I’ve Told Untruths From the Pulpit!

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Yes, it’s true!

I’ve said things in sermons and from the pulpit that are not true. And I’m probably not even aware of most of them.

But today I learned of one untruth I’m glad to report to you and repent of.

On more than one occasion I’ve reported a “fact” that in fact was not a “fact” at all! I’ve said that Christians experience as much divorce as non-Christians.

Well that’s not true.

Ed Stetzer just posted a great post that reveals otherwise.

Specifically, the research shows that couples who are active in their faith are much less likely to divorce. Catholic couples were 31% less likely to divorce; Protestant couples 35% less likely; and Jewish couples 97% less likely, which in itself is quite impressive, I must say.

So what does this mean for you, for me, and for our churches? I see three takeaways: There will unfortunately still be divorce; discipleship is an integral part of marriage; and we must be careful when quoting statistics.

Click over to his blog and read the rest of his comments. It’s good stuff.

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God’s New Normal

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Been thinking about what it means to be successful as a church. When people ask, “Is your church growing?” what do I measure to answer that question? My pride and flesh wants to point to an astounding numbers of baptisms, more small groups, greater attendance on Sundays, excess of funds, blah, blah, blah.

But inside I know that God looks on the heart. That is how He ‘measured’ David and found him qualified to be King. Mmmm, so it’s the heart that needs measuring. Ok, so that’s how I measure my personal growth. But how do we know if our church is growing?

Any way, in all my reading and surfing I came across this post by Reggie McNeal on the Leadership Network site:

“Go ahead. Stare at the nativity set this Christmas. Remember a leader who was content with the scorecard of obedience to mission. Quit hushing that quiet voice in you that calls to question the scorecard that enslaves rather than fulfills. Have the courage to agree with God for a new normal. Trust that his “well done” will be the only assessment that every completely satisfies. Allow this reality to relax your anxious and ambitious spirit. Maybe then the “peace on earth” that every soul craves can come home to you.”

Read his complete post here.

Minimum Service

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A guest at a hotel was in a hurry to check out when he realized he did not have his briefcase. He went to the bellhop and said, “Would you please hurry to room 1203? I think I left my briefcase there. My limo for the airport leaves in six minutes, so please hurry.”
The man checked out, and after a few minutes the bellhop came hurrying across the lobby. “Yes, sir,” he said. “Your briefcase is still there in 1203.” He did just as he was told.
Many people do the minimum, spending just enough effort to get through the job or life. These people are often unhappy, cautious, suspicious and without much thought or feeling about what they are doing. There is no joy in minimum performance.
Biblical faith, however, challenges believers to live life to the maximum, to “the max.” Paul urged the Corinthian Christians, “As you excel in everything — in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us — see that you also excel in this grace of giving” (2 Cor. 8:7).

From preaching.com

Ten Suggestions for Gospel Stewardship

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This past Sunday we talked about how important it is for us to be as diligent at being a good steward of the Gospel as we are with our money.

So what now? Don’t you hate it when some loud-mouth preacher rails on you without giving you any real opportunities to do something with the message!

Well, here’s ten suggestions on how to begin to be a good steward of the Gospel:

1. Be intentional about the relationships you build. Ask God to point you to the people He wants you to get to know and beginning loving to Christ. Loving them to Christ means making them more important than yourself, asking about the things important to them, praying for them, earning the right to share about the difference Jesus has made in your life.

2. Do pray walks. Walk through your neighborhood, your campus, your workplace praying for the people you pass by. If you’re really industrious, jog and pray! Just make sure you pray silently or they will know how weird you really are.

3. Be willing to sacrifice what you are doing or what is important to you in order to seize a “gospel” opportunity with someone.

4. Take the first step. Be the one that begins the conversation, that invites the other to dinner, for coffee or dessert. When you do this, some folks will respond and some won’t. Don’t worry so much about the ones that don’t and focus on the one’s that do take you up on your offer. (Be sure you have something really good to serve them!)

5. Begin an evangelistic Bible study. There are several at CCC who have done this before and would be glad to coach you as you lead your study. There are all kinds of materials you can use. If you want to know about them, just email me!

6. Begin a book or movie discussion group. When it’s your turn to choose the movie or book choose one that will lend itself to spiritual discussions.

7. Host a backyard Bible club. Don’t think this is only about the children. Many parents will hang out wanting to know what’s going on. Invite them in and make them feel welcome. When you do that, you just went from children evangelism to adult evangelism!

8. Work on your personal testimony. Don’t let it be so long that you bore your guests to death. None of us have that good a story. Boil it down so you can tell it in less than 3 minutes. Even shorter would be good. Some call this your “elevator story” – in other words, can you tell your story in the time it takes to ride the elevator a few floors?

9. Attend the evangelism class at CCC. Last week Scott and Greg ran out of materials. Be there this week and begin to equip yourself so you can better steward the Gospel.

10. Finally, and this is the most creative idea – don’t fill out your census form. If you don’t fill out the census, our government will send a census worker to your door to ask you their ten questions and you can ask them a few questions back!! “Do you know where you would spend eternity if you get ran over by a car as you walk to the next house?” I bet their visit to your door will be unlike any other!!

If you begin to do any of these things I would love to hear about. We need to be sharing our stories with each other and praying about them. If you keep the good stuff to yourself the rest of us lose out. So spread the news of how your personal stewardship program is going! Leave a comment to share what you’ve done and how it worked out.

Why I didn’t give my money

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Recently I attended a political candidate forum. Before the candidates were given the platform the host of the organization talked about the goals and aspirations of the organization. Eventually he explained that those goals and aspirations would be a lot easier to attain if they had more money. Any donation would be appreciated or I could pay the prescribed amount and be considered a member for the next year.

I sat and listened to him and considered the goals and vision of the organization. I thought about each one of them and whether they aligned with my personal goals and values and concluded that I really didn’t know if I agreed with them well enough to contribute money. In my mind, I was thinking that giving money would be a vote of approval and a way of saying that I wanted to be a part of what this group was doing.

Then I had this thought. Is that why CCC is having financial problems? Are there people who regularly attend and participate that aren’t sure if they agree with our vision and values enough to contribute financially? Were my thoughts and feelings that night what others think and feel on Sunday mornings?

Two weeks later, I am still processing that experience. Thinking about it, pondering and considering what we do as a church and how we communicate all that to everyone else at CCC. And realizing — there are no easy answers. There are no quick fixes. This is going to take time.

May God give us the grace and wisdom to learn from our experiences and come to conclusions that put Him on center stage and minimize our efforts and pitiful strength.

Halloween and Harvest

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Halloween is another one of those topics that are debated in our churches. There are elements about it that are unsavory and glorify all that is bad in our world — dressing up like hookers or or other immoral characters that our culture turns a blind eye towards or in some cases even celebrates. But there are many elements of this October day that are totally innocent and fun loving. A time to dress up like one of the Seven Dwarfs (that’s me this year. guess which one) or a nurse or a Dallas Cowboy. (when children dress up like a Philadelphia Iggle I consider that emulating all that is wrong in the world!!)

Others feel that Halloween, even in the way that the average suburban family participates the holiday, celebrates the occult or all that is evil. Those that hold this opinion most often feel the roots of Halloween can not be separated from it’s current day celebration. Regardless of how innocent one may feel October 31st is, the evil still lurks in the background for many people.

As you porbably already know, I fall into the camp that Halloween can be innocent and even be used for the Kingdom. One Focus on the Family author stated it like this:

“For the average secular person in our society, Halloween is simply an excuse to dress up and party. For the Christian, however, I believe Halloween offers a unique opportunity to provide answers for a spiritually hungry generation. Granted, some Christians are not comfortable even acknowledging Halloween’s square on the calendar or participating in an alternative. I respect their opinion, but as an evangelist I think they’re missing a great opportunity to share Jesus with others. Romans 12:21 reminds us to “overcome evil with good.” And I’ve noticed that light shines brightest in darkness.”

(To read this article in it’s entirety, click here.)

There is no other day of the year when people will come and knock on my door and give me the chance to build a relationship with them. Likewise, there is no other day of the year that people welcome my kids to come up and knock on their door and yell at them when they come to the door. It’s unique. There’s nothing else like it. If relationships are the avenue for the Gospel, then October 31st is a fantastic chance to enhance relationships in my neighborhood. Why would I miss that opportunity.

Now what to do when dear friends and fellow brothers in Jesus differ with me on this topic? In keeping with our teaching series on the “One Anothers” — I don’t think less of them. I want to honor their convictions and encourage them to live out those convictions fully. That is why CCC hosts a Harvest Party. It gives those with different convictions a way to fulfill them if they so desire.

So this weekend, whether you dress up or don’t dress up. Whether you observe Halloween or Harvest. Do it as unto the Lord!

For a great read on a Christian perspective on Halloween, click here.

Will we die before we change?

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    “This needs to be a conversation about who we are, and if the average Christian in our churches would be willing to do anything, personally, in the cause of evangelism?

    We have become a denomination whose leaders talk about evangelism, but whose people actually want little to nothing to do with it.

    Our decline is because of who we want to be and how we want things to operate. We want the culture to adjust to us. We want our families to be saved. We don’t want to cross any barriers and we don’t want to have do something we decided the pastor is paid to do.

    Get ready for many, many years of this. I think most churches will die before they will change this pattern.”

These comments are from a blog that I read from time to time. (Check out internetmonk.com if you want to read the complete post.) He writes in the context of the Southern Baptist Denomination. But I think it is entirely appropriate to insert “Crossing Community Church” or the name of any other church where the quote says “We have become a denomination . . .”

Are we a church that is willing to move from the concerns of our overly burdened life and begin to think about the type of changes in our personal life as well as our church life to see us do something about the needs of the world around us?

Our decline is because of who we want to be and how we want things to operate. We want the culture to adjust to us. We want our families to be saved. We don’t want to cross any barriers and we don’t want to have do something we decided the pastor is paid to do.

Who do we want to be? A church of 100’s with a name for all our outstanding programs and professional paid staff? Do we really think that we will influence culture in such a way that our government will pass laws that favor us and our belief system? Is the salvation of our families the goal of all this?

WHAT BARRIERS WILL WE CROSS TO SEE OUR LIVES COUNT FOR JESUS?

Will the average church person engage in a discussion that addresses “who we are” as a church? If not, why not?

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