Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Defining Your Purposes

Chapter 5 of The Purpose Driven Church by Rick Warren is, perhaps, the most important chapter in the entire book. In this chapter, Warren provides some guidelines for, in the case of a new church, defining a church's purpose, or in the case of plateaued or declining churches, redefining that purpose. The first step in that process is, I think, the most critical: Study what the Bible says. At Stowe Community Church we spent one small group session discussing the Scriptures that Warren suggests looking at. Here are the references for those Scriptures: Matthew 5:13-16; 9:35; 11:28-30;16:15-19; 18:19-20; 22:36-40; 24:14; 25:34-40; 28:18-20; Mark 10:43-45; Luke 4:18-19; 4:43-45; John 4:23; 10:14-18;13:34-35; 20:21; Acts 1:8; 2:41-47; 4:32-35; 5:42; 6:1-7; Romans 12:1-8; 15:1-7; 1 Corinthians 12:12-31; 2 Corinthians 5:17-6:1; Galatians 5:13-15; 6:1-2; Ephesians 1:22-23; 2:19-22; 3:6; 3:14-21; 4:11-16; 5:23-24; Colossians 1:24-28; 3:15-16; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 5:11; Hebrews 10:24-25; 13:7; 13:17; 1 Peter 2:9-10; 1 John 1:5-7; 4:7-21.

The second step Warren recommends, after studying these Scriptures, is to Look for answers to four questions:

  1. Why does the church exist?
  2. What are we to be  as a church?
  3. What are we to do  as a church?
  4. How are we to do it.
The next step, after answering these questions is to: Put your findings in writing. Then, finally: Summarize your conclusions in a sentence.

I would love to know what YOU come up with after following these steps. Please let me know in the comments.

Warren also suggests four guidelines by which to judge an effective purpose statement:

  1. It is biblical.
  2. It is specific.
  3. It is transferable (short enough to be remembered and transferred from person to person)
  4. It is measurable.
I wonder, how does your church purpose statement measure up to these guidelines?

Right now, I am preaching a series on Acts 2:42-47 and you can listen to those messages here: The Fivefold Purpose of the Church.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Foundation for a Healthy Church

In chapter four of "The Purpose Driven Church", Rick Warren says, "Your church's foundation will determine both its size and strength. You can never build larger than your foundation can handle."

I remember when my wife, Becky, and I had a house built many years ago. We used to go and visit the construction site every day. For a long time, it seemed like very little was happening. However, in fact, the most important thing was happening. The foundation was being laid. That part of the building process took longer than anything else. Once the foundation was laid, it seemed like the construction process went forward very quickly. There were far more obvious and exciting changes happening every day. But the foundation laying process was seemingly tedious and boring.

Perhaps the same is true in the life of the church. The process of laying a proper foundation for the life of the church can be a long and tedious process. But I agree with Rick Warren, it is the most important part of building a healthy church. Coming to understand, from Scripture, the purpose of the church, and articulating that purpose in writing, is the foundation for everything else the church will do.

Right now, Stowe Community Church is taking time to redefine its purpose as a church. The process may seem slow and boring to some. There are probably people in the church who would like to get moving with new programs. But I believe that taking time to rediscover from Scripture God's purpose for the church is more important than anything else we can do at this stage in our church life.

Today I preached on Acts 2:42-47, offering an overview of the five-fold purpose of the church. I look forward to expanding on each of those purposes in the weeks to come as we prayerfully seek God's will and direction for our part of God's kingdom in Stowe, Vermont.

In the mean time, let me leave you with one of my favorite quotes from C. S. Lewis' Mere Christianity on this same topic....
May I come back to what I said before? This is the whole of Christianity. There is nothing else. It is so easy to get muddled about that. It is easy to think that the Church has a lot of different objects—education, building, missions, holding services. Just as it is easy to think the State has a lot of different objects—military, political, economic, and what not. But in a way things are much simpler than that. The State exists simply to promote and to protect the ordinary happiness of human beings in this life. A husband and wife chatting over a fire, a couple of friends having a game of darts in a pub, a man reading a book in his own room or digging in his own garden— that is what the State is there for. And unless they are helping to increase and prolong and protect such moments, all the laws, parliaments, armies, courts, police, economics, etc., are simply a waste of time. In the same way the Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

C. S. Lewis Tour--August 2016

I am leading a C. S. Lewis Tour this summer to Northern Ireland and England with tour guide, Russ Head. We still have room for others to join us. Here is a link to more information about the trip: C. S. Lewis Tour 2016

Sunday, January 10, 2016

I Have a Dream

Once again, we are approaching the yearly remembrance of the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. If people know anything about MLK, they know about his "I Have a Dream" speech given from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. on August 28, 1963, to a crowd of over 250,000 civil rights supporters. That speech was, in many ways, the focal point of a rallying process for the civil rights movement. People young and old today know bits and pieces of that speech whether they were alive in 1963 or not. If nothing else, that one speech demonstrates the amazing power of good rhetoric, passionately spoken, by a person sold out to a good cause.

One thing I like about "The Purpose Driven Church" by Rick Warren is shared in chapter one, "The Saddleback Story". In that chapter, Warren tells us that in his first sermon in his newly planted church in Orange County California in March of 1980, he shared his dreams for the future of the church. It required boldness and faith for Rick Warren to stand up in front of a fledgling group and tell them that one day he hoped to welcome 20,000 people into their church family. The amazing thing is not only that Rick Warren said that all those years ago, but by God's grace he has accomplished what he dreamed of doing.

One thing I want to do, as I begin a new pastorate in a new place (Stowe, Vermont) is that I want to share my dreams for the future with this congregation. Not only that, but I want to hear the dreams of the members of this congregation, their hopes for Stowe Community Church as those desires relate to the five New Testament purposes of the church outlined in Acts 2:42-47.....

  1. Teaching
  2. Fellowship
  3. Worship
  4. Service
  5. Outreach
To that end, my wife Becky and I, plan to host something we are calling "Dreams & Desserts". We are going to open our home to the members of our congregation on at least five consecutive Sunday nights beginning January 31. We invite all to come and share with us some delicious dessert, but even more, their delightful dreams for the future of Stowe Community Church.

I believe God speaks to us through our dreams, and that God delights to give us the desires of our hearts when those desires are centered in God's will. It will be exciting to see what God will do through this sharing of dreams.....

Saturday, January 09, 2016

The Purpose Driven Church

We have begun reading and discussing "The Purpose Driven Church" by Rick Warren at Stowe Community Church. We are using this book as a catalyst to re-define our purpose as a church, to formulate a new vision, strategy, and goals. The Lord used this book in a previous church I served to jump-start us along the same journey and we were blessed to see that congregation grow from 40 to 200 in attendance on Sunday mornings.

So far, the reading and discussion of this book in the context of Stowe has been very stimulating. My hope is to blog about my reading as we make our way through the book, for my benefit, for the benefit of the people of Stowe, and for anyone else who may happen to read this blog. I find that Rick Warren's work is a valuable contribution to what C. S. Lewis called "mere Christianity".

For starters, let me simply say I love the image that Warren uses at the beginning of the book. The title of the introductory chapter is: "Surfing Spiritual Waves". I grew up in Southern California and though I was never a surfer I can still relate to the image. Warren makes the point that only God can make a wave. It is the job of the surfer to simply be on the lookout for the wave that is coming, catch, and ride it as best he or she can. Warren applies this image to church growth. Only God can make the church grow. However, if we are attentive as church leaders, we can identify spiritual waves of receptivity, revival, and renewal, and furthermore, we can learn how to catch and ride such waves for God's glory.

That is what I hope to be doing in Stowe. It is a place with no physical ocean waves, but I am already sensing the spiritual waves of receptivity to God in this place, and I hope to catch and ride some of those waves for as long as God will have me in this place. I hope and pray it is a long, good ride.....

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Big and Small

Here is a link to my message, on Luke 2:1-7, delivered on Christmas Eve at the 11 pm service at Stowe Community Church.... Big and Small.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas 2015!

If you click on the image above, you will be better able to read the C. S. Lewis quote I shared last night in our 11 o'clock Christmas Eve service at Stowe Community Church. We had over 600 people in total attendance at three services. The 5 o'clock service with children's Christmas pageant and many young families in attendance had standing room only, with many filling the balcony and standing along the walls at the back of the church. Our children and youth did a wonderful job, as did our choir in the 7:30 and 11 o'clock services. I am feeling very blessed to be the new pastor of such a wonderful church, in beautiful Vermont, with a community of creative and welcoming people. Thank you to all who by your prayers for me throughout 2015 helped to make this possible. Here is a photo of just part of our Christmas Eve crowd last night....

May the Lord bless you and keep you during this Christmas season, throughout 2016, and beyond!