Tuesday, February 27, 2007

About Time

This past Friday I got to spend some time with some people from our denomination to help craft a vision and plan for planting 250 new faith communities in 30 years in the state of Virginia. The sheer enormity of such a thing is great because only if God is in it can it be done.

I rejoice that people in our denomination, both at the conference level and the general church level, are beginning to get it. Church planting is the most effective way under the sun to make disciples of Jesus Christ- period! As the church planting cliche goes, "It is easier for us humans to give birth than to raise the dead!"

There is a sizable number of the people called Methodists that get it. They get that planting is the most effective way to introduce people to a life changing encounter with Jesus Christ. They get that church planting is biblical (hello remember the Book of Acts!). They get that part of what it means to be Wesleyan is to be about the business of starting new faith communities. I thank God for these people.

The challenge will come in helping others to see the vision. This will take the work of a God who can do impossible things- far more than we can even ask or imagine.

Please pray for those who are seeking to embed a vision and culture of church planting in our denomination and for that matter in denominations across the world and for those who are part of networks or non-denominational groups.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

40 Days of Community

During the 40 Days of Lent at New Season we will be involved in examining the meaning and purpose of community. Particularly we are going to see what this thing called a faith community (a church) is all about and why it is different than other communities. We are going to see why just about every thing we do under the sun is done better together as a community than alone. And, we will hopefully realize that in order to live out the purpose of our lives and love God with all our heart and our neighbor as ourselves we must do so in community.

While we are using the general themes of the 40 Days of Community campaign used by others we are not using all the bells and whistles of that campaign but will instead be creatively designing our own approach to answering the question "what does it mean to be community?"

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

What is Lent?

Here is a pretty good and to the point explanation of what the season of Lent is all about. It is from the Wilstar website.

Lent: What is it? Why is it?

The highlight of the year for Christians is Easter, the day when our Lord rose from the dead. Lent is a forty-day season of preparation for Easter. Lent always begins on a Wednesday, called Ash Wednesday.

Why 40 days? Because, Jesus fasted and was tempted in the wilderness for 40 days. Lent, then, is our time of fasting, prayer, temptation and repentance. Lent is not required anywhere in scriptures, but it has been a custom, which Christians have practiced for most of the last two thousand years.

In many languages, the word "Lent" actually means "fast." This is where the custom of giving up something for Lent originated.

However, just to confuse things, Lent is actually 46 days rather than 40 days. Why? Because the 40 days of Lent are supposed to be days of fasting, which means days of discipline and self-restraint. But Sunday, the Lord's Day, should never be a day of fasting, but a day of celebration! So each Sunday we suspend our Lenten disciplines and celebrate. Lent is 40 "fasting" days spread out over a total of 46 days beginning on Ash Wednesday.

The focus of Lent was always threefold:

  • It was a time to prepare new converts for baptism through intensive classes and instruction.
  • It was a time for long-standing Christians to review their lives and renew their commitment to Jesus Christ.
  • It was a time for backsliders to be restored to the faith.

In every case, it is a time for serious, disciplined self-examination, a time spent in intensive prayer and repentance before the cross of Calvary.
To represent the dark and serious business of Lent, one custom has been to strip the sanctuary of all flowers, candles, and colors during Lent. This custom helps us to turn inward and examine ourselves, even as it reminds us of the dark and colorless Sabbath day when Jesus lay dead in the tomb.

Put simply, Lent is a time to examine ourselves carefully. Here are some questions upon which you might pray and meditate during Lent
Am I sharing gladly what I have with others, especially the stranger and the poor?
Do I have a gracious and patient attitude with others, especially those who irritate me?
Do I feel the power of connection to God and the church in corporate worship?
How is my devotional and prayer life progressing? Am I listening to God more and complaining less? Is it time for a change or a growth in my Bible study and prayer life?
What are the lurking sin problems, which still plague me?
Am I as thoughtful and forgiving of family as others, or do I take my frustrations out on them?
Do I speak up for the maligned and oppressed, or do I remain silent in order to remain popular?

Saturday, February 17, 2007

More Signs

I should have bought stock in signs. I am a big believer in signs. Every Sunday we post about 20 directional signs in our mission field. The signs go up at about 6 a.m. and come down after our worship celebration experience.

These signs are a bit more expensive than the ones I talked about in a previous post because we do not have them made in bulk, they do not all say the same thing, and they have better stakes since we are planting and uprooting them every week.

These signs of course are meant to help people find their way to the church but like the signs in the previous post they also create awareness in the community about New Season Church. They, like the other signs have our website and meeting place and time.

Unlike a permanent sign that many churches have on the side of the road which stops being noticed after a while, I think the temporary signs end up being noticed more often since they are not there all the time and not a permanent part of the landscape. We have had people come as first time guests because of these signs (no doubt they also checked out our website too beforehand).

The thing about these signs and all the signs in our worship space and leading to our worship space is that they are all about hospitality (offering hospitality as Christ offered hospitality). If we want people who have never been or have not been in a long time to come to church we have to do our best to remove all obstacles save for the cross of Christ. That is the aim of all our signage. It is hard enough for someone to actually decide to come, helping them know where to go takes away some anxiety.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Sign, Sign Every Where There's Signs

One of the things we did for our move to Lee Hill Elementary was purchase 100 signs that we hung up in our mission field the first two weekends we moved.

The purpose of this sign drop was to create awareness of the move for people who already knew of New Season Church and knew we met at Massaponax High School. The second thing we were trying to accomplish was to raise awareness about our church amongst people who never knew we existed. I think we accomplished both!

The whole idea I stole from a church planter named Ben Arment whose blog I read. If you are not reading his blog and are a church planter you should.

Here is how the sign dropped worked:

  1. I purchased 100 single sided, 1 color signs and stakes. The signs cost $3 a piece and the stakes $1 a piece plus shipping. It is key to get a sign that is cheap enough but not too cheap. You have to go into it recognizing you will lose some signs either because of the weather (the winds were terrible the last couple of weeks) and because of theft.

  2. I made maps of well travelled intersections, subdivision exits and roads to mark where signs should go.

  3. I recruited some people to help with hanging the signs asking them to take about ten each and to put them out on Friday afternoon and pick them up after our worship celebration experience on Sunday for two weeks. We did this so that the county/state would not take them down and because there is nothing worse than a sign that litters the road for three months and we wanted to be good stewards- plus we wanted to get the signs back to use them again.

  4. I prayed over the signs before I gave them out and asked the persons hanging them to pray as they put them out that the right people who were far from God, turned out or off by church would see them and respond.

  5. We have retrieved the signs and will use them again before Easter, Back to School and Christmas Eve.

All in all the signs were really great and people actually did come because they saw the signs. Here is a picture of our sign.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Another Good Sunday

Wow- God blessed us with yet another good Sunday at New Season this past week! (Actually every Sunday we gather we are blessed, but especially since we have moved to our new location at the Lee Hill Elementary School.)

This week we were missing a pile of people due to people being out of town and sick and God continues to bring people. I have always known Christ will build the church, now it is a privilege to see him doing it in such noticeable ways.

Next Sunday we finish up our mini-series on worship with the message "True Worshippers"! Be sure to be there and invite a friends, relative, co-worker or neighbor.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Chaos and Uncertainty

If there is one thing about planting a church it is that you must make friends real quick with chaos and uncertainty. Yes, there is certainly an element of chaos and uncertainty in any situation where one is ministering for God but it is especially pronounced in church planting.

The chaos comes when there are 3,417 things that need to get done and in place and it is left up to you and a few others. Apart from God's power in Jesus it will never get done. And there are times when it just has to go undone and you have to trust and put it in God's hands. I have found more often that not some things I think are critical other people do not care about and God laughs at!! Also, sometimes chaos is good. It teaches us and has certainly taught me that if it is up to me then we are in trouble.

Uncertainty is more of a faith issue. From small things to like who will show up to the first small group to how will this thing ever get off the ground, planting is laden with uncertainty. Again, this uncertainty pushes us to the one who has promised to build his church.

The key is to learn to live with and through the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome chaos and uncertainty always realizing that the one who spoke and created the world out of chaos can take the little piece of the globe he has given me as a mission field and bring about something more beautiful than I can fathom. That is the promise I am clinging to.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Church Planting Trusim

Proverbs 29:8 reminds us so well that it is necessary for a community of faith to have be discerning and living ut God's vision. It says "without vision, the people perish."

Jim Griffith, my chruch planting coach says, "Without PEOPLE, the vision perishes."

You can have the greatest vision in the world but it will always take people. Church planting is about putting people in seats. Or as church planter Devin Hudson from Grace Point Church in Las Vegas says "church planting is about BITS (Butts in the Searts)."

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

New Move Postcard

Here is the postcard the good folks at Church Marketing Solutions did for us. We will be sending out about 5,000 in our immediate neighborhoods.

Monday, February 05, 2007

New Space- First Sunday

We had our first worship celebration experience in our new space (Lee Hill Elementary School) this past Sunday. What a difference! We had a great day. There was a lot of energy. People were reinvigorated. Guests showed up!!

On Friday we hung 100 yard signs all around our community. I will post more about that in a later post. And then on Saturday in the chilliest of temperatures a group went out and hung 1,000 door hangers. Those guys and girls were troopers!! Way to go!

We still have some other things we are doing to raise awareness in our community and help people invite and we certainly have some tweaking to do when it comes to our worship space and making it into a place where we can invite God to move in powerful ways.

But all in all I couldn't be happier with the move. Thanks to everyone for their help, prayers, encouragement as we seek to make and empower radical followers of Jesus Christ. Most of all thank you Jesus Christ for your guidance and presence and victory throughout!!

Friday, February 02, 2007

Sometimes the NFL is a Joke

At New Season we are having a Super Bowl party as part of what we call our connection events. Connection events are low-threshold, low threat events we invite friends, relatives, neighbors and co-workers to so they can just hang out and realize that the church we go to is not a bunch of Kool-aid drinking snake handling people.

It seems the greed of the NFL has gotten to the point where they want to put the kabash on such activities. What a bunch of silly people. Read about it here at the Monday Morning Insight Blog.

We are still having ours- it begins Sunday at 5:30. If you want to come email me. We want to invite especially any NFL executives. And I want to invite you to sue me for it. In my earlier heathen days now would be the time when I would post a picture of a big middle finger or a bunch of guys mooning the NFL. But, alas, thank God for the blood of Jesus and regeneration.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Another Good Resource

Here is another good resource for those who do any kind of email to communicate with a group of people. It is called Constant Contact.

Constant Contact is a web based email system that allows you to construct emails in an html format that is so much more appealing than plain text email newsletters. The interface is fairly simple.

The cost is about $20 a month after like a three month trial. I think if you stay under 100 email addresses it is free.

I would highly recommend it.

To sign up for New Season's Weekly Seasoning email update go here.