In light of the sermon this past Sunday (November 10, 2019) on being a member of the body of Christ, I want to make a book recommendation. The small book by Thom Rainer entitled “I am a Church Member” is an excellent primer on what it means to be a church member. Buy this book and read it. Better yet, seek to put this teaching into practice. You (and your fellow church members at King of Glory) will be blessed.
For the last few weeks our adult Sunday School class has been learning about and discussing gender identity issues in the culture. I promised to give the students in that class links to recommended resources to read, listen, or watch to continue growing in wisdom concerning this important topic. Below you will find general recommendations of sources for excellent content from a biblical worldview along with recommendations of individual articles or videos.
Breakpoint - John Stonestreet
World Magazine and/or “World & Everything In It” daily podcast
Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood- they have a weekly summary with links to stories about gender and sexuality in the church and in society
The impact of small churches is more about influence than attendance
If we’re not focusing on numbers, why not start looking at the impact that we can have and the advantages of being small.
You might not see that numerical growth that coincides with the growth of influence.
The pastoral Prime Mandate: to equip God’s people for works of service (Eph 4:11-12)
The three essential elements of a healthy, effective church: The Great Commandment, Great Commission and Equipping God’s people
Unhealthy churches aren’t doing the Great Commandment, the Great Commission or equipping the saints
Loving, but ineffective churches are doing the Great Commandment, but not the Great Commission or equipping God’s people
Overworked pastor and passive members when we’re doing the Great Commandment and the Great Commission, but are not equipping God’s people
Healthy, effective churches and pastors are doing all three
Karl- When our church was unhealthy, we focused on the Great Commandment: Love God (worship services), Love others (potlucks). That was all we did. We healed to the point of moving towards the Great Commission.
If you do all the work for your church, they’ll let you.
Greatest way to increase influence: mentoring. Equip the people you have to reach the people you don’t have
Do ministry from the church, not just in the church. In practice, we are actually trying to get people into our seats.
Influential small churches do:
fewer events- If we add something in the week, we need to give them something that they aren’t getting on Sunday morning (worship, teaching, fellowship). In small churches, they can’t get ‘outside the walls’ ministry on a Sunday morning. Big churches push small group ministry because people can’t get fellowship on Sunday morning. But in small churches they can get all of that on Sunday morning.
simpler structures- we need to develop a strategy for our church of how we grow people in maturity
What does your church do that your phone can’t do? We have to do what only the church can do. Physically be in the same room with other people who love Jesus too. Swing back to ‘analog’ over ‘digital’ - what an opportunity for church.
primary difference between two types of small churches
50 people- as a pastor you can be there for everyone
150 people- you are pushed more to equip others; you can be main provider of ministry but you have to have trained others
most of us are “chaplain-ing” (does ministry for people & bring ministry to people) our churches and not “pastoring” (equip people to do work of ministry) our churches.
recommended book: “Dirt Matters” Jim Powell
Pastor in rural Indiana who had an ‘ah-ha’ moment “We do funeral receptions well!” He told the funeral director that they would host funeral receptions for anyone who died in their town. As a result, they touched the lives of everyone in that town/county and grew. “Church growth through funeral receptions”
Do what you know to do, pay attention to what works, and why
After you discover what your church does well, do it on purpose
Front-load the value: feature what you do well
The smaller your church is, the more singular your focus needs to be
Use the “closet rule” for ministries: Don’t add a new one until you’ve dropped an old one
What does your church do well, that you would like to do more of?
What does your church do poorly, that you would like to do less of?
Ask: “If our church wasn’t already doing this, would we start doing it?”
after every event, we do a major assessment - what worked? what didn’t?
can a church do senior ministry primarily? you have to be thinking at least the decade out; consider following groups like AARP to see how they keep on the cutting edge of senior ministry
We have to stop being driven by our structures, programs and habits
We don’t need ‘cool’ churches. We need churches that are appropriate for our context.
Move out of a destination mindset and into a process orientation
destination mindset- we arrived at that destination & we stayed there (we got the building, we’ve bolted pews, and the pulpit won’t be moved until the last member of the family that donated the pulpit has died) now we can ‘rest’ but then we lose touch with the neighborhood
Most unhealthy churches look like what their neighborhood used to look like at the time when the church was founded or at the time when the last great pastor was there.
process orientation- we are going to change things but we will explain why & have a process for it.
Churches can handle change, but they don’t like to be surprised
The Sweet Spot: God, the church and the pastor’s hearts meet
The Default: God and the pastor, but not the church
The Listening Place: God and the church, but not the pastor
The Danger Zone: The Church and the pastor, but not God
Do not mistake the absence of conflict for the presence of God.
It’s OK for a pastor’s vision to be helping people fulfill their vision.
Karl’s church grew to 150 people after 15 years, then in two years grew to 400, then in one year was back down to under 100
their growth was mostly through ‘transfer’ growth instead of new believers; “we were the cool church in town for awhile, then people left for the other cool church"
we weren’t training and discipling our people
Karl isn’t called, equipped, or gifted to be a large church pastor
Over 90% of our churches are under 200, over 80% are under 100
First Reaction: Oh no!
Second Reaction: So what?
Final Reaction: Now what?
The average size of a church in the whole world is 75 people.
The smaller your church is, the less help you can get from large church resources.
The law of large numbers: the bigger the crowd, the more predictably it behaves.
The smaller the crowd, the more impact each person has – for good and bad.
Big churches that are healthy know that they need to fight against the tendency to attract passive observers. Small churches that are healthy fight against those who seek control in a smaller setting.
Big church principles center on process, systems & programs
Small church principles center on relationships, culture & history.
Discipleship in a small church should not be based on a curriculum but instead be based on relationship.
Culture- set of invisible rules that governs all you do. "Culture eats strategy for breakfast."
type of churches in the way they respond to ideas:
Stubborn- “we don’t do it that way” they have been hardened by hurt; patiently love them
Shallow- say “that’s a great idea, pastor!” then don’t follow through; help them go deeper
Busy- “let’s add that to all the other things we are doing”; help them simplify
Small towns have long memories and so do small churches.
Don’t do what our founders did, think like our founders thought. Honor the past and move into the future.
I am blessed to attend the morning sessions at SIT, the Summer Institute of Theology, on the campus of the Bible College and Seminary in Plymouth. I wanted to share my notes with you. For each day I attend (Monday through Thursday this week) I will share my notes from Karl Vaters’ sessions on small church ministry. They are tidbits, snippets, main bullet points, and perhaps a few of my thoughts. These notes may lead to some good discussion in our congregation. Enjoy! ~Pastor Brett
Monday: Redefining Success In Ministry
there are two types of small churches: 50 people give/take 50, 150 people give/take 50
Define success in ministry without having numbers attached to it.
What is The Grasshopper Myth? "The false impression that our Small Church ministry is less than what God says it is because we compare ourselves with others.” based on Numbers 13:32-33, "All the people we saw there are of great size. …We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”
Three undeniable realities of pastoral ministry:
Reality #1: 80-90% of churches will never be larger than 250 people
Reality #2: Virtually all pastors will pastor a small church for at least some time in our ministry
Reality #3: You can lead a small church well, without settling for less
Small is not a problem, virtue, or excuse.
Start figuring out what you’re called to do at the size you are at right now.
Don’t fall for the myth of inevitability: "If I do everything right, we will inevitably grow”
Over one billion people choose to worship God in small churches.
What does ‘quality’ look like in a small church?
Reasons people give for attending a small church:
1. The pastor knows my name
2. I can have an impact there
3. When I’m gone, they miss me.
Sometimes people don’t want to be further sub-divided into small groups. Small group ministry is more vital in larger churches because they can’t get what they get at a small group in their large group gatherings.
It's been about a year since we lost our beloved friends, Pastor Les Galland and his wife Jan. The shock of losing both of them within a month still stings to this day. I’d like to take this opportunity to reflect on their lives.
Pastor Robert Lee shared a text during one of the funerals that has stuck with me over this past year as I remember Les and Jan.
Hebrews 13:7 Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.
Sometimes, it can be helpful to plug in actual names of people to a pronoun in Scripture. If we plug Les and Jan’s names into the words “your leaders” in Hebrews 13:7, we are blessed to remember and think about a real-life example of this verse being fleshed out. We are called to “imitate their faith.”
One of my favorite Twitter users is a guy who calls himself, “The Batting Stance Guy.” He posts short videos of himself imitating the baseball batting stance (how a batter stands while he waits for a pitch) of major league baseball players. The videos are funny because he exaggerates the tendencies of each batter. If Pete Rose used to squat down, The Batting Stance Guys squats a little bit further. Baseball fans like me smile, knowing the original player. If we were to “step up to the plate” of life while imitating Pastor Les and Jan, what would that look like?
While I could write more, I want to offer two ways I am seeking to imitate Pastor Les and Jan’s lives. First and foremost, they had a simple trust in Jesus and lived their lives accordingly. Being a Christian, a follower of Christ, was so vital to their existence. It was a real part of their lives. And it was the most important thing in their lives that informed everything else. Everything they cared about and promoted always came back to that central point: that Jesus is Lord and Savior, and He is Lord and Savior of my life. They wanted others to have that simple faith and trust in Jesus. They exemplified that to me by talking about and praying for others who needed to have that assurance of faith. It’s easy for me to forget the reality of everyone’s eternal destination. I’m seeking to make it a habit to pray daily for those around me who aren’t saved.
Second, they loved fellowship. I’m personally not a big “hugger” like Pastor Les was, but I am learning to dish out a few more here and there. This simple act, hugging a person as they enter the doors of church, highlighted for me the love that this ministry couple had for people. They sincerely loved to be around others and welcome them into fellowship. Anyone who remembers them will remember being warmly greeted by Les and Jan. Another aspect of fellowship that Pastor Les and Jan both thoroughly enjoyed was having meals together. There’s something about food that brings people together. This ministry couple understood that well and loved every minute of it. I recall attending the Tuesday morning Bible study a few times. Jan had prepared a smorgasbord of options to eat. It was a full-blown meal of “snacks.” A little sugar and a little spot of coffee helps the fellowship flow around the sweet nectar of God’s Word.
Imitate Les and Jan’s faith. “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” When we imitate someone else, we are genuinely complementing them on a life well-lived. Certainly each person (and pastor) is different, with different strengths and weaknesses. But we can still benefit from seeking to imitate the strengths of those who have gone before us. I want to live my life in a way that others would want to imitate my faith. Have you thought about that angle to your own life?
In what ways will you imitate the faith of Pastor Les and Jan? Leave a comment. Or, better yet, ask this question around a table in the fellowship hall with a donut and coffee in hand.
A few of my friends have asked me why I have not preached any of the “imprecatory psalms” in the current preaching series at King of Glory Lutheran during the early months of 2018. I’m surprised that I have been asked this a few times. I even asked myself this question when laying out the Psalms series. Yes, I chose not to include one or a few of these psalms in the list of psalms to preach. There were just too many other psalms that I wanted to preach. I did want this series to have a more “positive” tone about it, so the imprecatory psalms were squeezed out. But, today, they get a blog post.
Before I get any further, we need to know what we are talking about here. What is an “imprecatory psalm”? Thanks for asking. The word “imprecatory” means to call down curses (or evil) on another person. The “imprecatory psalms” are a handful of psalms that express curses upon enemies. They are Psalm 35, 55, 59, 69, 79, 109, and 137. Here’s a sample that leads us to raise our eyebrows: “O daughter of Babylon, doomed to be destroyed, blessed shall he be who repays you with what you have done to us! Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!” (Psalm 137:8-9). The imprecatory psalms contain verses like this. The psalmist feels free to cry out for the destruction of their enemies or the enemies of God.
Why are they included in the Bible? What benefit can they be for us? After all, Jesus taught, “Love your enemies.” How could it be loving to call down curses on a person?
One of the things I love most about the imprecatory psalms is that they dispel the Christianese notion of niceness. “Be nice” we are told by well-meaning people in authority positions. When we are told to “be nice” we might bottle up that anger or wrath that we feel is necessary to be poured out on the one who has hurt us.
The rawness, the realness, and the ragged emotions that come out of imprecatory psalms show us that God knows we feel hurt, scarred, and angry when we are sinned against. God cares deeply about injustice. We learn from imprecatory psalms that life is messy, life hurts, and people do bad stuff against us, even as we also sin against others. We can admit that and not pretend it doesn’t happen.
Yet, there is something that’s different about the imprecatory psalms compared to a general calling down of curses on others. God is firmly in the picture in the imprecatory psalms. The psalmist is directing this cursing in the direction of God, pleading for Him to bring justice. We should never curse out a fellow person, even if they deserve it. When we are honest with our hurt, we cry out to God to do something about it. He will. He will make all things right. If we in our own power call down curses on others or take it upon ourselves to bring justice, we won’t carry it out to the fullest extent. But God does. Thankfully. As verse 22 in the imprecatory Psalm 55 reminds us, “Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.” And, hey, it might be helpful for you to read one of the imprecatory psalms on a day when you have been hurt by someone. It will, at least, force you to cry out to God in your hurt.
The season of Lent is quickly approaching. I really enjoy our Wednesday night Lenten services. Historically, these times have offered an opportunity for special teaching, or catechesis. Each year a different topic has been chosen to dive into as we go through this time leading up to Good Friday and Easter Sunday. This year, 2018, I’d like us to explore the topic of grief. Over the past few years at King of Glory Lutheran we have had a number of loved ones die, both those that were part of our church and also those who were family and friends. In one way or another, each one of us is touched by grief.
The theme of our Lenten services this year is “Grief: An Uninvited Guest.” Grief is just that, an uninvited guest. When Theresa and I were starting to have sparks fly between us before we were married, I came with a group of friends to Theresa’s parents house in Wisconsin. At the end of the night, we were saying goodbye to Theresa’s parents. I said to Theresa’s dad, “Thanks for having me here tonight.” He replied in a dead-pan voice, “I didn’t invite you here.” Grief, as personified, shows up at our house when we least expect it, uninvited. It might slowly creep into your house. Either way, grief is a guest that we don’t particularly enjoy. Yet, it is there. How should we handle it?
Lent, in a way, is a season of death. In the church year it is set aside as a time of reflection, repentance, and further learning as we approach the marking of Jesus dying on the cross on Good Friday and as we celebrate Jesus rising from the dead on Easter Sunday. We will take these weeks to examine Scripture that teaches us about grief. We will be shown examples of how some biblical characters handled grief. Through it all, we will be pointed to Jesus Christ, who has conquered death, hell, and the devil through His death and resurrection.
Please mark your calendars for the six weeks of Lent. It’s a bit odd that Ash Wednesday (the first Wednesday in Lent) happens to land this year on Valentine’s Day, February 14th. Come on out to church these nights. We’ll start at 7:00 pm each Wednesday and enjoy a modified worship service, complete with singing the rich, somber tones of Lenten hymns. There might even be a special music piece! Please bring a friend, especially one that might benefit from learning more about grief.
Yes, that title is an attempt to make a play on words with the phrase "ringing in the new year." New Year's Eve is just around the corner. And as we think about new year's resolutions, gym memberships, the post-holidays letdown, I am thinking about what I'm going to be preaching on next.
Here at King of Glory we enjoy solid biblical preaching. And I love to do my best to deliver it! I'm delighted to announce the new sermon series. On Sunday, December 31st I will begin a sermon series through the book of Psalms! You might be thinking: that will take a long time to get through all 150 chapters in that book. I thought that too. Instead of walking through each of the chapters, I hope to give you a selection of some of the "classic" psalms, somewhat like the "greatest hits" album that you'd expect from your favorite musician.
As we "sing" along with the psalmists, we will experience the joys and sorrow of life lived as those who walk by faith. I invite you to shuffle up to the speakers and take in the tones and tunes of the psalms. Your life will be enriched.
What are some of your favorite psalms?
in Christ, Pr Brett