Four Things That Dilute Your Mission

As pastors and Christian leaders, we strive to lead ministries that are pleasing to God and accomplish the mission for which they are intended. We work hard at it. But sometimes, in our effort to make it “just right”, we can overdo it. We can include non-crucial details, add cumbersome verbiage and reemphasize already-made points. While we think we are making it better, we’re actually muddying the water. We’re diluting our mission.

Pastor and author Andy Stanley speaks of narrowing the ministry focus. He says, “There is a natural tendency to drift toward complexity…Resist complexity and pursue simplicity.”     

That’s why it’s important to streamline and simplify. If we’re always adding elements to existing programs, and not eliminating ineffective ones, our attenders will experience ministry overload that will paralyze their thought making process. Too many announcements, too many service elements, too much of anything can become white noise to our audience.

White noise is defined as the sound of every frequency that can be heard by the human ear. And since you hear all of them at once, you really can’t hear any.

This applies to the things we communicate and the programs we offer. Let’s look at four things we often think are helping accomplish our mission, but are not. Continue reading

The Problem with Wineskins

Have you ever wondered why some Christians seem to get stuck in outdated methodologies? Why they get trapped in traditions that have outlived their purpose?

Traditions are not bad in themselves. But when a tradition becomes more important than the thing it points to, it leads to traditionalism, or the overemphasis of the tradition. This problem dates back to Jesus’ time. If fact, he spoke about it in Luke 5:37-38. “No one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins.”

In Jesus’ day, wine was an important part of celebrations. It represented joy and often symbolized the happiness associated with the coming of God’s kingdom. Small amounts of wine were typically carried in pouches made of goat skin called wineskins.

Wine is an interesting thing. Simply put, when grape juice ferments, a chemical reaction produces a gas that expands, turning the juice into wine. Jesus reminded his listeners that if new wine was put into dry, rigid pouches, the gas would expand and burst the old, stiff wineskins.

Jesus was actually making a point. Not about wine, but about traditions. He distinguishes between something essential and primary (the wine) and something secondary but also necessary and useful (the wineskins). He’s saying that the new wine of the new covenant can’t be kept in the rigid forms of the traditions of Judaism. It needs to be in flexible forms that allows the Spirit to expand and move. The old wineskins have been stretched to their limit and cannot hold the new wine of his message that God is doing a new thing. He emphasizes that wine is always more important than the wineskin.

The problem of wineskins is very common in churches today. Wineskins are those old traditions, stiff structures and rigid patterns that have become more important than the gospel itself. Here are some ways you can know if your church has a problem with wineskins. Continue reading

Relating Well to Four Types of Church Attendees

Over the centuries, the church has been compared to many things. Some have likened it to a hospital or a boot camp. The Apostle Paul wrote that it was like a building, a body, a bride and a family.

The analogy of a ship can also be helpful when describing the church. Scott Ridout, president of Converge Worldwide, says the people on a ship can be compared to the people in your church. This analogy assumes the Pastor is the captain and there are four different kinds of people on board. Let’s look closer at each one.

The Crew
On a ship, the captain can depend on the crew to get the job done. They work alongside the captain and take ownership of every aspect of the ship and its passengers. They agree with all policies, procedures and practices on the ship to create a wonderful experience for everyone aboard.

The crew in your church are the people who are working with you to accomplish the mission of the church. They are your key volunteers and buy into the values, direction and destination of the church. They work hard to bring everyone who attends to maturity in Christ.

The Passengers
The passengers on a ship differ from the crew in one major area. They also love the destination and want to get there, but they don’t pitch in to help. Passengers are just along for the ride. They enjoy the experience of the cruise, but don’t offer assistance or support.

Most churches are full of passengers. They fill the pews every Sunday. They enjoy the worship, listen to the messages and love the fellowship. They partake in the midweek programs, but they don’t get involved in serving. They are the ultimate “church consumer”, taking advantage of the ministry of the church but not offering any help. Passengers buy into where the church is going, but don’t get involved to help anyone get there. Continue reading

4 Foundational Scriptures For Doing Life Together

Many churches today have an emphasis on small groups. I’ve been involved in small groups, and have passionately promoted them in ministry since 1988. While strategies have changed over the years, some things that remain the same are the need for doing life together and the scriptures that clearly demonstrate this reality. Here are four foundational scriptures that promote Biblical community, and why it’s vital for Christ followers to do life together.

Creation – Genesis 1-2
In the beginning, after each day of creation, God said, “It is good.” And after the sixth day, when he created humankind, he said, “It is very good.” But then God said something remarkable. He said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” Wait…what? When God and Adam enjoyed perfect harmony together in a world unspoiled by sin, when everything was “very good”, God said something was “not good”?

God knew that deep down inside every human being was the need for intimate, mutually satisfying relationships. The animals God had created weren’t going to suffice. Adam needed something more. So God created Eve and instituted human relationships.

The book of Genesis tells us that humans were created in God’s image. God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…” (Genesis 1:27). Ever wonder who God was talking to? God, by nature, is Trinity. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God’s very nature is relational. And since we were created in his image, we were made to be in relationships! Continue reading