Friday, August 28, 2009

We are visitors (part 9)

Another thing that visitors are looking for is a church that knows where it’s going and what it’s doing. If the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing, there’s a problem. Everyone on the stage should at least have a basic idea of the order of service. One of the churches I visited had sixty second pause while they tried to figure out who was supposed to do their thing next. All that needed to happen was someone in leadership take the mic and just jump in.

We’ve seen worship teams trying to figure out which song to sing next during the “worship time.” The congregation just stood there watching while the leader flipped through the pages in his worship book and tried to decide. And there wasn’t any music to fill the empty space while he searched. The worship leader should have invested some time in seeking God about the song order.
It’s not that every transition has to be polished or perfectly executed… it’s just that some thought should go into how to get from one song or one part of the service to the next. Someone should have the final plan and then disseminate that info to everyone that needs to know it. We want to give our visitors the sense that we take our services seriously. We want to remove distractions so the people can focus on connecting with God.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The situation on the ground

I got a Facebook message from an old friend yesterday…

As I have shared I'm real interested in what God is doing in Europe. I NEED INFORMATION! Tell me what you know and what the Lord is saying to you...

Here’s part of my reply:

The situation on the ground is pretty grim, spiritually speaking. Only 1.42% of Europeans are Born Again. And for teens it's less than 1%! Centuries of hypocrisy, abuse and simply "going through the motions" have taken their toll. Christianity became a means of controlling the people, so it became absolutely irrelevant. Christianity - the religion - has run its course in Europe and has been relegated to history.

The State churches are dying. The only churches that are growing are independent, protestant churches (and Islamic mosques) . And their growth usually is quite slow. Most churches are doing the same type of ministry that was done decades, if not centuries, ago. There is no connection to real life.

But Europe is ripe for a huge spiritual harvest! As I talk with people here, there is a great spiritual interest, even though it's tempered by cynicism. People are willing to talk about spiritual things if you're willing to get to know them (just like in America). If they feel you are simply proselytizing they will shut you down. They probably won't even be polite about it. But when you invest in a relationship with someone, it opens huge doors! You have to work a lot harder than in Central, South, or even North America to lead someone to Christ, but when you do, you know they've thought it through, and at least somewhat counted the cost.

I hope that answers some of your questions. We would appreciate your prayers as we attempt to change the spiritual landscape of a continent.

Friday, August 14, 2009

There is ALWAYS hope!

I came across something interesting recently during my quiet time.  I was reading a very familiar passage out of the Book of Jeremiah.

This is the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to what was left of the elders among the exiles, to the priests and prophets and all the exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken to Babylon from Jerusalem...

The letter said: ..."Build houses and make yourselves at home. Put in gardens and eat what grows in that country. Marry and have children. Encourage your children to marry and have children so that you'll thrive in that country and not waste away. Make yourselves at home there and work for the country's welfare. Pray for Babylon's well-being. If things go well for Babylon, things will go well for you." ...

I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.'"

Jeremiah 29:1-11 MSG

I have taught that last verse dozens (maybe hundreds) of times over the years, but I never really caught the background until now.  Jeremiah's message is to Israeli exiles, war captives living away from their homeland.  They have been forced to learn a new language and foreign culture in a strange land.  He is writing to people that have no rights, no representation, no future and very little hope. 

But notice what God, through Jeremiah, says to these people: I have plans for you... good plans for a hope-filled future!

Notice what else he says to them: "Don't shut down and give up.  Engage the culture.  Invest your heart and soul - and your prayers - into it.  As you engage this 'hostile' culture, you'll experience My blessing."

No matter what you're going through, I have good news for you... there is ALWAYS hope!  As long as God is alive, there is hope!  The message of Jesus' resurrection is one of hope.  So get back up on your feet and cooperate with God to create a new reality out of your situation!