Smart Things that Churches Should Do

Smart Things that Churches Should Do

Church is not a building or an institution. Church is people. Because church is people, we have the choice to either do smart things or dumb things. If we do smart things, more people can be led to Christ. Leading people to Christ is a simple way of describing why the church exists.

Here are a few smart things that churches can do that will lead more people to Christ:

Be intentionally multigenerational
Youth are not the church of tomorrow; they are part of the church today. We must provide the resources necessary to reach them now. Quality leaders, authentic compassion and giving them a voice in the ministry process will result in young people who connect with the church. Smart churches know this; they don’t just talk about it, they do it. They invest in young people. But they also respect older people. Those who have paid the price to help get us where we are now need to know that they are treasured. Smart churches value people even if they appear to no longer be on the cutting edge. Smart churches value all generations.

Stay out of ruts
Doing something simply because that’s the ways it’s always been done is the fast track to extinction. Hold to traditions and creeds but do so with purpose. Smart churches change in the right way at the right time for the right reasons.

Stay off of bandwagons
We always have something to learn from others who are succeeding but trendiness and fads can spoil ministry. It appears that God blesses different methods at different times but He doesn’t run out of ideas. Imagination and creativity are spiritual gifts. Smart churches don’t spend a lot of time and energy trying to be another church. Be original, innovative, fresh.

Be real
Speak the language of the people. Do everything with authenticity. Operate with impeccable integrity. Own up to mistakes. Repent often. Be transparent. Smart churches are not manipulative or condescending or disrespectful of people.

Perfect grace
Make room at the table for sinners. Don’t demand perfection. Practice forgiveness and model second chances. Smart churches know that the ground at the foot of the cross is level.

Reach as many people as possible
It’s OK to have a “target market” based on demographics. But smart churches don’t eliminate people because they don’t fit the niche. Specialty churches eliminate people who are different. Jesus doesn’t eliminate these people – neither should we.

Act outside of the local church
Embrace other ministries. Do life in the neighborhood. Minister with a global mindset. Be sure to connect with people outside of your immediate circle. It’s a big world and God is doing amazing things. Smart churches don’t want to miss that!

Promote justice
Don’t tolerate the mistreatment of the innocent. Stand up for victims. Speak out on behalf of the marginalized. Smart churches act as part of the solution to society’s ills.

Release people into ministry
We should encourage people to practice their spiritual gifts. Empower people. Entrust people with responsibility. Smart churches understand that every person and gift is necessary for a fully functioning church.

Be comfortable with not pleasing everyone
Smart churches know that they are not for everyone. Let people disagree and let some leave, if necessary. Pursue those God has called you to reach.

Insist that people dream
Life beats the hope out of people. Smart churches spend a lot of energy building up people. Encourage them to dream again, to chase the vision that God put in them. “Remember who you wanted to be.”

Know what we’re supposed to do and do it well
What is the end goal of church? Jesus summarized our job description in Matthew 28 by telling us to make disciples; we help people by showing them how to be authentic followers of Jesus. That’s it. If we’re smart, we’ll focus all of our attention on that task.

Smart churches do smart things and lots of people come to Christ. You and I are the church. Let’s do smart things.

Critical of the Church? Better Think Twice.

church critic coffee-cup

It seems to be a popular trend right now for some pastors to criticize the church, especially churches other than their own. Conferences are being held for the sole purpose of pointing out the faults of other Christians. I have heard several messages recently that focused on how wrong other churches are. The blogosphere is buzzing with accusations of false doctrine.

While it is our responsibility to expose theological error and to correct heresy, there is little to be accomplished by targeting one another.

Before we put a bull’s eye on a church, let’s be reminded of a few important truths:

The church is the Body of Christ. (I Corinthians 12:27)

The church is His Bride. (Revelation 19:7)

The church is His Body. (Ephesians 5:22-23)

The church is His Flock. (I Peter 5:2)

The church is His Building. (I Corinthians 3:9)

The church is His Household. (Ephesians 2:19)

The way I see it, Jesus takes the Church very personally. He loves the Church and gave Himself for it. If you go against the Church, you are going against God. We don’t want to do that.  What God does to those who go against Him and His church? “But God condemned them long ago, and their destruction will not be delayed.” (II Peter 2:3b)

My point? It is best not to mess with something or someone whom the Lord values very much.

Rather than criticizing each other, our time would be better spent:

Praying for each other.

Preaching the Good News of Jesus.

Building up the Church.

Fighting our enemy, the devil.

Removing the log from our own eyes. (Luke 6:42 “How can you think of saying, ‘Friend, let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”)

One final point: When we turn on one another, the devil is thrilled; his job gets easier.  What do you say we make his job harder?

No One is Expendable

throw-away

At a summer youth event for the organization that I serve, I was talking with a guest speaker who was visiting us from out of state. He remarked about our diversity of leaders and how the mutual respect among us was obvious. He remarked about how some of our key leaders did not fit the typical mold of our denomination. Specifically, he said, “You guys come from different nationalities and cultures. You speak different languages. You have leaders that are all inked and pierced up. How do you get everyone to accept each other so well?” I gave a pretty straight answer: “We’re not big enough to eliminate people because they are different from us.”

His reaction surprised me. He said, “We aren’t either; we just don’t know it.”

I most certainly did not mean by this answer that we have low standards for leaders or that we will let anyone lead. I simply meant that we are a relatively small organization and if we eliminate leaders because they don’t look or dress or act like me, we will cease to exist. People are not expendable. One definition of expendable is: Considered to be not worth keeping or maintaining (dictionary.com). We can’t throw people away. We need every qualified leader we can get. Our leaders are very qualified. They love Jesus with all their hearts and live exemplary lives. They happen to not fit the mold that some people have established.

Our guest finished the conversation by saying, “Some of your best leaders wouldn’t get the time of day in the state where I serve. We have some things to learn.”

We may raise a few eyebrows and be accused of being desperate. That’s ok – we are desperate – to see young lives changed. We are willing to do whatever it takes to see that happen.

careful words

I had a brief conversation with a colleague yesterday. He mentioned a topic we were both familiar with and I responded with a flippant answer, something meaningless to me, something I assumed he wanted to hear. He stopped, looked me in the eye and responded in a way that caught me off guard. He said, “that means a lot coming from you.” The problem is, I wasn’t all that sincere in my words. I didn’t think about my words – I just used what was convenient.

I’ve  been feeling bad about it since then. I think I need to call him to straighten out the situation. The topic is not all that serious or at least my impact on it is not. But I do not want him to assume things based on what I said.

I need to guard my words a little more closely. I encourage you to do the same.

Psalms 141:3 Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord;
    keep watch over the door of my lips. (NLT)

why I won’t preach politics

President Obama really ticked off a bunch of my friends yesterday. When he issued his “evolution” statement on the topic of gay marriage, most conservatives in the US went ballistic.

For the record, I am prolife. Very prolife! I believe in the sanctity of marriage, that God provides this gift for men and women to live together under His blessing. I believe that homosexuality is a sin. I believe that those who live together outside of marriage are fornicators. Let’s see, whom have I not yet offended?

And for the record, I preach these things from the Word of God, often. In fact, just last Sunday, prior to the President’s announcement, I preached from I Corinthians 6:9-11 which tell us that those who indulge in sexual sins and are homosexual will not inherit God’s Kingdom. You just can’t change the meaning of those verses. But I am not preaching politics. I am preaching the Gospel.  But I sincerely try to preach the truth with humility, in love, seasoned with grace.

On many occasions, I receive emails from friends in our church who want me to preach about politics. Through the years, I have heard it all. “How will they know who to vote for if you don’t tell them?”. “People don’t have the right values, you need to preach about how this particular politician is against the Bible”. And so on.

Here is my position: I am not called by God to preach politics. I am called by God to preach the Gospel – His Word. I do not believe that the problem in our country is politics. I believe the problem is, people are ignoring God’s Word. The answer is not for preachers to preach about politics. The answer is for preachers to preach the Bible. Politics never saved a soul. The cross of Jesus saves everyone who is saved. Preach the Good News of Jesus!

Here is the greatest reason why preaching the Bible is better than preaching politics:

The Bible never changes – it is true for all people at all times. Politics change. There is no hope in politics. Jesus is hope!

I believe our country is in deep trouble and headed the wrong way. I am in deep disagreement with many of our leaders. I think the president is wrong. But I am not planning to give these misguided politicians my valuable preaching time.

The Gospel is the Truth!

The Truth will set you free!

Jesus is the Truth!

Let’s just preach Jesus.