12 Witnesses

Let these stones be a witness to what we have done here this day.

Missional Sermons

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Well, Skelly has officially started podcasting our sermons.  Right now we are beginning a series that will lay the foundations of transitioning from an Institutional Church to a Missional one.

In fact, though all four of the sermons currently online relate, the sermon from yesterday was called “The Missional Church” and it signified the begining of our big move that will take place over the next year.  We have been talking about why we need to change, but we are beginning to talk about what we need to do to change.

If you are interested, you can catch it on iTunes or just hit the mp3 files.

Special thanks to Aaron Steele for initiating and carrying out the technical stuff.  You’re awesome, Aaron.  Thanks.

Everyone A Missionary?

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Every so often I will link to an article from “Stepchild,” a former IMB overseas missionary who’s blog is titled “Missions Misunderstood.”  He will frequently expound some of the best stuff around that deserves your attention.

It’s that time again.

Everyone A Missionary?

At Skelly, we call us “Servant Messengers” instead of “Missionaries” because one is descriptive and the other carries baggage.  Anyway…

Transitional Markers: Unity and Disunity

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If you are going to be transitioning an organization, you will have at least three subgroups within that organization.  I identify them as: Inflexible, Need Driven, and Fast Movers.  Probably could come up with better names, but hey, this thing’s free, so you’ll have to live with it. ;)

The Inflexible don’t want to change.  They are happy in their current processes, whether those processes are effective or not, and they would rather keep what is familiar than to improve efficiency, even if it means the ultimate failure of the organization.

The Needs Driven are willing to go where you lead, but have legitimate needs in order for them to go.  They need to be equipped with principles, understanding of processes, motivation to experience discomfort as a price to be willingly paid for the success of the organization.

The Fast Movers are the counterpart  to the Inflexible.  They want change so badly, they are willing to force it through before the organization is ready; before anyone is equipped or motivated.  The ultimate failure of the organization is just as assured if these people are the driving force as if the Inflexible are the driving force.

The responsible leader will not allow the agenda or pace to be governed by either extreme (Inflexible or Fast Movers), even if it means alienating or losing them.  In fact, it is the epitome of naievitae to expect that everyone will come with you through a massive restructuring process.

On the other hand, you can never take lightly the committment of organizational members.  In many ways, the organization will exist because of the sacrifices made by some who are not ready for change.

It is the responsibility of leadership to help as many as possible understand that the organization will exist in the future because of sacrifices being made now by the current members. They must encourage as many as are willing to pay the price of discomfort for the future, whether the discomfort come from changing in ways they don’t completely endorse or from changing at a pace that is healthy for the whole group.

It is not that the leadership should attempt to keep the organization unified, but should recognize that it already isn’t and guide it to become so.

Mark Driscoll on Evangelism: Not Imposing but Proposing

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Small Groups

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Most churches that I know of who are utilizing “small groups” or “cell groups” don’t know why they are doing it, beyond “It seems to work among younger generations better than Sunday School or Sunday night church.”

I wonder how many really understand the dynamics of using small groups and what they are trying to accomplish other than substituting something new for something else.

Do you use Small Groups?  How?  Why?

What do you call them?

How do you train leaders?

How do you divide groups and when do you do it?

Where do they meet?

What do you do with children?

How are they designed to grow? (from new members joining the church funneled to the small groups, or from small group members drawing new people to the group from outside the church?)

Do you organize around age, gender, location?

Do you count them?  If so, how?

If you use small groups instead of Sunday School, do you take an offering?  If so, how do you get it into the church?

Just a few questions we are looking to answer as we get ready to look into small groups.

If you’ve got answers, we’re all ears.

Using the Super Bowl

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super-bowl-2009Even though the NFL relented from its harsh stance against churches showing the Super Bowl, our church decided that we would be better to spin out our gatherings to homes of members in hopes that unchurched friends might feel more welcome and more likely to participate.  We had two sites last year and branched out to 5 sites this year.  Also, our sites were age graded 1st – 5th grades were invited to the home of some faithful children’s workers so they would have something special and their parents would be free to mingle at their parties.  Youth went to another house, Young adults, Median adults and Senior adults all had other gathering places.

We like this model because it is a step toward decentralizing our “programs” and creating more opportunities for conversation.  Eventually, we would like to get to a place where each small group chooses how to incorporate our Missional values into its own gathering and use the Super Bowl as it chooses.  (We are not yet utilizing small groups, but hope to transition within the year.)

As I told the church the week prior, it isn’t about the game, but about conversations that build relationships that open doors to the Gospel.  It’s always about the Gospel.

Well, what did you do?  Why did you do it?  How did you do it?  What happened as a result?

Maybe this will help… (or the BGCO pt. 2)

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This is not primarily about the BGCO annual meeting, but I am following up on some stuff from there.

I have been seemingly driven to a point of amazing clarity about the reality of our world and the ability of us – Christians, Baptists, any other number of smaller collectives – to reach that world.

When I went to observe New Bethany Baptist Church in Buford, GA (Pastor, Marty Duren), one of the unique things being done there was that the staff was studying a book together and they discussed it after the calendar portion of staff meeting. The book they were reading was “UnChristian” by David Kinnaman and the Barna Research Group. A couple of weeks ago, Marty called me and told me to drop what I was reading, pick up that book and read chapter 4. That was eye opening.

Some amazing things were revealed to me. Primarily, though, that the things we often do as “evangelism” are actually counter productive. Check this quote from a section of myths and realities (pg. 71).

Myth: Anything that brings people to Christ is worth doing.

Reality: When you are talking dollars, there is no price too high for a soul. But the problem isn’t just cost. In our research with some of the leading “mass evangelism” efforts, we found that often these measures create three to ten times as much negative response as positive. [emphasis Kinnaman] In other words, imagine your church is considering mailing Bibles or videos or other Christian materials to homes in your community. Our research shows that the “collateral damage” of doing so – those whose impressions of your church and of Christianity would be more negative as a result – is significantly greater than the positive impact on those who will respond to these efforts. Moreover, such mass evangelism efforts are most effective with marginally churched adults, while outsiders are usually the ones who respond most negatively.

In other words, our effectiveness is with people who are already church members, but who don’t attend. So we can get them to switch to our church and not attend there. Brilliant. On the other hand, the backlash among lost people means that the things we often do in the name of evangelism actually serves to distance the lost further from the Gospel.

Hmmmm.

Then, I went to the BGCO and heard something about us declining. I have received confirmation from Randy Adams – prompt and very helpful – of the decline of Southern Baptists. Here is a quote from an article that was published in the Baptist Messenger (OK’s Baptist Paper):

In 1980, baptisms recorded by Oklahoma Baptist churches totaled 24,803. In 2005, that total had decreased to 15,916, a decline of 36 percent. When examined in five year increments, one discovers that the decline has been quite consistent over the 25 years, with largest drop occurring between 1980 and 1985. Even more telling is the fact that Oklahoma’s population has increased by 17 percent over the same period, a total of 522,594 people. Thus, the decline in baptisms is approximately 50 percent when population growth is considered. That means that we are baptizing half as many people today, as a percent of the population, than we did twenty-five years ago.

The numbers are even more telling when examined by age-group. The decline is steepest in the 18-29 age grouping, dropping from 6,226 baptisms in 1980 to 2,184 in 2005, a sickening 65 percent decline. Next is the 9-11 age-grouping, where baptisms have dropped from 4,687 to 2,798 for a 40 percent decline. In the 12-17 age-group the decline is 7,014 baptisms to 4,282 for a 39 percent decline. Among the 30-59 age-group the decline begins to flatten out at 12 percent, from 3,792 to 3,322. The only areas of increase in baptisms are those under six years of age, with a seven percent increase to 148 baptisms, and those over age 60, with a 13 percent increase, totaling 676 baptisms.

Upon hearing this, the fire that was being kindled in my mind about our ability (or lack thereof) to reach the lost had begun to be fueled. On top of that, I was directed by some church members to an article in the Tulsa World, Southern Baptists: New Law Won’t Change Ministry, about a resolution I was proud to support. The resolution was basically that we would put the Kingdom first when ministering to the lost – regardless of their situation. This is in response to HB 1804, which is designed to combat those who employ or aid illegal immigrants. The problem is that churches that “minister” to illegals could potentially be prosecuted for doing so – or that is the concern, anyway. The gist of the resolution is that we support the government, but ministry is our command in the Kingdom and the Kingdom (and the people to whom we are sent) are our first priority.

The interesting thing about the story is that it gives a bullet list of other resolutions at the end of a very positive piece and readers who are now allowed to comment take the opportunity to absolutely trash Southern Baptists, until one or two step in and mention the Disaster Relief work that Souther Baptists do. Check ‘em out. It’s eye opening.

As a result, I prepared my Sermon for this week: All Things to All People. Obviously, it is about giving up our rights to spread the message in a way that is comfortable to us. We are, in fact, compelled by Scripture to spread the message in a way that is effective at the sacrifice of our comfort.

At the end of the evening on Saturday, I was finishing up my power point when I went to check on my wife, working on a Grad School project. She was watching a You Tube video and it was, to be blunt, challenging to the core.

I want the video to be the last thing in the post so let me write my conclusion first. The world, our culture, is running away from us at light speed. It isn’t coming back. If we don’t drop every hint of baggage right now and sprint toward the future, we will be irrelevant before we know it. It is hard to recognize this reality, because life is still a lot like it was 50 years ago – lights, indoor plumbing, cars, phones – or even twenty years ago – microwave ovens, home computers, etc.

Anyway, we must recognize that we are rapidly changing. We can’t row a boat in an airplane age. In fact, we need to recognize that water, in this analogy, no longer exists, and boats only cause us to look insane to those around us. Don’t believe me?

Watch this:

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