Saturday, June 24, 2017

Thriving Spiritually


Are you thriving spiritually or are you stagnant? Maybe an easier question is are you a better follower of Christ today than you were this time last year? If not why? What’s holding you back? Are you engaging in what is arguably the most important of all spiritual activities?  

As we read the scriptures and even more specifically in Acts 2, we find that believers thrived in community. At Stetson Baptist Church it’s not any different. Research shows that people who are involved in a group environment read their Bibles, pray, give, and serve more than those who are not in a group. Simply put groups are an essential component to spiritual growth. Here at Stetson Baptist Church, we have three different types of groups to engage in:
Sunday School Groups
It is so important to connect with people that can relate or are in the same stage of life, and during our Sunday school hours, it is easy. Every Sunday morning, you can find many groups of people who, like you, are seeking to discover and live out the purposes of God in their lives. Our Sunday School classes are designed to help everyone feel comfortable. We share our burdens, celebrate victories, and offer support. Across all ages, the Sunday groups follow the same teaching plan. This alignment allows parents to talk to their child about their classes knowing that they both talked about the same topic.

Weekday Groups
Relationships are vital to a believer. During the week, groups meet on and off campus to explore God’s word around a dinner table or in a living room. These groups will often study things that are relevant to their life situation. Whether it is a parenting study or exploring a book of the Bible, these groups provide attendees the opportunity for meaningful discussion and interaction with other members of the group.

Short-Term Groups
During the year you will find opportunities for short term groups that study a book of the Bible or a topic. These short-term groups will typically meet for 6-12 weeks and work through a book or a topic of study.
If all you do is come to worship on a Sunday, you are settling for less than God’s best for your life. Get involved and see what God will do in your life. Life change happens best in the context of relationships and being in a group is a great catalyst for meaningful relationships.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Have you been in prison?


Have you been in prison? I have! It was a class field trip in high school. I remember it like it was 20 years ago, because it was. I was a sophomore, and we visited the Tulsa County Prison. It was everything you can imagine a prison being: loud, smelly, uncomfortable, and it just felt dirty. The thing that impacted me the most was the lack of joy in that building. Nobody was happy. After just a couple hours in that facility, I had a great appreciation for those who work in that environment every day.

Across the world, there are countless numbers of Christians imprisoned because of their faith in Jesus. According to Open Doors, an organization that supports persecuted Christians, North Korea is the most dangerous place in the world for Christians. Of the country’s approximately 25 million residents, 300,000 of them are followers of Christ. Of those, 70,000 are locked away in camps that are described as concentration camps. It’s a place of unspeakable torture. Christians are being crucified, burned at the stake, crushed under steamrollers, herded off bridges, starved, and forced to work in hard labor camps.

The last couple of days there have been many stories about the actions of North Korea’s leaders and the possibility of military action in that country. I don’t know enough about the situation to have an opinion on that issue, but I do know that North Korea is a place where local Christians need our support. The book of Hebrews describes our responsibility in situations like the one in North Korea.

Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.” (Hebrews 13:3)

When we hear of stories from the persecuted church, we must remember that the people being hurt are our brothers and sisters in Christ. The pain that they are feeling needs to be understood as if it was our pain. We may not be able to stop the pain from occurring, but we need to support them through it. The following is a story that was published by Open Doors about Hea Woo, a follower of Christ in North Korea.

“As Hea Woo looked into her husband’s cell, she couldn’t believe her eyes. The man before her was hardly recognizable from the torture. He covertly slipped something into her hand that would change her life forever: his profession of faith. Later, she also began to follow Christ and ended up in a cell of her own. Despite being faced with starvation and torture, Hea Woo realized that she had been given an opportunity to share the gospel with those around her. Before long, a number of women in the camp had placed their faith in Christ, and secret gatherings for fellowship began in the prison outhouse. In this, the most unlikely of places, the women silently sang songs of praise, prayed and shared Bible verses with one another. Amazingly, she was later released from prison and managed to flee to South Korea. Her testimony is representative of the many North Korean Christians who suffer in prison camps each year, and serves as a reminder of God’s faithfulness.”

Partner with me in prayer for the believers who are living through persecution. Not just in North Korea but in areas across the world as they suffer for the cause of Christ. Pray for their boldness as they are possibly the only light in a very dark area. Pray that they will have the ability to continue to effectively minister in these continuing difficult times.


Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Temple


And when the priests came out of the Holy Place, a cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord. 1 Kings 8: 10-11


What would it be like to see God literally fill a church? For the Jewish people of the mid-10th century, this was an everyday reality. The temple was so much more than a building.  It was where they worshiped and celebrated festivals. It was where they offered sacrifices for the atonement of their sins. On top of all that, this was where the glory of God literally dwelled.
Imagine that you lived during this time and you had the opportunity to see all of this. How passionate would you be about that temple? The Scriptures clearly show us how passionate they were. Solomon went to great detail describing how he built the temple. No expense was too great to ensure that God’s temple was befitting His glory. Many thousands of people worked together to build the very structure we can still see today. They were proud of what they constructed and Solomon was proud to see it to completion.
As a believer in Christ, we know that we, “are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in,” us. When someone becomes a believer in Christ we should celebrate with the same passion and zeal as the Jews did when the glory of the Lord filled the temple. It needs to be something we celebrate continually and work diligently to make sure everyone can make that same step of faith.
That said, we also can see our church building as a sort of modern-day temple. Our sanctuary is a place that we come to meet with God in the corporate setting of His Body each week. Our church might not be adorned with gold, limestone blocks, or cypress timbers like Solomon's Temple, but we should make sure our campus looks nice especially as we get closer to celebrating the Holy Week leading up to Easter. That is why, this week, we started painting the building. We want to make sure that our church building reflects the awesomeness of the Lord we worship. So, for the next couple of weeks, you will see new paint going on the walls of all the exterior surfaces and the hallway, lobby, and restrooms in the Worship Center. We hope that as people drive by they don’t just see a building but a place that reflects the passion we have for what God is doing in all of us and through this church. Please pray for the painters’ safety and if you see them on campus, try and go out of your way to show them the love of Christ. You never know the difference you could make!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Moving to Deland - A note to the members of Canopy Roads Baptist Church

Hello Canopy Roads Family,

I have some bittersweet news to share with you about what God is doing in my life and my family’s life. The last couple of weeks we have been praying about and seeking God’s will in regards to God calling us to serve at Stetson Baptist Church in Deland, FL. This weekend we visited and we have complete confidence that God has opened the door for us to relocate and begin serving Him there. I wish I could individually tell you all about the tremendous impact you have made not just in my life but my whole family. Your love and support have been invaluable. I could not be any happier with how God has allowed us to partner together to grow His kingdom in NE Tallahassee. This transition was not born out of any conflict or division within the church but has come as a direct result of God’s direction. The leadership of the church has been so supportive. Matt and his family have been such a blessing to us. Matt is an incredibly gifted pastor and a such a close friend and mentor.

January 29th will be the last Sunday I will be on staff at Canopy Roads. God willing, we will move our family to Deland that same week. Thank you again for allowing me to serve alongside you. God’s fingerprints have been all over Canopy Roads since I started in 2008 and I have complete confidence that God will continue to use you and the leadership to develop fully devoted followers of Christ in the years to come.  God bless and thank you!

Brad

Monday, February 8, 2016

What Does Your Church Lobby Say About Your Church?

My church is in the process of completing a renovation project that primarily focuses on the lobby/foyer. Our current lobby space was insufficient for the amount of foot traffic it was experiencing. When the space was originally built it was designed to be used to move people from outside into the worship center or another parts of the building. Not a bad use of space but it posed several problems as the church has grown.
  • People wanted to have conversations outside of the worship center. The space was too small to allow that to happen.
  • With multiple services people were entering and leaving from this area.
  • Senior adults and families with preschoolers had to use this same space to get to their classrooms.
Over the last couple years our church's growth has slowed. The numbers of our first time guests each Sunday is consistent or even growing. However, the number of people who were joining the church was not keeping up. We read books like “Sticky Church.” We took the Reveal Church survey several times and changed some systems accordingly. But one thing we noted is that people were having a problem getting into a small group. Those who had been here for a while were able to navigate without noticing the dysfunctional space because the dysfunction was normal. We spent considerable time trying to understand what entering the church as a guest felt like. It did not take long for us to realize that we needed to change our lobby environment.

When I researched what size would be the  appropriate size lobby for our church the first document I found came from LifeWay. In a document called “Rules of Thumb: Space and Dimension Recommendations” that stated that if the lobby was just used for the worship center it should be 1 ½ - 2 ½ square feet per seat in the worship center. If the lobby served the worship center and the education space, then it should be 15 to 25 percent of the worship center area  When I read this I was shocked because according to the LifeWay numbers our lobby size was sufficient. As I continued to research I found very little in the way of information about how large a lobby should be.

I have been to many churches, some healthy and many not. One thing I found was that growing churches typically had a large lobby. These lobbies consisted of a square footage that was similar or greater than the square footage in the worship center.  As a result of this and much prayer, we cast a vision to the church that we needed a lobby that reflected our desire as a church to help people connect with each other and God.  Our current project will be completed soon and will have a lobby that is about the same size as our worship space. The furnishings (chairs and tables) are designed to promote conversation. We will have coffee available, not to be a Starbucks, but we have found that when you hold a cup of coffee in your hand you are more comfortable talking to someone you don’t know. The technology in the room will showcase different ministries, next step opportunities, and the different small groups that people can join. We want our new space to communicate to a first time guest that we want to get to know you and we have a plan for you to grow in your relationship with God.

The verdict is still out on how successful this will be but we have complete confidence that this is the right step for Canopy Roads Baptist Church and that God has guided this whole process. Here are some observations about lobby sizes in church.

1.    Churches need to be all about relationships because life change happens best within the context of relationships.
Is your lobby helping people form relationships? God is all about relationships and we should do whatever we can do to make sure our buildings are communicating to guests that we want them to be apart of the fellowship. If it feels crowded to you... imagine how crowded it feels to a guests.

2.    The first step into the building needs to be an engaging one not a confusing one.
What does your lobby say about your church? Is it informative, does it help people get around? Is it clean? Does it smell good?  Can they see where the preschoolers need to go? What about the bathrooms? Does the first step in the building encourage a first time guest to take a second step or regret the first one? Signage, technology, coffee, and greeting/hospitality teams are all key to creating an environment that helps people connect with your church and God.

3.    God works through coffee.
Yes... I know the theological weakness of that statement but I also know that throughout scripture, Jesus used food and beverage to breakdown walls that keep people from experiencing a relationship with him. It would make sense that our churches adopt a similar idea.Yes people spill things, but I would replace the carpet as much as needed if it would allow one person to make a step faith.

What A Bigger Lobby Looks Like At Canopy Roads Baptist Church
We run just under 500 on any given Sunday with larger crowds on holidays. We have two identical worship services. Before construction we had a worship center that could seat around 325. The worship center space was about 2800 square feet and a Lobby that was 900 Square Feet.

After the construction we will have a lobby that is 2366 Square Feet and a Worship Center that is ~2400 Square feet. We actually reduced that total square footage in the Worship area. There was some areas that were unusable space so we re-purposed those areas for our online streaming ministry.  

What has been your experience? How has the lobby size of your church affected your experience?  Our goal is to help people connect and stay connected so we can all become more fully devoted followers of Christ. Our prayer is that after this project, our lobby we be helping us with that goal!


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Resources To Help Smaller Churches

For small churches and bi-vocational church leaders, the current climate of church work is not getting any easier. However, the opportunity to make a huge impact could not be any greater because of the resources that they have at their disposal. However, the sheer number of resources is overwhelming so I put together some of the top eight resources categories that could help even the smallest church become more effective.

Church Database

Ministry is people and all churches need a tool to in order to keep
up with people. Years ago we had the church roll book, which was fine, but today we have the ability to keep track of families, attendance, giving, membership, spiritual growth and so much more online. These tools used to be cost, time, and knowledge prohibitive but today are much cheaper and intuitive enough for anyone to use. 
  • Website: http://www.touchpointsoftware.com/
  • Cost: $2 per record per year
  • Pros
    • Access to member information anywhere
    • Organize church member involvement
    • Online giving
    • Check in for children’s ministries
    • Contribution and pledge management
    • Email or text
    • Reports Generator
    • Intuitive system so volunteers can manage!

Website

Website, if you do not have one people who are looking for a church will not find you. Remember, a website primary target is people who do not go to your church so be careful not to use “church talk” when adding content. Remember, with most website less is more!
  • Website: http://www.wix.com/ (and many others)
  • Cost $150 or less (if you get one tither to your church because of this tool you will have paid for it over and over)
  • Pros
    • People can see your church before they come
    • Effectively communicate ministries, service times, and locations
    • You do not have to be an expert. Fill in content and add some pictures
    • Intuitive system so volunteers can manage!

Social Media (Facebook)

Do not do them all, pick one and let someone do it for you. Currently I would suggest Facebook. Find someone you trust and let them post pictures of worship services and church events. People who are looking for a church will look at your social media before they visit.

Google

Make sure you claim your listing on Google. Google is the front door for this and the next generation of churches. By calming your listing you can add information like worship times and pictures. I have looked up several church on google and the address was wrong in the google system. If you have bad information in Google, people will not be able to find you. By claiming your listing, you can ensure you accuracy.

Planning Center Online

Be intentional about how you constructs your Sun
day services. Without a plan, you are planning to fail. With Planning Center Online you worship leader can yourself can craft services online. If you plan services ahead of time, you will be more successful.

Sermon Spice

Great video resources. Sometimes a video element can take a good message and take it to the next level.

Open.church

Creativity takes time. Time may be one of the most valuable commodities to a small church leader. Open.church is provides all of their resources free. This includes sermon series ideas and the media to support them.

Get feedback

Often the biggest distractions go unnoticed. Much like the dirty sock on the floor that you step over each week you never see it because it always there. When someone walks in the first thing they see is that dirty sock. Nothing could be more valuable to a small church leader than honest feedback from someone who is not a member of their congregation. Invite another church leader to come in and provide feedback on the Sunday morning experience. People who visit your church see the issues, they just do not tell you about them when they never show back up.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Change (Joshua’s Plan)

Change is inevitable. Winston Churchill said, “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”1  We will obviously never obtain perfection this side of eternity but one thing we can all do is become better at changing. That is the whole purpose of a church is for people to change from what they are to become fully devoted followers of Christ. In reading Joshua, we see a formula for change. Joshua 1: 1-5 reads:

1 After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' assistant, 2 “Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. 3 Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses. 4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory. 5 No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. (ESV)

Evaluate

The first thing we need to do when we enter a time of change is to evaluate the current situation. For Joshua it was simple. Moses went up on the mountain and did not come down. Then God told Joshua you are in charge. For Joshua the evaluation of his situation was easy, he was the leader of a nation who just spent 40 years walking in circles.
For Joshua and for us when we come upon a time of change two different things can happen. It can either get better or worse. We need to seek God’s guidance as we evaluate where we are so we can get to where God is guiding us.

Prepare

Leaders cannot lead unless someone is following them. For Joshua God told him in verse 2 to make sure the people are along for the ride. Vision casting is so essential for a leader during a time of change. Highlighting the issues with the current state is one way to cast vision.  This takes an enormous amount of prayer, time, and energy. Change without unity will often create division. The people of Israel are not different from people today. When change is about to happen they would rather go back into slavery than step out in faith. Today we would rather see our buildings crumble and our numbers shrink than have to take a step of faith and change.

Expect Challenges

Joshua 3:15 says mentions that the Jordan River that God told them to cross was at flood stage.  Change never happens when it is convenient and change will bring challenges. Oftentimes the challenges are overwhelming. Can you imagine the questions that Joshua had to field about his great plan? Whatever changes are about to come in your life the one thing you can expect is challenges. Prayerfully respond to questions and challenges in a way that honors God. It is also good to anticipate the challenges and questions before they come and share them in a way that honors God and casts vision for what the future holds. Optimism should come from the top down or negativity will certainly fill the void.

Go Where God’s Calling

God gave Joshua clear directions. That did not eliminate the gravity of what God was leading Joshua to do. It was not small task and included great peril. Every leader will lead through change. Change that originates from God’s promoting includes God’s blessing. Jonah is a great example of what happens when you go somewhere that God is not leading. So unless you want God to use you as bait on his next fishing trip follow his direction with courage, boldness, and the confidence that he is ultimately in control.

Give God the Credit

Change that is successful is very exciting. When we give God credit we are acknowledging how great and worthy of worship He is. I was once told that if we take credit for the good things, than we must also take credit for when it goes wrong. God is a God of change and he deserves the honor that goes along with who he is. The most successful believers I know are also the humblest people I know. When we give God the credit than we can also claim the promise that he claimed to Joshua, “Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.” (vs5)


 1 http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/topics/topic_change.html#OFVHwz6wQc1P1oKQ.99