Thursday, December 13, 2007

Reaching out to the new generations

On the subject of cruises, this past vacation, Barbara and I were curious about a cruise ship line that we saw in the Caribbean that we had never seen before. It was the Ocean Village line. I looked them up on the internet and found that they are a new cruise line targeting the 30 - 50 something age. I found it interesting that the cruise line business is just now making an effort to reach out to the younger generations. For a long time cruising was very static and unchanging. Very similar to churches. Until just recently on most all large cruise lines there has been a strict dress code for the meals at night and always two formal nights when you absolutely had to wear a coat and tie. The shows generally were Las Vegas type of entertainment, to suit an elderly audience. Most of the shore excursions catered to the older crowd also. I don't know if the ships just program for the elderly because the elderly are more inclined to cruise or younger people don't cruise because many ships seem to cater only to the older crowd. But it has been my experience that 80% of those on the cruises are of retirement age and up.
But some cruise lines are now changing and trying to reach the younger crowd. The Ocean Village line has no dress code for meals and no formal nights at all. The shows have more rock bands and comedians that appeal to the younger group. The shore excursions are more about activities than site seeing.
I can see the traditional cruiser complaining about how the cruises are changing and just going to hell. But the cruise line knows that there should be no reason why younger people don't take cruise vacations. They are a cheap, convenient and very fun way to vacation.
Theologians also know that the young need Christ as much as the old. They have asked some of the same questions about why so many churches have so few young people. Does the young stay away from church because the church caters so much to the older generations or do the church leaders feel compelled to program for the elderly because their members are mostly old?
A friend was telling me about going to a Christmas concert at one of the more traditional churches in town to see a friend who was involved in the production. Everyone was dressed to the max and most of the crowd was what you'd see on a cruise ship, over 60. My friend, a visitor to the church, couldn't seem to find a seat. He was there plenty early but everyone had programs, coats and various articles of clothing laid out to save seats for family members and apparently whole Sunday School classes. No one said much to him and very few stayed around after the program to fellowship. I'm not too sure this church was concerned much about anyone other than pleasing their members. It's a good reminder that we always need to examine what we do as a church to make sure we are open-armed and welcoming and not self-serving.
Grace Point is much like the Ocean Village Cruise Line. We purposed several years ago to reach the young and hopefully we will continue to be a vibrant church that is open, evangelistic and concerned about those who do not know Jesus Christ. And most of all a church that is willing to change its methods without compromising the message.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Vacations with a purpose

Barbara and I returned this past week from a cruise to the Caribbean. It was relaxing and I do enjoy cruising and the time away. But I have to admit it is an exercise in pure selfish indulgence. Just eat and lay around. Eat, relax, eat, play games, eat some more. The food...is everywhere. Literally 24/7. You can't get away from it. They have it available everywhere you turn and when you waddle up to your cabin after a full day and night of stuffing your face and laying around you find they have left candy on your bed!
Barbara and I do love to travel but I'd much rather be going on a mission trip than a cruise. While on the curise I found myself comparing it to the mission trips we take each year. And they just don't compare. Given the choice between going on a mission trip or cruise, I'd pick the mission trip every time. Why? Here are just a few reasons.
  • A mission trip gives you a sense of accomplishment, giving yourself instead of just getting and consuming.
  • A mission trip allows you to really get to know the people of the place you are visiting. You not only meet them but you become life long friends with people who are very different yet who seem to relate to you better than many back home.
  • You always travel with a team on a mission trip and get to work together, serve together and worship togther. You always have another group of life long friends when you come home.
  • A mission trip teaches you many things about yourself, the people of the country you serve and the God we worship. About all I learn from a cruise is how selfish I am.

Mission trips are really vacations with a purpose. Those who go will almost unanimously tell you that they are life changing experiences that they would not trade for anything. Cruises are fun but they can't measure to a mission trip. When I think back to my travels to Sudan, Kenya and Brazil these will always be the memories that I cherish the most.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

"Don't accumulate possessions; accumulate experiences!"

One of my Silas', Marty Menchaca, was telling me this morning about a trip he took to Albuquerque this past week to visit his son, Carlos and see his son in a performance. He said Carlos had asked him to come to this one performance. Marty explained that it was not very practical to fly all the way for two days to Albuquerque, because of the cost and with all that was going on at home. And Carlos was not emphatic that they come, it was just an invite. But he and his wife chose to go and Marty told me that he was so glad that they did. He said he would have missed out on so much if had he chosen not to go. It was worth every penny, every sacrifice, every inconvenience.

I thought this was so much like our choices regarding global missions. God invites us to join Him. It's not a demand or command. Just an invite. Most times it is not practical for us to go. We have so much going on at home and it costs so much to go. But when we choose to go, He pours so much into us, He uses us in so many ways that we could not even imagine not going. We realize how much we would have missed out on if we had chosen not to go.


Mark Batterson in his wonderful book "In A PIT WITH A LION ON A SNOWY DAY" talks about a short term mission trip he took to Ethiopia and all the experiences he had. He said he remembered blogging in his pup tent on top of a mountain in the Ethiopian outback with these words: "Don't accumulate possessions; accumulate experiences!"

One great question from the book arises; do we live our lives in such a way that we have compelling stories to tell? At the end of the day, month, year, or lifetime have you lived a life that anyone would be interested in hearing about?

I have a lifetime of memories, stories of miracles and accounts of how God used me and others in amazing ways that I share with others whenever possible. I'm always able to tell others about God's amazing love and power through the incredible things I have experienced on mission trips. All because I've been fortunate enough to lead others on global trips. Come join me and see what God can do with a life surrendered to Him. You are guaranteed to accumulate some amazing experiences.

When I go to the grave at the end of my life I will not be taking any of my possessions with me. But at the end of life I certainly will be taking my experiences with me, all the way to heaven.

Upwards,
John

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

It Takes The Church

It has been great seeing so many of you volunteering for our Habitat build. We’ve had about 20 people out on every Friday and Saturday hammering away and the house is going up on schedule. I know many of the Life Groups and even some ministry teams have encouraged their members to participate together. Serving together, especially on a ministry outside of your normal comfort zone really helps build community in a group. Participating is also a way of helping to bring about change. Habitat is a ministry that was formed to help those, who could not afford housing a way to do so, without government help.
To really change this world, the church is going to have to be involved in their community and do more things like Habitat to help solve problems. There is an incredible amount of resources and talent available if this huge mass of believers in the U.S. would use their gifts to make a difference. Experience shows us that government can’t provide the answers. We need to look at the real issues and problems around us and then do something about it.

Change The World

Innovative ministry ideas


One of our biggest problems in San Antonio is the issue of child abuse. There are presently 5,755 confirmed victims of child abuse and neglect in Bexar County. One way we can make a difference is through the Child Advocates of San Antonio (CASA) volunteer program. The CASA advocates fill in the gap between the foster homes, the parents and the courts. The volunteers spend time with the child and learn about the issues involved in the case. They then become the voice for the child in child abuse cases. CASA helps train the volunteers. It does require a considerable commitment from the volunteers but what an incredible way to make a difference and share the love of Christ to a child who desperately needs love. Those who are involved in the foster care process will tell you how much a CASA volunteer can make a difference in the outcome of the case. The problem is that there are not enough volunteers. If you would like to help or know someone who would, contact Christina Diaz at 225-7070.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Innovation and the church


There has always been a tension between innovation and the church. Tradition has long been seen as a necessary element so much so in many churches that it is part of the church’s doctrine. Change anything and you’ll find reactions varying from discomfort to downright anger. Many pastors are afraid to change or do anything different so as not to make anyone mad and cause them to leave the church. Therefore innovation in the church becomes very difficult and often at a high price. Because of the church’s culture of orthodoxy the church finds itself left behind in almost every area of ministry from missions to communication.
Grace Point is unique in that innovation and change are accepted and even embraced. Part of the reason is that those attending are new believers or Christians who want a different, more relevant way of reaching people for Christ. We realize God’s word is unchangeable but how we communicate and minister must be dynamic. Even how we see the mission of the church is a radical departure from many churches. *
In the coming weeks I would like to present some innovative ways our members are “being the church” in their community. And I hope that you will send me creative ideas of how you are reaching and ministering to your community also so I can share and inspire others. My desire is not to use this as an intellectual exercise, but for you to grab on to one of the ideas or allow the creative ministries to motivate you to reach out to a world that desperately needs Christ.
Innovative ministry: PAWS FOR SERVICE
J.C. and Cathy Smith minister with their golden retriever, Meg to the elderly in nursing homes and hospices through a ministry called Paws For Service. J.C. said he was recently contacted to visit a patient at the Alta Vista Nursing Home, “my visit was short because the patient wasn’t feeling well. However, while in the facility, I was surrounded by other patients and staff members. Meg was petted by more than a dozen residents and staff. The administrator asked how to get in contact with someone to request regular facility visits“. What a great way to brighten someone’s life and a great way to open the door to sharing Christ.
If you have a dog that you think would be trainable, Paws will train you and your dog so that you can bring some joy and Christ into the world to the elderly and sick. Paws for Service will be having a training class for K-9's and their "chauffeurs" (owners) early next year. If you are interested, please contact J.C. at
n5rxs@satx.rr.com
*The church of the future must become what we call “incarnational” in the way it does ministry. Incarnational means that all of our members are called and view themselves as missionaries to their community and world. The local church is not a building or denomination but a body of believers living out the Word, with the power of the Holy Spirit (incarnation) sharing their faith, caring for and being involved in the lives of their neighbors and changing their community. We live, work, study and interact with others as a witness for Jesus Christ. Our focus is not “to come to church” but we encourage our members “to be the church.” This is really a return to the first century church in purpose. But the way we communicate and reach the world can be as modern and innovative as possible. There should be few limits and boundaries. The goal is to reach our world for Christ and that means using whatever tools are available in our world today.

Good advice from a strange source



I heard some insightful wisdom last night while watching the Blue Man Group on a PBS fund raising special. They are the entertainers with the blue painted faces. I’ve seen their incredibly creative and off-the-wall show in person and tremendously enjoyed it. What they do is so simple, unique, weird, and hysterically funny that their show is sold out in Las Vegas and around the world. In an interview on PBS one of the team members said the secret to their success was to get over themselves. In other words he said they had to completely put out of their mind what others thought about them personally. They found that they could not be as silly or as creative as they needed to be as long as they were concerned with what people were thinking about them. If they were to be successful, they could not be pre-occupied with themselves. This freed them to be very creative and to get out of the box and be successful.
This is wise advice that if we all followed in so many areas of our life we would be freed up to be “Fully Alive”. Another way of saying it is to “die to self”. If we were not so preoccupied with self and worried about what people thought we could lead so much more effectively. Dying to self would even help with recruiting our team members. One reason we don’t have enough people on our teams is because we just fail to ask enough people to join us. We think announcements in worship and Bible study will do the trick. But the most effective way to recruit is to ask.
Why don’t we ask people to volunteer more? For myself I find that it is often a fear of rejection or some deep seated concern with what people think about me. However, when I die to self, then Christ takes over and much like The Blue Man Group, I am freed up to do what I’m called to do. Get over yourself as the Blue Man Group spokesman says. Great advice! Die to self. It will make an incredible difference is so many areas of your life and actually help you lead much more effectively.

Just inspire me!

Just inspire me!
This statement by Bill Hybels in his closing remarks at Leadership Summit drove home the point that people are motivated to action when they are inspired. As leader and Point Person, you’ll have a much better chance at recruiting a volunteer to join your team if you inspire them.

Inspire them with the need. Give your potential volunteers a clear and compelling purpose for joining your team. Sometimes we downplay the significance of our ministry area. Such as, “I’m just a greeter” or I just help in the office”. But each area of the church is critical for the overall work of the Kingdom. A smile and warm welcome from a greeter may be the key to a first-time visitor returning to church and making a commitment to follow Christ. As a leader you must paint the bigger picture to inspire and motivate your volunteers.

Inspire them with the solution. Show the potential volunteer how your team is making a difference in the lives of others. We know the task is great but here is how we are solving the problem. Tell testimonies and stories how your team members are personally helping transform lives through your ministry team. Email testimonials to prospective volunteers, especially new members looking for a place of service. Few things inspire others more than stories! Example: for some inspiration go to
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VuOyBFEAylU&mode=related&search=

Inspire them with how they fit in. Volunteers want to know that they are needed and that they won’t be just another body on a team. Paint a significant picture of what they will be doing, the time that is involved and how they personally will help the team accomplish the goal. Don’t soft petal the job. Once they join the team, be sure not to be a ball hog. Give the ministry away and allow your team members ownership of the ministry. This entails involving them with planning and executing.

Inspire yourself. Bill Hybels reminded all of us that you can’t inspire others unless you are inspired. No one enjoys being around a negative, joyless person. A leader must live with inspiration that overflows to others. Purpose to hang around others who are inspirational. Listen to inspirational messages. Read books that inspire and excite you about ministry. If you do, you’ll find yourself communicating with joy and excitement about ministry. After all, serving God is the most exciting and challenging thing we can do. Even something as simple as cutting up animals for a children’s craft can be an exciting ministry activity that will make a difference in a child’s life or it can be a humdrum and boring task. It is really up to you. Keeping focus of the goal, the bigger picture helps us maintain our joy. Our core value of Encouragement, Choose joy…Give joy is the essence of leading well.
Choose joy and inspire people!

How to choose the right path

“This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and ...