Thursday, May 23, 2013

You Need To Ask Yourself...

You probably have heard that the American Evangelical Church is in a rather desperate condition. Church researchers George Barna and Thom Rainer claim that fewer people are attending church than we realize. We are planting one fourth the number of new churches needed to keep pace with the American current population growth and rate of decline in existing churches.

One of the things this means for First Free and other churches is that we must change and adapt if we want to remain relevant to the culture and hope to see growth. Let me clarify what I mean by change and adapt. God's word, the Gospel, Jesus and the church as Jesus intended it to be, have always been, are now, and always will be relevant without our help. These must never change.

But we often hold on to extra-biblical traditions and ideas that severely limit our ability to communicate with a young generation. Satan's goal is to blind the minds of those who don't know Christ or the Gospel, and may I be so bold as to say we often help by handing out our blinders such as inauthenticity, traditionalism, and political struggles within the church driven by fear and selfishness. Today's churches must change in these kinds of things.

God's desire is to enlarge his family. (2 Peter 3:9) This matters to him and it should matter to us. If people who are lost forever without the Gospel matter...and if the church of the future matters...we must embrace the pain of change for the win of more people seeing Jesus.

Change impacts us emotionally. Change is hard on us. That is why we resist it so much. Would you help me reach our current culture - which is shaped by its technology and entertainment more than its religious and historical roots - by accepting some changes?

Would you ask yourself the following questions as I had to ask myself:

Will I place any need to control, which is based on fear, on the altar of sacrifice and rely on the Holy Spirit? Will I trust the undersheperds of the church without the red tape of 'this is the way it has always been done'?

Will I be willing to take risks, spend money, change names, reconstitute, relaunch, venture into new fields of ministry by faith, rather than remaining safe and comfortable in my holy huddle?

Will I get over my demand for my own preferences to be met? Will I welcome newcomers with love and wisdom and listen and learn from them rather than leaving the responsibility of adaptation to them?

Will I change to reach the current culture knowing I will have to change again in the methods of ministry?

P.S. This Sunday, Pastor Brian Abbott, will be preaching as we move along in the series Unleashed! Come and listen to his message, Strengthening the Church!

A place where God & community come together.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

When Tragedy Strikes

Yesterday, I officiated the funeral of Kristi Perrotto. She was 46 years old and died of cancer. As I stood before her husband and three children ages 14, 12 and 10, I couldn't help but think of how difficult life will become for them without a wife and growing up without a mom.

For many, her death seems like a tragedy. Of course, for Kristi, it's a victory. She is with Jesus. But when death, tragedy and loss occurs, what should we do? Let me share five things that we should focus on in any tragedy.

First, release your grief. Why? Because death, tragedy and loss can create strong emotions. Deal with those emotions. Don't push them down, deny them, repress them or rehearse them. Release your true feelings about the tragedy to God. (Read Matthew 5:4)

Second, receive from others. To make it through a crisis you need others' support, encouragement and presence. (Read Galatians 6:2)

Third, refuse to be bitter. Happiness is always a choice. To prevent the tragedy from making you bitter remember - you must accept what you cannot change. You focus on what remains, not what's lost.

Fourth, remember what is important. Your relationship with God, your relationship with your family, your relationship with others - these things can never be taken from you. Even in death you have the memories of the person. Possessions, careers, health - all can be lost but not our relationship with God. (Read Romans 8:38-39)

Last of all, rely on Christ. He is our rock, shelter, shepherd, hiding place, stabilizer and so much more. Even in our darkest hours, rely on Him. (Read Psalms 23:4)


P.S. This Sunday we will be talking about ways to keep love alive! We are in Acts 19 this week - you won't want to miss it! See you then!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Mother's Day is Coming!

There is not a more influential or powerful role on earth than a mother. As significant as political, military, educational, or religious public figures may be, none can compare to the impact made by mothers. Their words are never fully forgotten, their touch leaves a treasured impression, and the memory of their presence lasts a lifetime. I ask you, who else is anywhere near that influential?

If you were blessed with a good mother as I was, you will reap the benefits the rest of your days. The words of Abraham Lincoln ring true: "No one is poor who had a good mother."

Mothers, Grandmothers, Expectant mothers, Great Grandmothers - On behalf of all of us at First Free, we salute you. I hope you have a very happy Mother's Day.

Searching through the Scripture I came up with several things we should be thankful for relating to all a mother does. Spend some time with your mother this Sunday and talk about these things. Look up the passages together and at the end of the list say, "Mom, thanks for all you do and have done, I love you."

A mother conceives - John 16:2

A mother cooks - 1 Kings 17:2

A mother clothes - 1 Samuel 2:18-19

A mother coaches - Proverbs 6:20

A mother covers - Matthew 23:37

A mother consecrates - 1 Samuel 1:9-11

A mother converts - 2 Timothy 1:5

A mother considers - Luke 2:18-19

A mother cares - Isaiah 49:15

A mother comforts - Isaiah 66:13


P.S. Mothers, we have a couple of surprises this Sunday to honor you at our 9:00 & 10:30 worship services. You won't want to miss it!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Have you ever had a bad experience while visiting a church? Do you think people have had a bad experience while visiting First Free? It's one thing to get people in the door once, but to get them to come back or to call First Free their church home, that's much tougher.

The experts who study churches and ask people why they don't come back a second time have found some common denominators. Let me share ten of these and please take a moment to evaluate First Free in light of the list.

  1. Offer no easy way to plug into community - is it easy for people who visit to get involved in life groups?
  2. Doesn't feel welcoming in the parking lot - people make up their minds about the church before they enter through the doors. If you see someone you don't know in the parking lot, go out of your way to greet them.
  3. Don't acknowledge I'm in the service - visitors want us to know they are there.
  4. Acknowledge me too much - visitors want us to know they are there but don't want to stand, speak or raise hands.
  5. Don't give much thought or care to kid's ministry - safety is king today.
  6. Pass the offering bag twice.
  7. Don't share the Gospel or challenge me spiritually - people checking a church out want to be spiritually challenged.
  8. Asked to share their email address and then spammed with emails - they don't want to be bombarded with every bit of news from every ministry in the church.
  9. Visit me at home; random stop by's are a no-no to today's generation.
  10. Pastor disappears as soon as he finishes preaching.

If you want our guests to return, we all must be warm and inviting. We must challenge them to grow and offer various opportunities to plug in and serve. How are you doing?


P.S. Ever feel like the bad guys are winning? Ever think that you're not eloquent enough for God to use your story? Join me at 9:00 and 10:30 Sunday morning as we attempt to answer these questions!