Why I Want to Go to VERGE 2012

So there I am checking my Twitter feed on Tweet Deck and see a friend tweeted about this VERGE Conference 

2012 contest.  It sounded great to me, but I had to write a blog post and retweet stuff.  So here I am giving you the shpeel as to why I want to attend VERGE 2012.

Since Verge began I’ve wanted to someday make it to a conference.  Their focus has been on developing missional communities, churches that act like Christian churches — being the presence of Christ in their communities through outstretched arms of grace, without being judgmental, but just pointing to Jesus.

Having grown up in a very traditional conservative denominational community (praise the Lord that is beginning to change), mission has always been something you do “over there”, but certainly support it financially and prayerfully.  While that is vital for any ministry to succeed, I had always felt while growing up that God wants me and the church to be missionaries in our own backyard with everyone we meet.   Continue reading Why I Want to Go to VERGE 2012

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Building Bridges

Back in May 2010 our church adopted a new mission and vision statement, one that has, I believe, the potential to inspire and motivate our church family to greater things for the kingdom of God.  The mission is simple and yet extremely challenging, much like the great commission and great commandment Jesus set forth for his followers (Matt 22, 28).  But it is empowered by the Holy Spirit and Jesus did say, “I will be with you until the end of the age. ”

That’s a good thing because we’re toast without his divine presence and intervention.  But the task still remains for us to be his presence and his ambassadors to a hurting world who desperately need the healing touch of Jesus.

I begin thinking about the bridges that need to be made into our community.  We do have some good bridges since some of our folks are involved with the Women’s Resource Center and we have SERVE and CCSP (Christian Community Service Projects) all summer which bless the lives of so many people. More recently we have begun special community missions during months with five Sundays through our Faith In Action ministry. We’ve been cooking and serving with La Puente homeless shelter for over a year now.  We offer a Vacation Bible School every year as well. I think these are extremely valuable and viable inlets into the community and I’m excited to see more and more people becoming involved and challenged. But what I find interesting is that there are a significant number who still don’t participate.  It’s easy to stay at arms length from mission.   Most of us feel connected financially and vicariously.  But “vicariousness” by it’s very nature suggests a measure of disconnect from the event or action itself.  So then, how involved are you?

In order to achieve our mission and the vision we believe God by his Holy Spirit has laid on our hearts, we must move from vicarious participation to active participation in building bridges into our community.  And since we are some ten miles from town, we will need to really become creative in order to span the distance.

We know that a number of the people we are trying to reach and connect with may not have the means to make the trek to our location.  We will need to assess the needs in our community in order to consider how we might be able to build a bridge.  Literacy and healthy parenting  are just a couple of huge issues and often among those in poverty.  In order to bridge this gap we may have to set up a space or rent an office in town to teach classes?  Maybe one of our bridging endeavors would be to some how close the distance that separates our church from the town of Alamosa.  Let’s face it, people don’t want to drive any further than they have to these days.

We need to dream big because we have a big God who wants to flex his muscles.  He’s just waiting for his people to live as if they have a big God.

Not all bridges need to be long.  Some are very short and are between you and your neighbor, coworker, the check out clerk at the grocery store.  We all have natural connections that require some intentionality and cultivation so that relationships can grow.  Who knows, it could turn out to be a relationship in eternity.

Bridges are key to our mission and vision.  So what are some expanses that need to be spanned?  And, how’s your engineering?

“A Spiritual bridge always involves a physical reality.

People need to see to believe.”

Robert Lewis

’til next time,

akd

The Hard Questions about Church Growth

I’ve been in my current charge for about 2 years now and have really grown to love the people here.  We gather for worship every Sunday morning for a blended service time of worship.  We get some guests from time to time either passing through — especially during the summer — or who are checking out churches in the valley.  We have gotten some new folks in, but mostly churched people.  While I am thankful for their finding a home with us, I have yet to see conversion growth.  Our Life Groups are beginning to pick up speed with more people becoming involved all the time.  We are working hard at making it our key avenue to build disciples in our congregation.  God doesn’t really care if you’re warming a pew every week.  He’d rather see us being the church in our community and loving the people into the kingdom.

In the spring of 2010 our church adopted a new mission and vision that was pretty cutting edge that, in order to achieve it, we’d really have to think seriously about how we do church.  So the leadership and I have been working hard on that and we’re beginning to see some results through new ministries and involvement of members.

But now what about the longevity of our little church?  During our vision forums discussing the church vision and mission our team raised the question, “Will our church be here in 15 years?”  Most people said, “Not likely… that is unless we really are willing to rethink how we are and do church.”  That got the ball rolling toward deeper discussion on what we believe God wants the church to be and what we should do.  That was a tough but important question to answer.  But here are a few others I believe every church needs to address especially the ones that are beginning to shrink away.

1. If you want to see the church grow what is your motivation?

Many people I have found want to see the church grow so that they can still have the quaint church of their youth or the past as they remember it.  This is a harmful motivating factor.  Here’s why.  When motivation is about maintaining for selfish purposes it can often work against God’s mission.  It does not motivate people to reach the lost and hurting with the Gospel, but rather creates expectations of  others to do the work of ministry to, “keep my church the same.”  These folks are often critical when there is no growth or whether there is growth.  Nothing is good enough… unless it’s like it always was.  For these folks there is little reason to rejoice when the church does grow because the people have changed — “they’re different” — in fact too many things have changed.  They want their church, but not “those” people.

Motivation for church growth must be out of the desire to reach the lost and disciple the found not merely survive.  Is the church really willing to make the necessary changes that will grow the church?  That’s where the other questions come into play.  Answer the other two questions will help determine if a church can make the jump to continue to grow.

2. Are you willing to radically look at your own discipling, or lack thereof to be part of church growth?

If your motivation is to reach people for Christ and his kingdom with the Gospel message then this question is essential.  Many people come to me and say that they don’t share their faith because they don’t know how or don’t have any theological training.  Those are usually excuses for feeling inadequate or, if they’ve been in the church their whole lives, have never learned how.  Many churches have done a poor job equipping people for the mission of God.

We are each responsible for our spiritual growth yet we are still responsible for each member of God’s family in life and conduct.  This is where small groups can really help in challenging people in their walk with God, holding them accountable and giving church members an avenue in which to develop in spiritual disciplines and life practice.  What’s the natural outgrowth of a person growing as a disciple, a devoted follower of Christ?  People coming to know Christ and growing in their walk and mission.  People are added to the kingdom because true disciples can’t help but live and tell people about Jesus.  The church grows exponentially.

3. Are you willing to make the changes necessary in your own lifestyle — time, priorities… etc — for kingdom priorities?

Something else I am surprised by is how people verbally support church growth but are unwilling to participate in it through either of the last two questions.  Let’s be honest, our western way of life is extremely self-centered and Satan subtly uses this to make us ineffective for the kingdom.  Even church people keep so busy with “important” stuff (it’s really mostly what the world deems as important) that church events and ministry get “left-over” time — not to mention finances (that’s a discipleship issue).  There are elements of sacrificial living and giving in the kingdom that committed disciples realize are priority.

If you answer, NO, to any of the last two questions then the church could be in trouble.

But possibly the biggest question is, “How much do we really love Jesus?”  By answering that question and adjusting our lives accordingly naturally grows the kingdom and Christ body, the church.

’til next time,

akd.

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Ponderings on God's inertia