I put together a slideshow of our Vacation Bible School (VBS) program at First Central Baptist Church, July 14-18, 2014. Click on the link to watch the video and share our joy.
Some time ago, I challenged the leaders of our church to change our vocabulary regarding newcomers. I encouraged people to stop using the word, “visitors,” and start using the word, “guests.” I explained that visitors visit, but don’t come back. In contrast, we want guests who feel at home.
In the early part of his book, Beyond the First Visit: The complete guide to connecting guests to your church, author Gary L. McIntosh offers several more contrasts between visitors and guests.
|Expected and wanted|
Just show up
Expected to leave
Expected to stay
|Come one time||
“Friendly churches had great potential for growth, while less friendly churches had little potential for growth. True friendliness begins with welcoming newcomers to our church as honored guests.
While no one unites with a church without first visiting, we must remember that connecting guests to our church is a process that goes beyond the first visit. We want to provide a warm and friendly welcome to first-time guests, but it takes more that friendliness to help newcomers connect at a deeper level.”
Later in the book, McIntosh explains that we need to “guesterize your church.” Since he is coining a new term, he adds a definition to explain what he means.
Guest*er*ize (‘gest-er-ize), vt: to make a church more responsive to its guests and better able to attract new ones. syn see service, care, love, acceptance.
Guesterizing your church occurs when you make guests the most important people at your church on Sunday morning. It means responding to their needs in a manner that causes them to enjoy their time with you. It means giving superior service so that they want to move beyond the first visit.
Pastor and professor Hershael York has written an insightful article on preaching, “4 Reasons Why Some Preachers Get Better and Others Don’t.” I particularly identified with his illustration in the section on “Passion.”
I once heard a missionary preach at the Southern Baptist Pastors Conference. He was dynamite, preaching a great expository sermon with incredible energy and moving the entire audience by his treatment of the Word and his testimony of baptizing tens of thousands of Africans. Astonished by his great preaching, I approached him and held out my hand to introduce myself.
“Hershael,” he said, shocking me that he knew my name, “we went to seminary together.” Embarrassed, I admitted that I did not remember him. “You had no reason to,” he explained. “I was very quiet, never spoke in class and never went out of my way to meet anyone.” I asked him to explain what happened.
“When I got on the mission field, no one would listen to my preaching of the gospel. I was putting them to sleep. When I came stateside and preached in churches, they were bored to tears. Finally, I realized that the only way to be effective was to preach the Word in the way it deserved to be preached, so I became willing to go beyond my natural personality and comfort zone and allow God to make me effective. I prayed for the Word to so grip me in the pulpit that I would never be boring again.”
His teachability led him to show a passion that was not natural to his introverted personality. It was supernatural.
The missionary’s experience certainly resonates with my own. I vividly recall coming to the conclusion a few years back that my preaching was boring and I had to do whatever it took to improve. Over the years, I have read books, attended seminars, employed new techniques, and strove to stretch and expand my comfort zone until I started to become effective and fruitful. As I told my congregation recently, I am now willing to be a fool for Jesus if it will help get the message across. In addition to praying specifically about this area, I will do whatever it takes to communicate the gospel effectively.
You are going about your normal routines and out of the blue you are attacked by a temptation. But you stand firm, say no, and keep moving forward. Some time later, you go through a season of temptation. But again, you have victory. One day, you are tempted, but this time you give in. But you confess your sin quickly.
Another time, you are attacked over and over. You give in several times over several days. While you know it’s wrong, you wait a while to stop and confess, because after all, it is your favorite sin. As a result, they are several scars and cracks left behind.
A short while later, a seemingly insignificant temptation comes out of the blue. When you give in, your life crumbles.
Rather than merely survive or hang in there, how can we gain victory over temptation? How can we triumph rather than succumb?
The story of Joseph in Genesis 39:1-23 gives us several principles that can help us. If we recognize that God is with us during trials (1-6, 21-23), we can gain victory over temptation (7-20).
Anatomy of a Temptation
- Temptation wears many faces. It can be a material temptation—the lust for things like a house, car, or roll-top desk. It can be a personal temptation—the lust for fame, authority, or power. It can be a sensual temptation—the lust for pleasure or another person.
- Temptation often follows success (2-6). After a triumph, we can let down our guard due to weariness and fatigue. Success might lead to pride and the feeling of invincibility.
- Temptation comes when least expected (7, 11). Temptation might come after a high point when everything is going well. Or it might just occur during an ordinary day.
- Temptation is desirable and enticing (7). Let’s face it, if it wasn’t desirable, we wouldn’t be tempted. On the other hand, sin desires us (Luke 22:31-32; 1 Peter 5:8).
- Temptation provides its own rationalizations (8-9). Most people would use the same reasons Joseph listed as justification to give in—“I’m in charge; I have power; I deserve this.”
- Temptation often comes when accountability is absent (11). Temptation is harder to withstand when we are alone. It is much easier to give in when no one is watching.
- Temptation is often persistent, constant, and insistent (10, 12). Like a dripping faucet, temptation tries to wear us down (7, 12). Temptation can be a flirtatious look and wink, or an in-your-face, “Sleep with me!”
- Temptation is deceitful and deadly (13-18). As Pinocchio discovered, temptation promises pleasure, but results in slavery in the salt mines.
Gaining victory over temptation
- Gaining victory over temptation starts by reminding ourselves that God is with us (2, 3). While we may be alone, we are not abandoned.
- We have to remember our witness (3, 5). Remember that others are watching how you respond.
- Don’t rationalize (8, 9). Make truth your ally. Let truth lead you to do the right thing.
- Find accountability with other people (8) and with God (9). Think about how your actions will impact your spouse, kids, family, church, and community.
- Call sin, “Sin” (9). Rather than redefine and soft peddle your actions, call it what it is, a great evil and sin against God.
- Resist temptation by saying “No” (8), avoiding it (10), and running from it (12).
- Recognize when and where you are most vulnerable to temptation. Plan your defense accordingly.
- Develop firm moral and ethical convictions based on biblical values.
- Avoid verbal and visual stimuli.
- Think about the consequences. Count the cost.
- Believe that God will honor and reward your refusal to give in, even if others don’t.
- Guard your heart.
This is the synopsis of a sermon preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on July 20, 2014. It is part of a series on the life of Joseph. Click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.
This week’s VBS (Vacation Bible School) at First Central Baptist Church was a powerful week of ministry. God showed up and worked in marvelous ways.
I’m convinced that this week will soon become the stuff of legend and we will speak in awe of what took place. “Remember when … the bowling ball floated … we played weird animal tag … Robin baked a cake … we learned that God created each one of us to be unique and different … Jesus took the place of our sins on the cross … 17 children prayed to receive Christ?”
Children’s ministry at FCBC is a place where exciting, creative, life-changing ministry is taking place. Rather than longing wistfully for the “good-old-days,” perhaps we will recognize and celebrate what God is doing in our midst right now.
Thank you Lord for what you are doing today! It’s so much fun to be part of.
2014 VBS (Vacation Bible School) at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, is now in the books. On Day Five, our Bible buddy, Iggy, taught us that even when we are afraid, Jesus loves us.
It turned out to be an awesome week! In a very short while, it will be the stuff of legend and, “Remember when …” Thanks to Robin D and her hard working staff for all their hard work!
2014 VBS (Vacation Bible School) at First Central Baptist Church is heading into the home stretch. Today was Day 4 and our Bible story focused on Jesus dying for our sins. The preschoolers put shaving cream on their arms to symbolize the sin in our lives. The leader poured water on their arms to demonstrate that Jesus washes away our sins. During the wrapup, each crew leader had a black trash bag and the crew members put their sins into the bag. The leaders then hung the bags of our sins on the cross. Jesus came and took away our sins as he died on the cross for us. It was by far one of the coolest things I have ever seen. A very powerful moment. Of the 90+ children in attendance this week, 17 prayed today to receive Christ as their Savior. Praise God!
And we can’t forget Sammy the Sloth who moves each day to a new hiding place.
See you tomorrow as we wrap up a great week.