Monday, April 27, 2015

The new church culture; Returning to its roots


The biblical picture of the church at its most basic level, is a community, not a hierarchy, business, or organization. It is structured like the human body – on the basis of life.  Wow, it is so wonderful and refreshing to see churches across this country returning to this first century church model.

Yes, there is a ground swell of believers; apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers who are not satisfied with doing church as usual, but want to be part of a revolution, a movement that helps us to return to the first century church model. These Christ followers have shifted their paradigm and have begun to think more in these directions:
  • from (my) kingdom to (God's) Kingdom
  • from doing ministry for to equipping others to do ministry
  • from closing the church's back door to opening the door and sending people out
  • from controlling and maintaining to unleashing and releasing 
  • from growing a church to starting churches that multiply churches
  • from seating capacity to sending capacity
  • from loving people like me, to loving all of our neighbors
  • from programs to organic ministry
  • from mega to many mini
  • from serving the church to impacting the world
  • from carbon copies to unique expressions
  • from competition and division to unity and collaboration.
This change has been slow to evolve because a church body that is willing to change must overcome several barriers, including tradition and culture. But throughout history, when the church has veered off course, someone has stepped up to challenge, to provide the fuel to spark a change and that is happening today.

There are plenty of examples of this movement today, including major conferences like Verge and Exponential networks and the Perspectives Bible course that are fueling this change.  Here in central Texas, individual churches have started to focus much more on missions, like Grace Point Church in San Antonio. Grace Point encourages and expects every member to go local once a year and global once every five years as a way to build a missional culture.

Austin Christian Fellowship gives 50 percent of their budget to missions!  When there is a fifth Sunday in the month, the church and all of its church plants do not meet for worship, but serve their community that weekend on Saturday and Sunday with various mission projects. 

The Park Community Church in San Antonio is cultivating and training church planters, not for the fast growing suburban areas but to send back into San Antonio inner city neighborhoods. The church planters must move into the neighborhood in which they are planting. 

Alex Fleming resisted the urge to plant in the suburbs and instead planted Life Restored Church in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods of San Antonio. He is now working with other churches to develop an urban church planting movement.  

The San Antonio Baptist Association has broken away from just planting the traditional attractional church to also planting and multiplying house churches. SABA helped start 150 house churches in the past three years, which are multiplying rapidly.

Both Austin and San Antonio churches are working together in unprecedented ways to impact their cities for Christ. Over 350 Austin churches of various denominations worked in a coordinated effort to reach the lost for Christ through Explore God curriculum and all collaborated to help schools across Austin improve third grade reading levels. This year the churches are meeting once a month to pray together and to see how they can better serve the city. The Christ Together movement has spread to San Antonio where churches of all denominations are meeting there on an on going basis to determine how best they can impact the city for Christ. 

I pray that the movement grows. I hear wonderful reports from all over the United States and the world! I'd love to hear how your church is making a difference for Christ in unique ways. 

Let's Do This Together!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

There's A New Gang In The Neighborhood


New building for Life Restored Church

Pastor Alex Fleming talks with a purpose, a grand vision of hope and restoration as he shares how there is always a group of young men and women who hang out at the "picnic" around the corner from the church. He explains that these are drug dealers and prostitutes doing their deals on the west side of San Antonio, an area of high drugs, prostitution and crime. I envision a park with picnic tables and a bunch of people hanging around. He laughs and and says, "no, the Picnic is the corner grocery store where they hang". He explains that one gang will dominate until they are run away by the police and then a different gang takes their place. But now that his church has moved into the neighborhood, he says that his church members have become the the new "gang" in the neighborhood, a group of courageous believers who are handing out the hope of the Gospel instead of drugs, death and destruction.

Lots of work on the interior
Life Restored Church lives out the meaning of missional every day. But without the help of a suburban church that has chosen to be missional, they might not exist. When churches work together to impact and grow the Kingdom, it is a beautiful thing, a true definition of missional. Crossroads Baptist Church, an established, traditiounal church in a middle class neighborhood of west San Antonio recently partnered with Life Restored Church, one of our Missional Association
church plants near downtown San Antonio,
to support the church plant not only financially but also with mission teams and individual members.

This spring, Life Restored Church desperately needed to find another place for worship. Working with Crossroads and The Missional Association, pastor Alex Fleming was able to locate an affordable building for sale near Haven For Hope on the west side. It wasn't a pretty building but Alex was really excited about the possibility of worshipping there and ministering to the neighborhood.  The problem was having to quickly raise money for the down payment and also the cost of refurbishing the old building. 

Pastor Alex Fleming and new disciple
Crossroads was there to help with both. While Life Restored Church members got busy raising money through bake sales and such, a Sunday school class at Crossroads raised over $5,000 and within a month, Life Restored had raised the needed funds for the down payment and enough to start the renovation. Crossroads then provided a general contractor to donate his time to oversee the renovations. Teams have been sent to help the members of Life Restored with the construction, cleanup and remodeling. 
This is definitely an area of town that the Crossroads members would consider their "Samaria".  Pastor Alex Fleming had an
opportunity to start a church in the suburbs but chose to locate the church near where he grew up on the west side. He decided that he would not be just the pastor of a church but the pastor of the neighborhood, to work to restore a neighborhood and give its inhabitants a renewed hope. The first Sunday in the building saw a packed crowd and 9 people who made decisions to follow Christ. They also hit the ground running with a program for drug and alcohol rehabilitation. A small house on the property is being used to house some of those going through rehab. It's only the beginning step to reclaiming an entire area of the city for Christ, but Alex has a vision and a plan to continue to restore lives, give hope and 

Being missional for Crossroads was not difficult. It just took a pastor, Doug Diehl and church leaders with a passion for going and giving outside of their own church, to say yes to a inner city church in need. Not many men and women have the courage or calling to live and serve in the inner city. But those who do minister in urban areas need the help and support of suburban churches. It's a great partnership that can provide a means for those in the suburbs to experience what missional means, what living out the Gospel is all about.  Wouldn't it be great if every church in the suburbs had a partner church in the inner city or started one. Perhaps we could reclaim some of the lost territory when our churches evacuated the inner city to head to the growing suburbs.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A Better Way To Help A Person Change

Have you ever faced the pressure of helping someone make a change in their behavior or making sure an employee improves their production at work? And you feel the panic of having little or no confidence that you can actually help. A coaching approach is the simple and effective way to help others to change.
I learned while training to be a life coach that asking questions is the key to helping the one you are coaching to solve a problem, improve performance or get from point A to point B. In a coaching session, the coach simply asks questions and is not to offer his or her advice unless the one being coached gives permission. The reason is that using questions has been found to be the best method to accomplishing change in an individual. This method of discipleship is effective in most every area of leadership, from raising children to managing a staff.  Here is a great video from the Behavioral Science Guys that explains why questions are more effective than lecturing in leading to change.

Let's say you have an employee who is under performing.  Why not use the coaching method to get change and improve his performance.
  • Ask questions to clarify the problem and assess current reality.
  • Ask questions to create a goal and plan of action.
  • Ask questions to determine the obstacles to achieving the goal.
  • Ask questions for accountability and next steps.
So instead of racking your brain to come up with a solution for them, help them come up with their own solution by asking questions. Here are some coaching questions to ask:

   * Exactly what are we trying to accomplish?
   * What can you control?
   * What is out of your control?
   * What does the data reveal?
   * What are the potential causes of this situation?
   * What have others done successfully in the past?
   * In a perfect world, what would the ideal look like?
   * In a year from now, where would you like to be?
   * If you are unsuccessful, what is the worst that could happen?
   * If you could do just one thing, what would you do?
   * How will you measure your progress?
   * If we hired outside consultants to help us, what do we think they would do for us?
   * If we were trying to accomplish the opposite, what would we do?
   * Who can help you think about this?
   * What happens if you do nothing?
   * What are all of your options?
   * What are the roadblocks to success?
   * What is the first thing you need to do?
   * When do we need to make a decision/act?
   * If failure were not an option, what would we do?
   * If money were no object, what would we do?
   * What will you have achieved by our next meeting?
   * How would I depict this situation in a picture?

Check out Mark Miller's post on My Favorite Leadership Question

Want information on becoming a certified coach?  Check out Coaching For Clergy.

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