50 Shades of Church

50 Shades Tie
I once preached in a small church in rural Missouri (pronounced Miz-zour-a). There was a time in my life when I traveled and preached quite a bit. So every service would be a different church in a different town or state. After a while you sort of learn to roll with the customs of each particular church. On this night I rolled in to realize that for starters I was way over dressed. This church was casual and not just casual, but country casual. I had left my Levi bootcut jeans at the store somehow. In those days my typical preacher attire was a suit and tie. Being nimble of mind, I quickly nixed the tie so that my top button open dress shirt might create unity with this Levi wearing crowd. How good and pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity and all of that. I didn’t remove my jacket, I never remove my jacket once wearing one. That’s too high of a price to pay for unity to me for some reason. But I digress. Several of the men of the church welcomed me when I arrived and by welcome I mean stood around me trying to determine if I indeed was going to “bring the heat” at this service. One of the men, the older one, decided to provide some leadership for the questions and encouragement that was being offered to me. Evidently one eye was better than the other because when he would make a statement he would twist his head to put his “good eye” on me. At first, it was some statements about “take your liberty” or “do what you feel led tonight.” I’ve never stepped into a pulpit without knowing exactly what I intended to do. Not for sure if that’s considered liberty or not, but I assured him with as much Holy Ghost gusto that I could manage that I would indeed take my liberty. Not satisfied at all, he did the head turn and a little bit of a chin tuck so the good eye would really be prominent. I pause to say, at this point I realized that his admonishment to do what I felt led was really a hope that I would do what he felt led. Back to the good eye, now squinting with spiritual intensity. Looking up from the hypnotizing Holy Spirit stare he said, “tell us what we need to hear, you go ahead and skin our heads.” I was raised in this area of the country and speak the language, so I quickly translated this to understand that he was requesting some type of spiritual punishment at tonight’s service. With many words he admonished me, as the other two men supported him, to bring some type of spiritual spanking to the church. They were in the mood for some chastening on this Sunday evening. The request was odd, the excitement and fervor for it was really odd. I’m just not into that. I’m not judging you if you are. I’m just not into it. It got me thinking though and I have wondered about that mentality for a long time. The mentality that finds harsh words or heavy preaching to be enjoyable. Sort of a spiritual pleasure pain principle. Have you ever met someone who seemingly enjoyed feeling bad? For some it seems like it feels good to feel bad. The mentality seems to be “the worse I feel emotionally, the stronger I feel spiritually.” For those people or groups you can’t preach it hard enough. I’ve been in some church services and conference type meetings where a safe word probably should have been provided. Whether its guilt over behavioral issues, or despair over how dark the world is, it seems to make people feel godly to feel bad. I’m not against sorrow. The bible says that godly sorrow brings repentance. Of course, that same bible also says that it’s the goodness of God that leads people to repentance. We’ve all done some things we are sorry that we did. However, guilt never takes us anywhere. It’s the goodness of God that can lead us down a road where we are truly sorry and change our behavior. I’ve termed this phenomenon “Christian Guilt.” The idea that feeling bad, feeling guilty, feeling intense seems to put me on a higher spiritual plane. Happy people, hope filled people, optimistic people are spiritual novices. Intense, guilty, and doom filled people are the ones who appear to be the more spiritually “promiscuous” and experienced. We look to them from our innocence to introduce us to the pleasure world of Christian Guilt. There is actually good money to be made by making people feel bad. Many books have been sold and sermons preached on the premise of people should feel bad who have it too good, have too much money, or they are lazy and aren’t doing enough for God. I know what you are thinking. Actually, I don’t. This blog is filled with innuendo and I’m not for sure how that makes you feel. But, you should be thinking, “shouldn’t we be challenged or corrected?” That’s a great question and the answer is yes. We absolutely need to be disciplined and corrected in our spiritual lives. However, that discipline and correction should take us somewhere. Guilt, feeling bad, being intense all of the time never really produces any change. Something is wrong when you like to keep church spicy with spiritual discipline and enjoy either feeling or causing pain. Honest, life giving correction should lead us to 3 things:

1. Faith – The bible never denies the reality of negative circumstances. People have ungodly behavior that leads them into bondage. The world is full of very burdensome circumstances that try to take away your joy. It’s not spiritual growth to be angry and intense about the world and people of the world. It’s spiritual growth to have joy in spite of how dark the world is. Joy after all, and not intense anger, is a fruit of the Spirit. Jesus said, “in this world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer I have overcome the world.” When talking about how dark people are, or how dark the world is, we should never stop until we have built people’s faith that Jesus has already overcome the world. You won’t get a cookie at the end of the age because of how dark and intense you were.

2. Grace – Here’s the deal. Guilt has never saved one person. Not one. No one has ever been guilted into salvation. On the other hand, all of us have been saved by grace. We don’t deny sin or the affects of sin. Sin is terrible. It separates us from God and all sin has consequences. We don’t deny the consequences of sin and even the sorrow it can bring. We also don’t leave people in guilt, we lead them to the grace of God. Guilt is an emotional prison, Grace is a never ending well.

3. Love – Love never fails. Prophecy will one day cease. Tongues will one day cease. Knowledge will vanish and be no more, but love will never fail. How bad will the world be? I really don’t know. How dark will the culture we live in be? I can’t answer that question either. I do know this though. Regardless of how bad the world is, and regardless of how dark our culture becomes, love will still never fail. Somewhere, in some tangible way, love will be prevailing. Abiding in all seasons will be faith, hope, and love. The greatest of these is love.

Perhaps you enjoy spiritual intensity. Perhaps the scripture of Jesus with a whip in the temple excites you. I’m not here to judge. Yes, we need to be corrected and yes, there are some things that are wrong in people and the world. However, we shouldn’t allow the world to rob us of our faith, hope, and love. There are a lot of different shades of church. Regardless of the shade, the world, people, you, me, we all need faith, hope, and love to grow in the grace of God. Let’s be life giving, and provide people with an atmosphere of grace to grow and change.

I’m a Christian, Not a Confederate

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I’m late to the party. And by party I mean an issue that further divided our nation and was the object of much social media debate. So not a great party. The host of the party, for lack of a better phrase, was a flag that was used by the Confederate army during the Civil War era. This is where I will pause and tell y’all that I was born and raised in the south. I’m both southern and pretty fly for a white guy. My credentials include being raised in Arkansas, moving to Mississippi, and now residing in the most southern (geographically) of states, the great State of Florida. I’m not at all ashamed of who I am, and I’m grateful for my upbringing in the land of sweet tea and Little Debbie’s. Like most people I take pride in my family and my heritage. I was raised by some pretty great folks and was surrounded all of my life by people who could be described as “salt of the earth” kind of people. So if anyone would rise to the defense of a southern emblem it would most likely be yours truly. I do not. In fact, it broke my heart that people did. It even angered me that Christian’s did. I was surprised at the amount of people who embraced a symbol of racism, and I was shocked to see believers take the bait as well. This blog is directed at people who claim Christianity as their faith and profess Christ as their savior. It doesn’t surprise me that the world would be divided on this issue. It does surprise me that some believers were divided on this issue. Here is my list. Yes, a list because that’s how I roll. A list of reasons why I’m a Christian and not a Confederate:

1.The identity of my heritage is in a cross and not a flag.

1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

My “people” are the people of God. My family isn’t based on skin color, or place of birth. It’s based on a common experience of being called out of darkness and into His marvelous light. The question is this, are we more proud to be southern than forgiven? We need to remember that we are a part of “chosen race” and a “holy nation” and that has absolutely nothing to do with skin color or place of birth. It has everything to do with God’s grace given to everyone who puts their faith in Him. At the cross we all stand on equal ground. At the flag pole there are haves and have nots. There are whites and blacks, hispanics and asians. There is rich and poor, social elite and socially outcast. At the cross there are simply sinners finding grace. All color, status, and position is washed away in a crimson stream that flows from Calvary.

2. It is a sin to knowingly participate in a custom that is offensive to other believers

1 Corinthians 8:12 Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

One of the reasons people chose to defend the Confederate Flag was because to them, the flag represented heritage and not hate. Here’s the deal. It doesn’t matter what the flag means to you or me. What does the flag mean to brothers and sisters in the family of God who are of a different race than me? If it is offensive to them, then I lay down my thoughts and preferences to protect their conscience. Paul went as far to say that he would give up meat all together to prefer people who were of a different culture than him. I know the issue was a little different topic in Paul’s day, but I believe this verse fits very well in this situation. As a believer, I am to live with a consciousness that includes other aspects of the Body of Christ than my own.

3. I’m not here to build a nation. I’m here to build a church

If we mistake our mission we take up the wrong battles. Many christians have taken up politics because they think God’s eternal kingdom is the USA. I love this country and I’m very grateful for the freedom we have and the blessings we have been given. The USA is the greatest nation on earth in my lowly and most humble opinion. However, the USA will have an end at some point. Jesus Christ is not returning for the USA, He is coming back for a church that is without spot or wrinkle. The hope of our nation is not a political party, it’s not a political leader, and it’s definitely not a stronger government. The hope of America is the church, a strong and glorious church. A church that is influential and growing. A church that includes people from every race and all walks of life who have surrendered to the call of God on their life. The church will not be what its supposed to be without unity between our different races and nationalities. A church that lays down personal preference, and personal agenda for the cause of Christ will influence our nation. In the world it seems that everyone is trying to use the government to advance their agenda. My prayer is that our only agenda would be reaching people, building the local church, and preparing ourselves to be a part of a kingdom that will have no end.

Here’s a little picture of what that church looks like…
Revelation 7:9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands,

If someone could come to the organ as I bring this to a close I would appreciate it. I’ve seen things written by people who almost seem self loathing. This isn’t about me being ashamed of who I am or having any hatred of where I come from. I was born and raised in the south and for that I’m thankful. Amazingly, I had both white and black people who taught me about Christ and helped raise me in the family of God. I know that’s not most people’s picture of the south, but it was my reality. A church of both white people and black people who laid down racial difference to lift up the name of Jesus Christ. So this isn’t about self loathing. It’s an honest attempt to make sure that my life, our lives, are in line with holy scriptures and are pleasing to the Lord Jesus Christ. I’m looking forward to the day “when saints from every race, shall behold his face.” Just to throw a line from a southern Gospel song at you.

Church, Here is Why I’m Standing Firm

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Here is a list of why I’m in the church and I’m not going anywhere:

1. It’s Not About Me

You want a traditional church. Great. Sing weird songs and find beauty in stained glass. It’s not for me, but if its for you, go for it with everything you’ve got. You want a church with an IMAX screen. Great. Throw that rock concert fist in the air and worship Jesus with everything you’ve got. Preference doesn’t matter to me. ISIS and The Taliban are beheading people for believing that Jesus is the only savior of the world, but by all means, let’s get offended and leave the church over song styles and whether we have regular lights or LED lights. Ultimately, the church is for me, but its not about me. I shouldn’t have been let in, I don’t deserve to be a part, but by God’s great grace I got in and I’m not going anywhere. Find a church you like and devote yourself to it.

2. The Church of Jesus Christ is the Hope of the World

Hey church, I would like to remind us that we are still the City on the Hill. We are not simply a non profit organization and we are not another good community group. Governments will come and go, cultural fads will boom and bust, and even nations will rise and fall, but the church of Jesus Christ will stand. We are built on a solid rock. We are built on a strong foundation. We are anchored by a cornerstone that cannot be broken. I see other religions and ideologies that influence through fear, intimidation, and even violence. We are the light outside of the common culture of fear, despair, and hatred. We are the light that shines on a hill beaming faith, hope, and love.

3. I Want to be Ready

I need the church. The church needs me. Both are true, but one is more vital to my salvation. God uses the church to mature us. God uses the church to equip us. God uses the church to develop us into His plans and purposes. God uses the church to encourage us. The church is where I have built relationships that sharpen me. The church is the place where I found responsibility that has matured me. The church is where I have found a purpose that was greater than my own. Ultimately, its through the church that God has been preparing me to be a part of His bride that will be ready for the return of Jesus Christ. The church is God’s plan for the “perfecting” of the saints.

4. I Love Jesus

I love Jesus, Jesus loves the church, so I love the church. I love Jesus, Jesus gave His life for the church, so I give my life for the church. I don’t know how long I will get to ride on this dust ball called Earth. I’m presented with many options of things to live for and occupy my time while here. None of which will ever compare to Jesus and His church. It’s an honor and a privilege to dedicate my seconds, minutes, and hours for His cause and passion. My only prayer is that I will love His church the way He loves His church.

Why Sundays Matter

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Hebrews 10:23-25
23 Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. 24 Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

3 Reasons Why Sunday Matters in Your New Year:

1. Jesus

Jesus is worthy of our first and best. Dedicate the first part of your week to him in worship. When we gather to worship Jesus as a church we are proclaiming our public faith in the promises of Jesus Christ. We are declaring that there is salvation, healing, and power in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Sundays are much more than an obligation or religious tradition. Our corporate worship times are a declaration that we are holding tightly without wavering to the unwavering promises of God. We are a public Testament that Jesus Christ is a soon returning king.

2. Others

It’s interesting that the reasons listed in Hebrews for regular church attendance aren’t for our personal blessing. The writer doesn’t say that you might miss your Word from God, or that you might miss an encounter with God, or that you might miss your chance for a blessing. All of those are great and all of those happen in the House of God. However, his main reason for gathering in the House of God on a consistent basis was for the benefit of others. We are there to help motivate, we are there to help encourage, and we are there to serve a greater purpose than ourselves. Never underestimate the power of being in the room. My worship helps create an atmosphere of freedom for someone to find Christ. My support of the Word of God helps build faith for someone to experience their encounter with God. My smile and handshake helps encourage others in their faith. My serving helps set the table for others to enjoy God’s great banquet. Maybe you don’t need this Sunday, but someone else does. We don’t gather for the sake of ourselves alone, we gather for the sake of others. I want to be a part of someone’s salvation story, someone’s day of healing, or someone’s day of breakthrough. Great things happen on Sunday and I want to be a part of it.

3. Me

Last on my list is ourselves. Why? Because serving God through church attendance may be about others, but you can’t serve others without being blessed yourself. There is an immense joy in finding a purpose greater than yourselves. As a Pastor I get a front row seat to watch God move and bless the lives of the people that serve in God’s great house. Are their lives perfect? Absolutely not. Do they still have problems in their lives? Sure, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t. Do they have an enduring joy and peace greater than their circumstances? Without a doubt. You can’t give your life away in the service of others without finding a better and truer life in Christ.

There are legitimate reasons for missing church. Vacation times and sick days top this list. However, to sit at home or to be occupied with hobbies and recreation is a distraction from your purpose as a believer in Jesus Christ. You can’t give your life away in worship to Jesus and service to others without finding a better, truer, and more joy filled life.

I am a Joel Osteen Fan

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Victoria, bless her heart. I’m from the south and that’s our polite way of approaching a situation where someone has said or done something that wasn’t wise. Usually its said with a facial gesture that is a mix of pain and bewilderment and accompanied by a slow head shake. To be proper it goes, painful facial gesture to show displeasure, slow head shake to show disagreeement/bewilderment, and the phrase “bless her heart” is used to show compassion. I’m not for sure when the video originally aired, but it has taken social media by storm over the past couple of days. It’s a video of her attempting to encouraging the church to worship, but it goes terribly off course and quickly. I think what she was attempting to say was that God takes delight in the worship and service of His people. I think she also was trying to say that the best thing you can do for yourself is to worship and serve God. Something about God loving a cheerful giver and delighting yourself in the Lord and all that. I think. What she said came out terribly off course. Naturally, the christian community filled with the love and grace of a crocodile has pounced on both Joel and Victoria. Which brings me to the point of this blog. Dishonor, in any form is dishonor. Whether it be in conversation, social media posts, or in action.

In my bible reading this morning I read the story of the bronze serpent in the wilderness. Snakes were attacking the Israelites because of their sin and a bronze serpent was raised up to save them. They could simply look at the bronze serpent on the pole and they would live. The interesting thing is the confession of the people. Their confession to Moses was, “we have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you.” Included in their confession is the sin of dishonoring leadership with their words. But Joel and Victoria deserve it. They are wrong. Joel has botched media interviews, Victoria has said something that most of christendom would find unbiblical. They deserve the ire of the public. Moses was doctrinally incorrect as well, but God still spoke to him like a friend, used him mightily, and ultimately received him into glory. A chapter before the people confessed about speaking against Moses we find the story of Moses striking the rock a second time. God said to speak to the rock and not to strike it. Moses disobeyed, he didn’t follow the word of God, he completely tampered with the doctrine of Jesus Christ who was once and for all stricken to meet the needs of humanity, and God dealt with him. This post isn’t to condone doctrinal error. Instead, it’s to point out that God both uses and deals with His leaders. If social media would have been around in biblical times I wonder what would have been tweeted about David when he had an affair and was an accessory to murder, but was still a man after God’s own heart. I wonder what the Facebook posts would have said when it came out that Abraham had lied and spun a story for selfish reasons not trusting in God’s protective hand, but yet was still imputed righteousness. I wonder how many people would have been quick to post videos of Peter by a fire letting the profanities flow in order to prove he didn’t know Jesus, but yet still kept preaching. I promise you that video would have gotten a lot of shares, comments, and likes. I wonder what we would have posted when God dealt with Moses for striking the rock and didn’t allow his leadership to extend into the Promise Land. Here’s the deal. Leaders are, have been, and always will be imperfect, but be careful because what you say can bite you. Social Media Pharisees love to point out the splinters in the lives of others all the while ignoring the beam in their own eyes.

I am not an overseer of Joel and Victoria. I trust and hope that they have good people in their lives who can talk to them honestly when something has gone wrong. You and I aren’t those people. I see people bashing “celebrity” preachers and pastors on social media and it really bothers me. First of all, God raises up leadership according to the hearts of the people. If you don’t like your leaders, look in your own heart. Secondly, I lost my voice of criticism and my rocks to throw when I started sinning myself many years ago.

Here’s a simple way to approach the seeming failures of leaders that you aren’t personally involved with:

1. Trust – Trust that they have people around them to correct them and trust that God will deal with them. God really is in control and in charge. He really does raise leaders up and take leaders down. He really does determine our times and seasons, and how long we experience His blessing and favor. Fortunately for me and other leaders, He has more grace than the general public.

2. Pray – It’s so simple it’s cliche, but it needs to be said more than ever before. Pray for people instead of using social media to besmirch their character. The only person who wins when a pastor or christian leader fails is Satan. Not God, not you, not me, not the church, the enemy wins when pastors and christian leaders fail. Pray.

3. Be life giving – There is a time and place to confront people who have done wrong. Churches and pastors need accountability in order to bring correction when they have done wrong. However, if you and I are not part of the accountability process then the best thing we can do is to use our words to build up rather than tear down. We can use our words to speak life rather than death.

I want to go on record. I am a Joel Osteen fan. I am a Joyce Meyer fan. I am a T.D. Jakes fan. I am a Jentzen Franklin fan. I am a Kenneth Copeland fan. I am an Andy Stanley fan. I am a Mark Driscoll fan. I am a Chris Hodges fan. I am a fan of the bivocational pastor who works 60 and 70 plus hours a week just to fulfill the vision God gave him. I am a fan of the pastor of the mid size church in the mid size city that most of us will never hear of. He fails sometimes, he succeeds sometimes, but he imperfectly walks out his calling before God. Ultimately God’s grace covers him and God’s glory will receive him when his time is finished. I am a fan of anyone who is trying to lead people to Jesus and build His church. I’m even a fan of Victoria, bless her heart.

Big Church in a Small Venue – Part 2 (Multi service/chairology)

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Okay, let’s talk multi service and chairology. First of all, one of the major perks of a small building is that it doesn’t require much growth in order to build momentum for your church. You can have a relatively small amount of growth, but because your facility is small you are now “packing the place out.” People will say things like you are “blowing up Bro.” You are crushing it, killing it, and several other serial killer type phrases. In reality you grew by 20 people, but your building is so small it makes it feel full. In order to grow you will need to create space. The best way to create space is by going to a multi service format.

Alert: This blog will be full of personal opinion. I, in no way, claim to be a multi service expert, but will share with you my real world experience and thoughts about the process. We currently offer 3 services on Sunday at 9, 10:30, and 12:00. 

My first observation is that percentages feel differently in a small venue versus a large venue. Many people look at how full an auditorium is by percentage when deciding on whether or not to offer multiple services. The idea is that you need empty seats in order to grow. Speaking of percentages, that is 100% correct. You need empty seats and room to grow. However, my opinion is that a small venue needs to maintain a higher percentage than a large venue. For instance my brother, Steve Warman, pastors a church with a facility that will seat 2700 people. I, the underachieving brother, pastor a church with facilities that will seat 150. If his facility is at 50% and my facility is at 50% it doesn’t feel the same. Yes, they are both at 50%, but there is a big difference when 50% is 1,350 people and when 50% is 75 people. Here’s the catch, in a small venue you need it to feel full and energetic. The feeling of an “empty” building can be a momentum killer even though you are adding services and growing. However, you also need to add services in order to grow. When you add a service you obviously split the percentages and end up with an awkward amount of people in your facility. So what do you do? Do you keep “blowing it up Bro” and not have future growth, or do you add a service and endure an awkward season of feeling like you are in an empty building? Here’s the deal… add the service and play chairology. The first time I heard the phrase “chairology” was from my friends Dan Lord and Bryan Larson from the Life Church of Memphis. I can’t remember which one said it first, so I will take credit for the idea.

Chairology 

If you are like me, you inherited your small facility complete with glorious wood and upholstered benches we call pews. The happiest day of my life was when a Haitian church from Fort Myers rented a large truck and came and picked up our pews and baptismal tank. I openly and unashamedly weep joy filled tears upon the remembrance of that glorious day. I would highly recommend getting rid of pews for any reason, but especially if you are planning to do a multi service format in a small venue. I’m not saying it’s impossible to do a multi service format with pews, we went to two services with pews, I’m just saying it’s going to suck.

A few helpful principles:

1. Get church chairs and chair dollies and get ready to move chairs frequently

2. Make your small venue even smaller. Instead of connecting your church chairs, space them a part about 8 inches. This will allow you to have rows that are in the same location as the week before, but you will have less chairs per row.

3. Increase the size of your aisle ways. Space between chairs and a little extra room for the aisles will eliminate a lot of chairs, but won’t drastically change the look of your auditorium. We have had as little as 120 chairs in our room without making the room feel “empty.” The seats look full and the building “feels” full, but there are less people in it because we have them spread out through multiple services.

4. Know your crowd. One service is going to be larger than the other. It’s rare that you get a perfect split every weekend. Typically, one service will be more attended than the other. Our ushers wheel chairs in and wheel chairs out depending on the service. Typically our 9:00am service is our medium service, 10:30 is an overflow service, and 12:00pm is our low crowd. We have a typical set up for 9, we add rows for 10:30, and we take them out for the noon. We have done this for a while until recently our church grew enough to make all 3 services typically “feel” full.

By the way, the percentage difference between large venue and small venue matters on Saturday night service as well. Typically, larger churches don’t get as full of a percentage on Saturday nights as they do on Sunday mornings. We tried Saturday nights in a small venue and found that it didn’t work for us. We have a much better percentage split with three services on Sunday. Again, this is an opinion based on personal experience and offered as food for thought.

 

Big Church in a Small Venue – Part 1

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This is part 1 of a blog series dedicated to building growing churches in smaller venues. If you research the methodology of most church planting organizations you will find they recommend starting in a venue with 300 or more seats. The reason, the size of your venue seems to shape the culture of your church. However, many churches and pastors like me, are fighting the fight to grow beyond limited facilities and build a growing church. Let’s talk excellence in a small venue. If you are going to build a great church it will require excellence. Excellence costs more and requires more, but it also produces more. There are many enemies of excellence, but one that is prevailing in small venues and small churches is particularly damaging to building a healthy culture that leads to growth.

Principle #1: Avoid the “it’s just us mentality”

I remember a Sunday night in the early days of CoastLife Church. We had planned a Team Night where we would assemble all of our staff, volunteers, and those interested in joining the team. With staff, volunteers, and people interested in joining the team we had about 12 people in attendance. We were small and we had limited resources, but we bought into a scripture that night.

Zechariah 4:10 Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin,

I literally tear up now when I read that passage of scripture. We truly believed that even though we were small, God was rejoicing to see the work begin. So how do you despise the day of small beginnings? By subscribing to the “it’s just going to be us” mentality. Our team made a decision that in spite of the fact that our average attendance was 30, we would operate with excellence as if we were a church of 300. For us, excellence was tied to our love of people. If we loved people we would operate with excellence. When someone special is coming to your home you typically clean more than usual, use better dishes than your every day plates and cups, and maybe even light candles and add some special elements. Our thought was, very special people are coming to God’s house this Sunday, we are going to attend to every detail, put out our best, and then add some special touches. Now that we are a church that has exceeded the 300 mark, this principle still guides us. The trap for small churches is that we don’t put in the effort to create an atmosphere of excellence because “it’s just going to be us.” It may just be your team of 12 people, but do it right, because God is rejoicing to see the work begin.

Here are some thoughts on excellence to keep a healthy culture in a small venue:

1. Excellence is connected to your love of people. Very special people are coming to God’s house this weekend. How can we do our best?

2. Excellence is connected to our love of Jesus. We have church for The One. If “no one shows up” we are still having service for “The One.” Regardless of the crowd size we are still conducting a worship service in the name of Jesus Christ. If we are going to attach the name of Jesus to our service, then we should give it our very best.

3. Excellence is connected to our love of the church. I love the House of God and I want the very best for it. I believe Hillsong Church in Australia coined the phrase, “Heart for the House.” When you have a heart for God’s house you will get there early, stay late, attend to details, and make sure it operates at its very best. When it’s in my heart to build God’s house, I will do this regardless of the crowd size. I will do it because I love His house.

The “it’s just us mentality” becomes a self fulfilling prophecy for many churches. Fight the fight, keep the faith, and operate with excellence because you love Jesus, people, and the church.