Category: Church (page 3 of 28)

Your theology doesn’t matter

I have a Nike+ running watch that tracks distance, pace, calories, and GPS. I wear it while I run, and it gives me instant feedback. When I’m done running, I plug it into my computer, and it tracks my progress over time.

It’s really a great piece of equipment.

Nike-GPS-Watch

image via Nike.com

But mine started messing up.

And I began to get pretty frustrated. I’ve had the watch for a year-and-a-half or more, so I just knew that when I called customer service I was going to be told, “Sorry…you’re outside of the warranty period. There’s nothing we can do. We wish we could help.”

When I called, I was blown away by what I heard on the other end. (here’s the gist)

Hey Mr. Reed, I understand your problem. I’m so sorry that’s happening. I know how frustrating that must be. I’m a runner myself, and I use a watch just like yours. I want mine to work every time. Let’s try a few things. If they don’t work, we’ll work on getting you a replacement.

They were already promising something that most companies would only use in cases of extremely irate customers. They actually established a relationship in the first 30 seconds, and already offered customer service superior to 99% of other companies I’ve ever talked to over the phone.

You know what that translates into for me?

I’m a Nike customer for life.

I’m going to buy Nike shoes. Use Nike watches. Wear Nike socks. Eat Nike spaghetti.

Because I believe that they care about, and will take care of, me. I believe they’re passionate about their product…and that they’re going to stand behind and replace it if something happens. My customer experience with them has made me a customer for life. Even though other companies may make a better running shoe, come out with a cooler watch, or release a whole new line of socks designed for people just like me.

I just became a loyal Nike customer. Even though I may disagree with Nike’s core principles. May not support the same initiatives that they support. And if I were to sit down and have a conversation about morality with them, I’m sure I’d find myself on a different page than they are.

I’m loyal to them because of my customer service experience.

The Church’s message

The same thing is true in our churches.

If you want to make loyal “customers,” (people who don’t just show up once, but come back regularly) that doesn’t start in the pulpit. That doesn’t start with your theology.*

People could care less about where you stand on the authorship of the book of Hebrews or how long it took to create the Earth. They don’t even care what you believe about the Bible.

When…

  • life’s fallen apart
  • they don’t have any idea what their next step will be
  • they’re a wreck financially
  • their marriage isn’t fun anymore
  • they’ve been burned by the Church in the past
  • they’re coming because their spouse made them
  • they’re just looking for a little help
  • they don’t really want to be there anyway
  • they are skeptical of “church people”

…they could care less about your theology.** What you believe doesn’t matter to them. All that matters is their “customer service” experience:

  • how they were treated in the parking lot
  • how safe they feel dropping their children off
  • how warm and welcome they feel walking in the front door
  • how engaging the music was
  • whether the signage is clear enough to tell them where to go, so they don’t feel dumb walking around clueless
  • whether someone besides the “guy on stage” greets them
  • how they were publicly addressed as visitors

That’s scary, isn’t it? It means that a church with terrible theology, that doesn’t look to Jesus as the answer to hope, grace, mercy, and truth, could swoop in and convince people that their message is life-changing. Because they love people and help them feel cared for.

Your theology isn’t the reason that a visitor is going to stay. Or leave. At least not initially.

You want to fulfill the Great Commission, but you won’t get people to hang around long enough to soak it in unless you give an eye to people’s “customer service” experience.

Does your church have an eye for customer service? What do they do to show people they love them week in and week out?

 

*this is really a theological issue at heart, though. What you believe about our God who loves us despite our sin, who gives us His best (Jesus) to cover our worst drives this others-first behavior. But the specifics about what you believe theologically don’t matter as much to new folks.

**theology matters immensely. What you believe is of primary importance in the local church. And it drives what we do each and every week. But it doesn’t matter to people when they’re on the outside of faith, or when life has fallen apart. “Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” – Theodore Roosevelt

 

ReGroup: an interview with North Point’s Bill Willits

I attended ReGroup last year. It was the first year for North Point in Atlanta, GA, to put on a conference dedicated solely to small groups. To be honest with you, it was one of the best conferences I’ve ever attended. It was so phenomenal that I’m going back this year, too. (October 21-22)

*Keep reading…promo code below.

North Point peeled back the curtain on what they do…and why they do it. They were generous, sharing the secrets they’ve learned over the last 17 years of ministry. I have been leading small groups for years, and I walked away with boatloads of ideas that I could implement. On top of that, the North Point team were incredibly gracious hosts. I really felt like an honored guest.

Which is 100% a byproduct of my friend, Bill Willits, executive director of environments at North Point, and small groups afficionado.

I sat down with Bill recently because I wanted you to hear from him why their conference this year is a must-go.

I tried to find a good picture of Bill, but they all made him look old and crotchety. Sorry. 🙂

Willits_Headshot_copy

1. Why did you guys decide to do a conference?

It wasn’t an easy decision to make because, first and foremost, we’re a local church. Our first priority is to do groups, not organize conferences about them. But the time was right. There are lots of conferences out there, but there seemed to be a void when it came to groups ministry. More than that, most conference presenters are thought leaders in their fields. While that is valuable, we think there’s something special about a conference for people doing ministry by people doing ministry.

We had a hunch that other ministries would benefit from what our Groups team has to share. We also knew that our Groups team would benefit from the opportunity to rub elbows with other folks from all over the world doing groups ministry. So, re:group was born.

 

2. Who would be the “perfect” person to come to re:group?

Re:group is for anyone who is trying to grow or start a groups ministry, as well as anyone just thinking about starting a groups ministry. Because we’re focused on how community is essential to life change, the conference can benefit a groups ministry of any size or at any stage.

 

3. What benefit will someone get out of attending?

While we’ll spend some time talking about the whys of groups ministry, most of the conference is about the hows. Anyone invested in small groups is going to come away from re:group with a lot of practical information about how to do what they do even better.

 

4. Why should someone choose this conference over any other given conference?

You know, we’re going to share what we’ve learned about doing groups ministry over the years, but re:group isn’t about North Point speaking from on high. We’re still figuring things out. We still have a ton to learn. Re:group is a conference where attendees can learn from us and from one another, while we learn from them. It’s just a great opportunity for ministry leaders from all kinds of backgrounds to come together and share their wisdom, knowledge, and experience.

 

Plus, Buckhead Church is a great venue for a conference and we’re going to have a lot of fun.

 

5. Why attend this conference and not just read your book, Creating Community?

First of all, we’ve learned and changed a lot since the book was published. The vision, mission, and values of our ministry haven’t changed but our model and programming have certainly matured. But more than that, one of the things that most excites me about re:group is the opportunity for attendees to interact with our Groups staff. They’re really great folks and they have a ton of accumulated knowledge and wisdom about creating a small groups ministry. Yes, read the book. But don’t miss the chance to connect with an amazing group of people who live and breath groups and who have helped us adapt, chance, and mature our groups strategy.

 

6. What area(s) of ministry will you be highlighting?

Between the main sessions and the breakouts, we’ll cover a lot of ground—getting people into groups, eliminating barriers to community, building effective ministry teams and strategies, and even measuring how well you’re achieving your ministry goals.

 

7. If someone comes to the conference, and uses the code (whatever discount code we’re going to use for my blog readers), can they stay at your house during the conference and have you cook us breakfast, Bill?

You really don’t want to eat my cooking. Seriously. And you’re a goofball.

 

Just for the readers of this blog, and just until Monday, September 16th, they’re extending the early bird rate. Just enter the promo code: BenReedPromo. Original, right?

$179 is a steal. You’ll walk away with information worth well, well more than that.

Register HERE for the conference on October 21-22.

Will I see you there?

 

The Gospel doesn’t change. The way we share it should.

Engage_Banner

I’ve been a part of a handful of projects with Lifeway, but none that I’ve been as excited about as this one.

I was one of 4 authors to collaborate on a small group book/study called Engage: A Practical Guide to Evangelism, and I love how it all came together.

Here’s the overview:

____________________________

The simple truth of the gospel does not change. And while this truth is timeless, we must always evaluate the presentation of that truth to make sure it’s connecting in a culturally relevant way. Engage is a practical study examining the act of sharing your faith. Engage: A Practical Guide to Evangelism answers questions like, How do you begin a conversation about Jesus? What if they have questions you’re not sure how to answer? What do you say if they respond positively or if they reject God’s message?

Engage is a small group study that helps you:

  • Discern the full meaning of the gospel of Jesus Christ
  • Understand why all Christians are called to share the good news
  • Prepare for spiritual attacks against the gospel
  • Have tangible ideas for how to share your faith with those who don’t believe in Jesus.
____________________________

Here are a few quotes from the book…written in a way that’s easily shareable on Twitter or Facebook, if you’d like.

Twitter

  • Sharing our faith requires reminders of the beauty and depth of the gospel. #engage @threadsmedia http://lfwy.co/19OYiFA
  • Jesus lived the perfect life I should’ve lived and died the death I had been condemned to die. #engage @threadsmedia http://lfwy.co/19OYiFA
  • We can approach God with boldness because He sees us according to the accomplishments of Christ #engage @threadsmedia http://lfwy.co/19OYiFA
  • You can never earn the title “Christian”—Jesus earned it in our place & gave it to us as a gift #engage @threadsmedia http://lfwy.co/19OYiFA
  • We’re accepted before God not because of what we do but because of what Jesus has done. #engage @threadsmedia http://lfwy.co/19OYiFA
  • What’s inside of our hearts gushes out and compels us to action. #engage @threadsmedia http://lfwy.co/19OYiFA
  • Evangelism is seeing Jesus as our greatest delight and the ultimate lover of our souls. #engage @threadsmedia http://lfwy.co/19OYiFA
  • Loving God & loving others is the fuel that propels gospel proclamation & disciple making. #engage @threadsmedia http://lfwy.co/19OYiFA
  • Sharing your faith is much less complicated than we often make it. #engage @threadsmedia http://lfwy.co/19OYiFA (via @BenReed)

Facebook

  • Unbelievers are looking for real answers not easy ones. They’re wanting to see that men and women of faith struggle with questions, too. #engage @threadsmedia http://lfwy.co/19OYiFA
  • The gospel of Jesus is the announcement that Jesus is Lord and has won a great victory on our behalf. The gospel is not a command that we should do better so that God will accept us, but the announcement that Jesus has paid the full penalty for our sin. No longer do we need to live in fear. The battle has been won on our behalf—we need only to believe and receive it. #engage @threadsmedia http://lfwy.co/19OYiFA
  • The gospel isn’t just the “beginning point” of Christianity, a prayer you pray to begin your Christian life, or the diving board off of which you jump into the pool of Christianity. The gospel is the pool in which you swim, day by day. Once you’ve believe the gospel, the way you grow in Christ is by going deeper into the gospel. You become more aware of how gracious He is and how incredible is the gift He has given you in Christ. #engage @threadsmedia http://lfwy.co/19OYiFA
  • The world needs to know who Jesus really is and what the benefits are of putting faith in Him. Jesus gave us the responsibility to make those truths known. The potential impact of obedience to that calling is world-changing. #engage @threadsmedia http://lfwy.co/19OYiFA
  • We not only need the gospel to cover our sinfulness and to guarantee a glorious eternity; we need the gospel for everything! From the most mundane activities of our day-to-day lives to the “big ticket item” decisions that pivot the trajectory of our lives—the gospel should infuse all of it. #engage @threadsmedia http://lfwy.co/19OYiFA
  • For an unbeliever, we can’t support the legitimacy of the Bible solely on its own word. We have to look at history, at the present day, and even within ourselves to see that God’s Word is true and can be trusted. #engage @threadsmedia http://lfwy.co/19OYiFA
  • Your story is compelling. Riveting. Life-changing (assuming you actually have been changed). And sharing your faith involves sharing your story. Be honest, transparent, and vulnerable. People will connect with your brokenness more quickly and fully than they ever will your “awesomeness.” Share the mistakes God’s redeeming you from, the sin you’re done with, the bigger picture He’s inviting you into, and the ways His grace is sufficient and His love is captivating. #engage @threadsmedia http://lfwy.co/19OYiFA
  • Sharing your faith is much less complicated than we often make it. But it’s also much more difficult. Much more engaging. Much more demanding of your time and effort. Much more challenging of your life. #engage @threadsmedia http://lfwy.co/19OYiFA
You can pick up your copy HERE.
 

9 Statements that will Destroy your Small Group

Small Groups3

image credit: CreationSwap user George Webster

You don’t want your small group to fail. That’s not why you got into this. You want your group to succeed. You want people to grow and thrive in your group.

You want your group to be the one that people can’t wait to show up to. The one they talk to their friends about. The one that, in 10 years, they look back on and say, “That group changed my life.”

You don’t want people to dread your small group every week. To feel like they just have to come. To view it as a waste of time. To be the group of which they say, “Don’t join a small group. Mine is terrible.”

There’s a certain amount of your group’s success that you can’t control. God’s going to choose to bless or not. He’s going to sovereignly inspire group members to engage…or not. His hand of favor will be there…or not.

But there are statements you can make, personally, that will inevitably tank your group. That will guarantee you’ll get nothing out of it, and that you’ll create a terrible experience for the rest of your group. Statements that will destroy community rather than foster it.

9 Statements that will destroy your group

1. They need community more than I do. I’m just doing this for them.

You need healthy, authentic community as much as anyone does. You’re never above it, because God’s created you to live dependent on others.

2. They need to hear this.

Be careful that as you’re preparing for your small group that you don’t work your way through the material making notes about who in your group needs to hear a given truth…an not including your own name. Pride comes before the fall, my friend. (Proverbs 16:18)

3. I don’t have anything to give.

There may be weeks occasionally that you are empty and dry. But God’s given you gifts that are perfectly suited to lead your group. Don’t spit on God’s grace in your life by feigning a false, self-deprecating humility.

4. I don’t have time for this.

You are busy. So am I. You and I don’t have time to avoid community. The busier we are, the more we need others speaking truth and hope into our lives. When you say this, you place yourself over and above your group members, pridefully believing your life is more important than theirs.

5. Someone else will call them.

Don’t assume that someone else is going to call and encourage your group members. Or visit them in the hospital. Or call them after a new job interview. Or text them after a test. They’re not going to. You need to do the work of shepherding that’s vital for a group leader.

6. What they need is a ‘perfect’ leader. I probably shouldn’t confess my sins here.

Perfection in a small group leader isn’t what’s needed. And in fact, group members will connect with you more over your struggles and difficult times than they ever will with you through your victories. Be open and honest when you mess up.

7. Because I’m the leader I should probably talk more.

No. No. No. The best group leaders listen way more than they talk. Listening, and giving an appropriate (rather than a forced, canned, expected) response is much more honoring, respectful, and helpful. “To answer before listening – that is folly and shame.” – Proverbs 18:13

8. Curriculum? Pssht! I got this!

Don’t think that curriculum is evil. It’s not. It provides a backdrop for your group to have a conversation about truth. It’s not the end-all-be-all for your group. But it helps keep you on track and moving forward. Don’t think you’re “too good” for a focused study.

9. Evangelism? Nope.

Stop it. Quit thinking too narrowly about the Gospel. Too weakly about it. Too shallowly about the power of the Gospel to change lives. Stop it.

What other statements would you include that would destroy a small group?

 

The 4 Invaluable Laws of Leading Volunteers

This is a guest post from KC Procter (Twitter, Facebook, Blog). Data admin by day. Social media manager by night. Writer in the space between. He likes LEGOs.

volunteer21

image credit: Cohemo.org

There are common themes to leadership. When your team is comprised of volunteers the value of these guidelines is amplified.

For the last 2 years I have had the privilege of working with a team of 100+ church volunteers each week. From a friendly smile to helping someone find a seat, we work to provide a warm and welcoming environment where people feel like they belong. Keeping volunteers engaged is crucial, and this is what I am learning from the experience.

1. Lead by Appreciation

You cannot over-appreciate your people. It must be genuine and frequent. Write thank you notes, give them a shout out on Facebook, and tell them you are grateful for their servant hearts. Volunteers work hard without compensation. They need to know you see and value their contribution. Acts of appreciation don’t have to be grand. Most of the time volunteers shy away from the spotlight. A simple handshake and a short conversation letting them know you care goes a long way.

2. Lead by Example

Never ask your people to do something you are not willing to do. Sometimes you need to get in the trenches and get your hands dirty. Everyone has their strengths, and it’s best to place people in a role that plays to their natural abilities. But that doesn’t exclude you from jumping in to fill the gaps. If your people see you hesitating to fill a need, they will follow suit and lose respect for your leadership. There is no task that is beneath you. After all, Jesus washed the feet of the disciples. And they walked around all day in sandals.

3. Lead by Delegation

You can’t do everything. This was my biggest area of growth. Even if you are capable in each role on your team, you can’t do everything. And chances are people on your team fulfill these roles better than you. That’s why you are the leader. It’s important that you’re competent and willing to jump in when needed, but you need to let your team serve. Volunteering is a blessing to the one serving as much as to those being served. Don’t rob your team of a blessing.

4. Lead by Learning

You learn more from your team than they do from you. It’s simple math really. There is one of you and many of them. Many people can teach one person a whole lot more than that one person can teach many people. A few of my college professors might disagree, but I’m still paying off student loans so their vote doesn’t count. Odds are there are some wise people on your team whose insight can equip you. Just because they’re volunteers doesn’t mean they aren’t experienced or educated. Perhaps even more so than you.

Working with a team of volunteers presents its own set of unique challenges. However, it’s also a rewarding experience that’ll touch your heart and grow your leadership skills.

Question:

Do you work with volunteers? Any words of wisdom you’d add?

 

“Our church will never grow.”

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image credit CreationSwap user Ales Cerin

Our church will never grow.

Those were the words I heard over the phone from a pastor. “Because of the town where we’re at, and with it being pretty rural, our church isn’t ever really going to grow.”

It felt like the punchline to a joke that wasn’t funny. I unintentionally let an awkward silence hang over the airways while I caught my breath, hoping he’d fill the silence with, “Oh, you know I’m kidding.” He didn’t.

We were in the middle of a conversation about small groups, and how small groups can be a growth engine for your church as they help connect people into life-giving, discipleship-making relationships. I was trying to help him see how small groups can be an environment for people not just inside of the church building to connect and grow, but for those still on the outside. A chance for skeptics to “kick the tires,” if you will, not in an argumentative you-better-convince-me-intellectually kind of way, but in a way where they see the church in action. Where they watch love. Watch grace. Watch forgiveness. Watch confession. Watch growth.

Small groups are the Church. Alive. (Tweet that)

Small groups are ideal environments to invite your friends.

But he wasn’t buying it. And I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

Our church will never grow.

Basically I was being told, “Evangelism won’t work for us. The Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) is for everyone else. Because of where we live, we’re off the hook. Jesus couldn’t have meant us when he commanded us them to make disciples of all nations. No way. No how.” (Tweet that)

If you get to the point where you feel like the Gospel isn’t

  • powerful enough
  • big enough
  • life-changing enough
  • culture-shaping enough
  • hope-giving enough 
  • marriage-saving enough
  • addiction-breaking enough (Tweet that)
  • grace-infusing enough
  • slate-cleaning enough

to shape your community and grow your congregation, get out of the ministry. (Tweet that) Do something else. Anything else. The Gospel is too important to waste. Too powerful to keep confined to a small box.

Pastors, your community needs you. (Tweet that) It needs you to believe that there’s hope in the Gospel. There’s healing to be found in surrender. That marriages can be reconciled. That change is possible.

The Gospel is not small.

 

My Judea

Our church is doing a church-wide initiative where we are serving in our “Judea.”

Taken from Acts 1:8

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Judea would’ve been within a 20-mile range of Jerusalem. So Jesus was commanding them to bear witness not just in their own hometown (Jerusalem), and not forget about the surrounding community.

We’re taking Jesus up on that.

Here’s a video that our team at Long Hollow put together. It happens to be my personal small group. I love these guys!

 

What is your small group doing to serve your “Judea”?

 

Top books for people sensing a call to ministry

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image credit: CreationSwap user Agatha Villa

Sensing a call to ministry?

Then it’s time to start getting prepped now. Nothing can substitute for doing the work of ministry. But picking up and working through a handful (or two) of good books will help you more than you could ever know.

These are some of my favorites. Some I read in seminary. Others I’ve read since I’ve been working full-time in the local church.

I hope they help you as much as they’ve helped me.

 

Ministry

Small Groups with Purpose by Steve Gladen (e-book)

Deep and Wide by Andy Stanley (e-book)

Sticky Church by Larry Osborne (e-book)

Sticky Teams by Larry Osborne (e-book)

Lectures to my Students by CH Spurgeon (e-book)

Creating Community by Andy Stanley (e-book)

UnChristian by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons (e-book)

 

Leadership

21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell (e-book)

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie (e-book)

Tribes: We Need you to Lead us by Seth Godin (e-book)

Good to Great by Jim Collins (e-book)

The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni (e-book)

 

Theology/Spiritual Growth

The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler (e-book)

Knowing God by JI Packer (e-book)

Christian Beliefs: 20 Basics Every Christian Should Know by Wayne Grudem (e-book)

ESV Study Bible

The Attributes of God by AW Pink (e-book)

Desiring God by John Piper (e-book)

Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers by John Owen (e-book)

Let the Nations Be Glad by John Piper (e-book)

The Me I Want to Be by John Ortberg (e-book)

 

Anything you’d add?

 

Discipleship Customized

At Long Hollow, we primarily plug people into small groups in two different ways:

  • Connection Events
  • Sermon Alignment

We ust finished with our latest sermon alignment, where we launched short-term small groups around our Sunday morning sermon series. We chose a series, and crafted it in such a way that it was accessible for a wide variety of spiritual maturities. It was incredibly effective for us, as we launched groups across our campuses, connecting bucketfuls of folks who hadn’t previously been connected.

Screen Shot 2013-05-09 at 7.18.17 AM

If you’ve ever tried to line up a sermon series with your small groups in a way that was productive, though, and plan this all out far enough in advance to get the whole series printed and produced before you start the series, you know how much of a logistical challenge this is. From working with the teaching team to get the sermon series info, to crafting content that’s engaging, to producing videos that go along with the series, it’s a lot of work.

I’ve got a way to help one of the biggest steps for you.

We used Lifeway’s Discipleship in Context to help us produce the content. And they were incredibly easy to work with.

I sat down with their team, and laid out the whole series for him. I told them conceptually where the series was going, where each individual week would go, Scriptures that our team was wrestling through, and the general flow (introduction questions, sermon recap, application questions) we were looking for. They produced exactly what we were looking for. They hit it perfectly on the head.

I also told him how we needed a “leader’s guide” so that our leaders could be one step ahead of the folks in their group. They went over and above, including an easy-to-follow Bible commentary for leaders.

On top of it all, it was incredibly cost-effective.

I talked with a company recently that wanted to do everything for us…branding, printing, and video production. And they wanted to charge us tens of thousands of dollars.

I chuckled when they told me that, knowing that we could never afford that.

Thankfully, the Discipleship in Context guys know that churches can’t afford prices like that. And though they don’t do the videos, they’ll produce content that’s crafted in your church’s language, tailored to your exact sermon series.

We were thrilled with the product we got from them (you can click HERE to see it all). Absolutely thrilled. And I guarantee you we’ll use them in the future to help us craft the content for our groups and the alignment series we launch.

I think you should use them, too.

Here’s a video further explaining the Discipleship in Context team’s work:

 

 
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