Thursday, June 25, 2015

One and Done?

We all have heard of the “nones,” the fastest growing segment of our population who have no church background, affiliation or understanding of church life. But there is also a growing number of “dones.” Those who do have church backgrounds, affiliations and understanding of church life but are done with it all.

The top reasons:

The church is judgmental. Yes, it is, but as humans we are judgmental at every level: work, social class, race, etc…

The church is full of hypocrites. Guilty again. But leaving the church won’t make it better. Being authentic, transparent and helping others will.

The church is too institutional. It is possible to be too institutional instead of taking a loosely-organized organic community. But being anti-institutional isn’t good either. A happy medium is needed in the church.

The church is too political. True. But the good news is that God is not a Democrat, Republican or Independent. There is a whole new generation moving up (Praise God) who are tired of political bullying. They want meaningful conversations.

The church complicates my life. Too many events interfere with my life. Thankfully, God is raising up a generation of church leaders who are driven by God’s eternal purpose for the church rather than by programs, events and schedules.

The church is too dogmatic. Maybe. But truth is truth. And if we leave no room for dialogue or conversation then we can appear dogmatic. Let’s leave room for real discussion.

The church just wants my money. This is a tough one because Jesus and the Bible talk more about this subject than any other. Generosity and giving is a spiritual issue, not a financial issue. When we give, we reflect God’s nature, our faith grows and the world is ultimately impacted. We’ve got to talk about it.

The church doesn’t care about issues that matter. What matters to you may not matter to me. The single most important issue is the gospel and proclamation. I am impressed that the church is waking up to problems of poverty, education, environment, human trafficking, civil rights, etc… We shouldn’t be afraid to address these things.

The church let me down. No one church can meet everyone’s need, solve everyone’s problem, connect with everybody. So, what if nobody bailed? What if everyone decided to stay and work out their issues and be part of the solution?

Don’t say “I’m done,” rather “I’m done with my part in the problems I see, but I’m going to be part of the solution.”


P.S. Facing a terminal illness? A child of divorce? Struggling as a single mom to raise your family? Choosing purity over promiscuity? All these things take courage. How courageous are you as a person? This Sunday at 9:15am and 11:00am we begin a three week journey on courage: standing strong during trying times. 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Stopping Leakage

Ok, it’s time again to refresh with you the mission of First Free. Why? Because vision and mission leaks, and therefore we have to be reminded of these things over and over again. To stop the leakage, we review our vision and mission to get us back to “why.” Usually we begin to feel lost in the “what” the church is doing. We must get back to the “why!” Nothing matters more than “why” we do what we do!

Why do we worship, preach, teach, encourage Life Group participation and getting you involved in the community? Why do we also talk about you investing in your neighborhood, workplace and school? Why are we asking you to invite your unchurched friends? Why do we want you volunteering for agencies in our community? Why do we want you serving in the church?

Why are we constantly changing the systems, structures, processes, policies and programs? Why? Because of our mission. 
Our mission at First Free is this: to introduce people to a personal relationship with Jesus, develop them into fully devoted disciples (followers) and equip them to reach their community and world. 
 This is “why” we do what we do.
 It’s easy for us to forget the main thing. It’s easy to view all of our processes and structures through the lens of the believer rather than through the lens of the lost. It’s easy for the church to become a cruise ship rather than a battle ship. It’s easy to forget that it’s all about changed lives – transformed lives through Jesus.

Churches grow numerically and spiritually when their people are inviting. People invite when lives are changing. Lives change when we stay focused on changed lives – the mission.

Every ministry in the church has its own miniature version of the mission. We must make sure they are aligned properly to the mission.

Misalignment in the church, whether it is a person or a program, causes the same symptoms as a car when it is misaligned: it’s harder to steer, it moves off course easily, it takes more energy to move forward and eventually, it burns out (like volunteers in the church).

So, review the mission of First Free. It’s stated above. Proper alignment to it increases forward momentum, energized you and the ministries you are involved in. Remember the “why!”


P.S. Remember Ferguson, Missouri? Baltimore? What was your reaction? Ever think that the Caucasian race is superior to all others? Ever judge someone because of the color of their skin? This week’s Hot Potato is racism. Join me at 9:15am or 11:00am as we address this important subject. Don’t forget the free breakfast for anyone from 8:00am-10:30am in the Multipurpose Room.





Thursday, June 11, 2015

How is your memory?

Sorry to say I almost forgot my 39th Anniversary day. It wasn’t until the actual day that I remembered. Not one of my better moves. How is your memory? The older I am getting, the more it seems to be slipping. Cindy can call me at the office five minutes before I am to drive home, tell me to pick up a loaf of bread and I forget to do it. How about your car keys? Every day I waste five minutes of time searching for my car keys. I thought I’d taken them out of my pockets to place them where the keys are to be placed only to discover I forgot to – they’re still in my pocket.

Now, any doctor will tell you the big seven lifestyle based ways to improve your memory. Eat right (celery, cauliflower, walnuts, broccoli, omega 3, fresh vegetables), exercise, stop multitasking, get a good night’s sleep, play brain games, master a new skill (I think I am going to take up knitting.), and try mnemonic devices (like acronyms, rhymes, visualization).

I would like to add an eighth. It probably fits under the brain game skill but it has a dual purpose. It is memorizing Scripture. Not only does it help improve memory, it internalizes God’s truth in your life for all time. The Psalmist declared “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your Word. With all my heart I have sought You; do not let me wander from Your commandments. Your Word I have treasured in my heart that I many not sin against You.” (Psalm 119:9-11)

Let me give you some tips for memorizing Scripture in hopes to improve your memory and to help you be continually conscious of God’s Word as you go through your daily routine.

1. Choose a verse to memorize that speaks to something in your life right now.

2. Start small. (John 11:35 says “Jesus wept.” There’s your first verse memorized.)

3. Write the verse down.

4. Say the verse out loud.

5. Incorporate the verse in your prayers.

6. Put the verse everywhere: bathroom mirror, refrigerator, computer, pocket, textbooks, etc…

7. Use music to help. (Sing it or find songs to put to Scripture.)

8. Make it a fun game. (Have someone quiz you or fill in the blank with missing words from the verse.)

9. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Get started today. You will be surprised how Bible memorization will help your memory! Well, unless it’s your 39th anniversary.


P.S. The second “Hot Potato” topic will explore what the Bible says about same-sex marriage. Don’t miss it. See you this Sunday, June 14th at 9:15am or 11:00am.