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Wednesday
Jul312013

Plan with Vision & Ambition; Evaluate with Patience & Faith

I recently turned 50. Somehow that number prompts me to reflect and evaluate my life and ministry.

A lot has changed—and maybe that’s why I like this cartoon so much. The graphic harkens to the past, but the caption is all today. No, I’m not endorsing a haphazard translation of Matthew 6:28. Rather, I appreciate the timelessness of Scripture as different generations have their new areas of effort and worry—today, Google and Twitter command attention.

I’m also reflecting on how I’ll approach the future. I want to plan my efforts with the same sense of Vision and Ambition from my youth or days of seminary when we grasped how God was going to change the world.

1. Vision is that God granted understanding of how things can be. Jesus changes lives, so there’s no limit to what He can accomplish as more lives continue to change in conformity to Christ! At its core, Vision is about believing and expecting God to do great things.

2. Ambition is a good thing if it’s in the context of fulfilling our walk in Christ. That’s the thesis of Chip Ingram’s book, “Good to Great in God’s Eyes: Ten Practices Great Christians Have in Common.”

But as I evaluate progress from Vision and Ambition, two other words come to mind—Patience and Faith.

1. Patience is the patience God shows me. And consequently, the patience I need to demonstrate in fulfilling the Vision and exercising Ambition. Here’s something I’ve noticed: God is never late. . . but. . . seldom early. His timing for fulfilling the Vision is always perfect, although it’s usually not as soon as I have in mind.

2. Faith is the key to pressing on when the Vision feels unfulfilled in my eyes. Maybe God had something a little different in mind—or maybe a different timetable. Hebrews 11 commends those who did receive the things promised, but only saw them from a distance (Hebrews 11:13-16). They are commended because they continued to live by faith.

So, as I move forward with the future, I want to Plan my steps with Vision and Ambition. But I want to reflect with Patience and Faith.

I love Steven Curtis Chapman’s song, “The Long Way Home.” I probably appreciate it more comparing it with his song “The Great Adventure” and his personal testimony. This life is a journey of faith that is a long way home; but as Chapman says, “So I'll keep on singing and believing what all of my songs say.” And to make the personal application as a Pastor, “So I’ll keep on preaching and believing what my messages say.” Returning to Chapman’s words, “Cause He's going to lead us home, every single step of the long way home.”

Cartoon from: buildingchurchleaders.com

Thursday
Jun272013

Hey, You’re Sittin’ in my Pew! Part 2

The title, “Hey, You’re Sittin’ in my Pew,” is from a song written by the worship leader at my former church—it’s a fun ballad about a Christian learning that the pew doesn’t really belong to him.

I’m also using that title for a blog series on the debate between chair and pews because it captures our attention. None of us truly owns the seat at church—even the Martins, who have sat in the same place for 42 years! In part 1 of this study I discuss why we become attached to the seat—and in the process may drive off visitors.

This entry briefly surveys the characteristics of each kind of seating.

Pews began as an economical form of seating as many people can be seated in a row with supporting members at the ends and the middle. Over time, the pew became an identifying element of a church and the ornate decoration often elevated in quality. But that detailing made them less cost effective. Today, pews represent a long standing tradition of church seating.

However, if a church is seeking to become more engaging with contemporary culture, the move to chairs may send a more effective message. Also, chairs have the benefit of clearly identifying one’s space. In pews, it’s easy for one to set coat on one side and Bible or purse on the other side allowing one person to begin taking up three spaces. But with the seams between chairs, the space is defined more effectively. When choosing chairs, one must decide between fixed seating—like theater seats, or flexible seating—with chairs that can be rearranged (but also interlock).

Formerly pews used to be the most cost effective choice. However, at a former church we reupholstered existing pews even though it was more expensive than buying brand new chairs. We made that choice because the architectural style called for a “Classic” feel. In this case it was the choice that best fit that church.

In the end, that’s the determining factor in deciding between chairs and pews. Which form best fits the ministry and message intended by the church.

*Cartoon from Building Church Leaders

Friday
May312013

God’s Leading During Facility Projects

It is an honor to lock arms with pastors as they embark on facility projects. I remember the transformation at a church I pastored when we completed a major renovation, so I encourage these shepherds with the sense of fulfillment in leadership at the end of the project. I also suggest that it will likely be a grand thrill ride experience as God leads in exciting, but often unexpected directions.

So I remind myself of those truths as I reflect on the past six months and how God led me to accept a part-time interim pastorate at Zion Bible Church—and as we prepare to build/renovate a new church!

I maintain a regular pulpit supply ministry and preached a couple of times at Zion Bible Church at the end of 2012. Then, on Friday afternoon, December 21—the Friday before Christmas—I received a call from Zion’s board chairman. The adjacent hospital was offering the church more than double the market value for their facility, but they had to close before the end of the year. While there had been some dialogue with the hospital for years, they had to decide now due to tax benefit reasons. They had upped their offer considerably and the existing building reflected numerous facility issues that were hindering ministry. Unanimously, it seemed like God’s provision.

The church also was convinced that it was God’s leading to have pulpit supply from an Architectural Pastor at this time. My wife and I agreed the timing seemed truly providential. So after much prayer, fasting, and heart searching I’ve accepted this pastorate. I am not decreasing my work as an architectural pastor, but adding the responsibility of an interim pastorate. At times it feels overwhelming, but if God is leading, then God will provide.

At my first service as pastor I suggested that I honestly don’t know where the future will take us—we have use of this building for another year. But with great conviction, I also believe God is leading our steps. I’ve called this season for Zion Bible Church, “The Great Adventure.” You can hear this message from May 5 here.

So here we are. A little nervous. . . Even anxious sometimes. . . But also with a strong conviction of God’s leading, we look forward to this grand thrill ride experience on the wings of God’s will and provision.

Monday
Apr292013

How Managed Dreams Produce Great Results

Attending the groundbreaking dedication at Arlington Countryside Church represented the importance of Dream Management. Parishioners placed their hands on the walls to be opened during prayers of commitment for the project about to begin. Pastor Dave and his team led an inspiring service.

When working through facility options, sometimes we need “Dream Managers.” One building committee chairman liked that title a lot better than “Dream Killer,” which had become his label.

Everyone likes to follow the dreams of a gifted vision caster. But those dreams do not become reality unless there is a realistic path for completion. In fact, without a Dream Manager, many building plans end up as rolls of drawings that are never built—because the project was never realistically possible. The money wasted on construction documents never built is staggering. And the particularly troubling part is those monies come from tithes, sacrificial offerings, and “widows’ mites.”

Yes, there is a place for exercising faith,  but that should be balanced with godly wisdom—or Dream Management. One great example is at Arlington Countryside Church, which is about to begin construction on the right project, at the right cost, at the right time.

The church has been growing and needed more room in their worship center. So, naturally, they asked us to plan a worship center addition. But the initial cost estimates appeared beyond their capacity for a healthy project. We explored another option of converting their gym into a Multi-purpose Worship Center. A new lobby solved other facility problems and provided a great entrance to the converted space. Through the process, municipal delays by zoning issues added costs and extended the schedule. Steps of faith grew larger through the process, but did not cross the line of spiritual presumption.

So, if you’re a Vision Caster—keep up your good work. And if you’re a Dream Manager, embrace your equally valuable role in the process for healthy building projects.

Tuesday
Mar262013

Facility Stewardship Today

We launch another advancement in this ministry niche with the publication of Facility Stewardship Today—a newsletter about “Improving church health through Facility Stewardship.”

This is not a “sales contact email blast,” (you receive enough of those). Rather, it’s a ministry-focused content newsletter. Elements will include:

1. Blog highlights from Church Facility Ministry.

2. Verse for Today (vft): hope it's a spiritual boost.

3. Ministry Encouragement: an encouraging or challenging quote.

4. Link Highlight.

Thank you to those who have already requested to be included in the newsletter email. If you’d like to be added to the newsletter list, please click here and write “newsletter” in the subject and message. You’re email address will never be sold or dispersed to outside sources.

Tuesday
Feb122013

What is Facility Stewardship?

This blog is about “Improving church health through Facility Stewardship.” That prompts the question: What is Facility Stewardship? Occasionally I’ll hear someone refer to facility stewardship. But their use of the term usually refers to good financial utilization of the church building—things like low utility bills, no unused square footage, and general upkeep of the building.

However, my specific definition of Facility Stewardship focuses on facility issues as related to church health issues. Facility Stewardship is: driven by a biblical foundation, identifying facility issues that impact ministry and implementing corrections with leadership skills that improve overall church health.

On March 11, 2013 I’ll be teaching a two-session workshop on Facility Stewardship. The two sessions are:

  1. Practical Applications from Haggai: Facility Stewardship and church health
  2. Leadership Challenges during Facility Improvements—and the skills to implement healthy changes

You can find the flyer for the workshop here; then click on “Facility Stewardship Workshop.” This is a free event, but if you would like to attend please contact me here so we can plan for accurate numbers.

Wednesday
Dec192012

Celebrating all God’s Christmas Gifts—Even Ones we Don’t Expect

Christmas is a great time of reflection—both positive and negative. We can see God’s goodness and provision in so many areas. But we can also ponder the times we fall short. Yet, in my shortcomings, I have a friend in Zechariah as described in Luke 1. And as much as I love the Christmas narratives of Luke 2 and Matthew 1-2, I have special place in my heart for Luke 1. This is the birth of the herald for the Messiah. It is also the account of a godly, older couple who would mentor a godly, younger couple to be parents of the Perfect Child.

Zechariah and Elizabeth were godly people, serving the Lord with all faithfulness. Yet, because they had no children, they carried a stigma of being under God’s judgment. Not only was that not true, but their lack of children was just part of God’s perfect gifts, plans, and timing.

They’d probably accepted their place in life and that God would not bless them with children and perhaps focused on their service for the Lord. Twice a year priests served for a week in the temple. The priest who burned the incense would be chosen by lot and was a rare privilege—each priest could only burn the incense one time in his life. Zechariah was chosen for this honor—and in his moment, he is visited by an angel who told him two things: 1—Do not be afraid; 2—Your prayer has been heard. I suspect much time had passed since Zechariah’s last prayer for a child. But God’s answer was not “no,” it was “wait.” Now was the time!

However, a moment of uncertainty led to Zechariah’s inability to talk. Wow! The stigma of barrenness would be lifted, but now a new stigma of judgment because he couldn’t speak. But Zechariah did not fall short again. When it came time to name the child, it was no doubt. The child’s name is John!

Thank you God, for Zechariah's faith. And for the times he fell short. This Christmas may we each be encouraged by God’s gifts and timing—even for gifts we don’t expect.

Picture from Bible Encyclopedia at Biblos.com

Tuesday
Nov132012

Best Seats at Church

God leads us along in ministry—and He helps us with some smiles along the way. When my Leadership Journal comes, I admit to first checking out the legendary cartoons. The Create-a-Caption contest popularity suggests I’m not alone. The recent contest involved a facility issue. So even though I consider myself comedically challenged, I had to submit an entry.

By the way, the rest of the current issue is top quality reading, with a theme of “Ministry’s Core: the five most important things you do.” Great reading and encouragement in ministry!

Monday
Aug202012

Prayer: Essential for a Successful Project—Even for “Superman”

This spot drew me again like a magnet just as it did five months ago. This is the view outside the senior pastor’s office at Springbrook Community Church’s new building. We’ve made great progress since my blog about it in March! Now, real walls and windows have completed structural framing and open spaces.

This poster is another addition on an adjacent wall. As our team at Church Building Consultants has worked alongside the church’s team, we’ve valued the gifts and leadership skills of Pastor Matt and his team—so much so, that a “Superman” poster seemed very appropriate to hang on this wall.

The construction project is making great progress, for which we praise God. Even with the gifts, skills, and talents of the church leadership, prayer continues to drive the project—just as it did back in March when I first blogged about this spot in the building.

Specific prayer requests include:

  • God to be glorified through the process and continued unity for the church
  • Safety for the construction workers
  • The love of Christ showered upon the construction workers—may they feel appreciated
  • Continued successful management of the construction process and the budget
  • Many people to become Christ followers through this new facility

God has directed this process so far. We wait in anticipation of His continued direction toward completion of the building and the new energy for the ministry of Springbrook Community Church.

Tuesday
Jul102012

Church Nursery Challenges: When Facility Issues become Ministry Issues

Tomorrow is our younger daughter’s sixteenth birthday. Sweet sixteen for our “baby”. . . sigh. . . This morning I took her out for our traditional “Birthday Coffee Date.” I treasure these times with both our girls—our older daughter’s day is coming later in July. During today’s date, my mind drifted back to her days of infancy—which in turn reminded me of the following true story, printed in an article I wrote for Leadership Journal in the Fall, 2009 issue:

My daughter was reaching out to Daddy. What a joy to see our nine-month-old longing for me from the arms of the nursery worker following our mid-week service. Hannah was being gently rocked by the wife of one of our elders, but it was clear she wanted down. I thanked the woman for watching our daughter while I led a prayer group and my wife taught some of the older children. She assured me that she held Hannah the entire time, except when Hannah was sleeping in one of the stacked cribs. While I appreciated her diligence, I let her know that Hannah enjoyed crawling.

"I'm not comfortable with her crawling on this floor," the worker replied.

The floor was carpeted and vacuumed regularly, so I asked why. With a look that conveyed a terrible secret, she confessed, "The carpet may look clean, but it's laid on a wood floor that was built on top of the original tile floor because we have a water problem. I'm sure you smell the mustiness."

I acknowledged the damp smell. She continued, "I don't want to get anyone in trouble, but look at the wallpaper." She pointed out some dark spots that crept up from below the carpet level. "I don't let any babies crawl on this floor."

About that time my wife joined us in the nursery. When I showed her the marks on the wallpaper, she said she knew about them and also tried to keep little ones off the floor. The elder's wife explained that they had moved the nursery downstairs to create a church office upstairs. Since water often leaked in that corner of the basement, they built the wood floor to allow for carpet on the floor of the new nursery.

On the way home, I asked my wife why she didn't tell me about her concerns sooner. With the look of a supportive spouse, she gently responded: "We've been here less than a year, and I know you have several other areas of ministry that need changing first. Since Hannah is the most consistent baby in the nursery, it will look self-serving if you try to change something they just built the year before we arrived."

Ouch. Talk about feeling convicted.

I realized changing the nursery was not just a facility issue, but really a ministry issue. I'd heard the clichéd facility priority list—take care of the nursery and the women's restroom above everything else. But in this case, I felt the issue personally. Though I overcame my guilt—thanks to a supportive wife—I intensified my zeal to address the nursery issue.

With a nursery that smelled musty and had mold marks on the walls, we were sending a terrible message to visitors: "Your babies may not be safe here, and we aren't doing anything about it."

Why did I miss this clear message? I love my children. I look out for their best interests. I had a child in the nursery. So why did I miss something that should have been so clear?

--Read the rest of the article here to learn more about discerning when facility issues become ministry issues.

And “Happy Birthday” to our girls.