Executive Minister’s Advent Article

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Executive Minister’s Advent Article

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As we move through this Advent season reflecting on various Christmas themes one that stands out to me is the relationship between Christ’s birth and the need for humanity’s spiritual birth. The carol Hark the Herald Angels Sings articulates this connection for us in verse three:

Hail the heav’nly Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Ris’n with healing in His wings.
Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die;
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.

Jesus is born so that we may be raised out of our spiritually dead condition and be “born from above”, or “born again”. Through Christ we are raised to new life. Otherwise, we continue to be dead in our sins, without hope in this life or the life to come. (Eph 2:1)

We used to talk more about “regeneration” in the Church, that is, the need to be born again. Perhaps the concept of being born again garnered too many negative connotations due to the disappointing lifestyles of so many who claimed to be born again.

Regardless, it is important that we teach what Jesus taught, “you must be born again.” That is, we should avoid leading people into believing that Christianity is primarily a reformation project.

Reformation projects teach, “Just do a little better, improve yourself, God will be pleased and the world will become a better place.” This project is predicated solely on self-improvement. Humanity’s fallen condition, apart from rebirth, precludes this possibility. Reformation projects are hopeless in that they are akin to dead people trying to raise themselves from the graveyard.

Rather the Christian faith is a regeneration project. It is initiated by God in Christ and completed through the power of the Holy Spirit. It is predicated solely on Christ's work on our behalf. God acting in Christ regenerates us.

God’s regeneration project teaches, “You are a dead person walking. Only Jesus Christ can resurrect your life.” Humanity cannot birth itself out of spiritual death into spiritual life. Rather, this is work that must be accomplished from One who comes from outside our fallen world; who pre-existed in a realm of eternal light, holiness and divine power. This One, Jesus the Messiah, is born into our world in order to regenerate us, that is, give us second birth.

Therefore, the first priority in Christ’s mission on earth is to proclaim the Good News of regeneration that comes through a power alien to our own. This is our message. This is our hope. When people respond by receiving the Savior, submitting to His rule as King, they are born from above and become God’s children (John 1:12-13).

All of this reflects what Jesus taught in his explanation about rebirth that puzzled Nicodemus:

“Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” (John 3:3)

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’” (John 3:5-7)

We rejoice in Jesus in this Advent season as we reclaim the Good News that Jesus was “born that man no more may die; born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth."

~ Charles Revis, Executive Minister

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Wise Advice for Christmas Eve Service: 9 Updated Trends for Christmas Eve Service

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Wise Advice for Christmas Eve Service: 9 Updated Trends for Christmas Eve Service

MISSION NORTHWEST NOTE: This article by Thom Rainer is important to consider as you plan your Christmas Eve service(s) this year. You may want to retool how your church does the Christmas Eve service in light of these insights. If you do not offer a Christmas Eve service you should know that you are missing a great opportunity to host unchurched people in your church. This service has the potential to pull in more people than Easter. Plan carefully and prayerfully.

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Christmas Eve is less than a month away. Most churches have some type of Christmas Eve services, but we are seeing clear trends in how churches approach them. Every time we write or podcast something about these services, we get a lot of comments and questions. In that context, here is an update on nine clear trends we are seeing:

1. It is growing in importance. Non-Christians are more likely to come to worship services on Christmas Eve than any other day of the year, including Easter. Church leaders get it. They are putting more prayer, preparation, and strategic thinking into the services.

2. There are three popular times for the service. Whether a church has one or multiple Christmas Eve services, three times are more popular than others: later afternoon (typically for families with young children and for older adults); early evening (the more traditional time); and late evening (for empty nesters and families with teenage or grown children).

3. The services are traditional. They include traditional hymns and carols. They may include some time for the lighting of the final advent candle.

4. The services are brief. The typical length is 30 to 45 minutes.

5. The pastor’s message is brief. The typical length is 10 to 15 minutes.

6. Most churches include candlelight services. They are now expected by Christians and non-Christians alike.

7. More unchurched are attending these services. As I noted in the first item, one of the reasons for the growing importance of Christmas Eve services is the increasing number of non-Christians who attend. Anecdotally, they seem to be more receptive each year.

8. Churches are building in processes for follow-up. That means they have processes in place to get contact information, and processes to provide some type of non-aggressive follow-up such as a text message, an email or, most effectively, a handwritten letter.

9. All ministry staff are expected to be there. Because this day is the single most important day to reach unbelievers, more churches require an “all-hands-on-deck” presence.

Some of these trends have been around a while. Some are only recently growing in importance. Please share with us what your church plans to do for Christmas Eve.

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News from Around Mission Northwest

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News from Around Mission Northwest

The Fresh Expressions Vision Day on November 3rd was a great success with roughly 60 people in attendance. As a region we greatly appreciate the hospitality of True Hope Church-FBC Downtown Boise. Participants learned how God is using this movement to start up churches among sub-cultures of people who would never consider attending an established church. Fresh Expressions of church are usually started by a regular church attender with connections among a group of people with a common interest. This person usually has entrepreneurial wiring and a desire to see people come to know Jesus outside of church. Plans are in the works for the next Vision Day in the Seattle Area sometimes in March. Click HERE to learn more about Fresh Expressions, USA.

Speaking of Fresh Expressions Paul and Leona Burnham are developing a Dinner Church in West Seattle on Fridays at noon. The gathering has grown to over twenty people with people from the community and The Junction Church all pitching in to help. Please pray for the continuing development of this new effort.

LaJolla Christian Fellowship (CA) received $8,000 in Palmer Grant money to continue developing its “Surf Church.” Surf Church is a community of surf-stoked friends who desire to share faith, joy, barrels, and life together. Surf Church is a ministry of La Jolla Christian Fellowship in partnership with Christian Surfers that connects surfers to Jesus. Surf Church meets every other Thursday night to share a meal and message. This is usually following an evening surf at one of the many awesome surf spots in the La Jolla area. (Check out this great article in LaJolla’s local newspaper LINK.)

First Baptist Church Filer, ID recently took the bold step of inviting Mission Northwest to engage in a Church Assessment. Over 40 people provided insights through participation in an online survey. Five focus groups convened and staff interviews were conducted. A large crowd gathered on Sunday evening, November 18 to receive the results. Filer FBC’s pastor is Rev. Andy Paz. Dr. Charles Revis and Rev. Patti Duckworth conducted the church assessment.

First Baptist Church of Everett, WA celebrated the 30-year long ministry and retirement of Dr. Brian Harpell on Saturday, October 19. Rev. Bob Cameron, Mission Northwest president and Pastor Tyrone Garay, local mentor pastor, represented the region. Dr. Charles Revis participated through a video message that was sent in advance.

Dr. Charles Revis enjoyed the privilege of speaking at the Biennial Leadership Conference of the ABC of Pennsylvania and Delaware in Altoona, PA October 19 & 20. The theme of ABCOPAD’s meeting was “Living at the Edge.” Dr. Frank Frischkorn is the executive minister of this thriving and wonderful sister region.

PLEASE PRAY FOR THESE CHURCHES WITHOUT A SETTLED PASTOR AND THEIR INTERIM LEADERS:

Community Baptist Church, Midvale, ID--Pastor Clayne Beck

Mudlake Community Church, Terreton, ID--Pastor Steve Morreale

Summit Church, Boise, ID--Pastor Gary Cooper

FBC Everett, WA--Pastor Bill McCready

Park Heights Baptist Church, Spokane WA--Pastor Glen Douglas

FBC Hoquiam, WA--Pastor Gary Shirbish

Murray Baptist Church, UT--Pastor Karl Dumas

FBC/Christiana Communidad, Yakima, WA--Pastor Andy Ferguson

FBC Olympia, WA--Pastor Paul Aita

Gilford Community Baptist Church (No interim at present)

FBC Castleford, ID (No interim at present)

FBC Twin Falls, ID (No interim at present)

Blessed Life Community Church, Bellevue, WA (No interim at present)

FBC Raymond, WA (No interim at present)

FBC Weiser, ID (No interim at present)

Lynden Community Church, WA (No interim at present)

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Ministers' Housing Allowance Upheld

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Ministers' Housing Allowance Upheld

On November 13, 2014, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago vacated the decision by the Federal District Court of Wisconsin declaring the housing allowance unconstitutional and instructed the District Court to dismiss it.

The Court of Appeals ruled that the organization bringing the suit, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) lacked the legal right — known as “standing” — to challenge the housing allowance.

The Court listed several reasons the FFRF lacked standing, most succinctly stating that “The plaintiffs here argue that they have standing because they were denied a benefit (a tax exemption for their employer-provided housing allowance) that is conditioned on religious affiliation. This argument fails, however, for a simple reason. The plaintiffs were never denied the parsonage exemption because they never asked for it. Without a request, there can be no denial.”

The Seventh Circuit panel did not address the housing allowance’s constitutionality. “We think it important to allow the IRS and Tax Court to interpret the boundaries of a tax provision before we assess its constitutionality,” their opinion stated MMBB Financial Services signed onto an amicus or friend-of-the-court brief with a diverse array of religious organizations in support of the housing allowance. Filed in April 2014, the brief asked the appellate court to uphold the housing allowance based on several arguments.

  • Ministers are typically expected to live near the church they serve; in smaller
    congregations ministers often function as the building’s primary caretaker.

  • Ministers are on call day and night and are frequently expected to open their homes to church events, meetings with parishioners and out-of-town guests like visiting missionaries.

  • Ministers often face frequent moves and limited choice, especially if they are poorly paid.

  • The housing allowance reduces discrimination among religions that rely extensively upon church-owned parsonages by reimbursing the minister for housing expenses when the church does not own a parsonage.

Reprinted from MMBB.ORG

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Support the Retired Ministers & Missionaries Offering

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Support the Retired Ministers & Missionaries Offering

The roots of the Retired Ministers and Missionaries Offering (RMMO) originated in the mid-1930s, when American Baptist congregations received a Communion Fellowship Offering on the first Sunday of each month to support retired ministers, missionaries, their widowed spouses and elderly clergy within their churches. In 1977, American Baptist Churches USA launched RMMO to continue this appreciation of God’s service.

The offering is rooted in thankfulness and honors the individual acts of support and faith that recipients have shown to their congregations and communities. This year’s theme, Extending Our Hands to Our Neighbors, illustrates the importance of being there for one another and remembering we are stronger together then on our own is central to the Christian faith.

We hope you will join us in honoring God’s committed servants. Please feel free to download or print from the PDF’s provided. (Available at this LINK)

Thank you for your continued support.

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The Code of Ethics for ABC Ministers

The Code of Ethics for ABC Ministers

A series of reflections on the Code of Ethics presented in letter form addressed to congregational members of American Baptist Churches in the USA by Rev. Joe Kutter. Additional commentary provided by Rev. Patti Duckworth. This the first letter of six.

Behavior You Can Expect From Your Pastoral Leader

By Dr. Joe Kutter

Dear American Baptists:

I am writing primarily to those among us who are not ordained, to the “Lay Folk” who sustain our churches and our ministries. But I want to talk about “The Ordained,” those frequently called “Ministers.” I want to talk about your pastor and the others who serve Christ and you through the agencies of the church.

Ministers, you are more than welcome to read these short letters because I will be talking about you, and you may want to improve or correct the things that I say. Please feel free. (joe.kutter@abccr.org) Actually, as you may know, I’ll be talking about us since I am a member of the cohort of the ordained.

About what will we be talking? I want to introduce you, the Lay Folks, to a short document called, “The Covenant and Code of Ethics for Ministerial Leaders of American Baptist Churches.” (With that title, it should be a best seller!)

Now some lay person is asking, “Why? Isn’t that a boring paper for ministers? What does it have to do with me? The short answer is, “Yes, it is for ministers, and it has everything to do with you!” It describes the behavior that you can expect from your pastoral leader as she or he relates to you, to your church, and to your community. It describes the standards to which we aspire. It describes your minister at his or her very best.

(Spoiler Alert: You may be surprised to learn that our ethical standards are a bit at variance from what you may expect.)

This is a “Code of Ethics,” not a statement of faith. We will talk more about behavior and less about belief, though the two are intimately connected. We will talk about ethics rather than theology.

Why write this series? I have served Christ and Church as an ordained minister since 1971, 39 years as a pastor and four years as the Executive Director of the American Baptist Ministers Council. I am proud of my colleagues in ministry. I am proud of the standards to which we aspire. When one of us slips up, the rumor mills run wild. In some cases, the headlines scream in deafening decibels, and they probably should. In recent decades, a number of tragic scandals have caused immeasurable harm to thousands of people, and the reputation of all clergy persons has been stained. Too many of you wonder if the ordained among us can be trusted.

My first response is this. The overwhelming majority of our ordained colleagues are women and men of irreproachable integrity. They seek to do the right things in the right ways at the right times.

It is true, we have been disappointed from time to time to learn of a leader who violated our trust and the standards of behavior to which we hold ourselves accountable. That tragic reality acknowledged, most of our ordained leaders engage ministry with honor and integrity, and I want you to know the basic standards that form the foundation of our ethical lives.

So, with the next letter, I’ll begin to walk you through our code of ethics. I want you to share my pride and trust in our ordained leaders.

[CLICK HERE TO READ ALL SIX INSTALLMENTS]

FBC Boise Changes It's Name, and Here's Why

FBC Boise Changes It's Name, and Here's Why

At a 154 years old and counting FBC Boise is the oldest congregation in Mission Northwest. It’s a strong, growing church occupying a classical style big steeple building in its downtown location. Recently it opened a new campus, Collister, when a nearby dying church invited FBC to move in and bring with it healthy ministry. Over the last five years FBC has also been a major player in planting two Boise Churches.

Recently FBC changed its name to “True Hope Church”. It is now “True Hope—First Baptist Campus” and “True Hope—Collister”.

In announcing the name change, Pastor Bruce Young posted the following article. As Mission Northwest churches strive to be more effective in reaching the Northwest with the Gospel it’s important to consider the rationale behind FBC’s decision to change their name. ~ Charles Revis
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“Get on the bandwagon” “Follow what’s trending” “Join the crowd” “Be more hip”


There’s something about all these statements that actually makes me want to go in the opposite direction.

I’ve never been a bandwagon sort of guy, which is why I have always resisted the lure to push for a name change from First Baptist Church to something more hip and trendy. Over the last 10-15 years, nearly every denominational church has changed their name. Often, their new name is a one-word title that is cheesy, meaningless, or just confusing.

For our church, we have an overwhelmingly positive 154-year history of ministry in the Treasure Valley. We have a good reputation with our neighbors, with the poor, with schools, with other non-profits, with our community. So, why change our name?

There are two main reasons:

1. Sadly, too many Baptist churches and Baptist leaders have burned bridges with our culture. For a large segment of society, Baptists are seen as legalistic, stuck in the past, flat-earth thinkers, and perhaps most damaging to the gospel, overtly political and even militant. This has led many to avoid visiting our church. Even today many who are now members of First Baptist Church initially resisted attending any Baptist church.

Fortunately, other forces were powerful enough to overcome their preconceptions and bring them through the doors and they are now joyfully a part of our church community. For many years we have heard from newcomers that ours was one of the last churches on their list to visit simply because of the reputation connected to the Baptist name.

2. For the fastest growing segment of our society (secularists), the name Baptist means nothing at all. It’s not a word they ever use nor does it stand for anything. It’s so foreign, in fact, that they don’t even associate it with baptism, which historically was a natural connection.

This is a problem for any business or organization which has a name that doesn’t direct people toward what it is or does. For example, a dry cleaning business that calls itself ‘Lampshade Company’. If you see the company name advertised on a van or city bus you would have no idea that it was a dry cleaning outfit. Likewise with the name Baptist.

In our world which is awash in bad news, true hope is in short supply. And, if we read the Scriptures correctly, these difficulties and problems (“birth pangs”) will only grow in intensity as we march into the future and the eventual return of Jesus Christ. In the meantime, Jesus is the only True Hope!

Therefore, without trying to be trendy, or hip, we believe the names True Hope First Baptist and True Hope Collister are more meaningful and descriptive names. And, for the downtown campus, retaining First Baptist in the name calls forth the wonderful history that has been etched into the annuls of the city of Boise since its inception. For this reason, we are not ready to completely eliminate First Baptist from our identity. While some will still have difficulty with the word ‘Baptist’, the ‘True Hope’ part of the name will at least convey our belief in a positive direction and outlook for the future through Jesus Christ.

~ Pastor Bruce Young

ABMen-USA Disaster Relief

ABMen-USA Disaster Relief

In the wake of destruction from Hurricane Florence, American Baptist Men-USA coordinated a disaster relief team of up to 10 men to help muck-out and clean up between Greenville and the coast of North Carolina. The full response began the week of October 1, 2018.

If you are interested in joining an ABMen-USA disaster relief team or sharing this opportunity, there is a team going to Puerto Rico October 15, 2018. Email an ABMen-USA Disaster Relief Coordinator Jack Cobb at cobbjack@suddenlink.net for more info.

The Ministry of Blessing Bags at Southside Church

The Ministry of Blessing Bags at Southside Church

There he is again with his sign, “anything helps. God bless.” I saw him in a different place in town a few days ago. He has a dog with him. Part of me wants to help. The other part does not want to contribute to drug or alcohol abuse. I drive on by, again, feeling some guilt but also frustration, again.

Perhaps that has happened to you, too. Wesee them occasionally at busy intersections or around the entrances to shopping areas. Our compassion argues with the reality that some people scam our compassion. And both those thoughts wrestle with Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 25: ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink….” So what can we do that might help in a tangible way without propagating dependence?
The Southside Church family in Richland, WA, has found a unique way to offer kindness to
the people they encounter in these situations. On Sunday mornings, there is small table in the entry way with some nonperishable food items: water, fruit cup, cheese and crackers, canned sausages. In addition a card with the church’s information is included as well instructions for what to do with the “blessing bag” once it is assembled. Lastly, a small copy of the Gospel of Mark in modern language (ESV) is included in the bag.  All Blessing Bag items are all donated by people in the church.

This project started very modestly in Richland. Enough items were provided for 5 bags the first week. It was announced simply in the first service. By the end of the second service, all five bags had been assembled and taken. The next week, enough materials were provided for 10 bags.  As simple training about how to engage people has been given to church people, the number of bags going out on Sundays in starting to increase.

The WHY: This effort is not meant to provide an easy salve for a troubled conscious. These bags are meant to be tangible expressions of care for those who are struggling with the basics of life and give the Southside Church family a means of gently engaging people they might not otherwise be able to approach.

The RESULTS: Of course, these bags will not end hunger in Richland. “What we provide most is encouragement, not food. It’s not up to us to judge what anyone actually means when they hold a sign that says, ‘Anything helps.’  Christ called us to feed the hungry and provide for the thirsty, so this is our attempt to do that, in both body and spirit,” says Laurie Gruel, Southside Associate Pastor.  “Our people learned to put a face on this street population by engaging individuals in brief conversation and by telling them we cared while handing them a small bag of food and water.  We’ve been encouraged by the gratitude and smiles we have received as we extended Christ’s love to others.  It turns out our little Blessing Bags blessed US right along with those we sought to bless!”

If you would like more information about how Southside Church is doing this ministry in safe and effective ways, please contact Pastor Jim Amend at pastorjim.amend@gmail.com or (509) 943-3735.

Do you have a ministry that you would like to share with the wider family? Please contact Patti Duckworth at p-duckworth@abcnw.org or (406) 788-4350.

You Can't Be a Transformational Leader and...

You Can't Be a Transformational Leader and...

One of my favorite definitions for leadership is offered by Tod Bolsinger in his book, Canoeing the Mountains. He says, “Leadership is energizing a community of people toward their own transformation in order to accomplish a shared mission in the face of a changing world.” This requires a leader to lead “transformationally”. That is, leading well requires both the leader and people to change as the organization grows in its quest to attain its Christ-given mission. Jesus is at the center of this transformational journey. He provides ordinary Christ-followers with the courage and power to first be transformed themselves as they learn to lead transformation in the organization.

Leadership doesn’t come naturally for the majority of people. It’s a skill that must be developed and constantly nurtured. As leaders hone their craft they will stumble. They will disappoint themselves and others. However, this is normal and no reason to stop leading. Regardless of the difficulties and challenges, the church today needs courageous, humble, Christ-centered people who will respond to the call to lead.

As I’ve reflected on the development of transformational leaders I found myself exploring what holds people back from becoming leaders. To organize my thoughts I wrestled with this phrase, “You can’t be a Transformational Leader and…” I also posted it as a question on FaceBook and received some great answers. So, here’s a list of my responses, with help from friends, to “You can’t be a transformational leader and…” It’s my hope that by considering these negative descriptions we will all grow in the positive qualities and skills required of transformational leaders.

You can’t be a transformational leader and…Not be transformed yourself. Leaders are always in personal transformation, growing in their faith and competence.

You can’t be a transformational leader and…Refuse to be a life-long learner. By nature transformational leaders are curious. They ask questions. They read. They explore new ideas. They test new skills. They access a variety of resources to always be growing.

You can’t be a transformational leader and…Lack basic leadership skills. Personal integrity, follow through, good people skills, persuasion, attending to details, etc. are necessary foundational skills for instilling confidence that you are a trustworthy leader.

You can’t be a transformational leader and…Have no idea where you are leading. Leaders must be clear about their personal mission and the organization’s mission. Leaders know where they are going and inspire others to go with them.

You can’t be a transformational leader and…Be a one-man band. Leaders lean into teams, have an accountability group, they collaborate, and enter into partnerships.

You can’t be a transformational leader and…Believe you have all the answers, or, at least most of them. Leaders collaborate with others to find the best path forward. They are honest when stumped by challenges they face.

You can’t be a transformational leader and…Be arrogant. Yes, you want to be confident in yourself by being well grounded. Arrogance, on the other hand, is off-putting. Transformational leaders have the right blend of self-confidence, appropriate assertiveness and humility.

You can’t be a transformational leader and…Fail to execute. Ready, fire and aim is better than ready, aim, aim, aim and never pull the trigger. If you wait until you have every assurance for success you will not lead. Leaders execute, and adjust direction along the way. 

You can’t be a transformational leader and…Wait until everyone is onboard before moving ahead. There will always be nay-sayers and late adopters, people who struggle to affirm new directions. Attaining a critical mass of 70% to 80% supporters is a good benchmark for moving ahead.

You can’t be a transformational leader and…Expect to never fail. Risk-free ministry is an impossible expectation. Leaders experiment, and by nature experiments will often fail. In this way leaders fail forward. 

 You can’t be a transformational leader and…Lack the ability to influence others to embrace the overall organizational mission and join the team.

 You can’t be a transformational leader and…Force people to go with you. Leadership is about inspiring, clarifying and exemplifying why the status quo is unacceptable. Barking out commands like a dictator to get with it and move in a new direction is not leadership.

You can’t be a transformational leader and…Dislike people. Leaders love people, are motivated to know their stories and invest in the growth of others.

You can’t be a transformational leader and…Talk more than listen; a common weakness among leaders who find themselves in front of people speaking on a regular basis.

You can’t be a transformational leader and…Fail to recognize that people need to process the grief they feel as a result of changes in the organization.

You can’t be a transformational leader and…Throw in the towel at the first sign of opposition. Leaders are resilient. They stay the course in the face of setbacks, uncertainties and pressure to settle for the status quo. Leaders have grit.

You can’t be a transformational leader and…Expect everyone to like you. Leadership is not a popularity contest. Leaders know that to lead means to disappoint some of their constituency.

You can’t be a transformational leader and…Run from conflict. No one likes conflict except a kick-boxer. However, avoiding conflict is non-leadership behavior. By nature leadership is polarizing. If you lead, conflict will erupt. Visionary leaders learn how to navigate conflict, and although conflict is never welcomed leaders act pro-actively when conflict arises.

You can’t be a transformational leader and…Become angry and defensive when people disagree. Transformational leaders expect push back, criticism and even betrayal. Leaders make course corrections and improvements in response to constructive criticism. Leaders maintain a non-defensive, non-reactionary stance towards critics.

You can’t be a transformational leader and…Avoid facing current reality and/or failing to describe current reality for the organization.

You can’t be a transformational leader and…Blame others for your failures. Visionary leaders embrace radical responsibility for the success or failure of their initiatives, and ultimately for the organizations they lead.

You can’t be a transformational leader and…Believe lack of resources is a reason to abandon the mission. Leaders are not held back by what appears to be lack of resources. Resources—finances, volunteers, buildings—follow vision not the reverse.

You can’t be a transformational leader and…Never apologize, ask forgiveness, confess weakness and/or confusion. Leaders readily admit when their words and actions have caused hurt and confusion.

You can’t be a transformational leader and…Always take personal credit for the success of your organization.Leaders honor others and give credit where credit is due.

You can’t be a transformational leader and…  Engage in constant “Programming ADHD” as in moving on to the next big thing quickly after having introduced the previous next big thing just a month prior. People tire quickly of zig-zag leadership, aka “post conference leader syndrome.”

So, in reviewing this fairly long list, where do you find yourself needing to grow? I suggest you share this with a close friend or coach, and stretch yourself as you continue to grow in your leadership abilities. God bless.

 

Loving Our Neighbors, Jesus-Style

Loving Our Neighbors, Jesus-Style

I've lived in Montana long enough to know that we are nowhere near being done with snow for the year, but it has most-certainly felt more like Spring lately. Finally! Warmer weather has emerged and the snow piles are receding to remind us that the grass has been there all along, patiently waiting to re-emerge. 

What a welcomed sight!

My young family has been suffering from cabin fever for about a month now, so it has been incredible to get back to riding bikes, taking walks, and playing outside. We often celebrate the end of winter through signs like seeing our first robin or tulip of the Spring, but the other phenomenon of this season is the appearance of our neighbors again, for the first time in months. We've all re-emerged from the winter cocoons of our warm homes to rejoin the land of the living. I've missed seeing our neighbors, catching up across the fence, and casually chatting as we meet at the mailbox.

Which has left me processing my role as a neighbor. 

Jesus leaves no doubt about what it means to be a faithful follower of God: we MUST love our neighbors. You want to love God...then love your neighbor. They're one-in-the-same. And while 'neighbor' could certainly be interpreted broadly, with everyone being our 'neighbor,' I'm convinced that when Jesus commands us to 'love our neighbors,' he specifically means the people next door. On our block. In our neighborhood. The people we rub shoulders with each day. The people walking their dog past our home. 

Jesus wants me to love Jerry and Laurie, Greg and Trisha, and Carol across the street. Jesus wants me to be a presence of love, generosity, and hospitality in the place he has located us. On our block. In our apartment building or dorm. At our local school or park. Jesus wants me to intentionally engage with my neighbors, getting to know them as a means of ministering to their specific needs. 

At the very least, Jesus would want me to know their names!

So, how will you take seriously the call to love your neighbors this Spring and Summer...now that you'll actually see them more often? Do you know your neighbors' names? Do you know anything about them? Have you stopped to talk and listen? Are any of them struggling and could use some help? How might God be calling you to be a presence of blessing in your geographical context, working toward the flourishing of your place?

And more overtly spiritual, who goes to church on your block? Who knows Jesus...and who doesn't? Who could use the presence of God in their lives? Who could benefit from the blessing of deep Christian community? Who would come to an Easter service if you invited them? So, will you be willing to talk to your neighbors about faith, church, and how Jesus has impacted your life in a meaningful way? Will you take the risk of being an inviter -- to the challenging, yet compelling journey with Jesus -- and to a church community that is striving to faithfully take that adventure? Let's commit to the God-ordained and Jesus-demonstrated calling to love our neighbors.

"Loving Our Neighbors, Jesus-Style"  By: Pastor Jason Bowker

"Loving Our Neighbors, Jesus-Style"
By: Pastor Jason Bowker

 

Mission Northwest Note: The reading selections for January’s Leadership Learning Communities were focused on the topic “Neighboring”. These books urge churches to train their people to befriend their neighbors, to really love them just as Jesus taught His disciples to love their neighbors. These caring relationships open doors for conversations about Christ. It’s a simple concept, but an effective one. Each LLC was encouraged to pick one of three selections to study:

 

  • The Neighboring Church: Getting Better at What Jesus Says Matters Most by Rick Rusaw & Brian Mavis
  • The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside Your Door by Jay Pathak & Dave Runyon
  • Neighborhood Mapping: How to Make Your Church Invaluable to the Community by Dr. John Fuder

Reverend Brian Merz Ordination

Reverend Brian Merz Ordination

Brian Merz Ordination_Group Shot.jpg

The Summit Church congregation in Boise, ID gathered on Sunday evening, March 27 to ordain Pastor Brian Merz to the Gospel Ministry. Rev. Duane Vaughn chaired the local Ordination Council which met previously on Saturday, January 27. The Council composed of delegates from sister Mission Northwest churches examined Brian and recommended that Summit Church proceed to ordain Brian. Brian’s ordination meets the standard ABC-USA requirements to have his local church ordination recognized by the Region and ABC-USA. Brian has served in various roles in his 26.5 years of ministry at Summit and is deeply appreciated by the congregation. Presently he is the Discipleship Pastor. Pastor Jim Steiner is the lead pastor at Summit Church and preached the ordination message.

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As the service concluded Brian led in a closing prayer, thus putting a fitting end to a wonderful service. His words strike the right tone of awe, gratitude and humility, each befitting the minister newly ordained. Here is Brian’s prayer:

Father in Heaven,

I come before you now, in prayer, and express my gratitude for all that you have provided leading up to tonight. As I reflect on the things that have been said and done here, it is clear that I have much to be thankful for. And I come before you, the giver of all good things, to express my gratitude. 

I am most thankful for the salvation and new life you have given me through Jesus. You came into my life when I was still pretty young and didn't understand all that I was committing to. I am thankful for your ongoing presence and faithfulness to me over the years.

I am also thankful for the great privilege of serving you. You are a great King, High and Lifted up. And I am a sinful man. The fact that you would call me into your service says much more about you and your character than about me and mine. Thank you, Lord, for your call upon my life. I gladly embrace all that you have called me to do as a pastor of your people.

I am thankful for your church, expressed here at The Summit. In Psalm 122, David wrote, "I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’" Those words express my feelings toward this church. I am so glad when it's time for us to gather to worship. I am glad that I get to serve here among this group of people. I have seen firsthand your great love and compassion in this group of people toward me and my family. I say Thank You, God, for The Summit.

I am thankful for other pastors and the work they have done in my life. Some are gathered here tonight, others are scattered throughout our community and the world, some are in heaven with you now. "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." I have been sharpened and honed as a pastor by the your work through these pastors. I am thankful for the relationships we share and the joy of working along side them in your field. 

I thank you in particular for Jim Steiner. He has been not only my pastor but also a mentor and friend. It has been a great privilege to serve with him for 26 years at The Summit Church.

I am thankful for my family, for the upbringing and support of my parents. But I am especially thankful for my wife. She has been a partner and friend in ministry. I don't know where I'd be without her. Thank you, Lord, for giving her to me and using her to teach me about yourself.

So in reflecting on tonight, I come and say Thank You Lord.

But I also look forward to your continued work in and through me. The apostle Paul writes that he was "confident of this, that he who began a good work in [him] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. "  I have that same confidence – that you have not only begun a good thing in me, but you will continue to bring it to completion. I believe that for our church as well – that the work you began here at 2nd Baptist in 1954, and continues today at The Summit, will be brought to completion as well. 

So I am thankful, Lord, for all that you have done. And I look forward to all that you will do. For you are faithful.

I pray these things in the name of Jesus, Amen.

Christ Defeats the Hateful Powers

Christ Defeats the Hateful Powers

As Christ-followers Holy Week and Easter Sunday call each of us to draw ever closer to the core of our faith. Meditating on the horror of the crucifixion helps us own up to the deep brokenness of our world, the result of human rebellion against God. We desperately need to be set free from our sin-besotted condition and the shadow of death that attends it.

Pausing in the darkness of the tomb is a preparatory discipline during Holy Week. It predisposes us to receive the announcement of the resurrection like people trapped in a mineshaft when rescuers first cast their bright beams into their entombed surroundings. It’s a common failing of contemporary Christianity to fast-forward past the Cross to the Resurrection.

A close friend and I have commiserated together over recent personal encounters with death. We’ve recognized anew that Death is a power that stalks the cosmos hand in hand with Sin. These evil twins, together with Satan, enslave and destroy all that God has created as good. They are hateful powers from which we would be free. Yet they are stronger than we frail creatures of dust. They imprison us. They crush us.

In this enslaved condition we are caught in a mighty dilemma that drives much of humanity. We pretend to be gods, no beginning and no end, with limitless power. Yet, a few days of the flu quickly disabuses us of our god illusion. When the flu passes we return to our god pretense. That’s just crazy, leading to spiritual insanity. Or, weighed down by our failures, our addictions, the shame and guilt of our sin, we invest in all manner of escape mechanisms. Many of these accelerate our slog towards death.

Ernest Becker, who was no Christ-follower, captured perfectly what living in the shadow of death does to us as human beings who’ve rejected our Creator: Man is literally split in two: he has an awareness of his own splendid uniqueness in that he sticks out of nature with a towering majesty, and yet he goes back into the ground a few feet in order blindly and dumbly to rot and disappear forever… to live a whole lifetime with the fate of death haunting one's dreams and even the most sun-filled days—that's something else… Modern man is drinking and drugging himself out of awareness, or he spends his time shopping, which is the same thing. (from “Denial of Death”)

As we human beings drift further away from the Living God we are increasingly influenced by the anonymous powers of Death and Sin. The more we dance with them the more we become enslaved by them.

In this vein Fleming Rutledge observes, Sin and Death, as powers, as agents, infect entire structures that then become malign Powers of their own. They operate within their own “hermetically sealed orb” of power. We cannot look for deliverance from another sphere of power altogether. (from “The Crucifixion”)

In other words Sin and Death infect every dimension of our lives, extending to the entire cosmos. We need a Deliverer from outside our closed, fallen system. Only the Father himself, acting through His Incarnate Son, can rescue us. And rescue us He did!

Ironically, the path to deliverance first leads to a place of death, the Cross. At the cross Jesus undoes Death. He embraced the cross and its shame, becoming our substitute on that cruel tree. In His dying death, sin and Satan lost their power against us. Christ put to death Death through His own death at Golgotha. In this way Jesus’ work on the Cross was a form of spiritual jujitsu.

At the Cross we find our Deliverer. This is why we must stay near the Cross. As we journey with Jesus to the Cross and die with Him there we are set free from the hateful powers. For just as we die in Christ we are raised to newness of life in Him through the power of the Resurrection. The two go hand in hand together, dying and being raised to new life. Both result in freedom from the powers that enslave us.

This is what Paul was pointing towards when he wrote:

We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. (Romans 6:4-8)

Yes let's celebrate the Resurrection this coming Easter Sunday with loud rejoicing. And, in preparation for Sunday let us first journey to the Cross. Let us be silent before the Cross remembering that it was there that Jesus laid down His life for us. Let us embrace Him who died for us there and follow Him anew by taking up our own crosses (oh, how often we set them down again). Then let us be free in Christ from Sin, Death and Satan—the hateful powers— that we might live for Him and with Him forever.

Jesus, keep me near the cross,
There a precious fountain—
Free to all, a healing stream—
Flows from Calv’ry’s mountain.

Refrain:
In the cross, in the cross,
Be my glory ever;
Till my raptured soul shall find
Rest beyond the river.

Near the cross, a trembling soul,
Love and Mercy found me;
There the bright and morning star
Sheds its beams around me.

Near the cross! O Lamb of God,
Bring its scenes before me;
Help me walk from day to day,
With its shadows o’er me.

Near the cross I’ll watch and wait
Hoping, trusting ever,
Till I reach the golden strand,
Just beyond the river.

[“Near the Cross” by Fanny Crosby]

Honoring Paul Reeder: Billings police toast to chaplain's 40 years of service

Honoring Paul Reeder: Billings police toast to chaplain's 40 years of service

The following article was published on 2-16-18 in the Billings Gazette honoring 40 years of Paul Reeder’s faithful chaplaincy work. Paul is a long-term member of FBC Billings. He served many years as the executive director of Friendship House for 22 years. Prior to that he pastored several ABC churches including FBC Havre and FBC Great Falls.

Paul Reeder didn’t know he’d be the guest of honor Thursday night. Reeder’s family, friends and colleagues surprised him with a special recognition at the annual police appreciation banquet Thursday at the Big Horn Resort, toasting his tenure with the Billings Police Department. After 40 years as a chaplain, Reeder will retire at the end of the month. One of a dozen current chaplains, he’s the last to leave from the original cohort when the program started in 1978.

Chief St. John said Reeder was the oldest member of BPD, both in age and in seniority. Next in line is the chief himself, he said. “The best I could do for a comparison to you is Queen Elizabeth,” St. John joked. “She is a ruling monarch, circa 1978.”

St. John said that through Reeder’s decades of “selfless service” and his trademark contribution of “massive amounts of baked goods” at Christmas time, he made an impact on the police department. “You will always be remembered,” he said, before presenting Reeder with a plaque and blanket. Reeder was known in the department for hosting an annual breakfast and sending out birthday cards to each officer.

Police chaplains provide emotional support to officers, police staff and members of the public. They attend shift briefings, perform death notices, serve on call and respond directly to crime scenes. BPD’s 12 chaplains put in 1,322 volunteer hours in 2016, according to that year’s annual report. In 2012, the International Conference of Police Chaplains gave Reeder the Special Recognition Award, an honor that’s given out only periodically, and not on an annual basis. 

Reeder, who retired as the executive director of Friendship House in 1996, is active in the Black Heritage Foundation of Yellowstone County. He’s also an avid book repairman, regularly setting up shop at police chaplain conferences to fix up attendees’ Bibles as needed. At age 87, Reeder spent almost half his life as a BPD chaplain. He thanked everyone who spoke on his behalf Thursday night. “It’s very evident from everything that’s happened here that nobody loves me,” Reeder joked.

Honoring the Legacy of Reverend John L. Ellis, A Faithful Servant-Leader

Honoring the Legacy of Reverend John L. Ellis, A Faithful Servant-Leader

This month brought the passing into eternal life of John L. Ellis. In his passing, Mission Northwest lost a faithful Christian brother, leader and friend. During his tenure as an associate executive minister, John served our churches well with responsibilities in church planting, evangelism, camping and mission support in addition to the broad role of Area Minister for Montana, southern Idaho and Utah.

He could have retired sooner but chose to continue to serve our churches and to help us navigate our Regional disagreements until we called a new Executive Minister.

When I joined the region staff in 1997, John mentored me in the technical aspects of Regional ministry. He also counseled me to guard against losing myself personally or spiritually in the challenging, unending, and rewarding work with our churches.

John’s overriding desire was that churches and pastors stay focused on proclaiming the saving love and grace of God in Jesus Christ to lost and broken people. His favorite passage of Scripture was Romans 8:1-2 and 31-39. To the end of his life, he wanted this truth underscored: “We are not saved by our own goodness. We are saved by God’s grace through our faith in Christ’s love for us.”

It will always be a privilege to have worked with John and to have called him friend.

 

Obituary—John Lucian Ellis

September 22, 1935 – February 3, 2018

 

Rev. John Lucian Ellis, of Twin Falls, Idaho passed away peacefully at home, surrounded by his family on February 3, 2018 at the age of 82.

John was born in Memphis, Tennessee, on September 22, 1935 to parents Ernest L. and Marie C. Ellis. He was the fourth child, joining Mary Elizabeth, Doris, and Ernest (Bill). John married his high school sweetheart, Phyllis Chaney, in Mariemont, Ohio on August 10, 1957. To this marriage were born Ann Elaine, John Bernie, and Nancy Lynn. John and Phyllis enjoyed over 60 years being happily married.

John was preceded in death by his parents, siblings, and his daughter, Ann Ellis-Stone. John is survived by his wife Phyllis, his children Johnny (Robin Ruiz) Ellis, and Nancy (Paul) Bowman. He also leaves his grandchildren Sydney Ellis, Matthew (Jolene) Bowman, and Ryan (Amanda Adamson) Bowman, and his great-grandchildren Abbi, Donovan, and McCauley. John is also survived by his nephew Bob (Jackie) Smith.

John graduated from University of Redlands in 1957, and Berkeley Baptist Divinity School (now American Baptist Seminary of the West), in January 1961. John was ordained as an American Baptist minister at First Baptist Church of Fresno, California on January 21, 1961. He served as pastor of First Baptist Church in Huron, California, First Baptist Church in Exeter, California, Mayhew Community Baptist Church in Rancho Cordova, California, and Thornton Avenue Baptist Church in Fremont, California. He then began serving as Big Sky Area Minister in May 1985, and then as Intermountain Area Minister in January 1993 through December 2003.

Big Sky Area Meeting: April 2018

Big Sky Area Meeting: April 2018

THEME: 

No Excuse, No Retreat: Leveraging the Greatness of the Local Church for God’s Kingdom 

SCRIPTURE:

Numbers 13:32-33

FEATURING:

Rev. Karl Vaders, author of “The Grasshopper Myth”

Rev. Karl Vaders, author of “The Grasshopper Myth”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DATES:

April 27-28, 2018

LOCATION:

FBC Great Falls

525 -2nd Avenue North

Great Falls, MT 59401

TIME:

Friday, April 27th at 12:00pm for Lunch and ends Saturday at 3:00pm.

KEYNOTE SPEAKER:

Our speaker for this conference will be Karl Vaters, author of The Grasshopper Myth, and the upcoming Small Church Essentials (releasing in March, 2018). He blogs on small church leadership for Christianity Today and NewSmallChurch.com. He has been pastoring for over 30 years and is currently in his 25th year as the pastor of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship, a healthy small church in Orange County, California.

SESSION HIGHLIGHTS

During his time with us, Karl will address these topics:

•   Redefining Success in Ministry

•   Thinking Like A Great Small Church

•   Becoming A Great Small Church

•   Finding & Mentoring Volunteers In Today’s (And Tomorrow’s) Small Church

Help! Our Pastor Is Leaving!

Help! Our Pastor Is Leaving!

With the number of pastoral transitions looming on the horizon, many of our congregations will be facing what is needed when a congregation loses a pastor through resignation or retirement. Please know you are not alone! Mission Northwest stands with all our congregations during this time and provides many resources. Below you will find a sample of the first steps we strongly suggest in that journey toward the Lord’s next pastor for your congregation.

Celebrate with Thanksgiving

It is vitally important and Biblical to celebrate the departing pastor’s ministry and to say thank you (1 Tim. 5:17). This is done in two ways:

  • Informally, by inviting the pastor for meals, coffee, etc. While the friendships long established will remain, the relationship as pastor is coming to an end. These events help everyone to acknowledge this.
  • Formally, by planning for a specific time to celebrate the years of ministry the pastor and family have given to this congregation. This should be done in consultation with the pastor and family. This is best done at a time when others from outside the church family can attend. In addition, announce the event by word of mouth, by print and electronic media when and where the event will occur. If people can contribute to a gift or bring written words of thanks, include those pieces in the invitation.
    • Two suggestions for the celebration time:
      • Give people opportunity to speak their words of thanks, share stories, etc. Some churches have also arranged for those far away to make a call during the celebration and the call was put over the speaker system.
      • Make a video recording of the event to give to the pastor later.
  • It is highly recommended this event occur sometime other than the regular morning worship so that others who live elsewhere and/or attend other congregations may attend.

Gather a Search Team

If the pastor is retiring (not resigning to accept another church call), the church leadership may gather a search team while the pastor is still serving. The leadership should gather those for the team according to the church’s constitution with one additional quality:

  • select people whom the congregation respects and considers wise, spiritually mature.

The goal is to gather a group who can work as a team on behalf of the congregation and whose recommendations will be heard by the congregation as trustworthy and wise. Our materials provide guidelines for leadership as people are selected for the search team. Advice is also given for helping people decide if they are called to be on the team. It is always a good move to ask the congregation to publically affirm the search team during a worship service.

Secure an Interim 

At the leadership’s request, Mission Northwest will provide a potential interim for the leadership to interview. Guidelines for the interview would also be provided. The church leadership needs to determine who is responsible for securing the interim according to the church’s constitution. That group will interview the potential interim and make the decision. The congregation does NOT vote regarding the interim because it introduces too much confusion in the pastoral call process.

NOTE: If the church’s constitution indicates the search team secures the interim pastor, then the search team needs to be formed first. Otherwise, securing the interim needs to be done before gathering the search team.

Housing for the interim: A crucial decision needs to be made. Will the church rent an apartment/house? Alternatively, if the interim is more “local,” will overnight accommodations at a hotel with kitchenette or Airbnb be sufficient? If a rental is to be secured, housing guidelines are available.

Further Assistance

As the church moves through this time of transition to God’s next thing, your sister churches through the work of Mission Northwest are here to help. A search consultant will be available. Please contact me, Patti Duckworth, with any concerns or questions: p-duckworth@abcnw.org and 406.788.4350.

Increasing Guest Attendance

Increasing Guest Attendance

In this day of struggling churches it makes sense to return to the basics regarding why people choose to attend a church. Along with this discussion it’s also important to consider why people stick after that first visit. Ultimately it does no good to attract 10 new guests each Sunday if 100% of those guests fail to return. Makes perfect sense doesn’t it?

A basic rule of church growth is “Increase the number of guests who show up on Sunday mornings”. Most churches have the capacity to increase their number of guests if they work at it. Obviously there are other entry points other than Sunday worship. Small groups, mission teams, special events are all examples. For the purposes of this article I want to concentrate on Sunday worship since the majority of people check out a church at prime time, namely Sunday morning.

It’s helpful to know what influences a person to attend church on a given Sunday. Gary McIntosh conducted a study using a survey administered to 1,100 church goers to gain helpful insights in this regard. In the study he distinguished guests by two categories: Christ-followers and Seekers. Christ-followers have crossed the line of faith and show up at church usually because they are looking for a new congregation. Seekers are people who have not yet given their allegiance to Jesus. They are at some point in a journey towards Him, from initial interest to seriously seeking Christ.

Surprisingly McIntosh discovered that by far the most influential people for encouraging Seekers to check out your church are “Merchants” (41%). Merchants are people who interact with the public: hairstylists, fast food workers, bank tellers, realtors, car salespeople, etc. These are people who know about your congregation and its good reputation in the community.  That is, if your church has some positive name recognition these merchants will drop its name when the subject comes up. These merchants may include your own church members. They have great connectional influence. They will take the initiative to point people to your church, especially if they are deeply involved and love your congregation and its ministries.

The second most influential person for encouraging a Seeker to attend is a “Family Member” (17%), the third most influential is “No One” (17%), in fourth place a “Friend” (11%), in fifth place a “Neighbor” (4%) and finally a “Coworker” (3%). Based on my experience these stats ring true. In my last church a hairstylist was a champion at inviting Seekers to our church. She interacted with all kinds of people all day long and held nothing back when encouraging people to visit our church.

Based on this insight I would recommend that you pull together from among the congregation your most extroverted, winsome and respected merchants for a quick pow-pow. Encourage them to be intentional about their inviting habits. Support them in prayer. Provide them with calling cards to give to clients that includes basic church info: church name, address, worship schedule, mission statement and web address. Ask them for helpful feedback about the experiences their guests share with them after they visit. Use this information to improve your welcoming and assimilation system.

Additionally, it is important that your church raise its profile in your immediate community. One of the best ways to do this is to engage in several externally focused ministries.* These will improve your church’s name recognition, although this is never the primary motivation for doing such ministries. Consider leading your church in a steady emphasis on good neighboring so that more people will be aware of your church and its Christ-like love for everyday people.** Additionally, every pastor would be wise to make it a regular to meet local merchants.

The stats change dramatically when we examine who influences Believers to attend a church. “Merchants” have little influence (1%). Rather,  “Family Members” have the most influence at 30%. These are followed by “No One” (25%), “Friend” (22%), “Coworker” (3%) and “Neighbor” (2%). The most influential Family Members are Parents and Spouses.

The surprise in this study is the large percentage of Believers who show up at church with no previous connection to the church—the “No One” in the study at 25%. Most likely this is due to the rise of Social Media and the Web. An increasingly large number of people hear about a church, check it out online and then attend based on positive impressions from their Internet experience. In today’s world the first visit that most people will make to your church is through your web site. This is especially true for people under 40. Without a strong web presence your church will be virtually unknown. Therefore, it’s important to do a first rate job presenting your church through your web page and your Facebook page.

One of the more surprising insights based on this survey is the importance of theology. Even for Seekers, theology was important to 50% of those checking out a church. For Believers the percentage rose to over 90%. Guests want to know that your church has rock-solid beliefs. One Mission Northwest pastor asked an unbeliever with a critical eye to critique their church’s web site. Her response was intriguing. She said that there wasn’t enough emphasis on God! Her point was that people expect churches to have strong convictions about their beliefs. For these to be missing on a church’s web page is off-putting. McIntosh’s research affirms this to be true.

It’s no surprise that “Friendliness” also ranked high with Seekers at 72% and for Believers at 80%. Warmth and genuine interest in newcomers is highly important. But, the most important question in the mind of a guest is, “Can I make genuine friends here?” If there is a sense that all groups are closed, and there is no obvious onramp for making friends, then guests will move on to another church.

One additional factor is the critical part that the pastor’s preaching played in a guest coming to church. Believers ranked preaching at 90% in importance. Seekers ranked preaching at 75%. This is huge! Responders placed great value on preaching that applied to their lives, the authenticity of the pastor, and the pastor’s convictions. Preaching was more important to guests than worship style, the church’s location, and a variety of other factors such as programs. Least important was a church’s name. This is a clarion call to all pastors to continuously hone one’s preaching skills.

With this information in hand, every church can increase the number of guests who show up each Sunday. In my next article, I will share ideas for retaining guests.

 

*resources: The Externally Focused Church by Rick Rusaw & Eric Swanson; The Externally Focused Quest by Rick Rusaw & Eric Swanson

**resources: The Art of Neighboring by Jay Pathak & Dave Runyon; The Neighboring Church by Rick Rusaw & Brian Mavis