Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Moving from "No-Names" to "Knowing Names," part 2

In trying to move from No-Names to Knowing Names, I recognize that there are several factors that contributed to where we now are as a church.  No 'one thing' pushed us away from each other, and no 'one thing' will effect a silver-bullet change.  However, we can take steps.

This coming Sunday evening at 6pm (9/18), I am anticipating a step in getting to know each other a little better.  We are launching INFOCUS.   This will be a gathering of Ogletown three times this fall, so that we can connect through the Word, testimonies, music, prayer, and fellowship.

I anticipate several ways that God could use this in the life of our church.
  • While our church has many subunits, often our church as a whole often feels disconnected. This would gather us together in one place at one time.
  • Our size (and subsequent formality) often doesn’t allow us to know each other in a more personal way through our Sunday morning worship service. In a less structured, less formal way, this would allow us to meet each other and hear from each other about how God is at work in our church.
  • We need avenues to pray for each other. This will provide an opportunity for us to truly pray for one another on the spot.
  • We need to get together more. Many Ogletown attenders spend 1.25 to 3 hours (of their 168 hour week) with other Ogletown people. This would open more quantity time as well as quality time.

I hope to see you here.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Moving from "No-Names" to "Knowing Names"

This past Sunday (9/11), I spoke to our church about our need to get to know each other.

It is not simply that we don't know everyone's name who is a part of the Ogletown family.  That would most likely be impossible for most of us.  I am more concerned that we are often not working hard to get to know those who God has brought to our church.  We see people here.  We pass by them, but to often they are "no-names" to us.  I believe as a church we have grown too comfortable going to church with hundreds of family members who we do not know.  We need to work hard on "knowing names."

So, where do we go from here?  I made a couple of suggestions on Sunday.
  1. Be here more often.  I am not sure how you can get to know more people, if you don't put yourself in a place to meet them.  I think that is the intent of Hebrews 10:24-25.

  2. Go out of your way.  You may have to suffer a little discomfort and awkwardness.  You may have to introduce yourself to someone.  You may have to write yourself a note to remember someone's name.  God will use the risk you take in this arena.  FYI, this article is a great catalyst to re-think how you prepare to meet with God's people.
  3. Don't just sit in rows, sit in circles.  In other words, attend a Sunday School class, attend a small group Bible study.  Learn some names of new friends.  Make yourself conspicuous rather than anonymous.
The potential results from a shift from No-Names to Knowing Names are mind-blowing.  And, as I have come to realize, I don't believe Scripture has given us an "opt-out" clause for caring about one another.

Monday, September 12, 2011

God's Big Picture - a study beginning this Wednesday

This Wednesday I am beginning a Bible study (6:30pm for those who are interested).  It is called God's Big Picture, and is taken from a book with the same name written by Vaughan Roberts.  We have several different classes on Wednesday night, and I thought I would share some things that brought me to this study.

I felt like this subject is useful for several reasons.
  • We often lack an overall biblical framework for understanding individual stories. There are some unifying themes that make individual stories make sense. This book highlights those.
  • We tend to miss the one Big Story of the Bible. The title of the study highlights this theme.
  • Because it helps in the process of understanding, this study could serve as a catalyst for reading more Scripture. If the Bible seems to be disconnected, confusing, or lacking cohesion to us, that may serve as a disincentive to read it.
  • Being with other believers for mid-week Bible study and fellowship provides encouragement for spiritual growth.
  • Because the atmosphere is more casual, it provides an opportunity to participate in the study, and benefit form others’ insight into Scripture. 

I also jotted down a few ways I think OBC could potentially benefit from the study.
  • Better understanding of the Bible’s storyline.
  • Ability to process individual portions of the Bible in light of the whole.
  • Weekly encouragement to be regularly treasuring and digesting God’s Word.
  • Meeting some more members of the Ogletown family. 
  • Encouragement through prayerful study of God’s Word with others. 

Monday's Reading Update, 9/12

This week I finished...

I am still reading...

I am reading with friends/staff/deacons...
  • Dug Down Deep by Josh Harris (with the staff)
  • The Trellis and the Vine by Col Marshall and Tony Payne
  • Think Orange by Reggie Joiner

Friday, September 9, 2011

Some Priorities (in retrospect), part 4, cont.

Yesterday, I spoke of our front door of membership. I also wanted to take a moment to look at our front door of baptism.

Our front door of baptism – We also have adjusted our baptism practice at Ogletown. In truth, we are more in line now with our Baptist heritage. Traditionally, Baptists have taken the practice of baptizing believers very seriously (not surprisingly). Yet in recent days unfortunately in the US, often it has not been carefully practiced. In Scripture, baptism is not only a symbol of Christ’s death, but an ordinance that marks off who is a believer and follower of Jesus Christ. Our practice of baptism unifies our church. As we observe another Christian being baptized, we identify with the one who is identifying with Jesus Christ. He is our Savior as well.

We have started the practice of asking that those who are getting baptized prepare a testimony of their faith in Jesus Christ. We ask that either they share it themselves, or that they have someone share it for them. This happens right before they are baptized. Our entire church receives the blessing of hearing of faith in Jesus Christ directly from the person getting baptized. People come to Christ due to so many different earthly factors. Hearing these factors always amazes me. Since I have the privilege of participating in so many of these services, I can speak to the emotion of these moments. I rarely have a dry eye when leaving our baptism services. My faith is stirred, and I count it a privilege to be a part of a church that attempts to take baptism seriously.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Some Priorities (in retrospect), part 4

#4 - Closer look at the “front door”

Throughout these series of posts, I have tried to think through what my initial priorities were in coming to Ogletown four years ago. Today, I want to share about the priority of the “front door” of our church. By the front door, I am referring to how someone enters our formally enters the fellowship of our church, whether it be through membership or baptism.

Our front door of membership – Over the years I have been in ministry, I have realized the importance of meaningful membership in a local church. Churches (Baptists, especially) have not always done a great job of marking off who is truly a part of the church and who is not. Often, our membership rolls are large, but many of those on the roll haven’t attended our church in a long time. Some of this could easily be a reality because the responsibilities and privileges of membership were not explained to them in the first place. They “joined the church” but never really knew enough about the church’s beliefs, covenant, practices, etc. to make the best decision. They responded well to some good spiritual impulses, but the church didn’t follow up in the best ways.

We have worked at Ogletown over the last few years to establish an ongoing Membership Matters class. In that class we talk about our core values and beliefs, our covenant, mission, and certain things unique to our church. We want to ensure that those who are entering the church have sufficient knowledge to make the decision to invest their lives with this faith family. By having this class, our membership process is somewhat slower, but I have a greater confidence that those who are coming into our church are ready to make a commitment to our church. We have begun to think of membership more as partnership and less of belonging to a club (paying dues and receiving benefits).

We have seen the rewards of this as a church. Those who have been through the class, who have invested the time to learn more about Ogletown, come with hearts ready to serve! We follow the class up with an ‘interview’ (a half hour or so) so that we can learn the story of those coming to unite with our body.  We then present the candidates for membership to our church family (often at our baptism service).  I am grateful for the way that God has used this ‘tweak’ to grow our church family.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Articles for 9/7 - Women Presidents, Doubt, Dudes, Steve Jobs, and Fundraising

Articles for 9/7 - Women Presidents, Doubt, Dudes, Steve Jobs, and Fundraising.

Russell Moore asks "Who's Afraid of a Woman President?"

Mart De Haan speaks candidly about doubt.

Kevin Miller transitions from a relevant dude to a spiritual father.

Matt Chan shares an infographic on the 10 Commandments of Steve Jobs.

Brian Kluth notes the differences between capital campaigns and a culture of generosity.

Some questions to ask in pursuit of being like Christ

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. - Hebrews 12:14

In the desire for being holy, there are some useful questions to ask to evaluate our heart at any particular time.
  1. What/Who am I trusting?  What are we relying on?  What do we count on to bring us security, stability, hope, etc?
  2. What/Who do I treasure?  What we value says a lot about what is going on in our hearts.  What do we fear losing?  What you would put in this blank shows where your treasure is:  If _________ were lost, I would not just be sad, I would be devastated.
  3. What am I attacking?  We are told to kill (put to death) sin (Romans 8).  So, what sins are you attacking?  Are there sins that you have "declared war on?"  Are you actively fighting, or have you temporarily laid down your weapons and chosen not to fight?
God, help us to grow in looking more like Your Son.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Monday's Reading Update, 9/5

This week I finished...

    I am still reading...

    I am reading with friends/staff/deacons...
    • Dug Down Deep by Josh Harris (with the staff)
    • The Trellis and the Vine by Col Marshall and Tony Payne
    • The God Who Is There by D.A. Carson
    • Think Orange by Reggie Joiner

    Thursday, September 1, 2011

    8 reasons why I think you would benefit from our upcoming parenting class

    Last night I announced a class we are beginning a parenting class this fall on Wednesday evenings (beginning 9/14). I think it will be an awesome opportunity for the parents of Ogletown, and I thought I would share some of my thoughts as to why.
    1. Good parenting doesn’t just happen. We need a vision for what God wants, and strategies that move us toward those goals. I believe that this class will set before you some big picture goals, and some short-term objectives.
    2. Whenever I have taken a closer look at parenting, I realize that my kids’ biggest challenge is their imperfect dad. That has always put my heart in a posture of prayer, asking God for His help in MY life, not just theirs. I expect this to happen in this study as well.
    3. This study concentrates on God’s work in a child’s heart, not merely temporarily correcting some bad behavior.
    4. Parents need to be connected to other parents. Often, we feel isolated and wonder if anyone else can relate to what we are experiencing. With so many parents at Ogletown, we are missing a HUGE opportunity if we stay isolated from each other.
    5. While you are participating in the class, your kids will have some top-notch teaching and fun!
    6. The couples leading the study are imperfect parents of imperfect kids. The study assumes this will be the case. The motto of the course could be “no perfect parents allowed!” Seriously, it does no good to pretend that we are perfect parents, or that by following a few parenting techniques we could have perfect kids.
    7. As part of this study, there will be some specific Q and A nights to encourage, enlighten, and help us in our callings as parents.
    8. If you have not been at Ogletown very long, this would be a great place to make some friends and learn more about our church. The class is open to members and those who have not (yet!) joined.
    There is no cost for the class, but we would appreciate if you would register so that we know the amount of material to prepare.