Sunday, March 25, 2012

Why the Church Talks About Money

What do I say to people who ask me, “Why so much talk about money?”

When I get this question, I ask people to consider three reasons why we talk about money regularly in the church.

Giving is catalytic for spiritual growth. Discipleship includes growing in each of the 7 G’s (Glorify, Grace, Growth, Groups Gifts Good Stewardship, and Go.) While Good Stewardship is just one of the seven G’s, growing in generosity causes one’s spiritual growth to soar in the other G’s too. Generally, when we learn to trust God with our money, we learn to trust God with all of our lives. Where your money goes, your heart follows.

Matthew 6:21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

I could stop right here because in order to accomplish our mission of leading unchurched people to become fully devoted followers of Jesus, we must disciple people in how God says to use the money He has entrusted to us. If people do not use their money like God says, they are not yet fully devoted followers of Christ.

Money is the cultural idol. When money is an idol, some people get upset when you talk about it. What if we have to slay the main idols in our area in order to have a spiritual breakthrough? Paul preached the Good News and he called people to turn from idols. And people’s lives were changed. The scandal of the American church is that people become Christians, but their lives are no different. Are lives not changed because we have not faced and replaced the idols in our lives?

1 Thessalonians 1:9 … you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,

Tearing down the altars to the idols in our culture will include the church talking about money. (See American Idols Series, The Money Connection message.)

Colossians 3:5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

Money impacts mission. Our capacity for mission will never regularly exceed our resources of people, money, time and space. We must constantly develop in each area for the sake of our mission, including money. We give ourselves to training up leaders and involving new people to serve God in the areas of their gifts and passions. In the same way, we must train the people of Clear Creek Community Church to live simply, give generously and spend wisely for the sake of our mission. Money impacts mission! God has provided sufficiently for you that you might participate in every good work. (See Sent series and Live Sent message.)

2 Corinthians 9:8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Grief of Growth

A hallway conversation with one of the leaders in the church reminded me of how growth brings grief. And it might help to say it out loud. Grief comes when we feel loss. It’s true when we lose a loved one or a job or a dream. It happens when our kids leave home. But here’s the surprise. We may also grieve what we lose in the church as the church grows.

Sure, we usually celebrate growth in the church too. We cheer when people come to faith, get baptized or connect in a small group. We tell the stories of changed lives with the gusto of a young father telling of his son’s first homerun. The buzz of a growing church gives us a sense that we are caught up in what God is doing in our little corner of the world. And it’s good.

Grief sneaks in the back door as the church grows. Those who serve in ministries, give obediently and sacrificially, pray the prayers and care for the baby Christians in the church relish the kind of connection they have with one another and with church leaders. This connection keeps us inspired and becomes a treasure to us. This connection is what becomes vulnerable as the church grows.

In our case, we started two additional campuses and we have six weekend services. Some of the people who were key leaders five years ago rarely see one another any more. They might be at different campuses or services. Some of the previous connection is gone.

So while we celebrate the blessings that come with growth, some of us secretly and quietly grieve. We miss the way things used to be. And we know that it might not be like it was ever again. I might not see the same people or feel as connected to some staff person or leader.

So let me give a shout out to the long timers, those who have been at Clear Creek Community Church for five, ten and even fifteen years. I’m grateful for their courage to face the grief that comes with growth…again and again. Not everyone can handle it. Some have left the church for a smaller church. But many have stayed after they have grieved and then grown into the kind of leader that helps the church “lead unchurched people to become fully devoted followers of Jesus” in the next season of the journey together.

Let’s just agree to say it out loud. When, by God’s grace, Clear Creek Community Church is ten campuses in close proximity to the people we are trying to reach in the “4 B” area, there will be some grief along the way! But the grief will not compare to the joy to be revealed in the last day—and many of the days between this one and that.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Lead Small

Leading small is a big deal.

When churches (or other organizations) are new and small, we tend to lead small. I’m not talking about having a small vision or a small heart. Leading small is about how we interact with people to prepare them to lead in the church. Leading small is interpersonal and dialogical. Leading small is an act of discipleship. The leader who leads small asks questions like,

“Is he operating in his gifts?”

“How can we help him actualize his potential?”

“Is she demonstrating concern and patience with her team as she keeps them aligned to our mission?”

“Does he inculcate our values in the way he relates to people?”

Leading small happens on the front lines, in the moment, at a breakfast table and in the afterglow of serving. It seldom happens 9 to 5.

The church needs leaders who can lead large too. Leading large serves the entire organization at once. Leading large is about vision, values, plans, processes and resources. Leading large is a team function, but usually it’s a strategic team having animated conversations about the preferred future in a boardroom. Charts and graphs give way to carefully crafted communication strategies. Leading large creates big plans, and that’s not bad in itself, but it is bad by itself.

Here’s a word of prophecy. If you only lead large, I see a sinkhole in your future. Whatever it is that you are leading is about to cave in.

Problems arise when you lead large to the neglect of leading small. You have plans, but you don’t have prepared people. When your plans outdo the people who are prepared to carry out your plans, you are just writing music that no one can play. If you are constantly trying to find a leader to carry out your plans, you better listen for the sinkhole warning blaring in your ears.

Notice the contrast in these two types of leadership.

Leading Large Leading Small

Making Plans Preparing People

In the future In the moment

In the boardroom At the breakfast table

Professional Interpersonal

Presentation (One way) Conversation (Dialogue)

With the Crowd in Mind With the Person in Mind

Leading small is essential to building healthy congregations. The leader who leads small will continually build an army of people who are equipped for the mission at hand; he will prepare that army through meaningful, personal encounters. Leading small will keep the leader engaged with people. Leading small will create a multiplying culture for disciple making and leadership development. Leading small will help you remember that it’s about people—who give glory to God.

By all means, lead large. Dream great dreams and cast big visions. Get the best thinkers in the room. Push through to clarity about who God made your church to become and map out a credible strategy to make disciples. By all means, do the hard work of leading large.

But for heaven’s sake, don’t neglect leading small. Make sure every leader at every level is face to face with a few people, on their knees with future leaders, at the breakfast table, answering questions, recasting the vision and building the army of saints who will carry out the mission.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

An Angry Church Planter

Church planting exposed my emotional brokenness on two fronts. First, I was angry most of the time. My anger fueled my workaholism. Church planting required undivided attention and a willingness to correct matters quickly. Since anger actualizes a person, it became my partner. I lived just below the boiling point. Most people were unaware of my tendency to boil over, they simply felt that I was driven to make things happen. But my children walked on egg shells at home.

Secondly, two years after we planted Clear Creek Community Church, I recognized a feeling of emotional detachment from my wife and kids. I don’t remember where the question came from, but I asked myself, “What if my wife and children never feel loved by me?” I thought about how much of a failure I would be if I planted a church successfully, but I did not know how to love my wife and kids in a way that they felt cherished, protected and connected to me. What if I reached the end of my one and only life and thousands of people became Christians, but my children wanted nothing to do with me. That would be such a farce. So I called a friend who could help me work through my junk.

I hated the process of talking about what makes me tick. It actually hurt. But I learned so much about anger. Anger is omni-directional. It splashes on the people it was never intended to reach. Of the four basic emotions: mad sad, glad and scared, anger is the second emotion. We always feel one of the other emotions first, but we jump to anger because it’s the empowering emotion. That made sense to me since I stayed angry in order to stay engaged and solve problems. With anger, it was as if the house was always on fire.

My friend helped me see that my driven life and associated anger stemmed from my performance orientation. I was driven to perform and succeed because I believed successful people are loved. So anyone who stood in my way of success was cutting off my air and, thus, they were met with my wrath in response. I could morph from nice guy to killer in a nanosecond.

It was the gospel that changed me. One day my friend said to me, “There is nothing you can do that will make God love you more and nothing you can do that will make God love you less.” I had said the same thing many times. But when I heard the statement, God’s Spirit opened my heart to grace. I realized that I was trying to earn God’s love through hard work and success. That’s why I was angry and the people I loved were being pushed away. It’s when I learned to preach the gospel to myself that my emotional world changed. Under grace, in light of the gospel, I became self-controlled.

In retrospect, we were exposing the idols in my life. And the gospel continues to set me free more than a decade later. I’m grateful. So are my wife and kids.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Annual Celebration 2010

This blog is a snapshot of vision I shared at the Annual Celebration on Wednesday, March 3, 2010. Take a look at the video below to get a taste of the evening.

The Church on Mission
The church of Jesus is not a place or a meeting, but a people on mission. Those Jesus saves, he sends. And he does not send you alone; he sends you as a church armed with the gospel, gifted and indwelled by his Spirit. Let’s remind each other that we are a sent people. And what God sent us to do is not yet done.

Multiplying Campuses / Venues
We are committed to planting campuses and venues from the Beltway to the Beach, from the Bay to Brazoria county so that every individual knows a disciple of Jesus who can invite them to attend a Clear Creek Campus near them. Fulfilling this vision will require multiplied leaders and magnanimous generosity.

Everyone in Two Groups
Our vision is for Clear Creekers to be part of two groups. The first is a missional small group. Groups are the best atmosphere for becoming a fully devoted follower of Jesus. Spiritual formation does not just happen in living rooms, a place to sweat and serve is required. So groups are not cul-de-sacs, but avenues of good works that create good will and open doors to the good news. We will create a culture together where every group does Go Ops at least quarterly.

The second group is new to most people; it’s a missional core group. Clear Creek Community Church started with a handful of people who were devoted to do whatever it took for the church to start. Every campus and venue in our future will need a missional core group. Over the next year, we can see the emergence of hundreds of people who will be the “whatever it takes” core group for new campuses and venues. The new campuses and venues will provide empty seats at optimal inviting hours in close proximity to the people we are trying to reach.

A Month to Listen
Over the next month, you will have opportunity for your voice to be heard to help form our strategy for coming days. We’ll present the vision and strategy by the end of May. Until then, the following ways are opportunities for you to give input.
• Survey Given at Annual Celebration
• Spiritual Health Survey in the near future
• Listening groups start March 21
• Online response

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The One Thing for Church Planters

Church planters sometimes ask me, "If you could tell me one thing as a church planter, what would it be?" My response, "Life's not that simple." But if you hold me down and give me an arm burn until I tell you my "one thing" for church planters--here it is, "Love your wife."

Here's why. First, lose at this and you lose. Success in any other arena will not make up for a failure at home. Also, to love your wife you must make a series of value choices. She gets my time instead of this thing or that opportunity. Likewise, leading a new church is a series of value choices. If you can't make choices and set boundaries and commit yourself in loving your wife, you will not do any of those things in planting a church either.

So if you are a church planter, love your wife well. Say "yes" and "no" with conviction to other things vying for your affections and your devotion. Demonstrate how you treasure her with your schedule, your words and in the many ways you consider her. You will build a strong marriage and you will work on the kind of character required to lead a church.