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Thursday, 10 April 2014 19:34

Reasons to Join in a Church

Reasons to Join in a Church

Or reasons to go to church

Related to Jesus—Church is a place…

1. To worship God publically and publically show our commitment to Him (Ps 96:3). If we do not declare His glory publically, what does that say about us? (Matt 10:32)

2. To tune our worship to truths about God that we might not otherwise declare of Him (Ps 96:1).

3. To serve God and His people and be a part of the work He is doing (Phil 2:13).

4. For God to teach us from His Word using trained shepherds who do carefully teach the text. (1 Cor 4:6)

5. To join with God’s heartbeat—God is about His church and if we're not about His church, how can we say we have fellowship with the Holy Spirit?

6. To obey God’s commands to " not forsake the assembly together" (Heb 10:25).

7. To bring our tithes and offerings before the Lord (Ps 96:8).

8. Where God reigns rather than Satan.


Related to Others—Church is a place…

1. To join with the body of Christ and strengthen them in their service to the Lord.

2. To encourage others by our presence. We encourage others letting them know that they, their ministries and the things of God are valuable to us.

3. To experience the flow of God's grace amongst His children (Eph 4:16).

4. To use your unique gifts and fulfill your unique calling, not as a lone-ranger but joining with the work God is doing in and through a church (1 Cor 12:7).

5. To be equipped for the work of service (Eph 4:12).

6. To learn to bear with the weaknesses of other people that you might otherwise not associate with.

7. To be a part of God’s family and learning to love the 'family of God' even when they are not ‘ideal’ people.

8. To learn of needs of others so that we might pray for them (Eph 6:18).

9. To learn our obligations to other believers, to ourselves, and even to non-Christians.

10. To fulfill the “one another” commands such as love one another, serve one another, bear one another’s burdens, be hospitable to one another, etc. We cannot obey these commands unless we have a clear role in the body of Christ.


Related to Yourself—Church is a place…

1. For God to work in us (Phil 2:13).

2. For God to shape us to be the people He calls us to be (Eph 2:21).

3. For to find friends that are “closer than brothers” (Prov 18:24).

4. For us to be built up in love and good deeds (Heb 10:25).

5. For us to find comfort during our times of needs (2 Cor 1:2-5).

6. For us to find others who can give us counsel and wisdom from the word of God (Prov 15:22).

7. For us to keep spiritually balanced and therefore spiritually effective. One of Satan’s main tools to sideline the Christian is imbalanced Christianity. Attending church, being sharpened by others, involves grinding off the burs of imbalance and inflexibility.

8. For us to draw upon the strength of others when we are weak (1 Thess 5:14).

9. To find people worth modeling after/emulating (Phil 3:17).

10. To learn from a man of God bringing the Bible to bear on you specifically and not a mass audience.

11. To develop life-long relationships with godly/wise people whom will help guide you in your walk with Christ.

Published in Blog

Intentional Ministry

Developing a “Vision Statement” for Your Church (Ugh, the term “Vision” is so annoying)

Introduction:

Imagine this familiar scene: Your church is having a late night leadership meeting. During the meeting one member has a great idea that they can’t wait to share. This person is bubbling up with enthusiasm for their idea. They finally get their chance to tell the whole group and...whoosh, you can feel the life being sucked out of the room. This good-natured person is certain their idea would solve all the problems. But instead it falls flat. It's DOA. Not well-received. Not embraced.

What happened? Often, the root stems from a lack of unity around the mission, objectives, goals and tactics of an organization. More than likely, the person’s “great idea” was actually a “tactic” (more on that below). In their mind, their tactic satisfied the goals of the organization, its objectives, and its mission. But the rest of the committee couldn’t see the connection or didn’t believe it would be effective. Perhaps they had different goals in mind. Perhaps they had different objectives. Perhaps, even, they had a different sense of the mission of the church.

When this occurs, the results can be disastrous. Hopefully the unity of the group absorbs this challenge and handles the moment with kindness and forbearance and manages to press forward. But all too often these disheartened committee members are so discouraged by having their “great idea” rejected that they resign from the committee and perhaps leave the church.

The solution to these problems can often boil down to good, clear leadership. The church needs a clear, objective plan of action. The church needs direction. And the leadership board is tasked with establishing the mission and objectives while working with the ministry leaders to figure out the goals and tactics. Without this formula; the pursuits of the church often end up being driven by expedience, ease, or whoever has the strongest personality and most influence. The church ends up being led by arbitrary forces that can be hit or miss in terms of effectiveness, rather than proceeding according to a prayerful intentional plan of action.

The church needs leadership to develop a plan for intentional ministry. This happens when the leaders prayerfully determine the “right” things to do, and then work with the ministry leaders to fulfill these objectives. This produces unity and joy within the church body.

This essay are my thoughts on how to develop a plan for intentional ministry.

Is this about developing a “Vision”? Below are some of my thoughts about how to unify the church around a common mission statement, set of objectives, measurable goals and specific tactics. However, before I explain each term, you may notice the relative absence of the term “Vision”. This is because the result of the work that follows comprises the “Vision Statement”—I prefer to view this as intentional ministry because I find the term “vision” widely misunderstood and often confused with other elements that comprise well-thought through ministry.

Churches often misunderstand the difference between a “Mission” (and the ensuing objectives, goals, tactics) and “Vision”. Sometimes the church’s mission will even be called its “Vision”. This ends up further confusing the matter. What’s worse, sometimes churches will cast a “Vision” statement though it’s is really a list of tactics—things that the pastor hopes to do one day. It’s not uncommon for a pastor to be considered one who has lots of “Vision” just because he can dream up all kinds of things for the church to do. This is not having vision, it’s a pipe-dream and unless its tied to the church’s mission, objectives and goals, it ends up frustrating the rest of the leadership.

So again, the “Vision” is the overall picture of how to do the ministry of the church. It’s not a single element of the church’s ideas for ministry, it’s everything.

Mission Statements, Objectives, Measurable Goals, Specific Tactics

Mission: Before anything else can happen, the elders need to identify the “mission” of the church. The “mission” speaks to why the church exists. It is the fundamental purpose of the church. A good mission statement is ultra-succinct, not just to make it memorable, but because the mission is, by definition, the foundational purpose of the church.

Church mission statements will probably follow something along the lines that the church exists to obey and glorify God, build disciples, reach the community, etc. Although some churches might add additional thoughts, most mission statements will contain these elements.

Longer mission statements occur (I believe improperly) when they are cluttered with “objectives” and “goals” which we’ll talk about below. Objectives and goals are vital to the process, but they must be kept in their proper place. Likewise, sometimes mission statements are amplified with flowery verbiage. Not only does this make them unnecessarily long, but it decreases the power of the succinct mission statement.

Ideally, the mission can be boiled down to a slogan such as “Exalt, Edify, Engage” or “Connecting _______ (the target community) to the Lord.” The slogan should be stated in a manner that encapsulates the mission statement in a memorable and easily understood phrase. This this is presented in the church publications (print and online) so that each member and visitor understands the mission and can carry it forward in their own lives while telling others about why they should come to that particular church.

Once the mission is framed out, the leaders needs to prayerfully determine what objectives they need to accomplish in order to fulfill their vision.

Objectives: Objectives frame out how the church will fulfill its mission statement. It’s about what the church does. It answers the question: what must we do and be in order to fulfill this mission statement? Sometimes this is called the “purposes” of the church. Objectives (or purposes) of biblical churches consists of things like worship, instruction, fellowship, evangelism, and service. They can also contain affirmations of core principles of the church. They may even contain the kinds of ministries offered, or the manner in which they are offered.

Objectives demonstrate how the church fulfills the mission. The “mission” covers why the church exists, the objectives covers how the church does this.

Goals: Once objectives are established, they need to then be broken down into measurable goals. Goals are the detailed items that need to accomplish the church’s objectives. Goals must be specific, measurable and attainable. A goal that is unmeasurable is at best an “objective”, but more likely just a hope, dream, ambition or desire. Either way, an unmeasurable “goal” is not a goal.

One of the most common ways to establish goals is to do a S.W.O.T. analysis. S.W.O.T. stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. During this phase, the leaders need to list each objective of the church and prayerfully discuss its Strengths: what has the Lord given and blessed? Weaknesses: how can we develop the church to meet this objective? Opportunities: where has the Lord given us solutions that moves us forward in reaching the objective? Threats: are there real-live issues or problems that might threaten our ability to reach this objective?

In working through a SWOT analysis, the leadership can begin to assess the goals needed for the upcoming year. Goals should be those that can truly be attained. Unrealistic goals end up discouraging those in leadership. (In some cases, “unrealistic” goals are actually objectives and can be put in that section).

Along these ideas, when formulating goals, various items ought to be considered. For instance, the elders should have a clear sense of what God expects of a mature Christian. This can include matters of knowledge (e.g theology, Christian living, etc), aspects of personal piety kinds & frequency of prayer, certain passions (for the lost, homeless, widows), etc. The leadership should also discuss what the church wants to accomplish in local and overseas missions. Moreover, when thinking about goals, the elders can (and should) work with the ministry leaders to prayerfully identify what the specific ministry needs to accomplish.

Sometimes goals are too “high”—they might be measurable and attainable, but not likely achievable with the current dynamics of the situation. Perhaps the ministry leaders lack the skill to accomplish these goals. Perhaps the facility simply can’t support these goals. In this case, the goal needs to be pulled from the overall vision statement so as not to needlessly discourage the church and/or leaders. They can, however, be a part of the leadership discussion for forward thinking down the road.

Likewise, goals should be framed keeping spiritual realities in mind. Leaders need to avoid falling into the trap of establishing attendance numbers as goals (e.g. that the Sunday School ministry needs to have 100 people coming out). Ministry is a spiritual endeavor. We must factor in the battle between the work of God and the work of Satan. Faithful ministry infused with God’s grace might not achieve man’s number-driven goals. It might be unwise and impractical to require the youth group to grow by 50 kids next year. If the youth group is actually teaching biblical truth, there may instead be an uprising of students who reject the group. Conversely, it is possible for a youth group to grow (and thereby “succeed”) because it is actually being unfaithful to the church’s overall vision statement. Thus, generally speaking, ministries should avoid using attendance numbers as goals. They can, however, establish goals for the content taught, the number of events offered, or staff training, or the kinds of ministries & programs offered, etc. Therefore, goals need to be framed in terms of spiritual objectives while avoiding attendance goals.

This whole process can be facilitated with a brainstorming session(s). During this session, the mission and objectives are reviewed and potential goals are discussed. Generally they can be added to the list—regardless of their merit in a brainstorming fashion. Then they are discussed in terms of best fulfilling the church’s mission and objectives. Finally, the leadership prayerfully decides which “goals” best become the action plan for that particular ministry during that particular year.

Lastly, as mentioned already, the church board should discuss the ministry goals on an annual basis. Often a leader will want to accomplish a certain “goal” that is not feasible for a variety of reasons. This goal can be tabled, or placed on the long-range planning list, for a future year evaluation. If the leadership board evaluates this vision statement on an annual basis, then the members can have a sense that when God provides, that goal might be revisited. This allows for maturing & developing thoughts to be folded into the action plan of the church. This also preserves unity because one leader’s passion might be put on hold for a year (or more) but then as the other leaders come to see the need, or as the dynamics allow, that tabled goal may one day be put added to the Vision Statement. In some cases, a particular goal may be placed on the goal list not as a “goal” to accomplish, but rather the goal is for the board to come to a unified conclusion as to whether or not that goal should be on the church’s future list of action steps. Following this procedure, Lord willing, unity will be maintained along the way.

Tactics: Next, the board needs to work with the ministry leaders to set in place tactics that can be implemented to accomplish those goals. Tactics are the specific action items that will bring about the goals. They can range from theoretical to ultra-specific. This is where the elder board can meet with the ministry leaders, explain the church’s vision and objectives, and work with the ministry leaders to establish goals and tactics that fulfill the mission and objectives.

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for ministry leaders to skip over objectives and goals and go right to tactics. This is where disunity begins to rear its head. Good leadership is needed—not to control the ministry leader’s thinking, but to affirm the mission and objectives of the church and then help identify tactics to accomplish the goals. Without building on this common ground; tactics can quickly become “this-is-my-favorite-idea” action points that leads to frustration and discouragement for everyone involved.

When leaders lay the groundwork of the church’s mission, objective and goals, working out the tactics becomes fun and exciting; particularly because many levels of leadership can be involved. The elders can give the mission & objectives to the ministry leader. The ministry leader then calls a meeting for his or her ministry team. They go over the mission and objectives (and goals) as given by the elders, but then seek to establish tactics that fulfill the church vision. In this way, each ministry has the freedom and latitude to let their gifts, skills and desires fold into the overall direction of the church.

Evaluation: This final step is as important as all the preceding ones—without it, the above items are a waste of time and energy. Intentional ministry means establishing the direction of the church and then making modifications along the way. Thus, every year the ministry goals and tactics of the church should be evaluated to determine their effectiveness; not to criticize ministries and leaders, but to ensure that the church is actually accomplishing its mission and objectives. Without evaluation, churches get bogged down in sacred cows and the classic “this is how we’ve always done it” kind of thinking. Tactics that don’t work need to be discarded. Goals that have been met need to be celebrated and replaced with new ones. New ideas need to be folded in. New dynamics need to be identified. With each passing year, the church will move the body forward in attaining their mission and objectives.

This is intentional ministry: establishing the mission, identifying the objectives, determining the goals to fulfill the objectives, developing and initiating appropriate tactics, and then evaluating them for their effectiveness.

Communicating with the Church

Once the above areas of development are identified, the leaders can begin to map out the best avenues to teach these principles to the congregation. This instruction needs to take three primary forms.

First, the congregation needs to understand the overall objectives and purpose of the church. They need to understand that there are areas of spiritual development that God expects of them, and that they are accountable to Him to develop.

Second, the congregation needs to be taught on the particular objectives themselves. These items can be taught in venues such as Small Groups, Sunday School, conferences, etc. Each year, the elders should evaluate what was taught in light of what should be taught to confirm that indeed the overall objectives of the church are being furthered.

Third, the congregation needs to be told why the church is doing what it does (and not something else). Some goals for each ministry (probably not all) need to be given to the church and explained. The church needs to understand how that ministry operates in harmony with the overall church mission and objectives. This will help them know how they can support that ministry and keep it before the Lord in prayer. Once they see the intentional design for a particular ministry, some people may even decide to be involved furthering that vision statement. But they won’t likely get involved if they don’t know what the ministry objectives and goals are. Moreover, if they DO want to be involved in a ministry without knowing the church’s vision statement, they might be looking for a place to live out their own “vision” which leads back into the overall problem of disunity.

Communication of the overall mission statement is not just a matter of good organizational dynamics, it’s a matter of being diligent to preserve the bond of unity.

Conclusion:

Does this sound like a lot of work? It doesn’t have to be. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Several books, articles and handouts are already available to help in this process.

God bless you as you seek to closer align God’s church with God’s word.

So those are my thoughts, I’d love to hear yours.

Grace and peace, Russ


Mission, Objectives, Goals, Tactics Worksheet

 

What is the mission of the church?

 

What objectives must be in place to accomplish this mission?

1)

2)

3)

4)

5)

Take each objective and establish specific goals and tactics that need to be accomplished in order for that objective to take place.

Objective #1:

a) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

b) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

c) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

 

Objectives #2

a) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

b) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

c) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

Objectives #3

a) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

b) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

c) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

Objectives #4

a) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

b) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

c) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

Objectives #5

a) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

b) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

c) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

 

(1) Evaluation:

Published in Blog
Saturday, 04 September 2010 18:49

Church Sign Ideas

Current Church Sign Ideas

Holiday Sign Messages
Luke Sign Messages
John Church Sign Messages
Romans Church Sign Messages
Hebrews Church Sign Messages
Psalm Church Sign Messages


1 Corinthians Church Sign Messages (coming soon)

2 Corinthians Church Sign Messages (coming soon)

 

Some Church Sign Principles

One of the best ways that a church can interact with its community is via its church sign (aka the church marquee). Often they are movable type, often they are lighted, often they are the only way passersby know anything about the church. Often the only understanding your neighbors have of your church comes from the church sign. That is why it is extremely important to take it seriously.

Despite its importance, in my opinion it seems that churches misunderstand and misuse the power of the church sign. Often church sign messages are so trite that they are just plain annoying. Sometimes they are way too harsh. Sometimes they are clouded by "churchese" lingo that only other church-people understand. Sometimes they are just confusing.

I've been our church's "sign guy" for over seven years and we've been blessed with countless people who first "heard" about our church through the church sign. It's one of the most common reasons people first visit our church (our website is the MOST common reason people hear about us; you can read my article on Good Church Web Design here). Some of our most committed, core people decided to first visit years ago because of our church sign.

But like many other church-sign-message-creators, I know what it's like having to come up with a message each week. I've had to come up with our church's message over 350 times. I know what it's like to go through the classic bouncing around steps that sign creators struggle with--hunting across the internet, buying church sign message books, flipping through Daily Bread Devotionals. Eventually, I pitched all that stuff and began just looking through the Bible. Having been doing this so long, as being that I am a pastor and have seen the tangible fruits of this ministry, I've developed some pretty concise thoughts on what churches should be doing with their church sign. What follows is my "Philosophy of Church Sign Messages"--I sincerely hope it blesses you and strengthens you in serving our Lord as you serve your community.

Know the Purpose
The most important point to understand about the church sign is its purpose. The church sign serves as a running dialog between the church and its neighbors. Since many of these neighbors drive by the church sign every day, a good church sign develops something akin to shepherding or discipleship. Each time your neighbors drive past your church, they will instinctively read your sign and take in its message. Over time, they will build an impression of who you are and what you're about. So with this daily exhange with your neighbors, what should you communicate?

Put Up God's Word - Because it Fulfills the Great Commission
To me there is only one answer and it's obvious: God's Truth. Now I have some biblical reasons for this. First, when you read Christ's final words to the apostles, Jesus laid out the master plan of what were to be doing in Matthew 28:19-20. His familiar commands was to: "Go into all the world making disciples..." That word "making disciples" is just a single verb in Greek that means "to disciple." Therefore, Christ's final commands were to disciple the nations.

In light of this as the final mandate from our Lord, I'm often surprised at how rarely I see churches posting God's Word. What a perfect venue to teach scripture to this hungry world. And yet churches seem to love posting cute messages that don't say anything of value. Compare the value of messages like "A sharp tongue will cut your own throat" and "Forbidden Fruits Makes Message Jams" with this one from scripture: "Jesus Is The Radiance of God's Glory - Hebrews 1:3". Which one honors God more? Which conforms to Matthew 28:19-20 more? Scripture just has beautiful weight that the cute/coy messages don't have.
God's Word has enough profound and sublime truths in it that we don't need to make up our own cute/coy messages. 

So if you are planning to disciple the nations, your marquee should contain the information God wants to convey to the world. The church sign messages should primarily be the words of scripture that apply to the general public. You should be putting up portions of the Bible that teach your neighbors about God. My hope and goal for our church sign is that because of our messages, the residents in our community have a more refined, indepth knowledge of the Lord just by virtue of driving by your church daily for years.

Put Up God's Word - Because it is the Means God Uses to Regenerate Souls
So once again, I believe that nearly all messages need to be directly tied to scripture. There is another important reason for this. If you look up James 1:28 and 1 Peter 1:28, you'll see that it's the Word of God that brings about regeneration of the soul. God wants us to be about disseminating His truth. Therefore, I seek to make my signs as close to scripture as possible. That way, if the person were to really take it to heart, they'd be taking the actual words of God to heart.

Put Up God's Word - Because it Teaches People Where to Go in Scripture
When I post scripture, I also like to bring the community verse-by-verse through the books of the Bible. This doesn't mean I cover every verse, but I do work through entire books from start to finish. This is why I have those other links at the top of this article--they are lists of passages designed for church signs that sequentially work through individual books of the Bible.

I know it's a bit of a long shot, but I do believe that there will be some people who will notice that I keep tying messages to specific books of the Bible. My hope is that after several weeks/months, they will actually have an idea of what the Bible book is about. I'd be thrilled to hear that someone's interest in Romans or Hebrews or John was piqued by our signs so that they actually broke open their Bible and read for themselves.

Along these same lines, I know first hand that many unbelievers (and some believers too!) view the Bible as a really thick book and they have no idea of what it contains. They may have heard that it has some great stuff in it, but for the life of them, they have no idea where to find it. Putting up God's Word tells them that the Bible has the real answers/truth their is looking for.

Therefore, another primary goal I have is to post the gems of scripture so that people can see for themselves that God's Word is full of rich and glorious truths. I am very selective on what verses I post. There's no sense in posting difficult, inscrutable verses that only confirm people's wrong view of God's irrelevance. For instance, recently I embarked upon taking our community through the Gospel of John. It didn't take me long to realize that so many of the truths we cherish as believers just don't make sense when boiled down to a church sign. I ended up having to pass over many/most of the best passages. Which brings me to my second point: 

Don't Post Fire and Brimstone
If we are discipling the nations, let's think through the normal process of discipleship. As a pastor, when I meet with someone to disciple, I  start with where they are at and then use God's truths to bring them to the next level. The same applies to church signs. Let's not find the most inflammatory verses to post--we don't do this in normal conversation or ministry, likewise let's not do this with our church sign either.

For this reason, I strongly suggest not putting up verses like "Repent or Ye Shall Likewise Perish." Certainly that is true, and certainly its what people need to hear and understand. Yet throwing this in the face of your commuting neighbors fails the basic discipleship principle of shepherding where you lovingly lead people along towards the Lord. Even when Christ said those "Repent" words, the whole culture was ready and primed for the coming of the Messiah. John the Baptist had been laying down the foundation of repentance for years. So when Jesus said "Repent!" it was in the context of the whole culture expecting His arrival. At this point, we need to realize we're working in communities where they don't even believe God exists, let alone that they need to repent of breaking His laws. But if we spend years putting up biblical principles, over time their hearts will be plucked by the Holy Spirit telling them that yet again, they are not following principles from His Word.

So the church sign message needs to strike that balance of not being overly harsh and "gotcha" but still giving the truths the world needs to hear. This is where my "through a book of the Bible" method really comes into play. If I am working through a book of the Bible, seeking out nuggets that are spoken to all people, I will often find truths that are comforting, encouraging, etc. Occasionally, I'll find truths that are strong and weighty. If I have already established a rapport with my neighbors, these "harsh" messages will be within a book that has many other truths as well. I trust that our neighbors will say, "wow, that's a strong message" but then say, "But then again, it's from that Roman's book and their messages are often very encouraging and meaningful to me. Maybe that harsh message is something I need to consider just as much as the encouraging ones!" So a strong message has to be in the midst of a long conversation where the reader has learned to trust the church's voice. However, if all I do is post "Turn or Burn" messages, the community ends up tuning out our church as being full of cranks.

Don't Be Trite, Coy or Kooky
This brings me to another important point-- the church needs to have a coherent/cohesive message. Generally, the most common mistake I see with church signs is a lack of a coherent "voice" or message with the community. I would imagine that many of these churches have wonderfully dedicated volunteers trying to come up with something to say. They might find some cool saying, or some coy catchphrase, or some gotcha saying, or something the pastor wants--the end result is that if it sounds good it gets posted. This may bring relief to the person having to come up with a new sign message all the time, but the voice ends ups being more schizophrenic than comforting as they fold in a morass of hopeful, trite, harsh, boring, and confusing messages. 

The most egregious example would be a message that I've seen more than once: "Forbidden Fruit Creates Messy Jam." That's coy and cute, but horrendous for a church sign. What in the world does that communicate to your neighbors? I can only imagine what it tells people: For the hard rocker, it just says your too trite to be trusted. For the wayward profligate, it says that you won't accept them. And in general it just says you're strange.

The same goes for wording such as "Join us for our CH_ _ CH--what's Missing, U R" Ugh. Why would I want to go to some place that's so unstable that they require me, a complete stranger, to fill in what's missing? Aren't they complete in Christ?

I wish I could call up these churches and explain to them that the world is not looking for cute, coy messages. At our church, we often have people tell us that they first decided to come to our church because of our church sign. I believe one of the reasons is because we don't use coy little phrases.
Now, I'm sure that the average passerby doesn't think this deeply about these kinds of signs which further reinforces my point--using trite messages actually teaches people to just to ignore your church. Rather than be ignored, I want people to read our church sign every week in hopes of gaining wisdom, teaching, inspiration, etc. I want them to begin thinking of us as a place they can readily find truth about God.

So going back to my main premise, good church sign messages distill God's word into a manageable portion that universally speaks God's necessary truth to unbelievers. For instance, right now our church sign says, "Come to God to Find Grace and Mercy - Hebrews 4:6". Compare that message with a local church's sign that also currently reads "Life has no pain that heaven can't heal." Our message cites chapter and verse (they almost always do) and it's a truth that can actually change a person's life. If they heed that message, they would be coming to God for grace and mercy. Now the other church sign could be good in theory, and it's not the worst I've seen by a long shot (there is also a church that currently says "The Gospel of the Wizard of Oz" -- I have no idea what that's about). But anyway, in the former case, I'd never post it because:

1) it doesn't really make sense
2) it offers a platitude for very real problems using a phraseology that I just don't think unbelievers can understand
3) it's not directly tied to scripture
4) it seems to be saying (to me at least) that death is better than life (while that is technically true, our immediate high school communities have had about 8 suicides in the past two years, so I'm not looking to bolster that idea in our area).

Don't Scold
Going on, I think the church should NOT scold the community or making political statements. We're to be about the Gospel, and while politics is important, our mission is to be the pillar and ground of truth in the world, not the pillar and ground of political controversy. Likewise, until the Lord regenerates a person, they will likely have horrendous political views and why make that a barrier to them coming to Christ? When they surrender to Him, their views on many issues will change, so leave that the the work of the Holy Spirit and not the church sign.

Invite People to Your Events
Another common message that I have on our church sign is essentially: Join Us! I often put up things we're doing to invite people. While it would be nice if people actually came, that is not my primary purpose. The reality is that people don't usually just walk into a strange church for an event. But constantly posting the events at the church tells the community that there is life in our church and that we actually WANT them to join in this life. Likewise constantly inviting people communicates that we genuinely will welcome them when they finally decide to come. I believe we've had visitors who decided to stop in to our church directly because we invited them from the church sign. 

Change The Message Frequently
Lastly, church sign messages should change frequently, preferably weekly (which is what we do). If we are truly discipling the community, then each week is a new opportunity to impart God's word to the world. Likewise, a weekly change communicates that your church is crisp, professional, trustworthy and that you've got your act together. Churches that leave the same message up for 3,4,5,6 weeks at a shot just says "Ho, hum, no worries, I'm just looking to fill this space, pay no attention, I don't really care if you read this or not anyway, just go about your business and we'll all be fine, thank you."

Feel Free to Use Our Church Sign Messages
So all this is to say that I have posted at the top of this page many church sign messages that we have used. Keep in mind that these are my "rough draft" messages. My process is to prayerfully work through a book and jot down some ideas (which are these) and then from here I give the messages to our sign volunteers who post them every week. It would be too much time for me to recreate my monthly lists that we actually post, and with so many "Join Us" messages, it wouldn't be helpful anyway. So these are my rough ideas, though usually they go up just as they are first conceived. There are a handful of messages that I've listed here that didn't actually make it to the marquee, but I include them because perhaps they would be useful in your situation.

Thanks for reading, I'd love to hear your feed back and ideas. If you have some messages that you'd like me to post, email them to me and if they make the cut, I'll give you credit.

All for God's Glory!

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The Purpose of Worship

Jesus declared that God’s people would worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24)—that is, that they would worship God in their spirits according to His truths. Worship must captivate our hearts, it must feed our souls, and it is true worship when it is in accordance with His truth. Worship is giving God adoration and praise for things that are true of Him. If what is being proclaimed is not true, then it is not worship. Likewise, if what is being proclaimed is not praising Him, it is not worship. It is fundamentally not man-centered, but rather God-centered as the elders lead those in attendance to give God the glory, honor, and praise due Him (1 Timothy 2:7-8). Worship recognizes who He is and what He has done and offering to Him our lives as worship (Romans 12:1). All parts of the church service (and all of our lives) must be a continuous offering of the sacrifice of praise to God from our lips (Hebrews 13:15) and from our hearts with reverence and awe (Hebrews 12:28).

There is continuity between the Old Testament and the New Testament regarding the primacy of God’s people focusing upon the Lord and His word. In both the Old and New Testament, God’s people assembled before the Lord to learn His statues (e.g. Deuteronomy 1:6; Nehemiah 8:1-8). In the very first recorded worship assembly of the Jews, Moses and Aaron gathered the Hebrews before the Lord. Exodus 4:30 says, “And Aaron spoke all the words which the Lord had spoken to Moses.” The next verse shows the people’s response, “So the people believed…then they bowed low and worshipped (Exodus 4:31).” A similar event occurred in Exodus 24 where Moses recounted the words of the Lord (Exodus 24:3) and the people committed themselves to obedience (Exodus 25:7).

Deuteronomy 4:10 repeats this same idea, God tells Moses: “Assemble the people to Me, that I may let them hear My words so they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children (Deuteronomy 4:10).” Throughout scripture the people assemble before Him to accomplish two primary objectives: 1) to learn of His word and 2) to sincerely obey it with their whole lives. Note the following examples: Exodus 19:7-8, 24:1-7; Leviticus 8:5, Leviticus 9:6; Deuteronomy 5:27; Joshua 1:16; 2 Chronicles 34:14-33. The idea of God’s people gathering together before Him is carried through to the New Testament. Paul urges Timothy to “give attention to the public reading of scripture, to exhortation, and to teaching (1 Timothy 4:13).” Repeatedly Paul exhorts Timothy to pay attention to his teaching and doctrine (1 Timothy 4:6, 11, 16, 5:20; 2 Timothy 2:15, 3:14, 4:2).

God’s people often went astray in the Old Testament when they failed to know the scriptures. For example, in Hosea 4:6 God rejected the leadership for not accurately teaching God’s Word, “My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being my priest.” God promised His supplicant people, “I will give you shepherds after My own heart, who will feed you on knowledge and understanding (Jeremiah 3:15, emphasis added).” Jesus, when speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well disassociated the entire Samaritan nation from God when He said their worship was invalid for their lack of knowledge of God (John 4:22).

Why such an emphasis upon teaching the scriptures? So that we might be obedient to Jesus’ final command to teach the world “to observe all that I commanded you (Matthew 28:20).” Jesus’ commands are given to us in the Word of God. Paul said that he was a steward, literally a galley-slave, of the Word of God (mysteries of God) (1 Corinthians 4:1). In the next verse, Paul declares that he must be found faithful to this calling (1 Corinthians 4:2). Paul is simply a servant of Christ, obeying the Lord, like Christ the Lord spoke about in Luke 17:10, “So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.”

Not all activities of mankind that calls itself “worship” is true worship. There are accounts in the Old Testament where people gather together for “worship” in a manner that does not please God. In Exodus 32, the people assembled before Aaron and said, “Come, make us a god who will go before us”—the people, dissatisfied with the time-table of the true Lord, demanded a God who met their desires. Then Aaron began working on a golden calf. When it was finished, they had a remarkable event, “So the next day they rose early and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink and rose up to play (Exodus 32:6).” What did the Lord think of this behavior? Exodus 32:9 says, “I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people.” What was the Lord going to do about this? Exodus 32:10 says, “Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them.”

God spared the people of Israel, but apparently Aaron’s sons didn’t get the message because Leviticus 10 records their sinful demise. Nadab and Abihu decided to modify the manner in which God was worshipped yet the Lord had already spent considerable time giving Moses clear, step-by-step directives regarding the modes and methods of acceptable worship. Ignoring the prescriptions of the Lord, Nadab and Abihu took it upon themselves to offer “strange fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded (Leviticus 10:1).” Presenting “strange” offerings was banned in Exodus 30:9. Although Nadab and Abihu apparently attempted to “worship” God, their disregard for His Word while worshiping displeased the Lord and resulted in their death. Leviticus 10:2 says, “And fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord.” Korah and his family perpetrated the same kind of rebellion in Numbers 16 which records their uprising to lead the Jews in worship and then their literal downfall as the ground broke open and consumed them alive.

Clearly from these examples, not all that activities that are proclaimed as “worship” are pleasing to the Lord. In Acts chapter 8, Simon the Magician was a man who was amazed at the power of God and even became baptized as a follower of Christ. Sadly, however, he is another example of an outward follower who didn’t truly worship. Simon ultimately received this rebuke from Peter, “You have no part or portion in this matter, for your heart is not right before God (Acts 8:21).” It was a matter of his heart. Indeed, God condemns the Jews in Isaiah 29:13 for not worshipping God with the proper heart: “Then the Lord said, “Because this people draw near with their words And honor Me with their lip service, But they remove their hearts far from Me, And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote.”

The point that “not all worship is true worship” is further underscored in John 6:14 when the people are wildly praising Christ to the point that they wanted to make Him king. They were ecstatic with emotional zeal (John 6:15). Yet the next day Jesus tells them their motives were muddied (John 6:26) and that they actually didn’t even believe in Him (John 6:36). Clearly, their enthusiasm in John 6:14-15 was motivated by something other than worship and exaltation of Him or God. Likewise, in Jeremiah 2:19 the Lord condemns the Jews because “the dread of Me in not in you.”

True worship centers upon accurate truth. Consequently, right teaching is the foundation of true worship. Why? Because we cannot worship what we do not know. Man is separated from God and apart from divine revelation, without God’s revelation we do not know what pleases Him. There is no true worship apart from scripture. Even in the Old Testament days, if a gentile wanted to worship the true God, they had to come to the Lord as a proselyte. They could not just climb up some hill and begin praying to God. They needed to be right with Him through the sacrificial law in accordance with His prescriptions for valid worship.

Some people might say that worship needs to be updated to meet the needs of the people. Some people might say that changes should be made to the worship service to reflect the changes in society. Even though cultural modes of worship are secondary to scripture, church leaders must be careful in what manner they change how the people worship God. 1 Kings 12:25-33 tells of how King Jeroboam sinfully altered the worship to meet the needs of the people. He said to them, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold your gods, O Israel, that brought you up from the land of Egypt.” And like Aaron centuries prior, Jeroboam led God’s people astray in an attempt to facilitate their worship. He put unqualified people in leadership (1 Kings 12:31), he catered to the people’s tendency to laziness in worship (e.g. not to go all the way to Jerusalem to worship), he capitalized upon the people’s lack of knowledge of the law (e.g. apparently they didn’t know or were inclined to violate the first commandment in Exodus 20:4 not to make an idol). And although he acted like he was trying to help the people to worship God, his intentions were to gain power (1 Kings 12:27). Although the people followed his leadership, he was not led by God but rather his own heart (1 Kings 12:33). His policies appealed to the masses, but they were abhorrent to the Lord.

Just because something seems right to us does not mean it is right before God. In Jeremiah 6:20 the Lord condemns their fancy worship services that are not centered on Him and obeying Him. Through the prophet Jeremiah, the Lord asks why they are so fixated on bringing imported frankincense and sweet cane before Him. It’s as if they felt that expense and luxury would somehow impress God. But the Lord answers, “Your burnt offerings are not acceptable and your sacrifices are not pleasing to Me.” Why? Because ultimately the character and teaching of the prophets and priests were centered on preaching peace (6:14), ignoring the ancient and good way (6:16), and not listening to the words of God (6:17, 19).

Likewise, in John chapter 4, Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well that the Samaritan way of worship was invalid. It was invalid because the Samaritans rejected all the books of the Bible except for Genesis through Deuteronomy. Since they had set aside the Word of God, their worship amounted to an ignorant, man-made attempt to worship God according to their wisdom, but not according to the truth of God. This underscores the point that the worship service needs to be founded upon solid teaching because not all “worship” is true worship (John 4:22). In order for worship to be valid, it must align with God and what He has taught in scripture.

Published in Ministry
Monday, 02 August 2010 20:54

Philosophy of Ministry - Introduction

Introduction

 

A Philosophy of Ministry is an organized statement of purpose for why the church exists and how it is to serve the Lord. It is a document that can serve the church in developing a particular vision statement for the church as a whole, as well as for individual ministries. The Philosophy of Ministry helps streamline the activities of the church by presenting a guide which helps determine if a ministry or method appropriately fits into how the Lord is working in His church.

Having said this, we hear talk of the importance of developing “a philosophy of ministry” and certainly every church and every pastor should have an idea of working action plan. A more probing question, however, should be asked and that is: “What is God’s philosophy of ministry?” How does God want His church to run? Since scripture does not command us to write down a philosophy of ministry or to establish a vision or purpose statement, nor are we commanded to pray and find out our specific “vision” for “our church”, the primary goal is to obey what God wants us to do. It would seem then, that any philosophy of ministry should really just distill what God has said to do and how it should be done.

Specific details and their timing will differ from ministry to ministry and setting to setting, but although the environment and circumstances vary, God’s overall purposes and intentions for the church will encompass every ministry situation. Likewise, each pastor and/or church develop their own set of beliefs and values about what is important and how ministry should be conducted. Thus while all philosophy of ministry statements should simply distill and reflect the teaching of scripture, they are to help explain and flesh out how that works in the lives of the church or individual.

The following document consists of several parts. These parts represent my current thinking regarding what God's Word has given regarding the leadership and direction of His church. I'd be glad to hear your feedback and thoughts. They are constantly being updated as I grow in my understanding of God's Word.

Warmest Regards,

Russ Brewer

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