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How healthy is your church?

RiseBook Review: Rise: Bold Strategies to Transform your Church, by Cally Parkinson with Nancy Scammacca Lewis

Rise: Bold Strategies to Transform your Church is one of the more helpful books I have read on the subject of church health. Rather than church growth, the book focuses on how to help a church take the next step towards spiritual vitality.

The book is the latest in a series from the researches at REVEAL. For the past ten years, they have surveyed 2,000 diverse churches across America in an effort to help church leaders gain clear and practical insights about strategic pathways that will enable spiritual growth.

The REVEAL research is based on the conclusion that church activities do not produce spiritual growth. “More specifically, increased participation in church activities does not significantly contribute to an increasing love of God and others.” The question of how to produce spiritual growth led to the writing of this book. Along the way, the researchers developed a second conclusion: “Churches are more similar than unique. Every church falls into one of eight patterns of spiritual growth effectiveness.”

The authors believe that there are eight defining archetypes of church health, and every church fits one of them.

  • The Troubled Church—People are spiritually immature and unhappy with the church and its senior pastor.
  • The Complacent Church—Faith is surprising underdeveloped, given that attenders are longtime churchgoers.
  • The Extroverted Church—Faith is underdeveloped, but community service is embraced.
  • The Average Church—No spiritual measures deviate from the norm.
  • The Introverted Church—Faith is strong, but faith-based behaviors are lacking.
  • The Self-Motivated Church—Faith is strong across the board, yet people are unenthused about the church.
  • The Energized Church—Faith is somewhat underdeveloped but growing, and people love the church.
  • The Vibrant Church—Faith is strong and mature but still growing, and people love the church.

The bulk of the book is devoted to describing each of these archetypes in detail. Each chapter includes a case study of one church and how they addressed their issues to move forward. This gives the reader an opportunity to hear from a pastor or leader in the church and see what the concepts look like in a real situation. I believe this is the strength of the book.

The final chapter focuses on how to move a church from where it is to becoming Vibrant. The authors describe 15 pathways with three in each of five categories—How to “get people moving”; How to “embed the Bible in everything”; How to “create ownership”; How to “pastor the local community”; and How to “demonstrate Christ-centered leadership.” They also describe which strategy works best with which archetype.

The book makes me want to check out their material and website further in order to identify where our church is and how to move forward towards greater spiritual health. Helpful book.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Tyndale Blog Network http://tyndaleblognetwork.com/ book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2015 in Books, Church

 
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Do you pour your heart into worship & praise?

07-27-Spurgeon

 
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Posted by on July 28, 2015 in Quotes, Tim Challies

 

Bridge of Flowers

This morning, Carol and I drove north to Shelburne Falls, MA, to view the Bridge of Flowers. Admittedly, I expected a bridge you drove over that had a few flowers on it. Instead, it was a walking bridge covered with flowers. God’s beautiful palette of colors was on display reflecting his creativity and glory.

 
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Posted by on July 27, 2015 in Flowers, Massachusetts, Photos

 

2015 VBS Slideshow

We created a slideshow to remember all the fun we had this year during VBS at First Central Baptist Church. Click on the picture or the link to watch the show on Youtube.

PowerPoint Presentation

 
 

A new approach to doing church

Spent matchesPastor and author Roy Moran has written a book suggesting a new approach to doing church. Spent Matches: Igniting the Signal Fire for the Spiritually Dissatisfied challenges the traditional approach of inviting people to church. Rather than plant churches, the author wants to start a movement of multiplicative disciple making.

During the first half of the book, the author outlines the problem facing churches today. Statistics show that church attendance is declining and people are becoming religiously unaffiliated. Churches focus on inward activities rather than outward ones. Instead of making disciples who make disciples, churches settle for dispensing information.

In the second half of the book, the author suggests a solution he uses in his current church. By studying disciple making movements around the world, he created a strategy that would allow the church to grow without being restricted by facilities or economics. Their key principles include:

  • Working with people who are not in a family relationship with God
  • Disciple people to conversion by getting them reading the Bible rather than trying to evangelize them
  • Focus on obedience with accountable structure rather than knowledge
  • Trust everyone to be a disciple-maker

The author explains that his philosophy is based on six biblical principles:

  • God-ordained (Matthew 28:19-20)
  • Spirit-dependent (Matthew 9:36-38)
  • Bible-centered (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
  • Obedience-focused (John 14:15)
  • Discovery-based (John 6:44-45)
  • Disciple-driven (2 Corinthians 5:16-21)

While the author’s ideas are thought provoking, I have a hard time picturing how to implement them in an existing church. Starting a church from scratch would allow an easier time. Introducing them to an existing congregation would be a hard sell.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2015 in Books, Church

 

Sin? Seriously?

In places with long and snowy winters, roads are often salted to melt ice. One result is that cars have a tendency to rust from the salt. Some try to deal with this problem by painting over the rust. Instead of solving the problem, it only delays the inevitable. The paint will temporarily cover the rust but fails to deal with the underlying problem. The rust has to be removed or the panel on the car replaced.

In the same way, many people simply “cover up” their sin by ensuring that no one sees it. They often try to ignore it themselves. In Mark 9:42-50, Jesus explains that A Christ-follower takes sin seriously. A true disciple avoids sin at all costs.

This is one of those passages that should come with a warning, “Danger: Hard hat and steel toed boots required in this area.” Rather than avoid sin, our culture tells us to feed our desires. We are entitled to do whatever we want. Rather than risk offending people, the church and the Christian community buys into the philosophy and avoids calling anything, “sin.”

If we are serious about discipleship and following Christ, we have to deal with sin. A true follower of Jesus will not cause others to sin (42), they will not allow themselves to fall into sin (43-48), and they will purify their lives through sacrifice and obedience (49-50).

Jesus makes a shocking statement when he says that it would be better to drown in the deepest part of the sea with no hope of escape that to face God’s judgment for leading an immature believer into sin (42). We can lead someone into sin through direct temptation, indirect temptation, setting a poor example, or failing to stimulate others to righteousness. Pastors and teachers need to pay attention to this warning (James 3:1), but so do parents (Ephesians 6:4), and all believers (Hebrews 3:13; 6:24). We all have the responsibility to build up others.

Jesus says that sin is so serious and the consequences so high that we are to take drastic measures to avoid falling into sin (43-48). In the same way that a doctor surgically removes a cancerous limb to prevent the disease from spreading throughout our body, so we should remove sin from our lives. A true disciple doesn’t allow themselves to fall into sin.

While Christ doesn’t advocate literal dismemberment, he does encourage removing anything we do (our hand), anywhere we go (our feet), and anything we see (our eyes) that might lead us into sin. It would be better to enter heaven maimed, than to go to hell with two hands, two feet, and 20/20 vision.

This is one of those passages where we want to press the mute button. We don’t like the idea of hell being real. We’re uncomfortable with hell being a place of eternal torment. We resist the idea of denying ourselves any of the pleasures of life. And yet, that is exactly what Jesus says.

Are there any activities you participate in that would embarrass you if they came to light? Are you crossing the line by going to some establishments where you don’t belong? Is there anything in your Netflix queue or your Internet browsing history that leads you away from Christ? If the answer is “Yes,” then stop doing, stop going, stop watching, and stop reading!

Avoiding leading others into sin is commendable. Preventing yourself from sinning is wise. Both are only possible if we commit to staying pure through sacrifice and obedience (49-50). When Jesus says that we will be “salted with fire,” he is referring to the Old Testament sacrifices that were accompanied by salt. To salt a sacrifice meant to purify it. As disciples, we are living sacrifices (Romans 12:1). Our lives are to be seasoned with salt.

Rather than competing for positions of prominence (9:33-34) and criticizing those outside our camp (9:38-39), we are to live in peace with one another. This is only possible if we get rid of the sin in our lives.

When it comes to sin, a Christ follower avoids sin at all costs. We don’t cause others to sin. We don’t give into sin ourselves. Instead, we keep our lives pure. There can be no halfway measures. The price is much too high.

(I concluded the message by showing the music video, “Slow Fade,” by Casting Crowns, challenging people to recommit themselves to holiness and personal purity.)

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on July 26, 2015. It is part of a series in the Gospel of Mark. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

2015 VBS – Day Five – Whipped Cream edition

During the week of VBS at First Central Baptist Church, we took an offering each day for missions. Since our theme this year was Everest, we picked a ministry that serves in Nepal, where they recently had an earthquake. To up the motivation and increase the stakes, Robin Dolbow, our Children’s Director, told the children that for every $25 we raised, one of our leaders would get a pie in the face on Friday (today).

The kids rose to the occasion and their generosity soared to new heights. At the reveal during our closing session, Robin was astounded to learn that $345 was raised. (It was actually $355 as $10 was turned in afterwards.) Needless, many of our leaders received a whipped cream pie “in the kisser.”

Robin “pied” the first one, and then that person “pied” the next person in line. I was the last one to receive the honor from Robin, with the kids chanting, “Pastor! Pastor! Pastor!” It was well worth it, and great fun to boot.

 
 
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