Monday, October 15, 2007

BLOGGING FROM RIDGECREST

I'm blogging from Ridgecrest Conference Center in the mountains of N.C. It's beautiful up here. I'm with our other senior staff (Steve, Rick, Virginia, James, Michael). It just so happens that Philip Vaughn has about 25 of our senior adult members up here as well. They are attending a conference. We got to see them at supper tonight. They are extra-special people and a joy to be around.

The reason our senior staff is here is to get away from the office for a couple of days to think, pray, and strategize. We have been engaging in some very healthy discussions lately. Basically, it all comes down to this. We talk a lot about our vision of helping people connect with God and become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. And we're thinking out loud about how successful we are in achieving this vision. We've been asking some tough questions like: how successful are we in seeing that vision work? What percentage of our members are actually fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ? Are our current programs and structures designed to help people move toward Christlikeness? Are we reaching our potential for growth? I could keep listing the questions we're exploring, but I think you get the idea.

God has given us some super-excellent staff pastors. There is a great spirit of teamwork and mutual trust and encouragement. We're challenging each other not to be satisfied with status quo. We're taking our vision statement and trying to create ways that we can best fulfill it. If the bottom line is transformed lives, then we better make sure that everything we do as a church is designed to reach that objective.

I have no idea at this point where all these discussions will take us. Thom Rainer, president of Lifeway, in his recent Simple Church book, noted that his research team had to lower the bar in order to find a large enough sampling of churches to be classified as vibrant, growing churches. Their original bar was set at 10 percent growth a year for three consecutive years. Of the 43,000 churches in the Southern Baptist Convention, fewer than 200 met that requirement. That is sad! Unfortunately, Chapin Baptist would not have met the criteria for a vibrant, growing church. That's less than one-half of one percent. I'm not satisfied with where we are. And I don't believe God is either.

That's why we are having these discussions. We don't want to be like the rest of SB churches. We want to demonstrate that God is still in the business of transforming lives and He wants to do in it a big way that will result in the ongoing growth of His church. But for this change to happen, certainly it must be a God-thing. But it also requires that we honestly explore everything we do, how we do it, when we do it, where we do it...and then develop systems and strategies that will put us in a better position to touch many more lives for the kingdom.

What does it mean to be a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ? Do we have a process in place that moves people toward becoming such a disciple? Have we made it clear what that process is? We are seeking to clarify these answers and then establish a simple process that will help every member reach his/her fullest potential in Christ.

We're evaluating worship services, Sunday School, Chapin U, Class 101, deacons, every ministry, times we meet, length of times we meet, etc.

Again, where these discussion lead us, I do not know. But I have a feeling every one of us would jump on board with any change that would produce greater disciples for the kingdom. Agree?

In my very first blog, I indicated a desire to write about what God is doing in my life, what I'm reading, what I'm thinking, and where I see us headed. So take this blog as a reminder that your staff pastors are diligently seeking the answers to these questions. And please pray for us as we seek the heart of God.

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