Leading In the Afterglow of a Big Sunday

Amazing Love

I was humbled by the words scribbled on the back of a communication card this past Sunday:

This was my first time to church. I have struggled most of my life and just find myself in the worst situations. Listening to your sermon gave me a lot to think about and I am ready to let Jesus help me find the way.

I had a follow-up conversation with this young man after the service was over and I was moved by his honesty about his past and present struggles. We make it clear at Grace Hills that all of us are broken and any of us can find healing in a relationship with Jesus. That healing process just started in the life of this young man. Another young lady made the same decision Sunday as well.

In addition to two people trusting Jesus for the first time, we heard from quite a few others who were discovering or rediscovering Jesus, or church, or both.

Easter Sunday was big for us this year. Each year, it’s been our highest attended service and this year a new record was set with 337 people attending. That followed a big effort to get the word out on social media, through invite cards, and by word-of-mouth. It also followed a big community egg hunt the day before that saw about 400 people gather at a local school.

I looked at my social networks on Sunday afternoon and rejoiced to see that we weren’t alone. Christians and church leaders were praising God for people who found Jesus in churches across the land and around the world. I love that!

Pastor Rick Warren talks about how to make the most of these ‘big days’ for growth, and I agree with his approach. While some disparage the very idea of trying to ‘attract’ lost people to a weekend worship service, I believe strongly that most people who ever come to know Christ and who really go on to grow deep roots in Him do so in the context of a gospel community. It is absolutely not up to the individual believer to share Jesus alone. We have a spiritual family that can, in community, help friends explore Jesus.

As with all big events, there is a build-up and then a release of tension when it’s all over. A common question among Pastors is, how do I come down from a big Sunday? While we do often experience an overall increase in average attendance after these weekends, we also know that the crowd won’t be as big next week. So during the week following a big day, here are some practices to develop.

1. Calm down. You can’t sustain a hyper pace forever and if you try, you’ll burn out. So get some rest. Take it easy. Spend some extra time in prayer, Bible reading, and meditation this week.

2. Follow up. People came and filled out cards, so they’re willing to be ministered to with at least a thank you and an offer to help further. And don’t do this all yourself. Delegate and spread the joy around!

3. Think big picture. One high attendance Sunday does not a disciple-making church make. Evaluate your plan for assimilating and discipling people. How will you turn a crowd into a congregation?

4. Plan ahead. Mother’s Day is next in terms of Sundays to do something out of the ordinary, or your church may do something in between. It’s okay to take a week to slow the pace, but don’t let the next opportunity sneak up on you.

5. Sustain momentum. I’m a big believer that movements are evidenced by momentum – sustained forward motion. When you have a ‘big win’ Sunday, it’s important to celebrate it in the life of your church.

6. Focus on the next lost person. Attracting a crowd to church is a great way to allow the community to draw people to Jesus collectively, but don’t ever get so focused on the masses and on the crowd that you lose sight of the real goal – to reach the next lost person.

7. Pray and humble yourself. I hinted at this in tip #1 because prayer that appeals to God’s power undergirds everything we do. And I’ll close with prayer because it also prevents pride from messing up the victory. Take a minute to blame all the good stuff on Jesus!

When the Church Is Crazy About Broken People

Crack Me UpBroken people will flock to the church. We can debate all day long about whether the church should be attractional or not. What we should really be talking about is how the church should be attractional.

Ultimately, if all we’re doing is putting on a good show, playing good music, and preaching good sermons, we’ve probably missed it. But if we are attracting people with an uncompromising truth, an unconditional love, and an unlimited grace, we’re on target.

The fifth core value of Grace Hills Church pertains to our bleeding passion for the least, the last, and the lost…

We are crazy about broken people. We hunger to see people healthy and growing and we’ll get our hands messy to make it happen.

Being crazy about broken people, for us, has some serious implications. For example…

We expect broken people to act broken. Expecting people to act fixed before coming to this house of healing is a little ridiculous. The church helps people find a place to change rather than requiring people to change before finding their place.

We believe God’s truth has healing power. It isn’t our cleverly-designed ministries that heal people – it’s God’s truth. So it needs to be presented without compromise, saturated with love, and balanced with grace.

We believe that all of us are broken by our own sin and the sins of others. So we understand and we find healing in Jesus together. Some of us are more shattered than others, but all of us are broken.

Healing the broken is a labor of love that takes time, compassion, and involvement. Embracing brokenness is never convenient or easy. It takes time, costs money, and forces us out of our comfort zones.

Healing the broken is a key priority. Before we build buildings, borrow money, add staff, start new initiatives, and make major changes we ask the question, how can we find and heal more broken people?

Healing is a journey. None of us arrive at the destination overnight. We’re all works in progress. Our role is to initiate change, create a clear pathway for growth, and help people find their next redemptive step toward maturity. For us this means…

  • Worship services where people are warmly welcomed no matter how they appear, free to praise Jesus from postures of both joy and sorrow, and where God’s truth is passionately made plain.
  • Small groups where confidence is respected, transparency is allowed, authenticity is embraced, and encouragement and accountability are offered.
  • Classes and special opportunities for growth in various areas are made available.
  • Counseling and recovery ministries are an assumed future as we grow into them.

We never stop looking for the next broken person.

I’m convinced that Jesus was crazy about broken people. He hung out with them, spent time with them, conversed about life with them, touched them, and found His place among them as family even though they ultimately rejected Him. So I’m also convinced that Jesus is crazy about churches that do what He commissioned them to do – get crazy about the broken.

I don’t care if our church is “big” or “successful” in the secular sense of those words. But I’m absolutely determined we will be a healing place for the broken!

Andy Stanley: The Church Can Be Deep and Wide

Deep & Wide by Andy Stanley

A little over a year ago, Angie and I started planting Grace Hills Church in northwest Arkansas, and one of our biggest hopes is that it’s a church that unchurched people love to attend. So Andy Stanley’s newest book, Deep & Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend caught my attention. I pre-ordered it and devoured it once it arrived. I found the book to be both deep… and wide.

Andy opens with the deeply personal side of how North Point Ministries came into existence – the whole story including his experience at First Baptist Church in Atlanta, his parents’ high-profile divorce, and a church split. But don’t buy this book just to be “in the know” about such things. Instead, buy it because of all that follows – tremendous wisdom from one of this generation’s great church leaders.

I jotted a few notes down to share with my own leadership team, such as…

Andy Stanley’s announcement at the organization of North Point:

“Atlanta doesn’t need another church. Atlanta needs a different kind of church. Atlanta needs a church where church people are comfortable bringing their unchurched friends, family members, and neighbors. A church where unbelievers can come and hear the life-changing truth that God cares for them and that Jesus Christ died for their sin. We’ve come together to create a church unchurched people will love to attend.”

Say the word “church” today and very few people think “movement.”… One of the fundamental realities of organizational life is that systems fossilize with time. The church is no exception. Your church and my church are no exceptions. It takes great effort, vigilant leadership, and at times good, old-fashioned goading to keep a movement going.

The catalyst for introducing and facilitating change in the local church is a God-honoring, mouthwatering, unambiguously clear vision.

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Five questions churches need to be asking…

– Are we moving or simply meeting?
– Are we making a measurable difference in our local communities or simply conducting services?
– Are we organized around a mission or are we organized around an antiquated ministry model inherited from a previous generation?
– Are we allocating resources as if Jesus is the hope of the world or are the squeaky wheels of church culture driving our budgeting decisions?
– Are we ekklesia or have we settled for kirche?

The Five Faith Catalysts…

– Practical Teaching
– Private Disciplines
– Personal Ministry
– Providential Relationships
– Pivotal Circumstances

People are far more interested in what works than what’s true.

On the giving side of things, we are very upfront with the importance of what I refer to as priority, progressive, percentage giving. Priority as in: give first, save second, and live on the rest. Percentage as in: choose a percentage and give it consistently. Progressive is a challenge to up the amount by a percentage every year.

When people are convinced you want something FOR them rather than something FROM them, they are less likely to be offended when you challenge them.

The catalyst for introducing and facilitating change in the local church is a God-honoring, mouthwatering, unambiguously clear vision.

Marry your mission.
Date your model.
Fall in love with your vision.
Stay mildly infatuated with your approach.

This is one of those books that will be among the dozen or so that testify of great movements of God in recent history. What really amazed me as I read were the similarities between the thoughts of Andy Stanley, a guy I perceive to have had enough of “church as we know it” and my own heart as we have articulated the vision of Grace Hills.

Andy is controversial. He creates tension and leaves people hanging, wondering where he’s heading with each point, which is part of his unique gifting as a communicator. His book provides a great answer to two camps in evangelicalism today. One assumes the church exists for the church, along with its weekend service. The other sees the services of the church as a mechanism to attract the outside world. These two camps rarely meet, but Andy’s answer to the question of which camp is right is “Yes!”

If you want to lead a church that is both deep and wide, that draws people far from God and challenges God’s people to deeper discipleship, Andy’s book is a must-read.

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