Admittedly, this is seriously long. It's loosely a transcript of the vision I cast last weekend (audio will be up soon). I wanted it available to circulate and share.
I talked a few weeks ago about a 40 year vision for our community—how a community of God’s people who know who they are, know their calling and know how to work could literally change the face of our area. I don’t think that’s a pipe-dream. The Clapham Sect did just that in England 100+ years ago. It’s time for Jesus’ disciples to do the same in our day.
But something that big needs to be broken down into bite size chunks. So I talked last Sunday about our next decade together. I’m calling it the decade of growth—an unprecedented decade of growth personally, relationally and as a church. As Trinity’s pastor, I am 110% committed to your growth over the next decade. Many people, instead of growing for 10 years, live the same year over and over 10 times. I don’t want that for you. In 10 years, I want you to be out of debt, healthy, in a great relationship, and loving God and loving people more than you ever have. We’ll have to do that together. You’ll need help. So this is a talk about the next 10 years we need to experience together to get there. Here are the 6 things I think we must do if that’s to become a reality.
Trinity has a great history. Over the last 8 decades, thousands of people have been impacted and millions of dollars has been raised to meet needs. We honor that and are aware that anything we do in the future is built on the foundation of committed leaders in the past. There is an amazing, amazing track record of what God has done here. So the question is, what do we do now?
#1 Realize we are a mature church. The growth cycle is huge when you are a baby and an adolescent but slows down when you are an adult. This is completely normal. So we first have to realize where we are in the growth cycle. We are—in the language of development—an adult church. That is our current reality.
#2 BUT, we have to refuse to be comfortable. We all like comfort. That’s just part of being a human being. For instance, I don’t like it when I’m all settled down for the evening with a book or a show and then one of my kids starts crying for me. I love them, but frankly, it’s annoying. However, if I consistently ignore their needs I stunt who they become, favoring my comfort over their needs. In the same way as a church we have to refuse to be comfortable. I think God’s blessing is on the church that cares about others.
Here’s three things to keep in mind in that respect. 1) The church that doesn’t grow stagnates and dies. It’s a simple fact. No growing=dying. This requires incredibly unselfish people; People aware of other people’s needs and willing to do something about it. 2) God commands us to grow and bear fruit. Jesus told his disciples that we are to show ourselves to be his disciples, bearing much fruit. (John 15:9). 3) The needs of people—now more than ever—demand that we grow. People are desperately in need of hope, purpose, meaning & strength. We will grow as a church—grow as followers of Jesus.
#3 We have to restart a new bell curve by reaching the next generation. Again, the growth cycle is like a bell curve: A steep path of growth on the front end, a peak, followed by a decline. It happens with a piece of fruit: ripening, peak flavor, then decay, and it happens with your own body: growth, peak years, then the aches and pains of age begin to set in.
So how do you grow when things naturally decline? Two things: 1-You start a new bell curve at the peak! We’ll do that by actively and intentionally leveraging the skills, experience and wisdom of the current generation to train, lead and reach the next generation. 2-Raise the evangelistic temperature. Evangelism has gotten (probably rightly so) a bad rap as of late. In many people’s minds it raises the image of shoving God down someone’s throat. But it’s coming back into vogue in our culture—Apple even has a position called “Chief Evangelist”.
At its best, it simply means “messenger.” We want to help you recognize that you are a messenger and representative of God’s Kingdom—both with your actions and your words, in every place that you go. So we want to teach you how to use Jesus’ strategy in Luke 9 & 10 (known as the Person of Peace), finding the people near you whose hearts are ready to hear about God’s love through your kindness, genuine friendship and words.
And then we want to help you use the weekend service as a tool both to grow personally and a tool to help your friends, family and neighbors grow. We’ll do our best to make the music great, the message relevant, and be prepared to experience God’s presence together. In fact, during the month of December we’re gearing the services specifically toward people who are un-churched, de-churched, and no-churched (we always try to do that, but especially gearing it that way during December.) We’ll be talking about how Love has Come—to your hurts, to your doubts, to your relationships—and want to challenge you to invite a person of peace to the service with you and then go out to lunch with them afterwards. It’s all about the relationship!
And on Christmas Eve, let’s pack the place out—having at least 400 people present. And Christmas Eve, seriously easy sell! J We’ll have hor’s doeuvres before the service, candlelight, a great atmosphere. Make it happen!
#4 We’ll do that by focusing on developing people. We’ll do that 2 ways:
1 – By renewing and revitalizing our core. All of us need renewal. A new heart. A new spirit. A renewed sense that we are loved by God, we have a purpose God is calling us to and that it can happen. At any point, we can turn to God and he will give us freedom and a new start. If Jesus isn’t a normal part of your conversation, you don’t find yourself talking or thinking about him and doing what he said is best--—then it’s time for renewal.
We’ve talked about abiding (see John 15) several times and want to help you learn a rhythm of life that is sustainable and ties you to your basic identity as the child God dearly loves. Get that--the covenant relationship God invites you into, let it grip your heart, and you become unstoppable. The Apostle Paul said it to the Corinthians like this: though we are outwardly wasting away (on the down side of the bell curve), inwardly we can be renewed every day. (2 Corinthians 14:6). Tap into God’s Holy Spirit for renewal. We’ll help you do that. We’re working on a retreat for our entire church family and a way to help you regularly follow the rhythm of Jesus’ life: Engagement and renewal, engagement and renewal, engagement and renewal.
2 – By paying attention to how Jesus did it. For the last year+, I’ve been studying how Jesus made disciples and doing my best to exactly imitate not only what he did but how he did it. So I’ve spent time every week with 6 guys that I’ve invited to learn with me and from me how to follow Jesus. We call it a huddle.
The great invitation of the huddle was (and is) that we’d learn together and that they wouldn’t be left behind. The high challenge was that they’d do exactly the same for a few others. The next rounds of huddles have just begun. What we’re developing is an incredibly strong base of deeply Christ-like disciples who have a clear sense of who they are and what God is calling them to do. This discipling culture we’re building is the foundation of the church. To put it in computer language, discipleship is the operating system of the Kingdom of God and the Church is the killer app. (We often get it backwards—thinking the Church is God’s operating system that spawns multiple programs—discipleship being one nice thing among many.)
Making disciples first is how Jesus did it and he gave no Plan B! Make disciples who do everything I commanded you (Matthew 28:19-20). And since he’s the smartest man to ever live, I’m going to go ahead and defer to his methods. J
#5We must reposition our church for a new decade. There is a point at which a church can define what they are known for, but that soon becomes something they can no longer control. Other people decide what a church is known for. For Trinity, I think it’s fair to say that if we asked someone in the community what we are known for they’d say something like:
· Friendly (we are an incredibly friendly church—I hear that over and over again)
· The annual Live Nativity
· On Shackelford Road
· Meeting Needs – if someone needs food, a job, is addicted, is grieving, is going through a divorce…whatever, let’s be known as the people who help meet those needs. In the next 2 months, we’re doing a food drive for a partner church in the city that houses a food pantry that is deluged by need. Bring food every week in November and December. And we’re having a coat drive in early November and packing gift boxes for Operation Christmas Child. That’s just the start.
· Young Families and Students – The natural cycle of life is Baby->cute kid with lunch box->Student->college or trade-> Married->kid->raise your kids->watch them go through the cycle->grandkids. Admittedly, this is not how it happens for everyone, but it is the basic reproduction cycle of the human race. Raise kids well, you raise a whole culture well. In the next decade we want to reach the next generation and do everything in our power to help them succeed. We’re targeting them to develop and renovating our space they use and the way we teach their kids and develop them as disciples and parents who know how to love and raise their kids.
· Radical Love – Let’s be known for loving God, loving each other, loving the unlovely and the unloveable, loving the despised…in a radical way. Here are 3 ways we are going to start that now:
2 – In January, we’re going to be “Regifting Love” by challenging you to serve 3000 hours in our community. That works out to each person (that would be YOU) serving about 2 hours/week in January. We’ve contacted 10 agencies in the area and will have a catalog listing tangible ways you can serve. Make plans now to clear your schedule in January for 2 hours a week.
3-We’re hosting a free community health fair January 29. It will be run by health professionals and offer everything from nutrition and exercise help to diabetes screening (you can serve some of your hours there, by the way).
Radical love. Let’s be known for that.
Two, and more importantly, we want to renovate our space by extending our space. I don’t mean building a large sanctuary or bigger gym for $5-10 million (do you know how many people we could feed, how many people we could retrain for a new job, how many churches we could plant with that kind of money??), but sending you out as God calls you to have little communities of mission that meet in homes, coffee shops and other spaces. You and the mission that comes from God’s heart for you to fulfill are the truly “renovated space.” We’ve talked about these before. They are called missional communities. You won’t be thrown to the wolves. In fact, to lead a missional community, you have to go through a huddle first. So you won’t be on your own. You’ll be trained, helped, supported and equipped.
The audio of the message will be up soon. And we’re excited to launch our new website, www.stltrinitychurch.net, in a few weeks that will include a sermon player where you can listen to the messages.