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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Tony Morgan on Be intentional instead of excellent.

One of Willow Creek Community Church’s core values states, “We believe excellence honors God and inspires people.” I agree with that. This value has shaped Willow’s ministry through the decades. And, because Willow has embraced this value, many churches have followed their lead and claimed this value as well. Of course, we need to acknowledge that excellence is not a distinctive anymore–it’s expected.

Tim Challies on The dark side of Christian celebrity.

We have a love-hate relationship with celebrity culture. We who consider ourselves part of this New Calvinism hate the idea of celebrity, but have no clear idea how to avoid the reality. We say we hate a celebrity culture, yet stories about our celebrities dominate blogs and periodicals; a sure way to draw in massive amounts of traffic is to write about each new scandal connected to each of our celebrities. We see the dangers posed by a culture of celebrity, but also see that to some degree it is unavoidable. After all, there are men and women we honour and respect and look up to, who are worthy of our regard and worthy of the leadership we give them.

Al Mohler on Nelson Mandela and the Ironies of History.

When it comes to human rights and human dignity, Nelson Mandela has to be put on the side of the heroes, not only of the 20th century, but of any recent century. He is, as an ironic view of history would remind us, one of those necessary men. A necessary man who nonetheless is a man whose feet were made of clay, as his biography reveals very clearly.

3 ways to turn Christmas guests at your church into regular attendees.

Christmas visitors are not like normal visitors. Every year, a significant percentage of them will leave your Christmas services with good feelings, but no thoughts of returning. They came because it was the thing to do. They don’t expect to be back until Easter.

Michael Lukaszewski on What a pastor thinks. Totally agree with this and so do your pastor.

This post is my attempt to unpack a little bit of what goes on in the mind of a pastor.  At different times in my ministry, I’ve wrestled with each of these things.  Maybe I’m alone in my weirdness, but I have a hunch someone will relate.

Walt Mueller on 10 things to tell students about porn.

As a Christian, I am encouraged for the reason that this new push-back is testimony to the integrated nature of how God has made us. In other words, science is now telling us that something we’ve increasingly seen as benign or even virtuous is actually quite dangerous. God has indeed made our sexuality as a good thing. . . but we are indulging it out of the bounds of his plan. When we step out of the bounds of that plan, bad things happen.

Mark Driscoll on Changing trends in the American family.

The American family is changing, and it will never be the same.

Ryan Huguley on 5 ways to love your pastors kids.

Having a pastor for a dad has been a nightmare for many kids. Sadly, many pastors are careful preachers, but crappy dads. Sometimes, it is not the pastor-dad’s fault, but an overbearing, unhelpful, and hurtful congregation. My dad was not a pastor, but I had enough friends who had a pastor for a dad to know that it’s not easy. This is a critical issue for me as parent of three kids and a pastor of a young church. I want them to love Jesus. I want them to love me. I want them to love the Church. You may not attend my church, but if you read my blog, you most likely attend some church. So, here are five ways you can help love your pastor’s kids.

9 Reasons Values Matter to a Church

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  1. They determine ministry distinctives.
  2. They dictate personal involvement.
  3. They communicate what is important.
  4. They guide change.
  5. They influence overall behavior.
  6. They inspire people to action.
  7. They enhance credible leadership.
  8. They shape ministry character.
  9. They contribute to ministry success.

From Look Before You Lead: How to Discern & Shape Your Church Culture by Aubrey Malphurs.

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What Guides Revolution

For the last 2 weeks, I laid out 9 things that guide Revolution as a church. These are the things that we hold important as we think through how we do church.

In case you missed them, here they are:

  1. It’s all about Jesus 
  2. We value life change 
  3. We will stay simple 
  4. Excellence matters 
  5. Saturday matters
  6. Making it hard to go to hell from Tucson
  7. We want Tucson to be grateful we’re here
  8. We will expect guests
  9. We will target men

What Guides Revolution #9

Every church, organization or family has a list of seen and unseen things that guide decisions, what they value and how they function. Since we have so many new people at Revolution, I thought it would be good to share what guides us.

#9:  We will target men.

Whether you realize it or not, every church and organization has a target. I hear pastors say all the time, “We’re trying to reach everyone.” This sounds right and biblical, but is not possible. Whether a church admits it, they have a target.

What kind of music is played?

How loud is it?

What is the preaching like?

What is the dress like?

How much money and manpower is spent on kids and student ministries?

What time are the services?

These are just a few basic questions. Another way to figure out your target if you don’t know, look at who is coming to your church.

When we started Revolution, we looked at this idea and we looked at who we could best reach with the people already in our church, who was on our heart and who didn’t go to church. Across the nation, the least likely group to go to church are 20 – 40 year old men. So we set out to reach them.

When we think about sermon ideas, music, videos, how we do church, we filter it through the lens of a 20 – 40 year old man.

We still try to reach women, we still try to reach men over 40. But the reality is that we are best positioned and feel called to reach this group. The reality is that women will go to something men like when it comes to church, but it rarely works the other way around. A great book on this is David Murrow’s Why men hate going to church. This book got us moving down this track. The funny thing is that if I didn’t tell you this was our target, you might not be able to tell. We try to do it in subtle ways, but the reality is women will go to church with a man, but it doesn’t always happen the other way around.

Here is what is funny about this, the only people to ever give us pushback on this idea are people who don’t attend Revolution. In fact, I can’t tell you how many women have come up to me and said, “This is the first church my husband likes.”

I believe that biblically, the husband is to lead his house, he is responsible to God for the spiritual well-being of his wife and kids and will one day make an account for this before God. Not the woman. This doesn’t mean that men rule over their wives in a domineering way or always get there. Men are called to love and serve their wives and kids. But they are also called to lead them spiritually. That’s what we want to do, call men to fulfill their roles and responsibility. We want men to be men.

What Guides Revolution #8

Every church, organization or family has a list of seen and unseen things that guide decisions, what they value and how they function. Since we have so many new people at Revolution, I thought it would be good to share what guides us.

#8:  We will expect guests

Every church would like to have guests, at least that is what they say. You drive by most churches and their sign will say “visitors expected.”

One of the things that has been in our DNA from day one is that we want to reach people. To do that, we need to have an expectation that people will come to Revolution or that we will bring people with us. But not only that, we must create an environment that will make people want to come back.

The reality is, whenever someone comes to Revolution, that is a gift, one of God’s creation that we need to treat with respect and honor God by being prepared for them. The reality is, God does not send people to churches that are not prepared for them to come. Why would God allow someone to enter a place that won’t honor God, that will give someone a bad taste in their mouth? If someone is ready to hear the gospel, God is going to send them to a place where they will hear it, be welcomed and get a good picture of who God is.

Do your church building and environment say, “We’ve been waiting for you?” One of the best compliments for us is when a pastor or a church planter comes to Revolution and says, “You can tell you’re expecting guests.” Awesome.

What Guides Revolution #7

Every church, organization or family has a list of seen and unseen things that guide decisions, what they value and how they function. Since we have so many new people at Revolution, I thought it would be good to share what guides us.

#7:  We want Tucson to be grateful we’re here.

There has been a question circulating through church leaders over the last several years that I think is a good one to reflect on:  If your church disappeared, would anybody notice? And if they noticed, would it be good or bad that they noticed? What would they remember you for?

We want to be a church that loves our city, that serves our city, a church that our city would be grateful to have as part of the city.

This is a huge dream and a daunting task.

One of the ways that we do that is by doing what we call missional life projects. This is where we serve other organizations in Tucson. We go to them and ask, “How can we serve with you, how can we come alongside of you and help do what you are doing?”

What Guides Revolution #6

Every church, organization or family has a list of seen and unseen things that guide decisions, what they value and how they function. Since we have so many new people at Revolution, I thought it would be good to share what guides us.

#6:  Making it hard to go to hell from Tucson

Our mission at Revolution is to “help people find their way back to God.” This means, we want to be God’s agents in Tucson to help people find their way to God and into the kingdom of God and out of hell.

To many churches play defense, let’s keep the world out. Yet, Jesus said in Matthew 16:18 that he is building his church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Gates were put up in the ancient world to keep things out, they were the defense mechanisms. That means, as a church we are to be on offense.

We put it this way, “We want to storm the gates of hell with our super soakers loaded.”

We will not play defense, we will not seek to keep the world out, we will be in the world bringing Jesus to the world. This means, at Revolution, we will do everything short of sinning to help people find Jesus and begin a relationship with him. We will challenge each other and hold each other accountable to building relationships with people outside of the church to help them find Jesus.

This is why Jesus left us here on earth (Matthew 28:18 – 20; Acts 1:8).

This also means that we will expect to grow. Throughout the gospels, crowds followed Jesus around. I believe that if a church points people to Jesus, they will grow, they should expect to grow. It is a law of the universe, if you aren’t growing you are dying. Our goal is not to be huge, our goal is to be healthy and help people “find their way back to God.”

What Guides Revolution #5

Every church, organization or family has a list of seen and unseen things that guide decisions, what they value and how they function. Since we have so many new people at Revolution, I thought it would be good to share what guides us.

#5:  Saturday Matters

I get asked all the time why I say Saturday night is going to be awesome? Because I go to church expecting God to show up and do something. I pray all week and pray through my sermon and prepare with the expectation that people are going to find Jesus through what we do on Saturday night.

We work hard to create an atmosphere where people, whether they’ve been Christians for 20 years or are still checking out Jesus or are skeptical, that they can feel comfortable, follow along and connect with God.

This means, we need to be building relationships with people outside of the church and bringing them, praying along the way, expecting God to do something in their lives at church.

This is why we’ve taken a huge leap as a church and why the Ingram’s took a huge leap to move here, to make Saturdays better.

We work hard to not only make our worship gathering great and give every opportunity to connect with God, but the same goes for our first impressions team and our planet rev. team.

Because, Saturdays matter.

What Guides Revolution #4

Every church, organization or family has a list of seen and unseen things that guide decisions, what they value and how they function. Since we have so many new people at Revolution, I thought it would be good to share what guides us.

#4:  Excellence matters

I’ve never understood this statement: “It’s good enough for church.” Translation:  “I think so lowly of God that I will give him my leftover crap.”

This does not mean that we are shooting for perfection, this means that God expects our best and we will give it to him (Malachi 1:6 – 14). This means that when it comes to sermons, music, drama, video, kids, first impressions, everything will be done with a level of excellence.

What do I mean by excellence?

Doing the best we can with what we have.

This means, we will work hard, practice and prepare well and when we do something, we will do it to the best of our ability. That is what is “good enough” for church. The best we can do.

What Guides Revolution #3

Every church, organization or family has a list of seen and unseen things that guide decisions, what they value and how they function. Since we have so many new people at Revolution, I thought it would be good to share what guides us.

#3:  We will stay simple.

When I was growing up, we were at church all morning on Sunday morning:  Sunday school and then church. Back for choir practice Sunday afternoon, then church. Back Wednesday night, throw in some other ministries and you are living there.

A few years ago I was in a staff meeting at a church I just started working at. The Executive Pastor said with a smile, “If you wanted to, your family could be at our church 7 nights a week.” I asked, “Is that good?” You should have seen the glares I got. Apparently, I didn’t know what was “good.”

One of the things that has driven us is to be simple. At Revolution, we want to do a few things and we want to do them well. When we got started, we looked at what the Bible said a Christian was, what they did, what practices they were involved in and then set out to just do those things (worship, teaching, serving, community, reaching out).

Right now, here’s what we do:

  1. Worship gathering
  2. Small groups
  3. Kids ministry
  4. Missional Life Projects (outreach/serving)

Someday we will add student ministry.

One of the things we are doing to stay simple is with small groups. They run during the school semesters. During the summer we are going to offer growth classes on topics like:  joining Revolution, finances, spiritual gifts, how to study the Bible, etc. By doing them in the summer, we are not adding another night to the schedule. We also do most of our missional life projects in the context of small groups in place of having a “normal” small group time that week.

As you can see from the list above, there are a few less things than the church you grew up in. This is intentional. Does this mean the list will always be this small? Not necessarily, but we are not going to do something just because another church does it.

When a new idea comes up we ask:  Will this help us reach our target (20 – 40 year old men), can we do it better than anyone else? If we can’t do it better and someone else is doing it, our stance is how can we support them and be a part of what they’re doing? The goal is not to grow Revolution, but to expand the kingdom of God in Tucson.