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The Deceit Of Riches (via Mez McConnell)

Mez McConnell reflects on Jesus observation about wealth being an obstruction to entering the kingdom of God and the implications of that for evangelism and church planting:

The Danger of Wealth
Jesus said it’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God, right? What he’s saying is this: When you’ve got money, when you’ve got material wealth, when you’ve got comfort, you feel invincible. You feel like you don’t need God. You don’t feel—at least in your outward portrayal—a spiritual need.
And so people become very hard, very bitter, very intellectually opposed to gospel truths. Whereas in less privileged communities, people are not necessarily happy, but they are more likely to admit they’re sinful, to admit that their lives aren’t perfect, to admit there’s a problem.
People in poor or ethically deprived communities are very supernaturalistic, so you meet very few atheists in such communities. These people’s problems aren’t necessarily with God (although they can be), but with the concept of church. People in that community see the church as a middle-class intellectual institution—which it largely is—and so apologetically, that’s the battle we’re fighting.
I think people in rich communities—with two cars on the drive, a nice house, and a full bank balance—in many ways are much harder to reach because all that wealth and comfort makes them think that they’re invincible. It may make them think that they don’t need anything outside of themselves. I often say that in many ways, my friends who work, reach, and plant in these communities are in very, very hard places.

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Love God, Love People, Preach The Word And Make Disciples (via Karl Vaters)

Karl Vaters observes that there are plenty of extras that commend themselves as necessary for congregations to grow in the ministry and mission.
Rather than focus on these, he commends local churches focus instead on the basics – without which no amount of extras will help.

Don’t spend your time on cool new ideas until you’ve got the essentials locked down.

  • Preach the Word with passion and truth
  • Love each other
  • Welcome guests with genuine friendliness
  • Forgive when you’re slighted
  • Support the weak and vulnerable
  • Make disciples

Don’t spend your time on cool new ideas until you’ve got the essentials locked down.
A cool new church logo is nice. But it’s not nearly as impressive or important as a church that’s doing the essentials well.
After all, we don’t go to a restaurant to be impressed by a server’s memory skills. We go for good food and good service.
People who come to our churches are the same. They’re not looking for fancy graphics or oratorical flair.

  • They want to know God loves them
  • They want a chance to make a difference
  • They want someone who will be there when they’re hurting
  • They want to know the scriptures better
  • They want to experience forgiveness and hope

And they want the same for their friends and family.

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The Challenge Of Sundays In A Smaller Church (via Karl Vaters)

Having come from a meeting today where church attendance figures were submitted, this article by Karl Vaters makes some helpful points.
While there is an average number of people attending a church, in reality attendances can fluctuate between, say, thirty-five an sixty people.
That difference makes a significant change in tone, and, realistically, most weeks those planning worship don’t know which ‘group’ they’re structuring for.

Vaters suggests:

Think relationally not programmatically
Highly programmed people have a hard time in small church leadership. Highly relational people do much better.
When numbers are small, and week-to-week percentage swings are highly variable, you can’t lead with a fill-in-the-boxes mentality.
In small churches, everything is done relationally. Our planning needs to be, too.
*and*
Leave a lot of wiggle room in your plans
Most planning principles are based on exact numbers. But when you don’t have exact numbers, you can’t plan that way.
Instead of saying “we need X number of ushers, greeters or nursery attendants”, talk with the members of your church about the importance of being ready for anything at a moment’s notice.

Read the whole post here.


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On The Importance Of Greeters (via Thom Rainer)

The church’s presentation of the Gospel commences when guests walk through the door.
From Thom Rainer, an unappreciated but vital ministry of service.

A greeter is a leader in ministry. It is critical that these leaders are strategically located where they will make first and powerful connections with guests. When we have a good greeter ministry in our church, we know where every greeter will be. We know the specifics of every assignment.
You see, without an organized greeter ministry, we are not likely to be where the guests are. We are not likely to see them when they arrive.
It is not an overstatement to say the presence of greeters in strategic locations could very well have an eternal gospel impact on someone.
It’s just that important.

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Why Starbucks Failed In Australia (via CNBC)

“They thought their business model could just roll out.”
I’ve watched forty years or so of church ministries franchise themselves as the future of the church without having the humility or awareness to realise that they were a lot more dependent on local circumstances and personalities than they thought.
“The company said that it would develop in Italy with humility and respect.”
If only Christian ministries focussed on church growth would do the same.
Interestingly the company’s plans for Australia now seem to be focussed on presenting a familiar presence and product for tourists visiting the country.


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On Praying That God Would Bring In People Not Like Us (via Daniel Darling)

Daniel Darling on church being a snapshot of God’s grace and not homogeneous unit management principles:

Sometimes, in our quest to create cutting-edge churches, we sacrifice our long-term futures for short-term benefits. I’ve often felt this way as I’ve walked into vibrant, well-known churches or as I attend popular evangelical conferences. It seems that we are often creating a church for the young, hip, and sexy. It’s as if we want our message to the world to be something like, “See, church is the place where the cool people gather on Sunday.”
But the kingdom of God takes the opposite approach.
Jesus said it is the poor, the downtrodden, and the marginalized who have a prominent place in the kingdom of God (Matt. 5:3, 20:16). Paul reminded his churches of the shocking ordinariness of God’s people (1 Cor. 1:26). James scolded those in the church of Jerusalem for their tendency to favor the wealthy and powerful at the expense of the poor (James 2:1-13).
Do our congregations look like outposts of this radical kingdom? Do people enter our congregations and wonder to themselves, How did these disparate people get here? What possible thread unites people so vastly separated by age, race, political affiliation, and class? Why is it that old and young, black and white, disabled and able-bodied, rich and poor, prominent and anonymous gather together every Sunday?

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Who Owns The Culture? (via Karl Vaters)

I’ll be getting a copy of Karl Vater’s book Small Church Essentials.
While the main cross-cultural issue is that characterising a congregation of under 250 people as a small church in Australia is an over-reach, the observations about group dynamics in groups of varying sizes should hold true.

This excerpt about who shapes culture in a local church strikes me as true:

In bigger or newer churches, the culture is more likely to be determined by the pastoral staff, with the congregation more willing to follow. In smaller and older churches, the culture is more the property of the congregation and its history than the pastor. The smaller or older the church, the greater impact the culture will have on any new ideas, projects, or changes a pastor wants to implement, especially if the congregation has had a high pastoral turnover.

If this point isn’t taken into calculations cultural change in smaller groups will be a struggle.