2 Keys for Doing Life Together

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, writing in The Cost of Discipleship, states, “On two separate occasions Peter received the call ‘Follow me.’ It was the first and last word Jesus spoke to His disciple. A whole life lies between these two calls.”

Could it be possible that those two simple, yet profound words hold the key for pastors who are desperately seeking solutions to overcome the dismal state of discipleship in their churches?

The call to Peter – and to other disciples – is one of single-minded obedience. Jesus was asking them – and us – to rely on Christ’s word – the Word of God Himself.

One solution to your discipleship problem?

Doing life together with spiritual depth yet practical wisdom.

THE QUICK SUMMARYThe Irresistible Community, by Bill Donahue

We all want a place where our stories matter, our voices are heard, our uniqueness is celebrated, our failures are embraced, and our hopes are unleashed. That kind of deep, life-changing community was modeled perfectly by Jesus and the ragged bunch of disciples with whom He chose to spend His time. But how can we create it in our lives?

Using the relationship of Jesus to His disciples in the upper room, Bill Donahue presents a simple but compelling approach to community life that was modeled by Jesus and offered to us all today. Using a table, a towel, and the truth, Jesus created an “irresistible community” where everyone finds a place to belong, live fully in the truth, and serve others with joy.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

In that upper room long ago at the beginning of the Passover celebration, Jesus set the stage for a whole new experience, not only for the disciples then but also for us now. The disciples didn’t know what they were in for, as Jesus fulfilled the role not only of host by also of servant.

If we enter the upper room at the invitation of Jesus, and experience fellowship with Him, we are receiving an irresistible invitation to experience abundant life in His name.

The Messiah is on a high-stakes mission, nothing like the one the disciples have envisioned. Jesus uses three common elements – a table, a towel, and the truth – and promises to change the world.

In the moments of the Last Supper, Jesus used some very common objects to communicate some very profound mysteries concerning the kingdom of God.

The first is a table. So common were tables that people hardly noticed them beyond their basic function as a workbench, a storage facility, or a feeding station. But not after tonight. Tonight the table will become something remarkable. They will never think of a table the same way again. And neither will you.

The second is a towel. In a surprising gesture of humility, Jesus will pick up a towel, unmask their self-indulgent thinking, and call them to a radical expression of greatness unlike any the world has seen. From this moment on, whenever they see a common household towel, they will remember. And so will you.

The third, while not an object per se, is the truth. In the ancient world, itinerant speakers competed for an audience, passing the hat for a few shekels to feed their families. In an era void of television, the internet, coffee shops, and movie theaters, public speakers provided a major form of entertainment and education for a largely illiterate, agrarian culture. Expressions of “truth” were common – but not Jesus’ kind of truth. While everyone is yawning at the remarks of yet another soothsayer, Jesus’ words awaken the slumbering masses with authority, power, intrigue, mystery and often bone-crushing reality.

Bill Donahue, The Irresistible Community 

A NEXT STEP

The metaphor of the table is a perfect place to begin seeking authentic Christian community. After all, Jesus was a table builder – first literally as a carpenter, and then spiritually as the Son of God.

Start your table journey by making a regular practice to gather around the table that matters most – your family table. Yes, the role of pastor is a demanding job, but how can you consider your role as pastor successful if you neglect your family? Do you have a regular pattern of eating at least one meal a day at home, around your table, with your family? If you do, what do you talk about? Make sure that you are investing the best part of the conversation not in what you are doing or what you accomplished, but in listening to the stories from your family.

Extend your table journey by making it a weekly habit to gather around a table – for a coffee break or a meal – with your staff team. Make sure this table time is not an extension of staff meetings, but a time for everyone to talk and listen to stories about each other’s lives and families outside of your church setting. Listen as they share family joys and concerns, and encourage your team to extend this table talk beyond the work setting to each other’s homes.

Create a new table journey by establishing a routine of getting outside the office regularly, establishing a pattern of spending time at a coffee shop at the same time and day each week. Notice first the staff, and begin to develop a relationship with each of them. Listen and encourage them by your actions and your words. Next, begin to notice others around you, and look for individuals who seem to have a pattern of being there at the same time as you. Reach out to them, and connect with their life story by first sharing yours.

Table life can be flexible, creative, and dynamic. Over time, people around the table may change as they come and go in your life. But the invitation to be a part of the table can be a life-altering experience.

Excerpted from SUMS Remix 36-1, March 2016


 

This is part of a weekly series posting content from one of the most innovative content sources in the church world: SUMS Remix Book Summaries for church leaders. SUMS Remix takes a practical problem in the church and looks at it with three solutions; and each solution is taken from a different book. As a church leader you get to scan relevant books based on practical tools and solutions to real ministry problems, not just by the cover of the book. Each post will have the edition number which shows the year and what number it is in the overall sequence. (SUMS provides 26 issues per year, delivered every other week to your inbox). 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

VRcurator

Bob Adams is Auxano's Vision Room Curator. His background includes over 23 years as an associate/executive pastor as well as 8 years as the Lead Consultant for a church design build company.

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6 Moments to Engage Families in Small Groups

It happened again.

You just made the same small group announcement.
Sure, it happened on a different Sunday, during a different series. However, you just made that same hope-full announcement and received that same life-less response.
All across today’s church, leaders are saying more, yet somehow congregations are hearing less.

Every prop and trick lay used, relegated to a back-of-the-stage pile of ineffective effort. The funny videos made lots of people laugh, but no one dropped their carefully curated “perfect life” façade to live in heart-level relationships. The moving testimony video made plenty of people cry, but no one took that first, fear-fueled step into schedule-wrecking community.

Our best, most creative emphasis and announcement efforts bounce harmlessly off the Teflon-strong force field of the family calendar. For most in today’s church, a crisis-level lack of family engagement in groups boils down to this: the felt-need of life in community has yet to surpass the real-pain of an over scheduled life.

All of the church-speak generic “life together” reasons for “living in community”through “life groups” ring hollow as cul-de-sac gatherings, travel team parent bonding, and friends (with boating benefits) deftly imitate true and Gospel-centered relational connection.

After all, who needs yet another night away with yet another group of people?

We make the announcements but fail to articulate the value of community, especially with other people experiencing life-change. We promote the seasonal sign-ups, but neglect the most natural entry-points during life-stages.

Consider the many, fear-inducing moments of change and seasons of adjustment that every family experiences. Most are perfect opportunities to leverage the wisdom and comfort of community as a real and natural need to be a part of a group.

Here are six life-stage opportunities to expand engagement in small group life:

Newlywed / Engaged Couples. The first friends as a couple are typically life-long. Leverage premarital counseling and intensive wedding preparation seasons to focus young lovers on building depth of community into their marriage, not simply crafting Pinterest-worthy moments into a ceremony.

Expecting Parents. Parents-to-be, especially when it is their first child, are usually scared to death and more open to asking questions and being influenced by parents who have “been there, done that.” Working together, the preschool minister and groups leader have a natural opportunity to encourage and resource parents into group life.

Baby Dedication. More than preparing for a Sunday moment, this is a natural time to gather families in a small-group environment as a prerequisite to participation. Gather new parents to discuss a book or parenting bible study for 4-6 weeks before the Sunday morning ceremony. Church leaders can reinforce gathering in a home as more important than standing on a stage, and see those groups continue for years.

Kindergarten / Grade School. The tear-filled eyes of parents driving away from the campus after dropping their “couldn’t possibly be this old already” child at school are indications of shared emotions. They are also likely indications of an openness to prioritize time with other parents wiping their eyes as well. Giving parents a place to do more than cope or commiserate, groups in this life stage encourage connection and iron sharpening. Start the conversation by introducing parents to the children’s ministry while at the same time introducing them to other parents just as scared and hopeful as they are.

Middle / High School. Puberty, dating and social media… enough said. Parents with children entering middle school or high school need help, and quickly. As your next group of youth age-up into the student ministry, do more than just meet with parents and talk at them. Make it a goal to get those parents talking to each other and finding common ground together. Convene a round table on important topics, and spin off discussion groups that can grow into meaningful small groups or bible study classes.

College / Empty Nest. The last 18+ years have been spent focused on successfully getting their children out of the nest, and prayerfully staying out. Now these suddenly purposeless parents struggle to reconnect and establish the new normal once their baby birds finally fly off. Graduation Sundays offer a great chance to celebrate each student, but also a great connection with the parents wondering “what’s next.” What if leaders offered one or two strategic gatherings over the summer to prepare parents for this new normal, all the while pointing to a Fall season of group life?

Families in your church are physically, emotionally, and spiritually right where you have led them to be… in groups and not.

Now is the time to stop thinking about small groups in ways that work on a ministry calendar or for a pastoral preference.

Now is the time to start engaging families during the seasons and moments in life that actually matter to them.

Now is the time to truly engage people in meaningful Gospel-centered community, not just make that same small group announcement.


Learn more about engaging people in a Gospel-centered community: Connect with an Auxano Navigator.


More from Bryan.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bryan Rose

As Lead Navigator for Auxano, Bryan Rose has a strong bias toward merging strategy and creativity within the vision of the local church and has had a diversity of experience in just about every ministry discipline over the last 12 years. With his experience as a multi-site strategist and campus pastor at a 3500 member multi-campus church in the Houston Metro area, Bryan has a passion to see “launch clarity” define the unique Great Commission call of developing church plants and campus, while at the same time serving established churches as they seek to clarify their individual ministry calling. Bryan has demonstrated achievement as a strategic thinker with a unique ability to infuse creativity into the visioning process while bringing a group of people to a deep sense of personal ownership and passion.

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Lead Your Church to Community Activity Not Congregational Attendance

Below is a new weekly series posting content from one of the most innovative content sources in the church world: SUMS Remix Book Summaries for church leaders. SUMS Remix takes a practical problem in the church and looks at it with three solutions; and each solution is taken from a different book. As a church leader you get to scan relevant books based on practical tools and solutions to real ministry problems, not just by the cover of the book. Each post will have the edition number which shows the year and what number it is in the overall sequence. (SUMS provides 26 issues per year, delivered every other week to your inbox). 


Solution #3: Call the church to partner in missional, community activity not simply congregational, service attendance.

THE QUICK SUMMARY- Kingdom Come, by Reggie McNeal

There’s a reason Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy Kingdom come . . .” and not “Thy church come.”

The church clearly plays an important role in God’s plans. It was established by Christ, and He is its Head. But have we put too much emphasis on the church? Have we confused a means of participating in God’s Kingdom with the Kingdom itself?

In Kingdom Come, church ministry consultant Reggie McNeal reveals why it’s crucial to realign the church’s mission with God’s ultimate Kingdom agenda. You’ll discover how you can get in on―and help lead―the Kingdom movement currently underway.

Join the mission to help the Kingdom break into our hearts…and break out into the world.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

While God’s mission in the world has not changed, in many churches today the idea of serving God has morphed into “becoming a good church member.” People are considered disciples based on their faithful support and participation in church activities, not necessarily on whether they are growing toward or reflecting the heart of Jesus for others and the world.

How do you remind people in your particular church culture that they are sent from God as missionaries everywhere, and every day? What words do you use to enlarge their imagination and ignite their heart for a redemptive mission focus?

Jesus did not establish the church to start a new religion called Christianity. He established the church as an expression of the Kingdom for the people of God as they partner with Him in His redemptive mission in the world.

Three critical shifts are necessary in order to synchronize the church’s story with the Kingdom.

We must recognize that God established the church to point to the Kingdom, not the other way around. We shouldn’t be trying to promote the church; we should be trying to raise awareness of the Kingdom. A Kingdom-focused approach would involve lots of listening and local input and would be conducted from a posture of quiet service rather than trying to send a “we’re here to bless you” message, which can seem self-serving.

A Kingdom-focused church operates from a conviction that God is already at work in the city. It would raise awareness that God wants the city to prosper and that, as God’s people, we want to help. God would be the star of the show, and His will that the Kingdom come on earth would be the main message.

We must acknowledge that the Kingdom, not the church, is the destination. The church is not the destination, and it’s not the point of the journey. It’s the life of the Kingdom that we’re trying to get to. That’s what people are after.

We need churches that are dedicated to the objective of helping people grow up in the faith, so they can live on mission in the world, to see their lives as a mission trip. If we rightly understand that the Kingdom is the destination, we will figure out ways to celebrate spiritual progress on the journey that leads people to full deployment as Kingdom agents.

We must realize that the Kingdom saga focuses primarily on the welfare of the community, not on the church. A Kingdom perspective means that the cues for authentic church celebration comes from the quality of life that people experience in the world, beyond the church.

Much of the time and energy and money we have put into developing our incredible church campuses and program offerings should have gone into improving our communities. I’m suggesting that we recalibrate our efforts and resources to reinvest in the welfare of our towns, cities, and neighborhoods.

– Reggie McNeal, Kingdom Come

A NEXT STEP

Schedule time with your team to prayerfully consider the degree of church-focus and Kingdom-focus each ministry or program of your church might have. It is recommended that you break this important discussion down into a series of three 75-minute action-oriented discussion sessions over three weeks.

Session 1 – Actions to help recognize that God established the church to point to the Kingdom, not the other way around

Church leaders whose priority is to build the church are not functioning in proper alignment with the mission of God. At the first of this series of team meetings, list your church’s major activities on the left side of a chart tablet. At the top of the chart, create two columns, entitling them “Church-Focused” and “Kingdom-Focused.” As a team, read down the list and agree on which column the activity falls under, placing an X in that column.

After completing the entire list, spend time brainstorming specific actions that would help move the activity from the church-focused column to the Kingdom-focused column. If an activity cannot be moved into the Kingdom-focused column, discuss the future of that activity.

Following this session, assign an individual to lead a team to further develop the concepts and actions needed to move the activity into the Kingdom-focused column. Make sure each team reports regularly to the senior leadership team.

Session 2 – Actions to help acknowledge that the Kingdom, not the church, is the destination

Is it time for you to get outside more?

At your second team meeting in this series, brainstorm as a team ways each member can get beyond the four walls of your church. By connecting with and becoming involved with community events such as participating in a health club or coaching a sports team, you will be amazed at your discoveries.

Set aside culturally driven leadership impulses for a quick-fix solution, and take the long view of health. After a six-month season of team involvement in these types of activities, have each member bring their observations back to the team for discussion and action. The focus is on how you can rethink and redesign your current church ministry programs to reflect a Kingdom bias.

As you begin to develop ideas for potential implementation, assign a team member to lead each activity and report back to the team on its progress.

Session 3 – Actions to help realize that the Kingdom saga focuses primarily on the welfare of the community, not on the church

A Kingdom-centered narrative focuses on how to be the church in the world. Issues for Kingdom-leaders are fundamentally different from those leading the institutional church.

In order to help your team change the focus to the community, you will need collaborators to provide support, generate new ideas, and serve as a catalyst to help your church move forward.

At your final team meeting in this series, discuss ways to discover and invite other people who “get” the Kingdom focus. Begin the discussion by brainstorming what types of Kingdom agenda items resonate with community groups.

Start new conversations with community leaders who are connected with these types of activities. Invite them to speak to your team about the possibilities of working together.

As a team, agree on specific courses of action that will help your focus shift to the community and not your church. Be sure that every action has an identified leader and timeframe for moving forward.

Vibrant churches look after the interests of others – starting with their neighbors across the street and around the block. They are involved in community concerns by supporting, if not actually leading, initiatives.

Thriving churches have open doors – open to each and every segment of their community.

To learn more about being involved in your community, start a conversation with the Auxano team today.

Taken from SUMS Remix 21-3, published August 2015


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

VRcurator

Bob Adams is Auxano's Vision Room Curator. His background includes over 23 years as an associate/executive pastor as well as 8 years as the Lead Consultant for a church design build company.

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Clarity Process

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Vibrant Community: The Secret DNA of Every Church

Brands like Apple, Zappos, and Southwest Airlines understand that the thing that makes an organization great is the vibrant and passionate community it creates. It doesn’t just happen. It is intentionally cultivated. Apple didn’t get lucky because one day people decided to wait for days to buy the new iPhone. Southwest’s founder, Herb Kellerher, realized that creating a vibrant culture is something his organization had to focus on every day.

The good news for church leaders is you have the opportunity to create the same type of vibrant culture these organizations have created, if not a stronger one. But as every church leader knows, it’s not that easy.

Vibrant community: The secret DNA of every church

A few weeks ago, Church Community Builder had the opportunity to host Aaron Fortner, an expert in city planning and community building, as part of our webinar series. During the webinar, Aaron explained the fundamental principles of vibrant communities and how churches can go about creating them

If you want to build the type of vibrant community in your church that creates a multiplying effect outside the walls, here are seven things you need to know:

  • Community is a verb. Most churches think of community as a noun. They think that just because they plug people into a small group, there’s community. However, community is a dynamic movement. It doesn’t just happen because your church builds a place for it. It takes intentionality to lead people into community through action.
  • Vibrant church communities connect people to people, not just to the church itself. When the church is ineffective, it is a crowd of people meeting together on a regular basis. When effective, it is a tribe of believers that is connected to a vision that is bigger than themselves.
  • Vibrant communities have a singular focus with widespread reach. The vision and goal of vibrant communities should always simple and easy to understand. At the same time, the focus needs to resonate with a lot of people in order for the community to grow.
  • If you want your church to become a vibrant community, you must be fiercely consistent and pleasantly surprising. Consistency builds trust in your community. Your members can believe that you’re going to do the things you say you’re going to do. At the same time, consistency can become boring. That’s why it’s equally important always look for ways to challenge the status quo and surprise your community.
  • If you don’t get your community strategy right, the things you’re doing won’t last. your community-building efforts should always invite people into something that’s bigger than themselves. That’s the end goal. If you don’t focus on that, the things you’re doing won’t last.

Everything your church does, from discipleship to outreach, depends on the vitality of the community among your members. If you want a deeper look into how your church can create the type of vibrant community that your neighborhood or city notices, we’ve recorded the entire webinar here.

What is your church doing to create a vibrant community that transcends even the most popular brands?

Read more from Steve Caton here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Steve Caton

Steve Caton

Steve Caton is part of the Leadership Team at Church Community Builder. He leverages a unique background in technology, fundraising and church leadership to help local churches decentralize their processes and equip their people to be disciple makers. Steve is a contributing author on a number of websites, including the Vision Room, ChurchTech Today, Innovate for Jesus and the popular Church Community Builder Blog. He also co-wrote the eBook “Getting Disciple Making Right”. While technology is what Steve does on a daily basis, impacting and influencing the local church is what really matters to him……as well as enjoying deep Colorado powder with his wife and two sons!

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Sorry, the author of this content has removed the links at the original source!
 
— VRcurator
 
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What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Moving Toward a Counter-Cultural Community, Part 2: Community Idolatry

In the first post, I talked about 11 different aspects of society used a filters or barriers to form or foster community. I argued, “In order for a gospel community to be counter-cultural, we first have to assess what we are encountering in the culture. How does culture and society determine how community is formed and fostered? What are some of the guiding principles and motivations behind its formation?” If part one addresses the external schema of society formation, this post addresses the internal driving forces influencing how and where we fall out in our version of societal segregation.

Dick Keyes, in his chapter “The Idol Factory” (in No God but God) takes about the construction of idols in our lives. He makes the distinction between “near” and “far” idols. Near idols are those that are more specific, superficial and concrete, such as career, spouse, possessions, etc. Far idols, on the other hand, are “farther” from the surface of things and go to the root of why we do what we do. They get to the “sin beneath the sin” and are also referred to as “source” or “root” idols.

Far idols get to our motivational drives and function as basic controlling principles that, unless confronted and challenged by the gospel, will manifest in many outward forms. The four basic “source” idols are power, comfort, approval, and control (there are others, but I will refer to these main four in this post). Here’s what they say:

Power idolatry says: “Life only has meaning /I only have worth if‐‐I have power and influence over others.
Approval idolatry says: “Life only has meaning /I only have worth if‐‐I am loved and respected by _______________
Comfort idolatry says: “Life only has meaning /I only have worth if‐‐I have this kind of pleasure experience, a particular quality of life.”
Control idolatry says: “Life only has meaning /I only have worth if‐‐I am able to get mastery over my life in the area of ___________________.”

John Calvin says the human heart is a factory of idols. Tim Keller argues that idolatry is always the reason we do anything wrong. Paul Tripp agrees, saying that sin is fundamentally idolatrous. So what is the connection, then, with source idolatry and being a counter-cultural community?

Idolatry-Centered Community

Because idolatry is the sin beneath the sin, the motivational fruit for the behavioral fruit of our choices, it stands to reason that a counter-cultural community will come to terms with the idolatry-centered nature of secular society. The societal segregation I explained in part one is fueled by the idolatrous desires of sinful people–a people seeking that ideal community who not only accept but also appreciate one’s idolatry. If at any point idolatrous cravings are not satisfied by a compliant community, there will be a reconstitution of that community in rejection to their nonconformity.

The five components of idolatry-centered community are: (1) self-serving, (2) comfort-securing, (3) pride-protecting, (4) approval-demanding, and (5) control-promoting. In every expression of community building outside of Christ, these components of source idolatry will shape and govern the community dynamic. It is precisely at these points the idolatry-centered community must be challenged by the gospel (more on that later).

Whether we do it consciously or unconsciously, we look to have relationships that feed our community idolatry. Why do we filter people out and create barriers to keep others out? Is it not because we are self-serving and comfort-securing? Why do we build a community of people most like us? Is it not because we are approval-demanding and control-promoting?

These “far” idols are also connected to our “near” idols–the more specific, concrete manifestations of idolatry. We are “driven” by the near idols of time (manifested in busyness), money (manifested in consumerism), and space (manifested in individualism), and the root case of these can be unearthed by detecting their relationship to the source idols of comfort, power, approval, and control.

When people say they do not have time for meaningful relationships due to their busy schedule, they have made an idol out of time (squeezing everyone out but themselves). When people treat others are commodities (goods and services) in a consumeristic fashion, they have made an idol out of money. When people intentionally keep others out and demand autonomous living, they have made an idol out of space. All of these “near idols” are driving forces behind the societal segregation (just like “far idols”).

At the heart of the idolatry-centered community is the attempt of enjoying the “ideal” community apart from the gospel of Jesus Christ. In this broken world where the most fundamental and necessary relationship (with God) is rejected, community becomes a functional savior and “god-replacement” in ways it was never intended. Therefore, the irony of idolatry-centered community is that it can never deliver on the idolator’s idealized dream of community.

In part 3, I will provide an excerpt from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together in which he argues the Christianized attempt of idealizing (idolizing) community apart from Jesus actually destroys community.

Read Part 1 here.

Read more from Timmy here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Timmy Brister

In the “real world,” I am the founder and president of Gospel Systems, Inc, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization focused on creating and sustaining delivery systems for the advancement of the gospel around the world. In 2010, I started a delivery system called PLNTD – a network for church planting and revitalization focusing on resourcing, relational community, residencies in local churches, and regional networks. In 2012, I started an international delivery system call The Haiti Collective which focuses on equipping indigenous churches through church partnerships in order to care for orphans, make disciples, train leaders, and plant churches in Haiti. In addition to serving as the executive director of these organizations, I have served for 12 years in pastoral ministry with churches in Alabama, Kentucky, and Florida. My passion is to see healthy, growing churches take ownership of the Great Commission to the end that disciples are making disciples, leaders are developed and deployed, and churches are planting churches here and around the world. This is the driving passion of my life and prayer that God would be so glorified in making His name great in our generation.

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Sorry, the author of this content has removed the links at the original source!
 
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Clarity Process

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7 Ways to Love Your Community

Church leaders should love their churches where they are now, not where they wish their congregations could be in the future. That’s a given, or at least should be. But what about the community? Church leaders should love their communities as much as their churches. Granted, some churches are easier to love than others, and some communities are easier to love than others. A calling to a place, however, requires a love for that place.

One of the pitfalls of church leadership involves the call to a new place—a location in which the new minister has little knowledge. Some of us grow up living in a number of different places. My family moved every three years or so when I was a child, and I’ve pastored from Florida to Indiana. But even if you have experienced several transitions, a new place of ministry can prompt infatuation or disdain with the community.

Infatuation occurs when you feel like the new location is more exotic: big city, rural community, beachside, in the mountains—whatever excites you more than your current location. But infatuation quickly fades as you settle into a routine. Disdain occurs when you feel like the new community does not provide what your previous community offered. And disdain can stick with you. Whether you’re infatuated or disappointed with the location of your ministry, you must learn to love your new community in the same way you learn to love a new congregation. Love for a congregation mismatched with disdain for a community will cause you to retreat in an unhealthy church bubble. Either you will lead your congregation inward, or they will (rightly) question your bitterness and lack of outward focus.

What are some ways church leaders can learn to love their communities?

  1. Don’t go home. If you’re jumping at every opportunity, or fabricating lame excuses, to get back home, then your heart is clearly not in the community. God calls church leaders to minister in a place. If you’re looking for every chance to leave that place, then you’re not being a good gospel ambassador.
  2. Join in the fun. Every community has unique ways (or occasions) it celebrates. Jump in and contribute to the celebration. Only the most hardened of curmudgeons can hang on to bitterness when everyone around them is having fun.
  3. Live with the people. Don’t move to the outskirts, away from the people. Live in the heart of your community. Your home is not a retreat from ministry; it is a crucial tool in ministry
  4. Stop complaining. It’s difficult to grow a church when you’re gaining a reputation as the town killjoy.
  5. Stay active. Be on the go in your community. Sedentariness exacerbates loneliness, frustration, displeasure.
  6. Join a civic organization. Be a leader beyond your church. When the community (in addition to your church) is looking to you for leadership, then you are obligated to create a positive outlook for everyone.
  7. Try something new on a regular basis. Break the routine. Go to different restaurants. Travel different roads. Attend a new festival. Hang out with a different crowd. It’s difficult to harbor negativity when you’re excited about trying something new.

I’m interested in your thoughts. Do you have any ideas about how church leaders can learn to love their communities?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sam Rainer III

Sam serves as president of Rainer Research. His desire is to provide answers for better church health. He also serves as senior pastor at Stevens Street Baptist Church Cookeville, TN. Sam is the co-author of the book, Essential Church. He is a theological review editor at CrossBooks and regular contributor to Church Executive magazine. He has written dozens of articles on church health for numerous publications, and he is a frequent conference speaker. Before submitting to the call of ministry, Sam worked in a consulting role for Fortune 1000 companies. Sam holds a B.S. in Finance and Marketing from the University of South Carolina and an M.A. in Missiology from Southern Seminary. He is currently working on his Ph.D. in Leadership Studies at Dallas Baptist University.

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Dave Shrein — 08/08/13 9:28 pm

Sam, loved this. Just got back from day 1 of the willow creek association global leadership summit and completely agree with this for leaders! Well said.

Mike Hill — 08/06/13 1:59 pm

I think any planter who is willing to move closer to the people he wants to reach is the real deal. I'm talking about residency. I really like the idea of being involved in civic leadership and doing non ministry related projects of goodwill in your community.

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Clarity Process

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7 Ways to Keep Community at the Core of Your Church

I had the privilege of being with some great yet humble pastoral leaders last week at a forum in Atlanta. These 22 men and women are responsible for creating a climate where group life and effective teams can flourish in and through the life of the local church. Some world-renown churches were represented (Saddleback, LifeChurch, North Point) and some lesser known communities (Westridge, Sojourn, and Southridge in Canada) rounded out the list.

Church size, personal popularity, resources published, ministry longevity or the level of creativity were not the factors that made these leaders or their churches “great” in my eyes. Rather, they were successful because they maintained a relentless commitment to becoming a church with community at the core of everything they do.

Why? Because they knew and believed there is no discipleship without relationship! There can be no mass disciple-making using events and programs. Yes, you can create more followers with creative events, spectacular services and dynamic speakers. But you cannot make disciples.

As I listened to these friends and fellow leaders, it was clear that communal life and how it can change the world was truly at the center. It was not an afterthought, an add-on to be considered after focusing on fundraising, events, services, classes, programs and activities. I long for that kind of church.

But to be a place where community is at the core you must first believe that it really belongs there, where God put it and where Jesus lived it. And you must build everything around it. The heart of the gospel is community – the message that the God who lives in community came to restore community with his people through the life, death and resurrection of his son. (John 17:21)

How do we Become a Place with Community at the Core?

Here are some of the key insights that these leaders shared or that I took away as we engaged deeply about what it means for community to be central to the core of a church to catalyze spiritual growth and maximize world impact.

  • Strategy Matters: Organic growth is cool and new experiments are essential, but at the end of the day you need a cohesive, coherent strategy for building community life. It must not be so rigid as to inhibit innovation, nor so loose as to create unmanageable chaos. But you need one – missional groups, meta-church, life transformation groups, mid-sized communities…the models vary but not the need for a unified, cohesive strategy. And be careful not to over-program. The emerging discussion about Missional Communities was very provocative.
  • Clarity is King: Why do we do groups? What is our desired outcome? How do people get connected? Where do we find emerging leaders and how do we equip them? There are many questions and problems to solve, and most of them are complex or require real effort. But if you are committed to achieving clarity, you have most of the problem solved already. See Stanley on this.
  • Culture-Transformation is our Mission. Many Christians either attack the culture or run from it. But we are not called to build a community of navel gazers, obsessed with promoting an insulated, fortress mentality. People are lost, hurting, lonely, fear-filled, poor, hungry, homeless, hopeless, friendless, oppressed, unemployed, wounded and sick. We build community to strengthen the body AND enter the culture with a Luke 4 mindset. In God’s power we are setting captives free, bringing sight to the spiritually blind, offering good news and hope to the poor, and shouting out “God’s favor has come!”
  • Stories Stir the Soul: Listening to the stories of others and telling our story is a powerful way to connect people and build relationships with those outside our circle. Then we can connect our stories to God’s story.
  • Metrics Motivate the Mind: You get what you measure, but you cannot gauge progress without some markers. Without measurement there is no management. Plan to measure qualitative and quantitative growth, getting feedback so that you can focus your training and development of people.
  • Leaders Make a Big Difference: We all advocate the vision of shared ministry, mutual use of gifts, empowering one another to serve, and taking ownership of ministry at every level. But we also know that quality, committed leadership matters.  We want a flatter kind of church structure, and we know that leaders themselves have a big role in making that happen. We have to give more away, take more risks, allow others to fail, and be the first to work ourselves out of a job. See my post about your leadership.
  • The Good News is the Best News: We affirmed our commitment to the gospel-story of Jesus, teaching His way of being with people, loving others, living a sacrificial life, redeeming us from sin and shame, and putting us on a new path toward abundant life.

I was so proud to be in the room with such an amazing group of servants whose hearts are tender, minds are sharp, and souls long for real change. And who can laugh at themselves (and one another!) in a way that is simply pure joy.

Questions to consider:

  • With whom do you gather for this kind of inspiration?
  • Where do you get real interaction and thought-provoking conversation?
  • Where do you discover fresh ideas and see strategies that actually work in real life?  Not just more speakers and content and information – but real engagement about life and ministry issues that produces lasting change?
 Read more from Bill here.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bill Donahue

Bill’s vision is: “Resourcing life-changing leaders for world-changing influence.” Leaders and their teams need a clear personal vision and a transformational team strategy. This requires work in 3 key areas: Maximize Leadership Capacity, Sharpen Mission Clarity & Build Transformational Community. Bill has leadership experience in both the for-profit and non-profit arena. After working for P&G in New York and PNC Corp. in Philadelphia, Bill was Director of Leader Development & Group Life for the Willow Creek Church & Association where he created leadership strategies and events for over 10,000 leaders on 6 continents in over 30 countries.

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Sorry, the author of this content has removed the links at the original source!
 
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The hypertext link is broken for the pdf download - can it be fixed? Thanks!
 
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What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Developing a “Missional Moleskine” to Understand the Community Around Your Church

INCORPORATING “PLACES”

In my first place (my home), I have started a neighborhood through Next Door. Since doing this six weeks ago, I already know about a dozen of my neighbors’ names that I didn’t know the four years prior to living here. We are engaging online through our private/secure community and meeting in person through dinners, events, activities, etc.

In my second place (my work), I recommitted my intentionality with work at Panera Bread. No, I don’t work for Panera. I just work at Panera, about 20 hours a week. By spending this much time there, it becomes my “second place,” giving me the opportunity of getting to know almost all of their employees (I have twelve in my MM right now).  If you are a pastor and are not in your community, let me strongly encourage you to reconsider your work environment if at all possible, at least for a portion of your work week.

In my third places (community), I am mapping my rhythms of where I eat, get gas, buy groceries, go to the park, etc. For example, every Tuesday for lunch I usually eat at Chili’s with my fellow elders. I buy groceries at the same Publix weekly. I go to the same park every Thursday with my boys on my day off (sometimes more). I buy gas at the same 7-11 gas station. My son’s t-ball team plays every Tuesday and Thursday. I have mapped out 6-8 of my “third places” and try to massage that rhythm each week. I bet if you took the time to sit down and map out your life in the city, you could come up with at least five “third places” to be tapped for life on mission.

Since incorporating “places” in my missional moleskine, I am finding ways to befriend non-Christians in every arena of ordinary life. In the last six weeks, I have gone from knowing just a few non-Christians on a first-name basis to now more than 30 whom I encounter on a regular basis. As I anticipate opportunities and open doors to build on those relationships, there will be some that I can make progress.

CHARTING “PROGRESS”

Here’s the progress I’m trying to make to live as a missionary in my city:

  • Commit to being intentional, wide-eyed, and receptive to the Spirit’s sending and working.
  • Determine to dwell deep (incarnationally) in the city by redeeming ever “place” God puts you.
  • Take time to learn and write down the names of non-Christians in the missional moleskine.
  • Begin having short, friendly conversations with them, using their first name and making eye contact.
  • In those short conversations, express the desire to pray for people in your life, and since you “know” them, you want to include them in your prayers. Ask them to give you one (our a couple) specific things you can pray for them about.
  • When non-Christians know you have an interest in their lives to the extent that you are regularly conversing with them and praying for them, they will begin to share more about their lives, at which point you can begin to understand their life narrative/story. The progression moves from context (talk about external matters) to subtext (talk about internal matters).
  • Discover ways to build redemptive bridges in everyday conversation based on their narrative. In each story, there are people made in the image of God, living in a fallen world, experiencing brokenness, separation, rebellion, idolatry, and restlessness. You can prayerfully weave nuggets of the gospel in compelling, contextual, and disarming ways that open the door for longer gospel conversations.
  • If you have not already, make your life accessible to them, giving them permission to contact you (using appropriate measures). Make sure your posture is one of listening with compassion, openness with trust, and caring with sincerity.
  • Address their objections and understand their challenges to understanding and embracing the gospel. While we know that only the Spirit of God can awaken sinners to new life, we also understand that we are those “through whom they believe.” Rarely are people converted the first time they hear the gospel. As you repeatedly share the gospel with them, God does His work through the Word, creating faith and repentance in them. You need to be patient but continually press them into the call of the gospel to repent and believe.
  • Incorporate them in gospel community, inviting them to a life of learning and knowing Jesus.  This gives them an opportunity to see what gospel-centered lives look like–where love and forgiveness is experienced and where sin is repented regularly and Christ is treasured preeminently.

This progression is not necessarily linear, as if sharing the gospel or inviting them in gospel community could not come earlier. They are simply steps I try to take in building relationships with those who were at one time strangers and now friends and hopefully soon brothers and sisters in Christ. I did not include ways of blessing, serving, or practically helping others, which certainly could be added here. But one thing I want to stress is that, in the relationship of word and deed, we need boldness in gospel proclamation. Sinners are saved through the sharing of the gospel, not just showing the impact of the gospel in our lives.

WRAPPING IT UP

Like I said earlier, the missional moleskine is just a travelogue of life on mission in your city. If we understand Jesus’ words correctly as sent people in the world (John 20:21), then every one of us is on a mission trip called “life” in the city God placed us. Over time, my hope and prayer is that the missional moleskine will be filled with names of non-Christians in my city being challenged and changed by the good news of Jesus Christ. As they learn to become disciples of Jesus, the relationships established by life on mission become a great avenue for developing them as ambassadors for Christ.

With their own missional moleskine.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Timmy Brister

In the “real world,” I am the founder and president of Gospel Systems, Inc, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization focused on creating and sustaining delivery systems for the advancement of the gospel around the world. In 2010, I started a delivery system called PLNTD – a network for church planting and revitalization focusing on resourcing, relational community, residencies in local churches, and regional networks. In 2012, I started an international delivery system call The Haiti Collective which focuses on equipping indigenous churches through church partnerships in order to care for orphans, make disciples, train leaders, and plant churches in Haiti. In addition to serving as the executive director of these organizations, I have served for 12 years in pastoral ministry with churches in Alabama, Kentucky, and Florida. My passion is to see healthy, growing churches take ownership of the Great Commission to the end that disciples are making disciples, leaders are developed and deployed, and churches are planting churches here and around the world. This is the driving passion of my life and prayer that God would be so glorified in making His name great in our generation.

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Sorry, the author of this content has removed the links at the original source!
 
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Clarity Process

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The Quest for Community

To be sure, experiences can become idolatrous as well as addictive. Postmoderns collect experiences like moderns collect stuff. The church must offer Christ-initiated–or what Donald Whitney calls “Scripture-induced”–experiences.

Count me in


A fellow eBay-er calls the auction site a “participant sport.” I felt such an adrenaline rush during my weeklong bidding war over an 1827 pewter communion token. eBay has made me into a global trader. It’s exhilarating.

At eBay the power belongs to the people, not to the producers. In electronic commerce, the buyer sets the price. It/s the medieval bazaar come to life in cyberspace.

Some call this haggling the “age of participation.” Others call it the “horizontal society.” Postmodern people take cues not from those above them but from others around them. There are no more bosses, only clients.

The Web typifies the trend. Online, we’re all experts: we’re all priests, we’re all doctors or lawyers or architects, we’re all authorities in whatever we’re chatting about at the moment.

And we’re already seeing its impact in church. The rituals of marriage and remembrance are becoming more EPIC.

More than clinking glasses, weddings also feature pull-the-kiss-from-the-hat performances, the surrender of the keys, and couples presenting to each other symbols of the things they bring to their union.

Do-it-yourself funerals are at a record high. More people are burying their dead without embalming, mortuaries, or cemeteries. More participatory rites are being created alongside official rituals, including ad hoc shrines, white caskets that mourners can sign, and eulogies in which almost everyone present has got to say something.

The problem is no longer onerous taxation without representation. The problem now is worship without participation. In the church, representation simply isn’t enough anymore.

Get the picture?

Visit as many of the more than 2 million eBay sites as you want. You’ll find each one has an image of what is for sale. Each image comes to life with story and sometimes music. Each site tries to draw you into a relationship with that image and story.

eBay is not alone in using images to establish relationships. NCR’s ATM machines are “transforming transactions into relationships” according to their ads. Agency.com is dedicated to what it calls “interactive relationship management.” Its slogan: “It’s not the medium, it’s the relationship.”

The lesson for the church is simple: images generate emotions and people will respond to their feelings.

Postmodern culture is image-driven. The modern world was word-based. Not until the fourteenth century did truth become embedded in principles and positions. Its theologians tried to create an intellectual faith, placing reason and order at the heart of religion. Mystery and metaphor were seen as too fuzzy, too mystical, too illogical.

The church now enters a world where metaphor is at the heart of spirituality. Propositions are lost on postmodern ears; but metaphor they will hear, images they will see and understand. These come as close as human beings will get to a universal language. Indeed, it seems clearer than ever that metaphysics is nothing but metaphor.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Leonard Sweet

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Sorry, the author of this content has removed the links at the original source!
 
— VRcurator
 
The hypertext link is broken for the pdf download - can it be fixed? Thanks!
 
— Steve Elliott
 
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

The Quest for Community

I am an eBay addict. I may need help. My most recent purchase is one of the first books published by my Ph.D. adviser. It has been missing from my library for 20 years. I got this copy for 50 cents. The postage cost more than the book. But for $2.50 I reclaimed my pedigree. At eBay, I feel like a kid in a candy store.

The online auction house is one of the wonders of the last decade. From 1995 to 1998, eBay did no outside advertising; yet it boasted 3.8 million registered users and grew from 289,000 items in 1996 to 2.2 million today. With a $23-billion market, eBay is now worth more than Kmart, Toys R Us, Nordstrom, and Saks combined.

eBay is so effective because its owners understand postmodern culture. It also alerts us to what the church must do to get the attention and attendance of postmodern people.

Just do it!
eBay makes shopping an experience. Journalist Stewart Alsop, analyzing the phenomenon, calls it “nail-biting, thrilling fun.” eBay works in our experience-oriented economy. What keeps shoppers returning to a store? Not just the products. As one patron said, leaving a new Greenwich Village eatery called Peanut Butter and Company, “This is very much an experience; it’s not just a sandwich.”

Postmoderns are not willing to live at even an arm’s length from experience. They want life to explode all around them. And the more extreme the better.

Tom Beaudoin, a Gen-X Christian with a theology degree from Harvard and a body piercing, says that piercing and tattooing “reflect the centrality of personal and intimate experience in Xers’ lives.” Tattooing is branding in a brand culture, the marking of a spiritual experience.

The pursuit of dreams, emotions, and extreme experience is not unique to this era. Every expression of romanticism in history has tilted toward the experiential. But never before has experience become the currency of a global economic system.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Leonard Sweet

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Sorry, the author of this content has removed the links at the original source!
 
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The hypertext link is broken for the pdf download - can it be fixed? Thanks!
 
— Steve Elliott
 
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.