7 Steps to Start Becoming a Church People Want to Commit To – Part 2 of 2

This is part two of the article published in the previous post.

4. Discover Your Calling – Then Be Good at It

Every leader and church needs to discover who you are and what you’re called to do. Then, do that and be that!

Giving people something worth committing to isn’t a matter of competing with the big church down the street. It’s not about offering nicer facilities, bigger events or even better preaching. It’s about discovering what God has called you and your church to be great at, then being great at that.

Excellence isn’t limited to churches with big budgets.

There’s no excuse for second-rate. It costs no more time or money to do it right. It just takes a full commitment.

5. Don’t Just Talk – Hang Out and Listen

No one wants a relationship in which one side does all the talking. We have TV and movies for that.

But even TV and movies are giving way to social media. One of the best parts about watching a show that has some social media buzz is chatting about it on Twitter and Facebook as it airs.

People want to engage with others, not just sit passively while someone else talks.

Sadly, the church does not have a reputation of being open to dialog – or to hard questions. And definitely not to criticism.

No, you don’t have to turn your sermon into a discussion group (although, some churches do that with great success), but there needs to be an easy and obvious way for people to engage, dialog, chat, hang out and feel like their life and their opinion matters.

And leaders, especially pastors of small churches, need to be engaged in those conversations. Listening, participating and learning, not just teaching.

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6. Keep Learning and Getting Better

I communicate, minister and lead much differently today than I when I started in pastoral ministry 35 years ago. In fact I do it differently than I did just ten years ago. And I expect to change at least as much in the next five years.

I now have over 30 years of ministry experience in addition to my formal ministry training. But that experience matters less today than it ever has. If I’m not constantly learning, listening and growing, I’ll fall behind very quickly.

But that shouldn’t intimidate us. Learning and growing is Discipleship 101. It’s central to being a follower of Jesus, let alone a church leader.

Jesus never made discipleship easy. He always inspired people to a bigger commitment by calling them to a greater challenge.

Too many leaders limit the expectations they have for their members to sitting in a pew and filling gaps in existing ministries. We think we can’t ask more of them because … well … they’re not even doing that!

But a lot of uncooperative church members and recently unchurched people aren’t as disinterested as we think. Like some of the rowdy kids in school, they’re not skipping class because we’re asking too much of them. They’re acting out because they’re not being challenged.

People are deciding that leaving church is better than being bored in church. I don’t blame them.

If we don’t challenge people through a genuine experience of worship, fellowship, discipleship and ministry, they’ll do one of four things: 1) go to a church that challenges them more, 2) go to a church that entertains them better, 3) show up physically, but disengage in every other way, or 4) stopping going to church entirely.

People want to go to a church where they’re challenged by something bigger than themselves and where their gifts are being used to further that cause.

If you ask small, you’ll get a small commitment. Ask large and your joy might be full.

7 Steps to Start Becoming a Church People Want to Commit To – Part 1 of 2

By Karl Vaters

People who don’t go to church, don’t want to go to church. They’re not rolling out of bed late on Sunday morning wishing they had somewhere more churchy to be.

In fact, a growing number of people who do go to church don’t want to go, either. If we don’t give them something worth committing to, they’ll be gone soon.

It’s not that people are less capable of making commitments than they used to be. They just commit differently. But too many churches haven’t caught up to that reality.

So how do we get people to commit to the church / ministry we lead? Especially when our church is small and struggling?

I don’t have all the answers, not by a long shot. But I’ve learned a handful of principles over three decades of ministry that have helped our church become a place people are excited to be committed to.

These steps won’t cost you any extra money and very little extra time – the extra time because of the learning curve. It’s not about adding to your already limited schedule and overtaxed budget. It’s not about doing things bigger. It’s about focusing on doing church better. Working smarter, not harder.

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Where Our Focus Needs to Be

But first, despite the title of this post, the challenge before us isn’t about getting people to go to church.

It’s about inspiring people to commit to

•Worshiping Jesus

•Genuine relationships with God’s people

•Making disciples

•Doing ministry for those in need

If your focus is trying to get people to commit to your Sunday service schedule, your denominational preference, maintaining your church building or anything like that, you might as well stop reading right now. In fact, you might as well close your church right now.

The days of people going to church for anything less than a genuine relationship with Jesus are over. Yes, there’s still a residue of those people, but they’re dying out – literally. And they won’t be replaced by a new group. Nor should they be.

But if you want people in your church because you have a passion to help them connect with Jesus and God’s family, read on.

1. Clear Away Anything that Isn’t Jesus

If people continue to go to church, it won’t be because they feel a sense of loyalty to a tradition most of them have never had in their lives to begin with. And it won’t be because they want to be entertained. They have better entertainment on the phone in their pocket than we can ever compete with.

The only thing that will get them out of their house and into our churches is if we give them a cause worth living (and dying) for. Namely, an authentic presentation of the gospel of Jesus – through our words and our lives.

If your generational traditions or your hip, new staging helps people do that, great! Keep doing it. But if not, don’t let your church’s personal preferences keep people from seeing Jesus.

Whether he’s hidden behind stained glass windows or laser lights and fog machines, anything that obscures Jesus instead of revealing him needs to be ditched.

2. Emphasize Relationships Over Spectacle or Tradition

For small churches especially, being a church that people want to commit to starts and ends with relationships.

We need to help people make connections to Jesus and each other.

We need to help people make connections to Jesus and each other. Then work together to build bridges with those outside the church walls.

Long after our traditions have grown stale and the spectacle has been replaced by a bigger show somewhere else, genuine relationships with Jesus and people will last.

3. Be Genuine

People are far less naïve than they used to be. They can spot phoniness in people very quickly.

This is especially important for church leaders, because we have a culture in which respect for leadership is lower than it has been in a loooong time – and mostly for good reasons.

Respect doesn’t come with the position of pastor or leader any more. In fact, it’s more likely to be viewed with skepticism than honor. That skepticism will only be overcome by practicing what we preach.

This article will continue in the next post.

Why Multiculturalism Is a Must for the Church

By Ashlee Holmes

It’s time to get serious about diversity in the body of Christ.

There’s a fine, gray-ish line between things in life that are nice and things that are absolutely necessary.

Cable TV and Wi-Fi access? Nice, but not necessary. No-chip manicure with shellac polish? Nice, but not necessary. My iPhone 5? Nice—and embarrassingly crucial to my sanity—but ultimately, not necessary.

There are plenty of choices we make on a daily basis that can be categorized as either nice or necessary, but what about when it comes to more weighty topics—like multiculturalism in the church, for instance?

First off, let’s talk about what multiculturalism is and is not. The dictionary talks about multiculturalism as being “the preservation of different cultures or cultural identities within a unified society.”

I like that word: preservation. To preserve means to keep alive or in existence, to keep safe from harm or injury, to maintain, to retain. So to only tolerate and blindly accept people of many colors (or to be multicolored) isn’t enough. A person’s culture and experience must be kept safe and alive. It must be threaded so flawlessly into the human tapestry that others start to learn and eventually grow from the truth of someone else’s identity.

Multiculturalism means inviting someone to be fully oneself, unapologetically, and actively celebrating the difference. “Multicolored” leaves gaps and disconnection. “Multicultural” builds bridges and elicits celebration.

Interestingly enough, my first bout of wrestling with the value of multiculturalism didn’t start in the church. It started the day a little girl in my after-school program innocently asked me if I took showers because my skin was so dark, and it continued the day a girl on my club track team asked me why I talked so “white.”

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So my wrestling with this value didn’t start in a community context at all; it started with me. Why was it puzzling to others that I was so different? What was so threatening—if anything—about my dark skin and dialect? I didn’t have answers to those questions at that time, but I knew I felt singled out and uncomfortable.

I was uncomfortable being myself around my white friends, and I was uncomfortable being myself around my black friends. There was a huge, painfully daunting gap between me and people with whom I so desperately wanted to engage in friendship and community. I internally apologized for my uniqueness and decided to become whoever I needed to become in order to be accepted. The idea of fitting in, then, wasn’t just nice to me; it was necessary.

Anyone feeling out of place experiences some level of discomfort when they’re the “other.” What I realized later in life, however, was that discomfort was actually good for me. Not only was I forced to seek my true identity in Christ—an identity formed on much more than the color of my skin—but I also took inventory of the people I’d chosen to surround myself with, and the inventory was beautiful.

I realized my life was richer and more wonderfully complex because of others’ uniqueness and truth in which I’d chosen to engage. Over time, I resolved that sacrificing my comfort for the sake of that beautiful advantage wasn’t just nice; it was necessary to my walk with God and a deeper understanding of how His Kingdom worked.

I truly believe God feels the same way about His Church. A simple, yet profound display of this sentiment is found in the Gospel of Luke, when Simon of Cyrene was made to carry Jesus’ cross. Cyrene was a city in Libya, a country in Northern Africa. An African carried Jesus’ cross.

Not much is mentioned about Simon of Cyrene, but metaphorically, his being singled out and uncomfortable says something to me about the heart of God: that everyone—regardless of race or ethnicity—has a vital role to play in the Gospel story.

Though uncomfortable at times, the pursuit of multiculturalism in the Church isn’t just nice—it’s necessary. We ultimately develop richer, more wonderfully complex views of God and a deeper love and appreciation for one another when we choose to actively participate in one another’s stories that are different from our own, that originate from different places.

My hope for the Church is that congregations and communities become more challenged—more uncomfortable, even—in wrestling with the idea of welcoming not just color, but culture, and that expressions of worship, teaching, evangelism and discipleship would be influenced by multiculturalism so richly that Christ in all of His beauty may be known more fully by many.

 

So, What Is a Nazarene?

Today marks the first day of the Church of the Nazarene’s Global Conventions and General Assembly.  These events are held once every four years and this time in Indianapolis, Indiana we are expecting more than 15,000 attendees and delegates for times of corporate worship, training, fellowship, and business.  However, maybe we are getting ahead of ourselves.  Some may ask, “What is a Nazarene anyway?” On an exciting day such as today, Rev. Daron Brown reminds us of our equally exciting origins.

Written by Daron Brown
From his column Pressing On

A few days into my freshman year at Trevecca Nazarene College, one of the guys in my dorm suite pulled me aside. He was unchurched, attending TNC on a baseball scholarship. He spent his first week wide-eyed, watching us Church of the Nazarene folks, wondering what he had gotten himself into. With a hushed voice, half embarrassed and half amused, he whispered, “What is a Nazarene?”

Since then I have been asked the question dozens of times. While there are different ways to answer it, perhaps the best response is to look back at how we got the name.

In the first century, the town of Nazareth in Galilee was considered a second-class community. This attitude can be seen in Nathaniel’s response to Phillip when he spoke to his friend about “Jesus of Nazareth.” Phillip evidenced his skepticism with, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” (John 1:46, NIV). The assumed answer to Phillip’s rhetorical question was “Of course not. Nothing worthwhile ever happens in Nazareth.”

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In Luke 4 when Jesus returned to Nazareth, he was physically rejected and nearly killed by citizens of his own hometown. Their response might be described as, “Why should we listen to you? You’re no better than us.” To be a “Nazarene” in the first century didn’t win you much credibility.

It is remarkable that the Second Person of the Trinity would come to us by way of a remote place like Nazareth. God himself chose to reside in a community where people believed goodness did not exist. In doing so, He reminded us that we are not always so quick at distinguishing good from evil. It’s a problem we’ve had since the first chapters of Genesis.

Some 700 years before Jesus’ birth, Isaiah foresaw the life of Christ with the words, “He was despised and rejected by humankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces, he was despised, and we held him in low esteem” (Isaiah 53:3). In embracing the role of an outcast, Jesus the Nazarene showed His solidarity with those who were marginalized, persecuted, and without hope.

Nineteen centuries later, in Los Angeles, California, a Methodist Episcopal Church preacher named Phineas F. Bresee felt the call to take the message of Holiness to poor families—urban outcasts who likely were not welcomed by well-heeled folks in prominent fellowships. Leaving his denomination over the issue, he partnered with a well-known physician and former president of the University of Southern California, Joseph P. Widney. In 1895, they joined with others in the community to start a new church. The late historian Timothy Smith said that in doing so Bresee “declared that the only thing new in the movement was its determination to preach the gospel to the needy, and to give that class a church they could call their own” (Called Unto Holiness, Vol. 1, p. 110). The name they chose for their movement was suggested by Widney, who said the term “Nazarene” symbolized “the toiling, lowly mission of Christ… to whom the world in its misery and despair turns, that it may have hope” (Ibid. p. 111).

Since that time almost 122 years ago, our fellowship has expanded into more than 160 areas around the world. You’ll find Nazarenes of diverse ethnicity and socioeconomic backgrounds, worshiping in beautiful sanctuaries, cinder block buildings, and strip malls. Our thousands of churches may have different personalities and programs, but we continue to share a common aspiration. First and foremost, we are driven to take the message of Holiness to the poor and needy around us. Secondly, we embrace the identity of the God who himself became an outcast in order to reach the outcasts of this world—people like ourselves.

Since my freshman year at TNC, I have gotten better at responding to “What is a Nazarene?” These days, the best answer I can give is: “Come with us into the neighborhoods. Let us show you the jail ministry, the community garden, the food pantry, the mentoring and backpack feeding programs. Come join us as we work alongside those who suffer—the sick, the aging, and the addict—and then you will clearly understand what it means to be a Nazarene.

Daron Brown lives and pastors in Waverly, Tennessee.

This article was originally posted at: pbusa.org

Are We More Invested In Bringing People to Church? Or to Jesus?

By Karl Vaters

Church attendance should be a tool to help people draw closer to Jesus. Not the other way around.

I have a confession to make.

As a pastor, I have too much invested in getting people to attend church.

My salary depends on it.

My reputation depends on it.

My sense of self-worth depends on it.

All to a much larger degree than I’m comfortable with.

And I’m not alone.

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Come to Church? Or Come to Jesus?

The way most church systems are structured, many pastors have a greater stake in getting people to come to church than getting them to come to Jesus.

In fact, sometimes it’s detrimental to our bottom-line to have people draw too close to Jesus.

When people are more committed to the church than to Jesus, they will

  • Attend regularly and quietly
  • Spend all their volunteer hours at the church
  • Give all their charitable donations to the church
  • Be happy with the status quo

When people are more committed to Jesus than our churches, they might

  • Volunteer for some of their ministry outside the church walls
  • Find other places that are worthy of some of their charitable donations
  • Leave when God calls them into full-time ministry
  • Challenge the status quo
  • Make us feel threatened by reducing the clergy/laity dividing line

But we have to do it anyway.

We have to point people to Jesus more than to the church.

 Church Is a Tool, Not a Goal

Overcoming our tendency to emphasize church more than we emphasize Jesus won’t be easy. And I’m not in a position to point any fingers. I’m as much a part of the problem as anyone.

But I have a longing. For more. For better. For deeper.

I want to live, preach and disciple people in such a way that they’re committed to Jesus, not just their church.

Of course, church is valuable. It matters that we participate in a local body of believers through worship, fellowship, discipleship and ministry. If it didn’t matter, I’d leave the pastorate today.

We’re not commanded to bring people to church. We’re commanded to disciple them into a deeper relationship with Jesus.

But we’re not commanded to bring people to church. We’re commanded to disciple them into a deeper relationship with Jesus.

Church attendance is not the goal. It’s a tool to help us reach the goal.

As a pastor, I have to remind myself of that on a regular basis.

A Matter of Pastoral Integrity

I don’t want to pastor a group of nice, polite church attenders, or waste my time entertaining bored believers.

I want to participate in the gathering, training, and releasing of an army of Jesus-worshiping, people-loving, barrier-breaking world-changers.

Sometimes it feels like my salary depends on the former. My integrity depends on the latter.

I also want my bills paid. But making pastoral decisions that have more to do with holding on to our salary packages than making disciples has made much of the western church anemic.

The church I pastor is no exception to that. At least not as much of an exception as it should be. That’s not their fault as much as it is mine.

Jesus promised that if we serve his kingdom first, “all these things” will be taken care of.

Let’s trust him to do that and turn the church loose.

This article was originally posted at: http://www.christianitytoday.com/karl-vaters/2016/january/invested-in-bringing-people-to-church-or-jesus.html?start=2

 

Break My Heart, Lord

I received the following reflection from Rev. Howie Shute. Howie and his wife Bev served for many years in the Horn of Africa as missionaries with the Church of the Nazarene and were part of a truly amazing movement of God in those countries. Currently they serve as pastors of the Victory Hills Church of the Nazarene in Kansas City, Kansas. I pray that Howie’s words would pierce our hearts and drive us to pray the same prayer that God is teaching him.

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Rev. Howie Shute

It is a wonderful thing to be around people, who are on fire for the Lord and want to be used in the Kingdom, multiplying Jesus-followers and planting churches…Bev and I were thrilled to be a part of a movement in the Horn of Africa, but we have hungered to see God move in a big way again here where we minister.

God has spoken to me very clearly during this past week. If I can paraphrase what I have heard from the Lord, it is this:

Howie, you have a desire to multiply Jesus-followers through a network of organic churches in Kansas City and beyond. You want to reach un-churched people and especially those living in broken homes. This is good thing but your desire to do this is more out of a sense of ought-ness than it is out of a broken heart for the lost.

copia-de-joven_triste_4_uym.jpgWow! There are times when you hear from the Lord that He really shakes your world. This was one of them. He’s right (of course)! He always is! As I thought about my desire to reach lost people, I recognized that it was a sense of ought-ness that has given me vision to reach the lost of our city. If people without Jesus are lost and will miss out on heaven, then we ought to share Jesus with them. What other conclusion can we come to – especially when we know that the Bible is clear that there is another destination for those who do not personally know Jesus?

We hate to even say the word. I don’t really want to put that word into writing even now. It’s too terrifying even to think about. Hell is a very unpleasant subject. Unfortunately, it doesn’t go away just because we ignore it. It doesn’t disappear if we don’t believe in it. We can’t escape it even if we think that we are too good to go there. We either have a personal relationship with Jesus or we don’t. If we have not entered into a relationship with God by repenting of our sins and trusting in Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross, then we are lost and on our way to this place that is too dreadful to mention. Hell awaits all who are not following Jesus. This terrible thought ought not only to give us a sense of ought-ness, but it should break our heart.

That’s what I’m putting at the top of my prayer list in these days. “Oh, God, break my heart for the lost!” Will you join me in this prayer? Pray for me that I would have a broken heart over the lost. Pray for yourself also. If our church were full of people with hearts broken over the lost, then God would use us in a big way to reach people for Jesus.

As we develop a more passionate relationship with God, he will give us his heart and his heart is broken for the lost. And if God answers our prayer to give us greater intimacy with him and to break our hearts for the lost, we will see some amazing things happen throughout our city and the world. So pray with me, “Break My Heart, Lord.”

 

Next-Generation Faith

By David A. Busic

There has been a great deal of research and discussion about the impact of millennials (those reaching young adulthood in the early 21st century) on the church and the impact of the church on millennials. Much of the data tends to focus on the negative aspects of their demographic. However, in my frequent interaction with young Nazarene leaders — both pastors and laity — I am greatly encouraged by their love for the church and their commitment to the Wesleyan-Holiness tradition.
 
I have drawn several conclusions about ministry with and among millennials.
 
First, conducting church “business as usual” will not reach them. In 2016, 23 percent of organized Nazarene churches reported having no youth in their congregation. Let that sink in … 5,207 Nazarene churches did not have one single young person ages 12-29. Additionally, recent research reflecting all Protestant churches in the USA reports that 50 percent of the students in our youth ministries will walk away from the church after leaving high school. Of greater Kingdom concern, many of these young adults will also discard their faith in Christ.

It is important to ask: Why are these young people leaving?

Sobering trends demand that we prayerfully reconsider “business as usual.” This is not the time to play it safe. The stakes have never been higher and the opportunities have never been greater.
 
Second, and on the positive side, studies show that 94 percent of Christians came to faith in Christ between the ages of 4-30 (85 percent between the ages of 4-14). Furthermore, even though half of young adults are leaving the church after high school, half are also staying. Just as the church must ask why some are leaving, it is essential to discover why the other half is staying and find ways to replicate those reasons in our local contexts. How are young adults finding identity, belonging, and purpose in our congregations that makes them want to be a part of us?
 
Those who are willing to stay have hopes and dreams for the church. I discovered this in a series of focus groups with millennials conducted in the last 12 months. I learned they want to be part of a church that is authentic, honest, incarnational, difference-making, and most of all, Christ-centered. The questions they are asking of the church are simple, yet profound:

  1. Are you (the church) asking the right questions? Do you know the deepest problems facing the world right now, and are you willing to face these problems head-on?
  2. Are you being honest about the shortcomings of the church? Are you willing to do the hard work of changing to be relevant in the future for the glory of God?
  3. Do you want me?
  4. Do you need me?

Millennials will undoubtedly do things differently than their predecessors. They are not motivated by the same things as previous generations. They are not inspired by maintaining institutions. But they will give their lives for a movement of God that wants their help.