The Offense of the Cross

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The truth hurts or so I’ve been told. It’s such a common saying that some may even mistakenly think that it has a scriptural basis. I guess the truth did hurt. It hurt Jesus when He laid down all of His righteousness in order to take on all of our sin. The truth is that I am a sinner and needed a Savior. The truth is that Jesus took all of my sin and gave me His righteousness. The truth did hurt, it hurt more than we will ever know.

However, in communicating biblical truth and teaching the revelation of Jesus Christ it seems that some feel the need to be offensive with the Gospel. Not realizing that it is not us that should be offensive, but the Gospel itself. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 9 talked about presenting the Gospel in a way that made it easy for people to relate to. The early church fathers in the first council of leaders determined, “we should not make it difficult for the gentiles who are turning to Christ” in Acts 15. The cross is offensive in itself. It says that I am so bad that a perfect person had to be slaughtered on my behalf and could/can do nothing to save myself. Jesus is in scripture is called the stumbling block. He is the only way of salvation. There is no other name given that has the power to save us. In preaching and creating worship services my main goal is not to be an offense or stumbling block before people have had a chance to get to the cross and the decision concerning Jesus Christ.

Here are few things to think about in communicating the truth of Jesus Christ:

1. The Cross is an offense so I don’t have to be (I don’t want arrogance, pride, or a negative attitude to offend people before they have ever had a chance to make it to the cross of Calvary)

2. Jesus is a stumbling block so I don’t have to be (I don’t want my method to trip people before they have ever had a chance to really make a decision about Jesus Christ)

3. I want to find the most effective and current way to relate the message of the cross and Jesus Christ

4. I don’t want to make it difficult for people who are turning to Christ (Jesus accused the Pharisee’s of entering the kingdom of God and locking the door behind them by adding difficult rules and regulations)

10 Reasons I Tithe

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I have to confess that when I started CoastLife Church I had a bit of a consumerism mentality. The church that I took over had around 15 people attending on Sundays and when I inherited the account there was only a couple of hundred of dollars in it and we had about $800 worth of bills on the desk. Facing financial hardship meant that I was out to get every donation I could find. It was a struggle as we planned our relaunch, and even after our launch. About 6 months after our relaunch I was still praying and hoping for donations and financial support when I sensed the Lord asking me what I really believed about tithing. Heidi and I have always been tithers, but I knew this was about our church. I gave personally, but as the leader of our very small work I wasn’t giving from our church. About 6 months in to our venture as CoastLife Church I made the decision to tithe as a church. Jesus said in Luke 16, if you can’t be trusted with unrighteous wealth, who will trust you with true riches. Since making the decision to honor God with tithing our church has been trusted with true riches. Our attendance has more than tripled, many people have found Christ, been baptized, healed, and received ministry at CoastLife Church. I believe that being faithful in our giving is one of the reasons we have experienced true riches. Here are 10 Reasons I Tithe and insist that our church Tithes as well:

1. The first portion of all increase belongs to God and not to me

– Whether it was a child born to a family, fruit from a tree, crops from a field, a calf born to a flock, a city given to Israel, or financial increase. God consistently said the first portion was holy (Separated) and belonged to him. 

2. It is part of my worship

– David said I don’t want to offer to God something that cost me nothing. I don’t want to be a consumer of someone else’s worship. Tithing makes me an owner and investor into my place of worship. 

3. It honors God by placing him before everything else in my life
– I want the preeminent God to be preeminent in my life. I honor God by placing him first with my tithe. The promise of scripture is that if I give first to him, “all these other things” will be added to me. 

4. It is a place of practical obedience in my life
– Small acts of obedience are better than extravagant acts of sacrifice

5. It builds my trust and faith in God
– When I tithe it builds my trust that God is my provider.

6. Because scripture promises blessing will be released on the other 90%
– It has been said that 90% blessed is better that 100% consumed

7. Because scripture promises that Satan won’t be able to stop me
– It’s unbiblical to think that if I tithe that nothing bad will happen to me. I’ve tithed for years and my car has still broken down, things have broken at my house, and we still have medical bills from time to time. However, I believe the promise of scripture is that nothing will be able to stop me. The devourer, the one that would destroy my potential and promise is rebuked when I tithe. 

8. It reminds me that I am not my own
– God said to use the tithe to testify that you were once in slavery, but have now been redeemed

9. Because I believe CoastLife Church is my spiritual storehouse and I want it to be abundantly provided for
– The local church is the hope of the world. While there are many worthwhile organizations, the church’s mission and message is eternal. 

10. Because I love Jesus more than life
– For me, the only appropriate response to the cross is to give generously to the house of God. Jesus gave his all for me, the least I can do is give a portion of my income to build His church and spread the gospel. 

 

 

3 Reasons to Pray and Keep Praying

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Wouldn’t prayer be much easier if God had a Drive Thru Menu and speaker? We could drive through when needed and order up some traveling mercies, a financial blessing, and a side of protection. Wouldn’t it mean that our faith was bigger if our prayers were heard and answered immediately? Jesus didn’t really seem to think so. In Luke 18 he gave us the parable of the persistent widow to teach us that “we ought always to pray and not lose heart.” Jesus ended this teaching on being persistent in prayer by raising the question, when the Son of Man returns will he find faith on the earth? It seems Jesus intended and expects us to have to pray repeatedly about certain things in our life. The Apostle MC Hammer was correct when he said, “You’ve got to pray just to make it today.” Here are 3 reasons to persist in prayer:

1. Persistent prayer is purifying prayer

When I pray persistently it purifies my prayer and separates my need from my greed. We have all prayed prayers that were more based on greed than anything else. “Give me a million dollars, give me a new house, a new car, etc.” I believe God is concerned about your provision and I believe God does want to provide for you. However, I believe God is just as concerned with getting you right as he is getting your stuff right. He may have cattle on a thousand hills, but only has one of you. God sometimes has to do something in us before he can do something for us.

2. Persistent prayer is relational prayer

Persistent prayer requires that I stop talking at God and start talking with God. Prayer at its essence is communication. It goes back to the garden when Creator would come in the cool of the day to speak with his creation. One stop prayers, Sunday corporate prayer time, and praying in a small group is great, but it doesn’t take me into the realm of relational prayer. The real power in prayer is the power of knowing and being known. God wants to know you and you need to know God. Praying consistently and persistently means that I talk with God about the good, the bad, and the ugly of my life. Consistent and persistent prayer brings me to a place of genuineness where I can know and be known.

3. Persistent prayer is faith building prayer

Somewhere right now a drastically out of shape person is signing a gym membership contract. Their hopes are high that in a few short months they will look like the pictures they see in line on the magazines at the grocery store. Unfortunately joining a gym and working out are two different things. With consistent and repeated exercise muscles get stronger and stronger. Jesus said is anyone going to persist in prayer and build strong faith. The reality is that every time I ask, I’m building my faith to receive. Every time I seek, I’m building my faith that I’m going to find in God the answers I need. Every time I know, I’m building my faith to believe that God is going to open doors for me. Don’t let your faith get weak, keep praying. When God doesn’t answer it builds trust, when God does answer it refreshes faith. Either way you will come out stronger.

How To Be a Bad Church Member

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Ever wanted to set your church back and create an unhealthy culture? Here is a short list of things to do to:

1. Constantly point out what should be done, but never volunteer to actually do anything. (People with workable solutions and the desire to roll up their sleeves and get the job done are invaluable to a church)

2. Always be late for church services (Guests have determined whether or not they will come back within the first 7 minutes of visiting your church. When you arrive 15 minutes late they have already determined that you don’t care about your church so why should they)

3. Expect the best preaching, music, programs, and facilities, but don’t give or give very little and expect someone else to pay for it. (Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Its amazing how when you invest into your local church you become much more supportive and much less critical.)

4. Attend as inconsistently as possible. Try not to make more than 1 or 2 services a month. (The bible clearly commands church attendance in Hebrews 10:25. Its amazing that the reasons given are never about what we will receive if we go to church, but rather about what we can give when we go. You may not need to be there, but someone else needs you to be there. Go to church. Worship, support, encourage, uplift, welcome guests. You are needed every Sunday!)

5. Never invite your friends, family, and coworkers to church. They should have no idea where you go and what you do each and every Sunday. (Coworkers, neighbors, friends, and family members are all strategically placed into your life by God. Invest into your church and into their lives by inviting them to church.)

6. Talk about the people you attend church with instead of praying for them. (Attending church should mean we have a community of support to ensure spiritual growth and not a place to be criticized and judged harshly. We could all stay in the world and get that.)

7. Be as flaky as possible. When you do show up be sure to second guess what and how things are being done. Spend a lot of time at coffee shops discussing what’s wrong with the church and church leaders, but never be faithful enough to actually carry the heavy load of leading a ministry yourself. (It takes a lot of faithfulness to rise to leadership in a church. The people who show up the most usually end up carrying the biggest burden. When people who are uncommitted to sacrificially giving of their time show up sporadically to second guess what’s going on it discourages the leaders of your church. If someone else is doing it and you are not personally involved in it, try encouraging them instead of second guessing them.)

8. Play quiet as a mouse, still as a rock during church services. (When we worship it touches heaven. When we don’t it not only hinders what God is trying to do in our services, it also makes it difficult on the service leaders. Never underestimate the power of your involvement in worship and your support of the message. I believe not only will you be blessed, but you are also helping to create the atmosphere for people to be saved, healed, and restored in the Presence of God.)

9. Bring your kids into the service instead of the Children’s Ministry that volunteers have worked hard to prepare for. Because its your child the other people attending will really enjoy the noise and distraction. (Each week volunteers work hard and pray hard to be effective in ministering to children. I personally witness the frustration of our volunteers when parents opt to take their child into the service instead of supporting the ministry provided. Nothing in the service is geared towards your child’s age and they most likely will end up being bored and a distraction. Support your church’s Children’s Ministry by checking your child in each week. Also, the guests sitting nearby you will appreciate it as well.)

10. Never pray for your Pastor and the Leaders of your church. (Most people will never see the effort, passion, and even tears that are sown into a church by its leaders. Pray for your Pastor and other leaders of your church.)

Your Best Plus 1

Your best plus 1. That’s the definition of excellence given to me by a friend and former mentor. Dr. Ken Brassfield has since gone on to be with the Lord, but his definition of excellence has stuck with me for over 10 years. We all understand that perfection is a myth and no one, and nothing will ever be “perfect.” However, we do want to strive for excellence in all that we do. That leaves us with the question, how do you define excellence? The simple definition of excellence given to me was to do your very best, and then add 1 thing. In other words strive to do your very best, and then figure out ways to grow, increase, or improve upon your best. A culture of excellence is created when we do the diligent work of offering our best. However, without a desire to grow, improve, stretch, learn, and become better we cap our potential and lose our excellence. When I sat down to craft the values of CoastLife Church the first item on the values list was excellence. After having been raised in a Pastor’s home and having been in the ministry for over a decade I am well acquainted with Churches that operate with a lack of excellence. They are easily identified by things like not be able to start a service on time, or even worse, not being able to end a service in a timely manner. I have been to a few services that I wondered if the people in charge were aware that there would indeed be a service going on that day. Did Sunday sneak up on them? I was once invited to speak at a service that was to have a potluck dinner afterwards. At the end of a very disorganized service the announcement was made that the potluck had been canceled. Evidently every single person that brought food to the potluck brought the same item, bread. That type of a lack of excellence is easy to spot. However, working from the definition of best plus 1 exposes a more subtle lack of excellence. It’s when we have a norm of offering at or near our best, but haven’t grown, increased, or attempted to go over the top in a long time. I would say most churches that I know of right now wouldn’t have a potluck dinner with just bread. However, I wonder how many could claim a culture of excellence if we applied the best plus 1 filter. Excellence isn’t just a good idea, its actually connected to your love of people, ministry, and even God. Paul ended chapter 12 of his first epistle to Corinth by saying, “I show you a more excellent way.” The next chapter to follow is what we term the love chapter. If you love people, if you love ministry, if you love God you will have a desire to operate with excellence. Here are a few questions to ask to help apply the best plus 1 filter:

1. Who is really looking at your operations?

Not everyone needs to be a critic, but a small group of people do need to be tasked with the job of critiquing the critical aspects of your church.

2. What type of self observation do you utilize to bring about improvement?

In a coaching network I came across these 4 questions I ask after every Sunday: 1. What went right 2. What went wrong 3. What was confusing/awkward 4. What was missing

3. What areas of your church/ministry have been good so long, they are no longer excellent? What areas of your church/ministry are good, but could use some fresh growth?

 

Broken Churches Produce Broken People

“Broken Churches produce broken people.” I’m not using the word “broken” in a super spiritual, broken, contrite kind of way. I mean that in the lazy, listless, and stagnated kind of way.

This phrase was told to me by my good friend Phil Brassfield. I was struggling with how to approach change, and exactly what we should do as we planned to relaunch an existing church into what is now CoastLife Church. It took a year for me to finally get a launch date, and officially begin the church that God had placed in my heart. I took an existing, broken church of 15 people. No, I’m not exaggerating or lying. The average attendance of the church was 15. Something I didn’t foresee happened over the course of the year before the relaunch. The church began to grow, up to and as many as 30 people in attendance. Yes, I will be glad to speak at your next Church Growth Conference. However, it concerned me because the old church was beginning to become the enemy of the new church. The growth was not from new believers, it wasn’t people coming back to Christ, or current Christ followers find a deeper experience at our church. The “new” people were mirror images of the old church. Lazy, lethargic, bitter, and often times hateful people. I was expressing my frustration when Phil reminded me that “like produces like.” Apples produce apples, oranges produce oranges, and broken churches produce broken people. We were a broken, unhealthy church and we were attracting broken, unhealthy people. Please understand that we are all about reaching the hurting, and helping those in despair. Broken is a term I use to describe people who are trapped in tradition, cold in their relationship with God, and generally satisfied to be unhealthy and not growing spiritually. Churches that fit that description attract and produce Christians that fit that description. I’m proud to say that in June of 2010 we relaunched into a healthy vibrant church. All but 2 of the original members have left. Our church is now a healthy, life giving environment that provides healing to literally hundreds of people. Here are 3 questions to ask to determine if a church is broken:

1. Are there questions you hope people don’t ask?

A church that is unclear about its doctrine, vision, and direction is a broken church. If you hope you don’t have to be honest with new people because it will offend the old people you have a problem.

2. Are there things practiced, but not preached?

A healthy church has a solid alignment between what is preached and what is practiced. If it isn’t clearly communicated from the pulpit it shouldn’t be enforced anywhere else. If stated and unstated values aren’t aligned it leads to a broken culture.

3. Are there people you wish would go ahead and die?

Okay, perhaps retire might be a more palatable phrase. Nevertheless, you get my point. Are there people in positions who have long since lost the passion, purpose, and vision of the house. Honestly, it would be better to have no ministry than to have those people in leadership in your church. Shut it down, burn it down, resign and retire people. Do whatever it takes to see your church healthy and producing a life giving environment.

Revolutionary New Outreach Idea

I believe after many attempts to connect with our community and multiple methods having been attempted that I have discovered an outreach idea that is revolutionary. However, before I impart this revelatory idea to you I would first like to help you avoid some of the methods that have been unsuccessful for me. 

1. Newspaper Advertisements (Approximately $300-$500 for small ad)

Allow me to save you some time and effort before you advertise your church in the local paper. Simply take $300-$500 in your hand. Find the nearest toilet and lift the lid. Open your hand and release the $300-$500 into the toilet and press the handle. You have now saved time and effort and will have the same amount of guests in your next service.

2. Direct Mail/Post Cards ($1000 for small mailing)

My personal experience gives me some mixed emotion about adding this method to the list. The reason I have mixed emotion is because I have seen a limited response to doing direct mail campaigns. We mailed out cards and a few folks showed up. However, the reason I include it on the list is because they don’t come back. For the money we spend we usually get a very small response and are unable to connect with these guests. My personal opinion is that mailers attract people who are church shopping and you are added to the list of churches they intend to visit. At this stage our church is not the largest and best programmed church in our area. Therefore, we do not win top pick in the church draft and first selection usually goes to the larger church with a larger budget. As we grow larger we will revisit doing direct mail campaigns.

3. Billboard, Radio, and TV Advertisement (Mortgage Your House)

If you are desperate enough to read a blog about church outreach from me, you cannot afford to advertise on a billboard, radio, or tv program.

Revolutionary Idea

This may come as a surprise to you, but the most effective method for us has been attenders of CoastLife Church inviting non attenders to come to services. Here’s how it works. Someone loves Jesus, and loves their church and begins to tell people about this very important facet of their lives. It’s so simple I can’t believe someone hasn’t thought of it before. Perhaps we should give it a cool name like evangelism.

As a church we support this revolutionary idea in several ways:

1. Instead of mailing cards to a stranger’s home, we provide them to attenders of CoastLife Church to use to invite people they would like to see come to church. We support personal evangelism by equipping attenders with printed information that is easy to pass on.

2. Through offering special services and special events. We use social media as a non invasive and non awkward way for people to invite their friends and family to special events and special services at CoastLife Church. We create a Facebook event for every special service or event. We support personal evangelism by offering creative events geared towards connecting with the community.

3. We do our absolute best to provide a service and atmosphere the attenders of CoastLife can be proud to bring their friends and family to. It should go without saying, but you wouldn’t recommend the restaurant that was disorganized and offered poor service. People won’t recommend your church for the same reasons. We support personal evangelism through offering excellence to attenders.

4. We have a good website. Over 80 percent of first time visitors of a church will visit the website first. In the early days of CoastLife, guests weren’t an every Sunday occurance. During those days I could “prophecy” which Sundays we would have visitors by the hits on our websites. We support personal evangelism by recognizing our website as the virtual front door of our church.

I would be interested in hearing of different methods and their success or failures from other church planters, leaders, and team members. Please leave them in the comment section below.