Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Preach The Gospel

Tullian Tchividjian’s blog post is right on target… referencing a new book entitled Justified: Modern Reformation Essays on the Doctrine of Justification, he was struck by the gripping clarity of the importance of Gospel-centered preaching. Following is a portion of this book….
Scripture is of no use to us if we read it merely as a handbook for daily living without recognizing that its principle purpose is to reveal Jesus Christ and his gospel for the salvation of sinners. All Scripture coalesces in Christ, anticipated in the OT and appearing in the flesh in the NT. In Scripture, God issues commands and threatens judgment for transgressors as well as direction for the lives of his people. Yet the greatest treasure buried in the Scriptures is the good news of the promised Messiah. Everything in the Bible that tells us what to do is “law”, and everything in the Bible that tells us what God has done in Christ to save us is “gospel.” Much like medieval piety, the emphasis in much Christian teaching today is on what we are to do without adequate grounding in the good news of what God has done for us in Christ. “What would Jesus do?” becomes more important than “What has Jesus done?” The gospel, however, is not just something we needed at conversion so we can spend the rest of our Christian life obsessed with performance; it is something we need every day–the only source of our sanctification as well as our justification. The law guides, but only the gospel gives. We are declared righteous–justified–not by anything that happens within us or done by us, but solely by God’s act of crediting us with Christ’s perfect righteousness through faith alone.
Preachers, read that paragraph over and over.
The “what we need to do” portions of the Bible are good, perfect, and true–but apart from the “what Jesus has already done” portions of the Bible, we lack the power to do what we’re called to do.
Let us preach the Gospel. Read his blog....Preach The Gospel

Monday, March 21, 2011

It’s In the Details: 8 Surprising Reasons Why People Aren’t Coming Back

Greg Atkinson recently wrote an article highlighting 8 reasons people aren’t coming back to church. Here are the reasons:
The Front Door
Before a guest ever steps foot on your church’s physical campus, he or she has probably already checked out your church website. What every church should have clearly visible on their homepage is a section or button for first-time guests. Once clicked on, this should take you to a page that addresses FAQ’s, service times, directions, parking instructions (Is there a side of the building that is better to park on if one has kids?), what to expect (upbeat music and relevant, practical, Biblical preaching in a come as you are atmosphere, etc.), what to wear (Are jeans okay? Are shorts okay?), and encouragement for them to be sure to stop by Guest Central or your church’s Information Booth to pick up a first-time guest packet.
What Stinks?
It’s important that no church ever underestimates the sense of smell. While sight is the strongest sense for short term memory, the sense of smell is the strongest and most vivid for long-term memories. If you’ve ever smelled something and had memories you hadn’t thought of in years come flooding back, that’s your sense of smell in action. Every church has the potential for positive or negative smells. Mold is a bad smell. Coffee is a good smell. Bleach is a bad smell. Citrus is a good smell. Many churches have restrooms that are disgusting and smell like urine. This lack of attention to detail can be costly and discourage many from ever returning. As best you can, try to walk into the lobby or entrance of your church with a new nose.
Park Here
One of Tim Stevens’ three “growth lids” that he thinks every growing church should have someone who is constantly watching is parking. Tim says, “This is why Visitor Parking is so crucial. If it’s difficult for newcomers to go to your church, they won’t go.” Some would argue that guests want to remain anonymous and don’t want special parking. Of course some want to go unnoticed and will choose to park in regular parking (a minority), but for the rest of newcomers, they are appreciative for a close parking space; it’s a kind gesture in an already intimidating and nerve-racking experience of attending a church for the first time, especially a large one with a huge campus.
This Way Parents
One way to assure guests will not return is to have a confusing, long or hard to find process for getting their kids registered and in the right classroom. Wise churches have signs for first-time guest kids’ check-in and make the process quick and painless. Regular attendees may know to go up to the check-in kiosk and enter their phone number or swipe their card, but guests will be clueless and need a manned station that is clearly marked for guests and have a volunteer walk them through the registration. Then have that person or another helper walk you to your kid’s class explaining what will be going on and how to go about picking their kids back up. If they must have a sticker with corresponding numbers on it to get their kids, this needs to be explained to them. Signage for the kids check-in should start in the entryway of the guest parking. Do not assume people know where to go once they enter the building.
Give It Away
Something subtle, but powerful is a church that has a generous spirit. Chris Hodges at Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, AL is big on this. They have a coffee shop, but they also have a designated area where people can get free coffee and not pay anything. They also give away their message CDs. Too many churches charge for everything and wonder why no one buys CDs of the message. If you want to bless people and create a generous spirit throughout your church, give away free coffee and message CDs (and other surprises throughout the year). Chris Hodges will have ice cream trucks pull up outside the church doors and give away free ice cream to congregants leaving on a hot, summer day.
Security Counts
One issue that is huge to a secret shopper and visiting families is security. If a parent is worried about their child’s safety, they will not enjoy the service and will likely not return. A children’s classroom must be clean, safe and secure. Security also includes the check-out process. If anyone can walk into a classroom and pick up a kid, you’re asking for trouble and will turn off potential newcomers. It’s important that your kids’ volunteers are trained well and know to ask for the parent’s sticker when picking up their kids. This is vital and goes a long way to ensuring a tragedy doesn’t occur and a parent has peace of mind.
The Visible Pastor
Accessibility of the senior pastor is another subtle and powerful statement of a church. Even pastors of the largest churches in America make an intentional and strategic effort to be seen, greeted and hugged after a service. They may have a body guard present for security reasons, but they are available and willing to pray with people that need to speak to their pastor.
Finish Strong
It’s simply not enough for greeters and parking lot attendants to say “Hello” or “Welcome” when one walks into their church. To go to another level, have your first impressions team stationed at their posts when the service ends to say “Goodbye” or “Have a nice week”. This goes a long way to wrapping a bow around the entire morning experience and will send them off with a lasting positive impression.
Do these 8 things and you’ll see a greater return and higher percentage of second and third-time guests.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Narrow Way

Chuck Swindoll's blog needs to be repeated....and I do so today.  Read and enjoy...thanks Chuck for this word.

The Narrow Way

Unless you’ve been living in a cave or hiding in your study lately, you’re probably aware of the current issue that’s hot among evangelicals. Is Jesus the only way to heaven? Will a loving God really confine someone to eternal punishment for not accepting Christ?
It’s a current debate . . . but it’s not a new one. The issues surrounding the extent of mankind’s salvation have been argued for centuries. In fact, Jesus Himself was asked a similar question:
And someone said to Him, “Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?” And He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” (Luke 13:23–24)
Interesting question, isn’t it? “Are there just a few who are being saved?” Jesus never really answered how many will be saved . . . but rather, who will be: those who “enter through the narrow door.” In the parable that follows, Jesus makes it clear that entrance through that door has everything to do with a relationship with Him (Luke 13:25–27; see also Matthew 7:14, 22–23; John 10:7–9).
Jesus never offered people a message that said, “Look, just be sincere. Simply take the religion of your choice. The main thing is to think positively about God and be sincere. Lead a clean life, and God will smile at you when you die.”
There’s a great Hebrew word for that way of thinking: hogwash! Let me say it another way. That kind of thinking is heresy.
“I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved.” (John 10:9)
“No one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6)
“For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 2:5)
There’s only one way. By Jesus’s own admission, it’s the narrow way. It’s the original road less traveled. The apostle Paul was equally exacting: “one mediator.”
Those who sit in your congregations and who receive your mission work will not go to heaven if they do not trust in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrec­tion for their salvation (1 Corinthians 15:3–4). If their eternity rests on anything other than the atoning effects of Christ’s blood, they will not experience heaven. That’s not Chuck talking, that’s what the Word of God teaches. That’s what we preachers should be teaching.
Are you preaching that truth? Does the gospel take center stage behind your pulpit? Do you share the truth with a balance of conviction and compassion? Refuse to be a preacher who tickles the itching ears of our politically correct, “tolerant” culture. Tell the truth. Share the gospel. Say it straight. But let me quickly add that just because the message of the cross is offensive, we preachers need not be.
We must remind those who hear us that the narrow way of salvation represents God’s love, not His cruelty. The fact that there is a way to God at all is because of His grace.
That narrow way is Jesus. Preach Him.
—Chuck