Cart and Horse (March 2013)

By Matt Dabbs

By Lee Keele

The topic for this edition resonates with me. In my experience, we put the cart before the horse… building the church before we’ve made disciples. I say we flip that around. Let me try to explain what I mean and how it fits in the context of ministry at my home congregation (Crossroads Christian Church) and in my home community (Hutchinson, KS).

I love Hutchinson. I’ve lived here now for over 5 years. The people I go to church with… they love Hutchinson, too. Together, we’ve sought God for a vision that <i>involves</i> Crossroads, but stretches beyond the borders of our meager campus. We asked and prayed for a “God-sized” vision with “God-sized” goals. Here’s what the Lord helped us with.

God has given us a vision:
That we partner with him in bringing about an unprecedented awakening of hope through reconciliation with Jesus Christ within ourselves first, then our city, and then around world.

We truly believe that Crossroads will be a small part of something that God does to change the world. That Hutchinson, KS could very well be an epicenter of some very seismic spiritual activity to come. I could describe this in monotonous detail, but I’m a bullet point kind of guy, so here goes.

What our church does to make disciples first, then worry about the church…We build ministries that focus on community; not trying to simply get people to be members at Crossroads. If we make disciples that attend a Baptist church, or a Catholic church, or whatever … we’re okay with that. We don’t compromise our theology or our convictions about New Testament Christianity, but we’re okay to let those convictions find a home elsewhere..

Our shepherds believe that Hutchinson is our flock, not just Crossroads. We are challenged to shepherd our community, not just the folks with Crossroads membership cards. Every person is a lamb of God potentially. They’re either in the fold, or they are not.

Our members are viewed and preached to and encouraged as if they were the 20%. In the 80/20 rule a lot of preachers preach to their church as if they were the 80 percent who do little or nothing. I preach to the whole church as if they were the 20 percent on whom God is relying to do everything. We never expect the 80/20 ration to change, but we do expect the 20 percent to grow in number (and that the 80 will naturally follow).

Our members are encouraged to make it a goal to tithe as a MINIMUM. Granted, we don’t focus on money. In fact, I rarely preach about “giving.” But around here, we recognize in Scripture that the people God has always used to change the world, including Jesus himself, were NOT ten percenters. They were ALL in. This doesn’t just refer to money, but to time, energy, and especially to relational investments.

Here are some examples of some of our ministries that are following these guidelines and staying focused on community as flock.

As a church staff, we try to stay focused on leadership development. We don’t always succeed at keeping this focus, but we try. Our goal is to encourage every leader to shepherd both within and without the walls of Crossroads.

One elder has a Bible class that meets on his back porch (deck) every Wednesday evening (weather permitting). Most of them do not attend Crossroads. They are just as much “flock” as the folks at Crossroads.

One elder teaches at the local soup kitchen at least once a week. They are his “flock” as much as the folks at Crossroads.

One elder is planting a “Cowboy Church” on the south side of town. They’re his flock as much as the folks at Crossroads.

Our Men’s and Women’s Encounter (and soon to be Teen Encounter) Ministries focus on inviting any and everyone to have an Encounter with God. Most of the people who attend an Encounter (each Encounter weekend runs about 150 to 200 people) are not Crossroads Members. Some of the leaders of the Encounter ministries have a personal goal of reaching 10 percent of our cities population.

Our Wednesday night Children’s ministry is ALL ABOUT REACHING KIDs. We don’t do adult discipleship on Wednesdays because we ant ALL our adults focused on reaching kids. We have kids coming whose parents don’t attend Crossroads.

Our summer VBS operates with about as many people in “helping” roles who are Crossroads members as those who are not. We’ll have close to 200 kids and 100 volunteers. I’d say it’s about 50/50 between those who are Crossroads and those who aren’t. (I may be exaggerating on this one, but not much).

Those are probably the best examples I could share of the ministries we’re involved in that focus outwardly.

You may be wondering what’s the result of having ministries like these… You may be wondering if we’re growing as a church. The answer is: Yes, slowly. It’s taken five full years for us to grow from about 260 to 370 (averages). (I’m fortunate that Crossroads was growing before I stepped foot in the door!) But ultimately, that isn’t our goal. Our goal is not to grow this congregation, but to grow God’s kingdom and overcome darkness in Hutchinson. That’s God’s vision… to bring hope to the people of Hutchinson. Whether that happens inside the walls of our church building, in someone’s back yard, at the soup kitchen, some other church, the local public swimming pool… we don’t really care. As long as the kingdom is making headway, we find that we don’t have to worry about church growth. As God would have it, the disciples we’re making take care of that for us… or with us… or however you want to look at it.

categoria commentoNo Comments dataDecember 3rd, 2013
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Pharisees, Tax Collectors and Leaders (Apr 2013)

By Matt Dabbs

By Lee Keele

Let me begin with the story of Parable of the Pharisee and Tax Collector, then I’ll make my point.

“Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer*: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” – Jesus, Luke 18:9-14

I love this story as a model for teaching a practical element of leadership. It occurred to me as I was reading through this very parable, thinking about leadership and asking the question… whom would I rather follow? It’s a great question isn’t it?

My first inclination was to say … I’d follow the Pharisee. Dude, really… I mean it! I would really prefer to follow someone who is obviously generous, not a cheater, won’t hit on my wife and his generally solid in his day to day behavior. I like this guy. I can relate to this guy. I think many of us can. Churches are lead by this guy! I am, in many ways… this guy! He is a good guy, right!?

Right! And …. Wrong!

Before I get into the obvious problem here, I want to address a leadership issue that our churches face.

Week after week, in many of our churches, we offer an “altar call” or as some of us would say it, an “invitation song.” It’s been a while quite frankly since I’ve offered an “invitation” song on Sunday mornings and equally frank is the truth that I don’t really miss it. Anyhoo, we offer those altar calls and what happens? Well, I tell you what I remember happening in churches of my youth. Not much. Yep. Not much at all.

Oh occasionally a person would meander to the front pew and everyone would raise eyebrows and wonder to themselves, “Wonder what so and so did?” “Why are they “going forward?”” Did they get caught smoking something? Did they have premarital sex? Did they go to a dance? Did they play cards for money?” But usually, and more often… nothing.

Now think about this. A guest has come to watch. To worship. To listen. To participate in this thing we call church. Every week they hear the preacher calling forward those who need repentance, or baptism, or desiring to place membership. Week after week they see the leaders of that church doing the same thing during the time when repentance is supposed to be publicly expressed. And what do people see church leaders do during the invitation song? Not much.

Think about the message that sends. What is the “guest” thinking? “Wow, these people don’t have many problems! These people don’t need to repent! These people must have it all together! Not sure I can belong here… life is falling apart for me!” I may be overstating the point, but I think it’s valid. When people never or very rarely see an elder, preacher, or church leader actively involved in repentance on some level, they begin to think we either 1) don’t have problems or 2) we’re good at pretending that we don’t. My guess is that most people would opt for #2.

On the other hand, consider the message that is sent when a church leaders steps forward to confess sin, to ask for prayer, to admit weakness. Those in the pews whose lives are also very much NOT perfect find a human connection. Now back to the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector.

I am not saying that we should all admit our grossest sin in the context of a public gathering. I am saying, however, that leaders must do just that… lead the way. We must be willing to share publicly the truth that we are… each and every one of us … absolutely human, weak, in need of repair and improvement. Maybe an invitation song isn’t the way to go (and I believe it isn’t). But we must find some way for the average church attender to witness the life transformation of their leaders on an ongoing basis.

Remember what Jesus said about the tax collector and the Pharisee. One of them was headed back to his home justified before God and the other was not. Which one do you want to follow? Which one of them, as a leader, do you want to be?

Let me offer a challenge in closing. Be both. Be a man or woman whose daily living is inscrutable. Hold to high standards of piety for yourself. Pray. Fast. Tithe. And by all means… do not be a thief or an adulterer. And then, when you go to pray, stand before God, realizing that in all your own good works, you still stand (as we all do) unworthy before Him. And then, if there are others who follow you standing in the room. . . let them see the real you and hear you say, “Lord, have mercy on me… a sinner.”

categoria commentoNo Comments dataNovember 27th, 2013
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