• Your Church may be Repelling People Before the Service Starts

    Our church environments speak to visitors a long time before the pastor gets a chance to preach to them. Think about your church environment for a second. What is it saying to your visitors? Does it say what you want it to say? Does it say: We love you come in? Does it say: Go away we are weird?

    Andy Stanley in his great book Deep and Wide has a section in the book where he talks about church environments and what they say. He tells the following story to illustrate his point about the importance of thinking about the vibe our church environments give off:

    We arrived about twenty minutes before the service was scheduled to begin. Andrew was with us. He had just turned three. We had to ask twice where to find the children’s area. Signage was almost nonexistent. Someone finally pointed us to a door. We peeked in and the only person in the room was a man who looked to be in his late twenties. When he saw us, he came to the door with a big smile on his face. A little too big for me. We told him this was our first visit. He assured us that we were at the right place, and he invited Andrew into the room. That’s when I noticed a back door standing open that led to what looked like an outdoor playground. But it was hard to tell exactly where it led. Sandra asked if we needed to fill out any paperwork. He looked a bit confused and said we didn’t and that he hoped we enjoyed the service. Then he turned and went over and began talking to Andrew. We just stood there—both thinking the same thing, but neither of us wanting to say it aloud. Ignoring our raging parental instincts, we headed off to big church. During the second song, Sandra turned to me and asked, “Do you feel okay about Andrew’s situation?” I assured her that I did not and that it was all I had been thinking about since we left his classroom. She immediately slid out of our row and headed back to the children’s wing. It took every ounce of self-control I had to not follow. A few minutes later she came back and informed me that there was, in fact, another adult in the room along with a dozen or more children. If you have children, I bet you aren’t surprised to know that we never visited that church again. Worse, that’s the only thing I remember about our visit. Every time someone mentions the name of that church, I think about that incident. I will be the first to admit that our experience couldn’t possibly be the norm. But I still wouldn’t go back. That was seventeen years ago. Similar to my previous story, this church taught several lessons they didn’t intend to teach. Lesson #1: We don’t expect new families. We have the same kids every week. Lesson #2: If there is an emergency, we don’t plan to notify you. Lesson #3: Your child’s security is not our primary concern. Lesson #4: Our volunteers don’t understand the way parents think (i.e., our volunteers are untrained).

    He then goes on to talk about the effect the shabby children’s environment had on him:

    Every ministry environment communicates something. There are no neutral environments. Environments are the messages before the message. The messages your environments communicate have the potential to trump your primary message. I do not remember a single thing about the message preached at the church referenced in the illustration on page 153. Not a thing. I was too distracted by the four-point message of the children’s environment. As I am constantly reminding our leaders, the sermon begins in the parking lot. By the time I stand up to deliver what is traditionally considered the message, everybody in our audience has already received a dozen or more messages. Many have already made up their minds as to whether they will come back the following week.

    We want to do everything to welcome new people to our churches. Is your church environment repelling people or welcoming?

    What can you do to make it more welcoming?

    You may also like:

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    How to Grow as a Christian

    Adultery, Homosexuality and the quest for grace and truth

     

  • How to Talk About Change in Your Church

    People, especially church people, hate change. We don’t like change because we are comfortable with the way things are. But what if what you are doing needs a significant overhaul? What if things are broken and need fixing?

    One of the questions leaders have is how do you introduce change especially when people are generally resistant to change. Here is what Andy Stanley has to say about how  to introduce change:

    “The most ineffective way to begin a conversation about change is to talk about what needs to change. You should never begin a conversation about change by addressing where you are now. You should always begin with where you want to be. When you begin a conversation about change by discussing what needs to change, you generally begin with something that someone is emotionally invested in. That’s a recipe for failure. Or termination. During my first two years of college, I knew I needed to change my study habits. Actually, I didn’t need to change them; I needed to have some. Anyway. Nothing changed until I decided to go to graduate school. Once I got a clear picture of a preferred future, my behavior changed. That’s what vision does. It allows me to see where I am in relation to where I need to be. Reminding me of where I am and then telling me I need to change is neither compelling nor inspiring. But pointing me toward a preferred future and helping me discover what I need to do now in order to get there … that’s different. So the best place to begin any conversation about change is the future. What could be. What should be. Perhaps what must be!”

    Andy Stanley, Deep and Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend

    What great advice! Make the people taste the vision and point out the things we need to get there!

    How will you use in this piece of advice in your church?

    You may also like:

    What if I’m not excited about my church’s vision?

    What I wished I did when I planted Resolved part 2: Worked on our culture

    Church culture is more important than strategy or vision.

  • What if I’m not excited about my church’s vision?

    My church, Resolved, unveiled its vision the weekend before last and it was received very well. Our vision for 2012 is to grow to 80 people coming every week at Resolved, to see 20 people converted and grow from 3 to 6 community groups.

    But I have had a few people say that they want to be excited about this vision and yet they can’t be for some reason. Here is some advice if you find yourself in that position:

    1. Check your heart

    One of the things that can stop us from buying into a vision is our hearts. Sometimes we have unresolved tension between us and the leader(s) of our church. Maybe there is a lack of forgiveness or something else. Maybe there is pride, maybe you think you can do it better than the guy up the front. So first thing to do is check your heart then pray that God would change your heart if needs be and then seek out resolutions for the tension you feel. That being said, I don’t think this is an issue with anyone who is finding it hard to buy into the vision of Resolved.

    2.Inquire about the vision

    Maybe you have significant unresolved questions about the vision. Maybe it is a new vision or a different direction that your church is being taken. These times can be very hard and there could be confusion. If this is you I would suggest sitting down with your pastor or an elder and asking about vision. See if you can get your questions answered and see if you can see the heart behind the vision.

    3. Realise where you are in life makes it impossible to be excited about most things

    I don’t have depression or anything like it but I do know that depression and other mental illnesses makes it hard for some of us to be excited about most things so it would be only natural for those of us who suffer under these oppressive conditions to find it very hard to be excited about a vision no matter how good it is. I am encouraged when a person with a mental illness will say “I see the vision, I see how good it is and I want to be excited” because this person has probably already bought into the vision in a significant way. Because anyone can feel hyped about a vision. It is when the hype goes and the vision remains is when we see who really bought into the vision. So if you are suffering from a mental illness and yet you want to emotionally buy into the vision of your church and yet you can’t it may be the case that you have already bought into the vision in a far deeper way that you first realise!

    What do you think?

    Am I missing something here?

     

  • I am so excited about what God is doing at Resolved!

    I am so pumped to be the pastor of Resolved!

    I Love the people!

    I love our vibe!

    I love our vision!

    This past weekend we Unleashed our new mission and our Vision for 2012.

    Our New Mission is:

    To impact Sydney with the love of Jesus for God’s glory.

    We are not a church which will go quietly into the night, no we are a church that wants to leave a mark. We will only leave a mark if we share the love of Jesus which we do primarily by preaching the gospel! But when the history books are written we hope that Resolved is not mentioned but that Jesus is the one who we hope is written about!

    For this year we have set the following Goals. We want:

    80 People coming to Resolved every week

    20 People to come to know Jesus this year

    6 Community groups

    All these are huge targets but I have been so encouraged by what people have been saying and doing in response to these huge goals! I have already seen people bring their friends to church, I have seen other plan out when they will bring particular friends to church based on which sermon series we will be doing. I have heard people say that the vision is the kick in the pants they needed!

    I love my church!

    Please pray that many people will come to know Jesus at Resolved this year!

  • What I wish I did when I planted Resolved part 1: Led more directly

    This week I will laying out some of the mistakes I made when we planted Resolved. Some of these mistakes I kept making until recently. I will also talk through some of the things that I am doing now to counteract these mistakes,

    The first mistake I made was with my leadership. I have always been an upfront, lead with strength kind of guy. But when I started Resolved something changed. I turned into a guy who wasn’t that upfront and this upfrontness diminished more and more. I let standards slip, I left people in the jobs they shouldn’t have had to begin with, I let people let us all down and I didn’t do anything.

    Why did this happen?

    I think I let these things slip because I was scared. You see when you start a church you want all the people you can get at your church. You want the people who are there to stay and so you think I won’t offend them by pulling them up on this or stepping them down out of leading this ministry because if you offend them they may not stay. So I did something I thought I would never do.

    I compromised and backed away.

    This has hurt our church to no end. Having the wrong people on the bus confused our vision and some ministries didn’t happen or didn’t happen like they should’ve. Compromising on standards meant that some people lost confidence in me and others as the leaders of Resolved and some even lost confidence in Resolved as a church and Jesus as their Lord and Saviour.

    What I am doing now:

    Praying: I am praying that God would grant me wisdom, humility, love and courage. Wisdom to know what we need to do make Resolved the church we are called to be. Humility to listen and take on criticism and know what criticism to take on board. Humility also to remember that my job is not in the people pleasing business. Love for my people and the city of Sydney:  I want to love Sydney and my people so much that I do not compromise on the vision that God has given us for Resolved. Courage to make hard decisions, to lovingly confront issues and people, courage to lead and not coast.

    We are making sure we have the right people in the right seats on the bus: Having the right people is extremely important having them in the right positions is almost as crucial. I am excited about next year primarily because I think we are getting there in this area.

    Leading more strongly: That means having a strongly articulated vision and plans and not compromising on the vision and plans unless I am convinced we need to. That means setting standards and systems and making sure we execute.

    Preaching to myself: I need to keep preaching to myself that God is big and people are small rather than the other way around. When I get put off my game I have realised it is because I overvalue people’s opinions (negative or positive) of me and forgetting that I am playing for an audience of one.

    When I remember that I am playing for an audience of one I am the leader that I need to be. Please pray that I would play for an audience of one!

     

  • Leaders communicate clearly

    There is nothing worse than talking to someone and you walk away not knowing what they really said or meant. It is tough listening to someone who is just not clear in their communication.

    Leaders however must be noted by their clarity of communication.

    If you hang out with a great leader you see they communicate with confidence and with clear direct words. But how do you develop this?

    I have asked leaders and studied them and it seems that they do or are the following:

    Competent in their field – The reason a leader can be clear in their communication is that they know what they are talking about. They have had years in their field and they have thought deeply about what it means to be successful in their field. So when they speak they have a wealth of knowledge backing up their words which in turn makes their communication are clear and direct.

    They are prepared – Leaders are over prepared and this helps them to clearly communicate what they want. They have prepared what they want to say, how they want to say and why they want to say it.  I once sat down with an ex CEO of a multibillion dollar company and asked him about communication and he said that before every meeting whether it be a phone meeting, board meeting or just a meeting over a beer he would write down on a piece of paper what he wants to say and he would rehearse how he wanted to say it so that the best outcomes would be brought about. It is no fluke then that he was a brilliant communicator and leader. As leaders we should be striving for this kind of preparation.

    They are direct – Leaders never want to leave the people they lead thinking “What was I meant to do?” So they are very direct in communicating what they want and what is best for the organisation they lead.  This directness takes time to prepare but when they are prepared, leaders are direct in their speech.

    They have energy – When they communicate leaders have an energy that is infectious. They use words which have energy built into them. They use phrases which push forward in a loving way. They have artful turns of phrase that inspire, energize and encourage. Do you, as a leader, use your words to inspire, energize and build up?

    They love their people- as we have seen in the last post leaders love their people. This love helps the leader shape the way they communicate to each person they talk with.

    Leaders communicate in a way that inspires the people they love. They are direct and clear because they are prepared and competent in their field.

     

  • Live your life for what counts

    I read an article today called The top 5 regrets people have on their deathbed.

    It was a sobering read.

    When I think of regrets in life I always think of the Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards. If you have never heard of the resolutions, they were written by Edwards in his late teen years and they are well worth taking the time to read them. Each of the resolutions is a decision that Edwards has made to improve his life in the light of the gospel. Of the seventy resolutions, some resolutions deal with his thought life, some with his actions and some deal with how he used time. If we take them all together we get the bid idea that Edwards wants to live every minute of his life for Jesus.

    Here are my favourite of Jonathan Edward’s resolutions:

    4. Resolved, Never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God, nor be, nor suffer it, if I can possibly avoid it.

    5. Resolved, Never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it in the most profitable way I possibly can.

    6. Resolved, To live with all my might, while I do live.

    7. Resolved, Never to do any thing, which I should be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life.

    16. Resolved, Never to speak evil of any one, so that it shall tend to his dishonour, more or less, upon no account except for some real good.

    17. Resolved, That I will live so, as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.

    24. Resolved, Whenever I do any conspicuously evil action, to trace it back, till I come to the original cause; and then, both carefully endeavour to do so no more, and to fight and pray with all my might against the original of it.

    28. Resolved, To study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly, and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive, myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.

    41. Resolved, to ask myself, at the end of every day, week, month, and year, wherein I could possibly, in any respect, have done better.

    52. I frequently hear persons in old age say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again: Resolved, That I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age.

    Read Number 52 again

    52. I frequently hear persons in old age say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again: Resolved, That I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age.

    We all know of old people with regrets who wish they had done things differently. If we were to ask Edwards what he thinks the key to living life in such a way as to die knowing that you have live life to the fullest I think he would say two things:

    1. Live every moment for Jesus

    2. Be in every moment

    When I think about these two things I ask myself the following questions:

    1. Am I taking my cues about who I am from Jesus or something or someone else?
    2. Are there things in my life that I know Jesus wouldn’t approve of?
    3. How am I using my time?
    4. Am I coasting through life or attacking it?
    5. Of the moments in my day am I really there or am I punching the clock?
    6. Are my relationships where they need to be?

    How are you doing with your life?

    Are you living every moment of every day for Jesus?

    Are you in every moment?

    Are you in every conversation?

    Or are you just punching the clock waiting till death or the return of Jesus?

     

  • Help I am a single guy and I like a girl!

    Disclaimer: I don’t consider myself Dr. Love in any sense and the fact that I am married to an amazing woman is more to do with God’s grace than my own ability. But there have been things that I have wanted to say to young Christian men about dating and girls. Over the last week I have had three guys ask me about dating and how to get a girl to like you (I don’t know why they ask me) so I have written this blog.

    Love and the questions of courtship vs. dating and to kiss or not to kiss etc are perennial questions that have been around ever since Josh Harris penned the book that every 16 year old guys hates but every Dad with a sixteen year old daughter loves and wants to give to every hormonal teenage guy on the face of the planet. The book I am talking about is I Kissed Dating Goodbye. And there are many other books like it.

    But even though there are books out on dating and love and relationships many questions still remain. As I have said, over the past few weeks, a few guys have asked me about dating and being a Christian guy who likes a girl and so here are questions that I have asked them to think about:

    1. 1. Are you the kind of guy that you would want your future daughter to marry? This is the question that is going to shape the whole conversation. Take a hard look at yourself would you want your daughter marrying someone like you? If for any reason you would say no. It is time to get to work
    2. 2. Do you have a plan? I am not just talking about a plan for asking her out and where your first date will be I am asking do you have a plan for the rest of your life? Do you have a plan for the next five years? Do you have a plan for, if you start going out, how you are going to help her love Jesus more? If you don’t know where you are going why should she look to you for leadership? If you don’t know what you are doing in the next five years why would she want to join you on this journey? If you have no plan for how you will help her love Jesus more you will be a dead weight to her spiritually. Guys get a plan.
    3. 3. Do you have character? I didn’t ask “Are you a character?” I asked “Do you have Character?” Character is about being solid and dependable. A man with character does what he says he will do, on time every time. Are you that? Or do you rock up late, don’t work hard, sleep in till noon, look up porn and generally annoy everyone around you because of your lack of character?
    4. 4. How are you doing spiritually? I am not asking if you feel great and connected with God (though that is a good thing). I am asking how are you doing with reading the Bible and praying? How are you doing with serving at church? How are you doing with going to Bible study or community group? How are you doing morally? If you need to work on these areas take yourself out of the dating/courting game so you can work on your relationship with Jesus so you won’t be a dead weight to a girl spiritually.
    5. 5. Are you an interesting person? Are you a person who has a life? Or do you sit at home playing world of warcraft or xbox or whatever? If you have an interesting life where you are doing things that bring value and meaning to people she will be more likely to be attracted to you. Also if you are interested in her more than being interesting she will find you more interesting.

    Guys these are the questions I wish someone had asked me when I was 18-20. Have you got men around you who love you enough to keep you accountable?

    Be the man that God wants you to be and girls will be attracted to you.

     

  • An Open Letter to Resolved

    What are we on about at Resolved?

    One of the things any organisation, whether it be a church, a company, or any other conglomeration of people, must ask is “What are we on about?” This is crucial because this question defines and controls everything the organisation does.

    If you were going to answer the question “What is Resolved on about?” what would you say? In the last month I have heard Resolved described as:

    • “The cool church”
    • “The church that meets in the pub”
    • “The church filled with angsty, young 20-somethings”
    • “The ‘out there’ church”
    • “The Musician/arty church”

    I think, to differing extents, these descriptions are true (except the cool part!) but I wish we weren’t described as these things. I wish we were described as:

    • The church which is on fire for Jesus (Acts 4:23-31)
    • The church which is passionate for those that don’t know Jesus yet (1 Corinthians 9:19-23)
    • The church where people are lovingly confronted by Jesus in a real way (Acts 17:16-33)
    • The church where people really love like Jesus (1 John 4:7-11)
    • The church where people want to change because of what Jesus has done for them (Acts 19:17-19)

    You know what? I think I have seen all of the above at Resolved. I have been encouraged to see and hear of people praying for friends to know Jesus. I have been excited as I have seen people grow in their knowledge and love of Jesus. I have seen people come to Resolved who don’t know Jesus and they have come to know him!

    See, what we are on about at Resolved is Jesus! We want to glorify him and make him known! I pray that you are on board with that vision too! I pray that you are praying for your friends to know Jesus and that you are inviting them along to church or your community group. I pray that you are seeking to change in response to what you are hearing at church and studying in community group. I pray that you are growing to love the people at Resolved more because of the love that Jesus has poured into your heart!

    What is Resolved on about?

    One word……. Jesus!

    Are you on about Jesus too?