Tuesday, December 9, 2014

What to do with Consumer Christians

"...we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance produces character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."  Romans 5:3-5

I don't have to tell you much about the consumeristic side of the Christmas season.  You already know it and are experiencing it.  We shoppers can take on a, "What kind of deal can you get for me?," as we pick and choose from a variety of what stores have to offer.  As a culture, we've grown to accept the competitive, consumeristic-mentality of December.

But when it comes to consumerism in the church, we are still suffering in our acceptance--- especially Church Planters!  We know it and we're experiencing it.  For instance, when seeking to minister to folks, a consumeristic-mentaility will always break-up momentum and produce suffering--like hurt feelings, guilt, even anger.  I hear it all the time from planters as they tell me a variety of sad tales of how they've worked with a family for months, only to have the family leave the new start in favor of another church that is already established--- with youth ministries in place, choirs, a permanent facility, etc.  When Christians come to church as consumers, asking, "What kind of deal can you get for me?," it creates a competitive, consumeristic-mentality 12-months a year.

In the midst of that kind of disappointment for many church planters, here's some good news for you at Christmas....

Jesus came to earth not to doctor the healthy, but to doctor the sick.  He says so himself.  So keep this in mind: only "Institutional Christians" will leave your start-up for a "better" church program elsewhere.  The nonbeliever/unchurched person (and right now, stats indicate that 60% of the U.S. fits that category) doesn't have a clue about the varieties of Bible studies, small groups, youth ministries, worship services, or coffee choices churches are offering them.  They don't care about that stuff.  More programs aren't getting anyone in the 60% to join a church.  These folks are simply looking for one thing:

Hope.  Real hope.  They don't know, however, that real hope comes only in Dr. Jesus. 

So, that's what YOU can offer them!  Make your missional ministry all about giving and receiving the power of hope in Christ, rather than purpose of program.  This is where the church planter can start experiencing the advantage over the consumer-driven churches!  You get to cut to the heart of the matter--- doing The Great Commandment and doing the Great Commission because both bring hope!  So, don't dwell on what you don't have in your early stages of development--- proclaim what you DO HAVE going for you!  You may not have a certain program, but you do have a certain process.  For example, as you articulate your purpose-driven discipleship-mentality over the program-driven membership-mentality, you'll attract two important kinds of people:  1). pioneer/apostle-like Christian leaders who want to be a part of a "doing church", AND 2). people that are not practicing faith at all, but are still longing for deeper meaning to their lives.

Both types of people have come to realize they've been lied to, (or disappointed by), the false hope government, schools, businesses and commercials...even some churches, profess to give.  They are now wanting for a light switch as they stagger in darkness.  They want to be released from un-forgiveness.  They want a lasting relationship with someone who walks in joy, rather than anger, in tough times. They want something real, not religious.  Their souls want the truth even though they've been brain-washed pluralistic.  They want to experience the super-natural power of the Holy Spirit (although they don't yet know him) to over-come what seems like a snow storm of despair.

Did you catch all that?  They "want" stuff!  Indeed, non-believers are consumers too, but they are wanting for real hope, which is the one thing we all really need!  It's the one thing you can give right away as a new ministry leader.

So Planters--- again, that's what YOU can offer without having to first possess a lot of money!  What a Christmas present the giving and receiving of hope is!  It's as simple and as cost effective as just believing upon a baby being born in a cow barn and wrapped-in swaddling clothes to poor parents.

Our culture (including many Christians) is trapped in "the want" of convenience and comfort.  Jesus, however, offers something much more than what we want--- he delivers what we need.  He offers his character that produces his hope so we don't have to want for anything.  Romans 5 proclaims that real hope comes as we persevere in Christ-like character.  How can that be?  Jesus says, "Follow me and I will make you a fisher of people!"  When we follow Jesus in obedience, he transforms us into himself.

Friends: I am convinced that if our new churches simply work at being Ephesians 4:11-16 churches, we won't have to concern ourselves with choirs, cookies, comforts or conveniences to "attract" wanting people.  Sure those things are nice and can be great tools for outreach, but they can also create consumers before creating disciples.  So with that in mind, let's be really good at being empowered in the character of Christ--- by loving people, helping people, listening to them, sharing and equipping people with the gospel of the cross that over-comes life-ending sin and death.  Promise them a purpose over a program!  For as we do, we are starting new churches that reach the unreached instead of pandering to the saved.  We are starting new churches that folks come into hope...grow from hope...and serve out of hope.  

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Planting Churches like Jimmy Fallon

"Do not be afraid, I bring you good news of great JOY that will be for all the people.  Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord."  Luke 2:10-11

Pastor Steve Turnbull recently shared with me an article concerning the new Tonight Show host, Jimmy Fallon.  In the blog-article, fellow pastor Chris Morton makes a rather bold statement--- and I agree so much with it that I want to pass it onto all of you:

We should plant churches like Jimmy Fallon...in joy!

Your see, new Church Plants...(and Churches in general)...get to live in the joy of the Lord!  All mission begins with joy with the final product to be--- more joy!  Joy is not to be celebrated in solitary, but in collaboration with others and for others.  Read the link below for yourselves.  Then ask the One whom the angels declare is "Joy to the World" how he can infiltrate your life, your family, your ministry, your congregation and your city with his life changing joy!


Merry Christmas!