Archive for the Outside Article Reference Category

Are You Praying For Your Church Elders? 4 Prayers that will Bless Them (and Benefit You)!

Posted in Outside Article Reference, Prayer Request on June 22, 2016 by Waypoint Church Partners

“Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you. Pray for us . . .”
      — Hebrews 13:2, NIV

iStock_000019212646SmallWhen is the last time you stopped to pray earnestly for the elders of your church? According to the Hebrew writer, they will one day have to “give an account” of how they led the Lord’s church under their care. It’s a sobering thought to have to stand before Christ and justify your actions.

Elders are just men, often from different walks of life, different generations, and at different stages of maturity in their faith. They’re human, prone to sin and imperfection. They don’t always make the right decisions.  They make mistakes. But most have the best interest of the flock in their hearts and minds.

When is the last time you intentionally, earnestly prayed for the elders of your church? They need it! Here are four specific areas you can pray for concerning the elders of your church:

Wisdom: Discerning the needs of the people, settling disputes among the church family, and overseeing the proper stewardship of giving all require much wisdom.  Elders often feel, as even Solomon did, under-qualified to lead the people of God.
Pray that God would grant the elders of your church the spiritual insight they need to fulfill their duties.

Vision: A good shepherd knows where to lead his flock and is always on the lookout for danger.  The elders of your church have been commissioned not to maintain the church but to grow it. They are looking for new ways to invest in the spiritual well-being of its people and to impact the community at large.
Pray that your elders will be given a vision for the future of the church that is in line with God’s vision and that they will hear the voice of the Great Shepherd leading them as they lead others.

Stamina: The elders of your church were selected because they manage their own households well. Elders are usually men with time and experience in leadership or management roles.
Leadership takes a toll. An elder gets tired in his body and in his spirit. He desperately needs the strength that God provides to adequately fulfill his ministry. Pray for health, endurance, vigor and grit for your elders. They need it!

Unity: One committee meeting can demonstrate how easily Christians disagree and get sideways with each other.  Satan loves disunity and disharmony in the church. Just look how many different churches there are!
Elders must strive to maintain unity within their own group and in the church to be effective shepherds. It is important for you to pray that the elders have unity among them and an ability to foster unity in the church.

So please… pray for your elders. It will bless you as much as them.

*Adapted from an article by Todd Brown on Bridge Christian Church’s Blog at bridgechristian.wordpress.com
Todd is the Senior Minister of Bridge Christian Church in Fishersville, VA.

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Ride-In to Warsaw & Fight Cancer

Posted in Across the Commonwealth, Outside Article Reference on April 1, 2014 by Waypoint Church Partners

04_Ride-InOn June 1st, at 8:15 and 10:30 AM, the Josh Baughan Ride-In will rock Warsaw for the 7th year in a row! Dynasty Kelly, a little girl from Essex County, Virginia is battling cancer, and we intend to help her fight. Free lunch, a thousand dollars worth of Door prizes, bike shows with trophies to three places, Music by “One Day Remains” . . . Absolutely no charge for anything. Donations only, for Dynasty. Waiting on the thunder . . .
LOCATION: Rappahannock Church of Christ
9514 Richmond Road
Warsaw, VA

Seeing the Noah Movie & Why It Matters

Posted in General Advice, Outside Article Reference on February 28, 2014 by Waypoint Church Partners

Last October at the Catalyst Conference, our staff and 13,000 other leaders had the privilege of seeing the director of the upcoming Noah movie being interviewed. He shared his heart, some of the things he’s learned about the Bible, and his hopes for believers and the conversations people will have because of the film.

As I’ve waited for its arrival, social media has erupted in recent weeks over this post, warning people of faith about the film. Some of the quotes via Twitter & Facebook from Christians:

I cannot believe this trash. BOYCOTT!!!!!
Who in their right mind would watch this garbage? ugh
This is antibible, antigod, antifaith. I will not be watching.
This movie is not accurate. Dear Christians please don’t watch this.
They won’t be getting my money #disgraceful

Now, I haven’t seen the movie. It isn’t out yet. But it pains me to see believers get up in arms like this without first considering how it can open up doors. It happened with History Channel’s The Bible Mini Series. People were outraged at little nuances concerning the narrative that weren’t as they believed it, or they took poetic license in certain areas where the Bible doesn’t say one way or the other. I loved one person’s tweet, “Why British? They should be speaking ENGLISH!” Ha. Well, probably not either of them if we’re on the topic. But I digress…

Believer or not, I encourage you to see this film. Why? Well, I’ve got a few different reasons…

1. People Are Going To See It And Will Want To Talk About It
You could ignore it, but that won’t change anything. You could boycott it, and I guess that will make you feel good. But, people are going see it (many of which don’t claim faith in God). For crying out loud it has Anthony Hopkins, Russell Crowe, and that Harry Potter girl (Emma Watson). When they see it, and they most likely will – you will have probably closed the door on a conversation. Why would they come to the boycotting, social network posting, angry because it does or doesn’t have an agenda in the film – believer? Most won’t. And your hope to share with them the Biblical account will more than likely be squashed because in their eyes you’ve turned into “that Christian.”

2. When God Gets Highlighted In The Public Square, It’s A Win
Even if the film has an environmentalist agenda, and it may (I haven’t seen it yet), God is still being discussed. It’s a chance for people to contemplate faith, God, our existence, and eternity. You have the opportunity to have open discussion about faith. That isn’t going to stem from Fast & Furious 28 or Transformers with Mark Wahlberg (which looks great by the way).

3. If You Boycott This, You Need To Boycott Everything (And That’s Not Going To Happen)
Everything you buy, see, eat, consume, etc – someone behind it has a belief. Your coffee shop, department store, personal computer, cellular phone, food in your pantry, and more. All of these come from someone with a belief in something. I’m willing to bet that 90% of the things you interact with come from people with very different beliefs than you. No more sports. No more media. No more internet. No more coffee stops. No more girl scout cookies (Mmmm, cookies). If this line of thinking is carried out the same as the Noah movie, you need to sell everything, move, and live in a van down by the river. And even then, the van is probably built by someone you differ with and the land owner will kick you out when he finds you there. I’m not saying don’t take a stand on anything. I do, our church does, my family does. I’m saying pick your battles. In my opinion, his doesn’t seem like a battle worth fighting.

4. It Pushes You To Know The Bible
You could take the author of the Christian’s be cautious post’s word for it. Or, you could take your friends who don’t know God to see it, spend some time studying the Biblical account on your own, and be able to have a healthy dialogue about some of the things that were great and not so great in comparison to the Bible’s account.

5. Seeing This Movie Doesn’t Mean You Believe This Interpretation Is 100% Accurate
You can watch something and disagree. Your spending a few bucks on a ticket doesn’t mean you have negated the Bible and now follow some man’s new faith/belief system. It’s a movie. You can watch, enjoy, and be a respectful adult who knows what the Bible says and still enjoy the cinematic interpretation of an amazing story.

6. This Film Won’t End Christianity – Relax
This movie will come and it will eventually go. People will stop talking about it. Christianity has faced harsh critics, attacks, and more. God’s movement isn’t going anywhere. Take a breath and relax. Trust that He’s going to do what He continues to do in the lives of people and this world. Trust that He can take a movie talking about the very things He set in place and can use whatever context people have made it in – and redeem it for His purpose.

Who knows, you might actually like the movie.
You might get to have some great conversations about faith.
Boycotting it won’t completely kill your chances at conversations.
But, it certainly doesn’t help it.

God is big enough to stand up to all of your questions, frustrations, and doubts.
I think He can take on a little film with Hannibal, the Gladiator and Hermione Granger.

jason bedell - circle smJason Bedell
Lead Guy at Forefront Christian Church
VEF Board of Directors
BrandedWithLove.com

I’m an Introvert, and I Need the Church

Posted in Outside Article Reference on February 11, 2014 by Waypoint Church Partners

Recently a well-known Christian author admitted that he doesn’t go to church very often.  His reasoning was that he doesn’t learn through listening to “lectures” or “connect” through music (you can read more of his reasoning in a follow-up article here).  As I read through his reasoning and the follow-up comments, both on his blog and in some minister groups I belong to on Facebook, there was something deeply unsettled within me.  It took me several days of thinking on it to finally pinpoint what it was.  While I agreed with some of the comments pertaining to “Church” not being about us, I believe they were just short of the mark.  The Church is not about us, this is true, but it is for us.  In other words, God doesn’t need the Church (if He did, He would be a very small god indeed).  So the Church exists not for His benefit, but for ours, and if the Church exists for our benefit, then it would behoove us to get involved with a local body of believers, even if it’s not always geared to our personal learning style or preference.

Introvert-LeaderBeing An Introvert in An Extroverted Church Culture

I know all about not always “connecting” in church.  As an introvert, there were (and still are) many things that either didn’t connect with me, or flat out made me uncomfortable.  Shaking hands (or heaven forbid, giving a hug) to a total stranger to this day will cause palpitations.  Anything that smacked of manipulation (“can I get an ‘amen’?”).  As an introvert, I prefer speaking when I truly have something to say and have had time to think about it.  Singing out loud used to make me squeamish, and still does if I’m not familiar with the song.  Anything involving audience participation that goes beyond raising my hand is sure to make my sweat glands start working overtime.  Add to this the drive to always “connect” people to other people and/or small groups, the emphasis on “community”, the small-talk that often goes hand in hand with “fellowship”, and the dreaded question directed specifically to you in a Sunday School class and church can be a nightmare for an introvert.  To this day, I come home from church drained and exhausted.

So why do I go?  Because, I need the Church.  I need a community of believers that I meet with on a regular basis.  I need them to hold me accountable, to encourage me, to rebuke me, and yes, to draw me out of my shell.  And the crazy thing is, they need me too!  Extroverts think and process information out loud.  They gain their energy from others.  They force us introverts to step out of our comfort zones and experience life rather than just think about it all day.  Introverts, on the other hand, process information internally.  Our energy is gained from times of solitude.  We force extroverts to step out of their comfort zones so that they can be still and hear what God is trying to say to their heart.  In other words, we need each other, which is exactly how God designed Church to work.

It’s Not About Going to Church.  It’s About Being the Church.

Now to be fair, Church and community can be interpreted in a lot of different ways.  There are house churches where a dozen or so people meet, share a meal, and do a very interactive sharing of God’s Word together.  There are traditional churches where a hundred or so people gather to sing, pray, break bread and listen to a sermon together.  There are mega-churches where thousands gather and sing upbeat praise songs, listen to an interactive sermon and/or testimonials.   And there’s dozens more styles of “church” that are neither right nor wrong, but each style attracts a different type of person.  But the key is, we need the Church, in whatever form it meets.  And the Church needs us, and our funny quirks.  There are gifts only you can offer and only you have.  To deprive the body of your gift is to cripple the Body of Christ.

And we need to be made uncomfortable from time to time.  We need to be stretched in order to reach our full potential.  So even if singing’s not your thing, you can meditate on the words while others sing.  If you don’t learn via “lecture”, then find a ministry to plug in where you can learn, and if there isn’t, maybe the onus is upon you to start one yourself.  If you’re an extrovert, learn from the introvert next to you and meditate for a few minutes.  If you’re an introvert, take a cue from the extrovert and join the conversation.

The bottom line is this: I need the Church, and so do you.  I need you to be Jesus to me once in a while.  There will be times I need you to show me grace.  There will be other times I need you to show me the error of my ways.  There will be times you need me to teach you God’s Word.  There will be times when you need me to show you God’s love.  This is Church: it’s not about going as much as it is about being.  That’s what was missing from both articles and the comments.  When I cease to be the Church, I cease being what God has called and saved me to be.  When I cease being the Church, I am no longer showing Jesus as effectively as I should be to others.  When I cease being the Church, I deprive the world of a more accurate and more robust picture of God’s relationship with man.

So don’t just go to Church this weekend.  Be the Church; not just on Sunday, but every day.

Many thanks to Dave Richmond, who is on the VEF Board of Directors, for letting us re-post this article. We are thankful for the wisdom of many great men and women of God on our board, and the insight they provide. Check out his blog, the Pondering Preacher.

Washington Post on nZone

Posted in Church Planting, Outside Article Reference on December 13, 2013 by Waypoint Church Partners

New Life Christian Church, a VEF church plant from 20 years ago, was featured in a recent article by the Washington Post, describing their Sport Complex and philosophy on ministry to the DC area:

At nZone in Chantilly, the body’s a temple, the church is a gym

Screen Shot 2013-12-11 at 11.21.34 AMJustin Kavanaugh remembers the first time he visited the hulking building set amid the strip malls of Chantilly. He walked around the trio of turf fields, the weight room, the group exercise studio and the massive basketball court. And he was awfully confused.

“I thought this was a church,” Kavanaugh says. “I was looking for stained-glass windows.”

Instead, he found himself in the nZone, an 83,000-square-foot athletic training facility that offers fitness classes, youth programs, leagues and — since shortly after that visit — specialized courses with Kavanaugh’s Sport and Speed Institute.

The only overt sign that there’s anything religious about the place? A few banners touting the New Life Christian Church, which runs the nZone as a nonprofit organization.

“Fairfax County is not the Bible Belt. This is an area where churches haven’t necessarily been perceived as good things,” says pastor Brett Andrews, who founded New Life two decades ago. So when his congregation finally secured the funds to buy a building, he was determined not to put up a typical church.

Dropping $10 million on a place that would sit empty most of the week didn’t make sense, Andrews says. And when New Life solicited advice on what folks in the area could use, the same response kept coming up: “We need more stuff to get kids off the street.” That’s why the nZone opened two years ago in a former Anheuser-Busch distribution plant.

It’s common for a church (or synagogue or mosque) to take an interest in physical fitness; many have some sort of recreation room on site, often reserved for members of the congregation. But this is a full-on recreation center, without a single space built specifically for worship. And the vast majority of people taking advantage of the facility have no connection to the church.

The external focus makes the situation even more unusual, explains Phil Ling, who runs a national church consulting firm. He has worked with congregations across the country and has never seen anything quite like the nZone. “It’s one thing to reach out,” Ling says. “It’s another to build a state-of-the-art athletic training facility for thousands of people.”

To read the rest of the article, click here.

9 Signs Your Church is Ready to Reach Unchurched People

Posted in Outside Article Reference on April 11, 2013 by Waypoint Church Partners

This blog post comes from Carey Neiuwof’s blog at careynieuwhof.com – Carey is the lead pastor of Connexus Community Church. He is the author of the best selling book, Leading Change Without Losing It. Carey speaks to North American and global church leaders about change, leadership, and parenting.

9 Signs Your Church is Ready to Reach Unchurched PeopleAlmost every church I know says they want to reach unchurched people. But few are actually doing it.

Part of the problem stems from the fact that many churches don’t really understand unchurched people (here’s a post on 15 characteristics of today’s unchurched person).

And part of the problem is that our model of church is designed to reach and help churched people, not unchurched people. Churches haven’t embraced change deeply enough.

So you can say you want to reach people all day long. You can teach about it every week. But if you haven’t designed your church around ministering to people who don’t go to church, you might as well be preaching that you want to lose weight while eating a triple cheeseburger.

Your model simply doesn’t match your mission.

So how do you know that your church is actually ready to reach unchurched people?

Here are 9 signs your church is ready to embrace unchurched people:

1. Your main services engage teenagers. I’ve talked with many church leaders who want to reach unchurched people who can’t understand why unchurched people don’t like their church. They would be stumped until I asked them one last question: do the teens in your church love your services and want to invite their friends? As soon as I asked that question, the leader’s expression would inevitably change. He or she would look down at the floor and say ‘no’. Here’s what I believe: if teens find your main services (yes, the ones you run on Sunday mornings) boring, irrelevant, and disengaging, so will unchurched people. As a rule, if you can design services that engage teenagers, you’ve designed a church service that engages unchurched people.

2. People who attend your church actually know unchurched people. Many Christians say they want to reach unchurched people, but they don’t actually know any unchurched people well enough to invite them. One of the reasons we run almost no church programs at Connexus where I serve (other than small groups and few other steps toward discipleship) is that we want our families to get to know unchurched people. We want them to play community sports, get involved at their kids school and have time for dinner parties and more. You can’t do that if you’re at church 6 nights a week. We don’t do many ministries because our people are our ministry.

3. Your attenders are prepared to be non-judgmental. Unchurched people do not come ‘pre-converted’. They will have lifestyle issues that might take years to change (and let’s be honest, don’t you?). Cleaning up your behaviour is not a pre-condition for salvation, at least not in Christianity. What God has done for us in Jesus saves us; not what we have done for God. Is your congregation really ready to love unchurched people, not just judge them? (I wrote about why Christians should let non-Christians off the moral hook here.) One of Jesus’ genius approaches was to love people into life change. If your people can do that, you’re ready to reach unchurched people.

4. You’re good with questions. This one’s still hard for me. I like to think that every question has an answer. I think one of the reasons unchurched people flee churches is they feel shut down when every question they ask has a snappy or even quick answer. They will find answers, but you need to give them time. Embracing the questions of unchurched people is a form of embracing them.

5. You’re honest about your struggles. Unchurched people get suspicious when church leaders and Christians want to appear to have it ‘all together’. Let’s face it, you don’t. And they know it. When you are honest about your struggles, it draws unchurched people closer. I make it a point to tell unchurched people all the time that our church isn’t perfect, that we will probably let them down, but that one of the marks of a Christian community is that we can deal with our problems face to face and honestly, and that I hope we will be able to work it through. There is a strange attraction in that.

6. You have easy, obvious, strategic and helpful steps for new people. I am still such a fan of thinking steps, not programs (Here’s an older but awesome (free) Andy Stanley podcast of all Seven Practices of Effective Ministry). One sure sign that you are ready to handle an influx of unchurched people is that your church has a clear, easily accessible path way to move someone from their first visit right through to integration with existing Christians in small groups or other core ministries. Most churches simply have randomly assembled programs that lead nowhere in particular.

7. You’ve dumped all assumptions. It’s so easy to assume that unchurched people ‘must know’ at least the basics of the Christian faith. Lose that thinking. How much do you (really ) know about Hinduism or Taoism? That’s about how much many unchurched people (really) know about Christianity. Don’t fight it. Embrace it. Make it easy for everyone to access what you are talking about whenever you are talking about it.

8. Your ‘outreach’ isn’t just a program. Many Christians think having a ‘service’ for unchurched people or a program designed for unchurched people is enough. It’s not. When you behave like reaching unchurched people can be done through a program or an alternate service, you’re building a giant brick wall for unchurched people to walk into. You might as well tell them “This program is for you, but our church is for us. Sorry.”

9. You are flexible and adaptable. In the future, you will not ‘arrive’. I think the approach to unchurched people and the strategy behind the mission of the church needs to be flexible and adaptable. Don’t design a ‘now we are done’ model to reaching unchurched people. You might never be done. Churches that are adaptable and flexible in their strategy (not in their mission or vision) will have the best chance of continually reaching unchurched people. “How quickly can your church change?” will become a defining characteristic of future churches. (If you want to read more about change, I wrote Leading Change Without Losing It last year. Additionally, John Kotter’s Leading Change is a must-read classic.)

Those are 9 signs I see that your church is ready to reach unchurched people.

What do you see?

It’s Good To Be A Part Of A Growing Church Movement

Posted in Outside Article Reference on October 19, 2012 by Waypoint Church Partners
Author: Bob Russell, Former Pastor of Southeast Christian Church

Pictured Left: Bob Russell with staff from Discovery Church, Bristol, TN

I have visited several good churches in the last couple weeks.  Today I preached for the Discovery Church – a new church plant in Bristol, Tennessee.  Although just one year old, Discovery already averages 350 people with a median age of 25.   Pastor Tony Marr and their leaders are determined to connect the unchurched in Bristol with Jesus Christ.

Last Sunday I preached for the First Church of Christ Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, which is on the Canadian border.  There, in that town of 15,000, the most influential protestant church is First Church of Christ, which sits right in the middle of downtown.  The worship was alive and the people were attentive.  There is a vibrant ministry to the local community and University.  The campus minister of Lake Superior State University became a new member of First Church of Christ the weekend I was there.  The church’s astute and devoted pastor, Tom Cash, his staff and elders are making a difference in people’s lives in a remote area of the country.  You don’t get any further north than Sault Ste. Marie in Michigan.  It was spitting snow on the first Sunday in October, but between 250-300 people attend that church every week–many of them high school and college students.

Tom and Coleetta Cash of First Church of Christ, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan with Bob Russell

This past Tuesday I flew to Dallas, Texas to do leadership training with the staff and elders of The Compass Christian Church in Grapevine, a Dallas suburb.  Drew Sherman is the unassuming but talented pastor of this church which is nearing an average of 4000 in attendance (including two satellites).  Compass Christian has the right leadership, location and spirit to continue to explode in growth over the next few years.

The twelve elders at Compass sacrificed two evenings to spend time in deepening their well and understanding what it takes to elevate their leadership culture.  I also was able to address about fifty staff members and was impressed with their leadership gifts and spiritual dedication.  Patrick Garcia, son of Southeast Christian Church members, Dan and Rita Garcia (and son-in-law of Dave Stone) is a teaching pastor at Compass Christian.  Even though he’s just twenty five years old, Patrick is much respected for his preaching – not unlike the young Kyle Idleman is at Southeast.

Bob Russell with leadership of Compass Christian Church, Dallas, Texas

My experience this past week reminded me again of the vitality of our movement right now.  What became known as The Restoration Movement was started back in the early 1800’s with the plea to unify Christians by simply using the Bible alone as our guide.  The intent was not to start another denomination but to focus on restoring simple, New Testament Christianity.  One of my favorite slogans from those early days is, ‘We are not the only Christians but Christians only.”

Twenty years ago the Restoration Movement was divided and stagnated…we got bogged down in legalistic attitudes and a sectarian spirit.  There were articles in publications that asked the question, “Is The Restoration Movement Dead?”  And, “Is the Restoration Plea Still Valid?”  A few of our preachers distanced themselves from any identification with our movement, choosing to be unaffiliated, even though Christian Churches and Churches of Christ have no denominational headquarters and every church is autonomous.

However, over the course of the last twenty years, the Restoration Movement has been revitalized.  We are one of the few religious groups that have experienced some degree of numerical growth over the past two decades.  While mainline protestant churches are rapidly declining and some of the larger evangelical denominations have also experienced a loss of membership, Christian Churches and Churches of Christ have come alive and are transforming thousands of lives.

For example, twenty years ago there were very few Independent Christian churches in Texas.  Most that did exist were small and struggling.  Now there are several churches in Dallas running well over 3000 in attendance every Sunday.  There are several in Houston now running over 1000, including Current Christian where former Southeast staff members Darren Walter and John Faust minister.

In 1987 the preachers of Christian Churches averaging over 1000 in attendance were invited to come to Louisville for a networking session.  There were nine churches that were over 1000 at that time and none were over 2000.  That gathering proved so uplifting and informative that we decided to continue it every year.  This past year there were over 160 preachers who were invited because their churches average over 1000 in attendance.

This past month a new conference of ministers of Christian Churches with attendance of over 5000 was started and seventeen preachers participated.  We have three churches that average over 15,000.  Isn’t that incredible?  Of course numbers alone don’t measure the health of a church but numbers do indicate that evangelism is taking place which is the primary mission of the church.  And in recent years our movement has also modeled new church planting, satellite churches and innovative ways of serving the community.

I’m not really sure why this surge in growth in the past two decades, but for some reason God is really blessing.  Church historian Jim Garlow pointed out several years ago that it is really unusual for any movement to stagnate and then catch fire again.  He suggested that one significant reason for our turn-around was that a good number of our local pastors took their focus off trying to convert the denominational world to the rightness of our doctrine and simply began focusing on winning lost people to Christ.  That idea caught on in enough churches that we regained our vision and momentum.

There are other factors of course,but one thing is for sure: The basic plea to go back to the Bible as our source of authority is relevant in today’s culture.  To stand firm in doctrine but to allow liberty in opinion is an idea whose time has come.  This is no time to jettison the Restoration idea.  We don’t have to talk about Thomas and Alexander Campbell or Barton Stone,the early founders.  We don’t have to give long history lessons or even win people to a movement.  We just have to do what was originally proposed, exalt Christ and use no book but the Bible, no creed but Christ, no name but the Divine name.  And God will bless.  He has promised, “My Word will not return empty.”  And, “If I be lifted up I will draw all men to me.”

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