Remove Barriers to What is Most Important

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Recently, I had the opportunity to speak at Exponential on the topic of transitioning a church with small groups to a church with Missional Communities. A few asked for some notes on it and thought I’d do a few blog posts on it.

The first step in this process is to start with why and the win of this transition. The second step is to get essential leaders on board. Next you need to handle leaders who do not get on board in a loving way and finally, leaders lead by example.

At this point, many leaders shoot themselves in the foot because they have too many options.

At Revolution, we do two things: our Sunday gathering and missional communities. We don’t have a men’s ministry or a women’s ministry, we don’t do a bunch of bible studies and this is by design. The average person will give you two times a week for something at church. When you have too many options, people are unsure which is the most important thing.

The other thing churches do is they don’t make it obvious what is the next step from a Sunday gathering. Is it a group, is it serving, a ministry. When this happens, people feel paralyzed and instead of picking something (although proactive people do) most simply opt to not engage.

The other thing many churches fall into the trap of when it comes to MC’s is choosing to meet until Jesus returns. This comes from the idea that family never stops spending time together, so our MC’s must meet every week forever. First, families don’t spend every week together. Extended families don’t, people go on vacation, have activities, etc. Practically, this keeps men from engaging because men like end dates. In Tucson, the summer begins at memorial day and runs until the middle of July when school starts again (we are on a year round school calendar). Because of this, our MC’s take off June and July. We begin having sign-ups for MC’s in July so that they can start again in August. We also have ones that begin in January. We have them all start at the same time, instead of staggering them so that there is momentum to new things starting, new people have a chance to start fresh with everyone and it helps kick off a ministry season with excitement.

In your situation, you have to decide what is the next step, what is the order for people to best get connected and make that obvious. For people in our context who are skeptical about an MC, we push them towards serving as a next step, something that feels like a lower risk to them (this is particularly true for men who don’t want to jump into community). Whatever the order, make it clear, remove the barriers for people so they opt in.

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Making Decisions for with Your Target in Mind

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Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been exploring the ideas of vision for a church and if a church should have a target, what having or not having a target does for a church and how to determine that target.

One of the struggles for churches is to continue making decisions with their those they are best suited to reach in mind.

Here’s why: the church gets older.

All of a sudden, a church plant that started out reaching college students and single adults now are married, with kids. Families start attending. The crazy ideas they once had now seem ludicrous when you consider the businessmen, nurses, dentists and teachers that attend.

If a church isn’t careful, the leadership of the church will not have any decision makers who are the age of who they say their target is.

What do you do then? Make sure you have some decision makers that are in your target. 

For Revolution, if we are hoping to reach 20-40 year old men, we need to make sure are decision makers have some of those on the team. We need to run ideas by those in that age bracket. The older you get, no matter how hip you think you are, you are out of touch. I’m 35 and I feel out of touch with 21 year olds. This is why I spend time developing leaders who are in college, have students and singles in my MC. I’ve even run some ideas by 20-25 year olds to see what they think of sermon or video or song ideas.

What I’ve discovered is they have drastically different opinions than a 45 or 55 year old. This is not right or wrong, it just is. And, if your target is clearly defined, you know which way to go.

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Links for Your Weekend Reading

Links I Like is a collection of blogs, articles and books I’ve come across recently and thought they were worth sharing. Click here for past Links I Like.

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How God brings two seemingly different people together in marriage.

Many people wouldn’t put Taylor and me together. In high school, we probably would not have been friends. She probably would have thought I was a nice, boring, judgmental Christian kid; I probably would have thought she was a nice, lost, party-scene girl who guys like me are supposed to avoid. People like us, with our backgrounds and histories, are not supposed to meet, fall in love, and covenant their lives to each other.

Dan Black on What the best leaders do before bed.

While a morning routine is valuable, we should not overlook our nightly routine. The morning is about preparing for the day’s activities while the night should be about refocusing our energy on specific activities that allow us to relax and recharge. The best leaders have specific activities they routinely do before going to bed.

David Murray on 7 lessons from failure.

My failures are usually the result of over-confidence. When I’ve failed it’s often because I was putting too much trust in myself and not enough in God. A happy side-effect is that it has usually produced more prayerful dependence upon God.

12 important things about unchurched families.

Unchurched people feel no more guilty about missing church on a Sunday than you feel about missing synagogue on a Saturday.

 

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Book Notes | Raised?: Finding Jesus by Doubting the Resurrection

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Every Saturday I share some notes from a book I just read. To see some past ones, click here. This week’s book is Raised?: Finding Jesus by Doubting the Resurrection by Jonathan Dodson.

This book was incredibly helpful as I thought through my sermon for this Sunday.

This is a book I would definitely pass on to someone with questions about the resurrection and its validity. What I appreciated most was how it engaged all those questions, historically and in our culture today. Too many Christians take the resurrection for granted instead of engaging it. It is really a belief that is hard for many people to handle. I think if Christians actually stood back and thought about the beliefs they simply believe and listen to themselves from a secular perspective, they would hear how crazy we can sound. Yet at the same time, there is proof to answer those questions and doubts.

Here are some things I highlighted:

  • Humanity seems prone to settle for less. We choose pleasure over life-long relationships, comfort over lasting impact. Many people approach Christianity this way, instead of firmly grasping the life Jesus offers, which is joyful and full of risk, they settle for an hour on Sunday.
  • The mere scope of Jesus’ death sets him apart from any other martyr. Jesus’ sacrifice was not for a few, but for the many. His death was for people across ethnic, cultural lines. In Christ, we have a selfless death on behalf of all humanity.
  • He died to death sin, yes, but he rose to defeat death (Romans 5:15 – 21). Jesus’ crucifixion is set apart from all other martyrs because he did not remain dead. The grave could not contain him. In fact, he isn’t a martyr, he’s a death defeater.
  • Abundant life and purpose are restored in Christ. The life is the same: a restoring of deep intimate relationship with God. The purpose is also the same: reflect God’s image and be a blessing to the world. Jesus creates a new humanity that looks like him. If you are in Christ, you have resurrected life.
  • If Christ hasn’t been raised, the Christian faith is fiction and we are stranded in the fall of humanity, trapped in our imperfections (1 Corinthians 15:17).
  • If you doubt one thing, it’s because you believe another thing. If you doubt that a supernatural resurrection is possible, it’s because you have faith in the natural, that only natural explanations can account for our world. your doubt reveals where your faith is. In this case, your faith would be science. The religious person isn’t’ the only one who possesses faith. So does the secular person. One believes that Jesus rose from the dead; the other believes that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead. Both require faith. Both mean something for our lives and future.
  • Leslie Newbiggin said, “Doubt is not an autonomous activity.” Doubt is not self-sufficient. It cannot exist on its own. It does not live in a vacuum. Doubt is propped up by faith in something else. To doubt one thing is to have faith in another.
  • Instead of trusting in reason and experience, the religious person trust in religious activity for meaning and life. This could be in church attendance, spiritual disciplines, holy living, generosity, or telling others how many spiritual things you’ve done (Linnea). Acceptance and love from God becomes based on my performance. The sin under the sin is self-righteousness.
  • Jesus is the right target for our faith is because he is the resurrection and the life. It is important to grasp that Jesus is not asking for faith “in the resurrection” per se (a supernatural event), but for faith in a resurrected Christ. Jesus’ resurrection demonstrates his power over death, which also proves he uniquely has the power of life. By rising from the dead, Jesus is saying to the secular and religious person: “In your search for meaning, worth, acceptance, and love, I’m what you’ve been looking for. I alone can give you life. All that greatness, acceptance, beauty, love is all found in me. Your god-sized desire for intimacy is meant for God, the God of life. Faith in women can’t get you that. Faith in kids can’t get you that. Faith in a career or money can’t get you that. When we put our faith in the resurrected Christ, we redirect all our desires to their origin, like tracing divine threads of joy, meaning, and purpose all the way back to the source. Jesus isn’t scolding us for our desire to be loved, accepted, beautiful, or even experience greatness. He’s showing us that he, alone is where we find tru love, acceptance, beauty, and greatness.
  • If Christ has not been raised, we are stuck in a tailspin of desire and a life of misdirected faith in this life and the next. However, if Christ has been raised we have forever fulfillment of desire and the final target for our faith. The resurrection points us to eternal life in Jesus. Faith in Jesus will bear fruit not just in this life but also in the life to come. Receiving this promise of bodily resurrection life will be our final step into the resurrection. If Christ has not been raised, we remain in our sins and our faith is futile. But Christ has been raised; therefore, your faith in him will be forever fruitful.
  • There are some big assumptions in the gospel: we sin, Christ is strong enough to deal with sin, and that he was stronger than death – he was raised from the dead!
  • At first glance, the death of Jesus is easy enough to embrace. It is well documented that the Roman authorities crucified people regularly. The god-sized claim beneath Jesus’ self-sacrifice is what ruffles feathers. The claim that his sacrifice was on behalf of all humanity troubles both our pride and our intellect. Jesus represented all of us? What gives him the right? Who says we need a representative or sacrifice anyway?
  • Biblically, resurrection isn’t restricted to Jesus. All who have faith in him will eventually gain a resurrected body to enjoy a “resurrected” world.
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5 Things a Pastor MUST Do on Easter

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Sunday is the super bowl of the church year. We love Easter. It is the hope of our salvation and our world. In most churches, attendance will be higher than any other time of the year. Most unchurched people will be there than any other week of the year.

Here are 5 things a pastor MUST do on Easter:

  1. Check your heart. Confess your sins, keep yourself pure going into Easter. Make sure your heart is ready for what is ahead.
  2. Talk about the resurrection. You will be tempted to be cute and talk about something else for fear everyone knows about the resurrection. Don’t. The resurrection is our only hope. Without, Jesus is still in the grave. Sin and death can defeat us. The world will not be made right without the resurrection. Marriages cannot be saved, addictions cannot be defeated, identities cannot be changed.
  3. Challenge them. Don’t be afraid. Take your skirt off, step up to the plate and tell them, “Today is the day.” For some, they need to be challenged to come back. For others, they need to be challenged to follow Jesus. Men love a challenge. Don’t miss this. Don’t be cute and miss the men.
  4. Invite them back. I’m amazed at how many church services I’ve been to an no one invited me back next week. Tell them, “I look forward to seeing you back next week.” Be friendly, walk around and say hi to people. Lead the way in how your church should be welcoming.
  5. Put as much effort into next week as you did this week. Easter was great and you will be tired, but people will be back at your church on April 27th. Put as much effort into that. Hopefully you started a new series on Easter that they want to hear part 2 of. Be ready.

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Links I Like

Links I Like is a collection of blogs, articles and books I’ve come across recently and thought they were worth sharing. Click here for past Links I Like.

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Carey Nieuwhof on If you’re the leader, you are the lid.

Over time, the team and organization you lead will never grow past where you’ve grown. If you stop growing in an area, people who want to grow past that point will simply find another leader to follow.

Did Jesus have a wife?

Last week, the Harvard Theological Review released a much-delayed series of articles on the fragment. After a series of investigations undertaken by diverse scholars, the general judgment claimed by Professor King is that the fragment probably is not a forgery — or at least that it dates back to ancient times. The analysis suggested that the fragment dated from about four centuries later than Professor King had first suggested. This would place the fragment, if authentic, in the context of eighth-century Egypt — hundreds of years after the New Testament was written and completed…In her major article released last week, Professor King defended the fragment’s authenticity, but acknowledged that — all previous sensationalism aside — “It is not entirely clear, however, how many women are referred to [in the fragment], who they are, precisely what is being said about them, or what larger issues are under consideration.”

Thom Rainer on The narcissistic Christian leader.

Narcissism should not be said in the same breath as Christian. The former is love of self; the latter is love of God in Jesus Christ. The world of narcissistic Christian leaders is complicated by the fact that these leaders rarely recognize their problem. And the disorder may not be readily apparent to those who see them from a distance. They can appear, at least on the surface, to be brilliant and charismatic.

Tim Challies on Help my kids are looking at porn.

By looking at pornography your children have violated your trust and shown themselves unworthy of it. That trust will need to be earned and regained over a period of time as they prove themselves responsible and obedient. You will need to be actively involved in training your children to use their privileges well and to use the Internet and their digital devices without this kind of behavior. You need a plan that will account for their devices and their lack of Christian character. 

Brian Howard on How to avoid burnout.

 Burnout might seem to come out of nowhere, but it really doesn’t. Burnout is often the by-product of poor choices on the part of a leader. There are patterns that lead to Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual Collapses. These patterns involve not paying attention to what your body and soul really need.

Three kinds of shame.

Sin is muddy. When it splashes, we rightly want to clean it up. But sometimes our zeal to clean causes us to oversimplify sin’s muddiness by seeking trite answers for complex situations.

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Links I Like

Links I Like is a collection of blogs, articles and books I’ve come across recently and thought they were worth sharing. Click here for past Links I Like.

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Carey Nieuwhof on 5 ways to become a better leader as you get older.

It’s tempting to think you’ve paid your dues, worked long hours and have some accumulated wisdom that everyone should be grateful to benefit from, but this attitude is also your death sentence. Nobody likes to be around a leader who thinks they’ve arrived, and your value to the organization plummets when you adopt this attitude.

J.D. Greear on What do you do when your church is too big and don’t know your pastor.

Here is the heart of my response: Why is the Senior Pastor the one expected to administer all the pastoral care? Doesn’t that presupposethe very “cult of personality” for which multi-site churches are often criticized? “I need to be known by my pastors” is a legitimate request. “I need to be known by that pastor because he is special” is not.

In praise of long pastorates.

Brothers, churches are not stepping-stones. It is wrong to pastor a church looking out the window for a bigger or better opportunity to come a long. The souls over which the Lord has made you an overseer deserve your best. For that matter, the Lord demands your best.

Does God give you more than you can handle?

I think God has promised us another, more helpful way to think through difficulty. But first we have to make an honest confession. God often gives us more than we can handle.

Kevin Bacon explains the 80’s to Millenials. 

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Men, Your Son-in-Law Determines Your Legacy

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Last week, as I wrapped up our series Beautiful at Revolution, I preached on Proverbs 31. If you missed it, you can listen to it here.

One of the things that struck me is verse 23 when we are told what her husband is like.

There are many sides and applications to this verse.

The first is to women, which I blogged about here. The other is to fathers of daughters.

Many fathers talk a big game about protecting their daughters, yet when it comes down to teaching them about sex, fashion, modesty, who to date and marry, they cower in the corner.

Every man wants to know that their life will matter. Every man wants to leave a legacy when they are gone. This is why it matters how involved you are in your kids lives and what you teach them. When your daughter marries a man, your legacy will be determined by him.

This man, will teach your grandkids how to worship Jesus, how to read their Bible, he will teach them a work ethic, he will teach them about Jesus, money and generosity, sex and fashion. He will teach your grandsons how to view and treat women by how he will treat your daughter. He will treat your granddaughters about how men treat women by how he will treat your daughter. All of these things will be taught by him.

Now, think about how men are involved in who their daughter marries.

They often know very little about the man who marries his daughter. They only know that their daughter likes him, he claims to be a Christian and he came to ask permission for her hand. What a guy.

Sadly, this is typical and seen as a good thing and not even close to be able to know if he is worthy of your daughter.

Men, do more than this.

I’m not saying you should go on a date with your daughter, but be around her and the man she wants to marry. Watch him. Spend time alone with him. Ask him about his relationship with Jesus. Talk about theology and the gospel. Ask him about purity and sex. Is this personal? Yes. You know this from your life to be true, your sexual history dramatically impacted your marriage.

My hope for men is that they step up to the plate and serve their daughters in this way. You encourage your daughter in school, in a major, jobs to take, opportunities to spend time on. Then, when it comes to marriage we think, “That is her choice.” Everything you help her in is her choice, this one, marriage, is just the most important life decision she will make outside of following Jesus.

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Making Room for What Matters

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As part of our  Breathing Room series at Revolution I shared 6 simple ways to create margin in your life so that you are able to enjoy what really matters. If you missed them, here they are:

  1. Get a good night sleep. 
  2. Take a break every 90 minutes.
  3. Control electronics instead of letting electronics control you.
  4. Pay people to do what you hate.
  5. Life the life you want, not the life others want you to live.
  6. Use your schedule for your advantage.

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