Saturday, March 28, 2009

Comeback Churches by Ed Stetzer & Mike Dodson

I will start by saying that this is the longest it has ever taken me to finish a book. I started, and restarted, and restarted, and restarted this book. I first started Comeback Churches last July, and here we are almost a year later and I am finally finished. With all that said I did not think this was Stetzer’s best book, but there were some nuggets that I took away. The last chapter really summed up the book. If a church is to comeback it must regain purpose. From there they sum up five steps to revitalization.

1. Leadership is the most important factor in making a comeback.
(We must first look to our leader Jesus, but after that the pastor must be a leader that others can and will follow, and he in turn must help raise up more leaders.)
2. Vibrant faith, particularly in three faith factors: renewed belief in Jesus Christ and the mission of the church, servanthood, and strategic prayer.
(As a Southern Baptist I have seen firsthand these things missing in most churches of our denomination. Worldview is a huge issue here as I truly believe that we have lost our focus on who Jesus is and what He can do through us because we have for the most part lost a Biblical worldview.)
3. Laypeople becoming actively involved in meaningful ministry.
(One stat says it all. Anywhere from 10-20% of all church members do all the ministry within the church, the rest are spectators. See above for solution.)
4. Churches are more intentional about evangelistic outreach.
(Stats vary here but it is said that currently 95-99% of all Christians in the US will never share there faith. This is a very disturbing and saddening trend.)
5. Worship is huge factor.
(To many churches worship how there Sunday morning worship service goes. This trend must be reversed, Jesus must be our focus of worship, and His mission for us to go and make disciples must be our number one priority. This does not mean another Bible study.)

To wrap it up in the end comeback churches came back because Godly leaders stepped up and said no matter what we are going to make Jesus and the mission He has given us our number one priority. There will be no sacred cows, nothing will stand before these two things and if you don’t like that your welcome to leave. They raised the bar, instead of lowering it. As I look at the church I am a part of now I can see very clearly that some of the principles of this book can be applied and some already are and I believe we are seeing a difference. God make us more passionate for you and your mission than anything else.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Shame...Part 1

I have been reading the wounded heart by Dr. Dan B. Allender, although not very far into the book I felt the need to write down some of my thoughts. I was not sure if I was going to get through the book because the preface was so long and boring, but coming out the other side I am glad I clawed my way through it. In chapter two Allender deals with shame, and I really have so much to say that this will probably end up being a series of writings. I’ll be honest this was a hard chapter to read as a wave of memories came back to me that I am not ready to hash out outside of my mind yet. I am sharing these mostly out of heart of wanting to help others.

Anyway part 1 of Shame…

Francis Schaeffer described man as a glorious ruin, a stately castle, intricately and masterfully constructed by the hand of an Artisan who designed His work with no thought of expense or practicality. A proper concern for God’s own glory and majesty was His only guiding force in creating a person. The castle, however, was given a life of its own, capable of rearranging itself. When man took it on himself to be God, he ruined everything. Crumbling walls, rotten wood, and overgrown gardens: the decay became so extensive that only one with eyes of a Craftsman could see the structural beauty that remained underneath the overgrown foliage and overthrown wall. Nevertheless, it has glory in its form and composition. Man is an amalgamation of dignity and depravity, a glorious ruin.

This concept of depravity is one that although I know in my mind, I have a hard time dealing with on a personal level. Growing up in a family of must win at all cost, of rubbing it in the face of the loser makes me to this day strive to always be number one, to never lose! If I am not, if I lose, if I fail what might people think of me, will I be a failure in their eyes, not worthy of their presence? I know that sounds intense, but I really do process it that way. Let me give an example. I grew up idolizing my next to oldest brother. I wanted to be him in every way, all of the sports team I chose to follow as a child, were based off of his favorites, I literally wanted to be connected in every way possible. He was also a natural athlete and since I wanted to be everything he was I tried, but I however was not the natural athlete. That did not stop me though from always seeking his acceptance and approval. My brother wanted mostly nothing to do with me as we were growing up, but when we did spend time it was in some form of completion. Of course he won 99.9% of the time and he was always sure to let me know that I was the loser. He came to me once years later to ask for forgiveness, and to be honest, now looking back such shame overtook me of not living up to his expectations of what I thought he wanted out of me in those younger years that I hurried the conversation over as quickly as possible. Years after that encounter we had a confrontation over the church that I moved here to start and although I tried to act like I was okay, I was crushed. In my heart I swore I would not be hurt anymore by not living up to my perceived expectations that he had for me. We have talked very little since. If I don’t have contact, I can’t be hurt anymore. I could not handle being the one who was a step short, who was always a little behind, so I cut myself off. I did not want to feel that type of shame anymore.

I do not blame my brother for all of these feelings; the truth is that reading this chapter has uncovered a lot of pain in my heart. Things I need Jesus to heal. You see Jesus is the one that I truly need to accept me; He is the Craftsman who can see the structural beauty beneath all the decay and in being the Craftsman of my heart and soul, the creator, He is the only one that I should truly look to for acceptance. I harbor no ill will toward my brother, but I still do long for his acceptance, and in so doing I have made him an idol before God, and right now I ask you begin to heal my heart Father, forgive me for seeking any acceptance other than Yours.