unchurched

Six Anchors: 40 Days of Hope (Part 2)

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We have been hearing amazing feedback since the release of the Six Anchors devotional. It has been encouraging for those currently facing trials and a great reminder for others on where to locate their hope. This is exactly why I wrote this book and I am excited to see results in people's lives because of it. Today, Pastor Gene and I are discussing the last three anchors.

Anchor #4 - The Holy Spirit

While researching hope in the Scriptures, I noticed that the Holy Spirit seemed to be a central figure. In 2 Corinthians 5, the Bible says the Holy Spirit is the guarantor of our hope in Heaven. In John 14, Jesus encouraged His disciples to hope in the Word and said the Holy Spirit would remind them all of what God said. In John 16, Jesus said the Holy Spirit would not draw attention to Himself but would make sense of what is about to happen and out of all that Jesus had done and said.

We can see that the Holy Spirit is the rope that connects us to each of the first three anchors. Just like an anchor is only as effective as the chain attached to it, so are our anchors of hope only effective because of the Holy Spirit.

However, I learned in Acts 2 is that He is not just the rope, but also an anchor Himself. Romans 15:13 says, "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." When we get filled with the Holy Spirit, we can overflow with hope.

Anchor #5 - Wisdom

Proverbs 24:14 in the Amplified Bible says this, "Know that [skillful and godly] wisdom is [so very good] for your life and soul; If you find wisdom, then there will be a future and a reward, and your hope and expectation will not be cut off." Solomon, the wisest man to ever live, tells us that wisdom allows us to have eternal hope.

However, wisdom is something we acquire through discipline. It is not simply given to us. There are three initiatives to pursuing wisdom:

  1. Seek Knowledge.
  2. Gain Understanding.
  3. Trust God.

By practicing daily disciplines, we are able to gain knowledge. When knowledge is applied, wisdom is activated.

We can make wise decisions in our daily lives by simply asking a few questions:

  1. Based on my past experiences, what is the wise thing to do?
  2. Based on my current circumstances and responsibilities, what is the wise thing to do?
  3. Based on my future hopes and dreams, what is the wise thing to do?

Anchor #6 - The Church

The church becomes the hope of the world when it's central purpose is to join people to Jesus. The natural pull of every local church is to become insider focused. But the church was not intended to exist for itself; it was created to exist for the community it is in - to become the centre of hope by leading people to the hope that is Jesus. When it ceases to be outward focused, it ceases to be an anchor of hope.

Ultimately, each anchor must point back to Jesus. The Word is written to direct people to Jesus. The Holy Spirit connects people to Jesus. Solomon said, "a wise man will win souls," so wisdom points people to Jesus as well. The church must do the same because we are the hope of the world and we are on our God-given mission to reach every available person, at every available time, by every available means, with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, by creating churches unchurched people love to attend.

Get your copy of the 6 Anchors devotional today! It is available on Kindle and as a paperback. Find it here.

 

If you have questions you would like answered in an upcoming podcast, please email leadership@myvictory.ca

Good to Great

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The book Good to Great, by Jim Collins, explores why good companies do not make the leap to great. Today, we are going to take a look at what moves a good church to become a great church.

A Good Church vs. A Great Church

Collins defines a great company as one that has a “financial performance several multiples better than the market average over a sustained period.” I think a great church the would be one that has sustained numerical growth, namely through the attraction of unchurched people, better than the average in the same area.

Looking at the evidence and observations of churches that have moved from just being good to becoming great, there are two variables; qualitative and quantitative analysis. By qualitative, we are looking at the quality of ministry, while by quantitative we are measuring the quantity of their effectiveness in numerous areas.

I agree with Collins when it comes to the number one contributing factor to the greats. He said it all starts with leadership. John Maxwell says that “everything rises and falls on leadership” and I absolutely believe that to be true. So, the great churches usually have great leaders at the helm. And, just like Collins discovered, the best leaders are the ones that have a blend of personal humility and professional will. The sustainable great churches aren’t led by the celebrity type pastors, but often by self-effacing, quiet, reserved, even shy leaders who build great leaders around them - but they have an insatiable drive to get better and reach their communities.

A strong leader must be surrounded by strong team members leading their ministries. I have found that it takes more than just a great preacher to grow a church; it also takes great music, great children’s ministry, great pastoral care, and great administration just to name a few. One leader is just not capable of doing all of that on their own, therefore they need a great team around them.

I also believe that great churches are not afraid to confront the brutal facts. What I mean by this is that they have an incredible faith that they will prevail and grow as well as an incredible discipline to confront the most brutal facts of their current reality and adjust accordingly. Great churches also have a clear vision and narrow focus. They know where they are going and they refuse to clutter that vision with busyness and complex programs. 

Another differentiation of great churches is that they continually mess with the methods and move with times without compromising the message. They know that the methods are there to serve the message, not the other way around. So, they will continue to use whatever means necessary to get the gospel out to the world in an understandable way and they don’t get married to their methods. If it’s not working, they are willing to change.

I’ve noticed that churches that attract people from other churches and mainly grow through transfer growth are ones that may have a quick boost in growth, but it often isn’t sustainable. This is because if people switched churches once, they are likely to transfer again when something bigger or better comes to town. In contrast, people that grow in unchurched people and lead them to Jesus are more likely to sustain their growth because people are more likely to stay in the church where they became born again. They are also the group that is most likely to invite their unchurched friends and family to the church which keeps multiplying the growth and is much more sustainable.

Collins breaks down the transformation of companies that go from good to great into 3 broad stages; disciplined people, disciplined thought, and disciplined actions. There is no doubt that these 3 stages translate into the church world.

Disciplined People

When it comes to disciplined people, it is important that the leader leads the way and that the leadership team follows suit; discipline has to flow from the top down. I think this is even more important because the church is largely a volunteer-led organization. Disciplined people is all about having the right people on the right bus - first who, and then what. This is so vital.

I often talk to pastors who say they just don’t have any leaders in their church. I have found that leaders don’t just show up, they are created. What I mean is that the leader (the senior pastor) has to invest in growing his team to become what the church needs. In the process of growing people, you will learn who you have on the bus and what seat they should be sitting in. This process is invaluable to the development of having disciplined people.

I have always set aside time each week and each month to train and develop my leadership team. To me, this might be the most important activity I do as a lead pastor. Paul said in Ephesians that the job of a pastor is to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry.” Equip means skill develop. So, my role as the pastor is to skill develop people in my church to carry out the work of the ministry. It doesn’t happen by default; it happens by being very intentional about training and developing a team. When you do this intentionally, you will develop the right people on the bus, as opposed to just waiting for the right people to show up. I’ve tried that and I soon ran out of patience waiting for the right people. I’ve found it better to develop the right people from within.

Disciplined Thought

Disciplined thought is about marrying both faith for a big future and the ability to confront the brutal facts of today’s reality. That is a juggling act and requires great discipline. I have discovered that great churches do this really, really well. That is what makes them the best.

I can recall an example of when I’ve had to face the brutal facts. We were getting hundreds saved every year but we were not seeing that translate into disciples. When we studied it, we discovered that we were seeing under 5% retention on our new converts. Grossly dissatisfied, we decided to do something about it. That’s where the My Victory Starts Here book and discipleship plan came from. Last year, we were able to retain 48% of our converts. We still want to improve on that, but that was a drastic increase and greatly grew our church because we were willing to face the brutal facts.

Disciplined Action

Disciplined action is about going to work every day to create the church you envision. This is rolling up your sleeves and working hard. It’s about creating a culture within your organization that will allow the vision to move forward. It’s about being willing to mess with the methods and change what needs to be changed in order to move forward. It really is all about a dogged determination to not settle for anything less than the best.

Level 5 Leadership

In chapter 2, Collins describes a Level 5 Leader as one who “builds enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.” Former U.S. President Harry S. Truman said this: “You can accomplish anything in life provided you do not mind who gets the credit.” I believe this is so important to sustainability. We need to refrain from the celebrity pastor led church model. Firstly, it is not biblical, and secondly, it can be very short lived. A prime example of this happened just a couple years ago when Mark Driscoll was fired from his church in Seattle. At the time, his church average was 14,000 in attendance. Within a few short months of his leaving, the church no longer existed. It completely disappeared, which is tragic. I believe great churches are led by leaders who don’t care who gets the credit and they operate with incredible humility. In my mind, a positive example of this is Brian Houston. For years, I had no idea who the senior pastor of Hillsong Church was. All I knew was that Darlene Zchech led worship. The music team was more famous, and probably still is more famous, than the lead pastor. I think Brian has done a great job of leading in such a way that it doesn’t matter who gets the credit, and Hillsong Church has truly accomplished much in the process.

Level 4 Leadership

A Level 4 Leader is described as committed to the vigorous pursuit of a clear and compelling vision and higher performance standards. Level 5 Leaders have these Level 4 leadership qualities as well as the ones we previously discussed. I think the biggest battle for all of us “driven” types is the art of delegation and letting go. We do things ourselves because we know we will do it well and it is hard to release a task to someone who may not do as good of a job as we would. However, it is crucial to delegate and release the work to others. They will inevitably make mistakes, but that’s how they will learn. Let them have success and get the credit because what matters, in the end, is not who gets the credit but that the vision is accomplished. So, my recommendation for Level 4 Leaders is to let go and be willing to release.

Good to Great Leaders

At one point, Collins describes a Level 5 Leader as “ordinary people quietly producing extraordinary results.” The traditional mindset of a great leader often depicts a person with a high-profile image and a charismatic personality. But, Collins goes on to describe the top leadership characteristics of a leader who has taken a good company to become a great company as “quiet, humble, modest, reserved, shy, gracious, mild-mannered, self-effacing, understated…” There was a day when these characteristics were not true of major players in the church world, especially in North America. I think there has been a subtle transition over the past couple of decades. Churches that are built to last have been led by no-name leaders. I think this is important because if a church is built on a personality, it will only last as long as that individual lasts in ministry. But, if the church is not built solely on a personality, it can navigate the troubled waters of transition and survive generation to generation. It is amazing when that happens. I think in the next 5 to 10 years we are going to see this become more evident than ever before because most of the celebrity pastors are going to retire and then we will see what happens to their churches. Depending on the outcome, we will know whether these pastors were great leaders who built their church on a team and a vision, or if they were just good leaders who built a mega church on a personality.

Good church leaders may look for someone or something to blame for stagnate growth. They may blame the economy, community layoffs, lack of funds, inadequate facilities, their history, the list goes on. Level 5 Leaders look at similar situations and must move forward without placing blame on external factors. I often say that excuses strip you of your power to change. The moment we place blame elsewhere, we remove our ability to solve the problem. We have to be willing to confront the brutal facts, take ownership of the mistakes, and be willing to change the methods. If we can’t do these three things, we will be overcome by the obstacles to growth and will stagnate, or even disappear. It’s vital to observe and act. I think the Level 5 Leaders face just as much adversity as everyone else, however, they respond differently. They hit the realities of their situations head-on and as a result, emerge from the adversity even stronger.

The Law of Velocity

In Chapter 3, Collins made about called Practical Discipline #3 which says, “Put your best people on your biggest opportunities, not your biggest problems.” This really stood out to me when I re-read the book a couple of weeks ago. This is about the law of velocity; hitch your wagon to something that is already moving to make it move even faster, rather than trying to kickstart something that isn’t moving at all. I would love it if we in the church world could grasp this concept. The reason I say that is because there are a ton of really great pastors out there who are killing themselves trying to jumpstart a dead or dying church when they could be way more effective in the kingdom if they just attached to churches that have great momentum. There are other pastors who are leading nearly dead congregations in large beautiful buildings. At the same time, there are churches in the same community that are growing in temporary rented facilities or outgrowing their current locations and are in danger of having their lack of facilities inhibit their momentum. What if we were kingdom minded in our communities and married the great facilities with the great churches? What could happen?

Brutal Facts

I am always surprised when I hear a pastor say “numbers don’t matter,” or “it’s not just about the numbers.” When I hear that said, I know their church is struggling numerically. It think it is amazing that pastors make excuses for why their church isn’t growing, or worse yet, they refuse to ask questions as to why it has stopped growing or is declining. Numbers matter! Numbers represent souls and we are all in it for souls. Number mattered to Jesus; He counted everything. We know how many people attended almost every meeting Jesus ever had. The 5000, the 120, the 70, and so on. We need to be willing to count and observe the trends, confront the brutal facts if necessary, and then ask the hard questions to get the proper solution. It’s all about simply refusing to settle for average.

I think the major takeaway from this week's podcast is to start with the determination to push beyond "good" and "good enough". Our nation and our world have no need for good churches; they need great churches. Great churches led by leaders who are determined to make their church grow and are fixed on reaching the unchurched in their community for Jesus. We need great leaders who are determined to be great leaders, who invest in growing themselves and in growing their teams. We need great leaders who are willing to confront the brutal facts and change if necessary. Why? Because the church is the hope of the world and we’ve been given a mission to reach every available person, at every available time, by every available means, with the Gospel of Jesus Christ by creating churches unchurched people love to attend.

 

Episode Resources:

If you have questions you would like answered in an upcoming podcast, please email leadership@myvictory.ca.

Inside MyCityCare Part 2

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Dignity goes beyond just meeting the physical needs of people. Within our MyCityCare program, we strive to maintain dignity as we help those in need. We are joined again by Jen Tribble to hear all about how MyCityCare is doing that.

Last week, we discussed one of the biggest events our MyCityCare team puts on; the Shop of Wonders. However, Christmas is not the only time of year that our community faces needs. The Cinderella Project provides dresses, shoes and accessories for graduating girls whose families cannot afford such. Also, every September we run a Stuff the Bus campaign which allows people to donate school supplies to families in need. These two programs have had great success and it's amazing to see the impact they have had.

When creating and planning these events, we aim to help people while still maintaining their dignity. This makes for the best experience for those we are reaching out to. They don't feel ashamed for getting help, rather excited to have equal opportunity.

I think what I enjoy most about MyCityCare is watching our amazing volunteers dig in to see our church moving forward. It is vital to have attendees participate in the vision of moving forward if the church is to progress. I love getting to watch our volunteers serve and grow spiritually. Listen in as Jen shares more details on this incredible ministry.

If you have questions you would like answered in an upcoming podcast, please email leadership@myvictory.ca.

Inside MyCityCare Part 1

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Christmas is said to be the best time of year. But, that is not a reality for a lot of families. Our guest today, Jen Tribble, shares how our MyCityCare program is working to change that in our city.

MyCityCare is our community outreach ministry that is based on meeting the six basic needs of life that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 25. The idea came to me and Tim (our worship and youth pastor) on a trip to India we took a few years ago. When we got home, his wife Jen was ready to take it on.

Our current outreach consisted of food hampers. These were a great help to plenty of people, but we knew there was more that could be done. Jen got to work building a team of fantastic people to tackle the vast needs of Lethbridge and they now have a multitude of programs that have helped hundreds.

As Christmas time approaches, the MyCityCare team is hard at work putting together their second Shop of Wonders. This program allows parents and children to participate in the full Christmas experience. Listen in as Jen shares all about it.

If you have questions you would like answered in an upcoming podcast, please email leadership@myvictory.ca.

The Outside Focused Church Part 4

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In our shift to becoming an outside focused church, we received amazing results, but also some pushback. Today, Pastor Ralph Molyneux, our Lethbridge Campus Pastor, shares his experiences throughout the shift.

Pastor Ralph was on staff in Lethbridge when I first arrived over 6 years ago. In fact, he was one of the people that encouraged me the most in my move to the city. He shared the same heart and passion for the church and the unchurched as I did. He too was tired of keeping insiders happy and craved change.

Today, we have Pastor Ralph on the podcast to discuss the shift to becoming an outside focused church. Although it wasn't always easy, he passionately pursued the vision along with me. Listen in as he explains how to manage complaints, the changes the church went through, and much more.

If you have questions you would like answered in an upcoming podcast, please email leadership@myvictory.ca

The Outside Focused Church Part 3

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We have covered a lot of ground on the Outside Focused Church in the past couple of weeks. Now, let's take a deeper look at some of the changes that can be made to create such a culture.

Today is the third part of our Outside Focused Church series. Stay tuned for next week when we will be interviewing one of our staff members that survived the transition to the “outside focused” church.

The Original Team

This week, we are going to begin with how I introduced this concept to our original Lethbridge staff. Now, I had an advantage. A few of the staff already knew me. We had met at a number of conferences and they were familiar with the way I did church because I would teach it. So, we already had kind of a head start. I came in and began casting the vision of what church could look like if we began to reach the lost. I promoted the vision of Victory Churches which was to “reach every available person by every available means at every available time with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” Then I asked, “Are we doing this effectively?” and “What should we do differently to get better results?” We had some great discussions.

Next, I gave them books to read and took them to conferences where they could learn about other churches that were getting the results we desired. We talked about what those churches were doing, how they were doing it and how we could implement their best practices into our own church. It really was a lot of fun and the team was great in contributing to the process.

Altering the Service

I then began coaching the Service Programming Team into the cultural shift of becoming “outsider focused”. We started with our services and made immediate adjustments to the order. We inserted a welcome at the beginning, which served to welcome everyone to the service and to explain the order of everything so people knew what to expect. Following that, we altered the length of our music portion of the service. We became much more focused on the words we were singing and the excellence in which we were singing them. Music is such a great tool because it is a universal language that everyone understands. So, I felt that if we could raise the standard here, we would then begin to attract more and more people.

Further to all of that, we shortened the length of the messages and added a salvation call at the end of every service. Doing this had a number of results. Firstly, we saw people getting saved every single week. But secondly, we noticed that when we did this every week, our people became a lot more confident in inviting their unchurched friends and family to the service. This is because they knew that each and every week, there would be an opportunity for salvation and this in and of itself caused the church to start growing.

Like I discussed last week, we moved the offering to the end of the service. We felt that unchurched people had preconceived fears about the church just wanting their money. So, we moved the request until after the bulk of the service was over. This seemed to make a huge difference and in fact, we saw our giving go up almost immediately.

Streamlining and redefining the elements of a weekly Sunday service chips away at what a lot of the churched culture holds dear. As someone who grew up in the church, there were many things I had to give up that I would have preferred to keep, in order to most effectively reach the lost. I am a musician and a worshipper so cutting into that time and style was difficult for me. A lot of the complaints we received were from churched people about this, and that made it all the more difficult for me to make the changes. But, I was determined. After studying churches that were reaching the lost and those that weren’t, I saw a marked difference in how they did their services. I did not want to compromise the message or the Holy Spirit, but I did want to reach the lost. And I feel that we have found a great way to be both Spirit-filled and seeker sensitive.

Taking a New Direction

I had been pastoring for almost ten years before I really committed to being outsider focused. I was very disappointed with the results I was getting and frustrated that our church wasn’t reaching the lost or impacting our community. I had this preconceived idea that the church was for churched people. And yet, I saw church people who were not growing spiritually and were just going through the motions in their walk with Christ. In my frustration, I began seeking an answer.

Firstly, I looked through scripture. I noticed how the church in Acts was outsider focused and at the same time, growing and maturing in their walk with Christ. Then, I began studying the churches in Canada, in particular, the ones that were growing and reaching the lost. I did my best to learn everything I could and started to make some changes in my church. When I started seeing results trickle in, I was hooked. I went all in and have been all in since. There is no way I could go back to doing church like I used to.

In my experience, I didn’t really think about particular personality types or ministry gifts and their effect on the process. For me, I looked at the influencers in the church. Who were the people that everyone went to when they had a problem or complaint? When I discovered who these people were, I worked with them first; on the vision and how we were going to implement changes. Then, when we made changes and people had questions or concerns, they would go to these people naturally and the influencers would be able to explain the “why” behind it and their support of it.

We did a whole lot of research. We read some awesome books on the subject like Thom Rainer’s book Surprising Insights From the Unchurched and Andy Stanley’s Deep & Wide. Then we did our own research by talking to our people about whether they felt comfortable inviting their unchurched friends and family to church. When they answered “No”, we asked “Why?” and began making changes immediately. We constantly probe our congregation about how comfortable they are inviting the unchurched to our services. We also ask them what their friends and family thought of the service. Those answers helped us craft services that are both for the churched and the unchurched.

Vitality of Creativity

Creativity is a big part of what we do here. But, we aren't just creative for creativity's sake; we do it for a purpose. There are two main purposes of creativity in our church:

  1. Creativity creates a greater level of expectation among those that attend. I believe the greater the expectation level, the greater the anointing level. Look at Jesus’s own ministry. When the expectation level was low in his hometown, he was unable to do miracles. However, when the expectation level was high, he moved with great power. So, we always want to be aware of the expectation level and do what we can with creativity to keep it high.
  2. We are always looking for the most effective way to communicate the pure message of the Gospel so that even the most unchurched person in the room can grasp the truth. What’s relevant in communication is constantly changing. We live in a very fast paced world and with things like social media, what is relevant is always different. So, to combat this ever-moving target and to fulfill our vision, we engage every sort of demographic we can in the creative process. We use young and old, men and women, the long-time churched and newcomer, and so on. By doing this, we learn how to more effectively communicate to as many people as possible. Before I had any staff, I did this by running ideas by people in my congregation throughout the week. I would even run parts of my message by people to see if it would resonate with them like it did with me.

Creating an Atmosphere

Apart from the services, we also made changes to our facility. But these did not happen for a while. In fact, it was less than just three years ago that we did the renovations. We waited because facility renovations are expensive and we were not ready to invest in that level of change too early. When we did, we intentionally wanted to create an atmosphere that was similar to the culture we wanted to have. We met as a design team and discussed what we wanted the facility to feel like. What we settled on were ideas of a warm, inviting, and modern environment. We travelled to different churches as well as public buildings like art centres and hotels until we had the concept of what we wanted in mind.

It was amazing to see what happened in our church once the renovations were complete. Immediately after they were done, people seemed to stick around a lot longer after the service just to visit with others. Our attendance grew more rapidly in the last three years than it did in the previous four. I think it was because the facility matched the culture and people were more comfortable inviting their friends to church.

Getting People to Remain

Follow-up and discipleship were a major issue right off the bat. We were leading many people to Jesus, but the vast majority of them weren’t staying and getting plugged in. That’s why we developed the “My Victory Starts Here” course and why I wrote the book. We needed to find a way to disciple our new believers effectively and in a simple enough way that they would remain in the church.

Unchurched people can get involved in the church immediately. Obviously, we don’t give them ministry positions, but we do encourage them to serve in the coffee shops, on the setup teams, by greeting, etc. They are more likely to remain and hear the truth taught if they are engaged and volunteering somewhere.

MyCityCare is one of the most visual pieces of evidence of how we impact the churched and unchurched in our communities. It is our way to meet the needs of those around us. We have many projects that we take on within the year that allow us to do just that. It has proven to be a great way to change the community’s perception of the church. Instead of being a weird group of people who hide away in their own building on Sundays, we are a group of organized, concerned citizens who are actually impacting our community. We have had many, many people begin attending our church because of MyCityCare and it also gets our people active in our cities, keeping their focus outward.

One of the major factors that concern church boards and leadership at every level is that changing the way “it’s always been” can affect attendance and finances. We can mess with the methods all we want, but when messing with the methods negatively affects the attendance and finances, people talk, and sometimes, people walk. I read a statement from Andy Stanley in his book 7 Practices of Effective Ministry that said, “We need to focus more on who we are trying to reach than on those we are trying to keep.” That statement hit me as a pastor. I realized that most of my time, efforts, and church finances were dedicated to those we were trying to keep, instead of on those we were trying to reach.

This doesn’t mean we should ignore the insiders or their concerns. It just means that the “why” must be clearly communicated in everything that we do and that we must make sure our motives are pure and focused on reaching people for Jesus. Jesus faced a lot of criticism from the churched who complained about who He was reaching. However, He had a clear focus and said His purpose was to seek and to save those who were lost. At the same time, He took the time to work with insiders like Nicodemus and others as well.

A while back, we implemented 18-minute messages in our services. This is quite the challenge. It is a lot tougher to preach in 18 minutes as opposed to say 45 minutes. It takes me a lot longer to prepare the messages because I have to be precise and focused throughout the entire thing. But, the reaction from the churched and unchurched has been awesome. They have been very responsive and we have seen our online downloads of the messages skyrocket since shortening them.

I have received multiple hesitations from other pastors about this change though. They’ve said that change is hard and they may receive pushback from their congregations after a change of this magnitude. This is a good example of the importance of preaching the change before implementing it. You must change the heart thinking and culture before you will be able to effectively change the systems and general structure. The people need to be passionate about reaching out and need to see a future where their loved ones get saved through the church. There will always be some resistance, so it is important to have your plans settled in your heart first.

Relationship with God

Over the past couple years, I think these changes have brought me a lot closer to God personally. It is difficult to explain but I think there is a level of peace in my heart that I didn’t have for a long time as a pastor. I believe it is because I know I am fulfilling the great commission and am participating with Him in building His church. I can tell that my prayer life has changed because my prayers are a lot less “God bless me, God bless my church, God help me,” and more “God I pray for this person, God give me the words to speak to this person, God give us boldness to keep going.”

I keep pushing myself to explore every opportunity to create churches unchurched people love to attend because, quite frankly, I love the church. I wasn’t always able to say that. In fact, for most of my life, I simply tolerated the church. But, now that I have seen what the church can become and the impact that it can have in lives and communities, I am absolutely in love with the church. It has the potential to be the hope of the world, on a mission to reach every available person, at every available time, by every available means, with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, by creating churches unchurched people love to attend.   

 

Episode Resources:

If you have questions you would like answered in an upcoming podcast, please email leadership@myvictory.ca

 

The Outside Focused Church Part 2

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The message is sacred but the methods are not. What can churches change before, during, and after the service to best reach the unchurched?

Last week, we discussed our recent series “Whatever it Takes”. In this series, I spoke about the fact that the church is not a building nor a gathering, it is a movement, and movements move. We talked about how the early church prayed differently than we do; they asked for boldness to keep preaching the Word, rather than safety despite the death threats they had been receiving. We talked about how the church is a God idea, that we need to get on His side and participate in what He is building, rather than just asking him to be on our side. We talked about what it takes to be a disciple and how Paul was discipled, that we each have a responsibility to reach one and teach one. We talked about not making it difficult for outsiders to come to God. We talked about how the message is sacred while the methods are not. And we talked about being dedicated to the heavenly vision, to reach outsiders and to bring those in darkness to the light. If you have not heard the entire series, I would highly recommend you listen to the messages. They are available on our church website, myvictory.ca as well as on iTunes under MyVictory Church. 

[bctt tweet="The church is a movement and movements move. #church #whateverittakes" username="kellystickel"]

This week, we will be discussing appearances; what a Sunday looks like to both the traditional Church member as well as the totally unchurched visitor. Let’s begin.

In theatre, every action has a beginning, middle, and end. When the church takes action to be outsider focused, the same is true; there is a beginning, middle and end to the action. The service is the middle-action and that is where we will start.

The Middle Action

When it comes to transitioning a service to becoming more outside focused, I would not recommend a sudden change. That could be too abrupt for some. However, there are a lot of little things to consider when creating a service the unchurched will understand and enjoy. Everything from how we greet and welcome people, to the order of service, to the language we use in the service, to the length of service and elements used in the service (such as music), to the decor and facility set-up. There is so much to consider, and it is important to view every element through the eyes of someone who has never been to our church or might not understand our traditions. I think it is important to note that you don’t have to compromise the message to make it plain to a newcomer. Jesus was a master at making complex spiritual things understandable to his audiences. We should do the same.

When we began the transition in our church, we slightly changed the order of service. We added a welcome from a service host at the beginning for the purpose of informing the newcomer what to expect. A simple explanation of what worship is or how long the service will be really helps newcomers feel at ease. The second change we made immediately was moving the offering to the end of the service. We had discovered that one of the greatest fears of newcomers was that the church just wants their money. So, we felt that instead of singing a bunch of songs they did not know and then promptly asking for their money, we would move the offering to after the message and right before the close of the service. This way, they have received everything and may have given their life to Jesus. People don’t mind paying for their meal after they have eaten it. But, we still tell our visitors that they have to feel no obligation to give. This is just to put them at ease so that they can receive the message and hopefully connect with God in a life-transforming way.

Someone who is not familiar with church will be very nervous coming in. They have no idea what to expect or whether they will fit in and they come in guarded because of that. If we are not welcoming or friendly towards them, or if we begin our service with songs they don’t know and are all singing along and doing the same actions, then we subconsciously communicate to them that they don’t fit. It doesn’t matter how hungry they are for God, the vast majority of them will not come back because they feel like outsiders.

Because we as churched people are used to doing church the same way all of the time, and because it suits us just fine, any change we make is looked at skeptically. I was aware of that as a pastor, so before we made changes, I would first preach the change. I would explain from scripture why we need to change our approach. I then visited each of the longest standing members in our church and, after explaining my heart and reasoning, I asked their permission to make the changes. Every single one of them gave me their permission and we moved ahead. We still had a few people resisting the change, but for the most part, everyone was on the same page — especially when we started seeing the results of the changes and started seeing unchurched people giving their hearts to Jesus week after week.

The Beginning Action

We also made changes to the experience before the service even began. Before, attendees would simply come into the parking lot and into the church on their own. They were expected to find their own way. But, we started enlisting very excited volunteers to greet people as they drove in, holding signs that read  things like “Welcome” and “Honk if you’re excited to be here”. We also had a sandwich board set up that read, “If this is your first time, flash your lights”, and when they did, there was a parking lot team ready to direct them to a parking stall, specifically designated for new people. We then had hosts that would escort them into the building, get them a coffee, take them to the kids wing if they had little ones, and then help them find their way around the facility, showing them the bathrooms and helping them find a good seat in the auditorium.

There are different dynamics in welcoming an unchurched visitor versus a traditional church visitor. I believe every church claims to be a friendly church, but we wanted much more than that; we wanted to be a church where people made friends. We wanted more than a personal touch, more than just a general greeting at the door. We wanted the newcomer to make a connection with someone and be able to leave saying, “I made a friend there.” This led to a more personalized hosting system. Rather than just having greeters at the door, we had our volunteers watch for people who appeared to be new to the church and encouraged our team to befriend them; to walk them around the facility, buy them a coffee from one of our coffee bars, help them find a good seat in the auditorium and then follow up with them after the service.

We also implemented visual and physical changes in our foyer. We added a Starbucks coffee shop so that newcomers saw something familiar upon walking through the doors. I felt this would quickly put a nervous newcomer at ease. Like walking into a coffee shop for the first time, it wouldn't matter if they knew someone or not. They would be at ease. We also added couches and bar tables and chairs for people to sit and visit. We changed our signage to be more readable for new people, replacing words like “sanctuary” to more familiar words, in this case “auditorium”. We ensured guests could read the signage and easily find their way to bathrooms, kids check-in, and so on.

There were challenges to changing these first impressions. One of the biggest trials was getting the right people in our congregation to fully understand the “why” behind it all and then getting their help to make the changes. We needed our first impressions team to understand not only what we wanted to do, but why we were doing it. We didn’t want them to fulfill a task as much as we wanted them to participate in the vision of reaching people for Jesus. That meant that the volunteers needed to be fully aware of how nervous new comers were and how to make them feel comfortable. We had to equip them with the right language to do so, making sure it was not insider church talk. They needed to understand that some of the unchurched people coming in were hurting and might look and act differently in comparison to the churched. These people would have to be treated properly so as not to make it difficult for an unchurched person to find Jesus.

The Ending Action

We adjusted everything. But, one of the big things we began doing differently was how we closed the service. We close each service by telling those attending what to do next in order to grow in their spiritual walk with God. We tell them to:

  1. Come back next Sunday.
  2. Join a Connect Group.
  3. Read their Bible daily. 
  4. Get involved in our church by joining one of our volunteer teams. 
  5. Invite someone to the service next week. 

We do this every Sunday. The regular attenders hear it all the time, and may get tired of it, but it’s not for them, it’s for the newcomers. This is how they can learn to become part of the church by making the next steps as clear and simple as possible. We also have newcomers fill out a connect card and we then send them a handwritten welcome from me early the following week.

Today we have looked at the Sunday experience, but creating churches unchurched people love to attend hits on the other 167 hours in a week as well. I think our MyCityCare program has made a huge impact in this area. It is a program designed to meet the six needs in our community that Jesus mentioned in Matthew 25; food, water, housing, clothing, health, and justice. We have found that reaching out to our community as a church has accomplished two major things. First of all, our community is far more receptive to the Gospel after we meet their needs. Jesus did it this way, and we are to follow His example. Secondly, it really helps the church people to keep their focus outward. It is very rewarding to help someone in need. The feeling is addictive and one that keeps us outsider focused.

It’s easy to drift back into being insider focused and fighting that drift requires leadership that is intentional everyday. The fight is often within ourselves to stay the course. I am motivated by the stories I hear of lives being changed by Jesus, marriages being restored, addictions being overcome, sickness being healed, and hope being restored all because someone began a relationship with Jesus. It is amazing to see God go to work on a life and there is really no other answer that is ever as effective as Jesus. Truly, the church is the hope of the world, and we’ve been given a mission to reach every available person, at every available time, by every available means with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, by creating churches unchurched people love to attend.

 

If you have questions you would like answered in an upcoming podcast, please email leadership@myvictory.ca.

The Outside Focused Church

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The natural tendency of the local church is to stay insider focused. But in order to accomplish our mission, the church must become outsider focused. What should the church do to reach unchurched people?

In our churches, we just finished a series entitled “Whatever it Takes” based on the early church in the Book of Acts. It is so easy to get inspired by the men and women God used to get the church off the ground. Their courage and determination to spread the Gospel to the masses is incredible. This time, going through Acts, I was caught by how they thought and how they prayed. I compared their mindset and prayers with my own, and I admittedly felt a little ashamed by my small thinking and weak prayers. They prayed for boldness to keep preaching the Gospel to those in need, in the face of life threatening danger. I tend to pray for safety, for protection, and for blessings for me and my family. “Whatever it Takes” was a challenging series and I hope I can move forward from here with the same courage and focus of the early church.

Keeping vs. Reaching

Today, I am going to work on answering some questions we have received from one of our listeners. They began by stating, “The tendency in a church is to focus most of our time, effort and energy on those sitting right in front of us each Sunday morning”. If we turn again to the Book of Acts, we can begin to learn how the early church focused their efforts.

As a pastor, I find it easier and more natural to focus more on who I am trying to keep, however, the church in the Book of Acts focused their thinking on those they wanted to reach. In Acts 4, they prayed for boldness to continue preaching, despite the fact that they were just threatened with a death sentence by the High Priest. They were focusing more on who they wanted to reach, and less on who they were trying to keep. In Acts 15, they had their first board meeting to discuss which of the Old Testament laws they would keep and which they would get rid of; namely in regards to circumcision. James and Peter boldly decided “to not make it difficult for the Gentiles to come to God”, voting against the archaic practice. That was a bold decision. It may have cost them a significant portion of the Jewish members in the church, who would have deeply disagreed with them discarding Moses’ laws and their traditions. But, James and Peter decided to focus more on who they were trying to reach, as opposed to who they were keep. These are just two examples but the entire book displays this mentality of the first church. This mindset is why the church moved forward with such power and influence.

The Balance

Our listener went on to say, “There is nothing necessarily wrong with this [the tendency of the church to focus time, effort and energy on those sitting right in from of them each Sunday] but how do you effectively communicate that the balance may be off and that there needs to be more emphasis put on reaching and bringing in and compelling the unchurched to come in so they can become part of God’s family and then the local church’s family?

For me, I am not sure there is a balance. If I am going to lean one way or another, I would prefer to lean towards focusing on those I am trying to reach. I believe the best way to effectively communicate this emphasis is through the Lead Pastor from the pulpit. It is easy to preach this focus because Jesus made it His focus. He said, “I have come to seek and to save that which is lost.” He modelled this purpose in everything he did. The early church then followed his example. 

When I arrived in Lethbridge over 6 years ago, I recognized a church that had become insider focused. I believe this happens naturally to every church over time. It takes a regular course of correction from the pulpit by the Lead Pastor to counter this natural drift. When I discovered this problem in Lethbridge, I began preaching about being outsider focused and went through the Book of Acts. This is why I spoke through the Book of Acts again this past month; it was time to correct our church and prevent any insider drift from taking place again. I don’t think any change can happen effectively in a church until it has been preached passionately. If people can see it in the Word, they will go to work making it happen in their lives and in the church. That is the power of the Word. So, it must be preached first and then regularly in order to bring a change of direction in the church.

Waiting on the Holy Spirit

Next, our listener says this: “I find some of the responses from church members when being asked the question of what could or should we do to reach people are, ‘Well if they are really searching and truly need to become saved, the Holy Spirit will draw them in.’ My question to you Pastor Kelly is: If we are to wait until the Holy Spirit draws people into the church, what do we do with the Great Commission, to ‘Go into all the world and make disciples’ ?” 

I have heard this from a lot of well meaning Christians. They are waiting on a move of God. The only problem with this thinking is that God has already moved. He has done everything needed in order for salvation to happen. Jesus took care or the sin problem and made relationship with Him accessible to everyone. Next, He sent the Holy Spirit. When Peter and the 120 received the Holy Spirit in Acts 2, they went out and preached. The Holy Spirit did not compel people in; He empowered them to go out.

The Holy Spirit’s job is not to draw people in; they don’t have the Holy Spirit, we do. The Holy Spirit’s job is to work in us and through us to go and reach. Paul said this in Romans 10: Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”  We are the ones to preach. It’s on us.

If it is the Holy Spirit’s job to bring people into my church, then why does he like some churches more than others? If one church is growing and seeing souls saved and one is not, isn’t he playing favourites? Why does He like their church more than mine? It is like a farmer who has a field right next to the field of another farmer. If one reaps a bumper harvest and the other doesn’t, is it God’s fault? Or does it reflect on the skill of the farmer? The farmer can’t make a plant grow, only God can do that. But, the farmer plays a big role in the process. Has has to prepare the soil, plant the seed, fertilize the seed, water the field, get rid of the weeds, and collect the harvest. God made the crop grow, but it was the farmer who had to skillfully work the field to reap the harvest. The same is true in the church. It is God who saves, but it is us who have to prepare the soil, plant the seeds, and reap the harvest.

Designing a Service

Continuing on, the listener has received this answer in response to the question "What could or should we do to reach people?": “We can’t limit the elements of our service (lessen the music time or hold back from going really deep or shortening sermons or preaching on topics rather than whatever God would lead the pastor to preach each week) just so unchurched feel more comfortable.” This begs the question, how should the church “go deep” and for whom and when?

I believe each church needs to go deep, but each church has to reach. So, are we preparing our services for those we are trying to keep more than for those we are trying to reach? These are great questions and ones that I have wrestled with for a long time. One thing I discovered in our church is that, the way we were designing our services was creating completely dependant followers. What I mean by that is, as a team, we had to define what a “disciple” was in order to go and make them. we noticed how John wrote to the early church in 1 John 2. He wrote, “I write to you little children, I write to you young men, and I write to you fathers.” He was addressing three different groups in one church, based on their spiritual maturity. Our team looked at that and knew we must have those three groups in our church as well.

A little child is completely dependant on someone else. They need someone to feed them and clean up their messes. A young man is strong and independent. In fact, John wrote that when he said, “I write to you young men because you are strong in the Word and have overcome the evil one.” Young men are strong because they have the ability to feed themselves. When we discovered this, we noticed that we were designing our services in such a way that kept the congregation as dependants—as little children. We were trying to preach people full on Sunday’s by giving them heavy meat, instead of preaching them hungry so that they could go and feed themselves. Christians were never meant to get all of their spiritual meat in a Sunday gathering; they were meant to get it from the Word on their own. The language of little children is “I’m not being fed,” because they are completely dependant on someone else to feed them. So, we endeavoured to get people to begin growing themselves. When they do, you are not “limiting” their growth by cutting back on anything in your services because they are not solely dependent on you anymore. 

The Holy Spirit and the Unchurched

Now, is there a difference in the way and in the relevance of the Holy Spirit as He moves in the hearts of the churched versus the unchurched? I believe so. Look at what Jesus told the 120 before they received the Holy Spirit. They were followers of Him yet He told then to wait until they received the Holy Spirit before they went and preached the Word. This exemplifies the purpose of the Holy Spirit as well as the difference in His role within a believer versus a non-believer. The Holy Spirit is God’s gift to the church; it’s for the believers and the unchurched will not recognize Him. In fact, Paul said that, to the unbeliever, the Holy Spirit will appear like foolishness.

So, the Holy Spirit is to guide and comfort the church, and is also a source of boldness. Our job is to be the preachers, to be the ones who compel them to come meet Jesus. We have to tell them, teach them, and explain to them. That is why Paul warned the church in Corinth to be careful with the gifts of the Spirit in the presence of unbelievers. They need to become believers before they will fully appreciate who He is and what He can do in and through us.

A final response to the question, “what could and should the local church do to reach unchurched people” is this: “People will be attracted to our uncompromising elements of the service.” However, how would unchurched people know whether the “elements of a service” are compromising or uncompromising?

This saddens me, because it is not biblical. Paul explained his approach to reaching the lost in 1 Corinthians 9. He said, “Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” To me, this doesn’t sound like compromise; this sounds like someone who is dedicated to reaching as many people as possible. When churches say “people will be attracted to our uncompromising elements”, it is like Paul saying, “because I am a Jew, the Gentiles will be attracted to God through my traditions and the law.” Paul realized that to them, it would be foolishness, even though the law is a part of the Bible. He said he became like them and spoke in a way they would understand, in order that he may win some. We see him do this in Acts 17 while he was in Athens. He quoted their poets as a part of his sermon when he said, “in him we live and move and have our being.” That is a direct quote from a poem by Epimedes of Crete in reference to Zeus. Most Christians today would accuse Paul of compromise, yet he was successful in planting a church in Athens.

Did Paul compromise? No. The guideline for me is to keep the message sacred, not the methods. The message is Jesus and His resurrection; I will never compromise that. The methods we use to preach that message are totally up for discussion. Our methods and traditions are the music we play, the order of service, the length of service, the length of music, the type of altar calls, the dress code, the language we use etc. When churches that are reaching the unchurched are criticized, it is usually over the fact that they are using different methods than what are traditional. It is rarely over the fact that the message is incorrect. We need to learn to discern the message from the methods and be open to messing with the methods in order to open people up to receive the message. This will help us “win some”.

In the weeks to come, we will go deeper into this subject. This approach to ministry challenges every church to do things relevant to the unchurched as well as the churched. I would be lying if I said I didn’t regularly wrestle with my traditional preferences and with the willingness to lay them down for the sake of reaching someone with the gospel. It is an easy trap to fall into; we all have the natural tendency to focus more on those we want to keep than on those we want to reach. But we have to do everything we can to resist that tendency and keep our focus on the mission. Why? Because the church is the hope of the world, and we’ve been given a mission to reach every available person, at every available time, by every available means, with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, by creating churches unchurched people love to attend.

 

If you have questions you would like answered in an upcoming podcast, please email leadership@myvictory.ca

Authentic verses Trendy Leadership

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We’ve got the most important message in history to communicate. We can’t become married to our methods by either getting stuck in the past or by compromising the message by focusing too much on being trendy. So how do you find the balance?

Bill George first coined the term “authentic leadership” back in 2003.  He said “Authentic Leaders demonstrate 5 qualities: 

  1. They understand their purpose They practice solid values
  2. They lead with the heart
  3. They establish connected relationships
  4. They demonstrate Self-discipline

They Understand Their Purpose

Trends in the church today go after technical effects on stages as well as current technology for communicating within and outside the church. A common concern is that these leadership trends distract from the church's purpose. That "trendy leaders" lack purpose, dilute purpose or even vary in their purpose. So, how can an authentic leader maintain a firm grip on their “God given purpose” in a world of trendy technology? 

There is a fine line to walk here and I believe it all comes down to our motives. I have no problem with using the latest technology and in fact I would encourage the church to do so, as long as technology is the slave and not the master. Our vision is to “reach every available person by every available means…” and technology is a “means” that can enhance the spreading of the message and is a means of communication that if we use properly can be a very effective tool. 

But, if we are using technology to just be trendy or as cool as the church down the street or whatever, then we are in danger of being slaves to technology instead of using it as a tool to communicate what is most important, the message of Jesus. 

We have been accused by the critics of "spirit contemporary" as not only employing the latest technology just to be trendy but also as being conservative and that we have compromised our core values. Conservative; referring to our methods of communicating the Gospel and how those methods aren’t always seen as “charismatic” in comparison to other spirit-filled churches. But I believe in the authenticity of being "spirit contemporary" in reaching the unchurched!

There are a couple of things I have done as a pastor that have led me to our style of communication. Firstly, I am results oriented, and as a Victory pastor, our vision is to “Reach every available person by every available means at every available time with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” So, I base our effectiveness as a church on that vision—are we reaching the unchurched?

Early on in my ministry I would have answered “no.” And that bothered me greatly.

After investigating myself and my church and studying churches who were actually reaching the unchurched I discovered that it wasn’t the message that was the problem it was our methods of communicating that message that was the problem.

Secondly, I studied the Bible—especially Jesus and the early church—not just for the message they were preaching but the methods they used to communicate it. I discovered that Jesus was very contemporary in his delivery. He used relevant stories depending on the audience he was talking to. So did the early church leaders—for instance Paul’s approach in Athens in Acts 17.

Paul spoke directly to our style of communication especially in regards to the gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 15 and he instructed the church to NOT be overly charismatic in the presence of the unchurched so as not to scare them away from what they needed most—Jesus. So I have taken my cue from that.

 

They Lead with Their Heart

What do traditional leaders need to grasp in this trendy but authentic move of God?

It really is a fine line between being authentic and being trendy. I think you can do both if you keep the message sacred and the methods flexible. The key for traditional leaders is to judge your fruit. Are you getting the results you are wanting? If your vision is to make disciples or to reach people for Jesus, ask “how are we doing?” If we aren’t reaching the unchurched then we may need to study our methods and find a more effective way to communicate.

I would suggest traditional leaders connect with the younger generation in your church and get their help in communication. I wouldn’t consider myself “old” yet or out of touch, but I rely heavily on the younger generation to aid in our communication. Our media team are all in their 20’s. They know what is connecting with people today and I lean on them heavily, not with the message, but with the methods of delivery of that message.

They Establish Connected Relationships

Today, relationship building is so different than it was 10 years ago. With the ground swell of social media and cell phones—which are designed to keep people connected—authentic relationship building is far different than it used to be. As a pastor, my ability to connect with people is far different than it was when I started 20 years ago. Home visits were common. Today, I have found they only work with the older generation.

The younger generation doesn't want the pastor to come to their home—that feels like an invasion of privacy for them. They’d rather meet at a coffee shop or restaurant—some place neutral. Also, in the past we would use the phone a whole lot more to connect with people. Today, the younger generation feels connected to when you reach out through Facebook or Instagram or Snap Chat. Often a simple text is better than a phone call.

Again, the purpose is not the means, but the ultimate goal. And in this case, if the ultimate goal is to build relationships, it is important to study what is the most effective means to connect based on who you are trying to connect with rather than on what you are most comfortable with. It is easy to lose touch if you are married to the methods that are most comfortable for you.

 

They Demonstrate Self-Discipline

Change Your Communication Methods

The extremes of Authentic Leadership have declared leaders should just be “who they are”, but bad behaviour shouldn't be justified for the sake of authenticity.  Pretending to be perfect isn’t authentic, but “keeping it real” isn't a license for excusing bad behaviour.

I see this principle violated nearly every day by well meaning Christians who are just trying to keep it real and are more afraid of what they consider compromise than they are with reaching people. Today’s generation doesn’t communicate in the same way as previous generations.

[bctt tweet="Effective communication is not what I think I said, but how it is understood by the other person. " username="kellystickel"]

The key is to understand how they communicate and to remember that effective communication is not about what I think I have said, but how it is understood by the other person. Direct and blunt confrontation is not as accepted as it was in past generations.

There is more of an emphasis on acceptance and authentic relationships—so communicate that way. Jesus did. He built relationships first and then spoke truth. He associated and built relationships with people that shocked the religious—just look at Matthew 9 when he befriended Matthew, a tax collector and all of his friends. It drove the Pharisees crazy. He still got his message across, but he didn’t tell them what they did wrong and where they were missing it. He became their friend, and Matthew became one of his most trusted followers because of it.

Jesus’ strongest truths were spoken to those He had relationships with. I find Jesus lived a balance of both care and candour. We must follow his example and communicate in the same way he did. You can’t “speak truth” on Facebook and expect that you will change someone’s opinion because you told them the truth. You must build relationships first and build trust by listening before talking—that takes incredible self-discipline for most of us.

Become Comfortable Changing Style

My upbringing in the church looks dramatically different from my “style” today. I learned to separate the message from the methods. The message is sacred, the methods are not. I had incredible help along the way from great leaders such as Dr. George Hill and Pastor Leon Fontaine, who are master communicators of the message but have used incredible methods along the way to communicate that message. They were willing to mess with the methods in order to more effectively communicate the message. That gave me permission to do the same. It’s all about the results and bearing fruit. If I keep the message sacred and the methods fluid, I will make disciples but if I either compromise the message or get stuck in my methods, I will stop bearing fruit.

It is a fine balance and one that we must constantly pay attention to as pastors.

Properly Implement Fresh Ideas

We all hunger for fresh ideas in ministry. I think copying what works for someone else is okay, in fact I’d encourage it in most cases. However, where things break down is when we don’t understand or give enough respect to the aspect of culture. Culture trumps vision. In this case, if I take someone else’s vision and place it into my culture, my culture will win every time and the vision won’t work.

So how can a leader adapt what someone else is doing into their culture? First, pay attention to your culture and if you want to use what works for someone else in your situation you must first change your culture before introducing the new vision. For pastor’s this means first preaching the “why” and addressing behaviours and attitudes within the church before changing methods. This is how you test the relevance of an idea before you implement the idea.

In I Chronicles 12:32 we read that the soldiers in King David’s army “understood the times and knew what Israel should do”.  Such insight allows authentic leaders to study complex situations, gain clarity and determine the right course of action. Steve Jobs did this when he returned to Apple. How can a leader develop this “understanding of the times” and come to know what they should do in a controversial situation as an authentic leader?

Well, in order to study the times you have to become an analyst. I think the best attitude to have is to become a student rather than a critic. We all have a tendency to criticize that which we don’t understand. So, when something new is working and you don’t understand it, instead of criticizing it, study it. Why is it working? Why did someone think this was a good idea? Why are people following this new idea? Read books on it. Interview the people doing it. Get into their world and observe it in action. Having this attitude of being a student rather than a critic, will greatly aid us in “understanding the times.” And, if after you study it, you still don’t see value in the new idea, fine. Move on. But, if you don’t become a student and instead criticize everything new, you will get stuck in the past and never understand the times.

Determine to Value Right Over Popular

I think when I fell madly in love with the church and with the mission Jesus gave us to make disciples, I turned my vision of what the church could be into what it must be. When it became a must, I wasn’t ready to compromise for anything. I wanted to see results, in the same way I saw the early church get results in the Book of Acts. I valued right, over popular with stubborn determination.

I became willing to change anything and everything—except the message—to get those results. Although, I wish everyone would understand and get on board, I know that that is just not possible and that not everyone will understand and not everyone will become a student first, before becoming a critic. I wouldn’t be so stubborn if I wasn’t seeing the results I first envisioned. Once I started seeing it work, I became more focused and more intent on messing with the methods.

Develop Your EQ

EQ is what separates the great from the average. The great have this ability to put their emotions in context. They are more concerned with those they lead than they are about how they themselves feel. They will push past their own fears or frustrations in order to lead those around them more effectively. Jesus, modelled this the best when He went to the cross. He pushed past his own feelings and did what needed to be done anyway because he kept all of us in mind. To me, that’s the definition of courage. He felt fear, yet pressed on anyways. That’s what the great do. They do what’s right for their people despite their own feelings.

Jesus was the most authentic man to walk the planet and yet he stayed firm on his mission. He knew the endgame was worth dodging the bullets of public opinion. Why is staying on mission critical in discussions like this on what is trendy verses what is authentic?

Well, we’ve got the most important message in history to communicate. People’s eternities are at stake and we can’t become married to our methods by either getting stuck in the past or by compromising the message by focusing too much on being trendy. It’s a fine balance and we must stay true the message because the church and it’s message is the hope of the world and we’re on a mission to reach every available person at every available time by every available means with the Gospel of Jesus Christ by creating churches unchurched people love to attend.

 

 

Episode Resources:

If you have questions you would like answered in an upcoming podcast, please email leadership@myvictory.ca

 

The Why Behind My Victory Starts Here

I began pastoring as a very naive 23 year old. I was the worship leader at a fairly new church plant in Canmore, Alberta and one day our senior pastor felt he should go plant another church and turned his church over to me.

To be honest, I hadn’t ever planned on being a lead pastor. I wasn’t sure how to run a church and so I looked everywhere for help and for a mentor. Pastor George Hill became that mentor to me. I am so appreciative of what he has poured into me over the years.

It was his Bible College class on the book of Acts that I first fell in love with the local church and its call on the earth. I was inspired by his vision and the vision of Victory Churches to Reach, Teach, and Mobilize. To me, this vision most reflected the heartbeat of the early church in the book of Acts and it was a vision that fulfilled the global mission Jesus gave his followers in Matthew 28.

It is a never ending vision. We reach every available person, by every available means, at every available time with the Gospel of Jesus Christ; teaching them to become disciples and mobilizing them to Reach every available person. It is a vision that works in every country, with every people group, in every language. It is simple and portable. And I love it!

So, I went to work as a pastor to live this vision in my church. The problem was, I wasn’t sure how to translate the vision to my local setting. How does a local church most effectively reach every available person, while at the same time teaching those you’ve reached, while mobilizing others into their own callings?

To be honest, I have wrestled with how to most effectively do all three of these things for most of my ministry career. It’s required me to continually mess with the methods while keeping the message sacred.

By the time I had arrived in Lethbridge, five and a half years ago, I had learned how to become effective in reaching a community. I went to work, with our amazing board and staff, at refocusing the Lethbridge church outward and at reaching the unchurched community. Because Pastor George Hill was my mentor for many years, and continues to be to this day, and because he was the founding pastor of this church, the church very quickly took to the vision. Many of those who had been in the church from the beginning remarked at how it felt just like it did in the beginning with Pastors George and Hazel. I knew we were moving in the right direction. Our methods are a little different, but they should be. After all, it is 2016 not 1979. But the vision was the same.

We started to see amazing results. In the first year we saw 386 people come to a relationship with Jesus for the first time. In our second year, another 400 became first time believers. We had successfully created a church that unchurched people loved to attend and we were effectively reaching every available person, by every available means with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

A new problem presented itself. While hundreds were coming to Christ every year, a very small percentage of them were remaining in the church. The majority of those we had reached we never saw again. We were greatly dissatisfied. Jesus said to go into all of the world and make disciples, not just converts.

Desperate to find a solution, our pastoral team gathered together and began to brainstorm how we could most effectively increase our retention rates and make disciples.

The first question we tackled was “What is a disciple?” We knew that if we couldn’t concretely define what one was, we would not be effective in making one. It was in the middle of this search, that I heard Pastor George speak at one of our conferences and in his talk he used verses from 1 John 2 where John said to the early church, “I write to you little children…I write to you young men…and I write to you fathers.”

That’s when it hit me, he was describing the maturity process of a Christ follower. He was defining a disciple!

I came back to our team and shared my revelation. They were all excited and we began brainstorming around what all of that would mean and how to translate that into the every day life of our church.

The conclusion we came to was that spiritual maturity revolves totally around the Word of God. When John described little children, he was describing the new believers who did not yet understand the Word and were still completely dependent on others to teach them and feed them spiritually.

When John described the young men, he described them as strong in the Word. We concluded that they were strong because they were independent and regularly fed themselves the Word.

When John described fathers, he was describing those who were not only self feeders, but also took to the time and effort to teach and train others in the Word. We suddenly saw, REACH, TEACH, and MOBILIZE in the Scripture.

We went to work designing a new retention plan. We evaluated everything we were doing as a church and discussed at length what we should be doing in order to effectively Reach, Teach, and Mobilize disciples.

We settled on 5 things:

  1. _____________________. We would continue to create weekly church services that the unchurched would love to attend and in every single service we committed to giving an opportunity for people to commit their lives to Christ by leading them through the salvation prayer.
  2. _____________________. We would begin small groups in our church and would encourage all of our weekly attendees to participate in a weekly Connect Group with the purpose of building intimate relationships while discussing the Bible in a small group setting. Relationships are the key to helping new comers “remain” and it is a great way to make a big church small. It is also a great way to mobilize our mature believers to become “fathers”—feeding others the Word.
  3. _____________________. We determined to make it a weekly habit to encourage our people to read the Bible daily as well as provide as many ways as we could for them to feed on the Word of God themselves. We determined to not be a church that keeps people dependent on their pastor to feed them, but instead taught them how to feed themselves. This is where they become strong to face their storms, and remain standing.
  4. _____________________. We decided that we would unashamedly encourage all of our people to participate in the activities of the local church by volunteering their time and energies to its growth. We feel that if people can give of themselves by serving others that they will not drift into the dangerous lane of me-church. I feel that the natural gravitation pull of every local church is to become insider focused. To resist this pull, we feel it necessary to keep our people participating in serving others. Regular volunteering is one great way to do just that.
  5. _____________________. One of the big tests as to whether we are effectively creating services that unchurched people love to attend, is whether or not our regular attenders feel comfortable to invite their unchurch friends or family to our weekly services. Using Acts 15:19 as our cue, “we don’t want to make it difficult for the unchurched to come to Jesus.” So, we regularly poll our people as to whether they are inviting or feel comfortable to invite their friends or family members to church. And we do what we can to remove all cringe factors that would hinder them from doing so. In our latest poll, 78% of our regular attenders invited at least one unchurched person to church with them in the last year.

These 5 were the model in which we built all of our ministries on. Our children’s ministry leads kids to Attend, Connect, Read, Serve, and Invite. Our youth ministry leads people to Attend, Connect, Read, Serve, and Invite. The entire church does these 5 things and only these 5 things. Any activity that does not lead people to do these 5, does not happen. 

With this model in place, we then began working on materials to teach and equip our new believers into a fully committed relationship with Christ. We looked at all kinds of materials out there, and while there are a lot of great tools that teach people the basics of Christianity, we didn't find anything that led people into a deeper participation in what we feel are vital activities within the local church. And, we didn’t find anything that really furthered our vision of Reach, Teach, Mobilize. We found things that were effective in one or two, but nothing that led people into all three.

So, we built our own. We first released it as a January series to begin our year. We called it B40X. It included a weekly sermon, a weekly small group guide, and a daily devotional. The effect on our church was incredible. That year we led over 400 people to Jesus and retained over 250 of them in the church! We were excited, but felt we could do even better. So, we have been honing this process for the last couple of years, and the result is My Victory Starts Here.

We put the devotional and small group guides in print because we felt they could become a tool to REACH the unchurched, TEACH the little children, and MOBILIZE the young men to become fathers by giving them a resource that they could give to someone they were discipling.

We have now equipped our mature believers with a resource that they can disciple their new believing friends and family members with, on their own, without relying on the pastors of the church to conduct a Christianity 101 class.

Our retention has never been better and I think if we use this tool properly we can become even more effective in making disciples. This is a tool to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry. This is also a tool that allows us to effectively REACH, TEACH, and MOBILIZE.

Resources:

What Impact Do Facilities Have on Church Growth?

Having a great facility does not guarantee your church will grow, but like it or not, church facilities can either enhance or undermine the worship experience of people, especially visitors. When it comes to church visitors, you don't have a second chance for a good first impression.

The state of your church facility has a much bigger influence on your visitors than it does on your regular attendees. Why? The longer a person is at your church, the less he or she is able to see the building through the eyes of a newcomer. The saying is true, “Time in erodes awareness of.” The frays in your carpet or the out-dated paint colours don't really matter to long-time attendees, because they are coming for the people, the relationships, the fellowship, the spiritual growth; not the facilities. But for visitors with none of these reasons to attend, other things shape their first impressions…and your building is one of them.

While nice facilities won't cause your church to grow, poor facilities can prevent it from growing.

Here are some environmental factors you should pay close attention to:

  1. The ______________________.
  2. ______________________.
  3. ______________________.
  4. ______________________.
  5. ______________________.
  6. ______________________, ______________________ nurseries and children’s ministry.

Titus 2:10 “… so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.” (NIV)

Episode Resources

How We Make Disciples

Over the last five years, MyVictory Church in Lethbridge has averaged over 400 salvations per year. While we are ecstatic about those results, for the first few years we were greatly disappointed in our ability to retain these new converts. In short, we were making converts not disciples.

We went to work to discover a way to make disciples as Jesus instructed the church to do in Matthew 28:19-20. We have developed a discipleship strategy that has yielded incredible results. Last year we recorded 540 first time decisions for Christ. (These decisions are recorded when a Connect Card is handed in and a New Believer’s Bible given out.) Of the 540 salvations, we retained well over 300 of them!

In the first 5 months of 2016, we have recorded 495 salvations and again, have retained around 300 of them. We are excited about those results and yet still dissatisfied that we are not doing better.

In this podcast, you we learn about our discipleship system and will discover that it allows the freedom of our ministers to minister as well as a simple process for our people to follow.

Click continue reading below for the podcast notes.

How We Make Disciples: 

____________ > ____________ > ____________ >____________

  1. Mission = to make ____________. (Matt. 28:19-20)We clearly define a disciple from 1 John 2: a. ____________ ____________. b. ____________ ____________. c. ____________ ____________.                                                                         . d. ____________.
  2. Vision - ____________ every available person by every available means at every available time with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
  3. Model - It is our ____________ or the framework that houses our mission and vision.Clearly defined… a. ____________. b. ____________. c. ____________. d. ____________. e. ____________.
  4. Programming.

 

The-table

 

 

 

Listener Question:

  •  Obviously the teaching podcast on growing yourself is directly tied to the message with Rex Crain on expanding your thinking and confessing the promises of God. The problem is that it is not uncommon to wait a very long time for those promises to come to pass, regardless of the stand of faith in the agreement of prayer and confession. The reality of those waiting periods creates serious repercussions that do not agree with the abundant life. So how do we wait? How do we deal in the now when the not yet has not come to pass? How do we live in reality without the promise manifested?

 

Episode Resources

Messy Christianity

One of my spiritual hero’s was John Wimber. He is widely known as the founder of the Vineyard movement of churches. One of the things I respect most about him is that it was said of him when he pastored his first church, he created the substantial growth of 7 other churches in his city because he was leading so many people to the Lord. He was a very enthusiastic evangelist, right from his own conversion in the early 1960’s.

John Wimber was a famous producer in the music industry in the early ’60’s before he became a pastor. Within a few years of his conversion to Christ, he was approached by the Beatles and asked to produce one of their albums. He consulted with the church he was attending and was told that he shouldn’t associate himself with them and strongly advised to not accept the offer. Knowing the type of passionate believer and evangelist John was, what if he had taken the gig? What could have happened if he had been allowed to work with and influence the world’s most popular and listened to group?

Have you heard the statement, “We are in the world, but not of the world?” What does it mean? I grew up in a Christian school. We were taught it meant to remain separate from the world. We were not allowed to dress like them or look like them. I was told that my hair shouldn’t touch my collar. We were taught to never listen to the world’s music. In fact, we were taught that rock ‘n roll in general was evil, even if it had Christian lyrics. It created an us vs. them mentality.

Of course, my teachers had many scriptures to back up their claims. Verses like 1 John 2:15, "Do not love the world nor the things in the world If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him."  And James 4:4, "You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God."

But what do we do with scriptures like John 3:16-17, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him."  Or John 9:5, "While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world."

Is the Bible setting a double standard? Have you ever battled this tension? Have you ever felt that to be more “holy” you had to further distance yourself from the world and especially those who think like the world? I know I have. And then I read about Jesus, who was called a “friend of sinners”, and hung out with those who were some of the most worldly thinkers of the day. And He led his disciples to do the same!

I know for me, I’ve always been afraid of being tainted by the world, of slipping into sin, of backsliding, of losing holiness and of disappointing God. But in the Bible we get an incredible insight into the private thoughts of Jesus. We get to listen in on one of his prayers in John 17:13-18. He doesn't share these same fears. Instead He prayed, "But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves. I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.”

There it is! There’s the tension we’re talking about. The tension of being “in the world" but "not of the world." What do you think it means? How do we effectively reach the world without being tainted by it? Does Jesus expectation of us living clean mean that we avoid the messiness of the lives around us?

10 Surprises from the Unchurched

On July 11, 2007 Dr. Thomas Rainer posted these 10 statistics after undertaking an extensive study among thousands of the unchurched. He called them the 10 Surprises. And they are truly surprising! Here they are: invite

Surprise No. 1 Most of the unchurched prefer to attend church on Sunday morning if they attend.

Surprise No. 2 Most of the unchurched feel guilty about not attending church.

Surprise No. 3 Ninety-six percent of the unchurched are at least somewhat likely to attend church if they are invited.

Surprise No. 4 Very few of the unchurched had someone share with them how to become a Christian. And Christians have not been particularly influential in their lives.

Surprise No. 5 Most of the unchurched have a positive view of pastors, ministers and the church.

Surprise No. 6 Many of the unchurched have a church background.

Surprise No. 7 Some types of "cold calls" are effective; many are not.

Surprise No. 8 The unchurched would like to develop a real and sincere relationship with a Christian.

Surprise No. 9 The attitudes of the unchurched are not correlated to where they live, their ethnic or racial background, or their gender.

Surprise No. 10 Many of the unchurched are far more concerned about the spiritual well-being of their children than themselves.

The one that stands out to me the most is Surprise No. 3. Imagine if 9 out of 10 people you invited to church responded positively! Would you be more confident to ask a coworker, family member, or neighbor to church?

This weekend is Easter Sunday. It is one of the best opportunities of the year to invite people to church. More people attend church on the Easter weekend than any other time of year, even more than Christmas. So, I want to encourage you, wherever in the world you are reading this, don't go to church this weekend alone! Invite someone who is unchurched to go with you. There's no rush quite like it!

I'm praying for you and believing with you for souls saved and lives changed this weekend! The Apostle Paul said that the resurrection of Jesus is the foundation of our faith. It's the defining proof that Jesus truly is God. Regardless of the style of your church or it's focus, I guarantee this weekend that the Gospel will be preached and that your friends and family members will hear the message and they will have an opportunity to make a decision for Christ. All you need to do is invite them!

Question: Will you message me and let me know if the person you invited this weekend to church made a decision for Christ? I would love to celebrate with you!

Mission & Vision: Our Past and Our Future

In my last blog post, I began to describe a series of discussions me and my staff have been having in order to solidify that we are on mission. We determined that our mission was the non-negotiable mandate given to the global church by Jesus in Matthew 28:19, to "go and make disciples." Once our mission was clear and we had started with "WHY" our church existed, we turned our attention to "HOW" we would go about accomplishing this mission. Our "HOW" became our vision. mission-and-vision-your-past-does-not-need-to-be-your-future

I began the discussion by defining our vision as the contribution our congregation would make to the global church. What problem were we called to solve? What role would we play in the world-wide church?

As we began to discuss this, we quickly realized that our church has already made major contributions to the global church! We had released our founders and world-class leaders Drs. George and Hazel Hill, who have gone on to launch one of the world's fastest and most effective church planting organizations, Victory Churches International. VCI has planted churches in more than 40 nations, plus has started multiple Bible Colleges, orphanages, slum schools, safe houses, and much, much more!

Our church was also responsible for launching our nation's first and only 24 hour Christian television station, the Miracle Channel. And, played a major role in the launch of the Christian political organization the Canada Family Action Coalition. Yes, in our short 33 year history, we have had a major impact already on the global church. But was that it? Have we done our duty?

We emphatically answered, no! As we discussed what we had to contribute in the future, we noticed a clear theme from our past. When Drs. George and Hazel had planted this church, it quickly grew to be one of Canada's largest churches at the time. But it's growth was different than how other churches were growing. The majority of our growth wasn't transfer growth from other churches, it was a revival of new souls that caused this ministry to explode! We had a strong urge to go back to our roots. To recenter ourselves on the original mandate - to reach every available person, by every available means, at every available time with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

We would verbalize this commitment to reach outsiders by saying "Our vision is to create a church unchurched people love to attend."

Why do we say it that way? Well, it's simple really. We believe that the natural gravitational pull on every local church is to become insider focused. Every church fights this pull. We felt the best way to keep our vision focused outwardly was to continually create environments that the unchurched would love to be a part of. Another way to say it would be simply, we desire to create environments that our members feel comfortable inviting their unchurched friends and family to. To us, this would be living with the same resolve James, the brother of Jesus, had when he declared to the early church leaders in Acts 15:19  “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God." In other words, we (the church) should not stand in the way of people coming to Jesus because we are only focused on ourselves and our wants and desires.

We felt, as a staff, that this was our contribution to the global church. This was our call and our anointing. We witnessed that last year when we held our first Redesigning Church Conference. Every church that attended boasted of immediate results in effectively reaching the unchurched. We know that we will see the same results at this year's conference for those who attend. God has given us strategies to share, strategies that gave us the ability to lead over 350 people to Jesus in 2012 and we are anticipating many more in 2013.

We're excited about the future, about creating a church unchurched people love to attend!

Question: If you have not registered for Redesigning Church Conference 2013, Feb. 1-2 - register now by clicking HERE.

10 Ideas for Your Services that Will Help You Attract the Unchurched

Culture trumps vision every time. If your church has a vision to reach the unchurched, yet your culture is not not conducive to outsiders, your culture will win. One of the biggest influences on our church culture that can easily repel the unchurched is the order of our services.

Here are a 10 ideas to consider in regard to your Sunday morning service and how it effects your ability to attract the unchurched:

  1. Set a maximum length of your service to 1 1/2 hours. I know to some this almost sounds sacrilegious. But the fact is we live in a microwave, instant society that has a very short attention span. You will find a shorter, concise service will immediately impact your weekly attendance. The key here is to focus more on who you are trying to reach than on who you are trying to keep.
  2. Consider opening the service with an "icebreaker." We started a tradition about a year ago we call the 5-2. Five minutes before the service begins we offer a special "icebreaker" song, comedy, or skit that will be familiar or comforting to the unchurched. Let's face it, they come in nervous and unsure of what to expect, so the icebreaker is designed to set them at ease. For example, this upcoming Sunday our 5-2 is the popular song "Fix You" by Coldplay. It's a popular song that has topped the secular radio charts and one that most of the unchurched would have heard. This simple familiarity puts them at ease and opens them up to receive from the rest of the service.
  3. Provide a welcome from the stage that explains what's to come this morning. Again, the unchurched are nervous and unsure of what's coming. So, simply welcome everyone to the morning service and then explain what's coming - what is worship and how they can participate, what the message will be about, how long the service will be, what you are providing for their children etc.
  4. Only have 3-4 participatory songs. I need to make one thing clear here. I am a worshipper and a musician. I love to worship and especially value the power of corporate worship. However, to most of the unchurched, the concept of worship is unfamiliar. They don't know how to participate. They don't know the songs. And the entire process feels a bit awkward to them. Therefore, consider them when designing your service. I feel that 3-4 songs are enough to spiritually break through into worship for your churched crowd and short enough for the unchurched to stay engaged, especially if your music is good.
  5. Preach for a maximum of 35-40min. I read a statistic a while back that said if you cut your sermon length in half, you will double your attendance. Although I'm not sure how much validity there is to that statement, the bottom line is shorter sermons carry more impact for both the churched and the unchurched. Shortening the length of your sermon will make you a better preacher and a more effective communicator. Give it a try! The results my surprise you.
  6. Place your offering at the end of the service. Unfortunately because of the very public moral failures of prominent church leaders in the last two decades, the unchurched have this warped idea that "all the church wants is my money." To relax this notion, we found that moving the offering to the end of the service put the unchurched a lot more at ease. We also instruct our guests every single Sunday, to not give. This is just a simple way to say we value them, not their money.
  7. Limit your announcements. There is nothing worse than long, drawn out announcements. To combat this we have two simple rules for announcements. The first rule: we don't share any more than 3 announcements on a given Sunday. The second rule: if the activity doesn't affect 50% of the church or more, it won't be announced from the pulpit. We have also used video announcements so that they can be timed for the 4 minutes it takes our ushers to collect the offering.
  8. Produce your service being especially aware of transitions, ebbs and flows. It's vitally important to be aware of the emotion each part of the service portrays and order your service around these ebbs and flows. There is nothing worse than being jolted out of intimate worship by a loud, obnoxious announcement guy. Ask yourself, what mood will this song create and will that mesh with the next part of the service?
  9. Be aware of atmosphere. In keeping with the previous point, be conscious of what atmosphere your foyer, lighting, background music, decorations, etc. are setting in your facility. Is that atmosphere conducive to the message you are trying to convey?
  10. Let your creativity add not distract from your main point. It is really important that you communicate a clear, concise message every Sunday. I prefer a one-point message to multiple points. It's easy to remember and apply because it's simple. We try to direct our entire service to that one point. The temptation is to be cute and funny with your creativity, but if your creative elements don't add to the message, they will be a distraction. Remember, it's the message that's sacred, not the methods!

Questions: Are your services effectively reaching the unchurched? What area should you change first? Do any of these idea just "rub" you the wrong way? If so, why?