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.

The Problem with Guilt-Free Church

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I saw a billboard the other day advertising a church in the community. In huge letters, it said: “Guilt-Free, Grace-Full!” Having grown up in a spiritual atmosphere where guilt was used like a hammer against those trying to make spiritual progress, I find myself paying attention when I see a sign like that. I realize that many churches use guilt to control people and to get the kind of response they need in order to stay in operation. No one wants to be put on a guilt trip and most people will no longer tolerate that kind of treatment from church leaders.

But there is a problem with a guilt-free church: We are all guilty.

Our culture loves to deflect blame. We love to point at someone else: our parents, the government, our spouse – anyone but me! There is a significant move within the evangelical community to remove the sense of guilt from the lives of people. We don’t want anyone to feel badly about themselves. This is basically because so many people reject personal responsibility. But we ARE responsible. We have all sinned (Romans 3:23).

Here are some things to consider:

1. A feeling of “guilt” is required in order to be forgiven.

By guilt, I do not mean that we should beat ourselves up or feel as though we are hopeless. One of the definitions for guilt is: “a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc.” (dictionary.com) We must come to terms with our sin. This “guilt” can be defined as godly sorrow. An old fashioned church word for this is “conviction”.  II Corinthians 7:10 says, “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.” (NKJV)  Worldly sorrow is the destructive kind of guilt – godly sorrow produces repentance, which leads to salvation. We must first be aware that we are sinners; then we can be saved.

2. If there is no guilt, there can be no grace.

Back in the 80’s one of the more popular Bible verses I heard was “There is therefore now no condemnation…” (Romans 8:1) This verse was used to cover people who desired to do whatever they wanted, but did not want any of the associated guilt. The problem was, many people forgot the rest of the verse…”for those who are in Christ”. Once Christ forgives sin, there is no guilt; but until he does, we are guilty!  As much as some church leaders would like to be “all grace all the time”, be aware that God’s grace only covers those who confess their sins to Him. According to Scripture, not everyone is going to heaven, only those whose sins are forgiven. Pastors cannot let people off the hook for their sins. Churches who do this may enjoy growth for a season but the end results will be empty lives.

3. People deserve all of the truth.

Just because a dessert says it is “guilt free” that does not mean there are no calories. We can tell people that they will only feel good about themselves if they come to our church. But when the Word of God is preached and the Spirit of God is involved, conviction will take place. This is painful; people avoid it. But we should never remove the opportunity to for people to repent.

4. Don’t force guilt or grace.

These are properties of God; allow Him to do His work in the lives of people. Churches and pastors should preach the truth in love. They should not condemn or judge. Neither should they exonerate or liberate. This is the work of God. The church is only a conduit through which God works.

Think it over. The next time you feel guilty about something, don’t dismiss it as a guilt trip. Don’t find a preacher who will tell you how awesome you are. Pray and ask God to reveal any wicked way within you, and if He shows you something, repent and accept His free gift of grace!

Psalms 139:23-24 “Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.”

The Great Equalizer in Preaching

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You’re pouring your heart out. You preach like a man possessed (in a good way). You wax eloquent. And then it happens; you make eye contact with the one person in the crowd that can truly humble you – your spouse.

You can fake it with others, but not with her.

Possibly the most difficult part about being a preacher of the Gospel is that at least one of the listeners knows everything there is to know about you.  I think God plans it that way. The great equalizer for many preachers is that their spouse knows better.

It is easy; very easy to impress some crowds. Say the right things in the right way with your best preacher voice and you can wow the crowds. But when someone siting there knows the intimate secrets of who you really are, that is another story.

Preach about faith; she knows your doubts. Preach about prayer; she knows your prayer life. Preach about integrity; and she may smirk (inside).

I think God plans it that way. To keep you humble…to stay real…God reminds you that, no matter what you say, one other person there besides you and Him knows your bathroom habits.

I think the toughest part of being a preacher is that my wife sits there, amening me, nodding her head and being supportive, but knowing full well all my flaws. And still she graciously receives the Word. Quite humbling, I must say!  And good for us preacher-types, lest our arrogance get the best of us. Without these humbling realities, our heads would probably explode with pride. The way it is, it’s sometimes difficult to hold your head up while preaching when she’s in the crowd.

I’m thankful for grace from God and from my wife.

By the way, any preacher who won’t admit to this is either a liar or more spiritual than I am (which isn’t always saying much).

you may not like this but…it is truth

Living in south Florida is an adventure for a pastor. The people here are great, we love our church and friends are the best. But this is a very liberal place regarding issues of morality and sex.

I am responsible to tell people the truth, even when it hurts. At our church, we are finding, in increasing measure, that we need to say things to people that they don’t like, but that are necessary. Many of these episodes involve sex. It is common, I mean absolutely mainstream, for people to openly admit to having sex outside of marriage; cohabitation is the norm. There is no shame or guilt, and people are shocked when I share with them that this kind of behavior is not acceptable to God. And this happens very often within our church with people who know Jesus and study His Word.

I am so careful to speak truth in love. We try hard not to be condemning at our church. We are grace based and motivated by love. We are fully aware of the dangers of judging others – because none of us are perfect.  But I preach against sexual sins because it is covered thoroughly in the Bible. Heterosexual sex, homosexual sex (the Bible is against homosexual marriage), cyber sex, pornography – if you are not married – God forbids sexual activity. It doesn’t matter how old you are or how long you’ve been with your partner or the fact that you own a house together or have kids together. If you are not married, sex is wrong; the Bible prohibits it. I know that sounds like something from outer space in our culture – but it is truth.

Some people are shocked by this fact. They get offended. They get mad. They think I don’t love them. They think I am picking on them. And some of them leave, they walk away and continue with their lives. It is pretty easy in South Florida to find a church and pastor that will agree with them or ignore dealing with real issues. But most people just ignore what we say and go on about their lives. Please, if you are part of our church and are living with someone – we want you to remain as part of our church. But please listen to what God is saying to you. God wants to bless you and He will not bless a relationship that is outside of His will.

This all hurts quite a lot. It hurts to see people making decisions that are slowly destroying their lives. It is painful to lose friends because they think you are crazy for adhering to the Bible. I am troubled about this issue. It’s not going away, in fact it is becoming an even greater problem.

I have no choice. As a pastor, I have to navigate these treacherous waters. I will give an account to God one day for how I represented Him on these issues. I commit myself to tell the truth on these issues, regardless. I am not sorry for doing that, but I am sorry that it doesn’t always turn out well.

You will know the truth and the truth will set you free. (John 8:32) Be free!