Thursday, February 28, 2013

For the first time in a long time I was speechless. Hard to imagine, isn’t it? In 35 years of ministry I didn’t know what to say. A person asked me a simple question, “Who is the ideal church member?” I’ve never been asked that. I’ve been asked what makes the ideal Pastor or ideal church but never what makes the ideal church member.

I told the person asking the question that I’d get back to them once I had some time to think about it. Well, here are nine characteristics I suggest could be the answer to the question.

The ideal church member…

1.       Understands and identifies with the mission and goals of the church. Can you state the mission, vision and two goals of First Free for this year?

2.       Attends worship more than once every three weeks. The first sign of a person beginning to drop out of church is declining church attendance.

3.       Feels a sense of spiritual progress. Do you feel more conformed to Christ today than yesterday?

4.       Has taken the formal steps of partnership. The church needs partners (members) who will own the achievement of their church’s mission.

5.       Has friends in the church. The average friendships in church is seven. Two or less usually leads to dropout.

6.       Has discovered, developed and deployed his/her spiritual gift. This indicates a person truly is assimilated into the church.

7.       Is involved in a life group. People in life groups seldom dropout of church - we needs others to speak into our lives.

8.       Gives at least 10% to the church.  Assimilated people are committed to the ministry that ministers to them.

9.       Regularly and intentionally shares the Gospel with family and friends. Relationships are still the number one reason a person trusts in Christ.

There you go! My thoughts on the ideal church member. How do you feel you are measuring up?

Monday, February 25, 2013

Image Problems

Christianity has an image problem. People today view the church and the people in it as hyper political (75% of those polled), out of touch (72%), pushy in their beliefs (70%), and arrogant (64%). The most common perceptions are that we as Christians are homophobic (91%), hypocritical (85%) and judgmental (87%).

The reasons people today abandon the church is just as sobering: no value in attending (74%), no time (48%), not interested (42%), they always ask for money (40%) and boring services (36%).

So, how do we reach a culture for Christ when we have such an image problem? I think part of the answer is building relationships with unbelievers. (By the way, they don’t like being described as unbelievers but you know what I mean.)

A friend of mine told me this week of how he and his wife have been building a relationship with another couple who are unbelievers. I think there are some lessons to learn from their experience. He and his wife ate breakfast at the same McDonalds about 300 times a year. Eventually, every employee knew them on a first name basis and started sharing their life with them. Often times, my friends would say “we will pray about that for you.” They didn’t preach, just showed genuine concern.

A solid friendship was established with the manager of the McDonalds – even to the point where she invited my friends to the annual Christmas Party! She was about to have her third child with her third boyfriend when she discovered the baby had Down syndrome. Amazingly enough, she confided in my friends asking them what she should do?

My friends encouraged her and her boyfriend to have the baby – this became the tipping point for her to put her faith and trust in Jesus Christ. Lukey was born and my friends were asked to be godparents. They attended the eventual wedding of the couple and the first three birthday parties of little Lukey. My friends led this McDonalds manager to Christ and are now longing for the husband to trust in Christ as well.

Their story reminded me that in order to correct our image problem we need to listen to the unchurched, genuinely love on them, engage in conversation with them, accept them for who they are and explore with them what an authentic relationship with Christ is all about. One on one might just be the way we change our image.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


I came across a fascinating article in the Boston Globe entitled “The New American Dream” written by Neal Gabler. He talks about the American Dream and how it's changed over the last fifty years. The dream is no longer about seizing opportunity but about realizing perfection.

Therefore, the career has to be perfect, the spouse has to be perfect, the children have to be perfect, the home has to be perfect, the social circle has to be perfect. And we will seemingly do whatever it takes to attain this perfection, from plastic surgery to gated communities of McMansions to the professionalization of our children’s activities like soccer and baseball to pricey preschools that prepare 4-year olds for Harvard.

Gabler concludes the new American Dream is no longer opportunity to get an education and strive to reach your full potential through persistence, dedication and hard work but has morphed into perfection where we think it is birthright to be rich, beautiful, brilliant, powerful and to live not just the good life but the perfect one.

If you would eaves drop on our cultures thinking, you would sense a shift of the American Dream into the Great American Right: “I am entitled to the perfect car, house, spouse, job, fill in the blank.” So we do not expect a chance at a job but the guarantee of one.

If there is a theme to our day, it’s that it is all about me. The names say it all: YouTube, MySpace, iPod, iTunes, iPhone and so on.

It can be very easy for all of us to carry this same “entitlement attitude” into the church. I am entitled to my musical style (and it better be perfect), my seat, my parking space, my style of preaching, and my ministry.

Paul said we need the attitude of Jesus who gave up his divine privileges, humbled himself to the point of death...all for the sake of others. (Phil 2) Let’s help each other take on the attitude of Jesus and live our lives contrary to the cultures attitude. Remember, it’s not about me. It’s not about you. It’s about others, especially those who don’t know Jesus personally.
PS. Ever think that some Christians are nothing more than fakes? Ever struggle with hypocrisy in your own life? You won’t want to miss church this Sunday as we address these issues!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

In for a complete overhaul

I just returned this week from a 4 day cruise aboard The Carnival Destiny (can you believe I forgot to pack my Speedo??). This ship was built in 1995 and is the largest of its kind with swimming pools, a water slide, basketball courts, miniature golf, a casino (I didn’t play), multiple restaurants, rooms to sleep 4,000 people and much more.

This ship will take one more cruise than port for a complete overhaul; two more decks will be added as well as specialty restaurants to keep up with the changes of the times in order to service more people and their needs.

This ship reminded me of an important lesson: every innovation has an expiration date. At some point, new isn’t new anymore, regardless of what the package says. Everything that is currently in place was adopted as an improvement over an outdated approach that was at one time a revolutionary idea. And so it goes with the church and its approach as well.

Everything that is currently in place begun as a challenge to the status quo in a previous generation. What’s ugly now was beautiful then. What feels irrelevant now was cutting edge once upon a time. New ideas are generally considered bad ideas, then they become normative. Then, eventually, they are yesterday’s news. Nothing is new or innovative forever.

Our best ideas will eventually go the way of hand bell choirs, bus ministries, potluck dinners, and dressing up for church. We are foolish to think our ideas are trans-generational. We are equally foolish to assume that we will intuitively be able to sniff out the need to change in our church.

Why do we hang onto those things that now are ineffective in reaching the current culture? Truth is, the clock is ticking on our good ideas and it’s ticking backwards and it’s ticking faster than we think.


P.S. You won’t want to miss Sunday’s message at 9:00 and 10:30am! Greg Stier, our guest speaker, will motivate you spiritually in such a way you will want to conquer the world!