What I've been thinking and what I've been reading for you to compare notes.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Simple Church or 7-Day-a-Week Church?

Just finished re-reading Simple Church by Rainer and Geiger. (Broadman & Holman Publishers, A Division of Lifeway, 2006)

The sub title? Returning to God's Process for Making Disciples.

"Simple Church calls Christians to make a clear return to the simple gospel-sharing methods of Jesus. No elaborate, multi-level outreach strategies required."

"Based on new case studies of four hundred American churches..."

The premise of the book is precisely focused on a major need of most churches - so many programs vying for volunteers, promotion and money - that many of those programs fail to achieve their desired results.

The answer, according to the authors, is to find "Clarity - Movement - Alignment - Focus," in that order.

Intuitively I was drawn to the book's premise and was sold on it before I even read the examples of churches given as proof texts.

You'll have to read the book to get their arguments but they basically hover around three facts:

1) Jesus used a simple model.
2) Our culture needs simple due to its complexities.
3) Too much going on in the church strains the resources of the people - time, money, talents, etc.

I think if most churches would major on solid weekend worship gatherings, small groups and community service/outreach, doing those things right would be enough to occupy an entire church family and its resources.

Years ago a popular book on church programs was Lyle E. Schaller's "Seven-Day-a-Week Church." (Abingdon Press, 1992) Here are a few things he said...

"The Sunday morning church has been succeeded by the seven-day-a-week parish. To be more specific, the number of Protestant churchgoers who are satisfied with the Sunday morning church has been decreasing. Concurrently the number of people seeking the quality of ministry and the range of choices offered by the full-service program church with a seven-day-a-week schedule has been increasing at a remarkably rapid pace. ...grow younger and larger by becoming a full-service church." (Page 43)

"The vast majority of new members born before 1930 reply that their first visit was on a Sunday morning. The majority of those born after 1950 look back to a weekday or weeknight even as the occasion for their first visit. (A long list of events follows) In simple terms, the principal entry point for prospective future members in large churches has moved from Sunday morning to seven mornings, seven afternoons, and seven evenings every week." (Page 44)

I won't critique Schaller extensively. He makes some good points about how Sunday morning is not the only time for people to become acquainted with the body of Christ. But I think a lot of people got burnt and burnt-out by his model.

I don't mean to sound any more spiritually haughty than Rainer and Geiger did by their sub-title, but I'm going to "return to God's process for making disciples."

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

"Not-so Blessings"

Recently I was taking another turn teaching the children on Wednesday night.

After opening with some conversation with the kids about what was going on in their lives I asked for any prayer requests. One girl asked that we pray for her because school would soon start and she was going to a new school this year. Another that we pray for her family's health needs. A boy requested prayer for a friend, etc.

Then one girl asked that we pray for her family because they recently suffered the loss of an extended family member and also of a close friend of the family. She mentioned how she had already been to one funeral with her grandmother and was going to go to another the next day.

When I asked for a volunteer to pray the same girl that had the requests for her bereaved family raised her hand. As she began she said, "God, thank you for all these blessings...," then she hesitated before continuing..."and all these not-so blessings."

Is it a sin for a pastor to laugh during prayer?

She had her theology correct though.

God doesn't just want us to be thankful for the blessings but also for the "not-so blessings."

"In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." (1 Thessalonians 5:18

I've been using that little girl's words and the associated Scriptural principle quite a bit lately. I trust that God knows what He's doing even when the "not-so blessings" occur.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Difficult to Blog in Summer

More reasons for not blogging consistently in the summer time:

- I helped chaperone a group of teens and young adults whitewater rafting. That's me trying to get up on the front edge so that I can "ride the bull" on our raft. The guide in the back is trying to jump up and bounce me out but he didn't succeed - although he was tossed from the raft.

- Also had company a couple of times recently. Deb's cousin Angie and her daughter from Tuscaloosa (checking out UAH as a potential college), and my cousin Jason from Maryland. Enjoyed their visits but forgot to take pictures!

- Yard work is killing me. When the shrubs around this house need trimming its all at once - and there are bushes on all four sides of the house. I came home almost every evening for a while and stayed in the yard for some time working on trimming. I love yard work - but not all at once!

- The trustees of the church and I have been looking around town for a possible new location for the church since the owner of the building we are currently leasing wants to raise his rent when our current lease is up in October. Our ideal answered prayer is to have a building of our own, but nothing has come to our attention so far that will work for us. Please pray with us about this matter.

- Summer is also leisure reading time. Nothing good is usually on TV and it's often too hot to recreate outside - unless you're in the water - and Deb and I only dream about having a pool in the back yard. So there's reading - and I have been reading too many different books to mention but enjoying it immensely.

- Lastly, I'm praying and giving a lot of thought and writing to our fall spiritual and numerical growth campaign. It will be one of those 40 days things, beginning in mid-October and going to the Sunday before Thanksgiving. Right now I'm calling it, A Season of Surrender. So many great things happen in our lives when we surrender to God.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Blogger Vacation

Been a couple of weeks since I've posted. Took a little vacation from blogging.

Have you heard the new term, "staycation?" Since gasoline is so expensive and plane tickets so high, more folks are staying home for vacation.

But Deb and I took a little mini-vacation over the 4th of July to go visit our son Brandon and his wife Keshia in Muncie, Indiana.

Here's a pic of them in Kesh's parents' back yard where we had a cookout on the 4th.

We split the gas cost with Bethany and David by stopping in Nashville and teaming up with them. We have such a great time being with our kids and their spouses.

Ever played "Cornhole?" We did at the July 4th cookout.

Here's Deb and Bethany standing by one of the "cornholes." The idea of the game is to toss bags filled with corn into little holes on wooden platforms.

It sounds "corny" I know but it turned out to be a lot of fun.

Bethany and I teamed up and did pretty well. But a local couple who were friends of Brandon & Keshia were the champions.

Went to see fireworks at a local park that night.

The weather was so cool that the ladies were wearing sweaters!

I'm standing here between Deb and Keshia's dad Tim. He and I both like to tell corny jokes and believe it to be a part of the job description for fathers. Good guy.

I haven't been to see fireworks in years. Always hate to fight the traffic and the crowds. But everyone else wanted to go so I went.

We also spent time during the weekend watching 7 episodes of the mini-series that originally aired on HBO about John Adams.

I, Brandon, and David had read the book "John Adams" by David McCullough and had enjoyed it immensely. So we thought the series would be good. It didn't disappoint - and such fitting viewing for Independence Day.

We watched a few episodes per night, a few in the mornings, and even had to squeeze one in around the Wimbledon men's final tennis match.

Did you see the great match between Nadal and Federer?! Wow! We pulled for Nadal since he is from Spain and he finally won after a gruelling contest.