Tuesday, October 30, 2007

invites to church

It is so cool to see our people at FWC with a renewed passion for inviting people to church! Our "Personality Profiles" series has been alot of fun. And there is a growing buzz of anticipation with each new week.

This Sunday morning I introduced myself to a young lady. I asked, "And how long have you been part of First Wesleyan?" She said, "Actually this is my first Sunday. A friend invited me because of the teaching series."

Folks that fires me up. There is a work that God is doing in people's hearts. We are gaining a new appreciation for how God has wired each individual for ministry. I can't wait to see what is going to happen this Sunday!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

silver cross gimmick

During WWII, there was a battle in Italy and a young soldier was under fire. He was running for cover and he dove into a foxhole with bullets whizzing over his head. Frantically he started to dig down deeper to make more room. He was scraping away the dirt with his hands. As he was digging, he saw something hidden in the dirt. It was a silver cross, left by whoever was in that hole last.

At just that moment, someone else dove into the foxhole behind him…with the bullets whizzing by. The soldier looked up and saw that it was a chaplain. Holding out the cross, the young soldier gasped, “Am I glad to see you! How do you work this thing?

People so often think there is some trick or gimmick to getting love from God. But I’m here to tell you, there is no secret code. It’s simple! God LOVES YOU.

You say, “Joel, you have no clue what I’ve done.” That’s true I’m clueless. But God has more than just a clue! He knows your whole story, inside and out.

And in spite of anything you’ve ever done, the Bible says “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” He wants to forgive you and give you a fresh start. He wants to empower you to live a NEW life, freed from the power that sin has over you.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

not such big ideas

Here's a recent article from Leadership Journal. Since my family is crazy about Bob and Larry, the subject matter tweaked my interest. But the real point was not about talking vegetables:

Six years ago, Phil Vischer revolutionized Christian family entertainment by selling 30 million Veggie Tales videos. He was running the largest animation studio between the coasts, and had dreams that his empire, known as Big Idea Productions, would become the next Disney.

But by 2003 his dream was over. After a heartbreaking court decision, later overturned on appeal, Big Idea declared bankruptcy, and Vischer sold the company's assets, including his computer animated characters Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber. His new book, Me, Myself, and Bob (Nelson, 2007) tells the story of Big Idea's rise and fall. We sat down with Vischer to talk about what he's learned.

What did you do after losing Big Idea?

About six months of rolling around and moaning, which is what you do when you wipe out. I also did a lot of reading and praying, asking God to sort through the wreckage and show me what I needed to learn.

Looking back, when did Big Idea get off course? Was there a turning point?

Big Idea was growing, but I didn't know how to manage it. It felt out of control. So, I turned to a popular business book, Built to Last by Jim Collins. I read through it like I had found Scripture. The book suggests a "big, hairy, audacious goal." I didn't think God had given me one, but the book said I should have one. So I made one up—one I thought God would like.

What was the BHAG?

I thought God would be pleased if Big Idea became one of the top four family media companies in the world. The goal came from my evangelical upbringing that said more impact is better. Better to impact millions at once than one at a time. Big Idea's aggressive growth, which came from the big, hairy, audacious goal, was ultimately its undoing.

When did you begin to sense something was wrong?

We were selling a gazillion videos and I was getting 400 fan letters a day, but one day I was reading my Bible and came across the fruit of the Spirit. It occurred to me that none of those things was present in my life. It didn't say the fruit of the Spirit is impact, large numbers, or selling lots of videos. I realized something was not right.

Where did you turn?

As everything was falling apart, I started reading a weekly study by Henry Blackaby. On the first page Blackaby more or less said, If what you are trying to do for God is not working, it may be because it came from your own head and not God. You may want to do something significant for him, but he just wants you to be obedient. That skewered my false gospel of impact.

How has your understanding of success changed?

I used to think people like Mother Teresa and Henri Nouwen were guilty of poor stewardship. God has given us limited time and resources and we have to help as many people as possible—not just one or two at a time. Mother Teresa should have franchised a system for feeding the poor on a massive scale. She needed an MBA.

Now I understand God has a unique journey for each of us with unique measures of success. Now I ask myself, Have I done what God has asked me to do? Am I walking with him daily? Success has very little to do with where I end up. It's not about measurable impact.

What advice do you have for pastors trapped in a false gospel of impact?

First, there is a danger in applying business principles to ministry. Businesses use numbers to measure success and ministries shouldn't. Using numbers to convince ourselves that we are doing God's will is dangerous. Second, remember that nothing is scripture except Scripture. We shouldn't look at a model another church is using and simply adopt it. Because God has uniquely led someone doesn't mean he is leading you into the same thing.

How are you employing these new ideas in your ministry now?

My new company is called Jellyfish Labs because jellyfish cannot choose their own course; their direction is derived from currents. As a Christian I should be thinking of myself more as a jellyfish than as a big studly tuna. I have a wall full of new ideas. But the moment I pick one and call it my dream—my big, hairy, audacious goal—I'm holding onto it too tightly. And that's a big change. God is now my dream, my deep desire, not what I can do for him.

Copyright © 2007 by Christianity Today International/Leadership Journal.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

house church research

While 20-somethings pull out of traditional churches, more people are leaving organized churches altogether, according to revolutionary pollster George Barna. Your new competitor is not the church down the street, but the house next door. Here is how Barna sizes up the House Church experience:

Average size of gathering: 20 people (including 7 children in gatherings with kids)

Gatherings including kids: 64%
Of those, kids meeting with adults for whole session: 41%

House churches meeting weekly: 80%

Average length of service: 2 hours

Include formal teaching: 76%

Eat as well as meet: 85%

Satisfaction with spiritual depth of the experience: 59%

Satisfaction with personal connectedness: 66%

Attenders who have met with their house church one year or less: 75%

—with info from Barna.org
Copyright © 2007 by the author or Christianity Today International/Leadership Journal.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

welcoming newcomers

This Sunday at First we're starting a new series and many people have been inviting unchurched family and friends. I hope we're ready to put on a smile and give lots of newbies plenty of southern loving and hugging.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

day with the big wigs

With all of the "NEWness" that fills every single day of my life recently, obviously the discipline of writing has waned. Hopefully you'll keep checking in on this site, because I will be getting back to it.

But these past weeks have not been uneventful. One of the craziest opportunities was last week's trip to Houston to spend the day at the largest church in North America, Lakewood Church.

Thanks to someone choosing to invest and pour into my life, I received this special invitation to an amazing leadership rountable. Along with a small group of about 30 other pastors, we spent about 11 hours in discussion with Joel & Victoria Osteen, Bill Hybels and John Maxwell.

I could try to unpack all the amazing events of the day and the ways my heart and mind were stretched, but in all honesty...it's an experience that I'm still processing. Suffice to say, I felt like a very small fish in a very big pond.

And I gained a greater appreciation for how God often wires effective leaders in very different ways. We don't all have to be alike. We don't all have to do the same things in the same kind of ways. We must, however, leverage our strengths to affect maximum impact for Kingdom advancement.

You and I are responsible for making the most of what God has given us. And fortunately, He doesn't leave us to do it on our own!