Thursday, March 31, 2011

Lessons From a Church Builder


I don’t know which is more challenging … planting a church or rebuilding an existing church. I follow several different people who are going through the planting process and have learned a lot from them. I have been in three different churches that all needed to “come back” from former glory days. Let’s look at my list of challenges for both. Please note this is not a complete list by any stretch of the imagination.

Planting a Church

  1. Deciding where it is God is calling you to plant
  2. Getting people on board with your plant
  3. Finding a location to rent/purchase for you plant
  4. Raising financial and prayer support for your plant
  5. Selecting the right staff persons for your plant
  6. Beginning the small groups that your plant needs
  7. Marketing your plant to the community and building encouragement/excitement

Rebuilding a Church

  1. Changing the mindset of the people in the church
  2. Working through sacred cows or old traditions of the church
  3. Changing the perception of the church in the community
  4. Changing the perception of the church to the members of the church
  5. Working against or through those who have a stronghold on the church
  6. Getting the churches name out in the community
  7. Fighting through financial and facility limitations
  8. Developing a mission for the church
  9. Motivating the people to get on board with the mission of the church

I think both planting a church and rebuilding a church have their challenges. However both sets of challenges are completely different. Both present problems for the leaders of the church. But, sometimes as someone who is going through the process of rebranding, rebuilding a church, I long to have the problems of a church planter. Don’t get me wrong, the challenges there are monumental, and ones I don’t think fit my skill set, but sometimes they would be welcomed.

In planting a church you get to start from scratch. Scary as that might be, you don’t have to wade through all the issues associated with the traditions and sacred cows. You can develop a mission statement and live by that from day one. You can select a style of worship, and if people don’t like it they don’t have to come. Basically you get to set the direction from the beginning without worry about how change is going to affect the church.

While I sometime long for those things, I know God has blessed me with the patience needed to work through the needs of rebuilding a church. Established churches have a lot to offer the kingdom. They are great places, once focused on reaching those far from God, to mentor people in a relationship with Christ. That is something many church plants cannot offer to new believers, because many of their people are new believers. That can be the beauty of an established church.

My goal of this section on this blog is to communicate my thoughts and feelings to you as we work through this process here at West Side. My goal is to share my highs, my lows, my joys, and my sorrows as we see God move and work through this established church. My prayer is to seek God’s leadership and guidance as we become the church he desires us to be for Lebanon, Ohio.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Not a Theologian

I am not a theologian. Studying Scripture is alright but it is not one of my favorite things to do. Probably not something you thought you would ever hear from your preacher right. Well there you go, you have now heard it … well at least read it. While it is not one of my favorite things I do, it is something that I have to do. The problem isn’t that I don’t like learning new things from God’s word … I really do … it is the act of study that I do not like. But study is what makes us grow as followers of Christ. It is through his word that God left us his thoughts. It is through his word God left us his desires for our lives. It is through his word that God communicates to us today. So study it we must.

The funny thing about study at times can be the fact that two separate people can rip apart a passage of scripture and arrive at two distinctly different understandings. This has happened time and time again in the church. That is the primary reason we have so many different Christian denominations out there. The problem we face in study is we let our background; we let our previous knowledge infiltrate our understanding of God’s word. But if you want to be a true theologian, you must come to the text with a clean slate. You must throw out your previous knowledge and allow God’s word to speak directly to you. When you do this, you will begin to understand what God has to say, and not what some denomination has to teach.

If we did this, than I would not have to spend much time in study for a sermon I am preaching Sunday morning on communion. The act of communion wouldn’t be an issue in the church today. If we were to simply take what scripture teaches and demonstrates about communion, we would do it in the way that Christ envisioned that night in the upper room. But because we have let so many outside forces determine the way we do things in the church and as Christians we a contorted view what following Christ really looks like.

So while study isn’t fun … at least for me … study I must. If you want to hear my thoughts on what I have studied about communion then join us at West Side on Sunday morning. But please remember, what I say in my sermon is just my thoughts on the subject … however, as I write each sermon I do plead to God to remove me and speak through me … so maybe they are God’s words. I don’t know.

PS. … There is more to being a theologian than what I have typed above. Maybe sometime in the future I will completely complete my thought on what it takes to be a theologian.

The image used above was borrowed and is linked to the website Sound Feelings and used in an article titled “11 Free Tips Improve Studying Results.” The link is as follows … Use of the picture is not an endorsement of the website or material published there.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Concerns in Christianity

Sometime the churches having the greatest ministry impact are the churches that are relatively young. Now I am not talking about the age of the people, but the age of the church. New churches are able to be on the cutting edge of current trends in the church because they do not have any sacred cows or holy traditions to break through. Church planters are able to start their church however they see best for their particular community and culture.

Sometimes as a minister with an established church I am a little jealous of that ability. In an established church often times you have long held traditions that may hold you back from doing something new. While these traditions are not scriptural or unscriptural, many times they hold you back from being able to reach a new or different generation/culture for Christ. To move forward you have to spend time working through and over coming them.

Many new churches tend to be a little on the edgy side opposed to their counter parts; the established church. Sometimes they will bring in many cultural aspects to their services. Most of the time I am all for this. For some reason many churches believe that walking into a church should be like walking into a time warp and going back to the 1950’s. Now they may not say it, but the look of their building, the style of their worship, and clothes they wear certainly express it. Maybe you can see why at times I may be jealous.
I think being edgy is good. I think being radicle is good. I think using technology to the best of your abilities is good. I think looking like society and the culture your are planted in is good, as long as it is not the sinful parts of society and culture. Having said all of that, I do believe there are some places you should stop.

There is a new church that I admire greatly. I think God is doing some amazing things through their church, especially in a tough and sinful community. I also understand what is driving them to do what they are doing. But I still have an issue with what they are doing. I have waited about three weeks to comment on this … I wanted to hear the sermon that kicked off the series before I did. I have, and now I am commenting.

The church is planted in a very tough and sinful community. People go to their community to run away. Since moving to the city, the lead pastor has heard the phrase … “(Insert name/noun here) just does not give a damn!” Because of hearing that phrase so much, the church decided to do a sermon series titled “God Gives a Damn!” Not only have they used the phrase for their series, but they have also purchased billboards throughout town and are selling/giving out t-shirts.

Here is my dilemma.  How far are we willing to go to spark peoples interest. Using the vernacular of the people is good, but at the same time, as Christians we are supposed to be “set apart” from the world. Could the same message be communicated without using the word “damn.” I would imagine so. I know this phrase will really catch peoples eyes, but does this cross over from not being set apart. Or am I just one of a few that thinks that word is still a four letter word that Christians should not use.

I try to hold judgment when I see things that new churches are doing. For me it may be out of the box. But then again, they are reaching people for Christ that most of the time I am not. That is to be admired. I still do not know where I stand on this particular sermon series title. I know I still feel uneasy when I hear it. What do you think? Is this something you would do in your church or encourage in your church? I know myself and my church is not ready for this … yet ... if ever.

P.S. by the way, the minister sounded a little funny the three or four times he said it during his message. Maybe he even thinks it a little uncomfortable himself?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Sunday @ West Side


Yesterday was a good day at West Side. We are continuing our current Sermon and Lesson Series asking the question “How can I make my Membership Count?” In Sunday school we discussed what the true nature and role of Eldership in the church really is. This is something I think is greatly needing within the congregation. During service Marty preached a great sermon on what Baptism is. If you missed these past two weeks you definitely want to check out the DVD’s of the sermons.

Membership Matters Logo 3

It was also nice to see several people back at worship with us who have been gone for a while. If you see people have been gone, please make it a point to give them a call to see where there at. Marty, our Elder’s, and myself can do it, but people see that as our job. If you were to do it, to give them a call it would go a long way as well. Do you ever follow up with people? If not, why not? Give it a try, it might be one of the most rewarding things you do as a Christian.

It was also great to see several guest with us in our service. Do you step out of your way to say hi to someone visiting the church? Do you make it a point to get their phone number so you can give them a call throughout the week? Guest of our church may be people who are far away from God and are in desperate need of a savior. If we remember that, it may change they way we view a visitor, and how we approach them following a service. Did you reach out to any guest yesterday and welcome them to the church and take interest in who they are and their families? If you did, you may have helped them on their path to knowing God!

I enjoyed worship with everyone yesterday and look forward to doing it again next week!

I’m Back

The blog has taken a hiatus. Some of that was from laziness, some from business, and some from trying to decide what I wanted to do. Some of the best blogs I read are the ones that are structured in a powerful way. My blog at one time had structure. The structure was to comment on that days daily Bible reading. But in that I felt I got really repetitive. I want this blog to be fresh and new each day, and it wasn’t.

So …. I have spent some time away from the blog thinking about what I wanted it to look like. If you have checked in frequently and seen no progress, or have read some of my previous post, you will have noticed that I am saying the same thing I have been saying for months. Well today, I want to announce that I think I have the structure I have been seeking out. Here is what the blog is going to look like in the future …

  • Monday – Sunday @ West Side … this will be a weekly recap of the previous weekend esp. the previous Sunday.
  • Tuesday – Concerns I have in the Christian Community … I am going to highlight some of the trends, ideas, and movements that are concerning me in Christianity.
  • Wednesday – Theology … I am going to comment on what I am studying and the new things I am learning. I may also comment on some misconceptions I am seeing in the Christian community. This section will grow and change over the course of time I am sure.
  • Thursday – Thoughts on Rebuilding a Church … West Side is in the process of rebuilding the foundation. I am going to share my thoughts on the process we are going through and the lessons I am learning.
  • Friday – This day is going to be open to random ideas and thoughts that come to mind.
  • Saturday – Family Corner … I am going to talk about personal issues, things going on in our family, and projects around the house. 
  • Sunday – The blog is going to rest on this day.

Not only does the blog have a new look and design, but it also has a new structure. Hopefully this will become something worth reading for you and the members of the West Side Church. I am excited to see where this goes and also realize that none of this is set in stone. Continue checking back in to see how God is working through this blog.