say YES!

say YES! is a social networking campaign that provides an easy avenue for friends, family-members, business-owners, organizations, and church leaders to pool their resources to see Citylight Baptist Church started today. Please take time to read the post below and prayerfully consider what part God would have you play in this exciting new work!

Watch the video below and decide if you should become a Difference-Maker today!


say YES options



How can you help? Follow these simple instructions:

1. Consider giving monthly- no gift is too small.
2. If you are a blog-owner or social media user, write a post about the campaign.
2. Repost a link to this post or this www.citylightbaptist.org/yes .
3. Ask your friends to link to this post. (Please ask them to ask their friends to do the same.)
4. Make the “say YES!” image your facebook or twitter profile picture from July 1-3.
(Email me at brian@citylightbaptist.org for this image or copy and paste it from my profile.)
5. Share the vimeo video.

Free Books!

Last week I found out that I had won “Free Book Friday.” Turns out I hadn’t just won one book but an entire set! Today they arrived at my front door. The Pulpit Commentary shipped to my door is a great gift! Special thanks to Scott Postma, the blog owner who offered this giveaway. Some of you should subscribe to Scott’s blog too; maybe you will be the next winner.

Worldwide Partnership

I’m not gonna lie– we are pretty focused on presenting the mission that God has set before us as a family. We want to see our mission funded so that we can get to work.

But…

Along the way, I’m encouraged as I become familiar with other ministries all around the world. The Body of Christ is having a global impact! One encouraging ministry is Faith Children’s Village in Zambia. I wonder how much more could be accomplished in kids’ lives if more of us got behind what they are doing? Let’s find out!

The NEW church foyer

I can’t help noticing church trends, and I love visiting churches. Just ask Laura, my wife, and she will tell you that I will drive way out of our way when on vacation to visit a church that I’ve heard about. You can learn something from everybody.

Recently I have been contacting numerous churches and scheduling presentations designed to communicate the need for church planting in the Urban South.  As a result, I’ve had occasion to view lots of church websites. Some are great—some are not so great.

Church leaders, your website is your church’s new foyer!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quite a while back, Zondervan sent me a few books from their Leadership Network series. One of them was A Multi-Site Church Road Trip by Geoff Surratt, Greg Ligon, and Warren Bird.

This book offered me a unique opportunity. I could, in essence, visit a number of diverse churches around the nation without ever leaving my local ministry on a Sunday. To a churchman like myself, this was an appealing opportunity!

Since all of the churches in this book were multi-site (already a bit out of the box) I wasn’t surprised to read that many of them had also added an “internet campus” so I could virtually visit as well.

This post isn’t about the pros and cons of the multi-site church model or even whether an “internet campus” is or isn’t church. Rather, let’s focus on the simple thoughts that this book, along with other factors, has generated in my mind.

Specifically, let’s talk about how important online media has become to churches. One thing that each of these diverse churches seemed to “get” was that their church must leverage media. Experience seems to be indicating that 20-somethings will watch/listen to services online for several weeks or more before ever attending church in real life.

In Reaching the Unchurched Next Door, the survey team was surprised to discover that “most of the unchurched feel guilty about not attending church.” In addition, “96% of the unchurched said that they are at least somewhat likely to attend church if invited.”

This would seem to indicate that truly unchurched people are likely intimidated by all the unknown factors presented by any given church.

I remember going to play golf for the first time with “serious golfers” only to find out that there were all kinds of rules of golf etiquette that I was completely unaware of.  It was intimidating! In the same way, the unknown intimidates people who are unfamiliar with church!

Enter: the church website. Your website is a tool that unchurched people who want to visit church are using to become familiar with an intimidating setting before they come.

  • Do you have a high bounce rate? Rethink the design of your site.
  • Do you have primarily single page views? Maybe you should re-work the content of your site.
  • If you provide audio—great! Could you provide video?
  • If you provide video, how could you make it more consumable?
    • By adding an attractive lead in?
    • Could you divide each video into parts?
    • Could you optimize for quicker uploads?
    • What about a better-written explanation for each video?
    • Should you consider moving your service media to a different location on your site?

I think that we will find more and more visitors spending a few services with us online before they ever meet the church in person.

It’s like the new foyer—the place where people take time to get comfortable, get to know what your church is all about, and ultimately decide whether or not to push through the sanctuary doors.


You don't have to raise your hand!

I’m a pretty decisive person. I confess, sometimes I’m decisive to a fault. Because of this tendency, I attempt to compensate by intentionally questioning myself as well as asking those around me to speak into situations in my life as they arise.

Today I have several post ideas swimming around in my thoughts but I don’t have time to write them all tonight, tomorrow, or even next week.

Can you help me prioritize?

Which of these titles would you be most likely to read?

  • A church planter’s digital toolbox (Thoughts from an article tweeted by my buddy Jayson over at A Byrd’s Eye View)
  • The first five years: why statistically many churches’ first five years are their most fruitful
  • The new church lobby/foyer: why church websites, video, & social media are important for churches
  • What if they hadn’t been planted?
  • Darkness, a mountain path, and the light of a cell phone
  • Why I like “The City” by Zondervan
  • Why use a trail guide?
  • Leading from consensus
  • Thoughts from “The Unchurched Next Door” by Rainer

Maybe they should all be scrapped. If you think so, say so.

So help me out. You don’t even have to raise your hand, just speak up and tell me what you think in the comments section below.

Thanks!

Self-Effort has a glass jaw!

And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. –Galatians 5:24-25

Verse 24 doesn’t speak of a Christian’s plan for victory as much as it speaks of a Christian’s secured victory in Jesus! Often we Christians project a defeated air when it comes to overcoming sin. It reminds me of a memorable boxing match. I may never forget having more than 20 guys crammed into my parents’ living room, pizza and hot wings in hand as we watched the preliminary fights leading up to Holyfield—Tyson II. We sat with anticipation, thinking that in the next few moments we could be watching the greatest boxing bout of our era. I still remember sitting stunned as I saw Tyson duck under the clinch and bite off the top of Holyfield’s ear. A few moments later, my buddies and I sat there incredulous—looking at the TV trying to figure out what we were watching. We heard the announcer read “Referee Mills Lane has disqualified Mike Tyson for biting Evander Holyfield on both of his ears.”
Apparently, Tyson, remembered being dominated in their first fight and came into this second fight with a defeated mindset. He took some serious hits in the first two rounds and decided he couldn’t win, so why not cheat?

It seems like there are more than a few professing Christians out there with a defeated mindset as well.

Could this be a result of their focus? Men have a tendency to focus on themselves, their abilities, their strength, and their record. If we are going into the ring with sin, we need a lot more than that. It makes sense to feel defeated if you are all you’ve got. However, this passage says “they that are Christ’s HAVE crucified the flesh.” Christian, you have been identified with Christ! At the moment of conversion, you were baptized by the Holy Spirit and partook of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection!
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.—Galatians 2:20
No, your sin nature is not gone, but it has been judged! Victory over your old appetites and desires is given to you in Christ’s death. So if you are climbing into the ring with sin and your eyes are on your record, you are right to feel defeated. Instead, remember Jesus’ record—your victory is secured! Now walk in the Spirit.

The Practical Ministry of Presence

Galatians 6:2

Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

This verse’s specific context speaks of believers helping one another with the oppressive weight of temptation and the effects of yielding to it. However, there is a broader principle that can be applied to all burdens.

So why is this principle important?

Today, it seems as though everyone you meet is carrying a burden, and Christians are not exempt. Though we can and should have joy in the midst of our difficulty, this doesn’t mean that we are to be dishonest about our difficulties. If we act like we never have problems then what does our ability to have joy prove? However, if we are honest about our lives and still find Jesus sufficient in all things, even when we are clearly at the end of ourselves—that can be winsome. If we, by faith, find some hope even when things seem hopeless, that is a powerful apologetic! By the way, the hope that we find isn’t pie in the sky or foundationless hope; we hope in the real person who has already rescued us! It is the height of arrogance to think that he can’t overcome some issue in our lives when he has already overcome our depravity. If we minimize our sinful condition or magnify our role in salvation, we are much less likely to hope in Jesus! We hope because of his record! A Christian who has gotten caught up in a sinful cycle must be honest with himself and with others to get out. In the same way, a Christian who is bearing a burden that isn’t tainted by sin must be honest with himself and others to find help and hope. Christian, stop acting, it’s ok to need help!

How can I help bear burdens?

There are many ways that Christians can and should bear each other’s burdens, but this is a blog post, so I would just like to focus on one of them. Be there! I know it’s simple, but your presence can make a difference. Often, in the difficult seasons of life, friends and family don’t know how to help or what to say. Sometimes the one who is hurting doesn’t know what they need and wouldn’t know what to ask for if they did ask. Often this hurting individual carries on an internal dialogue that goes something like this: “I don’t physically need anything.” “No one could possiblysay anything that could help me right now.” “If someone were here with me they may feel some of my pain.” “I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.” “If someone else hurts, that will not help me in any way.” This hurting person then decides to bottle it up and go through their pain alone. Isolation is not the answer.

You are created in the image of God, and part of that imago dei illustrates that you are a relational being made to live within community. Your emotions are as real as you are.  People don’t have to say anything. Those that love you most are already feeling your pain. There are some weights too great for anyone to go through alone. Whether you are the one carrying a burden or the friend of someone carrying a burden, your presence can make a difference!

 

A problem deeper than the skin!

Mark 1:40-45

Christ encountered a Leper in this passage of scripture. Think with me about what it must have been to have the blight of leprosy in that day and age.
One day this man is in the field working and he looks down and notices a white spot on his forearm.  He thinks that it’s just how the sun light is hitting his arm, so he ignores the spot and keeps working. Later, that night, he remembers the spot and thinks about asking his wife to take a look at it.  But not wanting to worry her, he decides to look for himself. He takes a walk and examines himself under the moonlight. He is alarmed as he discovers not only the spot on his forearm but several other small spots as well. His first reaction is denial; he tries to push the thought of leprosy from his mind but it keeps crowding its way in. Thinking of his wife and family, he quickly comes to a conclusion; no matter what, he will not wait, he could risk infecting his family! He runs home, and with tears clouding his eyes, he tells his wife what he fears may be happening. He sleeps away from his family that night– forced to leave his wife crying (unable to console her with a hug). Next morning he rushes to the priest to be examined; the priest gives him the dreaded judgment as he pronounces him, UNCLEAN! Not wanting to give his family the news, he spends the day in a field, alone, crying out in pain to God. That evening he faces his fears and walks slowly home. His wife meets him at the door, a look of hope in her eyes. The Leper explains that she should keep her distance, that he is only home long enough to pack, and then he will have to leave. Tears flood his eyes, as this proud Jewish man tries to keep them from flowing freely. He packs his things, silently peeks in on his children for the last time (he longs to hug and kiss them), walks to the front door and quietly, shamefully, tells his wife that he loves her but he has to leave. He turns and begins to walk away. He turns off of the path in front of their home onto the road and hears his wife’s running footsteps behind him. She closes the distance and clings to his back weeping, she turns him around, and tells him that she would rather die than loose him. He feels guilty over (and yet savors) his wife’s final embrace, tells her that it is because of his love for her and the children that he must go.
Endeavor with me to put yourself in this man’s shoes.  Imagine being that man! Imagine knowing that your children will wake up the next morning fatherless. Imagine walking to your new home, a leper colony, a place that could make horror movies pale in comparison. Imagine realizing that your problem is irreversible. Imagine feeling defiled. Imagine the isolation. Imagine the knowledge of pending doom as each day you notice the spread of the disease that now plagues your body. Imagine the fear of transmitting that horrible disease to someone you love–combined with the overwhelming desire to touch and be touched by your family once more.
Is it any wonder that Jesus was moved with compassion? Think with me, though: are all men not plagued with a problem deeper than the skin, a problem that is irreversible through their own merit, a problem that defiles, isolates, spreads, and transmits? I speak of the disease called sin. Jesus looked on this man with compassion more for the second disease than for the first.
Notice the Leper’s approach. “If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.” His concern was understandable but, oh, so unnecessary! The Leper knew that Jesus could heal him he was just unsure if Jesus would heal him. He was not accustomed to receiving compassion from others. Perhaps even his children had begun to avoid acknowledging him in the streets as they became embittered over their absentee Dad and tired of being mocked by their peers. Yet, from our knowledge of Christ, the Leper’s wonder (will Christ care) seems ridiculous. We shout, as we look down at the page: YES JESUS CARES! However, many today make the same mistake. Many of us have wandered down the same ridiculous path. Many say, yes Jesus saves, yes Jesus cares, but you don’t know how bad I am, surely He won’t save me. Those of us that have been redeemed ought to shout with our lives as well as our lips: YES JESUS CARES, YES HE WILL SAVE YOU!
2Pt. 3:9
Think of what it must have meant for this Leper to return healed, cleansed, and complete to his family. What must it have been to run home to his wife’s confused but gleeful embrace? How joyous must it have been to lift his children into his arms, not one at a time but all in one big pile, showered by their kisses? Better yet, think of having the burden of sin lifted–think of becoming the friend of Jesus. Hopefully you don’t have to wonder, hopefully you can understand what it means to be healed of a disease that’s deeper than the skin!

 

 

Reverse-Marketing the Church

Recently a guy asked me what business I was in. I explained that I’m not really in business; I work for the church up the road. He commented that the church is a business too; I smiled and went on my way.  The church is not a business, but I wonder how often we give those we encounter that impression?

Marketing gurus teach you that benefits draw people more often than the feature that they represent. For example:

Feature Benefit

  • Vibram Sole                     Long-lasting tread= happy feet
  • Rear A/C Control           Passengers adjust their own temp= happy kids
  • Giant Print Text             Easy to read= happy grandparents
  • Advanced  harness        Safety for your child= happy mommy

You get the idea.

In the Christian sub-culture, we have listened to the marketing gurus so much that we are now marketing the church.

I’m all for crisp design, excellent materials, and getting the word out, but I think we have to be careful. Church leaders should be intentional concerning their commitment to keep the church focused on the main thing!

When every sermon series is reduced to “seven steps to this” and “five baby steps to that,” we may be missing the point!

In this felt-needs approach to church, we often promote the benefit (practice) over the feature (doctrine). The problem is that a church can quickly become focused on perceived results rather than the source solution.

Doctrine has become an ugly word among some churches because it is seen as impractical. Doctrine, however, is very practical! We shouldn’t be scared of it.  Part of the problem is in the pulpit. Doctrine doesn’t have to be and never should have been boring!

If we lose our focus on doctrinal truth, we will develop moralists rather than Christians. We will convert folks to a religion, causing them to forfeit real relationship with Jesus!

This approach is dangerous for the Christian but it is deadly for the non-Christian who may attend your church.

Let’s use Jesus’ “I Am” statements to illustrate the point.

 

Feature Benefit

  • Christ the sustainer!                             You can be fulfilled & sustained!“

I Am the bread of life”

  • Christ the illuminator!                         You can see through darkness and sin!

“I Am the light of the world”

  • Christ the provider!                               You can find security & provision!

“I Am the door”

  • Christ our shepherd!                             You can experience unconditional love!

“I Am the good shepherd”

  • Christ our life!                                         You can have heaven!

“I Am the resurrection & the life”

  • Christ our entrance!                               You can have free access to God!

“ I Am the way, the truth, and the life”

  • Christ the source of all good!               You can be fruitful!

“I Am the true vine”

You are much more likely to see the right-hand column advertised as a sermon series than the left. Can’t you hear the titles? You can be fulfilled today! How to find security! All that is fine, but, if we aren’t careful, we will become so preoccupied with the “benefits” that we will forget the “feature.”

The benefit’s focus is on you, but the feature’s focus is on Jesus!  Who are we trying to promote—us or Him?

Yes, what we get is great, but let’s not forget that who we get is greater! If we get elements of the process but miss the person, then we’ve missed it all together!

If church leaders direct peoples’ attention onto the practical benefit rather than the personal feature (or, should I say, the featured person), then they distract rather than focus the church.

How ‘bout this series?

Seven reasons why Jesus is all you need!

 

We are in danger of being seen as self-help businesses rather than faith-based churches!

 

At some point, we pastors have to leave the marketing to the gurus and preach the pure, satisfying, undiluted stream of God’s Word!

 

Prudent Parenting

Proverbs 27:12a

A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself;

Laura and I were talking the other night about how hard it is to believe that Ella is already into her second year of life. I find myself thinking often about what kind of father I am and what kind of father I need to be. Because parenthood is a task so much bigger than myself, it often forces me to focus my dependence upon God. Right now our parenting goal is pretty simple. We want to raise Ella in a way that causes her to realize, early in life, that her parents love Jesus. We want our relationship with Jesus to be the defining element of our lives. Laura and I want the gospel to be the central theme of our lives to the degree that when we pass off the scene and Ella is asked how she remembers us she can simply say my parents loved Jesus.  For this to be true we recognize that our faith must be authentic—we can’t play games with God.

During my years in youth ministry I’ve noticed a trend among many Christian parents. Parents often are more reactionary then preventative. Rather than seeing themselves as a Bomb Squad, seeking out potential problems and diffusing them, they seem to see themselves as Disaster Relief Workers, going in after the devastation to help pick up the pieces. No doubt both roles are valid but how much better would it be if we could forsee evil and hide our families from it? I read an article a while back about parenting that Pastor Paul Chappell wrote. In the article he mentioned some parenting styles that are often referenced.  Here is what he said:

Below are four descriptions of parenting styles, three of which describe unbalanced approaches. These descriptions are helpful for parents with children of any ages, as they outline the heart philosophy of the parent rather than the behavior of the child.

1. Neglectful—Low in love, low in control

This parent avoids or flees his children. He finds it easier to say “Ask your mother” and continue watching a ballgame than to engage in opportunities to spend time with his children. He avoids setting boundaries and ignores the precious few boundaries that are broken. Unfortunately, children discern the neglect. Even as they take advantage of the relaxed rules, they translate the lack of attention as a lack of love.

Proverbs 29:15 describes the dangers of this parenting philosophy: “The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.”

2. Permissive—High in love, low in control

This parent allows his children to lead him rather than leading them. He fears his children and is reluctant to say “no.” While being your child’s friend is important, remember that you are his only father/mother. Be your child’s true best friend by fulfilling your role as his parent.

The book of Proverbs is full of Solomon’s admonition to his son to listen to and heed his father’s instruction: “My son, keep thy father’s commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother” (Proverbs 6:20). Solomon knew that he could give Rehoboam advice and instruction that would help him live a successful life.

3. Authoritarian—Low in love, high in control

This parent pushes his children to conformity, rather than leading them to maturity. Parents who lean toward this parenting philosophy should remember Ephesians 6:4, “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”

The goal for Christian families is not to raise well-behaved children; it is to mature Christlike adults. To do this, you must reach your children’s hearts. Discipline and instruction is necessary, but never forget that heartstrings are tied with cords of love.

4. Authoritative—High in love, high in control

This is the parent who accepts and fulfills his role as a parent by lovingly nurturing his child’s heart with love while training him in obedience. He sees the big picture and ultimately directs his child’s heart to the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). While retaining the role of a parent, he is able to fellowship with his child, spending quality and quantity time together.

It is God’s design that an earthly father would display an accurate representation of the heart of our Heavenly Father: ”Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him” (Psalm 103:13). Authoritative parenting that maintains a balance of committed love and caring control gives children a picture of their Heavenly Father that creates a hunger to know Him.

As we strive as parents to draw our children’s hearts toward the Lord, it is so important to recognize that in our own strength and through our own wisdom we are insufficient for this incredible responsibility. As Jesus clearly stated, “…without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5).

It is my experience that Christian parents are often permissive or authoritarian and then when this strategy doesn’t work they react. For example permissive parents find out that their children are involved in some alarming sinful activity and so they react harshly but before long their permissive pattern returns. Other parents who are authoritarian in their leadership style find a rebel on their hands and over-react by becoming permissive or even more rigid.  As I sit writing this I’m thinking of one parent and he is the one typing at this keyboard. I realize that I can only strike this balance of high in love, high in control by God’s grace.  If you are reading this and you feel that you have made some parenting mistakes in the past may I remind you of Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Today, as I think about what God must do in my life for me to be the father that I need to be—I encourage you to do the same. What kind of parent are you? What kind of parent do you need to be? What steps need to take place for you to get there? Don’t just react. Set up a long-term strategy and become a prudent parent!