Category: invite others

Easter Outreach Idea Works…again!

Pastor John Carmichael at Evangel North Church tried the Easter Outreach Idea with great success this year. John left the following comment:

We used this idea for Easter 2008. It doubled our church attendance for Easter. We average 105, on Easter we had more than 210. Largest crowd ever! The church is still buzzing about it. Not only that, but we have retained several families it seems. The next Sunday the attendance was 125 and the one after that was 151. It seems to have created some momentum. God gets the glory!!! He used this idea to see many come to know Him and add to the church.

John gave me permission to share his results with you. He graciously offered his email address — pastorjohn [at] evangelnorth.net — and church website — www.evangelnorth.net — for those who would like to contact him for more details. The key to this outreach idea, whether you use it at Easter or some other time, is personal contact. A personal invitation, followed by a personal phone call make this plan successful. Let me know if you try it and how it works in your church. Thanks, John, and keep up the great work at Evangel North!

The church as abbey

Iona_abbey Last year, several of us in the Fuller DMin Missional Leadership program had dinner with Alan Roxburgh one evening.  Alan is one of the DMin adjunct professors, and author of The Sky Is Falling, co-author of The Missional Leader, and contributor to Missional Church, edited by Darrell Guder, the book that started this whole missional conversation.Since reading about the early Celtic Christians, I have had the idea that a local church could function like the old Celtic abbey.  So, I asked Alan about this concept of church as abbey at dinner.

Alan mentions in his book, The Missional Leader, that we need a new concept of church leadership in a reimagining of the eccleisal role of abbott or abbess.  My thinking fits Alan’s at this point — to have an abbott or abbess, you must also have an abbey which would be the local church.  Alan has visited the Northumbria Community, an early Celtic Christian region, now home to a modern-day neomonastic movement.Roots In Celtic Christian Communities

In Celtic Christian life, the monastic group established their community near a town or well-traveled crossroads.  Unlike later monastic communities, the Celtic Christian communities were not cloistered — they were open to passers-by, neighbors, and townspeople.  When disputes arose, the village knew that refuge and peace could be found inside the walls of the Celtic Christian compound.  As these communities of Christ grew, they became the centers of the community.

The abbeys were resources for worship, commerce, craft and trade, advice, hospitality, evangelism, catechesis, healing, care, and a host of other needs and ministries.  The surrounding pagan community learned that the abbey was a place where they could go for help, food, shelter, and guidance.  The concept, according to George Hunter’s Celtic Way of Evangelism, was that “belonging comes before believing.”  The monks were quick to welcome the stranger, inquirer, refugee, and others into their midst.

The Church-As-Abbey Reimagined For Today

The modern day church-as-abbey would function much the same way.  Worship, prayers, instruction, meals, and hospitality would be practiced there.  But also the church would be the “hub” in the “wheel of ministry.”  Spokes in the wheel could be house churches, small groups, ministry and social action groups, alternative worship experiences, off-campus locations, and off-site ministries.  All of these would relate to the church-as-abbey as the central resource for coordination, planning, prayer, and support.

Small groups would be connected to the abbey through the use of in-house instructional materials available by video and podcast.  Small group leaders would be facilitators using the resources from the abbey thereby preserving the clarity and consistency in teaching.

Small groups of all functions would worship at the church-as-abbey at least monthly, reporting to the abbey on a regular basis.  Small group leaders would be held accountable for ministry design, content, and outcomes.

Small churches could act as abbeys, too, without buying additional land, building additional buildings, or hiring additional staff.  The key would be creating groups external to the abbey, but related to the abbey to maintain the practice of the community.

The abbey would adopt a “rule of life” — a set of practices which its members followed, thus identifying them with the abbey’s particular philosophy and calling.  This rule, patterned after the Rule of St. Benedict, would at a minimum include regular prayer, Bible reading, worship, and service to others.  Specifics would be developed by each abbey in conversation with leaders and members of the community.

The church-as-abbey solves many of the problems of engaging the area surrounding a church.  Most ministry happens outside the church, with the church as resource.  Individuals are not first invited to “church,” but are invited, for example, to join a social action group that feeds the homeless each Tuesday night.  Churches need to get past the idea that only our church members can be involved in ministry projects.  Participants relate to the church as abbey — as resource — to their ministry long before they feel any need to join the abbey.

Only as the church moves out into the world to do the work of Christ in the way of Jesus, will we again find the vitality which the Christian community has lost to institutionalism.  The church as abbey has great potential for each church, regardless of size, to engage and befriend its ministry area — its geographical “parish.”  More work needs to be done on this concept, but I am convinced it holds great promise for the future of the church

Changing the story

Seth Godin has an excellent post on marketing in a recession. His point is this:

“When times are good, buyingSeth Godin things is a sport. It’s a reward. The story we tell ourselves is that we deserve it, that we want it and why not?

When the mass psychology changes and times are seen as not so good, the story we tell ourselves changes as well. Now, we buy out of defense, to avoid trouble. Or we buy because something will never be as cheap again. Or we buy smaller items for the same sense of reward.

Of course, the two different extremes can lead you to buy the very same thing. It’s not the thing so much as it’s the story.” — Seth Godin

What does this have to do with church? We’re in the story business.   We need to tell the story of God so those who hear it change the story they tell themselves about God. Dan Kimball’s book, They Like Jesus But Not The Church, has some clues for us.  But here are some examples of how we can help others change the story they tell themselves:

  1. Their story: “The church doesn’t respect other points of view.” Change this story by actually getting to know some non-church people, not to get them to come to church, but just to be their friend. Listen to them, treat them with respect, back off on the hard-sell, and hear what they are saying. You don’t have to agree, but you do have to listen until you can understand their viewpoint.
  2. Their story: “The church is only interested in me for my money, time, etc.” We are guilty of this often. We see people as prospects, potential church members. What if we saw and related to them as people? Period. What if we served with no thought of anything that might benefit us or our ministry?
  3. Their story: “I don’t need God. I can handle life on my own.”  Here I would tell my story. I’m glad they can handle life, but I find God’s direction, guidance, and purpose to be essential to living my life. No argument, no debate — just two people telling their stories to each other.

The old approach to evangelism was a sales pitch — present the gospel, ask for a commitment, overcome objections, close the deal.   A better way is for the other person to change the story they tell themselves; then, they’re open to finding a new story. Maybe the one you’ve found. What do you think? Is this too indirect? Any experiences to share with helping people change the story they tell themselves?

Share your outreach ideas that worked

Outreach magazine Outreach magazine has asked me to write a piece about great small church outreach ideas.  Outreach’s Jan/Feb issue premiered the section, “Small Church, Big Idea,” featuring small church outreach ideas that worked.

Here’s where you come in:  I need your ideas and your church could be featured in an upcoming issue.  Here’s what we’re looking for:

  • Great outreach ideas for Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, graduation, summer vacation, church camp, or any other idea that worked during summer months.
  • Email me with an overview:  What problem were you trying to solve, what steps did you take, what results did you have, and how would you improve the effort next time.
  • Send along the church name, contact info including phone and email, church size (remember:  small church means attendance under 300), and location.

I wish I could give you a prize if your idea is chosen, but at the very least you get to share your idea with thousands of Outreach readers.   Plus, you’ll get credit for the idea and can help others find similar success.   Email me at chuckwarnock [at] gmail [dot] com.

Thanks and keep those cards and letters coming!

Is Feb 3 really Super Bowl Sunday?

christ.jpg This or this? super-bowl-logo.jpg

In the Christian Year, Sunday February 3 is Transfiguration Sunday. In popular culture, February 3 is Super Bowl Sunday. On that Sunday, churches have two choices for the heading in their worship bulletins or on their video screens:

  1. Super Bowl Sunday -or-
  2. Transfiguration Sunday

In the past, I have gone with Super Bowl Sunday. This year, I choose Transfiguration Sunday. Why? Because we as followers of Christ need to be shaped by something other than the pop culture calendar. Let me explain:

Here’s what the pop culture calendar looks like:

  • Christmas: shopping starts before Halloween.
  • New Year’s: parades, football, parties.
  • Valentine’s: shopping for your romantic love, and named after a saint.
  • March: basketball.
  • Easter: more shopping for new clothes, school holidays, spring vacation.
  • Mother’s Day: shopping for mom.
  • Father’s Day: shopping for dad.
  • 4th of July: food, flags, and more parades.
  • Fall: Back to school. more shopping for school clothes.
  • Halloween: national day of shopping for candy and costumes.
  • Thanksgiving: food and football.

Notice a pattern? Our culture revolves around sports, shopping, and food. Churches do not need to help culture shape us into hyper-consumers.

Contrast the pop culture calendar with the Christian Year:

  • Advent: waiting for the coming of Christ.
  • Christmastide: the birth of Christ.
  • Epiphany: the revealing of the Christ to the Wisemen.
  • Baptism of Christ: the beginning of Jesus ministry.
  • Transfiguration of Christ: the glory of God in Christ.
  • Lent: 40-days of reflection taken from Christ’s 40-days in the wilderness.
  • Palm Sunday: the triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem.
  • Holy Week: the events in the last week of Christ — last supper, arrest, trial, crucifixion, burial.
  • Easter: the resurrection of Christ.
  • Pentecost: the coming of the Holy Spirit and the birthday of the church.
  • Kingdomtide: a time of growth between Pentecost and Advent, when the cycle starts all over again.

But, many object that the Christian year is “too Catholic.” Actually, what could be more Christian than marking time by the events in the life of Christ? Thousands of churches of various denominations worldwide observe time this way. Isn’t it more in keeping with the mission of the church to shape our lives around the life of Christ? Isn’t this a part of our uniqueness as the people of God, that our lives have a unique rhythm?

You don’t have to break out the censers, candles, and paraments to observe the Christian Year. Just identify each Sunday in your bulletin and offer a quick word of explanation. Your church will understand what it means, and many might find a new way to order their lives. You can still have a Super Bowl party for your community that evening. But let’s identify the day we gather for worship by something other than Super Bowl Sunday. Let me know what you think.
If you need resources for the Christian Year, you can find them at Vanderbilt University’s Divinity School website here, or by searching the web.

People will notice

Ephren Taylor Today history was made in Chatham, Virginia. At 3 PM, African-Americans and white Americans gathered to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. together. Not many people will notice this historic event because only about 75 of us were present. But it happened, and as I welcomed the interracial gathering to our church sanctuary this afternoon, applause broke out spontaneously when I noted that for the first time ever we were celebrating Martin Luther King Day as a community, together.

Our speaker for the day was Mr. Ephren Taylor, the youngest African-American CEO of a publicly traded company. Mr. Taylor started his first company when he was 12, and became a millionaire by 17. Before the meeting today, I asked him how he made so much money so young. He said,

Making the first million isn’t hard. It’s what you do with it that counts.

Good insight from a 25-year old who has made more money than I can even imagine. But, here’s the kicker: Mr. Ephren Taylor made his millions by helping others. He said today,

In the daytime I’m a businessman, but at night I’m a community activist.

Taylor has used his business skills to start CDCs (community development corporations) in several communities. He bought and rehabbed the jazz district in Kansas City. He has taught churches how to develop income streams by starting daycares, building low-income housing, operating adult daycare facilities, and a host of other community transforming projects. He hires ex-cons to do construction work on his not-for-profit housing developments. He commented,

We hire ex-cons to rehabilitate the communities that they helped destroy.

In the audience today were adults, children, and teens. One young man asked, “What kind of books should I read to learn what you know?” Kids of all ages, races, and economic circumstances want to be all they can be. Ephren Taylor helps them live the dream they have.

As the meeting closed today, Mr. Cedric Hairston, one of the organizers of the event, thanked our church for hosting the meeting. He said to me publicly,

“Your church is doing good in our community, and people notice.”

Then, Reverend Willie Sherman asked us to join hands, right arm over left to draw us closer together, and we raised our voices as one voice, singing —

We shall overcome, we shall overcome,

We shall overcome someday.

Oh, deep in my heart I do believe,

We shall overcome some day.

Today we made history. People will notice. Some already do.

Sermon for Sunday, Jan 20, “Invite Others”

This is the sermon I’m preaching tomorrow. My apologies for posting so late in the week, but it’s been an interesting week here. Maybe I’ll tell you about it later. Until then, have a great day on Sunday!
Invite Others
John 1:29-42
29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”32 Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 33 I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.”

35 The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. 36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”

37 When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus.

38 Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?”
They said, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?”

39 “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.”
So they went and saw where he was staying, and spent that day with him. It was about the tenth hour.

40 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. 41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). 42 And he brought him to Jesus.
Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter).

What Kind of Inviting Are We Going To Do?

For the past two Sundays, we have been talking about our theme for the year –

  • Tell the story.
  • Invite others.
  • Bless the world.

On both the first and second Sundays in this month we focused our attention on “Tell the story.” We said that the story we are to tell this year is –

  • God’s story.
  • God’s story found in the Bible.
  • God’s story found in the Bible which will be accepted by some and rejected by others.

Then, last week we talked about this story being our story, too. We said that we are not just actors on a stage, but when we find ourselves in this story of God that has been going on since before creation, we become what God intended for us to be. Our story is found in the story of God and among the people of God.

So, today we come to the second part of our theme — “Invite others.” Now, you may think you already know what I am going to say about this simple and obvious phrase — invite others. Baptists have been doing this for about 400-years now. We’ve been inviting others to our churches, and to our socials, and to our Sunday School classes, and to our church activities for as long as we can remember. And, we’re good at it. Southern Baptists are almost 16-million strong now, although Frank Page, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention says himself that we couldn’t find more than about 5-million of us on any given Sunday. That may be optimistic.

When we started our church in Greensboro in 1986, we knew we had to invite others because there weren’t many of us. So, we did. Before the days of the “do not call” list, we conducted the first church telephone campaign in the state of North Carolina to introduce folks to our church. I will tell you that after calling over 10,000 homes, all those phone calls didn’t produce a single new member for us. Lots of work, and not much to show for it.

We also mailed thousands of direct mail pieces, did door-to-door flyers, neighborhood surveys, and advertised in the Greensboro paper when we had the money to do it. We were serious about inviting others. And, we were successful by church growth standards. After three years of meeting in the convention center at the Greensboro Airport Marriott Hotel, we bought property, built a beautiful worship center, and had over 400 in attendance on the Sunday we moved in. Amy, our youngest daughter, told me this week that she found the video tape of our first service in the new building at Cornerstone.

But, that’s not the kind of inviting I’m going to talk about today. It’s not that we don’t need to do that kind of inviting, because we do. We do need to invite folks to come to Chatham Baptist Church. We do need to reach out to our friends and neighbors more than we do, and in more effective ways than we do. But that kind of inviting is like “Phase 2″ to the kind of inviting I want to talk to you about today.

The Story of John and Jesus

To understand what I mean, we have to look back at the story in our scripture reading today. Last week we looked at the baptism of Jesus from Matthew’s perspective, but John has a little different take on things. John the Gospel-writer mentions John the Baptist early in his account of the life of Jesus — verse 6 of chapter 1 to be exact.

There was a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe.

Pretty well sums it up, but John goes on to mention that John the Baptist was not the light himself, he just came to testify of the Light that “gives light to every” one….

You might think that after that introduction, John the Gospel-writer would then shift his focus to Jesus, but he doesn’t. He’s not through with John the Baptist yet. In the next scene in Chapter 1, John the Baptist is asked by the religious leaders who he is. Is he Elijah? Is he The Prophet?

Now why are they asking him that? Because in every Jewish home, at sabbath and at Passover, a seat was reserved at the table for the Prophet Elijah, who was expected to return before the Messiah. The same thing is true about this unnamed Prophet from the book of Deuteronomy, where Moses says –

The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him.

So, even though the Jewish religious leaders of the first century don’t get many points for flexibility, they at least wanted to find out if John the Baptist was somebody they should listen to. And, of course, John the Baptist tells them that he is neither Elijah or The Prophet. But then he quotes another prophet, Isaiah, to say that he is the voice of one crying in the wilderness to make straight the highway for our God. Pretty significant stuff, I am sure they realized.

And then the big question from the religious leaders — “Well, if you’re not Elijah, and you’re not The Prophet, why are you baptizing?”

John then has the opportunity to talk about Jesus. He says “there is one among you, you do not know.”

Then, the next day, Jesus appears again, and John cries out –

Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

And, John goes on to tell those gathered around that Jesus was greater than John because he came before John. Which, if you realize that John is really about 6-months or so older than Jesus doesn’t make any sense. Except that John was speaking in theological sense.

Then John says something here that no other Gospel writer records. John gives the reason for his baptizing. John says that he baptizes, not because he is Elijah, and not because he is The Prophet, but so that Jesus might be revealed to Israel. We saw that story last week. Jesus came to John to be baptized. John does so, and the heavens open, the Spirit of God descends upon Jesus, and the voice of God says, “This is my son in whom I am well-pleased.”

Jesus is revealed to Israel because John was baptizing in the wilderness. And, John tells that part of the story, too. He says, “I didn’t know this about Jesus except that the One who sent me to baptize told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’”

John then says, “I have seen and I testify that this is the son of God.”

Jesus Is The Lamb of God

Back to our story. So, when John the Baptist sees Jesus that day, and exclaims, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” those who heard him, knew what he meant.

It’s interesting that John the Gospel-writer says that “Jews from Jerusalem” came to question John the Baptist. These religious leaders were from the Temple priests, no doubt. For in Jerusalem stood this magnificent edifice, covering an immense hillside in the city. The gold grape vine and cluster of grapes that adorned the entrance to the Temple dazzled all who saw it. The white marble and stone of the temple complex appeared to those approaching the city from a distance as though the sun were rising in the sky again. The Temple was a magnificent structure.

And, each year on the Day of Atonement, the high priest would enter alone into the most sacred room of the Temple, the Holy of Holies, in which had rested the Ark of the Covenant, long since lost, but, still contained the Mercy Seat.
On the top of the Mercy Seat, the high priest would sprinkle the blood of the sacrificial lamb, a lamb without spot or blemish — as perfect as a lamb could be — to atone for the sins of the people for one more year.

In another ritual, the Scapegoat would have the sins of the people pronounced on its head, and it would be led off into the wilderness, bearing the sins of the people away from the presence of God. In these two symbolic acts involving animals, the nation of Israel hoped that its sins would be forgiven and removed from the sight of God.

John proclaims that here, in their midst, is The Lamb of God, not a lamb, but The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, not just the nation of Israel, but of the entire world. This is big news, bigger than anything they had ever heard before. And, so they paid attention.

Jesus Invites His First Followers

Two who heard John that day ran after Jesus, and when Jesus heard them behind him, he stopped and asked, “What do you want?” Later in his ministry, Jesus would ask that same question of James and John, who asked then for a seat for each of them at his right and left hands. Jesus, of course, corrects them, but then turns around and asks a blind man the same thing, who replies “I want to see, again.” Jesus heals him instantly.

So, Jesus was always probing people to find out what they wanted from him. Maybe he asked these two what they wanted because they were really John’s disciples and now had run after Jesus. Maybe he wanted them to question their own motives for following him. Kind of like the religious celebrities of today, who draw crowds to their conferences. As soon as they fall out of favor, or something new comes along, the crowds run to the next celebrity of the day.

Debbie and I grew up in Nashville, Tennessee, which is called Music City USA. Quite embarassing when we were teenagers, I must admit. But now we have a new appreciation for the whole country music industry. Not too long before his death, Johnny Cash took on the big record companies and high-powered country radio stations, accusing them of not playing his newest album, which would go on to win a Grammy award. So, it wasn’t that the music wasn’t good, or his name wasn’t known Cash said. They didn’t play his records because he wasn’t new.

Maybe Jesus wanted these two to think about why they were following him. We don’t know, but they reply rather weakly, “Where are you staying?”

Jesus says, “Come and you will see.” Later, he would tell his disciples that the birds had nests and the foxes had dens, but the Son of Man had no place to lay his head. But this time he’s staying with friends or family, so they follow him. John says they spent the day with Jesus.

Now, here’s where we have to fill in the gaps, with a kind of holy imagination. What do you think they did that day? Did Jesus tell them things about God they had never heard from their priests. We don’t know. Or maybe Jesus told them the entire story of God, and what God was really up to in this world, and the role that he was playing. We don’t know. Or maybe they just walked together, and these two saw Jesus put his hand gently on the head of little child playing along the roadside. Or heal a person with a life-long illness, or speak a kind word to someone who needed one. We don’t know. But we do know that after that day was over, at least one of them, Andrew, runs home to get his brother, saying, “We have found the Messiah.” And he brings his brother, Simon, to Jesus also.

And Jesus welcomes Simon by saying, “You are Simon, son of John. You will be called Cephas (meaning Peter).” The Rock. Jesus invites Simon to join him, by giving him a new name, The Rock. Which is not what Peter is, but is what he will become.

Invite Others Into The Story of God

And, that my friends, is what we invite others to. Not to church, although we should do more of that. Not to Sunday School, although I could stop right now and invite some of you, but I won’t put you on the spot. No, what we’re inviting others to is to become what God knows they can be. In Peter’s case, it was a Rock. What is it in your life? Did Jesus give you a new name like Joy or Hope or Peace or Servant? Because that’s what he does. He calls out our true selves, not just our potential, but our real identity, the reason for which he made us.

We are inviting Jesus, just like Andrew did, to come and see because we believe we’ve found the One for whom we have been searching, the Anointed One.

You see, we are not inviting others to a set of doctrines. We’re not inviting others to a denomination. We’re not inviting others just to our church. We’re first of all, and most importantly, inviting others to “come and see” Jesus. Himself. In person. Live. Now. Here. Today. Because we have found him. Of course, Andrew will understand later that Jesus found him, and so do we. But for now, we are inviting others to meet our new best friend Jesus.

Now, this year we could launch a witnessing program. I’ve been in some of those. I’ve taken Evangelism Explosion, and a bunch of other courses that I can’t remember the names of now. But, as useful as those can be in some settings, that’s not what we’re going to do. We’re going to do what Andrew did before he invited Simon to meet Jesus. We’re going to “spend the day” with Jesus ourselves. Get to know him. Find out what name he has for us. Listen to him. Talk to him. Watch him work. Follow in his footsteps. Be his disciples.

Because you can’t invite others if you don’t know the story yourself. And you can’t know the story without knowing Jesus. Not the Jesus of doctrine, but the Jesus of daily living. The Jesus who asks, “What do you want?” And our answer will be, “Where are you staying, because we want to be there with you.”

How does your church observe Martin Luther King Day?

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preaching Does your church have special plans to observe Martin Luther King Day on Monday, January 21, 2008?  I wish I could tell you our church has observed MLK Day before, but that’s not true.  Like most white congregations, we just didn’t mention it.  We did close the office last year out of respect for our African-American neighbors, but that was all we did.

This year I am happy to say that we are hosting an MLK Day event.  We were asked to host the youngest African-American CEO of a publicly traded company in the US, Ephren Taylor.  Mr. Taylor is a 25-year old millionaire entrepreneur, and will bring a message of hope and encouragement to our community which is undergoing tremendous economic challenges.

But we were asked to host this event because we also host the Boys and Girls Club of Chatham at our church.   By our willingness to open our facilities to others, especially the children of our community, our church is becoming known as a uniter.   If you think racism is not a part of 21st century church culture, read Les Puryear’s blog posts, “Are Southern Baptists Racist?” and a follow-up here.  Les pastors a multi-ethnic, multi-racial congregation in North Carolina, and lives spiritual leadership on this issue.

This year talk about what you can do to honor the memory of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., pastor, civil rights leader, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate.  MLKDay.gov has excellent resources for observing “a day on, not a day off.”  Even the simple gesture of closing the church office will be recognized and appreciated in your community.   Small steps toward racial reconciliation will mean a great deal to those who have experienced social injustice.

Art for homeless kids in Toronto

The ancient Celtic Christian abbeys producedSketch logo beautiful illuminated manuscripts, the most notable being The Book of Kells.  In his book, How the Irish Saved Civilization, Thomas Cahill credits Irish monasteries with rescuing ancient texts, recopying them, and then taking them back to Europe to replace the texts burned during the barbarian invasion. 

But churches and Christians today are finding new ways to use the arts to “save civilization” or at least individuals in it.  Our church was featured in Outreach magazine in December 2006 for helping sponsor Soundcheck, a teen open mic night in our community.  You can read about Soundcheck and other arts programs we have in the Our Church tab at the top of this blog. 

Leadership’s latest newsletter spotlighted an arts program that is saving 600-at-risk kids, and helping them give expression to their creativity.  Sketch is an arts program in Toronto with sponsor partners made up of Christian churches, individuals, and other organizations. 

This is part of the church-as-abbey concept springing up all over North America.  Based on the ancient Celtic Christian abbey, churches are becoming modern-day abbeys in their own communities.  The great thing is that size doesn’t matter — small churches particularly can become abbey churches and impact their communities in new ways. 

3 Things Churches Must Do in 2008

Now that we’re 8 years into this millenium, here are the 3 things I think churches must do in this pluralistic, postmodern, post-christendom world —

  1. Tell the story.  Read both the Old and New Testaments and the constant practice that emerges is that God’s people tell God’s story.  The great story for Israel was the Exodus.  Still is.  The great story for the church sweeps from creation to recreation witnessed in the person of Jesus.  I am convinced that we need to tell the story of God over and over.  We need to tell it in our worship, our teaching, our daily living.  I’ll say more about this later this year, and I’ve created a new category, The Story, just for that purpose. 
  2. Invite others.  This is called evangelism, outreach, and witness.  But the kind of inviting I’m talking about is not invitation to join the church or get baptized or even make a decision for Christ.  It might include all those things, but has a unique perspective on the mission of God.  And, I’m convinced if we learn how to really tell the story, then inviting others will not be the struggle that evangelism, outreach, and witness are now.
  3. Bless the world.  God called Abraham and blessed him to be a blessing to all the nations.  Service to others, visiting the prisoners, healing the sick, doing justice for the poor, being peace to world in strife — these are ways of blessing the world. 

Simple, Biblical — tell the story, invite others, bless the world.  That’s what I’ll be doing in 2008.  That’s what I’m going to lead my church to do.  I’ll post our progress — successes, and failures — during this year.  For me, these are the basic practices any church should do.  What do you think?