Do you have “tourists” going to your church? (Are you one of them?)

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Recently, I wrote a post encouraging people to read one of my favorite books, “Gospel Treason” by Brad Bigney.

In that book, there is a very thought-provoking passage in there from Elyse Fitzpatrick describing how going to church for many people is like a European vacation that she went on:

“A number of years ago, my husband and I had the wonderful opportunity to vacation in Europe. In about three an a half weeks we visited thirteen different nations. When we’d enter a country, we’d get our passports stamped, exchange currencies, learn a few key phrases, and then off we’d go to visit the natives. We’d walk through outdoor markets , peruse museums, sample the cuisine. We’d exchange a few niceties with the locals, sit on the steps of cathedrals, watch the life of the town go by, take a picture or two, and purchase a little something to remind us of our time there, and then we were off. We had a wonderful vacation. Our hearts weren’t changed in any significant ways by our little visits, but then they weren’t meant to be. We were tourists. It seems to me that what I’ve just described is very close to many people’s understanding of the congregational life of the local church. On any given Sunday or better yet, Saturday night, many tourists can be found in church. They pop in for forty-five minutes or an hour, sing a chorus or two, exchange niceties with the locals: “Hi! How are you?” “Fine!” “How are you ?” “Fine! Nice Fellowshipping. With you!” They sample some of the local cuisine, they might purchase a book or CD to remind them of their visit, and then they race to their cars to get to their favorite restaurant before the rush or home before the game. For many people, church is simply a place to go to once a week . It’s about being a tourist, and our land is filled with tourist-friendly churches. Pop in, pop out, do your religious thing, catch ya later!”

I’d like to ask you to be honest. Does that in any way describe you?
I’m not saying that going to church makes you a Christian, any more than your going to a football game makes you a football player.

But one thing your church attendance does is reveal something about your attitude and beliefs about the importance (and understanding) of your relationship with God (and your own spiritual health).

If you are not a regular church attendee, please be careful:
Proverbs 18:1 says a that “a man who isolates himself seeks his own desire”
Hebrews 10:25 says “not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as is the habit of some, but come together and look for ways to stir one another. Up to love and good deeds.”

Let me encourage you this week to get to church and while there, ask yourself whether you are a tourist, or a local (one of the native peoples) ?
After asking yourself that question, try two more: would God be pleased with my answer to that last question.

Lastly, in what specific ways, can I get more involved at my local church?

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Can your church compete with Disneyland?

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For many parents, going to Disneyland is high on their “parenting bucket list”.  And why not?  Any place that labels itself as “the happiest place on earth”  sure would seem to be a place worth checking out.

I’ve been to Disneyland a few different times and it was a pleasant memory (though expensive).

I thought about that phrase, “the happiest place on earth” this weekend.  Why?   Because I thought Disneyland might just have a worthy competitor–the local church.

There are approximately 300,000 churches in the United States.  I deeply hope that the you and the other members of your local  church, as well as its leadership would see itself as a place that people just love to be a part of and could compete with Disneyland’s reputation.      Why would they?

Well, I think that being in a place where like-minded people can re-assemble each week and share their similar experience of being a part of the family of God is a good thing and so are these reasons:

  • being challenged weekly with firm and loving words preached directly from the Bible that confront us with the truths that a holy God exists, and that apart being involved in a relationship with Him (made possible by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, who died in our place), we would be forever lost and separated from Him
  • being able to engage together in worshiping God in a joyous, celebratory kind of way
  • seeing people who you care about and who care about you
  • being involved in a culture that we are all just hurting people rubbing shoulders with other hurting people
  • serving together in voluntary helpful works of service
  • being encouraged by smiling people
  • feeling you are a part of fulfilling a vision  that is bigger than any one person

Those are just a few reasons that are top of mind to me as I was thinking about this after my church’s recent weekend’s Easter worship celebration!

I love it when I hear people tell me (as I’ve recently heard from some people I know who attend different churches than I do) that they hate to miss being a part of their church’s Sunday mornings because they just feel like their missing something.  I hope you feel that way as well at your church.

Again, I hope that being involved in a vibrant local church has already  been crossed off your bucket list.  If it hasn’t yet happened for you, I trust that day will come soon where you will just know that you are a part of something very special.

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(this was an amazing moment during the 3/27/16 Easter worship service where confetti helped the congregation at Harvest Bible Chapel celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ!).

Top 10 posts of 2015- # 1 –“now, this kind of church experience makes sense”

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….and here is my #1 post for 2015!!!     “now, this kind of church experience makes sense”

In my younger years of going to church, I did what many still do today. I attended the service and checked it off my mental list of to-do’s.
It would be an entire week (or sometimes longer) when I would again fulfill my expected duty to go to a church service.
Going to church was just one of many “rules of conduct” that I felt pressured to submit to.
What I was not seeing clearly was that no meaningful relationship can be established or maintained by forced pressure to follow external rules (with the threat of judgement hanging over your head).
Today,  I have come to a growing appreciation of a living and loving God who seeks to come alongside me to love, encourage, discipline, guide, and nurture me.  Being a follower of Jesus Christ is truly an adventure in doing life with Him.
Far from being a lifeless thing to do once a week, being a Christian is a 24/7 365 days a year experience  My Christian walk brings satisfaction, purpose, and meaning?  And going to church is a joy. It’s a time of celebrating His resurrection with others who understand the awesomeness of who He really is.
I think this picture of Jasonmy son-in-law Jason getting baptized, as a gesture of his commitment to follow Jesus captures wonderfully the joy of being a believer!
Let me encourage you if your past experience in church could be described as a draining, non-relevant usage of your time, then, try again.
Find a local church that has a reputation for being a place that is alive and find out why.
You will never regret doing so!

Pastor, church board, I think this one could be for you

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Living the Christian life is hard.  Being a leader in a church, pastor, deacon, elder board is incredibly hard.

It seems effective church leaders are always needing to challenge people that there is more to strive for and that can be unsettling. Yes, we can be content in knowing we are justified because of the finished work of Jesus on the cross.  We can know that His sacrifice was enough because of the Father’s acceptance of it, as seen in the resurrection.

But, our Christian walk does not end in our justification (in some ways, I guess it does), because there is also the matter of our sanctification.  What I’m talking about is our growth, our need to be always maturing in our relationship with God, which is a lifelong process.

For every believer, there should be a longing to become more like Christ.  Growth is uncomfortable.  As the branch is  pruned (as is mentioned in John 15 ) it is not a comfortable thing, but nonetheless, a necessary one.

The same thing could be expanded out to a body of believers, the local church.   We are never called to be a comfortable, complacent church, but a growing body. I believe that should be looked at both from a quality, as well as a quantity view.

Jesus told His disciples to pray that more people would be sent out to the harvest–why?  to enlarge the harvest.

We are called to go and make disciples, which also leads to growth (quality and quantity).

So, I would encourage every pastor, elder, deacon, and deacon board to enlarge your vision and ask Almighty God to increase your faith.  Pray and ask Him to enlarge your local body (quality and quantity) in the next year, 3 years, or 5 years by ___%  and see what He does both in the lives of individuals, as well as the whole local fellowship (quality and quantity).

Have a realistic expectation that change will bring discomfort to people-its a given.  But keep to a focused  vision and hope of seeing more and more people develop a growing faith.  Keep your pedal to the metal in aggressively looking for ways to help grow the faith of your church in quality and quantity.

now, this kind of church experience makes sense

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In my younger years of going to church, I did what many still do today. I attended the service and checked it off my mental list of to-do’s.
It would be an entire week (or sometimes longer) when I would again fulfill my expected duty to go to a church service.
Going to church was just one of many “rules of conduct” that I felt pressured to submit to.
What I was not seeing clearly was that no meaningful relationship can be established or maintained by forced pressure to follow external rules (with the threat of judgement hanging over your head).
Today,  I have come to a growing appreciation of a living and loving God who seeks to come alongside me to love, encourage, discipline, guide, and nurture me.  Being a follower of Jesus Christ is truly an adventure in doing life with Him.
Far from being a lifeless thing to do once a week, being a Christian is a 24/7 365 days a year experience  My Christian walk brings satisfaction, purpose, and meaning?  And going to church is a joy. Its a time of celebrating His resurrection with others who understand the awesomeness of who He really is.
I think this picture of Jasonmy son-in-law Jason getting baptized, as a gesture of his commitment to follow Jesus captures wonderfully the joy of being a believer!
Let me encourage you if your past experience in church could be described as a draining, non-relevant usage of your time, then, try again.
Find a local church that has a reputation for being a place that is alive and find out why.
You will never regret doing so!