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Archive for May, 2009

Wednesday is for Leadership – May 13, 2009

May 13, 2009 1 comment

I’m going to post the new E-mail series I’m sending to the leaders of the church. I’m posting it here if you’d like to look over my shoulder as I participate with the church I serve in fully devoted lives for Christ:

Every Wednesday I’d like to share with the staff, Church Council, and Vision team some of the things I’ve been learning and what I’ve been reading. It is my hope that we will learn and grow together as a team in order to help our church become what God desires. This is not a private E-mail so feel free to pass it along to anyone you’d like.

Last week I asked you to dream a little and to think about what we might do as a church if we knew nothing could stop us. I hope you spent some time thinking about it – you can always feel free to share with me what’s on your heart. Another book I read last week was Craig Groeschel’s It. One of the passages I highlighted paves the way for the next step in our thinking and dreaming about what God might have us do as a church. Craig writes:

A God-sized vision unifies a church, attracts resources, motivates volunteers, and unites strong leaders.

That’s how important dreams that turn into visions are! If you don’t believe me, check out Craig’s church at www.lifechurch.tv. They dreamed big dreams, asked God to clarify those dreams into a vision, and they pursued that vision with intensity.

I’d like for you to continue to think about what we might do as a church if we knew nothing could stop us. Feel free to talk about this with each other or with me.

I’ll be back in your in-box next week.

May God bless you with enormous dreams,

Matthew

P.S. Bill Hybel’s book (last week), Axiom can be found here.
Craig Groeschel’s book, It, can be found here.

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Wednesday is for Leadership – May 6, 2009

I’m going to post the new E-mail series I’m sending to the leaders of the church. I’m posting it here if you’d like to look over my shoulder as I participate with the church I serve in fully devoted lives for Christ:

Every Wednesday I’d like to share with the staff, Church Council, and Vision team some of the things I’ve been learning and what I’ve been reading. It is my hope that we will learn and grow together as a team in order to help our church become what God desires. This is not a private E-mail so feel free to pass it along to anyone you’d like.

I just finished reading Axiom, a book of leadership axioms by Bill Hybels, the founding pastor and Senior Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church. It was recommended by Bryan Collier, founding pastor and Senior Pastor of The Orchard – a United Methodist Church in Tupelo, MS. Bryan spoke to the Connected in Christ group of which I was a part last week and since I already had this book on my shelf I went ahead and read it. One amazing passage spoke to me and has caused me to dream a little bit this week.

One of the most amazing gifts that God gives people is the ability to think creatively. So when things get stale at a church, it is a fair bet that God is not to blame. Usually it’s that church leaders don’t carve out the time, establish the right environment, and rally the requisite energy to think new thoughts.

“What would we do to advance the kingdom of God if there was nothing to stop us from doing it?”

What if we had no family obligations, no job stresses, no time constraints, no budgetary or personnel or facility restrictions, and no fear of failure? What would we do then? – Hybels, Axiom, 131


I’d like for you to take five minutes and think about what you, personally, might do if you knew there was nothing to stop you. Would you climb Mt. Everest? Would you sail around the world? What would that dream look like if I asked you to consider dreaming about what the church would look like if you were able to pursue a goal if there was nothing to stop you or us from doing it?

The next, reasonable question is, “What do we think it is that prohibits us from pursuing that dream?”

I’ll be back in your in-box next week.

May God bless you with enormous dreams,

Matthew
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Preaching Follow up

Yesterday I preached from 1 John 4:13-21. One of the questions that kept popping up in my mind was that if fear has to do with punishment and we are free from God’s punishment through faith in Christ, then why aren’t we taking more risks to love people into Jesus? Risking our feelings, emotions, prejudices, and even our worldviews can be an anxiety creating effort but it is worth it. I shared a passage from the most recent issue of Leadership Magazine that I’ve been wrestling with for a couple of weeks. The passage is part of a conversation with Jim Cymbala and he says:

“The number one sin of the church in America is that its pastors and leaders are not on their knees crying out to God, ‘Bring us the drug-addicted, bring us the prostitutes, bring us the destitute, bring us the gang leaders, bring us those with AIDS, bring us the people nobody else wants, whom only you can heal, and let us love them in your name until they are whole.'”

That’s risky. Last week at a conference I attended I heard Bryan Collier of the Orchard in Tupelo, MS say that it’s hard to convince people to invite the people Cymbala described because we don’t want to deal with their baggage. In other words, we don’t want to risk the time or the effort it takes to love them into Jesus’ name.

So, how do you convince a group of people to take that risk? The fourth question Andy Stanley asked in my last post was, “What is the vision?” If our vision is that we want to be a people who love others in Jesus’ name (I think it is even if not formally stated), then what would our church look like if we risked ourselves to welcome the broken, hurting, and addicted into our church and love them in Jesus’ name?

I’m pretty terrible at closing or applying much of what I have learned from Scripture in the sermon itself, but this vision approach really seemed to work. I saw a lot of uncomfortable people yesterday. I don’t mean that glibly. What I mean is that I saw people wrestling with the reality that if what I said was from Scripture and the Holy Spirit, then things will have to be different. I asked them to think of the person who they avoid at all costs, who makes them angry or anxious when they see that person, or who they would least like to sit next to in church and pray this prayer for that person:

“Jesus, thank you for dying and rising, for saving me from my sin. I pray that you will bring to us ____________, whom only you can heal and change, and let our church love them in your name until they are whole. AMEN.”

I think some folks will pray this prayer and it will be interesting to see what the Holy Spirit does with that prayer.

Preaching Questions

I’m still kind of a Baby Huey in the pulpit but I am dead set on getting better in studying and understanding Scripture and also communicating it clearly. I now have two sets of questions that I think through in the study of Scripture and in how I simply and clearly communicate that in the Sunday sermon. This is the first Sunday I’m trying these in tandem, but I think they are worth sharing for anyone who wants to be the best preacher God has called you to be.

The first set of questions comes from Mark Driscoll’s book Vintage Church. They are six questions that come after the inductive exegetical work of the sermon has been done and I use the first three questions to help me think concisely about the Scripture passage.

1. What does Scripture say? – The Biblical Question

2. What does the Scripture Mean? – The Theological Question

3. What is my Hook? – The Memorable Question

4. Why do people resist this truth? – The Apologetic Question

5. Why does this matter? – The Missional Question

6. How is Jesus the Hero/Savior? – The Christological Question

I’ve mentioned the first three questions at the beginning, but the last three are the ones that really make a difference in communicating Jesus in preaching. It is incredibly helpful to think about why people might buck at the truth in Scripture because they will. What are the reasons they might buck? If you have done that missiological work of “exegeting the community” then not only will you be able to answer that question but also present a loving, gracious, and firm set of reasons why following Jesus is more important than their objections. I’m glossing over the missional question, but it helps us figure out how to live the Scriptures. Finally, I love figuring out how Jesus is the hero/savior. Jesus is the point of everything. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. That’s it. When we’re able to point to Jesus being the end-all be-all of everything. There isn’t nearly enough of that in the western church today.

The next set of questions comes from Andy Stanley’s podcast on leadership (you’ll have to search that in iTunes). Once I understand what Scripture is saying to us I have to figure out how to communicate the grand truths of the Bible in a clear way that calls the hearer to greater faithfulness.

1. What do they need to know?

2. Why do they need to know it?

3. What do they need to do?

4. What is the vision?

5. What can I do to help them remember?

I’m only going to comment on number 4 because I’ve not used these question to think through my preparation until this week and I think it is going to be a great question to ask the folks who are listening. The question really turns into a statement, “Imagine what the church or our community would look like if we live in the faithful way Jesus is calling us to in this passage.” I’ll amend this post on Sunday afternoon with an illustration of what I’m talking about, but I think this is huge and ties in closely with Driscoll’s missional question.

I don’t know if these will be helpful for you because I don’t even know how it’s going to turn out for me this Sunday, but I do feel like I have a clear, Scriptural message that will glorify Jesus and make sense to those who come to worship Sunday. I pray the Spirit will preach despite of me and that people will become more faithful to Jesus.

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