Monday, January 23, 2017

5 Things We Must Do for the Next Decade - Pt. 1

A couple of my favorite blogs prompted me to write the following Freshly Bru’d. Even though we live in challenging times morally, spiritually, and every other area of decline- God’s mission has not changed.

To help face the next ten years there are at least five things we must do in the church. Did you notice, I said ‘we?’ God’s mission isn’t just for the professional ministers. It’s for all of us. These five things must be at the forefront of every Christ follower.

First, a clear understanding of the Gospel. The gospel isn’t something you do, earn, or deserve; it’s what Jesus has done. People don’t need to be taught to turn over a new leaf- they need to receive the Savior and live out a new life. That new life comes from Jesus’ death on the cross for our sin and in our place and His being raised from the dead. That is the message that needs to be preached rather than some moralistic therapeutic deism- “being good” message. In too many places the message of “being good” makes you a better person and makes the “man upstairs” happy.

Second, a stronger focus on discipleship. God shapes congregations through the shaping of individual lives. But this doesn’t just happen by accident or as a by-product. God grows us when we are in a position to receive that growth. This can only happen through intentional awareness and leadership on the part of both leaders and church members.

The word disciple means ‘learner.’ This puts the action firmly in the lap of the one doing the learning. The point is that you, as a disciple, are to be actively learning. It is your responsibility to take up the mantle of spiritual self-development. Yes, a teacher is involved, but discipleship is not about a passive process of being fed. Growing in faith is something that can be served by others, but ultimately must be owned personally.

In many of our churches, too many followers of Christ view discipleship as something done to them and for them- akin to a personal enrichment program. (Take a moment here to read Hebrews 5:11-13.)

We must face the challenges of our culture as the church has had to do since Jesus established the church. The challenges are different with every generation. Therefore, as the church continues to navigate an increasingly post-Christian culture, we have to ask ourselves if we are willing to face some truths and change some behaviors, programs, or strategies to reach the world with the message of the gospel.

Watch for next week’s Freshly Bru’d where I will share the remaining three things we can do for the next decade.

Blessings,
Pastor Mark "TheBru" Brunott

5 Things We Need to Do for the Next Decade - Pt. 2

In last week’s Freshly Bru’d, I mentioned two things that we (members of Jesus’ Church) must do to thrive for the next decade. If you missed last week’s note, I would encourage you to read it here. I mentioned first – a clear understanding of the Gospel and second, a stronger focus on discipleship.

The third thing we need to do is have a greater passion for mission. We need to stand up against the perception (and in some cases, the practice) to look at those who are professional ministers and say ‘they are the ones who are called to mission’ while the people in the seats are merely consumers of religious goods and services.

We need to see all of God’s people engaged in God’s mission- introducing others to Jesus and developing them into fully devoted followers. This begins in our respective neighborhoods, work places, and schools, all the way to the nations of the world. You are just as important and necessary to the mission as I am. We all must engage. The fourth thing is strongly linked to the third thing.

The fourth thing we must do is focus our energy to finding new ways to reach out to our neighbors. Culture now is so different than past decades; today, there is little, if any, religious knowledge, background, or memory. If people aren’t attracted to church, the church must go out and attract them to act. That is why we began our #4Lincoln campaign. Such things have to be an ongoing and every day kind of evangelism, Being-Doing-Telling the Good News where we live and work.

Fifth and finally we develop new thinking in our practices. God often uses tools for His means- think of the bus ministry of the 70’s or radio ministry of the 50’s. That is still true today. As believers, we can and must be good stewards of our ministry and utilize tools wisely- like multisite churches, viral church planting, and finding new ways to serve those who are hurting and in need.

What are some behaviors you think First Free needs to change in order to reach our city with the message of the Gospel? Remember- Jesus wins. I want us all to be a part of what Jesus is doing until He returns.

Blessings,
Pastor Mark "TheBru" Brunott

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Distractions

Have you ever wondered why you’re not as far as you’d like to be spiritually? Do you feel spiritually the same in 2017 as you did at the start of 2016? Have you ever blamed children, church, career, complex sermons, business for being the reason you are not growing spiritually? If you are like me, you have asked these questions or made excuses for why you’re not growing spiritually.

I think the reason many don’t feel they are growing spiritually is because they are distracted. Do a small-scale case study on yourself and count the number of times you’re interrupted during the day- all phone calls, emails, Facebook alerts, Twitter notifications, people at work, etc.

It’s hard to remain focused on the work in front of you- especially when it’s something that requires commitment and all your attention. When I’m distracted, I lose my train of thought and can’t get any work done. That is why I stay home every Tuesday to study, research, and prepare messages. I have no interruptions.

Dr. Gloria Mark, a University of California Associate Professor, found that workers are interrupted every 3 minutes, or 23 times per hour! And when you’re interrupted, it takes 23 minutes to get back into the groove.

When it comes to spiritual habits, I believe the same concept of this study above affects us. We get distracted and lose our effectiveness. Simplify your life by minimizing the distractions. What would this look like spiritually?

First, be prepared. Take care of any physical need before you spend time alone with God. Grab your Bible and notepad, decide what you’re going to do with your electronic devices, and if you want drinks or snacks. Have everything you need within reach so you don’t have to keep getting up to get it.

Second, pray. Before you begin your time with God, it’s important to prepare your heart, mind, and soul. Otherwise your mind will stray and you start to think about other matters. Pray: ‘Lord, help me to focus on You for the next few minutes.’

Third, go off-grid. Turn off email alerts, set your phone to go straight to voicemail, create an auto response to text messages you receive saying ‘in the middle of something; I’ll get back to your later.’ Block out the time on your calendar; for some that might be early in the morning, for others late at night.

Eliminating distractions is like any other skill-- the more you practice it, the better you get. Stick with it and you will improve. You will.

Blessings,
 Pastor Mark


P.S. Want to be spiritually fit for life? Desire to be more godly? Want some practical helps to become more spiritual? If so, come this Sunday at 9:15 or 11:00. Bring a friend with you.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Today's "Average" Family

Today’s families have changed drastically. What that means for First Free is that our strategies and programs need to change to reach them.

Brian Moss, who blogs at Next Level Leadership, gives 10 characteristics of what the ‘average’ unchurched family looks like today. As you read through his list, ask yourself how First Free is doing in reinventing structures, strategies, and programs to reach these families.
1.        They are a blended home. 43% of marriages are remarriages. 65% of those involve children from a prior marriage. Blended families are becoming the norm.
2.       They are spiritually mismatched. Moms generally make the connection to church. Dad is busy ‘enjoying the only day off’ at home.
3.       They are financially strapped. They need to learn to earn, budget, spend, save, and give. Credit is a way of life for them and they cannot absorb even one financial catastrophe.
4.       They are over-calendared. Parents have become the willing slaves of their children’s activities. No time for church.
5.        They are Biblically illiterate. They have no idea what the Bible actually says. To many, the Bible is a book of fables and fairy tales.
6.       They are ethnically diverse. Millennials can’t relate to racial barriers and tensions.
7.        They have a special needs child. 12% of children in kindergarten through 6th grade are identified with a disability. This percentage is rising each year.
8.       One in five have experienced some form of trauma in the home. Abuse, violence, and severe cruelty is common today.
9.       They want to be successful. They want to have a good marriage, good home, be a good parent, and they simply have no idea how to get there.
10.     They are spiritually hungry. They are searching for change. They want truth, meaning, hope, and healing.
As a church, may we be willing to remove every unnecessary encumbrance and unbiblical distraction and be the place of grace that reaches the ones Christ gave his very life for.

Chances are very good that if you invite one of these families to join you for the Christmas Eve service at 2:00, 3:30, or 5:00, they would join you. All of these characteristics scream ‘we need Jesus.’

Blessings,
Mark "The Bru" Brunott

P.S. For many of us Christmas brings about a lot of positive feelings and memories. For others the thought of Christmas brings tension, disappointment, and unnecessary competition. Join us and bring a friend Sunday at 9:15 and 11 am to discover the secret to having a Merry Christmas, no matter what comes your way.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

One humorist took the song Jingle Bells and rewrote the verses to be culturally relevant: “Dashing through the snow, with a high-def. touchscreen display, o’er the fields we go, tweeting and texting all the way! Bells on smartphones ring, making bandwidth bright, what fun it is to stare and cling to a virtual world tonight!”

In other words, silver bells, tinsel, and mistletoe are being replaced with smartphones, tablets, computers, and social media. Our tendency is to pay more attention to screens than people.

May I suggest something to all of us this Christmas season? What I’m about to suggest is going to sound like I’m Ebenezer Scrooge to many, but I hope you will heed what I say.

Go on a diet! Not a food kind of diet but a media diet. Jesus spent time with loved ones; He prayed for and touched the untouchable. I’m not saying Jesus wouldn’t use the technology available today- He would. I am simply saying He wouldn’t be so absorbed in it that He neglected the personal touch.

Here’s what your media diet might look like:
  • Plan ahead for people time. Meet with family and friends without cell phones, computers, iPads, or other electronics. “Quality time” comes from quality time. Play a game, eat together, or wrap gifts together, without all the techno stuff.
  • Plan ahead for tech time. What? Doesn’t this contradict what I just said? Not if you use the technology to be together. Don’t let technology replace your presence. Put on a Christmas movie with others, and actually watch it. Watch a Christmas service online. Google ‘the meaning of Christmas’ to see what it says. You get the idea.
  • Reach out and touch someone. Literally. Allow #4Lincoln to become part of your Christmas living.
  • Talk. Conversations connect people. What we say matters. I said ‘what we say’ not ‘what we text.’ Texting is less personal and you really can’t understand what the person means. You can’t hear the tone of voice or the non-verbal expressions which is 93% of the communication message.
Try the diet and then let me know what you discovered. I look forward to hearing from you.

Blessings,
Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott

P.S. How can a person be joyful when faced with trouble, difficulty, fractured relationships, or discouraging circumstances? There is a way! Come Sunday at 9:15 or 11:00 to discover how to be joyful always, and bring a friend with you.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Christmas Advice from the Pastor

Christmas is just around the corner and I’d like to share some pastoral advice to help you experience God’s love during this special season of the year. These are three things I am trying to do personally and I hope we do at First Free.

First, keep it simple. Make sure all your activities focus on Christmas. Small and personal is better than large and impersonal. Talk to each other, help each other, and serve each other. Love and Community are two things we are trying to cultivate through our #4Lincoln campaign.

Simple is powerful. Don’t cram your days full of activities and don’t make everything big and complicated. Keep the holiday simple, so you are free to serve those in need and celebrate with those you love.

Second, be there. Tell your family and friends that you love them by giving them your focused attention. Communicate ‘I value you enough to give you my most precious asset- my time.’ You can always make more money, but you cannot make more time. Schedules that are full and hectic do not communicate focused attention to those we love.

Jesus showed His love to others by being there. He gave people time and focused His attention on them when they needed His help, His comfort, and His protection. Show up in the lives of those you love- that includes your church family.

Third, give with delight. God uses giving as an antidote for materialism. He loves when we give with a cheerful heart (2 Corinthians 9:7). Jesus knew there was more happiness in giving than receiving.

We’ve replaced true, heartfelt, delightful giving with a hollow materialism that keeps us all overspending during the holidays. Instead, we should give from our hearts. As your pastor, I’d like to see you expand your definition of giving beyond the financial. How could you bless others if you also shared your time and talents?

When we learn generosity in giving, it builds our faith as we look to be generous with the world. The essence of Christmas is that we simply and humbly give of ourselves, just as God gave generously and sacrificially to us through His Son, Jesus Christ.

There you have it. Three things to make your holiday season a blessed one.

Blessings,


P.S. Don’t let the hectic pace of the season hinder you. Experience the peace, joy, and love that Christmas brings. Invite a friend to join us this Sunday at 9:15 or 11:00 and discover a peace that surpasses our comprehension- yes- especially at Christmas time.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Let's Change Together

read an article this week that hit me between the eyes. It was written by Tim Parsons, an executive Pastor at First Assembly Community Church. I would like to attempt to summarize what he was writing about.
He started by saying change is a function of growth. Churches, organizations, things, people cannot grow unless they change. The reason this hit me between the eyes is: I like consistency. I’m prone to just keep doing the things the same way I’ve been doing. Can’t we grow as a church without change? As much as I wish we could- we cannot.
Why is change so hard for us? Parsons suggests 5 things:
1.        I don’t want to. It may be because we’re obstinate or don’t agree with change. But we cannot grow without a willingness to change.
2.       I don’t see the value. To see the value we have to see the bigger picture of what God wants to accomplish through us.
3.       I’m comfortable. We all know how much hard work is involved in changing anything. To help us break through this resistance to change, we must see ‘there’ is better than ‘here.’ That makes it easier to leave my place of comfort and move to that place.
4.       We’ve tired that before. Sometimes what didn’t work in the past may work now because the culture is constantly changing. Perhaps something was missing back then that is not missing now. It is worth the risk of change to determine if that ‘something’ was missing in the past.
5.        It’s too much work. This is similar to our comfort zones mentioned in number 3. Change does demand us to work harder because change brings with it new systems, new processes, new personalities, and a new focus.
I so desire for us to learn and grow and change together. I want us to do whatever change is necessary to accomplish the mission. The soul of men and women, boys and girls, are at stake. We must see people introduced to Christ and have their lives changed from the inside-out. Their eternities hang in the balance. I can’t be comfortable with where we are. I hope you can’t be comfortable either.

I desire disciples to be fully devoted and obedient to Christ. Growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus is a far better ‘there’ than ‘here.’

I desire to see First Free be a greater light in the community of Lincoln, as a church that would be missed if we weren‘t a part of our city.

These desires of mine cannot be realized without your help in fulfilling our mission. Change is directly tied to our mission and if we don’t change, it means that we will not be fulfilling our mission and could, in a worst-case scenario, become extinct.

Let’s change together!