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Seven Reasons Why Church Is Difficult For Those Touched By Mental Illness (via Stephen Grcevich)

Church is meant to be the one place on earth where people can come just as themselves and feel welcome and at home.
But it’s not always the case.
I found these seven reasons provided by Stephen Grcevich to make sense.
It’s helpful to read what is obvious when made plain, but is so easy to forget in practice.
Some of these are focused on parents whose children have a mental illness, others are relevant to people who are enduring various conditions whatever their age.

A couple of examples:

Anxiety: One in 15 American adults experience social anxiety disorder—a condition resulting in significant fear and distress in situations where their words or actions may be exposed to the scrutiny of others. How many social interactions might a first-time visitor to a weekend worship service need to navigate at your church? Persons with agoraphobia frequently experience intense fear, heart palpitations, breathing difficulties, excessive perspiration, and nausea in public places where their ability to leave unobtrusively is limited. How might they feel if there are no seats available near an exit at a worship service, or if a well-meaning usher directs them to a middle seat near the front of the church?

Expectations for self-discipline: The Bible clearly equates self-control with spiritual maturity. Most mental health conditions can negatively impact executive functioning—the cognitive capacities through which we establish priorities, plan for the future, manage time, delay gratification, and exercise conscious control over our thoughts, words, and actions. When children struggle with self-control in the absence of obvious signs of disability, we’re often quick to make assumptions about their parents. One mother in describing her family’s experience in looking for a church with two school-age boys with ADHD observed that, “People in the church think they can tell when a disability ends and bad parenting begins.”

Read the whole article here.

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Praying For A Discontented Church (via Trevin Wax)

Trevin Wax writes about the deadly temptation of desiring a church where everyone is happy with things exactly as they are.

…we are right to pursue unity and peace in the church. But we are wrong to assume that the absence of conflict or complaint indicates that things are going in the right direction. The satisfaction of church members may be a sign not of faithfulness, but of widespread complacency.
Imagine this scenario. You’re a pastor in a congregation where there has been division and disunity over the years. Right now, things are better. Attendance is up. The number of complaints has fallen. People regularly encourage the staff and speak highly of the church. Every now and then, someone says: “Don’t change a thing. We love everything!”
Now, the temptation is to say, “Wonderful! Finally, everyone is happy” as if making everyone happy is the goal of your church. But that temptation is deadly. The mission of the church is not to satisfy the preferences of church members, but to spread the gospel of Jesus so that sinners are saved and find their satisfaction in him.
We don’t want churches full of people dissatisfied due to their personal preferences going unfulfilled. Neither do we want churches full of people who are satisfied because everything is running smoothly. No, we want people who are satisfied with God but dissatisfied with the state of the world because they live and breathe the mission. They’re driven by the gospel and the mission on behalf of King Jesus and his kingdom.
As one of the pastors at my church, I am praying for more holy discontent. Our goal is not to make things satisfactory for our members, but to encourage and empower more members to be on mission together.

Read the whole article here.

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Some Questions About ‘Tiger Pastoring’ (via Peter Ko at Gospel Coalition Australia)

Peter Ko explains that ‘tiger parenting’ is what happens when parents push their children hard to succeed.
He goes on to add that church leadership could fall into ‘tiger pastoring’ and create, either directly or indirectly, thoughts in a congregations minds that they constantly have to strive hard to grow.
Usually in a pattern of activities established by the church leadership.
Apart from issues of busyness, he wonders if the model really stacks up biblically:

Does healthy Christian growth require us to apply our model of ‘tiger pastoring’? Or is God powerfully at work by his Spirit, through his Word, so that if his sheep are fed and taught well, and are guarded and cared for by good shepherds, they will grow?
Back to the analogy of parenting, isn’t it healthier to assume that if a child is given his or her basic necessities: food, shelter, clothing, security, schooling, friendships etc., that child will naturally grow and flourish? Could it be that in our well-motivated desire to shepherd our people well, we’ve stopped trusting that Christ will help his people and his body to grow and flourish if the basics are given to them? Corporate worship, faithful teaching and preaching, a church community, and leaders who will guard the truth and fight error. Is there much more that’s needed for healthy Christian growth?

Read the whole article here.

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Ten Tips For Effective Welcoming (via Melissa Brown & Gospel Coalition Of Australia)

Melissa Brown is Connections Coordinator at City On A Hill, Geelong.
In a post published at Gospel Coalition Australia she provides ten tips for effective welcoming:

“Welcoming is about the Gospel. It is about imitating God. But welcoming is also about common sense. Therefore, let’s preach and teach from the Bible about welcoming, but let’s also equip our churches to relax and welcome well.”
10 Tips for Effective Welcoming

  1. Get to know them. Ask questions, but not too many! Questions should produce conversation. Conversing is where real relating happens.
  2. Listen and be attentive. Don’t be looking over your shoulder every five seconds at what’s going on around you. It’s rude!
  3. Remember their name and use it. It’s polite!
  4. Be upfront. Ask, “What brings you to church today?” After all, you know and they know that they are standing inside your church…for the first time! So let’s not be coy. Talk about it. Being up front about this will actually help everyone relax.
  5. Be helpful if you can. People often go to church to seek something. It could be friendship, a spiritual home, connections and networks. For example, a young couple recently came to our church who had just moved to Geelong and I discovered the young man was a new graduate teacher looking for work. So I introduced him to my husband who is a teacher who was able to help him get his CV around local schools. They now attend our church.
  6. Hook them up with others (no I don’t mean in a romantic way). If they’re young adults, introduce them to other young adults. If they’re a family, introduce them to another family. I believe this is critical to good welcoming. Multiplying the links and broadening the community for new people is gold.
  7. Reconnect with them soon afterwards. Try to say good-bye before they leave and that you hope to see them next week. When they return, connect again! Genuine relationships.
  8. Invite them over for a meal. If the conversation is flowing and you feel comfortable about it, invite them to share a meal with you and your family/friends. Newcomers or welcome café nights are also great was to develop a sense of belonging to the church family. After all, families occasionally get together to share food to maintain the bonds of love.
  9. If they give you a phone number, call them! It doesn’t have to be a long conversation, but if you said you’d call, then CALL! Even if you didn’t say you’d call, still CALL!
  10. Pray. Our church welcome team always arrive half an hour before the church service to pray. We ask God to send new people to our church and to help us (and our church family) to love and warmly welcome everyone.


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How Churches Become Too Busy And Less Effective (via Thom Rainer)

Thom Rainer attempts to describe how churches can become focussed on their activities to the detriment of mission and ministry.
He has eight points.

  1. Activities became synonymous with ministry.
  2. Programs and ministries are added regularly, but few or none are ever deleted.
  3. Programs and ministries become sacred cows.
  4. The alignment question is not asked on the front end.
  5. Silo behavior among the different ministries of the church.
  6. Lack of an evaluation process.
  7. Ministry becomes facility-centered.
  8. Lack of courageous leadership.

You can read his background comments on the points here.

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A View That Banishes Distractions From Worship (via Barry York)

A brief article by Barry York at Gentle Reformation on a neglected aspect of ministry, the call to worship.
The basic idea is that rather than telling people not be distracted, you show them the One who will capture their attention.

From the article:

The great leveling ground as people come to worship is the cross. Even in the Old Testament, the first object worshipers saw as they entered into the courtyard of the temple was the altar. We are all sinners in need of the grace and forgiveness of Christ. God’s people need to hear as they come before him that “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). Hence, we are called to die to self, to suffer for the gospel, and to be holy like Christ. When Jesus is put before us as the only one we are to be like, the effect is to both humble hearts and seek his cleansing. Comparative thoughts then melt away in the warmth of his presence and grace.

Read the whole post here.

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Life Of Pastor

This made me laugh too much.
Shamelessly stolen from a friend’s facebook wall.