So grateful to those of you reading this extended blog series. This is such important stuff to the future of our church and I don’t have a lot of places I can share this and none that I can share in this amount of detail. Thank you for reading and being such a key part of our church! I pray you’ll be able to share this with others and help us all catch God’s vision for where we’re headed. Needless to say, please make sure you read the previous parts before diving into today’s.
Ok so far we’ve looked at the struggle of a pastor wanting to make a difference, loving people and out of answers. In God’s perfect timing, He connected us to a group of pastors who want to serve other churches and help them be effective in the Great Commission. What came out of our process was not what we thought would come out of that process.
I’m not sure I mentioned this in an earlier post, but you should know that for several years now, many of our ministry staff kept serving faithfully yet wondering secretly if we were missing something. We were committed to being innovative and tried all kinds of things. In fact, besides one thing I didn’t want to even talk about, we tried everything else we could think about. (That one thing, by the way, is likely where this blog series will end after a few more installments, sorry to tease you, but I need to bring you along in the process so you can see what I saw (that I didn’t want to see!)).
If you haven’t yet read part 1, please do so, as the journey is important to the conclusions.
So last summer I had a phone call with Doug Parks. Actually, I should go back a little ways. I typically watch, read, listen to whatever I can get my hands on re:best practices— churches or ministries who are effective in God’s mission etc. I am always looking to learn, adapt and integrate. One webinar I watched was from the Leadership Network and on it the lead pastor mentioned a “dashboard” that they use to determine how they are doing as a church. This “dashboard” found a way to measure things that were previously unmeasurable (or so I thought) and was a tool that could be used by God to help us go forward. In fact churches who were using this had experienced major breakthroughs! I quickly shot an email to the presenter and asked about this. He said, “you really should talk to my executive pastor, Dave Smith as he’s the expert on that stuff.” So I connected with Dave and after a short conversation I was put in touch with Doug Parks. Doug is the cofounder of a ministry called “Intentional Churches”. They come alongside of churches and help them. I was skeptical, as believe it or not, there are a ton of people out there trying to sell you something or give you the latest “quick fix” to your church challenges”. (Remember, I was feeling like we needed a break through, as nothing seemed to be having the intended impact. However I wasn’t about to fall for some gimmick.) I was very skeptical throughout the few phone calls we had. There were however two things that caught my attention. One was their track record – they told me about specific churches who had seen double or triple the impact in just 3-4 years! (And they put me in touch with the pastors of those churches!) And secondly, they weren’t selling a product, there was no quick fix, no video program, no book to read. What they specialized in was a process. A process where our leaders, our pastors, our staff could gather in a room for 2-3 days and be lead through a discovery process. We (not some consultant) would discover what is holding us back, we would creatively dream about next steps and we would develop teams and initiatives to put in motion. Then after the “process” they would provide us with a coach who would travel with us for 12 months helping us along the way to follow through on what we said we’d do and navigating through the road blocks.
So I’m not sure where to really discuss this topic, so I figured I’ll start here. So those of you who make your way to the blog will get some insider/ behind the scenes Grace Church info in the next few posts. So where do I begin?
Well ya know it’s been almost 10 full years that I’ve been the lead pastor at Grace. I was brought here by the search team/elders/congregation and told to “help us reach people who aren’t here yet.” This resonated with my heart and I got to work day one. I made my share of mistakes, moved too quickly at times, moved to slowly at others, acted with courage and boldness at times and fear and timidness at other times. But in all of what we did, we never deviated from a mission to help people take one step closer to loving Jesus and loving others. This meant we needed (and continue to need) to strengthen the faith and action of believers in Jesus. It also meant (and means) we need to be intelligible and relevant to those who are either not yet believers or people coming “back” to church after a long hiatus. This has caused us to adjust our music, our sermons and pretty much everything from top to bottom. I’ve never believed what I was told, “either you need to be a church that is effective for new people OR you can be a church to help believers grow, but you can’t do both!” I just don’t buy it. The early church successfully did both and I think it comes down to never watering down the Truth, but communicating hard truths in a way that people can understand them and respond to them (and a little humor never hurt :)). To be honest, I find a lot in common with those who don’t know Jesus and those who do — we are both seeking life, meaning and purpose and so we can speak to that longing which is really what it means to be human, am I right?
Babylon was an ancient city dominant in its time. Daniel and his friends were part of a group of Jews who were exiled to Babylon, a culture completely foreign to the one they knew. As we’ve been working through the message series, we’ve used Babylon as a metaphor for our current culture in America. Babylon was populated by a polytheistic culture which worshipped many different gods. And because of many exiles from different cultures that were incorporated into Babylon it was also a pluralistic culture. As Daniel and his friends arrived on the scene the thought of worshipping one God was a foreign concept to the king and people of Babylon.
We live in an funny time. Everybody seems to want to do whatever they want without being held accountable by anyone. Irresponsibility seems to have moved from being a teenage thing to being a “people thing”. And this culture has made it’s way into churches and the lives of Christians. The scary thing is we are often unaware of it. And unless we decide to first of all admit/notice how far we’ve drifted from God’s design on this topic and then take steps towards God’s best we will continue to experience the same fall outs relationally and personally that the rest of the world experiences.
God cares about how we relate with one another. The Bible is full of practical and insightful wisdom when it comes to relationships. There is a design from the designer for how we are created to relate. However, just as in practically every other thing, sin has corrupted the design. We relate with sinners, in fact every relationship we have is with a sinner. While that let’s no one off the hook, it should make us all a little more patient and full of grace towards each other. And it should make God’s Word a more readily accessed text one connection. Not only does God provide us with wisdom to navigate relationships, but He provides to the power and transformation to all believers in Jesus. There are some who are moderately successful at relating using Godly principles without God (because they are still true!) however, the real power comes from the Spirit of God at work in us and through us in our connections with each other.
It may just be the circles I travel in, but I have not met anyone who doesn’t want to grow, get better or become who they were made to be. Now the desire to grow doesn’t mean that everyone grows. There are lots of reasons why we don’t grow. I will say intentional action in the right areas has major impact, but sometimes we are unclear about what those actions should be and to be honest, they are often very individualistic. So without knowing your story, let me offer one of the simplest and best ways to set yourself up for growth. Start by “creating space”.
There are a number of things that keep us from the life God has for us. We live in a broken and sinful world. The levels of anxiety that we are all dealing with is at an all time high. We have become more self-oriented than any generation before us. Those of us who are Christians (followers of Jesus) often settle for an immature and shallow faith that is ill-equipped to face the realities of the world around us. Over the last few years I’ve researched a number of things related to facing anxiety, mature faith and pain and brokenness. I started to see a pattern emerging related to the topic of worship.