Defining a Great Church

Thanks to Mark Wilson at Revitalize Your Church I came across this great article on defining greatness in the church. It is an interview with Jim Collins on “What Makes a ‘Good to Great’ Church?” You can read the whole article by clicking on the link. I liked how he qualified greatness. A common misconception is that greatness equals big numbers. Greatness does not mean big nor does bigness mean greatness. This is encouraging for a small church/small town pastor. What were his qualifications? Collins wrote:

An organization must have three things to qualify as great:

    1. Superior performance relative to its mission in the world.

    2. A distinctive impact on its community. So you’d say, “If this church disappeared, it would leave a serious hole in this community.”

    3. Endurance. Making an impact over a long enough time, so that it’s not dependent on the personality of one leader. If a church is effective during one pastorate, it may be a church with a stellar pastor, but it is not yet a great church.

These are serious talking points or discussion starters for any church. How do we measure up to these qualifications? Over the next few days, we’ll look at some of his other comments regarding the church. There is something to think about for all of us.

Making a Good Impression

Last night we began something new as part of our student ministries program. About a year ago, we found out there was a program available through Wesleyan Women called Impressions. It is designed primarily for girls in middle school. We began taking our students through this program last night, teaching basic introduction techniques. Unfortunately, I was greatly disturbed by an obnoxious overgrown teen with greasy hair, torn blue jeans, and in general a sloppy appearence, chewing bubble gum very loudly, talking on her cell phone and simultaneously text messaging her friends. The students were shocked and wondered what was the point. The point is we all make impressions on people all the time. If we are Christ’s ambassadors, we represent Christ in all we do. Therefore, we should be making good impressions on people. We are doing this once a month as part of our Mosaic ministry. I want our students to make good, lasting impressions. We started with this verse last night. But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Here there is no conflict with the law. (Galatians 5:22-23 – NLT) When the Spirit controls our life and we have these characteristics, we will make a lasting impression on the Kingdom. By the way, the picture is our “overgrown” teen interupting the class.

25 Years?

How time flies! It seems hard to believe that I have been out of high school for 25 years. I graduated from Parkland High School in 1981. It’s been an amazing journey for me. For those of you who might be coming from the link on our class reunion site, welcome. Here’s a brief update about me. My wife Pam and I will be married 20 years this coming February and we have three children, ages 18, 15, and 9. I’ve included a picture of us together. I graduated from LCCC in 83 with a degree in Data Processing and then graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University in 1996 with a degree in Church Music. I was ordained last year (’05) in The Wesleyan Church. Over the past fifteen years, we have lived in Indiana, Michigan, New York, and now Virginia. I have been a pastor for the last eight years — a staff position in MI, and solo pastor positions in NY and VA. In addition to pastoring the Preston Wesleyan Church in Martinsville, VA, I work at RadioShack. I have continued my musical pursuits throughout the years. I was just begining to play bass guitar during high school and I played trumpet in band. The trumpet has fallen to the wayside, but I am still have a great interest in music. In addition to being the pastor, I lead the worship at our church, usually with guitar, but when our other keyboardists are out, I’ll lead and sing from the piano. Congradulations on 25 years to the Parkland class of 81.

Monday Night Church Bowling League

Tonight was our third week bowling. Before the beginning of the evening we were tied for fifth place with two other teams. Tonight was not a good night. The other team spotted us 172 pins. Even with that advantage, we only won 2 points and lost 5. Our season record is 10 points won and 11 points lost. Being that we played the first place team, that will take us from 4 points behind to 7 points behind. We have bowled 6,105 pins for a 678 average (an improvement of 10 pins from last week.) I had a season best 398 (133, 134, and 131). I was pleased that I bowled a consistent set. It was late in the season last year before I bowled a 400 set. My personal best is a 450 set bowled during the end of season Roll-off. My average for the year is back to 128. I’ll take that for now. It took me most of the year to get to a 128 last year. All of us bowled near or above our seasonal averages tonight. We’ll give it another go next week.

The Dreaded SAT

Our family has reached a milestone of sorts. Our oldest is applying to colleges and in the process needs to take the dreaded SAT. Just recently she has signed up for an e-mail “SAT Question of the Day.” These questions make my head hurt. (and that’s just the Verbal section) The math questions really make my head hurt. I was surprised at the difficulty of the questions especially considering I do have four year degree. This morning I took my usual approach to answering multiple choice questions. It was a process of elimination. We try our best to encourage her, because it is our hearts desire that she do what God wants her to do. I think that is the best prayer that any parent could pray for their child.

Sunday Night Thoughts – September 24

For the past twenty-four hours we have been host to Chaplain Blake Bowers. It was a great visit as he shared with us. Our son has been his pen pal for about two years. Pam and I often call chaplains missionaries. Here are a couple of things to think about. Do chaplains qualify as missionaries? They don’t “raise” missionary support? How are chaplains like missionaries? I believe they do. Why?

  1. They minister to a largely untouched segment of our society.
  2. They minister in a cross-cultural setting with its own unique challenges and needs that civilian clergy (like myself) cannot reach.
  3. There are thousands of lost souls who need the Gospel shared with them. As God asked, “Who will go?” “So send me Lord!”
  4. Chaplains minister in a very isolated setting from other ministers (like many missionaries do). They may be the only minister within thousands of miles of another church. What’s the difference of being in the dark jungles or in the middle of the Pacific alone sharing the Gospel?
  5. Chaplains need the prayers and encouragement from the church. They face a unique set of challenges and dangers. (We heard about some of these today.) Some of our missionaries have the challenge of ministering in cultures that are outright anti-Christian. Chaplains must minister in similar situations.

I challenge you this week to pray for our chaplains. They are a vital part of sharing the good news around the world. The Wesleyan Church‘s Department of Education and the Ministry has even more information regarding chaplains.

Getting Ready for Company

For the fifth time in the past year, our family is getting ready to host a guest who is coming to speak at our church. Chaplain Blake Bowers is coming to Preston Wesleyan this Sunday. We enjoy hosting our special guests. Chaplain Bowers recently returned from deployment in Iraq. He will be speaking to our High School class as well as during our Morning Worship service.
Chaplain Bowers follows Chaplain Ritchie, Jim Pickett (twice), the first one was a stopover bed and breakfast type visit. He came back a few months later to speak to our chuch about Global Partners and what we are doing in Mozambique. Shannon Rast came a few months later to tell us how God is working with Global Partners in Germany.
It’s been great to host these missionaries. Yes, my family considers military chaplains missionaries. In most cases they have bigger congregations than us civilian pastors. Many military personnel would never darken the doors of a church and yet they will routinely seek the help of a chaplain. Pray for those who are ministers to our military. They have a demanding spiritual job and many times it is away from home and family and in dangerous parts of the world.
We are looking forward to what Chaplain Bowers brings us this weekend.

Monday Night Church Bowling League

Well, it’s that time of the year again. Our church has a bowling league and this year instead of being a regular substitute, I am a regular bowler. We have a great time bowling and having Christian fellowship. I didn’t do too bad at bowling either. I started the year with a 100 average and finished the year as our teams handicap high set. Last week we won 5 points and lost 2 and that tied us for fourth place at two points behind. Our team average began at 636. Tonight we bowled and won 3 points and lost four. Our season total is now 8 points won and 6 points lost and our average is 668. We won’t know what place we are in until we bowl next week. It is a lot of fun and I enjoy crunching the numbers.
I impressed myself by bowling a 128 average last week. I can’t say I did as well tonight bowling at 123. My season average is now 125. We’ll see how it improves or declines this season. That will probably be my Monday night post until March.

The Obedience of One

Wow! Today at Preston Wesleyan we were ministered to by the Holy Spirit. Our service was literally transformed by His presence. I began the service by sitting at the piano and singing the song, “Does Anybody Hear Her?” by Casting Crowns. This is part of a series that we have been doing titled Lifelong Lessons. As I sang the song, the sanctuary became quiet as the congregation reflected on the words. Our theme was evangelism and the songs that we sang reflected that. Our worship set included “Since I Have Been Redeemed,” “Days of Elijah,” “Go Light Your World,” and Rescue the Pershing.” I love to try to theme the songs to the message when possible. Everything was going along as planned (following the bulletin) when we came to our prayer time. As is our custom of late, I opened the service for praises and prayer requests. Several got up and gave prayer requests and praises. What happened next was cool. Before we began to pray, one of our leaders stepped up to the altar. I was checked in my spirit and invited anyone else who would like to come to the altar to come as well. I was not prepared for the response. It was so cool. At that point the Holy Spirit overwhelmed the room and flooded us with what we needed. What would have happened if that one person would not have responded to the Spirit’s call to go to the altar? So much for a well planned service. The Holy Spirit had other plans. As I followed the Spirit’s leading from there, it was neat to watch the service unfold from there. I did get a chance to preach and we went into overtime. We looked at how many around us, just outside of our church are lost. We need to be Christ’s ambassadors. Christ is counting on us to take His gospel to a dying world. We finished with a wonderful paraphrase of St. Patrick’s Breastplate.

I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me:
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

What a wonderful thought that Christ is the only thing that people would see when they see us. It’s my prayer for myself and the prayer for the congregation of Preston Wesleyan Church. It is my prayer for you as well.

Does Anybody Hear Her?

On Tuesday evening, I had finished weeding and sprucing up the flowerbeds in front of the parsonage. Afterward, I took a shower and went downstairs to see what was on TV. As usual, there was nothing of any significance on. Just to see what was happening locally I turn to channel 18. Usually the subject matter is quite laughable. But there was nothing to laugh about on Tuesday. It appears that there are some serious allegations of teacher misconduct at Magna Vista. Furthermore, it was mentioned that at least 30 students were pregnant. As we began the service this morning, I sang a song called, “Does Anybody Hear Her?” Never have I felt that a sermon was more relevant that what we are going to look at today.

She is yearning
For shelter and affection that she never found at home
She is searching
For a hero to ride in
To ride in and save the day
And in walks her prince charming and he knows just what to say
A momentary lapse of reason and she gives herself away

Tuesday night, Charles asked some tough questions. What are the parents teaching their children? What are the schools teaching their students? What are the churches teaching their congregations? My first reaction was, that it is the parent’s responsibility to teach about such things. But with the breakdown of the family, and our schools adopting the liberal anything goes attitude, who is left, except the church?

Even when we take a look around our own congregation, the breakdown of the family is obvious. How many of our students come from single parent or absentee parent homes. I know that several you have mentioned how your heart aches for those whom God has given to us to minister. We had nineteen students on Wednesday evening for Mosaic. Of those nineteen, only five have parents who attend Preston Wesleyan. Three of those five are PK’s (or preacher’s kids.) What a mission field we have.

In case you think I have a one tracked mind about Mosaic, I’m not only concerned about those students who don’t feel loved in our community, but with any who doesn’t feel loved by the church in our community. When I say the word church, I mean the visible body of Christ in Martinsville and Henry County. Do we hear those who are crying out for help, or are we too busy with our own agenda to hear them?

Mark Hall writes, “They are all around us. To become numb to their pain is to become numb to the heart of God and the suffering of His only Son.” What does this have to do with worship? Romans 12:1 says, “1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask?” We’ve already discovered that everything we do is an act of worship. Everything we do gives glory (or worship) to the object of our worship. Who is your object of worship? Is your object of worship the Lord God Almighty, the maker of heaven and earth, and his Son, Jesus Christ, the only one born of the Father, or is it someone or something else. There is more to worshiping God than coming to church for an hour or two a week. We are to be the hands and feet of Jesus. In the Gospel of John 15:5-8 Jesus says these words, “5 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Anyone who parts from me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. 7 But if you stay joined to me and my words remain in you, you may ask any request you like, and it will be granted! 8 My true disciples produce much fruit. This brings great glory to my Father.” Jesus calls us to work for Him; to do the things that he wants us to do. If we don’t he will cut us off, just like a bad branch on a tree. So, let’s be practical about this. What does that mean for Preston Wesleyan Church?

Jesus commanded his disciples in Matthew 28:19-20 to “19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” I’m sure that no one would disagree with me on this point. Most of us know that Christ gave us this command and we should do it. Jesus never promised that this would be an easy command, that’s probably why he added the “I am with you always”. We serve Christ in a broken world. There are those who pass by our church everyday who are going to hell. How do we reach them?

If you’ve read my blog this week and as I mentioned at the beginning of the sermon, I weeded and spruced up the flowerbeds in front of the parsonage. Were the weeds easy to get out? No! These weeds seem to spring up roots everywhere and get attached to the soil easily. In order for me to weed the flowerbed, fix the brick edging and place woodchips on the flowerbed, meant that I was going to have to get dirty. When we get involved with the lives of those outside our church, it could get messy. Like I said the other week, people misunderstood Jesus. People will misunderstand us. But if we are doing what Christ has commanded us to do, that is all that is important.

Paul writes this in Romans 10:14, “But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?” In order for us to gain a hearing, people must know that we care about them. The old cliché “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care is really true.” I try to model that as your shepherd. I have some great help in my wife Pam in doing this. Pam truly has a shepherd’s heart. Each week Pam and I look around the congregation and see who might need an encouraging word. Many of you have received cards. This is part of our ministry of caring. I have a great deal of love for this congregation. Pam, the family and I felt called of God to come here and be your shepherd. It was not taken lightly. We prayed about it a lot. Several months ago, a someone in our congregation took some of our students out to eat after church on Sunday morning. I could see the joy her face as she described the time that she had with the kids and I could see the disappointment on her face as she told me the heartbreak of taking the kids home after lunch. Matter-of-fact, she tried to take one of our students home and mom said just to keep her for the afternoon and bring her home after evening church. (Is that sad or what?) I thank God for those of you who are in the congregation who give of yourselves for others. There are many of you.

Mosaic Student Ministries is one opportunity to reach out to the students of Henry County and Martinsville. If Tuesday night’s report on StarNews is anything close to accurate we have a tremendous opportunity for ministry. There is a world that needs us.

Let me close and challenge you with this. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:20 “We are Christ’s ambassadors, and God is using us to speak to you. We urge you, as though Christ himself were here pleading with you, ‘Be reconciled to God!’” Paul is telling us who are in Christ that we are his ambassadors to speak to the world for God. That is cool and yet sobering in one fell swoop. Paul commands (urges) us to speak as those Christ himself were speaking and pleading to those around us who don’t know him, “Be reconciled to God!” That is our job to be Christ’s ambassador and to bring others into right relationship with God. Be listening this week to their cries. Be Christ to a world in need. Be His hands and feet.