exist. But getting there can at times be a challenge.

One of the first things we must change to get involved in the community is perception. What is the community’s perception of your congregation? That is a must answer question.

The first church I served at one time had the wrong perception in the community. They exist in a small rural community. The church was considered the country club church of the area. The belief was in the past that if you did not go to that church, even if you went to another Christian Church, you were not going to go to heaven. But it was also a hard church to get into, at least that was they way they were perceived. If you did not have loads of money, or well known in the community, then you were not welcome there. Now, by the time I had arrived this was not the case. The church was very loving and very accepting. In fact, by this time, you could go to other churches and get into heaven. However, that perception was still there and did affect the community.

The second church I served had a very different perception. It was in a large metropolitan area where a lot of people did not go to church. My first fall there we decided to do a Fall Harvest Festival. To advertise we went door to door handing out fliers. One of my teenagers came back to me and shared this experience.

He approached one house, knocked on the door and an older lady answered. He began to tell her about the Fall Festival and what is was about. Then he told her where it was at. She then responded with this question, “Is that the church where we go to vote.” He did not really know how to respond to that question so he said he did not know.

I later came to learn that our church building was the local precinct for all elections. Now, and this is just an assumption, I can almost guarantee that the lady who my teenager approached had lived in her home for many years. She lived 200 yards away from our church building. She had to drive by the church thousands of times during her life, and the only thing she knew about the church was it was the local precinct for voting.

Friends I share all this to ask you, what is the perception the community has of your congregations? Both churches I have served in the past had perception problems. The first church had a negative one, and the second church, for the most part, was not even on the radar for the people in their own neighborhood.

So how do we correct the perceptions of the communities we live in? How do we build a good perception for those in our neighborhoods? Check back tomorrow for my thoughts and ideas?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Why we are here

Why does the church exist? What is its purpose? I believe we can know that fairly easily by Christ commission repeated several times before his ascension. The clearest example, and the most used, comes from (Matthew 28:19-20) “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…” If we have been around the church for a while we get it; our purpose is to bring everyone into a life changing connection with Jesus Christ. That is the mission, but what are the methods. During my first few post I would like to look at some of the methods the church must use today.

A couple of months ago while waiting on my dear wife in Wal-Mart a sign caught my eye. It said, “We’re committed to the communities we serve. We live here, too. And we believe good works.” I had to take a picture of it. That sign resembles what the church should be saying as well.

Wal-Mart’s all across the nation realize that the people who work in their stores live in the communities they sell their goods to. Wal-Mart realizes that if they want the community to shop with them they have to be involved in their neighborhoods, their schools and even their community programs. This has helped to make Wal-Mart one of the largest retailers in the world.

I think Wal-Mart can show us one of our ways to bringing people into a life changing connection with Jesus Christ. The church must get involved in the neighborhoods of our communities, into the schools of our communities, and into the lives of our communities. As we do that, our message will begin to be heard, and lives will begin to be impacted. What do you think? How can we get involved in the communities where we exist?