The Ridiculous Reason Why Churches Fight with Each Other

October 6, 2015 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership

From what I read it would seem that there is an important part of my job that I’m not doing.  I’m supposed to look at other churches and criticize them for all the ways that they are different from the church that I lead.  If it gets serious enough, I should get angry.  I am right in every conceivable way, and it is important for me, them and everybody that I declare to all the people and the pastors and the churches that I am the most right of all.

Taking a stand for what matters!

Taking a stand for what matters!

Confession time, there was a time in my life when I did consider this part of my job/life.  I was ready to fight with everyone about any issue where you disagreed with what I believed the Bible taught. There were no issues that were too insignificant. “But the Bible says,” was my launching pad for a number of angry disagreements about a wide array of issues.

However, the older that I get the less I want to fight and the fewer and fewer things that I want to fight about.  God’s call on our lives to reach the world and tell them about the love of God through Jesus is too serious and big for me to spend my time angrily critiquing the way that fellow pastors and believers are trying to accomplish this Great Commission that God has given us.

However, there are still plenty of places where it is considered a noble duty to angrily critique churches that “do it the wrong way” or “don’t believe the right things.”  It seems a good way to get a book published and to become popular as well.  Just say something hostile about another church or pastor or movement and boom you are in the limelight.  In the meantime, the world continues to see God’s people unable to get along with civility much less demonstrate genuine love for each other.  This is incredibly serious, because the way that we treat and talk about each other is what Jesus said would be one of the defining characteristics of how people would know that we follow him.

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:35

This is how people will know.  If they are paying attention, then they likely don’t know.  Many of us believe that we are doing well if we can simply get along well with the people that worship in the same building as us, which is quite a challenge sometimes.  However, this principle is not limited to just your local church, although a great place to start.  We all need to love each other and stop fighting regardless of where we worship on Sunday or (gasp) Saturday.

Why do we fight? I believe that we fight because we do not know the difference between a major theological difference and a minor theological difference.  We also then can’t tell the difference between a minor theological difference and a tactical difference.

Major theological differences are those that if you do not believe them, then you just aren’t a Christian.  Muslims do not believe that Jesus is the Son of God. That is a major difference and is part of what makes them not Christians.  When and how you baptize people is a minor theological difference.  It doesn’t determine whether or not you are a Christian.  It doesn’t mean that it’s not important.  It’s not essential and we shouldn’t act like it is.  Whether or not you play drums during your worship is just tactics.  It’s how you do church, but isn’t theological at all.


(sigh) I received an email like this once.  We were wanting to replace uncomfortable plastic folding chairs with cushioned chairs.  Apparently I used the phrase “comfortable chairs” or “cushy chairs” too much, which apparently was a quote from a book that was popular at the time and I was in trouble.  The logic of the email was as follows.

You want different chairs

You want them to be comfortable

God doesn’t care about comfort

You don’t care what God says

You don’t listen to God

You should read the Bible and pray

It was a strange email.  The application point for me in the email was that I should start reading the Bible and praying.  I took that, ever so slightly, as insulting.  But this is how we think.  My opinions about how to do church come directly from God.  If you disagree with me, you disagree with God, and therefore…(insert sanctimonious insult here).

However, what if we reserved that kind of frustration for people who claim to be followers of Christ but don’t understand who Jesus is and the purpose and nature of his death on the cross?  Then we simply have spirited but respectful conversations with people who baptize differently, or do or don’t ordain women or believe that the Holy Spirit works in a different way.  Then we can also just enjoy the diversity of styles or worship and teaching that are out there and view ourselves as all being on the same team trying to accomplish the same goals in different ways.

The line itself may be blurry, but that does not mean that there are not issues that clearly are on one side of the line.  Can we all agree that what you believe about the end times is a minor theological point? Can we all agree that what instruments your worship team plays is simply a tactic?  Sadly, the answer to this seemingly rhetorical question is no.  We can’t all agree.  However, let’s start by everyone who is reading this agrees.

Some of the best pastor friends that I have ever had believe radically different things about the Holy Spirit than I do.  We let one of these pastors use our building for worship, for free.  I even coached basketball with one of the pastors who was Pentecostal.  He is a great friend and our daughters were friends.  The issues we disagreed about never came up.  I repeat, NEVER CAME UP.  We were too busy encouraging each other and praying for our city and figuring out ways to partner together and make a difference in our city.

Now one of my great pastor friends is someone who baptizes babies (gasp).  I’ve known him for a couple of years now and guess what? Hasn’t come up.  Why? Same reason.  Too busy encouraging each other and praying for our city.  If there came a point where the city no longer needed prayer and neither of us needed encouragement, we might have some time to debate theology.  I don’t have it penciled in though.

My sincere prayer is that this will continue to catch on, that the movement for churches and pastors to love each other and partner together will sweep the world.  We can put aside small differences with each other in order to make a much bigger difference in the world that desperately needs God.

The way I figure it, we will have billions of years in heaven for me to tell all these guys how right I was.

What About Abortion and the Gays?

September 8, 2015 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership

I was minding my own business and someone that I didn’t know started walking up to me.  I could tell that she wanted to talk to me.  (Experience tells me that there is about a 90% chance that this is going to be OK)

She comes up to me and says in a fairly curt way, “So, you’re a pastor or something right?” (Now there is a 25% chance)

“Yes ma’am.” (I was raised in the South)

“What’s the name of the church?’

“The Grove Church”

“Grove Church? I guess that’s non-denominational, huh?’ (10%)

“Yes ma’am”

“I guess you do contemporary music then?” (5%)

“Yes ma’am”

“Aaargh! Why do you do that? Contemporary music!” (<1%)

I tried to explain, that we as a church were trying to reach people that right now are not connecting well at church, namely people 40 and under.  We want to have an approach that has a greater chance of appealing to younger people.

She begins to explain her disdain for contemporary music.  Same stuff I’ve heard for 20+ years.  It’s repetitious, loud, not worshipful for her etc.

“So, these young people.  Are they getting saved?” (<.01%)


“Are people getting saved?”

“Yes ma’am. People are getting baptized and…”

“I don’t care about that.  Are they really getting saved?”

I explain to her my/our understanding of Jesus Christ as God’s Son and how sin destroys our relationship with God and how everyone needs God’s forgiveness through Jesus.  This seems to satisfy her (she even commends (?) me by saying, “So you don’t water it down then”), and I am briefly optimistic that this conversation is winding down.  That’s when it happens.

“What about abortion and the gays?” (0%)

….. (Awkward silence)

My brain is in overdrive at this point.  How am I going to respond to this? Why is she asking me this?  Why did she ask it like this? Please believe me.  That is exactly what she said.  She said it in a fairly harsh dismissive tone as well.  My brain typically works pretty quickly but I was stuck.  My wife accurately predicted my first response.

“What about them?”

“Well you know!” (Do I?)

This has been a while ago.  It still echoes in my head.  That whole conversation bothered me.  It bothered me for a lot of different reasons.  All my various thoughts on this exchange could end up being a blog series or a book.

We will start with this.  Is this really who we as Christians want to be know as? Does this represent us? And do we want it to?  Is this really what we have become? Let’s take her 3 questions in order.

1) Do you do contemporary music?  Interpreted: Do you do music that I like?  Is this the most important question to ask when evaluating a church? Does music style still divide us?  I feel like I could rant on this but I feel like I would be partying like it’s 1999 (Boom! Dated reference!)  How about is your worship passionate and sincere? Is your time of worship an opportunity for people to connect their hearts with the heart of God.

2) Are they getting saved? Interpreted: Are you telling them the hard truths that they need to hear?  Perhaps she is simply meaning to ask if we are church that values the gospel or if we believe that the Bible is the final authority on faith and life.  To give the benefit of the doubt, she could just have been awkwardly asking if we are compromising truth to be attractive.  However, what she asked was about compromising truth that other people need to hear.  She didn’t ask if I was going to challenge her with God’s word.  She wanted to know that they were going to be challenged.

3) What about abortion and the gays? Interpreted: Do you agree with me on my hot-button issues?  Are these the issues that determine whether or not a church honors God and believes the Bible? Why not what about poverty and the orphans? What do we communicate with the people who are far from God that these are the issues that determine whether or not someone is authentically Christian?  I’ll tell you in part what it communicates.  It says that you are not welcome until you agree with our politics.  “Charlie it is not a political issue.  It is a moral and Biblical issue!” What you mean to say is that it is not simply a political issue.  But it is one, and in a culture that chooses to tolerate a bitter, confrontational political climate, you should take care in making hot-button political wedge issues, the primary issues in your church.

This is the point in which I am accused of being soft or compromising truth.  This is humorous to me considering most of my life I have been accused of being close-minded and judgmental.  How about this, can we be uncompromising with truth and uncompromising in our love toward people?  There is so much more to the issues of the sanctity of life and sexuality than the sound bite that this lady wanted.  I do not want to have my thoughts on controversial subjects whittled down to a sound bite to pass someone else’s litmus test.

Would it be too far for me to say that if I had to choose I would rather have some Christians question my orthodoxy on some issues than to have any non-Christians question me or my church’s commitment to loving them?  I want everyone to know that forgiveness and life is available to them through Jesus Christ.  But we are too busy trying to figure out who can be the most “right” on these issues that we have forgotten that there are broken, hurting people out there that need to know that God is right there with his hand out offering hope, love, peace and forgiveness. “But they need to know that what they are doing is sin and we need to tell them…”  Serious question. Do you really believe that evangelical Christians have under-communicated that abortion and homosexuality are sinful?  I would find that hard to believe.

Jesus told us that we are the light of the world.  What kind of light are we?  Are we lighthouses pointing to safety or police spotlights bringing judgment? Are we a campfire providing warmth and light or are we torches to go with our pitchforks?

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. But what about abortion and the gays?  You never really answered the question.”

Fine here you go:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

John 3:16-17

There is obviously so much more to say, but I’ll stop there and just let this be a conversation starter.  What do you think?  Am I too soft? Am I being too hard on us?  How would you have handled that conversation?

“Our Church is Better Than Your Church”

February 10, 2012 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

A couple of days ago, we were praying for unity among churches in Fayetteville.  As some of you may know, this is very important to me.  Other churches are not rivals.  We are not businesses competing for marketshare.  We are one group, trying to bring hope and life to a hurting world.  So, when we feel the need to compete that’s bad.  When we decide to publicly attack and ridicule one another it is worse.

It goes something like this:

That church has a big building. That means they don’t care about missions or the poor.


That church only has a few people, they must not care about reaching out to other people.

I could do this all day, because I have heard plenty of these.  We look at other churches and feel that we can not only judge what they do, but their hearts as well.  Two questions: How do you know that church has a wrong attitude?  Even if you do know (which you probably don’t) what is gained through your public criticism?

Typically what is gained is the self-satisfaction of knowing that you are “right” and “doing it right.”  You also get to justify your own weaknesses but comparing them to (your perception of) other people’s weaknesses.  Then you get to feel better about yourself.  It’s actually much easier to point out the blind spot of someone else than to discover your own and work on that instead. Criticism is easy and feels good.  Rooting out sin in your own life is hard.

I’m currently reading a book where the author laments how megachurches build huge buildings and also talks about how bad it is that churches create celebrity pastors that do video preaching.  I know that’s not unusual. It is however unusual for that to be from a pastor of a megachurch with a large building who offers simulcasts of some of his teaching. How is such a thing possible? Because “we” do it the “right way” and “they” have insincere hearts.

When I first was reading this, I’ll confess, I was violating my own admonition here and I became angry.  After thinking about it, I realized that I really was less angry and more disappointed and sad.  I wish it weren’t that way.  I wish that we could believe the best in each other.  I wish that we could present a united front to the world.  I wish that when we do disagree and feel that the issue is serious enough, that we would (novel idea coming) talk about it (another one) in private. (Side note, if they live far away and you don’t have access to talk to them, then try just letting it go and trusting that the Holy Spirit will work on them.)

There are some pretty specific commands in Scripture about what we do when we see a brother or sister in sin.  They say crazy things like go to them and try and restore them.  They don’t say “publicly rant about them in your blog.” (Irony noted)

I know “they” upset you, because “they” don’t get it like “we” do.  Hey, I’ve got some (bad?) news for you.  There is no “they.”  There is just “us,” and we need to show the world the love of Jesus, in part by showing our love for each other.

John 13:34-35

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Why Your Church Is The Way It Is

Every now and then I drop in a blog post that possibly is only interesting to me. I feel bad about that sometimes, then I remember “Oh yeah, it’s my name on the website.  Wait, I guess that’s not my name, it’s a nickname.  Wait, it’s not my nickname, it’s a fairly common user-id associated with work e-mails (1st letter of first name + last name) that humorously (to me) becomes a made up word that could function as a nickname if anyone were to ever call me that.”  (This is what I mean by “only interesting to me”)

Anywho, I’m working on a theory.  There is a theory out there that a church takes on the personality of its Senior Pastor/Leader/Direction Leader/Team Leader/Lead Teaching Pastor/Guru of Teaching and Inchargish One.  I would like to modify that.  I agree with it to a point. I think that, left unchecked, a church will take on the weaknesses of its leader.

On the other hand, I believe that the personality of a church comes from the relationships between the leaders/staff/elders of your church.

Do your leaders love each other and get along?  You probably go to a fun, relational church.

Do your leaders fight? You probably go to a church with a lot of tension.

Do your leaders seem to not even know each other? You probably go to a corporate, cold church.

(BTW, this is one of those things that I think I said first.  Then you will quote the book you read it from, and then I will get mad)

Way too often we try to change our church culture, by changing programs, curriculum, ministries, etc.  We try to move staff around, fire one person, replace with another.  However, what many churches that struggle need are leaders that love each other, and enjoy being around each other.  From that flows love, community, and connection that seeps down to everyone else in the church.  The leaders and their relationships set the tone for the relationships that people in the church have with each other.

Are you leader in your church? Do you love (AND LIKE) the other leaders? No? Start.  Love is a choice (I know I didn’t say that first) and so is like. Definitely spend time with and get to know are choices.

Are you not a leader in your church? You can still help by setting the example from wherever you are, by modelling that you believe that loving one another is, you know, like important and stuff (Not the first to say that)

There are far too many of us out there in churches that have great ideas, solid theology, but unhealthy churches.  We think we can plan and strategize our way out of the unhealth.  We can’t, but that’s all we know.  We don’t know any other way.  However, the answer is often far more simple than we realize.

All we need is love (Pretty sure I didn’t say that first)

Unpacking the Packed House

January 27, 2011 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership

No, this doesn’t have anything to do with us buying or selling a house (although we did have a 2nd showing last night, if anyone feels inclined to pray in that regard).

This has to do with the overwhelming number of people that were at the 2nd service at the Grove on Sunday (if your church is full or fullish in the service you attend, feel free to keep reading)

I have been a part of services where I’ve said, “that was packed,” or “we were full.”  I will try from here on out to not use that expression any more, because I was at a service on Sunday that was packed and full.  We counted yesterday and we have ~210 chairs.  There were over 220 people in the room.  For you non-math majors out there, that means there were people there that didn’t have chairs. I know that people who hate math especially hate story problems.

Anywho, there are a couple of things that people can walk away from a service like that thinking, “Wow, that was cool.  There was a lot of energy,” or “that was crowded, hot, and if I’m going to be honest, smelled a little bit.”  Now I’m guessing that most of the members/regulars are in category 1.  Also, I would hope that most of the new people were in category 1.  Something like that is cool, once, maybe twice.  After a while, it can for some begin to be uncomfortable.  Again, this isn’t regulars, it’s people that are new to church, often the most spiritually vulnerable.

We certainly don’t want to do anything that would discourage people from coming or inviting a friend. (Why would I invite a friend if there is no room?) So what can we do?  Welpst, we can look for a new place to meet, which we are doing (Pray for that by the way. Hoping to have some good news soon).  You can also (gulp) come to first service. It starts at 9:15, by then on most days you are up, ready, at work or class, and have 10 games of minesweeper under your belt (Is that a dated reference?).

If you are bringing friends and they want to come at 11, come at 11.  If it’s just you, try and come to the early service.  New people will almost always come to the later service.  Let’s make room for them by worshipping early.

Speaking of that, drop your kids and wife off at the door and then go park in the worst place imaginable.  Braums lets us park in the northern part of their lot. We can park across Sunbridge at the strip mall. We can park down the street behind the church and Braums.  I think no one uses that street but us anyway.

People have always said to me in situations like this that “it’s a good problem to have.”  Agreed. But that still makes it a problem, a problem we can fix.  Come early and park inconveniently.  I’ll talk to you again about what to do when both services are 200+.

Why Do People HATE Megachurches?

October 13, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

You know what I hate?  Tomatoes.  Sure, if you process them enough and add plenty of salt, you can turn it into ketchup (I prefer the more phonetical spelling as opposed to the “I wonder it this comes from cats-up”) or pizza sauce.  However, even in pizza sauce, if you drop a tomato chunk in there, my response will be, shall we say, unpleasant.  I really do hate tomatoes (-es both times. Take that Dan Quayle.  Boom! Dated reference.  Yes I know it was potatoes.  Good grief).

Even though I hate them, it doesn’t really bother me that you don’t.  It doesn’t bother me that you love them.  The only thing that might bother me would be if I saw you bite into one as if it were an apple.  It would be both disgusting and dishonoring to apples.  But, as always, I digress.  My hatred for tomatoes does not move me to speak of the general evilness of them.  In fact, hate is way too strong of a word.  Hyperbole aside, I don’t like the taste of tomatoes.  It is a personal preference. (sudden transition)

People HATE megachurches, and I am going to have to confess that I don’t get it. I understand, “I don’t like the feel of a big church” and “I prefer smaller churches.”  When that extends to a general hatred and/or actively campaigning against them, I don’t get that.   I’ve worked for a megachurch and a small church and a medium sized church for that matter.  They all have strengths and weaknesses.

However, there is a sense in which it seems that a large church is by definition bad.  I felt that in seminary.  Churches with large congregations were sell-outs of some kind.  Small churches by definition were godly.  There was an inverse correlation between churches growing and whether or not those churches were pleasing to God.  Mind you, I’m not suggesting the opposite.  If I’m suggesting anything it is go to a small, medium, large, or extra-large church.  Makes no difference to me.

Is the church teaching God’s word?  Is it healthy?  Obviously, you can ask more questions than that, but most if not all boil down to those two.

So here’s the question.  Why the strong anger and disdain?  I know some reasons.  I read stuff and heard a lot of profs talk about it.  But I want you to go first.  What have you experienced?  Are you distrustful of megachurches? Do you think they are too _______? If so, I want to hear from you and get a good discussion going.  So, go!

Online Giving, More Than Just Convenient

September 13, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership

I talked about money for the first time at the Grove yesterday.  My apt. deck did not get t-p’d and all 4 of my tires are still in tact, so I believe I have survived.  We have an elders meeting tonight, so I will keep you posted.

During the sermon, we (re-)introduced online giving to the Grove Church and our website.  You can check it out here–Online Giving.  At first glance, the use of online-giving just seems to be a trendy gimmick to make giving more convenient, a savvy business plan, if you will.  The more I thought about it this week, the more I became convinced that it is a lot more than just convenient.

Many people struggle with the discipline of giving.  People want to give regularly, but they often forget.  Even if we remember to give, we can’t remember the checkbook.  (Checkbook?  What’s a checkbook?  It’s that bound set of pieces of paper sitting on your record player next to the lava lamp)  People want to tithe based on income rather than when they are attending, but how do you give when you’re not there?  I believe that most people want to honor God with their finances but feel trapped or undisciplined.  This is where online giving can make a huge difference.  Sign up, set up a recurring gift tied to when you get income and boom it’s done.  You can’t forget, so the discipline problem is gone.  Your giving is tied to what you make, so you can give to God first, rather than scraping together what’s left over.

Choose to give.  Choose to give regularly.  Choose to give to God from the first of what you have.  Choose to give based on what and when you make money.  Choose to honor God with your money, and you will receive tremendous blessings from God and you will be partnering with the other people in your church to reach people who desperately need God.

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:6-7

Honor the LORD with your wealth,
with the firstfruits of all your crops;

then your barns will be filled to overflowing,
and your vats will brim over with new wine.

Proverbs 3:9-10

What Makes a Church Successful?

As of the writing of this post, I am 30 minutes away from staff meeting at The Grove.  (Question: is our official name Grove, The Grove or The Grove Church or Grove Church?  Do you have to use and capitalize all 3 words?  I want to do right.)  We are going to talk about this question:

What is success for a church?

This question, as with a lot of things church-related, can be quite controversial.  Some are offended by the question.  They believe that churches shouldn’t be concerned with success.  There’s a logical problem with saying that though.  Bear with me.  (Actually this makes me nervous, since there are a handful of PhD philosophers roaming around the Grove now.)  If churches aren’t supposed to be worried about success and instead, for example, should just focus on worship and loving people, then wouldn’t said church be successful, by their definition, if they focus on worship and loving people?  If the point of church is following after Jesus, then a church is successful if it does so.

I think what people want to do is distance themselves from the word success, because it has such a secular, read worldly, read evil, connotation.  Success means lots of people and/or money and/or programs and/or staff, etc.  Success in church in the “bad” model is measured by the same tools that businesses measure.  That inherently is wrong, so goes the line of thinking.

Though I may not completely agree with that line of thinking, I understand it.  The true measure of success of a church cannot be simply in cash flow and customers and jobs created.  Success for a church simply put is effectively doing what God has called us to do and be.  The question can then become what has God called us to and can we measure or gauge that.  I would argue that more people coming can be a measurement as can the church’s willingness to give.  That shouldn’t be the only measurement, but it can be one.  So can involvement, serving, missionaries sent, community needs met.  We could make a long list of things, I suppose.

However, here is the point of this post.  Depending on the “success” of what happens next, we may keep this conversation going with future posts.  How would you define success for a church?  How do you know if a church is successful?  Should a church even think in those terms?  If not, then in what terms should we think?  Is evaluating churches based on numbers of people and dollars inherently wrong?  If so, why?  If not, why not?

I ask a lot of questions.  You don’t have to try and answer all of them.  Just give your thoughts.  I would love to get a good discussion going here on churches and success.

No pressure, but I’m measuring the success of this based on the number of hits and posts (I love Google Analytics).

I Went Back (AKA You Only Get One Chance…Mostly)

I have a pre-game ritual on Sunday mornings (by pre-game I mean before I preach and by ritual I mean just something I do).  I will go to a local fast food restaurant sit for a little bit and go over my sermon.  I have to get the sermon “back in my head” because mostly I have it done by Thursday and I try, mostly unsuccessfully, to not obsess about it over the weekend.

Anywho, I went to a different place two Sundays ago and got terrible service.  I blogged about it here.  I told the story, added a bit of creative exaggeration, ranted and made a connection that we need to be focused on serving people, whether it’s our job or not.  I didn’t think it was a particularly interesting post, but it struck a couple of people the wrong way and it blew up, with a lot of views and comments (BTW, disagree with me all you want on what I write, it helps traffic).  Some thought my attitude was poor and that I should have handled myself differently.

So, after saying that I wouldn’t, I went back yesterday.  Why?  Well my reasons are threefold:

1) Guilt

2) Chick-Fil-A is closed on Sundays

3) I knew that whatever happened would make for good blog fodder.

It was a different crew than I had previously.  The person at the cash register was very friendly and engaging.  There were fewer people working, serving more people.  It was a much more pleasant experience.  I will have to say that it was still not very clean and the WiFi is spotty at best.  I hope that is sufficient reason for me to not go back, although it has been demonstrated that I can be motivated by guilt.  You could try and convince me that what I should do is go next time with my own cleaning supplies.  Though I don’t think that helping multi-billion dollar corporations maintain a clean environment will make it on my to do list.  You can try though.

This all had me thinking (of course it did), often we only get one chance.  You can apply this into a different context if you want, but I think about it with regards to church.  When people visit your church, you typically only get one shot.  If they have a bad experience, if the people aren’t friendly, if their children aren’t well taken care of, most people will write your church off.  We can discuss that it shouldn’t be that way, but there are a lot of things that we could wish would be different that aren’t.  It doesn’t change the fact that you only get one chance to welcome someone for the first time, show them God’s love through everything you say and do, and create a place where they can feel at home.

If our only competition is other churches, then it’s not that big of a deal.  I hope that people find a great church somewhere.  We are all on the same team.  There are way too many people who need God to fight over the same people.  However, other churches aren’t the real competition.  The real competition is “I knew church wasn’t for me,” and they are done.  You never know when a new person walks into your church and this was them giving God and his Church one more chance, one last chance.  You never know when someone is coming in a desperate situation and needs someone to smile at them, love them, love their kids, and say and show “we’re glad you’re here.”

This is not just a staff responsibility.  Everyone needs to feel that kind of ownership.  Even if it is only your second time at your church, become a greeter and ambassador.  Even if you are visiting a church out of state that you will never see again, greet and love the people around you.  If you happen upon a new person, they won’t know or care that you are not a member.  They will assume that you are (they also will assume you are if you say nothing), and they will just be glad that someone helped them experience God’s love in a tangible way.

Just remember you often only have one chance.

More Random Musings on 2 Services and Greenhouse

August 10, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership

I am currently being swarmed by about 7 flies at Starbucks.  I don’t know why I’m telling you this, except that if there are any angry outbursts in the middle of this post, you won’t take it personally.

We really do have an incredible opportunity here when we go to two services.  We will be providing an incredible worship experience for people of all ages, and I really do believe that we will see God do some great things at the Grove this year.  I know that people have a lot of questions.  I will try to answer some of them.  None of these have been asked here to me, but I know that they have been asked many, many times all over everywhere.

Doesn’t all this talk about kids and families exclude singles, college students, folks without kids, etc.?

No, not any more than having a Women’s bathroom at your church excludes men.  (Stupid flies).  Seriously, we are not going to become a church that focuses exclusively on kids, but we have kids that come to our church, and we want them to have a great experience.  We want the experience in the Greenhouse to match the experience in the worship center (This may be the flies talking, but is there a better word out there? Let’s no go back to sanctuary.  Often I just say “big room.”  Ideas?).  We don’t want to create an A+ experience for adults and not do the same for our kids.

So, what specifically are you asking us to consider?

Church on Sunday morning is a two service experience.  We worship one service and we serve one service.  When we come together we want to worship and hear from God’s word and experience powerful worship.  We also want to use our gifts and time to serve and build up the body.  Both are an essential part of our time together.

Wait, uh, every week?

I recognize that seems like a lot.  Most of the serving roles are being designed to be every other week.  This way we have two teams that can fill every position.  People are out of town a lot and this way, ideally, when one is out of town, the other is serving.  However, many of you are here every week you are in town, why not serve every week?

I’ll tell you why not.  I need a break from serving some time.

Hmm.  While technically not a question, I will respond as best I can.  Taking a break from serving in an ideal world doesn’t make sense.  Who would need a break from sharing their time and talent with people that they love?  We all need breaks from different parts of life.  We go on vacations, leave town, shake up the routine, etc.  However, serving is what we are designed to do.  We as a church need to make sure that we are encouraging you, helping you, and loving you.  Serving your church on Sunday should be something that gives life not takes it from you.

Alright, fine but my kids, my kids.  How can they be here both services?  They’ll get tired, grow up to hate church.  Then you’ll have that on your conscience.

Kids love it at church.  They are some place different with friends.  They are with adults that love them and are teaching them about God.  Did I mention snack time?  That’s all my kids have known.  I’m pretty proud of how they are turning out.

Seriously, dude.  My baby is too young, it’s morning nap time, or (fill in the blank).

I’m glad you’re comfortable enough with me not to call me dude.  I understand.  Serve one, worship one may not work out great for both parents in all circumstances.  Maybe you take turns.  Maybe one serves in the Greenhouse and the other serves by taking the kids home and clearing space.  Make it work for your family, but try to find a way where you can serve on Sunday.

Big picture, serving needs to be part of who we are, part of our culture.  We love each other and we all have a role to play to support one another and build each other up.  Serving is not an obligation, it is an incredible opportunity that we all have to be used by God to change the world.

(Please shoot me an email at and let me know if you want to find a great place to serve)

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