Thanks, brother, for the work that you are doing at your church plant. It is a true privilege to partner with you.
The warm greeting that I received was very much appreciated. The passion, energy, and enthusiasm in your church is remarkable. The keyboardist and the drummer were excellent. The worship was engaging. Your preaching about the connection between joy and peace was clear and powerful. Some of the things you said in the message today were straight from the heart of God for me personally. I have been seeking some of my
peace in some wrong places. It was evident to me that God used you in my life and in the lives of many others. I am glad I was able to visit with you and worship with you today.
There are some observations that I would like to share with you. I realize that I am a washed-up minor league ballplayer from the sticks of Tennessee who now lives and pastors in the Brecksville/Broadview Heights area.
Therefore, some of what I have to say may not apply to your cultural environment. You are the one who has to exegete your cultural context. You are the missionary to your city and the surrounding communities, not me.
Therefore, I share some of my thoughts with the deepest respect for you and your leadership. But I also recognize that God has graciously given me insights as an experienced church planter and pastor who has had opportunity for 25 years to do some coaching and training for church planters.
Do you have a coach who can help you keep looking forward and who might help you revisit some of the church planter training and information on assimilation and community engagement?
I would encourage you as a church planter to keep thinking like a missionary. In other words, the question to ask is this: "How can we conduct church in a way that worships God, equips believers, and is culturally relevant to the lost people we are trying to reach?" The worship service, of course, is for God first and then for believers. But we must be sensitive to the guests, the non-Christians, who might show up. (It's kind of like having someone over to eat at your house. You're going to serve your family a family meal. But you set out some extra special dishes because you have the guests in mind as well.)
I'm sure that you usually start on time. There were probably some technical difficulties that hindered things today. I am sure you know it is important to start on time. Promptness says that you value the time of people. Promptness is really a function of love.
I would encourage you to consider using some type of attendance card or registration card. This is a way for you to know who the guests are and how to contact them later. It would also give you an opportunity to allow people to let you know of prayer requests. They could also share with you any decisions or commitments that they may be making. You could even have a place for people could indicate that they have prayed to receive Christ or are looking for some other type of ministry from Alive needing follow up.
I like the prayer time in the service (especially that your leader prayed for me). I did think that the list was very lengthy. After a while, my guess is that minds begin to wander. You even made reference to that in your
comments after the prayer time. I think you instinctively know that people can only engage with a limited number of prayer requests. My encouragement would be for you to have a special prayer time prior to the service where your core team lifts up all those concerns. You can do that with your most committed people. And then during the service, you might want to limit your public prayer to the top 3 to 5 request for each week. In that way, you would praying for fresh requests each week.
Regarding the offering time, it is important to let the people know how the money that they give is resulting in changed lives. Before the offering, you could tell a 30 second story about a life that has been changed and then say, "Thanks for giving. Your gifts are resulting in changed lives."
I think it's always a good idea at a church service to invite people to the next thing. You might want to invite people to the next service by letting them know what you were talking about the following weekend. You
also might want to invite them to a fellowship opportunity or a service opportunity. Give them a reason to come back and to invite a friend.
It is important that a church service not be seen as an end in itself. The church service is a worshipping and an equipping time. We come together to be sent out on mission. I would encourage you to include the sending idea at the end of each service. Challenge the people to go and be missionaries. For instance, today you talked about peace. You could have said, "Now that you have learned to gain peace from God you can go out and live a life of peace and invite others into that peace with you. So, today I am sending you out as missionaries into a world filled with trouble. You can bring the peace of God into your home and into your
workplace as missionaries. Tell people where this peace you have has come from. Speak a good word about Jesus. Speak a good word about your church. And come back next Sunday and bring somebody with you."
Be very specific at the end about what you want the people to do. People are asking two questions: 1) What does the pastor want me to know and why does he want me to know it? 2) What does the pastor want me to do and why does he want me to do it? In a message, you are standing as a spokesman for God. So, ultimately, what they want to know is this: "What does God want me to know and do?" You can send the people away with one or two very specific action points so that they more easily become doers of the word
and not hearers only.
I encourage you to keep casting vision for the unique contribution that your church is making to the kingdom of God in Northeast Ohio. Let people know what it is that you are doing that is different and fresher than any other church. It doesn't mean that you're doing things better than anybody else. It's just that you are doing something different. And that is a good thing. A very good thing. It should be celebrated.
You have an attractive, winsome way about you. That is a gift from God. You and your beautiful wife make a great team. Keep smiling! You preach powerfully. I praise God for you and I look forward to the great things God is going to do it through, with, in, and for you in the future. I am very excited about the future for your church and the good I believe God has in store.
Let's get together soon to talk about how we can serve you more.