church issues

In conversation this evening, I spoke with a man about being stuck in the past.  It was about a man in a small congregation who knows and uses the phrase “We’ve never done that here before.”

The incident was when the man, leader of the church council, invited a Christian magician to perform in the church’s fellowship hall.  The magician is very good, and it was great fellowship.  But when it was over, “Charlie” came up and said he didn’t like what they’d done.

Why didn’t Charlie like the show? He said “the church shouldn’t be a community center.”

Actually, the church ought to be a community center.  A good church’s facility  is the center of the community, and a place of community action for the members.  That’s who we are.  If we use the skills of other believers to draw people in for social interaction, they will get to know us and hopefully give us permission to talk about our faith.

Or we can close the doors.

“This generation wants meat. They are tired of silly events that have a little Scripture thrown in, or events where junk food is served up large and the Bible doesn’t make the menu. ”

Alvin Reid is one of my favorite thinkers, especially where it comes to young adults.  He’s been looking at the spiritual landscape and calls today’s rising young adults “A Generation of Carnivores.”  They migrate to and fill a church where the pastor will “teach the Bible verse by verse, sometimes an hour or more weekly.”  It takes some preparation and presentation, but they will respond.

Not so, he says, the older generations.  We’ve trained them to need “dumbed-down” sermons” of spiritual milk.  But if you do that, you can grow a crowd without growing a church. It will  take staff and effort but have no base, and very few committed tithers.  Those kinds of members “donate” a little time and money to the cause-of-the-month, but have no staying power.  We know that won’t work to sustain your church long-term.

There is a younger generation of believers who are tired of “do the minimum” Christianity. They want it straight, they want it real, and they want it now. If you teach the Bible, and if young adults you teach sense you genuiely love them and love Jesus, you can get right in their grills. In fact, you must. If however they perceive you as a smart aleck, or you stereotype them to the extreme, you will lose them. And you will never have a chance with unchurched  young adults.

Do this and live.


Dr Alvin Reid is Professor of Evangelism at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, author and frequent speaker at youth events.

Can a small church be effective?  Can it transform its community?  How can a struggling church become a “transformational” small church?

Ed Stetzer, chief missiologist and researcher at Lifeway, is hosting a free webcast on the topic on Sept 7, from 10-4 Central.  If you can get to Nashville, it’s just $10.  If you can’t you can watch on free webcast.

And if you’re near Newport News, Virginia, you can watch the webcast and network with other local small churches.  It’s being hosted by Deer Park Baptist Church, 10:20am-5:15pm (eastern).  See the details at Netcasting:Ideas

Disagreements turned to fights and disarray at Macedonia Baptist Church in Suffolk, VA this year.  It started badly and went south fast.  Soon the police were called to lock the door and arrest some of the members.  Five months later, there’s still no resolution.

What went wrong?

The church is an independent Baptist church that had 75 in December.  On March 7, a Sunday morning, the trustees and a deacon met the pastor at the door and told him he had been fired and was not going to preach that morning.  When church members found out what had happened, there was so much turmoil the police had to come keep order.

Next, the pastor called a meeting for the following Sunday (Mar 20) to discuss what had happened and what to do next.  During that meeting, two members (husband and wife) assaulted another member and were sentenced April 26.

At some point after the March 14 meeting, the trustees changed the locks on the church building, posted a “no trespassing” sign in the window, and directed the pastor and his family not to enter the property.

During the March 20 meeting, the pastor got a majority to vote him back in, and then they held a second meeting on May 16 to ratify the vote, and replace the trustees (including the man arrested in March), the treasurer and some of the deacons.

Things were quiet for a few weeks, but then on July 25 (also a Sunday), the pastor and some of his supporters fired the new trustees.  Police were called on reports of “people in the church out of control” and “screaming.”

Next, there were arson threats and allegations that the pastor was changing the locks and the financial reports.  Court filings from both sides allege financial irregularities.  A community event that annually uses the property has been canceled because “the pastor didn’t have the authority to rent the space.”  The pastor has also removed several members.

When the local Judge returns from vacation, the church will ask for a trial.

What can you learn from their misfortune? Plenty.

  • If you want to remove the pastor, don’t do it on Sunday morning.  Tell the pastor mid-week, and have a replacement lined up for Sunday.  If you have cause, say so in open session.  Deeds done in secret will come to light, and the consequences will be worse.
  • Audit the books regularly.  It’s hard to accuse leadership of impropriety if a neutral third party is auditing.
  • Form associations with other congregations.  You may never need remediation, but they might.  Scripture warns us to solve our own problems, and not rely on the civil courts to solve spiritual issues.

source:  Tracy Agnew at Suffolk News Herald

I saw a church sign like none I’ve seen before.  Instead of using their curbside advertiser to spout cute sayings, Mount Zion Baptist in Hampton chose to honor someone never seen or noticed by most.

How many churches have you seen honor an usher?  Generally, it’s the pastor, or some other senior staff member.  Not an usher.  Ushers stand in the parking lot, or at the door, or in the aisle.

When the visitor overcomes intertia and comes, these special volunteers help them find a place to park, help them know where to take children, and find them a place to sit that meets their individual preferences.  A good usher makes the hesitant first-timer feel like an old friend.

So when someone passes a milestone like 25 years of faithful service, the good churches will make a big deal out of it.  It’s one of the reasons that church was in the middle of a building campaign for more education space.

When Jeff Bezos and his wife quit their Wall Street jobs to create a company in the garage with makeshift furniture and a loan from his parents, he embodied a spirit that is worth emulating.  Who among us doesn’t admire the person who gives it all up to chase a goal that’s bigger – and succeeds.

And now, as the president of, wildly successful and rich beyond his dreams, what drives Jeff Bezos?  To the 2010 graduating class of Princeton, he related the story of one summer with his grandparents.  He was using his adolescent mind to do fancy math calculations, and ended up inadvertently insulting his grandmother.

In response, his grandfather told him, “It’s harder to be kind than clever. ”

And so his speech to Princeton was about gifts and choices.  He called cleverness a gift, something given to you.  But choices are actions taken by you, often in how the gifts are used.

“You can seduce yourself with your gifts if youre not careful, and if you do, it will probably be to the detriment of your choices.”

And then he asked a series of troubling questions

1.  How will you use your gifts? What choices will you make?

2. Will inertia be your guide or will you follow your passions?

3. Will you follow dogma or will you be original?

4. Will you choose a life of ease or a life of service and adventure?

5. Will you wilt under criticism or will you follow your convictions?

6. Will you bluff it out when you are wrong or will you apologize?

7. Will you guard your heart against rejection or will you act when you fall in love?

8. Will you play it safe or will you be a little bit swashbuckling?

9. When it’s tough, will you give up or will you be relentless?

10. Will you be a cynic or will you be a builder?

11. Will you be clever at the expense of others or will you be kind?

In conclusion, he reminded all of us who listen with ears to hear, that one day – God willing – we will sit and reflect on what we have done with our lives.  Will we be satisfied with the results?

“In the end, we are our choices.”

Hear it yourself, if you dare.

I read a post a couple of weeks ago suggesting we walk into church expecting a miracle.  That part I agree with.  The second half of the statement suggested that if a miracle doesn’t show, then something is wrong in our preparation.

I lead worship expecting a miracle, a holy fire to come from heaven and empower us all for great work.  But if the service ends without an outpouring of converts, it’s not necessarily a sign of the lack of God’s presence.

I’m not talking to you who are not doing what you can to be ready.  Evangelist Alvin Reid recently quoted a statistic that 54% of pastors had not shared their faith in the past six months, and only 21% of active church members invite anyone to church in a year, only 2% invite an unchurched person.  As my uncle used to tell me about gardening, it won’t grow if you don’t plant the seed.

The passage I look to is the life of Elijah, one of the greatest prophets in the Bible.  Of his whole life, barely a dozen days get mentioned.  There are long stretches of no word from him. Three years with the widow waiting on God to say “go.”  If God’s timing is for my congregation to wait, and I’m actively waiting, planting and watering, weeding and pruning, then the harvest will come in its season.

It just won’t be harvest every week, all year long.

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