Friday, February 07, 2014

"Sports Illustrated, Blockbuster, and Your Church" By Marty Duren


Years ago there was a world-beating sports magazine called Sports Illustrated. It was the one thing that every football, baseball, basketball loving person could not wait to see weekly in the mailbox or on the newsstand.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the throne crumbled. An upstart cable TV network called ESPN became the must-watch channel for sports fans. ESPN provided sports updates all morning so people getting ready for work could catch up on the scores and highlights from the previous night. No more having to wait a week for Sports Illustrated. Fans did not even have to wait until the sports segment on the evening news.
Now ESPN boasts multiple cable channels, a partnership with ABC Sports (via parent company, Disney), its own Olympics (the X-Games), its own magazine, and a host of other properties. ESPN is now THE undisputed leader in sports. Sports Illustrated still exists, but its once dominant foothold is long gone.
What is the difference? Sports Illustrated mistakenly thought it was in the magazine business. ESPN correctly understood itself to be in the sports information business. If Sports Illustrated had understood its true position and leveraged its talent base, reach and influence, ESPN might still be a channel.

Remember when there were Blockbuster stores? People got into their cars, drove miles to a brick building (or strip mall) to rent movies on VHS, and later on DVD. Remember when Blockbuster dropped their late fees even though it made up a large portion of its revenue? Why would a company willfully drop revenue?
This other out-of-nowhere company called Netflix had arrived. A Netflix membership allowed you to order DVDs online and have them sent directly to your mailbox! There were no late fees. Instead, you simply had to return the movies you had rented before ordering more. No driving in the snow or rain, no penalty for being forgetful—and no need to rewind. Netflix was a game changer.

As if that were not enough, Netflix was an early provider of online streaming movies and TV shows enabling subscribers to watch on their desktop, laptop or tablet. Now Netflix produces its own shows and movies.
What is the difference? Blockbuster mistakenly thought it was in the movie rental business. Netflix correctly understood itself to be in the entertainment content delivery business. Blockbuster had both the market share and the leverage to do everything Netflix did. They simply did not have the understanding of the times or vision of the future.

Unfortunately many churches are like Sports Illustrated and Blockbuster. They rightly see themselves are repositories of truth with a responsibility to get truth to others. Unfortunately, they hold to a singular content delivery system—the Sunday morning service—as ultimate. This is a time when people expect multiple delivery systems as the norm. For churches, the content will not change; the gospel is the same. But our delivery systems and touchpoints with “customers” must change both for the sake of our members and those who need Jesus.

One way to make our content (the gospel) more readily available is for churches to re-evaluate everything about their online presence from the website to use of social media. People who live in your area do not reach for the Yellow Pages or the church directory of the county newspaper. If they are looking for a church at all, they will use a search engine or the search bar on Facebook. If you have a website that looks like a template from Geocities or a middle schooler’s 2006 Myspace page, you have blown it.
Websites need not have elaborate image sliders and be covered in HTML5 moving parts. They simply need to be clean and easy to navigate. Remember: the landing page needs to be friendly to non-attendees, so service times and contact information need to be prominent. Members—those who visit the website regularly—know where to look for other information. Ease of use is for non-members, not for members. 

Additionally, make sure your social media is just that: social. Do not make announcements on your Facebook page then neglect to answer related questions. Social media is a conversation, not an info dump.
So much content can be provided via a church website it is hard to cover it all in such a short article. Podcasts of the sermon, videos of the entire service, new member training, a pastor’s welcome, bulletin downloads, student ministry permission forms, and so much more are all content pieces just waiting to be added to your church website.

Churches should learn from Sports Illustrated’s missed opportunity and Blockbuster’s failure. Do not isolate yourself into a single content delivery system. Put the Internet to work for you and your church for the sake of the gospel.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

"8 Guaranteed Ways to Emotionally F*ck Up Your Kids" by Sherrie Campbell

Our children are the lights of our lives. We all start off as parents envisioning nothing but success, love and happiness for them. However, these dreams often do not manifest because they are not getting the important things they need to become disciplined, mature and motivated adults. The following are eight parenting f*ck-ups that will guarantee your child will suffer from depression, anxiety, anger, tense family relationships, problems with friends, low self-esteem, a sense of entitlement and chronic emotional problems throughout his or her life.

1. Ignore or minimize your child's feelings. If your child is expressing sadness, anger or fear and you mock them, humiliate them, ignore or tease them you minimize what they feel. You essentially tell them what they feel is wrong. When parents do this they withhold love from their child and miss opportunities to have open and vulnerable connections teaching them to bond and to know they are loved unconditionally.

2. Inconsistent rules. If you never talk about your expectations, you keep your child from knowing how to behave appropriately. Children live up or down to what you expect. Rules give them guidelines and boundaries to help them define who they are, good and bad. If you keep your child guessing and life is vague, they will begin to act out to find the boundaries themselves, which leads to low self-esteem and problem behavior.

3. Make your child your friend. Never share all your worries, concerns and relationship problems with your child or ask their advice. If you act helpless and defeated to your children they will never learn to respect you and will treat you as an equal or an inferior because you have used them for your own therapy. You must show your children you can stand up to problems, face your challenges and handle life through all the stress and come out on the other side. Be real, have your emotions, but do not burden your children.

4. Put down your child's other parent. If you never show affection and love to your partner/spouse in front of your child, the child does not develop a barometer for what love is or what it looks like. If you are always putting your spouse down and rejecting him/her, threatening divorce, you create a chronic state of anxiety for your child. If you are already divorced and you remain cold, distant, bitter, angry and blaming of your ex-spouse, you are sending the subtle message to your child that your ex-spouse is the cause of the divorce and you need to be the preferred parent. This is parent alienation.

5. Punish independence and separation. When we punish our children for growing up, we make them feel guilty for having normal developmental needs and desires which often causes deep insecurity, rebellion, cutting and other forms of behaviors that indicate failure to be able to branch out and be themselves as independent people.

6. Treat your child as an extension of you. If, as a parent, you link your own image and self-worth to your child's appearance, performance, behavior, grades and how many friends they have, you let them know they are loved not for who they are but for how well they perform and make you look good. This turns them into pleasers rather than doers, and they will always worry about being good enough.

7. Meddle in your child's relationships. Directing every action your child takes in their relationships -- from friends to teachers -- inhibits their maturity. For example, if your child gets in trouble at school and you immediately rush to talk to the teacher to get them off the hook, or you are constantly telling your child how to be a friend, as your child grows he/she will never learn to navigate the sharper edges relationships bring on their own.




8. Over-protect. When we protect our children from every problem and emotion, it creates a sense of entitlement and inflated self-esteem that often crosses the line into narcissism. They expect life to be easier than it is. They want everything done for them no matter how they behave. They then become depressed and confused when they don't get what they believe they deserve.

Follow Sherrie Campbell, PhD on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Dr_Sherrie      

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Mark Batterson: How to Eliminate Boring Sermons

A hint: It has nothing to do with delivery or style. It has everything to do with the most important kind of content.
There is a world of difference between preaching a sermon and living a sermon. No amount of study can compensate for deficiencies in your life. You can “study it” but if you aren’t “living it” it’ll ring hollow. 
The opposite is true as well. Jesus’ teaching was authoritative because it was backed up by his life. You can’t back up your sermons with a seminary degree. You’ve got to back it up with your life. My advice? Don’t just get a sermon. Get a life. Then you’ll get a sermon!
Let me be blunt: if your life is boring your sermons will be, too.
If you have no life outside of church—no hobbies, no friends, no interests, no goals—your illustrations will feel canned, your applications will feel theoretical instead of practical, and your sermons will be lifeless instead of life-giving.
The greatest sermons are not fashioned in the study. They are fleshed out in the laboratory of everyday life. Now please don’t misinterpret what I’m saying.  You need to study to show yourself approved and rightly divide the word. So keep studying! In fact, study more. But you can’t just study the word. You need to live it. The most powerful sermons are well-studied and well-lived.
At the end of the day, God won’t say, “Well studied, good and faithful servant.” He won’t say, “Well thought” or “Well said” either. There is only one commendation: “Well done.”
Now let’s be brutally honest: Most Christians are educated way beyond the level of their obedience already! We don’t need to know more, we need to do more. That’s why I think sermons should focus on application more than interpretation. Theological doesn’t mean theoretical. In fact, as you get a life, your messages will be less theoretical and more experiential. You won’t just preach your sermons. You’ll incarnate them! 

Mark Batterson
Mark Batterson serves as lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC. One church with multiple locations, the vision of NCC is to meet in movie theaters at metro stops throughout the DC area. NCC also owns and operates the largest coffeehouse on Capitol Hill. Focused on reaching emerging generations, 73% of NCCers are single twenty-somethings. And 70% of NCCers were unchurched or dechurched before attending. Mark is the author of In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day and blogs @ www.markbatterson.com. He lives on Capitol Hill with his wife, Lora, and their three children.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

"7 Crippling Parenting Behaviors That Keep Children From Growing Into Leaders" by Kathy Caprino

canstockphoto3580131
While I spend my professional time now as a career success coach, writer, and leadership trainer, I was a marriage and family therapist in my past, and worked for several years with couples, families, and children. Through that experience, I witnessed a very wide array of both functional and dysfunctional parenting behaviors. As a parent myself, I’ve learned that all the wisdom and love in the world doesn’t necessarily protect you from parenting in ways that hold your children back from thriving, gaining independence and becoming the leaders they have the potential to be.

I was intrigued, then, to catch up with leadership expert Dr. Tim Elmore and learn more about how we as parents are failing our children today — coddling and crippling them — and keeping them from becoming leaders they are destined to be. Tim is a best-selling author of more than 25 books, including Generation iY: Our Last Chance to Save Their Future, Artificial Maturity: Helping Kids Meet the Challenges of Becoming Authentic Adults, and the Habitudes® series. He is Founder and President of Growing Leaders, an organization dedicated to mentoring today’s young people to become the leaders of tomorrow.

Tim had this to share about the 7 damaging parenting behaviors that keep children from becoming leaders – of their own lives and of the world’s enterprises:

1. We don’t let our children experience risk
We live in a world that warns us of danger at every turn. The “safety first” preoccupation enforces our fear of losing our kids, so we do everything we can to protect them. It’s our job after all, but we have insulated them from healthy risk-taking behavior and it’s had an adverse effect. Psychologists in Europe have discovered that if a child doesn’t play outside and is never allowed to experience a skinned knee, they frequently have phobias as adults. Kids need to fall a few times to learn it’s normal; teens likely need to break up with a boyfriend or girlfriend to appreciate the emotional maturity that lasting relationships require. If parents remove risk from children’s lives, we will likely experience high arrogance and low self-esteem in our growing leaders.

2. We rescue too quickly
Today’s generation of young people has not developed some of the life skills kids did 30 years ago because adults swoop in and take care of problems for them. When we rescue too quickly and over-indulge our children with “assistance,” we remove the need for them to navigate hardships and solve problems on their own. It’s parenting for the short-term and it sorely misses the point of leadership—to equip our young people to do it without help. Sooner or later, kids get used to someone rescuing them: “If I fail or fall short, an adult will smooth things over and remove any consequences for my misconduct.” When in reality, this isn’t even remotely close to how the world works, and therefore it disables our kids from becoming competent adults.


3. We rave too easily
The self-esteem movement has been around since Baby Boomers were kids, but it took root in our school systems in the 1980s. Attend a little league baseball game and you’ll see that everyone is a winner. This “everyone gets a trophy” mentality might make our kids feel special, but research is now indicating this method has unintended consequences. Kids eventually observe that Mom and Dad are the only ones who think they’re awesome when no one else is saying it. They begin to doubt the objectivity of their parents; it feels good in the moment, but it’s not connected to reality. When we rave too easily and disregard poor behavior, children eventually learn to cheat, exaggerate and lie and to avoid difficult reality. They have not been conditioned to face it.

4. We let guilt get in the way of leading well
Your child does not have to love you every minute. Your kids will get over the disappointment, but they won’t get over the effects of being spoiled. So tell them “no” or “not now,” and let them fight for what they really value and need. As parents, we tend to give them what they want when rewarding our children, especially with multiple kids. When one does well in something, we feel it’s unfair to praise and reward that one and not the other. This is unrealistic and misses an opportunity to enforce the point to our kids that success is dependent upon our own actions and good deeds. Be careful not to teach them a good grade is rewarded by a trip to the mall. If your relationship is based on material rewards, kids will experience neither intrinsic motivation nor unconditional love.

5. We don’t share our past mistakes
Healthy teens are going to want to spread their wings and they’ll need to try things on their own. We as adults must let them, but that doesn’t mean we can’t help them navigate these waters. Share with them the relevant mistakes you made when you were their age in a way that helps them learn to make good choices. (Avoid negative “lessons learned” having to do with smoking, alcohol, illegal drugs, etc.) Also, kids must prepare to encounter slip-ups and face the consequences of their decisions. Share how you felt when you faced a similar experience, what drove your actions, and the resulting lessons learned. Because we’re not the only influence on our kids, we must be the best influence.

6. We mistake intelligence, giftedness and influence for maturity
Intelligence is often used as a measurement of a child’s maturity, and as a result parents assume an intelligent child is ready for the world. That’s not the case. Some professional athletes and Hollywood starlets, for example, possess unimaginable talent, but still get caught in a public scandal. Just because giftedness is present in one aspect of a child’s life, don’t assume it pervades all areas. There is no magic “age of responsibility” or a proven guide as to when a child should be given specific freedoms, but a good rule of thumb is to observe other children the same age as yours. If you notice that they are doing more themselves than your child does, you may be delaying your child’s independence.

7. We don’t practice what we preach
As parents, it is our responsibility to model the life we want our children to live. To help them lead a life of character and become dependable and accountable for their words and actions. As the leaders of our homes, we can start by only speaking honest words – white lies will surface and slowly erode character. Watch yourself in the little ethical choices that others might notice, because your kids will notice too. If you don’t cut corners, for example, they will know it’s not acceptable for them to either. Show your kids what it means to give selflessly and joyfully by volunteering for a service project or with a community group. Leave people and places better than you found them, and your kids will take note and do the same.

Why do parents engage in these behaviors (what are they afraid of if they don’t)? Do these behaviors come from fear or from poor understanding of what strong parenting (with good boundaries) is?

Tim shares:
“I think both fear and lack of understanding play a role here, but it leads with the fact that each generation of parents is usually compensating for something the previous generation did. The primary adults in kids’ lives today have focused on now rather than later. It’s about their happiness today not their readiness tomorrow. I suspect it’s a reaction. Many parents today had Moms and Dads who were all about getting ready for tomorrow: saving money, not spending it, and getting ready for retirement. In response, many of us bought into the message: embrace the moment. You deserve it. Enjoy today. And we did. For many, it resulted in credit card debt and the inability to delay gratification. This may be the crux of our challenge. The truth is, parents who are able to focus on tomorrow, not just today, produce better results.”

How can parents move away from these negative behaviors (without having to hire a family therapist to help)?

Tim says: “It’s important for parents to become exceedingly self-aware of their words and actions when interacting with their children, or with others when their children are nearby. Care enough to train them, not merely treat them to a good life. Coach them, more than coddle. “

Here’s a start:
1. Talk over the issues you wish you would’ve known about adulthood.
2. Allow them to attempt things that stretch them and even let them fail.
3. Discuss future consequences if they fail to master certain disciplines.
4. Aid them in matching their strengths to real-world problems.
5. Furnish projects that require patience, so they learn to delay gratification.
6. Teach them that life is about choices and trade-offs; they can’t do everything.
7. Initiate (or simulate) adult tasks like paying bills or making business deals.
8. Introduce them to potential mentors from your network.
9. Help them envision a fulfilling future, and then discuss the steps to get there.
10. Celebrate progress they make toward autonomy and responsibility.

How are you parenting your children? Are you sacrificing their long-term growth for short-term comfort?

(For more about developing our children’s leadership capabilities, visit Tim Elmore and Growing Leaders at www.growingleaders.com and follow @GrowingLeaders and @TimElmore on Twitter.)

Saturday, January 18, 2014

My Movie List For 2014


Each year I keep a running list of the movies I've watched from that particular year. As I watch more and more films, the list will grow. On average I see about 20 movies a year in the theater. My 5 star ratings system is pretty straight forward...

***** I would own this movie
**** I would watch again
*** A good and enjoyable movie but not worth seeing again
** Waste of time
* I'm dumber for having watched it

So with that being said, here's my list for 2014...

1) Lego Movie *****
2) Lone Survivor ****
3) The Nut Job **

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

My Favorite Broadway Shows (updated 1.15.14)


Over the past several years, my wife Beth and I have had the privilege to take in many of the top touring Broadway shows around as they've visited the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center in Charlotte, NC. This is a list are my favorites, listed from best to worst. This list is just my opinion. I realize that most people would disagree with the placement of every show on my list. I know there are some legendary shows that are pretty far down my list but honestly they just didn't do it for me. Some really surprised me at how good or great they were while others simply did not live up to the hype. 

This list will be continually updated as we have season tickets. 
  1. Wicked
  2. Book of Mormon
  3. Rock of Ages
  4. Sister Act
  5. War Horse
  6. Catch Me If You Can
  7. Beauty and the Beast
  8. Billy Elliot
  9. Mama Mia
  10. Jekyll & Hyde
  11. Les Miserables
  12. Sleeping Beauty
  13. The Lion King
  14. Phantom of the Opera
  15. Traces

"8 Reasons Why Some Churches Never Grow" by Perry Nobel


1. The Vision Is Not Clear
If people don’t know where a church is supposed to be going, then it will attempt to go everywhere and eventually wind up nowhere.  (Interesting experiment—ask people this coming Sunday at your church, “What is our vision” and see if people give you the same answers or different ones.)
2. The Focus Is on Trying to Please Everyone
There is NO church on the planet that will make everyone happy every single week—and according to the Scriptures, that isn’t really supposed to be our obsession.  Too many times, we become so concerned with offending people that we actually offend Jesus.
3. Passionless Leadership
When a leader does what he/she does for a paycheck and not because it's their passion … it’s over.  I’ve said it before … I want difference-makers, not paycheck-takers.  Also, it is hard to be passionate about a place when a person's average stay at a church is two years or less.
4. Manufacturing Energy
If a program is dead in a church … then it needs a funeral, and the people need to move on.  Investing time, energy and money into something that is dead will not revive it.  Celebrate the fact that “that” program had its day … and then move on.  AND quit trying to fire people up over events that you would not attend if you were not on staff.
5. Lack of Prayer
Many times, we work so hard putting our ideas together that we actually think there is no need for the supernatural power of God to be involved.  Prayer should not be the good luck charm that we stick at the beginning or the end of what we do … but rather it should be our constant desperation to see God do the undeniable among us.  Intense desperation often brings undeniable revelation!
6. Unwillingness to Take Risks
When our focus becomes to play it safe rather than to do whatever it takes to reach people far from God … it’s over.  NOWHERE in the Scriptures did God ever ask anyone to do anything that didn’t involve an “oh crap” moment.  We’ve GOT to be willing to embrace the uncertain if we want to see the unbelievable.
7. Disobedience to the Scriptures
Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15, Luke 24:48, John 20:21, Acts 1:8, II Corinthians 5:16-21, Luke 19:10 … I could go on and on … but we MUST understand that Jesus didn’t come to Earth, live here for 33 years, give HIS life for us, and then return back to heaven to intercede for us so that we could get in really little circles and talk about ourselves and condemn those who are not as good as us.  We are called to REACH PEOPLE FOR GOD—PERIOD!
8. Selfish Attitudes  
Matthew 20:28 says it all … and if we are going to be more like Jesus, we’ve GOT to serve others rather than expecting the church to be our servant all of the time.  When a person (or group of people) refuses to embrace that a call to follow Jesus is a call to serve … then we’ve lost sight of who He is, and eventually, we will make being a Christian all about Jesus following/serving us rather than us taking up our cross and following Him!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Shrek the Sheep


This is Shrek the sheep. He became famous several years ago when he was found after hiding out in caves for six years. Of course, during this time his fleece grew without anyone there to shorn (shave) it. When he was finally found and shaved, his fleece weighed an amazing sixty pounds. Most sheep have a fleece weighing just under ten pounds, with the exception usually reaching fifteen pounds, maximum. For six years, Shrek carried six times the regular weight of his fleece. Simply because he was away from his shepherd.

This reminds me of John 10 when Jesus compares Himself to a shepherd, and His followers are His sheep. Maybe it’s a stretch, but I think Shrek is much like a person who knows Jesus Christ but has wandered. If we avoid Christ’s constant refining of our character, we’re going to accumulate extra weight in this world—a weight we don’t have to bear.

When Shrek was found, a professional sheep shearer took care of Shrek’s fleece in twenty-eight minutes. Shrek’s sixty pound fleece was finally removed. All it took was coming home to his shepherd.

I believe Christ can lift the burdens we carry, if only we stop hiding. He can shave off our ‘fleece’—that is, our self-imposed burdens brought about by wandering from our Good Shepherd.

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
(Author unknown)

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Does Attending Church Mean You Must Carry “Buckets of Shame?” By Donald Miller

When I was in a group-therapy session once, the therapist took us outside, into a field where there was a horse. She’d placed a half dozen, sealed buckets of oats around the field and said if we wanted to walk the horse we should pick up a bucket in one hand, then guide the horse anywhere we wanted.
When we were done, we could offer the bucket and the horse to somebody else in our group.
As each member of the group guided the horse, the therapist would ask us questions about how we were feeling. One girl discovered she had an incredible fear of strength and she didn’t know how to trust it. Another man discovered that he was too domineering and because he didn’t know how to work with strength rather than try to dominate it, he was getting less productivity out of his staff.

When I guided the horse, I learned nothing.

The therapist said I was good with animals and asked if I’d ever had a horse. I hadn’t. I was quite proud, actually. I’d finally passed one of the therapists little tests. Or at least I thought I had.
*Photo by: Derrick Coetzee, Creative Commons
When I was done, I walked over and offered the bucket and the horse to a woman in our group who explained that she’d take the horse but I could keep the bucket. I said to her we were supposed to carry the bucket and she said she didn’t want to and simply took the reigns from my hand and walked off.
Our therapist stopped the action and asked why we’d all thought it was necessary to carry the bucket. I told her we thought it was necessary because she’d told us we had to. She then looked at me and asked if I did everything I was told, even though it made no sense and did nothing to serve me or anybody else.

I felt a little tricked, to be honest.

But as she went on, her words began to ring true.
How many burdens are you still carrying that your parents wanted you to carry just so they could feel powerful?
How much work are you taking on just so you can people please?
Why are you carrying buckets through life when you don’t need to carry buckets?
Why do you give people so much authority in your life when they don’t have your best interest at stake?
Why is your security coming from obeying people who are only bossing you around so they can feel their authority?
What would it look like to put your buckets down?

Hokey as it all sounded, it helped me.

I grew up going to church and though church can be beautiful, I’ve noticed religious communities are especially adept at getting people to carry buckets of guilt and shame around. After the horse experience, I decided to leave the guilt and shame with the church and walk off with Jesus.
Of course this makes people mad because they feel like we are supposed to carry buckets of guilt and shame but the truth is we don’t have to.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Christmas For The City - Winston-Salem


There seems to be a lot of excitement about our part in Christmas For the City. Below are some quick facts about what it is and how you can be a part of it:

1) When & Where: Friday, December 20th at the Benton Convention center in Downtown Winston-Salem from 3pm-9pm (We will be setting up all day Wed, Thur)

2) Website: www.christmasforthecity.com 

3) What is it: Christmas for the City began as a dream in 2008: could we dare to believe that churches, businesses, musicians and artists would come together to create a meaningful Christmas experience for the whole community? Now, in its sixth year, CFTC brings together 1,000 volunteers to serve thousands from a broad cross-section of the city across all socio-economic, ethnic, and generational backgrounds. Teams from over 40 churches as well as scores of non-profits & businesses link arms to bring this wonderful evening to life...and it’s FREE for everyone!

4) What will be going on that night
PERFORMING ARTS
Variety of groups from a broad range of styles performing on the main stage, including:
City Gospel Choir City Student Choir
City Worship Choir Youth Symphony
Other arts will be happening throughout the building: dance, poetry, ensembles, bands, bell choirs and more

NORTH POLE VILLAGE
Lots of activities for elementary-aged kids and younger
Book on the meaning of Christmas given to each child
Santa Claus

COMPASSION MINISTRIES
The Table: CFTC is partnering with restaurants and food vendors to create a space where the entire city sits down for a meal together.
Connect & Serve: Local non-profits are partnering with CFTC on four community service projects that evening focused on hunger, education, housing and healthcare.

VISUAL ARTS
“Live art” from artists around the theme of compassion.

STUDENT EXPERIENCE
Through social media, middle & high school students will connect with each other, participate in the festivities and even serve together.

6) The Table: This year we are attempting to feed all 10,000 people that attend! Our hope is that people from all walks of life can sit together at "The Table", share a meal , and share the love of Christ that makes this event possible. We are partnering with local restaurants to provide the meals. Our goal is 100 vendors giving 100 meals each. 

7) How can I be a part of CFTC: You can be a huge part of CFTC by...

Attending
This event is open to anyone and everyone. There are things going on that day for the entire family. You can come anytime between 3pm-9pm. Stay for as long as you'd like and enjoy what I believe will be one of the best Christmas experiences you will have this year.

Volunteering
There are lots of volunteer needs to make CFTC happen. There are six areas you can volunteer in:

Compassion and Mercy: The Table
Table Hosts: Invite our guests to your table and share a meal together while building relationships.
Door/Room Hosts: Welcome our guests into the room, direct them to food, and help them to a table.
Food Servers: Help assemble meals together and serve our guests.
Bussers/runners: Keep the tables clean throughout the evening.
Vendor Care: Help direct our vendors as they arrive.
Water station

Children and Youth. Our children will take part in the North Pole Village. Volunteers are need to help with:
     * Cookie Bakers
     * Icing and Sprinkle Specialists for Cookie Decorating 
     * Greet and Guide Families in the Village
     * Santa’s Elves
     * Woodworking Assistants 
     * Ornament and Card Making Helpers
     * Fun Coaches for the Indoor Playground
     * Train Station Hosts
     * Hot Cocoa Servers and Table Hosts

Or you may choose to volunteer with our youth by...
“Hub” volunteers: Helpers to stand at our table to help any students who need to know where we are throughout the night.
“Tweeters”: Helpers who will update tweets & media screens & help retweet.
“Walkers” : Helpers who will walk around to let students know where we are going next.
“Greeters”: Helpers who just make students feel welcome!
“Support” volunteers: Helpers who like tasks to help with different key set up times throughout the night.

The Arts. We will be offering both performance and visual arts throughout the day and evening. If you or someone you know has a artistic talent you'd like to share with the community, then make sure you sign-up ASAP. 

Hospitality. If you can offer a smile, a warm greeting, and maybe even assist folks in getting to the right location, then this is the job for you.
Greeters: Welcome guests at the doors, on the sidewalk and in the hallways, and be ready to help them navigate through the building.
Ask Me Hosts: Wander the building to answer questions “Trader Joe’s style”
Section Hosts: Create an inviting atmosphere throughout the seating areas of the Performing Arts venue.
Volunteer Check-in: welcome and orient people coming to serve at CFTC

Set-up and Tear-down. Lots of extra hands (skilled and unskilled in construction and handiwork) are needed to load in and set up on Wednesday and Thursday, Dec. 18-19, as well to tear down and load out on Friday night after CFTC.  Scenic teams are also currently at work creating the sets that will transform the Benton for the big night.
Construction workers
Painters & Designers
Set-up/Tear Down Crew
Extra Hands

Sponsorship: If you or your business would like to know how you can help sponsor this incredible event, please see Mike G. or check out the CFTC website.

We, as Project:Re3, will not be focusing on one area or time slot and serving there.I want you to serve when and where is best for you. I would love nothing more then to have a Project:Re3 presence throughout the entire night in every area!

To sign-up, simply follow this link http://www.christmasforthecity.com/howcanihelp.htm and click on the area and time you can serve. You may sign-up for as many and as long as you would like. On the time slot you will see that it is broken into 2 hour blocks. You DO NOT have to serve the full two hours (unless you want to) that is just to give us an idea of how many volunteers we have/need for each block of time. 


If you have any questions at all, please do not hesitate to contact us at projectre3@gmail.com

"Bigger Is Not Necessarily Better: 3 Reasons I'm Convinced God Most Often Builds His Church Small" by Chris Surber


Most of the time I dismiss the whole "Smaller is better than bigger" argument as it pertains to church attendance. If for nothing else because the people usually debating it are bitter small church pastors that are angry their cross-town counterpart has 10x the average size church then theirs. But this blog post I found does seem to be looking at things rationally and not through the lenses of secret jealous feelings. I personally believe both large and small size church have a lot to offer a person and community. To me it's not an either/or argument but a both/and.

"Bigger Is Not Necessarily Better: 3 Reasons I'm Convinced God Most Often Builds His Church Small" by Chris Surber
"Bigger is not necessarily better. When I need to tighten a screw in my glasses, I need the right tool for the job—a tiny little screwdriver.
It’s the same with churches. God uses big churches for certain Kingdom jobs, and God uses little churches for specific assignments. Bigger churches can do things smaller cannot do. And little churches do things much larger churches can never do.
Statistically speaking, the vast majority of churches in America average less than 500 in weekly attendance. In fact, the best data suggests that approximately 35 percent of American churches average between 100-499, and at least 60 percent of churches in America have an average attendance between 1-99 people.
No more than 2.5 or 3 percent of American churches fall into the category of being a “megachurch.” Those that do are really phenomena of the modern cultural era. It would appear that God in His sovereignty finds small tools abundantly necessary for His work in the world.
Here are three reasons I am convinced God most often builds His church small:
1. Family Connection: While I’m not suggesting that this dynamic of the smaller church is not present in larger churches, I am asserting that it is uniquely present in smaller churches. This dynamic does bring challenges.
When I speak to the board of deacons about an unruly choir member, it may be his wife. Smaller local churches are usually comprised of two or three family groups that make up as much as half or two-thirds of the church membership. In smaller local churches when two young people from the youth of the church marry there is a very good chance that they will be united with a number of church members as in-laws.
The great advantage of this dynamic is that when smaller churches aim at evangelism, they have a ready-made mission field of people they know and love. If approached in healthy and simple ways, by inviting unsaved family members to fun but Christ centered outreach events, for example, the family dynamic allows for a kind of familiarity that is just plain difficult to cultivate in larger churches. 
2. Friendship with the Pastor: For me, this is one of the most beautiful aspects of the local church. It’s funny to me that I have had more interaction with one of my former pastors, who happens to shepherd a megachurch I was formerly a member of, since becoming a pastor than I ever did when I was a member of his flock. This is really not to his discredit; he is a great pastor and fantastic leader.
The simple truth is that the megachurch high volume of people dynamic does not usually lend itself well to parishioners or visitors getting to know or in some cases even shaking the hand of the pastor. In the smaller churches the man teaching the sermon is accessible. A parishioner or visitor can get to know their pastor and in so doing gain a more robust understanding of the meaning and context of the perspective he brings to the proclamation of God’s Word.
Rather than becoming a cult of personality with their notoriety centered on their pulpit ministry, the effective local church pastor tends to become more like an extended member of the family. He and his family are common sights at family birthday parties and graduations.
Congregational pastor Washington Gladden said it this way a century and a half ago: “The pulpit is your throne, no doubt, but then a throne is stable as it rests on the affections of the people, and to get their affections you must visit them in their dwellings.” (Gladden, The Christian Pastor, Scribner 1911) The small church pastor is uniquely positioned to be a friend to the members of his parish.
3. Friendship with Others: While it is not always the case that small churches are more welcoming, it is simple logic that a space filled with fewer people is more likely to allow for a new person to become integrated into the faith community. Granted, this is an area of constant struggle in smaller churches. We must take care to avoid an “us vs. the world” mentality that tends to make many smaller churches a difficult to get into club, rather than an easy place to assimilate.
If cultivated effectively, the small church is positioned to be a place where “life on life” happens in a one-on-one lifestyle of intimate Christian discipleship. The pastor can know his people. The people can know their pastor. In healthy smaller churches who know who they are and accept their role as one of many smaller tools in the Master’s toolbox, the journey of following Jesus can be a deep sojourn walked out in unison with close friends who share a local community, a mutual history, very likely a family connection or two and the love of God together.
We don’t need huge crowds to have a church. We don’t need tremendous financial resources to effectively follow Jesus. We just need a few people who want to glorify God and fellowship together in Jesus name. “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20 NIV84)"

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Sermon prep...when is enough... enough?


I found the following article very refreshing. I am more like a Mark Driscoll in that I usually spend 2-3 hours "working" over a sermon. I do send countless hours running over different aspects of it in my head (normally in the shower or car) but my actual prep/study time is pretty short. For years I felt guilty when I read how other pastors and speakers spend hours and days on their messages. I guess I just needed to hear it's different for everyone and for some a lack of quantity of time doesn't necessarily effect the quality of the message. 

Should You Take 2 Hours or 32 Hours for Sermon Prep? By Eric McKiddie


There are various opinions on how long it should take someone to prepare their sermon for Sunday. There are minimalists, maximalists and everything in between.
No matter where you are on the spectrum, it should comfort you to know that well-known preachers span the entire spectrum. So how long do well-known preachers take to prepare a sermon? Here’s what I found.

Well-Known Preachers Spend Between 1 And 35 Hours On Sermon Prep.


Mark Driscoll – 1 to 2 hours. A couple of years ago, Driscoll caused a bit of a ruckus when he tweeted, “Prepping 2 sermons today. Thankfully, a sermon takes about as long to prep as preach.” Last week he tweeted something similar, “Time to put the sermon together for Sunday. 1-2 hours.” Obviously, a lot of pastors are surprised by those numbers. Driscoll explains:
By God’s grace my memory is very unusual. I can still remember a section of a book I read 20 years ago while preaching and roll with it. I’ve also never sat down to memorize a Bible verse. Yet many just stick, and I can pull them up from memory as I go. Lastly, I’m a verbal processor. I think out loud, which is what preaching is for me. A degree in speech and over 10,000 hours of preaching experience also helps. And most importantly and thankfully, the Holy Spirit always helps.
When I get up to preach, the jokes, illustrations, cross-references and closing happen extemporaneously. I never teach others how to preach, as my method is not exactly a replicable method—nor a suggested one. But it works for me.
Tim Keller (small rural church) – 6 to 8 hours. Keller shared this about his early days pastoring and preaching:
I would not advise younger ministers to spend so much time [on sermon preparation], however. The main way to become a good preacher is to preach a lot and spend tons of time in people work—that is how you grow from becoming not just a Bible commentator but a flesh-and-blood preacher. When I was a pastor without a large staff, I put in 6–8 hours on a sermon.
Tim Keller (big Manhattan church) – 14 to 16 hours. When you have a staff of pastors doing ministry alongside you, that affords the lead pastor more time to put into his message. Check out this two-minute video to learn how Keller spends those 14 to 16 hours.
John Piper – All day Friday, half day Saturday. It’s hard to get an exact number from Piper’s explanation of how he prepares his sermons. When you read it (or watch it), it sounds something like 14 to 16 hours, though. Piper, like Driscoll, admits that his process is less than replicable:
It works for me. Most people who hear I do it that way say, “No way can I start on Friday.” Or, “No way can I take a manuscript into the pulpit and not have it be canned.” No problem. Wear your own armor, not mine.
Stephen Um – 24 hours (update: 15 to 16, see comments). Um broke down his entire week as it pertains to his sermon prep schedule in this TGC post. The uniqueness of his pattern, in comparison with the men already listed, is that he prepares throughout the week.
Matt Chandler – All day Tuesday, all day Thursday. It sounds safe to say 16-plus hours for Chandler. While walking through his preaching habits, he says he blocks these days off and takes care of the rest of his responsibilities on other days of the week:
Tuesdays and Thursdays are study days for me. I put together sermons and pray and study on those two days. The rest of the week I am meeting with people and trying to shepherd well the people God has asked me to lead.
Kent Hughes – 20 hours. I can’t remember if it was this Q and A panelthis conference message, or some other time I heard Hughes speak, but he said he spent 20 hours on a Sunday morning sermon, and 10 hours on a Sunday evening sermon.
John MacArthur – 32 hours. Another throughout-the-week guy, MacArthur takes 4 days at 8 hours per day to prepare to preach. Here’s the gist, but Colin Adams shows how each day breaks down.
Day One: Exegesis; Day Two: Meditation; Day Three: Rough draft of sermon; Day Four: Final draft, handwritten.
Mark Dever – 30 to 35 hours. C.J. Mahaney interviewed Mark Dever on the preparation and delivery of sermons. Here is an excerpt of their conversation:
CJM: All right. Average number of hours each week devoted to sermon prep?
MD: 30 to 35.
CJM: How long do you speak on Sundays?
MD: One hour.
CJM: You work from a manuscript?
MD: I do, though I don’t generally recommend other people do that.
CJM: Why?
MD: Manuscripts can just be deadly boring. I don’t want to say there are few people who can use a manuscript well, but it is definitely a minority.

Lessons To Take From This Survey

At the very least, we can take away some steps not to take as we try to become the best preachers we can.
1. Don’t choose a set number of hours because so-and-so does. Good preachers are all over the place. There is no certain amount of time you should spend. Simply determine how long it takes for you to preach a good sermon—not perfect, but good.
2. On that note, don’t expect preaching success to come from locking and loading other pastor’s habits. Driscoll, Piper and Dever each acknowledge that they don’t have the most replicable sermon prep process. Bullets for them could be blanks for you.
3. Don’t find your identity as a preacher in how much time you spend on your sermon. Don’t be proud of how many hours or how few hours you spend preparing. Again, there are very good preachers who are all over the spectrum. Your prep is not the end, but a means to an end. Your identity is in Christ and your role is to be a herald of Christ.
4. Don’t let your sermon prep get in the way of shepherding people or leading your church. We saw that Chandler and Keller (especially in his smaller church days) set aside plenty of time for that part of ministry.
Besides that, there is freedom. No “shoulds.” If you’re not sure how much time you should spend preparing, experiment until you know who you need to be and what you need to do to be the best all-around pastor—not just preacher—you can according to God’s grace and only for his glory.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

"Five Preaching Applications From the Movie Gravity" by Jacob Myers


If you haven’t had a chance to see Alfonso CuarĂ³n’s new sci-fi thriller Gravity, then you need to move it up on your action-item list. The film is as mesmerizing as it is harrowing. In fact, the film is so good that I am wary about sharing this synopsis with you; however, my worries about spoiling the plot are outweighed by my desire to draw your attention to the theological significance of the movie.
So unless you are up against a tight deadline (Sunday is ever upon us!), I’d suggest that you stop reading now, go watch the movie, and then return to these thoughts after you’ve experienced the film for yourself.
In brief, the film depicts Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), a medical engineer who is putting her expertise to use to enhance the Hubble Telescope on her first space mission. Stone is accompanied by veteran astronaut Commander Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), who is enjoying his last trip to space. The work seems routine as Stone tinkers with the telescope and Kowalski runs laps through space, immensely enjoying his final romp. Suddenly, the placid scene turns disastrous when debris from a destroyed Russian satellite collides with the crew’s shuttle, killing everyone but Stone and Kowalski.
The bulk of the story documents Stone and Kowalski’s efforts to survive amidst the radically inhospitable environment of space. The pair manages to tether themselves together and make use of Kowalski’s last bits of fuel on his jetpack to traverse the void en route to a nearby (100 kilometers!) space station.
With Stone's oxygen supply rapidly dwindling, Kowalski separates himself from her to give her a chance at survival. Through creative thinking, coolness under pressure and a dogged determination to live even when all hope seems lost, Stone manages to navigate a rescue pod back to earth. The film ends with Stone’s awkward first steps on an isolated beach—she is readjusting to gravity and, it seems, to an entirely new approach to living.
The film is rich with symbolic significance, and preachers will enjoy teasing out deeper meanings layered within the plot. Consider, for instance, the significance—the gravity—of prayer and its power to engender hope and perseverance. But even greater than these other theologically and philosophically rich textures within the film, I was struck by the relationship between the lead characters. It helped me see Christian discipleship with fresh eyes.
In Gravity we find a poignant portrayal of what Christian discipleship might look like. As it is in life, many instances of discipleship arise from circumstantial factors. Folks happen to go to the same church or work at the same office … or board the same spaceship.
The first thing we see portrayed in the film in this regard is that of modeling. Kowalski is a larger-than-life kind of character. His playful banter, old-school country music that he blasts in his spacesuit, and the wild yarns he spins about his exploits on and off the planet are in sharp contrast with Stone’s cold, meticulous and uneventful existence. She acts and lives in accordance with her surname.
Second, when all hell breaks loose Kowalski takes the lead. He is firm and directive about the precise steps they need to take if they are going to have a shot at survival. In no way is he vague or wishy-washy about his instructions, and it is this readiness to take lead that calms Stone down enough to take the necessary steps that will end up saving her life. How often are we explicit about what it means to follow God in the way of Jesus Christ?
Third, Kowalski is firm but he is also encouraging. Like all good mentors, he tempers his instruction with words of praise, and he finds ways to instill his indefatigable hope in his disciple, Stone. This encouragement and support from her mentor gives Stone the confidence to stay cool under pressure.
Fourth, and this point is incredibly blatant, discipleship necessitates that the teacher cut loose from the disciple when the time is right. When he realizes that he is only impeding Stone’s progress, he literally severs the ties between them. The pain of this separation is palpable for the viewer, and it mirrors the pain of the mentor/disciple relationship. There is a natural desire to remain forever tethered in this relationship, but without being willing to cut loose, the disciple can never grow into his or her potential.
Lastly, it is important that the mentor linger. Separation need not be total; the mentor can return to offer words of instruction or encouragement as the need arises. In the film this happens in several moments of dramatic intensity, but I see it most clearly when Kowalski’s empowering presence is not so obvious. It is seen in Stone’s timid smile and floundering first steps on that deserted beach. It tells me that Kowalski will never really leave Stone; he has changed her life forever.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

"7 Requirements to Be a Leader Today" By: Ron Edmondson

To be a leader today requires more than knowledge…
Especially today.
Here are 7 requirements to be a great leader today:
You have to be adaptable – Things change fast these days. Real fast. You must lead a team that responds accordingly.
You have to be moldable – You must personally change fast too…or you’ll be left behind. (This doesn’t mean you have to change your values, beliefs or convictions. In fact, that will work against you these days. People would rather be on your team and disagree with you some…difference of opinion is more acceptable today…than for people to think you are whimsical in what you claim to believe. This is actually one culture change that can be a benefit for the Christian leader.)
You have to embrace a team approach – There are no Lone Rangers today. (By the way…he wasn’t alone either. If I had a helper like Tonto and a horse like Silver…I’d have myself a winning team.)
You have to consider social responsibility – People want their individual work to make a difference. They also want the place where they spend their time, whether paid or volunteer, to make a difference.
You have to think bigger than today – Tomorrow is coming quicker than ever before and people are looking for leaders who can provide competent direction and consistent encouragement.
You have to be willing to serve others- People will no longer follow an autocratic leader. They are less loyal than ever. If you want to remain their leader, you must prove you care for them personally. Trust is more important than having all the answers.
You have to allow others to receive credit and assume authority – It’s what attracts leaders to your team these days. They want to feel they are playing a part in the team’s success.
It’s what’s required in leadership today. I realize this brings some unique challenges for spiritual leaders. We have a message and faith that is unwavering…and needs to stay that way. I certainly don’t intend to change my message. As Christian leaders, though, we must understand the context of culture in which we find ourselves. The way we lead, motivate and recruit people has changed. If we don’t recognize that, we will be less successful in accomplishing our God-given assignments.
Thankfully, and I know I need this…where we are weak…He is strong.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Preaching for Deep Change: Are You Sharing Information or Changing Lives? By Ed Stetzer


Change is something we all need. It is an ongoing part of life. With its constant flux, life demands adjustments for our schedules and plans. Essentially, change is the new norm. But people’s spiritual lives call for more than slight changes to the calendar. Their lives are in need of transformation.
As you know, transformation is not about trying harder or having a better life. Mark Twain reportedly said that church is good people standing in front of good people teaching them to be good people. The change people need is not simply about being a better person; that would be a gross misunderstanding of change and transformation. The gospel is bigger than simple moralism, and people need to understand the very nature of transformation.
Sometimes, what they need is a universal translator that helps them understand words like “change” and “transformation.” It is much like what we need in a marriage relationship for spouses to understand one another. Let me give a few examples:
1. When a husband says, “It's a guy thing,” he really means, “There is no rational thought pattern connected with it, and you have no chance at all of making it logical.”
2. Of course, there is the cryptic statement, “I can’t find it.” Though difficult to understand, this means, “It didn't fall into my outstretched hands, so I'm completely clueless.”
3. Wives should take special note when a husband says, “It would take too long to explain.” What we really mean is, “I have no idea how it works.”
You get the idea. Words can mean one thing from a communicator and something altogether different to the hearer.
The church can, at times, communicate the need for change in peoples’ lives, and it ends up understood as some low-level therapeutic moralistic deism—where a faraway God makes life better and makes you a better person. But that is not the gospel. We don’t want to produce good religious people. We see what becomes of good religious people from the encounters Jesus had with the Pharisees. God wants—as should we—to see people transformed at a spiritual level rather than a behavioral level.
Though often thought of in the same sense as a New Year’s resolution, transformation does not come from decisions made on January 1. Instead, it comes from re-creation, the re-creation that comes from new life in Christ. The change people need most is not in their circumstances, but in themselves. It is not the ability to try harder, but it is a life entrusted to Jesus.
So, when you preach “change,” translate it to mean “gospel change.” It is not the same thing as trying harder; in fact, there is no trying involved. Transformation occurs not because we “do,” but because Christ has “done.” So let me share three principles about the change we all need, along with some thoughts on how to clearly preach on the topic for understanding and action.

1. Real Change Starts With New Life, Not Just A New Leaf.

The apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17, HCSB). The very heart of the Christian faith revolves around change, but it is not turning over a new leaf—it is living out a new life.
Christian transformation always involves something old passing away and something new taking its place. Spiritual change is needed by everyone—the poor and the rich, the success and the failure. We are constantly in need of this change, no matter who we are. But too many people misunderstand the words. They believe, “If I change, then God will like me more.” The bid to be better accompanies the hope for divine blessing. But this is the false change that comes from religious idealism. It is a misunderstanding of the teaching of the gospel.
Some seek change through obedience. I’ve heard Tim Keller say it this way:“Religion says, ’I obey; therefore I am accepted.’ Christianity says, ‘I’m accepted, therefore I obey.” Our acceptance and subsequent change is affected by the work of Jesus Christ through his death and resurrection. His work causes my acceptance before God.
Everything else leads to exasperation. Trying to “turn over a new leaf” is a temporary fix to an eternal problem. And it leads to the frustrating, exasperating cycle of always looking for a new fix to our lives.
In the Old Testament, we see how this cycle played out in the life of Solomon. He tried to change through human ingenuity when he needed divine intervention. And he was the smartest person—ever.
I, the Teacher, have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. I applied my mind to seek and explore through wisdom all that is done under heaven. God has given people this miserable task to keep them occupied. I have seen all the things that are done under the sun and have found everything to be futile, a pursuit of the wind. What is crooked cannot be straightened; what is lacking cannot be counted.
I said to myself, "Look, I have amassed wisdom far beyond all those who were over Jerusalem before me, and my mind has thoroughly grasped wisdom and knowledge." I applied my mind to know wisdom and knowledge, madness and folly; I learned that this too is a pursuit of the wind. For with much wisdom is much sorrow; as knowledge increases, grief increases. (Ecclesiastes 1:12-18).
Solomon’s own words show the “folly” of hoping to change one’s own life. With access to wisdom, finances, military power, and everything else one could possibly hope for in this life, Solomon found life to be no more than chasing the wind. He needed an outside force to grant something new rather than continuing after something old.
We need to give up on changing our own lives. Rather than wasting our lives on self-initiated change, we should give over our lives to God’s work to grant us a new life. Our minds cannot even begin to dream up the radical new life that is needed.
In John 3, Jesus was approached by someone who needed change. Nicodemus had the right pedigree, the right spiritual training and the right position in society, but had not been transformed. He was most likely moral and definitely religious. But Jesus informed him of the need to be “born again” (John 3:3). Nicodemus did not need more rules but rather a new life.
Nicodemus, like many of our listeners, had to unlearn the matrix in which he lived—the idea that rules and regulations bring about lasting spiritual change. They don’t. Rules can modify behavior, but only the gospel can impart new life. We should never be satisfied with merely a new way of life. Only a new life will suffice.

2. Real Change Is A Process, Not A Destination.

Nobody ever gets to a place of being everything God has called them to be on this side of eternity. It is part of why we yearn for the eternal life with him. Our life is one of growth. The transformation we encounter because of the gospel is how God is shaping our lives to mirror Jesus.
Paul wrote to some of the early Christians, “I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). God is starting and completing the work of transformation in us. Real change happens at the moment of our salvation. It is punctiliar in nature. But we are daily being changed to be like Christ in how we live. Day by day, God wants us to grow in our knowledge and connection with him.
I am concerned when I hear someone boil the Christian experience down to praying a “sinner’s prayer” and then being thrown back into the world to “just do it.” When the “sinner’s prayer” is the only definable moment of a Christian life, the Christian is robbed of so much more.
Peter wrote, “By these He has given us very great and precious promises, so that through them you may share in the divine nature, escaping the corruption that is in the world because of evil desires” (2 Peter 1:4). It is an overwhelming thought that God would share his “divine nature” with us. Honestly, when I do a quick evaluation of my life, I think, What a waste. God gets nothing out of this deal. But He is the giving, sending, sacrificing God who desires to root out my sinful nature and replace it with his own character.
By removing the human desire for significance and replacing it with the divine nature of sacrifice, God sets our lives in a new direction. It is a new process we partake in that causes life to have true significance—reflecting God’s glory.
To the Corinthian church, Paul wrote, “We all, with unveiled faces, are reflecting the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Like Moses, the only way to reflect God's glory is to catch a glimpse of it. When a believer sets their eyes on God, then life will be in the process of transformation.
Every night, we have a visible lesson for this principle with the Moon. The Moon does not produce light but reflects the light produced by the Sun. The curved shadow that overtakes the Moon is because the Earth blocks the light of the Sun. Without fail, if the Earth is in the way, the Moon cannot reflect the light of the Sun. The Earth will veil the light.
Placing our faith in Christ, God places our life into his kingdom. We are suddenly changed, and for that we should be satisfied and grateful. But God has chosen to invade the seven or so decades we have in this life. As we humble ourselves before the Spirit of God, his glory shines against our lives. But allowing the world to get in the way will certainly veil the glory of God from reflecting in our lives.
Through the process of being changed to live like Jesus, the veil is removed. The stuff of earth becomes less of our lives. Instead, the process of God’s transformation allows us to reflect more and more of his glory. His glory in us sets us more deeply into the mission that people of every tongue, tribe and nation will be transformed by him, as well.
Transformation happens in a moment to secure a person eternally, but it is consistently happening moment by moment to change that person daily.

3. Change Is Letting Go And Grabbing Hold.

God doesn’t force anyone to change, but he calls us to change. He says things like, “Be holy as I am holy,” and it sounds like an impossible task. But its possibility comes by the work of God and not the work of man. The transformation that comes to us spiritually empowers us to move from religious behavior to spiritual acceptance of God’s work. Paul put it this way:
“But that is not how you learned about the Messiah, assuming you heard Him and were taught by Him, because the truth is in Jesus: you took off your former way of life, the old man that is corrupted by deceitful desires; you are being renewed in the spirit of your minds; you put on the new man, the one created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth" (Ephesians 4:20-24).
We are called to put off the “old man” and take hold of the “new man.” But we all know that letting go of the familiar is difficult, even when the new that is offered is better. For some reason, it seems part of our psyche to resist change, even when it will help. Here are some of the reasons that change is difficult for people:
a. Because people are stubborn
Have you ever tried to take something out of a two-year-old's hand? Much to the dismay of every parent, two-year-olds are amazingly strong and nimble. When they want to hold onto a toy, it takes ninja-like reflexes to get it from them.
But we are all just like them. We gain a laser-focus on what we hope to keep. Many people simply need to realize that it is time to unclench our fist and allow the Christ to embrace us.
b. Because people are trapped
Perhaps you’ve heard the illustration of how to trap a monkey. All you need is a rock and a coconut. Drill a hole in the coconut large enough to put the rock inside, but not large enough for anything else. A monkey will reach inside to take hold of the rock, but its clenched fist around the rock will not fit back through the hole. The monkey will, in effect, trap itself because of a refusal to let go of the rock.
Many Christians trap themselves with a clenched fist. Holding onto pride, hobbies, preferences, or any other thing can keep a person from the new life Christ wishes to form in them.
c. Because people are comfortable
Did you know that some people still use a rotary-dial phone? I don’t know why they are still in existence. But if you have one, it still works—at least in some parts of the country. Why would someone continue to use a piece of technology that is inferior? Because they are comfortable with it. It is familiar, and they have mastered it.
Are there places like that in the spiritual lives of your listeners? Absolutely. We get comfortable with sins that keep us from knowing Christ better. We get comfortable with irrelevant practices at church that keep others from understanding the gospel. We get comfortable with our standard of living, and it keeps us from the mission of God’s kingdom. We need to take hold of something better: God’s agenda for a missionary people.
d. Because we are afraid
Fear of the unknown is a primary reason people don’t change. Some think following Jesus will make them a fanatic or, at the very least, socially awkward. Not knowing what God will ask of them causes many to shy away from the new life offered by Jesus. It can even paralyze Christians from fully embracing the new life they have inherited.
e. Because change hurts
It is hard to change. Even good change costs some of a person’s security. Leaving the proverbial “comfort zone” will cause a ripple effect that carries a price. But for what God wants to give us and wants of us, change is required.
When talking about this, I often remind churches and individuals that people never change until the pain of staying the same grows greater than the pain of change. From a minor adjustment to a complete overhaul, change has a price-tag. It hurts to reorganize an office, lose weight or correct a sinful behavior. But the change is necessary even when it hurts. The only question remaining for most people is what hurts worse: staying where they are or getting where they want to be?
The extent of the change God wants is worth facing the stubbornness and fear.

Conclusion

In our book, Transformational Church, Thom Rainer and I wrote, “We can’t choose whether change will come or not. But we can choose whether to embrace it or resist it.” I believe it is critical to choose the kind of change that advances the work of God in us personally and in the world for the sake of his kingdom.
Later in the book, Thom and I wrote, “The alternative to this biblically mandated transformation is to pick a rut and make it deeper.” God holds a desire to bring transformation to life, the church, and your community. The transformation is there for the choosing. Of course, so is the rut of remaining spiritual static.
The change we all need is the change offered by Christ. It is a transformation that we are privileged to serve as an ambassador for in this life.