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Four Reasons Our Church Does Not Stand and Greet

You were there on Sunday. The worship team finished their powerful set, the upbeat and informative announcements concluded, and to avoid that tense transition for the pastor to quickly arrive on stage, you were exhorted to rise out of your comfortable seat and to turn to those around you and smile, shake a hand, and “greet” one another.

Pastors feel it is a great transitional element in the service. Regular churchgoers appreciate a moment to make their way back to their normal seat because they arrived late for church. And first-time guests consider it the most horrific moment of their week, and a great reason why they won’t be coming back to that particular church.

Here’s four reasons why our church doesn’t do the “stand and greet one another” moment:

1. It’s Awkward

Does anything more need to be said here? Consider what it’s like to be a visitor at a church you’ve never attended before. You’re coming to worship with a congregation of people you’ve never met. You’re listening to a teacher you don’t recognize. Ideally you would be evaluating your experience based on how God moves and speaks to you. But the level of uneasiness you feel in this new environment causes you to seek what is comfortable and recognizable. Visitors are anxious and apprehensive about everything in your church: the location, the style of music/preaching/prayer, the kids’ ministry, the theological beliefs and philosophy of ministry, and if the mission of the church is something they can get behind. But more than anything, visitors are nervous that they won’t connect with anyone in this body.

But more than anything, visitors are nervous that they won’t connect with anyone in this body.

Requiring someone in this position to stand up and randomly say hello to someone under compulsion creates a very awkward moment, to say the least.

2. It produces a culture of disingenuous courtesy.

My wife and I love to visit churches while on vacation because it is always encouraging to see how other people are doing ministry in a different context than we are. One time while visiting a church in the foothills of North Carolina, we attended a small enough church that it was pretty obvious we were first-time visitors. On cue, we stood during the “greeting” time, and not a single person greeted us. I was actually offended that no one would extend the courtesy to say hello to me, and had a hard time appreciating the rest of the service.

To build honest courtesy at our church (Shoreline), we have parking attendants welcoming visitors as they arrive and park. As people walk through our doors, they are welcomed with a smile and a fistbump. We have a table set up in our foyer called a “Welcome Center” where there are various information cards about different aspects of our church. In the back of our Worship Center we have a “Guest Center” where we encourage guests to bring their connect card and exchange it for a gift (a coffee mug and helpful information about our church). And rather than taking the time to informally greet, we utilize those 30 seconds each week during our announcements to thank people for visiting our church. We address them as our “guest” and point them towards our information class that we host on the last Sunday each month so people know exactly how to get plugged in and how to get involved in our church. So our church culture all points towards considering guests as a primary focus, not an afterthought.

 3. Hospitality is more than a handshake.

The Bible mentions greeting one another a lot. In fact, in Romans 16 Paul mentions “greet” 22 times! When we consider the New Testament church’s greeting, it was much more “awkward” and “invasive” than a handshake. It was actually a kiss, and is mentioned in five different places and by both Paul and Peter (Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12, 1 Thessalonians 5:26, 1 Peter 5:14).

Vine states “There was to be an absence of formality and hypocrisy, a freedom from prejudice arising from social distinctions, from discrimination against the poor, from partiality towards the well-to-do.  In the churches masters and servants would thus salute one another without any attitude of condescension on the part of or disrespect on the other.  The kiss took place between persons of the same sex.” (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, by W. E.Vine).

The word ‘Hospitality’ means to show love to strangers. In the Old Testament, it was a command for Israel to extend love to the outsider (Leviticus 19:33-34). In the New Testament, it was a central part of Christian worship (Romans 12:13, 1 Peter 4:9, 3 John 5-8). This is why hospitality is a core part of who we are as a church. We make sure that every “stranger” is welcomed, loved, and received by our church so we can honor Jesus and reach our community.

We make sure that every “stranger” is welcomed, loved, and received by our church so we can honor Jesus and reach our community.

4. People need an environment of true depth and intimacy

Thirty seconds of handshaking doesn’t create an environment of depth and intimacy. It actually creates the opposite. People who aren’t greeted (like my wife and I on vacation) may end up feeling slighted. When people say, “Good morning, how are you?,” and you don’t know them (or you only have 30 seconds) chances are you aren’t going to really divulge the stressful details of your week. You’re just going to force a smile, shake their hand back, and say, “Good, how are you?”

In today’s churches we are seeing an increase in slick production and “professional”-style ministry. There is a wide gulf between the elevated stage and the audience, both literally and philosophically. People are used to following celebrities with big personas and retweet their short catchy statements to their own followers. Worship becomes an emotional event about us rather than being about the Gospel. Our relationships are becoming reduced to text interactions that require minimal risk and minimal reality.

Our relationships are becoming reduced to text interactions that require minimal risk and minimal reality

I actually heard about someone giving their “two-weeks’ notice” over text!

In social circles, people seem to be more “shallow” than ever before. What we need is more genuine koinonia and life-giving relationships in the place where people need it most: the church of Jesus Christ. So take my advice, drop the “greeting” time, and start building true community this Sunday. I promise I’ll give you a fist bump the next time I see you.

 

Pastor Pilgrim is the lead pastor of Shoreline Church, a new church in Southwest Florida. You can check out his blog or follow him on Twitter at @pilgrimbenham.

Be Excellent

“That you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ…” [Phil. 1:10]

“Excellence is not a skill. It is an attitude” – Ralph Marston

Your excellence is important because it tends to influence other people’s perception of your God. Consider the Queen of Sheba’s encounter with King Solomon. She was drawn to Solomon’s fame for wisdom and sought answers to the mysteries of life. Solomon gave wise answers to her most challenging questions [2Chron. 9:1-9]. The Queen was impressed regarding his wisdom, palace, food, the seating of servants, service and apparel of waiters and cupbearers, as well as the entry to the temple of God. Thus she was impressed by Solomon’s wisdom and the overall excellence that she saw. The Queen was extremely wealthy and presumably encountered excellence in several arenas of life. Nevertheless, she praises Solomon’s wisdom; and praises the God of Israel for what she heard [God’s wisdom] and what she saw [excellence]. The moral: excellence in life and ministry attracts people to receive the wisdom of God, and results in being drawn to God and glorifying Him.Conversely a disregard for excellence can create stumbling blocks between people and God.

In the context of the local church, the perceived quality of various elements of the worship service likely impact people’s receptivity to the word of God. For example, people form opinions about the facilities, greeters and ushers, children’s ministry, praise and worship, hospitality, prayer, outreach, missions, community service, etc. If people perceive that things are generally done excellently than they are likely to be more receptive to the teaching of the Bible. Furthermore, the teaching of the Bible should be excellent to encourage people to submit to God and to live His word. Looking to improve and do things excellently doesn’t mean you are not: loving gracious or led by the Spirit. You can rejoice and celebrate your current status, and move forward towards excellence. Furthermore asking, “Where can we improve?” is not necessarily negative. Especially when a discussion of what is being done well or excellently precedes the critique of areas needing improvement.

If people perceive that things are generally done excellently than they are likely to be more receptive to the teaching of the Bible.

Paul encouraged the Philippians to approve the things that are excellent, “That you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ…” [Phil. 1:10]. The context is a prayer and exhortation for spiritual growth to distinguish good doctrine from poor doctrine. The Greek term deafero means, “to differ.” By implication, it means to surpass, be better, differ from, be of more value, and be more excellent. The term was used in connection with testing metals. Paul urged the church to know the difference between good and bad and the difference between mediocre and excellent. Paul is a man who worked hard to live a life that was excellent for Jesus, “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me” [Phil. 3:12]. Solomon expressed a similar thought: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might…” [Eccl. 9:10].

Excellence is an attitude and the attitude is displayed in the process. Excellence is not perfection. Excellence is not an achievement since we never arrive. Excellence tends to sees obstacles as opportunities.

What is required for excellence?

1. Motivation: We should desire an attitude of wanting to work harder for the Lord than for any other relationship. When we serve God, we want to give Him our best. The Mosaic Law provides that an animal sacrifice had to be without blemish or imperfection. Imagine a shepherd with two lambs. One of the lambs is blind and has a broken leg and the other is excellent. It would not be difficult to imagine that the shepherd would want to offer the significantly less than perfect lamb as a sacrifice. Yet, God says it is unacceptable. He effectively tells us that if we love Him, then we want to give Him our best. The motivation to give God our best is not to impress people that we are excellent we desire to give Him our best because He is worthy and we love Him. It is love for God that should motivate us to excellence as we minister to Him and His people.

2. A standard: Excellence needs a goal. There must be a description of the standard. Since excellence raises the standard we need to determine how high the bar is to be raised. When is it good enough? We know that excellence is not perfection, but what is the standard? For example the Raiders football team says they have, “A Commitment to Excellence.” What does that mean? No team will have a perfect season. A team may go undefeated, but it will not be a perfect season as there will be countless plays in every game that could have been executed better. Perhaps the commitment to excellence relates to winning the Super Bowl, or maybe getting to go to the Super Bowl or even the playoffs. Once you have set a standard, you can work toward the standard. A simple reference to a grade scale where “C” is average, “B” is above average, and “A” represents excellent can be a helpful starting point. Asking the question, “What needs to change for this to move from a “C” to an “A”?” can be helpful.

3. Discipline: To become excellent, you need to work towards the standard. Athletes wake up early and train hard to improve their skills. They learn to avoid staying out too late and avoid certain excesses in order to be excellent. No one becomes excellent without self-control diligence and effort.

4. Discipleship: We need to be disciples of Jesus and learn from Him. But we also need to learn from others who have gleaned valuable lessons ahead of us. Excellence in ministry is learned from others and taught to others. Paul imparted the lessons that he had learned to Timothy, and instructed Timothy to commit those lessons to faithful people who would teach others also [2Tim. 2:2].

5. Accountability: We need to be accountable to other leaders and team members. We need to receive review from others. In this manner, we can better understand the effectiveness of our ministry. Sometimes we are reluctant to receive review because it will undoubtedly include criticism as well as affirmation. Yet failure to be accountable hinders excellence.

In my ministry and life I want to be excellent by giving God my best. To excel in ministry I try to focus my efforts in the areas where I tend to get the best results. My best for the kingdom generally relate to my roles as a teacher, and leadership development. So I try to concentrate my time where I have the most effective results. Generally wherever possible I delegate other functions to other people [they often do as good a job or better than I do]. To work towards excellence I’m intentional about activities and attitudes that help me grow and improve. In regard to teaching I receive critique after each message from capable teachers who are able to provide meaningful critique. This accountability helps me to improve every week. In my roles as a developer of leaders I regularly meet with various mentors, attend conferences, read books and articles, and seek to apply the lessons to improve.

In my ministry and life I want to be excellent by giving God my best. To excel in ministry I try to focus my efforts in the areas where I tend to get the best results.

To grow in life my primary areas of focus are marriage and family. I’m intentional to meet with my wife Karen every few months to receive feedback. I ask her, “How are you doing, and how can I be a better husband to you? How am I doing as a father? Where do you think we are doing well? What are some areas where I can grow as a husband and a father?” I try to incorporate her feedback and look to grow in the months that follow. After a few months we will talk again and I’ll ask similar questions and also ask about the matters that we previously discussed. I want to know if things are the same better or worse. I also started meeting with our sons when they were teenagers to look for their take on how I was doing as a dad and how I could grow as a better father to them and for them. They are now young adults and I continue to have these discussions with them. I want to grow as a dad and represent Christ as excellently as possible to them (and my wife). Finally, I try to remember that excellence is an attitude, not a skill, and my primary motive to give God my best is simply a response to my understanding that He has given me His best [John 3:16].

 Pastor Bruce Zachary planted Calvary Nexus in Camarillo, CA and is the director of Calvary Church Planting Network. Many of his resources are available for free online, including Kingdom Leaders and the Church Planting Manual. You can follow Pastor Bruce on Facebook and Twitter @BruceZachary.

Give Your People Away

The best thing a sending church can give a church plant is people. Money is good, counsel is helpful, but feet on the ground have a greater impact than anything else. Unfortunately this is often the last thing that sending churches want to give away. You can name a lot of reason like the hassle of having to replace them and the loss of tithing income but what it boils down to is fear.

I was talking with a church planter recently whose church is going great in the very early stages. The only struggle they are having is they don’t have a worship leader. So this planter is setting up and tearing down, leading worship, and then teaching. Way too heavy of a load for one man. As we texted back and forth I asked if there was anyone from his sending church who come along side him and lead worship. He did say there was a guy who was going to come with him but the sending church talked him out of going.

Unfortunately that is more the norm than not. Church planting is the “it” thing to do with churches today and you can be construed as a hip pastor if you are sending out church planters from your church, but to do it correctly takes commitment and sacrifice. One of the biggest sacrifices a sending church and pastor can do is to commit their people to making the church plant successful. Hoarding talent for your own purposes can have damaging effects down the line. We need to create a pipeline of sending people out. If we don’t the church will get clogged with people who are under utilizing their talents and ultimately the kingdom of God isn’t fully being reached.

One of the biggest sacrifices a sending church and pastor can do is to commit their people to making the church plant successful. Hoarding talent for your own purposes can have damaging effects down the line.

When we went out to plant The Village Chapel eight years ago, my pastor Paul Berry, from Calvary Chapel Santa Maria stood in front of the church and challenged people to go and serve for one year. Sixty-Five people took the challenge and went with us! Did it cause a little panic at the mother church? Heck yeah. Did it cause some discomfort in the ministries and in the giving? You better believe it, but it set our church on the path to success and stability because he did that.

As sending churches we need to give our people away. It will grow our faith as leaders, stretch the people who stay back, and create space for people to step up and serve where they weren’t before. Holding on to our people will cause stagnation and eliminate opportunities for them to step up into leadership. When we send out planters don’t send them out empty handed, send a team of people who will labor next to them. It will lay the foundation for a successful plant and will encourage the planter who is faithfully serving.

Chuck Musselwhite was used of God to plant Village Chapel in Lompoc on the central California coast in 2006. He has been instrumental in establishing Calvary Church Planting Network and has a passion for equipping and sending church planters. You can follow Pastor Chuck and Village Chapel on Facebook and Twitter.

Lessons From A New Church Plant

Organic Church Plant

A little more than three years ago I responded to the church planting call by relocating my family to Westminster, Colorado. This was a thrilling process of stepping into the unknown with God. I was totally pumped believing He would supply the needs for the ministry as I ventured out in faith. I wanted to do something great for God and see a Pastor Chuck like explosion from the days of the Jesus movement. Well, it didn’t happen like that, but God’s faithfulness was at every corner. The first 10-months were crazy tough, but flew-by. We used road signs to capture eyes and iPod worship to capture hearts for Jesus – and He totally blessed our weird efforts.

Staying Focused

As time went on the initial obstacles subsided as people began to attend on a regular basis and worship normalized. Then hit October 5th, 2012 (about one year into ministry) a tragic event struck 2-blocks away from the church, Jessica Ridgeway’s disappearance. As a new pastor I was front and center in a community situation that was overwhelming. There were 1,000 volunteers from around the area that showed up to our Sunday sanctuary at the Rec Center to help search for Jessica.

Long story short, this had a big impact on our Sunday services and the church grew temporarily, similar to the days of post 9/11 tragedies.

During the several months that followed, God had a valuable lesson to teach me in staying focused on Him. You see as a typical church planter, I got overwhelmed with all the responsibilities that I took for granted at larger churches. The very thing I had been warned about was happening to me. I was a male-Martha being distracted with much ministry and my relationship with Jesus suffered. It was hard for me to grasp the balance of priority.

In the end, I learned that deep roots and transformed lives are only possible by waiting on Him. Lots of people led to lots of problems! As a new church planter this was a valuable season for me. Faithful plodding over the long haul with Jesus is far more important than rushing through overwhelming demands of ministry. Stay focused!

Faithful plodding over the long haul with Jesus is far more important than rushing through overwhelming demands of ministry. Stay focused!  

Making Progress

Jesus builds our influence and leadership in a community over decades. The power of His word changes lives day-by-day and relationship is built through faith, hope, and love. No doubt there are many notable victories along the way. However, I’m learning that the road of a church planter is to faithfully hold the course no matter what my eyes may see or my heart my feel. I knew this in my head, but my heart needed to experience this in order to make progress.

So, if God is calling you as a church planter connect with CCPN and get the valuable resources that will help you establish a ministry worth having. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13).

Pastor Jeff Cramer was used of God to plant Westminster Calvary Chapel in Colorado. Follow the church on Twitter at @WestminCalvary.

How To Let People Leave Your Church Gracefully (Pt. 2)

In the first part of this post we looked at three ways to check your heart when people leave the church you are called to plant. Since it will happen, here are five ways to let people leave gracefully:

  1. Thank them for their contribution. Humble yourself and offer them appreciation for something: how their family has been involved, how they’ve grown during their season among you, the support and encouragement they’ve been to you. Let them know you genuinely care for them and are sad to see them leave. But don’t guilt them into staying.
  2. Offer to pray them off at a service. Sending people with your blessing, and visibly from the stage, gives people closure and communicates to them that even in their departure you are extending Christlike, pastoral grace. Tell the church you are sad to see them go but you are hopeful that God is leading them to a new season and fellowship. This lets the entire body know that their best interests are always in mind from the leadership.
  3. Recommend at least three churches for them to attend. If they’ve been submitted to your leadership, why not offer one last bit of counsel? What are three “safe” churches you can recommend them to attend? Jot them down, and encourage the people leaving to at least consider a visit. And if you (hopefully do) have a relationship with those pastors, call/email them and tell them a great family is leaving and is heading their way. I’ve done this several times and every time the pastor is floored that we would offer such grace and care for our previous members. It’s the high road, and it’s less traveled.
  4. Follow up with them at their new fellowship. If they merely fell out of fellowship, prayerfully consider how you can continue to disciple them to become involved with a local body of believers. But if they are attending a new church, send them a message or a note of encouragement. Ask and inquire how they are doing, what they like about the church, and what God has been speaking to them. This one action alone often reveals wicked jealousy that we are harboring and should lead us to intercede for more churches in our area.
  5. Continue to love them. Not everyone leaves gracefully, and that can sting. I’ve had people send mass emails stating horribly false things about me to our church email list. I’ve had people I was discipling spread lies and slander while still attending and then leave a wake of gossip when they bailed weeks later. I’ve even had people storm out of my house yelling. But most people just quietly slip out the back door and never return. If you (and/or your wife) have any bitterness or unforgiveness against them, pray and repent. Ask God to heal your wounds. If you see them posting about their new church, pray for them. If you run into them in public, don’t let it get awkward. Lovingly smile and ask about their family and how they are doing and how you can pray for them. It isn’t our job to seek justice or to “set the record straight”. Our job is to lay down our lives for our friends, to demonstrate Christ’s love to one another no matter how we are treated (John 15:12-13).

At the end of Paul’s life, even with the dozens of churches that were planted, he finished his ministry desperately alone (2 Timothy 4:9-11). But no matter who had departed or caused pain, his final analysis was this:

“At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it.” (2 Tim 4:16-17)

Pastor, don’t be discouraged if you’ve been deserted. It happened to Paul, it has happened to me, and it even happened to Jesus! So don’t be alarmed when it happens to you. Do your best to be a conduit through which the grace and mercy of God flows to people. That means being a faithful guide and undershepherd to hurting people. And sometimes that means saying goodbye to our most beloved. But no matter how people depart, we can be an example of godly graciousness, as Paul told Titus: “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, 8and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us” (Titus 2:7).

Pastor Pilgrim Benham is a church planter in Bradenton, Florida. He is currently planting Shoreline Calvary Chapel in Bradenton and has previously planted Calvary Chapel South Tampa. He is a blog contributor at Calvary Church Planting Network and writes on his blog at pilgrimbenham.com.

How To Let People Leave Your Church Gracefully (Pt. 1)

On my personal blog I recently wrote, How to Leave a Church Gracefully  and pointed out several ways for church members to leave a church when they believe God is calling them out. As awkward as these moments can be, the reality is sometimes God simply calls people to move onward and I explained that this should always be done carefully, prayerfully, and completely.

In this post I’ve been asked to offer the direct opposite position; that is, what is our response as church leaders when someone leaves our church? How do we let someone leave gracefully when we’ve invested our time, prayer, love, concern, and very lives to people who bail because they “aren’t being fed”? What is the Christ-honoring, Biblical response as church leaders?

(I will begin this post in a similar way as the previous one, pointing out that in this volume we won’t dive into the theological arguments for why people should commit to a local expression, how important church attendance is or why people must stay connected to the body. Those truths are already implied and now suggested by myself to you. Also this is presupposing that the church you pastor/lead is Biblically-sound, is not covering up sin or crime, and is above reproach in the community.)

So how do we handle people who leave? Let’s start with three arguments and later we’ll review five graceful ways pastors can allow people to leave their churches.

First, it is helpful to remember that these are not your people, they are God’s. Our identity can often be wrapped up in our churches, especially church plants. After all, we’ve invested our time, finances, prayers, blood, sweat, and many tears to build people and advance the Gospel in our fellowship. If things are going great and people are excited in our church, we can begin to root our identity in the acceptance and approval of men. But when people leave, we can get discouraged and believe that we are being rejected personally. I know when we planted Reality Church Tampa (now Calvary South Tampa), I was quickly discouraged when people left, for any and every reason. I learned quickly, however, that I must hold people with an open hand, not a closed fist. They are God’s children, God’s sheep, the members of God’s household, the various parts of Christ’s body. I have learned to cherish the short seasons that I am able to bring the Gospel and the Scripture and maturity into people’s lives and have learned that seasons begin and end. And no matter how long they are among us, they don’t belong to me any more than the church does. The church, and they, belong to Jesus.

Secondly, we need to realize that we can’t be everyone’s pastor. Some people connect better or identify greater with different groups of people or ministry styles. This shouldn’t discourage us but can bring needed clarity if we are ministering in a style that is contextualized to a particular group. Paul pointed out to the Corinthians that a proof of their carnality was their sectarianism. Some of them preferred Paul, others Apollos, still others Peter and the super-spiritual preferred Christ (1 Cor 3:1-4). Even in first-century Corinth people had their favorite pastoral preferences! However, Paul communicates in verses 5-9: “What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.”

In other words, pastors are merely servants that have a part to play in the harvest of souls. Some people will be planted by your ministry, but will leave to get more water and nourishment elsewhere. The point is that we will receive our wages according to our labor. So work hard, allowing the grace of God to work effectually in and through you (1 Cor 15:10-11).

Thirdly, it is important to pay attention to the reasons people are leaving. I have dismissed some of the silly reasons people leave. Remember, people are fallen, sinful, and their hearts are deceitfully wicked. They may believe they are hearing from God and really aren’t. They may have a depraved consumeristic hunger that can’t be satiated by your church’s programs. I call those people who leave “blessed subtractions.” I have said goodbye to people who literally left our church plant because they expected it to immediately have youth ministries, full worship teams, live streaming and podcasts and sermons uploaded by 1pm on Sunday, fully staffed nurseries at every holiday church service, people who expected my wife to be discipling them weekly, more people with daughters aged 2-4 for their girls to interact with, a church with a permanent location, a church with a staff of elders, a church with fresh coffee each morning, and a church with a professional safety team to help with the homeless lady who kept disturbing the services. Those are not sufficient reasons to leave a church and we should appeal to these people to deeper maturity and faith, and if they refuse, pray them out! If, however, they are leaving for something prideful in the leadership, for a loss of your original vision, for the church not reaching lost people or making disciples, or another valid reason, then pay attention. God may actually be using their exodus to refine and discipline you and your leadership.

Pastor Pilgrim Benham is a church planter in Bradenton, Florida. He is currently planting Shoreline Calvary Chapel in Bradenton and has previously planted Calvary Chapel South Tampa. He is a blog contributor at Calvary Church Planting Network and writes on his blog at pilgrimbenham.com.

The Glory of Inconveniene

Pastor Pilgrim Benham is a church planter who currently lives in Bradenton, Florida. He planted Reality Church Tampa (now known as Calvary Chapel South Tampa) and is planting a church in the Bradenton/Sarasota area of Florida next. For more content visit calvary813.com.

I didn’t sign up for this.  When I first got involved in ministry, in serving God for His glory and fame in the world through the local church, I forgot one crucial element of ministry: people.  What is it, more than anything else, which causes distractions and problems in a church?  People.  Who gets offended or causes division?  People.  Who are the sources of constant woes and heartache and turmoil?  People!  It seems that when I thought about ‘ministry’, I was thinking about the glory of my gifting : how well I could communicate, how I could explain Biblical truth, how hard I could work or serve or how talented I was as a musician, writer, or athlete.  What I had missed was what ministry was all about: people!

Ministers who focus on the glory of their gifting miss out on one of the greatest blessings of serving Christ: the glory of inconvenience.  Think of what Jesus’s public ministry looked like.  He was constantly pulled away from the task God had given Him by needy people.  What most of us fail to realize is that this was the task God had given Him!  Jesus came to seek and save that which was lost.  His ultimate purpose was to lay down His life as the sacrifice for our sins, to save us.  This mission played out by saving people from temporal pain, suffering, demonic possession, ignorance, and hunger.  Jesus said in John 17:4, “I have brought You glory on earth by completing the work You gave me to do”.  Jesus prayed this before even going to the cross.  Jesus was referring to the pre-cross ministry of teaching, healing, forgiving, and ministering to people’s needs.  And it brought God glory because peppered through His ministry was the glory of inconvenience.

Ministers who focus on the glory of their gifting miss out on one of the greatest blessings of serving Christ: the glory of inconvenience.

Inevitably as a Christ-follower and fellow minister of the gospel of grace, you will face inconvenience.  Though we certainly are inconvenienced by common hassles like spending our time, money, energies, efforts, talents, and goals for Christ, the most prevalent difficulty is: people!  People require grace, love, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness.  People need our longsuffering, discipline, explanation, instruction, rebukes, attention, sympathy, and listening ears.  We get frustrated when someone interrupts our schedule, our goals, or our comfort.  The reality is that these people are not interruptions or inconveniences to ministry; they are the ministry!

We get frustrated when someone interrupts our schedule, our goals, or our comfort.  The reality is that these people are not interruptions or inconveniences to ministry; they are the ministry!

Pastor Don McClure recently mentioned that when we feel people are “in the way” we fail to realize that God doesn’t see them as that. People are the way. So people aren’t getting in the way of something you have to do, they are the way, the focus, the priority, the reason we do what we do.

Paul explained the glory of inconvenience in 2 Corinthians 11.  Among the difficulties and disturbances he faced, he was constantly moving, facing trouble in every neighborhood he ventured into, losing sleep, going without meals, heat, and even his dry cleaning!  He was beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, and imprisoned.  Moreover, he was constantly concerned for the people God had brought into his life.  His final analysis is that though we are weak in Him, “yet by God’s power we will live with Him to serve you (2 Corinthians 13:4).  May that be our prayer no matter how difficult the glory of inconvenience becomes—that we are, by God’s power, living with Him to serve others.

From Drugs to Church Planting

This is a letter from Mike Vincent, lead pastor at Calvary Chapel Rosarito Beach, Baja, Mexico, and CCPN core team leader for Mexico. He updates us on a recent church planting endeavor. God is at work in Mexico!

Greetings from Mexico, 

At the end of September, we were honored to send out a new church planting family and in this update I wanted to share their heartwarming story with you. I first met Pedro Ramirez on the streets of Rosarito 7 years ago. Pedro was a drug addict that had recently been deported and had hit rock bottom. But God loved Pedro and had a plan for Pedro’s life that Pedro could have never believed.

After visiting our church and hearing the Gospel, Pedro repented of his sins, responded in faith to Jesus and was saved. Unfortunately, even though Pedro continued to attend our church, he also continued to struggle with his addictions. Eventually, Pedro came to me and asked for help and we sent him off to the men’s discipleship home that we partner with. (For those of you that don’t know, for anyone that needs help and hope, we will take them off of the streets and put them in a discipleship home {rehab center} absolutely  free of charge!) 

Pedro spent nine months at this discipleship home (“Rancho Poeima” located in Ensenada)  and upon graduating, moved back to the church and joined our staff as one of our interns. For two years Pedro worked hard and served God and the people and learned the ins and outs of ministry. Over that time, Pedro made himself so valuable to me, that I offered him a full time paid staff position upon his graduation from our two year internship program. Also during that time, Pedro met his future wife Angeles at the church and they were married in a beautiful God honoring ceremony.

During his past two years on staff at the church, Pedro has led a number of ministries and was ordained as an Assistant Pastor earlier this year. Pedro also began to share with me the burden that God had placed on his heart to return to his hometown of Leon Guanajuato to plant a church. The historic city of Leon is the 7th largest city in Mexico with a population of well over 2 million people. Leon is also virtually unreached with the Gospel and has very few Christian churches. Pedro knows this city well because he spent his first 18 years in Leon, and to this day Pedro’s parents and most of his family members still live there.

To prepare, last year Pedro enrolled in our one year church planting program, and he excelled as he practiced his preaching and learned about the blessings and the challenges of church planting.  Pedro and his wife also took several short term missions trips (vision tours) to visit Leon where they scouted out the land,  preached the Gospel,  and prayed over the city.

All of this led up to our big “Sending Sunday” where we designated an entire Sunday service to focus on missions and this call that God has laid on the lives of Pedro and Angeles. During this service, Pedro and his wife shared with our congregation, and we ended the service by laying hands on their church planting team and we sent them out to do the work that God is calling them to do. (Two single men will also be moving with them from Rosarito to assist in the work.) 

We are blown away with the work that God is doing through church planting in our church and ministry. Pedro and Angeles are the third church planters that we have sent out in the past year, and we are excited to see how God is going to use them with this church plant.

Sisters

Kelli Compean, wife of church planter and mentor, Ed Compean, shares her unique point of view of ministry and living life in community…

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As human beings, we don’t live in isolation. As Christians, we are to live in community, with all things in common. We know these things, yet so very many pastor’s wives feel isolated and alone. So many of us feel ill equipped, unprepared and with no one with whom we can safely talk. This is amplified, I believe, with church planters’ wives.

Often church planters are outside their home community, or living cross-culturally. They are independent and pioneering by nature. In the early years, there can be few faithful church members with whom deep, trusting relationships can be found. These relationships take years to develop. The pastor is often bi-vocational, spending hours at work and at ministry and his wife can come to feel alone and often does not want to add to her husband’s burden or to cause him discouragement.

Though the last church we planted was more than a few years ago, I well remember these emotions and feelings of having no one to share with. I remember how unprepared I felt and how ill equipped I was. While those feelings led me deeper into prayer and study of the Word of God, it also left me with a heavy burden for other women, called to ministry, because their husband is called.

As CC Githurai grew into a sapling then a fruit bearing tree, men came alongside Ed and were raised up to pastor. Some of them began new works, others went to help other works and one took over the church. It became very important to me to share the burden of the women married to these men. Because they are of us and from us, and with the encouragement of others, we just had the first Calvary Chapel Pastor’s Wives Retreat in Kenya to help in honest challenges.

Ten national pastor’s wives and two missionary pastor’s wives attended the one day retreat. In the midst of prayer, worship, sharing of the Word and joking about our husband’s sock habits, we formed new and deepened old bonds. While breaking bread together we shared our heartaches, found common ground and exchanged phone numbers. We laughed together, shed a few tears, encouraged one another and confessed to one another before the Lord. It was a beautiful time of coming to the realization that we are not alone. We are sisters together, going through one of the most difficult and rewarding endeavors known to humankind, yet also realizing it is Jesus who will build His church.

We are sisters together, going through one of the most difficult and rewarding endeavors known to humankind, yet also realizing it is Jesus who will build His church.

As the day came to a close, we prayed, for our husbands, our church bodies and each other. We wrapped ourselves in matching traditional wraps and posed for pictures to commemorate our unity in Christ, our unity in ministry and our unity in sisterhood. Some of us shared rides home. Others waited together for public transport but at the end of the day, none of us were alone. We have Christ. We have the blessing of godly husbands and loving families, and we have each other.

…at the end of the day, none of us were alone. We have Christ. We have the blessing of godly husbands and loving families, and we have each other.

 

Generational Church? Pt 2

Pastor Rob Salvato of Calvary Vista walks us through his thoughts about the value of multi-generational churches. Make sure to catch Part 1 of this blog here.

For more info about Pastor Rob and Calvary Vista, visit calvaryvista.com.

INSIGHT FROM STUDENTS AT CCBC

I teach yearly at Calvary Chapel Bible College in Murrietta, California. Last semester I taught on the life of David. I came to the portion of scripture in David’s life where he was passing the baton of leadership to his son, Solomon. I used that scene to have a discussion with the students about passing the responsibility of church leadership to the next generation. I shared with them how, should the Lord tarry, my generation would be passing the baton of leadership to them in the next ten years. I asked them what they thought that should look like.  Honestly, I was expecting some of them to say, “Just give us the keys to the car and get out of the way.” That was not the response I received at all.

Instead, they were looking for relationship with older believers. “We need you guys to walk with us in ministry.  Don’t just do it for us, but do it with us.”  They went on to share how they need the older generation of leadership to let them try things and make mistakes, and then for us to be there to talk about why, perhaps, it didn’t work out.  These future leaders were like sponges, looking for relationship, insight, accountability, guidance, as well as opportunity.

THE NEED TO VALUE AND RESPECT EACH OTHER

My prayer for the church that I am honored to pastor, as well as the church as a whole, is this: As we move forward in the future, I pray that each generation of believers would value and respect each other.

As we move forward in the future, I pray that each generation of believers would value and respect each other.

To the seasoned saints, can I encourage you to appreciate and encourage the next generation? Their hearts are zealous for the Lord, with a passion for Jesus that is contagious! They are innovative and creative. Yes, they might question the system and ask why things are being done the way they are, but that is okay, especially when they want to understand the reason why. The younger generation has a tendency to think “outside the box”, which again, is good because we see in the Word that God often worked “outside the box”. Listen, seasoned saints, we can learn a ton from our younger brothers and sisters. And if, perhaps, they challenge you to break out of your comfort zone, is that really a bad thing? I, for one, am willing to welcome the challenge.

Listen, seasoned saints, we can learn a ton from our younger brothers and sisters. And if, perhaps, they challenge you to break out of your comfort zone, is that really a bad thing? I, for one, am willing to welcome the challenge.

To my younger brothers and sisters, can I exhort you to respect and relish the seasoned saints who have logged some significant years, walking with Jesus? Invite them to coffee and ask questions about life, family, parenting, and ministry. Realize there is a potential wealth of wisdom sitting right next to you or right in front of you at church. You can learn from these wonderful brothers and sisters who have pursued Jesus and served Him longer than you have been alive! Hear their stories and glean from their victories, as well as their defeats. You will find that the world they grew up in and the time frame they were saved in, in many ways, is not that different from the one you are in now.

To my younger brothers and sisters… Realize there is a potential wealth of wisdom sitting right next to you or right in front of you at church.

One generation shall praise Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts.” – Psalm 145:4