Stop the Fade – Staying Strong in Spirit and Church

The problem? Fading in your spiritual growth and blaming others! Yup – I said it. As a minister I see this all the time. Many seem to place unrealistic expectations on the church for their spiritual growth. When these unrealistic expectations aren’t met they begin to fade – attend less and less in many areas of church life – especially in worship.

The solution? Simply take responsibility for your own spiritual growth. I recently read that there are no bad teams but only bad  team leaders. In a spiritual sense you are the leader and the church is the team, so to speak. While there are pockets where this isn’t true, almost all churches offer multiple ways to assist you in growing spiritually. If, you take the mature responsibility of using them.

It’s my belief that the more involved in your church you become, the less likely you’re going to fade in your spiritual growth and worship attendance.

At the church I currently serve, we have at least 4 areas that we deem important.  It’s my belief that getting involved  in as many of these as possible is crucial to stop any potential fade in the future…

  1. Worship –
    1. Making a commitment to be physically in worship each Sunday
    2. Become enthusiastic/excited about worship
      1. Get into Worship
      2. Sing out loud using your outside voice
  2. Growth Track
    1. Starting Point 101 – Church history, past, present and future. Sacraments, Mission/Vision, what it means to be a disciple, Christianity as a lifestyle, etc…
    2. Essentials 201 – Spiritual growth assessment. This helps you gauge potential areas in your spiritual growth that you might want  to enhance. No one sees the assessment but you! Then, suggestions are offered to assist you in those areas.
    3. Discovery 301 – Spiritual gifts assessment. Discover your spiritual gifts then learn where you might use  them by serving both inside and outside the church.
  3. Life Groups
    1. Meet with people that will become some of your best friends ever!
    2. Meet at various times and places.
    3. These groups hold you accountable for our spiritual growth and service.
  4. Service
    1. Serve inside the church
    2. Serve outside the church

It’s my belief that when you become actively involved in the life of your church (past just attending worship) you lessen the likelihood of the dreaded fade. Because otherwise, you’re probably going to fade, maybe it takes a year, 3 years, 5 years, but you’re more than likely going to experience the fade.

I want to encourage you to take responsibility of your own spiritual growth. Most churches like ours offer a plethora of opportunities to choose from. Get involved, take responsibility, make your Christian faith  a lifestyle! Call your church today and register for something they have to assist you in your spiritual growth, get involved, serve, so you avoid the fade!

You got this!

Methodist History and the Trial of 1737

The Trial of 1737 is a trial that I’m sure John Wesley (founder of Methodism) would like to forget.  It seems that while in London he had been introduced to James Oglethorpe who had apparently started a new colony in America. That colony would be what we now know as Georgia. Wesley would be encouraged to go to America and would take up a short residence in Savannah, Georgia.  And that’s how the Trial of 1737 begins. It’ll involve what appears to be 2 jealous lovers, Wesley being one, an angry Husband being the other and an an episode centered around Communion.  If you’d like to read more about Wesley’s potential conviction then read all about it here.

Speed Reading Pt.1

Several years ago I was challenged to become a prolific reader by my leadership coach. For me, that meant I wanted to read at least 2 books a month – and not just thin ones. That was on top of other reading that I’d be doing. In order to do that, he also challenged me to learn to speed read.  Yes, speed reading is a real thing, so I set out to learn to speed read. Over time I have taught others to do it as well. Recently I was asked to teach others once again to do the same. So, I thought I’d write a few tutorials that have worked for me.

2 points you need to be aware of:

  1. Speed reading may not  be for you. There are times when I read at a regular pace. Most times I don’t.
  2. Some reading material lends itself to speed reading better than others.

Tips to get you started:

  1. Start practicing by reading silently without saying the words in your head. For now read at your regular speed.  Did you know that you even did that? Most people read by saying the words in their heads when they read silently. Your brain does not  need this to process the material. Saying words in your head can slow you down when you really start to increase your speed.  As you practice this you’ll get better at it. It will be a hard discipline to learn because you’ve been doing it all your life. Some people are able to master this but still prefer to say the words in their heads. But, in my opinion it will eventually be faster if  you  can learn to do this.
  2. As you start practicing number 1, start using a pointer. There are a lot of options for this technique. This is  not rocket science but will increase your speed over time. Start by just using your index finger as you read by placing it below each word you are reading. As with all pointers you should use a smooth sweeping motion. In other words, no hopping or stopping on words, just a calculated sweeping motion under each sentence. Your eyes  will slowly learn to focus on the pointer. Another choice of many is to  simply use a writing pen or pencil. But here is the wildcard that some people love – a 3×5 note card. This technique requires you to just see one line at a time as you slowly slide the card down the page from top to bottom. Some believe this allows more focus and can increase speed.

Give these a try and I’ll give you even more tips in future tutorials.

 

Breath of Fresh Air!

What a breath of fresh air when I heard Derek Carr’s (Now the highest paid NFL player) words when asked,…. I’ll get to that in a minute as I need to set this up…

Over the last several years NFL QB’s have not had the best of press. Jameis Winston and Johnny Manziel are two that come to mind. I truly hope that they get things worked out in their lives as there is so much talent in both.

So when the reporter asked Derek Carr what he would do with his 125 million, he said,

“The first thing I’ll do is pay my tithe like I have since I was in college,” Carr told CBS Sports. “Giving $700 on a scholarship check. That won’t change. I’ll do that.”

What a breath of fresh air – he will pay his tithe – like he always has since college.
This resonated with me on many levels. Mainly, because that’s when I started tithing (in college) and have never stopped. Because I started tithing early you might think it made it easy to tithe the rest of my life… I think you’d only be partially correct. Yes it did make it easier but not because I didn’t make much money, but because I remained accountable to God. The amount doesn’t always matter because it’s still 10% for everyone, Tony Johnson making minimum wage at Olympia Sporting Goods or Derek Carr making 125 million, it’s still 10%.  Either feels like a chunk of change at the time!  Secondly, it sounds like he didn’t hesitate or question what he’d do with it. You receive income – you tithe. There came a day when I quit questioning whether I would or should tithe, I receive income, I tithe.
What a breath of fresh air to hear about a sports figure in the news for something positive. Even better though is it tells others about his conviction to Christ.
At least that’s the way I see it.

 

 

Why People Leave Churches – My Current Take

What I’m about to say is just my take on why people leave churches, your mileage may vary. As an addendum my thoughts are not all inclusive.

Let’s begin… I believe that there are 3 types of church growth: Biological (new babies), Conversion (new Christians – what Jesus was very interested in) and Transfer (people church hopping).

It’s the third I’d like to focus on. Some transfer growth happens when someone moves to a new town, but most transfer growth happens when people get disgruntled with their current church. Usually this is couched with various reasons – “I’m not getting fed”, “there’s nothing here for me”, “I couldn’t find a place to fit in”, etc… Then they move to a new church, it’s the one they have always been looking for – then guess what? Over time that same church becomes the one where they begin to say – “I’m not getting fed”, “there’s nothing here for me” and “I can’t find a place to fit in” etc…

Case in point… I received an Email years ago from a church  member (we now call them partners at my current church) that listed all the great reasons they decided to join. Then about  4 years later I received an Email  from that same person listing reasons why they were leaving.  Oddly enough those reasons were almost identical to the one they said were the reason why they loved the church so much. What?

People leave churches, and they always have, and they always will. My prayer is that somewhere we become honest with ourselves as to the real reason why we are leaving.

Real reasons why people leave – my take…1.  We fail to be honest with ourselves and think that it’s all about me.  It’s not, it’s really about impacting others on Christ’s behalf. A by-product of that, is that we do get something out of it. We must be taught, trained, we must grow in our faith. But many times this is the school we go to with the end goal of impacting others in our community. 2. We fail to take responsibility to get  involved in service and  small group learning environment. We encourage you to serve both inside and  outside the church. This reaffirmsyyour important role as part of the body of Christ – the church. Small groups, not corporate Worship, is where the real learning can take place. This group often becomes a second family. This group is the one that looks after you and holds you accountable to your Christian life – which should be becoming a lifestyle. 3. The grass always looks greener on the other side. It’s that way in all of life, why should the church be any different?

Here is what I know, that I want you to know. Some things are worth sticking around for. Your church community, I believe, is one of them (if you ever contemplate leaving for any of the above reasons). In my experience the majority of those that leave have never really gotten past just corporate Worship. Many didn’t get involved in other events the church offered – never served much, never attended other events, didn’t serve much in the community, etc… But many who leave because they believe the grass is greener eventually realize that all grass eventually has to be cut just like the old.  These people, if they’re not too proud eventually find there way back home and are there to stay.

Recently I read some ideas from Sebastian Junger (NYT best selling author – The  Perfect Storm, etc…). When asked, “What would  your 70 year old self  advise your current self?” Here is what he said, “The world is this continually unfolding set of  possibilities and opportunities, and the tricky thing about life is, on the one hand to have the courage to enter into things that are unfamiliar, but  also having the wisdom to stop exploring when you’ve  found something worth sticking around for.”

I think, if we’re honest, most church communities are worth sticking around for. The church I serve now is one of them.  This church is impacting our community like no other church I’ve served.

But that’s just my take.

Men Eating Meat – Cross Generational Gathering…

Men Eating Meat – a Cross-Generational Gathering of Friendship Church men was a huge blowout!  I wanted to create a fun atmosphere for men to gather and just talk.  No agenda, and certainly no hidden agenda! When I first conceived the idea, I was hoping for maybe 20 men that might be interested. At the close of registration, we had reached the restaurant’s limit of 65 and couldn’t accept anyone else!  It truly was a cross-generational gathering of men! One person had the family tree – son in law, grandsons, two great-grandsons and the boyfriend of his granddaughter! Fathers and sons and friends of friends and friends of sons, grandfathers, single men, and married men – you get it!

The meat and conversation was fantastic. We had loaded pork potatoes to ribs and everything in-between. The conversations varied from boats, cars, baseball, and football. Surprise, surprise – right!

I started things off thanking them for being at the first and last gathering of Men Eating Meat. But surprised them with “this isn’t the last meeting of our Cross Generational Gathering of Friendship Men and their male friends.”  There will be more to come, so keep on the lookout for the next gathering.

As one could expect, I received a lot of suggestions of other possibilities for our gatherings! From Bowling, a Chili Cook-Off for bragging rights, Barbour Motorsports Park in Birmingham, that just happens to have a Bass Pro Shop next door, to many other suggestions!

It’s always awesome to create fun atmospheres for men to come together in a healthy way and just be men!  It’s also a lot of fun learning from those older and younger than us. To hear great stories and laugh a lot. To eat with our hands and talk with our mouth’s full! To have BBQ sauce on our face – on purpose, and feel comfortable with it knowing no one is going to ask us to wipe it off!

From where I sat, all had a great time!

Until next time when men gather…

Church Closings Revisited…

United Methodist ministers meet annually with other ministers and church attenders. This is known as an annual conference. It’s a visioning/business meeting sort of thing.  Reports are read and presentations are made that highlight the state of the church.

One of the reports/presentations includes churches that have closed. It’s always sad to hear the church names read while a picture is placed on the screen. It’s one thing to hear a name but  another thing to see the church. They come in many forms and happen in what seems every type of community.  During this presentation, people that have attended those churches as part of the church body are asked to stand.

This year it hit home more than usual as a close friend stood when his childhood church’s name was added to the list.  The church was 9th Street UMC in Decatur, AL. His mother was still a part until it closed. In fact, it’s the church you see at the beginning of this post.

Every church seems to have a season and some close. They close for various reasons… Lack of vision, leaders like the power of their position and won’t give up their post, financing, lack of ability to attract new people or even the lack of desire to have new people, just to name a few. I also believe that there are times when you can do all you know to do and it’s still not enough. The season is over.

As I heard the names read this year, as in years past, I wonder how it ended up this way. Who wants to be a part of a church that is declining to the point of closing? My guess is nobody!  The churches, at one time had been vibrant and full of life, as people who stood on the conference floor when their church was read could testify.

I understand that some churches come to the end of their useful life – none of Paul’s churches still exist. But what frightens me are  those churches that close that hadn’t finished serving God the way God had hoped.  That could happen in many ways, I’ll leave you to guess what that would  look like…

But the one question I have relates to our love for the “have nots.”  Did any of the closed churches quit loving  the “have nots?”  Did they love on those they had, “the haves” and  lose sight of the ones they didn’t, the “have nots?”

Loving the “haves” is very important. But, in my opinion, the love for the “have nots” must be incredibly important too. Nothing earth shattering here. While many believers may agree, the question remains, what are we doing to reach  the “have nots”  on a personal level?  Many believers would agree that we should, but how many actually have a personal strategy for actually reaching the “have nots?”  Many may have a detailed strategy, I just don’t know, but my hunch is, my gut instinct is, they don’t – but I hope I’m wrong.

If you don’t have a specific plan to reach the “have nots”, then I hope you’ll give it some thought. I don’t think  we need to pray about “should we”,  but instead pray that God will guide lead you in ways to do it.

It’s something to seriously think about, if we haven’t, and time to put that plan into action.

Habits of Productive People

Who doesn’t want to become more productive? To feel great about the day’s accomplishments! If you want to become more productive, these might be the ticket for you!

These come from Forbes Magazine’s online article 9 Habits of Productive People:

  1.  Cut your  “to do” list in half
  2. Take more breaks
  3. Follow the 80/20 rule
  4. Use your morning to focus on yourself
  5. Tackle your challenging tasks before lunch

To see the details and learn the next 4 then read more here!

Why Easter’s not on a set date every year…

Christmas is always on December 25th – right? So what’s up with Easter? Why is it not on a set date every year?  Glad you asked!  Here’s the skinny on Easter…

The Council of Nicaea set the date of Easter in 325 A.D. They determined it to be the Sunday following the paschal full moon, which is the first full moon on or after the spring equinox.

So, Easter is always the first Sunday after the first full moon that falls on or after March 21.

That means it can fall between March 22 to April 25th.

You can read more about the significance of the paschal full moon here.

Cut Your Cell Bill – Frugal Phone Plans

I’m amazed at how much people spend on their phone service and their actual phones! Let me confess what you’re already thinking – obviously he doesn’t have an Apple Iphone. And you’d be correct. Don’t get me wrong, I love apple products and would surely love an Iphone – but only if someone else is paying for it! Which isn’t happening right now in my life! Not that it may not change at some point – never say never! But for now I’m happy with an Android phone – but  let  me tell you why…

Features and cost are the two main selling points for me. I use the Kyocera Hydro phone that weighs in at a  whooping cost of $42.95 on Amazon.com. I must admit that I periodically suffer ridicule from my Apple Fanboy friends when they see my Android phone! Until I tell them about  the Boost advantage… that advantage – cost and service! I pay less than $50.00 per month for UNLIMITED EVERYTHING through Boost mobile who uses the Sprint network. Big bonus is no contracts! Month to month, pay as you go. Did I mention unlimited everything?

Google Project fi

But now Google has entered the market with the Project fi with unlimited domestic calls and texts starting at $20.00 per month and you can add friends and family or $15.00!  There are limited phone choices but for me that  doesn’t really matter after using an Android that does everything I need.

Republic Wireless

Then there is a company most have never heard of but is well known by those that value the dollar. Those that don’t have money to blow and would rather spend it on experiences than material things. The company is called Republic Wireless with plans starting out as low as $15.00 per month. Seriously, read more about it  on their website, Republicwireless.com.

Think of all the options of having a lower phone bill that does everything you need! Check these out and do your own research, you may want to make a change. Do the math of all the money you could be saving.  You might be surprised if you do the math.