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2007-01-28_Vision for Difficult Times_SL

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Vision for Difficult Times

Acts 2:42-47   |   Shaun LePage   |   January 28, 2007

I.       Introduction—Shaun LePage

A.    “State of the Church” (bigger than an annual business mtg) → “State of the Union”.

B.    We live in difficult times. Our culture is increasingly disinterested in the good news of Jesus Christ, and fast becoming hostile toward it. Over the past 100 years, the church in America has lost ground in every way we can measure—church attendance, biblical knowledge, moral standards.

1.Despite size of many churches; millions of dollars spent on building new church facilities, the number of people who claim to be born again Christians consistently drops from decade to decade.

2.Despite the fact that Americans own—on average—four Bibles per household, our understanding of what is inside those Bibles reveals that we are becoming a biblically illiterate nation.

3.Despite the fact that the United States has a higher level of church attendance than any other country and more than $4B of “Christian books and products” are sold in the US each year, we are in rapid moral decline. Christians blindly follow the culture—rather than the Bible—in their moral choices and standards.

4.The question is—how shall we respond? 3 options:

a)     Apathy. Despite tendency toward hostility, still comfortable. Easiest choice: play church, isolated from the world, and try to forget people “out there” going to hell—dead in sins, without hope, destined for eternal separation from God. Not an option.

b)     Accommodation. Chameleon approach. Change the gospel; soften prickly parts of Scripture that tend to offend. Popular option for many professing Christians. Mainline liberal churches chose this route—ended up dead and empty, still many in seeker / emergent movement taking the same approach. There’s more to it than that—I understand that. But this is one of the underlying characteristics.

c)     Authenticity. The only real option is authenticity. To know, do and be what God has called us to know and do and be. To be fair, this is one of the motivations behind the emergent church. A right desire for authentic Christianity. Problem comes when culture—rather than Bible—used to define “authentic Christianity”.

5.What we—your elder board—wish to share with you today is a vision for authentic Christianity in difficult times. More than that—not just talk theory. Want to get practical. How can we be authentic Christians in our difficult times?

C.    We must start with this question: What is “authentic” Christianity? We believe our Core Values represent a start. David Barfield is coming up now to review our Core Values.

II.     Core Values—David Barfield

A.    Reminder of development.

B.    Key is to take from paper to practice. From the head to the heart to the hands.

III.   Recap of 2006—Shaun LePage

A.    January 2006 Elders’ Retreat.

1.     We began with a clear definition of purpose. Given to us! Great Commission and Great Commandment—glorify God by inviting people to trust Christ and grow up in Him (foyer).

2.     Set goals (not in order of importance—quickly read):

a)     Improve “first impressions.” Nice-up building & property.

b)     Begin communicating Core Values. Already developed.

c)     Begin Discovery Class. Re-establish formal membership at CBC.

d)     Improve the Sunday morning children’s ministry—Sunday School.

e)     Begin a new Youth Ministry (not absolute beginning, but weekly Bible study).

f)      Begin Small-Group Ministry (not absolute beginning, but fresh start/new direction).

g)     (Not a “goal” but a decision) Increase the budget by faith (little crazy in transition).

B.    Progress report—Our leadership was imperfect/mistakes, but good progress 1 year later.

1.     First Impressions. Linda Schultz, Beth LePage and others—color scheme, decoration ideas. Just about every one of you pitched in and helped paint the three most visible areas of the building and “niced” up much of the building—inside and out. Most important? Not at all. “First impressions” can be important and good stewardship.

2.     Core Values. A work in progress. FBC (renaming—Vision Weekend?) was a highlight for us—focusing on the first CV of prayer. Planning a Spring Vision Weekend to focus on worship (Easter weekend?). Twice a year—communication of core values.

3.     Discovery Class / Formal Membership. Not exactly smooth beginning (can we laugh about it yet?). But please understand: We have great liberty. Sin to not have formal membership? No! Biblically acceptable to have it? Yes! EB believes it is helpful and wise. Five (5) reasons: 1) Creates opportunity to share the gospel. 2) We must have a time to “discover” whether we’re on the same page. If not, it’s best to find out up front. 3) There must be a way for individuals/families to say: “I’m with you—part of this body!” That’s encouraging to a church family, and the spirit of the “body” metaphor. 4) Helps leaders identify “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” Hopefully false teachers—those who may come to our church with an agenda—can be identified and prevented from creating confusion and spiritual shipwreck in this body. 5) Helps leaders identify ways we can best minister to and disciple new members. [Discovery 1 next Sunday]

4.     Children’s ministry. Sunday School is only a supplement to what children should be learning at home. But the sermon just isn’t designed for children. It’s good for children to learn how to sit in a service and behave properly, but it’s also good for them to receive age-appropriate Bible teaching. With our current format, we believe we’re getting the best of both. The first half hour they’re here with us, then during the sermon they go to receive age-appropriate Bible teaching. Cathy Barfield and I did some research and chose Discipleland, which is a solid curriculum—user-friendly for teachers and age-appropriate Biblical input for children. Focused on knowing, doing and being. Our goal was to improve the Sunday morning children’s ministry. We’ve done that. And we’re open to your input on how we can continue.

5.     Youth ministry. Huge numbers of Christians walk away from the faith their first year of college. Why? I believe the youth ministry culture (fun and games) of the past 30 years is mostly to blame. I’ve got a lot of experience in youth ministry. Most of the past 20 years I’ve been involved somehow in youth ministry. I’ve seen a lot of different approaches and I’ve tried a lot of different methods. I’m convinced that we need to equip junior high / high school students to embrace the Christian faith as their own, and stand strong in their faith when its challenged. You can’t do that playing games. Started weekly Bible study in March and I think it’s going great—time will tell.

6.     Small group ministry. Also, not as smooth as we would have wanted. Really believed everyone was ready for this change from SS model to Small-group model (won’t go into all the reasons why). If we had to do it over again, we would do it differently. But small groups are huge (no pun intended)! No minor decision. Not a “that’s what churches are doing” decision. “Authenticity” will only come two-winged approach: Excellent large-group worship and authentic small-group community. More later.

7.     Increased budget. This really was an act of faith. Churches in a pastoral transition are typically unstable—especially in giving. But we didn’t—and don’t—want to just maintain the status quo. We want to step out in faith and trust God to do great things in our midst. I believe He is blessing us. Scott Schultz (treasurer):

IV.  Financial Report—Scott Schultz

A.    2006 Report.

B.    2007 Goals.

C.    Is God blessing?

V.    2007 Goals and Closing—Shaun LePage

A.    2007 Goals—Continue to improve “first impressions”. Scott already mentioned some of these. And, some EB meeting goals. Talk about two (2) major goals/emphases for 2007.

B.    Acts 2:42-47—Highlight “temple” (large group) and “house to house” (small group).

1.     Elevate the importance of Community Groups.

a)     The Community Groups are every bit as important as the Sunday morning service. If we are going to have authentic community, it must happen in the CGs. We’re not where we want to be yet, but we’re off to a good start. One anothers in our group!

b)     For 2007 we want to elevate the importance of and fine-tune the operation of the CGs. In other words, seek to do as much ministry in and through CGs as possible. We desire that each CG would embrace the Core Values by developing specific applications—ways they can become more than just a Bible study.

c)     Specific strategy: Pray for and invite individuals to assume leadership roles. The HATS roles in each Community Group are among the most vital service roles in the church. Our goal for this year is that each group would have someone serving in each role and that we—the leadership—would do a much better job of explaining, equipping and releasing you to do these ministries.

d)     Large group—set up chairs (few roles/fewer opportunities to use gifts)! Small group—pastoral ministry (all gifts can be put to work)! I’m going to be visiting each Community Group in the next few weeks to talk about these things—to clarify what CGs can and should be and do. I want to hear from you.

2.     Elevate our emphasis on outreach. Five approaches:

a)     Evangelism training—Schedule You Can Tell It!

b)     Elevate the Community Group ministry—mobilize CGs for outreach.

c)     Increase our visibility in the community.

d)     Increase our direct contacts with unbelievers. (Mormons!) One exciting idea—Lawrence Welcome (Not a single visitor!) Each month, Lawrence Welcome provides us with a long list of new residents and couples that have had babies. We’re working on a map to make all of us aware of where these families are and we’re going to encourage you and your CG to make contact.

e)     Focus missions giving according to ministry vision and ask God to provide more so we can be more directly involved in mission work right here in Lawrence (KU).

C.    We live in difficult times. But historically, as a given culture has grown darker, the light of the church has grown brighter. Purer. Stronger. Be the Church—healthy, complete and authentic.

D.    Q & A?

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