Thursday, December 31, 2009
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Churches go through critical seasons of their life that largely determine both their longevity and health. Seeing, accepting, and navigating these seasons is incredibly important for the ongoing forward progress of the gospel.
This can also be done by giving the facility and assets to a church planter or a growing church, which requires the dying church to be more concerned about the name of Jesus than its own name, and the Kingdom over its church. Those churches that have this humility and wisdom should be cheered as model churches for the majority of American churches that have plateaued or are declining and need to have a vision for a faithful and fruitful future.
- Gestation: In this phase, God calls a leader (or leaders) to begin a new church and begins to clarify the specifics of their vision. An initial core of people is gathered, a meeting location is secured, some ministries begin to form, and funding is acquired.
- Birth: In this season, the church goes from being a concept to a reality, opens itself up to invite in the greater community, and focuses its attention on evangelism, growth, and implementation of new systems and leaders.
- Infancy: In this season, the attendance settles into a somewhat stabilized pattern, longer-range planning begins, new programs are added, and administrative structures grow to prepare for numerical growth and evolving vision.
- Adolescence: In this season, church attendees begin rising up into positions of greater leadership, church government begins to form, and church attendance and financial giving begin to increase.
- Maturity: In this season, additional staff is added, the church gains confidence that it now has sufficient stability to exist indefinitely, church government and leadership are solidified, church attendance and giving become strong, and the church is now independent and able to self-govern and self-finance. It is also common for churches in this season to purchase their own facility.
- Parenting: In this season, which ideally would be during the first year of the plant, the church is ready to reproduce itself by giving leadership and monies for the purpose of starting another gestation phase and repeating the church planting cycle. This results in the birth of a new congregation, likely in connection with other church planting churches networking together for the cause of church planting. The unique element here is that the church(es) sponsoring the new church plant have a vested interest in praying for and holding accountable the new work since they have directly sacrificed for it.
- Grand-parenting: In this season, a church has planted enough churches that it begins to see third and fourth generation church plants birthed.
- Death: In this season, a church is unhealthy and does not see conversion growth or attract young leaders. It thus faces a critical decision between two options. One, the church can deny its impending death, which may be many years out, sell off its assets such as land to prolong its death, redefine its mission to defend its death, and simply hold on as it slowly and painfully dies, often rewriting the best years of its history so as to feel significant and successful. Or two, the church can embrace its impending death as an opportunity to resurrect.
- Resurrection: In this season, a church knows it is dying, or at least that it is not as healthy and fruitful as it should be, and humbly decides to shut down its organization and replant the church. This can be done by hiring a new entrepreneurial pastor to start over with the assets and with the freedom to kill programs, prune problem people, and decide whether to upgrade the facility, which is usually suffering from deferred maintenance, or sell it to use the money for a more strategic facility.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Monday, December 21, 2009
The ways of destroying the church are many and colorful. Raw factionalism
will do it. Rank heresy will do it. Taking your eyes off the cross and letting
other, more peripheral matters dominate the agenda will do it-admittedly more
slowly than frank heresy, but just as effectively over the long haul. Building
the church with superficial ‘conversions’ and wonderful programs that rarely
bring people into a deepening knowledge of the living God will do it.
Entertaining people to death but never fostering the beauty of holiness or the
centrality of self-crucifying love will build an assembling of religious people,
but it will destroy the church of the living God. Gossip, prayerlessness,
bitterness, sustained biblical illiteracy, self-promotion, materialism-all of
these things, and many more, can destroy a church. And to do so is dangerous:
‘If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is
sacred, and you are that temple (1 Cor 3:17).” It is a fearful thing to fall
into the hands of the living God.
HT: Tim Challies
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Thursday, December 10, 2009
You can follow THIS LINK to download the toolbar to your own computer. Be careful though, all the handy links and tools can be addicting!
Friday, December 4, 2009
Now that our son Asher is in the world Blair and I begin the multi-faceted, multi-year training process. Part of that training is to teach him how to submit to our authority and ultimately to God’s authority. Blair and I already have husband/ wife discipleship time when we read Scripture together, we discuss the Scripture and I explain it for application, and then we pray together. Gradually Asher will be included in this time as he grows. I understand this to be my responsibility as the head of my home. It is also my responsibility to bring my son into the weekly congregational worship of our church. This comes to a tension I’ve already had to deal with. I appreciate our diligent and caring nursery workers but we intend to train Asher to worship from the pew. We know will be a challenge but we’re thinking about the big picture so that the challenging years will have a purpose (and an end in sight). I’ve also gone on record with several about not having a children’s church for the post-nursery years (4 years and up). This is not popular and in fairness it is a new way of looking at things for some. I came across a response from Dr. Voddie Baucham to a question about bringing children in worship as opposed to sequestering them in the nursery or a children’s church type program.
QUESTION: Most churches send the children to the nursery to create a “more worshipful environment”. How do you conduct worship with disruptive children?
RESPONSE: “We encourage all families to bring their children into the sanctuary. Cooing babies don’t bother us one bit. We recognize that some infants will need to be taken out for feedings, etc., and we have no problem with that. However, we do not provide a nursery. The Bible frequently mentions children in the context of the corporate gathering of God’s people (Deut. 31:12-13; Ezra 10:1; Matt. 18:1-5; 19:13-15; Eph. 6:1-4; Col. 3:20). Moreover, we believe it is important for children to worship with their parents, and to be taught how to sit through the service. Nurseries tend to hide problems that need to be corrected. Children who cannot sit through a service need training and discipline, not isolation. Moreover, if these children cannot sit through the service, they are probably giving their parents fits at home (thus their desire to dump them off at the nursery on Sunday morning). We patiently teach inexperienced families how to walk with their children through this process and it blesses their home, their marriage, their relationship with their children and the testimony of the church.”
Saturday, November 28, 2009
I'm also very thankful for my wife Blair. She said around 4am this morning during one of our many trips to calm baby Asher that this was about "learning a whole new level of selflessness". How wise and how true! I'm so humbled by my wife's strength. She is truly a model of meekness which is harnessed strength. So here we go on a whole new chapter of our life together and the first chapter of Asher's life. We covet prayers, words of encouragement, and of course, any sleep you can loan us!
Thursday, November 19, 2009
When I think of a church's specific and clarified mission or vision it is hard not to think about the Apostles in Acts 5. They were boldly preaching the gospel and getting a lot of opposition for it by the Jewish leaders. The Sanhedrin by and large tragically rejected Jesus as Messiah and Lord. The Apostles were brought before the High Priest to face charges of preaching the good news of Jesus Christ after they were told not to. The High Priest said in Acts 5:28, "We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching." Now how's that for a mission or vision statement?? How about... our vision is to fill our city with the teaching of God's Word!? Can you imagine a city filled in every dark corner with Biblical teaching? That's pretty impressive and should be the goal of every church. Our church is in Port Arthur, Texas and my prayer is that Port Arthur would become filled with the teaching of Biblical truth!
Monday, November 9, 2009
Sunday, November 8, 2009
John Piper on why his church uses the ESV
Daniel Wallace on why not the KJV
This communal witness is also the church's charge to keep. The way we worship, the way we serve one another, and the way we live and speak bears witness to the world of God rule over and in our lives. Our witness is not in a wall and it is not in programs, buildings, but in our community built on the Word of God. I long for this community fleshed out in genuine relationships. I'm so thankful for friendships in my church family but there are still so many who are strictly event-attenders (morning worship, Sunday School, etc) and not invested in each other's lives. I long to see the kind of authentic community throughout our membership that is not built around attending programs and events but is reflective of what Luke described in Acts 2 or Paul in Romans 12. Of course this only happens as we are constantly nourished on Scripture. I love what John Piper said of his call to ministry, "I am enthralled by the reality of God and the power of His Word to create authentic people." Amen.
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
HT: Jim Hamilton
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Monday, October 19, 2009
Ultimately God draws people to Himself. He does so through the Church's obedience to share and live out the gospel. We've got to be serious about this as a church. It calls for sacrifice. It calls for diligence. It calls for investing time and money. It calls for a willingness to invest our lives into the lives of others. Kevin DeYoung offers five suggestions for reaching young adults- and not reaching them in a superficial way. It isn't by a program or a music style or by adding a staff member. Here are the five key things...
- Grab them with passion.
- Win them with love.
- Hold them with holiness
- Challenge them with truth
- Amaze them with God.
Go HERE to read the whole piece by Kevin DeYoung.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
HT: The Herd
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
The ‘living the Word’ part of my life and ministry is probably the hardest. It is always easier to look at other people’s lives than your own. However it is amazing that God always presents challenges to me and opportunities for application regarding the sermon I am preparing for during the week. He’s always pressing me to live it out. It is very convicting and sometimes frightening to think that my life and lifestyle can hinder people from hearing God’s Word clearly. While I know the Holy Spirit overcomes my own imperfections to plant the Word on people’s hearts it is still incumbent upon me to strive to “practice what I preach” and this can be tough.
The third part of my pastoral strategy (so to speak) is easily the most frustrating part but also the most rewarding part. Shepherding others to follow the Word can be really discouraging because when you stare at the text for hours you begin to form these expectations and ideals that everyone- including myself- is going to struggle to meet. I’ve had to be reminded over and over that sanctification is a process over a lifetime and it occurs in increments, day by day. Generally I get good feedback from my sermons and my leadership but whether the text is being personally applied or just theoretically agreed with is not certain. Still, the shepherding part of ministry is so rewarding. What a wonderful thing to see the Word reflected back from your people and that comes not only by preaching it, but by living it, and by shepherding them in it. Visiting the sick, listening to the hurting, and just building friendships provides those opportunities essential to helping the Word of God stick.
Well, there are thousands of better pastors and preachers out there but I’m not competing with them. My aim is to simply keep seeking to please Christ and follow His Word. So I’ll keep working at (with God’s grace) preaching the Word, living the Word, and shepherding others to follow the Word and just trust God with the results.
Friday, October 9, 2009
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Monday, October 5, 2009
Friday, October 2, 2009
>Big Issues in Academia...
- Open Theism
- Doctrinal Indifference
- Materialism & Worldliness
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Upon a visit to Switzerland recently he was arrested and is now- finally- facing extradition back to the U.S. to pay for his crime. Hollywood is of course in an uproar over the “injustice” against Polanski. It seems his cinematic brilliance and his humanitarian efforts should exonerate him from his crime. Whoopi Goldberg even went so far as to justify Polanski’s actions, "I know it wasn't 'rape' rape. I think it was something else, but I don't believe it was 'rape' rape.” So we’re rewriting the law books to distinguish between rape-rape and just regular run-of-the-mill rape of a 13-year old? Sick.
The victim has publicly forgiven Polanski but does this mean he shouldn’t pay the consequences for his crime? Apparently Tom O’Neill, the editor for Hollywood gossip magazine In Touch thinks it is absurd to hold Polanski accountable, "It's mind-boggling why they're still pursuing this. It just seems that the prosecutors in Los Angeles won't let go these many years later." He’s not alone. Hollywood big shots like Harrison Ford, Debra Winger, and uber-producer Harvey Weinstein are lobbying everyone from Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to demand Polanski not be extradited.
Weinstein argues in favor of Polanski because of what the famed director has endured in life, “It is a shocking way to treat such a man. Polanski went through the Holocaust and the murder of his wife, Sharon Tate, by the Manson family.” These were truly horrible things for anyone to endure but not justification for rape. Admittedly I’m no expert on the law and have no idea what further punishment should await Polanski (he spent 42 days in a mental institution), but I’m certain that he should face the legal process that is required of everyone else. One lesson that is apparent in this case is how our culture typically views and rationalizes sin. It is so important for Christians to be clear about what sin is and what the ultimate consequences are.
HT: Fox News and The Independent
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Monday, September 21, 2009
So why doesn't the local church reflect what the universal church contains- unity amidst diversity? Why is the Sunday worship hour the most segregated hour in America? These are issues that we need to be wrestling with as God's redeemed and we must strive to see such barriers erased in the visible Body of Christ for the witness of Christ on earth. Revelation 7:9-10 gives us a picture of worship in heaven that might make many congregants on earth pretty uncomfortable. How are we preparing for that worship service through our worship on earth. Here is a video presented by PBS that I encourage you to watch. It features Port Arthur native Dr. Rodney Woo who is the pastor of a multi-ethnic congregation in the Alief area of Houston. Perhaps the Lord will use this testimony to stir a work in our own city...
July 31, 2009 ~ Interracial Churches Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly
Shared via AddThis
Sunday, September 20, 2009
A couple weeks ago I caught Michael Jordan's Hall of Fame speech. The "wow" I felt upon watching the speech was not the same kind of "wow" I often felt watching him play basketball when I was in high school and college (I won't count the Washington Wizards years). Watching MJ play was to watch brilliance on the basketball court. I enjoy watching greatness and that is what his play was- athletic greatness. He dominated while winning six championships. His recent speech however was a different experience. Jordan was caustic, bitter, and cold. This was certainly not the legend that fans imagined. Of course during his playing days MJ cultivated an image as much as he perfected his game. He was a master at self-promotion. Fans bought into the idea of Air Jordan rather than the man himself. His speech demonstrated the man himself.
On one hand it was a rare glimpse into the true personality of a carefully crafted celebrity but on the other hand it was a tragic example of the emptiness that all the world's trophies ultimately hold. To be the basketball champion and multi-million dollar entity that Jordan became he had to be cutthroat in every way. This is the kind of man one must be to "gain the whole world". At the same time this is the kind of man that "forfeits his soul". After all his accomplishments Jordan showed lingering bitterness toward those who disrespected or underestimated him. On this grand stage he took the opportunity once again to dunk on the heads of all those who crossed him for one reason or another through the years. Here was a man who had reached the pinnacle of the earth's glories and reaches and there he stood... bitter and empty.
Back in high school I had a poster of Air Jordan. On the Hall of Fame stage MJ was a poster boy once again. This time it was not as a champion but as a tragic and cautionary tale of the fading glories of this world. True victory is not found in trophies that pass away but in the fulfillment that is found in Christ alone. I pray Michael Jordan will one day realize the greatest champion is not #23 but the Messiah Jesus.
- Mark 8:36, "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?"
Friday, September 11, 2009
As men God has given us a charge to keep- to lead out in our homes and in our church. We need to support each other, encourage each other, and hold each other accountable. Proverbs 27:17 says, "Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." On evenings such as last night I go home built up by the fellowship of my brothers and more strengthened by the assurance of their accountability and friendship to be the leader God has called me to be. It certainly makes me so glad and humbled to be the pastor of such men. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
1. I love that Blair is so gentle. This is a godly attribute that she exudes and I pale by comparison.
2. I love that Blair doesn’t waste words. I’m a talker and she is much more reserved so when she has something to say it is usually very intentional.
3. I love that Blair sees life through a Biblical worldview. It is essential that a married couple is on the same page here because your worldview shapes nearly every decision and value.
4. I love that Blair loves chocolate. We both enjoy the simple pleasures of life and one of those is munching on anything chocolate.
5. I love that Blair loves to cook… not only because it is a huge ministry to me in our home but because she’s just so darn good at it!
6. I love that Blair will occasionally and only with me burst into random song. It is both sweet and hilarious all at once cause deep inside I think she'd love to be a pop star.
7. I love that Blair let’s me watch ESPN on my lunch breaks and football on Sunday afternoon. She’s not a sports junkie but is okay that I am and she’ll watch with me (likewise I watch a lot of Food Network and HGTV with her).
8. I love that Blair encourages me with Biblical truth in a kind- not nagging- way. I’m the leader of our home but her role as helper requires that sometimes I need nudges and reminders to lead out.
9. I love that Blair is my best friend. The best conversations, the best laughs, and the best stories are shared in our times together. The Lord has blessed us with great friends outside our marriage but our ‘hang-out’ times together are second to none (one tip to cultivate this time- don’t have a TV in the bedroom).
Okay sorry I can't keep it at nine... one more, I love that Blair will be the mother of my son in less than three months. She will be an amazing mom and I wouldn't want to raise a child with anyone else in the world. Praise be to God, I am so blessed!
Friday, September 4, 2009
They still didn't know a lot of people in the church very personally and they had distanced themselves from friends of their past that were not edifying in their spiritual growth. So they expected a few family members, some co-workers, and a small handful of church friends. What they got was a sanctuary full and an overcrowded Fellowship Hall for the reception. They received a pile of gifts and cards as well as a stack of encouraging notes. Needless to say they were blown away and reminded of the fact that they are not entering this marriage without a loving support group around them. It really made me proud (in a grateful to God way) to be the pastor. It was so encouraging to see a sea of volunteers put together a beautiful reception. Many gave of their time and money to decorate the sanctuary and prepare food for the reception. The Body of Christ came together to give a young couple a solid start. It sure makes me a grateful pastor to see my church in one of its finest hours. I have no doubt that those same people will be standing there beside this couple and others to help them throughout their marriage- for better or for worse.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Monday, August 17, 2009
2. We had a great time hosting three other young couples at our home Sunday night. I’m praying for each of these couples that God would strengthen their homes and use them as leaders in our congregation.
3. I get to meet with one of those young couples this Sunday night because they are getting married in a few weeks and I have the joy of doing some pre-marital counseling.
4. I’m getting with other men in the church (and guests) at Buffalo Wild Wings this Thursday night for the first guys-only get together. “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).
5. The Lord has introduced me to another young man in the community that is not a believer but is open to talking more about the faith.
6. Football season is right around the corner. What everything has to be ministry-related? My Astros are spiraling and I relish getting to unwind on the couch every Sunday afternoon watching my Texans spiral too.
7. Blair and I watched the movie Bella yesterday afternoon which had a great pro-life and pro-adoption message (two things I’m really passionate about). I’m still thinking about that movie today and highly recommend it!
8. This Sunday’s sermon texts- Matthew 16:13-28 and Nehemiah 2 are amazing. I am having so much fun getting to exegete these texts and it will be even more exciting to teach them!
9. I’m having breakfast tomorrow with the senior adults of Ridgewood Church and my good friend Kyle. He’s asked me to bring a devotional and he’s quietly hoping I don’t forget.
10. Blair and I are now about three months away from being parents!
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
CH: "All good evangelicals affirm the centrality of the Word. Still, we have a severe problem of biblical illiteracy. How do we go from knowing the Word is important to knowing what the Word actually says?"
DP: "We have severely dumbed down the Word, and shown a lack of trust in the sufficiency of the Word in the way we preach. We find it necessary to supplement it with entertaining stories and quips or good practical advice for living the Christian life that are not based in the Word. This deficiency transfers into people content with a little "Word for the Day," in a devotional book at best, as opposed to deep knowledge of Scripture. We're trying to hit at the problem from a variety of angles at Brook Hills. First of all, in worship we're quoting the Word, singing the Word, and engaging in intensive study. We'll study 55 minutes to an hour. We try to really saturate the community of faith with the Word when we gather together."
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
The divorce rate among Christians is about the same as that among non-Christians. Approximately one in two marriages will end in divorce. At some point these marriages will for one reason of another sever the covenant they have made together with God. Let me stress something- this is a covenant they make not exclusively with each other, but the couple make it together and with God. Marriage according to Ephesians 5 is meant to be a unique display of God's glory. It is a matrix for presenting the love of God and the submission we are to have to God. So when a husband and wife head for divorce it isn't just their lives on the line (or the children or the millions of dollars the divorce industry costs the public); rather, God's reputation is on the line.
It may seem surprising that the divorce rate hasn't gone up in recent years. The 50% rate has held for a couple decades now. The primary reason there hasn't been a spike in this is because couples are opting out of marriage before they even make the covenant. Cohabitation among sexual partners and the practice of cycling through multiple sexual partners is greatly on the rise. While the church doesn't advocate this behavior and the Bible speaks very candidly against fornication and sexual immorality, do we encourage marriage enough?
Often I hear marriage discouraged among young couples. Wait. Wait. Wait. Make money. Enjoy life. Experience everything. Finish your degrees. Establish your career. It almost sounds like marriage is a death sentence. Live your life to the hilt and when you're all spent, give whatever's leftover to a spouse for the rest of your days. That's what we'd say if we were honest. We really should do a better job in the church (but especially in the home) of preparing young men and women for marriage. We just help them to see marriage as a goal worth striving for. It isn't a consolation prize. If we treat it and talk about it as such should we be suprised when it is so easily discarded?
- Here is an excellent and thought-provoking article from Christianity Today on The Case for Early Marriage.
- Here is an excellent interview by Mark Dever with Al Mohler and Josh Harris regarding Biblical dating, singleness, and marriage.
- Here is one, two, and three books I'd highly recommend on marriage.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
So it is necessary to think through the Biblically-driven vision for the church and particular ministry. What are the goals? What are the priorities? What are the needs? Probably the most important area of our budget plan is the “missions budget”. This is the money we designate to send out or support missionaries and mission efforts. This includes supporting missionary-sending agencies like the Southern Baptist’s International Mission Board. It includes planning for and funding short-term mission teams from our own church. It includes supporting local mission organizations. By “missions” we understand this to describe gospel work and church planting. Recently I read an article by Kevin DeYoung on important questions for your missions budget. Here are his suggestions which I find extremely helpful for good stewardship and wise planning…
1. Are we supporting 1 Timothy 4:16 kind of people? The missionaries we support must set good examples of godliness and be proven to hold sound doctrine.
2. Are we supporting ministry in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth? DeYoung says, “We should be engaged in all four areas of missions. Jerusalem: ministry to those like us nearby. Judea: ministry to those like us away from us. Samaria: cross-cultural ministry that may be close to home. Ends of the earth: cross-cultural ministry that is far away.”
3. Are we striking the right balance of word and deed in the ministries we support? There is a place for social ministries (disaster relief, hunger relief, etc) but never at the expense of sharing the gospel- which effects lasting life change.
4. Are we giving priority to long-term missionaries? Short-term missions is on the rise in churches and that is great, but there are certain limitations to short-term mission teams. We must commit support to those who are entrenched in a culture and community for long-term ministry.
These questions are good guiding principles. They will keep us on track and help us be more focused on the true nature of missions- particularly as we plan financially. I love the definition John Piper provides for missions in his book on missions Let the Nations Be Glad, “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man.” We make missions a priority because worship is the greatest priority and we go or support goers as missionaries so that worshippers will be made through the gospel ministry.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
To listen, view, or download Dr. Mohler's lectures on the "New Athiesm" CLICK HERE.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
This is an excellent and awakening video on the state of our nation and really the state of the church in our nation. Ken Ham is the President of Answers in Genesis and the founder of the Creation Museum near Louisville, KY. Click HERE to watch it free online.
"If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?" -Psalm 11:3