September 24, 2014

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What Christian Millennials Want In A Church

07_21_14_Make_room_746012140I have been informally studying the millennial generation for quite a while. I have read many articles by many authors such as Thom Rainer on Millennials and worship styles  and  Meredith Flynn on her perspective of Capitol Hill Baptist Church—a church that averages over 1,000 in weekly attendance with 700-800 of those being under the age of 35-40. I have had dozens of conversations with those in this age bracket about what is important to them as well as read many books on the topic. I am certainly no expert, but I feel confident in sharing my thoughts on what committed Christian Millennials want in a church.

I am going to assume that we agree that the church worship service is for Christians, not a tool to attract the lost. Good! Now that we have that settled, we can focus our attention on the millennial generation—those born between 1980 and the early 2000’s.

There are a lot of misconceptions about what Christian Millennials want in a church. Some (mostly the older generations) think this age group is just interested in hanging out. Others think this age group is shallow, wishy-washy, and ungrounded. For the record, these caricatures are generally untrue.

So what does resonate with committed Christian Millennials?

1- Genuineness

Many Millennials grew up witnessing the lack of genuineness that was prevalent in their parents’ churches. They want to see leaders live what they teach. They are tired of seeing people simply go through the motions.

2- Less Extra Stuff

Productions such as Easter plays and choral productions that were so common a generation ago are being abandoned. The quality usually isn’t that great, it requires a ton of time that simply isn’t there, and they are focused on entertainment – and that simply isn’t a draw to many Millennials. Likewise, special music such as solos, quartets, and the like are not much of a focus either. Even choirs are becoming less common, and the ones that still remain are usually filled with those in older age brackets.

3- Rich Content…..in the Sermons and in Songs

Sermons filled with fluff and music with no meaning won’t cut it. That rich content may come in different forms depending on the context. The music styles may vary, and the Millennials are okay with that—they are not tied to any one style as long as there is rich content.

4. Quality in All Things

Simply throwing things together at the last minute won’t cut it. People are used to professionalism in all things…at the daycare where they leave their children, at their work place, everywhere. If the church lacks quality it will be a turnoff to those in this generation.

5. Authentic Community

Millennials do want to hang out, but there’s more to it than that. They want authentic community. They want to do life with other believers. They want the Christian life to be more than attendance at a church service. This is the reason they thrive in small groups.

6. Intentionality in Decision-Making

Doing something solely because it has always been done serves as Millennial repellant. If a church will not ensure that everything they are doing is accomplishing a designated purpose, then what’s the point?

7. A Community Focus

The Millennials want to make a difference in the community. They view this as an important part of the Church’s work. They want more than to simply hold events on the church’s property; they want the church to get out into the community.

8. A Church that Answers Their Questions

For far too long Millennials were simply told what to believe, but not why. As a result, many of them have questions, and they will not attend a church where they are discouraged from asking questions or where they do not get honest, accurate, thoughtful answers.

9. Committed to Simplicity

People are busier than ever. This reality cannot be avoided. In an attempt to be appealing to a consumer generation the church has tried to offer a plethora of programs at a plethora of times in an effort to be appealing to everyone. It hasn’t worked. In fact, the complexities of a program-driven church drives people away. The Millennials are looking for simplicity. They want to be committed to a church that understands this.

Do these characteristics define every Christian millennial? Absolutely not. But they do characterize many of them…at least many of the committed Christian millennials I know. If churches are going to reach the millennial generation, they must be aware of these realities.

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August 19, 2014

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This is Discipleship

I always enjoy seeing this video.

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July 9, 2014

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Components of Hypocrisy

Screen-shot-2012-10-15-at-10.23.20-AMI was reading through Matthew 23:5-7; 13-32 where Jesus deals with the hypocrisy of the Scribes and Pharisees. As I was reading the above verses, I wrote down the characteristics of hypocrisy that are mentioned.

  1. Hypocrites do what they do so they will be seen by others.- vs. 5
  2. Hypocrites love the place of prominence.- vs. 6
  3. Hypocrites love titles.- vs. 7
  4. Hypocrites hinder others from truly being saved.- vs. 13
  5. Hypocrites are greedy.- vs. 14
  6. Hypocrites are overly concerned with numbers.- vs. 15
  7. Hypocrites are deceptive and dishonest.- vs. 16-22
  8. Hypocrites major on the minor.- vs. 23-24
  9. Hypocrites are focused on traditional rituals.- vs. 25-26
  10. Hypocrites are focused on appearance.- vs. 27-28
  11. Hypocrites compare themselves to others.- vs. 29-32

Hypocrisy is the result of a focus on religion instead of a focus on a relationship with Christ. It comes from caring more what people think than what God thinks. It is rooted in pride. It hinders our testimony, hurts the reputation of the church, and is self-deceptive (those who are controlled by hypocrisy rarely notice it).

We should do all we can to fight against it, be on guard for it, and be willing to confess it.

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July 8, 2014

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Reflections from a Week in Ecuador

2014-07-04 15.49.10I just returned from a wonderful week in Ecuador visiting Will and Laura Lyon, missionaries to the Kichwa people living in the Andes. Here are a few reflections that help to highlight my time there.

1- Ecuador is a beautiful country. Everywhere we went we were surrounded by picturesque scenery to which the only response was to admire God’s handiwork (and take a picture). More pictures are posted on my Facebook page.

2- More workers are needed. With hundreds of unreached Kichua villages scattered across the country, more workers are needed to reach these people, translate the Bible into the various Kichwa dialects, and train the Kichwa people to reach other villages.

2014-07-06 10.09.003- Traveling with others in the church is invaluable. We had a group of four men from LifeSpring who traveled to Ecuador. We had a wonderful time ministering, working, laughing, and discussing ministry philosophy together.

4- Missions philosophy becomes clearer when on the foreign mission field. It is hard to know what changes need to be made to the missions program of a church in the States when the pastor is never on the foreign mission field. On this trip it was confirmed in my mind that the ideal missions program for LifeSpring is for us to be deeply committed to 4 or 5 missionary families. This will benefit both the ministry of the local church and the missionary.

5- It is easier to be committed to biblical ministry in a Kichwa village than the Bible-belt. While I do not believe God has called me to foreign missions, it is somewhat tempting to go to a place where you can simply do what the Bible says. The plethora of churches, opinions, feuds, and politics (church culture in general) in the Bible-belt has somewhat contaminated ministry to the point where having a truly biblical ministry is difficult.

6- Quality missionaries are special. There are several things I noticed about the Lyons that make them stand out.

-They understand contextualization. They are not trying to start an American church in Ecuador. They are not trying to change the culture. They understand the culture and faithfully communicate the truth of Scripture in a way that can be understood by those in that culture.

-They love the people they are called to reach. In fact, they call them their people. The fact that they love and the Kichwa people is readily apparent.

-They have a plan and they are committed to it. They know exactly what God has called them to do, and while they have had other ministry opportunities in Ecuador, they are willing to say no to the ‘good’ so they can accomplish the ‘great.’

2014-07-05 11.49.28-They are not afraid to get their hands dirty….literally. They work hard alongside the people. Whether it is painting, preparing corn, chopping wood, or preparing a meal using a lava rock pit, they work along side the people.

-They understand discipleship. Building a church without a commitment to discipleship is pointless. They grasp this truth and are committed to building their ministry on discipleship. They are not building the ministry around them (where they do everything). Rather, they are committed to training the Kichwa people to do the work of the ministry.

I loved my time in Ecuador and cannot wait to go back. I have a greater appreciation for the ministry of the Lyons and am excited about our church becoming more committed to and involved in their ministry in Ecuador. 

 

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May 20, 2014

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Why Churches Should Be Committed To Small Groups

606604I did not grow up in a church with a small group ministry, but I have become convinced of their necessity for the church in today’s culture. There is much I do not know and much I am learning about small group ministry. Suffice it to say that I am convinced of the ‘why’ while working out the details of the ‘how.’

Here are 10 reasons why churches should be committed to small groups. Each of these points are things that can and should take place as a result of small groups.

1- They foster relationships, which are crucial to spiritual growth. The church is about relationships–with God and with other believers. It is hard to foster these relationships during the 5 minutes before or after a worship service.

2- They provide avenues of accountability. God designed us to need accountability, however the worship service is not designed to provide it. Small groups do.

3- They are an effective way of reaching a postmodern society. Those who have grown up in a postmodern society are looking for authenticity, they thrive in genuine relationships, they love to ask and discuss hard questions, and they want to do so in a real-life setting. A small group ministry addresses these cultural realities in a biblically consistent way.

4- They foster authenticity. While it is easy to attend a worship service and wear a mask of hypocrisy, it is difficult to do so in a small group setting.

5- They supplement the worship service. The worship service cannot give the Christian everything he or she needs. The small group format provides a beneficial supplement.

6- Genuine fellowship cannot be practiced in a group of 1,000 or even 100. Biblical fellowship is a necessity, but this fellowship cannot be effectively practiced in large groups. Small groups help remedy this problem.

7- They provide opportunities for discipleship as well as outreach. Spiritual growth thrives in the small group environment. But they also provide opportunities for outreach. From members inviting unbelievers to the their small group to entire groups being involved in community projects, outreach can take place through these groups.

8- They promote mutual care, not just pastoral care. Christians are to care for each other. Far too many Christians walk into a service, sit, and then leave, never learning about the needs of others in the church or how to care for them. This is impossible in small groups.

9- Small groups help keep the church small. People generally like the atmosphere of small church. It resembles a family. However, as churches grow, sometimes that atmosphere is lost and people begin to feel disconnected. The small group ministry helps keep that atmosphere alive.

10- They model the early church. The above benefits are all characteristics of the early church. It cannot be ignored that they primarily functioned in smaller gatherings, not large groups.

While the application and implementation of small groups may vary from church to church, their benefits cannot be ignored. In fact, they should be pursued.

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