Friday, December 9, 2011

Ministry and The Hundred Acre Wood

With a three year old daughter at home, I have suddenly become very familiar with Winnie the Pooh and friends. Apparently, Pooh wasn't as popular back in the 80's when I was growing up, because I really don't remember much about him or Piglet or Tigger.

What I love about Winnie the Pooh and friends is that each character is so different...each possesses their own unique personality, mannerisms, etc. Lots of people relate so well to Winnie the Pooh and friends because they see themselves in one of the characters...or better yet, they see the characters in the people around them.

One of the keys of leading people in church ministry is being able to identify the strengths and weaknesses in those you lead so that you can create opportunities to serve that both allow people to thrive and challenge them to grow. And, I've discovered that the characters of The Hundred Acre Wood help me figure out how certain people operate, are motivated, etc.

Winnie the Pooh
Strengths - Pooh always has something kind to say, always is willing to help out a friend in need, and is always ready to cheer somebody up.
Weaknesses - Pooh is very forgetful, has a habit of getting caught up in the moment and ignoring what is happening around him, allows his tummy to control his thoughts and actions, and tends to be very messy (think honey).

Strengths - Piglet is very humble, willing to work behind the scenes without patting himself on the back, and is always willing to do his part, even when his part is very small.
Weaknesses - Piglet is very fearful of trying new things, second guesses and doubts himself constantly, and tends to rely on others for motivation.

Strengths - Tigger is extremely energetic, is always the first to try anything new, and is an incredible encourager.
Weaknesses - Tigger can be energetic to the point of destruction (think Rabbit's garden), can get so far ahead of people that he finds himself all alone, and often acts without really thinking things through.

Strengths - Rabbit is very intelligent, is very thorough and prefers to do things with excellence, and likes to organize the group when they are planning projects and adventures.
Weaknesses - Rabbit likes to over analyze things to the point of frustrating everyone else, can be very, very stubborn, and tends to become very upset with others when they mess things up.

Strengths - Eeyore is very dependable, very diligent about completing a task, and tends to be the wisest of all of the characters (even though nobody seems to notice).
Weaknesses - Eeyore is very slow and tends to hold others back, is always depressed, and the first thing out of his mouth is almost always negative or critical.

Strengths - Owl is something of a father figure to the other characters, tends to show up at just the right time, and is always available with a bit of advice.
Weaknesses - Owl really doesn't do a whole lot other than sit in his tree and give advice (often very bad advice), considers himself to be way more intelligent than he actually is, and tends to make a big deal out of nothing.

Strengths - Gopher is a very hard worker, always has a positive attitude, and tends to always have the resources needed for the task at hand.
Weaknesses - Gopher comes and goes as he pleases and is not always around when he is needed, and although he means well, his solutions to problems are often problems in and of themselves.

The great thing about this group of friends (I know I didn't name them all) is that, despite their collective shortcomings, they always seem to get the job done and have fun doing it. They work together as a team, often though not always led by Christopher Robbins, and at the end of the day, they are always ready for the next adventure.

The unfortunate thing about this group of friends is that, despite their many mistakes, they never seem to learn from them.

So, which character are you? Which characters make up the team of people you lead or serve with? Which character(s) are you missing from your team? How do you encourage these people to grow in their strengths and overcome their weaknesses?


Thursday, June 30, 2011

Secular in the Church

If, as many argue, the church can only use music that was written by those devoted to God, does that mean we can only hire Christian architects to design our church buildings, Christian bakers to prepare our communion bread, Christian seamstresses to sew our choir robes?

What say you?


Monday, May 2, 2011

Enemies (Considering the death of Osama Bin Laden)

The death of Osama Bin Laden, and vast spectrum of reaction has me thinking about how followers of Christ are commanded to relate to our "enemies". Understand that I'm approaching this from a Biblical perspective, not from an "American" perspective. Neither does the following cover every aspect of this topic.

Should we hate our enemies? Should we celebrate the death of an enemy?

But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? - Matthew 5:44-46

Who is responsible for justice? Should we celebrate God’s justice?

Never pay back evil for evil to anyone Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, "VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY," says the Lord. "BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD." - Romans 12:17-20

I will sing of lovingkindness and justice, To You, O LORD, I will sing praises. - Psalm 101:1

Vengeance is Mine, and retribution, In due time their foot will slip; For the day of their calamity is near, And the impending things are hastening upon them. - Deuteronomy 32:35

Who does God consider to be "evil/wicked"?


For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. - Romans 3:23

What is God’s desire for the wicked? Should we celebrate the death of somebody who will spend eternity without Him?

But a wicked person who turns his back on that life of sin and keeps all my statutes, living a just and righteous life, he'll live, really live. He won't die. I won't keep a list of all the things he did wrong. He will live. Do you think I take any pleasure in the death of wicked men and women? Isn't it my pleasure that they turn around, no longer living wrong but living right—really living? - Ezekiel 18:23

Who are “God’s children”?

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. - John 1:12-13

From what I understand from God's Word and character, here are a few thoughts:

- Any believer who celebrates the death of an enemy and that enemy's eternity in hell does not truly understand the heart of God or the reality of hell (and, truthfully, nobody completely understands God or hell).

- Any believer who doesn't praise God for His justice doesn't truly understand God's justice (again, nobody completely understands this).

- In the eyes of God, everyone of us is "wicked" and on our way to eternity without God...the murderers, the liars, the nice people.

- God offers eternity with Him to anyone who believes in Jesus. The good, the bad, the most evil. The fruit of Bin Laden's life speaks very evidently that he never held that belief. BUT, if he did, he will spend eternity in Heaven.

- The "children of God" are those who have believed in Jesus. Again, if Bin Laden never believed, he is not "God's child".


Monday, April 4, 2011

Facebook as a Ministry Tool - Facebook Events

We've discovered at Nags Head Church that Facebook is an incredible tool to help accomplish this. Over the next few weeks, I'll be posting some of the best ways we've discovered to use Facebook for ministry and mission.

One of the great things about Facebook is that it can be relatively easy for something to go "viral", locally. Because the OBX is not a huge community, and just about everyone is connected to everyone else within one or two people (think Kevin Bacon), we've discovered:

1) News can travel fast on Facebook. For example, on the OBX, photos of a beached whale from the morning start popping up all over the place on the profile pages of OBX locals within just a few hours and are everywhere by early afternoon, rumors of Chick-Fil-A opening locally circulate within hours on profile updates, etc.

2) Often, any news is big news. As evidenced above, it doesn't take much to get people's attention around here.

3) Because of 1 & 2, lots of local folks use Facebook as a local news/information source.

Based on our observations, we've discovered that creating a Facebook Event can be a great way to get the word out about an upcoming outreach event. Consider these guesstimations/statistics:

1) About 90% of our NHC partners and regular attenders are on Facebook, and most of those people are connected with several other partners/attenders. That's around 350 people.
2) Let's say, conservatively, that 50% of those people check their facebook about once a day and would be up for "attending" a church related Facebook Event and inviting their local friends to that event. That's 175 people.
3) Let's say that the average NHC partner/attender has 400 Facebook friends, and about 200 of those friends are local.
4) Again, let's say that 50% of those local friends check their Facebook at least once a day. That's 100 people.
5) Because, most likely, many of our NHC partners and attenders share many of the same local Facebook friends, let's say that each of those 175 partners/attenders who are regular Facebook users has 50 unique local Facebook friends who are outside of our church.
6) We know for a fact that only 7% of adults in our area attend church regularly. So, we'll subtract 7% from 50 unique locals outside of our church, and we end up with 47 (rounding up).

So, take all of those numbers, and let's guesstimate that we could possibly market to over 8000 people (175 x 47). Of course, 8000 people aren't going to show up to every event, but the potential is there for 8000 people to be exposed to a Facebook invitation to an event. Maybe that number is way high, or maybe it's way either case, that's still a lot of people. And, we've discovered that, if we can get our own people excited about an upcoming event and committed to inviting other Facebook friends to an event, that number is certainly not unreasonable. And, that's just via Facebook, not considering that we understand that personal, face to face invitations are still the most effective.

So, we do our best to set up a Facebook Event for just about every outreach event at our church. Not every event gets good results because of Facebook Events, but it's kind of stupid to ignore this free and effective marketing tool.

A couple of tips from experience:
1) Keep the information as simple, accurate and clear as possible.
2) Develop your own graphics/artwork that are culturally relevant and hopefully attention grabbing.
3) Focus on a target group.
4) Talk about Facebook on Sunday mornings.
5) When setting up the Facebook Event, uncheck the "show the guest list on the event page" box. We've discovered, especially with youth events, that people will often check the guest list and make their decision about attending an event based on who they can see are "attending" and "not attending".


Monday, March 28, 2011

God Makes No Mistakes

Yesterday at Nags Head Church, we talked about humanity as God's creation. In doing so, we decided to contrast Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" with Gungor's "Beautiful Things" to illustrate the huge (yet deceptive) difference between how God's Word and the beliefs of society. We sang an acoustic version of "Born This Way" (similar to This Video), and then invited our church to pay close attention to the difference as we sang "Beautiful Things".

Based on the feedback, I would say it was incredibly effective, and certainly surprising to the parents and grandparents who had no idea their kids had already been introduced to "Born This Way".

Below are the two songs mentioned above. I have to warn you that "Born This Way" is a little disturbing to watch (close your eyes and listen if nothing else), but I believe it is something that we need to see and hear to understand how desperately our world needs the Truth of Jesus. Pay close attention to the way Lady Gaga mixes Biblical Truth ("God makes no mistakes") with untruth ("There ain't no other way").


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Facebook as a Ministry Tool - Profile Banners (Update)

This is an update from the post below.

After talking with a few people and trying a few different methods, the easiest way of allowing others in my church to use the banner is to upload it as outlined below and then invite others to simply tag themselves...the trick is, to tag in reverse order, starting with the 5th photo/graphic (on the far right) and ending with the 1st (on the far left).

And, I have found at least two other churches who are using profile banners to market for upcoming events.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Facebook as a Ministry Tool - Profile Banners

One of the things I love about my job is that I get to spend time building relationships, both with our church partners and with people in our community, both face to face and online. We've discovered that Facebook is an incredible tool to help accomplish this. Over the next few weeks, I'll be posting some of the best ways we've discovered to use Facebook for ministry and mission.

I'll start first with something that I'm still working on. One of the changes that came about with the latest Facebook upgrade was the collage of five photos that now spread across the top of profiles.

It literally only took a few days for somebody more creative than me to figure out how to build "profile banners", a series of five photos that make up one single graphic that people can upload and use for advertising, marketing, or just to share more of their personality.

I began seeing more and more of these banners pop up, people advertising their personal business, telling the world of their love for Justin Bieber, asking people to think and pray for Japan...and, I began wondering, is this something that people in our church could use to let their friends know about upcoming events, like a small group party, a surf camp, or Easter Sunday? So, I started searching online, and I found this video...

So, I followed the instructions, and within about 20 minutes had created the banner below.

The tricky part now is trying to figure out how to pass these five graphics onto others in our church to do the same...

I'd love to find out if any other churches have taken advantage of this same idea, and if they have been able to easily pass this onto members in their church. Is this something you'd consider using as a tool for communication in your church?


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Confusing Conviction and Pressure

Spiritually speaking, Conviction comes from the Holy Spirit moving within you to change your life from the inside out. Pressure comes from people, circumstance, etc. trying to persuade or force you to change from the outside in.

It's easy to get the two confused when you're opposed to both. God will use both to move us to becoming more like Him, but He never uses pressure without conviction.

Do you agree?


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Don't Be a Schizophrenic Church!

One of the biggest topics of discussion over the past several years among worship leaders has been about churches that offer multiple worship gatherings with different styles of musical worship. For example, a church will offer a 9am "traditional" gathering and an 11am "contemporary" gathering. Is this a good idea, is it the best strategy, is it a really stupid thing to do?

From my experience, a church that offers multiple styles of musical worship is, practically, functioning as multiple churches. Just because two groups of people meet in the same building, share the same pastor, give to and spend from the same budget doesn't make them one church. And, if these kids of churches do attempt to function as a single church, they tend to suffer from something that resembles schizophrenia...they are constantly dealing with internal conflict, they fail to think logically, and they may experience delusions and hallucinations.

As described several times in the New Testament, a local church is at it's best best when it is functioning as one "body"...when the hands, legs, eyes, neck, etc. are all serving their unique roles to serve each other and and fulfill the purpose of the church.

In comparison, a church with two or more groups of people who do not worship and serve together cannot function as one body. It's certainly not impossible for two groups to coincide together and partner with each other to serve God and others...I've heard of a few churches that offer multiple worship styles and function well as two separate churches, but only because they've recognized their situation for what it really is and have made the decision to do so.

But, for one church to be unified, to be one body, it's individual members must share goals, purpose, vision, strategy. It is difficult for a single church with multiple worship styles to be one unified body because each worship style identifies who the "target" audience is going to be (whether purposefully or not). Although people will tell you they love a church for many reasons, few people will attend a church service that uses a musical style that doesn't fit their personal preferences. Especially when the pastor is preaching the same sermon twice with two different accompanying musical styles, people are naturally going to migrate to the service with the style they prefer, and stay there.

And, I'm not so sure that's a bad thing. People naturally thrive in an environment that is comfortable and with a mission that is challenging. We all have personal preferences, and that's a good thing. And, naturally, people with similar preferences will group themselves together. And, if so, why are so many churches trying to force their square people through a round hole?

Interestingly enough, Jesus didn't spend much time instructing his disciples (the very first New Testament church planters) what music style to use, what color to paint their church walls, how to most effectively divide the time of an average a church service between music and sermon. My guess is, because He is God, Jesus knew that all of those things are really up to each individual church to figure out for themselves (hopefully, in a peaceable way)...instead, He focused on teaching those twelve guys about the things that are not up for debate (if you're not sure what those things are, read the words of Jesus in the Gospels).

Seriously, how many churches would be in a much better place if they would simply recognize the truth of our human tendencies and choose function as two separate, Bible believing/teaching churches?


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Expect the Best (of People)

Before reading below, please understand that, although we do deal with these issues from time to time, this post does not stem from anything that is currently taking place in my own church.

Maybe it's just because I am and for nearly all my life have been a pastor's kid (PK). Maybe it's simply because my parents taught me, through word and example, to defend the unity of the church at all costs. Maybe it's just because I'm just a trusting guy...

There are very few things I despise more than the idea that somebody is even suspicious that I've lied to them when I haven't. Partly because of that, I do my best to trust others, unless I have proof otherwise. People who are not trustworthy tend to be the first to be distrusting. I deeply desire others to have the confidence in me to trust me.

A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret. (Proverbs 11:13)

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. (I Timothy 1:12)

Maybe, it's because my parents taught me what a New Testament church was really meant to be. A NT church is the bride of Christ, the body of Christ. God says he'll protect His church, and He commands us to do the same.

I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.“I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. (John 17:21-23)

It's not a coincidence that I have continued to love the church since I was a teenager. My parents not only taught me to love the church, but they raise me in a church that I could love among people who loved me. The same church I grew up in is the church I now serve full-time. The same pastors who led me as a child now lead me as a 29 year old man, and I consider each of them a close friend. My pastors have taught me and the rest of my church by example what it means to protect the unity of our church. Nothing cripples the church more or more quickly than false or unproven accusations.

And, maybe it's because I grew up in a pastor's house. Many pastors have lost all credibility and reputation because of false accusations. To be a leader, especially a leader who is willing to speak the truth and ignore "political correctness", is to set oneself in the crosshairs of all sorts of accusations. My father has never shied away from the truth, and it's only by God's grace that he has weathered the storms brought about by those who hate the truth and hate him for it.

To accuse another believer of heresy or sin is a very, very serious thing. To accuse a pastor of heresy or sin is even more serious. The Bible is extremely clear about this...

Be sure never to charge anyone falsely with evil. Never sentence an innocent or blameless person to death, for I never declare a guilty person to be innocent. (Exodus 23:7)

Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. (I Timothy 5:19)

My parents did what they could to protect me and my sisters from the ugly side of full-time ministry, but I was still aware at a young age of how hard the life of a pastor can be. I've heard horror stories from other PKs about things their fathers went through, and although I am certain I don't know the half of it, I'm thankful my dad and our family was protected from much of what could have been. When I see other pastors (those I know, and those I might not know) being accused without proof, it hurts my heart because I know experientially the damage a false accusation of a pastor threaten to do.

Here's the bottom line. Expect the best of people, especially those who have proven to be of godly character. Whether it's your best friend, an "enemy" or the hottest televangelist. Even those who have suspicion clouding around them should be given the grace that God has extended to us.


As a footnote, if somebody has been proven to be a heretic, to be living in sin, etc., then yes, the Bible also speaks clearly about how to address those situations. I'd suggest reading Matthew 18 and Titus 3:10,11.