Thursday, May 26, 2016

Summertime Challenge

Summertime presents challenges for every church. People are very busy and mobile in the summer, and sadly, some families will disengage from their local church from Memorial Day Sunday until the beginning of school, or even after Labor Day.

May I make a suggestion to you for this summer? Don’t disengage from the church! Use the summer as the time to renew your mind spiritually, refresh your spiritual walk, and rededicate your commitment to Christ and His Church. These things are harder to attend to in our lives during the rest of the year because of the normal routines of life. Yes, take a vacation. You need a couple of weeks to relax, have a complete break from routines, just don’t take the entire summer as a vacation from church.

Study after study reveals that people who engage in a faith community on a regular basis are rewarded significantly by reduced likelihood of life problems and risky behaviors, and stand to significantly improve the odds of a happier, healthier, and longer life.

But here’s the thing… being engaged in the church needs to start immediately. For those families with children, studies show that if a child is not regularly active in church by the age of 12, the odds of them getting active drops dramatically in teen years and beyond. In other words, parents who truly want the best for their children should get their children involved at church now and regularly.

The Proverb was right on: “Raise up a child in the way they should go and they won’t depart from it.”

Supervised activities such as baseball teams, dance classes, and club teams, while helpful, are poor substitutes for parents and family and the development of the spiritual self. Though the influence of these kinds of activities are important, the long-term nurturing qualities and faith values that families provide to children are what lead to spiritual development and church participation.

Another saying is: “It takes a village to raise a child.” The church can come alongside the parent(s) and help stimulate the intellectual, social, and spiritual development of children through lasting and caring relationships and the teaching of selfless values found at the core of faith.

That’s why I want everyone engaged with the church this summer. Even though the programmatic expression during the summer is different, church life challenges us to become more like Christ. Church life transforms us inside out.


P.S. Do you ever feel trapped in your faith because there are too many rules? Why does the Bible contain so many do’s and don’ts? How can I be free if I’m bogged down with so many rules? These questions create a tension for us concerning our view of God. Sunday at 9:15 and 11:00, we will look at the Bible’s answer to this tension. See you soon! 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Shift

I was reading a report by George Barna where he states that three major changes are reshaping the landscape in which we read and engage with the Bible in America today. These ‘shifts’ are most apparent among today’s youngest generations and give shape to the present and future reality within which we read and interact with the Bible.

The first shift is the ‘increasing skepticism.’
More people have more questions about the origins, relevance and authority of the Scriptures. Our culture is becoming unfriendly- sometimes even hostile- to claims of faith. In a society that venerates science and rationalism, it is an increasingly hard pill to swallow that an eclectic assortment of ancient stories, poems, sermons, prophecies, and letters- written and compiled over 2,000 years is somehow the sacred ‘Word of God.’

The question we need to ask as Christ followers is: When people ask questions about faith, do we know the Bible well enough to answer? (1 Peter 3:15)

The second shift is a ‘new moral code.’
Self-fulfillment has become the cultural measure of what is good, setting up a conflict between society and the Church. It is becoming rarer in our culture to find people who discover the truest thing about themselves is their identity in Christ.

How can the Christian community help disciples of all ages remain faithful as the culture becomes more intolerant?

The third shift is ‘digital access.’
New tools and technologies are making the Bible- and everything else- more accessible than ever before. This shift is an incredible leap forward in the ‘Bible cause’ of giving every person on earth access to God’s Word in his or her own language. What a privilege to partner with the Holy Spirit during this all-access revolution! At the same time, digital access also means an unfiltered flood of ideas and information that must be evaluated for goodness and truth.

So we must ask ourselves: ‘Are we equipping disciples, especially young disciples, with the spiritual, emotional, and mental tools they need to live wisely and for God’s glory in the ‘screen age?’


P.S. If you were God, would there be evil, pain, and suffering? If God knows more than we do, how do we handle this issue of evil and suffering in relationship to a good and Holy God? Come this Sunday at 9:15 or 11:00 am and bring a friend as we wrestle with this challenge.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Challenge, Part 3

This is the third and final installment on the challenge of the church today. I began by listing the five different generations within the church today, each with distinct beliefs, morals, and world views. I then shared with you how the responsibility of the church is to reach, train, and unleash the next generation, knowing that each current generation will eventually die and a new generation will rise up.

The next generation of the church is called “The Millennials.” Their ages are 18-30. If we hope to understand how to reach, train, and unleash them to influence their generation, we need to ask five questions as a church.

Two questions were asked and answered in the last issue: Is First Free relevant? Is First Free clear in our visual messaging? The third question to ask is: Is First Free a place of action or rest? Most church buildings today are places of action, not rest, and space to ‘do’ rather than to ‘be.’ Millennials have a great desire and need for respite.

Most churches have excellent areas set aside for corporate worship, group learning, and community, but nothing when it comes to personal reflection and prayer. Millennials say nature helps them connect with God. Does First Free provide this kind of space?

Question Four: Is our church being Jesus? Millennials don’t want to sit on the sidelines and observe. If they’re going to be part of a church, it must have value and meaning. In generations like the Boomers, people attend church out of some moral obligation to do so. Millennials won’t have any of that.

If First Free doesn’t provide meaning and value to them, they won’t participate. They’ll go and find something that does have meaning and value. They want to talk about real things, difficult messages, and explore the application. We must keep our message ‘real.’

The last question we need to ask is: Is First Free helping Millennials find mentors? Millennials don’t feel the same sense of obligation to attend church that previous generations may have. But those who are involved in a local church after their teen years are twice as likely to stay involved if they have a close personal friendship with an older adult in their faith community.

The golden opportunity for First Free is learning how to tap into all the financial, intellectual, professional, and relational capital of prior generations (especially the Boomers) and leverage it to equip the next generation (the Millennials) in the church.

Effective ministry to Millennials means helping them discover their own mission in the world, letting them teach us how to navigate life in this digital age. Mentoring Millennials isn’t just teaching and training them but also them training and teaching us.

At the end of the day, we don’t have anyone to hand-off the church to if we don’t have Millennials (18-30) at First Free. That’s the challenge of ministry today.


P.S. If you were God, don’t you think you could come up with a better world, a better plan? This Sunday we begin a new series that will add some questions we know people wrestle with. See you at 9:15 or 11:00!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

What do we need to know about millennials?

Last week I talked about the challenge the church has today because for the first time in its history it has 5 generations represented. Every generation has their own persona with distinct attitudes about family life, gender roles, institutions, politics, lifestyles, and the future. The personas develop an adherence to certain fundamental notions and a world view that shapes the group’s direction from youth to old age.

We must never forget that a generation can allow plenty of individual exceptions; as Christians, we must recognize that each person is a unique creation of God, redeemed by Christ and gifted to serve. As a church, we should never lose sight of this but we must also remember that each generation will eventually die off. It is our responsibility to pass the baton of ministry to the next upcoming generation. The church is always one operation away from extinction- so to speak.

To reach the next upcoming generation, which would be the millennials (18 to 30 year olds), the church needs to ask and answer 5 key questions. Here are the first two:

Question 1: Is First Free relevant? Millennials are looking for authenticity. This is important because this group has a dim view of the church. They are skeptical of religion. When we portray God as a cosmic buddy, we lose them. (They have enough friends.)

When we tell them God will give them a better marriage and family, it’s white noise. (They are delaying marriage and kids or forgoing them all together.) When we tell them they’re special, we’re merely echoing what educators, parents, coaches, have told them their whole lives.

But when we present a ravishing vision of a loving and Holy God, it just might get their attention and capture their hearts as well. And it can’t be words only. They want reality T.V. Are you authentically living out the mission in your own life? Is it real to you?

Question 2: Is our church clear in our visual messaging? Millennials want to go in to church and experience the space without having to ask someone questions, especially if it’s their first time at church.

Is First Free signage clear? Do we create a welcoming space that isn’t confusing? Millennials want to be able to answer the questions ‘Where am I?’ ‘What’s expected of me?’ by looking for cues in their surroundings. Does the space communicate community or privacy? Millennials prefer community. Does it communicate casual or dignified? Millennials prefer casual. When a person walks into First Free, they decide in three seconds if they like the space or not. This should give us motivation to make sure every space tells a person what that space is used for and what they should do next. (I could give an argument for why we need to upgrade our foyer, but I won’t at this time.)

The next three questions will be in next week’s Freshly Bru’d. I hope you will read all of the Challenge blogs- part one (last week), part two (this week), and part three next week.


P.S. How does a child honor his parents? How does a teenager honor his parents? How does a young adult honor his parents? How do we as older adults honor our parents? Don’t miss this Sunday’s message on Mother’s Day at 9:15 or 11:00. If you are out of town, live stream is available!