Stats & Trends

things I’ve discovered from audience response system polling

Hope for a Prayerless church

In my previous blog post “What can the righteous do?” I established that the moral foundations of society are being destroyed all around us; and that the mandated response of the righteous, as spelled out by Jesus, is to watch and pray.

The question of the hour now becomes, why does it seem that this priority to watch and pray is not being heeded by the Church? My use of the word “Church” refers primarily to expressions of the Body of Christ in Western culture including both the Church universal and individual churches. In order to answer this question, and propose a remedy, it is necessary first to understand the dynamics that have shaped the typical Sunday morning church service in the West in recent years

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Winning the battle against the clock

This past Sunday, as part of my message on Living Like You Are Dying, I polled the congregation with regard to their battle with the clock. What I found, although not surprising considering the world in which we live, was a cause for concern. Nearly two thirds (60%) of all those in attendance acknowledged that they frequently or very frequently wish they could “slow the pace of my life and reorder some of my priorities.” And an additional 28% said they think about that occasionally. When given a list of things to choose from that they often regret, related to use of time, the top regret chosen by 73% of the people in attendance was “Not making the most of each moment.”

Bottom line, the poll confirmed that most people are too busy. As a result many are battling to slow their pace in life and would love to reorder their priorities. Does that describe you?

What would it be like to live in a world where we had all the time we needed to do the things that were really important. What if we never had to rush or never felt hurried? What if we were so in the present we could make the most of and savor each moment? That would genuinely be paradise would it not?

Living that way is possible and you don’t have to die and go to heaven to experience it.

To fully grasp that possibility we need to consider the life of Jesus.

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My Ideal Church Service

When you meet together, one will sing, another will teach, another will tell some special revelation God has given, one will speak in tongues, and another will interpret what is said. But everything that is done must strengthen all of you. 1 Corinthians14:26 (NLT)

Seasoned church attenders can hold their own with any other Monday morning quarterback when it comes to critiquing how the worship, preaching and other special teams did. People who have attended church for any length of time know what they like and don’t like about church services. The problem is most pastors, like coaches, don’t listen to church talk radio where their loyal fans vent their frustrations and dispense their advice – so things seldom change.

The church services in the traditional, the liturgical and even the evangelical church worlds are basically all the same and have not changed for centuries. They follow a predictable order and format. Corporate participation is limited to the recitation of prescribed song lyrics, scripture texts and/or prayers. Individual expressions are assigned to trained and rehearsed worship leaders, service leaders and pastors, who typically are clergy professionals. Fellowship, before or after the service, and the 7th inning greeting are the only really unscripted parts of the gathering.

The game plan for most church services goes like this. They open with worship, have announcements, take an offering accompanied by special music, preach a message and close with prayer and/or a benediction. Communion and other special elements are inserted typically between worship and the message, as the particular week or season of the year require. Some churches alter that order and the time allotted for each, but basically that is the typical weekend service across America and the world.

As a pastor, veteran of thousands of church services and secret listener to church talk radio I have given much thought to this predicament.

At the crux of the problem are two challenges. First, how do we make room in our services for the unscripted, unpredictable leading of the Holy Spirit? And secondly, how do we make our services more participatory and give greater expression to the priesthood of every believer.

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The power of being with Jesus

“When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13 NIV)

I’ve been giving thought to the results of the poll I took last Sunday as part of my sermon on “Convincing the Unconvinced.” The heart of my message was that faith sharing should be easy because the responsibility for persuading others of the truth of the gospel belongs to God. (John 16:8)

One of the questions I asked using our audience response system was “What keeps you from sharing your faith?” In the list of ten choices the top answers were “not sure what to say” and “don’t know my Bible well enough.” Statistically we were not any different as a congregation than other Christians across the country. Not surprisingly feeling ill equipped is the major reason even mature believers usually give for not sharing their faith. Why is that?

For one reason, there is a tendency to believe that education and training are prerequisites for effectiveness and success in doing anything including faith sharing. But that can end up being an excuse when it comes to personal evangelism. Most classes offered on that topic are usually very poorly attended. That in turn might indicate another underlying reason why more people hesitate to share their faith – apathy.

The account in Acts 3 & 4 of the apostles Peter and John boldly preaching the gospel reveals the secret to evangelism effectiveness.

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Top 20 Blog Posts in 2010

#20. A strategy to overcome panic and fear
#19. Friendliness is next to Godliness
#18. Healthy tension, healthy church
#17. No Exaggeration
#16. McDonalds, an altar call and the usher
#15. Blessed is he who misses the boat
#14. The key to a no regrets life
#13. The joy in being a nobody
#12. God’s tipping point
#11. The gospel according to Michael Jackson
#10. Post surgery update
#9. An incredible testimony of living by faith
#8. 3 monastic commitments we all must make
#7. I must confess, I am a multitasker.
#6. Nothing can separate us from God’s love
#5. Do not waste your troubles!
#4. Overcoming a spirit of rejection
#3. Overcoming broken dreams
#2. Sports fanaticism & idolatry
#1. Managing life’s tensions

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