edA few days ago, my dad handed me “The Creative Leader” by Ed Young. I have been a huge fan of both Ed Young and Fellowship – I visited last year, took a mini-tour of the facility and went to one of their services – pretty incredible. Anyway, I’d say I am half-way through it right now, and I can’t put it down – I can’t finish it because I keep going back and re-reading everything. Other than the cheesy cover, I’d say this book should be in every pastor’s or staff person’s hand who wants to succeed at building a healthy, relevant church today.

There is so much in this book that deserves mentioning, here’s my advice: just read it. But, I will talk about one section dealing with the weekend worship service. Ed has come up with an acronym (I know, cheesy!) for describing the weekend worship service: W.O.R.S.H.I.P. I’ll just give you the really short version.

Welcoming – “the biggest obstacle for most people when they enter a new church is fear. This is especially true for those who have little or no church background. However, it is also true for those who have become disillusioned with other churches”. Creating a comfortable, welcoming atmosphere is key to attracting people. Ed also talks about simple things like not having bad breath, parking lot teams, welcoming teams, information screens, communicating detailed information, following up with visitors, and those who want to get involved.

Organized – “creativity emerges from order”. “Every worship team participant – all staff members who are responsible for the speaking, music, drama, videos, lighting, sound, and stage design – has to be on the same page, working on the dominant theme each weekend”. This is so important, not only for the presentation to be effective, but for the staff and volunteers to maximize their potential each weekend – the more they know, the better job they can do.

Relevance – “What difference does this make in people’s lives?”. This is the question that gives significance to what you are doing. It’s easy to be busy, to have a lot going on, even do it well. But it must matter – it has to, or else you may as well close the doors and tell everyone to go home. If we are not speaking people’s language, meeting them where they are and sharing something that causes them to rise to a new level in relationship with God and others than we are doing something wrong. Look to Jesus who was extremely relevant, always teaching, discipling, and loving people at their level and leading them to new levels of understanding, commitment, dedication, and leadership.

Next: S.H.I.P.

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state of fearI just finished “State of Fear” by Michael Crichton (remember Jurassic Park?). You may not know this, but I have recently taken up reading as a hobby. I think I have read about eight or so books in the last three or so months – mostly suspense thrillers. This book started out pretty slow but I’d say the last few chapters made it a worthwhile read. It’s basically an environmental suspense novel using tons of real environmental and scientific studies to support a fictional story. The book does raise some very good questions about what is environmentalism, what is conservation, global warming, species extinction, urban industrialization, etc. Basically what I got from the book was that we (humans), don’t really know much about the climate, the earth, temperature changes, atmosphere, the future, etc., and yet we are spending tons of money and creating policy based on studies that are basically “good guesses”.

I’m not really huge on environmentalism – got lots of other things going on right now. Don’t get me wrong, I recycle when I can, and I would really love an electric vehicle (especially with gas being over $3 a gallon!). But this book has got me thinking alot more about our current situation. For example environmentalists want to build windfarms to generate energy, but apparently no one has studied how this will effect the bird population… oye – see what I mean? Sounds great – will it work? How much will it cost compared to how much energy will it produce – omg I need to stop typing!

Well at the end of the book, one of the characters decides to start a new type of environmental group – new vision, better research, more effectiveness, etc. He says “…all these environmental organizations are thirty, forty, or fifty years old. They have big buildings, big obligations, big staffs. They may trade on their youthful dreams, but the truth is, they’re now part of the establishment. And the establishment works to preserve the status quo.”

This got me thinking about my line of work – the church! Could this be compared to the church? What is we replaced the environmental group with the church and used that statement to describe the church of Jesus Christ? Could the church be just working to “preserve the status quo?”. This is a great discussion – personally, I think the modern American church does seem to have a lifespan – or a common growth chart that it follows. At staff meetings we have called it the church bell curve. It basically states that a church begins with vision – solving a problem, meeting needs, being fired up, creatively reaching for new and effective ways to accomplish Jesus’ final mandates. Then it starts to normalize, stabilize, organize, and settle into it’s programs – doing things the same way over and over. Then the church begins to be irrelevant, old fashioned, out of touch, and staunch in it’s views of how things should be done – and before you know it, it becomes a museum – celebrating the “good old days”, and becoming completely ineffective.

Ok, I have pontificated enough; the question we are left with is – how to you overcome this process? I am too tired of typing right now to tell you what I think, but I will follow up soon. Leave a comment on what you think!

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