How can you get more people – Lessons from startups

How can you improve your church and make it more effective?

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What? You say your church is perfect? You say effectiveness is not important? – If you say that, you are denying the Scriptures. Look at the letters to the early church as found in the Bible. Problems existed in the earliest Christian churches – from false doctrine, to sexual immorality, to lawsuits against each other.

No church is perfect simply because it contains flawed human beings that are prone to sin.

What about your mission? Win the world for Christ, make disciples of all nations, change the world – all of these missions can either be effective or not. If your goal is to make disciples, are you succeeding?

Not all business advice is good for the church, but certainly some of it is.  I found a few tidbits in this website I’d like to share with you. 5 ways to think like a startup

Engage With Your Customers – (these are the people who already attend your church).

Have you ever emailed your church members and asked why they come to your church? Do you ever email visitors and new members and ask how they found you, what they like and what changes they would like to see?

When you ask questions, sometimes you get answers and this information can drastically improve your effectiveness.

If your church is spending money on an outreach program year after year and you discover that program has not brought anyone to Christ and the church, no new visitors, no new Christians, why keep that program, why keep spending that money? Do you have so much money that it is filling up the office and you just need to get rid of it?

On the other hand, if you find that some outreach, some message, some advertisement, some program, is especially effective – then you know where to focus.

“When was the last time you emailed one-on-one with your customers? Do you know why they come to you? Do you know how they found you? If you knew that wouldn’t you do more of whatever that is?”

Your customers are the people who come to your church and those who become Christians.

The more you know about your customers and their needs the more you can enhance their experience and get more customers.

Act Today, Because Someone Else Will Tomorrow

“In an interview with Jimmy Fallon at the NExTWORK Conference, Napster co-founder Sean Parker talks about why Facebook killed Myspace: “The failure to execute product development,” Parker replies. “They weren’t successful in treating and evolving the product enough, it was basically this junk heap of bad design that persisted for many many years.” At one point in time MySpace was valued at $1.5 billion. Act today.”

Your church is in competition. You want people to respond to the Gospel, to follow Christ, to become disciples and become part of the church. Well, the world, the flesh, and the devil is offering programs, entertainment, fellowship, and other enticements to keep people away from Christ.

Is your church programs and outreach becoming “MySpace” while the world is “Facebook”?

Begin taking the challenges seriously and act now!

How Will You Will Beat your competion?

“I’m an avid Uber user for the last 5 years, and early adopter. Last week I got into a taxi from the airport. This taxi was the reason I don’t use taxis anymore. Garbage was thrown everywhere and the van sounded like it wasn’t going to make it up a San Francisco hill. I had to move my feet around the driver’s personal bag and when we hit a bump a bottle of hydrogen peroxide fell on me (no idea where it came from.) The driver dropped us off and gave us a card for $10 off our next Flywheel ride and said “You know Uber is really killing us.” Really?”

Is this a picture of what people experience in your church? If you want to bring people into your church, you need to look at how you can be better than what the world offers and this might take some courageous research. Do you know how the world treats the people you are trying to reach?  Maybe you should get out of the church building some and spend time in the “secular” world.

Don’t Fear Change

Keep yourself open to new ideas and change. Don’t keep doing the same things you did in the past simply because they worked in the past.  Be willing to take chances and change.

“Apple launched the iPod in 2001; as a personal computer company what was Steve Jobs thinking? The music industry? He started Pixar. What was he thinking? The movie industry? He thought differently and embraced change, he never feared it. From one of the only Apple ads where Steve himself narrated: “Because they change things. They push the human race forward. While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.””

 

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How long will your faith endure?

How long will you hold onto your belief?

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“I tell you, we don’t change, we beasts,” said Trufflehunter [the badger]. “We don’t forget. I believe in the High King Peter and the rest that reigned at Cair Paravel, as firmly as I believe in Aslan himself.” C.S. Lewis.

 

Endurance!

“He who endures to the end will be saved.  

Matthew 24 KJV

And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.

For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.

And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.

For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.

All these are the beginning of sorrows.

Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.

10 And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.

11 And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.

12 And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.

13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

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Are you ready to reach the world?

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5 steps to telling good stories

Story telling in the ministry and in preaching is an essential skill.  Think back to the sermons you remember or sermons that changed your life.  What do you remember about them? – The stories, the testimonies – not the “content”.
IMG_20180325_110332102-ANIMATION.gifLook at the Gospels – Jesus was always  telling stories.

Unfortunately, when we get into the pulpit, we are often lacking a story – or we are telling a story which is told poorly or is missing a point.

Here are 5 steps to developing a great set of stories.  Remember, it is OK to tell a story more than one time and often you can use the same story to illustrate more than one point.

(This information is not original – it came primarily from I will teach you to be rich website.)

  1. Find a method to collect your stories.  Often story ideas come our way and we have no way to store them.  Use a notebook, google docs, or some other method to save these ideas.
  2. Cut out unnecessary details.  Nobody cares about if it was on September 12th or August 8th. Write your story down and then get rid of the uninteresting details.
  3. Write down the point of the story.  No, it’s not obvious – write it down in plain and simple language.  If you want to use the story for a different point, write the story a second time and give that point.  If there is no point, you should not use the story – preaching time is too precious to waste on telling stories without a point.
  4. No, you are not ready yet. Now, perfect the story.  Do this by recording your story and then listening to it. Tell your story in front of a mirror and watch yourself.  Keep doing this until you can tell the story without any hesitation and with the proper expression.  DON’T tell an exciting story like you want to go to sleep. A sad story shouldn’t be told while you are laughing. You get the idea. Save these stories. You should have a number of them you are perfecting for the future – not just for the sermon tomorrow.
  5. Practice with a low-stakes audience. Tell the story to your spouse, to your kids, to friends and watch their reactions.  Remember, rapt attention is not the same as a person’s eyes glazing over.

As you go through these steps, you will find yourself modifying the story, making it longer, adding and removing content, all in your quest to be a great story teller.

Don’t give up! Story telling is a craft – not a spiritual gift.  Work on it and you can enjoy the fruits of people staying awake in your sermon and even quoting you weeks, months and years later.

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Next to the last Sunday in the United States

It’s hard to believe but in a few days, we will be on a jet heading to China.  August 31st is the deadline.  We have today and next Sunday to worship in a United States, English speaking church.  What we will do when we are in China, we will have to wait and see.

The packing is almost done.  The storage unit is half full.  We have our visas and plane tickets.  Monday will be my last day as an employee at Black River Imaging.  They have been so good to me for the past 17 years.

I really feel like Abraham in Genesis 12:1.  “Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you.'”

God promised Abraham a blessing in this passage.  I pray that He will bless us also and that His Name will be glorified in our activities.

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The Aurora Murders and Demonic Possession

Jesus casting out demons

Jesus casting out demons (Photo credit: Nick in exsilio)

This is a fascinating article written from a Roman Catholic viewpoint.  The author relates a reasoned, calm thought on the various stages of involvement in evil and demons.  I do think the ending is weak, particularly in leaving out any Scripture and mention of Jesus Christ.  This is somewhat implied.  However the article gives everyone who is willing to think about good and evil something to think about.

The Aurora Murders and Demonic Possession.

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Lectionary thoughts for July 29 – 2 Samuel 11:1-15

This is probably one of the most relevant passages in the Bible – at least as far as the news and the United States is concerned.  It is a story of betrayal, it is a story of abuse, it is a story of loss of faith.

Recently, the news has been about Penn State University and the trial of an assistant coach who was convicted on over 40 counts of abuse of young males.  This person used his position of power to take from these young men their innocence forever.

It’s not been that many years ago that this passage would have applied to the President of the United States – Bill Clinton.

And yet, this is not to level charges against any individual or to blame any political party.  This is a danger for ALL people.  Our US constitution was developed based upon the idea that people are inherently flawed -original sin, natural inclination, total depravity – call it what you want, but it doesn’t take much time watching the news to realize that ANYBODY is capable of falling into the most evil and horrendous of sins.

Let’s look at the passage now.

English: Statue of King David by Nicolas Cordi...

English: Statue of King David by Nicolas Cordier in the Borghese Chapel of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. Français : Statue du roi David par Nicolas Cordier, dans la chapelle Borghèse de la basilique Sainte-Marie Majeure. Italiano: Statua del re Davide di Nicolas Cordier, nella Capella Borghese della Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Roma. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.

One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “Isn’t this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (She had purified herself from her uncleanness.) Then she went back home. The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, “I am pregnant.”

So David sent this word to Joab: “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent him to David. When Uriah came to him, David asked him how Joab was, how the soldiers were and how the war was going. Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house and wash your feet.” So Uriah left the palace, and a gift from the king was sent after him. But Uriah slept at the entrance to the palace with all his master’s servants and did not go down to his house.

When David was told, “Uriah did not go home,” he asked him, “Haven’t you just come from a distance? Why didn’t you go home?”

Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my master Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open fields. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and lie with my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!”

Then David said to him, “Stay here one more day, and tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next. At David’s invitation, he ate and drank with him, and David made him drunk. But in the evening Uriah went out to sleep on his mat among his master’s servants; he did not go home.

In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it with Uriah. In it he wrote, “Put Uriah in the front line where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die. ”

English: King David Handing the Letter to Uria...

English: King David Handing the Letter to Uriah (1611) by Pieter Lastman, oil on panel, 51.1 x 61.3 cm, Detroit Institute of Arts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Let’s look first at the opening statement for here it is that we see the beginning of the problem.

In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.

At the time when David’s responsibility was to lead the army, David decided that he didn’t need to do that anymore.  “But David remained in Jerusalem.”  In ancient Israel, it was the kings job to join with the troops when they went to war.

Was David gravely ill?  Nope.  Was he injured? Nope.  Where their pressing needs at the palace which only he could handle? Nope.

We don’t know why David stayed at Jerusalem – but we can infer that David was having heart troubles.  No, he wasn’t sick.  Rather he had stopped being a man after God’s own heart.

Maybe he thought he had done enough.  Maybe he believed that he was too important to do the work being a king required.  Maybe he thought that it was now time to enjoy the fruits of kingship.  Whatever the reason – David was someplace that he should not have been and he was missing from someplace he should have been!

What might the history of the Bible have been if David had chosen differently?  This is jumping ahead of the passage, but look at some of the consequences.  David commit’s adultery.  He betrays one of most trusted men.  He has a man murdered.  His baby dies.  He changes the royal line to choose Solomon, the son of his sinful action.  One of his sons rapes his half-sister.  Absalom avenges his sister later by murdering his half brother.  Absalom leads a rebellion against his father and is later killed.  Absalom sleeps in public with his fathers wives.  Solomon becomes king and kills one of his brothers.  Solomon’s son makes such a mess of things that the kingdom is divided into two parts.

Sometimes people think, I don’t care what happens, just as long as we

Path

Path (Photo credit: Guerito)

have this one night together.  SIN has dire consequences.  And it started when David abandoned his post.

Andy Stanley preached a series of messages on the principle of the path.  The basic idea of this series of messages is that every path leads somewhere and if you want to arrive at a certain destination, you must get on the right path.

Good intentions do not matter to a path.  The path still leads to the same destination – regardless of your intentions.

Mistaken ideas do not matter to a path.  The path still leads to the same destination.

The number of people taking a path thinking it goes someplace it doesn’t does not matter to a path.  The path still leads to the same destination.

Jesus said in Matthew 7:13 and 14 “wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction…small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life.”

There is a path that leads to destruction.  Apparently it is easy to find and easy to walk on.  There is another path that leads to life and it is more difficult.

Not that he doesn’t say that if you have good intentions, the broad path will lead somewhere else.  The path ALWAYS leads to where the path is going – death or life, peace or conflict, joy or sorrow.

In the opening verses of our passage, David decided to take a different path than the one he had been on.

Larry Norman, the 1970’s Christian rocker composed a song with words I have never forgotten.  “Two roads converged in the middle of my life, I heard the poet say.  I took the one less traveled and that’s made the difference – every night and every day.”

Our neighbor has a sign in his yard with a Bible reference listed on it.  When my wife and I saw it, I misread the reference and we looked it up.  I thought it said Galatians 6:17.  The first part of that very I really like: “Finally, let no one cause me trouble.”  That’s a great quote – but that’s not what the reference was.  It was Galatians 6:7, a verse I’ve memorized in the Kjv – “Be not deceived. God is not mocked.  Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”

“But David remained in Jerusalem.”  Because of that, David fell.  Ephesians 4:27 says “Give the devil no opportunity.” NASB.

Galatians 6:9 says “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

When we are tempted to think it is all just too much trouble, that maybe it’s time for a break, or “just this once” – think of David, think of Bill Clinton, think of Penn State abuse trials, think of the Catholic priest sexual abuse scandal, think, think, think, think, think – there go I but for the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.

13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” – 1 Corinthians 10:13.

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Partial Christianity

So many people have abandoned the idea of REAL TRUTH. You hear this – it true for you but it is not true for me. If it is real truth – it is true for everyone and we have an obligation to either follow it wholeheartedly or admit that we aren’t interested in truth – just our feelings.

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No one can offend you without your permission

“No one can offend you without your permission.”

English: Neal Boortz at a FairTax Rally

English: Neal Boortz at a FairTax Rally (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I heard that today on the radio listening to Neil Boortz.

We live in a world today that seems to think that there is a God-given, constitutional, moral RIGHT to never hear or see anything that offends them.  It’s as if everyone has developed a case of overly sensitive ears!

I’ve read the Bible –

I’ve read the constitution –

You have NO right not to hear things you don’t like.  You have no right to silence people you disagree with.  And the only way you can be offended is if you decide to give your permission by taking offense.

Jesus said offensive things to people.  Moses said offensive things to people.  God said offensive things to people.  And if you listen to enough people, you will find people today who say things that are offensive.

So what should you do?

1) You can become an offensive jerk like everyone else. – I do not recommend this but chances are someone already thinks that about you anyway.

2) You can engage in debate with the person about what they are saying. – Sometimes not possible and sometimes you don’t have the time.

3) You can ignore it. – One of my favorite methods.

4) You can listen to it and consider that what is being said might be true. – Often a good idea.

5) You can go to God and pray blessings for the person.  Excellent!

6) You can go to God and ask God to show your own flaws and ask for his guidance.  Again, excellent!

The Fruit of the Tree

The Fruit of the Tree (Photo credit: Josh Kenzer)

Remember that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy,  peace, patience (long suffering – kjv), kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control.

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A god of no judgment

The best place to find criteria for talking about ethics and interpretation will be in Christian discourse itself… I take my stand with a quotation from an impeccably traditional witness, Augustine, who wrote, “Whoever, therefore, thinks that he understands the divine Scriptures or any part of them so that it does not build the double love of God and of neighbor does not understand it at all” (Christian Doctrine 1.35.40).

c. 1480

c. 1480 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By this light, any interpretation of Scripture that hurts people, oppresses people, or destroys people cannot be the right interpretation, no matter how traditional, historical, or exegetically respectable.

I came across this quote recently from another blog.  While it may sound “nice” and “good” – I believe that it is fundamentally flawed.

The book of Jeremiah tells us that “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (17:9)

Now that may hurt some people.  Most of us like to think that we are honest, that we have good intentions, that our hearts are pure.  I usually think I am a pretty good guy.  I try to be honest and obey the law and do good things.  I like to feel good about myself.

BUT – when I am really honest, when I truly examine my soul, I find that Jeremiah is right.  I am not really that honest.  I even lie to God on a regular basis (how dumb is that?) with prayers like, “God, the thing I want most is to follow you.”  I’m terrified that God will say one day, “Fine, if that is what you want the most, I want you to give up coffee, fast for 40 days, sell all your possessions and give them all away to the poor and follow me.”

We are not honest people.  If you have ever been pulled over by police for speeding, you know that they ask you a question like, “Do you know why I pulled you over?”  How many of you have answered that honestly?  “Yes office, you caught me on your radar gun.  If you have shot it at me last night though, you would have gotten me for 20 miles an hour over – not just 10.  And by the way, I didn’t use a turn signal as required by law and I tailgated the person in front of me.”

How about good intentions?  Do you have good intentions in everything you do?  At best, you might honestly say, “Sometimes” or “Well, they are not intentionally bad.”  Usually our intentions are neither good nor bad, they just are.  We are not thinking about glorifying God or helping others – we just want to get our own way.

Let jump to another thought. “ any interpretation of Scripture that hurts people” – Jesus made all kinds of hurtful statements.  John the baptizer called people a bunch of snakes.  Wow!  I guess we better cut those things out of the Bible.  It hurts people to be called out for sin and evil.  We can’t say anything that might make Hitler or Stalin feel bad.

Mussolini (left) and Hitler sent their armies ...

Mussolini (left) and Hitler sent their armies to North Africa and into Egypt against the British (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you take out all of the commands to REPENT and TURN FROM YOUR WICKED WAYS from the Bible, you are basically left with a bunch of stories and a message like, “I’m OK, you’re OK”.

Jesus Christ Crucifix

Jesus Christ Crucifix (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Bible is clear – I’m not OK before God and you are not OK before God without God’s work and intervention.  In fact, we are so bad and so guilty – the only thing that would make it right is the death of Jesus Christ, the lamb slain before the foundations of the world.

Will God ever pass judgment?  Will God ever hold a person to account for their sins?  Will God be the one to decide right and wrong – will we continue to swallow the lie that was first told in the Garden of Eden, “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4-5).

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