Thursday, June 28, 2007

SIMPLE CHURCH (PART 2)

Last week I blogged about a book the staff pastors are reading and discussing together—Simple Church by Thom Rainer. We’ve had some lively and energized dialogue about ways we can apply Rainer’s research findings in our setting. After hundreds of consultations with churches and intensive research, Rainer concluded that churches need to simplify.

We are asking some tough questions. Are lives being transformed? Do we have a process in place that moves people to life transformation? If so, do all our members know what that process is? Do all of our ministries align themselves with this process? Are we doing a good job of making disciples? The kind of disciples Jesus made? Or is everyone just busy doing the church thing?

Rainer’s research revealed that churches with a simple process for reaching the lost and growing believers are making great strides in kingdom expansion. Those with complex processes are over-programmed and have become anemic and make very little impact.

Think about how Jesus simplified things. He took 613 Old Testament commands and culled them into two—love God and love your neighbor. That’s simple, isn’t? When He cleared out the moneychangers from the Temple, I think it was a way of letting us know that He is opposed to anything that gets in the way of people experiencing a personal encounter with Him.

Do we have any clutter that gets in the way? That is the very thing we’re discussing on Monday mornings in staff. Too much clutter results in people doing church instead of being the church.

One quote in Simple Church is worth passing on to you. “To have a simple church, leaders must ensure that everything their church does fits together to produce life change. They must design a simple process that pulls everything together, a simple process that moves people toward spiritual maturity.” Don’t ever forget why Chapin Baptist exists. Life transformation. That’s what we’re all about!

I will keep you posted on things we’re learning and seeking to apply.

"For our email subscribers, please visit Ken's full blog page at http://www.pastorkenkelly.com/ to view previous blogs and many other helpful links."

Sunday, June 24, 2007

PROUD PARENTS

It looks like 2008 is going to be a fantastic year for the Kelly family. On Saturday night Kenny, my oldest, proposed to Jamie Rumbough. She said yes and he “dropped the rock.” They’re looking at a February wedding. Jamie’s brother and his wife have been appointed as missionaries to Turkey. A February wedding will allow them to be present before they leave for their assignment.

As most of you know, Kevin proposed to his girlfriend, Erin Richardson, on New Year’s Eve. She said yes and he “dropped the rock” on the same night. Their wedding is scheduled for May 31.

From the time our boys were born, we have prayed many, many times for God, at the right time, to lead them to their lifelong mate. Little did we know that two of the three would happen so close together. However, I feel uneasy comparing our family to the Clonts. Their two sons, James and Michael, just got hitched within three weeks of each other.

Anita and I are thrilled at adding two daughters to our family. And we couldn’t be happier at the young women that God brought into their lives. Jamie and Erin both love our Lord and are very committed in their Christian faith. We love their families dearly and enjoy spending time with them. Erin’s parents, Waring and Tami, are members of our church, as are her brother Brett and her sister Keri Brooke. Jamie’s parents, Johnny and Valerie, are members of Riverland Hills. Johnny is the Director of Missions for our Lexington Baptist Association.

Just as we prayed for our boys’ mates from the time they were born, we also prayed for their children. Who knows (I’m not rushing it)—one of these days I might be…well, you know what I’m talking about!

"For our email subscribers, please visit Ken's full blog page at http://www.pastorkenkelly.com to view previous blogs and many other helpful links."

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

SIMPLE CHURCH


The staff pastors are currently reading a book by Thom Rainer, president of Lifeway, called Simple Church. We’re taking the book chapter by chapter, digesting the concepts as we go. We’ve engaged in some lively discussion that I believe ultimately will result in a healthier congregation.

Rainer and the co-author Eric Geiger engaged in two rounds of extensive research with local congregations. Their hypothesis was that healthy, growing congregations stick to a very simple approach to ministry whereas declining or plateaued churches have a complex approach to ministry. The researched affirmed their hypothesis far more than they even anticipated.

The bottom line result any church should strive for is transformed lives. The question is: does the church have a clear process by which life transformation takes place? For example, many of the simple churches stressed three things that they wanted every member to engage in: worship, small group, and ministry. These churches believe that doing these three things effectively will result in changed lives. The vision is communicated very clearly. All the ministries of the church are aligned around those three elements, from senior adults to bed babies.

On the other hand, complex churches are driven by programs, calendars, and activities. The result is many people become over-engaged, activities compete for calendar space, and there is no unified sense of direction. Ask someone in the complex church the process by which life transformation takes place, he won’t have a clue.

At Chapin Baptist, we stress the need for people to be in worship and a small group as well as engage in ministry. In many ways, our process has been effective. I don’t believe we need to overhaul everything. But there are some areas that need evaluation. For example, right now we strongly encourage people to come to worship, Sunday School, and Chapin U and be involved in a ministry. Is there a way that can be simplified?

Another example—we have a bunch who are serving in so many time slots that they don’t have the opportunity to be in worship or engage in a small group. How can we improve this dilemma?

We also need to be more effective in communicating the process so that every church member and every guest knows clearly the steps he/she can take to grow deeper in Christ. We need to make sure that every ministry and every program is aligned with the vision.

I encourage you to pick up Simple Church from Lifeway or Amazon. Read it along with us. I’ll keep you posted with our learnings and desires.

"For our email subscribers, please visit Ken's full blog page at http://www.pastorkenkelly.com to view previous blogs and many other helpful links."

Saturday, June 16, 2007

VBS: A TRIED AND TRUE TRADITION

Last week we had around 350 children registered for Vacation Bible School. Add all the volunteer coaches and we had over 500 people engaged in learning and serving. And, most importantly, a number of children gave their hearts to Jesus. I believe VBS has been around as long as sliced bread. Some traditions come and go; some need to go; and some still hold long-time effectiveness. VBS represents the latter.

The thunderstorms during the week slowed no one down. Every night was filled with children eager and ready to learn more about God in Game Day Central. It’s amazing to see how everything falls into place. It doesn’t take long for the Sunday evening chaos to turn into well-oiled machinery. VBS at CBC demonstrates what can happen when tons of volunteers pitch in to help boys and girls become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.

I had the opportunity to talk to a few children who made significant spiritual decisions. What a joy to see God begin His transforming work in the life of a child. One eight-year-old girl and her family had just moved from Maryland a few days previously. How she found out about VBS, who knows? I was talking to an eight-year-old boy about salvation, and I tried to explain to him we must pay a penalty for our sins. I asked him if he had any idea what that penalty was. He responded, “I guess it’s like the time I did something bad. Then when I opened the pantry, a can fell out and hit me on the head.”

I guess the most memorable conversation with a young fellow happened when I led him in a prayer to receive Jesus into his heart. After we said Amen, I could see the tears well up in his eyes. No wonder Jesus said we must become like children if we are to see the kingdom of heaven. Tears of joy because he had just made the most important decision he will ever make in his life.

It’s Saturday night and I just got through going over my Father’s Day message for the next-to-the-last time. I’ll look over it again on Sunday morning. I will be talking about a parent’s greatest challenge—modeling the life of Jesus before our children. I couldn’t help but think about the many new families I met at VBS this week. As much as I am grateful for the opportunity we have to minister to their family all week long, it grieves me to know that for many, that will be the last time they will have significant spiritual nurture until next year’s VBS. Join me in praying that these families will take the next step and start attending church on Sundays—if not CBC, at least somewhere.

We exist to help people connect with God and become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. I think I’m safe in saying that VBS hits the vision bulls-eye every summer. I’m grateful for Virginia, Troy, Kyle, Crystal, Elsie and all the children’s ministry staff for a job well done.


(Take a look at the blog webpage, www.pastorkenkelly.com, for recent blogs as well as links to other helpful sites and other helpful information.)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

HOW MUCH IS A SOUL WORTH?

One of the blogs I follow reported on a documentary by CNBC on the value that Wal-Mart places on every American family. Wal-Mart places a high value on customer satisfaction and rightly so if their data is accurate.

Wal-Mart has crunched the numbers and has determined that if they lose a customer for whatever reason—lines too long, unfriendly workers, etc.—the company stands to lose $215,000. So if I get mad and don’t return to Wal-Mart, they figure they have lost $215,000 of would-be revenue over my lifetime. Wow! That’s a bunch of money. But so far, no matter how many times I say I’m never going back, no matter where I am in the United States, most likely my family will find its way to a Wal-Mart.

If Wal-Mart places a $215,000 value on your life, how much do you think a human soul is worth? Can you place a dollar value one human being? Every person in the Chapin area represents someone for whom Jesus died. Do you view people with that perspective? It’s easy in church to get so caught up in worship styles, by-laws, thermostat controls, and our own personal needs, that we forget the people in the community who so desperately need Jesus Christ.

Every Sunday, people walk through our doors for the very first time. Will they return for a second time? That depends on how we value them when they come the first time. People are seeking help and hope for the difficult issues in life they are facing. So, this Sunday, take a look around you in the worship center. Every person there is one for whom Jesus sacrificed His life. That fact certainly represents a higher value than $215,000. This Sunday, find someone new. Shower them with love and affirmation.

You can find almost anything in Wal-Mart—fishing gear, greeting cards, suntan lotion, and beef jerky—all sold at a profit for this giant corporation. Because of what Jesus did on the cross, at Chapin Baptist Church people can find salvation and eternal life—all for free. Shouldn’t we place more value on a soul than Wal-Mart?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

BREAKING THROUGH THE 1,000 BARRIER

For a few years Chapin Baptist has been on an attendance plateau. Membership has grown. Budget receipts have rebounded from a couple of years ago. New families continue to visit and join. So what gives?
I could probably list 40 reasons why we may be on a plateau. But instead of listing reasons, let me say that I’m not satisfied. And I don’t believe God is satisfied either. Why? Because our community is filled with people who need Jesus. We live in a growing community, and the folks in our area need to be in church on the weekend.
Breaking through this attendance plateau has been heavy on my heart. I’m praying daily that we burst through this plateau soon. There is no reason at all that we should not be running more than 1,000 every Sunday. God has challenged me very clearly to accept my personal responsibility for us being on the plateau. But He’s also challenged me to take responsibility for leading us to break through the plateau.
In recent weeks I’ve challenged our staff to accept more personal responsibility and to work together as a team to lead our church forward to new arenas of growth. We’ve had some great discussions. In future blogs I’ll let you in on some of the learnings we are experiencing together.
I’ve challenged our staff to pray for breakthroughs. I ask you to do the same. Let me clarify. Prayer is very, very important. However, we can pray all day long and still sit on a plateau. There are things we can and must do as a staff. There are things we can and must do as church leaders. I’m more excited about our future than ever before. I cling to the words of the psalmist: “With God’s help we will do mighty things, for he will trample down our foes” (Psalm 60:12, NLT).

Thursday, June 7, 2007

LEADERSHIP LESSONS FROM NEHEMIAH (PART 2)

In the last blog I shared some leadership principles from the book of Nehemiah. The lessons were gleaned from recent discussion in a staff meeting. Here are some principles we discovered while discussing Chapter 2.

Prayer played a vital role in Chapter 2 just like in Chapter 1. Have you noticed how much more evident the hand of God is when you pray? Are you praying for your church? Are you praying for the lost to be saved and the saved to grow up? Are you praying for life change? Are you praying that we break through whatever barriers may be keeping us from significant growth?

Nehemiah was prepared before he approached the king. When the king noticed his sadness and asked what he needed, Nehemiah was ready with an answer. He didn’t just fly off the cuff. No, he was ready. He had already thought through his strategy in case the King asked. Do you agree that effective strategies require lots of prayer, forethought, and planning?

When he arrived in Jerusalem, he modeled a leadership principle that often gets overlooked. He practiced the law of timing in sharing his vision. The vision of rebuilding the wall had been burning in his soul for some time. But he kept quiet until he knew the plan for carrying out the vision. Sometimes leaders make the fatal mistake of sharing the vision, getting the people all excited, but then having no idea how to implement it. Nehemiah surveyed the rubble extensively before he ever pulled the workforce together.

Nehemiah communicated the vision with great clarity. When the time was right, he got the Hebrews together and said, “Let’s rebuild these walls.” The vision could not have been stated any clearer. I’ve heard Tony Evans say many times, “A mist in the pulpit results in a fog in the pew.” The leader needs a vision. But just as important, he must make sure the vision gets communicated in such a way that there is no confusion.

A leader must know how to handle criticism. Any significant work of the Lord will conjure up critics from every corner. Nehemiah serves as a master teacher in how to handle critics. All through the story the critics try to stop the rebuilding project. Each time Nehemiah handles them with great skill. In Chapter 2 the critics mocked, ridiculed, and accused Nehemiah of rebelling against the king. Paraphrasing Nehemiah’s response, “Mock us all you want. God’s with us. We’re pressing on whether you like it or not!” Certainly his response must have served as a tremendous morale booster for the Hebrews. This leader had guts and they were willing to give a hundred percent effort to work for him.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

LEADERSHIP LESSONS FROM NEHEMIAH

Recently in our staff meetings we have been gleaning leadership lessons from the book of Nehemiah. We read the chapter out loud, reflect silently on what we just read, and then share leadership principles that apply to our setting in 2007. We always look forward to hearing Pastor Rick’s comments. He is a master at alliteration. In a few minutes’ time he can come up with a five point sermon outline, each point beginning with the same letter. I think we will try him out on one of the genealogical passages in Numbers to see if he can handle it.

The leadership bullets we derived from Nehemiah are too valuable to keep to ourselves. So let me give you a handful we spotted in the first chapter. Remember, this man of God is known to us as the one who returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls around the destroyed city.

· Prayer was an obvious part of Nehemiah’s life. Not just Chapter 1, but throughout the whole book. How prominent is prayer in your ministry?

· He confessed not just his own sins, but also the sins of the nation. It was not just an “I have sinned” prayer. It was a “We all have sinned” prayer. When a church has lost sight of its vision, it is important for the leaders to confess on behalf of all the people of the body. This truth holds for any entity within the congregation. Keep that in mind, Sunday School teachers and team leaders.

· Here is one of my favorites. Nehemiah had a tremendous burden for the city. He is more than 200 years past the Babylonian ransacking of Jerusalem. Yet he still possesses a holy discontent over condition of the city of God. I challenged the staff that we all need the same kind of burden for the spiritual condition of our city. Marriages are crumbling, materialism and complacency rule the day, kids are succumbing to peer pressures and destroying their lives, and most have no sense of their life’s purpose. Do you possess a holy discontent over the spiritual condition of the people in our city?

· Going back to Nehemiah’s prayer, notice that he spent much of the prayer giving praise to God. Only towards the end of the prayer does he even ask God for anything. His request is simple and to the point—“Give me success as I meet the king.”

As you read through the Scriptures, let God speak to you. Read it as a leader would, as one searching for biblical principles of leadership. Every page is filled with lessons relevant for 2007.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

QUESTIONS ABOUT ORDINATION

In my last blog I talked about how great the recent worship experience was when we ordained James Clonts, Rick Jones, and Kenny Kelly to the gospel ministry. During the ordination process over the last couple of months, some excellent questions have been asked. Let me raise several of them and respond to each one.

1. Who decides who gets ordained to the ministry? Not trying to be funny—but God does. From the human perspective it can be a two-way street. Most of the time the candidate requests ordination from his church. However, there have been many occasions in church history where a congregation recognizes God’s anointing on an individual and says to him, “We believe God is calling you into the ministry.” This was the case with the well-known Baptist preacher, George W. Truett, who for years pastored the First Baptist Church of Dallas.

2. What are the credentials for someone to be ordained? The primary credential is for the person to be God-called. And then the ordaining body needs to recognize and affirm that person’s calling. Although ordination traditions vary from church to church and denomination to denomination, being called by God is the key factor. Some wait until the completion of formal education. Some wait until they are called to their first-time ministry setting. In the case of our recent three, all were already serving in their respective pastoral ministry positions. So we had an excellent opportunity to set aside James, Rick, and Kenny in one service.

3. What is the purpose of an ordaining council? The council sets up a time to meet with the candidate who has requested ordination. Those participating on the council question the candidate about his salvation and call experience, passion, career objectives, knowledge of the Bible, personal struggles, spiritual disciplines, etc. In other words, the candidate is open game for any questions that will help the council affirm the person’s calling. If the council affirms, then he is presented to the local congregation for the whole body to place its voice of support behind the individual. Then, as patterned in the New Testament, the congregation conducts a laying on of hands ceremony as a way to encourage the person to pursue his God-given calling.

Once again, Chapin Baptist members should count it a wonderful honor and privilege to know that God is calling people from our church into full-time Christian ministry. May their numbers multiply.