August – A time for church growth

20161107-singleportrait-dark-60God is doing a tremendous work at CIL right now!  We are witnessing higher participation, a deeper passion for worship, a hunger for Scripture, service to our community, and a culture of love.  Together, we are being Jesus!  We are the body of Christ!

August is traditionally a month of harvest for our church.  Many visitors discover CIL during June and July, and when the rest of the congregation returns from vacation season, we usually have an electric atmosphere.  With this probability in mind, here are a few things I am asking you to do:

Invite.  It’s a great season to bring friends to CIL.

–  Pray.  Let’s ask God for a season of momentum to help our church be everything God intends us to be.

–  Be friendly.  Your hospitality creates the culture of love the church needs.

–  Volunteer.  The nursery, elementary services, cleaning team and welcome team are some areas current and new volunteers can make a kingdom impact!  If you are interested in joining one of those teams, let me know and I will connect you to those leaders.

–  Give.  The summer months has the highest expenses and the lowest contributions.  As we anticipated, we have some catching up to do from this incredible summer of ministry.  We plant in early summer, and harvest in August. Your tithe and generosity will help us remain strong financially.  You can always give financially online through the church’s website.  God uses your giving to build His kingdom.  Here is the online giving link – https://my.simplegive.com/g3/

I am so excited about the future of CIL.  I have been the pastor here for 9.5 years now, and I feel like things are just now starting!  The best is right before us!

I love serving Jesus with you!

Aaron Name

Hey church, it’s not 1992

book_seeker_sensitiveIn the early 1990’s I attended a seeker church for the first time, and loved it! This church was reaching my friends, impacting our city, and presenting the message of Jesus in a fresh way. As a high school student who had grown up in church, this seeker church invigorated my faith and passion for Jesus. In those days, “seeker church” was not a dirty word.

Then, pastors discovered the seeker church movement in the 2000s, and it has been a downhill slide for the American evangelical church ever since. Instead of transformational art in church that attracts non-Christians, duplication has produced a bad imitation of culture on Sunday morning platforms. In my opinion, a lot of the cultural imitation churches now practice actually repels more non-believers than attracts them.

More disturbing than the bad programming is that Christians now expect church to be entertaining. The intent behind the seeker church movement was not to entertain Christians, but to engage non-Christians who found church irrelevant. Some churches still do the seeker-model well, but most do not.

Looking beyond what is happening inside the church, culture has changed so much in America over the last 25 years, that seeker churches are no longer relevant to Millennials and many Gen Xers (some Baby Boomers still enjoy hearing Journey cover songs in church). I believe the seeker-model was generally effective from 1975 when Willow Creek was launched until the September 11th era began. We fundamentally changed as a people after 9/11.

Superficial entertainment still has its place in our culture, but not in the church. When considering church, believers and non-believers both want sacred space each week to find meaning for their life. Relevancy is over. People are not looking for a relevant message, but a transformational message. I thank God for the impact the seeker church had on my life, but it is no longer 1992.

The Church Needs Youth Ministry

I am at the National Youth Workers Convention in Atlanta with our youth pastor, Matt Malone. It is great to see the vitality of this conference is the same as when I came as a youth pastor. Mark Matlock leads the 44 year-old organization called Youth Specialties that puts this conference on, so he does a lot of thinking about youth ministry. In recent years it has become popular to bash youth ministry, criticizing its effectiveness and even its Biblical mandate to exist. Mark gives some language that helps those of us who love and believe in youth ministry explain its importance.

I have summarized his five points:

Youth ministry is necesary because . . .

1. Youth Ministry assimilates a new generation into an intergenerational community.
2. Youth Ministry helps the church stay relevant.
3. Most people become Christians before they are the age of 18.
4. Unlike most entities, teenagers can fully participate in the church as teenagers.
5. Teenagers keep the church authentic, with fresh eyes to see Jesus’ way.

In August, I slipped into a youth service at CIL, and I was touched to see dozens of our students kneeling in prayer for persecuted Christians at the front of the church.  This picture is why I love youth ministry.

Youth Praying - 2014 - August

 

You can access the Matlock’s blog post, and more of his thoughts on these five points by clicking here.

Here is Matlock’s same five points in the words he has chosen:

1. Youth ministry is vital to helping teens integrate into the larger intergenerational community of the church.
2. Youth ministry resists the status quo, helping a church stay relevant in a changing culture.
3. Youth ministry focuses on inviting those who are not already part of the church into the deeper narrative of God’s plan for humankind.
4. Youth ministry reminds the church that teens are not marginalized members of the body, but are co-creators and conspirators in the divine work of the church, restoring life on earth as it is in heaven.
5. Youth ministry helps the church focus on the way of Jesus, which goes beyond tradition, dogma, and ritual.

A Relational Life Is Costly

Our deepest desire is for a relational lifestyle. Our lifestyle does not leave room for relationships. This is the dilemma of life in the suburbs in the twenty-first century.

A life shared with meaningful conversation, and a sense of being known for who we really are, takes time. The relational life takes time. In our culture, time is money. It also takes time to develop and maintain a career, and the more productive you are, generally the more affluent you become. Taking time for relationships will cost you money (in the short-term). You will become less productive, which means you will make less money, and you will lose opportunity for advancement in your work.

LWN SelfieYet, once we pay the price for authentic relationships, the pay off is invaluable. The relationships we obtain are priceless. In addition, the benefits of authentic relationships are not just the intangibles. Long-term relationships are the doorways to the blessings of God. God moves through relationships. Almost every answer to prayer and kingdom opportunity that has come to me has occurred because of a relationship developed. I believe the phrase, “Our relationships today, are the answers to our prayers tomorrow.” So pay the price for authentic relationships because it will be the best investment of your time for tangible and intangible benefits.

Each month I meet with two groups of pastors (here is a recent “selfie” of one of those groups). These relationships are not based off of an agenda, an event or an obligation.  We simply meet to laugh, encourage and talk. Some months it seems very inconvenient, and almost unproductive.  Yet, the commitment to these fellow pastors as my personal small groups has contributed to my emotional health, my professional sustainability, and my overall happiness.  These men have made me a better husband, father, and pastor. Relationships matter!